open thread – January 16, 2015

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

{ 1,370 comments… read them below }

  1. Museum Educator

    Hi, I’ve posted before and gotten great responses. I need some resume advice and I’m hoping for some feedback. I have made a lot of improvements on how it’s written, which I think has helped. But I am still struggling with how long it is.

    Most of my career has been in contract or temporary positions, and a few part time permanent positions that I ultimately left because they were part time. In the last 10 years I have worked for about 9 different employers some short term and some for 1 to 1 1/2 years. Plus a few gaps in employment due to lack of work and also staying home for a while after my daughter was born.

    I’ve noted on my resume that my jobs were contract or temporary so that I don’t immediately look like a job hopper. But I have done A LOT of different things and I’m having trouble narrowing down my resume. It’s really cramped. It just barely fits on 2 pages with size 11 font and narrow margins. I really think this is hurting me rather than helping me.

    The thing is that even though my roles have varied, they are still related in some way. For example, I’ve worked in 5 different museum’s education departments, 1 graduate school in a training capacity, and for an educational non-profit as their newsletter coordinator. I have also done corporate admin work (more recently), which fills in a long job gap and a lot of jobs I apply for have a heavy administration component. And am currently a contract technical trainer.

    Teaching, training, and education go pretty hand in hand and I need my museum background to support my training career that I want to move forward with. I want to show that I have a long history of facilitating learning experiences, but if I eliminate my older positions how do I do that? I hesitate to leave out the admin work for the reasons mentioned above. Plus, a lot of the positions I apply for want someone to wear a lot of these same hats. So even though it’s an education type role, they also want someone who can do a lot of the other things I have done as well (admin, marketing, advanced computer skills, etc). This is especially true when I find a museum position, which I do still look for, but they are tough to get.

    How do I fix this? Should I only list my most significant roles? Should I not go back as far? Can I just list job titles without bullet points of what I did there? Basically, how do I indicate that I have experience with all the little requirements in the job descriptions, without going totally overboard on my resume?

    1. TotesMaGoats

      This might be a time when something other than a chronological format would be better. My dad was a minister for about 30 years and did so much more than preaching. Administration. Teaching. All sorts of stuff. It’s very hard to convey those things from a chrono resume to a secular job. So, a functional resume worked better to display his skills and experiences. Now he’s a hospice chaplain. YMMV.

      1. Museum Educator

        Interesting. I did try a functional resume before, which got no results, but I don’t get many results the other way either. I liked it a lot better but then I read all the negative things about it and decided to go back to chronological.

      2. fposte

        I’ll demur here, because I hate functional resumes. I want to know an applicant’s job history. I read applications to understand a job history, and it doesn’t make me happy to have to reorganize the jigsaw pieces into the order I’m looking for.

        1. Museum Educator

          I once did my resume kind of half chronological half functional. Like most relevant work at the top and in chronological order, then a second section of other relevant work, also in chronological order. But Im not sure whether that’s a good idea or a bad idea.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            That’s kind of what I was going to suggest. A functional resume, but with a very condensed work history section, one line per position.

            1. Museum Educator

              I don’t know how to do one line per section for some of the positions. In some roles I had a lot of responsibilities: head of education department, director of summer camp, education department graphic designer, museum branding, program development, tour guide, docent and volunteer coordinator, community evens, school programs, etc. all for one job.

              Is this kind of thing enough for such a big role:

              “Coordinated all logistics of education department, by developing enriching programs and events, building docent and volunteer skills, and increasing school and community partnerships though outreach programs delivered to thousands of children.”

              1. Brian_A

                I would suggest cutting down on the “points per job” to highlight past experience that is most relevant to the job you are applying for. For example, if you were applying to a job where graphic design is a core responsibility, in your example above, I would focus on the education department graphic designer, museum branding experience, and not worry about providing detail on volunteer coordination. Or summarize the less relevant in one bullet: “Responsibilities also included volunteer coordination, program development, and special events.”

                1. Museum Educator

                  Yeah, I just have to get ok with leaving stuff out. I forget that employers don’t expect it to have everything in it.

            2. Vicki

              Mine is like this now.
              The “accomplishments and responsibilities” section has some of the companies marked, unless it’s multiple companies. If I did a normal chronological resume it would have a lot of repetition.

              My resume may not be what everyone wants the format to be, but I figure that just weeds out managers with whom I’d have trouble working.

        2. TotesMaGoats

          I agree that if the hiring manager doesn’t like the functional format then it’s a problem but I can’t think of any other way to do it.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Depends on exactly what you’re envisioning, but probably not. I need to see where and when the accomplishments you’re listing happened — they can’t be all grouped together and not clearly connected to a particular job with particular dates. That said, PurpleMonkeyDishwasher’s suggestion below could definitely work.

    2. Lo

      Personally, I would advise you try to focus your resume for each position you apply for. Example: you apply for a job that focuses on X and Y, in setting Z. You have experience with X and Y in setting Z, having engaged in them in specific jobs. Therefore, you could list those positions in “relevant experience, ” at the top of your resume, and then put “other experience” as a header for the second portion of your resume. There may be other ways to do this–such as bolding font, or something.

      Also, though I cannot remember Alison’s thoughts on this at the moment–I have seen people successfully use “summary” or “profile” (think that was the term I saw on a resume on here previously) at the top of their resume. You could better define yourself up front, highlighting what is key of your experience for a given job. This allows you to focus in on what they are looking for and highlight your talents and varied experience

      Also, search the archives for resume help, especially in terms of the example resumes Alison has put up. They’re amazingly helpful! Especially in showing how to highlight successes and outcomes, rather than just duties.

      Good luck!

      1. Museum Educator

        Thanks. If I can actually narrow it down to specific things they are focusing on, then I will narrow down my resume that way. But a lot of the time they want 10 different things, all of which I have experience in.

        I guess what I struggle with is that since my positions have been short term, I want to show that I have more than 6 months or 1 year of experience with something, but I can’t do that without listing multiple roles.

        1. fposte

          The other problem here is that while we talk in terms of duration of experience, that’s a proxy for growth. That’s why 6 months at 4 places isn’t usually equivalent to 2 years’ experience at one. So think about ways to frame your growth in the skills these positions needed, and not just put them in to get the math up.

          1. Museum Educator

            Ok. thats a good point. And I agree with you. I don’t consider the positions equal to the number of years I work. I’ve been doing it for 10 years but I don’t apply for jobs that require 10 years of experience. I usually look for things that range between 3-5 years experience.

            The position titles do indicate some growth on their own and each job has had increasing responsibility. For example, at first I’m an intern doing basic museum education stuff and my most recent role at a museum was running the education department myself.

            1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

              What about doing something that has the look of a chronological resume, but grouping jobs by title/function rather than by employer? Something like as follows:

              Museum Educator, YEAR to YEAR
              Museum A, Contract Position, DATES
              Museum B, Temporary Position, DATES

              Training Coordinator, YEAR to YEAR
              Graduate School, Position, DATES
              Other Workplace, Position DATES
              Etc.

              That way you’ll be able to consolidate duplicative job functions and streamline things, while still having a resume that looks enough like a chronological resume to get past an initial screen.

              1. Museum Educator

                Is it too much like a functional resume though? I’d like to do it like that actually, because I think it would be clear, but I’m worried it won’t be received well.

                1. ProductiveDyslexic

                  I keep a master CV of everything I’ve ever done in chronological order, and do a cutting and pasting job for a given application.

                  I have two work listing sections, both with entries in chronological order: one labelled, for example, “Teapot Research Experience” and the other “Other Experience”. Entries in “Teapot Research Experience” were fleshed out with bullet point achievements and key skills as listed in the job ad, while entries in “Other Experience” weren’t, in order to save space.

                  Interviewers have commented that they liked what I’d done to highly my relevant experience clearly.

                2. Museum Educator

                  Yes! This is what I have done (sort of described it above), but I stopped doing it because I wasn’t sure about it. Perhaps I will try that again.

                3. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

                  I think the key is to keep it as chronological as possible, so it’s clear you’re not trying to hide an employment gap.

                4. Museum Educator

                  My most relevant experience was about 3 years ago now and I would put that pretty much right at the top of my resume, after my current position which won’t require a whole lot of space. I hope that will be enough to show I’m not hiding an employment gap. The job I did between these two would go under the other section.

                5. Lizzie

                  My resume is set up similar to what ProductiveDyslexic suggests, and so far it’s worked well for me.

    3. fposte

      Can you group them so that they don’t have to take up as many lines? List the contract work as one heading and then describe the particulars of what and where in a single-job space underneath it, that kind of thing? I think you’re right that you’re currently overcrowding and it’s not helping you; you’re not talking just about trimming the length down but shaping your narrative more clearly.

      1. Museum Educator

        I’m not sure that would work because my contract or temp positions have all been through individual employers. Its not like I was placed in the positions. I just applied for jobs that happened to be temporary.

        In that case, how would I do that? Something like:

        Museum Work
        – Name of org 1, title, dates
        – – primary function
        – Name of org 2, title, dates
        – – primary function
        – Name of org 3, title, dates
        – – primary function

        Would that be ok? Does it matter if it ends up not being chronological? I thought employers thought you had something to hide when you do that.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          I think it would be fine to use a header of “Museum Work (Temporary Contracts)” or something like that – what you want to do is put a frame around the idea that you have a lot of experience through intentionally short-term roles, and make it clear that you weren’t job-hopping or losing jobs but rather choosing short-term gigs on purpose.

          1. Museum Educator

            I’ve said something in my cover letter about all my roles being temporary and that I am looking for the right opportunity to settle in and make a meaningful contribution. But I haven’t specifically said the limited terms were on purpose. Some were and some weren’t. Some I took to gain experience and were specifically short term so that many people could get the same benefit. Others I took because I needed a job and nothing permanent was coming along.

        2. fposte

          I would consider summarizing even more. (My theoretical might not work with your actual experience, but hopefully it’ll give you ideas.)

          Contract museum work, 2008-2010:
          Educational specialist, educational technician, educational freakout artist for the Museum of Teapots, the Other Museum of Teapots, the Ripoff Museum of Teapots, and Teapot Tourist Trap
          Developed programs in spoutwork and lickage, set new metrics for the tasing of children, fostered community relations in outreach events for 20-500 people, provided sole support for special events from flyer generation and social media presence through coordination to cleanup and increased attendance by 2000%

          And so on. I’ve used the museum contract stuff because you mentioned it specifically, but it may not be the best candidate because it’s most relevant to what you’re searching for now; other stuff may compress more appropriately. But you’re getting stuck on the one-hire/one line thing, and I don’t think it has to go that way.

          1. Museum Educator

            I understand what you are saying. That’s a great example. Does it matter that maybe I didn’t do everything listed in every position? Am I being misleading if I summarize like that and a major responsibility I had was only at one of the jobs?

            1. fposte

              I don’t think so. It’s not like academic footnoting where I need to be able to retrace the exact steps of the journey you took. You don’t want to squish your juiciest stuff into this kind of smaller space, obviously, but it’s a way to say “Hey, I did a bunch of things that were relevant in this area/time too, and here’s how that looked” without eating up page space that you’re needing to cut down on.

          2. Mander

            I have a similar situation with my resume. I’m trying to come up with something I can give to a temp agency that shows I have generic admin type experience as well as my more specialist experience. Between finishing my BA and deciding to go back for an MA I worked for a few years in various admin roles, mostly temporary. This experience is very old now but it’s all I have that documents that I have worked in a normal office, which is why I have left it in.* I did a couple of other short stints in a similar environment later on, too.

            If I summarize them as you’ve suggested, is it ok to leave off the individual dates of every temp assignment (they were generally about 3 months each) and just say something like:

            Customer service and administrative work, 1998 – 2001.
            Medical records clerk, ambulance billing clerk, and customer service representative for Big Insurance Company, Famous Specialist Hospital, Huge Hospital Corporation, and other regional companies. Answered 10 billion calls per day, collated updated policy information to share with others in the department, consistently finished my daily data entry tasks early and helped with other stuff to kill time.

            Temporary personal assistant, Feb – Apr 2006.
            Regional health authority IT office. Reorganized the manager’s mess of a filing system and created a system so that she could find things when my temp contract was over.

            *Or is this not really necessary and including stuff from 1998 – 2001 is just making me look crazy out of touch?

            1. Museum Educator

              Hmmm, I’m not sure I would include either of those. I’m no resume expert (as evidenced by this thread) but I don’t think you should go more than 10 years into the past. Your 2006 experience is lees than 10 years ago but it was for only 2 months so I don’t think it’s that relevant. Not many employers are going to be persuaded to interview / hire you because of 2 months of admin work you did 9 years ago, or for 3 years of admin work you did 14 years ago for that matter.

              What have you been doing since then? I see below you say your an archaeologist (cool, by the way!). Have you done anything in your roles that could constitute admin experience? A lot of my positions weren’t necessarily admin specifically but I did a lot of administrative work myself because I didn’t have an admin I could go to and in small orgs you often do a lot of different things.

              If you can’t do that then I’d either list them under your skills and abilities section on your resume, indicating what level you are at. For example, “Microsoft Office – Advanced”, “Record Keeping: Intermediate”, or whatever you would list. Alternatively, you might also put something in your cover letter that explains you have the admin skills needed, either from other work or from using these in your personal life as a way to grow your skills.

              1. Mander

                I did first an MA in the States, while doing seasonal contract fieldwork as a summer job (and working as the university museum curator’s assistant during the semester — best job ever!). Then I moved to the UK for my PhD, but it did not go smoothly. It took me almost twice as long as is normal for here and by the end I was certain that I had no chance of an academic job.

                I’m not really sure where I want to go from here but after spending the better part of a decade analyzing qualitative data and writing about it, it seems that admin stuff is the most suitable for a stop gap job while I try to figure out what to do next. I fell into the trap of over-developing my academic knowledge without really gaining technical expertise. So I’m way over qualified in some respects but little better than entry level in others.

    4. GOG11

      I don’t have good advice to contribute, but I am eagerly reading the comments so far and am excited to follow this thread/discussion. I’m in a somewhat similar boat (same brand, different year and model :P)

      I’m young (and I look even younger) but I graduated college early and have worked 2-3 jobs at a time most of my short career. The jobs I’d normally look to cut to free up real estate (freelance work for example) usually get really good responses.

      I was going to suggest tailoring your resume on a case-by-case basis, but it seems like you’ve already tried that and are still stuck with too much. Good luck to you!

    5. Museum Educator

      Could I narrow down the positions to the most relevant experience and then just list the other things I have experience in under a skills / abilities category? As an example, lets say it’s a training coordinator position where 50 % of the role is face to face training, 30% is developing training courses, and the other 20% is miscellaneous tasks like designing training materials, doing administrative work, or being able to do graphic design. In that case I could bullet my experience with facilitating learning, and developing courses, then just list the rest under skills and abilities?

    6. Zillah

      I’m not a resume expert, so others may chime in saying that all of these are terrible, but here are some suggestions:

      1) Have a master resume template. That can be 3-4 (or more!) pages long. Include bullets for everything that might be relevant for things that you’re applying for. Then, for each application, you can take bullets or even entire jobs out, depending on their relevance.

      2) Consider either breaking your jobs into “Relevant Experience” and “Other Experience” (potentially sorting the jobs differently depending on the posting), giving minimal/no bullets to the latter, or list them all under one category and just don’t include any bullets to the jobs that aren’t as relevant.

      3) Use your cover letter to mention skills/accomplishments that you think could be helpful but aren’t immediately applicable.

      4) Don’t look at your resume as an exhaustive list of everything that could possibly be applicable – use it to emphasize the things you think are most likely to be applicable and the roles that you’ve been particularly effective in. If they could probably figure out whether you have a certain skillset from the job title, don’t include bullets.

      1. Museum Educator

        I get hung up on #4. I think it is exhaustive and I’m having a hard time leaving work that is only slightly relevant off of it.

        Also having trouble with my cover letter, but that is for another post. :)

        1. fposte

          Speaking as somebody reading it, “exhaustive” = “exhausting.” You don’t want to exhaust people reading your resume.

          1. Museum Educator

            Oh! That’s a good mental note for me to make. I’m going to ask myself that from now on before I send it out. “Is this exhausting to read?” If so, cut it down.

      2. Jennifer

        Perfect, Zillah, that’s what I do. Make sure there’s a list of “jobs and when” and otherwise group things.

    7. Green IT

      Can you do a chrono/ functional resume?
      I had that a few years ago…a lot of good experience with a lot of good positions that made me look like i was job hopping.
      So I focused on my skills and then broke down on how i applied the skills to the different positions…and tried very hard not to repeat the them if at all possible

      1. Museum Educator

        That’s a good idea. I hadn’t thought about not repeating things. I always feel like it will then look like I only have 1 1/2 years experience facilitating programs, when really I have done it in almost every role.

        1. Meg Murry

          That’s what your cover letter is for – spelling out the connections that aren’t obvious when reading your resume. So if you’ve been facilitating programs for 5 years over the range of these experiences, spell it out in the cover letter, and just use your resume as the document to back that up.

          I think in a position like yours, a cover letter that specifically addresses “these are the qualifications the job description is asking for and here’s how I meet them” is most important. I’ve seen people do this successfully both with bulleted lists (for lots of 1 line requirements) and with short paragraphs addressing the key qualifications.

          I’d work on a one-size-fits most resume (with tiny tweaks for each application) and spend most of your effort customizing the cover letter

      1. Museum Educator

        That seems to be the overall opinion. I am going to give that a shot and try to seriously reduce the amount on my resume and only keep the absolute most relevant bullet points.

    8. Nina

      I need help answering the “Why did you leave your previous job?” interview question when I was fired and am looking into legal action against pregnancy discrimination. Should I stick with a super vague “The culture wasn’t the right fit and now I’m looking for XYZ”? I feel like I need to say something about it in case they call my previous employer and hear that I was fired.

      1. NJ Anon

        This is tough. I had a hard time too. I didn’t want to tell the complete truth but enough that it was genuine. I would just say it wasn’t a good fit but then you will need to say why if they ask.

    9. Lizabeth

      I’m coming at it from the design/formatting side (graphic designer) rather than content:
      1. You can get away with 10 pt type over a leading of 12 – perfectly readable.
      2. Don’t double space between bullets. Instead, use a secondary leading of 16-18 pts if your program allows you.
      3. Put some kerning in – this is the space between characters of a word. Use anything between 10-20 if your program allows you.
      4. OR condense the font SLIGHTLY. I’m talking about maybe 95-98%. This doesn’t read as condensed.

      Of course, this depends on whatever features are available in program you’re formatting your resume with.

      1. Museum Educator

        I have actually done all of these tricks! It accomplishes the goal of getting everything into 2 pages, but I’m a little worried about it seeming like WAY TOO MUCH to read.

        1. spocklady

          That’s a good point, Lizabeth. Just in case you haven’t considered it, I found it made a HUGE difference in overall clarity when I switched from Times New Roman to something sans-serif (like Helvetica or Arial). Even with the exact same amount of text, it’s much easier on the eye.

    10. Lauren

      I have no advice but I have been meaning to ask the same question and am frustrated because my work schedule never permits me to log into Ask a Manager on Friday mornings, after which time my question would be buried. So thank you so much for asking!

      (I’m in the library field which I think has some similarities in that it leads to short-term, only semi-related contract positions. You have to take what you can get for a long time, and a lot of the soft skills picked up along the way are valued, if only you can find a way to highlight them in a resume!)

      1. Museum Educator

        Well, I’m glad my question was one that can help out a few other people. And I feel your pain. It’s totally a take what you can get field for a long time. It’s tough and sometimes I really regret getting into this, even though it was a passion for me.

    11. Another Museum Person

      It sounds like you’re trying to get out of the museum world, so I don’t know how helpful this will be. As someone else in it – I know exactly what you mean. Museum people are by nature jacks of all trades, and then end up with a lot of specific specialties. The ways I’ve handled this, which has so far been successful is to highlight the continuity at the top of my resume in the summary section. (i.e. 7 years of experience training volunteers on teapot making, 5 years of managerial experience, etc.) Picking up on what the ad seems to be emphasizing. Then I give a smaller summary below each job, and the older they are/less relevant, the less bullet points they get – maybe only one or two, versus more recent/important roles. I’ve managed to keep it to about 1.5 pages this way. In the museum field though, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have at least a 2 page resume, unless they were very early newbies. Its difficult to transition out to shorter resumes when that’s been your norm, so I can feel your pain!

      1. Museum Educator

        Thanks. This is an excellent way to go about it. I need to do this. I appreciate that you are sharing your experience in the museum world. Sometimes I feel like the only one with a resume like this. I get really discouraged.

        I would actually love, love, love to stay in museums. But I just haven’t been able to get a job in one for 3 years. I have had 5-6 interviews for Assistant Curator of Education or Assistant Director positions, that I obviously did not get. I seem to get interest when I apply for the bigger roles and hear absolutely nothing when I apply for smaller roles. I feel caught in a bad spot because I don’t have quite enough experience for one of those positions, but I have too much for the others.

        A lot of that though has to do with my location. There are almost no museums here. There are a bunch of small museums within an hour from me, but these are places with a staff of 3 and no turn over. The two that are closest I have worked / interviewed at already. So I have been moving into training in self-preservation. I need work so I need a back up plan. But I do still apply to museums when I see a position that I think would be good for me. I’d actually like to do training in museums, but the museum world hasn’t really gone in that direction yet.

        1. Hanukkah Balls

          Don’t count that out entirely — in my city most of the bigger museums (staffs of 200+) have at least one person, and sometimes more, dedicated to staff training. Those jobs are there, but probably only at big institutions in major cities.

          1. Museum Educator

            Have you ever read Museum Education Monitor? The last issue specifically dealt with training in museums. I definitely haven’t counted it out. But I also have not seen any job postings for it ever.

        2. Another Museum Person

          You may have too much experience for the smaller roles? I had the same problem with not hearing back from 1-3 year experience roles, and got really discouraged thinking that I was never going to find a job. Then, just for the heck of it at the time, I started shooting for much larger roles and either landing them or being in the top 2 for consideration (I also credit this blog with helping me). Unless you’re in some of the museum heavy cities where they require MAs/PhD’s even out of their part time assistant educators (don’t get me started on education requirements vs. pay in this field!), it seems you can quickly become overqualified for positions without realizing it, once your account for all that cobbled together experience. I also really feel like there’s a lot of nepotism in the museum world, and a lot of jobs are posted when they already know who they are going to hire. I have lived in big cities and smaller ones and it is infinitely harder in smaller cities. I don’t have a lot of advice there – but I totally sympathize. I have been doing the same thing where I am trying to find other work, so at some point I can consider transitioning out.

          1. Museum Educator

            ” (don’t get me started on education requirements vs. pay in this field!) ”

            I know, right!! It’s infuriating.

            I have some graduate level courses in Museum Education under my belt. I went to grad school for it but didn’t finish the program. I never know whether to include it on my resume or not. But you are right, in smaller cities I can find jobs that only require a Bachelors, but rarely in larger cities. Then in smaller cities it’s harder to find jobs in general, while in larger cities they are everywhere.

        3. Mander

          I can relate — I’m an archaeologist, which tends to mean lots of short-term contract jobs, usually all over the place. A lot of people end up leaving the profession because they get sick of the constant travelling.

          1. Museum Educator

            My friends husband was an archaeologist when she met him. He left the field for both of those reasons. That’s tough.

    12. Stargazer

      What if you nix the bullet points altogether and post a summary under each job title? That way you’re not taking up an entire line of space for a bullet point that may only be a few words long.

      1. Museum Educator

        I have actually though about doing that as well. I have seen some linked profiles like that which gave me the idea. But the general consensus has been that I shouldn’t treat my resume the same. My question for something like this is, how do I list accomplishments when I only have a sentence for an entire role?

    13. Museum Educator

      Maybe I am just over thinking the whole thing. I feel like I need to bullet point my accomplishments, which sometimes takes up several lines, and that if I leave something out they will wonder what I did there. But maybe I just need to calm down and not worry so much. I probably look like I’m over compensating.

    14. Museum Educator

      Thanks for all of your responses! As usual this community proves extraordinarily helpful. I think I am going to try the “split resume” approach (at least that’s what I’ve decided to call it) where I summarize at the top, then list very relevant experience right after in chronological order, and with only the information that I must get across, followed by a final “other experience” section with no bullets. Hopefully that will be a lot more succinct and be easier to read and absorb for employers.

  2. CuriosityKilledTheAnon

    Do people have recommendations or thoughts on job in non-profit settings? I’ve occasionally heard people advising against it because they’re difficult to find and not financially stable (being non-profit with minimal budgeting).

    1. Ash (the other one)

      Depends on the non-profit. There are some really good ones out there and some really crappy ones out there. Some which pay at market rates and some that pay dismally low. It all depends. I am at my second nonprofit which is run much better than my old one… so hard to generalize.

    2. BRR

      I don’t think they’re necessarily difficult to find. It depends on the organization. Your best bet to check out the financial stability of the organization is to go to a site called guidestar (you might have to register but it’s free), and search the organization. Go to the forms tab of the organization and look at the 990, it breaks down revenue, expenses, and debt. This information should all be on the first and sometimes second pages.

      1. yup

        Thank you for mentioning guidestar. I have forwarded this to my friend who is looking for non-profit work up in seattle!

    3. Museum Educator

      I’ve worked in non-profits most of my career. They are not all unstable. It really depends on the organization, it’s size, and how well they run their development department. I worked at one non-profit where my job was always in danger of disappearing if we didn’t make enough money one quarter (and ultimately that did happen). But I have also worked for non-profits that were extremely stable and well organized and I was not at all worried that funding would suddenly dry up.

      I suggest doing some research on the organizations you are interested in. Check out Guidestar.org to get information and check out social media to see what they are doing. Usually when an org gets a grant they publicize it in some way. I have also seen positions listed that specifically say where it is funded from which can help put you at ease.

    4. Anoners

      It really depends on the NFP. I work for one and I would say it’s probably the most stable workplace I’ve ever been at. Good pay, bonuses, awesome benefits, nice parties, good culture. Mind you, we don’t depend on donations/donors in any way, there’s no real fear of running out of money.

      Just do your due diligence and see if it’s something that you’re comfortable with.

    5. Sunflower

      IMO, nonprofits aren’t that much different than for-profits. There are a lot of for-profits that are not financially stable. This conversation came up earlier this week but small non-profits can be seen as a little nuts because many operate like small businesses which get away with crazier stuff than large companies. My advice is research the company and go from there. Don’t turn down a non-profit job just because it’s non-profit.

    6. HigherEd Admin

      Agree with the others that it really depends. The bulk of my career, prior to getting into higher education, was in non-profits, but on the association side of things. A lot of ease of entry into the field depends on where you live, too. I was based in DC, which is very non-profit-centric, so jobs were abundant. Our work didn’t rely on grant funding, but instead relied on membership dues, which were a little more predictable and stable.

    7. INTP

      My experience as an employee and a shadower (when thinking of going into a different field) was that I just never felt like I fit in. I am business- and money- minded and just always felt like I had to pretend to have other motivations. Not just for my own work, but when talking about business operations in general, from an efficiency standpoint. I consider myself socially conscious and never though I would find my niche in the for-profit world but that’s how it worked out.

      But that is a totally personal thing. It’s not a reason to avoid nonprofits unless you’re the same way.

    8. Chai Latte

      I never really understood the divide on here about non-profits. I have never feared any instability, but all the non-profits I have worked for were large and most of the funding came from government grants. I would look to see where their revenue sources are from and their reputation/longevity.

      1. Joey

        When I worked at a library a federal grant that funded a number of positions and had been stable for over 20 years simply was eliminated one year. So Id say with all of the changes in the economy grant funding ismy indicative of anything in terms of stability.

      2. Joey

        When I worked at a library a federal grant that funded a number of positions and had been stable for over 20 years simply was eliminated one year. So Id say with all of the changes in the economy grant funding isnt indicative of anything in terms of stability.

    9. Lily in NYC

      Like everyone else wrote, it really depends on the NFP. I work for a very stable (quasi-governmental) NFP and we have fantastic benefits and some of us make great salaries (it depends on your role/when you were hired). However, I will admit it is very difficult to get hired here. We get so many resumes for our open positions.

      1. Ali

        This is timely for me, as I’m interviewing at a nonprofit next week. This looks to be one of the more stable ones, as it’s been around a while and has a strong year lined up. I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like on the inside!

    10. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s pretty much like asking for people opinions of for-profit settings: There’s massive variation and you can’t even begin to paint them all with the same brush. There are good ones, bad ones, and okay ones — just like with jobs in other sectors. There’s nothing magical about nonprofits that makes them all the same. It’s a huge sector.

      As with any job, do your due diligence about the organization. Don’t lump it into a huge category like nonprofit or for-profit; that will just mislead you.

      1. Joey

        But you can use some broad brushstrokes for nonprofits, no. I’m thinking things like you generally have to believe in the cause regardless of how good you are at your job, you will frequently be solicited to donate, and don’t be surprised if pay is on the lower end of the market.

        Obviously ymmv and there are exceptions, but Ive lived in a few very large metro areas and have a number of friends who’ve worked in non profits and these things generally hold.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I still disagree! I’ve actually never worked anywhere where I was solicited to donate (and have worked in nonprofits my whole career), although I agree it’s reasonable not to be surprised if it happens. And for the others, remember that there are tons of different kinds of nonprofits, and passion for the cause won’t be a thing at all of them (trade associations, for instance – although certainly at anything cause-oriented). Pay can definitely be an issue, but again it varies so widely — there are so many orgs that pay competitively that I think it’s better for people to just understand it’s something that could be an issue be also might not be.

          1. Joey

            But isn’t DC the Mecca of non profits and not really representative of what it’s like in the rest of the country?

          2. abby

            Ha – the only place I was solicited to donate was at a very-much-for-profit. Our primary source of business was in danger of being eliminated by the newly-elected governor and we were all expected to donate to a fund established to fight this.

            I am now at a non-profit and have never been solicited to donate money or time.

        2. blackcat

          I worked at a non-profit that had a super pushy plan to get everyone to donate. It was for some grants/other fundraising purposes to say that 100% of staff donated.

          I was actually okay because they were explicit in the pitch: the $ amount didn’t matter. At all. They wanted to claim 100% participation. It did not matter if that participation was $1 or even $0.50. Of course they’d be happy if we gave more, but that $1 would help them get a lot more $$$, so they’d love the $1. And so I gave $1, each year. My favorite part was getting my letter back to allow me to claim the tax deduction. They sent it through regular mail–probably using one half of my donation in stationary and postage!

    11. Felicia

      The non profit I work at is extremely stable, and pays more than for-profits for my position.

      Don’t paint all non profits with the same brush, just like you wouldn’t do that in for profits.

      Also I love working in non profits and I intend to for my whole career if I can.

    12. CAP

      Depends. A lot of smaller nonprofits can be just as tumultuous as start-ups with even more risk. If you can score a job with a big name, it’s similar to working at any big company. For the smaller ones, look at the turnover of staff, look at the financial allocations if you can, talk to some partners (sometimes listed on their webpage.) If you want to do more hands-on grassroots work, smaller nonprofits can be the best place for that. If you’re looking for some more stability, go big.

    13. JR

      If it’s a cause I really believed in, I’d take a job at a nonprofit unless it was an absolutely awful place to work. You can’t expect the money at nonprofits to be as good as the private sector, but the tradeoff is you’re working for something you believe in. If you’re just doing it to get a job and don’t care about the work of the nonprofit I’d advise against it.

      1. Joey

        But the same goes for any job. You generally have to believe in the product or service of the company you work for to be happy. youre making it sound like only non profits offer something to believe in. Hell, I, and many others believe in the goods and services sold by tons of for profit companies. What you’re really trading is the concept that the organizations purpose isn’t to make a profit. Personally I’d rather work for an organization that has products I believe in AND will share the profits that I helped generate. Id rather not tie my philanthropic efforts to my livelihood.

    14. CuriosityKilledTheAnon

      Thanks all for the responses! I certainly don’t want to put all non-profits under the same umbrella and I definitely understand that they’re very similar to for-profits in many ways. I had just heard the stigma so much that I wondered if there was any truth to it. Thanks again!

    15. NoTurnover

      I’ve worked in associations my entire career. At least at mine, the pay is competitive and it is EXTREMELY stable–we’ve been around since 1898. We don’t have a huge budget–no fancy Christmas parties or in-house snack service–but the budget is very stable year to year.

  3. Fawn

    Embarrassingly simple winter work fashion question: I’m going to a one-day workshop where the dress will be professional. Typically, when I go to conference/workshops, I stay in a hotel the night before because they’re usually a bit of a trek from my city, so I have a room to change, put my things, etc. This one, though, is just an hour or so away, so I’ll be taking transit to get there. Part of the trip will inevitably involve some walking on slushy sidewalks.

    Should I wear my winter boots and change footwear once I get there? Is that…weird?

      1. Fawn

        No – transit just makes more sense for a few reasons (I share a car with my partner, I can take the train and not have to worry about rush hour, I don’t love driving downtown Toronto).

        1. esra

          Another Torontonian here. Totally not weird to wear boots + change. Even if it isn’t slushy, the amount of salt on the sidewalks can ruin your shoes.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule

      Not weird, IMO. Walking on slushy sidewalks in heels would be weird to me. They’ll get that salt residue on them and look grimy all day. Bring a bag that you can fit your boots in and you should be fine.

      1. kristinyc

        I usually wear black boots (leather, not snow) when I want to look nice but still have to walk around in gross weather. A lot of stores have fleece-lined tights that look like normal tights (I’ve found them at Target and Urban Outfitters). With a skirt, I wear those, thigh-high black leg warmers, regular socks, and then tall black boots. When I get to my destination, I roll down the leg warmers so they don’t show. I wear skirts more often than pants, and this trick has kept me warm and comfy!

            1. Celeste

              I’ve bought them for my daughter at Nordstrom, but lots of places have them. I think Old Navy does, for example.

          1. A Teacher

            I second the fleece lined tights! I work as an athletic trainer PRN and at the end of high school football season fleece lined tights have been amazing. I’ve bought the tights at Kohl’s and Walmart if that helps anyone.

            1. Bea W

              Omg I took this advice posted a couple weeks ago and LOVE fleece lined leggings and tights. I went out in -5 F no problem. With these and some thick socks to wear in my boots, I was warmer than long underwear and pants. I could even sit on the benches without freezing my backside.

              Whoever talked about these a couple weeks ago I owe you a huge debt of warm gratitude for making my commute comfortable.

            2. EG

              Me also! I bought a pair at Walmart a couple of weeks ago when temps here in Arkansas dropped to near zero for a couple of days. I was toasty and warm in the fleece lined tights (and two coats, two scarves, and fleece hat).

    2. Lo

      I have done this for conferences, and do it at work, and if someone gave me a weird look for this, I would giggle. Keep on keepin’ on, and wear those slushy boots to the event then change into your work shoes there!

    3. CH

      You are probably going to wear a winter coat and stash it somewhere. Boots really aren’t any different. Be practical and change at your destination. 100 years ago when I was in school, all the girls had pretty shoe bags for carrying shoes when they wore their winter boots. That should make a comeback.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger

        Ugh, for some reason, when I was in middle school, winter boots were Not Cool to wear to school. Instead, the Cool Thing was to wear sneakers even in several feet of snow and just ignore the fact that your feet were then cold and wet all day. Having a practical mother, I was made to wear my rubber snow boots anyway, and thus was mocked by the cool kids.

