open thread – February 27, 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 :)

{ 1,402 comments… read them below }

  1. PX*

    So after seeing this come up a couple of times recently, and in light of Alisons advice that job descriptions are often just wish lists – this quote from an article in The Atlantic from a few months ago seems quite relevant (link is in comment below):

    A review of personnel records found that women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements. […] Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in. Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect. Or practically perfect.

    This has pushed me to apply for jobs which I might initially have considered out of my reach, so hopefully this helps others as well!

    And for the sake of discussion – is there ever a minimum percentage of qualifications needed before applying for a job? (Obviously fields differ, so feel free to add context to any comments!)

    1. TeapotCounsel*

      At my workplace (well over 20k employees), HR screens applications by determining how many of the qualifications are met by the applicant. That screening creates a number. 100% is meets all requirements, 80% is meets 4 out 5 requirements, etc. The hiring manager then gets a list of the candidates sorted by the number. Hiring manager may select some or none for follow-up interviews.

      1. Jennifer*

        Mine too. You really need to have at least 90%, but really it needs to be 100%. And at the last job interview I went to, it turned out I had about 80% and they were really unhappy about that.

        1. JB*

          Wow, I’m annoyed on your behalf about that. Did they not do much screening ahead of time? You have no way of knowing going in what their cut-off percentage is, and most people assume that if they get called in for an interview, they meet the minimum criteria. They should be annoyed with themselves, but not with you.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        It also depends on whoever is in charge of doing the initial screening. When I worked as an HR assistant, my senior manager had me take stacks of resumes and screen them into maybe/no piles. If the resume/cover letter of an applicant didn’t have every single item listed in the ad/posting, I had to put it in the “no” pile and send a rejection letter. Then she’d have our recruiters review the “maybes” to narrow down the list.

        Now that I’ve done some hiring for my own business, I feel we probably lost a lot of potentially good employees that way. Sometimes people look amazing on paper and turn out to have terrible communication skills or some other undesirable trait.

    2. Journalist Wife*

      Well, in Higher Education — at least at the state institution where I work — things listed as “minimum” qualifications absolutely have to be met or you aren’t even allowed to keep them in the search pool of qualified applicants, whereas “preferred qualifications” are just that — it can help bolster your resume and get you higher on the rankings of candidates but having none of the preferred qualifications isn’t a dealbreaker. But yeah — if we publicly advertise a position in higher ed with several “minimum qualifications,” we aren’t even allowed to consider an applicant who doesn’t possess proof of every single one of those min quals. But Higher Ed and government work is weird. :) I am certain we are the heavy side of that spectrum and that quite a few private sector fields that don’t do that. And it backfires on us. Sometimes we’ll get a terrific candidate and then really wish we’d stuck something in “preferred” quals instead of “minimum” quals because we realize we can’t even consider them. So a lot of consideration goes into what’s considered minimum and what’s considered preferred.

      1. skyline*

        Even when there isn’t a formal distinction between “minimum” and “preferred” qualifications, there often is in practice. Some details are just more negotiable than others. So, if you are hiring a middle manager, you may ask for 5 years of supervisory experience, but be willing to consider 2 years of experience. Having no supervisory experience, however, would still be a deal breaker.

        When I look at job descriptions, I can often guess what might be negotiable and what isn’t. I was recently encouraged to apply for an internal opening by the hiring manager, and I don’t meet the stated minimum qualifications. But all my organization’s job postings have a line that says something like, “You need X, Y, and Z…or any combination of education and experience that would qualify you for the job.”

      2. Schuyler*

        I work in higher ed too, but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t apply if I found I didn’t fit a job’s minimum qualifications. I think that’s for a few reasons, like not wanting to set myself up to fail. But more to the point, I can’t seem to make myself see it differently–if they weren’t minimum qualifications, why would they say they were? I guess maybe I’m too literal.

    3. Rowan*

      I applied for my job after reading that advice – I fit something like 80% of the criteria, and hadn’t ever applied for a job without having 100% of them before. I got the job, but found out it was because my line manager had misread my CV, thought I had one of the criteria I was lacking, and that my industry is one where you do actually have to have 100% before being interviewed! Whoops.

    4. Apple22over7*

      Interesting, I was in this situation a couple of weeks ago. A recruiter I was working with was recommending me for jobs which I didn’t feel qualified for – maybe 60-80% qualified, but certainly not a perfect fit (in fact I asked about it on an open thread last week I think). From the advice from commenters here I decided to just go with it, and started applying for similar types of jobs off my own back too – thinking if I match 70%+ of the requirements it won’t hurt to send an application.

      Aa it happens, I had an interview for one such job this week, which I felt I only was 70% qualified for.. and yesterday morning got a call offering me the job. I’ve handed my notice in at my current job today and start the new job in 4 weeks – yay me!

      I think from now on, I am definitely going to apply for jobs in the 70%+ qualified range, realising that I don’t need to be a perfect fit (although I won’t be searching for a new new job any time soon hopefully). But it certainly took a bit of “internal bravado” for me to actually start applying for such jobs in the first place – I was very concerned my applications would simply get tossed for not meeting all the requirements.

      1. rPM*

        Congrats on the new position! This has always worried me too. I’m not currently job-hunting but it’s still great to hear that applying for something that feels like a stretch is both acceptable and has the potential to land a job offer.

    5. Labyrinthine*

      If I meet at least 6070% of the qualifications and believe I can learn the additional requirements, or bring another thing to the table that I think might make up for lacking the qualifications – I will apply. At worst, the employer disagrees. At best, I get a chance to make my case and, hopefully, get the promotion!

    6. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      Awesome! Good luck!

      “Women feel confident only when they are perfect. Or practically perfect.” yeah thanks for that, society!

      1. Jennifer*

        Well, we’re starting from a deficit on everything and any little thing can knock us out of the running. No wonder we have to be perfect from the getgo just to not be ruled out.

        1. Melissa*

          Not only that, but we’re already perceived as less competent than men. Women might want to only apply for jobs that they meet 100% of the qualifications for because even when they do that, they might be perceived as only a 70-80% good fit for the job. On the other hand, men probably get more credit for all of their competencies and accomplishments,

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      When I first finished school and got out into the working world, I insisted on applying for jobs that I was 100% qualified for until my mother told me I shouldn’t and that the only way she was able to get a job was by applying for a job she was totally unqualified for—the university told her she was but then said she would be a great candidate for a different (not-yet-listed) position, and then she got that one. So she instilled in me early on (in my professional career) to just apply for stuff even if you’re not qualified.

