open thread – January 9, 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 :)

{ 1,050 comments… read them below }

  1. Christy*

    I work for a government agency and I’m currently on a temporary (promotional) assignment to another office. The other office approached me about working for them because of my SharePoint skills. I’m really enjoying working with them and I’m learning a ton more about SharePoint. Plus I’m getting a little burned out on my own office. The assignment was only supposed to be 60 days, then it got extended to 120 days. My temporary boss just said he could extend it to 180 days. Should I take it? (Reading the above paragraph, it seems obvious that I should take it. Let me explain my hesitation below.)

    I hesitate because my home office is really swamped. We just had one of our seven employees leave, and we won’t be able to hire behind her. I really like my boss and feel bad that I’m leaving him swamped. (Did I mention that I am still sitting at my regular cubicle when I’m not teleworking?) But like, the other half of our office is full of ineffective employees and if the office really needed to accomplish everything it wants to, it could draw from those (at least) three employees. There was also a lot of pushback from management about going on temporary assignments, which has lessened since the big boss went on a temporary assignment herself. Grr.

    Ok, I guess the decision is clear. Can I just get a little encouragement from the AAMers that I’m doing the right thing here? I think I need a little cheerleading. Thanks y’all.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      While it’s important to be a team player, you’re not responsible for your current office’s mismanagement. If they’re willing to allow you to keep extending with the other office (and you like the work), I say go for it!

      1. Christy*

        They don’t really have a choice about extending with the other office–because it’s a promotion for me, they need to have a really good reason to deny it. (I work for the federal government and it’s a union rule.)

        1. YourCdnFriend*

          This information really solidifies my support that you should take the extension. It’s more enjoyable and it’s a promotion! Definitely go for it!

    2. MaryMary*

      Don’t let guilt make you pass up a career opportunity. Like you said, your home office has options if they really are over capacity. For one, they could end your temporary assignment and have you come back! It’s natural that you care about what happens to your home office team, but it’s not your responsibility to fix it. The opportunity is still open, it sounds like it is good for you, so go for it.

    3. Dawn*

      Go and don’t look back. Your old office will manage, and whatever happens after you leave has nothing to do with you. Your manager will completely understand- this is BUSINESS, it’s not personal at all!

    4. Katie the Fed*

      It’s fine. This kind of stuff happens all the time – and like you’ve seen the bosses will ultimately do what benefits them even if they expect you to stay loyal.

      60 days is nothing – we’ve had people extend for YEARS!

      I say go for the extension – if it’s that big of a problem they’ll demand you return. Otherwise you’re fine. But I would make sure that your new assignment supervision is who’s rating you – you don’t want a bitter boss from the home office pinging you in your rating because you weren’t at the mothership (been there, done that).

      1. Christy*

        In our office it’s commonly known that they will essentially never lower your score on a performance evaluation. I’ve had coworkers explain that basically, I won’t be rated higher than I am now for years, because then I wouldn’t have any room for growth.

        It’s a good thought, and I wouldn’t know how that’s handled. I wonder if there are back channels I can ask through. If I got pinged on the evaluation I would be pissed, but at least the signal to job search would be really clear.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Check your agency’s rules. A lot of the times we let things slide that are supposed to be happening. For example if you’re detailed more than 90 days somewhere, the new organization is supposed to issue you performance objectives and assign you a rater.

          Now technically we don’t always do that, but if an employee wanted to raise it, they’d be totally in the right to do so.

    5. Anonymous for This*

      Not really an answer but since Christy mentioned Sharepoint….
      I am really interested in learning Sharepoint. My employer buying into it in a big way, but my department is not using it yet. Instead we track a lot of our work in a huge shared Excel file that is constantly locking us out (there are 12 users, all in it making changes throughout the day). Everyone except my manager thinks the shared file is next to useless at this point. We are constantly losing data and having to re-enter. Worse, some of our performance metrics are keyed to info tracked in this file.

      I would like to do a mock-up of this on Sharepoint. I am thinking we need an Access back-end for it and my tech skills aren’t quite there yet, but my employer has free courses available online. Any advice?

      1. Christy*

        From the very limited amount of information I have about your needs, it doesn’t sound like there’s any need for an Access back end. I’d definitely recommend taking the free classes, since your employer has them. I learned a TON from taking Learning Tree classes about it–I do best in a classroom. Once you have a general introduction (like from the online courses) most everything is googleable.

      2. puddin*

        I agree with Christie on the Access Back End being unnecessary based on your info here.

        Take the free courses and ask that a test Sharepoint environment be set up for you. You can monkey around and see all the different functions while you learn. There are a lot of ‘templates’ in Sharepoint as well. So you will most likely not have to build anything from the ground up unless it is very specific to the needs of your organization.

        If you know of another department that is using it, contact a super-user or admin for that dept and ask to shadow them on it for a few hours. Ask to have access to their sharepoint site just so you can see what it is like for the user as well.

        Good luck building those skills!

    6. Christy*

      Just wanted to let y’all know–I emailed my temporary manager and told him I’d be interested in extending. Thanks for the encouragement!

    7. Another Job Seeker*

      Go for it! Having an attitude where you want the best for your team is excellent, and I commend you for it. You don’t want to sacrifice your career for the team, however.

      I am a SharePoint Administrator, and I’d like to share some resources that are helping me learn about SharePoint.
      – Google “SharePoint Saturday”. SharePoint Saturdays are free, one-day conferences hosted by SharePoint user groups (on Saturdays) all over the world. SharePoint Saturdays include sessions where all things SharePoint are discussed (on-prem, O365, end user, architecture, administration, developer, etc). Some of the SharePoint Saturdays end with the attendees going out to a local restaurant for heavy appetizers and more networking. In these cases, the conference usually pays for the food and non-alcoholic drinks; people can purchase alcoholic drinks on their own if they choose to do so. Who pays for all of this stuff? SharePoint vendors. Firms that help organizations install, migrate, manage and use SharePoint sign up to handle the conference fees. They have (non-intrusive) booths at the conferences. Attendees can visit the vendors and learn about their offerings. This is particularly helpful if you are responsible for developing a strategy designed to integrate SharePoint into your organization’s infrastructure. You can identify the products and services that are available to you and determine which ones will work for you, your team and your stakeholders.
      – Check out meetup dot com and search for SharePoint. Meetup meetings (which are called “meetups”) are groups of people who have similar interests. Most meetups meet on a monthly basis. The SharePoint Meetup group I attend features speakers (often SharePoint vendors or users) who talk about SharePoint. The vendors are often consultants who talk about ways organizations can use SharePoint, plan for its use, and encourage end-user support of the product. Meetups are usually free. I have, on occasion, heard of Meetup attendees being asked to pay for the sessions. The SharePoint Meetup group I am part of, however, is free.

      Hope you enjoy SharePoint. I helped the previous SharePoint Administrator (creating sites, providing end-user support, etc). I accepted the SharePoint Administrator role just under a year ago, and I love the work! I have found it to be both interesting and challenging. The SharePoint community is friendly, intelligent and creative. I have learned quite a bit from other SharePoint users and I hope that you can do the same.

  2. Chocolate Teapot Eater*

    How much time off is appropriate to ask for when you get a job offer? I have an interview coming up for a full-time bank teller position and while mentally I will assume I didn’t get it and move on I want to be prepared. It is one of the largest banks in the country and there are dozens if not hundreds of teller reviews on glassdoor where many say they move really quickly.

    I’m fine taking it unpaid but I would be asking for a week off at the end of February for my honeymoon and I would need a Friday and Monday off in March for a family wedding. Is that too much? I’m also finishing my graduate degree long distance (I followed my spouse for his job) and would like time to go defend my thesis (probably in March) and attend graduation (May). Is the school stuff what pushes it over the line? Also add in my grandfather is sick and I will probably need a trip home to attend his funeral.

    1. Colette*

      That’s a lot of time off in a short time. I could justify the honeymoon and defending your thesis (and the funeral – that’s not really an advance request, though), but I think you want to minimize the number of separate requests. Could you attend the family wedding without taking 2 days off? Is it important to you that you be there? What about graduation? Is it important to you to attend, or would it just be nice to be there?

      When you add up all of those days (5 days honeymoon, 2 days family wedding, 1 day thesis, 1 day graduation), that’s close to 10 days in 2 months, assuming you can do the thesis and graduation trips in one day.

      1. Cat*

        But the graduation is in May, which is months off. This would all be totally fine at my workplace, so I guess it depends on the feel you get while interviewing.

        1. Colette*

          A lot of people don’t take 10 days in a year, so 10 days in 3 months is a lot. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but how feasible it is is hard to tell from the outside. I do think it’s good to evaluate which events are really important. Which ones would you turn down the job over?

          1. Cat*

            I guess, but honestly, 10 days in a year still feels like an inhumanly low amount of vacation time to me. And OP is offering to take it unpaid. And a week of it is the honeymoon (which people usually take 2-3 weeks for in my office). So I guess again, it’s a vibe thing and will depend on how much vacation time is offered.

            1. Sarah in DC*

              Are you in the US Cat? I don’t know if Chocolate Teapot Eater is either, but in my experience in the US 10 days is a pretty standard amount of yearly time off and 3 weeks all at once would be rare, especially if you want to have time off at any other point during the year.

              1. Cat*

                Yes, I am. Vacation time at my office is 3-4 weeks depending on seniority, 4 federal holidays that you can work and get a swap day for, and you can go up to a week negative. I get that a lot of places aren’t like that, but some are, particularly in certain industries.

              2. Chocolate Teapot Eater*

                I am in the US. I don’t have a problem taking it unpaid. I know it’s pretty extreme though.

            2. lawsuited*

              2 weeks vacation per year is probably pretty normal for a starting compensation package for a bank teller, which is a frontline service position.

          2. Mike C.*

            I don’t see what’s so unreasonable about this, given the nature of the events going on and that they were planned well in advance. I would understand not all of that vacation being paid leave, but to say “well, do you reallllly need to be at your own graduation?” is a bit much in my book.

        2. rocky*

          But the ten days are from the end of February to sometime in May. 19 days in 2-3 months. While an established employee might be fine doing that, someone new risks looking bad by asking for that much while they are still settling in.

          1. Iro*

            Actually we had a new hire take a ton of time off right off the bat. He was honest about it during the interview process (he had won a bunch of pro sports tickets) but it really wasn’t a problem.

      1. fposte*

        I think it’s actually easier to take one big whack, though, because it’s pretty much one question and it doesn’t look like continual pushing. I might therefore try to “umbrella” CTE’s question to avoid it turning into “And could I take this other day? And could I take this other day?” I’d go instead for “I have a honeymoon booked and a couple of other short-term commitments coming up in the next four months; could we talk about the possibility of my time off for the nine committed days and how that would work?”

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, I’m picturing trying to train someone who is gone for a week, then a Friday and Monday, a random Tuesday, one Thursday a couple of weeks later ….

          1. Cat*

            I . . . guess I don’t see why that that’s hard. Most jobs don’t have 4 months straight of training and if they do, you just schedule around that? The same way you would for an existing employee.

            1. fposte*

              Well, most jobs don’t start you with ten days of vacation, either.

              But conversationally, it’s not about the schedule, it’s about avoiding the “nickel-and-diming” flavor. Think of it as a friend who asked you for $10, and you gave it to her, and then she said “I also need five for something,” and you gave it to her, and then she said “I also need a buck more” and contrast her with the friend who just says “Hey, could I borrow $16?”

              1. Cat*

                Yeah, I get it, I just think it’s atrocious. These are all the types of things rational workplaces don’t expect their employees to miss, OP is willing to take them unpaid, and OP is also planning on bringing them all up upfront. I understand that many, many American workplaces wouldn’t be okay with it; it just makes me angry.

                1. Moonpie*

                  I understand that from your perspective, but I think you might be missing the business’s view. If I’m hiring a teller, I have reviewed my current staffing and determined that I need more coverage. I may also have specifically determined that I’m about to have another teller out on maternity leave or going back to school or any number of other circumstances. I’ll be flexible where I can, but my priority is appropriately serving our customers. And while the new hire’s requests may be perfectly reasonable things to ask for, they aren’t made in a vacuum; I have other team members who have already scheduled their time off before the new hire comes on the scene.

                2. Mike C.*

                  You won’t be able to have the kind of employees that can properly serve your business in the long term if you prevent your employees from participating in rare, significant and culturally important milestone event such as weddings and graduations. These aren’t common and they don’t come up out of nowhere.

                3. the_scientist*

                  Agreed. I’m also not in the US and 10 days of vacation would be absurdly low for most white-collar/professional gigs. 10 days (two weeks) is the bare minimum for entry level employees (we’re talking like right out of university here), going up to three within a year or two. I just accepted a new offer that is an entry level-ish position and comes with FOUR weeks paid vacation in addition to more than 10 paid sick days per year.

                  And as Mike C said below- these are all significant milestones. Yes, from the hiring manager’s perspective it’s not ideal that they are all happening so close together and it’s obviously their prerogative to make hiring decisions based on this….but I really just don’t see it as the end of the world. My former manager took 4 weeks off for wedding + honeymoon within the first 6 months at her job; nobody batted an eye.

                4. fposte*

                  I’m not saying it’s a horrible thing to ask; I’m just noting that I think doing it this way will go over better.

                5. fposte*

                  @Mike–I’m laughing a little at the notion that weddings are “rare,” though. I work with a lot of twentysomethings, and they’ve got 4-5 weddings to go to per year, plus the ancillary events.

                6. Colette*

                  One of the reasons I think this might be a problem is that it’s asking for a day here, a day there … but over 3 months, it’s about 10 days. If I’m the manager in this situation, I’d be wondering whether you’ll then want to take a week off in the summer, or a couple of days off to play golf, or if another family member is going to get married in October, or …. Will it be 10 days this year, or will it be 40 days (10 every quarter)?

                7. Zillah*

                  @ Colette – I can see that some people would take it that way, and since we focus on pragmatism, it’s valuable information to have… but I also want to point out that there are a few pretty significant leaps in your logic that IMO, are hugely problematic.

                  People have lives outside of work, and decent workplaces will generally try to work with employees to accommodate that. A honeymoon is not equivalent to a summer vacation, and in fact I’d posit that most people who would otherwise take a summer vacation won’t the year they have their honeymoon because, well, money. Defending a thesis and attending a wedding are also things that don’t happen all that often – and the idea that another wedding in eight months would be A Big Deal is a little silly, especially if the OP takes this time unpaid and accrues vacation time before then.

                  Regardless: if the slippery slope thing was a major concern, it seems to me that the most proactive and reasonable way to address them would be this:

                  “Chocolate Teapot Eater, we’ve looked over the schedule, and we can definitely accommodate your honeymoon. We should be able to work the thesis and wedding out as well, but you’ll have to take the time unpaid, and I do want to make it clear that this won’t generally be an option in the future. Is that okay?”

                8. Colette*

                  @Zillah – I don’t think that the employer is responsible for making it clear that that’s it for the year, though. I think Chocolate Teapot Eater needs to be very clear that she knows this is unusual and that she’s not expecting to do this often. I think she also has to be clear in her own mind which ones are deal breakers – I.e. which ones shed turn down the job over – because the employer is not guaranteed to be fine with all of them.

                  I also think she needs to be aware of the optics, which could easily be that she’s not going to last because she’s taking a lot of time off. Her manager will know why, but the average coworker will just know she’s not there…again.

    2. straws*

      I think it partially depends on how you approach it, but that it doesn’t hurt to ask whether some or all of it would be feasible. You’d want to be clear that you’re not assuming you can take the time and you’d expect it to be unpaid, but as long as you’re not acting entitled I don’t feel like it’s unreasonable to mention preplanned activities on the chance that you can still commit to them.

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      I think the honeymoon is a given, and I think you could also ask for *either* the wedding or the school stuff, but not both. If you’ve already purchased plane tickets or something for the wedding, that’s also probably more defensible than “because I want to go”.

      1. Chocolate Teapot Eater*

        This was my thought. I think I would ask for honeymoon and wedding because everything is already booked. I think I can delay the school stuff no problem.. Thanks everybody for your answers!

      2. Mike C.*

        Why is “because I want to go” not a good enough reason to attend a family wedding? I served as a best man to one brother and the officiant to the other, and I would have been devastated to miss those events, as I would have if either of them couldn’t be the best men in my own wedding. This isn’t an off the cuff party, it’s a significant milestone in someone’s life.

        1. Sarah in DC*

          For me, the family wedding would be more an issue of do you actually need 2 days off for it? Maybe they really do need those days for travel or whatever and its a question of take the days off or don’t go, but if its possible to adjust plans or miss one of the wedding events I would at least throw that out there when asking for the time off.

        2. Anonsie*

          Well there’s what’s reasonable and what’s realistic. I think it’s reasonable to want all of this time off and get it and not be judged for it, as these are are important things and the total time is not massive.

          Realistically, having all of these (even if it’s just a long weekend each time) right when starting a new job is really likely to reflect unfavorably on her and get her branded with some unfair labels right off the bat. I think that’s nuts, but I also think it’s common and she should be aware of it.

        3. Colette*

          The importance of the wedding really depends on your relationship with the people getting married, though. I live 3000 km from my family. In the past few years, I’ve missed several family weddings, because I don’t want to spend my vacation time (or money) flying across the country.

          If Chocolate Teapot Eater is really close to the person getting married, she may want to ask for that time off and take the potential hit to her reputation of being the new hire who takes more time off than people who have been there for 10 years. But if she’s not that close, she might want to reconsider whether she really needs to take that time off.

        4. Zillah*

          Yeah, I agree. I’d actually find the implication that you were asking for the time off because you’d already bought tickets rather than that you weren’t willing to miss a family wedding to be pretty disingenuous.

    4. Moonpie*

      It’s not necessarily too much to ask for, but that really depends on how flexible that particular bank is when it comes to negotiating benefits. You’ll probably sense some of that from the interview process but sometimes it’s hard to tell until you actually get to the offer. I think it would help to go ahead and prioritize your requests ahead of time so you’re not caught off guard if it comes down to making a decision quickly. You’ll probably have a stronger case for your own personal life events where your presence is critical (honeymoon, defending thesis) than attending graduation, a family wedding, etc.

      Also, I’m very sorry about your grandfather, and many companies have a standard bereavement leave that does not have to be factored into your vacation/PTO benefits. Good luck with your interview!

    5. Oh Susannah*

      That does sound like a lot to ask for in a short time. Four separate instances (possibly five) in the space of two/three months in a new position would be a lot of time to ask for. It looks like that would add up to in excess of ten days off, depending on the length of the thesis defence and graduation trips.

      I think it’s the family wedding that tips it over, actually. The thesis defence and graduation are fairly standard, I think, and the honeymoon is something pre-arranged. I’d try to minimise the requests as much as you can, though, and discuss at offer stage if that arises. Be clear what you are willing to compromise on (missing the graduation? Shorter trip for the wedding?) and what you’re not.

    6. Katie the Fed*

      It doesn’t seem like that big a deal to me, but I can see with being a bank teller they probably have to do a lot of planning to cover.

      Could you frame it as a confluence of unusual events, and that this isn’t at all normal but given these things can you take these chunks of time off. I can’t imagine they’d withdraw the job offer as long as you approach it right and don’t sound entitled.

      1. Brigitte*

        This really depends on the hiring manager. I know some branch managers who are awfully willing to accomodate requests, and others who would see it as a deal breaker. For me, the biggest red flag would be the honeymoon, if it comes hot on the heals of hire. I think Chocolate Teapot Eater should absolutely submit the time she needs, but be prepared to either change her honeymoon plans or walk away from the position if it turns out that the branch needs a new teller ASAP, because they’ve been short.

    7. Brett*

      The mention of the thesis defense made me wonder…

      Who else has done a defense while employed and did you take time off or were you paid for that day?

      For my defense, I was easily able to classify it as a business related educational trip and not only be paid for those days but receive per diem (though not travel, because that was not budgeted, but in theory could have even had my travel paid). It was basically treated the same as travelling to a conference to present.

      My employer had a clear interest in me completing my degree and my degree was work related. On the flip side, I completed my degree during a wage freeze, so I never received and will never receive any change in pay for it (we do not have automatic increases, but you can only receive an increase at the time the degree is completed so I am forever treated now like I have a BS instead of an MS). So, I guess that single paid day probably saved my employer five figures or more in the long run.

      1. fposte*

        Whereas I was working for a university that would definitely benefit from the doctorate, but I took the day off because I didn’t see it as work for them.

      2. So Very Anonymous*

        I had a full-time college teaching job in the area my PhD was going to be in, and I think I scheduled the defense for a Friday, which wasn’t a teaching day for me that semester. I did have to fly across the country to do it, though, so it was a big deal travelwise and I probably had to cancel some Thursday classes. Given the nature of the job, it would have been a little churlish of my department to demand that I schedule in a way that meant canceling no classes — I would never have been able to defend, period, if that had been the case, since my degree was from an east coast school and I was teaching on the west coast. And “vacation time” doesn’t work the same way for faculty as it does for nonfaculty. I flew back that Sunday, and taught four classes on Monday. The students in my Monday evening seminar brought me a “congratulations Dr. So Very” cake to celebrate :)

    8. Brigitte*

      My husband is a manager for a bank, and based on the conversations we’ve had, I could argue this both ways.

      On one hand, if you have 10 days vacation (which should be your minimum), I can see them granting this….except the week-long honeymoon in February could be tricky. Depending on how they staff the branch, there may be people covering for another teller that left or someone else schedule for vacation. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t matter if you were willing to take the time unpaid or not. They’d need you to be there to fully staff the branch.

      You’ve probably already booked your honeymoon, but is it refundable. Do you have the flexibility to push the dates back?

      If not, you might need to be prepared to learn that your honeymoon is the deal breaker. But that will all depend on the branch and how staffed up they are.

      1. Anna*

        I’m going to say of all the things listed, the honeymoon most likely has the least flexibility and most reasonable managers wouldn’t ask someone to postpone it.

        1. Brigitte*

          True, but a manager who has been short a month and has another qualified applicant might simply move on to the next person.

          Not saying that’s necessarily or even likely the case, but from a manager’s perspective, it would be a reasonable decision. I’m bringing this up only to say there are reasons for saying that’s not possible — depending on a lot of factors we can’t possibly know of right now.

    9. periwinkle*

      FYI, I completed my master’s online too. Instead of flying out there to defend my thesis, I did it from home via GoToWebinar and that worked beautifully. Well, except for the terrifying bit when the committee signed off to discuss my defense in private before giving me the verdict. Eeek! (but that wouldn’t have been any better in person, really)

    10. lawsuited*

      What this comes down to is that 10 days vacation for 5 different events a lot to ask when they’ve just hired you, and you are still making your first impression. Once you’ve been working there 18 months and everyone knows you and likes you and are invested in you, of course they wouldn’t say no to you taking time for milestones like your honeymoon, your thesis, etc. But at the time of hire, you’re just a guy (in a stack of other guys who also want the job) who is asking for special accommodation. You might get accommodation for 1 event (say, your honeymoon) just out of general niceness that most people would afford to anybody, but you haven’t yet built the goodwill I reckon be necessary to get accommodation for all 5 events.

    11. Laurie*

      When I have changed positions, I have always let the potential employer know what I am receiving for PTO or Vacation time. I find that they are very willing to negotiate paid time off than salary etc. This is in my experience.

    12. Spiny*

      A teller probably has Saturday hours, so for some of the time it’s scheduling vs a four day week. That may lessen the impact.

  3. MB*

    Any tips on applying for a teaching job at a boarding school? I am about to graduate with my PhD in history and the job is for a combination history/English teacher (long story short I would be able to teach the English part well). The problem is I feel my resume makes me look like I want to teach college. My most recent experience is adjuncting and being a graduate assistant for my university. I do have prior experience substitute teaching for a year and another year teaching younger students in China.

    While I would want to teach at a university the jobs are tough to come by and I have grown to like the idea of teaching extremely motivated high schoolers (it’s a very highly regarded school). Also my spouse has a great job in the area so it would be nice to not struggle for both of us to be happy employment wise.

    In my cover letter I do plan on addressing why a boarding school instead of a college, how I can teach the English component, and what extracurriculars I could do (they specifically ask for this). Any other tips would be appreciated!

    1. CAinUK*

      I am considering a similar shift to teaching at a boarding school (my partner also has a great job in my region, but my career options are non-existent and I’ve loved teaching when I’ve done it).

