do employers think I’m trying too hard, my manager criticized me in front of others, and more

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

1. Am I trying too hard if I call employers every other day?

After filling out an application, what should I be expecting? I would call the hiring managers back and ask for my status on my application and they would reply with, “I will be reviewing your application shortly” or “I’ll give my manager your name and contact number,” but I still remain in the shadows.

I have military experience but that also isn’t getting through to any managers as well. Am I trying too hard if I’m calling back every other day to check on my application if it has been reviewed? Am I showing to much effort by “bugging” them every day?

I’ve literally applied everywhere and I am not receiving any feedback. The worst part of that is I mostly applied online, and I really do not have a clue of what to say if I try to speak to a manager directly because of my entry level status. Would just going to hiring agencies be more effective?

Stop calling to follow up on your applications. You’ve applied, so they know you’re interested. If they want to interview you, they’ll get in touch. Until/unless they do, move on mentally and assume you won’t hear from them (as for most people, that’s true for the majority of applications they submit). And if for some reason you ignore me and call anyway, under no circumstances should you call more than once. Anything more than that is way too pushy and will turn employers off.

You can certainly try staffing agencies too, but they should be in addition to direct applications, not in place of them, because they’re not a silver bullet and you don’t want to put all your eggs in any one basket. But what I’d focus on more is your cover letter and resume. To do that, read this.

2. My manager criticized me in front of others

I’ve been working with my current manager for almost a year now, and have proven myself as a trusted member of his team. My manager gives me praise regularly, and has constantly been mentioning that he is looking to promote me to the next level in my career. I have been sent to training courses in leadership development, he has sponsored me to go back to school to get my MBA, and he has referred to me (numerous times) as a member of his “leadership team.” I really held my manager in high regard.

Recently, we traveled with some of the other managers on his team for a training seminar. After our first night of training, we went out for dinner and drinks (with the team). After dinner, one of my colleagues brought up a recent situation where I challenged another project manager on our team. He told me that I “went too easy” on the person who is running the project, and that he would have outed her and “embarrassed” her in front of the rest of the team. My manager (in front of 2 of my peers) chimed in and started giving me direct feedback in front of my colleagues – which he went on to say would be included in my annual review. He told me that I need to speak up and be more direct with people when I see issues that arise. I felt incredibly uncomfortable due to the way this was addressed, and honestly, lost some respect for my manager. This was the first time I had received any feedback like this, and I feel like it should have been given in a 1:1 setting – not in front of my peers. Should I suck it up and deal with it, or should I confront my manager (and if so, how)?

Confront is too strong a word, but it’s certainly reasonable to say something like, “I appreciated hearing your feedback about X, but I felt uncomfortable having that discussion in front of others.”

But if he’s otherwise a good manager and this is the first real complaint you have about him, I might let it go. He may have just misjudged the situation (we all do that on occasion) and it might not be worth calling it out unless you feel strongly about it and/or worry he’ll do it again in the future.

3. Providing a performance evaluation when a reference is difficult to reach

After a very, very long job hunt I am now one of two finalists for a job that seems like a really good fit for me. The potential employer is checking my references and also, presumably, the other candidate’s too. My most recent boss, one of my references and the one most equipped to speak to the specific skills for this job, is sort of an over-promising, all talk and no action kind of person. I’m afraid he’s not going to get back to them, even though he said he would, based on what I know of him.

I have a copy of the very positive performance review he wrote for me right before I left my previous job ( we were both laid off). I’m thinking of sending it to the employer or at least telling them that I have it if they are interested in seeing it. My husband thinks I should do it first thing tomorrow morning. My sister thinks it seems desperate. What do you think?

I’d say something like this: “By the way, Bob can be difficult to reach. If you have any trouble getting in touch with him (or even if you don’t), I’d be glad to provide a copy of the most recent performance evaluation he wrote for me right before I left my job at ___. Just let me know if you’d like me to!”

4. Is my temp agency trying to keep me from switching jobs?

After graduating college this past spring, I tried applying to jobs with little success. Then I tried a temp agency, and within a month, they got me a 6 month+ contract job.

After being there for 6 months, however, I definitely do not want to stay for multiple reasons. Anyway, after talking with my representative, and explaining I want something else, she told me she would let me know if anything comes up.

Every time I ask her about updates, she’ll say she’s either not finding anything, not hearing back from some, or only finding something of which she already knows I’m not interested in. Then I’ll find jobs I would be interested in on the temp agency’s website (which she neglects to mention), and apply to them directly there, but then she’ll come back to me and say “They’re looking for someone with more qualification” even though the ad specifically stated their preferred qualification, which I meet.

Is my temp agency trying to keep me where they put me, just to continue making money off of me, and actively not trying to get me a different job like I desperately want?

It’s certainly possible. I’d stop focusing your efforts on them, and instead apply to jobs directly and work with other agencies.

5. What’s up with the teapots?

Occasionally, I read question posts using the word “teapot.” I don’t understand the context. Is this code or slang? Please explain.

A while back, a commenter used “chocolate teapots” as a fictional example of a company’s products. It’s often preferable to have a generic stand-in than to have to get specific about what your company does (both for simplicity’s sake and anonymity’s sake). I used it myself a few times, and then it caught on more widely. (I actually usually try to avoid using it too frequently in questions since I know it’ll be confusing to some readers, but at times it’s very useful.)

{ 274 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    oh please please please #1 don’t confuse annoying people with ‘trying hard’. Applying for jobs is sort of zen — you perfect your cover letter and application and then you lay that job to rest unless they contact you. After an actual interview, ONE followup is likely to be okay — but not after just an application. If they aren’t seeing your military experience and it is important for the jobs you are applying for then your cover letter isn’t representing you well.

    Job searching sucks. Even excellent applicants often hear nothing at all. Even after enthusiastic interviews, you are likely to hear nothing at all. It is soul sucking, but nagging won’t get you anywhere and even excellent candidates often struggle for a a good job.

    1. anon here*

      Totally agree about #1. What you’re doing is actually stalking, not showing interest. And if you’re simultaneously insisting on your military experience, that’s really threatening. Leave people alone!
      Also, when you find a good website, it’s a good idea to read up on what they say before sending in your questions. AMA has emphasized this point over and over already.. You’d no doubt benefit from reading up on every stage of the process here. Good luck.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        The stalking analogy is very appropriate, because job searching is very much like dating:

        You need to put yourself out there and be ready for rejection.
        You both have to feel that it’s a really good fit to move forward.
        Don’t be too desperate or you’ll make decisions that you’ll regret later.
        Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault that it doesn’t work out…and sometimes it is, and you can learn from that, too.
        Put your best foot forward, but don’t let your mouth make promises that your a** can’t cash, or you’re setting yourself up for failure when you can’t reach the unrealistic expectations you’ve set, and once the trust is gone, the relationship is very likely doomed.

        1. C Average*

          . . . and it’s unlikely anyone has just one true love / perfect job. Lots of fish in the sea, etc.

          Your analogy is pretty much perfect.

      2. Zillah*

        I think calling what OP1 has been doing “stalking” is a little harsh. It’s definitely misguided and unlikely to help her, but it’s not stalking.

        1. Artemesia*

          I once dropped a candidate from our list of the final ten semi-finalists (with a plan to interview 6 by phone and then fly in 3 to interview in person) because of this type behavior. There were a few other things as well but the fact that he constantly called the admin and insisted on knowing where his application stood and then when he would be interviewed led me to send him the rejection letter. Since he was local and an interview would have been ‘free’ for us, I might have actually interviewed him as he was in the top ten if not for this behavior. It feels like stalking to people who are on the receiving end. I realize that the OP has not done it to this level, but it is just out of line. I hadn’t thought of this, but the idea that emphasizing being in the military while nagging might make it worse is not off base.

          It is awful to wait. My daughter had 4 interviews where she was told she was one of the final two before finally landing her job. Even getting that far can lead to nothing. It is an awful experience. I agree that the OP needs to read through this site’s advice and Alison’s material on cover letters and resumes and interviewing in particular. Good luck to him.

          1. matcha123*

            I think for a lot of people, this is something that’s very hard to understand. I know that when my mom is looking for jobs, she will call to ask if they’ve gotten the application or what her standing is.

            It’s totally possible they passed over her for someone else or her application was lost somewhere, but she doesn’t know that. And then to hear that if she had called back they would have given her an interview only adds to the confusion. I really feel for the OP in this case. When you have a job, you have all the time in the world, but when you’re searching every day is another day without income. I hope that he starts to get some leads soon.

            1. Artemesia*

              If he had NOT called constantly I would have given him an interview — the calls turned us off. And the nasty letter he sent after I rejected him demonstrating his belief that he was entitled to be interviewed and accusing us of age discrimination just reinforced the idea that annoying applicants will remain annoying. He complained to my boss about the age discrimination and he just chuckled and noted that the person we hired was in her late 50s.

            2. Zillah*

              I think that there are two dynamics in what you’re talking about that it’s important to acknowledge:

              1) You don’t have a right to be considered for every job you apply for (provided there’s no discrimination based on protected classes, that is). So, even if your application does get lost or isn’t really looked at, that’s just kind of a thing that happens. Following up to make sure they got it only makes sense if you were encouraged by people connected to the hiring process to apply in the first place.

              2) I think that “Oh, we lost it! Too bad, we absolutely would have called you” is sometimes true… but also sometimes a soft rejection.

        2. HR Recruiter*

          When you are on the other side of the table getting calls every other day from the same candidate does feel like stalking, and gets very annoying. Makes you think twice as to whether or not you want to work with someone daily who needs that much follow up. Following up once is ok, but every other day when the status hasn’t changed is too much.

          Maybe car salesman should take AAM’s advice as well. I am feeling “stalked” after car shopping last week. Silly me gave the salesman my real number.

          1. Zillah*

            Absolutely – I’m not saying it’s not incredibly annoying or likely to do anything other than hurt your candidacy. I just think that using a word as serious as “stalking” for this isn’t accurate.

    2. Graciosa*

      I would add that the one follow up (only after an interview) should not be immediate – you need to give the employer time to finish up that round of the interview process, and that is rarely going to be the next day. Ask when you can expect to hear back, and don’t follow up until after that time – plus a little cushion – has passed.

      Your comment about your military experience not “getting through” to the hiring managers is troubling. Either you’re not presenting it on your resume (in which case, fix that), or you don’t believe the hiring manager is literate (what other reason is there for thinking that your help is needed to understand information you’ve already provided in writing?).

      Even if the hiring manager *is* illiterate, pointing it out is not likely to endear you to that individual, and do you really want that job anyway?

      I’m also concerned about your having applied *everywhere* – apparently without discrimination. I understand that you want a job, I really do, but you’re presenting yourself like the job hunting equivalent of someone standing in a bus station shouting marriage proposals into the crowd. I assume that some of this is born of a desperate need to do something – anything – to get a job, but you need to realize that it isn’t working and change your strategy to one that emphasizes quality over quantity.

      My advice would be to limit yourself to no more than one application per day with a maximum of five per week (fewer if you can bring yourself to do it). Review the newly available postings with the idea that you want to find the one best possible fit – then spend the rest of your time researching the company, tailoring your application materials, and otherwise doing everything possible to make yourself a great candidate for that posting. Alison has a lot of very helpful material on how to do this, but it requires you to invest significant time in a targeted search.

      I know this is difficult, but your odds of finding a job will actually be higher with a small number of well-targeted applications (with customized cover letters and resumes) than they would be if you emailed your resume to every hiring manager on the continent.

      And please stop following up on applications! One polite call might be forgivable (although annoying) on grounds of ignorance, but the second would knock you out of consideration for me. I’m not writing this to be cruel, but in the hope that changing your approach will help you find a job more quickly.

      Good luck.

      1. Alien vs Predator*

        “Your comment about your military experience not “getting through” to the hiring managers is troubling. Either you’re not presenting it on your resume (in which case, fix that), or you don’t believe the hiring manager is literate (what other reason is there for thinking that your help is needed to understand information you’ve already provided in writing?)”