      That advice has served me quite well and, indeed, my first full-time job was a very similar circumstance to hers: I applied for an English teacher position that required 3-5 years’ experience (I had less than 1… essentially 0 full-time), and I didn’t get that position, but the school said they had a special English/administration hybrid position (as yet unlisted) that I might be good for, and they ended up hiring me for that.

      The next job I applied for was for a database specialist position, and I knew almost nothing about databases. Got that job, too.

      For me, in applying for jobs, I judge it not based on the listed qualifications but based on a self-assessment of “Can I actually do this job?” or, if I can’t do it, “Can I actually learn to do it within the first two months?” If I can answer for myself that I can, I’ll apply for it.

      1. themmases*

        Thanks, I really like this framing! I’ve read the advice to just apply for stuff even when you don’t feel 100% qualified (I’m a woman) but it can still feel really hard for me to tell which items are non-negotiable and I end up talking myself out of it a lot. I think knowing which skills are those are is field-specific too, so it’s hard to tell if that advice always applies to me and when.

        I think the internal, “could I do this job?” standard is a really great one that could probably be put into action by anyone.

    8. NBF*

      Thank you for sharingn that. I just applied this week for my dream job and although it is a huge reach, this makes me feel like it was worth me at least applying. I do meet all of the absolute qualifications of the job (degree and certification), but the other qualifications they listed were more subjective and hard to tell exactly how much and what kind of experience they wanted in terms of leadership, supervisory duties, project management and things like that.

      So although I’m still not confidence I have as much experience as they are looking for in this job, I’m feeling just a little bit better about my chances (especially since there are maybe 20-30 people in the entire country who would meet the education/certification requirements–although if they do an international search the pool would be much bigger).

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Just remember these things:

        1. Hiring managers always write up their dream candidate job description, but that dream candidate doesn’t always exist, isn’t always available, isn’t necessarily interested in that company/school/organization.

        2. You don’t know who you’re up against. Competition can be stiff… or not. Hiring managers will hire whomever they think is the best-suited candidate who they also think will be likely to take the job. You have no idea, since you don’t know what your competition is, where you fall.

        3. As mentioned above, sometimes they can help you find another position.

    9. Steve G*

      Well I’ve been job searching for 3 weeks and have applied to jobs I meet 90% of the requirements + and still have been getting rejection emails from 3 of the 12 I applied to, from the other 9, not a peep yet.

      I feel like HR people aren’t impressed w/ anything anymore…..

      1. Cautionary tail*

        3 weeks? I wish you all the best but in three weeks you haven’t even ramped up yet? Keep going and may you land something awesome.

        1. voyager1*

          I started hunting last week of October.

          First interview at Bank1… day before thanksgivig
          Second interview at Bank 1(different job) week before Xmas
          Third Interview Bank2 day after MLK day
          Fourth Interview Bank3 -last week
          Fifth interview (2nd for job) Bank 3 today, got offer today.

          I sent my resume out 26 times. It took 5 weeks before first interview from the time I sent the resume.

          I only apply for things I am somewhat qualfied for. I don’t just shotgun blast resumes and applications.

          Three weeks isn’t anything….

    10. Nerdling*

      I think that the Atlantic article advice is good, but it won’t be applicable in fields where you absolutely have to meet those minimum requirements.

      Says the woman who is on round 2 of applying for a promotion because the first time she didn’t articulate clearly enough and in the proper language how she did, in fact, meet said requirements. Not that she’s bitter or anything.

      But, as overall advice, I think it’s something that is so very good to keep in mind, although I would also consider whether I even *want* to do the things required for the requirements I don’t meet — would I enjoy doing the work that meeting those requirements would necessitate doing, or are those tasks or a direction I don’t want to undertake/go in?

      1. PlainJane*

        Re: your comment about articulating clearly enough how you meet requirements: that’s critical, especially when applying as an external candidate (and apparently for promotions, based on your experience). I’m chairing a higher ed search committee now, and I’ve read so many resumes from people who might be fully qualified, but I can’t tell from their materials, so they probably won’t get interviewed, since we have several solid candidates who did make their qualifications clear. Please don’t make hiring managers guess whether you meet the requirements. Use your cover letter to address every qualification mentioned in the position posting.

    11. Brett*

      Just assisted in interviews for a position in our organization. We could not find a qualified external applicant among the people applied… but a women who applied for a position two levels down (and 40% less pay) was closer to qualified than any of the other applicants.
      The hiring manager asked her why she did not apply for the higher level position, and she said she did not think she should even apply because she was under experienced in one key qualification (yet, none of the actual applicants had more experience than her in that area, and she was much more experienced in the other key qualifications).
      The hiring manager ended up hiring her for the position she applied for with the lower title and much lower pay. The higher position not only went vacant, but was suspended from the budget because we had no qualified applicants.

      1. Brett*

        Forgot to answer the OP’s question. As government, we needed 100% of the minimum qualifications, but easily would have taken 50% of the desired qualifications for this position. The applicant I was talking about met the minimums but felt she could not apply because she was not a 100% match on the desired qualifications. (She was about a 70% though.)

    12. Nachos Bell Grande*

      Food for thought – I don’t meet the requirements for the job description that was written for the position that was created just for me at my current workplace.

      Let’s push those boundaries!

    13. Anonathon*

      Hmm. Probably around 70%, but it depends on the qualifications. For example, when I applied for my current job, the posting requested a master’s degree. Which I don’t have. But I applied anyway because I knew how to do the vast majority of actual tasks/projects associated with the job — and I ended up getting hired. Once I’d been here for a year, they actually cut the master’s degree bit from the job description.

      This is a long way of saying that I’d apply for a job where I only met 60-70% of the qualifications if I felt certain (as I did in this case) that I could do what was required, even if I wasn’t the exact match. However, if I met 80-90% and that remaining percentage represented some very crucial things in which I had no experience? I might not apply, despite being a better “match.”

    14. SheBeSmallButFierce*

      I’m currently job-searching, and I’ll apply for anything in which I meet 80% of the “required” skills or sometimes even down to 60%, if I feel I can come up to speed with the other skills (having had some experience with what they’re looking for) in a short period of time. The other part of that are the hours offered and how the commute is; I won’t apply even if I qualify if it’s too far to drive or if I have to work graveyard.

      Even if I’m a bit under-qualified, if it looks very interesting, I’ll go ahead and apply – the worst that can happen is that I never hear from them.