      From speaking with other teachers I know (and doing observations) in the private school sector, they highlight the following: discuss your teaching philosophy (and how it aligns with the school’s ethos – do they focus on pastoral care vs academic achievement?) and what else you can offer the school beyond mere instruction (e.g. coaching, running a club, careers advice, connections to business community to help with work experience, etc.).

      I would not discuss your interest in boarding school vs college. Lots of PhDs go to teach at private schools so it isn’t uncommon, and justifying it may come off oddly (and pre-emptively) defensive and take up valuable letter space to address the school’s real concerns (actual classroom experience, interest in teaching, and contributions to extracurriculars for the students).

    2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Could you focus on the aspect of being able to prepare students FOR college? Focusing on a strong general backgorund in English/history that will serve them well in university–“as I know from my experience teaching at the university level, students with a strong background in X are at a major advantage in college-level Y, and I would love the opportunity to work with high-achieving students to increase their skills for college” or whatever.

    3. Treena Kravm*

      I think you’ll be fine if you really spend time explaining that you enjoy working with high schoolers and how you came to realize that in a little story (leaving out the no college jobs of course). Have you worked with them in the past as a tutor or something similar? If not, is there a volunteer opportunity you can start that has you working with that age group?

    4. College Career Counselor*

      I think addressing this in the cover letter is wise–make sure you leave out the difficulties of the college teaching market. Be specific in the extracuriculars you are excited about doing, and be as broad as you can: they need not all be related to the classes you would be teaching. Schools want candidates who can coach, advise the literary magazine, assist with drama clubs, model UN, etc. Be sure to discuss your previous teaching experience with non-college students and how you have found it rewarding and how this has shaped your interest in teaching, as you say, motivated high school students.

      As for additional suggestions, are you doing this as a solo candidate or are you going through one of the many private school teaching agencies? If the latter, those organizations (btw, they should be paid by the school hiring, not by the candidate) can be very useful in helping you craft your materials and target schools. I don’t know where you’re located/looking, but here are some possible suggestions (these are orgs I am familiar with/have worked with): Carney Sandoe (boston-based, but they do the entire US and many other places), Search Associates (specialize in international placements), Cal West Educators (west coast of U.S. and south west), Southern Teachers Agency (south/south east, up to DC).

      If you’re going on your own, some additional resources to look for jobs include: association of delaware valley schools, friends council on education, and the national association of independent schools. They all have job listings on their websites.

      Hope this is useful–good luck!

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      I attended 2 boarding schools, but I’ve never taught at any. Where I attended many of the teachers were expected to live on campus and be dorm parents. So I guess my only advice is make sure you get that clarified from the outset. I’m not sure how it works…lower compensation in exchange for free room and board, or if there’s some other arrangement.

      1. blackcat*

        Yes, I was going to say exactly this. If you are willing to live on campus, say it–schools often see it as a big perk.

        Be aware that boarding schools are 24/7 learning environments. It is much different than a regular private school, so I suggest you look carefully at the “student life” (or similarly titled) section of their website and see what “after school” activities appeal to you.

        Having taught both college kids and high school at a fancy prep school, I can tell you that the biggest difference is the involvement in the students’ lives. That will go double for a boarding school. I got a late night phone call from a kid worried that their friend was going to hurt herself. I talked with students about racial tensions at the school (science teacher here! so not in my purview, but was in my training–I did a teacher training program). I talked students through break ups, fights with friends, and coping with medical issues. I advised students trying to figure out who they wanted to be as adults. It was exhausting. I had great support (you bet after that late night call, I placed one to the counselor!), but it was emotionally draining. So I discourage people from thinking about teaching at a prep school as teaching college classes to younger, motivated kids. Yes, you do get to do that, and that is awesome. But you also need to be an important adult in the lives of a bunch of adolescents. It super rewarding, but think carefully about how you’ll do in that role. I went into it with my eyes wide open, and I think knowing what could be expected (having gone to a fancy boarding school myself) and wanting to do that work came through in my CL/interviews. If you aren’t excited about this aspect of the job, they will pick up on that and won’t hire you.

        (Also, most of the younger faculty (under 40) in history/english at the school that I worked at had their PhDs. It’s becoming expected for those subjects in those sorts of schools. Your PhD will not set you apart.).

        1. blackcat*

          Just to add–I also saw a couple of new hires who were what I think of as “refugees from academia.” Both really, really struggled to get behind mentoring adolescents. 1 got through it. One really couldn’t and now teaches at a community college.

      2. MB*

        I believe the comp is low compared to other schools but is still pretty decent and the free housing is actually one of the incentives. I’ve seen pictures and it’s pretty nice. It’s a high COL area so saving on rent is a big advantage. I also realize that the time commitment is huge but I look forward to getting to connect that extra level with students (going in the cover letter).

  4. Carrie in Scotland*

    Is it just me or has this week seemed like the longest week at work?

    Hopefully the post-Christmas/NY blues will ease up soon!

    1. OfficePrincess*

      YES. And I have a conference call scheduled for the very end of the day. Seriously, who does that?

      1. Juli G.*

        My workplace encourages no Friday afternoon meetings in the summer but there’s no reason that shouldn’t be a year long trend.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          My workplace has that policy– no Friday meetings at all unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is amazingly civilized and everyone should do it. :)

      2. Anna*

        I made a huge tactical error and scheduled a VIP visitor for this afternoon. I’m now trying to figure out why on earth I would do that and sort of hoping the reason I haven’t heard back on my confirmation email is because they’ve completely forgotten.

    2. HR Manager*

      Funny, everyone in my office has said the opposite this morning. We’ve all felt like this week flew by. We were very lucky to have an office closure (first ever) between Xmas and NYD, so I think everyone must be re-charged and and feeling good.

    3. louise*

      Well…so far it’s definitely the longest week of 2015. ;)

      I feel like I needed Thursday off this week since we’d had it the last couple weeks!

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I’ve been having a short nap after work almost every day this week! It’s ridiculous!

        1. L Veen*

          I’ve been going to bed an hour or two earlier than I normally do and I still wake up tired!

      2. Anna*

        Yesterday the power went out half an hour before the end of the day. Today our internal network is down AND the phone system is acting up. My student assistant called to tell me she wouldn’t be in because of an appointment so I thought I’d duck out early. Then she told me she changed her appointment, so now I can’t duck out early. I would very much like this week to be over.

    4. GOG11*

      I feel like a cell phone that’s battery won’t go past 10% no matter how long it was left on the charger.

    5. Alter_ego*

      I’m on my 50th working hour this week, and I’ll have to come in on Sunday to finish some jobs with Monday due dates. So yes. This has felt like a veeeeeeery long week. I’m definitely paying for my vacations from the last two weeks

    6. Nerdling*

      Good gravy, yes! I took Wednesday off to take delivery of some items at home and it’s *still* been dragging on.

    7. Ann Furthermore*

      The week hasn’t felt particularly long to me, but I’ve got a big testing event coming up in a couple weeks so I’ve got a lot to do to prepare for that. But I will say that I took the day after Christmas plus all of last week off, so I was off work for 11 straight days. It was heavenly. And then on Monday I got an absolutely pounding headache on the way home from the office. I think it was because I had to actually use my brain all day for the first time in almost 2 weeks.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Same here. Now that Christmas is over, the weather is terrible, and all the work which could be left until the new year now seems to have doubled.

        It doesn’t help that the Christmas tree in the office lobby hasn’t been taken down yet and it has gone all droopy. There is nothing more depressing to walk past in the morning!

    8. nep*

      Opposite for me . For some reason it feels like we skipped from Monday to Friday — this week seemed to go really quickly.

  5. Megan*

    I know that this has been discussed before, but how do you proceed when a posted position has no salary range at all? I’m looking at a property management position for a ‘lifestyle’ apartment complex in a university town and coming up with nothing, even after doing some research online. I’ve interviewed with one of the other companies before and had to wait until after the interview to find out that that the pay was insanely low. Would it be bad form to call the corporate office and ask?

    1. Adam V*

      I don’t think I’d do that – I think I’d apply, and if contacted about the position, my first question would probably be “the salary wasn’t listed in the post; could I get an idea of the range you’re offering, so we can determine if we’re on the same page?”

      (Well, maybe not my first question. People always seem to think you’re being mercenary if your first question is about money.)

    2. some1*

      I wouldn’t call, because it’s putting the cart before the horse. If you would like the job, I would apply (assuming it’s not one of those online apps that take forever) and ask about salary in the phone interview. If they ask for an in-person interview first, I’d ask about salary range at that time – but keep in mind property management positions can come with a perk like free or discounted rent.

    3. a.n.o.n.*

      I agree; I’d wait until you get a call for the interview. Then you can ask about the salary range, saying that you don’t want to waste anyone’s time if you’re not in alignment. I think they’d appreciate that. They don’t want to interview someone who is looking for X and their range is 20k lower with no room to go higher.

      1. GOG11*

        I agree with you, a.n.o.n., but why, if they don’t want to interview someone with completely different salary expectations, why don’t they include it in the application information and allow applicants to self-screen?

        1. some1*

          For a property management job, I kind of understand why they wouldn’t put it in the ad, because the position often comes with free or reduced rent in the bldg.

    4. Anony*

      I would agree find a way to ask early in the process, but I wouldn’t call. I have not done this and allowed the hiring process to move forward to be disappointed later and then have to back out.

    5. HR Manager*

      Yes, apply and if this company has a normal interviewing process, your salary expectations should be discussed in your phone screen/initial conversations. If it becomes clear in that conversation that there is a gap, then you can decide if you want to move forward or not.

    6. PowerStruggles*

      Megan, where I live these positions usually pay somewhat low but you get a perk of discounted rent to live in one of the apts.

    7. ThursdaysGeek*

      That can put you in an awkward position if you’re on unemployment. I agree that you can’t ask first, but if you’re offered the job and it’s low, you might be stuck. You can’t turn down a reasonable offer, so if it’s low you may have to accept it anyway. Unemployment has some awkward rules.*

      I was in this same position, with unemployment running out, and took a 15K/yr pay cut. I’m not sure if they would have required me to take the offer at that much lower, but it’s possible. If I’d known it was that low, I wouldn’t have applied in the first place.

      And that brings up the common advice about being unhappy when you know your co-workers pay, that you were happy with what you negotiated before you knew. Well, sometimes we’re not happy with what we negotiated, but were negotiating from such a position of weakness that we had little choice.

      *My goddaughter was turned down for unemployment because she answered honestly that she wasn’t willing to drop out of her college night classes if she was offered a job with hours that interfered with them. She was looking for minimum wage work.

      1. Anna*

        The whole thing about college and unemployment is such a stupid policy. “Yes, I will absolutely stop educating myself making it less likely I will be unemployed and will make a higher wage so I can take a job that will most likely pay me less.” I’ve been caught in that BS trap, too.

  6. Holly*

    Anyone have any tips for supporting a manager who’s getting completely ripped apart by a -I hate using this term, but it’s accurate- hostile, probably mentally ill and generally unstable owner? My poor manager is basically under the assumption she’s going to be fired at the end of the month for not making an extremely unrealistic deadline (a massive project due in three weeks we just found out about, with a team of two) and it’s hard seeing her fall apart over it. I’ve been at the company for ages so I’ve adapted into the No Longer Give a Crap mode, but she’s internalizing all of the negative comments leveled at her (she’s overpaid -ha-, can’t write at all, doesn’t know what she’s doing, etc., all untrue) and it’s kind of killing me to watch.

    1. a.n.o.n.*

      Oh, that’s a tough one. I’d say to just let her know you’re there for her to help in any way you can. Sounds like she’s really better off if she gets fired. Maybe that’s the push she needs to get herself into a better situation. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

    2. Dawn*

      Just be there for her, and be understanding of her situation. Don’t add to her stress if you can- I’m not saying don’t do your job, but don’t feed into a cycle of complaining and misery. Maybe try to think of things that could be helpful- could you bring in breakfast or coffee one day to cheer her up?

      1. A Non*

        Yes, be calm, and a bit cheerful, and calm. And calm. Make it so that talking to you doesn’t add to her emotional pile. Even if you have to give her bad news, don’t put any emotional stress on it. Just “This is what’s happening, should I do A or B?” Get support for yourself as needed – from friends, family, or a pro if necessary.

        If there’s an appropriate moment, you might tell her that she’s a good writer and the criticisms are toxic bullshit. You can offer to be a reference if/when she goes job hunting, even though she’s your superior – you can at least confirm that the workplace was toxic and she’s fine.

    3. LCL*

      Does she understand the owner is hostile and unstable, etc? Maybe talk to your manager and clearly explain how the boss is to everyone. Normally that kind of workplace talk is gossip-y and destructive, but if the bad person is being destructive to others you have to tell them, “that is how the boss is wired”.
      I have had to discreetly tell an employee “it’s not you, it’s coworker”

    4. Rex*

      Make a point of telling her all the things you appreciate about her, and focus on doing what you can on your end to make her life easier — make sure she doesn’t have to work about whether you’re staying on top of your own work, do what you can to keep the work well organized, make sure you’re giving her whatever information she needs to be informed.

    5. Zillah*

      I’m really sorry for your situation – that’s tough for your boss. No advice that hasn’t already been giving, but just a point – is it really necessary to include “probably mentally ill” in this? I get why you might feel that way, but it comes across as pretty ableist to include it with “hostile” and “generally unstable” as though it’s somewhat similar and equivalent.

      1. Holly*

        I say that *because* she might actually be mentally ill, as in, she has signs of specific mental illnesses that are untreated and may be contributing to how she is reacting to specific situations (I’m speaking as someone with diagnosed mental illness myself). The fact that she’s hostile and generally unstable is separate.

        However, I do apologize.

        1. Zillah*

          Oh, I get that – it’s just that the way it was worded didn’t necessarily make that separation clear, and given the stigma against mental illness in our society, I think it’s important to be aware of that. Thanks for understanding. :)

  7. Sascha*

    So some sad news today. I found out my workplace is having a “hiring freeze” (despite a sister department getting to post two NEW positions – not filling in vacancies), and my department’s upper management has been asked how to do more with no new funding, and possibly cut funding. I work at a state university, and I’m not worried about losing my job, but I am very disappointed about this. Over a year ago my director promised me a promotion with a raise and a new title. I know funding and priorities change, but I feel like I was just being strung along and I’ve missed out on some good opportunities because I was trusting he’d get this done. I don’t really blame him for it – I’m blaming forces above him – I think he did try to get this promotion to go through, but clearly me (and my support team) are not priority, despite the fact that we provide a critical service to the university on very limited human resources.

    So all that said, I’m really going to get serious about finding a new job. The complication is that I’m 7 months pregnant. At my current job, I can take all 12 weeks of maternity leave and have it fully paid for by my PTO – that is very important to me. But I know it takes a long time to find a job, so I figure I better start now. I’m just wondering what to do if I actually get called into an interview. I am planning on reading AAM’s articles about job hunting while pregnant. I’d appreciate hearing from others who have been in a similar situation how they handled this! Thanks!

    1. Colette*

      If you were offered a job, would you take it? It sounds to me like you’re not really interested in starting something new for another 5 months.

      Would it be better to focus on updating your resume & networking rather than full-on job hunting, so that you can get the paid maternity leave?

    2. Dan*

      While I haven’t been in your shoes, is wait. Length of job hunt is industry and even skillet dependent, my last go was ten weeks between layoff and job start.

      In some ways your timeline suggests you can’t start for five months, which is almost too long of a lead time.

    3. MJH*

      I am kind of in this situation, as I am 7 months pregnant and my goal is a new job in 2015.

      I am taking my maternity leave (12 weeks) and getting paid for 6, because that’s what the company offers. This is important to me. I won’t be ready to officially job-hunt until June or July (due in March). So, I am going to make sure that I spend a bit of time gathering my samples. If (IF) I have time on mat leave, I will be updating my resume and putting together some kind of portfolio, etc. But I won’t be officially hunting until June. At least in my field, there is no way a company is going to hire so far in advance, and even if I magically got hired before my due date, I wouldn’t have any paid maternity leave or even be eligible for FMLA.

      You haven’t been laid off and you’re not desperate, so I’m not sure what the rush is on getting a new job RIGHT NOW. To me it sounds like waiting a few months (while updating your resume and gathering relevant materials)is the wisest course.

    4. Bea W*

      Welcome to my life since acquisition. Sorry you have come to visit. :( At least I really like my job and the people I work with! That’s why I stick around. I love my work, and my manager is awesome and fights hard to more resources (often unsuccessfully, but it’s important she advocates for us!). We provide a critical service to our employer too, but the people making the decisions up in the clouds there don’t know we exist or what we do. I went to a party for the larger division, and no one I talked to knew who my group was.

      Since you will be on maternity leave soon, this might be a good time to just casually look and see what’s out there and think about things while you are home, weigh the pros and cons of staying vs. leaving. Some of that might be considering if you change jobs, will you have continuous health coverage for yourself and your new baby, being able to take time off, location (if you will be using daycare), etc.

    5. Amtelope*

      Go ahead and update your resume, do some research on jobs, and network, but I would wait until you return from maternity leave to actually apply for jobs. It sounds like your job is secure for now, even though you’re not getting the promotion you wanted, and while it can take a long time to get a new job, once you start applying, you need to be prepared to start in some reasonable period of time if you get an offer quickly. IMO, 5 months out from a possible start date is too long. (That’s assuming you’re administrative support or some other staff position; if you’re applying for a faculty job, that’s a whole different thing.)

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      I have not been in this position, but I almost was. When I was pregnant I had the world’s worst boss, and we just did not get along at all. To be fair to him, I’m sure I wasn’t a picnic to manage while pregnant, hormonal, and more emotional and high-strung than I normally am (it was a difficult pregnancy). But still — he was awful, and alienated everyone from almost the minute he walked in the door.

      I knew that HR wouldn’t let him fire a 41 year old pregnant woman, but I also knew that as soon as I returned from maternity leave, the first missed dotted i or crossed t would have been all the justification he needed to kick me to the curb. So my options were either to walk the plank voluntarily, or wait to get thrown overboard.

      I got 8 weeks of paid leave, then used 4 weeks of vacation for maternity leave. My plan was to spend the first 6 weeks just adjusting to being a new mom, and then, if possible, spend the last 6 weeks updating my resume and starting my job search. If all went well, I was hoping to be able to come back from leave and quit. I was lucky and had already lined up daycare, and figured if I was able to land any interviews, leaving my daughter with the daycare provider for a few hours here and there would let us do a few practice runs before having her spend whole days there.

      It turned out not to be necessary, because a position opened up in another group, which was pretty much a perfect fit for me. So I moved over there right before going out on leave, and everything worked out.

      My advice is to just focus on your pregnancy and then, new baby, in the short term. Then, if you’re up for it, get the ball rolling during your leave. But only if you feel up to it. Every mom is different…some may be ready to face that after just a few weeks, but other moms decide to just put all that on hold and just focus on having a new baby. Neither is any better or worse than the other; just different.

      For me, it took about a month for me to be completely paranoid about every little thing (I was a new mom, and after my daughter was born I spent the first week thinking, “She’s finally here….now WTF am I supposed to do??”). It took about 8 weeks for me to really get comfortable with everything. And I worked half-days from home for the last 4 weeks of my leave because things at my husband’s company were a little shaky, and it didn’t seem smart to use up all of my vacation time in one blaze of glory.

    7. CCG*

      I interviewed while pregnant (I work in academia) and it was surprisingly a non-issue. The way my current university handled it, with discretion, respect, and no-questions reassured me that this would be a place I want to work!

      The timeline for the position I ended up accepting went something like this:
      -Apply 6 months pregnant
      -Video interview on due date (Don’t worry I didn’t deliver until a week later, I let the search chair know in an email that I might need to reschedule and they were cool with it)
      -2 day in-person interview where I needed to fly to another state – they let me wait until 6 weeks post-partum. I was given accommodation to pump during my interview schedule and a place to store my pumping equipment. Also a non-issue and only the chair of the committee knew. To everyone else my schedule just said, “break”. I appreciated the discretion
      -Job offer and acceptance at 10 week post-partum and a start date 8 weeks later

      1. CCG*

        Oh – I forgot to add. I negotiated for $ for COBRA coverage so I didn’t have a 4 week period waiting for my new health insurance to take effect.

    8. Sascha*

      Thanks everyone for your great suggestions!

      I’d like to add – it’s not necessarily the lack of promotion that is bothering me here and prompting me to look for a new job. I’ve been looking on and off for about 3 years. It’s the lack of the support from management and the fact that my team is overworked, underpaid, and that will never change. Management has been a problem for a long time here. I would be happier if they would just hire one or two more people for my support team – no raise or promotion for me, just a couple of extra people to help with the massive workload. But it’s clear that’s not going to happen. I think this is also why my manager hasn’t fired one person on the team who is doing very badly – should have been fired months ago – I think my manager is afraid that position will be cut instead of replaced, so better to keep a bad employee around than go from 3 to 2.

  8. a.n.o.n.*

    Nothing to ask today. It’s a snowy day and half my department is out sick. One is out sick today; one was out sick all week, came in for a couple hours today and left; one at a dentist appointment; I’m leaving early; and then one well person who’s here all day. But you wouldn’t even know it because things run so well here. The team just gels and does what we have to do. No chaos or things falling through the cracks. So nice! :) Oh, and I’m finally getting my office in two weeks!

    Sorry if I sound like I’m bragging (I guess I am!), but I’ve never worked somewhere where things run so smoothly.

    1. Sunflower*

      Bragging in a good way isn’t bad here! I like to think it gives everyone stuck in crap spots some hope!

  9. Treena Kravm*

    I’ve recently decided to move to Australia! I’ll be pursuing work there on a Work + Holiday Visa. Anyone from Down Under have resume advice specific to Australia? I’m hoping to get some work/volunteer opportunities in my field (non-profit, public health, int’l development) but I know that’s not a guarantee. Any advice?

    1. MP*

      I moved from Aus to the US and found that the general AAM advice is applicable in both. Be aware that the cost of living in Aus is pretty high but even minimum wage jobs are pretty well compensated. Good luck!

    2. Megan*

      I am Australian! From Melbourne. Any specific questions? I’ll keep checking this tread.

      For me, recently, I’ve been watching a lot of Undercover Boss because I find it fascinating. know one thing – our wages are great. I am horrified to hear of shift supervisors making $8/hour. I earned more in my first job when I was 14, and these people are trying to support families. Just incredible. Remember the Maccas financial advice for employees? They couldn’t even follow the most basic budget because Maccas didn’t pay enough. It’s shocking.

      Anyway off my soap box! Ask away :)

      1. Treena Kravm*

        Oo yay! Melbourne is where I’m planning on moving too. I guess my main questions so far are about the resume. Should I list descriptions of my employers? i’ve read that it’s good for expats to do this because no Australian hiring manager would have any idea what these places are that I’ve worked (non-profits with specific missions that aren’t super obvious).

        The other issue I’ve been wondering about is length. I’ve read different sources that argue 3-4 pages is good, and others say 1-2 max. I have 3 years post-grad experience, and I worked in my field during college, part time. So I’m thinking that for me, if I were to include descriptions 2-1/2–3 pages would be a good length. Does that sound right?

        1. Megan*

          Melbourne’s lovely – a lot like Boston.

          So, re expanding on companies on your resume. I’ve never done it, I simply have the company name and my role. I think you need to give Australian HR more credit: you can usually work out what a company does by their name, but if it’s really general like “Smith Company” then they’ll google it. I wouldn’t waste valuable real estate describing what the company does.

          My CV used to be three pages and I never had a problem with it – I’ve seen some long ones.

          There is an Australian Undercover Boss but I was actually watching the US one. I loved them – I found them endlessly fascinating. Such good insight into businesses. They did a couple of Australian seasons I think, I watched them when they aired. I remember Boost Juice (because the woman who started that company is amazing) and also Ella Bache, which is a beauty parlour, because I go there quite often (you know how sometimes there are bad things happening in the stores and the workers get in trouble at the end? One of the Ella Bache stores got in trouble for reusing towels and not washing them. That was in Elsternwick in Melbourne and I’ve never forgotten it – as a place NEVER to go). Some good Australian movies: The Castle (a classic, plus you’ll be able to drop some key phrases in conversation with your new Aussie co workers which will leave everyone very impressed ie Tell him he’s dreaming / Can you feel the serenity / That’s going straight in the pool room!), The Black Balloon, Tomorrow, When the War Began, Puberty Blues plus if you’re into magazines Paper Giants and other ABC (different to your ABC channel) mini series they made.