        I came here to say something like this.

        OP, this is no slight to your service to our country, but you need to understand that many, many employers simply don’t care about your military service in and of itself. If you had a specific job in the military that gave you experience that specifically pertains to the job then, by all means, relay that information to the employer. But, you should not assume that serving in the military should give you some kind of leg up over other candidates (except, perhaps, for jobs in the federal government).

        I would even go so far as to say, based on my experiences in the private sector, that oftentimes military service (with no other work experience) is actually viewed as more of a liability than an asset. These people are often viewed as overly-rigid, unable to think for themselves or problem solve independently, and may not just generally fit in to the work culture, or have PTSD. I’m not saying this is right or fair, as I believe military service CAN teach leadership skills and confidence (among a great many other things), but you should not assume that this alone moves you to the front of the line.

        Again, I am on your side here. I find it abominable that people are sent off to fight and die overseas, and then come home and cannot find a way to make a living. But, you really need to focus on what, specifically, you learned in the military that pertains to the job in question.

        I wish I was more educated on this topic so I could provide better advice as I have watched a number of men and women come out of the service and then have great difficulty finding work. I really suggest that you look into organizations and information resources that can help veterans make this transition.

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          There are a number of tools on the internet that help vets translate their military service into non-military language to showcase their valuable experience. Many, many companies value the skills that our vets have to offer. But some hiring managers do not understand directly how their skills do transfer. If you have not, If you have not done so, I would recommend doing some work on your resume to make sure your military experience can be directly related to the jobs you are applying. You may need to customize you resume and cover letter for each position you apply, but that would be time well spent. Good luck and thank you for your service!

          1. Folklorist*

            Seriously…I was just working on an article profiling a guy coming out of the army. He worked as a support soldier for the Green Berets. Not only did he fill in as a cook and office admin, but he also was a communications specialist and medical tech! There are tons of transferable skills; it’s finding the right way to represent them–targeted to each job you’re applying for–rather than just saying “I was in the military”. I would never have known that before I talked to this guy, and I bet a lot of hiring managers wouldn’t, either!

        2. Katie*

          My experience with the private sector is the opposite. My husband has 12 years military & no college degree and gets constant emails from recruiters. Most are government contractors and my husband spent a lot of time perfecting his resume so that military skills translate into civilian workplace. (I have 8 years experience and an MBA and get nothing)
          Many military folk underestimate their experience and skills as just average or not important. Maybe work with someone who has successfully made the transition to make sure your resume is highlighting the variety of valuable skills you gained during your service.

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            In my (very limited experience) whether the experience is worth much depends on how long they were in service (the bare minimum or for a longer haul) and what they actually did. A person who was basically a janitor on a ship for four years isn’t going to have very much success compared to ones who handled the radio/communications and was in for over a decade.

          2. Alien vs Predator*

            Well, sure, I also found that to be true while working for government contractors. And while they are technically “private sector”, that is not really what I was talking about in my post. I am referring to private sector employers that do not have any ties to the military or any other government agency. What you are describing is a totally different circumstance than what I am talking about.

        3. Bea W*

          I would even go so far as to say, based on my experiences in the private sector, that oftentimes military service (with no other work experience) is actually viewed as more of a liability than an asset. These people are often viewed as overly-rigid, unable to think for themselves or problem solve independently, and may not just generally fit in to the work culture, or have PTSD.

          I haven’t run into this personally (I feel like I live in an area that views military service positively though.), but if people view military veterans like this, it’s really sad! Wow. Just wow. I had no idea.

          1. Jennifer M.*

            I work in an international field and we often use former military as consultants because they do have absolutely relevant skills. But we do have to organize them a bit differently than the rest of us. For example, in our industry it is a lot of career consultants and people with a lot of experience in independent international travel. With those folks it’s generally “yeah when you get out of baggage claim there should be a driver, he’ll probably have a sign, but it might be misspelled.” I was actually left unattended at the airport in Kabul my first time in country (a porter grabbed my suitcase and took it out to the parking lot so I had to go chasing him but couldn’t get back into the airport because it was an exit only area) and managed to convince some guy who spoke no English to call my in-country contact (even though my phone was GSM, it wasn’t picking up the service for some reason) who in turn called the assigned security guard. Turns out I was literally standing next to the car coming to pick me up so the driver was able to rescue me and the security guard who had been sent inside to get me somehow missed me (he had my picture). This was a huge security snafu for a woman traveling in Kabul obviously, but something that I was able to roll with. We’ve found with the ex-military consultants we have to be a bit more precise – be at this place at this time, the driver will be standing to the right of the ATM by door number 3.

          2. Alien vs Predator*

            I also live in an area that views military service positively (Texas) and all of these experiences have occurred here.

            In all fairness, though, I’ve come to view military personnel as simply another cross-section of people. And I say that as someone who spent half my career, up to now, working for defense contractors on a military base right alongside military personnel. There are some people that exemplify the best aspects of military training and culture, and there are some people that exemplify the worst aspects of it. While I’ve never been in the driver’s seat on any of the hiring decisions I’ve witnessed, I think that if I were I would view military service as a potential positive, but not an automatic one. I’ve worked alongside military folks that I think very highly of, but I’ve also worked alongside military folks that I wouldn’t hire to mop the floor.

            So, I don’t think that these concerns about military personnel are totally unfounded. Obviously, a person’s military experience is just one factor, among many, that must be weighed during the hiring process.

            My point to the OP, based on the language in his/her letter, is that he should not assume that just checking the “military service” box automatically creates a positive impression in an employer’s mind. I was encouraging the OP to identify what it is, specifically, about their military service that makes them more qualified for the job and to focus on that.

          3. MK*

            I think it’s possible to view military service positively and still be reluctunt to hire them. Certainly I am grateful to the people who serve in my country’s armed forces for doing their part to keep the rest of us safe. But I would not hire them for a position just for this reason, since the success of the overall organization is affected by each employee.

            1. fposte*

              In the US, it’s actually illegal to hold somebody’s military status against them in hiring (my state extends the USERRA protections even further).

            2. Melissa*

              But that’s stereotyping, and stereotyping in a mostly inaccurate way, in addition. A lot of people assume that military types are very rigid and precise (and thus unable to think independently or problem-solve), but that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, many positions within the military involve a lot of flexibility and decision-making under tight time-conditions – not to mention that many military positions are actually supervisory as well as technical. I count several active duty and veteran personnel among my friends and family (including my husband) and many of them would’ve been able to figure out a solution to Jennifer M.’s problem.

              And besides that, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to discriminate against veterans in hiring.

              1. Anonsie*

                I don’t think MK is saying they would hold it against them, they’re saying they don’t see it as a bonus in and of itself that would bump those candidates to the top of the list unless they’re also qualified otherwise. You can value the service itself while still not wanting to hire that person because they don’t have the relevant experience or training you need, or they’re not a good fit overall, etc just like any other candidate.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Yeah, I think that sentence can be parsed in more than one way. At first read, it sounded like “I would not hire a military person, and this is why,” when it could also be “I would not hire a military person just for having been in the military.” And I think the latter is more likely.

                2. fposte*

                  I think you’re right, and I misparsed that sentence. Probably good to get a USERRA mention up in this topic anyway though.

          4. shellbell*

            I view military service in a positive light and served in the military myself. I also concede that a shift from military culture to another type of culture in the private sector is difficult for many reasons discussed here. People whose primary work experience was in the military can be too rigid for some private sector cultures. This is about denigrating our vets or having a dim view of military service. It can be a legitimate issue.

        4. OhNo*

          I was just coming here to say this. Military experience is often viewed very differently in private industry than it is with the government or in the military itself. Often times, military service in and of itself isn’t going to give you any preference in hiring.

          If it helps, try to present it like any other job, where you need to spell out what aspects of the things you did would relate to the job you are applying for. That way you know that the hiring manager will make those connections.

          1. AnotherFed*

            Actually, US military service will absolutely get you preference in hiring, assuming you are looking in the right places and your discharge is honorable. Just about all federal government jobs will give additional weight to your application due to the military service. Defense contractors will also often give preference to those with military experience – even if that experience was not particularly high tech, there is value to them in hiring people who already understand the military and can communicate with military customers for things like field service reps, trainers, business development, and writing manuals. Note that there are also numerous tax initiatives to encourage employers to hire veterans.

            OP, there are also many efforts, in both private sector and government hiring, to place vets in jobs that match their skills. Make sure you’re properly indicating your vet status if you are applying to federal jobs on USA jobs, check out the Warriors to Work project with the Wounded Warriors if it applies, and see if you are still eligible for some of the service member/family support services that will give you assistance with writing cover letters and resumes. And if you just want some help trying to figure out federal hiring/, let me know!

            1. OhNo*

              That’s why I said it’s viewed differently in private industry. It’s true that veterans often get preference in government jobs and government-related fields (like government contractors). However, in private companies, and in other fields, it’s a very different story.

              Although I’ve never been in charge of hiring, I’ve heard quite a few stories from vets that show that to be true. It’s unfortunate, but there do seem to be strong stereotypes about veterans in some industries that mean that former soldiers get relegated to the bottom of the pile.

        5. Artemesia*

          I once ran an enormous research project that involved gathering data in 20 states and managing people in distant places who had little incentive to follow through. Keeping track of the data gathering and then managing the data when it came in including the coding into the computing system was a tedious difficult job to which I was not particularly well suited and for which I didn’t have time. I hired an advanced grad student to manage this process. She was recently retired from the military where she had been a sergeant. She was not a particularly good grad student — adequate but not particularly creative or insightful — but she knew how to manage. Without her excellent leadership skills and attention to detail, our project which led to nationally recognized work might not have succeeded. She was the best project manager I ever hired and her military experience helped make her that way.

          Figure out what was done in the military that gives you an edge in the workplace. Military experience per se is both a red flag these days and an advantage. Figure out what about the work you did you can put forward that will be an advantage to the workplace. Attention to detail, follow through, work ethic etc are all moderately rare characteristics that might have been required in your military work. If what you did in the military sounds not at all like the workplace, think up a level of abstraction to the business appropriate skills that might have resulted from purely military missions.

          1. Chinook*

            The one aspect not touched on is that, if in the military you had been raised above a certain rank (in Canada, it is master corporal or equivalent) you have probably had some type of leadership and project management skills training, which is unheard of on civvy street. My experience is that the military training system is set up to assume leadership skills aren’t a given and need to be taught. This is something that should be emphasized in a resume.

    3. INTP*

      It also comes across as very entitled. For one, you’re demanding someone’s time to get information. I get that it’s frustrating to not hear back, but that’s just how the process works now – you assume your application has been rejected until you hear back. When hundreds of people apply for open positions and only 10 are qualified, employers aren’t going to waste time sending rejection letters unless it’s a seamless feature of their ATS. So it conveys that you feel entitled to take up the time of busy people to get information that is not de rigeur to provide anymore.

      And if you’re also coming across as believing that you have the right experience for the job due to your military background but they just aren’t seeing it, that also seems entitled. Spell out your most relevant qualifications on your resume and if the recruiter decides that it’s not enough, you probably just don’t have the experience that they are looking for – it’s not that they just aren’t seeing it. This is something that is so incredibly common with job seekers because they are looking at it as, “I have X and Y qualifications showing that with a little training I could do this job” and the employers are looking for people who have ALREADY done the same job, or as close to it as possible, not people who could probably be trained to do it.

  2. Just Visiting*

    Is my temp agency trying to keep me where they put me, just to continue making money off of me, and actively not trying to get me a different job like I desperately want?

    Yes. I was in a similar situation a few months ago, down to the recruiter saying “well, you’d better just take the job, because I’m not giving you anything else.” Stay on as a temp if you need the money, but definitely keep looking on your own. Your career satisfaction isn’t their goal, it’s only a happy side effect if it happens. Their goal is to get butts in chairs so they can make money (not knocking this, it is what it is).