        1. Ezri

          My Dad burst many blood vessels trying to convince my too-cool-for-that teenage siblings that flip-flops and snow were a bad combination. It never really sunk in.

          1. Intrepid Intern

            I can’t say it sunk in for me either, until the day I tried to call my parents because it had snowed several inches while I was at school, and could they come pick me up?

            Then it sunk in.

        2. Bea W

          It was hats for my school. Winter boots were okay in snow, but no one wore winter hats. I hated that. I get horrible headaches without a hat in anything below 50. I can go out coatless no problem in weather where I absolutely need to wear a hat or risk stabbing migraine-like pain.

          1. Jen RO

            Hats for my school too! Funnily enough, I was fine without a hat at age 13, but I can’t go without one at 30…

      2. JMegan

        Yes, definitely. Is it an official conference facility, like a hotel or the MTCC? (Hi, fellow Torontonian!) They will most likely have designated coat rooms where you can also leave your boots – you can always call the facility and ask if you’re not sure.

        Also check if the conference is in a building with access to the PATH, which would allow you to stay inside most or all of the way from the subway.

        In any case, there will definitely be at least a few people changing from boots to shoes once you get there.

      3. Dynamic Beige

        You might want to bring 2 bags — one for your shoes (that will stay dry) and one for your boots, it will make it easier for the coat check person to hang it with your coat too.

        PATH is great. There are apps you can get to help you and the fact that almost everything in the downtown core is connected makes it so much easier.

    4. BadPlanning

      I guess the only weird part would be if you have huge boots and no easy place to put them and have to haul around a huge bag. Then it’s more inconvenient than weird. But better than cold slushy feet.

      1. Bea W

        This is when you will find piles of boots in a corner of the room even if there is no designated coat area, but with conferences where many attendees are expected to commute, there is generally a coat area and it is appropriate to also leave boots, umbrellas, and other outerwear there as well.

    5. Allison

      You wouldn’t be the first woman to do it, and you may not be the only woman doing it at this conference! For peace of mind, see if they do coat check, and if so, see if you can leave your boots with them as well. It might feel odd asking the conference organizers what to do with your shoes, but I’m willing to bet they won’t judge.

    6. Beebs

      I do this in all weather, as I am generally a pedestrian. In the summer I wear flats and switch in to my heels. Actually last year, I had a conference during the coldest week of the year and I walked to the site all bundled up, including leggings over my nylons. I arrived a bit early, went to the bathroom and removed the insane amount of layers I had on, and voila ready to go for the day.

      1. Brian_A

        I am also a “getting put together in the washroom” person at meetings and events. I cycle year-round, and particularly in winter need to duck in to get out of my extra layers and look more presentable!

      2. louise

        I’m so intrigued by people who can do this! I smell weird if I try. And am damp in places I do not wish to be.

    7. HR Manager

      City commuter with a life-long practice of changing shoes. Not weird, and I know many people do this.

      I had a woman who came to interview with us and decided to wear heals in on an icy, snowy day. She slid and fell and broke her foot a few blocks from her interview. Need to impress does not override common sense and safety.

    8. Bea W

      Not weird at all. Commuters who do any amount of walking or biking do this all the time even when the weather is good – work shoes for work, comfortable weather appropriate shoes for commuting. If it’s gross out you will not be the only person changing shoes.

    9. Monodon monoceros

      Not weird at all. One time I volunteered at the coat check for the fancy shmancy fundraiser for the nonprofit I used to work for in a very cold, snowy city. Most of the ladies came in wearing their ball gowns and big winter boots and carrying their fancy shoes. We just gave coat check claims for boots too.

  4. Random Reader

    What are some of your favorite workplace benefits? We have a great matching program- starting out at a 5% match when we put in 5%, then their contribution goes up every year. After 5 years, I would only be putting in 5% and they’ll be putting in 10, for a total of 15%! We also get quite a few gifted days off between Christmas and New Years. It’s dependent on when the holidays fall, but it’s not uncommon to get between 1.5-2 weeks off without using PTO and being paid for it.

    1. Sarah Nicole

      I love the fact that my employer pays my health HMO and a dental PPO for me. I don’t pay premiums, just the copays or cost shares when I actually go to the doctor! It’s pretty sweet not having to budget $100 a month for health costs when I’m very young and healthy, so it’s good for my situation.

    2. Helen

      Matching, a good health plan, and flexibility about time off–not necessarily a “flex schedule” (although that’s great too) but just being able to take a long lunch and make up the time later if you need to.

      1. Burlington

        Oh, this. Sometimes a friend is having a persona crisis or something, and it’s nice to know that I can go have a leisurely two hour lunch with them, and make up the time over the course of the week without anyone giving me the side-eye.

    3. Calla

      My employer pays 100% of health insurance AND provides an employer-funded hsa card that covers the deductible and then some. It’s not a “fun” benefit, but I not only don’t have to worry about premiums, I also don’t have to worry about co-pays or how much a prescription might cost, etc. This was a major factor in me deciding to take the job.

      We also have a massage therapist on-site, but while I would love to take advantage of that, it’s a guy and I’m only comfortable with female massage therapists.

      1. Burlington

        And you can treat HSA’s as supplementary retirement accounts too, because they roll over forever. If you’re maxing out other retirement plans, and your employer ISN’T maxing out your HSA, you can start popping pre-tax money in there.

        1. Ezri

          My employer has a deal where we get x amount of money into the HSA each year that we complete a preventative physical and submit a form. The physical is covered in our plan, too. :) It’s great incentive to get checked out now and then.

    4. TotesMaGoats

      I work for a state university and get a ridiculous amount of leave. And I can carry over up to 400 hours of annual leave every year, unlimited amount of sick carry over. We get all the major holidays. Snow closings. 3 floating holidays and 3 personal days every year. It’s a struggle (aware that this is so a first world problem) this year to use up enough leave to stay under 400 hours.

    5. Adam

      My most used workplace benefit and possibly most valuable is the free bus pass. These days in my city a one-way trip during rush hour could be over $2 or so. I’m not sure. I haven’t had to pay bus fare in years because my work issued pass makes it always free.

    6. BRR

      -I get a 10% contribution unmatched into a 403b. I can contribute my own money to a Roth IRA.
      -26 days a year vacation (plus sick time). You can roll over up to 48 days automatically. We earn two days a month and two extra days annually. I like accumulating like this and rolling over automatically.
      -We just started a program to have your copays covered for diabetes medication (I’m a type 1 diabetic). You have to jump through some hoops but it will save me a fortune.

    7. matcha123

      I’m not in the US, so take this with a grain of salt, but I get 20 days PTO along with 10 sick days and a monthly “menstrual day” that I can (and have) use.

      I’m pretty certain that all of my coworkers have the same, too.
      So, while the pay isn’t great, I can take a day off and rest if it’s not too busy.

      While it’s not totally tied to my workplace, the year-end holiday is about a week long and is not counted with PTO. There’s also “Golden Week” in May, which is basically 3 days of forced vacation time and “Silver Week” in September, another 3-day forced vacation. I’ll never see anything like this in the US.

        1. matcha123

          Yes. I’m in Japan.
          Japan and Korea have menstrual days. I don’t know about other countries.
          It’s just one day a month, but as far as I know it’s not abused (because most women don’t want people to know about their periods) and in my case, I can either call in that morning, or say something during work and take my leave.

    8. kozinskey

      State government: we start at 12 sick, 12 vacation, and 12 holidays off a year, and the sick & vacation go way, way up after 5 years. The holidays include Arbor Day. The pay is low but the work/life balance is hard to beat.

      1. CheeryO

        +1 (We also do 37.5 hour weeks, and no one works a minute longer than that.)

        And for my industry, public and private sector pay is about even. In fact, after my probationary year is up, I’ll be making $5-10,000 more than my private sector peers, with automatic increases every year.

    9. SJP

      UK employee but –
      25 days holiday
      free buffet lunch everyday
      paid sick days, not sure how many but quite a lot I think
      Medical insurance if I want private medical care (if the NHS take too long)
      Matching pension contributions
      Flexie Time
      Every single person gets their own at work MacBook Air that they can take home and use as their own outside of company time.. (we work on it all day as the work computer too)

      I love my place of work

      1. Heynonnynonnymous for this

        You had me at free buffet lunch. :D

        Our headquarters has a cafeteria where employees can swipe their badges and they deduct the (super cheap) lunch cost from our paychecks. I don’t work at that location–and I’m glad, because it’s a 50-minute commute from my house, but I wish all the time we had it at the campus where I work. They probably won’t do it because we’re close to some restaurants. But there’s talk of expanding the campus and it certainly would be a major perk.

    10. periwinkle

      Educational benefits are handy. My employer is exceptionally generous, to put it mildly. They have a list of approved schools (a nice mix of community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities with graduate-level programs – about 250 total). They have a list of pre-approved programs of study, primarily in business, IT, and STEM disciplines. Pick an approved program at an approved school and they will pay 100% tuition and fees plus a textbook allowance. They will even pay for the graduation cap and gown. Everyone in my work group is either working on a degree or recently completed one.

      A good health plan is even more essential for U.S. folks, and my employer does a great job there too. If we had a Bring Your Pets To Work day, life here would be perfect! (well, until the day I brought in my youngest cat, whom we refer to as “The Destructor of Worlds”…)

      1. Nashira

        And here I was feeling fancy because my employer will reimburse up to $5k a year for tuition, books, and certain fees!

    11. Christy

      Federal employee–20 days annual PTO, 13 days sick PTO, 10 holidays (plus 12/26 some years!), good health insurance, match up to 5% for TSP, public transit up to $130/month, can telework 4 days/week, can start any time between 6 and 9:30 AM, can set a flexible schedule.

      I’m frustrated that the 6 weeks of parental leave that was just announced is just Obama saying we can draw from our sick leave before it’s earned.

      1. kozinskey

        My head exploded when I heard that. Why is the US so resistant to just letting parents take some time to have a baby??

        1. BRR

          Maternity and Paternity leave in the US feels like the dark ages. Like do people still believe the sun revolves around the earth. And keep in mind I usually am in the crowd that is frustrated by parental perks.

    12. The Cosmic Avenger

      Teleworking. Any time the weather is treacherous (heavy snow, freezing rain) I just work from home another day — I have one scheduled telework day a week. Sick kid? Telework. Home repair/installation appointment? Telework.

    13. Christina

      For practical purposes, our 403b contribution is great–they give everyone 5% AND they match up to 5%. So for every 5% I put in, I get twice that from them. I’m in my early 30s and already have a decent chunk of change (I’ve been working here for almost 9 years).

      I work for a university, so tuition benefits are pretty good too. They cover some programs more than others (25-85%), but I was able to get an MA in a subject I was interested in just for the hell of it and have 75% of it paid for. If I could have made a justification that it was also for my career, they probably would have paid for all of it. I can also audit some classes (though this depends on the prof, the program, and the schedule).

      Time off is also pretty nice–15 vacation days (20 after 10 years, 25 after 30–and yes there are many people who fall into that category) that roll over, 3 personal days, 10 holidays, 15 sick days
      (used to be 20/roll over, so basically unlimited but they switched to a better short term disability plan).

      One really nice perk a nearby university offers is a five-year forgivable loan of up to $10,000 towards the purchase of a home in the area. They only give out 25 of these a year, but still a nice way to get people invested in the area.

      1. Christina

        Oh, we also used to have a weekly telecommuting option in my department (IT). I, and many of us, absolutely loved it, but management decided no/only occasionally at direct manager’s discretion (which in my case basically means no or I get guilted about asking if the weather is awful). I still miss it.

    14. Apollo Warbucks

      I’m not long into my new job but I’m loving decent coffee, bacon sandwiches and some of the best mountain biking in town 5 minuets down the road

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          Yes I’m in the UK, and yes British bacon is amazing. Don’t get a fry up in the airport, find the closest cabbie (driving a Hackney carriage, not a mini cab) and ask them to take you to their favouirte greasy spoon cafe.

          1. Elizabeth West

            Oh I won’t get it at the airport, don’t worry. And if I take a cab (don’t usually because it’s a bit spendy), it’s always a black cab. ALWAYS. I love them because it’s like riding in a tiny limo. :D

            I have not touched streaky bacon since I got home. I am seriously dying here.

    15. Beancounter in Texas

      My Jewish employer (the same one about whom I wrote about making the refrigerator kosher during Passover https://www.askamanager.org/2014/08/my-boss-makes-us-all-keep-kosher-for-passover.html) is generous by giving all employees (Gentile and Jew alike) a paid holiday for the Jewish holidays on which no work is permitted, which ranges from 6 to 12 days off, depending on the year. This is in addition to two weeks vacation and six days off for US national holidays. We’re technically working eleven months a year!

      And side note on the Passover ban on coffee, I’ve resorted to picking up my own coffee in the morning. I still haven’t resolved the refrigerator issue though.

    16. Kyle

      I was just thinking about this!

      At my current employer:
      * We have a solid health and dental plan with premiums that are 100% paid by the employer (for individuals or families), plus we get reimbursed for the first half of our deductible.
      * Generous work-from-home policies and just general flexibility. And when I see people complaining here about parents getting more time off than non-parents I feel grateful that that isn’t really a problem here – yes, people with kids sometimes WFH or take time off for kid stuff, but single/childless folks aren’t penalized for taking time for vacations, visiting art exhibits, whatever.
      * FREE LUNCH. The fridge is always stocked with all of Whole Foods’ finest prepared foods, so it’s easy to have a healthy lunch (and/or breakfast dinner). Most afternoons there’s some kind of cheese plate/charcuterie situation. And there are frequent special occasions that require the consumption of fancy pastries. And there’s a bottomless supply of Greek yogurt and seltzer, for the dieters.

      I had more vacation and better retirement matching at previous jobs, which I do miss, but overall I’m very very happy with the benefits package here.

    17. Colette

      Here are the ones I use:
      – time off (4 weeks + 2 shutdowns/year)
      – supplemental health (massage, physio, prescriptions, dentist, etc.)
      – wellness dollars (up to $X/year for fitness programs outside of work)
      – free membership to the work gym
      – money for volunteering (to be specific, for every X hours I volunteer, the company pays $Y to the organization I volunteer with)
      – stock purchase plan

    18. Mike C.

      It’s not my workplace that does it, but the US Post Office has a great one. If any crime happens to someone in uniform, the USPO has a schedule of rewards for information leading to the conviction of the person who committed the crime. Anything from simple assault and theft all the way up to murder.

      How many other people can say, “in the case of my illegal death, my employer will put up significant sums of money to ensure I am avenged”? That’s pretty awesome in my book.

    19. Lily in NYC

      Vacation buy-back! In December, we are allowed to sell up to 10 unused vacation days. Some years they allow 15 days. It rocks. A perk I would love is to telecommute once a week, or even once a month. But it’s frowned upon here.

    20. krm

      Automatic 8% contribution to our 403b, with 4 year vesting period- this is unheard of in our area!
      Free lunch in the cafeteria- the food isn’t always good, but its great to know that we have a free option!
      Flexible scheduling and work from home options

      1. krm

        forgot to mention the wellness program- they will pay for 50% of elligible wellness costs (gym memberships, rec league, weight watchers, etc).
        also, vacation buyout twice a year, up to 80 hours generally at 100%

    21. HR Manager

      We have a decent PTO policy, and we now have a shutdown between Xmas and New Year’s. Best benefit ever. In general, our office is quite casual, so the casual approach to work from home and taking time off is a great perk.

    22. Lizabeth

      I’m jealous reading about all this seriously great benefits…I think I’m working at the wrong place (they dropped their 401K match over a year ago and are currently having problems paying vendor bills on time)

    23. puddin

      We have a very good 401k plan where, even if you do not contribute the company will fund an amount equal to 5% of your salary to it every year plus they match.

      And we have holiday shutdown Dec 24- Jan 2. Fairly common in manufacturing, but a welcome perk of time off when I need it most.

    24. Alicia

      My favourite is that I put 5% in for retirement and they match with 7.5%. Also, since it’s a university, I have an obscene amount of leave. I always have a week and a half off at Christmastime, I have 4 weeks of vacation, plus a zillion sick days, all the stat holidays (basically a long weekend every month), and another few days off that have different rules than vacation days. I split other benefits 50/50 with my employer, but I’ll take that – there isn’t even a copay on prescriptions! It’s just $0 to pick up my medicine when I need it.

    25. arual

      because i don’t take our health benefits through out cafeteria plan i can cash out my monthly flexible benefit credit and have it be added income into each paycheck. comes to about 500 extra each month. not too shabby.

    26. CA Admin

      My employer pays 100% for health, dental, and vision coverage for me, my spouse, and any dependents. No premiums for me!

      1. Finny

        I would love that. Last time I had to get glasses, mine were $750 a pair, and I only get $200 back, every two years. (My glasses are so expensive thanks to a massive prescription plus prism; I get the cheapest frames that will still fit me, and they have to be bright plastic because of the thickness of my lenses and so I can find them by colour once I take them off.)

    27. AvonLady Barksdale

      We get the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, and it is amazing– since we only get 10 official vacation days/year, no one needs to save up for travel during those holidays. We also have unlimited sick leave. The best perk is Fridays, which are non-client days meant to get you thinking more about your work on a broader level. We don’t have to come in if we don’t want to, and if we do come in, we’re encouraged to leave no later than 2pm.

      My particular office has very flexible hours and my boss doesn’t care if I leave early or if I go to an appointment during the day. He also doesn’t care if we decide to do our work from the coffee shop down the street. It’s taken some getting used to, but I do appreciate it.

    28. JR

      The best benefit where I work is a lot of time off and true work-life balance. I’m up to 5 weeks and 3 days of vacation (which I actually get to take), and 12 holidays. Working late occurs VERY rarely–maybe 2-3 times a year.

      The tradeoff is that the pay is lower here than the private sector for the same work and there are no bonuses, company parties, etc. This is fine with me.

    29. FatBigot

      A Stores/Postroom function that will accept, sign for and store securely almost any incoming package, as long as it’s legal and non-alcoholic. Then e-mail you to come and get it. The place goes mad in the run-up to Christmas. They don’t mind a carrier (that you have arranged and paid for) picking up stuff either, e.g. for e-bay.

      It helps that most of us are so nerdy that it’s hard to tell the difference between work and personal stuff most of the time. That leads to the other benefit: Access to fully equipped electrical/electronic & mechanical workshops.

    30. AnonToday4This1

      Some of the perks that I like are (private university):
      1. 100% tuition for myself, dependents under 24, and spouse (undergrad only). Taxed on cost of tuition for graduate degrees.
      -Degree bonus for completing bachelors, graduate, and PhD.
      2. 403b matching up to 9.5%. Employees can contribute between 1-6%, so the more you contribute the more they match.
      3. Free yearly pass for public transportation
      4. 10-20 sick days (depends on years of service) a year with roll-over every year. I’ve been here awhile, so I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 sick days.
      5. 12-25 vacation days a year (depends on years of service). 1 personal day a year.
      6. Paid holidays, including the day after Thanksgiving and Dec. 24 through Jan. 1 (with no hit to your vacation/sick time). Snow days/ delayed snow schedule.
      7. While the health insurance is pretty standard, the vision and dental are amazing. Adult orthodontia coverage for myself, spouse, and dependents up to 24. The same with the vision plan.
      8. Free lunches (not all of the time though) for back to school, holidays (even non-U.S holidays such as Chinese New Year), and staff appreciation.

      The pay is very competitive for Academia but honestly, whatever they paid me I would still accept it because free tuition for my kids trumps almost everything. :-)

    31. GA! (Lisa)

      ~100% 401(k) match, up to the IRS max (so if you can put aside $18k in 2015, the company will give you $18k)
      ~ profit sharing (if possible)
      ~10.5 days holiday
      ~PTO is accrued by the hour, a 40 hour work week gets you 10 days/ year (so, more if you work OT), goes up to 15 days after 5 years, 20 days after 10 years, 25 days after 15 years, 30 days after 20 years
      ~ dental and vision 100% paid for employee, domestic partner and family
      ~medical paid for employee, DP or family only pay the difference (so if cost of employee is X, and DP is X+$150/mo, cost is only $150/ mo)
      ~$1000 set aside in an HRA to help cover deductible costs (we have three plans: $3000, $2000, $1500)
      ~VERY flexible attitude about work time. Long lunches, early/late starts and leaves, taking days off, WFH, anything goes . . . as long as its communicated and you get your work done. If you let your team down and people start talking — WHAM! The privilege gets taken away for awhile. (One person got fired for it, but he was seriously egregious.)
      ~Dogs allowed (not every day, but fairly regularly) as long as they are well behaved
      ~Monies can be available for education and/ or professional conferences as long as you make a business case, and its a single individual making that decision, not a committee so its not a huge in most cases
      ~Bonuses of 10-20% of salary on top of market rate wages, and most employees are non exempt so they earn OT
      ~You can take time off but don’t have to use your PTO (you just don’t get paid)

    32. PizzaSquared

      My company pays for my gym membership, has free lunch every day, and subsidizes my commute. Pretty sweet!

      1. PizzaSquared

        Oh, also, I forgot – they give me extra cash money on my paycheck every month for not using the health insurance (I’m on my spouse’s plan).

    33. Jen RO

      (Not in the US)
      20 days PTO (24 after 3 years)
      Medical insurance with 2 different companies, with very good coverage
      Free coffee and hot chocolate
      Flexibility (WFH if you need to wait for the plumber, etc; ability to go to medical appointments and the like during the work day, making up the time later).
      Occasional sweets on company event days

    34. BananaPants

      Our employee education program is really pretty stellar. They pay everything up-front – tuition, fees, textbooks – and give you PTO each week during the semester to study. You can study whatever you like, it doesn’t have to be related to your job. In the US, you can attend most regionally accredited schools (excluding the expensive for-profits like U of Phoenix). I’ve earned two master’s degrees which were paid for 100% by my employer, and just started a third master’s program.

  5. Helen

    Hiring managers–I’d like your thoughts on thank you/followup notes (sorry, I know this topic has been beaten to death). The traditional advice (including on AAM) is to sort of “sell” yourself again and say why you’re a good fit for the role. But when I do that, I feel so grovel-y and desperate, and in turn less attractive to the employer. Because of this, after my most recent interview, my thank you note just said something like, “I enjoyed talking with you and learning so much about X. Y seems like a great place to work.” Thoughts?

    1. CrazyCatLady

      I have the same struggle with thank you emails. I usually say almost exactly what you say and then add that I’m very interested in the position.

    2. Sarah Nicole

      I approach it like some of Alison’s other advice that I have seen, which is to continue the conversation. For my current job I have 4 interviews, and one in particular was a dinner interview at which I was a little nervous. I could remember a couple of questions that I thought I could provide a better answer for, so when I wrote my thank you note, I said that I thought I had a better answer for one of the questions. I said, “After some reflection, I feel I can provide a better answer about…” and gave that answer. It really helped as he was impressed with that approach.

      I’m not a hiring manager, just here to say what has worked for me more than once. I also always thank them for their time and let them know I’m more interested in the position after speaking with them. Hope I have helped a little!

      1. Melly

        This. I don’t say “I could provide a better answer…” but I do reflect on something very specific we discussed.

    3. Pooski

      I’m not a hiring manager, but in my job search(es) I’ve always brought up something from the interview that I learned about the position or company that I thought was interesting or exciting. I think its a great way to show that I was paying attention during the interview, and have an honest interest in the position. If it makes sense I will also mention how that item is a great fit for me, bringing up an accomplishment or interest I might not have had time to mention in the interview.

    4. AndersonDarling

      I’ll say something about the interview that I found interesting, but I don’t try to sell myself. I honestly think of a thank you as saying “thank you.” I don’t think that anything I say in a thank you note would move me to the top of the list, but if I sound desperate and give a sales pitch, then I may drop in the list.

    5. Burlington

      I’ve done some hiring, and honestly, I don’t really care about follow-up emails or “thank you” notes. They obviously don’t reflect badly on anyone, but I just don’t care. If you and another candidate were equal in every other way but you sent an email and the other didn’t, I’d probably need another interview or would end up making a determination based on something else equally inconsequential (to me).

      BUT, I will say, think of them as follow-ups and not “thank you’s,” and definitely a super salesy one will turn me off. So, on the one hand, many employers really like them, so maybe you should do one. On the other hand, you’re marginally more likely to hurt yourself than help yourself with me. So I’m not very helpful.

    6. Ask a Manager Post author

      Whoa, wait, my advice is definitely not to try to sell yourself! Well, not in a salesy way at least. You want to strengthen your candidacy, of course, but you do that by showing continued enthusiasm for the job and building on the conversation you had in the interview, not by trying to sell anything. For instance: “Thanks so much for talking with me about the X job yesterday. I loved hearing about your work in Y, and am totally intrigued by your points about A and B. It made me think one way to get at B could be W. Anyway, I really appreciated the chance to talk and look forward to hearing about the next steps in your process. Have a great weekend.”

    7. Random Name

      Usually the thank you emails I get are just the “thank you for speaking with me, I’m interested in the job” type. However, I got this really great follow up email once from a candidate that did not interview well and who we were not planning on bringing back for a second interview. However, we did bring her back for a second interview because of her email. She mentioned that when we told her more about the specifics of the position it sounded like it had been tailored just for her because the tasks the position focused on were things she enjoyed doing in her current and previous positions. Then she mentioned specific things she took away from the interview about the company and that they were things she found important and reinforced how she felt like she would fit in well here. She also worked in a relevant reference to a book she had read that she had mentioned during the interview (it was a book about how to be successful in the workplace. My boss and I agreed it was the best follow up email we had ever received. And it served its purpose by getting her a second interview.

    8. Marcy

      I do my own hiring when we have positions open in my department. A thank you email is nice but I have had applicants disqualify themselves from further consideration due to typos and strange formatting (I had one who randomly highlighted certain words in yellow and used all caps when writing the word “YOU”). I also had one who obviously copied and pasted from other emails because the fonts were different- that made him seem lazy. I usually need very detail-oriented people in the positions I hire for because we do a lot of database entry and reporting.
      An actual thank you note send in the mail is fine, too. I hate when applicants try to drop them off in person. Our front desk people are not allowed to hold anything, not even a piece of paper. If someone tries to drop off a piece of paper, the front desk people will start calling all over the place to find me, even if I am in a meeting, and make me come down to get it. I realize the applicant has no idea that is going to happen, but it is annoying anyway.

    9. Alternative

      I’m really glad you posted this – I was just struggling with writing a thank you/follow up myself. Even doing the “tie it back to the interview conversation, or build upon what was discussed” feels really fake and forced to me. Everything I see or write seems very cheesy and cliche.

  6. Ash (the other one)

    I am looking for good resources about how to delegate and let go of work. I’m realizing I have a staff for a reason, but its so hard for me to let go of work, especially when I know how critical its success is to the overall projects. I am still green to managing (and I have Alison’s book), so anything you can suggest, would be really appreciative!

    1. Celeste

      You can delegate a task, but you can never delegate responsibility. I think that’s why it feels fraught. But clearly you can’t have your hands on every task. Make it clear how important the work is, and set up checkpoints for completion. Check in on time, and give feedback as needed. You have to trust, and that might take getting used to. Think about how you like to be treated and acknowledge good work. Good luck!

      1. HigherEd Admin

        You can delegate a task, but you can never delegate responsibility.

        I don’t know why, but this phrasing just really, really helped me put this issue in a whole new perspective. Thank you!

        1. LBK

          +1, that phrase is definitely going into my lexicon. So simple but so perfectly cuts to the core of the issue.

    2. AwesomeCreativePM

      I run in to this issue frequently. The best way to let go is building trust. You have to build trust before you can completely let go. Part of that trust is training; training them to your expectations as their manager. Once you see that they are meeting your expectations you’ll be able to trust that they can handle the task you delegate. I agree with Celeste; start by setting up checkpoints. Check points and feedback is good and based on that you’ll see if you can trust them and delegating tasks will become easier for you and you’ll see how great it is for you to delegate!

      1. J.B.

        And to add to this, going through the exercise of what is important, what success in a task would look like, and communicating that clearly will really help the person you are delegating too. I am not a manager but am often on the receiving end. People often do not communicate as clearly as they think, or may not even have the idea cemented in their own minds. If you expect staff to read your minds no one will be satisfied with the results.

    3. A Jane

      For every task I had, I thought to myself, “Is this something I could hand off to X?” It usually came into three categories: 1) Yes, 2) Yes, assuming A,B,C and 3) No, this is something I need to take care of myself. If it fell into the 2nd category, I worked on making sure A, B, and C were set up so I didn’t have to it anymore. If it fell into 3, I really needed to think about why it’s 3. Sometimes, you’ll recognize that it’s more a 2 than a 3.

    4. squids

      I’m on the other side of this — my boss doesn’t delegate nearly enough, and it’s causing problems in workflow for me and him and everyone else. It’s not just uneven workload (there is more than plenty to do) but I can’t get work I’ve already done approved or put into motion, and I end up spending a lot of my time on low-urgency stuff while more important things are just left waiting.

      I don’t really have advice or resources, but I agree with the other comments about building trust — and keeping in mind that your staff (probably) want to earn and be given this trust in order to feel good about their own roles.

    5. Dawn

      I have had the most success with delegating when I make sure to be clear about what it is that I want, EVEN IF I think the other person would probably know that offhand anyway. If I’ve been working with someone for 10 years, of course that would be different, but as a n00b manager it took a LOT of the stress away to just say “Here’s Task A, it’s for Henry, so it needs to be done in X Y Z way, just like that last task we did for Henry. He said he doesn’t care about the specifics on the lid report but getting the handle metrics precise is critical. He needs it by next Friday- can you get me a rough draft by Tuesday so I can look over it and we can edit together?”

      That’s how the Best Boss I Ever Had did things, and it was great because A) I learned how she wanted things done because I worked closely with her on a lot of assignments B) I knew she had my back in all of the work I turned in because we had gone over it together and C) When she stopped wanting to review every little thing with me, I knew that meant she trusted me- so I felt like I had “leveled up” at my job!

  7. AJay

    How much do annual evaluations really matter? I have been working at my first full-time job for two years now, and am only familiar with the way my company does evaluations. Everyone is rated on a scale of 1-5 for a variety of different categories, and my department makes a point of never giving anyone the highest rating (5). I’ve only receive 3s and 4s, yet have received a few raises and a promotion since I started working here (which is unusual in my company). Since I am unaware of the professional norms outside of my company, I don’t know if these evaluations have greater implications or if I should even care about my scores. It seems like these evaluations are used mainly as a way to give feedback, but I’m wondering if having a work history of “3s” will come back to haunt me later…

      1. Marcy

        In some places, you can’t earn a 5. I work in one of those. We are told that nobody should get a five because there is always room for improvement. They want to see mostly 3s because that is considered doing your job as expected. I usually give my staff a lot of 4s because I can’t help but see a 3 as a “C”. My staff is great- they work hard and are not average. I wish they would replace the number system with “Employee does well with…” “Employee needs to improve….” “Employee needs to stop doing….” under each category and have the manager write in whatever feedback they think is needed.

        1. PizzaSquared

          That seems ridiculous to me. What’s the point in having a top category if it’s never used? I believe in using the whole range, but the top level is definitely for truly outstanding, far beyond expectations, work. That means that it doesn’t get used every evaluation period. But it does get used when it’s warranted.

        2. BRR

          It sounds like this is the same type of place. But I think it’s ridiculous and by asking I want to put pressure on how stupid it is.

    1. Brenda

      A lot of companies also use them to determine your annual raise. I think scoring systems really vary depending on the company and the manager – my old manager used to explain that she only gave “exceeds” if she really felt we’d truly surpassed expectations, not just done our jobs very well (which was what she expected of us). I was totally fine with that, and with her “exceeds” really meant something. Other managers at that company gave people “exceeds” for just showing up. I don’t think you should worry about it, they’re grading you within their departmental norms, you’re getting raises and promotions (and presumably positive feedback).

    2. YourCdnFriend

      This totally depends on company norms. Having 3s at your current company isn’t going to impact you if you move companies. And if having 3s is the norm at your current company (which it sounds like it may be as it hasn’t stopped you from getting raises and a promotion) then I wouldn’t worry about it.

      I’d focus on the context of the ratings and the actual feedback of how you can improve. It’s also valuable to understand “what gets you a 5” like BRR recommended.

    3. Tornader

      I think a big factor is what categories they use and which ones your lower scores were in. At my previous job one area that was scored (1-5) was “Adheres to Policy.” I received a 3 because I met the standard. How you go above and beyond adhering to policy I’ll never know…maybe write a set of personal policies and adhere to them as well?

      1. Tris Prior

        haha. At one place I worked one of the performance review categories was punctuality and attendance. I always wondered exactly how one exceeds expectations in that area. I mean, my boss expected me to be on time every day, so exceeding that would be, what, never leaving work?

      2. OhNo

        I never understood why questions like the “adheres to policy” one you mention are graded on a scale. Most things that I’ve seen on performance evaluations, the graded scale makes sense because it’s something you can do better or worse based on how hard you work, what you put into it, etc. But for ones like that… Why not just have a yes/no checkbox option?

    4. LCL

      It totally depends on the company. I just finished writing the evaluations for our group. But they aren’t tied to wages, or anything really. (Government employee.) Some years gone the boss and I clashed over how I wrote the evals. Because of the high level of technical skill required and shiftwork, I think people who can do the job should receive the highest rating. He believes that doing the job is just meeting expectations. He won, and I don’t like it but I do it.

    5. A Jane

      If possible, ask your manager how they’re instructed to address ratings. Also, see if you can get an example of what a 5 would look like in your responsibilities

    6. Dawn

      At my last job a 3 was considered “Totally, completely, awesomely average and competent in every way”, a 4 was “You are a TOTAL ROCKSTAR at this and shine bright like a diamond” and a 5 was “You’re Jesus Christ and basically walk on water”. 5’s were practically unheard of.

      Definitely agree with everyone else that the best thing to do is ask about your specific corporate culture and how they grade things. I feel like school grades don’t prepare people well for work “grades” because at school an A is as high as you can get and means you’re totally awesome, whereas frequently work “grades” are done on a curve so that the middle grade means you’re awesome and anything higher than that is really, really hard to get.

      1. Ann Furthermore

        Ha. That’s how it is at my company too. If you get a 3, which is Met Expectations, that’s actually meant to be a good, solid ranking that is nothing to be ashamed of. But since it’s done on that 1-5 scale, many people (including me) think of it as just being average, or a C student.

        I’ve gotten a 4, Exceeded Expectations, a few times when I’ve successfully dealt with significant challenges (learning an entire new system with no background, launching a project on time, etc). And I’ve gotten 5’s just on individual pieces of my evaluation, but never ever a ranking of 5 overall. Like you said, it’s pretty much unheard of.

      2. AJay

        Thanks for all of the feedback! I actually had a chance to ask my boss about it today, and he basically described it the way you and Ann Furthermore do – with 5’s being unheard of and an indication that you have outgrown your job.

    7. Jen RO

      My company is similar and the rankings are only used at bonus time (e. g. on years when there are insufficient bonus money, only people at 4+ would get a bonus). The numbers don’t mean anything outside the company (and honestly, I doubt people inside the company really care about them).

  8. louise

    I’m going to have a booth at a 7th grade career fair in a couple weeks – mostly 13 year olds. I’d be more confident about this if I were talking to older kids closer to launching a career OR if I were actually giving a talk rather than trying to design a booth, so I’d love some suggestions for what would be relevant to this age.

    My ideas so far:

    1. Posters of college and non-college career paths at our company (maybe this would be better integrated as one of the choices in my next paragraph).