      I also don’t apply if I’m overqualified and believe that I’ll be bored to tears if I were to work there.

  2. ACA*

    So I had a job interview last Friday that I thought went well enough, although the interviewer threw me some curveball questions that I was not expecting; I’m still waiting to hear back to find out if I made it through to the next round. I’ve been trying to stay generally positive and not worry, but I just saw that the job has been reposted and now I’m feeling pretty discouraged. They’d told me during my phone interview that they were hoping to make a hiring decision by mid-March, so it doesn’t make much sense to me to keep the job open throughout the interview process (especially since I know they had over 100 applicants the first time around). I don’t know what to think.

    However this ends up turning out, though, I would like to thank everyone who wished me luck last week (especially Wolfey, who told me that I’d “dazzle with the brilliance of a thousand qualifications”)! I wrote your encouragements in the margins of my notes before my interview and, if nothing else, it gave me a fantastic confidence boost going in.

    1. Rex*

      Remember what Alison said — reposting the job can mean almost anything, from the fact that they keep it live until they have made an offer and the candidate has accepted it, to the HR person just renewed it automatically, to a million other reasons. No reflection on your candidacy. Good luck!

      1. Kyrielle*

        At one time, the HR I worked at would keep reposting the job until the “we have filled it” processed through…and sometimes after. It took us a couple months to get a posting down *after it was filled* once. Augh.

    2. Nobody*

      If I’ve learned anything from reading AAM, it’s that you should never read anything into the fact that a job has been reposted. There are all kinds of reasons that would happen and none of them have any bearing on whether you’ll get an offer, so don’t worry about it. Good luck!

    3. Wolfey*

      Eh, if it doesn’t happen it could have been because he was blinded by the sheer number of qualified lumens you were putting out. And see LBK’s experience below! It could happen to you too.

      Don’t feel so discouraged! First of all, 100 applicants doesn’t mean anything. They could have at 500 applicants and it wouldn’t affect your chances if 490 of them were wildly wrong. You just can’t know how you stack up, so try to put it out of your mind. And don’t worry about the reposting–as we’ve all seen, there are a ton of reasons those ads stay up that have nothing to do with us.

      Feel proud of yourself! GOOD JOB for going in there and fielding those curveballs! Now you are savvy to them and have a few more answers up your sleeve for the next tricky interview!

      1. ACA*

        Thanks! Re: the 100 applicants, I meant that more in a “they’re clearly not lacking for candidates, so why would they re-post?” kind of way.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          100 applicants is actually low. I wouldn’t feel totally confident that I’d find the right hire out of only 100 applicants, for most roles I’ve hired for.

          1. DJ*

            Really? I’ve never hired anyone so I suppose I don’t really know what the process is like, but are hiring managers really that exacting? Or is it more a case of 85 of those 100 being having totally inappropriate backgrounds for the position?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              20+ will have backgrounds totally unsuitable, and then an enormous portion of the rest will be just kind of mediocre. It’s a small number of candidates who are really outstanding (which is one reason I harp on good cover letters so much here — they will instantly raise you so much above the rest of that mediocre competition).

      2. periwinkle*

        To reiterate what Wolfey pointed out: quantity is not quality. When I worked in nursing/social work recruitment, we would post positions with mandatory requirements of a certain degree and certain minimum experience in a specific area of nursing. I’d guess that only about 1/3 of the applicants met those mandatory requirements. When we posted any position with the word “manager” in the title, that dropped to 10% because of all the people who automatically applied for any managerial position or were just really, really optimistic that “liking people” was enough to land a director-level position in social work.

        So please ignore the numbers and apply!

    4. Just Another Techie*

      If it helps any, I always throw at least one question that I expect the interview candidate to completely not be able to answer, at all. I mostly want to see how they handle stress, whether they are willing to admit they have no idea how to solve the problem, and whether they can keep up with me when I walk them through the solution.

    5. Brett*

      I accidentally rattled an interviewee last week because of how hard I pressed my technical questions (my job on committees is technical interviewer). When I realized this, I explained to him that my role was to push all the way to the limits of his technical ability and that I expected with every interviewee to reach a point where they could not handle the questions I was asking. Sadly, every time I run into someone who can handle everything, they have salary requirements way out of our range.

      So, sometimes curveballs are just part of the process, especially with technical interviews.

  3. Nobody*

    How much does your manager care about the neatness of your desk? If you are a manager, how much do you care about the neatness of your employees’ desks… and why?

    My manager does desk inspections and critiques the appearance of our desks. I’ve never previously had a manager who cared about how employees’ desks looked, as long as we were performing our jobs well. I work at a production facility, and customers never come to this location, so that’s not an issue. In fact, it’s pretty rare for us to have visitors from outside the department in our office. Some desks are neater than others, but I wouldn’t say anyone here is a total slob. The critiques are mostly nitpicks about things like what personal items/decorations and how many books and binders we have. Is this normal?

    1. Kate*

      I think that is not normal and my desk isn’t very clean but I label anything that someone else might need when I’m not there and keep that organized.

    2. The IT Manager*

      This is odd. I would only concern myself with a desk if it were overflowing with diorganized paper or there was food and trash left on it.

      By yesterday afternoon my desk looked pretty wrecked. I cleaned it up by the end of the day, but I didn’t worry myself aout it while working.

      1. Arbynka*

        I am a bit OCD is some ways so my own desk has to be clean and organized. Certain ways. But desks of others I really don’t care unless the mess is growing mushrooms or breeding bugs. I actually find clutter desks kinda cool. It is just that I cannot function with clutter one myself.

        1. Natalie*

          Same here. Sometimes my desk is distracting if it’s too messy, or possibly if I’m stressed about a task I get focused on the messy desk because it feels solvable. But oddly, 15 minutes tidying it up frequently serves a good brain reset and then I can focus on something more important again.

          1. afiendishthingy*

            I think I need to start taking 15 minutes in the middle of the day to tidy mine up. My office generally gets pretty busy and kind of loud between about 11 and 2 and there’s too much conversation going on (mostly work-related, bit of personal) for me to concentrate on anything that requires more thought than an email, so it’d be a perfect time for a little spring (please?) cleaning.