    1. JM in England*

      Agreed…………’re only worth something to an agency if you’re in a job making money for THEM. To date all the jobs I’ve really liked have been obtained through my OWN efforts. That said though, I have often been in in agency job whilst looking………….

    2. Sabrina*

      Yeah you’re a commodity to them. Wal-Mart doesn’t take the feelings of the stuff it sells into account when it places it on the shelf. They will do whatever they can to sell you to an employer, including lie to you. They have no incentive to place you somewhere else, especially if they’ve already placed you with a big client of theirs. They aren’t going to risk their relationship with their big client to find you a better job. I found my current job through a temp agency, but it was a very painful process.

    3. Adonday Veeah*

      You are the product. The employer is the customer. Their goal is to make the customer happy by providing good product. If you leave, they will provide another product. Good customers are hard to come by. By all means, do your own search. And that includes working with other temp agencies. As long as you treat your current temp agency with respect, you won’t be burning a bridge there by leaving — you’ve proven they can make money through you, so they’ll take you back in the future if they have an appropriate placement for you.

    4. Manders*

      I was in the same situation as the OP after a temp agency placed me in a job that was a terrible fit (not just for me–the turnover was sky high, and for good reason). I quit without another job lined up, which I don’t recommend, and I didn’t use that temp agency again. OP is doing the right thing by continuing to job hunt, but they should expand their search beyond their current agency, because that agency has a strong incentive not to change anything now.

    5. Connie-Lynne*

      I’ll admit my temping experience is 25 years out of date, but this wasn’t my experience at all.

      I worked for a temp agency for three years, and at one point I went to them and said “hey, I know this sounds weird, but, I’m bored in the position I have now, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to make a perm hire any time soon.” My rep checked and said “oh wow, six months in that position? Yeah, that’s way too long, we’ll find someone else and we’ll move you elsewhere.”

      I also garnered two full-time positions through temping with this agency; they had a policy in place for hiring temps that provided a bonus for the agency.

      I’m not discounting others’ experience, I’m sure there are plenty of agencies out there that treat you like a commodity without feelings, but it isn’t always the case. LW’s rep may very well be telling her the truth.

      Which doesn’t change the advice given, though — you should definitely be looking elsewhere and even going through different agencies. At one point I had active accounts in with three different agencies, and it kept me reasonably busy.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Temping norms have really changed in the last 5-10 years. It’s much harder to get temp jobs now (lots of qualified people register with lots of temp agencies and never get work), and the agencies’ practices have changed as a result.

    6. INTP*

      Also remember that the temp agency’s actual clients are the companies that they send employees to. You are the product. In an ideal situation, this works to the benefit of everyone involved. However, it would be unethical for the temp agency to pull you out of one of their jobs and put you in another one. That’s a major conflict of interest because they are costing their client money (in the form of replacing you) to make more money by putting you in a different job. However, even if you get one temp job and can’t get another with that agency until the contract is complete, you are still in a better position than if you were unemployed due to refusing to work with a temp agency in the first place. And at least at the staffing agency where I worked, we would not refuse to work with someone for not taking the first assignment available as long as they had a valid reason. You do not have to take anything available (though you’re more likely to be at the top of the go-to temp list if you are flexible), you just can’t job hop around on the agency’s clients’ dime.

      End soapbox, lol. I just always feel the need when this comes up because I think the main cause of people’s frustration with temp agencies is misunderstandings about how the whole process works. They aren’t there to find you a job – if you want someone to work for YOU rather than the employer, pay them thousands of dollars like the employer does.

  3. CAA*

    #1 – Is your military experience in the type of work you’re applying to do now? If it is, then maybe entry level jobs are at the wrong level and you should be applying for positions that match the number of years experience you have in the military. I.e. if you were an MP for 3 years and you’re looking for work in security, then you could apply for positions asking for 2 to 5 years experience.

    If you’re looking to switch to a different type of work, then your military experience is probably not going to be as helpful as you might have been led to believe it would be. If it’s on your resume and you enter it on the online applications, then hiring managers already know about it. They’re just not valuing it because it’s not relevant.

    If you want special consideration for having been in the military, then you might look for work at government contractors; federal, state and local government agencies; or at institutions or organizations that receive federal aid. These types of organizations usually have hiring preferences for veterans.

    1. MK*

      I find the wording “military experience” a bit odd. Could it be that the OP didn’t actually serve in the armed forces for X number of years, but the connection was more remote? Also, I don’t understand how something like this isn’t “getting through” to perspective employers.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        “Military Experience” is a pretty standard phrase that means “I served in the [Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps…].”

        As for the “getting through” part, there are plenty of readers with current or recent military experience who can better speak to the career counseling the military provides for those leaving the service, but when my brother was RIF’d in the mid ’90s, what he got from the Army tended to over-promise what potential employers would think of his military background.

        OP: make sure your resume translates your military experience into plain English and isn’t written in jargon. I’ve had a smattering of vets apply and most of them suffer from that problem. Good luck.

  4. Stephanie*

    #1: Aw, I get where you’re coming from. The anxiety can drive you batty during a job search.

    On your resume and in your cover letters, are you making your military experience as transferable as possible and describing it in the least jargon-filled way possible? If you’re applying to a different type of work, it might not be obvious to an employer how your military experience could be applicable, especially if you did jobs that don’t really have civilian counterparts.

    I’d echo trying government jobs, since they do give veterans preference. I’d also look into defense contractors (or really any organization that does federal contracting, since I think those organizations have to track their attempts to hire veterans and minorities). Some companies also make a big show of hiring veterans on their jobs websites.

    IME, I haven’t found staffing agencies super useful (but I know for some people, they do find jobs that way). For starters, I’ve noticed in my field and area that contractor roles are an entry point into a lot of the big local employers and multiple headhunters will own one position, so those roles end up being as competitive as a permanent role. It also seems that agencies/recruiters are a bit more useful if you have an easily matched skill set (e.g., you have fifteen years’ experience in teapot glazing and the recruiter’s client is looking for a senior teapot glazer) just because you might be a tougher sell to the client otherwise. But you could reach out to a couple of agencies to see if they can work with you. Just think of them as another avenue for your job search.

  5. Csarndt*

    #1-job searching kinda sucks and takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. I sent out online applications for three months and didn’t hear back from any of them…at all…not even an autoreply acknowledgement that I existed from most. It’s so tempting to want a real actual human to confirm your personal existence and worth…but don’t do it. As someone who has done quite a bit of hiring myself, there are few faster ways to drop to the bottom of the pile than to annoy me with phone calls. I’m busy. I’m hiring because I’m short staffed so I’m likely covering more than one position at the time. If it’s entry level, I don’t really need a laundry list of specific attributes, I need someone who can function professionally in a professional environment. For example, doesn’t call someone every day to ‘follow up’ on something that takes more than a day to accomplish.

    I can’t quite put my finger on it, but your letter, it seems a bit…off…like American English isn’t your native language. I was mentally adding editing marks as I was reading it. If your cover letter reads the same way, that could be your problem. Have someone who is a native speaker in the country and region you’re apply for jobs in help you with your application materials.

    1. Andrew*

      I work on a military base and sometimes get military members applying for second jobs where I work. As one of the managers, I do interviewing and see the resumes that are submitted. A lot of them could use a lot of work. If I was in an area that didn’t give preference to veterans, I would probably never consider them based on their resumes. Please have someone go over your resume. I know that there are services for veterans to get help with applying for jobs. At least the base I work on has an office just for help with job searching for people that work on the base, but primarily for active duty military.

    2. Alistair*

      I sort of had the same experience regarding multiple calls: We’re going to replace our furnace, and I got three estimates. One company called me every few days “to see if I had any questions.” Even though their prices were reasonable, the multiple calls annoyed me enough to take them out of consideration.

      Now take that notion and multiply that by someone calling everyday, times dozens of resumes, and you get the idea. Call once a week or two later, to ensure your application did in fact arrive, then move on. Other folks have good ideas about resumes and applications, give those ideas some thought. Good luck!

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        As someone who receives dozens of resumes per job posting, please do NOT call once to ensure your application arrived. There are weeks when I let all calls go through to voice mail because so many of them are from people who want me to sift through my stack of resumes to ensure that theirs is in the stack. If every person who sent a resume to me did this, it would bring all other aspects of my job to a screeching halt.

        It sucks to job hunt. I’ve been on both ends. Send your resume and move on, and be patient. And if your resume is not generating interest, by all means take AAM’s advice and find out why. It could be your resume, or it could be the types of jobs you’re applying to.

        And thank you for your military service!

      2. Bea W*

        I saw this in action when a candidate kept calling my manager. My manager was beyond annoyed, and it reflected really badly on that person. Even worse, the usual procedure with applicants from a staffing agency is that they go through their agency, not contact the hiring manager directly to ask (or nag in this case) about her application and when she could come interview. My manager ended up thinking she was a total crackpot. You can bet if her resume ever lands on my manager’s desk again, it will go straight into the circular file.

  6. Student*

    #2 Your manager may have felt like he was group mentoring you. Or maybe the alcohol had something to do with his impaired judgement. People get impaired by alcohol way before they’re drunk enough that it’s obvious to others – especially if the observers are also drinking. Not saying this is the answer, there are other possibilities. But it might be something to consider if you’ve never seen this kind of behavior from your boss and also never been out drinking with your boss before.

    1. MK*

      Offering feedback (particularly negative) over dinner and drinks with the team is very inappropriate. But what concerns me more is that it mirrors what the OP’s colleague thought the OP should have done to the project manager, outing and embarrassing them in front of the rest of the team. I have a hard time believing that this was a single misjudgement of the OP’s boss, when they not only tacitly agreed that “outing and embarrassing” is the right response to performance problems, but went on to do this to the OP then and there. It sounds more like a fixed aspect of the company’s culture to me.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I don’t see the scenario the OP described as “feedback”, though– not in any formal way. Dinner conversation about difficult clients or co-workers is par for the course, in my experience. I’ve probably had a ton of meals that involved, “She really messed up– I wish you’d been harder on her,” or something similar, and it sparks discussion about how so-and-so handles things vs. so-and-so. If it makes the OP uncomfortable, then she should certainly address it and try to squash it– I just think it sounds like run-of-the-mill business dinner talk, especially since it sounds like it was intended to give the OP support in being more assertive.

        Granted, I’m unclear on whether it was the manager or the OP that indicated this would be on her annual review– if the manager said, “I was going to say in your review blah blah blah” and went on to berate the OP, then that’s one (hugely inappropriate) thing, but if he said, “I want you to work on standing up for yourself” and it appeared on the review later, then that’s quite another and not nearly as black-and-white.

        1. fposte*

          I’m inclined to agree. This is a training weekend, so how you’re doing at professional stuff is already the conversation. The colleague starts to give the OP bad professional advice, and her manager jumps in to contextualize it in a way that makes more sense and talk about the issue more clearly.

          Yeah, it’s not the best timing, but I also think it’s understandable–the manager is likely to not have wanted the colleague’s input to be left standing in isolation, since he’s your boss, not the colleague. If the weekend had anything to do with human dynamics that made the topic even more relevant. I’m also wondering if you think the boss should have shut the colleague giving the initial input down, where I’m thinking that the boss might be seeing the fact that you didn’t as the kind of thing he’s talking about.

          I’d probably try to talk to him again, not just to say “I’d rather that not happen publicly” but also to get more information when you’re prepared to hear it about the advice he was sharing.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep, that’s my take too. I definitely don’t think there’s reason to assume it’s a sign of larger problems with the boss or the company, particularly absent any other complaints from the OP, who says she thought highly of the manager.

      2. Continua_Quaerere*

        I wondered if anyone else got rubbed the wrong way with this “outing and embarassing in front of the team”. I mean granted, maybe at some companies it’s a norm but ouch, personally I wouldn’t ever want to work there.