          I only know of one person who uses recruitment agencies. Majority of us just apply for jobs the old fashion way. But since you have limitations it can’t hurt! Companies do advertise for maternity leave positions but keep in mind Australian maternity leave is at least a year not six months… Our workplaces operate very differently to American ones. We have excellent maternity leave entitlements.

          Also, medical insurance IS NOT tied with jobs here. So if you want insurance you’ll need to organize that on your own. I don’t know what the rules are with expats but personally, as an Australian citizen, I don’t have medical insurance. I simply don’t need it. I can go to the doctors and get over half back on Medicare (google Australian Medicare, WAY different to USA and MUCH BETTER). I had my gall bladder out (was taken to ER, stayed two nights, had surgery) – want to know how much that cost me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I also had my tonsils out and again – cost me nothing. Yay Australia!

          I’ll keep checking in case you have more questions :)

          Ps – I need a new username as I’ve noticed another Megan on this thread and that’s not me! Haha

      2. Treena Kravm*

        Wait, is there an Australian Undercover Boss? I’ve watched a few US ones and they were too depressing, so I stopped watching! I’ll have to check it out, as well as the “Australian TV” and “Australian Movies” section on Netflix. Magic!

        Another question- it seems like a lot of people use recruitment agencies–is that true? My ideal job would be to get a contract job to fill-in for a maternity leave (my visa limits me to 6-month long jobs). I know I can look for those in search engines, but is it worth it to think about recruiters as well?

  10. kristinyc*

    So, I quit my job in December without having another one lined up. I have 8 years of experience in a high-demand, small field, and I have recruiters knocking down my door every week, and I was in a pretty bad situation before, so I’m very happy with my decision. Next week I’m interviewing for a job that would a pretty big step up from what I’ve been doing (helping to build a HUGE national program that’s been in the news this week vs. being an individual producer). It’s at a VERY well-known, national nonprofit that I’d absolutely love to work for. The job sounds amazing and like the exact next step I’d like to take in my career.

    I’m trying to figure out what to ask for in terms of salary, since non-profits are sometimes lower. I’ve been in start-ups the last few years, and have suspected that I’m underpaid for what I do. Since it’s in NYC (where cost of living is insane, and it’s not uncommon for people in my field/experience level to be making near six figures, but I’m still pretty below that), I’m kind of stumped on what to reasonably ask for. I don’t want to sell myself short, but don’t want to look like I’m unaware that nonprofit salaries are different. How should I research this?

    1. Dawn*

      Is the company on Glassdoor? You can see salary info there. If that specific company isn’t on there, look at comparably sized non-profits in NYC and see what they’re paying for similar job titles. Also I think it’s completely reasonable, at the end of the interview, to ask for a salary range for the position if one isn’t posted.

      All that being said, if it’s an obvious next step for your career at a company that you’re dying to work for, salary isn’t everything!

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Sometimes you can find salary information (esp. on the bigger nonprofits) from That may not give you the salary for YOUR position, but you can see what some of the people make at least.

      1. JC*

        +1 on guidestar for nonprofit salaries. If it has the 990 tax filing for the organization, it will tell you things like how much the highest paid employees make, and how much the total salary budget is (which is more revealing at a smaller employer than a larger one). If you see that the highest-paid employees still aren’t making that much, it tells you something.

    3. Dan*

      You highlighted “sometimes” above, so you know the non profit salary thing isn’t universally dependent. Try and see if you can get what you want.

    4. Observer*

      Also, 990’s are generally public and in many states the state government makes certain tax information public.

    5. Hanukkah Balls*

      Definitely look at the organization’s 990 on Guidestar or Foundation Finder. Look at the highest paid employees over the past few years. If your potential future-boss is on there that gives you a good idea of the range you could expect. If nothing else, it’ll give you the max salaries at the organization.

  11. Confession about Open Thread*

    AAM, I just wanted to follow up on a discussion I brought up a few weeks ago about the Open Thread. Since I (and many others) get overwhelmed with the number of posts on here each week, is there any possibility of separating it into three categories:

    1. Rant/Rave
    2. My Job Search
    3. General Questions (non-job-search)

    OR, just have a post on Monday with “Allison’s Picks” of posts you think are funny/informative. What do you think? Thanks! You’re just too good/popular!!!

      1. Confession about Open Thread*

        Hmm… good point. I wonder if the second option could actually make it easier for her? If she wants to post x times a day, perhaps one of them could be copy/pasted from sections of the Open Thread instead of writing out an answer?

    1. Colette*

      The open threads are already in 2 categories (work/non-work), so you’re suggesting a third one for rant/rave?

      I think maybe this is just a matter of adjusting your expectations. I don’t expect – or try – to read every post in the open threads, and I doubt many people do.

      1. MJH*

        Yep, I skim skim skim and only comment if I have a relevant opinion. There are topics that don’t interest me particularly, so I ignore them. You can even hide the entire string!

      2. Confession about Open Thread*

        Well by “General Questions” I meant “General Work Questions” (that aren’t related to a job search).

        Yes I have adjusted my expectations and I don’t bother reading these anymore because I get overwhelmed. I realized that I skim skim skim and don’t *really* read anything, so I don’t get anything out of it. However, I know there’s a LOT of GREAT STUFF in there so I was just brainstorming ideas. I definitely don’t want to come across as flippantly wanting to make things harder on Alison. I was just thinking outloud! :)

        1. HigherEd Admin*

          Yeah, I agree that there’s a lot of content to skim. I find it helpful to start off by collapsing all the replies, so I only have to skim the original posted question and see if I find it relevant/interesting. I also do the CTRL+F search for my username so that I can stay engaged in conversations that I’m a part of.

          1. HeyNonnyNonny*

            Yes, this is exactly what I do, too! FWIW, I like having so much content to wade through because sometimes I’ll read about topics that wouldn’t normally catch my eye if they were too separated out.

    2. GOG11*

      I am not familiar with the original post, so maybe this was already brought up, but one thing that helps me is to use CTRL + F to search the thread. If you’re having a hard time following a discussion you’re part of over time, search for your name to locate that thread. You can do so with keywords, too.

    3. GOG11*

      Also, I just want to say that I LOVE that the ‘issue’ of overwhelming response exists. The members of this community are so engaged and responsive. On top of this, they’re very helpful, which puts loads of good advice at our fingertips.

      1. Confession about Open Thread*

        AGREED!!! I know there’s so much awesomeness going on and I thought if I’m “intimidated” (for lack of a better word) by the enormity of it, I figured others might feel the same way.

    4. Gwen*

      I think that would just make everything convoluted and overcomplicated. We already have two “themed” open threads. I think at this point people who find open threads overwhelming have to take a step back and recognize that it’s not “required reading” and be okay with just skimming, reading the first few posts, or just staying out of the post altogether – all of which are perfectly fine!

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks for suggesting it. I don’t want to divide the open threads further because it will start to clutter the archives, and to some extent would move the site away from its fundamental mission. (The open threads are sort of a bonus, but not really the core of the site. I think increasing the number of them would move the site more in the direction of discussion boards, which isn’t its mission.)

      So I’ll just repeat what I said when the question came up a few weeks ago: I think the answer is just to be okay with not being able to read everything in an open thread. Read what you feel like, skip the rest, and make liberal use of the “collapse comments” button if a topic doesn’t interest you! (I’m no longer able to read all the comments on the site — not just on open threads — and I’ve made my peace with that, so it can be done!)

      1. Confession about Open Thread*

        Thanks for the reply. Ok, I will just have a mini-funeral in my head about missing out on the Open Thread. GREAT point about distinguishing your site from a discussion board!

        1. NewishAnon*

          I understand how you feel. I find the open threads overwhelming too and tend to get sucked in or have trouble wading through all of the posts. Personally, I find it really difficult to navigate this type of thread style. I wish it was just one continuous thread in time order, or at the very least had quotes when replies to a comment up thread are separated by many replies in between (not describing that very well, sorry!).

          But I can see how this thread style works with so many posts, because one doesn’t have to wade through a whole thread to find related comments to one post. Plus, I’m sure other people prefer this style to the style I like. So, I try to consider that it’s just impossible to please everyone and there will be no universal style. I just end up only reading the open thread occasionally, and that’s ok.

          Anyway, I empathize with you on this. Perhaps you can find a way to still enjoy it sometimes, like searching for keywords or something, so you don’t have to give it up completely.

        1. Chris A*

          This. I used to have a love/hate relationship with the Open Threads, but now I just start off with the comments collapsed and only open them if I’m interested in the topic.

          1. AnonyMouse*

            This is what I do. I’m sure I miss good stuff sometimes, but it’s much less overwhelming!

  12. CAinUK*

    My mother is visiting. For a month. If ever you need a reminder why you haven’t yet moved back to your hometown, I highly suggest doing this ;) And we have just moved house, so it has been a lot of chaos (for all of us, I’m sure!).

    1. CAinUK*

      Whoops. I got the Friday work-related open thread confused with the Sunday non-work related open thread. Sorry for my random cheeky rant!

  13. GOG11*

    Small update on finding a mentor

    I posted a few weeks ago about how to find a mentor, specifically a mentor in the administrative/executive assistant field.

    I checked out the recommended websites and plan to review them more as I find time. I also spoke with a colleague who has been recognized for her mentoring of others and who is connected to a program designed to empower women in the community. I feel a bit odd trying to formally find a mentoring relationship as I’m used to things like that developing organically, but she understands the circumstances of my position and the nature of the field and how those make it difficult to develop a network in more typical ways. I am excited to hear more from her and I think this is a step in the right direction.

    Thank you, everyone, for your feedback!

  14. HigherEd Admin*

    Just a vent..

    I applied for a job online that was clearly posted through a recruiting agency. I don’t usually like to apply to those postings, but this particular position sounded very interesting. The very next day, I got a call from the recruiter regarding the position, yay!

    I debated not answering the call, since I was at work and I sit in an open office space with no privacy for phone calls. But, based on some stories I’d read here about missing calls and then completely missing out on the opportunity, I opted to answer the phone. Almost immediately, the recruiter launched into questions that I couldn’t answer without giving away to my officemates that I’m job searching. I politely asked the recruiter if it was possible to call back in 30 minutes when I could step away from my desk. The recruiter seemed taken back, but agreed.

    As promised, I phoned back 30 minutes later. The recruiter “wasn’t available but would return my call.” Four hours later, I still hadn’t heard back, so I tried again and got the same response. Three days later, the recruiter of course never returned my call.

    I don’t get it! If you liked my candidacy enough to call me, why penalize me because I’m in the middle of conducting my workday?

    1. HR Manager*

      That’s just a bad recruiter, IMO, and there are a lot. Recruiting agencies are a place for many people who think they like the idea to get their feet wet. Many agencies churn through a lot of bright-eyed, bushy tailed green hopefuls, who don’t realize how much sales pressure there is in that world, and never really become good recruiters.

      Don’t let that sour you from agency recruiters though, as there are good ones out there. Don’t be shy about being vocal with what your expectations are as well, when you want to work with a recruiter. Good ones always start off with wanting to know more about you and what you want.

      1. HigherEd Admin*

        I absolutely agree this was an experience of interacting with a bad (or inexperienced) recruiter. He started the conversation by greeting me on the phone with, “Hi, HigherEd Admin?” rather than, “Hi, may I please speak with HigherEd Admin?” This is of course nit-picky, but set the tone for the rest of the 2 minute conversation, which was:

        “I’m calling from X Agency about Y position. I see you currently work at Ultimate Teapot Shop as an Ultimate Teapot Designer. What’s the name of your supervisor?”

        1. Anony*

          That’s how it started, asking the name of your supervisor? Ugh! Perhaps not someone to work with anyway.

          1. HigherEd Admin*

            Yep! It was pretty strange. I answered the phone thinking maybe the recruiter was calling to schedule time for a proper phone screen. At a minimum, I thought the recruiter would ask, “Is this a good time to talk about your candidacy?” But I was very wrong.

      2. Sunflower*

        Yes unfortunately there are a lot of places that are all about numbers. I have a recruiter who contacts me every couple weeks with a great opportunity and then disappears when I respond. It’s so annoying! It’s probably the same reason I get emails about entry-level jobs(I’m not) or upper management(sorry I’d love to but I don’t think you’d trust me with it!). I assume it’s because they need to make a certain number of contacts

    2. Mike C.*

      On a related note, there’s nothing better than getting a recruiting call and saying out loud, “No thanks, I’m happy at my current job, good luck!”. Nothing like letting the boss know I’m in demand. ;)

      1. Iro*

        How has this worked for you? I mentioned that I have recruitors kicking in my door on linkedIn and my boss mostly just looked worried/shocked.

    3. Rex*

      Yeah, recruiters. Like all other areas of life, there are good ones and bad ones. I’ve had most success working individually with a few that recruit in my sector, and taking the time to get to know them, so they have a better idea of what to send my way and what is a waste of time for both of us. But it probably depends on the kind of work you do — my area is fairly in demand at the moment.

    4. Just Me*

      The recruiter who helped me get my current position was awesome. She contacted me over LinkedIn. Most of our conversations were done either via email or after work hours. She was fantastic and followed through.

  15. Sarah in DC*

    Did I miss the Hanukkah balls update? I remember Savannah saying she was going to submit one, but I never saw it.

  16. Ali*

    I had a meeting on my performance plan yesterday. Without saying too much, my bosses saw improvements and seem happy with where I’ve gotten better, but they’re still not happy with other areas of my work and just want to see more consistency. I’m trying to slow down, block out work day distractions and take better care in the projects I’m turning in, but it’s frustrating that I’m not totally up to par. My managers are also very nitpicky (it’s understandable why, but also still too stressful for me knowing they catch close to every small mistake), so I really don’t know how much longer I can survive being scrutinized like this.

    I did some thinking last week about working in media and where I want to end up, and I just want to be done with that kind of work. There are some other hobbies I want to take up or expand on that I can’t fully participate in if I’m not off weekends. (Otherwise, I’ll be wasting my time off in a hurry.) These hobbies are not crucial to my life or anything, but I want to form an identity besides work and career, and I don’t feel I can do that if I’m working every weekend and major holiday.

    My next review meeting is in two weeks, so I’m going to keep trying to get better. I just don’t know how well things will end for me. I’m praying right now I get to resign on my own terms and not get fired.

    1. HR Manager*

      If you think you would prefer to resign, do you think your manager would be helpful if you revealed that to them? Let them know that you appreciate the feedback on your improvements, and that after some serious thinking, you agree that this job may not be the right fit for you. Let me them know that you would be happy to work through a transition period for them, so they can get coverage or possibly find a replacement.

      If your manager has been reasonable in the past, they may appreciate your honesty about this and grant you a longer transition period, rather than decided you have to resign now or within a week or two, which could also give you a financial cushion and peace of mind.

      1. Ali*

        I don’t really want to let my managers know because I don’t have a job offer in hand. I have another part-time job where the boss seems serious about bringing me on full-time at some point, but she is working on some other priorities first. (It’s a small company so she wants to implement more structure and things are a little crazy right now while she works through that.) With no hard date on when I’ll be able to transition to another job, I’m not sure if that’s smart. After all, the advice on here is not to resign until you have another offer.

        I can say my boss falls under the category of reasonable, not insane, though.

        1. Dawn*

          I would say that it is INFINITELY better to resign rather than be fired for failing to meet the goals on a PIP. There’s a lot of companies that will penalize you, completely unfairly, for ever being fired but wouldn’t bat an eye if you resigned in the exact same situation. If you know you’re not going to improve, and that the road you’re on will lead to you being fired, bite the bullet and resign.

        2. MaryMary*

          It depends on your workplace, but some organizations are very generous and will let you stay until you find another job, or have a long enough transition period that you’ll have found something by the time it’s complete. It is a gamble, but if you honestly feel there’s a strong chance you’ll be terminated at the end of the performance plan, it’s something to consider.

          1. Ali*

            It’s hard to say because things yesterday were so mixed. My managers said on one hand “We like the improvements you’ve made with A and B; keep it up.” On the other hand, they said “You need to improve more on X and Y, but you’re on a good path overall.” My next meeting with them is in two weeks, and they don’t know what will happen after that. My boss who wrote the PIP said the meeting in two weeks is the last thing on the timeline. So I guess at that point they’ll decide whether to keep me and take me off the PIP, extend it or let me go. I don’t even think he’s decided, honestly, and I don’t want to keep bringing it up .

            1. ExceptionToTheRule*

              I know your part-time job isn’t something that you can probably live on indefinitely, but if your FT job does decide to part ways with you, do you have enough saved that you could make it a few months until the PT job is in a position to make their move? If so, my advice would be to see how the next couple of weeks go. Perhaps they would willing to negotiate your departure in a mutually beneficial way if they say they need to part ways with you.

              I admire and applaud you for giving your situation the amount of thought that you have. It’s hard to come to the conclusion that you’re not in the right spot. Good luck.

        3. HR Manager*

          I think the not quitting without an offer is for the occasion when someone thinks they have a job prospect and is anticipating leaving an otherwise good/stable job. Being on a performance plan with a very real possibility of being fired and knowing you don’t want to be there is a very different circumstance.

          1. Zillah*

            I agree. I’d say that this is also a little different because Ali has a second job – part of why Alison usually recommends that people try to stick it out as much as possible is because it’s often easier to find a job if you already have one, but that doesn’t seem like it will be a problem here even if Ali doesn’t become full-time at her other job.

    2. Clever Name*

      Good for you for realizing that this job may just not be the right fit for you. As a detail-oriented person in a job where the details really count, hearing someone refer to their bosses as nitpicky when they spot errors raised a flag for me. Some people are just not detail people, and if you’re a person in a position where they need a details person, well, that’s a mismatch. On the other hand, nobody’s perfect, and I’ve learned over the years not to take it personally when a reviewer catches small errors (like typos or missed commas) in my work. It’s good that they are providing you with specific feedback and giving you a chance to fix things. Hopefully things start looking up for you, whether it’s in this job or in another one. Good luck! :)

      1. ILiveToServe*

        I agree. Being on the manager side of a PIP is no picnic. Especially if the work IS detail oriented in a public facing positions. The manager has identified deficits, is providing as much support as possible, preparing for these stressful meetings, providing documentation to their supervisor and HR while doing their own work watching for the “other shoe to drop” Yes, you may have been improving on A and B but C and D are also part of the job description and need to be accomplished in an accurate and timely manner.

        I would have been hugely grateful if my last employee who was on a PIP called a meeting to exit gracefully with a discussion of “fit” That would have also permitted me to give a positive reference for the areas that she had been improving on. I certainly would have allowed time to wrap things up in a sane manner.

  17. Anony*

    I don’t have a degree but have over 15 years experience. I do administrative work.

    I see a number of ads that say ‘bachelor’s degree required’ or ‘4 year degree required’. If it says required, and not preferred, I’m guessing it’s not worth bothering. I’m trying to take the new advice of quality not quantity in my job applications so I’d hate to waste my time.

    Am I right to focus on ads that are more open to those without college? Or are people more flexible than I give them credit for? What say you wise people? Thanks in advance.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I would still apply if it requires a 4 year degree if you meet most of the other requirements.

    2. soitgoes*

      It’s generally understood that people who are old enough to have 15 years of professional experience are old enough to be of a generation where 4-year degrees weren’t as prevalent as they are now. I’d say you can expect some flexibility on that count. That said, “4-year degree required” is often shorthand for “22-year-old employees preferred.”

      1. Kelly L.*

        And that 15 years of administrative work has probably taught you as much about administrative work as the degree would have. :D I’ve seen it listed as “…or equivalent experience” or the like.

        1. soitgoes*

          It really depends on what other tasks are embedded in the “admin” role. There are certain IT and social media things that I wouldn’t assume an older person would know, even with experience, while those things are a given in certain degree programs.

          1. HigherEd Admin*

            In certain degree programs from the last 5-10 years, maybe. But if Anony got her degree 15 years ago, she’d still meet the degree requirement, but wouldn’t necessarily have those skills based on her education alone. Those would be skills she would’ve gained through work experience, which she has.

          2. some1*

            Watch who you’re calling “older” :) You could have 15 years of admin experience from right out of high school and be 32 or 33.

            1. Anony*

              Yes, I’m in my 30s for now :) but I get what you’re saying. I feel good about ads that ask for equivalent experience or use other open/flexible language. Especially if they want a degree and 5 years experience for example (so total 9 years) and I have more than that.

              Sometimes I do wonder if they want a degree and only a few years experience that maybe they do want someone out of school. I feel I can bring so much more to the table but maybe more experience isn’t always what they want.

              Thanks for the feedback, it’s such a challenge applying and not hearing anything, I was wondering if I shouldn’t avoid setting myself up for more silence.

              Some1 – do you have an update on the job you were going for where you were temping? Hope it all worked out!

    3. Dawn*

      Honestly, if it were me in this situation I’d just focus on having an impeccable resume, highlighting all of the relevant experience that I had, and not even put education info on the resume.

      It’s ABSOLUTELY worth “bothering” if it’s a job that you know you could do and it looks interesting. Any hiring manager trying to get a great admin is going to care way, way more about “Are you a great admin?” over “Do you have a bachelor’s degree in underwater basket weaving? OK great now tell me about your admin skills”.

      Caveat: I am not a hiring manager :)

    4. Calla*

      Apply anyway. I’m an admin as well. My first job after I moved to Boston explicitly required a degree, but I applied anyway, got interviewed, and got the job. I had a few more years experience than they asked for, which balanced it out.

      That said, I have ALSO been in a situation last year where I was working with a recruiter and the recruiter said “They really want someone with a BA so they’re passing” (nevermind that I’m currently completing mine and had more experience than they asked for).

      Some people are going to be sticklers. But a lot more, IME, are willing to be flexible if you bring something else to the table. So maybe don’t apply for the job that requires a degree and 20 years of experience when you have 15, but the one that requires 10 and lists a unique skill you have as “preferred”? Absolutely go for it.

      1. Erin*

        Agreed completely. Some companies are strict about the degree requirement (even when it makes no sense) and others are flexible, despite stating that it’s a firm requirement in the ad. You can’t tell just from the ad. Apply if you meet at least 75% of the total requirements and you think you’ll be a good fit for the job overall.

    5. unemplaylist*

      I’m no expert but I would guess that any company using an online applicant tracking system will simply throw you out and thus applying would be a big waste of time (unless you lie, which you don’t want to do). Hopefully other places that just want you to send your resume and letter to an email address — where you can expect a human being to actually look at them — will focus on your experience and not on the lack of a degree. Obviously you learned more of relevance in your 15 years of admin experience than you would in 4 years of college, and I can only hope that some people are aware of that. However, I would not draw attention to it in any way by discussed it in your cover letter. Maybe leave your education off your resume entirely so they have to call you to ask??

      1. Darth Admin*

        ^^ This. I hire admin roles and if our advert requires a degree, our HR department will weed out applications that don’t specify they have a degree. It’s stupid but they won’t change their ways. (In my own adverts I write “..or equivalent education and experience” to give myself some wiggle room.)

    6. Persephone Mulberry*

      If I feel qualified for the job, I apply, regardless of degree requirements. Some Taleo-type application portals are set up to auto-reject applications with no degree, but most often I find “Degree required” is a self-selecting filtering mechanism for the company. The only way to find that out is to apply.

    7. Anonsie*

      My mom was laid off a few years ago, she had 15 years experience in graphic design and ended up moving to being primarily freelance with a small part time job because of the degree issue. She said it came up over and over and over again in interviews that she only had an AA. She kept waving her arms in the air going “you don’t need an advanced degree to do this! I should know, I always have!” Of the times she knew who was hired in her place, it was mostly people with less experience but who did have at least a BA (and often an MA).

      I would say: Apply to those anyway, be prepared to have an interview answer about how your experience is, I don’t know, current (this is probably more relevant for graphics then admin work but both involve software that’s got new versions all the time, so hey) and also for some of them to be really dumb about it.

    8. YWD*

      When I was creating official job descriptions for my team a few years ago my HR rep said that any criteria that I put in the Minimum Requirements section had to be met by existing people in the role and future hires. She said if I wanted to be able to hire people who did not have a Bachelor’s degree to not put it in the Minimum Requirements section. So I left it out on a couple of roles where it wasn’t necessary. When we post a job opening we usually add it as preferred instead of required.

      She framed it that this was a EEO / legal requirement but we may just be over cautious at my company. If other companies do the same though that could be why they are bypassing resumes that are a good fit other than a degree.