        2. afiendishthingy*

          I am by nature pretty disorganized and messy, and my desk has been getting pretty out of control lately. I often visit clients in the afternoon so there are a lot of days when I’m scrambling to get everything together to leave on time for those and I leave some of the day’s disorder on the desk. The woman who sits across from me has OCD and is extremely, extremely organized, and I said once that my desk must give her heart palpitations. She said “No, I only care if it’s my stuff. It’s actually comforting for me to see that people can have messy desks to remind me that oh, the world won’t end even if all the paper clips aren’t in the paper clip dish.” My real problem is that a low-to-medium amount of mess doesn’t bother me but it’s to the point now where it really does affect my concentration and stress levels, which means it’s to the point where organizing everything seems overwhelming and so I avoid it and just put more things in drawers.

    3. TotesMaGoats*

      We’ve had big bosses come through and not be happy about how much personal stuff is one desks. And once we know who those people are (and we usually know when they will visit), we do a clean sweep when they come and then put it all back. My staff are all public facing so there is an expectation that things aren’t strewn about like a tornado hit but I don’t think I’d ever say anything unless it was a pigsty. Your boss is weird. Sorry.

    4. GOG11*

      I work in the lobby of my building and have never had anyone comment on my desk. If I’ve ever felt a bit self conscious about it (I tend to work best when I spread out) and it makes sense to do so in the situation, I sometimes make a brief joke about it being a sign of progress.

      Next time your manager comes along and says something, could you just ask about what’s behind it? If there are policies about the nature of items that can be displayed (like what’s considered offensive and what’s not) maybe you could even ask it from that angle.

      1. Nobody*

        I have asked, and the answers are very general and vague, like, “It reflects poorly on our department,” or, “It looks unprofessional.” Part of the problem, IMO, is that we have an open floor plan, so all the desks are visible from anywhere in the room. She has never said anything about items being offensive (and I can’t think of anything anyone has that would be offensive) — it’s all about aesthetics, as far as I can tell. I think she would be most thrilled if we all cleared everything off our desks and stuffed it in drawers where she can’t see it, but that’s just not practical.

        1. rPM*

          I agree your manager should let this go (and I say this as a manager with a strong personal preference for keeping my own desk neat and minimalist). If customers never come to the location, the argument about “looking professional” is a little confusing. Is it possible your manager is being judged on the appearance of your location by her bosses?

          In any case, it sounds like your manager is really bothered by this and unlikely to change. You say it’s not practical to stuff things in drawers — is that due to the nature of the work, or the size of the drawers? If it’s the lack of drawer space, can you invest in some cheap storage bins or drawers that can sit on, under or beside people’s desk? If it’s the nature of the work, I think at some point I’ve seen some sort of short plastic dividers that can attach around the edges of a desk (not tall enough to turn them into cubicles, but enough to help keep the messy desktops out-of-sight, out-of-mind).

          1. Nobody*

            It is possible that my manager is getting pressure from above, but even if that’s the case, the issue remains that someone in management is nitpicking about our desks.

            The configuration of the office makes it impractical to stuff everything in drawers. We have open shelves at our desks and file drawers at the end of the room. It’s already crowded, so there’s no room for more drawers. Plus, it’s really inconvenient to have to rummage through drawers to find stuff all the time! We are all trying to please the boss by keeping things out of sight as much as possible, but it’s really annoying not to be allowed to organize our things the way we want.

        2. afiendishthingy*

          This reminds me of last week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine in which the captain was in a bad mood and told everyone to clean their desks, get rid of trash, dirty dishes, family pictures. “If you love someone, you’ll remember what they look like.”

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      My boss has been known to do this when she is in a bad mood. Everything is labeled and she wouldn’t ever need a paper copy of anything on my desk – she gets everything electronically. She does the same thing to my writing; it ebbs and flows. I just go with it. It usually passes.

    6. littlemoose*

      That is bizarre and controlling. The only reason I could think that it might matter is if other employees would need to find something, perhaps something time-sensitive, when another employee is out sick or on vacation, but a messy or disorganized desk made that difficult. Still, though, with the comments about personal items, that doesn’t really sound like the cause of these inspections. Can you ask your manager politely if there is some concern about your organization?

    7. Bend & Snap*

      Inspections are weird, but like it or not, state of your desk can color how people perceive your work. One of my first managers told me that, and my desk has been neat as a pin ever since. People do perceive me to be hyper organized and effective, in part because my desk is uncluttered.

      With that said, your manager sounds like a control freak focused on the wrong thing.

      1. TL -*

        There are also people who are convinced that the way they work is the most productive way to work – neat and organized desk, or these particular hours, or super specific schedule… My guess is that’s what’s going on; the boss can’t work with a messy desk (or can’t work well) and is imposing that on the rest of her employees because, well, how can they work well with a messy desk?

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I have a client who believes this. All of their employees (who are mainly contract) must clean their desks every day before they leave, they’re only allowed minimal personal decorations. Apparently to not comply means you get a stern talking to until you do. I believe the client is slightly OCD/on the autism spectrum due to some of their personal habits/strengths which might play into it but I am not a doctor or licensed psychiatrist so what the hell do I know?

          There is also the concept that I’ve heard more than once from various people that a messy desk = a messy mind.

            1. Camster*

              I work in legal and most of our desks have lots of paper and files on them. In fact (though no one actually says anything), I think in our department a tidy or fairly empty desk would look like you have nothing to do!

    8. Cath in Canada*

      Ugh, I would hate that. I remember explaining to a teacher when I was maybe 5 or 6 that I had no good explanation for why my drawer was so messy, it seemed to just happen, and nothing’s changed as I’ve got older. The only time my desk is spotless is right before I go on vacation, because I know other people are likely to use it while I’m away.

      On the flip side, my email and file folders, computer desktop, and Outlook calendar are nothing short of immaculate…

      1. UncoolCat (formerly Manda)*

        I had no good explanation for why my drawer was so messy, it seemed to just happen, and nothing’s changed as I’ve got older.

        It’s called entropy. It hates me. No matter how hard I try to stay organized it only lasts so long.

        I’m a temp, so I don’t have my own desk, except for short periods of time. Mostly I’m just sitting in someone else’s so I get to see how organized other people are. I find it easier to work when things like pens and paper are always handy. (Also Kleenex should be within arms reach.) I worked at one place doing reception and I remember thinking the desk was too neat. I barely found a little notepad tucked away. And when I’m just in for the day and I need to learn fast and don’t know who people are, I need to jot stuff down. I just hope when I do have my own desk I can find a way to keep it semi-organized. As long as it’s not so bad it interferes with my work. But judging by the fact my bedroom has always looked like a tornado ripped through, this may not happen.