        1. MP1*

          Yeah, that comment rubbed me the wrong way. I’m a (new-ish) project manager and there are times when I’m barely keeping my head above water. My employer expects the PM’s to manage 20+ projects at a time. I’d be livid if someone decided to call me out and embarrass me in front of the entire team, especially if the mistake is minor or something I haven’t fully learned yet. I have no issue with people pointing out my errors as long as it’s done professionally. Anyway, in the case of OP#2, this could be a company culture thing. I think I’d raise it to the manager using AAM’s language as a guideline and (depending on the context) ask some trusted colleagues who’ve been around longer if it’s normal to receive feedback in front of the whole team.

      3. Bea W*

        +1 the “outing and embarrassing” part of that conversation was the part that jumped out at me. Ugh. No. That’s a line straight out of “How to be a Bad Manager 101”.

  7. Woodward*

    I LOVE the chocolate teapot examples and all the variations that come up in the comments! It’s one of my favorite little things about this blog and the community of regular commenters. Keep using them!!

    1. Megan*

      Me too! Do the names Alison uses have any special meanings? Like Wakeen & Apollo? I think I get some of them are surnames from TV shows I obviously don’t watch but do the names have a genesis?

      1. AMD*

        I believe “Wakeen” came from a story someone told about a coworker named “Joaquin,” where they didn’t realize the latter was pronounced like the former and so believed they had two different coworkers instead of just one person.

        1. BRR*

          I had a question about that as well. Maybe chocolate teapots should be in the about me.

          PS I want an AAM merchandise section with like a teapot that just says chocolate teapot on it or something.

                1. The Mango Hulk*

                  Also: Did we know Chocolate Teapots were on Wikipedia?

                  Chocolate teapot[edit]

                  A chocolate teapot is a teapot that would be made from chocolate. It is commonly supposed that such a teapot would melt, and be impossible to use, therefore the term is often used as an analogy for any useless item.

                  Experimental researchers in 2001 did indeed fail to successfully use a chocolate teapot they had made.[7] Later research, however, by The Naked Scientists in 2008, showed that such a teapot could be used to make tea, provided that the walls of the teapot were more than one centimetre thick.[8]

                1. Al Lo*

                  $6 shipping is insane? You clearly don’t live in Canada… :/ (Shipping is the bane of online shopping.)

          1. Serin*

            That story makes me doubly appreciate the feature on the online directory of my (very, very international) company: A button to click on that says, “Hear me pronounce my name.”

            1. Monodon monoceros*

              I want that! For my first few months at my job I went in to my coworker’s office often (she’s a native speaker of the language where I work) and she read through lists of names of colleagues while I wrote down phonetic spellings. It was probably extremely boring for her.

            2. cuppa*

              As someone who had a hard-to-pronounce maiden name and traded it in for a hard-to-pronounce married name, this would be awesome.

          2. Monodon monoceros*

            Maybe you should have a FAQ section, with the links to the Wakeen story, something explaining chocolate teapots, and also the article you wrote a while back about “is it legal?” questions (can’t remember how long ago it was posted but it was a good explanation for many of the legal questions).

            There probably are loads of other questions that you get over and over and over and….

        2. Kali*

          I like that I got to read these comments this morning from the hotel room I got stranded in due to weather….in WaKeeney, Kansas.

      1. BRR*

        The professor is in has a glossary and I think it’s very helpful. You could include things like exempt and non-exempt.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          Eh. I mean, the story is hilarious, but the seasonality of it makes me think it won’t become ingrained in *daily* AAM culture the way Wakeen and teapots have.

          “Naked gold barbie” on the other hand…that one has some potential. ;)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve thought about it, but then I worry it makes us seem cliquish to newcomers. (Of course, I realize that simply using the terms without explanation isn’t exactly better…)

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          It’s not the use of a shared joke that makes something cliquish, its excluding others from getting the joke. A note on the About page (“who the hell is Wakeen, and why does he sell chocolate teapots?”) would make the joke more accessible. It becomes a community joke, not just for those who have been around long enough to “get it.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, I can see that. I do think though that it looks … maybe overly precious to someone who’s not already immersed in the site. If I was reading a site for the first time and saw a glossary to inside jokes, I think I’d get a different idea of the site than if I discovered those jokes naturally over time. I realize I might be odd in this way but that might be at the root of my discomfort with it.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I think it might work okay if you made a glossary of actual workplace terms such as exempt and non-exempt, and then threw the Wakeen/teapot thing in along with it. Then you wouldn’t have to keep explaining those all the time, and the joke terms could add a bit of humor. And you could link to the Wakeen thing, which is hilarious. I still snicker over that one.

              1. Serin*

                I would like a general workplace glossary/site reference directory better than “our inside jokes.”

                Plus then you’d have a reference for the endless questions of “what are the requirements for an internship,” “can this job be done on a contract basis,” “where were those sample cover letters again.”

              2. Kelly L.*

                Yes! Or in a general site FAQ that also included, say, the commenting policy and what to do if you get an annoying ad and such.

              3. Not So NewReader*

                Instead of calling it “inside jokes” which might lead one to believe they were on the “outside”, why not call it “long running jokes” or “humor shared” or “chuckle with the rest of us”. Use story form or provide links, as opposed to using a dictionary form or FAQs.

            2. Zillah*

              I agree about a formal glossary. I would find that a little intimidating and overly rigid. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I wouldn’t check out the site, but it’d definitely inform my impression in a negative way.

              That said, I think a simple note on the ‘about’ page wouldn’t have the same effect. (Then again, I’m not sure people would necessarily see it, either.)

            3. Helen*

              I agree with you. I’m new to the site and figured out all these things organically. A glossary of “our inside jokes and why they’re funny” would have turned me off.

              1. fposte*

                And people are pretty happy to answer those questions when they’re asked–it’s not like people respond with “If you were important enough to understand, you’d already know.”

            4. Ms Enthusiasm*

              I’ve been reading this blog for years but rarely comment. I don’t recall reading the original Wakeen or Chocolate Teapot posts but I caught on pretty quick. One thing I’ve noticed is the use of a lot of names from TV shows that I don’t watch. Others will comment on how funny it is that Alison used that name but it means nothing to me. I guess I keep hoping for a reference that I DO get so I can be in on the joke – but that’s just me.

              1. Kelly L.*

                To me, the fun thing about the TV stories is that the story is usually intelligible without them, but gets an added level of funniness if you do know them. My eyes glaze over when someone tells a story about how A did this and B did that and then Company Y… So it’s so much more readable with names, and if the names are Ned Stark and Cersei Lannister, then I even have actor faces to put with the names, and it’s funny imagining the characters running around a modern office building doing their scheming. But the story could of course work with regular old Ned Smith and Carol Lang too. It’s just not as fun. ;)

            5. EG*

              Instead of a glossary, maybe just a list of links to the original mentions of commonly used jokes. That way readers can refer newcomers to the list to understand where these started.

              1. Loose Seal*

                Captain Awkward does this on her site. Almost all the inside references have come from the commenters over the years.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      but, on the other hand, such things can start to seem like inside jokes, and alienate folks who haven’t been around as long.

      1. saro*

        Yes, I agree. I think a FAQ about all the Wakeens and chocolate teapots would be helpful for newbies to understand would be less cliquish than just using it and not saying why.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          While I didn’t know the origin of the Wakeen story, there’s an old saying that something is about as useful as a chocolate teapot (meaning not useful at all since it would melt before you could brew your tea) so I just assumed it was a different way of saying Widget Factory to provide anonymity, like using Jane instead of the real person’s name in the postings.

          On that Wakeen thread, I have to admit that when I first saw the name as a non-Spanish speaking person, I too did come up with some Joe-ish non-pronunciation because if you don’t know, you don’t. The first time I ever saw the name Penelope printed in a story, I was unfortunately reading it aloud in class and pronounced it Penuh-lope because… also not Greek and only 10 years old. Meh… these things happen.

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            I worked with a Scandinavian guy once named Joakim (pronounced somewhat like Joe-kem).

            We were in the Southwestern US – almost everyone called him Wakeem. He finally stopped correctly them after a few weeks and rolled with it. It got to the point where I when I said his name correctly, I had to say it a couple times to get his attention, he got so used to Wakeem.

          2. Melissa*

            That’s what I assumed too, about chocolate teapots. I had never heard the old saying but I assumed it was just a cutesy stand-in that originated around here for whatever reason (and was better than widgets); somebody explained the saying in a more recent post and that’s when I got it.

    3. hayling*

      I love it too. I think there needs to be something about Wakeen, Apollo, and Chocolate Teapots somewhere in an FAQ.

  8. Andrew*

    Wakeen is someone that often comments on the posts regularly. I believe she may have been the originator of the chocolate teapots thing as well. Alison also uses names from Game of Thrones a lot.

    1. coffeedevil*

      From memory, I think someone wrote in with huge embarrassment after not realising that the “Joachim” they were emailing every day and the “Wakeem” they were speaking to every day were in fact the same man… pronunciation issues!

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Yes, and “our” Wakeen (Wakeen’s Teapots Ltd) isn’t, I believe, the originator of the Wakeen story, but took it and the chocolate teapot story and turned them into one epic screen name.

  9. Jean*

    My recollection is that Wakeen became a catchphrase after a lot of discussion during which someone gradually realized that he or she had been (mentally? actually?) spelling a colleague’s name as “Wakeen” instead of “Joachin.” I’d guesstimate this happened some time in the summer of 2013. Not going to do a detailed search right now b/c I’m currently reading due to insomnia and really should go back to sleep. (Yes, I know that plonking down in front of a screen is not the best way to encourage sleepiness. :-D ).

    1. Liane*

      That’s the Wakeen story. I don’t think Apollo comes from any particular story on here but it is another often used name on here.

  10. Jean*

    (My previous post went into moderation, or got lost in cyberspace.)
    So much for sleep! My inner insomniac was outvoted by my inner lapsed librarian. Search results below.
    Searched “Wakeen story” to find out how the whole thing got started. Answer = first result, dated Jan 30, 2013. Link to the specific comment (provided by Alison on April 15, 2013 during a discussion of how the whole Wakeen thing got started):

    Aand now back to bed while I still have something resembling good judgment.

    1. JMegan*

      My inner insomniac was outvoted by my inner lapsed librarian.

      I have that problem a lot too. :) Hope you got some sleep finally!

  11. little Cindy Lou who*

    I worked at a company where direct and dare I say blunt feedback to others was expected and encouraged in the moment. The reasoning was that it could then spark a litmus test by allowing others to either agree/disagree or discuss further and give the person receiving the feedback a better understanding of how they come across/where they went wrong, including a chance to explain their own logic and to ask questions that could help them perform better next time. It could sometimes seem and sometimes was taken as hostile and cruel by those without thick skins/if it was a “touched the bone” scenario, but that culture required an absolute willingness to be objective about yourself. So I’d have found the scenario described in #2 to be very gentle in comparison; it sounds like a mentoring conversation with just a little bit of tough love encouraging you to put your foot down when it’s warranted. I’d say always look for the lesson in feedback and if it’s not clear or if you think the feedback isn’t valid then discuss your perspective and ask a few choice questions (eg was it a one-off or have they noticed a pattern? )

    1. MK*

      Receiving a dressing-down from your boss during dinner and drinks isn’t “blunt feedback in the moment”. Also, this system sounds chaotic to me and very likely to create an argumentative workplace. Also, very time-consuming; was it really productive to stop working while the boss was offering the feedback, the employee was defending themselves and the rest of the team was weighing in on the discussion?

      1. fposte*

        She didn’t receive a dressing-down from her boss, from the sound of it. She received some contentious feedback from a colleague, and then her boss stepped in and gave her less contentious advice on the same matter.

          1. fposte*

            Right, and “direct feedback” isn’t dressing down. The content doesn’t sound like dressing down, either; it’s the kind of advice you give somebody who’s seeking to grow. If it wouldn’t be dressing down in a private meeting, I don’t think you can call it dressing down elsewhere, even if you’d rather it not have happened in the open.