    9. Swarley*

      As an HR person who does a lot of work with applicant tracking systems, I can tell you that if you’re applying to a large company where you have to wade through a bunch of red tape to apply, your application will probably be kicked out as soon as you click submit. If, however, your emailing a resume and cover letter somewhere you might have better luck. It’s really hit or miss, and if the job looks good and you have the time you might as well apply. And nuts to those that require a degree where one shouldn’t be required.

      Good luck!

      1. voluptuousfire*

        ^ This. On the other hand, a diligent recruiter/HR person will go into the rejected folder for the requisition in the ATS and make sure that good resumes didn’t slip through the cracks. I know I did that. Considering how absolute the screening questions are in ATS systems, it would be foolhardy not to check.

  18. unemplaylist*

    I just wanted to report that after a looooooooong job search (and many questions sent in to AAM), I have finally landed! I am thrilled, not just to finally have A job but to have THIS job, which is exactly the type of organization (nonprofit with great mission) and position (marketing/communications manager) I set out to find a year and a half ago. I haven’t started yet, so I can’t really speak to any details, but the people seem great, the commute’s not bad, the money is decent, and the work sounds like it will be varied, interesting and challenging.

    If someone had told me when my last position was eliminated a year and a half ago that it would take me this long to find something, I would not have believed them. I mean, I knew it was bad out there, but this was intensely difficult. In the end, though, it all just clicked. I felt good literally the minute I walked in the door. They treated me respectfully, didn’t hurl any stupid “defend your life” type questions at me, and were very efficient, friendly and responsive throughout the process.

    People have said to me how much they “admired my perseverance” during the job hunt. Huh. What was I supposed to do? Give up? It was tempting, that’s for sure.

    I guess what I want to say to anyone in my boat is to hang in there. It really is so much like dating. When you meet the right person, everything is easy and you wonder why you ever gave any of your time or emotional energy to all those other guys that went before. That’s how this felt.

    Also, BTW, I saw the posting online and did not know anyone there or get it through networking. So it is possible to get a job that way. However, in the course of my job hunt I did learn the value of a good network, and I am definitely planning to keep up with several people I met/reconnected with going forward.

    Now, if anyone has any advice on how to rock it at a new job, I’d love to hear!

    Thanks and keep the faith.

    1. Sofie*

      (If this is too personal, ignore!)

      I work for a non-profit and we’re creating a communications/outreach manager position, but we have no idea what the market rate is for that kind of work. If you don’t mind, can you tell me what the salary is at your new position? We’re in DC, if that helps.


      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Unsolicited advice: The OP’s answer won’t help you without knowing a lot more about her new role. Instead, talk to other organizations that have positions similar to the one you’re hiring for, and maybe check with Idealist to see if they can give you info. There’s huge variation in nonprofit salaries, as you probably know, but with some research and talking to a wide breadth of orgs, you should be able to get a good sense of what it will take to hire the profile of person you need.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      It is so much like dating! Hell, my job hunt record has been much more fruitful than my dating record. LOL.

  19. Homework Hannah*

    I’m wondering about a ‘homework’ assignment a company gave me as a next step in the hiring process. It’s two questions that are estimated by HR to take 2-4 hours to complete. The questions are very involved and will require a lot of research — her 2-4 hour estimate is probably pretty accurate. I’m not sold on the job as I learn what some duties might be (I am trying to get away from social media, for example, and one of the questions is about social media). My question is — is 2-4 hours too involved for something I’m not sold on? Is this outside the realm of what is a normal writing test?

    1. Homework Hannah*

      For what it’s worth — I haven’t had a phone interview or any type of communication with anyone yet. This is the first step in the process

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        My gut says it’s not worth it…but I’m soured on the concept after a company kept stringing me along with “test assignments” that paid peanuts (at least they paid!) while they determined if I was a good fit. YMMV.

    2. unemplaylist*

      This is the FIRST step?!?!?!?!? I would only do it if you think you could learn something that would be useful to YOU. Because I suspect this is not a company you want to work for. What, they’re poaching all their candidates for ideas they can then use? Boo. (Now that I have landed a job I am feeling very free to speak out about ALL THE RIDICULOUS BS INVOLVED IN THE HIRING PROCESS!!!!!!!)

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I wouldn’t necessarily call it BS, and I think it depends on whether you have anything else you can show from your past work that makes the test unnecessary.

        When I hire writers, I want to see their portfolio — and I grill them on it, because a lot of people show things in their portfolios that they’ve only tangentially been involved with, and then when I have a dialogue with them about it, it becomes clear they don’t actually understand what they were working on at a deep level.

        In the absence of a portfolio (new grad or career transition), I absolutely insist on a writing test. The candidate can do as much or as little research as she wants (usually the test is to do a one-page sample about a topic they probably aren’t familiar with, hence the need for research), and I could see it taking a couple of hours. But I’ve been burned badly enough by hiring inexperienced writers solely on their strength in the interview that I won’t hire ANY writer without seeing evidence that they can, in fact, write (even if they have no experience with the *type* of writing that we do; I just want to know that the instincts are there).

        Anyway, I don’t think a 2-4 hour assignment is abnormal for this stage of the interview process, since Homework Hannah has already had conversations with them. (Definitely would find it off-putting if they made it a first step, and it’s silly on their end anyway — who wants to review more of these tests than necessary?) Personally, I probably would not put out the effort if I were unsure about whether *I* wanted the job, though. Can you contact the hiring manager and ask whether the inclusion of social media in the test is an indication of what she’s looking for in the role? If the answer is yes, you can respectfully part ways; if they just want to see whether you can write about a hot topic, then you may want to proceed.

        1. Homework Hannah*

          Thanks AdAgencyChick. I do have a writing portfolio that I sent with my application & this is the first step in the process. The email with the test came a few hours after I applied. The research involves coming up with ideas for software and their social media strategy — it’s less about my writing and more about my ideas. Which is what makes me a little wary.

          1. LMW*

            That would make me wary too. I’ll do the writing test, but now I only do them after an interview. It’s not worth my time otherwise (and I only ask candidates to do them when I already have had a chance to review their portfolio and talk to them about it).

          2. AdAgencyChick*

            Ooh, yeah. That’s too soon. I saw “next step in the hiring process” and assumed you’d already interviewed.

            I would never ask someone to invest 2-4 hours before having met them. That’s just obnoxious!

          3. Natalie*

            Meh, personally I would skip it even if I wasn’t concerned about them borrowing my ideas, unless I was pretty desperate to get a job. I’m just not interested in the kind of company that thinks it’s reasonable to expect candidates you haven’t even phone-screened to devote 2-4 hours to an exercise. But YMMV.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For what it’s worth, I always take issue with people who think that hiring exercises are meant to poach candidates’ ideas. While I’m sure there’s some employer out there doing that, the vast majority are not. I use hiring exercises with every position I hire for (although certainly not 2-4 hours before even a phone interview), and there’s no chance — zero, none — that I could steal people’s work and use it. First, I wouldn’t want to. But second, it’s just not usable like that. Even when it’s of the “give us ideas on X” variety, to be usable, the person would need to have a much more nuanced understanding of our context, which job candidates don’t have. And/or the exercises aren’t looking for something that’s so hard to come up with on our own that this would even enter into it.

        1. Homework Hannah*

          Great perspective, thank you AAM. I’m not worried they’ll use my ideas (as I’m sure they wouldn’t be revolutionary) but just that I’ll spend a good chunk of an evening or afternoon for an organization that has a weird (and potentially telling) hiring process and a job I’m not excited about.

    3. Sunflower*

      I would be wary. Good employers do give ‘homework’ as a way to make sure you’re a good fit but this is mostly done after some form of interview or communication. It doesn’t sound like you’re sold on the job either so I would decline and remove yourself from the hiring pool. Honestly this could be some sort of automatically generated response sent after an application and they may have not even read your resume. Which means this test might not even get looked at if your resume isn’t what they’re looking for.

      1. ILiveToServe*

        Not relevant but sort of. To get my position (Academic type) I had….an on site interview with the hiring manager (on my own dime…flew in) a committee phone interview (1 hour) a two day fly in (their dime) with an hour job talk and back-to-back hour interviews with various faculty and administrators. A follow up phone interview with the development director. Then an email with 5 essay questions. From submission of CV to this point it had been 8 months and I was “forget you guys, I have a job I like” Then I remembered the book The Right Stuff- Astronauts didn’t get picked because they were brave or smart or experienced. They got picked because they “sucked up” the administrative bullish*t. So I did. I turned it around in 24 hours. And yes it was at least 8 hours work and research. The question is…do you want this job? Are you willing to go to any lengths to get it?

  20. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    I have an interview on Monday! I would love a new job (obviously), but the one I’m interviewing for is a one-year contract mat leave cover, which I’m not sure how I’d feel about. I’m going to inquire at the interview if there’s any long-term possibility because that may screw with our personal life plans, but hey! An interview!

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Good luck!
      At least you will be able to find out more about the position and can make a more informed choice.

    2. YourCdnFriend*

      Good luck! And definitely ask. I know lots of people who turned a year long, mat leave contract into full time work (myself included). But, I also know of people who were done at the end of the contract. Bottom line: not an unreasonable thought but definitely a risk b

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Well hooray. Hope this is the first step out. (Although I will miss the stories. Maybe save them up and then keep doling new ones out occasionally.)

  21. Gwen*

    Any suggestions for good marketing conferences, specifically with programming relevant to someone working in copywriting & content strategy? I’d really love to go to a conference and do some professional development & networking this year (and my company is generally very supportive of these things), but I’m having a hard time pinning down ones that would be helpful for my subset. (I am an AMA and Ad2 member, if that helps!)

    1. LMW*

      I’d be interested in hearing this too! I’ve never been able to go to a conferece (never in the budget) but I might be able to push for it this year. I’m thinking of Content Marketing World (since I’m firmly in that niche), but I’d love to hear from people who have been to conferences which ones they found most useful. I’m personally looking for for great speakers and sessions than networking opportunities.

    2. Fantasma*

      I work in content marketing, and some good conferences are Content Marketing World and Confab. I went to Newscred’s New York conference in September and that was great — highly recommend. If you don’t follow them already, check out Ann Handley (Marketing Profs) and Scott Abel (the Content Wrangler) and see where they’ll be speaking, either in-person or virtually. Scott runs content strategy workshops that attract excellent speakers from both the agency world and the brand side.

  22. Vanishing Girl*

    I started at my current organization early last year as one of a team of 5-10 people doing the same job for different parts of our company. Due to my hard work and good timing, I was moved from my original position to another (better) position doing things directly related to my training and background. (YAY!!) I was moved into this position with a colleague who had been in her old job for a decade, and she really absorbed that department’s ethos of strict hierarchy and seeking approval before doing anything.

    Now that I am in this more visible position and making contacts across the organization, I’m going to meetings about different projects going on that are related to my skills. (My boss and their boss fully support this.) More big picture stuff, which I am excited about. Whenever I come back from a meeting, my co-worker asks me what the meeting was about and expects me to fill her in on it. (This is generally how things worked in the old department: people told each other everything that happened.) Based on her reactions to my responses, I don’t think she is actually interested in that work, but just doesn’t want to be left out of things. I feel a little guilty for not wanting to tell her what I’m doing, as she doesn’t take much initiative and isn’t interested in the bigger picture (from what I have seen).

    I guess my main question is, how can I reply to her when she asks me what’s going on after a meeting or wants to be included, without making her angry? Or am I being too protective, and should be more forthcoming about the things I am working on that are leading to other work?

    1. some1*

      If anyone has a good way of dealing with this, please let me know. I have a counterpart who is the exact same way.

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        I am getting some really good responses: and they are making me question why I am so hesitant to open up.

        I love the AAM community!!

    2. Dawn*

      Why do you not want to tell her? Is she the type to sabotage things, or are you feeling like she doesn’t “deserve” to know the cool stuff that’s going on because “she doesn’t take much initiative and isn’t interested in the bigger picture”?

      It sounds a little like you feel that, since she doesn’t seem interested in working on these things, she shouldn’t get to know about them, which can hurt both of you in the long run- you could get a reputation for being stuck up and hard to work with, and she might not ever get to hear about things she IS interested in and might want to work towards.

      Also it sounds like you and your colleague were both moved into the same, new, position at the same time- in which case your question kind of comes across as “How do I keep my colleague in the dark about stuff so that I look like the Cool, Motivated, Awesome person in this new position and my colleague looks like the Clueless, Hopeless, Lazy one in this position”. Even if that’s not the case here at all, think about why you might come across like that.

      If you don’t want to have a thirty minute debriefing after every meeting, you can say things like “Oh Charles wanted to talk about the new Teapot Cover initiative, it was a very high level meeting but if you want to know more Xavier is the Project Manager and could go way more in-depth than I can.” Deflect her off to people with more knowledge than you, so if she is actually interested and does show initiative she knows who to ask .

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        Thanks! I realize it could come off that way, and I don’t want it to. Although I probably have a bit of that feeling deep down as I’m feeling a bit frustrated with her these days, so that is definitely coloring my view at the moment. She’s not the type to sabotage, from what I know. I guess in some ways I feel I don’t know her well at all and don’t know what she will do, so I’m hesitant to open myself up. The previous group we were in was very cliquey, and I very clearly wasn’t allowed in the clique while she was one of the main members. So maybe I am subconsciously angry about that, but I definitely don’t want anyone to feel that way because of me.

        I like deflecting her to another person, for bigger picture things and informing quickly for smaller things. I am going to work on being more open with her. Thanks!

    3. fposte*

      I’m not seeing you describe a big downside with just telling her. You can start doing shorter versions, if it’s taking up an inappropriate amount of time. I mean, I get she’s doing this out of habit and curiosity, not about a need to know, but maybe it would help her to be a little more informed.

      Alternatively, you can say “Lucinda, you ask about these meetings but then it doesn’t seem like they’re really all that interesting or important to your work. I don’t think you’re missing anything if you don’t know what my meetings are about, so how about I just let you know if something gets said that would be relevant to you?”

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        That’s a good alternative. I’m realizing there isn’t a big downside to telling her.

        I think I don’t really know what she wants to do, and maybe she doesn’t either. I am definitely going to take the advice here and give her some general information and see what she wants to do with it.

        1. Sunflower*

          That’s what I would do. Just keep it short and simple to minimize your time wasted. If she wants to know more, she’ll ask.

    4. Sadsack*

      Can you just tell her the subject and then see if she has further questions? I think I’d just say, “The meeting was about Project Xanadu.” If she asks for more details, I’d say, “We discussed the projected timeline, why do you ask?” Ask the last part completely in a curious way, not in a way that might imply that she shouldn’t be asking at all. See how that goes.

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        Ooh, good idea! I usually try to fill the awkward silence after I say something with more stuff. Waiting to hear her questions is great: I can see what she really wants to know.

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      I have been in the same situation for a number of years, and I have just learned to give a very short response to what the meeting was about while also naming several other people who are better sources of information should she want it. In the case of my colleague it is about control, feeling like her seniority gives her standing above mine, and not wanting to be left out of anything. I learned some time ago that I couldn’t get caught up in that and I am very conscious not to do the same thing to her. If she goes to meetings, I wait for her to fill me in on the details (she usually wants to. In detail, which I don’t enjoy.)

      Good luck!

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        My colleague also likes to fill me in on ALL the details and reassure me about certain things that aren’t necessary. It might be a control thing, and something she is used to doing. (She also likes me to reassure her about some things, so maybe it’s just general lack of confidence due to being in the previous department so long?)

        This gives me some more insight into her behavior. Like you, I don’t want to get caught up in trying to control things or keeping people from learning about new things. I think our past interactions have colored how I feel about her and most of my previous coworkers. I am going to consciously work on this and be more open, within reason.

        1. fposte*

          Okay, sounds like she sees that kind of sharing as a normal thing, then, and maybe she’s a little anxious about being isolated–either being the only person to know something or the only person not to know it. She wants to be teammates.

          That doesn’t mean you have to read her chapter and verse of everything you do to placate her, of course, but it seems like it’s not a malignant thing, so if you feel like indulging it that’s fine.

    6. Camellia*

      Hmm, does it feel like she has the attitude that you are ‘reporting’ to her, like a subordinate would? Maybe that’s why you are feeling so reluctant?

  23. Bea W*

    If you have the option (and ignore this if you not have the option) – STOP COMING TO WORK SICK! Work from home. Take sick time/PTO. Please, just do not come to the office to spend more time coughing and blowing your nose than you do working and share your germs with your co-workers. Please! I am begging you! This is good for you too! Staying out of the freaky weather and resting as much as possible will make you feel better faster.

    My obnoxious cube neighbor is not only here talking to himself, making noises, and crop dusting (good god! Just keep it with you in your own space!), but he’s hacking and sniffling and blowing his nose trumpet constantly. He normally works from home 3 days a week, but he’s been here every day since Jan 2 – driving us crazy and now sharing his viral load. If I had known he was going to be sick today, I would have taken my laptop with me last night and planned worked from home myself. I guzzling Emergen-C as I type. There’s been something nasty going around. Fortunately, everyone else in my working area is good about staying home and being selfish about their germs. I wish I could say the same about this one guy. :(

    1. Christy*

      Hah! I totally agree with you though–coming into the office when sick (if you can easily otherwise avoid it) is so, so awful and selfish.

      1. the gold digger*

        Sorry, but unless I literally cannot get out of bed, I am coming to work. I am not going to use PTO just because I have a cold. I will not touch you, I will not sneeze on you, and I will be considerate with my nose blowing, but I can work just fine.

        (However, I do not understand why the guy who works from home three days a week is in the office every day.)

        1. Anonsie*

          There’s a big nasty flu going around, man, this is beyond a stuffy nose. It is seriously awful, bad enough that we keep having to have meetings about it at my hospital because we’re freaking bracing for a big season of bad stuff here.

          1. Sunflower*

            I have heard about this nasty flu but trust me- I/my body knows the difference between a cold and the flu. A cold I might feel a little under the weather but I can most certainly perform all my work without issue. Flu- I’m sick as a dog and couldn’t come to work if I tried!

            1. Anonsie*

              I’m saying I don’t care if someone is around me with the sniffles, I care when they come in SICK. If someone’s sniffly with a little cold it doesn’t even cross my radar that they’re ill.

              1. Bea W*

                That’s exactly what I’m saying. I’m not talking about people who are a little sniffly. I’m talking about people who are full on sick. This literally did nothing for hours except cough and blow his nose, and I’s talking serial juicy nose blowing. If you can’t stop hacking and blowing for more than 5 minutes at a time to actually do work, what’s the point of coming into the office in the first place?

                Maybe it’s counter intuitive, but taking a day at home when you are that kind of sick means a quicker recovery for you, and therefore more productivity at work, not less. People don’t realize if more of us would draw the line between coming to work feeling sniffly and coming to work sick, that’s less PTO we’d all have to use on account of illness. One person comes in when they really should have stayed home, shares it a couple people who get sick and continue to come to work. They pass it on to other people, and you just watch it travel through the entire office over the course of days and weeks. It’s painful and really much more disruptive to work flow and productivity than if the first people getting sick had just taken the hit to their PTO. For people who can work remotely, there’s not much excuse for it. They can’t say “I didn’t want to lose a day of pay or PTO.”

                It’s not just about not making other people sick. Coming into work, traveling in crappy weather, puts more stress on your body and taxes the immune system which prevents it from working optimally to get you over your illness. If you had stayed back the first day instead of coming in, you might avoid having to take more time off later, depending on what it is of course. I recommend this even to people who are not contageous. I tried to work while I had mono, because my doctor said I wouldn’t infect any of my co-workers unless I had a habit of playing tonsil hockey with them. I look back now and SMH. That was super stupid! WTH was I even thinking??

                My manager will scold any of her people she catches in the office sick, and tell them to go home – pack up and go home. You can be sick and work all you want at home. I am really grateful for that. There are a lot of high pressure deadlines, but she’s smart about what people really need to do for the office to continue to function, and that’s not coming into work sick.

            2. Anonsie*

              And as an aside, you shouldn’t come into work at a hospital sick with anything. Over half of our patients are immune-compromised, it’s against policy and it’s against all common sense.

        2. Stanley*

          This sounds like he’s coming to the office so his wife and kids aren’t exposed to his germs all day long.

          1. Bea W*

            Except that he’s not married, no kids, and lives alone. Not to mention on a normal weekday, kids would be in school, and the wife would likely be working as well.

    2. Anonsie*

      “Oh it’s ok I’m feeling a little better now” No you’re not, STAY HOME

      “I went to the doctor though” It doesn’t matter, STAY HOME

      “What are the odds of anyone catching this?” A lot higher than you seem to believe, STAY HOME

      “You should just drink a lot of juice” Vitamins are not magic, they do not disrupt infections, they do not kill viruses, STAY HOME

      “But I have these supplements with vitamin C and zinc” No strong evidence on clinical trials that these– NO, I’M NOT ARGUING THIS ONE, STAY HOME

      “I haven’t vomited for almost 24 hours” STAY HOME STAY HOME STAY HOME

      “But I can’t rest at home because–” YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO HOME BUT YOU CAN’T STAY HERE

      “But I really need to do–” NO YOU DON’T STAY HOME

      “But–” STAY HOME

      “But–” NO BUTS

      1. Formerly Bee*

        Yes! Please, please, please stay home.

        I volunteer at a place that serves a lot of people with HIV, and the number of volunteers who try to come in sick is amazing. Even in other places, this bothers me. Not everyone’s immune system can handle the flu or whatever’s going around. Stay home!

        1. Anonsie*

          Without fail, every flu season someone comes to work where I am while they are clearly extremely ill and gives it to freaking everyone. We’ve ended up really short handed across the entire floor because one person always just haaad to be here and wouldn’t even take a focus room to sequester themselves. We’re mostly an open office so if you’re at your desk, you are basically right next to everyone, but there are private spaces you can book.

    3. Tinker*

      I hang my head in shame because I am so. incredibly. terrible. about this.

      Wishful thinking is a peril — “no, I can’t possibly be sick, it must be something else” — plus which I was brought up to go to work/school except when it was not physically possible to do so, or near to. So usually by the time I realize that yes, I am actually sick, I am on like day three of the overtly ill part of the illness and have had maximal opportunity to infect all my coworkers plus which have probably accomplished a negative amount of work during that time. Did I mention I work in an open office?

      I threw out my back Tuesday night (doing a stupid thing with a barbell) to the point where I couldn’t sit in a desk chair without a distracting amount of pain. We have EVERYTHING in the cloud and my personal laptop is set up almost identical to my work laptop. I went to work. I ride a bike to work. There is snow.

      Let us say, I learned that just because you might be able to get on a bike, does not necessarily mean you will be able to get OFF the bike. And that I really, really must learn to pull the trigger on working from home a lot sooner.

      1. ILiveToServe*

        I STAYED home. Applause please. I have been officially sick with the flu since Christmas. We do have generous sick time and fortunately I didn’t have any classes to teach this week. Supportive colleague stopped by my office and my assistant piled her with boxes of work for me. Went in yesterday. Felt punkish this morning and stayed home. Got a remarkable amount of work done. Not looking forward to Monday.

  24. aNoN*

    Last night I had a breakdown after work. I’ve been in my role for 8 months and the workload has increased to an unbearable amount. I work weekends, evenings, and still have to find enough time to study for my certification exam which I am actually retaking because I failed it the first time.
    I feel overwhelmed and my performance review is coming up. The feedback so far has been minimal and I’m worried. I’ve been trying my hardest but this job is becoming too demanding. The company is great, I’m paid well, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here until I get a PIP and have to start looking again. It boggles my mind of how aware our boss is of the situation everyone is in but can’t do anything about it. I’m tired and dread working this weekend. I’m rethinking my industry. I’m not even in a senior position and I feel like I’m expected to perform all day every day. If not for debt I would be doing something else. Thanks, just needed a rant.

    1. Colette*

      Have you pointed out to your manager that you can’t do everything on your plate? You say she’s aware of the situation, but have you explicitly pointed out that your current workload is unmanagable?

      1. Dawn*

        Yeah there’s a big difference between “My manager is aware that I’m working a lot” and “I have explicitly told my manager that I’m unable to do everything assigned to me unless I literally work all the time”.

        1. aNoN*

          Hey there, yes, I had frank conversations with my manager about the workload but right now we are in no position to hire anyone else. The entire team is under the same pressure but we just can’t do anything about it. It is an unfortunate situation. I can’t leave yet because then I would have to pay back my sign-on bonus which I cannot afford. Our manager is supportive and understanding of the situation. We are allowed flex schedules to accommodate our personal lives and basic needs like doctor appointments but it almost feels like my personal life is becoming non existent and simple things like doing laundry and dentist appointments are becoming hard to do.