    9. Labyrinthine*

      I care, but only in my own neurotic way. I would never do desk inspections, tell someone to clean their desk (unless it was causing an issue in some way) or hold it against someone.

    10. De Minimis*

      My desk is pretty messy, but I’ve always been able to find things with little to no problem. I know my boss does not like it, though, and we’re about to have some higher-ups come in to evaluate the department soon so I am working to make it somewhat less messy by then.

      My big complaint is having to print out so many documents. My predecessor did it but I know she tended to print everything, but it sounds like the expectation is that I have to keep paper copies of almost everything, even though I’ve never needed to refer to about 90% of the things I’ve printed out. If I didn’t have to print out so many things my desk would be way neater.

    11. MaryMary*

      I’ve had jobs where exposure of personal data (address, SSN, account numbers) or health information (HIPAA PHI) was a concern. We could have random papers on our desks, but leaving anything with sensitive data out in the open was a no-no.

    12. nona*

      I keep my desk very clean and my managers have liked it. Right now, my desk faces the door so that people see it (not other desks) when they come in. Tiny achievement?

      What your manager’s doing isn’t normal, though.

    13. Xarcady*

      I read this somewhere, and I’m sorry I can’t remember where, but the gist was that a micro-manager who attempts to control the small things, and the specific example used was employees’ desks, is managing what they *can* control. They are focused on things they can control, and not managing the larger, more out-of-control picture very well.

      This has held true with the two micro-managers I’ve had to deal with.

    14. Anony-moose*

      Wow, I’ve never experienced that! In fact, the neat freak in me cringes at my manager’s desk, and her manager’s desk as well! Your manager = controlling.

    15. Swedish Tekanna*

      This does remind me of an old boss (now retired) whose desk wasn’t actually that bad but he had this quote from Albert Einstein on the wall behind his desk:

      “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

    16. BananaPants*

      We have mandatory monthly self-assessments of our cubicle/office “housekeeping”. It rolls up to a total score on a scale of 1-5, and anything under a 4 will get a word from your boss (because he’s getting reviewed based on the scores of his direct reports). I tend toward a more liberal interpretation of some questions and my manager has disgreed on points, but it’s never been an major issue. It’s just an annoying task to have to do. Those of us who aren’t problematic on the self-assessments now get to go to a quarterly system.

      We’re an engineering center and the mechanical and materials engineers had a LOT of trouble with parts from active projects. Our cubes are not large enough to adequately store them, but when we started getting gigged on excessive parts at desks it gave ammunition to point out that we needed better storage capacity for active projects. We got a storage space with racks, boxes, bins, etc. and the situation is much better now.

    17. Brett*

      My whole office is a disaster. Not “unwashed plates and loose food” disaster, but definitely “paper tornado” level. My manager does not care.

    18. Suzy Snowflake*

      I did clean an employees desk one time, after asking her several times to do it. The difference is that was a public desk and was the first thing people saw when they walked in our building. I do have some staff that, in my opinion, have an excessive amount of personal stuff in their area but I’ve never chosen to make that a hill. As long as they can get their jobs done and colleagues can find what they need to, it’s their space. If it got really out of hand. I may say something but it’s been a long time since I’ve had to.

      As other have said though, this does seem like a hill for your boss for whatever reason so you need to decide how you can best deal with it. Good luck!

    19. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I am a manager and my desk is a hot-mess at all times. I know that a messy desk gives a certain appearance, but honestly, if my work is awesome, I see no reason why this should matter- especially when I am hidden in a corner. Customer facing is totally different.

      1. De Minimis*

        Yeah I should point out that I’m not customer facing, and my desk is not even visible from our hallway [there’s a divider so you can’t even see my desk unless you’re in my half of the office.]

        I still would like it tidier, I find it somewhat depressing.

        1. De Minimis*

          Also, since it is messy, I’ve had numerous occasions where we couldn’t find a document and I thought I’d misplaced it on my desk. Each time it turned out that someone else had the item in question, but if my desk were better organized it would be easier to just say, “Nope, don’t have it…”

    20. Vanelope Von Schweetz*

      My problem wasn’t so much my boss, it was the CEO’s wife (who didn’t even work there!) who came in and told me I had to clean up my desk because it looked unprofessional in an open, bull-pen style office. It bothered me for so many reasons as she came in on a Thursday afternoon (my busiest day of the week), and totally wrecked my desk in the name of cleaning it.

      However, it did teach me an important lesson: saying no, this isn’t a good time for me. After she heard I was rightfully upset that my schedule was interrupted, she apologized.

    21. Elizabeth West*

      At Exjob, we had two people who were like hoarders at their desk. The only problems with that were when they couldn’t find something, which happened rarely because they knew their messes. One of them was a jerk who didn’t like to do anything, but that was independent of his messy desk.

      I tried to keep my desk neat because it was the front desk and everyone who came in could see it. I find that I still do that at NewJob, though at home, my coffee table looks like a closet threw up on it.

    22. Karowen*

      The only time this would be normal is if there was confidential information on your desk and you were being told to turn it over/put it away when not in use/dispose of if done/etc. Or maybe if it was legitimately decreasing your productivity.

      TL;DR Your boss is cray-cray.

    23. Beebs the Elder*

      My desk is an unmitigated disaster. Someone just commented on it ten minutes ago, in fact. I clean my office twice a year very thoroughly–taking everything off all surfaces to dust, purging, filing . . . and two weeks later it looks like I never touched it. It’s just who I am–the effort that would be required to keep it tidy would far outweigh the benefits.
      However, the folks I report to see my office vary rarely, so, I’m pretty free to do as I please. And I surely don’t criticize the offices of anyone who reports to me. It’s academia, though, so we’re all used to being left alone.

    24. and Vinegar*

      I had a job where that meant the boss felt like things at home were out of control – and my desk was within control. Once I figured that out, it was easier to take./

    25. skyline*

      My main rule for my reports is, “As long as it’s not a fire hazard.” Of course, there was the day my manager dropped by and commented on the cluttered state of one of my report’s offices being, yep, a fire hazard. (It was an especially cluttered day in there.) At which point they did get the directive to get things cleaned up.

    26. catsAreCool*

      I’ve never had a manager be concerned about the cleanliness of our desks, except that they don’t want people to leave food out that might attract mice, and if customers/big boss is coming in, they remind us to clean up a little.