    2. Flow chart (or maybe set it up like a big board game looking thing) of I prefer to… (choice of) sit still most of the time/be moving always/combination, then those lead to a choice of I like to…(choices include) be outside/be inside/combination, get up early/sleep in late, etc. Maybe make my own decisions/get assignments (except every job has elements of both…). Maybe a “my favorite subject is…”
    Depending on the course they take, they’ll end up on one of the jobs our company offers. (We have a HUGE range of things among a bunch of little divisions—everything from truck driver to pilot to accountant to railroad workers.)

    If I do a flow chart, I think it would be cool to include a separation of I’m a girl/I’m a guy that loop to the same box stating “It doesn’t matter! Regardless of who has traditionally done a job, anyone who develops the right skills can do what they want. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you differently!” or something along those lines. Any ideas for a better way to word that?

    1. kristinyc

      Maybe something listing skills they should be developing now for certain jobs for when they’re old enough to work? Like, for what I do, it would have been REALLY helpful if I had learned HTML when I was younger.

      So like, ” What to be a pilot? You should thinking about taking ____ classes and learning about ____?”

      I like the “My favorite subject is…” idea – that’s really relatable, and helps them make connections about how they can turn their interests into careers.

    2. fposte

      Ooh, you had me at “flow chart.” And I love the gender thing. I might leave out the “regardless of who has traditionally done a job”–I don’t think it earns its extra space–and cut straight to “Anyone who develops the right skills.”

      Does your company include some positions that kids won’t have heard of as well as those they might have? If you have room, maybe you can include some funky job titles on there and then have a lift-the-flap function to explain what it is. (People love lifting flaps.)

      1. kozinskey

        You could have the girl/guy arrows point to a box that just says, “It doesn’t matter! What do YOU want to do?” and then go from there. Little punchier.

      2. Allison

        “might leave out the “regardless of who has traditionally done a job””

        I have to agree, if you’re encouraging people to do what they want regardless of gender, it might be best to not even put it in their minds that things are traditionally gendered.

      3. louise

        Flaps! Brilliant. Yes, we do have a few unfamiliar roles so that’s a great way to handle them.

        I like the idea of want to be ___? You need _____? and then it can cross reference with Like doing/studying ___? Think about becoming a _____!

        Everyone is giving great ideas!

    3. Adam

      First off THANK YOU for including Non-College career paths in your list of possibilities. All my school did was beat into our heads that college was the answer which I think does a real disservice to the kids who just aren’t school oriented/interested.

      With that said I think a good thing at this age would be to get them thinking about what school subjects they really enjoy and are good at and how that might translate into potential careers down the line.

      Like math? Maybe you could be an accountant, computer programmer, etc.
      Good at writing? Maybe you could work in marketing, editing, etc.

      1. Lillie Lane

        “First off THANK YOU for including Non-College career paths in your list of possibilities. All my school did was beat into our heads that college was the answer which I think does a real disservice to the kids who just aren’t school oriented/interested.”
        +1. Even as someone who loved school and going to college, I think it’s sad that many young people are pressured into college when it’s not right for them. There is no shame in following a different educational/career path.

      2. Rye-Ann

        My high school did the same thing, and I agree that it’s not a good idea. Some people really aren’t suited to college and that’s okay – and those kids should be given advice on how to move forward without college, not just told “go to college or else.”

      3. Ann Furthermore

        Amen. I went to college and my husband did not, and we’ve both been successful in our careers. Mike Rowe, who used to have that show Dirty Jobs on The Discovery Channel, has been talking about this for a long time.

        His suggestion is something like high schools letting kids choose either a college “track” or a trade-school/vocational school “track.” I think this is such a smart idea. Not every kid needs to go to college, wants to go to college, or even has the right mindset for college. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Plus, college can mean years and years of student loans and crushing debt. Lots of people kind of look down their noses at people who choose to become electricians or plumbers. But guess what? Not only are those jobs that will never be outsourced, a good electrician or plumber can make serious money.

        1. Adam

          Agreed with all of this. When I was learning French in high school back in the day (circa 2000) it was my understanding that the French primary school system operated this way. When you entered high school you were either on a University Track or a Trade School/Equivalent track that prepared you more for things like being a chef, hotel management, physical trades and all those other jobs that college isn’t really geared towards. It seems like a great idea especially since it is true we will always need electricians and plumbers.

          1. Myrin

            In Germany, we have three different kinds of school, with two of them gearing towards starting an apprenticeship (is that the right word? Like, learning how to be a craftsman or other jobs you don’t need a degree for) and one for those who want to go to university eventually. I’m always very baffled by how focused the US seems to be on college because it’s so different from here (culturally, I mean), that would never be a thing around here. (That’s not to say there aren’t some really outrageous problems with our school system but I think the overall structure is really beneficial to pretty much everyone.)

            1. Adam

              That’s because for the past couple decades it’s very much been pushed that [higher] education is the way to get ahead, make money, and get out of poverty in this country. Look no further than how social media went absolutely nuts last week when President Obama said that he thought community college should be free like it is in Tennessee [long story WAY short].

              But in America once you get out in the world you start to realize that a bachelors is no guarantee of pretty much anything except student loan debt at this point. And Allison here has a firm history of warning people against going back to school to get a masters or more in education as a means of furthering their careers unless their chosen field absolutely requires it.

              It’s taken a long time for this bubble to burst, but it will eventually as tuition rates have gotten pretty insane across the board and are only going up.

        2. Lizzie

          The key there is to let them choose. “Tracking” is such a dirty word in education, and I think that’s part of what fuels the college-mania.

    4. Elizabeth the Ginger

      I love the flow chart idea! The middle schoolers at my school really enjoy those and usually include one in the yearbook. (I think last year’s was “What Famous Landmark Are You?”)

      1. SJP

        I think Adam’s reply is spot on! Because when I was at school I knew which subjects I enjoyed but had no idea what I wanted to do when I was older..
        If I’d known If I was focusing on X subject then I could look into going into X career path!
        Plus I do wish schools did a few classes on how to write a CV and cover letter and stuff. We get taught a lot of stuff at school which people hardly use in their work lives..

        PS, I like how you’re breaking down the stereotype of gendered roles early, really refreshing to see! Kudos

      2. louise

        Okay, the landmark thing makes want to make it a quiz style instead of flowchart and maybe do it on iPads?! I think I can get my hands on a few if I sweet talk some co-workers… And if I can’t, I might still model it off that format (where there is a picture that goes with each choice for example) rather than a more business looking flowchart. Are kids as in to all the stupid quizzes my 30-50something friends link to on FB?

        1. Natalie

          I actually like the flowchart better, because you can see different possibilities at once. If, say, I’m a 13-year-old that really loves math and writing, I can look at the flowchart and see the different potential directions. But with the quiz I have to pick one.

          1. louise

            ooh, good point, Natalie. Thank you. I will not waste time trying to make a quiz work. :)

            (Out of curiosity, did you read Choose Your Own Adventure books? I always loved going through and reading every single possible scenario combination.)

  9. Anon for This

    I work for a small, family-owned company. The office staff is primarily family members and me. I have to cover for one of the family members when she’s out of the office but lately, she will go on vacation and literally give me no notice. I won’t find out until I come in that day that I have to do her work on top of mine. It’s really frustrating because I resent that SHE can’t be allowed to get behind on her work, but I have to potentially get behind on mine because I’m also doing her work. If I had some notice, at least I could plan my own workload accordingly. It’s one thing if she wants to take last minute vacations and it only affects her own workload, but this legitimately affects me. I know it’s probably just something I have to deal with because it’s family, but anyone have any suggestions on how to handle it? Her boss is her father if that makes a difference.

    1. Sunflower

      Have you tried talking to her about it? Maybe suggest keeping a book/calendar of dates when everyone will be out of the office?

      1. Anon for this

        Yes, I have. Anytime I’ve tried talking to her about things though, it seems like she understands my point, but usually doesn’t follow through with any changes. It’s only been a week or so since I talked to her though, so we’ll see what happens moving forward.

        1. YourCdnFriend

          You may have already but next time you talk to her, emphasize the impact of her actions, not just her actions. “When I don’t get notice, I get swamped and x, y and z fall off the rails which hurts the company in this specific way.” And then frame the solution, “we could avoid all that if to stopped being an inconsiderate jerk.”

          Ok, maybe “we could avoid all that if you can give me a weeks notice in an ideal world and a days notice bare minimum, barring emergencies” instead. :)

        2. Beancounter in Texas

          YourCdnFriends has a good suggestion. Depending on whether her father will enforce any changes, talk to him after the next incident of her skipping out on you. You might frame it as “FYI” if you’re not sure of the response you’ll get from him.

    2. Celeste

      I guess you could talk to the boss and make sure that you doing her work in her absence is the priority. Maybe nobody has thought about that; it happens. I think you need to make it be about the work, and let them figure out what they want since you can’t confront her about notice.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        Yes, I disagree that the priority is to talk to Co-worker. I would talk to my supervisor first and ask which takes priority, her tasks or mine. The boss should be made aware that your tasks may be delayed because of a lack of communication from Co-worker, since you couldn’t plan for this additional workload, and it’s up to them to let you know how they want you to manage the total workload.

        (Unless you’re a senior manager, in which case since you have authority many companies expect you to take the initiative to resolve those things yourself, but that doesn’t sound like that’s the case.)

        1. Anon for this

          Her and my supervisor is her father. I don’t know if that makes a difference in what you’re saying, but I guess it’s worth mentioning.

          1. ThursdaysGeek

            You might be stuck on priorities then. I suspect her work getting finished (and thus her looking good) are more important than you looking good. It’s probably not so visible that she’s not doing all of her work, only that hers is always finished and sometimes yours isn’t.

          2. The Cosmic Avenger

            The only thing that would change for me would be that I would emphasize the question of whether the priority/deadlines of my work were flexible, then almost mention the additional work as kind of an example of something that might conflict, not as the main problem. (It is, but if you phrase it more in the theoretical he’s less likely to feel that his daughter is being highlighted as the problem.) But it’s still his call as to which work takes priority, since it’s his job to manage the assignments for his staff.

        2. Not So NewReader

          I think that talking about impact would be helpful. “When Betty takes time off on short notice, I pick up her tasks of x, y and z. Which I do not mind doing. The problem comes in because I cannot spend time on my own tasks a, b and c. If I had more advanced notice I could get a,b and c buttoned up so I am free to do x, y and z. If advanced notice is not possible, how do you want me to prioritize these tasks when this happens?

          In other words, you’re thinking that the solution is to have more advanced notice. Offer the boss the opportunity to think of other solutions.

    3. SJP

      I do suggest, as others have, and i’m sure Allison would also, talking to her first and outlining the problem.
      But if that isn’t fruitful then maybe sit down with the most senior owner, or someone senior to her who can be sympathetic for to you and say something like this
      “I wanted to speak to you about Jane. As you are aware, she often goes out on vacation at the last minute and does not give me notice in covering her project. I’ve spoken to her but she was quite dismissive about it so I wanted to just speak to you about it and hear your thoughts.
      When she goes out on leave with no notice it leaves me in a tight spot by getting behind on X by having to cover her Y,Z etc and I wondered if you could suggest something which could help us resolve this. It is damaging the business by X not getting done and it’s causing me a lot of stress, so i’d appreciate your input”
      And see what they have to say. They may say that you’re just gonna have to deal with it and you can make a decision on staying or whatever.
      But maybe in that conversation suggest you’ve come up with a shared calendar or something and she’s not using it, what else can you suggest.
      Obviously do try something like a shared calendar first and see what happens

      Good luck

      1. BadChoicesInc

        I would actually go to the boss/father and say, Alexandra is not here today. I can do A, B, C of her tasks or X, Y, Z of my tasks. Could you pls tell me the priorities for the day?

    4. Mike C.

      The cynic in me says to let some of her work fall by the wayside as a consequence for not being given advance notice.

      1. Anon for this

        That’s sometimes what ends up happening – not out of spite but out of an inability to do two jobs. A lot of times, I end up stuck with work that she could have done while she was actually here, but chose not to – so that’s especially frustrating.

        1. Dynamic Beige

          You might want to consider saying that the next time she goes away. Go into her father’s office and be direct, “Rasputin, I hate to bring this up but Alexandra has taken a vacation day today and I didn’t know that she was going to be away. If I have some advance notice from her of when she’s planning to leave, I can assess my workload and make adjustments so I can cover for her while she’s gone. However, most of the time, she doesn’t tell me when she’s going to take a day, which means I have to scramble. I have asked her more than once to just let me know when she’s planning on being away but she doesn’t remember to do so. The only reason I’m bringing this up today is that I have a lot of work to do on the TPS reports you requested to get them finished by the end of the day and I’m afraid that I will not complete my work since I now also have to do hers. Can you help me with a solution here?”

          IMO, so far you’ve been handling it all in silence so they don’t see it as a problem. The day something happens so you drop that ball, they aren’t going to look at the root of the problem — they’re only going to look at you. It’s time to speak up and get this out in the open. If the father/manager doesn’t see a problem or isn’t willing to correct his employee/daughter’s behaviour, then it’s time for you to decide if you can put up with it or should look for a new job.

        2. QualityControlFreak

          Mike C. is right. There are workplaces that have this one person, who for whatever reason seems to be completely exempt from any responsibility for completing their own work – or for giving their coworkers any advance notice that they will be covering for them, for at matter. It’s not a problem for your boss if you have to drop your own tasks to take on hers, or prioritize them ahead of your own. As long as everything gets done.

          I wouldn’t feel too badly about dropping the ball on some of her tasks. If the boss calls you on the carpet, can you pull off a wide-eyed “Oh! I’m sorry – Cordelia didn’t tell me she was going on vacation. I thought she finished the Lame Report before she left!”

    5. puddin

      Do we ever hear from the family members of family owned businesses or just the non-family people who have to work with them…?

      1. AmyNYC

        Someone posted about working at their spouse’s family’s business – the question was about helping his/her mother-in-law

  10. CH

    My smallish company does an annual raise for everyone beginning with the first pay period of the year. It is announced in late fall that there will be raises (a couple of times there were not). Then nothing else is said. On the first January payday, you check out your paycheck and there is a raise (not the same percentage for everyone although the range is fairly low). Some of us call it the surprise raise because there is so little information given. While we have annual reviews tied to anniversary date, it is generally “not done” to ask for a raise here, except maybe with significant promotions. Yesterday was the big day and while I am content with my increase and thankful to get a raise as I read on here about people not getting raises for years, you always wonder if you could do better elsewhere. What are your thoughts on this system?

    1. Sunflower

      Sounds to me like the are avoiding paying people more than they want to. They figure since they are giving people more money free and clear with no additional effort besides doing a good job, it won’t occur to anyone to ask for more. I think it sucks but people who are nervous around bosses/scared to ask for raises probably love it.

    2. HR Manager

      They’ve essentially decoupled performance reviews from increases, which is not a good thing in my opinion. If that’s how they want to do it (intentionally or not), that’s their prerogative, but I believe in linking performance to reward. A conversation regarding an increase should be accompanied by a “Thank you for a great year of hard work. Because you kicked butt, you’ve earned an xx increase.” [Paraphrased of course] “Or I expected more this year. Because of that, we’re not going to increase your salary yet. It will be considered when you show improvements in this and that.”

      1. Sharon

        Mostly in agreement with you on this. But I’ve worked at a few companies where my review and verbal feedback from my supervisor was that I rocked it out, but was still told that because the “raise pie” is only so big, I would only be recieving x%. (Where x is usually between 1 and 2.8.) This is one of the things that contributed to my increasing cynicism: being told that I’m doing everything right but simple math prevents me from being compensated the way they feel I should.

      2. SarahBot

        The company that I work for has consciously de-coupled performance reviews from salary increases – not because performance isn’t linked to reward (it is), but because a person’s performance isn’t the only thing that affects salary increases. Salary increases are also dependent on the business’s performance, so they wanted to ensure that everyone receives a formal review each year, whether or not the company’s performance allows for salary increases to be given.

        The usual communication to the staff is that the outcomes of their performance reviews *affect* any salary increases, but they aren’t 100% dependent on each other, if that makes sense.

  11. Ann Furthermore

    I’ve been working on an ERP implementation with another division since about April of last year. There is one part that is completely new for them, and is essentially a complete re-design of the existing business process. I’m going out there next week for another round of testing for this piece of the project.

    I’ve been telling the users since about June that they need to be spending time in the application every day. Not all day every day, but some time every day. In one ear and out the other. We developed a custom form for them (and the pain involved in that is a whole separate rant) and were out there in October for a testing event. At that time my boss was very clear that they needed to go into the form and really hammer on it to make sure it worked the way they wanted it to. I followed up in early November with a list of the prep work they needed to do to be ready for the next round of testing, which starts on Monday.

    They didn’t start any of the prep work until this past Monday. They operate with a fire-drill, don’t do anything until the last minute mentality. On Tuesday we got an email about all the things in the form that weren’t working, which proves that they have not done ANY work whatsoever on this since October. The lead developer and his team jumped on it right away, and got everything fixed. We asked the users to test the changes before we moved them into the environment we’ll be using next week, and the response was, “Sorry, we’re too busy. Can’t do it.” So we went ahead and moved it. Sure enough, yesterday there were still things they didn’t like, and one person asked me, “Didn’t you guys test this before you moved it?”

    Well, that was it. I completely lost my composure, and although I wasn’t yelling, I was pretty harsh. I told them, “Yes, we tested it, and we thought it was fine. But we can’t be the ones to say it’s working correctly! It’s YOUR form! It’s YOUR business process! It’s YOUR system that YOU will have to live with after the launch! YOU have to be the ones to sign off on it!”

    There’s this expectation that we will do all the work, turn the system over to them, and everything will be perfect. And any question they have will be answered in this magical user guide they keep asking for that will tell them how to handle any scenario that might ever occur. I have told them repeatedly that a user guide is helpful (and they have tons of training materials already) but there is no substitute for hands-on testing to learn how the application works.

    I have a one-on-one with my boss today, and I’ll have to tell her what happened in case she hears about it. And I have to spend next week out there. I’d rather jab a knitting needle into my eye than get onto that plane Sunday. Ugh.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      I feel your pain. Some clients need a lot of managing/hand holding, but I have seen some people who were incredibly good at client management make progress on things like this where other people couldn’t. Can you break the testing down into smaller, more specific and detailed tasks for the client and put them on a timeline with your own updates, to show them that if they don’t complete these items, it will delay your tasks? And if they get them done sooner, you can start on your phase sooner? It sounds like this sort of thing will take a lot of time, and it may, but it might save you a lot more time in the long run, and it’ll certainly improve client relations.

    2. Hlyssande

      Oh, ick!

      We’ve had a lot of trouble with that too in our various world areas (Latin America and Asia Pacific are notorious about this for us). In our case, we’d been making major changes to how our customer records are maintained, which requires changes to order entry forms, and the LA folks kept saying it was working, everything is fine, so we went live. Cue the screaming about how nothing was working. They didn’t actually test at all.

      Just this week I was told that the go live in less than two weeks for our AU and NZ team would require double entry in the new system and the old system when we’d previously been promised no double entry. Gah! Fortunately they came back the next day and said it wasn’t needed after all, but so frustrating!

      I’m as guilty of procrastination as the next person, but holy crap people. Please don’t leave major testing or information out until the last minute. Please!

    3. Ezri

      Ugh. No real advice but I feel your pain. Getting end-users to cooperate can be like herding cats, and if you don’t have the authority to make them then there’s not much you can do. Hopefully they see this situation as a learning experience for them instead of blaming the developers.

      Would it help if you scheduled bi-weekly meetings to ‘demo’ the application? If they aren’t working on it themselves, at least that might force them to look at it.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        Yes, the bi-weekly meetings (or conference calls, since it sounds like Ann is in a different location than this client) or status updates are a great idea! Personal motivation or productivity experts often write that breaking down a big project into smaller, more achievable steps or goals is a very effective way to keep yourself on track with larger projects, and I suggest applying that with this client.

    4. Not So NewReader

      Ugh. I can see how much of a pain this is and yet….
      If I had to test something at work, I would probably run away. I am already behind the eight ball when I start every day. Recently, I had to install a new machine. I finally got the machine after submitting all the paperwork, etc. (I did not have a choice about this machine, which did not matter to me. It was the timing involved that made a big problem.) No sooner did I get the machine, and the phone calls started “have you plugged it in yet?”
      I laughed. I only work a few days a week at this job and I cannot plug it in if I am not there. Then they called to ask, again. I wanted to say that I could not plug it in because I had to keep answering my phone. But I was good and simply said no.
      The instructions are in graphics not words. With my 50 plus y/o eyes, I had to borrow a magnifying glass to see the details of the picture. There was something about a card. Not finding a card in the box, I called. “You don’t need a card.” I crawled around under my desk, ran the numerous wires, disconnecting the old unit as I carefully and accurately replaced each wire involve. (Did I mention I am not a techie?) I got the machine installed and operational. I had to run a report off the new machine and I needed a password. I went back to the box and searched, no paper work for a password. I called again. I spent 15 minutes on hold, again. “Oh, you need a password?”

      This is called a management problem, just like what you have.

      Management wants to have all these things done and does not free up the time for these extra things to be accomplished. I am very fortunate, I have a wonderful immediate boss that never doubts that I am working at my fullest every day. She faces the similar deluge of demands on her time, so she is aware. Because of the incredible list of things, we do go right up to the drop-dead date on a lot of stuff.

      There is no choice.

      And that is my point. People who have a choice will generally choose not to work this way, because it’s such a bad way to work. Until management buys-in and says “okay, everyone stop what you are doing and look at this…” it’s probably not going to happen.

    5. JR

      This sounds TOTALLY familiar. The same thing always happens with ERP implementations. You ask the users to test and ask them if everything is OK. They say “yes”. You turn the system on and then they barrage you with complaints. It’s just the way these things go.

      1. Ann Furthermore

        I’ve been doing these implementations for a long time, and the biggest challenge is always getting the users to spend time learning the new system so they’re not completely drowning on day 1. And I get it — most times you’ve got your regular job duties to worry about, and testing drops to the bottom of the list. But this is far beyond anything else I’ve ever experienced.

        It’s the fire-drill/last minute mentality that just makes me insane. I do not function well in those types of environments, and I have no patience for them. But it’s how they do everything.

        Here’s an example. I went out there in November to work with them on defining some of their sub business processes. The trip had been planned for weeks, everyone knew I was coming. On my way to the airport, I stopped to gas up my car. When I got back in my phone rang, and it was my PM calling to tell me that they’d asked if I could reschedule my trip because of a “last minute emergency project.” When I was literally on my way to the airport!

    6. Malissa

      I feel your pain. If I were you I’d try to get one person onsite on your side next week. Bribe them with a fancy dinner or what ever it takes. If you can get the buy-in from one, at least you’ll have someone testing it and possibly pushing others to do it.
      When I went through an ERP change I begged and cajoled my coworkers into trying it out and testing it. Those who did it got their problems fixed right away. Those who waited till the last minute got an I’m sorry the issue queue is really long now. I’ll let you know when it gets handled.

  12. kristinyc

    Are suits still the norm for job interviews?

    I haven’t worn a suit at all in years. I’ve been working in startups in NYC, and just wearing nice business casual (skirt or dress with a cardigan, chinos and a button down, etc) has been perfectly fine for interviews. I have an interview next week at a large nonprofit, for a job that’s a pretty big step up from what I’ve been doing, and I want to look nice but don’t want to under/over dress. I have a few suits, but I bought them in 2007, and they feel SO much less stylish than anything else I own.

    Would a nice skirt, cashmere sweater, and button down under the sweater be okay? And if I do need to buy a suit – any recommendations for places to get them? I used to buy them at Express and Limited, but I don’t shop at either of those places anymore. (I’m more Gap, Banana Republic, and Anthropologie…)

    1. Adam

      I think the safest bet is for you to go in suit of some sort. So long as you’re not going in an evening gown or something I don’t know if you could be over-dressed. I’ve worn a suit to every major job interview I’ve been on, and then went straight to business casual after I got the job. I never wore a suit again unless I went to some sort of public event where I was expected to look nice. But since I always made that initial effort, the organization knew I could dress up if need be which I’m sure was a plus (even if a minor one) in my favor. Good luck on your interview!

    2. Helen

      I sort of make an educated guess about whether to wear a suit, but I would definitely buy one if you can afford it (or have your existing suits altered so that they’re more fashionable–maybe they just need to be made more “slim”). Does the nonprofit have pictures of the directors on their website? You might be able to get a sense of how formal they are from that. I’d err on the side of wearing a suit though.

      My suit is from Banana Republic. They have 40% off sales practically every other day, thankfully.

    3. Eliza Jane

      I think suits are still very much the norm. You can get away with some variation on the theme — for instance, I have done a dress with a suit jacket over it — but for a large non-profit, I would think a cashmere sweater/button-down was a step below where you want to be. If I were an interviewer at my current company (a large nonprofit) or my last company (pharmaceuticals), it would stand out in a negative way.

      When I was interviewing for a startup, it would have been less noticeable.

    4. TotesMaGoats

      Given all of this info, I’d lean towards wearing a suit. Even if it was suit separates, which will give you more mileage. Ann Taylor LOFT does a decent job with that but I’ve had a lot of luck at Macy’s. Good selection and decent pricing when on a sale. I’ve also done pretty well at the Kasper outlet.

    5. Mimmy

      I’m curious about this as well. My husband has chided me for insisting on wearing a suit to interviews, but I always thought that was the expected thing. I have in the past also worn a nice pair of dark-colored slacks and a sweater set or a nice top and blazer–it’s depended on where I’m interviewing. For career fairs, I tend to stick with a full suit whereas for other places, I’ll take it down a notch while obviously still maintaining a professional appearance. (FTR, I’m in the nonprofit / human services field).

        1. A Teacher

          Check out goodwill if there’s one close too. I got a cute suit top that works with black dress tops and its machine washable for $6 last year.

      1. Natalie

        What field is your husband in? That usually makes a difference. My bf is a plumber and in his world, you wear suits and weddings and funerals. I am a little jealous because he can basically wear jeans to a job interview, as long as their clean and fit well.

        1. Mimmy

          He does IT with a major telecommunications company. However, he works from home most days. When he does go into the office, the dress is business casual….I think he’s even worn jeans.

          1. Windchime

            Yeah, I’m in IT and suits are pretty much not required to interview here. Many times, men will wear some casual version of a suit (like a jacket but no tie), but we’ve also hired people who just show up looking tidy and like they made a bit of an effort (think nice polo shirt and clean, pressed slacks). Women normally just wear nice pants/skirt and top. If someone is applying for management in IT, then it’s usually a suit.

    6. Spooky

      I showed up in a suit to multiple interviews in NYC last summer and felt hopelessly overdressed in all of them – for several of the interviews, the candidates were all together in a waiting room, and I was the only one in a suit at any of them. None of the interviewers said anything, but it felt awkward (I’m in a media field, which is probably why.) I’d recommend a smart dress with a blazer and heels – it seems to be a nice middle ground.

      1. Bend & Snap

        See, to me that’s just a modern version of a suit. That’s how I dress for work every day and it looks/feels as dressy as a suit but I don’t feel frumpy like I do in a suit.

        1. Spooky

          Suits ARE frumpy! I’ve never found one that looks good on me! It taints the whole interview: I’m worried about looking like an idiot instead of focusing on the questions they’re asking me.

      2. kristinyc

        That’s kind of where I was coming from – I’ve even interviewed a lot of people at previous jobs, and no one wore suits (but again, it was at startups). I also kind of don’t want to buy another suit that I’ll never wear (all the ones I already own have been worn only a handful of times). I’ll see what I can find shopping. :)

        1. Spooky

          I bought my blazer at White House Black Market on clearance, and it’s served me well for years. Much less expensive than a full suit, too.

        2. Bend & Snap

          Get a LBD and a well-cut blazer. Pair with cute tights, pumps, a great bag and whatever jewelry you feel comfortable with. Done!

      3. Tomato Frog

        Is this a New York thing? I know that suits are the norm in my field elsewhere, but since getting a job in NYC I’ve heard two people in my field make mildly derisive comments about wearing them to interviews. These aren’t people who do hiring, but still, it’s left me wondering.

    7. HigherEd Admin

      I would go with a suit, but maybe instead of wearing a button-down underneath, wear a sweater. That way, if you’re getting the vibe that you’re too formal, you can take off the suit jacket.

      I second everyone who has mentioned Banana Republic or Ann Taylor for suiting. I just got a great Ann Taylor jacket/skirt for 40% off.

      Also, if you are living in the same city as your alma mater (I see you are in NYC), I would check with their career center to see if they offer a suit rental service. I know our office loans out suits in all sizes for students and alumni who are going on interviews but don’t own their own suit.

    8. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

      I do think you need a suit, and I’d recommend Banana Republic. Their suiting pieces are pretty flattering on a wide variety of shapes, and they sell pants in 4 lengths – petite, short, regular, and tall – so if you’re a pants-suit type of person you don’t have to worry about getting the pants hemmed on short notice.

    9. lachevious

      Timely question! I work in the legal field so it’s pretty normal for everyone to at least do the initial interview in a suit. Just a basic suit, as others have commented about, would suffice.

      The law-firm I currently work for is business casual (dress shirts/blouses/trousers/suits with no tie, etc.). I had an interview Monday during my lunch break at another law-firm, but instead of wearing a full suit and tipping everyone off (I know there are ways around this but I was feeling rather bold that day) I just put on my nicer pair of suit trousers and a black ballet-neck shirt with a black long-sleeved cardigan, same type of outfit I wear to my current job.

      I did not get the vibe that I was under-dressed, and my recruited informed me that out of everyone they interview, they liked me best – I was definitely more comfortable in my regular (still professional) work clothes which I think helped me relax a bit.

    10. Sparrow

      J. Crew and Banana Republic might have options for suiting. Maybe also Ann Taylor or Macys. The Corporette or Cap Hill Style blogs might have other recommendations for where to buy suits at various price points. Good luck!

    11. Lily in NYC

      Wear a suit! I work at a large non-profit and it would be noticed and frowned upon if an interviewee wore something casual.

      1. voluptuousfire

        You can always do a black shift dress (which can always be worn again once you start working) with a nice blazer over it. Slightly less formal than a suit but still very professional.

        I recommend JC Penney every time. They usually have really decent sales and sometimes they even have $10 of $25 coupons which can really knock down the price of something. They’re having a big sale this weekend and there’s a huge JCP in the Manhattan Mall near Macy’s on 34th Street. Also Macy’s is having a one day sale on 1/17 and they have two day savings passes, one for $10 off 25 and one for $20 off $50. This time of year you can really clean up with clearance. Also the savings passes include clearance, so you’re in luck!

        1. voluptuousfire

          Sorry, I got excited about sales. I refuse to buy anything at regular price nowadays and RetailMeNot is my best friend. :)

    12. esra

      I guess it depends on the position and industry, because the closest I get to a suit is a blazer + blouse with slacks or a skirt.

      I think the only thing I’d change for your outfit is a blazer instead of the sweater.

    13. LAI

      I don’t have an actual suit, but I usually wear a blazer with nice dress pants. Especially since I have several times had to go straight from work to an interview and didn’t want my old co-workers to notice that I was dressed up – but just take off the blazer and you’re in normal work clothes.

      1. skyline

        I do this with my actual suit. I wear the full suit to the interview, and then either take off my jacket or replace it with a cardigan. Skirt/trousers + shirt/shell + cardigan is my everyday work uniform.

    14. skyline

      It really depends on the nonprofit and the position. That said, I think it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of being more formal than not.

  13. Sinking Ship

    Have you ever been tapped for a position that you have no interest in?

    One of our higher-ups pulled me aside yesterday to discuss an open role on one of our teams. I’m very qualified for the role but the problem is that this team has a really cruddy reputation (all of their team members are currently searching for other positions) and their leader sucks (i.e. gossips about associates, puts people down, etc).

    I have No Interest in going to this team. It’s not in a leadership role so I won’t really have an opportunity to change the culture. Plus, there is a good chance a raise won’t be part of the deal. How do I tell the higher-ups “thanks, but no thanks.”

    1. Night Cheese

      I’d make about what you are interested in instead of the team. Something about “Thank you for considering me. I’m flattered, but my primary interest is in X, not Y.” And then ask to be considered for future roles that are more aligned with you interests.

    2. TotesMaGoats

      Thanks but no thanks. I was told by my boss to apply for an AVP position because I’m pretty good at the business development stuff. But I hate doing it. My success hasn’t been intentional as it’s not a huge part of my job. I said I appreciate her recommendation but that position is entirely about sales that’s not something I want to do at all.

    3. ThursdaysGeek

      I was at LastJob, I was told that there was an opportunity for me, and ActingManager said “You need to take this; do not turn this down.” After some research, it was obvious that ActingManager had no idea what I did (nor any interest in learning).

      The job was completely different than what I was doing. I was a developer, and it was a job in payroll. It had all the not-fun parts of the developer job I was doing: writing documentation, testing, more writing documentation, and I’d have to rely on someone else to do all the fun parts I was currently doing: software changes, tracking down and fixing bugs, getting them successfully implemented. Just thinking about it made me sick to my stomach. There was no pay change, and I was already underpaid. I’d been planning on taking some time off as my first grandkid was born, but in payroll you have to be there: payroll is more important than family. I turned it down.

      I had plenty of time with the new grandbaby, because they laid me off. I loved the job I had been doing, but being laid off was better than the alternative.

      1. Jerry Vandesic

        Your ActingManager probably knew that your old job was being eliminated, and was trying to find something, anything, as a position for you. He wasn’t thinking about your old job, which was gone.

        1. ThursdaysGeek

          Oh I’m sure he was. But the reason my job was going away was because he didn’t know what we did, didn’t care, and since he was just an acting manager, didn’t bother fighting for his people. The layoffs were disproportionally from his group. Other groups had essentially the same jobs (although we all worked on different projects), so it wasn’t that my job function had gone away.

  14. Sunflower

    I’m asking for a raise. I’m also job searching so that brings up a couple questions

    1. I think asking for vacation time instead of money is going to make more sense for me. What is reasonable time to ask for? (I’m in the US)

    2. Is it wrong to ask for a raise and then leave right after you get it? Honestly, nothing could keep me a this job and I’m out the door eventually whether I get a raise or not.

    3. Do I have to give them the number I want right off the bat? Or can/should I wait to see if they ask me or just come up with one on their own.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        I’ll second that, I turned down a raise before leaving my last job, I told my old boss to put it back in his budget and reallocate to the rest of the team before he lost them too.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          I agree, this isn’t “I’m starting grad school in a month”, this sounds more like “I’m scanning the want ads and applying for other jobs”, which could mean it’ll be six months or a year or more before they move on. Although Sunflower did say “and then leave right after you get it”, but then used “eventually” in the next sentence.

          Can you clarify, Sunflower?

          To me, actively looking to move on means your plans are not set in stone, and besides, you might even wind up staying there if things somehow improve.

          1. Sunflower

            I’m actively looking for new jobs but don’t have anything even remotely lined up.

            I would need a 50% pay raise to stay and that just isn’t going to happen. As soon as I find a new job I want, I’m leaving but who knows how long that will take.

    1. HR Manager

      1. Depends on what you get. I consider vacation time as more inflexible; outside of the occasional comp time, I think vacation time should fall per policy. If you think your organization is more flexible, start off with asking for an additional week, and go from there. I don’t find huge variations in vacation time in the US. Most private companies offer 2-4 weeks (depending on PTO vs vacation vs sick time). Don’t believe all the hype with unlimited vacation time – most companies do not do this.