          1. aNoN*

            FYI- my manager is also aware of the extra costs….I have been expensing everything from rides home late at night and including every single minute of overtime

            1. Dawn*

              Well, it sounds like you’re truly stuck for the time being. I suggest trying your best to maintain some semblance of work-life balance, start looking for new jobs ASAP, count down the days till you no longer have to pay back your signing bonus (is that even legal?) and use some of your overtime money to book a massage or something stress-relieving.

          2. Natalie*

            If you’re at the point where you can’t do basic personal upkeep like laundry, perhaps you need to evaluate which of your work tasks can be let go for the time being. I appreciate your manager might not be on board with that, but it might be wise to advocate for yourself before you start cutting into sleeping or eating, or just have a complete breakdown.

            1. Colette*

              Completely agree. This isn’t a “you need to hire someone else” conversation, it’s “I can’t do A, B, C, D, E, F, and G – which ones can we drop?” conversation.

          3. Aardvark*

            Aww, I’m sorry you’re in this miserable situation. I’ve been there, and it sucks.
            Have you tried approaching your boss about prioritizing tasks? I try to have 5 minute sit-downs periodically with my boss which helps me from getting back in that situation (I tend to take on too much and he’s been instrumental in helping me NOT do that to myself). I find that’s more helpful than saying “I’m really busy and stressed out”, since it opens up a window for some lower-priority tasks to get dropped with his permission, and it ensures we are both crystal clear on what I’m doing. If I just point out I’m busy, it doesn’t really register with him (even if he sees me in the office or online way outside of normal work hours), but if I point out that I physically cannot get X, Y, and Z done in 8 hours, he’s going to help me figure out which things I can safely put off or ignore entirely. (And I don’t hesitate to bring up things like how I haven’t seen my spouse for more than an hour in three weeks, or how I have no clean socks. A good boss cares that you have time to recharge and don’t make the office smell like feet :) )

    2. Sunflower*

      I think the first thing to do is breathe and try to not jump to conclusions. You’re stressed and it’s clouding your thinking a bit. Don’t assume you are going to be put on a PIP and get fired just because of this. You mention that your boss is aware of the abundance of work and the entire team is in the same spot. In that case, it doesn’t sound like your work or performance isn’t at what your boss is expecting. Heck your boss might be impressed you are keeping up at the level you are. Minimal feedback might be due to your boss just being straight slammed with work.

      Unfortunately it does sound like your stuck for the time being. Is your boss able to give you an idea of if this is a new permanent thing or just for a couple months?

    3. LCL*

      Go to your doctor and have him/her put on paper that you can’t work more than 40-45 hours a week.
      Stop working all that OT, unless you really need the money. It sounds like the money isn’t enough to make up for what the job is costing you in health and sanity.
      If your performance review is bad because you aren’t working enough, with all you have been doing, you will never be good enough for their unrealistic standards.

      1. aNoN*

        Hi everyone, thanks for your input! I was not expecting any comments as I mostly needed to vent somewhere. I am looking forward to my review. I am nervous about the feedback because there have been times where I make simple mistakes that caused multiple reviews. I am but a lowly analyst but I would like my work to reflect someone more senior. That’s my goal for 2015: to figure out what to do and improve my work quality.

  25. GA! (Lisa)*

    Does anyone have a recommendation to make for attendance tracking? Our company (~35 people) has a very relaxed attitude about taking time, mostly everyone just puts it on the shared Outlook calendar. But that has lead to a few bad apples taking advantage in the last couple of years, so I’ve had to start tracking on my own. Just sick, vacation/out, and late/early, but its still a time sink. I’ve been looking at the fancy-dancy software packages, but I’m not sure they are any better than a basic excel spreadsheet when it comes down to it. Thanks!

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I use a Microsoft Excel attendance tracking sheet for a payroll client that has 25 employees. It tracks vacation, sick time, personal days. I’d googled for attendance tracking template with the intent of creating my own but it was free and already set up and needed only a few tweaks for our purposes.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I think I use the same one. Was are an office of 11 (not including the two principal partners, whose time I don’t track). We only officially track vacation days. We don’t have sick days per se, so if anyone is sick, they stay home with no charge against PTO. We just track those days for information. I like the excel spreadsheet better than an office whiteboard, because sometimes I have to refresh my boss’ memory of a previous month.

        PS I started off tracking it in QuickBooks, but I HATE the way QuickBooks works for that. This year, I’ m wiping QB clean of any vacation tracking and relying on the Excel spreadsheet.

    2. Juli G.*

      For 35 people, no. I work for a major corporation and our fancy software is probably necessary given the employee population, multiple states, etc. but it’s a huge PITA. Most managers use a spreadsheet for their separate teams in addition to the company tracking because they find it much easier to reference.

    3. HR Manager*

      I’d ask – what’s the purpose for tracking? To keep team mates informed, or for actual payroll or compliance with company policy purposes.

      If it’s just communication/awareness, I like an old fashion board where people can say in/out or something to that effect (maybe done weekly/biweekly/monthly). An electronic version is acceptable, assuming it’s not buried somewhere that is hard for people to get to.

      If it’s actual payroll/compliance purposes, I would go for software package. Payroll software often has a time tracking component. Talk to whoever does payroll/finance to see if that can be rolled out. If not, ask if this is a real problem (taking too much vacation time may have real financial consequences) and see if finance/HR/management is in agreement that this needs to be managed better. Maybe they are willing to invest in a system that has timekeeping.

    4. Alter_ego*

      We use a program called deltek, but I’m just a grunt, so I have no clue about any of the backend stuff that goes on with it. We bill to clients though, so while we’re small, tracking our time accurately is important.

    5. Observer*

      Are you using a payroll service? Many of them offer time tracking as an additional service.

    6. Another Fed*

      Excel. With only 35 people, it’s fairly easy to use it for your own purposes. There’s tons of free templates available, and if you’re only tracking abnormal events instead of every employee’s time every day, it’s very manageable.

  26. Anon Accountant*

    So my boss and I are really quarreling frequently lately. He’s given some clients poor advice to the point if they filed a lawsuit then good luck to you in coming up with a reasonable defense. He’s been known to throw staff under the bus without a second thought also.

    There were issues with a staff member, “Chuck”, who has since left the company that would bill clients saying he did work for them but he hadn’t shown up or had stood outside talking on his cell phone for the time he was there. One contractor we had would take 2+ hour lunches, as witnessed by our staff, and would bill our company for the time she was at lunch. No client personnel was present where she could say it was a business lunch. On several occasions she would be at Chocolate Teapots’ office working on things for her other clients but billed our company as though she worked the entire time on our Chocolate Teapots.

    We brought this up to our boss and he screamed we needed to mind our own business and he was sick of us coming to him and telling him these issues. So we stopped bringing up these same matters. Now the old company was bought out about 18 months ago and he has others to answer to. The contractor and Chuck were both let go. Now last week my boss was furious and yelling at me because I “didn’t bring these issues to him”. I told him yes those issues were brought up and I had been told to NOT bring those up again. Okay enough venting from me.

    1. Dawn*

      Get stuff like that in writing. After having a verbal conversation, send him an email that says “OK Boss, today you said that you don’t want to know about X, Y, and Z. Thank you for clarifying that policy, I will not speak of those things again” or whatever. BCC yourself so you have a copy proving that you sent the email.

      If he’s nuts, that probably won’t be enough to convince him, BUT if his superiors ever come around wanting to know why no one spoke up about X, Y, and Z, your butt is covered!

    2. Ineloquent*

      That’s a pretty crappy situation. I think it’s time for you to be looking for something new.

    3. HR Manager*

      Hindsight is 20-20. Even if you didn’t email him or have some trail to prove that you did speak to him about these, you can certainly share that you did if someone asked. It sounds like others did the same and would be able to corroborate that the boss was the one who put the kibosh on your team raising these legit ethical questions around your coworker’s habits. If you need to (because management wants an opinion, or is on fire about finding why this wasn’t stopped) – I would absolutely share that not only did you bring this to his attention, but you know that Mary, Sue and Joe tried to as well.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I hope you are keeping a written journal of this and keeping it at home, of course.
      Is the boss trying to blame you for keeping it a secret? You said he likes to throw people under the bus.

  27. Anon to the mouse*

    Any recommendations for a good noise canceling phone headset to plug into the phone? I found a lot of regular ones really pick up background noise from the office.

    1. Anon to the mouse*

      Just to clarify, I meant a headset that you plug into a desktop phone to speak into and not hold the phone everytime I’m on a call.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      Bose are fantastic. I have the ones optimized for iPhone and the sound is great and the background noise is minimal.

    3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      I have a Plantronics one that seems to work really well (at least, no one has complained while I’ve been using it. . .). The model is CS70 NC, which they don’t make any more, but I’m pretty sure most of their models will have noise-cancelling microphones. They are pretty pricey, though.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have a pair of Beats noise-canceling headphones with a microphone and they are AMAZING. Pricey (they were a gift), but I love them– we have an open-plan office in a storefront, no rugs (new office, working on that), and it’s amazingly echo-y. We do a lot of work via Skype and phone. Stylish, too.

  28. louise*

    We need to make a policy change in one of our divisions that’s not likely to go over well. I’d love suggestions!

    -Small division, about 10 salaried, exempt roles.
    -Often out traveling 2 weeks at a time.
    -1-2 choose to work over the weekend while they’re gone, but most do not.
    -When they’re back, they expect to take a weekday off for every weekend day they were gone.

    Former ownership allowed this unwritten custom to develop. But frankly, we don’t want a weekend day not worked to equal a weekday off. If they chose to work the weekend days we would be okay with it.

    Those that choose to work over the weekend now have to do some extra legwork to come up with the weekend work. We consider the one employee who does that consistently to be more of a go-getter than the others based on what he produces while he’s out. We’d like to encourage other employees to take that kind of initiative if they want to get future time off in exchange for a weekend gone.

    (Potential problem I foresee: they may just work less each of the weekdays leading up to a weekend out so that they have something to do over the weekend without finding new work.)

    The tough thing is these folks are the highest paid in our company. Former ownership allowed this division to be a special place where once you got there, you could just do whatever you wanted. We want to create a culture of hard work and initiative, but there’s really not room to reward them further monetarily.

    I’m usually really pro-worker (to the chagrin of my bosses, I confess), but these folks strike me as entitled crybabies. What I keep pointing out to my bosses is that THEY HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO DEVELOP INTO THAT. I have no idea how to undo it without scrapping the whole division, but I sure want to try.

    TL;DR – How do we reduce the time off people have been informally allowed to take AND develop them into go-getters? Is it even possible?

    1. Colette*

      It sounds like you need a policy – with buy in up to the top levels – about how people are compensated for traveling. On one hand, getting a full day off for a weekend day you didn’t work seems like it’s too much – but on the other hand, they can’t see family or friends because they’re not at home, and there should be some compensation for that if you don’t want to fly them home every weekend. That kind of traveling can be really destructive on your non-work life.

      1. louise*

        Definitely have buy-in. The ownership came to me with the problem and want me to write the policy to “fix” it. I’m just not sure a policy can fix a whole culture issue! I agree they should get some time off, but they are paid very, very well right now and we would like more work out of them to justify the time off. That’s what’s hard–“we need more work out of you, but no, you don’t get a raise for that, you haven’t been doing enough work to justify your current level of pay.” Trying to find a way around that being the message they hear.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Is it affecting their performance? If having flexible scheduling isn’t affecting their performance then I wouldn’t change it.

      FWIW, I think it’s unreasonable to expect that if someone is giving up a weekend for travel they just lose that time entirely. Those are days that they can’t spend with their families, can’t finish their basements or run errands, etc.

      If you want employees to produce to the level of the one that comes up with weekend work, set those expectations. But I would focus on performance and output rather than the hours being worked.

      1. louise*

        It is affecting performance, but this will be the first they are hearing about that. Right now, they know that their division yields high profits with the amount of work they put in. What they don’t realize is that the profits are inflated due to some market conditions that may not stay the same. Their level of work/output could take a nosedive at any moment.

        1. louise*

          oops, last line wasn’t clear. I mean “The profits of their current level of work/output could take a nosedive at any moment.”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This is along the line of what Alison is saying below here. If their work is going to drop in value dramatically, working harder on the weekends probably will not compensate for the drop in value.

            Think about it. If their work drops by 50% in value, that cannot be fixed by having them work harder on two days out of the week.

            What you really need them to do is streamline what they are doing so that it becomes more cost effective in the future, when value drops. I cannot picture being able to retain all this staff if there is a major change like this.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think you need to focus on communicating that, first and foremost, before you do anything else. I’d talk with everyone about what you just explained here, explain you want to make changes to how things are being done now in order to address it, and ask for their input into figuring out options. They may come up with some of what your’e considering on their own (which would be a lot better as far as buy-in) or they may come up with other ideas you haven’t thought of. But way better to have it be a conversation than a sudden edict from above.

      2. Samantha*

        That’s exactly what I was going to say. Just because they’re not actively working, they’re still away from homes and families on behalf of the company – I would not consider that a day off.

      3. Pretend Scientist*

        I also agree with Katie the Fed and other commenters below–being away from home due to work travel on the weekend, whether they are actively doing work activities or not, is still work. They are missing out on whatever they would normally be doing if they were at home. Changing this is going to be a huge blow to morale for those workers. My current job does involve some weekend travel and my boss always ensures that I have the opportunity to take the previous Weds/Thurs or following Monday off, and this still applies even if I’m not actively in meetings, etc, the whole time. I’m on the East Coast and if I have a West Coast trip, my Saturday evening is spent in the airport and on a plane when I take the red-eye back, not at home. I may be reading a magazine, having a drink or taking a snooze and not be answering emails or writing a proposal, but it’s still time away from home and not exactly how I would choose to spend my weekend, so time off in kind either before or after the trip seems appropriate.

        A previous employer had occasions where they needed volunteers to come in to monitor for weekend projects (a clinical facility involving cell culture), and there were wildly different policies per department of how you were time-off compensated for that (and we’re talking 5-10 people per dept in a ~30 person group, at the time). After volunteering for one weekend where I worked 6 hours, I was told that only amounted to 4 hours off the following week, even though the other personnel there got a full day for any weekend day that they worked one minute over 4 hours. The justification was that it was “one of the trade offs that comes with the benefits of being a salaried employee”. Not really, it just makes nobody want to volunteer if it’s not appreciated. Then again, we were all mid classified as salaried exempt at an associate level and management would write you up for coming in between 8:31-8:37a (it was typically M-F 8:30-5:00p), but staying after 5:00p was never acknowledged. I got out of there as soon as I could (this was just a small snapshot of the things wrong with that workplace).

        My (long-winded) point is, really think this though before proceeding. If there is a performance issue, address that, but not in the context of taking away weekdays off. People may decide that the job is not worth it on the changed terms–work travel, especially over the weekend, is rough enough as it is. Having a catch-up day afterwards to do laundry, grocery shop, and just get one’s bearings after a trip can be a godsend and makes travel all the much more bearable.

    3. louise*

      Oh yeah — here’s one idea I proposed to ownership so far:

      A full weekend day worked = a weekday off later
      A Saturday/Sunday out, but not working = 1/2 a weekday off later

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I think that seems reasonable, but I still think it’s tangential to the real issue – not setting clear expectations of what you want them to be doing. You’re expecting them to come up with their own stuff – you need to establish that expectation if it’s what you want.

        1. louise*

          Yes. I think you’re exactly right. And that’s where there’s not quite as much buy-in. I’ve got a mandate to develop new policies, but I agree that establishing expectations needs to happen (and probably first, because maybe it would solve the problem altogether). I don’t know that ownership will agree with me because it means they’ll have to take a more hands on approach with the division.

        2. AVP*

          Agreed. I think it’s really hard to develop people into “go-getters” – that’s usually a trait you have to hire for, and train them on the other parts of the role later. Many, many people just don’t have that personality. And if you want to turn the people you have into people who will come up with leads on their own, they’ll need a good amount of training and workshopping and incentives to get there.

        1. the_scientist*

          I have to agree with this. Louise, as you’ve laid it out here, it sounds completely reasonable that employees would expect to be compensated for a weekend of work with a weekday off. One day worked= one day off. How is that not reasonable- am I missing something?

          Then you say that employees are “choosing” to work on the weekends….what does that mean, exactly? It sounds like they are travelling two weeks at a time (which undoubtedly is wreaking havoc on their personal lives) so they’re stuck at an offsite/away from home location over the weekend, right? When you have no choice but to spend a weekend away from home for work, I think that counts as work time even if you’re not actively having meetings/typing on your laptop. Maybe they are getting ahead on work because they’re stranded somewhere boring? Maybe they are doing prep work for the next week? Either way they are stuck spending a weekend away from home because of work. I really don’t think asking to be compensated for a weekend away from home, on work business, is unreasonable. Those weekdays off are when they are running errands and doing household chores and catching up with their families/friends- all the things they couldn’t do on the actual weekend because they were, you know, away from home. For work.

      2. A Teacher*

        I don’t know, because see when they signed up for the job the thing was if they were gone for a weekend they had that time off during the week from the way you’re explaining it. Sure, they get paid a lot but the trade off is that they are also NOT home for a significant portion of the month. I think if you’re expecting people to not be able to go home for more than a few days at a time the trade off comes on the company’s end. You’re asking your employees to basically change the terms of their employment and that isn’t really okay and I can understand why there would be a lot of blowback–and rightly so.

    4. LovingTheSouth*

      I obviously don’t know the details of your operation, and you might really have a problem on your hands, but I’d like to put in a small word for the road warriors out there. I’m away from home more than 50% of the time and much of that is international travel — so lots of weekends in places like London, Paris, Munich, Barcelona. Sounds glamourous — right? It’s not. I know lots of people in my firm look at my job and wish it was theirs. Sometimes I wish it was theirs as well. I typically leave the house early Sunday afternoon and, assuming none of my flights is delayed or cancelled, I arrive in London around 6:30am Monday after an overnight flight in coach. My firm pays for a hotel room for the night I’m flying, so when I arrive, I know I can check in right away and not wait for 3:00pm check-in. I grab three or four hours sleep, shower and go out to my first meetings. The days are full of meetings, the evenings are full of bad room service dinners and paperwork. I need to make notes of the meetings for the day, make sure any deliverables are set up, and prepare for the next day’s meetings. It’s not 9-5. On weekends, I might sleep in and go to a museum or take a long walk through the city, but I’m also trying to catch up on correspondence that I missed from the previous week and prepare for the next. By the time I get home, usually late Saturday night the next weekend, I’m beat. I’m tired, jet lagged and burnt out. I want time alone while my family wants time with me. I don’t think I’ve ever consciously thought — I worked two weekend days so I deserve two week days off — but I do often take off that first Monday and maybe come in a little later on Tuesday — but even then I’m probably checking emails from home. If you told me you wanted me to do more work on weekends to justify taking time off, I’d have to ask what you wanted me to do. And I think this is the crux of the problem. You say you are afraid they’ll just work less during the week instead of finding new work for the weekend. Can you tell them exactly what you’d like them to do? What can they do on the weekend that would improve their success and the company’s profits? If you can articulate that, it might be easier to get buy in. But I think if I was told that weekends and nights away from home didn’t count as work, I’d be more than a bit grumpy. I see myself as sacrificing what I’d rather be doing for the good of the company (and yes, I’m paid well, but I’d prefer to be home) while others in the company probably see it as me gallivanting around Europe and don’t see it as really working. Spending that much time away from home is crazy hard on the home life – it isn’t a glamorous vacation. And if I’m doing it for the benefit of the company, I consider it work.

      1. Pretend Scientist*

        This. Exactly this.

        Another company I worked for was half in the US (east coast) and half in Europe. The Europe half never quite got how awful it was coming over from Newark–the expectation, always, was to be in the office around 10 or 11 after landing at 7am. It. Was. Horrible.

        Can you tell that I have a pet peeve about unreasonable travel?

    5. louise*

      To give a little more context, they are definitely road warriors–they’re actually commercial truck drivers. But they don’t do long over-the-road hauls. Rather, they go to a specific area where we have an account and they make short hauls.

      Under the old ownership, they would start late in the morning, go load up, and take ONE, maybe two loads from the client to the final destination, which is never far from the client.

      Then they’d check into the hotel at 3. That’s it. Their job is such that there isn’t any paperwork or anything at all that happens if they aren’t in the truck.

      New ownership has them up to at least a couple loads a day, but they have time for several more than that under normal conditions. To work over the weekend, they just need to cultivate relationships at the client sites so that the clients will let them work Saturday a/o Sunday.

      We have another division that works with these same clients (doing completely unrelated work), but they have made it their personal challenge to see just how many hours they can get on the client site so they can keep working. Those employees are paid by the hour, so they don’t want to sit in a hotel if they can be working. But what it shows is that the clients are completely open to our drivers being there more–it’s the drivers who haven’t wanted to do any extra work.

      We don’t want to financially incentivize them because their pay is higher already than it should be for what they are doing. To make the same amount in any other part of the transportation sector, they’d have to be on the road 50-52 weeks of the year with one of the top paying companies, would have to sleep in a truck, and would have to be driving every hour that DOT would allow. Our folks are in hotels every night (we pay), never have to eat at a truck stop, get paid for food, and will never come close to the DOT max for hours. I guess I’m trying to say they have an INCREDIBLY sweet gig for truck drivers, but it’s like they have forgotten that this isn’t normal.

      Our thought is, they aren’t doing anything on weekend days when they could, so why give them weekdays off when they get back? Their thought is, we get paid great and only work a few hours a week (some were only putting in 25-30 hours a week before new ownership!), so why work more?

        1. Mary*

          I think you need to step back from the weekend working policy for the moment and look at the whole picture.
          1) Why is their manager not maximizing their work during their regular working week. Surely a good transport manager would be in constant contact with your clients, finding out their transport requirement as each day progresses and ensuring the truck drivers are working a full work day. Making sure there was another load to be picked up once a drop off was done etc. Why is it up to the driver to develop a relationship with the client to get more work. His/her job is to drive not create income.
          2) If they start late and finish at 3 pm, why not let them travel on a Monday and return on a Friday, then they won’t be away weekends.
          3) Why not hire local drivers to the client drop off location?
          4) I think you need to stand back and determine what looks good for a person working in this position and communicate this to your drivers. If no one has done this up to now the worker can only assume they have and are doing a good job. This should lead to good discussions with the drivers and they probably have lots of potentially good ideas for how the business should change improve from their observations over the years. Only then should the weekend policy be brought in as part of a general review of the job/role/responsibilities/requirements. etc.
          5) And I agree with the other posters, that if you the company require them to be away for work over a 12 day period then I can see why they want to take days in liue of not being at home for the weekend. Even though you say they are not working they are certainly not “at home” and should be compensated for this.
          I see from your original post you call them entitled crybabies so it is clear you are already frustrated with this group, perhaps for other reasons, but if their manager has not stated clearly to them what is considered good for this position then perhaps that is where the problem lies.

        2. Treena Kravm*

          No this actually gives us a lot of context! If they’re gone for 2 weeks, can you tell them that if they go over 80 hours during their time at the other location, then they’ll get those hours comped when they’re back home? When it’s about hours in a truck, it makes it harder to argue that there isn’t enough work. If you want them to build relationships to get the additional jobs, tell them that will count as work time too. And then if the non-go getters are always “building relationships” but not yielding more jobs, you can talk about that in terms of performance, or offer support.

          Is there a reason why it has to be 2 week stints if they’re not doing long hauls? Can you send them weekly instead?

  29. ACA*

    Following up on the “ringing cellphones at work” discussion from a few days ago, has anyone else noticed that there’s a generational divide between who silences their phone and who doesn’t? Only one other coworker and I (both of us in our late 20s) silence our phones; everyone else in the office (in their 50s and 60s) leaves the sound at full volume. It’s a small sample size, granted, but it makes me wonder if this is true in other offices as well.

    1. soitgoes*

      I noticed this in grad school. Older people tend not to silence their phones. They either claim to need to be reachable by their children, or they act like they don’t know how to use the tech.

    2. Sunflower*

      I think it’s because we tend to text more and have more apps that go off. I’m mid-twenties and I keep my phone on Do Not Disturb so there are no sounds whatsoever. If my phone vibrates more than once in 5 mins, my boss is incredibly confused what is going on on my phone. The idea of receiving more than a few texts a day is crazy to him! Oddly enough, he gets a couple phone calls a day while I get none on my cell.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I have a dumbish phone, and I don’t use it a lot day to day, so I often forget to turn it off.