            I wonder if people aren’t being overly influenced by the “criticized” in the title, which may not even be the OP’s wording.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Totally agree. Colored, perhaps, by a similar conversation my boss and I had with my direct report over a recent company dinner. We were telling her, essentially, how great she is and how we want to work with her on being more assertive. I know she took it the way we intended– kindness and support– and while I’d certainly be mortified if we embarrassed her in any way, discussions like that aren’t “dressing down” or “punishment” or even intended to be taken as formal business review. I’ve never been at a dinner where someone said, “Dude, the way you did that SUCKED,” but I’ve been at plenty where I’ve heard stuff like, “That presentation was SO GREAT and the client was so rude to you! You should have told her off.”

              1. fposte*

                I’m wondering also if it gets more common as you get higher. I’ve been at any number of meetings where the head honcho says to me or the director of whatever something like “I’d like you to be more assertive in creating partnerships,” or “I think they may be put off by being too pushy, so work on being subtle here.”

                1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  That’s a great point. Once you’re higher up the ladder and more visible, “review” is less about a formal performance review and more about representing the company, collaboration among colleagues, etc. I will never be formally reviewed by my CEO, but if he has something to say about a project, he’ll probably say it during dinner, drinks, etc.

      2. Illini02*

        MK your comments seem to indicate that you are taking what seems fairly innocent as some cardinal sin. I get that some people have certain ways they prefer to be dealt with, and thats fine. But you are acting like he scolded and berated her in a public auditorium or something. He gave her some direct feedback. Yes, it was an issue that was brought up by another co-worker, so I can see how some people may not like that. However, what he did really does not sound that bad. I don’t know what your opinion of a “dressing down” is, but for most people, this is far from that (unless the OP SIGNIFICANTLY lessened what was actually said)

        1. fposte*

          I think there’s a bit of a contagion effect here, in that it does sound like the OP’s colleague was doing some pretty heavy finger-wagging and making some pretty dubious statements, and people are splashing that onto the boss who didn’t do either of those things.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        MK, I wonder if you’re reading this through a different lens for some reason, and it’s sounding more contentious in your head. It sounds like it was just feedback — not a dressing down. I can think of times when the conversation would naturally lead in that direction with a group (as it sounds like it did here) and a manager might misjudge someone’s comfort level with her being candid about contributing to that conversation. That’s how it reads to me.

        1. MK*

          I realise it’s a matter of perception. But here the thing: Coworker suggests the OP should have “outed and empbarassed” a project manager in front of a whole team. I consider it a red flag that the boss didn’t contradict that, but went on to also critisize the OP for not being direct enough and advise them to speak up more. If I was listening to the conversation, I would have heard it as tacit approval from the boss that, yes, the OP should have done the outing and embarassing.

          It could have been perfectly natural for the boss to say “Actually, no, it’s not good managing to embarass your employees. That being said, OP, you should also be more firm and speak up more about problems”, a balanced, moderate answer that doesn’t target anyone specifically.

          I am not saying it’s definitely a huge problem in the company’s culture. But it might be telling that the boss critisized one behavior in public, while ignoring the other.

      4. Sarcasa*

        I don’t think the OP was being dressed down at the dinner, but the advice to publicly humiliate an employee:

        “he would have outed her and “embarrassed” her in front of the rest of the team”

        is bad advice.

        1. fposte*

          But it wasn’t from her manager. Her manager gave her different advice–perhaps to correct the bad advice.

          1. MK*

            That’s information we don’t have. If the boss actually said “No, don’t do that, but this is what you should do”, the whole situation changes. I do wonder, though, if the OP would have been so uncomfortable, if that had been the case.

            1. fposte*

              Right, we don’t know if the manager commented on the colleague’s advice. But we know the manager didn’t give the outing and embarrassing advice, either.

              1. LK*

                OP here- I’ve been reading through all of the comments and they’ve been very helpful in looking at the situation from another lens. That being said, in the scenario, my mgr did not disagree with the coworker who made the “embarrass her” comment, but (in what I believe was an attempt to smooth the conversation) gave me the feedback that I needed to be more assertive. My mgr then told me that this feedback would also be included on my annual review. That to me was the point that crossed the line. Giving general feedback is one thing, but stating that it would be included in a review (in front of my peers) made me very uncomfortable. I still feel that this should have been handled in a 1:1 conversation.

          2. Sarcasa*

            Sorry, I should have been clearer, I know it wasn’t OP’s manager, but I thought it was a group of managers from the same company.

      5. little Cindy Lou who*

        To MK, you’re right, it was a bit chaotic and did derail meetings at times. The CEO valued making you a better you in the moment so that you would ideally shorten your learning curve to be better going forward. It definitely wasn’t for everyone but if you could stomach the initial discomfort, then you reach a zen state: after you rip off a few band aids, you stop fearing the pain and look forward to the healing.

  12. AnonieGirli*

    #1 – Job hunting is frustrating, but you should stop calling immediately. They know you’re interested, but the more you call the more annoyed they will get. I worked for a manager who was going to call a candidate for an interview (they were actually on the top of the short list and were to be bypassed in the phone interview round and asked to come in for an in person) but than the candidate called and left voicemails 4 times in a week. Needless to say manager never called them back, viewing this as an undesirable character trait. Take a moment to think before you pick up the phone.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      I used to call and follow up on applications and wonder why I’d never get a return call. I’d think “What’s so hard about taking five minutes to call me back?!??!”

      But then a friend who does hiring mentioned that her company posted an entry level position on sites like Monster and Careerbuilder and it got over 100 applications in the first HOUR, and that she expected to get at least a thousand before the posting was taken down three days later.

      If even a quarter of those applicants called to follow up and the hiring manager took five minutes to call each of them back, that would gobble up 20+ hours of her time–no wonder I never heard back!

  13. SophiaB*

    #1 – When talking about your military experience, you need to make sure you’re showing how it’s relevant to people who (from what I assume, based on your letter) don’t have that experience themselves. If you were an RTO, you need to push your ability to communicate clearly and accurately and to work efficiently under pressure. You can probably see that skillset as clear as day when you think about that job role, but someone who’s never worked with radios won’t understand that unless you spell it out explicitly.

    In the same vein, what’s seen as ‘pro-active’ in the military world sometimes translates as ‘aggressive’ to civilians. One of my favourite Project Managers had only recently left the Army, and while I loved working with him, his bluntness and his sense of urgency eventually pushed him out of the company because he wasn’t playing the game correctly. My ex-Navy PM gets it, and while he’s efficient and his comms are shit-hot, he’s also very good at sitting back and watching everyone else before deciding how he wants to behave.

    Good luck.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Yes, exactly this! It’s incumbent on you to translate your military experience for the civilian world. And be extra careful not to use jargon or acronyms.

      Your examples made me smile – Navy and Army have very different leadership styles!

      1. SophiaB*

        It’s definitely tricky to get your skills across. Good comms and leadership skills speak for themselves once you’re actually in a job, but trying to demonstrate on paper why running comms for a battalion net gives you a massive set of transferable skills is difficult. The reaction from a non-military employer is going to be ‘so what?’ unless you can break it down.

        I love my Project Managers. The Navy dude’s an aeronautical engineer who got out after one too many tours. He’s so chill it is ridiculous, but you can’t get anything past him. He’s one of those people whose emails to management I read a couple of times and try to emulate when I’m having a similar issue, he’s got that knack of being direct and no-nonsense without becoming aggressive or unreasonable.

        My poor Army guy broke my heart though. I could see what he needed and sometimes I could achieve it for him, but he just couldn’t get his head around civvie-street and he’d blow up at people from sheer frustration. He couldn’t get his head around getting support from his peers rather than his superiors. Brilliant PM, but really bad at being a civilian.

        1. TL -*

          Ah, those sound like the Navy officers I grew up around. I never spent much time with the other branches, but the laid-back-yet-nothing-gets-past-them also translates over to Naval officers’ parenting styles :)

    1. fposte*

      That’s how I always think of them–the convenient placeholder for any number of things and organizations that create them.

  14. BRR*

    #1 I recommend Alison’s book for you. It helped me get my job and numerous other interviews.

    A completely unrelated note, you mention you have no idea what you would say if they answered. Not in this situation but in others if you find the same thing happening try writing out a script or notes first (although don’t sound like you’re reading off of a piece of paper).

  15. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – I’m afraid this is one of many examples where a military approach is not going to fly in the civilian world. You’re clearly very motivated, and probably extremely frustrated at the feeling of powerlessness in this situation – which is totally understandable. But you really do need to take a step back.

    Unfortunately the “call frequently to check up” advice is given quite frequently. What’s worse is that it’s often required for people to continue receiving various benefits. I did job and interview skills training at a homeless shelter and the social services folks required a minimum of two applications or check-ins a week, which is often quite counterproductive.

    Bottom line – patience probably isn’t your comfort zone, but you’re going to have to be in this case. Good luck. And there are plenty of employers who absolutely do respect military service – but you’re going to have to translate it into terms they can understand.

    1. hayling*

      Ugh it’s also advice given my your parents, especially if you’re living at home and unemployed. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard my dad say “forget email, get on the horn.” One time I did “get on the horn” (to a hiring manager who I was introduced to by a colleague of my dad’s) and she snapped at me. To be fair that was probably a good warning about her personality, but still.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Definitely outdated advice. Grandparents and parents just don’t understand that the working world does not work that way anymore.

  16. Preston*

    #1 Military experience is only going to help if it relates to the job you are applying for. Other then that you might get a thank you for your service comment in the interview. At least that has been the case for me.

    #2 Wow just wow. Praise in public and scold in private. I would have been livid too. I am just going with the booze impairing. judgement excuse because nobody could have been that stupid sober. The part about your annual review was way out of line….

  17. soitgoes*

    I think I’ve said this before: My mom used to encourage me to call and check on applications every day. It’s one of those weird pieces of parental advice that’s both antiquated and comes from a position of “Don’t they know how special my little snowflake is?” People persist in doing it because it’s the first piece of job-searching advice they’ve ever heard, and it actually does work when you’re a teen trying to get a retail or food service job. But it’s really, really bad advice. Stop doing it.

    1. Allison*

      Yeah, and try NOT doing the things your parents want you to do in your job search. If you’re living at home while job hunting, they’ll keep asking if you’ve called to follow up, and you will get some serious heaps of crap if you don’t do so. And no matter how many resumes you send out per day, it’s never enough. If they tell you to do something and you explain that it’s not done anymore, or it’s ineffective or counterproductive, you’re just lazy and making excuses.

      Same usually goes for close friends, to a lesser extent. And the longer you’re unemployed, the less people trust you to make intelligent decisions about job hunting. It’s really tough to tune out the bad advice from people around you.

      1. soitgoes*

        I think our parents’ generation got a lot of their jobs through what we’d consider “networking” these days. They don’t understand that the application process has become totally standardized and faceless.

        I’m a bit iffy on how to handle friends who complain about their jobs (or lack of) but won’t take good advice when it’s offered. I’ve known a lot of people who stayed in crappy jobs if only to nurture those chips on their shoulders. They really don’t recognize better opportunities when they pop up.

        1. TL -*

          I have reached the point with friends where I tell them I’m only going to listen to X number of complaints about Y per day/visit/whatever.
          I’ll just bluntly say that – generally, after I’ve tried a number of other approaches like redirecting subjects, giving advice if asked, being sympathetic – because frankly, I don’t want a friendship based on complaints about one subject.

          I’ve also said, when I’m really frustrated, “Look, you know what to do to fix it; you’re clearly not willing to do that, which means you’re accepting the status quo, which means that you’ve lost the right to complain about it.” But it takes a lot for me to get to that point!

      2. AVP*

        I got a call like that from a potential intern yesterday and I felt so bad for him! I could practically hear his mom in the background asking if he’d called to check up on the job yet today. And the interview isn’t scheduled until tomorrow :/

    2. some1*

      “People persist in doing it because it’s the first piece of job-searching advice they’ve ever heard, and it actually does work when you’re a teen trying to get a retail or food service job.”