      2. Yes it is. You’re asking for a raise would naturally present itself as comp being the huge detractor from your satisfaction with your job. If you leave anyway, then you haven’t been honest. You will be burning a bridge there and with your boss (especially if your boss goes out of the way to bat for you, only for your to throw this away).

      3. If they were smart, they would ask you what you think is appropriate. I don’t know if they will, but be prepared. Do some research first, because if you go in there with a nonsensical number (i.e., market rate is 50k, but you ask for 75k), it will make your argument look weak.

      1. Sunflower

        I get 10 days vacation now.

        My problem is I could go in and ask for what I think I deserve/market rate and I’d be laughed at(we’re super stingy) so I already know that what they would need to give me to stay, I’m not going to get. So I guess asking for anything isn’t really worth it? I mean, what happens if you ask for a raise and you can’t agree to terms? Is it better to not ask and they not know I’m unhappy and searching?

        1. puddin

          What amount of salary can make you stay? In your best estimate are they willing to provide you with that? If not, do not bring up the raise and move to a place that meets your needs. I personally would not open negotiations on improving my compensation ($ or bennies) if I knew I would leave anyway.

          If I knew an employee/co-worker who did that the first thing I would think would be WTF did they even ask for if they were on their way out the door?? It would leave a bad taste in my mouth and could effect future references.

          1. Sunflower

            I would need a 50% pay increase(that would put me on par with the market rate) and that just isn’t going to happen. I also do not have anything lined up- I’m just heavily job searching and will leave once I find something that fits. So there’s the factor of not being sure if I’ll be here another month or 6 months or year(hopefully not)

    2. Camellia

      Interesting. I hear all the time about asking for more vacation in lieu of money, both for initial negotiations or in situations like this and I have never once heard of anyone getting more vacation. Does this really happen? The companies I know have a fixed policy on vacation days and will not alter that. So I have always wondered about this and if it does happen.

      1. the gold digger

        Really? I have negotiated vacation on each of my most recent three jobs. It helps that I have been in the workforce for a while and I can say, “I get X days at my current job (or got X days before I was laid off) and this is what I expect now.” It is pretty unreasonable for an employer to expect an experienced hire to go back to just two weeks.

      2. CH

        I negotiated bumping up to the next level in PTO (an additional 4 days) a year early (year 4 instead of year 5) and they liked the idea so much they extended it to everyone. It may have helped that it was during the year of no raises.

    3. PuppyPetter

      Huh, unless you have a job lined up and you are ready to hand in your resignation, I don’t see any problem with asking for a raise, getting it, and then leaving in a month or two or three. One thing should not hinge on the other (unless you have said “give me a raise or I’m leaving”).
      As for vaca & other perks… well, last spring I got a “promotion” to a job that was not really something I wanted (it was just presented to me as “your new title…and we’re not really sure what you will be doing but we are promoting your assistant to the job you have now”). I was hesitant about it and in a meeting a few days later (I had asked for it for clarity on the new position {I never got clarity BTW}} and asked about xtra vac time and was told no – I’m at the limit for the company (I’ve been here 8 years, heck, I almost never use up what I have anyway), asked about working from home (I could telecommute and my office is remote from everyone else anyway) and got exploded on about how I have to be in the building, the “raise” I got was negligible and basically nil, and as icing on the cake, we were reorganizing the offices and now I’m even FURTHER away from everyone else!
      And yeah, no one is overly happy.

    4. RG

      I wouldn’t feel too bad about leaving right after you get a raise or additional benefits. Not to be a Debbie downer, bit what are the odds that you get hired and start a new job all within a month of asking for a raise?

  15. Lurky McLurk

    Thought I’d share this with you guys:
    Earlier this week my manager sat in on some interviews with another manager, one of the questions asked was “What do you think being part of a team means?” The answer from an internal candidate who was the hiring managers preferred candidate was “Telling jokes and eating chocolate”

    And yes I suspect they will be offered the job!

    1. Lily in NYC

      This would be a really stupid thing to say if you were interviewing from outside. But I have to assume the internal person knew the managers in question and was being lighthearted. I could see myself saying something joke-y depending on my relationship with the manager.

      1. Lurky McLurk

        If it was only open to internal candidates then yes maybe but I figure if you’re interviewing for a job that is open to external candidates as well you should treat it like you’re interviewing from outside the organisation and avoid joke-y answers.

        1. Lily in NYC

          I still think it depends on the relationship between the interviewee and manager. I interviewed for a transfer and the manager and I had been good work friends for 7 years. He would have found it off-putting if I suddenly acted formal with him. It’s a “know your audience” thing. But in most cases it would be a terrible idea.

  16. Adam

    My office has a group that meets once a month to discuss work environment issues, and at least one representative from every department must be in attendance. There is a suggestion box where staff can submit comments/questions/concerns anonymously to this group for them to discuss and address if they feel necessary.

    Recently a note in the suggestion box declared that the organization should implement “gender neutral” (not sure of exact phrasing) bathroom signs as opposed to what we have now. Currently our bathrooms are marked with the typical blue circles with a white stick figure in the center; the women’s room signaled by the stick figure in a dress. The meeting group is trying to decide what sort of change could be made to be in line with the request. The idea of swapping the pictures for a bold “M” and “W” for men’s and women’s restrooms respectively was floated up, but rejected on the notion that it might not make sense for guests who don’t speak English. They are most definitely NOT moving towards uni-sex bathrooms; they will remain gender separated. But they aren’t sure how to proceed at this point.

    Personally, I don’t have a horse in this race and am not part of the decision making process. So long as I know which bathroom is appropriate for me to use they can put a picture of chili dog on it for all I care. But I am curious if anyone here has encountered this situation and what solution they found. Thoughts?

    1. TNTT

      Well, the suggestion to change it to “M” and “W” is a little tone deaf to what this person is actually requesting.

      1. fposte

        I don’t think so–I think the person is phrasing her request badly. I think she wants the signs to avoid the traditionally feminine image, not the bathrooms to become gender neutral.

        1. Adam

          I think avoiding the feminine image is the writer’s intent, but how do you do that visually? Universal male and female signs? Male being the circle with the arrow sticking out of it?

        2. Kelly L.

          Yeah, it’s important to figure out which one she wants.

          If she wants the signs to not have the dress lady, sure, just put the words Men and Women instead. The language issue is real, but it’s also a pair of words you tend to learn pretty quickly in a new language, just because it’s so immediately useful.

          If she wants unisex bathrooms, and the company isn’t willing to do it, then there’s no reason to change the signs.

          It’s not really possible to have gender-segregated bathrooms without saying which is which.

    2. Kelly L.

      Wait, so they want the signs to be gender neutral, but the bathrooms to not be unisex? That doesn’t make a lot of sense–the M and W will indicate gender just as surely as the pants dude and the dress lady. And if the bathrooms aren’t going to be unisex, then you need to indicate gender somehow, or else people won’t know which one to use. Is it that the skirt is supposed to be sexist? Maybe, but those two icons are pretty universal and pretty much everybody knows what they mean.

      It makes little enough sense that I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, that the suggester actually is asking for unisex bathrooms. If the office isn’t going to go to that, then i’d say leave the icons.

      1. Adam

        This is the thing that is confusing people I think. The bathrooms are going to remain gender separate, and since I didn’t read the note I can’t be certain if that’s what the anonymous person wanted or if they wanted something less sexist then a stick figure in a dress to denote “female”. I can understand the latter, but am kind of at a loss as to what they could put up that doesn’t make that distinction via images. Perhaps the universal “male” and “female” signs?

        https://cdn.tutsplus.com/vector/uploads/2013/10/symbols-017.jpg

          1. fposte

            It falls into my “vaguely, but not in a way I can really bring myself to care about” area. I also think that the longer it’s in use the more abstract it becomes.

          2. Clever Name

            I’m mildly annoyed by the idea that woman=dress, but it’s darn near a universal sign for which bathroom is which. I remember my first day in Germany and I went to use the restroom in a restaurant. The doors were labeled in German. I hadn’t thought to memorize the words for men and women, so I was briefly flummoxed. It would have been nicer if they had the dress lady and pants man so I was certain which was which.

      2. Snork Maiden

        I agree with Kelly here, gender neutral means unisex bathrooms, and the suggestions means to make the bathrooms unisex, not just the signs. Especially if the bathrooms in question are just single ones with a locking door, not stalls. IMHO it’s more inclusive and sensible to just label those as unisex anyways.

        1. Kelly L.

          At one of my old workplaces, they became functionally unisex anyway. Two employee restrooms, single stall, one theoretically men’s and the other women’s, but everybody just used the wrong one if they were in a hurry and the other was in use.

        2. Persephone Mulberry

          This is off topic, but I know someone who uses that exact same screen name referring to that exact character. She is always despairing that no one else knows who the Snork Maiden is…and yet I’m 99% sure you and she are not the same person. I should let her know that she’s not alone, LOL.

      3. kozinskey

        I think the person is asking for unisex bathrooms and the committee is confused. I don’t see how changing pictures to letters makes any difference — you’re still saying men go to one bathroom and women go to another, which can leave out trans people or people who don’t identify as either a man or a woman.

        1. Squirrel!

          Trans people still identify as male or female though, so using that group as an example doesn’t make sense here. Either they are fully-transitioned or on their way to transitioning (or even “blending” in the sense they’re dressing as “the part” but have no done anything in the way of medical transitioning), or they are in the closet, so to speak, and will use the bathroom intended for their biological sex. Trans people don’t need to be othered any more than they already are. And people who don’t identify their gender as male or female can still identify their biological sex and use the appropriate bathroom. Not everything in life has to become a SJW issue.

          1. Kelly L.

            I’ve heard calls for single-stall unisex bathrooms for trans people, actually, not because they don’t know which gender they identify as, but to protect them from being beaten up in the bathroom (or worse) because other people think they’re in the wrong one.

            1. kozinskey

              Yes, this is what I was getting at. Even if a person knows which bathroom they’d like to use, that can differ from what society expects of them, and that difference can be a safety hazard.

    3. matcha123

      I think that the figures are the most universally recognized as meaning YOU CAN GO TINKLES HERE!

      Are the bathrooms ones that are separated by gender because they have multiple stalls? Or, are they just one large room with a toilet?

      I guess a graphic of a toilet might suffice? In East Asia there are symbols like that on the toilet stalls that show whether the toilet is a Western one or a squat one.

      1. Kelly L.

        I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I used to go to a theater where the unisex bathroom had a “Men” sign, a “Women” sign, and a “Robots” sign, complete with an icon for all of them.

      2. Adam

        All the separate bathroom have multiple stalls (plus urinals for the dudes), so they’re community bathrooms but separate genders. The only single-occupancy rooms are the large family/disability bathrooms.

        A toilet could work, but how would you indicate which gender it’s designated for?

        1. Treena Kravm

          I sincerely doubt that the anonymous person wants just the signs changed, because that really makes no sense. If I were you, I would use this as an opportunity to really advocate turning the large family bathroom(s) into gender-neutral bathrooms (which is what they are anyways), and add signs onto the gendered bathrooms directing people to the gender-neutral ones.

          You can say something like, “After getting the suggestion about the bathrooms, I did a little research. From what I’ve read, it would be a good idea to use one of the family restrooms as a gender neutral restroom, and then create signs that would direct people to that bathroom so they don’t have to ask anyone. I think this would be a step in the right direction so we can be more inclusive of transgender people.”

          1. fposte

            There are people who really are offended by the stylized signs, though, so I wouldn’t rule that out.

        2. Sharon

          “A toilet could work, but how would you indicate which gender it’s designated for?”

          That’s easy: seat up or seat down. :-D

          Seriously, I think this is one of those rare requests that are maybe not worth wasting the committee’s time on. Some people ask for such trivial things. (I’m female, a life long career woman and closer to feminist than traditionalist and I think this is silly.)

      3. LisaS

        I remember going to a restaurant somewhere in the upper midwest with my folks, and my mother got up to go to the bathroom and came back 30 sec later with an annoyed look on her face. My dad asked her what was wrong & she said, “I don’t know which one to use – they’ve just got pictures of dogs on the doors.”

        My dad gets up to looks and comes back laughing. “Those are pointers and setters,” was all he said, and it took Mom a minute but to give her (Manhattan born & bred) credit, she started laughing too…

        1. Anonsie

          A now-closed lounge I used to really like had these metal sculptures all across the bathroom doors. One was a rooster and one was a cat. Because they covered the whole door you had to kind of stand back and look at them both for a minute before you’d get it.

        2. Natalie

          Ugh, I hate it when places do this. I need to pee – quit being cute and tell me which tiny room I’m supposed to use.

      4. Jennifer

        Could be worse, I went to a Lazy Dog restaurant and they have “Pointer” and “Setter.”

        An old Lewis Grizzard joke actually came true there….

      1. Treena Kravm

        This. What I’ve seen work best when the main bathrooms can’t be gender-neutral (2 rooms with multiple stalls) is adding or using another single-person bathroom (a room with one toilet and a sink inside) and making that the gender neutral bathroom. Then adding signs to the men’s/women’s restroom door that a gender neutral bathroom is located X.

        For pictures that indicate gender-neutrality, typically, it’s a figure that’s half “man” (in pants) and half “woman” (in a skirt). Or one of the half/half figures, along with a men figure, and a woman figure.

      2. Anonsie

        Yeah I… There’s no way to have separate bathrooms without signs designating which is which.

        I’m all on board with bathrooms being unisex and not splitting them up, but if you feel the need to split them up, you’re gonna have to mark them somehow.

      3. Iro

        Well there are some signs that are more gender neutral than others. Personally I’ve always found the dress thing annoying. I’m a woman, but I never wear dresses. However there are some “business” style bathroom signs that are very awkard. The woman is in a weird pseudo-sexual pose holding a briefcase. The male sign has the man casually slumping his jacket over his back … it’s just weird.

    4. Sadsack

      I wonder what the person who suggested had in mind. If the bathrooms are going to remain segregated based on gender, then why change the signage? I am guessing it is due to the fact that the stick-woman is wearing a dress, but I can’t think of any other way to indicate women vs. men. Our bathrooms at work have signs for “Ladies’ Room” and Men’s Room.” I imagine that most people whose first language isn’t English would learn that pretty quickly.

    5. Elizabeth the Ginger

      I assume these are multi-stall bathrooms. If they’re single-person bathrooms, IMO it would really make the most sense to make them unisex…

      Lately I’ve seen a lot of triangle-for-men’s, circle-for-women’s signs. Often they have a stick figure on them, but you can get them without:
      women’s with figure: http://www.adasigndepot.com/title24-womens-restroom-door-sign-female-pictogram.html
      women’s without figure: http://www.adasigndepot.com/title-24-womens-restroom-door-sign-blank-circle.html
      men’s with figure: http://www.adasigndepot.com/title24-mens-restroom-door-sign-male-pictogram.html
      men’s without figure: http://www.adasigndepot.com/title-24-mens-restroom-door-sign-blank-triangle.html

      The triangle and the circle probably aren’t well-recognized enough yet to stand on their own, though, so I’d add a sign that said “Men” and “Women” in English and whatever other languages are common where you are, assuming it’s a small number of common languages. (If you’re working in the UN, or something, then the stick figures might be the most practical even if they’re relying on an outdated stereotype…)

    6. fposte

      I don’t think “gender neutral” is the phrase they’re looking for–I was really confused by the notion that the bathrooms weren’t gender neutral but they wanted the signs to be.

      I think that your choices are either going with language or a stylized indication of gender. If you’ve rejected language, you’ve got stylized indication of gender left. I don’t think alternatives are going to change the basic problem. (Honestly, at this point I think the skirt lady is pretty much a pictogram rather than an illustration–her meaning is mostly semantic.)

      1. ExceptionToTheRule

        And I can think of so many gender pictograms that would be WAY worse than pants man & skirt lady.

          1. puddin

            Female: O’Keef – esque flower images mural
            Male: mural of towers and skyscrapers i.e. eiffel, chrysler blding

        1. nep

          Oh, yes. That is sexist. I don’t have an issue with dress-lady symbol for the women’s restroom but yes — pants-man can use the changing table indeed.

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger

          Pants-Man sounds like a great superhero.

          “The everyday hero: PANTS-MAN! He changes diapers! He avoids slippery floors! He uses crosswalks!”

    7. Robyn

      It’s not possible to be gender neutral and not unisex.

      So the answer is “No. We can’t do that as we are not willing to be unisex.”

    8. Sunflower

      My first thought is I’m pretty positive this person wants unisex bathrooms in which I’d suggest seeing if the building can install a separate single stall, unisex bathroom.

      However, now re-reading it, it seems like the person finds the signs to be sexist in some way? Because the woman is wearing a dress? In that case, I think the person should get over it.

      This reminds me of when I got to theme restaurants and the bathrooms always have something to go with the theme of the restaurant on the door and I get very nervous I’m going to walk into the wrong one.

      1. Kelly L.

        I remember my first trip to an authentic Mexican restaurant. There was a “Senores” and a “Senoras.” I was like 10 and didn’t know any Spanish yet. I think I ended up figuring it out by other art on the door–a painting of a man and one of a woman, or something like that. I wonder if this is why using Hombres and Damas/Mujeres seems to be more common.

        1. Kelly L.

          (Though that still doesn’t help if you don’t know the words–but at least they don’t look alike.)

        2. Elysian

          I was wandering around for a while at a place in DC that label their bathrooms “Teddy” and “Alice” (for Teddy Roosevelt and his daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth). I couldn’t even figure out they were bathrooms for a while, much less which was for me. I think I eventually had to ask someone (drinks had also been consumed at that point).

            1. Elysian

              That was the first I’d heard of her! They had painted the bathroom with a bunch of quotes from her, and while I was peeing I was thinking “Man I have to Google this woman, she seems amazing.” I did, and she totally was.

          1. Former Foggy Resident

            Was reading through these comments and thinking of that same bathroom – good place, Teddy’s. But goodness, I like witty jokes but bar bathrooms are not the best place for them. Very confusing after a few drinks.

    9. AnonToday

      “M” and “W” or “Men’s” and “Women’s” might be the way to go. I imagine that most people who have been in the US for more than a few days have figured out the important words to find the correct bathrooms!

      I don’t think that the universal symbols is a good idea. They aren’t a common thing to see. Some people might not know what they are and some people might recognize them generally but forget which means male and which means female.

      If denying the request an option? I feel like either of these has the effect of confusing more people than the current signs are bothering.

      1. Kelly L.

        Yes, and it sounds like there’s already a single-stall family restroom, so it can be done there without building anything else.

    10. Mockingjay

      Does every suggestion have to be implemented? Can you say, “thanks for the idea, but what we have seems to be working”?

      The stick figures are used world-wide. They are effective because they are not language-based – no translation needed. I lived overseas for 9 years and traveled extensively. I never had to worry about finding the bathroom.

    11. Lily in NYC

      Why change it at all? Just because one person has an issue doesn’t mean that you need to do anything about it if it doesn’t make sense. Random aside: We have an “anonymous” suggestion box, with a surveillance camera pointing directly at the stupid thing. And then HR complains that no one ever uses it.

      1. Adam

        I wish. It’s not really a priority, but it is more of a “let’s focus on something somewhat minor in the scope of the organization rather than seriously look at how goofy our structure has gotten these days”.

        1. fposte

          Yes, this sounds like a classic Bike Sheds effect situation. I’m with those upthread thinking the appropriate response was “The signs will stay the same to avoid language problems. Next?”

    12. Student

      Simple label options – just a solid color plate with words on it:
      Gentlemen and Ladies
      Men’s Restroom and Women’s Restroom

      If you have a lot of non-English folks who will be using your bathrooms, you can either:
      Stick with a clear image – you can go with a different picture than the standard, but it’ll still be clearly “feminine and masculine” somehow.
      Translate the words into the other relevant language(s). Works best if you only have to cover 2 languages to accommodate your user base.

    13. Gene

      There’s a reason that Universal Symbols are, you know, Universal. IMO, this suggestion gets stamped DENIED.

      And there may be a regulation (beyond ADA, which requires raised symbols and Braille) in your jurisdiction that requires Universal Symbols.

      Assuming the requester is female, her argument may be “not all women wear dresses”; well, not all men wear pants.

    14. PuppyPetter

      If they are still staying M/F but without the little “sexist” pictures (really? silly little pictures are the problem here? wow.) they could just label them “Use if your parts dangle” and “Use if your parts are safely inside your body”.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger

        I know you’re in jest, but IMO, that kind of sign would be more problematic, as it suggests that transmen aren’t really men and transwomen aren’t really women unless they’ve had major surgery. The standard symbols are based on gender stereotypes as well, but to me they seem more innocuous because they are the standard. And, in a way, because they’re so much more obviously false/dated – I mean, walk into any women’s room and you’ll see lots of people wearing pants!

        1. PuppyPetter

          But it’s not using any gender to define who uses what. If “your parts dangle” doesn’t mean you identify as one gender or the other, it simply means you have “dangling parts”.
          Your DNA decided your sex, your sex organs decide where you pee; it has nothing to do with whether you think you are male or female or gay or straight or androgynous or any factor other than your physical appearance.

          1. Kelly L.

            Your DNA decided your sex, your sex organs decide where you pee; it has nothing to do with whether you think you are male or female or gay or straight or androgynous or any factor other than your physical appearance.

            I strongly disagree with this.

  17. Golden Yeti

    It’s my bday soon, and I’m *really* hoping the rest of the office isn’t recruited to sing and make a big awkward deal. (Yes, this has happened in the past, at the command of management…)

      1. Mimmy

        My husband sometimes does that. For his birthday earlier in the month, he took off and we spent the afternoon in NYC.

      2. Hlyssande

        That’s what I’m doing on Monday for that exact purpose.

        I expect that there will be a signed card on my desk when I get back, but nothing embarrassing.

        (also it means I get the day to bond with my new KITTY)

      3. Carrie in Scotland

        I do this!

        Everybody should get it as part of their annual leave entitlement…if only I ruled the world :)

    1. Audiophile

      My birthday is next week and I’ve told as few people as possible. I hate having people sing to me.
      It happened once in junior high because I stupidly told the piano teacher it was my birthday. And she made the class sing, plus at one point one of my classmates asked “Who’s audiophile?”

      1. Wonderlander

        Ew, what a crappy classmate. :( I can relate – when I turned 18 in highschool, my mother put signs around the senior’s parking lot that said “Happy 18th Birthday Wonderlander!” In first period, a classmate that sat 2 rows over for me said to someone nearby, “Did you see all those signs in the parking lot this morning? Who’s Wonderlander?” MORT.I.FIED.

    2. Lia

      We recently ended our office birthday celebrations, and there have been zero complaints. Turns out that no one liked them! The reason they ended wasn’t due to that, though — it was due to a senior leader walking into one and thinking all of us were slacking off, despite evidence of a cake on the conference table. Boss got concerned about “image” and declared no more birthdays.

      1. Hlyssande

        We have a quarterly birthday/anniversary thing.

        It’s more of a dessert/fruit/snack deal rather than cake these days, but I think everyone in the office likes a chance to step away from their desk for a midmorning or midafternoon snack. No pressure and you don’t have to go if you don’t want to (but free snacks! Good fruit/berries, cookies, etc!).

    3. Alistair

      Took a while, but I’ve trained my office to not even recognize my birthday. I love it! Forget cake and bad singing. Hell, half of my birthdays I’ve been out in the field, usually in another state, those are the best.

      Happy Birthday drags so easily. If a group singing it slows down at all it turns into a complete dirge.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        Here’s the song I like to sing. (To the tune of March Slav)

        Happy Birthday.
        Happy Birthday.
        Gloom and sorrow fill the air.
        People dying everywhere.
        Happy Birthday.

        Happy Birthday.
        Happy Birthday.
        Now you’ve reached the age you are.
        Your demise can not be far.
        Happy Birthday.

    4. Beancounter in Texas

      Unless you tell your coworkers your birth date, nobody should be using that information from your file without your permission.

      1. Golden Yeti

        Oh, I wish.

        My supervisor used to do HR, too, and that was one of the questions asked in an interview (I was asked this, too). Why? Because she believes in numerology.

        All the employees birthdays are posted in her office. Last night, I even went on Facebook and adjusted my settings so that hopefully coworkers wouldn’t have my birthday reminder come up on their Facebook. I did it in hopes that without the extra reminder, maybe it would be forgotten.

    5. Elizabeth West

      Guh. That would be embarrassing!
      Mine is a month after I go abroad again so I won’t have any PTO, likely. If I have to work that day, I hope somebody at least brings cookies. Or maybe I’ll make a cake.

    6. Golden Yeti

      Yeah…I thought about taking the day off, but with our system of vacation days, it could hurt me in the long run (still job hunting, after all). So I’m taking a late lunch instead.

      For me, it’s not the singing itself that’s awkward, it’s being sung to publicly. Especially if it’s by people I don’t know or wouldn’t really consider friends or family. Seems kind of fake…sort of in a similar category as getting tons of “Happy Birthday” posts on Facebook from people you haven’t communicated with in years. I realize people mean well, but it’s almost become more of a social convention than a genuine sentiment. Like “How are you?” when greeting someone. The answer received will usually be some variation of “Fine,” even if things are far from fine. Also, usually the asker isn’t going to listen for a real answer anyway–the question is just perfunctory.

      Maybe I’m just old and grumpy. :) But I think about these things.

    7. HR Manager

      This is why I am so happy to be born on a holiday so I never ever have to be in the office for something like this.

    8. kristinemc

      my birthday is Sunday, but my office manager wanted everyone to go out to lunch today. This normally turns into a two hour affair, & I’m on deadline (but I’m the only one in the office who is), so I asked if we could reschedule.

      Major awkwardness – I should have just kept quiet. Sigh.

    9. Golden Yeti

      Dammit.

      I was working at my desk, and couldn’t escape.

      They all snuck up on me, with a candle in a slice of cheesecake, and a card. And singing. I just flatly said, “No.” Of course this did not stop them. I’ll take the cake, but I really could’ve done without the singing (and hug/kiss)…

      Good intentions, but so awkward.

      1. Persephone Mulberry

        Cake? Woo!
        Singing? Eh.
        Hugs?! Cringe.
        Kisses?!?!?!?!?!? GAAAAAAAAH NOOOOOO. That’s super weird, unless you work for your mom.

    10. CH

      It is my birthday today and all I’ve had to submit to is a flashy mylar banner across my door and everyone who goes by saying “Happy Birthday.” Luckily I finished my big project yesterday so I am not growling at anyone today.

  18. Night Cheese

    Just a follow up to the comment I posted in last week’s’ thread: I got the job offer and they are going to pay for my conference travel. Thanks to everyone who provided sage advice!

      1. Night Cheese

        I said that my current employer had already made arrangements. I also outlined the importance of the event and how it would be a good return on investment for the potential employer (how it would enhance my ability to do x, y, and z). They agreed to pay for my attendance during the offer call. Phew!

    1. periwinkle

      Congrats on the new job! Dress in layers for the conference, as they’re always held in locations with goofy climate control systems.

  19. WednesdaysMisfit

    Does anyone out there have a degree (preferably masters) in OSHA/occupational safety or a related field?

    I’m thinking of applying for a graduate program in my area in thus field. My background is very different (BA in communication, have worked in marketing for the last several years). I have several reasons for wanting to make a career change, including that my current field is over saturated, the pay isn’t great, and I just plain don’t like sitting at a desk for 9 hours a day.

    1. Snork Maiden

      Also thinking of getting an OHSA certification/2 year thing from the technical college here, so I’m interested in any replies to your query as well.

    2. Phyllis

      I honestly didn’t know you could get a Master’s in Risk Management, but a quick Google tells me that’s so. Risk management is one of my job duties, and my training has been mostly in achieving the OSHA 10- and 30-hour certifications as well as working on my Associates in Risk Management through The Institutes (passed the first part in November of last year, Yay!). I would suggest seeing if there is a risk management professional association in your state (one national group is PRIMA-public risk management) and finding out from them what degrees/trainings are most in demand for this type of work.

      It is fascinating work. I enjoy it. I’m all about processes and checklists.

    3. AnotherFed

      What do you want to do with it? There are two distinct paths for this sort of work that I have run into, and the degree programs will vary based on that.

      An occupational safety or industrial hygiene degree is more common for compliance work. This is everything from making sure offices comply with basic safety rules to manufacturing facilities including all of the necessary guarding and warnings for machinery and hazardous materials. Aircraft airworthiness/flight clearances and aviation safety, nuclear power regulations, and FDA approvals all have significant compliance portions to them, but may be harder to change careers into without a science or engineering background. There is still some room for innovation, but the OSHA regulations spell out things like exactly how big, what colors, what symbols, and the placement of the warning sticker for exposed electricity and don’t leave much wiggle room.

      If you want to be more involved in assessing safety risk and designing it out through process or product improvements on a larger scale, like an industrial site’s process and transport system for pumping a hazardous chemical throughout the facility or a drilling operation on an oil rig, a degree in risk assessment, system safety, or systems engineering is a better choice. My degree is the latter, which matches what I do, so I admit I have the bias that I think the compliance based work is fairly boring.

    4. Anx

      I have a B.S. in biological sciences and have considered going for Industrial Hygiene. I had a health inspection license but never found a job opening in the public sector and looked into EHS, but I didn’t have any experience working in industry so I decided against it.

  20. Cruciatus

    Well, after reading about asking for a raise earlier in the week I asked my boss about it. I know if it were up to him I’d get all the money but, unfortunately, it’s not. When I went from one position to another at the same company I was given the lowest of the new pay grade (which was higher than my then-current pay). Is that considered a “raise?” I feel like, no. They HAD to pay me more in that position (though it’s the same as outsiders who are hired). Anyway, so my boss is going to pick his moment to ask and it might be months. This might sound ridiculous to others, or like he’s stalling, but the place we work is dysfunctional and runs on the whims of the provost/president. He’s thinking he will bring me up (positively) over the course of a month or so during his weekly meetings, then ask for the raise. The woman before me got a raise but through stalling it ended up taking over 2 years! I don’t think I’ll be here 2 years from now, but I feel good that I just asked. Though now I will probably start getting calls from all the places I’ve applied and he’ll risk his neck asking all for nothing (because this is how life usually works for me!) But I feel good that I asked. (When I started and didn’t yet know the levels of dysfunction, I asked the provost during our one-on-one interview for $10 instead of $8 an hour and she told me “No. But you’ll have free insurance so it’s like getting $10.” No, no it wasn’t.)

    1. Iro

      Unfortunately it is VERY common to be put at the bottom of the pay grade if you get promoted. I was once promoted to a role two pay grades above mine with a 12% pay raise. Sounds awesome right? Well during “negotiations” I tried to get a better rate, since I knew what they were offerering me was the bottom of the pay grade and about 60% (yes 60%) less than the median pay.

      Well my boss was sympathetic, but flat out told me that he had alreday argued with HR to try and get me a better offer and that after a ton of pushing they not only refused to allow him to offer me above the minimum (the policy was a very rigid 3% raise or the bottom of the pay grade which ever is greater) that they then started to push him to hire me into a Junior role that was also open at the time. He put his foot down and insisted on hiring me into the senior role, but he did not get to offer me above the minimum.

  21. Moonpie

    Sometime back there was comment discussion on what surprised you about the working world once you entered it. I’ve recently moved into a managerial position with more responsibility than my last role and I’ve been thinking on a similar line lately… what, if anything, surprised you about moving up into management?

    1. Sandy

      How much time it soaks up. Interpersonal conflicts between various staff members, HR hiring processes, performance reviews, follow up, etc. can easily take up a whole day if you aren’t *very* careful and nothing else gets done.

      1. WanderingAnon

        +1000. The amount of overhead it takes to move a team along.

        And how, in many situations, you have influence but little or no control.

    2. Cath in Canada

      This is a really interesting topic – I’d like to move into a managerial position sometime in the next few years, and would be very interested to read more responses. Alison, any chance of making this a separate “ask the readers” thread sometime?

    3. Future Analyst

      How long it takes to get adequately build a case to show that someone isn’t doing their job. I could peg this situation 2-3 days in, but it will likely be months (if not longer) to properly showcase that a) said person isn’t doing their job well (or at all, some days), and b) I’ve tried motivating him/giving him better ways of doing things/etc. It’s an enormous time suck and can completely take over your working hours. I generally understand/appreciate that employers who don’t want to fire people willy nilly, but this individual has figured out how to play the system, down to a science.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        One thing to note is that that’s very job-dependent. Most places I’ve worked would let you take action very quickly. Just depends on the employer. (I’d also advocate for managers not taking management jobs at places that operate the way you describe. I’m not going to work somewhere where I’m on the hook for my team getting results, but I’m not allowed to have full control over the makeup of my team.)

    4. Moonpie

      Thank you for the interesting responses! I think for me it’s the awareness of how much my decisions impact other people. All work does this to some degree, but in my previous role I had a co-manager so we each supervised half the team, but while our director took our input, she still enjoyed/chose to handle a lot of the employee development details herself. Now I have more freedom and more responsibility with my team. I’m enjoying it, but I’m aware of the constant balance between the needs of the company and the needs of the humans I’m leading with lives and families and strengths and weaknesses of their own.

    5. Graciosa

      One good surprise is how seriously my company takes personnel development (reviews, recognition, salary planning, development plans, succession planning – all of it). As an individual contributor, I had no idea that literally *days* went into preparing for the annual performance review (and raise) discussion that was only scheduled for an hour. There are a lot of calibration discussions at multiple levels – how do we compare Jane’s performance on Team A to Bob’s performance on Team 1 and make sure we’re treating everyone fairly? What performance level really exceeds expectations? How should we assess a Junior Teapot Developer who was doing a great job and was just promoted to Senior Teapot Developer (where she is a newbie competing against higher level performers)?

      This is Very Serious at my employer. It is a Big Deal. I like that.

      The flip side of the same coin is that I didn’t know how much mental and emotional energy I would invest in managing my employees. This is totally separate from performance reviews – I just spend enormous amounts of time thinking about the members of my team. What would be some good development opportunities for Chris? How can I encourage Tim to speak up in meetings more? How can I help Jamal improve his email communication to executives? What else can I try to address Sue’s performance issue?

      Doing this well is consuming – I didn’t realize how consuming.

      One final surprise when I first made the switch – I was surprised that my employees could still respect me on the job if I unbent a little. I suffered from imposter syndrome when I started and reacted by being very formal and poker faced to conceal how unprepared I felt. My team and I both survived it, but it was not one of my finer moments (okay, months).

      I’m glad I figured out that I can manage a team without worrying about anyone finding out that I am not-so-secretly a very fallible, quirky human being and not Super Manager!

    6. AnotherFed

      The amazing creativity in excuses (or bizarre truthful situations) for not coming in to work. So far I have had:
      -decided to get married today because it was Elvis’ birthday
      -toddler drew all over employee with sharpies and can’t get the ink off
      -got sprayed by a rabid skunk
      -child brought home stray animal, turned out to be a bobcat. Child needs stitches.

  22. So and So

    I’m probably going to resign soon as I am expecting a baby. All the advice I can find suggests that I wait until maternity leave begins to resign (I suppose in case I change my mind??) Would it be better for me to wait and have the option of returning to work or to resign sooner?

    Things that effect this decision: childcare costs will be basically half my salary, my strange and inflexible work hours already severely limit the time I can spend with family and friends, and my job is not anything that will result in a career.