        1. MaryMary*

          Yes, this. My mom doesn’t use her phone daily and never remembers if she has her ringer on or off. She misses calls while her phone is in the same room because it’s set on silent, but when she takes it off silent she forgets until it goes off in the movie theater or church.

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      Late 20’s and I tend to put it on silent. Not always but usually.
      My work colleague has her mobile on but sometimes it’s on vibrate. That said, I don’t pick up call during work on my mobile but my work colleague does frequently.

    4. Andrea*

      I’ve noticed a similar pattern but I think it’s more linked to people who use their phones a lot for smaller communications vs someone who has it for emergencies/as a second line etc. My folks are like this (and in their mid-60s) – my mom silences her’s because there’s a high risk of me texting her when she’s at work because we have daily conversations, whereas my dad has to be reminded to turn his off because he doesn’t get enough calls or texts to remember on his own.

    5. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I’m late 20s and always have mine on silent, though I’m surrounded by ringing/beeping phones all day. Now I’m inspired to find out whose phones are still on! I’ll report back ;)

    6. super anon*

      my phone is perpetually on silent. i get few calls in a day, but i get enough texts/emails/kakao messages/whatsapp messages/snapchats/facebook comments/etcetcetc in a day to drive me crazy if the sound was on.

      in my old office i noticed the same divide – the older coworkers would have their phones on (with the exception of my boss, who put his phone on vibrate), and the younger ones would have their phones on silent.

    7. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      In my office the younger people in their 20s silence them, while the older people leave them on Loud. But my parents, who are both in their 60s, silence their phones eeeeverywhere, as do most of their friends. So I’m not sure.

    8. Allison*

      It’s possible that since older folks use fewer apps, and use them less frequently, they’re not concerned with getting a lot of notifications during the day. To them, they only expect to get important calls, texts, and e-mails that they would need to respond to right away.

    9. Gwen*

      Mid-20s and I hate my phone making noises any time. It’s always either on silent or vibrate, even if I’m at home. I mute EVERYTHING in every app. But I have noticed that most of my coworkers (generally 20s-30s) keep their phones on silent or vibrate as well.

    10. Muriel Heslop*

      My two colleagues in their late 50s are the worst about their phones going off at full volume. I think they are still really excited about custom ring tones (they each have a lot of them. A LOT.) They constantly give reports and updates on their newest noises.

    11. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Interesting. I’m closer to my 50s than my 20s, and I have a lot of apps, but I keep everything silenced and most notifications are off altogether. I also hate using my phone for social media or web browsing, especially when contributing. For example, it would probably have taken me three times as long to post this comment on my phone. :) So I don’t have alerts for Facebook AND Twitter AND Google+ AND Instagram…only one of those, and it’s on vibrate. When I can check those, I’m usually at a computer and prefer to check it there. I also don’t usually get calls on my cell phone unless there’s an urgent family matter, as everyone knows I’d prefer to get a text or email.

      tl;dr version: Yes, but part of it is because of usage differences.

    12. Vanishing Girl*

      mid-30s and I keep mine on silent at work. I often forget to turn the sound back on at home!

      Most of my coworkers (30s-50s) keep it on silent, but there are two across the cubeway from me who have them not just loud but DEAFENING… these people are probably in their 40s and maybe early 50s. But they are also insanely loud talkers, so maybe that is the connection here.

    13. Sabrina*

      My dad managed to put his on silent, which is helpful since he’s already deaf in one ear. Well then he was driving in for Thanksgiving, got lost on one of the few streets in town that aren’t on the grid system, and I couldn’t call him because his phone was on silent! I turned it back on for him and showed him how to fix it if it happens again, but who knows.

    14. ThursdaysGeek*

      I haven’t noticed this. I’m in my 50s and my phone ringer has never been turned on.

      1. Windchime*

        I’m also in my 50’s and have programmed my phone with an app so that the ringer automatically goes silent at certain times.

        The following is a general comment, not aimed at anyone in particular: I have to say that I’m starting to get frustrated with the comments from the whipper-snappers in this forum who assume that anyone “older” (over 50) is to stupid or unaware of technology to know how to turn down the ringer on a phone. I’m an “old lady” who works in IT and I’ve received three promotions into increasingly technical roles over the last three years. So please don’t lump us all into the same category. Yes, my 75 year old Mom has trouble with her cell phone, but that’s because she seldom uses it. Not because she’s old and stupid.

    15. INTP*

      I have noticed this too. Today I was in a waiting room and Miley Cyrus “Party in the USA” started blaring, and it was an elderly woman’s phone – that amused me.

      I think it might have something to do with older people, on average, not relying on their phones as much for different types of notifications, conversations with friends, and other non-urgent communications. If I left my phone off silent, someone would strangle me. I get notifications for the most important types of work emails to my phone so I see them more quickly and use a ton of apps.

      I’ve also noticed that older people often think that vibrate is a substitution for silent. It definitely isn’t! If you are somewhere quiet, people can hear it just as easily.

    16. Tinker*

      Weird speculation — maybe it’s that, given the times involved, younger people started using cellphones at ages (K-12, college, junior employees sort of thing) when people are establishing themselves and get more of a “kids these days, irresponsible, disrespectful” sort of reaction if they let their phones go unsilenced?

    17. Anx*

      Late 20s here. I forget to silence my phone more and more these days since I don’t have a smartphone and don’t get a lot of calls on my cell. When I was younger and had a wider social circle I was more conscientious because I was more aware of my phone. These days I forget I have it many times.

  30. Sunflower*

    I know this question has been asked before – probably by me – but anyone have tips for someone who has event and marketing project management experience crossing over into a true project management role? In my current job(1.5 years), I manage the budget and resources for our events and make sure we stay within the scope. I also negotiate pricing to stay within budget. In my past job(2 years), I mostly was given projects and just worked on the deliverables but didn’t deal much with making the budget or resources. I’m searching for my next job and while I’m not opposed to executing deliverables on marketing projects, I really want to get more experience managing budgets and allocating resources on larger projects.

    My question really lies in when a Project Coordinator/Manager job says they want 3-4 years of project coordination/management experience, does my experience count? I don’t want to waste my time applying for jobs that I’m not actually qualified for.

    1. Rat Racer*

      I’m not in HR or recruiting, but I would say that someone who has excellent event planning skills probably has excellent project management skills. My former boss at a healthcare consulting firm was a former wedding planner and I have never met anyone who could keep so many balls moving down the field without missing a beat. (mixing metaphors). If I were hiring a project manager and an event planner applied, I would absolutely consider that person a viable candidate.

    2. AVP*

      I’m also interested in this. I’m a production manager for film/tv/commercials so I think I’d be good at it, but not really sure where to start. Do I need to study programming languages? (I think that would actually appeal to me so I might learn them anyway for fun, but if there are some that are helpful for a PM to know, I would focus there.)

      1. Jacks Fitzgerald*

        I had a production background at commercial animation studios and successfully transitioned to producing apps and websites a couple years ago. No matter the field, you’re still managing people/timeline/budget. I’d focus more on learning about technology – new innovations, trends, etc- son you’re able to talk about the industry and network. Then use those soft skills and newly gleaned industry tidbits and go to some networking events. Search for both digital producers and digital project managers. They’re the same thing. Might as well try “interactive producers” too.

        You’ll always have Technical Directors to turn to for coding questions. And you’ll have your stellar soft skills to help you build that relationship!

    3. YourCdnFriend*

      I would definitely see your experience as transferable. Have confidence in that and it will show in your search.

      Good luck!

    4. The IT Manager*

      It depends what industry you’re looking in. I’d expect some understanding of the SDLC for someone looking for an IT PM job, but I wouldn’t expect the PM to be able to code per se. There are MBAs with a focus in PM and MSes in IT with a PM focus.

      But there are different fields for PMs it depends where you look.

  31. Trixie*

    I’ve applied to a couple positions at local university, and saw this morning one of my apps switched from “Under Consideration” to “Interviewing.” Considering I just applied a month ago, good progress. I also applied for some part-time teaching at new big gym coming to town, and got a call for audition! Feeling grateful this week, as I continue to apply and move forward.

  32. Sinking Ship*

    In the past few weeks, four out of 30 people on my team have found new positions. This is on top of several people leaving in the fall months.

    I had an internal interview right before the holidays and am waiting to hear back. Obviously, I’m really hoping that I get the position. I’ve been looking for a new position for the past year, have gotten several interviews, and was even a finalist for a position but lost out to someone for political reasons.

    It’s so hard to be part of a sinking ship and come to work every day. I’ve noticed that my personality has changed a lot in the past year too. I get very visibly frustrated and become quite blunt with my coworkers/leaders. I’m a very non-confrontational person by nature. We’ve reorged so much that I’ve had three bosses since September. My current boss is very nice but has no backbone and won’t go to bat for our team.

    1. Stuck in the Snow*

      The personality change – that’s it! I’m in a similar situation (we’ve lost 8 people in the past year – on a team that is, at it’s largest, supposed to be 15 people) and I’m just realizing that I’ve gone from being an outgoing “happy” person to much more of a “pleasant, but there to do my work and that’s it” individual. Our team is trying to set up social activities, and I’m finding it hard to care. I just want to get out! At the same time, I know I need to maintain a good personal reputation. It’s not easy to get bogged down, though. So…here’s some sympathy. Let’s hope 2015 is the year of positive change for us!

    2. Golden Yeti*

      Similar thing here. I was at a party over New Year’s (half friends, half strangers) and noticed my regular level of introversion was jacked way up. I think it’s because most of my social interaction is at work, which I’m struggling with. These days, I feel significant inner apprehension when I hear the boss walking toward me, and I find myself being more blunt (plus inwardly repeating, “Go away” over and over).

  33. super anon*

    I have a job interview today! the job description seemed to align with my skills perfectly and the interviewer who scheduled my interview told me she was intrigued by my application and couldn’t wait to meet me, which is probably good, right? However, she sent me a very.. unscientific personality test (it isn’t taught or researched in academic psychology but is used frequently in business) that she asked me complete before I came in because they it in the office frequently. I did terribly on the test, it couldn’t type me, and the personality type that I scored highest on made me look like a narcissistic psychopath who will ruthlessly cut down anyone to succeed! Why do employers do this?! I hate personality tests as a general rule – their questions are always too vague for me to answer well, and I end up with results that are nothing like what I really am. I’ll take them for fun with friends, but I’m very skeptical about them and don’t but much faith into them. I’m going to go to the interview and try to rock it, but I’m not sure if somewhere that comes at you with an online personality test right out the gate would be a good fit for me. Ugh.

    This is the second time I’ve encountered having to take a personality inventory in the working world, but at least the other one waited until I was hired and dropped the entire issue after we did the training for it (although they were really pushing for us to find others who have strengths that compliment ours and to exclusively work with them because they could make up our failings. We did Strengthsfinders, if you can’t tell). Anyone else have any horror stories involving work place personality tests to share?

    1. Anony*

      Well good luck on the interview! If it comes up you could always say those tests never seem accurate in your case, you don’t test well, try to laugh it off?

      I was asked to do a personality test (DISC) prior to meeting in a Starbucks hours away from the job where the interviewer went over the 10 pages in detail. It felt like therapy and I made a joke to that effect. I was a Playful Peacekeeper per the test so no surprise there! He used to train people on this testing so he was big on it, reading my ‘weaknesses’ and pausing to read my face. And me on my best behavior, trying to stay upbeat and positive when I’m being told I’m ‘possessive’, ‘stubborn’ and other undesirable things. When I didn’t elaborate enough he’d say ‘we’ll it looked like you didn’t like that characteristic very much’. I made a comment about how while you may have certain tendencies with years of experience you usually learn to work around things and change. I turned stubborn into determined. In the end I figured there was no job at all and I was being tricked into some sales job or something.

      LOL… Wonder if anyone in the Starbucks was listening. What a joke. In my case, six weeks and many other hoops to jump through I was offered the job but in the end it didn’t work out for me. Hopefully your test is just a formality and nothing like my experience.

    2. Anony*

      I meant to add everyone in this company had to take the test as part of the hiring process. So perhaps that is the case with this company too.

    3. super anon*

      Update: Everything went well, and I was totally wrong in thinking that the place wouldn’t be a good fit for me! I was expecting it to be like my terrible old job in respect to the personality test aspect – but it was nothing like that. I should take this as a lesson not to judge the future based solely on past experience.

  34. LadyLep*

    Has anyone ever reduced their hours at work from full-time 40 to maybe 32 or below? I’m trying to think of pros and cons. I’ve been with my company for 18 years now in an administrative capacity (different areas over the years) and I’m just flat out bored, plus I’m just back from maternity leave and that’s spurred my thinking even more. I’ve looked into other jobs, but I’m at that stage where I make too much for another company to take me on at the same price. My job, honestly, could be done in two days out of the week if we could move some deadlines around…of course, I’d rather not tell them that! Insurance isn’t an issue as I could move over to my husband’s. And I do know that my salary wouldn’t be as much, obviously. I’m just kind of up in the air as to how to handle it and go about asking to do this if I move forward with it.

    1. Dawn*

      Do you have a good relationship with your boss? If so, approach it as a collaborative effort with the end goal of saving the company money (because you won’t have to be on full time salary anymore) AND making you happier (because you want to move down to part-time).

      Outline your job duties, how long it takes you to do them, and your reasoning behind dropping down to part time, along with any potential issues with you not being there 40 hours a week and how they might be handled. Worst case scenario, they say no, and then you can go from there.

    2. Anie*

      I have a co-woker who’s done this. First she went down to 3 days week and a few months later she went 3 days a week entirely from home.

      From my understanding, she just explained she wanted more time with her children and wasn’t happy with her commute. She did her job well and they were willing to work with her. I think she took a hit in some aspects, but overall she seems to be happier.

    3. Gwen*

      As someone who worked part-time for an extended period, consider what benefits besides insurance you might lose. This varies by company, but some things that you may not be eligible for if you’re not a full time employee include PTO, sick leave, paid holidays, 401k, paid time for jury duty. Depending on how flexible your schedule is, it can also be a pain when your hours don’t match up with meetings or fun events.

    4. KJR*

      Hi, I did exactly what you are talking about. For 15 years, I worked 32 hours per week, Monday – Thursday. I was off on Fridays, but readily available to answer questions or help (via e-mail or phone) if needed. I spent those Fridays at home with my children and later my neice, and enjoyed every minute of it. I transitioned back to full time this past September. The 20% reduction in pay took some adjustment, but we made do. No regrets. Any other specifics you were wondering about?

    5. Clever Name*

      I cut my hours from 30 hours a week to 20 hours a week, and it’s been great! I pick my son up from school, and I have the flexibility to work later or from home when I’m on a tight deadline. More pay is nice, but the time at home is better.

    6. LadyLep*

      This all just solidifies my thinking. I’ll spend some time and put together something for my boss about how it can still work if I’m not there a full 40. We’ve had a bad couple of years here and they’ve already cut some people’s hours in an effort to save money, so I don’t think she will have an issue. I just need to make sure we’re okay money wise first and check on PTO, etc. Thanks much!

  35. Anony*

    Job search question.

    I’m finding a number of jobs lately being a bit dishonest about the jobs duties and responsibilities, even salary in their postings, even in pre interview calls… is this happening now? I’m applying to jobs with titles and job functions don’t match (actual job function and pay is for more junior position). I talk to employers about salary ranges, we agree were in the same range and then in the interview I’m told the most they will pay is X (below the previously stated range on the phone). Huh? Then why lie and have me come in?

    I’ve never seen this before, is everyone else dealing with this too? So frustrating and I’m not sure how to handle or even prevent this.

    1. soitgoes*

      I dealt with that a lot. I learned to mentally filter out listings by whether they asked for cover letters. Those ones tended to be real.

      1. Anon for this one*

        I was really bummed this week because I saw a job opportunity I was really excited about. My experience didn’t line up with the job in the traditional sense, so I was prepared to wow them with my cover letter…. except they didn’t ask for one and there was no place to submit one. I was griping to my husband about it and he said I should have just added a page to my resume and re-attached it… but I was kind of wondering if it was a red flag. Sure made it easy to move on from (except I’m still a little bit bummed).

      2. Anony*

        Great tip, I’ll look out for that. The jobs are real but they ate hiring for an Administrator instead of an Administrative Assistant, like that. In this case I was told the posting online was from corporate and handed a different one in the interview (!).

        I get the sense they are trying to attract qualified candidates for lower level positions, maybe feeling once you’re in the process a more junior role/lower salary would be ok? I’m finding it very strange. The interviewer who had a different job description that I mentioned above, when I turned the job down and told her why asked me to send her the job posting I had cause she hadn’t seen it…

        1. voluptuousfire*

          Gah, I hate that! I’ll see ads with the title of Recruitment Coordinator and the body of the ad says “The Recruiter will…” It’s not the same job! Recruitment Coordinators usually handle the background admin stuff for the recruiters: ad placement, scheduling interviews, candidate responses, minor sourcing, etc. Sometimes it can be considered a recruiter in training role but often it’s not. I like working in recruitment but I excel in the admin side of it, not necessarily in the sourcing/interview side.

      3. Anx*

        For me, the issue I am finding is a job will be advertised as “up to 20 hours” or something similar but the actual hours hover between 6-15.

        It’s not dishonest, but it’s frustrating.

    2. Judy*

      As far as job titles go, I’ve not found two companies that do it the same.

      One place, a Director would have a team of 5-10 managers so they’ve got 300-500 people working for them. The next, a Director might have 2-3 managers working for them and a total of 40 people working for them. My current company has almost 100 employees and has a president, 2 vice presidents (VP Engineering and VP Operations), and at least 5 Directors.

      As far as the pay goes, I have no idea.

    3. MaryMary*

      It could be that these employers aren’t lying, but are disorganized or have poor communication. When I worked at a very large company, recruiting was completely separate from the hiring manager. A recruiter very well could have promised a candidate more money than was budgeted, and never told the hiring manager. Now, I work at a small company, and it’s (sadly) not unusual for people not to agree on what the actual need is, or how much it should be paid. You could talk to someone who thinks the company needs a more experienced person and that it would be worth it to pay for it, and then interview with someone who thinks a less skilled and less well paid candidate would be fine.

    4. Christian Troy*

      I have unfortunately run into this a lot.There’s a job posting out there that describes one thing, during the interview process when I start asking more specific questions like what is a typical day like or what are some challenges of this position, it starts to paint a different picture.

      I don’t know how to prevent it but this happened during an interview once, like in a very significant way, and I was pretty blunt about the fact I didn’t understand what was going on because the description said x,y,z and they were talking about the role doing a,b,c. The interviewer said they determined in the last two weeks they wanted the role to be different than what was advertised but didn’t apparently feel it was necessary to relay that information before the interview.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I ran into a similar thing with the USPS. The ad said $20 per hour. I went and asked about that rate of pay. “Oh, NO one actually gets that rate. I don’t know why they put that on there.” hmmmm. Interesting.

    1. unemplaylist*

      My husband went from being a composer and sound track designer for games to selling insurance and retirement products. It was not a good move, and he’s back doing games. But he didn’t have to go back to school!

    2. KMC*

      I changed from theatre (costume shop) to administrative, and then accounts payable. Once I was promoted from accounts payable to bookkeeper, I did go back to school and get an accounting certificate, but that was evenings.

    3. Agile Phalanges*

      I was lucky enough to do that at my last company. In fact, they hired me into the accounting department WAY back when without any education, on the contingency that I’d take some local community classes in accounting. I worked my way up in the department from AP clerk without any autonomy to essentially a staff accountant, and I proposed a lot of policy changes and procedures that were implemented, often with my help. Just after I finally completed my accounting degree (online, years of slow progress), an internal position opened up in the marketing department, for a marketing researcher. They, too, took a chance on me even though I had no marketing, statistics, or research experience or education. I took some industry education classes (week-long in-person seminars) and an online class in statistics, and obviously learned a TON on the job from my manager and others in the department.

      [Then they closed my office and I was out of a job, and now I’m back in accounting again since that’s what my resume could get me even though I really enjoyed market research.]

      So it CAN be done, but it really helps if you have an “in” in the career you’re trying to enter, whether it’s because it’s an internal position and therefore the company knows you and knows what you’re capable of learning, or because of networking, or because of informal education or volunteer experience or something else that might get you a foot in the door.

  36. HeyNonnyNonny*

    Work fashion!

    I’m in the market for a new nice work bag/briefcase/whatever you call it. For the first time, I can go for something that’s over $200– though nothing crazy. I want something black, leather, and large enough to fit a coffee thermos, lunch bag, and miscellaneous wallet-y things. Laptop optional– so not just a large purse, but doesn’t have to be a full “briefcase” either.

    Anyone have any brands or styles that they’d recommend?

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Are you looking for something more structured and tall, like a large tote, which is more “work-y”, or a large hobo or shopper, which may hold a little bit more but not quite be so professional-looking?

      Nordstrom’s website has a great tool to narrow purses by style, colour, and price range. As for my pick, I’m very fond of Fossil for good-quality leather goods at a decent price, and they’re quite sturdy as well.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        You know, I was looking for more ‘professional’ ones, but they’re all too narrow to fit my lunch bag and stuff…probably time to widen the search to hobos too!

    2. soitgoes*

      Try a “bucket” style purse. I’m able to throw my giant coffee mug in there when it’s empty, along with a book, wallet, 800 chapsticks, 400 travel-sized hand creams, the receipts from every time I ever went to Target, 285 pennies, etc. I could easily fit a tablet in there too, if I had one. Plus, they often have very long straps so you can wear it cross-body.

        1. soitgoes*

          There’s a blogger who calls her purse her “bag of garbage.” I need all of my expired coupons!

          1. HeyNonnyNonny*

            Oh, this is exactly what I do!

            You never know when you might need those receipts, or spare gloves…thanks for the rec!

    3. Hypnotist Collector*

      Check out Levenger leather bags – beautifully made, very professional. I have a red one that I get insane compliments on.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Not Canadian, but I’m loving these styles…thank goodness they list dimensions for everything!

    4. KTM*

      I would search for tote bags. I have a Michael Kors tote for exactly the same kind of function and I like it a lot (was <$200 but not by much). They carry them at places like Macy's too so sometimes you can find a great deal. My biggest thing is I make sure it has at least one zip pocket (for lady-things) and a zip top (because I hate if my tote bag tips over at a conference or on a plane and everything spills out). Some of them are also made out of materials that are much easier to clean (you can just wipe off liquid rather than have to blot something) but I'm not sure exactly the material names – that's why I like shopping in person!

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        YES, I think ‘totes’ is exactly the size and type I was looking for, but since I kept looking for ‘briefcases’ I wasn’t seeing all these! Thanks!

      2. skyline*

        Zip tops are key! My pet peeve is when bags without them tip over in the car and I have to go hunting under the seat for stuff that fell out.

        My daily bag right now is a Dooney & Bourke tote that I got on sale at Macy’s. Fits a work portfolio with letter sized papers, my giant wallet (which is zip-around with a strap, so it can be used as a solo clutch), and my other assorted miscellany. Mine is probably too narrow to fit a lunch, as I intentionally went with a slimmer one to discourage overpacking and to help it hit under my arm.

        For more casual use and travel, I used a zip-top Baggalini tote. That would totally fit a lunch and thermos, has all the right pockets, and even a padded sleeve for a laptop or tablet.

    5. TotesMaGoats*

      I have a large tote from Coach that I got for cheap at the outlet. I can fit laptop, books, all sorts of stuff. Great for airplane travel.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Oh man, I don’t know if I can brave an outlet…there are some nearby that are supposed to be good though!

    6. Bend & Snap*

      I have the Kate Spade Reis leather tote and I like it so much I got another one in a different color. It’s big, deep, has lots of pockets and looks great.

    7. Addy*

      I would check out caphillstyle . com. She’s a blogger who regularly writes about good bags for work.

      I also just got a leather tote from Fossil for under $200 and I love it. Fits a computer and my monstrous water bottle.

    8. periwinkle*

      I’m a Tumi enthusiast. My husband spent his youthful days in retail at a higher-end luggage store and still uses two Tumi computer bags (one over-the-shoulder, one backpack). I recently bought a Tumi checkpoint-friendly laptop backpack and love it for business trips because it fits a carefully-edited selection of clothes as well as the computer stuff. Their leather totes are a bit pricey – closer to $500 – but fabulous. I’d advise against shopping the Tumi outlet stores, though, because the goods seem different (and often lower quality) from what you’ll find in their regular stores.