    27. neighborhood friendly QA tech*

      All of the QA Techs at my plant share the same desk, so it stays pretty clear between shifts. While I’m working though, it looks like a tornado of what needs to be done went through, when then gets clear away as I finish things.

      I’ve gotten comments on it, but nobody cares as long as its clear at the end of your shift. My oncomming coworker started being able to tell when I had a super busy day, when papers are still in piles or in their proper places but sideways or something.

  4. Sunflower*

    What does an Ongoing Freelance position mean/entail? I’ve been seeing a lot of these postings and just submitted and was contacted about a job. It’s 30/hrs a week to start, leading up to 40/week.

    2 questions-
    1. What is the difference besides this and reg. employment besides no benefits? Different expectations?
    2. Are you expected to stay there for a reasonable amount of time the way you would be with a regular job or is it okay to leave after a short amount of time(6-9 months)?

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I would assume it means that they either have a client who needs a temporary staff person for 30 hours a week or that they will send you on various jobs/to various clients for ~30 hours a week, which would depend on your skill set and the demand for you/your skills.

          If it’s done through an agency, you would be an employee of that agency unless/until their client decided they wanted to hire you as a permanent employee. They would be required to hold back your taxes, you would submit time sheets to the agency who then funnels it through to their client, which means you will get paid at the next pay period (and that doesn’t happen with freelancing when you are your own boss/landing your own work). They might pay you $20/hour (for example) depending on your experience (and some agencies do testing from what I’ve heard), but they will charge their clients at least double that.

          As for what benefits they offer, that is a question you should ask, but I would be willing to bet the answer is none. I was signed on with a large temporary staffing agency and while they did offer some benefits, I do not recall medical/dental etc. being any of them. You could get 10% off Apple products or Lynda training but there wasn’t anything where you could submit your prescriptions to reimbursement to the company.

    1. Sunflower*

      Update: I just talked to the recruiter and it’s kind of like a temp to hire. After 3-6 months, you both agree to either come on or cut ties.

  5. Cristina in England*

    What are some career paths for an academic that are an alternative to academia? I love research but the job market for my subject area does not exist within 3000 miles of where I live (good planning, I know), and moving isn’t an option. My PhD was qualitative social science and I also have some practical skills from my library master’s degree and most recent job (catalogue-building, metadata stuff). I’m not a coder, but I wish I were more inclined that way because it seems very practical and attractive to employers.

    Sorry if this is muddy, but so is my thinking on this.

    1. GOG11*

      I don’t know about career paths, but why not take some courses on programming/coding (formal or informal)?

    2. AnonPi*

      Editing for a research journal perhaps?
      Informatics type work? Some of that may require coding depending on the job however…
      Sorry can’t think of much :(

    3. Anne*

      I went in to private research after leaving academia. My degree was in social psychology, but by the time I completed my degree, I knew that I didn’t want to pursue a career in academia. Luckily, I had done some consulting in private research firms, so I had some non-academic work to put on my resume.

      You don’t need coding skills, IMO. As long as you can think quantitatively and understand basic stats, you can most definitely have a career in private/commercial research. I say look in to market research/survey research firms. They’d love to have someone on staff with a PhD!

      1. Another Ellie*

        I know a ton of people with academic degrees in the social sciences who work in market research. They need people to design surveys, which require the qualitative skills social scientists learn, and they need people with strong statistical skills, also something social scientists learn. There are also a lot of non-profits that need people with qualitative/quantitative research skills, especially in social justice fields.

        1. Cristina in England*

          This is interesting. I will have a look into market research. Maybe I don’t have to be a coder, maybe stats. Either way, I think I need to learn some less qualitative skills, but stats might be an easier option (ha ha, famous last words, I know it’s a devil for many of my fellow quals).

          1. fposte*

            I don’t know about the UK, but in the US, prospect research/prospect analysis–working to identify donors for schools, nonprofits,etc.–is a growing field that LIS folks are definitely getting involved in, and it sounds up your alley.

      2. Small Creatures Such As We*

        Oh wow, another social psychologist who left academia?! We’re starting a trend! :)

    4. OhNo*

      I’m not sure exactly what qualitative social science entails, but it sounds like data analysis might be right up your alley. Especially if it requires pulling information from a database or catalog, since you have some experience with those from your library work. I’m not sure how easy those jobs are to find, but I keep seeing them pop up in my own searches, so it might be worth a look.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Thanks, I will maybe look into that. My most recent experience is in analyzing interviews and observation notes, and is very immersive, and only possible with small data sets. I have done surveys too, but longer ago. Maybe there are some avenues within “data analysis” that I could leap into with some further training.

    5. Cristina in England*

      I think part of my muddy thinking is that on the one hand, I love qualitative research and that would be my ideal line of work. I am not naturally inclined towards coding (low frustration tolerance, but I can do basic HTML and CSS). Then on the other hand, I see how practical it would be to be a coder, or at least know Javascript, and be able to do big data, or data analytics, or make data visualizations. I see a lot of potential in big data, but I just kind of see that as “over there”, and I don’t know how to get there.

      1. Anonsie*

        How are you with stats and the code required to do that? Do you enjoy it, does it hit your low frustration ceiling as easily as other things?

        For me, I just straight up hate regular programming. I learned Javascript to be “practical” and never use it because I don’t freaking want to, the frustration of the other human element being the biggest hurdle. But I like stats so I actually enjoy it.

    6. Cath in Canada*

      Here are some resources I know of. Many are science-focused, but a lot of the advice is transferable to other fields: (now defunct, but some good stuff in the archives. I was one of the contributors) (lots of resources linked in that post!)

      Good luck!

    7. Addy*

      I’d recommend that you check out Versatile PhD– it’s a whole website devoted to this very question.

      I also know that semi-regular AAM commenter Rana is an indexer (maybe? I might be misremembering that) and might be a good resource.

    8. abby*

      Market research: I did this for a while after receiving a social science MA. Two years ago I suggested this to a family member with a PhD in cognitive science, and she loves it. She leads a lot of focus groups and attempts to quantify the qualitative data gathered in those sessions.

      A sub-field could be ethnography, which a colleague of mine with the same social science MA does. She loves it. Her firm was started by academics who were tired of academia.

      Research is fun, hope you are able to find something.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Thank you. Your friend’s firm sounds amazing! Can you tell me more about what they do? Is it like a consulting firm? Do they do work for companies?