    1. TotesMaGoats

      Part of the answer depends on your relationship with your boss. If it’s a solid and safe one, then given them the heads up with plenty of time to keep operations smooth is the right thing to do. If it’s not, then I would wait until closer to your last day in the office.

      Ultimately, I wouldn’t do anything that would burn any bridges you might want to cross in the future.

    2. JC

      I personally would err on the side of telling them earlier, if you have a reasonable relationship with your manager and don’t think there will be bad repercussions to you while you’re still there to telling (e.g., being pushed out early). If you ever want to re-enter the workforce in the future, and especially if you want to leave the door open to working for this particular employer in the future, it would be good to have not burned those bridges. But, I also do see that you say that your job isn’t one that would lead to a career, so it might not really matter for you if those bridges are burned.

      And congratulations!

      1. Treena Kravm

        Earlier, definitely. You probably don’t want to burn bridges–any career change you end up with, you’ll still probably want to list this job on your resume, or use your manager as a reference. Your decision is based on things like money and schedules, and not on a feeling that you’ll either want to be with the baby or continue working (which can and does change for people), so I’d say it’s safer for you to assume you won’t change your mind (but that’s up to you how comfortable you are that you won’t change your mind)

    3. MaryMary

      I would suggest waiting until you’re towards the end of your leave to give your notice. It doesn’t sound like you’re likely to change your mind, but there’s always the chance that your circumstances change so that you have to return to work (i.e. your partner loses their job). If you wait to give notice until your leave is complete, you also continue receiving benefits and pay/disability, if it applies to you.

      If you have a great relationship with your manager, you could give her a heads up that you probably won’t return to work. I know a lot of managers who feel burned when one of their direct reports goes on maternity leave and doesn’t return to work, but honestly, I know enough women who have genuinely changed their mind (both ways – planning to come back and planning not to) that I think it’s acceptable. Anytime an employee goes on long term medical leave, a manager should prepare for the possibility that they might not return.

      1. Future Analyst

        Yes to this– you never know what your circumstances will look like in 3+ months. I personally think two weeks notice is all you need to provide, since you’re moving to another job (the fact that you won’t be paid monitarily is irrelevant). Depending on what your company/industry looks like, you can either give notice two weeks before you’re supposed to come back, or go back to work and give notice on the first day back (with the understanding that they would likely tell you to leave right away, given that getting ramped up and back down would be silly.)

    4. just laura

      Do you have paid leave? If so, it would seem silly to sacrifice that and quit now. Also think about medical benefits if you use your health insurance.

      I quit at the end of my maternity leave. It felt awkward but it worked schedule-wise in my industry (higher ed). I also carried the benefits for my family and wanted to be sure delivery and any complications were covered first. I also wanted a little bit of an out in case I changed my mind and wanted to go back to work (I didn’t).

    5. HR Manager

      HR should touch base with your regarding maternity leave practice and benefits. Find out about how this affects you before you resign. Example: are you, SO and/or baby on your insurance? If you resign before your leave starts, do they make you resign as of the last day you are in the office? This could affect how benefits coverage continues for you. STD, which is how most mom’s get income during a maternity leave, may not apply, if they terminate you before your leave – which means no disability pay during your medical leave. Some work places allow you to apply vacation time to receive pay during unpaid FMLA – is this important to you? Do you accrue vacation time while on FMLA? You could be leaving money on the table if you resign too early.

      My knee-jerk reaction is not to resign before hand.

    6. J.B.

      Do you have paid leave and will they take it away? Do you use health insurance for your job? Keep any health insurance through the birth of course. If you’re really not going back don’t use unpaid FMLA (then you can be required to pay back health insurance).

      1. so and so

        I get no paid leave at all and am covered by my husband’s insurance so that doesnt really enter into the equation.

    7. Student

      Part of the reason they suggest you wait as long as reasonable is because of the risk of complications. I hope you have a happy and healthy pregnancy and delivery! But, if you or the baby develops unexpected complications, it can be very helpful to keep all your options for income and health insurance open.

      There are also all the normal, non-baby life possibilities – if your spouse gets laid off next week, for example, you might genuinely reconsider resigning. Why make the decision any sooner than you need to?

      Try not to be an outright jerk to the employer, try to be realistic about your own limitations (related to childbirth and unrelated to childbirth), and do what’s best for you in your own circumstances.

  23. Audiophile

    I’m curious if anyone else has seen this. I was applying for a general position yesterday with a company and the application had an asterisk saying I was required to put my SAT score if I only had an undergraduate degree. Considering it’s been 10 years since I graduated high school, and I took the SATs in 03-04, I’d have no way to get them and they wouldn’t even be valid anymore. I certainly don’t remember them, so I ended up putting zero. I’m sure my app will be tossed, for not following directions or something.

    This is by far the strangest thing I’ve come across.

    1. So and So

      I’m pretty certain you can request your records from the SAT board or even your high school. Ten years isn’t so long ago that there aren’t records available.

      But yes, it’s a ridiculous request that should really have little bearing on the hiring process.

      1. Audiophile

        You’re right, I never thought about it. It’s $31. I don’t want the job that badly to spend money I don’t really have. And from what I remember my scores were not impressive.

    2. Cherry Scary

      I’ve only been out of college for a year and I don’t remember my SAT score. (I do remember ACT, but that is such an easier number for me to remember)

    3. matcha123

      This is my nightmare.
      My SATs were nothing to write home about, and unlike my peers, I didn’t have the money for the prep-courses or the money to take the test multiple times until I got my desired score.

      I’d assumed that getting into and graduating from a university would mean that I would never have to talk about high school grades or university apps again…

      1. Nashira

        You’d think that, but… not quite. I have two associates degrees and no HS diploma, because my parents believed in… unusual educa choices… and every time I did a job app for clerical positions, HR was so confused and not sure how to handle me. Argh.

      2. Natalie

        The old SATs pretty much just measure your ability to take tests. That’s what I learned in my test prep course – how to take a test quickly and accurately even if I didn’t know the material. That, and there are cruel people in the world who think 7:00 am is a good time for the SAT and that coffee should be banned from the room.

    4. INTP

      I’ve only heard of that for recent college graduates, and for positions where they were clearly trying to find Type A employees.

      I wish it was a thing, my success at standardized tests far exceeds my success in real life, hah.

      1. JC

        As someone who also was better at school than I am at life, I’d love to fill out one of those applications. And yes, I (very sadly) remember what my SAT score from 15 years ago was. (But I do also thing it is a ridiculous and strange thing to ask.)

    5. just laura

      I think they have changed the scale! When I took it, it was out of 1600, I think. I think it’s out of 2100 now or something, so I would seem even dumber! :0

      1. Ezri

        When I took them they’d added a third section (I think it was an essay), which bumped the total score up. But when I was applying to school colleges only cared about the original two sections (out of 1600), so I bombed the essay and it didn’t make a bit of difference. :)

        I could be remembering wrong, though… this was around six years ago. I remember that test being an awful Saturday, though.

      2. Audiophile

        They did change the scale. I think the year I took them was right before they changed again, but I’m not sure.

    6. Lia

      Um, there have been some adjustments to SAT scaling and calculations in the last 10-20 years — so a score of X in 2003 may or may not be equal to a score of X today.

      Sort of tangential to this — I got a LinkedIn “people you might know” email the other day that included an old high school classmate. I checked out his profile and he has his SAT and ACT scores on there — we graduated more than 20 years ago. He has gone on to a leadership role with a large company where I am sure those scores are irrelevant — I just found it amusing he had them on his profile.

    7. Brett

      I used to work for ACT. They required your test scores (and I bet College Boards does too). I think the strange part is apparently waiving the requirement if you have a graduate degree?

      The bigger problem with that is that the SAT has been recentered so many times over the last few decades and even changed. Did they require you to give the year you took the test too? (Which would probably reveal your age.)

      My wife scored a 1500 and my brother scored a 1510, which are very mediocre 48th percentile scores today. Except she took the test in 1997 before the switch to the 2400 scale, and he took the test in 1990, before the test was recentered. Her 1997 score would be a 99th percentile 2230 today, and his 1990 score would be a perfect 2400 today!

      Anyway, college boards has an archiving service where you can pull every test you ever took. And normally your high school transcripts have your SAT scores on them too. Sometimes your college transcripts do also, but I think that is less common.

      1. Audiophile

        I’ve applied for jobs with College Board and it’s never asked for my score.

        I’ve seen jobs ask for GPA, but rarely is it required. I can usually get away with putting “unknown”.

        1. Brett

          Might depend on the job. I was a question writer at ACT (written question scorers had to submit test scores too).

          1. Audiophile

            I’d imagine they’d want it for that role or for people looking to teach the prep courses. I know when I worked for TPR, if you wanted to teach one of their prep courses, you needed to provide your score.

    8. LongTimeReader

      This is a peculiar request because for awhile SAT scores were rated out of 2400 (although i believe they are moving, if they haven’t already, back to the 1600 format). So if two people applying for this job both scored a 1600, but one is out of 1600 and the other out of 2400, then those mean different things.

    9. Felicia

      That is so ridiculous! Even if it was something I did know, I would not apply because it’s ridiculous.

      Though I actually am in another country where SATs are not a thing, they are only a thing in the US – so I guess people who did not go to high school / college in the US are not allowed to apply?

    10. Elizabeth West

      This has literally no bearing on whether you can do a job or not, regardless of what degree you have. I’m not and never have understood what they are even FOR. I was just told that I had to take it to get into college.

    11. voluptuousfire

      I worked in test prep for 5 years and they did change the SAT exam in ’05.

      College Board didn’t require test scores for any of the jobs I applied for with them, but I could see it more along the writing the test or test development.

      If you really needed to, you could get in touch with your high school or college and get an official transcript with your scores on it. (But again, the college transcript may not have the scores on it. It varies by school.)

      I understand though. I applied for a role the other week where they require a 3.2 college GPA. Usually I avoid any listings that include a GPA requirement because being in my mid thirties, I don’t remember my GPA nor do I recall it being anything special. To me that usually indicates they want a recent graduate, which is fine.

    12. PuppyPetter

      The way the numbers are calculated now are different than how they were calculated when I took them so my number would look weird.
      Unless it’s being scanned into a computer that spits out candidates I wouldn’t worry about it

    13. Malissa

      Do they know that some colleges don’t require that? I only ever took the ACT. None of the colleges I was looking at even cared about the SAT.

    14. JMW

      You may find that your SATs are on your college transcript because you needed them to get into the school to begin with. I applied for a masters program and they wanted my GREs. I took the GRE 30 years ago, but the scores were recorded in my transcripts with my undergrad work since I had them sent there in anticipation of a masters at the time. Worth checking!

  24. shep

    After three years’ tenure being wildly underemployed in JOB1, I spent two months in JOB2 and three months in JOB3 before landing JOB4 (which was a pie-in-the-sky position I’d applied to before I even applied to JOB2). I left on great terms with both JOB2 and JOB3, which I know is both strange and very lucky for me. I know AAM’s usual advice is to leave short-lived positions off of a resume, but I’m concerned about a perceived five-month employment gap. Maybe I should list one and not the other?

    Of course, this is all academic because I’m not planning to move on from my current position for several years, but when the time comes, I wondered how I should approach those positions.

    1. Treena Kravm

      I would leave it off. 3 years at JOB1 and 2-3 years at JOB4 with a 5 month gap is nothing. 2 and 3 month stints at non-contract jobs won’t give you any advantages, it’ll only put questions in employer’s heads.

    2. cat

      For my money, if you’re not planning to leave your current position for several years, I would just leave the five month gap on your resume, rather than listing JOB2 and JOB3 (assuming they weren’t designed to be temp – if they were, I’d include them and indicate that they were temporary). To my mind, I don’t think a five-month gap between a 3 year stay at JOB1 and a 3-4 year stay at JOB4 is that big of a deal (once you’ve been in JOB4 for several years, that is).

    3. Sunflower

      A 5 month employment gap isn’t that long. It would signal more a ‘this person took time off do something’ than anything else.

    4. shep

      Awesome! Thanks, everyone. I suppose now the only reason I’d list them would be if one of my former supervisors offered to serve as a reference. (JOB2 supervisor was kind enough to do so for JOB4, for example.)

  25. Tiffany Youngblood

    When should I start applying for jobs?

    I am graduating w/ my Bachelor’s degree on May 16th. I’m moving from Dallas area to Chicago the week of June 8th and would be able to start a new job the following week.

    I occasionally look at job postings, and I’m seeing some that I’m interested in, but I don’t know if 5 months before I know I can start is the time to be applying. I want to work in the nonprofit sector, and I know sometimes the hiring process with them can take a while, so I don’t know how much of a difference that makes. I will be in Chicago for a few days right after graduation to find an apartment, and I’d be available for job interviews then as well.

    1. Treena Kravm

      Start now. It’ll take you a month or two to get the hang of applying, so start with the ones that you’re interested in, but not “dream” positions. Be upfront about your timeline and when you’re in town/available in your cover letter.

    2. cat

      Nownownow. When I graduated a thousand years ago, I had my post-graduation job secured by December when I was graduating in May. It made my last semester so much less stressful.

    3. Ezri

      I’d say start now. When I graduated (last year), employers were looking and interviewing as early as October / November – I had an offer in December, six months before my start date. It does wonders for your stress level. Employers hiring graduating seniors probably anticipate a delayed start (if not, they’re being silly).

      At the very least, it shouldn’t hurt you to start looking now.

    4. Ruth (UK)

      I’m also going to emphasize that it’s not too soon now!

      I made the mistake of not actively beginning my job search until I actually graduated and it took me 4 years to get my first non-retail job (though I’ve always had a lot of luck getting employed within retail etc so I’ve never actually been totally jobless).

      I tried to tell my brother (few years younger) how important it was for him start job searching early and not make the same mistake I did. Frustratingly, he didn’t listen and has followed directly in my footsteps. He has been working in retail for the past 3 years (and counting).

      It helps that you seem to have a clear idea of the sort of work you want to do. Part of the lack of motivation in me (and my brother) is that we both graduated feeling at a total loss of how to proceed and what sort of jobs we actually wanted to (and would be able to) apply for.

      So.. start now!

      1. Audiophile

        I can relate to that. I stared searching, somewhat passively, around March – April and by graduation, I still didn’t have a job secured.

        It took me about 5 months to secure a job. I

    5. Anonsie

      I’m agreeing with start now but ALSO be prepared that a ton of places will ignore you due to your later start date, or even act like they’ve never heard of such a concept when they do a phone screen. This was my experience when I was job hunting my last semester of college and it really irked me. At least half a dozen places called to screen me and were like “you… are applying NOW… for a job in a few months? and you can’t start now because you’re in school? that doesn’t make any sense”

      1. Anonsie

        Also don’t be surprised if you don’t get hired before you graduate. No one I know managed to pull it off, now that I think of it.

    6. Danielle

      Start now! As a new grad you’ll make all the application mistakes but I’d recommend the cover letter and resume section on AAM.

  26. SH

    This is probably a silly question but are sweaters appropriate when you’re a receptionist/admin assistant? I work in a very small office and my bosses were torn on the issue.

    1. Eliza Jane

      What does your boss wear? The observed rule I’ve most often seen for admins in small companies is “slightly less formal than the executives,” with a lower cap at “nice jeans and something nicer than a T-shirt.”

      If the bosses wear full suits much of the time, I’d say sweaters are probably too informal.

    2. NotMyRealName

      I would say it completely depends on the sweater. Chunky ethic hand knit? No. Classy twin set as seen on Emily Gilmore? Maybe.

    3. periwinkle

      Depends on the sweater. I’m a long-time fan of Lands End fine-gauge cotton crewneck sweaters for the dressier side of business-casual attire. They are thin enough to fit nicely under cardigans (matching cardigans available!) or blazers, but substantial enough to look great on their own. Pair the fine-gauge sweaters with tailored pants or skirts, and I think you’ll pass muster in any business casual environment.

      Avoid bulky knits unless the office is casual, though.

      Er, and no fluffy sweaters with embroidered kitties.

    4. Spooky

      I’ve never in my life heard of anybody who doesn’t like sweaters. I feel like I must be missing something – is it a particularly raunchy type of sweater? Does everyone wear uniforms? Are sweaterVESTS strongly preferred? What exactly is the argument here?

    5. AvonLady Barksdale

      Reallllly need to know what kind of sweaters we’re talking about. I wear cashmere or merino wool sweaters on a daily basis, practically, and I can’t imagine anyone thinking they’re inappropriate. Are these… turtlenecks? Cardigans? Prints? V-necks? I can’t imagine anything more appropriate for an assistant than, say, a collared shirt and a sweater.

    6. Jazzy Red

      Sweaters – yes.

      Sweats – no.

      It was kind of sad that our receptionist needed to be told that.

  27. Worker Bee (Germany)

    Just want to say thank you to Alison and the AAM Community. I am leaving my current employer with my full year bonus which I received by making a case for the good work I ve done the last year. I am positiv it was all due to the great wording from AAM.

  28. Helen

    Also, just a quick gripe–I know this is a tale as old as time, but on Tuesday I followed up with an employer who I interviewed with before Christmas asking for an update on the timeline/status, and he never responded. So freaking rude!! Just be an adult and tell me I didn’t get it. It’ll take 5 seconds.

    1. De Minimis

      Yeah I had an interview around the same time, never heard a thing. I assume they’ve moved on. Not bothering to follow up, I’m currently working, and I’m not sure if I’d be interested in the job now anyway.

    2. No to Stella and Dot

      Welcome to my world. :( I had an internal interview before Christmas, haven’t heard a peep from anyone, so I sent a quick note earlier this week to the recruiter asking where they are in the process. No word yet. I’m trying not to read too much into it, but the last time this happened (with the same recruiter), I never did hear anything back and had to hear through the grapevine that they hired someone else (also an internal hire).

    3. PuppyPetter

      ummmm from the other side of the coin:
      Holidays (Between holidays, conferences, personal vacas, sickness, I was was physically in my office fewer days than I was out of it in the past 2 months)
      Higher ups not giving okay on hiring
      Depending on how many candidates, 5 seconds to each person can add up (and it takes longer than 5 seconds)
      Maybe the person is no longer there…

      1. Marcy

        Yes, this. I interviewed for my current employer right after Thanksgiving and wasn’t offered the job until mid January. The holidays really delay things because it isn’t just the hiring manager that is probably taking time off. The hiring manager’s boss has to sign off on it and he or she may also be out and HR would have to sign off and the HR manager may be out. Unless they all took the same days off, a lot of time can go by before the offer is ready.

  29. nyxalinth

    Well, finally some good news, and boy, I needed it!

    Remember the job I was hired for back in November, but they had trouble setting a start date? Yesterday I was told that I’d finally be starting on the 20th! The hiring manager was very apologetic, letting me know that the holidays had really done a number on them along with other stuff all at once. I told her I’d be happy to start.

    So it had a happy ending after all. It pays a bit more than the previous thing but more importantly, it’s so much closer. Half an hour on the bus as opposed to almost two hours.

    Also, the fact that so far no one looks like a psycho boss is a bonus :D

  30. Rat Racer

    I have a question about how to deal with a peer who has recently become unresponsive. This individual and I collaborate on proposal work all the time and she is usually really good about responding, but recently, she’s been severely lagging and it’s affecting my ability to meet my own deadlines. I know that she is swamped right now (we are all head’s down working 12-14 hour days at the moment) but I’m concerned that she’s decided to de-prioritize this aspect of the business, and that’s just not OK. What’s the right language to use for someone who is technically a peer, but has been at the company for longer and is someone I generally admire, respect and enjoy working with?

    1. fposte

      I’d rather do this face to face, if possible, and I’d start light. “Jane, I know we’re all buried these days. Is there something I can do to make it easier for you to turn my stuff around? The recent longer duration has been making it hard for me to meet my deadlines, and I’d like to see if we can find a way to get back to the earlier schedule. What can I do to make that likelier? Would an x-day reminder help, or a different format?” (Obviously plug in whatever makes actual sense in your workplace.)

      Given that you like and work well with her, I imagine that you’d be offering the suggestions sincerely and they’d be taken as such; you might find that just giving her a heads-up broadly and maybe tweaking something procedurally would pick things up again.

      If Jane’s really swamped beyond making this able to happen even after the conversation, that’s a conversation for your manager, I’d say. Not in the “Jane sucks” way, but in the “this workload isn’t tenable and it’s hurting us” way, since it sounds like that’s pretty much the truth.

    2. BSharp

      Can you ask how you can help? “Hey Jane, how goes? Lately it feels like we’ve all been over-extended. It’d be really helpful if you could give me a clearer idea of when you’ll finish X and Y (OR: if you could do X and Y within a time range of ____). Last week there was because Z was delayed. I understand we’re all swamped, I just want to prevent in the future. Is there anything I can do to make it easier on you?”

    3. YourCdnFriend

      I’d ask to have an informal chat with her and say something like, “I know you’re swamped but I’m still missing x, y and z from you. I can’t move forward with a, b and c until I have it. Anything I can do to help move this along?”

      Depending on her answer, you could also say, “ok. If it’s not going to happen by x date I’ll need to check in with (boss’ name) on how we should keep this project moving or if we need to re-prioritize.”

      It also should be something you should keep your boss in the loop on. It’s not tattling and don’t be accusatory but just a “hey, I’m struggling with x because I’m waiting on y from Wakeen. He’s swamped, anything else I should be doing to move things forward?”

    4. HR Manager

      Agreed – do face to face on this occasion, and let her know that you understand she is swamped. Approach this as a “how can I help you” meeting request. What can you do differently to flag these as important so that she can get back to you more easily and in a more timely way so that the bigger deadline is not missed.

    5. Rat Racer

      Thanks guys – this is all helpful – but a couple of twists to the story. First, we’re all remote, so unless I fly out to all correspondence will have to be by phone or email. That said, I do have a good rapport with this co-worker, she’s one of the people I chat with about life outside of work and we’ve collaborated closely on projects in the past.

      The second is that I’ve already picked up just about as much as I can from “Jane.” Once upon a time, she handled all the proposals on Chocolate Teapots, I took Vanilla Teapots. Now all Teapot proposals come to me; if it’s chocolate, I outline a strategy with my team, then they draft a response and highlight segments that require her input. And that’s where I get the radio silence. Sometimes it’s as simple as me making a highly educated guess about what we would say to a Chocolate client and just wanting to verify with her before it goes out. That’s why I’m so frustrated.

      And yeah, I could go to my manager – or her manager – and let them know that we’re getting bottlenecked and it’s posing serious risks to our ability to capture new business. But that would feel like a betrayal. I think since I can’t fly out to just for a “What’s up” conversation, the best course is to schedule a check-in phone call. Maybe after the dust settles.

      Thanks wise people – I love the advice from this community!

      1. YourCdnFriend

        A Check in phone call would be good. But I wouldn’t treat talking to the boss about bottlenecks as a betrayal. It’s not a complaint about jane personally, it’s drawing attention to an unworkable prioritizing situation.

        Maybe you’d feel better if you had a brainstorming session with Jane about how to overcome these bottlenecks, then you could go to management together with a “we’ve given this some thought and here are some solutions” or even, “we’ve given this some thought and can’t see any solutions, how should we proceed” convo.

      2. Not So NewReader

        Hmm. Do you HAVE to include Jane in the loop? Is there someone who can take up her role? Can you drill it down to one or two critical parts that she must look at, then have someone else do the rest?

        It almost sounds like she is involved here because there is no one else who can do equivalent work.

  31. Cass in Canada

    Any suggestions of podcasts or resources I could listen to for career development, particularly as a young professional? I want to be awesome at my job and working with people.

    First open thread post for me! I’m a young professional (2 years out of university) working in forestry who has a long boring winter of data entry and paperwork ahead of me. I find it much easier to complete my work listening to something interesting. I’ve spent the last couple weeks listening to e-lectures on forestry topics to improve my technical knowledge for what I do, but am out of lectures to listen to for the time being. I figure that this would be a great time to work on some of my soft skills (managing contractors, working with difficult colleagues, productivity etc)

    Being relatively inexperienced, I would like to spend my winter months working on learning how to do my job better and communicate more effectively with my coworkers. Topics I am interested include emotional intelligence, communicating effectively, productivity, time management etc. Generally how to become awesome at what I do and someone that is easy to work with as a professional.

    I’d welcome book suggestions that you found useful as well. I have an Audible account and like listening to audio books at work.

    Thanks for the suggestions and your thoughts!

      1. Eliza Jane

        Also, I really like the audiobook of “Thanks for the Feedback” by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, and recommend the book “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock.

    1. JMegan

      CharityVillage.ca has some good resources. Many of them are clearly intended for the NFP sector, but there are a lot of good general business ones as well.

    2. wonkette

      There’re a couple of podcasts that I like to listen to on work/how to be more efficient:

      -Slate’s “Working”: interviews with people working in a variety of occupations
      – Money Talking : it discusses business/economic issues. There’re also episodes on how you can be more efficient at work
      – Tim Ferris Show
      – Harvard Business Review’s podcast

    3. Lizabeth

      Freakonomics, both the podcast and books.

      They’re not business per se BUT excellent for getting you to think critically and outside the box.

      Any of Seth Godin’s books

  32. Sandy

    I’m really curious to get AAM readers’ take on fathers taking parental leave after the birth of their child.

    Some background: I work for a Canadian company overseas, and our workplace policies follow those in Canada, namely a year’s paid leave after the birth of the child. That year consists of 15 weeks for the mother only, and 35 weeks that can be split between the two parents.

    Most of my friends and colleagues who have had kids have elected to go for a 9 month/3 month split between mom and dad.

    Now that we’ve added to our family, and elected to go with a 5 month/7 month split, our older family members have been up in a tizzy about how this doesn’t make any sense. What if hubby’s workplace replaces him while he’s away? What if they like the temporary replacement better? What if he misses out on important projects? Etc. in short, men shouldn’t take parental leave, and if they do, it should be a small amount, like one month or three months max.

    In my mind, these are all issues faced by women in the workplace when they go on mat leave, so this should be a non-issue. But that’s in my ideal world. In reality, hubby’s workplace is fairly old school and all of the staff members in the entire organization are male. It’s possible that he really will feel the career effects of a longer stint on parental leave.

    How do you perceive male staff members in your organizations who take parental leave? Is there a real or perceived bias against them? Does it divide down along gender lines? Age lines?

    1. AnonToday

      I am all for paternity leave and would support a male colleague taking it however I could. However, I am biased, because I feel that making long paternity leave the norm is a step toward ending the “What if she gets pregnant?” form of discrimination against women.

        1. Satsuma

          Me too. As I say below, we are planning to go ahead with this sort of arrangement. My partner works in an office that deliberately avoids hiring late twenties/early thirties women, in case they take maternity leave. I would love to be there when he tells them that he is taking paternity leave :)

          1. AnonToday

            Oh man (no pun intended). Do you think he’d be willing to secretly record this conversation and let you post it for all of us to enjoy?

    2. LillianMcGee

      Our culture here is very progressive/liberal and both of our co-EDs have taken parental leave. One male one female (the non-birthgiving mother of baby). The female ED (not ED at the time) had to come back to a different position due to the health of the organization at the time, but male ED’s leave came and went without incident. There have also been 3 employees in the last year (!) who have taken maternity leave. Bottom line is everyone here is very supportive/encouraging of parental leave no matter what relationship you have with the baby. I was even allowed 2 weeks (no advance notice) to go help with my newborn niece after my sister-in-law suffered complications! I suppose it all depends on the culture and priorities of the workplace.

    3. ProductiveDyslexic

      I don’t have anything helpful to say about how you should handle it, except I’m sorry that you find yourselves at the “front line” of child care gender equality.

      I suppose you have to do a risk assessment: which is more important long-term, your husband’s job prospects (evidence to suggest this is at risk), your job prospects (benefited), your husband’s relationship with your child (benefited), and your child’s future (benefited)?

      For what it’s worth, I suppose there’s an argument to be made that the way you are doing it is more beneficial in the long run. Two parents with slightly reduced salaries, having shared the leave more equally, is a less risky long term plan than having a big disparity.

      1. Sandy

        In our case, I’m fairly certain that we’re going ahead with it anyways. I have some weird rules surrounding my leave because of my work circumstances, so him deciding to take less time would literally mean leaving (fairly substantial) money on the table.

        That said, I’ve noticed there being a fairly consistent age divide on this issue. Colleagues and friends our age, no problem. Anyone older than about 45- that’s when these attitudes seem to begin rearing their ugly heads.

        There are obviously exceptions, but that seems to be the trend…

    4. Lily in NYC

      Do what is best for your family and ignore everyone else. I work in the US at a pretty conservative company and all of the high-level (and lower level) men take paternity leave. There is one boss here who seems to have an issue with it but he is an ass about everything so no one pays him any mind.

    5. Satsuma

      We’re facing the same issue in the UK, where a similar system is being introduced for babies born from April 2015. There is a year of leave which can be taken almost entirely by either parent, or divided between them. We want to go with a 6 month/6 month split. This is unlikely to go down well at my partner’s (all male) workplace, and there will very likely be repercussions, although it is hard to know what they will be. I expect there will be a lot of remarks from friends and family as well. Fortunately, we are in a stable enough position, both in terms of finances and our confidence in being able to find new jobs if necessary, that we are planning to go ahead despite all of this. This is our first child, and for us it is more important to get things off to a good start by truly sharing childcare responsibilities.

    6. esra

      Canadian here too.

      Most men I know take pat leave (we’re all in our 30s) and no one really bats an eyelid. Honestly I haven’t heard a bad word about it, and I’ve worked everywhere from big, soulless corporate to lefty pinko nonprofit.

    7. HR Manager

      The US perspective (in my opinion): We as a country are so behind the times even on proper maternity leave, don’t even get me started on paternity leave. Down to a soundbite: it sucks. Many companies at least try to insert some form of paternity leave (or general paternal leave that fathers can take) and it’s often a measly week or two. The rest is FMLA – unpaid 12 weeks off.

      Technically it will be job-protected, if someone pursues FMLA, but I know of many new fathers who don’t use it. They do maybe a week of paternity leave if available, but there is a huge bias against fathers and leave in my opinion. Many will try to take a day here or there, arrange for some work at home days. Despite all our talk about gender equality, this is hardly the truth in our workplace. I know unpaid time off is tough, especially when dad’s likely have the bigger salary so it’s a real financial hit not to have any pay for that time off. So, yes, there is a bias, systematic and perception-wise in the US workplace against dads taking parental leave.

      1. Phyllis

        Amen to the bias against men taking paternity leave!! My husband was working for GM when our first child was born, and they were the first (only?) company in our area that offered paternity leave. He took one week and was so scorned by his male co-workers that he didn’t do it when our other children were born. Of course this was in the eighties, hopefully things are better now.

    8. The Cosmic Avenger

      I had 9 weeks of leave saved up when my daughter was born, and I took all of it. But then our company is really good about work/life balance, allowing some people to telework pretty much full time.

      If I were him, I’d probably be OK with resentment/snide remarks/bad thoughts, as long as I felt that my work was valued enough. I’ll bet that if he is the first, he will NOT be the last. That said, I wouldn’t blame him if the two of you decided that the impact on his career wouldn’t be worth it, but considering how much that will affect you, I think your input is important, too.

    9. YourCdnFriend

      I work in canada too in a fairly conservative industry. I think most people in my company wouldn’t bat an eye at a man taking paternity leave but that’s certainly not the case for the rest of the industry (I’ve heard negative comments on it first hand but not directed to me).

      I think it’s super important for these norms to start swinging. It sucks that you’re on the front lines but I am so grateful people are legitimately looking at this as an option.

      As for your family members being in a tizzy, as long as you and your husband have come to terms with the risks/rewards, smile and nod and ignore or tell them all to step off.

    10. How to underpromise/overdeliver

      Given your description of his office culture, I think it’s a real possibility that he might suffer for it. I think he should take it, but also spend some time thinking about how he’ll deal with the potential worst-case scenario (how would he respond to snide comments, would he consider leaving the company if he was being subtly penalized in terms of projects or promotions, etc). It sounds like you’re at different companies and not in Canada, so how is he taking the time off work? I’d read up on the legal protections he has as well so that if he ends up having to talk to his boss or HR he’s fully informed.

  33. Treena Kravm

    How reasonable is it to ask to take all of your accrued vacation time in the last weeks of your employment? It’s clear that this is inappropriate with 2 weeks notice, but what about with 5+ months of notice?

    I’m in the process of resigning from my position this summer. My manager wants there to be overlap and cross training with my replacement, so she wants a resignation date ASAP so she can start the HR paperwork. The reason I want my official resignation date to be later is because I want to keep my insurance coverage for as long as possible. So I’m thinking I finish my work, go on 3 weeks “vacation,” during which I pack up my house, and then “quit” so that while I’m still in the US, I’ll have medical coverage. Once I’m traveling, I’ll have traveler’s medical insurance.

    Side note: there’s no chance of me being pushed out early, so I’m not worried about that at all.

    1. TotesMaGoats

      Check that you don’t have any HR policies that prevent you from taking leave on your last day/week of employment.

      1. Beancounter in Texas

        ^^What TotesMaGoats said. When I’ve asked for that & a friend asked for that (from maternity leave though), we each had to work our last day of employment. It could not be a vacation day. (We’re both in Texas, which might have a small bearing.)

    2. Lily in NYC

      As long as you finish up your work and talk to your boss about it I think it’s ok. But in general I think it’s not a great thing to do in most cases. We still talk (very negatively) about the guy who quit and then took two weeks of vacation (he only gave two weeks notice). He came back in for 5 minutes on his last day – everyone had to scramble to do his work and I got stuck cleaning out his office. He ended up not liking his new job and tried to come back and my boss said this: “F*ck off, you burned the bridge that would bring you back here”.

    3. The IT Manager

      With the situation you described, totally reasonable. You are not leaving your old Company in a lurch. With the normal 2 weeks notice, it’s unreasonable and defets the purpose of the two weeks notice.

    4. How to underpromise/overdeliver

      It sounds like you want to have 1 “official” resignation date for the payroll/benefits stuff and another for actually wrapping up stuff with your company. Since you have such a long lead time, I don’t think it’s unprofessional. As far as your colleagues know, your last day is x. Only the paperwork people would know your official last day is x+21 days. Definitely talk to your boss about it ahead of time, but it sounds reasonable.

  34. Anonannah

    Hi Everyone!

    Long time lurker, first time asker.

    So I have an internal interview next week for a promotion within my existing team. I’ve been asked to present a 15 minute swot analysis and am having trouble figuring out how many bullets to include in each section. Does 3-5 sound about right for a presentation of this length, or would you recommend more or less? I’m pretty nervous as this is my first internal interview/hiring process and I REALLY want this job. The analysis is the only required part of the presentation but I will probably include some photos as I work in a pretty visual industry.

    Thanks for your help!

    1. cat

      Given that a SWOT analysis is 4 sections, 3 bullet points for each section is 12 total in a 15 minute presentation. Assuming that you’re not going too in-depth with your analysis, this seems right, but if you’re expected to dive into the details, 12 minute be pushing it.

    2. YWD

      3-5 sounds good, as long as you don’t have to use a really small font to fit it all on the slide. Talk it through to yourself or a friend/colleague a few times to get a feel for how long it will take. Also I’d recommend having the slide build so that your audience doesn’t get distracted reading ahead.

      Good luck!

    3. esra

      I definitely wouldn’t go over five. cat makes a good point to allocate time to each and break it down that way.

    4. HR Manager

      SWOT analysis = 4 sections so 3.5 minutes on each. I would keep to 3 bullets with some details.