      If you don’t want to splurge to that ridiculous extent (but I love my Tumi stuff!), yeah, head to a place like Nordstrom and get your hands on the different leather tote options.

      1. Curlicue*

        I second Tumi. I received the orange leather Sinclair Lynn Large Tote for Christmas and love it. It is roomy enough for a laptop (even comes with a sleeve), purse essentials, files and lunch. It is very professional and sharp looking. My husband bought it just before Christmas at a Tumi store in the mall. It was marked down from $495 to $295 plus a 20% discount on top of that. So, there are deals to be had!

    9. Sophia in the DMV*

      I recently bought JCrew’s Downing tote and I love it. More than enough room for a laptop, books, water etc

  37. Anie*

    Hilarious story!

    I asked a co-worker to fix something for me on our website. Completely within his purview. He did it; easy fix. He came to me a few hours later and said, “You look like someone who knows how to put things away.” Rotfl! That apparently was his opening to ask for assistance packing up some personal Christmas lights he’d brought in to decorate his office.

    I did it because we’ve had some tension in the past, so I’m trying to be kind. It only took a couple minutes. But as I was walking away, he tried explaining why he’d asked me in the first place. Something along the lines of “you asked a favor of me so I felt I could as one of you.” I gently corrected him that, no, I hadn’t asked him for a favor. I’d asked him to do something related to his job.

    The next morning I found a couple dollars on my desk. When I ran into that co-worker, I asked if he’d left it there (because why would someone leave money on my desk?!). He had. I guess he was trying to even up the fact that I had done him a non-work-related favor.

    Seriously, I got tipped by my office co-worker. Too funny!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Your workplace is so bizarre. If I recall, you’re looking for something new, but please keep telling us these stories while you’re still there.

  38. Please Read Harper C, Nerd Girl, Clever Name, jess, Elizabeth West, A. Nonny Mouse and Katie the Fed*


    I wrote to Alison yesterday with an update on a question I sent her but wasn’t answered here, but she asked me to share my update on the open thread today:

    “Hi Alison,

    I have an update to the email I sent you Nov. 1 about my intimidating coworker.

    You didn’t answer my email on your website, but through other reader’s questions and comments and your answers I pieced together a course of action.

    After not getting any help from management or HR, I took the Evil HR Lady’s advice (which I found through your site) and consulted an employment lawyer. He listened to my issues and told me I had legitimate complaints against multiple individuals in my organization and the organization itself and got me in contact with my EEO officer (a task HR hadn’t been able to do for 26 days).

    I was considering suicide that weekend, and posted how sad I was in the comments of one of your posts. It was your readers wonderful comments that got me through that very tough time.

    Also, commenter “Katie the Fed”s answers to my post on an open thread-day gave me the courage to speak up for myself.

    While I’m terrified of going forward with the EEO process, I have to stand up for myself because no one else will.

    Thank you”

    So THANK YOU everyone for contributing to this site, especially Harper C, Nerd Girl, Clever Name, jess, Elizabeth West, who all gave me encouragement and kinds words during that difficult time – you all helped save my life – and Katie the Fed for the advice you gave me.

    I feel like these words aren’t enough, but please know if I could say it any better or do any more I would.


    1. Adam*

      So glad you’re finally getting the help you need and deserve. Keep it up and you will make it through!

    2. fposte*

      I’m so glad you hung in there, and that when you were able to ask you got the help you deserved. Good luck to you for a better 2015.

    3. louise*

      You brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t see any of the original conversations, but how amazing that those folks were able to be just what you needed then! I’m so sorry work contributed to ending up in that mental space. May you have hope going forward.

      1. GOG11*

        +1 million

        I am so glad you’re here. Please continue to check back in with the AAM community as things progress. There are so many wonderfully supportive and helpful people on this site and I hope this community can be a source of support for you as you move forward in this process.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Awww I’m really glad you found some help, and I’m sorry you went through such a dark and terrifying time. Glad we could be a small part of the solution!

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Oh yay! *BIG GIANT HUG*

      I’m so glad to hear that. Really, we are all here for you. You can do this. Often taking that first step is the hardest part. Hang in there, and please keep us updated!

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yes! This can be an encouraging community, and we look forward to you being part of it, as you go through the EEO process and beyond.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      And this is what courage looks like. Everything around a person is saying stop and the person finds a way to keep going.
      People say we have no heroes anymore. I’d argue we have people all around us taking heroic steps every day.
      All the power to you, OP.

    7. nep*

      Thanks for sharing this.
      Wishing you all the best. Good reminder to all of us that we do eventually move past the tough times.

    8. Clever Name*

      Wow. I’m speechless. I’m glad you found help here. This is such a wonderful website with amazing commenters. I know things are tough, but you’ll get through it!

  39. TotesMaGoats*

    This is going to be a long story. Bear with me please. You all know that I’m in higher ed in the Baltimore metro area, so I’m going to chocolate teapot the details. Sorry.

    Prior to going on mat leave, I ran 5 chocolate teapot factories. When I came back, I was told that our biggest AVP had decided to reorg and give the new lower level AVP 2 of my factories. But I get to keep my title and salary, so yeah, right? No. I’m bored out of my skull. The new AVP (a previous colleague) has told me he thought this was a horrible idea but what’s done is done. Fast forward and big boss has resigned. My AVP has decided to change things back, so I have all my factories again. Great. How it should be.

    Problem? The person I’d hired (who I freely admit was the only hiring mistakes I’ve made in 10 years but was out of my control in the end) has a horrible attitude. We (my AVP and I) believe this person spewed enough lies to convince old boss to make the original change. So, now I have to deal with this person who has a horrible attitude and has mismanaged some personnel interactions to the point of being thisclose to an HR investigation.

    Gonna have a sit down with her but need some advice/good lines to use to address her attitude.

    1. Dawn*

      Get all of your ducks in a row before the meeting and make SURE that you are ONLY addressing concrete, actionable things- meaning “Jane, on June 10th you told Gertrude that if ‘she doesn’t get that report to me by the end of the day I will personally put my boot up her [expletive]’. On July 23rd you told the rep from Teapots LTD to ‘Get bent you old windbag’. On Aug 1st you started screaming at June, Toby, and Mortimer and threatened to ‘spit in your coffee every morning until you [expletives] stop [expletive]-ing around with the Heinz account’.”

      Present her with facts, ask if there’s a reason she’s acting the way she is. Listen to what she has to say- I mean who knows, maybe she’s off her meds or her mom just died or there’s something else going on besides being a Totally Horrible Person. Definitely DON’T make it a personal thing- no talking about how everyone in the office hates her or is intimidated or whatever. Make it about facts, about very specific things that she does that are against what you need her to be doing. Make it incredibly clear that if you don’t see a marked improvement in attitude and actions by X date (a month, maybe) that the next step is and HR investigation and a PIP. If she tries to turn it around on other people (“But Gertrude gave me a really mean look that day and so I HAD to yell at her!”) bring it back around to focus on her behavior, not anyone else’s.

      Really if she’s this bad firing her is probably the best option, but unless you’re willing to just cut your losses now you need to start the ball rolling on getting her to realize the severity of the situation, AND start creating a paper trail for when you do fire her.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Part of the problem is that I don’t have facts. I know how this person has been in meetings that we’ve both attended. Defensive. Snotty attitude. Way too big for their britches, as my mother would say. There are some behavior things and my AVP is addressing those since the reorg hasn’t occurred officially for me to supervise this person again and address them myself. My guess based on what I’ve heard is hostile workplace. And I don’t doubt it.

        1. GOG11*

          I’m a bit confused. Do you think that AVP won’t be able to adequately address everything?

          The things you cite are your beliefs (which very well may be accurate) about this person rather than the problem behaviors that need to stop. What has this person done, in a behavior you could see or hear, that leads you to believe he or she is “defensive?”

          1. TotesMaGoats*

            Honestly, I’m not sure if AVP will be able to handle it. That’s a gut feeling.

            I have seen defensiveness and other attitude related issues. Hard to describe without writing a book to explain it but basically textbook defensiveness when confronted with even small mistakes.

          2. TotesMaGoats*

            The added problem is that this person thinks they are ready for my role but are so very far away from being ready. What I want to say is, “Your attitude as evidence by tone of voice, body language and facial expressions is unacceptable and contributes to an atmosphere of tension. You need to take a step back and do a lot more listening and learning.” But I’m entirely sure I shouldn’t say that.

            1. GOG11*

              I think what you mention mostly works. Could you address why an atmosphere of tension is bad? (Discourages participation and sharing of ideas in meetings, for example?)

              Also, what does “take a step back and do more listening and learning” mean in the context of what so-and-so SHOULD do in place of using her current tone of voice, body language and facial expressions.

              So, I guess,
              here’s what you’re doing in a behavior I can see or hear
              + negative impact to be minimized/eliminated
              + what you SHOULD do in behavior I can see or hear in order to achieve
              + positive outcome to be achieved/increased/maximized

              1. GOG11*

                Caveat: This formula thing (and the middle section of my response) are more worksheets for you to see if you can nail down specifics which might help you shape your talking points. If there’s a way to dictate someone’s facial expression in a meeting that isn’t super awkward and weird, I don’t know of it.

        2. RH*

          I am going through something similar, so I will be interested to see the replies. Also in higher ed, and the staff person (A) in question I believe lied to a person with more seniority than me (B), but has no supervision over me, who then assigned two staff people for whom we share supervision to complete an assignment I gave A. All because A (as she has stated to me) didn’t want to do it and knew I would not let her out of the assignment. B then came to me and told me I didn’t know how to do my job (we are in completely different fields) and was ruining the morale in the office because I was not in the office enough (attending to university business). A is now applying for FMLA, for what I suspect is “stress-related illness” – I have no idea what she put on the application. It has been a truly awful week, once you throw in 2 computer failures, car trouble, and of course, insomnia.

          1. ILiveToServe*

            I feel your pain. Best advice I received was document. Put every request in writing. Have concrete deadlines and expectations. Put in writing that work is not to be reassigned without your direction. Put in writing when you observe that it had been. The FMLA leave is not any of your concern. Be concrete. Look at the job description. Communicate expectations. Document. Repeat.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Why not just review some points from an angle of general discussion? “I have some key points that bear revisiting.”
      You can make a broad statement that lying is not acceptable ever. And you don’t have to have proof that she lied because you are not talking about her lying. “Lying is not acceptable at Chocolate Teapots and is grounds for immediate dismissal.”

      As far as personnel interactions, you can remind her of what policies need to be followed at all times. Let her know you do not expect to see any recurrences.

      In talking through this, you will probably see her defensiveness come to the foreground. Which would give you the opportunity to address that. “Handling constructive criticism as a professional is part of the job.”

      I would also make sure that she has a firm grasp of what you expect from her in her capacity. “I expect you to show a willingness to help out and a willingness to work with others.” Or whatever it is you feel she should be doing. The let her know that these are the points you will be watching for.

      Does she do anything well????

  40. Night Cheese*

    Has anyone successfully negotiated conference attendance into a job offer? There’s an important conference in my field coming up and I want to make sure that I’m there. My current employer has already agreed to send me.

    Worst case scenario, I’d take the hypothetical offer and pay my own way, but I just wanted to see if anyone had any ideas.

    1. fposte*

      You mean you’re hoping to be in a different job by the time of an industry conference and you’re wondering if you can ask the new employer to cover it?

      I think so, at least in some fields. What I’d do is start with a question about paid conference attendance generally and then ask if that would cover the upcoming conference you’re already booked for. I’d be more inclined to get paid conferences as part of the package generally rather than negotiate based on a particular event, though, because once it’s over what have you got?

      1. Night Cheese*

        Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. I’m not in the corporate world; I’m work in academe but I’m regular staff, so things can get kind of gnarly at times.

        I will try that approach if they make me an offer.

    2. cuppa*

      This shouldn’t be too unusual, but keep in mind that depending on your field and financing, the budget may already be allocated for the year.

      I had this happen to me once and I paid my own way, but they granted me the time off to attend no problem (without using PTO).

    3. CollegeAdmin*

      Oh, I’d love to know this too! Also, do you think there’s a limit on how much the conference should be? (I’ve never attended one; between conference fees, flights, hotel, etc., it’s over $1500, which seems like a lot to me.)

      1. fposte*

        In my experience, institutions usually have set rates of what they’ll cover per conference or per year; it’s up to the staffer/faculty person to decide how to allot it and/or find additional funding, whether it be on grants or from oneself.

      2. LibrarianJ*

        RE: conference cost, depending on where the conference is located, $1500 doesn’t seem ridiculous. My major conferences last year and this year were both on the opposite coast, and both were/will be in that price range. But, that also depends heavily on your institution, and on your rank. My current department makes professional development a priority and has the financial flexibility to do that. At my previous institution, the department’s money was much tighter, and folks 2-3 tiers above me were being denied funds to attend conferences at less than half that cost, much less the peons at my level :-) . So I’d say you have to know your local culture. But usually, I go to my supervisor first, before I place a formal request, and can count on them to be honest with me about what’s going to be doable/reasonable this year and what isn’t.

    4. HR Manager*

      If it’s a well-known industry conference, it might not be that unusual of a request. If you get an offer, I would immediately ask the recruiter/manager what the company’s practice is on conference attendance. Explain that you are already planning on attending, and would like to know if this would be covered by the company. Especially if the topic of that conference may be of importance to the company (i.e., do any of the panels cover content that might address some of the challenges they laid out in your interviews?), you can certainly mention that you think it will be helpful to your job to attend.

      As an example, we hired a Salesforce guy recently, and DreamForce is THE place to be for SF geeks. There was no question he would be there, even though he would have only been with us for a month or two. It’s not unheard of.

    5. Brett*

      I have always discussed conference attendance in every interview, including interviewers where I was the interviewer! (Local government positions mostly, but also some private sector tech and startup tech.)

      It is simply too important in our field, and I know there are plenty of employers out there who will not even let employees take time off to attend, much less pay for attending (I am looking at you prominent DoD agency in our field). Since our pay sucks, it is important to let applicants know we cover some conferences.

      And there is simply no way I am moving to a new employer who will not support me continuing to attend certain key conferences.
      So, easy lead in. When you reach your chance to ask questions, “I would like to discuss how you support career development. What conferences or other professional activities would you expect me to attend in this role?”
      At this point you could discuss conference support in general for the role, like fposte mentioned.
      If the specific conference is not mentioned as one they expect you to attend (I have at least one conference in my field I squarely put in the “must attend” slot)…
      “I consider the XYZ conference in to be a significant event in our field. I have (already arranged to attend it this year/attend it every year) with my current employer. In this role, would you be able to make arrangements for me to attend this year?” You only really need a yes/no at the interview. You could discuss the details of actually attending (time off, on the clock, fully paid, etc) at offer negotiations.

    6. periwinkle*

      It’s worth asking about. If the department’s budget has already been set in stone it might not be possible, but there could be some discretionary funds available for professional development such as conferences.

      Conferences can get expensive! I have three budgeted for this year, with conference fees ranging from $1495 to $300 (all three are 4-day conferences). Factor in airfare, lodging, and per diem for meals, and that’s another $800-$1400 depending on location. Do the math before the negotiation; if the conference hasn’t released this year’s fees, look at last year’s. Don’t assume the conference-arranging hotel rate is cheaper than what you can get on your own…

  41. Zeezee*

    I feel like this is the inverse of a popular question: I run a department at a nonprofit and certainly don’t expect that my boss (our President/CEO) will know all the minutia of my job. After all, that’s why I’m here! The issue is, she acts like she knows — despite primarily being an expert in an unrelated area. Any advice on how to respond (positively) when she proposes ideas that are not best practice, or just objectively strange? Now, when I push back, I feel like I’ve made her angry or impatient.

    1. LAI*

      I had the same thing in my last role. Our director would usually be really hands-off, but sometimes would propose very specific ideas for things she wanted me to do that just didn’t make sense. She would always frame it as a “suggestion”, but the underlying hint was that I should really do it. Often, I would say “I’ll look into that” or something similarly vague, then put it off as long as possible. If she brought it up again, I’d sometimes try to prepare an argument for why it didn’t make sense. Many times, however, I just ended up doing whatever it was she wanted, and then I would just try to either morph it into something that would actually be a good use of my time, or put in as little effort as possible and get it over with.

    2. LMW*

      I’ve been having this problem constantly with my new boss and it’s really impacting our relationship. Part of my problem is he phrases the suggestions more like orders than suggestions and I feel like I’m making excuses or on the defensive, when I’m really just giving practical, fact-based information on why something won’t work. I mentioned a couple open threads back that this actually resulted in him screaming at me and banging the table during one of our one-on-ones. I know he’s kind of embarassed about that, but I’d love to know how other people handle this type of thing.

    3. GOG11*

      I would speak to the workability of it.

      Could you say something like, “If we did X instead of current practice Y, how would we address the effects/consequence of Z?” or “If we skip step 3, we’ll bypass the quality controls we have in place. I’m worried that doing so would allow design flaws to make it through a later stage in production where they’d be much harder to fix.”

      I’m having a really hard time thinking of a good example to illustrate what I’m thinking of, but I hope this helps :/

    4. Not So NewReader*

      One thing I have done is gone it to it- instead of bucking it. That looks like this:

      “Boss, I have A and B going on. I know we said to do X in those instances but suddenly I have encounter an additional complexity C. I am leaning toward steps 1, 2, 3. What do you think of all this?”

      1)It shows you think of your boss as a resource. She wants to be acknowledged as someone who knows what is going on. Give her that. Time will temper this, you will be less aware of her non-expertise and she will be more aware of YOURS. It takes time. Treat her as a co-conspirator, you are plotting to do a great job and she is in on the plot.

      2) By offering a solution you are letting her have a glimpse inside your brain and she is getting an idea of how your brain works, the things you think of to say/do. I know it is tough, but try-try to remember that she cannot mind read and automatically know all the bases you have covered. Once she gets more used to hearing you think out loud with her she will come to understand, “oh, ZeeZee always remembers to check x, y and z”.

      3) Be genuine. Don’t set out to show her how much she does not know. Be sincere, be conversationally pleasant, show interest in learning more. Matter of fact, show interest in learning more at all times. That will be a big leg up on this problem you are having now. (Don’t over look simple things. For example, if the two of you have no solutions for a small matter- research it. Show her what you came up with and your ideas for fixing that small matter.)

      If you have basically a good boss, AND you are consistent about this, then this difficulty should go away or dramatically shrink before this year is over.

  42. Usually Not Anonymous*

    I got a small bonus check from the company I am temping at and they didn’t go through the temp agency. I haven’t cashed it, because I don’t know if I need to let them know. I think this will create a awkward situation if I have to go back to my job and say I can’t accept it. Thoughts?

    1. Anie*

      Bonuses are gifts, right? For every other non-contract/temp employee, it’s a non-taxed present. I wouldn’t bother my temp agency over it.

      1. fposte*

        I hope somebody with more tax info will weigh in here–I’d be really surprised if it could be non-taxable.

        1. Natalie*

          Yeah, this doesn’t jibe with my experience. Every bonus I’ve gotten has had taxes and 401K contributions deducted.

    2. HR Manager*

      They may be doing that purposefully because they don’t want the mark up of paying a bonus through the agency, or it could be an innocent mistake. I trust this check hasn’t had any payroll taxes deducted. If you feel comfortable with this, you can ask your manager about this and tell him/her that you were pleasantly surprised to see this. Ask mgr that since no taxes were taken out, should you expect to see a W-2 or 1099 or something similar from the company? This should start the ball-rolling on an “oh $hit” moment if this were accidental. If it was purposeful, and they are somehow suggesting you not report this income, then you can push back and ask “shouldn’t this go through my agency?” or let them know you’re “not comfortable with accepting income that will not be reported on a W-2”

  43. Adam*

    If you’re interested in advancing in your career, how long is “too long” to stay at a current company if it’s not going anywhere? I’ve been reading that the longer you stay at a company without advancing the harder it becomes to do so AND the harder it becomes to find another position elsewhere. I’ve been at my current organization about 4.5 years and while I’ve regularly absorbed new duties, had great reviews, and even had a job title update, none of these things would really be termed a promotion (and my paycheck shows it); more a liberal use of the “Other duties as assigned” clause.

    1. Adam*

      Also, is there a certain amount of time it’s acceptable to stay without looking like a job hopper?

      1. Dawn*

        “Regularly absorbed new duties, had great reviews, and even had a job title update” doesn’t sound like it’s not going anywhere- that sounds like the job you had when you started has expanded and your expected work output is different now than it was 4.5 years ago. Not saying you’re not bored out of your skull or whatever, but all of what you’re describing IS advancing. If you were doing the exact same thing you were doing 4.5 years ago with no change in duties, title, or pay, then that would be not advancing.

        Also I think 3-4 years per position would be just fine, as long as you can definitely show a progression from job to job. I think of an SVP of Sales that was newly hired at my old job- her LinkedIn was just one long list of “SVP of Sales, Company A- 3 years” followed by “SVP of Sales, Company B- 3 years”, “SVP of Sales, Company C- 3 years”, “SVP of Sales, Company D- 3 years” where all four companies were direct competitors of each other. It seemed REALLY obvious that she was just courting competitors and hopping from one to the other, probably because each company wanted to give her more and more money since she knew how to sell their competitor’s products. That’s the kind of job hopping you want to avoid.

        1. Adam*

          Trust me. It’s not going anywhere. The duties I’ve absorbed are mainly those of the “no one else wants to do these things” variety so they get passed to the bottom rung. And the pay increases compared the cost of living in this area are basically inconsequential.

          I’m not blaming my employer here. Sometimes what’s available is just all that’s available. And this particular organization doesn’t really have set career paths, and after being passed up for one promotion (by an external candidate who was more qualified), I think I’ve done just about everything I can to get noticed around here and it’s really not worth more effort at this point.

          1. Dawn*

            “The duties I’ve absorbed are mainly those of the “no one else wants to do these things” variety so they get passed to the bottom rung.”

            TRUST ME, if you can put on your resume that you’ve taken on additional duties and your job title has changed, it’ll look like you’ve made progress in that job even if you feel (or know) that you haven’t. And it sounds like it’s time to start brushing up on your resume- you seem like you’re ready for something new and challenging!

    2. Fante*

      Sounds to me like it’s time to move on, and you know it. A long stay at one company always looks good on your resume, but if you want to advance your career and it’s not happening with your current employer, start looking elsewhere.

      1. Ali*

        I feel you. I’ve been at my job for almost five years, but even though I started as an unpaid intern and had a promotion two years ago, my job duties are essentially the same with only a few changes. There’s not a lot of room for advancement or extra projects, so I’m looking to jump ship. I would of course feel differently if I’d only been there five months, but the five-year mark is a crucial one. If an opening were to come up where I could do different work, I’d go for it and stay at my current company, but that doesn’t look likely.

    3. HR Manager*

      Are you nervous with how this will look on your resume, or are you really itching to leave because you do want something more or different? I wouldn’t suggest anyone leave just because a recruiter might get concerned with the length of tenure in your job at some far off date in the future. Move because you want more and that isn’t possible in your current job.

      1. Adam*

        Oh I’ve been itching to leave for a while now for all the right reasons and am looking, but I do worry that if it looks like I’ve spent four years at my current job without really advancing it will come across in my resume and dash my chances. I’ve never really had great success job hunting.

  44. Underling*

    I work at a small law firm, and about a year ago a firm administrator was hired. Prior to her hire, we didn’t have a firm administrator and the support staff basically managed themselves with occasional (and reluctant) guidance from the partners. Admittedly, it wasn’t a great system.

    This new administrator has never worked at a law firm before and is in the process of learning the ropes… but that doesn’t stop her from believing she is able to add value to any administrative process evaluation. She has a habit of taking the reins and not listening very well to information about how things function and what impediments we might be facing in the process of solving issues.

    Recently the administrative team met to address an issue, and devised a plan with steps to follow. When I had a chance to collect my thoughts, realized I needed some clarification. I went to my colleague to see if she was clear on the details, and we sat down in a conference room to go over it. Within moments, the administrator barged into the room and told us that we were wasting time meeting over and over, that we were undermining her authority, and that if my colleague and I had reason to meet, she should also be present. My colleague and I are at a loss. Within a year we’ve gone from basically self-supervising to being kept on such a short leash that we can’t meet one on one with a colleague without arousing hostility and suspicion.

    Is there an angle to this that I’m missing? How can I keep the peace until I find another job? (I have no intention of sticking around here, given this and many other factors.)