        1. abby*

          Yes, both are consulting firms that are hired by companies to gather and analyze specific types of data. Many of these types of firms often do a lot of quantitative research and analysis, but qualitative is used to “round out” the picture. Depending on the size of the firm, someone could do just qualitative work for a variety of clients.

          In fact, now that I think about it, the family member’s firm was also started by academics. So you are probably in good company!

    9. LPBB*

      Have you looked at (or are you at all interested in) data curation/data management? I was talking to someone at my SLA Chapter’s Holiday Party who works in Data Management at a local university and he has a background very similar to yours – PhD in social science and an MLIS.

      Hmmm, re-reading your comment this may not be an option for you, but if you live near a large research university it might be something worth checking out.

      1. Cristina in England*

        I do live in a city with a large research university, so that might be a potential avenue. My most recent job (using my librarian skills while I finished my PhD) had aspects of data management, so that’s not a huge stretch. Thank you!

    10. J*

      I’m also one who decided to make the move out of academia (albeit in the US), and I know how tough it can be to get out of what is a very particular job market with very particular norms that seem to apply to no other careers! It took me a while to even get leverage in my job search, since so many of my skills and the things I had been learning didn’t seem to have an immediately apparent practical application to anyone/ any organization outside of academia! What worked for me was to focus on companies that were adjacent or in some way related to higher ed, but not necessarily traditional universities. There are so many jobs in all sorts of fields, especially research, that provide services to the higher ed realm, and what I found is that my academic qualifications helped me to get my foot in the door at those types of companies, when it felt as though others looked a bit more askance at a doctoral degree as potentially ‘irrelevant.’

      1. Cristina in England*

        Thank you, yes I totally relate to the lack of practical application! I shall look around for companies like that.

    11. BRR*

      I’m not sure if I understand your degree but I think you are what they are looking for when universities (possibly other organizations but I’m not sure) are hiring for positions that measure institutional effectiveness. In general you might want to see what universities are hiring for and what matches with your skills/interests. Universities hire for very niche departments.

    12. Anonsie*

      Heeeeeeey I actually have some practical advice for once. My friends and I with social science research experience have gone into a few places since school, some of us undergrad only and some MA/PhDs in the same field:

      Marketing and user interface/user experience research. Sometimes these overlap, sometimes they don’t. I have one friend moving into this now from his doctoral program because he wants to keep using his research skills but he’s sick to death of soft money. Most of the people I know who do this work at tech companies, so some of your other skills may be attractive. It did require some additional training, though.

      Non-university-centered academic research. This one’s me and a few other former classmates. Major medical centers, some small practices, clinic networks, insurance companies, medical homes/HMOs, small research institutes, drug companies, etc (you can tell I’m into medicine myself) like the qual social science background folks. We’re attractive because we tend to have a lot more experiences with the nitty gritty parts of research, like regulatory issues or stats, since we usually do everything ourselves in the social sci fields. Ironically, they hire us to handle those things for the physicians and scientists. Some government public health offices used to be open to us but major cuts to the public health system in the last decade have eliminated a lot of that. The downside here is a lot of these groups still have the soft money/security issue, which may or may not bother you.

      Commercial research firms. These folks are contracted to do research for another company– could be customer satisfaction, could be clinical trials, the scope here is huge. I don’t know as much about these because I actually don’t know anyone personally who went into this, but it sounds like some other folks here have more experience with them.

      Sales is something you can do with any background that you may or may not like, but quite a few of the people I went to school with who were big into social science enjoy sales. Some people hate it, of course, but a lot of the interviewing skills and qualitative research skills of piecing out information from people that aren’t super expressive can make for a really good salesperson.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Wow, thanks for those suggestions. I had never considered UI/UX, but I at least do know what it is because a friend is trying to get into that field. Something to think about!

    13. Kay*

      You want to look for #altac on Twitter and online in general. TONS of discussion on potential opportunities.

      I would think that coding, program evaluation, and big data for social services would all be potential outlets for you.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Thanks, I did not know there was a hashtag for this! I feel like I have had blinders on regarding my career options.

    14. Small Creatures Such As We*

      I highly recommend “So What Are You Going to Do With That?: A Guide for M.A.’s and Ph.D’s Seeking Careers Outside the Academy” by Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius. It’s a more general guide that helps you think about translating your academic experience into something that employers can understand. Keep in mind that to get a Ph.D., you developed/demonstrated abilities to learn things on your own without someone holding your hand and to persevere over months/year to accomplish your goals. That’s pretty big–getting the first non-academic job is hard, but after that, you become more of a known quantity.

      The meta-data/cataloging/some-coding experience might translate to “master data-management”/ “data management” kinds of jobs–that was my first non-academic position (although I did have an atypical level of web/technical/data-management experience because of the demonstration website that my advisor/etc. had developed).

      Also, if you have any experience with statistics packages that you could expand, that could be very marketable. I parlayed my SAS programming skills to the business work and am now a programmer with a small consulting company. SPSS is becoming a bigger player in the business world since IBM acquired them. And R is starting to get noticed in the business world, and I suspect that will increase now that the “enterprise” offering — Revolution R — was just acquired by Microsoft. BTW, my impression of business analysts who STARTED in business is that they’re not coders at all–they rely heavily on point-and-click interfaces to do their analysis work, so if you already know how to run AND INTERPRET statistics, you’ll be ahead of them.

      Good luck! My first job was pretty rough (mostly because of its corporate culture), but I’ve never regretted leaving academia.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Thank you for the suggestions and in particular the book recommendation, I shall have a look for it.

  6. Anon for this*

    I apologize in advance for the length of this, but I need some serious advice.

    I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I have never been offered a full-time, permanent job. I’m 37. My job history is all short-term contract work. Managers everywhere are concerned by this even though the reason is as simple as lack of opportunity, not choice. And it’s not for lack of trying. I chose a specialized and competitive field with limited opportunity. Looking back on it as an adult, it was stupid. But it is what it is. I have taken jobs where I can find them, whatever comes up, just to make ends meet. Because I DO want to work. But I haven’t had a job in my field since 2011 now, and since then I’ve only had one year long contract position doing something fairly different.

    Part of that time was spent starting a family (unexpectedly) and dealing with a serious medical issue that has left us in major debt. On top of everything else, we live in the highest COL area in the country (seriously, the highest). Our household makes half of what we need to get by. My parents have been paying our rent for 3 years. I’m ashamed to say that.

    This past year I have been focusing on transitioning my career. With the assistance of my incredibly generous and supportive parents, they’ve invested thousands of dollars and I’ve invested hundreds of hours into professional development and certifications. I’ve read this site religiously and made changes to my resume and cover letter. And it’s working!