    5. puddin

      Keep in mind that strengths can also be threats, threats can be opportunities, etc. Which can means that some bullet points might overlap. You might not spend as much time explaining how “deregulation” is a threat after you have explained how it is an opportunity first (as an example).

    6. Graciosa

      I’ll chime in with my normal advice for presentations – do *not* write everything important on the slide. A bullet point can have some detail, but does not need to be a dissertation. The audience / interviewers will read the slide – you want to have something memorable to add beyond what already appears.

      For example, if the bullet says “Forecast growth +2%” you could tell them that most of this is expected in Europe, while all other regions are flat at best.

      Plan your presentation to make sure their attention stays on *you* and doesn’t wander off as soon as they’re done reading.

      Good luck.

  35. Beancounter in Texas

    I supervise a bookkeeper, “Joe,” who is responsible for the office semi-monthly payroll. Every payday, he’s scrambling at the 11th hour to get the checks signed (direct deposit isn’t an option) and hand them to us before we walk out the door. He’s actually missed a payday because our boss left early that day and we were paid late. The issue isn’t that Joe doesn’t print them and have them ready; the issue is that he waits for the boss to have a “free moment.” While it’d be nice for the boss to stop by and check if anything needs his attention, it isn’t the boss’ responsibility to make sure paychecks are signed. I’ve instructed Joe to talk to the boss early in the day and just let him know that he needs to sign checks today. And because the boss forgets and wants us to nag him, remind him later. But Joe is so afraid that the boss will yell at him for being interrupted (which has never happened), that checks and papers stacked up waiting for the boss’ attention have actually been paid late. Joe is too afraid to even interrupt the boss’ conversation to notify him of a phone call, leaving callers on hold for so long, people have hung up.

    Yesterday was payday. At 4:20pm, I inquired with Joe whether he had our paychecks ready (fearing he’d forgotten). In an exasperated voice, he said he was waiting on the boss (who was talking business with a coworker) and would catch him at 4:30, when that coworker typically left for the day. At 4:53pm, I see Joe talking with “Steve” who can also sign checks, but typically does not sign payroll unless the boss is out of town. I politely interrupted the boss (who had kept the coworker late) and asked him if he could make time to sign paychecks, just as Steve walks up to ask the same thing, with Joe trailing behind him. The boss is happy to make time, looks at his watch and gets up to sign checks. So Joe runs around, handing me my paycheck at 4:59pm. This is almost the same routine, most every payday in the last 18 months. It is starting to really exasperate me to the point of taking payroll away from him (which he knows would be a demotion in responsibilities). I have one other bookkeeper who is more responsible and assertive enough to get the boss’ attention, but the boss might view payroll as “too confidential” for her to handle (solely because she’s the lowest on the totem pole).

    What can I do or say to get Joe to approach the boss and get things accomplished timely?

    1. Tiffany In Houston

      Why isn’t there a standing meeting on the Big Boss’s calendar to sign the paychecks? Why is Joe doing paychecks the day they are due to be handed out to the staff? Can they be done the day before and then locked up until the actual payday? And why isn’t Joe more assertive about this?

      1. fposte

        Oh, excellent process questions from Tiffany–I never know how payroll is supposed to work at a place like this.

    2. Ann O'Nemity

      Can the check signing be set up as a recurring meeting on payday? That way, it’s always on the boss’s calendar and Joe doesn’t have to keep hovering around waiting for the boss to have a free moment.

    3. fposte

      I’d say be crystal-clear on the expectation and serious up on the level of problem. “Joe, we’ve discussed the payroll issues before, and I want to lay out the situation very clearly because it’s not changing. I need you to get payroll signed by 12 noon, even if it means interrupting the boss; I know you feel uncomfortable doing that, but the boss expects to be interrupted, and it’s not acceptable for our schedule for you to wait until you feel comfortable asking. If payroll isn’t signed by noon from now on, I have to consider that a performance problem in your current job, and we’ll need to consider reassigning that part of the task.”

    4. JMegan

      It sounds like the boss is a pretty reasonable person, and the problem is mostly with Joe, correct? I would suggest a couple of things:

      ~Put a recurring appointment in the boss’ calendar and Joe’s – half an hour at 10:00 am on the day the cheques need to be signed. That way both they both have the time planned and accounted for, and Joe can feel more confident to go and knock on the boss’ door for the signatures.

      ~Is there some sort of assertiveness-training course that you could send Joe on?

      ~Sit down and explain to Joe, very clearly, that getting the paycheques signed by the boss (by X time on Y date, every pay period) is part of his job. Ask him why he’s having trouble with it, what he thinks he could do to make sure it happens. Hopefully he’ll at least come up with the idea of putting the time in his calendar, and perhaps you could offer the training if you think it would help. Then follow Alison’s advice about setting expectations, making sure they’re met, and enforcing consequences if they’re not. Good luck!

    5. Tornader

      Would it be possible to get a stamp of the boss’s signature? One bookkeeper runs the checks and the other one stamps them. Dual controls and that sort of thing should be reconciled monthly anyway. But honestly he may just need to put on the big boy pants and just get it done or have it taken away from him.

      Tiffany In Houston makes a great point about doing them sooner and looking them up. Doing them the day of is just asking for trouble.

    6. Lily in NYC

      I think this is putting Joe in an unfair position – I’m not sure if you realize how difficult it can be for a non-managerial employee to nag the “big boss”. Not everyone is able to be as assertive as you expect. You are his supervisor; it is up to you to help him with this and telling him to hound the boss is not the answer. Why is there no recurring appointment on the boss’ calendar for the days the checks need to be signed?

      1. Observer

        The two things are not exclusive. When the boss tells you “Nag me”, then THAT IS WHAT YOU DO.

        Joe is putting the company at legal risk, because you have to give people their pay on time. There is some leeway as to what is considered “on time”, but if company policy is to have the checks every second Friday, then paying the next Monday is not “on time.”

        1. Lily in NYC

          I just think it’s bad management to put the onus on Joe . And it’s not as simple as it sounds – we have a division-head like this and it’s maddening. We have to nag him for everything, absolutely everything. The nagging doesn’t even work – he runs away or just says “later” or “don’t bother me now” and then disappears and never return. People have just given up chasing him and have started letting boss deal with the fallout himself. Amazingly, he starting to get a tiny bit better because he’s gotten in hot water a few times with his own boss. Joe’s boss needs to make himself more accessible on Payroll days and there should really be a standing meeting on the calendar instead of Joe having to try to find the guy.

          1. Beancounter in Texas

            I understand from you’re coming, regarding nagging the big boss. There isn’t formal hierarchy here. Joe sits outside of the boss’ office and is routinely assigned tasks directly by the boss. Plus, the boss has specifically asked to be nagged, by everyone. In fact, Joe is right in the middle of the office and sees the boss coming and going in front of his desk multiple times a day. The boss is just as likely to be found in the kitchen as he is in his office at any given moment, so Joe has prime opportunities to catch him as he walks by to say, “Hey, when can I have a moment?” Or catch him when he’s coming back from lunch before he jumps into a task.

            I have a conscientious objection to nagging someone, so when needing the boss’ time, in the morning I ask his agenda for the day, and then tell him what I need from him and by when. The ‘when’ is important so that he can make an informed decision whether to defer signing checks/reports/tax forms (as he abhors pay late fees/penalties and bank charges). I coached Joe on this method, since it works well for me and I don’t often have to nag the boss. In fact, I think the number of times my boss has deferred my requests in my four years of employment has been five times of the 200+ times I’ve asked for some face time.

            The boss isn’t avoiding Joe, isn’t making himself unavailable or even being passive-aggressively (much less outright) mean to Joe about being interrupted. The boss expects and accepts regular interruptions, so I think the onus is on Joe to get this task done. While a good boss would stop and ask or schedule time with each employee if they need him for anything, I think it is on the employee’s shoulders to do everything within their power to accomplish a task. But it’s my job to make sure the bookkeepers get their work done timely; not my boss’.

    7. Beancounter in Texas

      Good questions.

      We are paid on the last day of the payperiod, so on the 15th, we are paid for 1st-15th of the month. This is how it’s been done for years (probably decades) and honestly, it has not been an issue until Joe took over.

      Our office is a small family business of seven. The boss likes to run the show as much as he can, so there really isn’t much hierarchy (and it isn’t enforced). He doesn’t keep a schedule, so he doesn’t keep a calendar. I will suggest a regular paycheck signing meeting time, but I expect that the enforcement will have to come from Joe, given that our weekly Tuesday Morning Staff Meetings that our boss chairs hasn’t been held in over a year (and frankly, we’re relieved).

      A signature stamp has been suggested before, by many bookkeepers. The answer is no way, no how, never. The boss has a low risk tolerance with people accessing his money. We don’t even have online banking for the four banks with whom we have accounts, not even view-only access.

      Thank you for the specific words to say & the advice about setting up expectations, making sure they’re met & dealing consequences (including praise). I think that will get me on the path I want.

      1. Meg Murry

        Does Joe keep a calendar? Have him put in a recurring appointment for the 15th to send an email to boss that morning saying “today is the 15th and I’ll be in your office at 10 am to have the paychecks signed.” Or have Joe put a post-it on boss’s office door or computer monitor either the evening of the 14th or the morning of the 15th.

        Joe may not want to interrupt big boss and think his work isnt important enough to bother boss, but trust me – signing people’s pay checks IS the most important thing boss will do that day, if he values having employees.

      2. Not So NewReader

        If it is such a PITA for the boss, why not have Steve sign the checks all the time?

        OTH, why not do all the craziness the day before payday?

        If you are Joe’s direct boss, I think it might be time for you to intervene here.

        But you can dress it up about how it is to his advantage to hammer out a new system for getting payroll done. Remind him of how it is a big, stressful push each week. As he is hurriedly signing checks, it’s not easy for him to be reviewing the numbers for accuracy. Employees get upset if they paycheck is delayed, it could damage employee retention if the problem persists.
        I think you get the idea here, you might be able to add a couple other ideas on why it is in his own best interest to change this. I always say, streamline the recurring activities, it just makes life easier and it increases accuracy.

        1. Beancounter in Texas

          The boss wants to the sign paychecks and not have Steve do it unless it is an emergency (Steve was gone too when we were paid late) or to cover for the boss being out of town. So this is the boss’ rule.

          I explained above, but I’ll detail here again. We are paid on the last day of the pay period, so he has to wait until that day to run payroll. Granted, he should do it first thing in the morning after everyone has arrived – collect timesheets and get the checks ready – so that’s where I’m going to focus his attention.

          1. Meg Murry

            Joe doesn’t even have the timesheets yet that morning, and he needs to run all the calcs and print the checks, then boss has to proof and sign them? How much time does it take Joe to hunt everyone down for their timecard?
            This system is way atypical – everywhere I’ve ever worked there has been a lag of 1-2 weeks from when the work was completed to payday, so payroll could be processed. The only exception to this is one place where we were purely salaried and got the exact same check each month.
            If you can’t change the process to give Joe at least a day (any reason you can’t change the policy to pay nofthe 16th and 1st?), then I would suggest required having all employees be required to turn in timecards by a certain time (like 9 am) or risk not getting a check until a later day. Then also have Joe do the “its the 15th, see you at x:00” post it for the boss.

            But I feel for Joe – if I had to nag 7 people for their timecards, then hurry up and calculate their checks, then nag the boss to sign it, and I had to do it 2x a month, I’d be pretty grumpy about it too. I wonder if Joe has to nag the boss regularly about signing invoices orvendor checks too – some people just aren’t great at nagging, or just don’t want to deal with it every day. it wouldn’t be a good fit for me – after the first few times, I would probably start to think “if you don’t care if your employees get paychecks today, why should I?” Not the best attitude to have – but that’s my honest opinion.

  36. Lisa

    Making a Case for Going to a Conference

    Ok, I have been waiting years for an employer to let me go to this one conference. Unfortunately, what I though was a given with my new job getting acquired by a corporate company – turns out to be I must be a speaker to be eligible for them to pay for my airfare and hotel. A way to save money since speakers have the attendee fees waived. So when I questioned this, I was told to ‘make a case for going’.

    Anybody know how to do this? As a formal document to be sent to people up the chain that are not part of my office or anyone I report to? I want something beyond – I deserve to go and you promised when I got this job.

    1. TotesMaGoats

      Look through the program guide and see which sessions you’d want to attend and use that to build your case. Best practices to help with a workflow that your department has trouble with. Panel on problem your team is currently facing. Networking with leaders in your industry for particular program.

    2. Brett

      Document how much similar training would cost if done as formal training.

      e.g. the main conference I go to has multiple workshops, seminars, and talks. I add up the hours that I will be in these events, and then multiple that by the hourly cost of training from our training vendor.

      I also supply a list of some of the key events I plan to attend to give an indication of what kind of training I will get. (But I never do a complete list, since I want to have the flexibility to change sessions on the fly if I find myself in a bad session or one gets cancelled or I simply get pulled into a networking meeting with people.)

      For future requests… how hard is it to be a speaker? I’m in the middle of being on the conference board right now, and we are always desperate for speakers; so much so that this time around every board member is being required to present too. On the flip side, we do not even waive fees for plenary and keynote speakers.

      1. Lisa

        My industry tends to only want speakers from client-side big brands or CMO level from agencies. I’m not even a director so I won’t ever be chosen to speak over others.

        1. Brett

          And they actually get enough speakers that way? We needed 39 speakers covering 1440 minutes just to cover a small 2 day 4 track conference. Last major conference I went to had 80 tracks over 5 days, which would scale up to around 2000 speakers.

    3. Not So NewReader

      It’s a bad spot- you can’t be a speaker and you can’t go unless you are a speaker. Ugh.

      Can you bring back something that you could use to train people you work with?

      Think about why you want to go and what you expect to learn/see. I talked my way into getting a conference paid for by saying, I will be looking for resources and ideas. (I was specific about what I was thinking of- I mentioned specific problems that had us banging our heads against the wall.)

  37. Steve G

    Wow….totally PO’d here, I was recently laid off and the insurance at my new company doesn’t start until April…so I called the COBRA plan #, and the rate I can buy insurance at is $525.00!!!!! WTF former employer, I mean, it’s nice that I get some sort of severance, but how about letting me know beforehand what the insurance rate would be! It’s not a “benefit” if you literally can’t afford it. I’m really not in the mood to buy insurance in the new Obama exchange, just to have it for 3 months and then switch again…………….

    1. Case of the Mondays

      The laws may have changed but as far as I know, you have at least two months to sign up for COBRA and when you do, it is retroactive to the date you lost coverage. It is really the only time you can buy it only if you need it. If the law is 60 days then you may be SOL for that one month but if the law is 90 days you may be good and you only buy it retroactive if any care you got in that time exceeded the premium you would have paid.

      There are also companies that sell short term gap policies for a month at a time but many have weird exclusions so read them very very carefully.

    2. Case of the Mondays

      Also, if it turns out you have 60 days to elect, ask your former employer if they will cover you for one month as part of your severance so that you can then use the “only if you need it” for the other two months. They would have to actually keep you insured as an employee though, not just pay your COBRA. It can’t hurt to ask what they would do. Maybe they would agree to pay 3 months COBRA. Lots of places hate laying people off and try to make it as least painful as possible.

    3. Rebecca

      Oh, COBRA! When our company had massive downsizing and layoff’s, we all got the same email. Monthly COBRA rates for employee/spouse exceeded the amount of unemployment benefits I’d receive in one month. I felt terrible for the people who were left go. I don’t know anyone who could have afforded that.

    4. BRR

      There’s probably someplace where your employer lists their contribution. COBRA just gives the option of paying what it cost the company. It’s really a terrible benefit.

    5. Elizabeth West

      COBRA is awful. No one I know can afford it.

      On my unemployment, I was able to apply for a program at my GP that covered office visits for $10 each. That might not be an option if you’re already re-employed, but if you have to go to the doctor or get medication, they might be able to work something out.

    6. HR Manager

      Yep, COBRA is usually whole monthly premium plus 2% admin fee (102% of cost). No one really gets how expensive health insurance really is until those COBRA rates come through. I’m surprised they didn’t give you the rates when they gave your severance info though.

      By the way, opting in for COBRA is 60 days from your date of separation, so keep that deadline in mind if you are mulling other options. COBRA and state-exchange options are month to month, so at least you only have to buy it for as long as you need it. Since your window is only 3 months, at least you are looking at up to 1500+ for — not coverage for the full 18 months. Maybe you have a cheaper insurance on the exchange.

      On the plus side, a 3 month gap in health insurance coverage might not trigger a penalty on your income taxes. If you are healthy and don’t need a prescription filled, and have no dependents who will need insurance, you can chance it and leave the 3 month gap and just pick up when insurance is available in April. I was told by our benefits broker that a penalty might be about $90 for an individual. That’s a lot less than 1500+ for the 3 months of coverage that may/may not get used.

      1. Steve G

        Penalty? By who and for what? I remember some mumbo-jumbo about that in one of Obama’s speeches but didn’t know it is an actual real thing.

        Also, where is “the exchange.” I went to http://www.healthcare.gov, which seems like an insurance exchange, but the absolute cheapest plan was $358, so this can’t be THE exchange for AFFORDABLE insurance. If you know the name of the real website, that would be helpful.

        Thanks

        1. Case of the Mondays

          I think that is it. That is actually a very reasonable price (believe it or not) for an insurance policy in this country. I agree that is a very sad state of affairs. Most of us don’t know the true cost of insurance because our employers subsidize it so heavily. Pre-exchange my parents were paying over $1000 each for their policies. You may qualify for subsidies too that would bring that rate down further. You could still contact an insurance broker and get quotes for both private policies and exchange policies.

          1. Steve G

            Wow….it is ridiculous. I make 75K per year and once you take into the account that you usually only get paid 2X month (i.e. most months you don’t have that 3rd paycheck)….with state, federal, NYC taxes + 401K….I “only” have $3600 most months take home to play with. I know, it’s alot, but out of that comes about $1600 for house expenses, $200 parking, $400 for car payments + insurance + IDK how much for gas + other smaller bills like internet, and with the cost of food, etc. here, I definitely don’t have $500 to pay for insurance. OK, I get I’m in a pretty good financial position, I could do $300, but that’s about it.

            It is really depressing that this is the state of affairs. I lived in Czech Rep for 3 years and it was so much easier and more in line with the cost of living at the time there…it didn’t feel like a huge expense when I had to pay it.

            Anyways, thanks for your comments Case of Mondays !

        2. asteramella

          If you live in a state that set up its own insurance exchange, you maybe have other options. Google “[your state] + insurance exchange.” The IRS assesses a penalty to your taxes if you are uninsured for over 3 months of the tax year. It’s about $100 per month or a certain % of your income for the 2014 tax year and the penalty amount will triple next year. Google “ACA individual mandate” to find out more. You should be fine as long as your uninsured period doesn’t exceed 3 months.

        3. Anx

          I’m in my late 20s. That doesn’t seem so unusual.

          Before the ACA that’s what my individual coverage would have been had I purchased a comprehensive plan. I’m female, though, and that would have included the 150/mo maternity rider. I’ve been self-insured since college.

    7. Pooski

      I was in this same situation a couple of months ago, and would HIGHLY recommend buying insurance through the marketplace, if our state has one.

      It really was not that painful, and cost me 1/6th of what my COBRA would have been (almost $800!).

      It was totally worth it to me to know that I was covered in case anything happened, and to not have to worry about one more thing while I was searching. Especially because my new employer had a waiting period for benefits to come into play, so I knew I was covered during that period as well.

    8. ThursdaysGeek

      I don’t think COBRA was much less expensive 20 years ago when I was offered it. I remember being staggered at the cost. But, since it had that retroactive clause, I figured I’d pay the money if I needed it. I didn’t need it and all was good.

    9. Jazzy Red

      I have been laid off/unemployed at least half-a-dozen times in my life, and have gone without insurance every time. I consider keeping a roof over my head priority #1, food on the table priority #2, utilities #3. Insurance never even made the list, since the first 3 priorities took almost all the money.

      You’re right – cobra is not really a benefit.

      1. Case of the Mondays

        Pre – ACA, COBRA was a benefit for the “uninsurable.” I have a pre-existing condition so I couldn’t just go buy a plan in the private market. They were not required to insure me and they wouldn’t. I had to have group coverage through an employer or a spouse’s employer. COBRA allowed me the option to pay (at an exorbitant rate) to keep that coverage. While I agree it is no benefit if you can’t afford it, the “benefit” was having the ability to buy coverage you couldn’t previously buy.

    10. BuildMeUp

      Try googling “[your state] temporary health insurance.” Some health insurance providers offer plans for a short period of time (usually 1-6 months), and when I did it last year (through Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois), it wasn’t very expensive!

  38. Hair Issues

    Urgent question that can’t wait for e-mail:
    I applied for Job A at Dept A a month ago, and now they just called for an interview, which won’t be until the end of the month. In the meantime, I saw another job opening, which also happens to be at Dept A. They are pretty much the same sort of job, I think in slightly different areas of the same department. The due date for Job B is next week, before the interview. I can’t exactly see what the outcome of A is going to be before deciding whether or not to apply for B.

    Does that….look funny if I try to apply for both jobs? Should I not? Should I just apply for B anyway in case? (I’m not super picky right now.)

    In other news, I put semi-permanent hair color of an unusual shade into my hair and ah…yeah, sure, NOW I get a job interview. I somehow knew that if I didn’t do it I wouldn’t get one and I would if I did…I don’t think it’ll wash out entirely in time either. There are streaks remaining. I’m kind of inclined to say “screw it, let ’em take me as I am” even though that’s probably not great either….but I don’t know if I care super much about getting this one or not yet to want to try to scour my head for weeks, especially since I like the shade.

    1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

      On the hair issue, can’t you just dye over it a few days before the interview with a more natural color? Sure, there still might be some variations in shade, but at least it won’t be pink/green/whatever. That’s what I would do.

      As for the application question, who is your contact at Dept. A? Would it be possible to call and ask about being considered for Job B as well? I do think it would look a little odd to just go through the online process for Job B when you already have an interviewed scheduled for Job A, especially if it’s not a huge department or if both applications are being filtered through the same person/committee/whatever. I don’t think it’s weird overall to apply to two jobs at the same department, as long as your qualifications are right for both, but I do think it’d be a little weird to do it without some sort of heads up to HR or whoever is managing the interview process.

      1. Sunflower

        Second this suggestion on calling the contact. Hiring is so vastly different across companies that you don’t even know if whoever read your app for Job A is reading it for Job B. So yeah i would just call and ask

        1. Hair Issues

          I have no direct contact there, I got called by the “HR Generalist.” Everything goes through an overall HR department first.

          1. JMegan

            In that case, I would just call the HRG and ask what’s the best way to proceed. She’ll be able to tell you pretty quickly if you should submit a second application, talk to the hiring manager, or whathaveyou.

            I also agree with those who suggest a semi-permanent colour over your current hair colour(s). It should be enough to tone it down a bit for you. Good luck!

      2. periwinkle

        And second the suggestion for re-coloring your hair. Use a semi-permanent color such as Clairol Natural Instincts – it will wash out gradually over a few weeks, but adds enough initial color to (hopefully) cover up the streaks.

        Hey, it could be worse. I was unemployed for a while and had become annoyed with dealing with my hair, so I got out the clippers with the 1″ blade. The next day, *ring*, “can you come in for an interview next Monday?” I got the job anyway. I also discovered, as it grew out, that my hair looked really cute in short layers. A win all around!

    2. GOG11

      I’m not sure about Job A/Job B thing, but regarding the hair…depending on where the high lights are and the length of your hair, could you start experimenting with styles that might hide them all or reduce the number of exposed areas? Depending on the location of color and the length of your hair, you could try one of those doughnut bun things (it looks like a hair-colored scouring pad in the shape of a doughnut). When I use one of those, only the first six inches of my hair is prominently displayed (whereas a twist bun shows all of my hair).

      I’ve never dyed my hair, though, and I’m not familiar with color placement so maybe this isn’t useful.

    3. fposte

      You can totally apply for Job B. Applying for Job A isn’t saying “I love you and nobody else”; you’re not cheating on it by applying elsewhere. I wouldn’t necessarily bring up to one that I was applying to the other, but if it comes up it’s okay to talk about, and I’d frame it as enthusiasm for the business/department.

    4. Vanishing Girl

      My word of wisdom for dyeing:

      If you decide to dye over your hair, be sure it is not with a complementary color (across the color wheel from your current color). choose a color that works with whatever tone is currently in your hair. For example, I had blue hair once. In order to cover it up and have my hair still look good, I used a darker reddish color with tones of blue (as opposed to orange) and it looked great.

      side note: I interviewed for my current (corporate library) job with a very unusual color of hair. I liked it, so I went in there and owned that color and dressed to complement it in pretty normal business attire. It worked out for me that time, but I should say that this corporation is not very conservative.

    5. Meg Murry

      Regarding the hair color: I’ve heard warnings not to use coconut oil on dyed hair as it could strip the color – so maybe a coconut oil hair mask might help pull out some of the color faster? I’d shampoo like crazy, try a coconut oil treatment, and then cover with a semipermanent more natural color as others have recommended.

      All that of course, if you really really want this job and would always doubt if th color streak is what did you in. If you are more “hmm, whatever happens happens” and you plan to do more colored streaks in the future, I agree that presenting yourself as you are with the colored streaks (and everything else about your attire being 100% conservative/interview appropriate) might be a good feeler as to company culture.

    6. Aam Admi

      I was in this exact same situation last month with my employer – applied for Job A at Dept A and had an interview .Dept B posted an identical position with the posting closing the day before my interview for Job A. I went ahead and applied to Job B. Both dept mangers report to the same director and the staff sit next to each other in the same office. The director and Manager of Dept A interviewed me for Job A. At the end of the interview, when they asked if I had any questions, I mentioned as an FYI that I had also applied for the Dept B posting. I got offered Job A and am now working alongside the person who got hired to do Job B.

  39. De Minimis

    Haven’t checked in here much lately. My wife has an interview today for a part-time job, but we’re already probably leaning toward not doing it. The job posting she applied to at her old employer has been taken down, and we figure they may contact her about an interview any day now–just really hard for her to turn down a senior management position with an employer that really likes her, you know? Our main reservations would be having to make another move cross country only a few months after moving here, and the question of if I could find a job there….

    As far as my job goes, a better position [higher grade with promotional potential] has come up at another agency that is in the same general area as this one, I will apply but not sure if it will amount to anything. It’s a totally different agency and the job is more supervisory and involves a different type of accounting than what I’ve been doing. But it is in another small town similar to where I’m at now and has the same preference requirements as my current agency, so it may be hard to fill so I may have a shot. I’m qualified for it at least on paper. Feeling pretty dissatisfied at my current job. It would be fine if I were willing to remain here doing the same stuff for the next 20 years [and be paid about the same forever] but I’m not.

      1. De Minimis

        Wife’s interview went okay, but I think she came to the conclusion that the position would probably not be a fit.
        At least it’s one less factor into our decision making as far as what to do.

          1. De Minimis

            Her former employer also called today. Interview next week, with the people who asked her to apply.

  40. Mimmy

    So the question the other day about the “general studies” degree got me thinking a bit. I earned an MSW in 2007, though my post-Masters plans never really worked out. Currently, I’m pursuing a graduate certificate in one of those vague “studies” fields. It is a popular program that also offers a full Masters degree and is in a fairly specific area (disabilities), but still not something that prepares you for a specific career. I figured this certificate would be a good supplement to my Masters and would be beneficial to my current volunteer work, but I’m a little worried that the length of time between completing the MSW and this graduate certificate is going to be too long (at my current pace, I expect to complete the certificate this coming Fall or early next year). I’m starting to wonder if I’m just grasping at straws at this point. Nothing has happened in the pace that I’d hoped. I’m not looking for sympathy–I just need to get out of my own way.

    TL;DR – Would it look bad on my resume to have the MSW, then this seemingly-random graduate certificate nearly 10 years later? lol.

    1. AnonToday

      It won’t look bad to have a graduate certificate years after your MSW – people will just assume that you went back to school for something that interested you. A disability studies certificate will not get you a job, unless you’re already working in something related, but it sounds like you don’t expect it to.

    2. HR Manager

      Are you getting the certificate because you know it’s needed for that next step (i.e., are you seeing this requested via interviews or job postings)? If not, I don’t think certificates are that different than graduate degrees – except cost wise and time commitment wise. While a certificate is lighter in commitment than a grad degree, I think any of these programs should be pursued only if 1) there is genuine interest in the field and you would like to learn more or become a deep expert int this topic, regardless of career pursuits, 2) a job in your field, requires this certification or degree. Otherwise, I don’t think pursuing a degree or a certificate to pad a resume is recommended.

      1. Mimmy

        I’d say my reasons for pursuing the certificate are in line with the first of the two reasons you suggest for pursuing a program. In addition to being passionately interested in the field, I wanted to try to integrate the perspectives of the field into my work with a council that I was appointed to last year. Unfortunately, the council has had issues that has had an effect on moving forward with our goals. We’re working on making some changes in the leadership, so hopefully that’ll get us back on track this year.

    3. puddin

      I would interpret the MSW with the certification later as a positive thing. Tells me you are a life-long learner and open to the idea of learning more.

  41. Ali

    I have an interview next Friday!

    The job is at a nonprofit, which is exciting because I have considered that realm before. It’s a business/admin role, so it’s a bit outside what I’m doing now. However, when I saw the job posted on the organization’s Facebook page, I wanted to go for it because it required skills I already had: dealing with the public, computer work and working some odd hours. Nights and weekends are required when there are events, but otherwise, it’s a full-time day job. I figured I could deal with some weekends/evenings, especially since I wouldn’t be working major holidays like I am now.

    A formal cover letter wasn’t required, so I just sent my resume and explained some transferable skills/experiences in the e-mail. I must’ve said something right because I got picked for an interview two days after I sent my resume!

    I really hope this is the job that will allow me to get a fresh start. I have a performance meeting again at my present job next week, so if it doesn’t go perfect, I know I’ll have the interview to look forward to.

    Keep your fingers crossed!

  42. HAnon

    Any tips for dealing with sexism at work? I work in the building/construction industry (in an office for a building supply products manufacturer), and I overhear a lot of comments (mostly from men) that are sexist towards women. They usually aren’t directed at me specifically, but it just gets on my last nerve. I mean, come on. It’s 2015, people! And the worse part is, the comments aren’t just coming from older men who are “old school” — they’re coming from men MY age (that is, late 20’s – 30’s). I’ve had men make comments to me about how I look like I’m “the kind of woman who would have a maid”, I’ve had a man condescendingly pat me on the head (physically) for asking him to explain his notes on a document I was laying out (that really got under my skin and I was so shocked I didn’t react in time to respond), I overhear the sales guys in the department sitting behind me (cursed open floor plan) talk about how a guy who can cook “is going to make a great wife one day” and gripe about women. Some of the comments are more offensive than others, but I am just sick of it. What’s a good way to deal with this kind of thing without being labeled the “office bitch” because I don’t want to put up with it?

    1. Myrin

      I like the Captain Awkward-esque answer of a simple “Wow!” in repsonse to such antics. I’m not always great at elaborate confrontation so I’ve tried this and it worked like a charm every single time. This probably only works when something is directed at you and not so much with the guy sitting behind you whom you just overhear, but I’d absolutely give it a try!

      (Also, ugh, I’m so sorry you’re in such an environment, it sounds very sucky!)

    2. Sarah Nicole

      Ugh, I hate to say this, but it honestly sounds like the type of place I would leave. If it’s that deeply rooted, I don’t know if there is a way to get that to stop without incurring a negative label.

      BUT, I know that’s not super helpful, so here’s my question: Are there other women working there? Any in executive or managerial roles? How does your boss feel about these comments? Can you give us a little background on the environment from a management perspective?

      1. HAnon

        My boss is a woman, and while I would classify her generally as a strong, assertive woman, she tends to pick her battles and combatting sexism in the office is not one of them. I think she does get annoyed, but to my knowledge she’s never done anything proactive to combat those kinds of attitudes and I’ve never heard her make a remark to shut down a conversation like that. I don’t want to say anything too specific, but I’ve heard my boss specifically request tools or implements that are “pink” because she wanted them to be girly, and it made me just cringe inside.

        There are a good number of women who work in the office with me. I think that most of the women just brush off the comments or kind of take a “boys will be boys” attitude.

        For the record, I’m trying to stay for another year so that I can have two consecutive years at a company under my belt. The other companies I’ve worked for had WORSE problems with sexism and sexual harassment (like, blatant, unchecked comments directed to me and female coworkers about our bodies and etc.) and that’s why I left last company, but I feel like if I say in an interview, “I only stayed at these companies for a year each due to sexism” that’s going to send up a red flag to employers, unfortunately.

          1. Elizabeth West

            “Boys will be boys” is bullsh1t. Upper management all men explains a lot. This will never change. If your boss won’t (can’t) do anything about it, I’m not sure what to advise other than looking for a better place to work.

            1. Sarah Nicole

              I agree with Elizabeth. It just depends on whether you think there is room for change. Obviously if mid-level female managers aren’t doing much to combat the issue, it is unlikely to get much better. I think it is great that you want to stick around and keep a longer job on your resume, but perhaps you can make one last jump and really make this one count! I work for a smallish (65 employees) IT consulting company where I’m obviously mostly around men. I work in marketing and one coworker on my team is female. I did an interview with her near the end of the hiring process and asked her specific questions about being a female in this company. I stated I was interested in opportunities and culture for women here. After going through 4 interviews and asking these questions of her and another male exec, I felt comfortable that I would be entering a professional environment, and I have been totally correct.

              I guess I’m just saying that when you do decide to leave this crazy environment, do some real diligence about your next place of work. Perhaps you can start looking now and you may not find the right fit for a year anyway. It took me a while to find a place where I could do the job I wanted, only 20 miles away, good work/life balance, and with a culture I could respect. Check out the landscape and get ready to start doing some interviews. You don’t have to take a new job until you find exactly what you want. Since it sounds like there’s no serious concerns about your safety in this particular environment, you’ve got some time. I wish you the best of luck!

            2. The Cosmic Avenger

              Besides, I’m assuming that these workers are not literally children, so they should be acting like men and not boys. Real men can cook, clean, etc. and are capable of seeing women as equals.

    3. Lily in NYC

      There was recently a thread here about this very issue. If I recall correctly, the general take-away was “if you are in a male-heavy industry where this behavior is ingrained and common, it is up to you to adapt or leave”. I know it sucks. I could handle the stupid comments, but if someone patted me on the head like that there would be hell to pay.

    4. brightstar

      Have you tried addressing it in the moment? I used to work with all men and had to learn to be much more assertive and to calmly address things in the moment. My replacement called me after her second day, crying and that was the advice I gave her.

      For instance, I’d have to say things like “Don’t call me a whore.” “You are going to respect my boundaries.” “What you’re saying is sexist.” “Just because you don’t understand women doesn’t make them crazy.”

      I tried several things, sometimes the conversation was just something I’d overheard, but in general that worked the best. I also found just not listening helped a lot, until they banned headphones.

      1. Not So NewReader

        There’s a lot to be said for planning your responses, OP.
        Don’t forget responses such as “wow.” or “Really.” or “What?”. Also you can say “Oh- don’t go there.” or “Was that necessary?” I vary it depending on the setting, as some of those responses feel tamer than others.

        Sadly, it is a train your brain thing. I started training my brain each night at home- I would think of one or two of the worst things I had heard during the day and figured out what my response would be if I heard it again. It takes time and it takes consistency on your part. I ended up picking my battles simply because I did not have enough energy to consistently address everything I heard.