      I think it worked 15-20 years ago, but from what I understand restaurant and retail managers are as busy as everyone else and will call you if they are interested.

      1. Danielle*

        This! I just got out of retail after what I assumed would be a temporary stop-gap after graduating college. After three years of working for a national chain clothing store I can tell you that the people who called regularly to follow up on apps DEFINITELY got black-balled when the store manager started making interview invitation calls. Applicants calling disturbs the flow of the day and (especially in retail) the person who answers the phone won’t have an answer for you outside of “The manager will call you if he wants to interview you.”

      2. Allison*

        Pretty much. For every minimum wage job I held in college, I applied online and got a call from the manager. No followup needed. There was one instance where I did go into the store to speak to the manager, and I did get an interview, and I did follow up in person, but ended up working somewhere else.

        When I worked at Borders, lots of eager youngin’s (often accompanied by their parents) would ask if we were hiring, and they looked dismayed when they were instructed to apply online. It can definitely be disheartening to some people when they realize how faceless the process has become, when they’re really hoping that a human connection will seal the deal, but this is the reality right now.

        That said, every job I’ve gotten since college has been through connections. Not connections I reached and made myself, but connections that formed naturally and just happened to put me in the right place at the right time.

        1. Anonsie*

          When I worked at Borders, lots of eager youngin’s (often accompanied by their parents) would ask if we were hiring, and they looked dismayed when they were instructed to apply online.

          Man, I’m under 30 and I was still surprised by how fast this shift happened for service sector jobs. When I was in high school, all the applications were in person on paper. When I was in college, it was mixed. When I was a recent grad, it was 100% online. With more white collar stuff it had moved online more gradually and started earlier, but for places like restaurants and retail it really looked (to me) like everything suddenly jumped over in about five years.

    3. hayling*

      I was applying for positions at the local university/med center (where my mother happened to have worked as a secretary in like, the ’70s), and my mom told me to “go down to the personnel office.”

  18. Illini02*

    #2, I think you are being a little to thinned skinned here. It doesn’t sound like it was some big time “you screwed up” type of thing. You were out at dinner, and he chimed in and said something he’d like to see you do better. I agree with Alison, he probably just misjudged the situation and how you would react. I know when I’ve traveled with others (colleagues and manager), at dinner we tend to be a little more relaxed and free with each other, especially if we are having drinks. I’d take this at face value as something that you can start to improve on now, instead of waiting until the review. At least you had a heads up. It sounds like he has been a great manager otherwise, so I think losing respect for him is a bit harsh at this point.

  19. AnotherHRPro*

    #2 – My manager criticized me in front of others: Your manager didn’t provide you with feedback in the ideal way. It may have just been a lapse in judgment and I would watch to see if he does this again. However, he did provide you with feedback and that feedback is valuable. Focus on the feedback, not the situation. If you do feel that you need to address this with your manager, I would thank him for the feedback. Ask for additional examples of when he feels you do not raise issues or speak up. Ask for any advice on how to determine when and how it is appropriate to do so. I would then add that you welcome additional coaching on this when he sees you not speaking up appropriately. Then add that you would prefer that this feedback be one-on-one and not in a group setting.

  20. jag*

    ON #1, there is a meta-issue here beyond just job applications, which is about communications and relationships. The OP (and many people) need to learn to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and think a little bit about that in planing interactions and actions.

    To the OP: imagine if you were hiring and had 50 or 200 people applying for the job. Would you actually find it helpful if many or most of them called you every other day? Or if 20 of them called you ever other day, would you bump those people to the top of the list in terms of spending time interviewing them?

    Or if you can’t even think this through, imagine 50 small businesses trying to sell you something, sending you info first by mail and then and calling you every other day till you buy. Would you like that? Would that help you figure out which made the best product?

    1. Formerly Bee*

      +1! I always want to follow up, but it’s true that the person hiring is busy. Interrupting their work with phone calls won’t help.

    2. Zillah*

      I agree, but I think this is harsh. People are often pressured to call and check on their applications by “career experts” (or whatever the term is) or well-meaning relatives, and when a lot of people – particularly people who are gainfully employed – are telling you that something works, it’s understandable that desperate job-seekers take the advice, even if it seems a little weird.

  21. Anonylicious*

    #1: Do not, I repeat, do not keep following up with employers like that. It’s not like keeping on top of S1 to make sure they haven’t lost your paperwork. Also, lots of civilian employers just don’t understand military experience, and/or they’re put off by stereotypes of veterans. Even companies that make lots of noise about how they want to hire veterans are prone to this. (On a related note, I found those veteran-centric career fairs to be largely a waste of time, but that might vary geographically.)

    It’s also very MOS-dependent. My MOS, for example, did not translate well to anything but the defense industry. I’ve got plenty of “transferable skills” the military taught me, like motivation, problem-solving, leadership, etc., but those are a much harder sell than “8 years in Chocolate Teapot repair.” If you haven’t already, look into the VA’s education and training benefits. There’s more than the GI Bill (though if you have that available, I found going back to school to be a valuable time to adjust to being a civilian, which was at least as helpful as getting my BA.)

    To everyone telling #1 to look into government and/or defense jobs: Yeah, they’re presumably eligible for veterans’ preference for federal jobs, but so are a whole hell of a lot of applicants. Also, there’s still a sequester on. Defense is a boom-or-bust field, and right now it’s sure not booming (despite current events). It’s a pet peeve when people tell veterans to just go and get a federal job, like a) we haven’t thought of that, and b) it’s not as intensely competitive as the private sector.

    Anyway, dude, hang in there and good luck.

    1. soitgoes*

      What is the expectation that a veteran should have regarding the value of his experience? I admit to being thrown for a loop that he thinks it’s so important in the general working world. Not to devalue that experience (and this is probably why veterans often struggle to find work), but it’s not office experience or anything similar. In fact, in the absence of a compulsory draft, it illustrates a personal choice to take time away from the working world. If (and only IF) the OP is emphasizing the military angle in hopes of jumping to the front of the line, that’s not the right way to go about it.

      1. AnotherFed*

        It is valuable working experience, and generally teaches specific skills – some occupations are more transferable to non-defense jobs than others, and it is absolutely part of the working world. I may be reading your comment a bit harshly, but it sounds like you really don’t understand what our men and women in uniform do. Yes, deployments are a major part of that, but even (especially) during deployments, maintenance and repair of equipment, organization and distribution of supplies, and extensive communications (yes, even via email, even in Afghanistan!) are required.
        And there’s also a general consensus that yes, the public does own thanks to those who chose to serve. That isn’t to say they are entitled to be chosen immediately for a job they won’t be a good candidate for, just that it is reasonable for businesses to consider military service in the plus column for a candidate.

        1. soitgoes*

          I think there’s actually a bit of a generational divide here: Today’s young adults who grew up post-Vietnam are very anti-war and don’t always understand why people who choose to participate in war are owed anything.

          I’m not stating what my own feelings about this are (as it’s complicated and also not relevant), but right or wrong, a vet who’s applying to start-ups or companies that otherwise employ younger adults are cannot anticipate encountering the attitude that vets are owed thanks. I mean, it’s all political propaganda, but we want this Iraq nonsense to stop. Someone who willingly chose to go over there and pick up weapons (if that is in fact what happened) would not be greeted with open arms in my region or by my peers. I concede that this isn’t a hugely nuanced attitude, but it’s something that the OP is going to encounter. 20-somethings were not universally raised to be automatically grateful toward vets. We were raised by people who hate war.

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            I think your views are also very heavily influenced by where you are located and your socioeconomic status, because I can promise you that today’s young adults do not think monolithically on this or any other subject. Today’s young people are both pro- and anti-war, just as the people who raised them are pro- and anti-war.

            1. soitgoes*

              And perhaps that’s the point. I do think it needs to be pointed out that some people will find an emphasis on military experience to be odd and irrelevant. I certainly thought it was a left-field thing in the original email, especially the way it was phrased.

          2. Kelly L.*

            I don’t know, I’ve found the opposite–that the owing/thanks language has dramatically increased post 9/11. I don’t have a generational breakdown of it, of course, but it would seem to me that today’s young people will have been steeped in it most of their lives, while it was actually much quieter during, say, my own youth in the 80s and 90s.

        2. TL -*

          “And there’s also a general consensus that yes, the public does own thanks to those who chose to serve. That isn’t to say they are entitled to be chosen immediately for a job they won’t be a good candidate for, just that it is reasonable for businesses to consider military service in the plus column for a candidate.”

          Isn’t that thanks given through campaigning for reasonable policies for supporting veterans with continued healthcare with emphasis on military-specific issues, benefits, the GI bill, and help reintegrating into civilian life?

          Military service can be a plus, but it can also rightly be a negative when considering a job applicant. It depends entirely on the job/company. We owe our thanks through appropriate structure and support services provided by the society/government that they served for (whether or not we have those is an entirely different subject), not through private sector jobs and decisions.

          1. Zillah*

            Military service can be a plus, but it can also rightly be a negative when considering a job applicant. It depends entirely on the job/company.

            Can it legally be considered as a negative? I didn’t think it could.

      2. Diet Coke Addict*

        It might even be office experience. Eight years of military experience might mean eight years of working in logistics in a supply office/procurement services, which is basically any civvieside procurement office with a different set of standards. There are many, many military jobs that aren’t “toting a gun in the desert” or whatever it looks like they do in Act of Valor or whatever–and that experience may very well transfer directly to a civilian job.

        And it’s not taking time out of the working world–it’s a job. It is working.

      3. Observer*

        In fact, in the absence of a compulsory draft, it illustrates a personal choice to take time away from the working world.

        Like taking a few years to serve in the military is JUST like taking a few years to backpack through Europe or travel to the Far East to “find yourself.”

        While volunteering for the Armed Forces may indicate a choice to take time out of career building, it is NOT a choice to take time out of “the work world”. Military people work – and work HARD in most cases. In addition, the civilian work world is far from being only office work. On the other hand, there is plenty of office work in the military – some of it done under circumstances of great adversity.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          All of this. Many, many people choose to the join the military for the various benefits military service offers, like the GI Bill. When I was of recruitment age, THE major selling point the Army used was that you could earn “money for college” by serving just one weekend a month and two weeks a year in the National Guard. Military service can also allow you to earn a trade while earning a living, depending on what your job is.

        2. soitgoes*

          Right or wrong, that’s how my peers (in this location, with our backgrounds and politics) would perceive it if someone kept talking about military experience.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Will you share your age range and maybe location? I’m curious because I’m in circles that are pretty damn anti-war, but most people I know still respect those who serve.

            1. KerryOwl*

              I agree, I find this an odd stance! I’m pretty darn pacifist, and think all war is horrible, but I still thank vets for their service. (Even Vonnegut would, I’d think.) Soldiers aren’t the ones deciding to go to war.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I agree, I have thought that if Vietnam gave us one thing it was that we learned there is a difference between an individual soldier and government policies. A returning vet from Vietnam could not even wear his uniform out in public- it was not safe.

              2. TL -*

                I think there’s something to be said for the decision of taking a job where you may have to be part of a war – that is a choice soldiers make.
                Then again, I also think there’s something to be said for taking a job where you may risk your life to serve your country.

                Either way, I do think we need to have adequate support systems to reintegrate service members into society. But I can understand being a pacifist, having a problem with government policies and understanding war is a result of the higher ups, not the soldiers, and still being uncomfortable with someone who took a job being a soldier.

                There are a lot of socioeconomic factors that play into who joins the military and at what levels, I realize, which hugely complicate an already complicated situation.

                1. Observer*

                  There is a real difference between having an issue with the moral choice that someone makes, which is what you describe, and assuming that a stint in the armed forces is equivalent to dropping out for that time period and just never provides skill or experience that translate into civilian jobs. Sure, there are differences, but there is plenty that transfers.

          2. Natalie*

            I’m not sure the OP is intending to emphasize their military experience in a “hey, give me extra points because I was in the military!” way. They describe themselves as entry level, so their work experience while in the military is probably their only post-high school work experience.