    1. Dawn*

      What the hell? This is straight up bizarre behavior- is she your boss or manager in some way? If so, I can kind of understand where she’s coming from, but that’s still super nuts behavior. Honestly she sounds really insecure in her role.

      1. some1*

        It sounds like she is — she’s like an Office Manager who supervises the support staff so the partners don’t have to.

        1. Underling*

          ^^^ Yup. She’s essentially a go-between for the support staff and attorneys. In other firms this would make her a manager or supervisor, but the partners at my firm haven’t actually given her that authority yet; she still seeks approval from them before implementing anything new.

          And yes, insecurity in her role is probably a major factor here.

          1. LillianMcGee*

            If that’s the case, then she’s rightfully insecure. How is she supposed to do much of anything if she has no authority? On the other hand, it’s been a year. If she’s still ‘learning the ropes’ she might be harboring some deficiencies of her own. On the OTHER hand, it does take time to go from chaos to order, and working with attorneys is like herding cats, so maybe she is still struggling to bring you all together.

            Actually her role sounds a lot like mine (except I have authority over support staff and do some of the grunt work myself). If my staff meet to discuss a project without me, I might expect a follow-up from them… i.e. “Hey Lillian, we were discussing X to clarify some things and concluded that X means Y and Z. Does that sound right to you?” So she might’ve been afraid of being left out of the loop and just didn’t give you time to get her in.

    2. Anony*

      This seems very strange and given she is in a new role for a relatively short amount of time I would think treading lightly would make more sense. Building relationships with people not alienating them.

      Coming from the admin side but not at a law firm, I’ve found it to be an issue to have administrators I report to while I also report to an executive. I’ve always had close relationships with my managers and they would supervise me and provide direction. In my case these administrators were not involved in the day to day and usually added more confusion than solved any issues or helped in any way. Perhaps in a setting where direct managers want to be more hands off this could work but maybe with someone else in the role.

      Very strange. You would think she would be happy you want to be clear before doing something, implementing a new process, etc. If she’s this reactive I don’t know what you can do, avoid your collegues? Invite and copy her on everything to keep her informed? Dealing with people’s egos is not easy. Wonder why they hired her, sounds like you guys are managing things well. Good luck on your job search.

    3. Anonsie*

      I don’t think you’re missing anything, and I’ve had some similar experiences more than once. I think something about managing without solid authority makes people inclined to try to create authority with things like this. I’ve always just continued to behave normally and not get wrapped up in it, which can be hard to do, but it’s somewhat protective of whatever weird toxic dynamics can sprout.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      She doesn’t really know how to manage the situation and her bosses have no major plan to weave her into the business processes.

      None of this is your fault.

      This is going to sound ridiculous but if you are only looking for temporary measures I would seriously consider not meeting without her in conference rooms. Perhaps you and your cohort can email each other or stop by each other’s desks for a few minutes. I would try that where ever possible.

      For your own sanity, do not expect to be able to keep the peace. I think if you let go of this, it will help. In the particular example you give here, I would have said, “Okay, going forward when we need to do X, we should tell you first?” (This woman knows how to bring business to a standstill. Am shaking my head.)

      1. catsAreCool*

        For now, try inviting her to these types of things. Try to figure out what she’s sensitive about and cater to it. Eventually she’s likely to be tired of being invited to get tired of going to these meetings.

  45. AMD*

    How do you know when it is time to quit?

    I love my job, I make excellent money and have great coworkers, but upper management does not give is enough staff to get the job done. We are in our busiest season right now, and folks are staying late, coming in sick, and running themselves ragged to get work done, and we still can’t deliver on time to customers who then yell at us for bad service. I had to hide to cry for a few minutes, and I come home at night and cry because of the people I couldn’t help. My boss has said something needs to change, and there were plans for the beginning of January, but the person who was supposed to help us left for another job unexpectedly.

    I love my job, and it is my first real job, so I don’t know when it is acceptable to say “I give up.” I would be very hard to replace on short notice, but I don’t know if ultimatums – “Give me more staff now or consider this my two weeks of notice” – are productive. My field does not have great prospects elsewhere right now either.

    How do you know when to give up?

    1. Adam*

      It sounds like the stress of your work is invading your life outside the office, and that’s a pretty clear sign to me that it’s time bid adieu to this place. Work will always have a stressful element to it, and some jobs by nature are always going to be maddening. Some people even thrive on that kind of environment. But if you’ve gotten to a point that you can’t leave it at the office anymore I’d start looking pronto before it really begins to drag you down.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I think youi’re at that point. If you’re crying during the day or at home about it – it’s time. For me it was when I was feeling like I was going to vomit as I walked into the office every day – my stress manifests in my gut and I get physically ill in really stressful situations like that.

      If there’s no plan on the horizon for things to change, it’s time to start looking.

    3. Dawn*

      Yeah this is burnout, pure and simple. Some situations you just cannot save.

      DO NOT GIVE AN ULTIMATUM. This is juvenile and doesn’t ever work. None of us are irreplaceable, and the instant you start bringing drama into a situation like this is the instant you become replaceable.

      Talk to your boss, tell him in no uncertain terms what’s going on (maybe leave out the crying all the time part), and ask again what the plan is for something changing. And start looking for a new job.

      Also take steps to separate your work and your personal life as much as possible- be extra kind to yourself, plan definite “not-work” activities, and try to carve out as much “me” time as possible. You are NOT RESPONSIBLE for the failings of your superiors to not provide enough manpower to support your clients, and no job is worth crying over. You are NOT RESPONSIBLE for helping every single client, and you are NOT RESPONSIBLE for making every single client happy. You are responsible for doing the best you can with the resources you have (mental and physical), and you’re responsible for pulling back from the day to day stuff as much as possible so you don’t burn out or yell at someone or just go completely nuts!

    4. Senor Poncho*

      similar to my job in a lot of ways actually. i haven’t had crying issues, but def nausea sometimes.

    5. danr*

      Start your job search and tell yourself that your job is now temporary. I was in a similar situation in my long time company and just making that mental declaration caused the internal pressure to ease. My job didn’t get any easier at first, but I stopped bringing the problems home with me. After a couple of months, I noticed (and my manager noticed) that I had fewer problems and things were running more smoothly. The bonus is that if your job search is serious you might find a new job, or the situation at work might improve and you stop your job search. Either way, you win.

    6. Amtelope*

      It’s time to start looking. Ultimatums aren’t going to work, and it’s better to line up another job before you leave if you can, so I’d start your job search before giving any kind of notice. Once you get another job — or truly can’t stand this one anymore and are willing to take the risk of being unemployed for a while — give two weeks notice, and don’t feel guilty about it. That’s a standard amount of time, and if your employer can’t replace you in that amount of time (or winds up not replacing you at all), that’s frankly not your problem.

    7. fposte*

      Have you been looking for other jobs? I think it’s easy to get so focused on what’s bad about where you are that you forget it’s about leaving *for* something, not just leaving from something. I don’t think ultimatums are likely to be helpful, but if you haven’t you can certainly talk to a manager and say that this situation is bad enough that you’re considering leaving if it’s not addressed (that’s assuming you’re confident she won’t be punitive if you stay).

      I know it’s wearing to feel like you’re forced into a failure you can’t prevent, but I’d also really try to find a way to consciously divert your focus after you leave work; I think that would help mitigate the stress that crying at night is additionally causing you.

    8. A Non*

      My rule of thumb is that when getting admitted to the hospital sounds better than going to work, it’s time to go. Past time, actually. Crying is a big red flag too.

      My husband got stuck in a similar situation, where management said they wanted X, but only provided enough staff for .5 X. I encouraged him to view it as a business decision – if X was truly important to the organization, they would provide enough resources for it. If they’re paying lip service to X and then not actually making it possible, believe their actions, not their words.

      This is all assuming that management knows darn well what’s going on. If you’re getting ready to leave, you don’t need to worry about preserving your political capital – go ahead and spend it rattling cages and trying to get management’s attention.

      Best of luck to you. Not all workplaces are like that.

    9. Future Analyst*

      In my previous position, I knew it was time I got out of there ASAP when I was relieved to be home getting DENTAL SURGERY (caps for highlighting the sadness of that statement). I was out Weds-Fri, and gave my notice that Friday (via email– not the best way, but I felt like I had a revelation while being home for those days). It literally took me 3-4 months to let go of the stress and anxiety of being there. So, I totally get where you’re coming from. Assess your financial situation critically, and if you can, give your notice. Even applying for other jobs feels impossible when you’re wound so tightly, so if possible, give yourself a chance to find something that actually sounds good, not just “better” than the hell your living now.

  46. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    What’s the most interesting job you’ve ever had? Not necessarily best-paying, or best coworkers, but the work itself was the most interesting?

    I worked in bridal retail, which I found endlessly fascinating because I loved dealing with happy, excited people, and the subject matter was so interesting to me. The entire industry is hugely fascinating to me.

    1. MostCommonLastName*

      Mine’s a toss-up between two.

      The first was when I was teaching English in Japan for two years. I met a lot of great people, got to be completely immersed in another culture, and came ou t of it with some hilarious stories. One notable one was having a six-year old mime pooping to me when I pretended I didn’t know what she was saying (She was calling me poop-teacher).

      The second was when I worked on a cruise ship. It was a great way to travel and meet new people despite my motion sickness (yeah, I’m none too bright. I knew it going in and still did a second contract this summer). Though my first full day on my first contract I did get bit by a three year old which wasn’t a great start to things. This was less fun interesting sometimes given how much terrible parenting you end up seeing.

    2. Adam*

      Now that I think about it, the time I was student Library tech at my school’s graduate library while I was in college may be my choice. The work itself wasn’t particularly fascinating, but being exposed to a constant stream of books that I otherwise would have never known existed was a real brain churner.

    3. Senor Poncho*

      A bit off topic, but my favorite job was actually working as an attendant at a golf course in high school. Literally hung out with my buddies, ~100 golf carts, and a ton of golf stuff all day. Worked hard for like two hours in the morning, then sat back and relaxed for the next six. It was awesome.

    4. Vanishing Girl*

      part-time audiovisual archivist!

      Because I got to discover the most interesting and forgotten things, preserve them, research them, and then expose people to how interesting the past was. And learning about old technology (and how to fix it) was the best. But it doesn’t offer much pay or future job opportunities.

    5. LillianMcGee*

      Backstage security at a large outdoor concert venue. I LOVED that job but alas, part-time seasonal work that conflicts with dayjob isn’t doable.

      We did all kinds of shows… a lot of country, summer festivals like Warped Tour and Ozzfest, mostly big-name headliners (but not MEGA big-namers), and then those 70s-80s one-hit-wonder types that inexplicably draw in huge crowds.

      I have some excellent stories about that job, but my favorite thing that ever happened was making friends with a guy in the band GWAR. They are some mega-weirdos!

      1. voluptuousfire*

        There’s a huge pull for the nostalgia circuit. Everyone wants to remember when they were young and cool, without responsibilities. ;)

        I gotta ask: was it Oderus Urungus? GWAR was one of the bands I’ve always wanted to see but always kept missing. Gotta love coming out out the show covered in fake vomit and blood.

    6. Mimmy*

      For me, it’s a toss-up between two jobs:

      Job A was in a human tissue bank, where donor cadaver tissue–bone fragments, soft tissue, etc–are processed and eventually shipped to hospitals. The tissues are used in a wide range of surgeries, such as cervical fusion, ACL repair, even bone cancer (limb salvage). I did the data entry for work orders and product labeling, so the job itself was tearfully boring; yet, I was really fascinated by the whole process and, especially, all that was possible from these tissue forms. The organization has really grown since I left in 2005.

      Job B was a family services nonprofit–this is the job I really struggled with and was ultimately laid off from. However, the organization was centered around a specific condition, and I learned a great deal about the condition and the all of the services available to individuals with this condition.

    7. Make me a match*

      My first full-time job was as a matchmaker. It was equal parts hilarious and terrible. Whoever decided that a bunch of 22 year old women should be responsible for the love lives of impressive professional 40-somethings was playing a good joke on everyone.

        1. Make me a match*

          I think it’s important to preface that the business owner was much less concerned with helping clients find love as he was with owning a profitable business. He was completely absent in the day-to-day operations of the company.

          I found the job posting on some random job board (like Craigslist or Careerbuilder or something — this was nearly 10 years ago). At the time, I thought it would be interesting or funny to apply, so I did. Maybe 2 hours later, I got a call from the business owner who asked me to complete an online personality test to see if I was a good fit for the role. I should have taken this hiring practice as a sign of things to come, but I was 22 and jobless and didn’t know anything. A few hours later, the business owner invited me down to the office for an interview (in which he proceeded to tell me that he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to interview me or not… thanks, guy). I met the rest of the staff, which were all 22-25 year old women like me, and then got the job offer.

          I stayed for 8 months, mostly because I loved my coworkers and I loved some of our clients. Our boss was a chauvinistic nightmare (a story for another day) who cared only that we hit our quota of matches made, not whether we were happy in our jobs or if our clients were happy in their membership with our firm.

          1. Anonsie*

            What does it say about me that despite the phrase “chauvinistic nightmare” I still want to try this?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Whoa, hello potential AAM interview subject! If you’d be up for an interview about this job for the site (and if you feel like you remember enough about the work), I’d love to do one. Email me if so…

    8. Gene*

      Sailing instructor/charter skipper/mate on a square rigger for a company on San Francisco Bay. It was part-time in addition to my full-time job, but I could easily put in 25+ hours a week if I wanted to.

      Typical schedule was one evening class during the week (2ish hours), Friday evening club cruise/race (3-4 hours), Saturday and/or Sunday classes (7-9 hours), and as many Sunset Cruises on the Brigantine Rendezvous as I wanted to work in. If I wasn’t teaching on a weekend day, there was usually an Angel Island Rendezvous cruise, or a charter to work, sometimes a wedding on the Bay.

    9. Adonday Veeah*

      I worked at a grief counseling center. In addition to facilitating grief support groups and meeting one-on-one with clients in grief, I also “specialized” in clients who were dying and facing their own end-of-life issues. I also worked in the community with teams of volunteers at worksites and schools where a death had occurred. Although I have no desire to do this kind of work again, I must say it was the most uplifting and inspiring work I’ve ever done and it changed how I live my life.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Just curious. How long does the average person last in this type of job?

        It has to be very hard emotionally.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      I used to work at a materials testing lab (part-time, for barely above minimum), and I LOVED that job. LOVED it. I was the receptionist and I checked in dirt, water, and oil samples, tracked the analytical workload, cleaned out the fridges, washed lab glassware, did the filing, prepared sample bottles with acid, and printed reports.

      There were twelve of us and we often closed the office at lunch and walked to a nearby tavern and had sammiches. We played jokes on each other like putting a giant rubber rat into the fridge and sticking a Frankenstein’s monster cardboard stand-up figure in odd places to scare each other. I LOVED THIS JOB. I loved the people. If it had been full-time with benefits, it would have been perfect.

      The owner’s wife died (that was really sad; she was awesome), and he didn’t want to upgrade the equipment, so the environmental portion was shut down and I lost my job. He kept it open doing oil testing for the railroads and metallurgy for a while, but soon enough, he decided to shut it down. I was between jobs and he paid me in cash to come help clean everything out. He sold me my little oak desk and printer table and a stainless steel-topped lab table for $70. I have some of the plants from there. I have more file folders than I’ll ever need in my life. I also have the rubber rat. :)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        That’s a great story. Sad, though. I am glad you got some mementos from that experience.

      2. Jean*

        I liked reading that you still have the rubber rat.:-) Did you name him/her?
        I may try out your wandering Frankenstein figure in my own office. IMHO humor is a vital ingredient for every workplace! (Okay, maybe not the siloes where people keep watch over nuclear weapons. But almost every other workplace.)

    11. Carrie in Scotland*

      Mine was working a bookshop. I was mostly in the children’s section and apart from a few horrible moments – bad customers, horrible manager, lying to children about a guest not being able to turn up (manager never booked anyone for an event) and having to do it myself – I hate speaking out loud – I really enjoyed my job and – I was good at it. I had my favourite, regular customers who I’d tell up and coming publishing dates or recommend books for their children and so on.

      I got extremely good at being able to suggest a wide variety of books when customers came up and asked “what would you recommend for a 7 year old girl who likes princesses/fairies/ponies/cars and who is an advanced reader”.

      Good colleagues as well.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I loved working in a bookstore. I loved recommending books to so many different people– I got really good at getting to the heart of what they were looking for. I worked in two different stores and loved them both. The second was in NYC, right after grad school, and I have a few really fun celebrity stories. I used to say that if it paid, and if I didn’t have a master’s in a totally different field, I would still be working in books.

    12. LabTech*

      That’d be my job at a carbon dating lab. Most of our samples were just bits of wood and dirt, but we periodically got culturally-significant artifacts: petrified coffee beans from civilizations 1,000 years ago, strips of parchment from religious texts several hundreds of years old, once even a small wooden sword with a face carved on the handle. I’d also regularly handle a really toxic acid in a dark room and found out just what Excel’s capable of. Really learned a lot of new techniques and about geochronology from that job!

    13. Anonsie*

      So trying to think of this made me realize all my jobs have been weird and interesting in different ways. I’ve done a lot of kooky stuff.

      My jobs in medical research would have to win out for most interesting overall (finding new information, things no one knows, your very own self? of course!).

      But a close second would be the shovel bum work I did as a student, working on archaeological excavations on Pacific islands. Because one, going to new places in the Pacific is always interesting, and two because even when you’re finding “boring” stuff it can be a discovery. One site was almost nothing but fish bones and charcoal but it was actually a big argument against some existing theories about the social structure in that area pre-European contact. And a lot of things will be new to you either way, you know, I’d never seen any Micronesian bone hooks until I started pulling them out of the ground and having to classify them by type. They weren’t special for any reason aside from just being something I’d never seen before. Also one time we found a buried body we were not expecting to find, which was neat.

      You also learn a hell of a lot about history and local politics when you’re talking about people’s ancestors. The rules and reactions are extremely different every place you go, so you’re constantly re-immersing yourself in new cultural issues every time you go to a new place.

    14. CheeryO*

      I spent a summer waking up at 4:30 AM to drive around to all the beaches in my county and take water samples. Then I’d go to the lab and run E. coli tests for each one to see if the water was safe for people to swim in. It was so fun, and I loved being able to work 100 percent independently.

    15. INTP*

      Recruiting. It was really interesting to be behind the scenes of hiring with many clients. I always have stories to get people outraged, too.

    16. AnotherFed*

      Most interesting was definitely working at a science museum. We were pretty small, but man did we go through a lot of liquid nitrogen. The museum was in a partially converted industrial building that was more than 100 years old, so it had all sorts of random features, nooks and crannies, and “secret” rooms. The public spaces were pretty standard, but the graveyard of old exhibits tucked away and lost demonstration items (including some snakes) that kept migrating around the museum was pretty fun.

    17. voluptuousfire*

      Interning at a record label in the early 00s. It was run by Danny Goldberg, who managed Nirvana. For me, it was so awesome because I had been a huge Nirvana fan as a teenager and seeing all the gold records for their albums was a massive treat. Just knowing the stories he must have had was fascinating.

    18. Clever Name*

      Great topic! Looking back, all of my jobs have been interesting. I’ve been a library page, a groundskeeper, a research assistant, lab assistant, environmental specialist, adjunct instructor, and I’ve been an environmental consultant for the last 6 years.

      My favorite job was when I worked for an airport. I had ramp access, so I could be where the planes taxi up to the gate and drive around on the access road. Interesting things were always happening, and I got to watch planes take off and land hundreds of times a day as I sat at my desk.

  47. Calacademic*

    Major imposter syndrome here. I work in a laboratory (actually several labs) and part of the reason I was hired was to be the “expert” with some new lab techniques. Of course, there are a few things I’m not familiar with yet; but because it is lab work, sometimes these things can be actually hazardous.

    Good news: asked a question before doing something stupid/dangerous. Bad news: asked a question that makes me look really, really stupid. I am beating myself up about this. A female colleague told me (as we were discussing this) that my beating myself up about this is a very female things to do (I am a woman) and that most guys would say, “Oh, that was dumb…” and move on. Would any of you agree with this view? What do you tell yourself when you do **** like this?

    1. TheExchequer*

      Tell yourself, “Well, now I know.” And, as almost every good teacher who has had a student who asked a fairly basic question has said, “If you had the question and asked, chances are pretty good several other people had the same question and didn’t.”

    2. fposte*

      Own it. Being embarrassed and goofy about it is what makes it a problem, not asking the question. And then I try to stop talking to myself about it entirely, because that’s part of the problem more than it is a solution, and move on to something more productive.

        1. Calacademic*

          It wasn’t a stupid question (clarifications about safety are never, ever stupid!) but it was something that demonstrated that I don’t fully understand what I’m doing. So maybe all for the good, as it means I’m taking a second look at everything.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, this sounds like it ties into Impostor Syndrome then–“Oh, no, I revealed my genuine capability level and now I’m doomed!” But you know, they’re really not likely to be dumb either, and they probably know your skill and knowledge level pretty well and that’s why they want you there.

    3. Christy*

      She’s totally right–it’s (generally speaking) a thing that women do that men don’t do.

      Read Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young! It’s all about imposter syndrome. I’m reading it right now and it is SPOT ON for me. I seriously want to recommend it to everyone.

      1. Calacademic*

        Thanks for this recommendation. I looked at the preview on Amazon and I need to read this book, oh so badly!!!!

    4. A Non*

      In my field (IT) it’s expected that people will specialize and know lots in one area and not know relatively basic stuff in others. Few tech projects are purely within one area, though, so you usually have multiple people with different experience sets working together to get it done. Asking “dumb” questions or readily admitting you don’t know something simple is a trait of confident people – it’s a good thing, I admire it, and I’ve tried to develop it for myself. Really competent people ask “remind me whether we want the blue wire or the red one?” in the same tone as “Do you want mint teapots or raspberry?”, absorb the answer, and then move right along. You’ll get to the part of the project where your expertise is needed soon enough. You can do it!

      1. catsAreCool*

        “Asking “dumb” questions or readily admitting you don’t know something simple is a trait of confident people” This!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I totally agree with “own it”. Depending on my circumstances, who I am with, some times I will say out loud, “Oh God, I hit a brain void.” It’s amazing how much of release that is. Caution: KNOW your audience. If you don’t know, then don’t do this.

      The other thing I have done is silently promise myself never to make that particular mistake again. My promises to myself are very serious matters. It involves full commitment to keeping that promise. An odd thing happened with this, I found myself getting stronger so that when I did make the next stupid mistake, I died a little LESS on the inside.

      This is when I learned there are two painful parts to making a dumb mistake.

      The first part is the public humiliation.

      The second part is the inner feeling of letting yourself down, allowing yourself to look foolish in front of others. And this one, is the one that can hurt the most. The rebuttal to that let down is to promise yourself to be sharper and work sharper. Tell yourself “I will not let ME down again!”

    6. Anx*

      If it helps:

      I’m a biotech student and I’m nervous about applying for an internship at the company my instructor works at because I’m convinced he knows I could make mistakes. And as you know it’s not an industry where mistakes are welcomed (and can be deadly). So I feel justified in my lack of confidence.

      But I made fewer errors than my male lab partners. And I doubt they’re second guessing applying. I earned a 98 in the class.

  48. Hypnotist Collector*

    Hi, I just want to thank Alison and all the commenters on this site. After 2.5 years of job hunting and freelancing at a non-sustainable level, I have a new job starting next week – just got the offer yesterday. I had the trifecta of being older, only an undergrad degree, and a somewhat checkered career history with a lot of self-employment in my resume, and thought I’d never get hired again after fielding rejection after rejection (times a thousand). An old boss recruited me for a great position with a growing company, and this site was an enormous help in the interview process, the salary negotiation, and especially for the posts on how to grapple with the ubiquitous “do what you love” mentality that made me feel a bit ashamed for even needing a job and not being a hugely successful and wildly self-promotional entrepreneur/activist/artist. Although my search (and work history) has focused primarily on nonprofit work, arts organizations and mission-driven or social change organizations, this job does not fall into that category — but none of those other organizations wanted to hire me, so I’m good with it although it does feel different and slightly odd.

    This job comes with long hours and a long commute for at least the next four months, but I’m extremely optimistic and grateful. And I’m telling everyone I know who’s unhappy in their job, or searching, to make this site their bible. Thank you to everyone here!!

    1. Anony*

      Congratulations and best of luck with the new job! Out there searching now so it’s nice to hear positive updates!