    5. HR Manager

      That’s clearly a case of sexual harassment and hostile work environment. Report them to HR, your manager, your legal team, the EEO or all of the above. If your manager does nothing, go above him/her and around him/her. A manager not responding to a claim of sexual harassment and hostile work environment puts him/her personally liable for culpability and damages against the employee, if the claim is proven true after an investigation.

    6. Observer

      I haven’t read the responses, so I may be overlapping, but here are my thoughts.

      The stuff you overhear is out of your hands unless you have good reason to believe that you were intended to overhear or it’s sooo over the top that it could rise to the level of “severe and pervasive”.

      If anyone ever touches you tell to stop that NOW. If they apologize, you leave it the first time. The second time, you go straight to management – and make it clear that this is harassment territory, if no one wants to deal with this. If the toucher gives you an attitude when you tell him to quit it, then same applies.

      Comments are a bit trickier. I wouldn’t react to all of them. But I think you can react to more extreme ones with comments like “You do realize that this is really sexist” or even Carolyn Hax’s famous “Wow”. If these are comments about YOU – your looks or whatever else, then you address it more directly. And, if it’s ongoing, you go to management as well.

    7. Chriama

      Unfortunately, your only 2 options are adapt or leave. It’s too ingrained in the culture for anything else. If you choose to adapt, here are some suggestions:

      1) guy patting you on the head — do it back to him. If you can think of a silly remark like “I didn’t realize today is pat a coworker’s head day”, it becomes a semi-humorous interact that still emphasizes that you’re equals.

      2) comments made about you — shut it down politely but firmly. It would be good to have some pre-planned responses like “wow”, “do you talk to your mother that way” or “that’s not appropriate” that you practice saying (like, literally role play with a friend). Asking them to elaborate is also a good way to call out the stupidity of some remarks (“the kind of woman who would have a maid” — I literally don’t get what that sentence means, and if I didn’t have the additional context of your letter I’m not sure I would even call it sexist. Women have maids and men have valets or butlers, right? Or have I been reading too much Agatha Christie lately?).

      3) comments made about women in general — this depends on the offensiveness rating of the remark and whether you were part of the conversation or happened to overhear it. I’d err on the side of “let it go” for stuff like the “this man is going to make a good wife one day” unless you’re quick-witted enough to come up with something like “I know I’d marry him if he made me lasagna like this every week”.

      Overall, these people aren’t going to change their beliefs because of you. There isn’t enough emotional pull in coworker relationships for that to happen. But if you can develop otherwise good relationships with them and assert yourself politely but firmly (humor helps) I think you could get to a place where you respect each other enough to not bring up hot-button topics to each other.

      1. AnotherFed

        Seconding this. You cannot reasonably expect their attitudes to change or them to stop altogether, but you can expect to essentially achieve a separate peace. Your success will also depend on how good you are at your job – respect for your work does translate to respect for you as a person. Its also worth noting that in some workplace cultures, giving someone crap (within reason) is just a sign that they are part of the team.

        Humor is always a great way to deflect, and turning unwanted physical contact into mockery directed at the initiator can put a stop to it if you aren’t comfortable just telling people not to touch you, period. For example, “I see that your social circle consists of nothing but dogs – people don’t get head pats. Don’t make me bring a shock collar to train you.” or “HAnon is not a teddy bear. No touch!”

        For truly NSFW comments, either shut it down as gross, or, if you feel confident enough, shut it down with mockery again – “Seriously? Next thing I know I’m gong to walk in on you and your my little brony kink. Stop before you break my brain!”

        Depending on workplace culture, how athletic you are, and how much presence you have, you can also go with variations of touch me again and you won’t get those fingers back, don’t make me smack you, etch, but that’s iffy in places where workplace violence is treated more seriously… unlikely in a place with rampant sexism, but still possible.

        1. catsAreCool

          For not being touched, I’ve found that backing away quickly tends to get the message across.

  43. GOG11

    I manage two student workers who are decently busy some shifts but who have substantial downtime during others. On occasion, I try to give projects that are more related to their intended career path than the work they normally do here and which aren’t necessarily for the department.

    I was thinking of assigning something related to AAM and I remember someone talking about doing so with her class at some point, but I can’t find it (the words “class” and/or “project” are used in a LOT of posts). Does anyone remember where this was? I think it was within the last 6 months, but I have been known to use the “Surprise Me!” feature a lot so I’m not 100% sure on that.

    Also, if anyone has new ideas or thoughts on this, feel free to share!

    1. just laura

      What is their career path?

      I would have loved an “assignment” to create a good resume and cover letter for myself– maybe in response to an actual job ad that I could apply to when I graduated.

      1. GOG11

        One is studying to be an accountant. She worked full time through high school and is a total rock star. She has a good resume and I’ve worked with her on various aspects of cover letters so far, so I think she’s set in that respect (though maybe more practice wouldn’t hurt?)

        The other wants to go into counseling/psychology. She has a resume put together, as well, and (for both) when I do mid and end of year reviews, I talk with them about their resume and give them examples of things they could add to them. I try to do this at other times throughout the year as it makes sense, too.

        I’ve found that the culture in academia is very different in some ways than other work places I’ve been in and AAM has helped me further establish what’s normal and what’s not (in terms of when to carry things over into future jobs). Usually, this is the first office job for my students, so I try to point these things out as I go. I don’t work in the same location so I’m sure there’s weirdness going on that I can’t address.

        In addition to that, the management and workplace communication stuff is stellar. So maybe something involving that?

    2. hereyago

      Was this it? Search: teaching high school students about labor issues

      I didn’t put the link because it would take a while to get through the filter.

      1. GOG11

        The one I had in mind/knew of Alison provided a link to. I didn’t even know this one existed. Thank you for directing me to it! One of my students is studying criminal justice, as well, and I think she’d be really interested in the 10 Myths article.

  44. Anon College AA

    I just found out with certainty that my one year temporary contract that is up in early February will NOT be renewed. Its not due to my work (I’ve been told by my boss and my boss’s boss and everyone I work with that they really want to keep me and have fought for it) but because of internal politics involving the Administrative Assistant’s union and because they want to re-org the department and positions instead of just patching it with my position instead.

    I knew this was a risk I was taking when I took a 1 year temp contract, but I was told over and over that they were going to do everything in their power to keep me. Unfortunately, their power isn’t enough. They are trying to create a position for me in the re-org, but that won’t be hiring for several months, and I can’t wait until then to get a job – and if I do find other work, I can’t burn that bridge by then leaving immediately again.

    But on a positive note, I got a call out of the blue from someone I worked with on a project more than 6 years ago (he was a supplier to my company at the time) that found an old resume of mine on Monster and wondered if I was interested in interviewing for an open position at his very small company in my old industry. I’m not super enthused about going back to that industry – but I hope I can make myself build up some enthusiasm this weekend, since I really need the job. And maybe it will be a great fit since its a tiny company where I might be able to define my role as I want it – I’m definitely going in with an open mind.

    TLDR: boo office politics when it comes to people’s jobs, yay networks of people you forgot you even knew trying to get you jobs

    1. Lily in NYC

      What a bummer. If you think that they really will be able to hire you full-time, how about temping elsewhere until then? That way you wouldn’t have to quit a new job.

      1. Anon College AA

        Yes, I have considered temping, and already have my application in and some feelers out for potential temp positions. But I don’t want to hold up my whole life on the possibility of a new job coming through – because the way they’ve handled this so far and the fact that everything is so bogged down in politics and academia bureaucracy and negotiating with the union, and the fact that once I leave I won’t be an internal candidate anymore.
        Since I can’t get my #1 choice (keep my current job as is) or my #2 (keep a similar position at the same place), I now have to figure out where to go next, and how to keep paying the mortgage while I do it.

    2. Jennifer

      I’m sorry to hear that :( I hope the new job could work out though–so there’s that, at least?

    1. Ibex

      Sorry for the vague question. I usually ask the timeline I should expect for the interview process, whether travel costs are covered, and a couple of general questions about the job. Is there anything else I should ask?

      1. GOG11

        I’m not sure if they’re appropriate at this level/stage of the interview process, but Alison’s “10 Best Interview Questions to Ask” is great. I couldn’t manage to find it on here, but Googling the title and “Ask a Manager” pulls it up. It’s over at US News.

        1. Lisa

          This is all questions that you would ask a hiring manager, not HR who is doing the initial phone screen. They can’t answer any specifics about the job usually.

      2. Dawn

        Who will be doing the interview and how long do they expect the interview to take. Useful to know if you’re going into a rigorously scheduled interview with 4 different people, each person taking 30 min each, or if you’re going into a 4 hour long interview with two people who will both be your boss, or whatever.

    2. puddin

      Am going through this now my list of questions is:
      1. Why is this position vacant?
      2. Is there a bonus structure at the company and is this position eligible for it?
      3. What other departments would I be partnering with?
      4. What is the name of the Hiring Manager?
      5. How many people currently have this position?
      6. How many people report to this position?
      7. What career level/career band/pay grade is this?
      8. What career development options are available at your company for someone in this position?
      9. How soon are you looking to have the position filled?

      I do not ask all of these in every interview and I do not ask anything about pay or bonus (2&7) unless they bring it up first. But it is the list I keep at the ready.

  45. Shell

    Got a new job and handed in my notice this week. Current bosses were surprised but super supportive; after the surprise wore off they were very excited for me and offered many congratulations, great references for the future, etc. There were talks of organizing a lunch for me.

    I’m very happy, but also kinda sad. We worked out a transition plan and I promised to document my work thoroughly (there are some software things that only I know and I don’t know if they can find a replacement for me in three weeks), but these were the best, most easy-going people I’ve worked with. I’ll miss this place.

    I know this kind of feeling is common though, so I’m trying to look upwards and onwards.

      1. Masters Degree Searcher

        Congrats! I feel exactly the same way, as a contractor—I gave notice 3 days ago, and I love my colleagues. The new place offered $14k more in pay and transportation cost is far lower. It involves a high-profile agency with key documents and I’m nervous (imposter syndrome, anyone?) but. Yeah. Totally understand.

  46. Newhouse

    I’m in a bit of an unusual situation right now and was wondering if maybe someone on here had any ideas on how to deal with it.

    I will be sent on a five day conference trip together with a few colleagues. I know the hotel we’ll be staying in is the one other coworkers stayed at previously, so I know that I’ll be rooming together with at least one of the other coworkers that will be going with me, if not more.

    The problem is – I make weird noises during sleep. There’s really no other way of putting it. It’s not snoring or talking or gritting my teeth or any of the other things you might have heard of, it’s kind of a… growly-moany thing? I have absolutely no control over this and wouldn’t even know I did this at all if my family hadn’t told me about it growing up (according to them, I already did this when I was a small baby). I once had someone record it and it’s a kind of noise I sometimes find myself wanting to make when I need to wind down and relax, so I know what it sounds like even though I never realise it happens when I’m asleep.

    Every single person I’ve ever shared a room with (or even just a flat or some vicinity) has complained about it. It must really be pretty unbearable to sleep near me and I’ve never met anyone who could do it (at least not without problems) – it’s not the kind of sound you can just tune out.

    So I’d like to ask the coworker who’s in charge of organising the trip for a single room. But I’m not really sure how to do that. I fear the others will think I just want to get out of sharing or get special treatment. I also don’t know how much/what exactly to say – I find the whole thing pretty embarrassing and also don’t think it’s generally my coworkers’ business (although I will disclose it if I absolutely have to). But I would really like to clear that up before anything is set in stone because I’ve experienced three people (in a social setting, though, not a professional one) preferring to sleep in a tiny bed over being in the same room as me and that was unpleasant for them because they didn’t get a lot of sleep and absolutely mortifying for me, so not something I’d like to repeat.

    1. soitgoes

      Could you say that you snore really loudly, that it’s been a problem on past business trips, and you’d like to avoid repeats if possible?

      1. AnonToday

        This. No one has to know the specifics of the noise. Just say that it’s bad enough that your room mates and any others you have shared a room with have not been able to sleep near you, and you would hate for any coworkers to be sleep deprived.

        1. Newhouse

          I really don’t know why I didn’t think of this, it is so obvious – thanks so much, soitgoes and AnonToday! Now I only hope they don’t think I’m just trying to get out of sharing. *fingers crossed*

      1. Newhouse

        Yes, I’d be willing to do that. I do have the money so that wouldn’t be a problem, and I’d really vastly prefer that to depriving others of their sleep and embarrassing myself in the process.

        1. fposte

          Then I think that makes it a supremely reasonable request. And I’m with Treena Kravm in the approach to take if you still have to share; matter of fact and straightforward and accommodating.

    2. Treena Kravm

      I would ask as suggested above, and pay the difference if possible. If that doesn’t work and you must share, I would just be upfront with your roommates, be light-hearted about it and bring earplugs and tell them they’re welcome to use them if they need them.

    3. HR Manager

      If others have complained about it before, why not bring it up with HR or your manager, that since this has been a re-occurring complaint from employees in the past, might it be possible you get your own room? If it’s an issue they know about, I don’t think this will be taken as an unwarranted privilege being asked for, but saving yourself and the other employee from embarrassment and awkwardness.

      1. Newhouse

        Ah, I must have worded that strangely – with “every single person I’ve ever shared a room with” I meant people in my personal life, be it sleepovers when I was a child, friends on whose couch I crashed, or relatives I stayed with for family events. I’ve never been on a trip with my coworkers before, so there are no other employees who know about this issue.

        1. Marcy

          If it makes you feel better, you are not alone. I have been known to tap my husband on the shoulder repeatedly in the middle of the night until he responds and then I ask totally bizarre questions like “Do you have any more red circles?”. I also laugh in my sleep but it comes out more as a groan or growl. I flap my arms around and I have elbowed my husband in the face. I also move my legs around like I am running. Luckily my work always gets us our own rooms for conferences but if they didn’t, I would pay for my own for this very reason.

  47. Plaintiff's Lawyer

    I’m looking for guidance on how to handle situations where I get calls from potential minority clients (I am white) where they think there is discrimination and unfortunately there is not yet enough legal evidence for me to take their case. I usually explain how high the standards are and that they should take a “watch, wait, document” approach and call if the situation escalates but I can’t help but feel awful that I’m telling them “sorry, you have to suck it up” when clearly what is happening, even if not provably illegal, is wrong. I fear I just come across as another person that doesn’t understand or just covered in white privilege.

    I’ll give you a usual example. Client calls. Her coworker is really short with her, dismisses her ideas, gets mad at her over every little error. Treats her differently. He has no control over her though so he hasn’t taken any adverse employment action. He also hasn’t said anything race based or done anything blatant enough for her to prove that he is treating her differently due to her race. His defense if called on by HR will be “I just don’t like her, it has nothing to do with her race.” Nothing illegal there. Yet she knows, the real reason he just doesn’t like her and gets annoyed at her ideas is because he has a subconscious problem with black people.

    I can refer her to HR, or her state human rights commission (that likely won’t touch it) but I won’t take it because there is no money it and nothing provably illegal. She feels like no one cares that someone is being racist to her in the workplace and that is illegal. I’m left saying, yeah, its illegal but we can’t help you.

    My question is – how can I convey, as a white person, that I take her concerns seriously and that I empathize and that I’m giving her the best legal advice I can, not just blowing her off because she is black or suggesting that the racism is in her head. I try to make clear “you are most likely right but it would be very difficult to prove.”

    1. fposte

      Oh, that’s a really interesting thing. I’m not sure your being a minority would change the question as much as you think, even though it feels like it might; I think it’s about how people want to be listened to and validated, and about you finding ways to make them feel like that’s happened even if their case doesn’t currently meet the standard for action. The other thing is that it’s going to be hard to leave people happy when you’re basically telling them they can’t get help, and I don’t think you can really change that. That’s going to be hard on you, too.

      It also sounds like you don’t get a lot of guidance on these conversations, and I think there could be some; maybe develop a structure to follow. (hildi, where are you? This is totally your wheelhouse here.) Maybe start with sympathy and listening, move on to an outline of what a successful case looks like and what prep for one generally entails, so it’s not just you saying something about their particular case but giving them information about what success looks like. And then maybe something like “Right now, what you’re describing isn’t at the successful case level, and I’m sorry because it sounds bad; it might be if other things or documenting happen, and we want to hear from you again if so.”

      But that may be pretty much what you’re already doing, so if so I go back to the wearing aspect of a job where people are going to come for help and not get it; it’s just hard on both sides.

      1. hildi

        First a few questions that popped into my mind that might affect what else I’d suggest. So…

        Plaintiff’s Lawyer,
        1). Has she ever given you any indication that she feels like you aren’t working hard enough on her behalf soley because she’s black and you’re white? If she already has the notion and has made it known to you, then showing empathy and having her believe it I think become a bit trickier. Not impossible though.

        2). Are you allowed to describe some details (without giving away identifying information) of other similar cases? To me, this is essentially like telling her a story and stories are very powerful ways to communicate, particularly on an emotionally charged topic like this one. My thought here is that you could compare the details of her case to ones that have either been successful or not successful, which would help her draw her own conclusions about the likelihood of her own success. Sometimes that’s easier to swallow than someone simply telling me with facts that this is why or why not something will happen.

        I have some more thoughts but will wait to hear back from you.

        1. Plaintiff's Lawyer

          As to number one, in most circumstances, no, I haven’t had the indication the person at issue thought I was treating them differently. What prompted this question was a person who made it more explicit she thought that. This was just a phone consult though. I can’t give you too many details. It was not a work situation but a situation where she would still have rights. She was being treated particularly poorly but nothing was blatantly racial. She had already gone through an internal complaint process and I was trying to explain why their conclusion was legally correct and she wasn’t likely to get a different result by hiring a lawyer. Part of that is because “it might not be racism” and when there is doubt, it has to be proved by a preponderance of the evidence (51%) before they can take action. She felt like no one really cared and didn’t do a real investigation and that was because even if what she said was 100% true, it wasn’t enough to be actionable. So her response to my advice about observing/documenting was “but I’m afraid to go there now because I know he (person in power) has animosity towards me.” Sadly, at this time the only 100% remedy to that is “then you leave the situation” which gives him what he wants. I totally understand someone not wanting to subject themselves to another incident they find personal insulting just to get enough evidence to punish that person. He should have to go, not her but its just not enough yet to rise to a violation of the law. My advice was you keep going. Let him get mad at you and finally say what he really feels and then you get to get rid of him and you stay.

          I’ll give you an analogy to the situation instead. It would be like she was on the school committee board and another board member was a jerk to her. He insulted her, dismissed her, yelled at her but never said anything race or gender based. He claimed it was just a heated argument. She wants him removed from the board. Town lawyers say “this doesn’t rise to that.” She doesn’t want to go to meetings with him. There were no threats, just general meanness. She can step down or go to meetings with him because there isn’t enough to remove him yet. Again, not the real situation, just an analogy.

          1. hildi

            I’m crying. I’m sobbing. I just spend like the last 45 min typing up some ideas and it’s gone. My idiotic internet froze on me and kicked me out. I’m going to go eat something and then I’ll come back and try to reacreate it…….

            1. Plaintiff's Lawyer

              Thanks for your input. Take your time. I can come back over the weekend and check too since I know a reply will be coming. I hate when I lose a post!

              1. hildi

                Ok. Well, I probably talked too much in my last response, so maybe that was the universe trying to tell me to shut up and get to the point (I need that reminder more often).

                I just want to speak to the empathy piece about when you have to have another conversation with her to continue to deliver unsatisfying news in her case (and sorry if you know all this anyway – you seem very personable)

                Effective empathy is conveying to the person that you UNDERSTAND their emotion (frustrated, guilty, scared, inconvenienced, angry, etc.) and also that you understand WHY they feel that way. Empathy statements convey that you are interested and concerned, and that you understand. Nothing more, nothing less. It certainly isn’t condoning a person’s behavior. It’s not an obligation to start a big kumbaya therapy session. You don’t have to take on their emotion for them. It’s also not agreeing that they even have a reason to feel that way (it might be the biggest crock of shit you’ve ever heard and a reasonable person has no right to feel that way….but that kind of thinking does you no good here). An empathy statement essentially helps you tell them: “I can see that this is emotional for you and I can see what made you feel that way.”

                So here’s an imagined conversation I could see happening about your original question above:

                {First, the tone is key here. You don’t want to sound accusatory or challenging. You want to invite her into a conversation. Sound sincere and interested in her response. I imagine a kindly old grandmother taking my hands into hers, her eyes crinkling at the corners, calling me ‘honey’ and offering me a cookie. Clearly, you would want to avoid that, but that’s the atmosphere I’m going for here. Although cookies could help}

                “I can see how this whole thing really has caused you considerable upset and I’m sorry for what you’ve been through. This is a rotten way to be treated and I can understand that you are hesitant to want to return to the workplace for more of the same kind of treatment. Ultimately, because of the reasons we’ve talked about earlier, the law isn’t providing any opportunity for us to move forward against What’s-His-Name. I’d be happy to go over that again with you if you have more questions or if there’s anything I could clarify. {It’s up to you whether you want to bring up what the other person said about her not feeling you were helping her. You could use that to introduce the next part or just dive right in without it}
                I also was speaking with XX on the phone and she mentioned that you might be feeling like you’re not getting the help that you expected from me. {I absolutely wouldn’t say the words, white, black, race, color, etc. Those are hot and inflammatory phrases. Regardless of the reason she gives for feeling like she’s getting the shaft, the underlying issue is that she’s not being treated like she feels she deserves. So I’d keep the focus on that}. It’s very important to me that you are comfortable with the level of interest/attention I’m giving you. I really am trying to help you, the law is what’s getting in our way!! Haha. Can I provide you any more context or background for the conclusions I’ve reached and why I offered the suggestions I have?

                HER: “Well, I do think that you don’t care about me as much as your other clients because you are white and I’m black. Etc. etc. (if that’s how you think she’s seeing this)

                “I’m so sorry I gave that impression. That is not at all how I feel. The reason I practice law is to help people and to see justice served to everyone (if that’s true! Haha). It’s been frustrating for me to review your case because I can see the situations you’ve endured and I do wish we had some recourse at this point in time. Like I hope I conveyed before, the law has certain requirements that have to be met before it can protect people in your situation. Here are some examples of what might give us some more legal options: {Maybe at this point go over some of the things that would advance her case: If What’s-His-Name uses these words, if he suggests this, if he says this, if he physically touches you, or whatever.}

                So with all that being said, would you be willing to go through your options again? Maybe if we spend a bit of time thinking about what’s available to you at this point and the pros and cons of each, you’ll feel more comfortable making the best decision for you right now.

                {Go through options; spend some time ensuring she feels she’s part of deciding some of this, instead of something that’s being given or done to her. Her buy-in for the options is very key.}

                The major caveat to all of this that I fully understand is………I am so painfully not a lawyer, so I have no earthly clue if this conversation could even take place. I recognize my examples and solutions may not be realistic in the legal world. However, I do know how to phrase things to another human person in a way that helps them trust me more, so that piece of it I offer up with confidence. I hope any of this helped. Want to hear an update!!

                1. Not So NewReader

                  Nice job on that, hildi!

                  I definitely see a huge teaching moment buried in the lady’s questions. And knowledge is power.
                  I am not familiar with what constraints you have as an attorney, OP, but perhaps you can start and maintain a list of resources for people (in these instances where they do not quite have a case) that you could pull out and refer them to additional information/websites/resources/groups.

                  You could say “You know, I get a lot of questions along these lines you describe. So what I have done is made a list of resources for people to look at, perhaps something would be useful for you.” Even if you have a short list, the fact that you made this list, is another way of expressing that you see the concern and you are concerned, also.

    2. LillianMcGee

      When in doubt, I refer to human rights commission and say if there’s a finding, please call back. (I work in housing law where, similarly, a lot of our potential clients are minorities with discrimination issues.) We simply don’t have the resources to do an investigation (nonprofit) and that’s what I say to explain to potential clients why we can’t take the case.

    3. HR Manager

      I’m not sure you can control the other person’s frustration level with not having other avenues to pursue, but I think if you take the time to listen to her, acknowledge her frustrations, and then explain the difference between day to day conflicts and issues versus the legal standard for evidence of discrimination, this might help.

      You can fully acknowledge that her perceptions may be very real, but reaching the point of pursuing a lawsuit is entirely different and that only when that step is close would talking to an attorney be prudent. If need be, frame it in terms of cost. Tell her that the time it takes to amass the evidence required is long and hard, and it doesn’t make financial sense to engage an expensive attorney during those stages. Only when that is done, do you want to plunk those dollars on an attorney. It sounds like you do offer her the more immediate recourse of EEO, HR, legal dept ,etc. so it’s not leaving them without some recourse.

    4. Renee

      When I was a divorce attorney there were frequent situations where something not good was probably happening, but there wasn’t enough evidence to influence the judge to make a change. I would often say to clients, “unfortunately, it is about perception and not reality” to explain to them that the judge (or other decision maker) was not privy to all of the background and perspective of the client without undercutting that the experience was real. I also tried to speak outside the lawyer box and communicate that I empathized with the customer and the situation. This was also a good phrase to use for clients that indicated they were going to do something that was not going to look good to a judge, whether it was a good decision or not (denying Skype visitation outright because the child would fidget, for example). Explaining to the client that the problem had to be visible to the outsider making the decision also helped guide the client on what to document and how to document it.

  48. super anon

    Not a question but I had a job interview yesterday that was pretty bad and raised red flags all over the place. To start, the company gave me less than 24 hours notice for me interview, which would be fine, except I had to prepare an ice breaker and a facilitation plan to facilitation and guide a discussion group of people I’ve new met on one of a list of very vague topics. Oh, and the conversation group was 25 min. They said in the interview that you often have to do presentations at the very last minute on topics you might know nothing about – so I wonder if this was a covert kind of test to see how I do under that kind of pressure? Eh.

    Other red flag included the interviewers not answering any of my questions in a manner of a political candidate running for president. When I asked what are some of the challenges the role would have, they answered with “everyone is different so we have all different challenges!”, while true is not really an informative answer. When I asked about turnover in the role, they listed how long certain people had been at the company, which isn’t very helpful on it’s own, you know? When I asked what the career path for my role would be, the response was “Well, it’s a global company so if you’re willing to move, the possibilities are endless!”. The few answers I did get were major red flags – that everyone is *very* hard workers and not to expect any overtime even though I’ll be working a lot (obviously you don’t get OT on salary but who brings that up in an interview?), that no one in the office socializes inside or outside of it, and that I would have to see 80 students for advising daily. Oh, and the kicker? Instead of sending students in crisis to mental health services they want everything dealt with in house, and their concern about me was that I wouldn’t be willing to undergo PD to improve my ability to deliver counselling! If you have a counselling service populated with actual counsellors, why on earth would you want someone who isn’t trained at all to be dealing with cases? That seems like a major liability for me and the institution!

    Needless to say, I’m sending an email to tell withdraw my application. I don’t think I would even last one day in the environment.

      1. super anon

        It isn’t – that’s how. There is absolutely no way in hell you could see 80 students a day and give worthwhile academic advising (and that’s not even getting into the mental health aspects they want their advisors to cover as well). Performance in the position was evaluated by how many students passed their courses, re-enrolled, and went on to be successful in later years, which seems to me to be a way to set up someone for failure no matter which way you look at it.

    1. Snork Maiden

      Yikes! The only way this could be worse is if you had to prepare a meal and feed everyone at the interview.

    2. Case of the Mondays

      I initially read that as you asking the interviewers their thoughts on different potential presidential candidates and they didn’t want to answer. I was thinking DUH! That question is way out of line unless you are funded by a particular party or something. Then I re-read it.

    3. JMegan

      80 students in an 8-hour workday is 10 per hour. Each student gets six whole minutes with a counsellor, assuming that each and every one of those appointments starts and ends exactly on time.

      Not to mention, that leaves the counsellors exactly zero minutes to get a drink of water or use the washroom, never mind any sort of a lunch break.

      I know you know all that, and I know you’re withdrawing from the application process anyway, so this is all moot. But seriously, has anyone in that office ever actually done the math to see how ridiculous that is? SMH.

  49. Sick of It

    What do you do when an employee is frequently sick?

    I’ve been overseeing (matrix management) an employee, Mary, who is continually missing work and coming to work sick. This poor woman seems to be sick all the time. She doesn’t claim to have any disabilities and can’t claim FMLA because she’s been with us for less than a year. You can tell she’s working really hard to try to compensate for all the absences. She’s also broken down in tears on a few occasions, telling me how much she loves her job and wants to keep it. She’s burns through all her sick and vacation time as soon as it accrues, and then wants to work from home while sick. Or, Mary comes to work sick and spreads germs. On a few occasions, co-workers have blamed Mary for their colds and flues (not provable, but definitely a possibility). I think we need to let Mary go, but I feel like a jerk for it. Any other ideas? Or advice on the best way to do it?

    1. Meg Murry

      To be fair – this has been a horrid year for colds and flus. I have co-workers who have been going on weeks 3 and 4 of complications due to the respiratory flu, despite multiple visits to their doctors, and I saw a statistic today that said the flu shot was only 23% effective this year.

      Is she hourly or salary? Could she work a few more hours when she is feeling better to try to make up some of the slack for days she has missed? Is she otherwise a good worker? Do you have any way to try to at least keep her until spring and see if it gets better. If she’s actually sick, not abusing the sick time/vacation time privileges or using them all up on her sick kids as well, it seems terrible to let her go and start the hiring/training process all over again, IMO.

    2. Amber Rose

      Could you talk to her? I’ve has this conversation with a boss before, due to a policy where missing two days in a 6 month rolling period meant a write up. Rather than making it about her, something like, “you’re a hard worker and we appreciate your contributions but you have a lot of absences. Is there a change we could make to help you while you’re here?”

      If you’re close enough it wouldn’t be awkward you could try “Do you have any plans for reducing how much time you take off?” Or something of the sort.

    3. Zillah

      Hmm. I guess I have a couple questions.

      1) How good of an employee is Mary? I get that she has absences, but when she’s there, is she a star performer?

      2) Has this been an ongoing issue since you hired her, or a more recent development? How often is she missing work?

      3) Is letting her work from home sometimes a possibility? YMMV, but my experience as someone with a bad immune system is that often, it’s the act of having to get up, get dressed, commute in, and sit at my desk that makes things undoable for me, rather than just doing the work. If Mary’s work can reasonably be done from home and you don’t think it would be too disruptive, it might make sense to let her.

      1. GOG11

        +1 about #3. Sometimes I can still work, but I don’t want to subject myself, my coworkers, and the population we serve to my loud hacking. Other times, I can work just fine, but I have to take meds several times a day and the immediate side effects just make it harder to be presentable (but I’d be able to work just fine). Usually I just come in anyways as I’m not contagious but I feel pretty exposed/uncomfortable when I do.

    4. fposte

      So how much has she actually been out? In the recent post we had places where burning through sick leave would happen on day 5. What percentage of the business year has she been in the office?

      I do think you have to decide more clearly than it sounds like you have whether the office approach is that it’s okay for Mary to stay home when sick and she shouldn’t come into the office, or that she’s taking too much sick leave and is understandably feeling that she needs to come in. (But I would shut co-worker complaints about her illness down. She’s got viruses that are in the gen pop, and the co-workers are spreading them too but conveniently forgetting that.)

    5. Lily in NYC

      How often does she call in? And it sounds like she actually is sick, not faking it, right? If she isn’t going over her sick leave and she is actually sick, then how can you justify firing her?

    6. Sick of It

      I’ll try to answer all the questions here.

      Mary’s illnesses have been occurring since she started last summer. She’s salary exempt. She always takes the 2 days of the PTO that accrue every month. She works from home 4-5 days a month while sick. Only part of her job can be done remotely. If there’s no work that can be done remotely and she doesn’t have any PTO accrued, she drags herself into work to avoid going without pay. When she tries to work while sick (either at home or in the office), her work suffers and she makes mistakes. When she’s well, she’s a good performer. Unfortunately, it seems like she’s almost always in some stage of sickness – coming down with something, full blown sick, or trying to recover.

      I’ve talked to Mary about this multiple times, but haven’t been able to reach any long-term workable solutions. I’ve already made some changes to the job roles on the project so that she can do more work from home and so that we’re not as reliant on her, but this is somewhat unfair to the rest of the team.

      1. Zillah

        Yikes.

        Are you sure that she doesn’t have some kind of disability? It sounds like she spends at least 1/3 of her time sick enough for it to get in the way of her normal routine, which is very much not normal. That’s important on a management level, but it could also be important on a legal level.

        Have you offered to let her take some amount of time (4 weeks, 6 weeks, whatever) unpaid to try to get to the bottom of what’s causing this? (There may not be an answer, of course, but maybe having the time to see some doctors would help.) It sounds like she’s a good worker and you don’t really want to fire her over something that she doesn’t have control over, but at the same time, you need someone who can do the work.

        1. Sick of It

          I’m not positive that Mary doesn’t have a disability. She hasn’t claimed one. And the sicknesses have varied (stomach flu, respiratory, colds, headaches, etc). The only explanation that she’s given is that her young kids bring home a lot of bugs from school. Mary comes to work obviously sick quite a bit, so she’s not faking it. I haven’t offered an arrangement like you suggested, but she’s been very resistant to going without pay for any amount of time.

          You’re right that I don’t want someone to lose their job over something they can’t control. I feel really bad about the whole thing. But I do need someone to do the job, and I keep thinking that this situation sucks for the rest of the team. There’s no winners.

          1. Zillah

            I know it’s uncomfortable, but have you explicitly talked to her about it with her, or has she just not volunteered that she has a disability? It can be really hard to bring that up, especially when you’re worried you might be discriminated against, but I think that might be important information for you to have. IANAD, but what you’re describing just doesn’t seem normal to me. The fact that there are a variety of issues doesn’t change that, actually – I can think of a number of chronic health issues that could present in all the ways you’re talking about.

            Regardless – I’m not sure what field you’re in, but are there jobs that she could theoretically do from home more often, even if that’s not this job? You could look into a PIP and ultimately letting her go if there’s no improvement, but also have either a generous severance or a more lengthy notice period so she can find a new job.

            I mean… this sucks so much, but ultimately, sometimes certain jobs just aren’t right for you when you have health issues. I’m in that position, too. It’s unfortunate, but there it is, you know?

            1. fposte

              Though just to be clear: the employer *cannot* bring up the possibility of a disability. That’s all on the employee.

              I’m with you on the rest of it, though. I’m really lucky I’m in the job that I’m in; health stuff means I really couldn’t do a time-in-the-chair job any more.

              1. Zillah

                Right – sorry, that totally came off totally wrong, and thanks for pointing that out! I guess I’m wondering how clear the conversations have been – like, has there even been a point where she could bring it up? Does she understand that her job is in danger?

                I’m also grappling with some health stuff that’s making me worried that it’ll be really hard to find a job that I’ll be able to excel at, even though I’m a hard worker and generally pretty quick on the uptake. :( So my heart goes out to Mary… but sometimes there’s no way around it.

                1. fposte

                  I also think, as somebody coming out of a bad health patch myself, that what makes it even tougher is that not only don’t you know if things could be better, it can be really hard to imagine that they will; it seems like life will always be like this. And yet often they do get better. Which is great, but it would sure be nice to be assured of that in advance.

          2. Malissa

            That’s awful. Has Mary been seeing a doctor? I’m actually concerned for her well being. I had a coworker who was like that. Turned out she had so much more going on than just a cold. Always good for a person to get checked out when they seem to be always catching something.