            And this, actually, could be the crux of the OP’s problem. They are thinking of it as “military experience”, when it needs to be presented to hiring managers as “job experience”.

          3. Observer*

            This has nothing to do with politics, but an inconvenient thing called “facts”. Despise the military or love it, the idea that spending time in the military is “taking time out of the work world” and always is “not office experience or anything like it” (those are direct quotes from your comment, to be clear about what I am responding to) is simply so out of touch with reality that it’s scary.

            Fact #1 – Serving in the military is WORK. Period. It is not “time out”. Nowhere close to it, in fact. The fact that you don’t LIKE the employer doesn’t change that.

            Fact #2 – The vast majority of military personnel are not fighters. In fact, according to the general Armed forces recruiting web site only 91% of all armed forces personnel are fighters.

            Fact #3 – The civilian arena of employment contains a huge percentage of jobs that are “not office work or anything like it.”

            Here is what you wrote, with one edit. I replaced “veteran” with “employee of big tobacco”
            What is the expectation that an employee of big tobacco should have regarding the value of his experience? I admit to being thrown for a loop that he thinks it’s so important in the general working world. Not to devalue that experience (and this is probably why employee of big tobacco often struggle to find work), but it’s not office experience or anything similar. In fact, in the absence of a compulsory draft, it illustrates a personal choice to take time away from the working world.
            How much sense does this make? Despise despising the tobacco industry, I’m going to say it makes no sense. But, it’s about as accurate as the original. ie not at all.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think that 91% figure might be a typo. I tried to find the right one and couldn’t, but I did find a figure saying that 80% of military jobs are non-combat roles.

      4. Chinook*

        “In fact, in the absence of a compulsory draft, it illustrates a personal choice to take time away from the working world.”

        Umm… no? I know a lot of people, including DH and various members of his family, who joined because it was a guaranteed job with steady pay and low likelihood of being laid off. It also allowed for them to have further education paid for and on the job training in various fields (none of them infantry). There is a reason, at least in Canada, why a lot of members are from Newfoundland or rural areas and nor cities – sometimes the only way to a steady job with 3 squares and a roof is through service to your country.

        1. C Average*

          It’s also where people go when they want some upward mobility and haven’t got any resources of their own to get it. I think for a lot of people, military service is the ultimate bootstrapping endeavor.

          My father was born in rural West Virginia, orphaned at 5, shuffled from one relative’s house to another, and sent to boarding school at ten. He was smart and adventurous and ambitious, but there wasn’t anyone in his life who was going to help him select a college and pay for his education or help him get started in a career or life in general.

          The military is a godsend to people who have ambition and potential but few resources. In the absence of parents, the Navy raised my dad. When he was making life decisions at 18, he felt it was his only choice, and in many respects, it probably was.

          1. soitgoes*

            “It’s also where people go when they want some upward mobility and haven’t got any resources of their own to get it. I think for a lot of people, military service is the ultimate bootstrapping endeavor.”

            That’s interesting, because most of what I’ve seen about the military these days is that none of those promises of upward mobility and better job prospects ever comes to pass. There’s some distrust directed toward people who endorse the military (usually promoting it disproportionately to people of color and little means). I’m actually surprised to see so much support for the military on this site. I’d be hard-pressed to name anyone in my real life and age group who trusts the military.

            1. KerryOwl*

              I think that (at least for me) there’s a huge difference between supporting the military industrial complex, and supporting the individuals who make up the military. You don’t seem to be making that distinction, since we’re in a time of non-compulsory service.

              1. Natalie*

                I think I’m about the same age as soitgoes, and when I was growing up it seemed to me that the two (members of the military and the MIC) were conflated deliberately to fend off any opposition to the MIC. You don’t want to be like those nasty, ungrateful hippies who spit on our boys after the Vietnam War, do you? Better vote for this spending bill to buy a bunch of tanks even the Army says they don’t want.

                My personal views on the individuals who join the military have gotten more nuanced over the past few years. The internet has exposed me more to individual service people I may never have met and they tend to feel more free to express their nuanced feelings anonymously or pseudonymously online, which wasn’t really possible before. But without that exposure, I can understand lumping the two together, and having a strong aversion to anything that feels like glorifying war.

                1. Stephanie*

                  t seemed to me that the two (members of the military and the MIC) were conflated deliberately to fend off any opposition to the MIC. You don’t want to be like those nasty, ungrateful hippies who spit on our boys after the Vietnam War, do you? Better vote for this spending bill to buy a bunch of tanks even the Army says they don’t want.

                  Well that and the MIC has deftly located its offices and plants such that a majority of Congresspeople have offices or employees located in their district. So a vote against a spending bill is a vote against jobs. Especially out in the Southwest, the defense industry is a giant, giant part of the local economy. Talking about cutting defense spending out in my neck of Arizona would be career suicide for any politician (even a left of center one) because of the number of constituents employed by Boeing/Honeywell/Lockheed/Raytheon and all of their subcontractors.

              2. Natalie*

                Definitely, it’s more the rhetoric I’m thinking of. “Buy these tanks to support our boys on the front” goes over better than “we need that plant open”.

            2. C Average*

              I’m really conflicted about the military, I have to admit.

              Obviously my dad is a success story, and I am so glad the Navy was there for him when no one else was. He served three tours in Vietnam, went to college on the GI Bill, worked for USFS for 30 years, and is now retired. He wasn’t in an area with heavy action. He wasn’t injured, he didn’t kill anyone, and he doesn’t have any memories that keep him awake at night. He made a lot of friends, learned a lot, and has all positive things to say about his time in the service.

              I come from a very small town in Idaho where, if a young person wants to get the heck out of Dodge and improve his or her prospects, the military is a pretty good way to do it. I’ve seen countless kids who weren’t quite college material at graduation use the military as a springboard to better prospects, and I’m grateful that it’s served this role.

              Essentially, it’s what the mills and the factories used to be: a safe place for unremarkable people to land while they’re finishing the growing-up process. Such a place needs to exist. I sincerely believe this. And I believe the military has the unique ability to instill discipline and character and a work ethic in young people in addition to offering them a net of sorts to land in. (I can’t call it a safety net, because many soldiers and veterans are in decidedly unsafe circumstances.)

              But I’m horrified at the wars we’re in. I’m politically pretty left of center. I think there are probably things worth going to war for, but I’m skeptical that any such things have occurred in my lifetime. (I’m 41.) I also see the weird blind spots that veterans have; I’ve seen my father embrace politicians I know aren’t good leaders (and he should know it, too!) simply because they served with distinction, or support hawkish proposals simply because he’s compelled to always support military action politically, even though I know him to be a peaceable and compassionate person in his own relationships. And I’ve seen the PTSD-afflicted kids who come back to my small hometown and it’s heartbreaking.

              I am a big ball of contradictions on this topic. I’m an issues voter, and I am anti-war in my voting. I attend a Quaker church, and pacifism is a big part of what we believe in. But the Navy saved my dad, and the military has been such a positive shaping force in so many young lives. I think we do need a military and there are times when armed combat is both the last resort and the right choice. And I will always, always support veterans having respect, a warm welcome, post-combat care of every sort that they need, and gratitude for their service.

              1. Observer*

                You are actually not be all that contradictory in your thinking, it seems to me. Respecting the role the Armed services can play, and understanding that individual soldiers can be, and generally, good workers and good people does not require respecting the people who use that force in ways you see as unethical.

                There are three different issues here, and the first two don’t really have any bearing with the third. The first is whether the military activities of the US in the last decades have been morally sound. The second is whether the decision to join the military is a morally sound one. Those two issues are obviously related. But, the third issue is whether a person who has served a number of years in the military is useful in the workforce and how he (or she) compares with someone who has “dropped out” for a comparable number of years. The answer to that has nothing to do with the first two issues.

              2. Kelly L.*

                I really agree with a lot of this. Both my grandfathers, my father, and my sister all served in the military, and a college friend died there, and so my opinions on war aren’t grounded in any kind of lack of caring about individual members of the military. Quite the opposite, really–I care about the individuals, and that makes me want to keep them out of war in most situations. I know we need a military, but I would really love it if we weren’t always embroiled in permanent wars without clear objectives or endpoints.

            3. Stephanie*

              That’s interesting, because most of what I’ve seen about the military these days is that none of those promises of upward mobility and better job prospects ever comes to pass.

              My guess is that an 18-yo kid isn’t really going to know that upfront (just like another 18-y.o. kid might not think too much about a college major). Where my parents were from the south, the military was one of the better options if you weren’t academically or athletically gifted and couldn’t get a college scholarship (or had no real way to pay for college). Even back in the 70s when my parents graduated, manufacturing jobs were starting to go away, so the military was a much preferable option to working at the paper mill (have you smelled one of those things?) or in the fields.

              1. Natalie*

                And an 18 year old kid might hear success stories from people a generation or two removed. Much like every other social safety net, the GI Bill benefits haven’t kept pace with rising costs, so it’s not quite the leg up it used to be. But that kid’s elders may not be aware of that, and I doubt the recruiters will bring them up to speed.

              2. Anonsie*

                I’m a little afraid to bring this up because it can be pretty inflammatory, but recruiters are pretty good at selling the perks to kids who don’t have a lot of options, sometimes in troublingly misleading ways. A lot of the people I grew up with who went that route (I’ve got a similar background, working class southern kid) have a lot to say about this now and boy do their stories make me uncomfortable.

                1. Stephanie*

                  Nah, I’ve heard that. I’ve read that recruiting at the entry-level grunt stage is a pretty stressful and dead-end job (with a higher than average suicide rate) with pressure to meet quotas, so I could see lots of less-than-straightforward hard sell tactics.

                  My cousin is about to graduate high school and is considering enlisting (she’s a pretty unremarkable student) and was parroting some of the recruiter talk. She was like “I can do my college degree online!” and I groaned when I saw some of the potential degrees were from University of Phoenixes (for-profit) or Liberty Universities (strongly religious with debatable objectivity).

                2. Anonsie*

                  Oof, I hope she listens to you about the for-profit schools, Stephanie. You could say I was an unremarkable student (it would be more accurate to say I was a horrible disaster of a student, but I like unremarkable better) but I don’t think that ever cut me off from any options, aside from something like going to an Ivy League school. It’s not MIT or Pheonix with no in between.

                  I actually went to a small private college who gave really good financial aid, had small classes and lots of services, and were perhaps “uncompetitive” enough that my GPA didn’t disqualify me since my essays and etc were good. But then I had more of a goal already and it required a bachelor’s; a lot of my friends went to community college or trade school (one apprenticed as a farrier, notably) or worked service jobs until they had better direction. Then a bunch went into the military. The ones whose goals or overall personalities fell in line with that were happy there, of course, but the ones who did it because they felt like they didn’t have other options or were hoping it would find a direction they didn’t already have were less enthusiastic.

                  Recruiters lie. They do.

                  You may be surprised how many people think this is a dirty dirty lie and get very upset if the supposition is put forth.

            4. Observer*

              Actually, what you are seeing here is NOT “support for the military.” It IS recognition of the fact that the people who serve are, at minimum, generally hard working people who deserve to be treated like anyone who has never been the military. There also seems to be a sense among many that whatever you may think about the leadership, the politicians who make decisions, and the tactics sometimes used by the military in terms of recruitment etc. the people who enlist are either TRYING to move up in the work world, or want to serve their country or both, and for this they deserve some respect and gratitude.

              1. Zillah*

                It IS recognition of the fact that the people who serve are, at minimum, generally hard working people who deserve to be treated like anyone who has never been the military.

                Really, really well put.

      5. Anonylicious*

        I’m not sure what you think the military entails? Like, I’m honestly confused how you think being in the military is “time away from the working world.” There’s no other place where you’re going to get job experience working anywhere from 40 to 100+ hours a week, doing anything from janitorial work to managing direct reports, maintaining expensive machinery, doing public affairs liaison with local-level governments, writing reports that may be seen at the Presidential level, doing IT work, or a thousand other things. Also, many of us learned grace under fire in a very literal sense. If you want someone who works well under pressure and until the job is done, grab a vet.