            Anyway I think you should sit down with Mary and present her with the facts. You’ve missed 12 out of the last 45 days and you’ve come in so sick on 7 days that I am concerned about the quality of work you can do while you are here.
            Also it is affecting your work in the areas of X, Y , and Z.
            Going forward do you have a plan on how to deal with this?

            And let Mary talk. There might still be a solution that you haven’t thought of yet.

          3. Observer

            It sounds like you need to have a conversation with her which starts something like this “I know that you are trying your hardest to perform while sick. But, it has become a significant performance problem for us. I have no interest in prying into your medical or personal business, but I need to see a reasonable plan for getting this under control.”

            Oh, and by the way, I know plenty of parents of families with lots of young children, and most of them do not get sick anywhere near this often. So, no that’s not a good reason, and if she doesn’t realize it, you’ll be doing her a favor by pointing that out if brings it up. (If it’s her doctor saying that, then she needs a new doctor, but that’s obviously not something you can get into.)

      2. Lily in NYC

        Oh boy, that’s more time than I expected. This is a really tough situation and I admit I would probably be a little resentful if I worked with her. I would definitely consider letting her go. But first I would give her a clear ultimatum about what’s expected of her and maybe have her sign something, sort of like a PIP.

        1. Sick of It

          I think a PIP is probably a good idea at this point. The absences are a problem and the whole situation is definitely affecting her performance. At least with a PIP, I’d feel like we gave her more than a fair shot to improve and we have also dotted all our i’s.

      3. Chriama

        It kind of sounds like her immune system is compromised for some reason. If she had some sort of illness or condition, would she be protected for medical disability? If she already knows about it but hasn’t shared, I don’t know how you can legally get her to talk about it, but look into that. If she doesn’t know any underlying cause, is that a conversation you could have with her? Could you give her some paid time off to get a diagnosis? I’m in Canada so I don’t know how applicable this is to you, but we have extended sick benefits that kick in after 3 consecutive sick days for long-term issues. Is there any sort of protection like this for her? Even paying half time, or allowing her to overdraw her accrued days might be helpful.

    7. Not So NewReader

      This could have been me. I was going on one to two hours of sleep a night taking care of a sick parent, plus working 40 hr weeks, plus life stuff. Yeah, this did not go well. Once I started getting sick I could not stop. As you are saying, head cold one day, stomach pain the next day. My insides were shot and my brain was fried.

      My bosses called me in the office. “Out of the last x work days you have been out y days. We need you here. What can be done to fix this?” You can ask and see what she says.

      I don’t know if you can or if you are even allowed to, but maybe she could work part time until she gets things straightened out?

      1. Sick of It

        It’s totally possible that personal issues are affecting her health, which causes more stress, and then it all becomes a cycle. I remember going through that in grad school and it was hell. The thing that got me through it was those wonderfully long academic breaks.

  50. AnonToday

    Have you ever had coworkers shadow your job? Would it bother you to be expected to allow this?

    I am not an intern at my work but am using my entry-level position for internship credit at school. I eventually want to be a freelancer in this industry and my boss suggested it would be a good idea to shadow some of the other departments to get a sense of how things work. I got positive responses and had helpful shadowing sessions with a couple of people in one department. I’ve yet to have any sessions in other departments. One person suggested some times, agreed to a session and accepted a calendar invite but when I showed up said “[my boss] just kind of threw this at us,” said they didn’t have anything helpful for me to see, would come get me when they had something like that in, and never actually did. He acted a bit overwhelmed by the idea of it, or like I was intruding on his schedule, but all I expected was to sit there and watch something. Another person got back to me with a day that she was available but never responded after I sent her an invite. My boss sent the original email which explained why I wanted to shadow and requested that they send me times that would work in the next two weeks, so it’s not like she demanded that anyone make time for it tomorrow.

    I’m wondering how much I should push back on this? I don’t really want to force people to let me watch them do their jobs if they are so opposed to that, but my boss wants to meet to discuss what I learned from shadowing and I feel like she’s going to ask me why I wasn’t more assertive in getting these sessions set up.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule

      Here’s my discomfort with potential job shadows (we generally get kids, so YMMV) the bulk of what I do all day is boring as hell. Then there’s the two hours or so of my day that everyone wants to see, but that’s the time I really need to focus and might not be in the best position to explain things.

      If you’re expecting to spend all day with people, that might be part of the problem. Maybe what you ask for should be more of an hour of their time for a Q&A about what they do. You might get a more positive response.

      1. Snork Maiden

        I also have a “cool” job that high school students are also interested in. Job shadowing is personally exhausting for me. I’d much rather do a Q & A with them, this is an excellent suggestion. Having someone watch you, even if they’re trying to be as inobtrusive as possible, is unnerving, and explaining every single step of my thought process – I have a “creative” job – is tiring.

      2. AnonToday

        I have actually just been trying to schedule 1 hour with people. Just some time to watch them do a process that would be helpful for me to understand, and ask questions for 5 minutes. And if they said they didn’t even have time for that, I would understand…they seem to be agreeing and then backing out, though.

        1. CheeryO

          Ahh, I saw this after I replied. That doesn’t sound like an unreasonable request at all, but I wouldn’t ask again after someone backs out. You can show your boss that you tried, and IMO, the ball is in their court if they want to push it further.

      3. Judy

        Yep.

        Here I am on a 2 hour conference call. Here I am in a 1 hour status meeting with my manager. OOHHH, now I get to go out to the lab to check my testing. Here I am answering emails. Now I get to write a few lines of code.

      4. CheeryO

        +1

        My university is setting up a shadowing program for students that I volunteered for, and they are pushing short sessions (2-3 hours) with as much structure as possible (e.g., tour of the building with a few introductions, a little bit of desk work and explanation of basic job duties, a meeting, and coffee/lunch). They might not get the most realistic idea of what the day-to-day is like, but it’s efficient. Maybe you could suggest a similar itinerary when you first contact people. I know that I’d be very overwhelmed at the idea of someone shadowing me with no real plan, since my job is boring and I am so not used to verbalizing my thought processes.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      With a lot of jobs, shadowing can be tough — many people are basically at their computer typing things all day, which isn’t very interesting to watch (and it can feel weird having someone sitting there staring at you while you answer emails, try to compose a report, etc.). Could that be the issue? If so, you could explain to your boss that you think the issue is that people are having trouble thinking of things that would be worthwhile for you to observe, and maybe instead of shadowing a person for half a day, you could instead sit in on a handful of meetings that you normally wouldn’t be in (stuff that isn’t confidential, obviously)?

      1. AnonToday

        I’ve actually just been trying to schedule an hour with someone from each department, which is why it’s a bit confusing to me. I still understand if someone doesn’t have time or is just incredibly bugged by someone watching them work, but I wish they would give me a definite no in that case. (I suspect they just don’t want to do it, but felt they couldn’t say “no” to my boss so they’re hoping I don’t press things.) Shadowing is part of our training process for most departments, but the ones that have been difficult about it are the smaller departments with no entry level positions and no training programs.

        I would be open to sitting in on meetings, but the tasks that I am trying to shadow are much more relevant to my future goals. (My goal is to be a freelance teapot constructor, so I want to shadow how the teapot project managers choose and communicate with their freelance constructors, how the quoting specialist estimates the time and resources needed to produce a teapot from the teapot blueprint sent in by a potential client, and how the materials to build the teapot are prepped internally before being sent to the teapot constructor. The meetings would be less hands-on tasks and more about establishing the general strategy for a given teapot project.)

        1. Not So NewReader

          I think this is great that you have a list of things you would like to see. Can you build that list into your request and people who are doing those activities can self-select to call you and arrange something?

  51. Former Diet Coke Addict

    Who wants a story about my work? This week my boss has decided he wants us to start making fifty cold calls A DAY. Although we’ve pointed out that our customer base is mostly teachers who are teaching during the day, he wants us to branch out and start making truly cold calls to other industries. Fifty a day. I have no idea when we’re supposed to do our other work. On top of this, the pipes froze Tuesday and we had no water all day, and my boss’s response was “If you feel you just can’t get by without water or plumbing, you can go home” while rolling his eyes. How silly of us to want things like water and operating toilets!

    I had an interview on Monday but it was very strange. I felt prepared and my answers were solid, but the answers I was getting to my questions were somewhat red flaggy. I asked “So can you tell me what a typical day or week looks like in this position?” “Oh, it’s so different, it’s always changing, nothing is ever the same.” But what kind of tasks? “They just change all the time!” And a similar runaround when I asked what hours people normally work. “It’s very changeable, can’t really say!” Hmm.

    It’s been a bad week all around.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        Around here it is. When a water main burst our whole building closed (and my company leases floors, we don’t occupy the whole building), and so did most businesses in the area. Local laws will vary, but FDCA, check with your local health department about occupancy requirements for office buildings, especially toilets, sinks, and fire sprinklers. (And maybe call your local fire department about that last one — trust me, many professional or volunteer firefighters would LOVE to get questions about fire codes and fire safety.)

    1. Sascha

      My response to the water comment might have been, “Sure, just let me get my pee bottle since we can’t use the toilets. Is it alright if I leave it out?”

      I’m very sorry though, I hate talking on the phone and cold calls are the stuff of my nightmares. I hope you get a new job soon.

        1. fposte

          We just had our second workplace flood from a frozen pipe, which was swell (no, wait, third–it’s only the second in my current location). I’m hypervigilant on frozen pipes.

    2. HR Manager

      Yuck, non operating toilets is unsanitary and would probably be a safety violation. That needed an HR intervention or senior management intervention.

      Your interview sounds weird too, so sorry that you had a bad week. I will add that though that a previous sales team I supported had to make 80 calls a day, so 50 is certainly do-able. Asking for teachers is odd, but if the boss is expanding the potential clientele, then it might work.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict

        The thing is that my days are already pretty full with other sales–I know that many calls is possible each day but not for us with eight hours of work in there too. Our business is education so we’re totally une quipped to be reaching out to an entire different industry–plus we already have a job lot of work without magically coming up with the time to start telemarketing too.

  52. Rye-Ann

    Hi all, I have a simple question: in your experience, if a position is temporary, it will usually state that on the job posting, correct? Phrased another way, if a posting doesn’t say that it will be a temp position, then can you generally assume that it’s not?

    1. some1

      “Phrased another way, if a posting doesn’t say that it will be a temp position, then can you generally assume that it’s not?”

      Yes, unless it’s posted by a temp agency/recruiter. Sometimes you will recognize the agency’s name, or it will have “Staffing” in the name, or the posting will say something about “our client”.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      It should be a permanent, full time position unless it states otherwise, but there’s nothing stopping oblivious or unethical companies from violating that. IMO, unless they are horrified by their blunder and state that they’ve already asked for it to be corrected, I’d walk out if I was told that a position was temporary or part-time but there was no hint of that in the listing.

  53. New freelancer

    Any suggestions for content writer portfolios? I have a good amount of content around the web (mostly web articles and PDF ebooks) and I want to create a portfolio of my best work. My concern is if the articles get pulled/go dead. Should I “print” everything to PDF and create an offline portfolio? What are all the cool content freelancers doing these days?

    1. Dynamic Beige

      Print it to PDF, take screengrabs (SnagIt will scroll a whole page http://www.techsmith.com/snagit.html), do whatever you can to record it. I’m not a writer, but like you say, articles are pulled (or put behind paywalls), links get broken. Having a backup copy/images of your article on the site can only help in the future, whatever you decide to do with your portfolio down the road.

    1. ProductiveDyslexic

      Realize that there are only so many hours in the day, and that an imperfect bit of work can be polished up into something *really adequate* in a way that having no result can’t. Set a reasonable time limit for a given task. Get out the stopwatch, or time tracker app, and do the task within the time limit. Feel warm glow of accomplishment.

      This is what I do. I use a pomodoro timer app.

    2. Not So NewReader

      Compare to previous similar situations.

      Take the most difficult aspect of the paralysis and find someone whose opinion you respect and talk to them about the most difficult parts.

      Some things lend themselves well to be broken into parts. If you are really lucky you can do the first part and rough out the last part. This gives you the beginning and the end. You can sometimes piece together what to do about the middle parts. Since the end is not set in stone, you can adjust it as you finish up.

      Sometimes I get stuck analyzing something for too long because of Stupid Unrelated Thing. So I clean the refrigerator that is driving me nuts. Then I go back to my check book and, by some miracle, I suddenly see why I could not get it to balance before. Sure, I got the Stupid Unrelated Thing off my mind.

      Many times analysis paralysis is simply mental fatigue. Make sure you get extra rest if this is happening often or if Big Project is causing repeated bouts. During the day go and do a small task ( 10-15 minutes tops) that you KNOW for a fact you will be successful in finishing. These are two examples of using incubation time. This is time where Problem is not at the forefront of your thinking but just running in the background. Incubation time is cool stuff.

    3. Beezus

      Thanks guys! My most recent issue was a project that was supposed to look like a snapshot of our business situation that could be applied to making future business decisions. We used to do this particular snapshot once or twice a year, but this time it had been eighteen months due to turnover. Before, a team of three people did it together; this time, I was doing it alone (my first time) with one of the original trio coaching me a bit from the sidelines. The analysis process was not well documented from before, and my coach only remembered some stuff, so I was kinda making it up as I went along. It took two months to get through, and at the end, I could tell the results were partially incorrect but had no idea how to fix it (source data problems, not problems with my work). I spun my wheels for a couple of weeks, kept my boss in the loop about what the general holdup was, but was very very unwilling to release something that I knew was not 100% correct, and also, with the time lapse, now some things in our business had changed and the output I had couldn’t be cleanly applied anymore and I really wanted to start over (mentally hyperventilating here still :o)

      My boss came to me this week and said we had to release the results already, and what was it going to take to do it? I went over the issues… He told me to polish it by checking with a few people to see how the obvious source data issues should really look, and not to worry about the ones that aren’t obvious (*hives*). For the business changes, he told me to estimate the effects and apply my estimates and just document what my assumptions were and move on. I sent him a draft Thursday and he’s reviewing it for release now.

      I think part of my problem is that I have a hard time sacrificing accuracy for time spent, unless I have explicit permission to do that. I once spent the better part of two days putting together an analysis a previous boss asked for on Monday morning, only to find out he needed it for a meeting early Monday afternoon and had proceeded without it, and he really only wanted a sketch of the answer to the question, not a detailed analysis.

      I now make a point of asking a lot more questions about the scope and accuracy level required (should have asked more about this recent project, but I went into it thinking I was following an established process). I definitely have a tendency to overdo if left to my own devices. I don’t get the same satisfaction out of completing a quick and dirty project that I do out of really digging into something and turning out a thorough finished product. I also struggle with asking questions about scope and time investment without sounding like I’m trying to do as little work as possible, when really I’m just trying to save myself from wasting time doing more than the project calls for. I think I need to work in a conversation with my current boss about these tendencies, so he can help me work on them.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Not sounding like you are trying to do as little work as possible: Ask what the boss needs for the specific inquiry. I just had an inquiry that requires me to find A, B and C. Going to find A and B entails traveling to a separate and unfamiliar building. (Some one will have to unlock it and possibly unlock various rooms in the building for me.) Then going through records that are probably covered in mold. (Must remember to bring gloves.) It won’t get done this week.

        But hey, I have C on hand. I called the inquiring person and asked if C would work. I explained the process (in two sentences) that it would take to get A and B. I am waiting for a call back. At least he knows I am see the request and I have started The Search.
        In your case you could say “do you need a rough draft or do you need an accurate version?”

        There are some quick and dirty methods that are sufficient enough for what is needed. Sometimes a Q and D can be used temporarily.

        I think that this is going to be a function of time and a function of experiencing different projects. You will get a better sense of what to do in a while. Yes, you do need to have a convo with your boss, because what you are doing now could cause you problems in the long run. Think of what you have explained here as prep for explaining the same thing to your boss. You need help discerning when estimates are okay and when accuracy is an absolute necessity. I think your boss will be happy you asked.

  54. Ali

    I have another question about networking. It’s not so much about how to use networking for a job, but about how to do the “give back”/”two-way street” part of it.

    I have a couple of contacts who have been very helpful to me. One is somebody whose opinion I’ve come to trust, and in particular, he exercises a lot of compassion and patience when it comes to some difficulties I’m having at work. He’s also showed how he can relate to things I’m going through, which helps me to see I’m not alone or that even successful people have their weak spots too. The thing is, once I get advice from people or we’ve built a relationship, I’m never sure how to feel like I’m only taking from them and not giving anything in return.

    When they’ve helped me, I’ve tried to do things like e-mail them back and say “Hey Apollo, thanks for your advice on X. I implemented it and it’s working great. I can see the difference in blah blah blah.” Or if I tell them I had an interview I’ll let them know how it went. I do send (generic, non-offensive) Christmas cards at the holidays. But beyond keeping the wall of contact open and doing the holiday card thing, I’m not sure if I’m doing enough for these people. Does that make sense? I don’t really spend time looking for industry articles (which the advice says is a good way to stay connected), and I don’t think these people are job searching, so I can’t send them listings or offer to introduce them to someone I know. If I notice something they did in their career, I will congratulate them, but what else is there?

    I don’t think my contacts are keeping score or thinking that I have nothing to offer, but I just don’t want to worry that I’m being selfish I guess.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Because of this blog, I often get asked for work advice from people vaguely in my network. I am usually happy to help, but it really rubs me the wrong way when someone asks for help repeatedly and doesn’t seem particularly appreciative of it. On the other hand, when someone (a) is openly appreciative and (b) circles back and tells me how things turned out, I’m happy to keep helping. It sounds like you’re doing both of those two things.

      The other thing I think you can do is to make the relationship about something other than them giving you help. Send them an article you genuinely think they’d enjoy, contact them occasionally about something other than work help, etc. And of course, if you do see opportunities where you could be helpful to them, take those!

      If you do that stuff, you’re fine.

    2. AnotherFed

      And pay it forward! You may not be at a point now (or maybe even ever) where you can repay them in kind, but you will have opportunities to help and mentor other people. Remember the help you got, think about what was most useful to you, and pass similar assistance on to others when you are able.

  55. ?

    I know there are a few fellow Feds on here. Any advice or suggestions in taking a second line supervisor job? I hated being a first line a few years ago but if I want to advance further in grade, I will have to take another supervision role instead of a functional one.

    1. AnotherFed

      If you go for it, commit to it. Give your employees top cover, address performance issues rather than foisting them off to another place, and do what you say you will. Nothing sucks more than getting in a supervisor who is only there to make their high grade, or avoids dealing with the problems that are the reason they position is a high grade!

      1. ?

        I wasn’t ready for the first supervisor job. Had just come from private industry and was in for a culture shock as I was the 5th supervisor in under a year. I didn’t know that part beforehand and they had issues since then keeping a supervisor for a year.

        The new position is the first supervisory position I’ve considered since then. I’m familiar with their issues, had to complete reviews and responses for higher ups when the last incumbent could not, and its not anything that can’t be fixed. It would have to happen at the division or higher due to hierarchy and political issues but they are getting closer to mission failure due to structure and technology not individuals. I would almost look forward to the fight I know that is going to be to get things in place so the employees can be successful.

  56. BL

    I started a new job two weeks ago and fear I am in over my head. I was working as an individual contributor on a small team at a very, very large retail company and my new position is a director level position at a university. I now report directly to an AVP as opposed to having 4 levels of management between me and the VP. My new boss is very nice but in two weeks, he has only spoken to me once outside of meetings that included other people. In those meetings, he has given some vague instructions on what I should be doing but I don’t feel like I have any actual tools to do those things. I finally emailed him asking for some additional information so I can complete a high priority task but I haven’t heard back yet and he’s out of the office until Tuesday. Is this lack of communication a result of taking a higher level position, a quirk of the higher ed environment, or his own management style?

    A complicating factor is that I am currently pregnant. I spoke with him about it before accepting the offer and we negotiated a maternity leave arrangement that works for everyone. Now I have an OB appointment coming up and I have literally no idea how to handle it. Do I send an email again or try to catch him when he’s in the office or maybe schedule a meeting through his assistant? The last option seems oddly formal but I don’t want to mishandle the situation so early on.

    1. Jen

      I’m guessing a combination of higher ed environment and his management style (based on my prev exp in higher ed). In part because they are usually so busy that most of their day is scheduled to the minute. Some (like my director was) are great about checking in with their staff regardless, but many aren’t unless there’s a problem. I’d say your best bet to resolve this is to schedule a meeting to go over things – IMO that’s the best way to insure time is set aside to go over things for both of you.

      As far as your ob appointment, unless there’s a set protocol, I’d send an email to him, & your/his admin, to let them know you’ll be out of the office. Oh and if you use something like outlook, be sure to mark on your calendar that you’ll be out of the office, that way if him or one of the admins pull it up they can see when you expect to be out.

    2. fposte

      In my experience, university hierarchies are very flat. Which is org-speak for saying we don’t do much managing and we expect people to figure out a *ton* by themselves; the higher the supervisor level, the more true this is. Is he the only person you can get this information from? Who else can you try? What happens if you move forward without it? When you say you don’t have the tools, do you mean actual things that need purchasing? Can you ask somebody else about those? On the doctor’s appointment, I’d ask people in the office what they generally do, but my inclination is just to send him a CYA email saying “I’m at an appointment Tuesday morning and should be in the office by 11.”

      Overall what I think you might be encountering is not so much being over your head as a culture change. I can’t say for sure, obviously, since I don’t know your workplace, but it sounds to me like you’re operating at a very risk-averse level and are more concerned with risks of commission than risks of omission. That would be unusual at a director-level position here, where you’d be expected to take some chances and make some mistakes and that would be considered vastly preferable to waiting to get supervisory permission for everything.

      I think it might be good to schedule a meeting with him to talk about this kind of expectation–does he want you to dive in and find ways to get stuff done independent of his direction? And I’d bring methodologies, etc., to the table, because if that’s so he doesn’t want to tell you how to do it–that’s the point. Basically, if you assumed that everything you were going to do was fine with him, what would you do? Plan to do that and then report back to him on the plan and brief him periodically on the progress.

      1. BL

        I think you hit the nail on the head when you said I was operating at a very risk averse level. I know that’s a tendency on mine and had been doing some focused development work in that area before leaving my previous job. Being in a new environment put me back to my default behavior when I need to be pushing forward. I have been getting information from others in the office as much as possible and that seems to help. I did learn that the physical office space was renovated and expanded recently and spreading people out in more private offices cut way down on the informal, impromptu conversations where you typically learn a lot. I have written a sort of rough plan for how I want to move forward on what I think are the biggest priorities and will schedule a meeting for us to discuss it. I also included a list of the information and contacts I need to complete those tasks.

        Thanks for the help.

    3. Chriama

      If you’re taking sick time, just treat it like regular sick time. “I have an upcoming doctor’s appointment on [date]. For future reference, would you prefer I email you or just turn on my out-of-office?”

  57. Hermoine Granger

    My most recent position was a contract position. The owner of the company offered me the option to continue working on a project basis. I considered the offer but ultimately declined because the owner was very difficult to work with, would take months to provide me with requested information / approval, and due to changes in the company I was concerned about getting paid without any issues.

    It was a terrible work environment but I accomplished a lot and was successful in the role. The work in this position is most relevant to the kinds of jobs I’m currently applying for. Unfortunately, the owner became quite hostile when I declined to keep working on projects. Some time has gone by but I’m concerned that the owner either won’t reply to reference requests in a timely manner (if at all) or might be quite negative. Given the owner’s behavior during our last interaction, I wouldn’t feel comfortable contacting them.

    I’m thinking that the best way to handle this would be to only provide the owner’s contact information after an offer has been made and to explain that the owner was resentful at my leaving and may be unresponsive or negative. I have strong references from previous positions and possibly from an organization at which I recently started volunteering. Would this be a good way to handle things?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Is there anyone else at this company who uses your work and who might make a better reference? I think that would be preferable to saying things about the owner that could be taken the wrong way by potential employers. That said, if you’ve been made an offer, they might like you enough to take you at your word if you state it the way you suggested, so I might go with that if you don’t have another reference for that contract position.

      1. Hermoine Granger

        Thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately, it’s a small company and knowledge of the details of my work were limited to the owner. If the owner is unwilling to provide a reference, I think it’s likely other employees would get in trouble for trying to provide a reference. If worse comes to worse, I have a copy of the employment contract and can try to have the staffing company at least confirm my employment dates and that the contract simply ended.

  58. Zillah

    I’ve had a hard year health-wise, and lately I’ve really been struggling with depression (long term diagnosis, usually well-controlled, but tough right now and I don’t have much disposable income to see my therapist/psychiatrist). My contract is set to end next month, so I’m job searching. However, I’ve had a hard time motivating myself after work/on the weekends, and I’m worried that after I lack the structure of a job I’ll have an even more difficult time and sink further into depression. I live with my partner and near my parents (who I see regularly), so I won’t be totally cut off from human contact, but they all work, and I don’t want to be needy.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for how I can keep myself on track? And, do any librarians/archivists in particular have any suggestions for skills someone early in their career could try to develop at home to make themselves more employable while job searching? I’m thinking I’ll try to get better with Dreamweaver/WordPress/Drupal/whatever, but there must be other stuff I can do as well.

    I was also thinking about maybe starting a website where I compile ridiculous and useless statistics about sports and reality tv shows (mostly soccer and the amazing race? probably?), because I actually kind of love spreadsheets and doing that sort of thing, but maybe that’s a dumb idea? And even if it’s not, it’s probably not something I can put on a resume? Or is it?

    I don’t know.

    1. BRR

      Fellow depression suffer and was unemployed semi-recently. Set an alarm and get up during the weekdays, you can give yourself the weekends to sleep in. You might want to look into volunteer work while you job hunt.

    2. Celeste

      I don’t have any answers for the work stuff, but I think you should go ahead with the website since it’s something you enjoy. That bit of happiness in your day might count as self-care and help you with the depression. I always feel better after I immerse myself in something enjoyable like that. I wouldn’t worry that it has to be something for your resume. Best of luck to you either way!

    3. MaryMary

      To keep yourself on track, Try creating a structure for your job hunting. Depending on what works best for you, set out a specific times and days (9-11 Monday – Friday), maybe a specific place (the library or taking your laptop to a coffee shop), or set mini-goals for yourself (ten applications a week).

      1. pretzel

        As a fellow depression sufferer who spent some time recently unemployed, I have nothing but sympathy for you. Keep a routine, practice whatever self-care usually helps keep your depression under control (for me, exercise), and put time limits on the job hunt. 40 hours of job searching a week isn’t a real or productive thing. If the website would be fun for you, do it; I was also going to second volunteer work (did that) and teaching yourself something new to keep your brain well occupied.

        Good luck; you’re doing the right thing planning in advance for this. Most of all, don’t let yourself self-isolate. Worst thing I did.

    4. Hlyssande

      That website idea sounds really fun.

      When I was unemployed, the lack of social interaction and lack of any set schedule really triggered a downward depressive spiral and kept me down for a long time.

      Giving yourself a schedule of some sort and getting social interaction are really important things. That’ll give you a reason to get up in the morning and get out of the house or move around. Even if your schedule involves things like “10am – dance like a fool to favorite music”, having a schedule and sticking to it was so, so helpful to me.

    5. squids

      For keeping on track, look for free or very cheap webinars, or even a relevant MOOC — something where the material is being presented to you in a formal way, so you don’t have to spend all of your executive function figuring out what to do next. When I’m stressed or anxious it’s a lot easier to watch a video than to try to direct my own learning. This doesn’t need to be your only project but it can be there when you just can’t deal with the other stuff.

      Tech skills are a good idea; maybe education if you’re looking for something very public-facing; maybe fundraising, grant-writing, or non-profit management; I’ve been putting my spare learning time into legal issues that affect my work. (gov’t rm/privacy with archives background)

      1. Zillah

        I’d actually love to develop some understanding of grant-writing; do you have any suggestions on where I could find something that’s actually useful?

        1. fposte

          I’m sure there are books and stuff, but given your field I’d also suggest you have a look at the imls dot gov site (trying to avoid moderation) and have a look at the requirements for actual library grants. IMLS is really specific and clear about what it asks for and I believe includes samples, so it would give you a good up-close look at exactly the kind of stuff you’d probably be writing.

        2. squids

          Wish I could recommend you to something specific, but that one’s really not my area. I’ve sent the question on to a friend who may be able to help; I’ll update later if something good comes in.

          In general, look at regional/state/provincial professional associations for their professional development options. The national ones (e.g. SAA) have great offerings but rely on them as a revenue stream; smaller organizations will have fewer choices but may be cheaper or have free options. For example, Ontario Library Association webinars look to be either free or $55. Look at other regions’ associations, and look at associations for different professions with some overlapping skills (ie for grant-writing museums and arts organizations will likely have resources.)

          A massive and overwhelming compilation of free learning resources: http://www.openculture.com/

    6. Zillah

      Thanks, guys! Lots of awesome awesome advice here, and I will be sure to write it all down so I have quick access to it. <3 Hugely appreciated. :)

    7. CaliSusan

      I was in the same boat a few years ago, and what really helped me was what a few others have already suggested: building structure into my day so that it mimics a real work day. So, I would allow myself to sleep in, but not too much – maybe 7:30 am or thereabouts. I’d get up, get dressed, have coffee, and then grab my laptop and take it to a local coffee shop, where I’d look for jobs online, apply, etc. I’d also use that time to do freelance work — I was writing resumes on a contract basis for a resume company, so I’d do that for an hour or two each day. Gave me a small amount of income and kept my skills sharp while I looked for work.

      Whatever variation of this scenario works for you, give it a whirl. And good luck to you!

  59. Nervous accountant

    Any advice on how to deal with clients?

    Quick background-my job is heavily focused on client interactions on the phone. I’ve need a lot of training and while I’m improving and even my boss says I’m doing better and she hears me on calls, I still get a few complaints that I’m not warm enough. I’ve taken advice so far-smile while talking, be positive, control the conversation etc.

    I just can’t do fake laughing or giggling :-(. I don’t have a very sexy or feminine voice. I’m not witty and I just don’t have that natural easiness with people, as hard as I try. I’m always more concerned with being factually correct while being polite and friendly than trying to be someone’s best friend. This is my second season and I’ve taken all the advice I’m given and so far so good but idk sometimes the complaints really make me hate my own personality.

    1. just laura

      “I just can’t do fake laughing or giggling :-(. I don’t have a very sexy or feminine voice.”

      Thank goodness! I would probably not want my accountant to do any of that! :)

      Try raising your eyebrows when you talk. And maybe standing will shift your energy level up.

      But you are improving, which is awesome. You’re being asked to do something unnatural, so the fact that you’re making steps is a great thing.

    2. LillianMcGee

      Being comfortable on the phone took me YEARS. I think practice makes perfect. And not even perfect! I’ve also accepted that I am going to sound awkward or foible or blank out sometimes and that’s okay. I would hope that professional and friendly is enough! If you know the client well, the warmth will come naturally. I would be (and have been) put off by customer service people trying to act like my best friend.

      1. Nervous Accountant

        I’m the same way–I feel like a lot of it is my own personality. I have friends, I don’t need my customer service rep to act like one, and I like to be to the point and concise, in writing and talking about professional things. I am improving though but it’s really discouraging when I get a complaint. I do get feedback and I take it constructively, not personally.

    3. Colette

      I’m much the same way, so I completely understand.

      If you haven’t already tried this, one thing you can do is listen for cues to what the customer wants. Do they start by talking about something personal (weather, how their day is going, emotional words like “frustrated” or “happy”), or do they talk about the facts? If they talk about personal topics, indulge them and try to address the emotional need as well as the factual need.

    4. MaryMary

      Please don’t fake laugh or giggle. I have a nervous giggle, and that’s not great either.

      See if you can get someone to elaborate on the feedback that you’re not “warm.” Is it tone? Do you need to do more small talk? Are you doing small talk but it sounds really forced? Are you not responding enough to their small talk? The more specific feedback you get, the better you’ll be able to address it.

      1. Nervous Accountant

        Well, my boss did approach me today. she said that it seems like I get thrown off by a question I don’t know and I get very nervous and the second a client senses that hesitation, they’re ready to pounce on it, so that makes sense to me….. I do get other specific feedback, like make it personal, imagine if it was my own sibling or parent, realize that *I’m* the expert they’re speaking to etc.

        I think my username fits me?

    5. Sparrow

      Instead of fake laughing or giggling, maybe just try smiling while you’re talking? I’ll post a link separately that explains it better than I can.

        1. Sparrow

          My bad. Sorry! Didn’t read close enough. Looks like some other commenters have good suggestions.

    6. fposte

      So who do you work with that you think does this well? Can you ask them about it and ask if you can observe them and take notes during a call? It could really help to find a real external model to consider; hypotheticals are often red herrings in cases like this anyway (as with the giggling thing).

    7. Brigitte

      One of the most effective things you can do communicating with a client is to reflect their concerns and desires back to them. This can be as simple as quoting what a client has said back to them. “Before we go on, let me tell you what I’ve heard, so I can make sure I’m on the right track. You’d like to _____.” Get their buy in, then move on to your recommendations.

      It’s amazing what the simple process of mirroring a client’s concerns and desires can do for your relationship. This is so much more important to their perception of you than laughing or smiling — ultimately, clients want to feel heard. Give them that feeling, and you’re golden.

  60. Salary Drop Conundrum

    I really enjoy the work that I’m doing at my current job, except that my boss and I really don’t connect and I don’t feel like she has an interest in helping me succeed. We’re the only two people on our team and when I was hired she described herself as being a “mentor” and gave me a great outline of the training and development we would do once I got started – this never happened and when I bring it up she says she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. (I still have the plan she gave me in writing, so it’s not like I made it up or misinterpreted anything). Sometimes she even goes days without speaking to me unless she has something she needs from me and totally ignores my attempts to make conversation with her when we do see each other (our desks are on opposite sides of the office due to some issues with managing our space).

    I started reaching out to other opportunities over the holidays and have received a really great response. One that I’m particularly interested in has some really interesting work coming in, the manager and I seem to have similar approaches to things, and I feel they’ve given me a really great overview of the good and bad about working in the company. The solid training program they have doesn’t hurt either! The role also has a clearer development path at a larger company (whereas my current role doesn’t have much growth potential). I’m fairly confident I’ll be receiving an offer for this role, but there’s one concern I have – the pay would be about $12,000 less annually than what I make right now.

    So here is my question – any tips from people who have considered taking (or have taken) a salary drop for a good work opportunity?

    For added context I’m 25, the money wouldn’t put me in poverty by any means but would add a year or more to my long-term goal of buying my own home. I’ve been at my current role for a year and have tried several approaches to improve my working relationship with my current boss and feel that I’ve exhausted my options there, so not looking for advice on how to deal with her :)

    1. periwinkle

      Weigh the pros and cons of taking the salary drop. From your description, the only con of taking the offer from this other company is the lower pay. Everything else sounds like a significant improvement.

      So if you stayed at your current job, with the lack of growth potential and the manager actively disinterested in your development, how long would it take to increase your base salary there? If you moved to this other company, with its clear career path, opportunities for development, and hopefully a manager who will acknowledge your existence, how long would it take to move up?

      My husband took a $10k pay cut to move from a position with no growth potential in an environment where he was so stressed out that it affected his health. Totally, totally worth it for him (and our marriage, to be honest). He’s still at the “new” company, over a decade later. The growth opportunities wiped out that salary differential, and I suspect it will be a non-issue for you in due time, too.