        Also, most of what the military does is in offices. I don’t know if you’re aware, but Uncle Sam is really into paperwork. Somebody’s gotta process that crap.

        1. soitgoes*

          I was just wondering what the emphasis on “But no, are they seeing my military experience?” was about. It’s not something I’ve ever encountered before in those terms, to be honest. If it’s on his resume and in his cover letter, why promote it further?

          1. Anonsie*

            ExceptionToTheRule mentioned this above, but I have seen service pitched from the angle that they will be perceived by employers as being particularly competent, disciplined, etc and that this will give them a leg-up in hiring. It’s like a built-in character reference.

            It’s the same pitch I always heard about how students should always volunteer or bus tables or something during breaks (“even if the experience is irrelevant, they’ll know you’re a hard worker and then they’re more likely to hire you because MOXIE”) and the effect is similarly overstated, at least from what I’ve seen. It probably varies a lot but I grew up with numerous people who went into various branches of the military for a combination of the upward mobility issue above and the promise that it could lead to more education and more work later.

    2. Anonsie*

      It’s a pet peeve when people tell veterans to just go and get a federal job, like a) we haven’t thought of that, and b) it’s not as intensely competitive as the private sector.


  22. Sarcasa*

    “he would have outed her and “embarrassed” her in front of the rest of the team”

    And that would have achieved what exactly? Reduced her trust in the OP? Made her fearful of ever making a mistake ever again? Reduced her team’s trust in her? Made it very clear that the OP lacks respect for her, and the rest of the team?

    What happened to praise in public, reprimand in private?

    Humiliating employees in front of others is the worst management technique ever.

    1. illini02*

      I think you are confusing people here. The colleague said that OP should have “embarrassed” the PM (outed seemed to be her words, not his). The manager just said you should be more assertive. I think people are mistaking who said what, and directing anger at the manager for some basic feedback.

      1. Natalie*

        That actually makes me wonder if the manager was just trying to redirect the conversation away from the terrible advice of the other colleague.

        1. illini02*

          I think that is what happened. Colleague was giving bad advice, but he had a valid point about how she should be more assertive. Manager redirected it and put it in a more constructive tone.

            1. fposte*

              Can you explain why you see it as a huge problem that an annual review got mentioned? To me that’s just saying “I was already thinking about talking to you about this at a later meeting”–it’s not revealing a secret that nobody else can know about.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yep, that’s my take too. And it could be have been mentioned as something like, “Let’s talk more about this in your annual review; it could be a great are to focus on next year” … which isn’t a crazy thing to say, especially if in a group of people where the vibe is reasonably supportive/mentor-ish/development-focused.

                1. Preston*

                  Yeah I don’t get the vibe it was a mentoring session… more like coworkers talking shop and one person telling the OP to embarrass someone, then the direct manager to the OP tries to sugar coat it with “yeah you need to be more direct and we are going to address it in your review.” To me that is just adding to the pile on. The manager to the OP could have easily just waited till a private moment to say that… or deflected the conversation to something completely different.

                2. QK*

                  The whole bit about “I would’ve embarrassed her” sets a decidedly non-supportive tone from my perspective. :/ I agree that mentioning the review in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but based on what we have from the OP’s letter, it doesn’t sound like the sort of environment where I would’ve liked anyone talking about my annual review either.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  @ Preston- That is what I saw too. Talking shop, tongues get loosened up for whatever reason, Person A makes a comment and Boss jumps right in. It starts to feel like a pile-on.

                  Okay, maybe the boss was trying to dial back the onslaught- that could very well be. But when he said that they would be talking about it in OP’s review he just added large amounts of credibility to what Person A just said. “Yeah, it’s such a big deal we are going to talk about it at OP’s annual review.” In that moment the boss was no longer the savior here.

                  It sounds like the remark was uncharacteristic of the boss and that could add to OP’s frustration with the situation.

                  Next people start telling the OP what an outrage this is. yikes. That could be meant to be a comforting thought, but it’s unsettling in this context because it’s more of the same message “stand up for yourself, speak up “.

                  OP, you saw the same message three times in one situation- yeah, I think I would feel a bit hammered, too. If it was such an issue how come no one has mentioned it before? Definitely, there should not be surprises on your annual review- why was the boss saving it up?

                  BUT. OP, if this is the worst your coworkers can come up with on you- I could work with you and be quite fine. And I am betting many people reading here feel the same way.

                  Do mention it to the boss. Let him know that you were disappointed he did not mention it to you sooner AND in PRIVATE. Prepare for but do not expect an apology. If he is the good boss you say he is he will probably apologize but don’t look for it. Also point out to him that you should not be correcting/arguing with your boss in front of others so your hands were pretty tied in this scenario. He had the upper hand on this one.

                  Additionally, OP, books can be your best friend. Spend some time at the library pick out just one book (not a ton of books) bring it home and read it. Something that you think might help you- I don’t know what you might like. Speaking up effectively, picking your battles, knowing when to speak up and when to remain silent- I am sure there are enough people here to recommend several books.

                  Chin up. If this is the worse they can say about you, I bet you are a darn good worker. No one does everything perfectly, absolutely no one.

                4. LK*

                  OP again- It definitely wasn’t a mentoring session (just a bunch of people hanging out after dinner) ;-) There were several people at the table who were not part of our management team, and some people who I had just met for the first time. The fact that my mgr didn’t adress the other manager’s remark was odd (usually he will stand up), but the comment about putting it in my review felt very out of place. Especially in front of a mixed group.

              2. Preston*

                Where I have worked in my professional life in the private sector, annual reviews are kept secret. Managers don’t go annoucing what they are putting in them, and they don’t annouce the contents of them. Maybe that is the exception….

      2. Sarcasa*

        No, sorry I just wasn’t clear enough. I know it wasn’t OP’s manager, it just struck me as absolutely *appalling* advice, especially as OP indicated they were in a gathering of senior managers.

  23. Rex*

    #1, I think it’s time to stop applying everywhere you can, and start networking in the industry where you want to work. Once people put a face to a name, you’ll have a much better chance. Alison has some good advice about networking on this site.

    1. C Average*

      Yeah, this.

      I think networking is a really hard concept for people new to the whole job-search concept to grasp and carry out, and that’s why a lot of job-seekers don’t do it more and do it better.

      Other job-search action items are pretty concrete. Write a resume. Find jobs to apply for. Write cover letters. Submit applications. Most people can wrap their heads around these tasks.

      But networking almost has to be broken down into sub-tasks, at least for someone just getting started.

      I’d break down networking like this:

      1. Think about the kind of work you want in the broadest possible parameters (e.g., am I willing to move? do I want to work in an office? am I open to part-time? does the job have to be related to my degree / field of experience? and so forth). This is so that when you do network and the subject comes around to work, you’ll have some sense of what you’re after, what you can do, and what roles you’d like to pursue.

      2. Make a list of the people you know who are employed and have a neutral or positive opinion of you.

      2a. Think about the way you can connect with them that will be most convenient for them and most authentic for you. (If you inconvenience them, they may not want to help you. And if you network in a way that’s not true to the way you actually relate to people, you’ll come across as fake or trying to hard, and you’ll put people off.) So, maybe you decide you’d like to email someone to ask if they’ll meet for coffee near their workplace. (Others will say this is cliche and it undoubtedly is, but it’s by far the most common approach and most people are fine with it.)

      2b. Ask. Expect to get a low response rate and don’t take it personally. If you particularly want to connect with certain people and don’t get a response, wait two weeks and then follow up. Only follow up once. When you follow up, simply reiterate what you asked in your first email.

      2c. If you do get a chance to talk to one of these contacts, come prepared with good questions about their job and their company, a solid sense of what you could contribute as an employee, and (ideally) actual roles that interest you at that company. My least-favorite thing ever is talking to some would-be employee of my company who tells me “My life’s dream is to work at [company]” but then has no response when I say, “Cool! What do you envision yourself doing at [company]?”

      3. Think about places you can meet new people who may be helpful. Don’t think strictly in terms of employment. If there are things you’d like to do that will bring you in contact with other people, do them! I’ve known people who found job leads through running clubs, community theater, online message boards, volunteering, and plenty of other totally-not-work-related venues.

      3a. If you meet such people, follow 2b and 2c.

      4. Think about workplaces you’d like to target in your search. Are there employers you think would be a really great fit for you? Mention them to people you know. It’s possible that they know someone who works there and can introduce you, or have some other inside track.

      Good luck!

      1. Serin*

        This is really nicely broken down! I think networking is a skill that comes naturally to (some) extroverts and is very difficult to visualize for (some) introverts.

        I liked Steve Dalton’s “The 2-Hour Job Search” for its very detailed approach to how to do networking. The title is a little misleading, but it’s still well worth grabbing from the library for a step-by-step list of instructions.

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        I would expect that networking is probably an area where LW1’s military service could come in handy. Surely she served with other people who are now working in positions or fields that she wants to get into, and can reach out specifically to them. They’ll already be familiar with how LP1’s work translates outside of the military, and could help steer her in a good direction.

      3. Intrepid Intern*

        Thank you very much! I am one of those someones rather new to the job-searching concept, this breakdown makes it much less daunting.

  24. EvilQueenRegina*

    #2, I once had a manager who announced in a team meeting “The target time for these grants to be completed is X. The fastest person to complete is Leroy and the slowest is August. August, you are the weakest link. Goodbye!” Everyone else was cringing since it wasn’t appropriate to pull him up in the team meeting and that wasn’t the way to word it anyway. August let it drop but has since said maybe he shouldn’t have, and he’d have had enough people willing to back him up. What made it worse was that the guy he was compared to was actually the office slacker.

    “He’s about as much use as a chocolate teapot” is a common expression in my country. I did use Wakeen at times without knowing the story behind it. Now I tend to use Once Upon a Time pseudonyms for my co-workers since that’s where my own pseudonym is from.

    I had one agency who wanted to keep me in a temp assignment I wanted to leave after the job was advertised and someone else got it. They said it was because I still had a few weeks to go and another assignment might be shorter than that. In fairness I do think they were being honest with me.

  25. Bunny*

    #1, When deciding how to interact with the people hiring, consider their perspective. They might get 50-100 applicants for even an entry level role right now, most of whom will not meet the minimum criteria for the job. They’ve got to sift through those, quickly, probably using keyword searches to sift out the obvious rubbish, before they can even start selecting interview applicants. Unless you make it to the interview stage, you’re not likely to get a rejection letter and it is pretty much certain that the hiring person will have NO recollection of your CV or details.

    And the process of whittling the list of applicants down to the few interview candidates, which might involve telephone interviewing and will need to be fit in between the hiring person’s normal work schedule, is NOT going to be instantaneous. It could take a while. Hell, when I get interviews the offers normally come at least two weeks after the vacancy closed online – not two weeks after I applied, two weeks after the final application date.

    So when, after a mere couple of days, you start sending multiple messages to the company asking what is going on with your specific CV and emphasising that SURELY THEY NOTICED YOU WERE IN THE MILITARY you aren’t coming across well. You’re coming across like the impatient child in the doctor’s waiting room who keeps asking their parent every 5 minutes if the can GO yet because they promised there would be TOY SHOPPING after the doctors and they want to go NOW. With an added spoonful of the guy who cuts in line at the coffee shop because DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM.

    And you can be certain that while they might not have started looking beyond a check-list of basic job requirements when sifting through the slush pile, they WILL take your impatience into account when deciding whether or not you’re someone they want to possibly interact with on a daily basis as a co-worker or employee.

    The only time it’s appropriate to chase up like this is if you’ve been contacted by them AFTER you sent in your CV, and they said something like “telephone interviews will take place over the next week and in-person interviews with the selected finalists the week after” or “you should hear from us by the end of the month” and you have NOT heard back within the time-frame specified.

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