    For the first time in my life I am getting inundated with interviews. I had four just this week! Companies are finding me, for BIG jobs. Really big jobs. I’m realizing I’ve been selling myself short all these years and I should be applying for higher level jobs. I’m currently being considered for four positions, two of which are at the final stages. I feel confident that I will get an offer from these two companies. Which is fantastic considering the situation I am in. However, I have some concerns and I don’t know what to do.

    Job A is with the company I most recently worked at (the one year contract mentioned above). It’s work that I am very qualified for and capable of, but I don’t really want to do. My would-be manager seems like I’d need a really, really thick skin, which I only sort of have. It’s a high demand, high expectations, 40+ hrs per week job, which is fine, but it’s work I don’t particularly care for and I don’t feel the salary is in line with the level of responsibility. It still wouldn’t pay enough to cover all my bills. After taxes and daycare costs we still end up $400 in the hole every month. Which is significantly better than the $2600 in the hole we are now. However, this job does not offer a lot of opportunity for advancement and raises will be small. I don’t see making up that gap in the foreseeable future if I commit to this job. I also have family and friends there who put in a good word for me. I will need to commit for several years at least or I fear my family’s reputation could be damaged (as well as my own) and it would be another short stint on my resume. But this time I’d be jumping from a permanent job I committed to, not leaving a short term job that came to an end. It would mean that all the money and time invested into professional development would be lost and I probably will be doing this kind of work for a long, long time. But, as I’ve said, I really need the work and it’s better than nothing. If I commit to it, I’m going to do it for a long time and do it well.

    But then there is Job B. Job B is not local and requires relocation, which we’ve wanted to do for a while because of the COL. It’s an incredible opportunity for me and is in the field that I want to work in. It would be a huge accomplishment for me and It’s what I have been preparing for professionally. It’s the job I want to do, badly. It’s exciting and challenging and a real chance to grow professionally, which I have literally been seeking out for over a decade. They are creating a new team and I know that my specific skill set fills in a gap that others they’ve been interviewing don’t offer. It also pays about $10K more per year, is in a much lower cost of living area, and offers opportunity for advancement, huge raises and bonuses.

    I am 90% confident that I will get a job offer for both of these jobs. My sources at Job A tell me that there is only one other candidate, who they are not particularly happy with. My impression from Job B is that they are very, very interested. They were giving me a hard sell on the company and they’ve already told me that I’m on to the final stage, which is to complete a sample assignment so they can evaluate my skills. I’m confident in my abilities and have no doubt I can do it well. I’m just waiting to receive it.

    The problem? Both jobs are looking for a mid-March start, so they are moving very fast. But Job A is moving faster than Job B and they are planning to let me know of their decision on Monday. If they make an offer, I think they are anticipating that I will just accept it without needing time to think about it because I’ve worked there before and used my connections during the process. I believe Job B is also planning to make a decision some time next week but I haven’t been given quite as specific a timeline.

    Finally to my questions. What is my best course of action here? Can I give Job B a heads up before I even have an offer or does that look presumptuous? What would be a good way to see if they can speed up their timeline? How can I get Job A to give me time to think about it when everyone there is expecting me to just accept the offer?

    And, I know this would be different for everyone, but if you were in this situation, would you risk turning down a not-so-great job offer that only solves half your problems for the chance at a job that would solve all of them? Even if Job B doesn’t work out, I’m getting so many interviews now that I think something better will come along. But it’s a big risk.

    1. Helen*

      “If they make an offer, I think they are anticipating that I will just accept it without needing time to think”–You might be right, but that’s a big assumption. I’m sure they would be happy to give you some time to think. Then you could contact Job B and say that you’ve gotten another offer but that Job B is your top choice–what is their timeline?

    2. Apple22over7*

      OK, here’s my take.

      Job A might not anticipate you wanting time to “think it over”, but you’re perfectly entitled to take a couple of days. In that time, you could make contact with Job B and explain you have an offer on the table, but you’d prefer to work with them and see if they can make a decision quickly.

      If Job B gets back to you with a job offer that you’re happy with – great! If they can’t/won’t speed up the hiring process then it makes things a bit more difficult, and at that stage you’ll have to decide on whether to take Job A, or turn down the offer and hope that Job B comes through.

      It sounds like you know you won’t be happy at Job A at all, and given the fact that you’re getting interviews left right and centre, if I were you I’d be tempted to turn down job A and wait for Job B/something else. But then I’m a risk taker, and I also don’t have and have never had children or dependants to think about, which I realise could totally influence your decision one way or the other.

      1. Petrichor*

        I agree completely.
        Actually I was going to be much blunter and say “Just turn down Job A”. It will underpay you, you don’t like the work, there is no opportunity for growth. Why would you want to say yes to that? I realize that you have been waiting a looooong time for a job to come along. But just reading your letter tells me that you do not want this job and you’d just be hurting yourself. If it was the ONLY job offer you had coming and everything else was crickets, sure. But it’s not. And even if you don’t get offered Job B, you have so many more options heading your way. Do what AAM champions most and take the job that is right for you and them.

        1. Anon for this*

          I really appreciate this. You are right of course. The ONLY reason I want this job is for a bit of stability and because it’s a sure thing in the face of uncertainty and a situation that is about as dire as it gets right now. And honestly, I’m scared. If I turn it down and I don’t get something else we are really going to be in trouble.

          I didn’t mention this in my original email because it was getting very long winded. But when my parents started helping us out they made a lot more money and they wanted to do it because my husband had cancer and it was a very rough time for us. That’s what family is for, they said. It meant so much to me. But it hasn’t gotten better or easier. Unfortunately, my dads company (same company as Job A) was bought out and my dad suffered a huge, huge pay cut. Roughly 50% with the change in his stock options. It is a significant loss and it impacts his retirement plan, and he is nearing retirement age.

          Assisting us is now a burden. Not that he has said that. He never would. But I want to do the right thing by him and ease that burden as soon as possible. In the long run I realize it may not be the best solution, but this is a big part of the incredible responsibility I feel to start making money fast. If I fail to find something else, I am either homeless or changing my parents ability to retire on time and comfortably. Which is something I don’t know if I can live with.

          It’s just a very difficult decision.

          1. afiendishthingy*

            I’d say it’s a difficult decision. How have the other interviews gone? I definitely see how’d you want to ease the financial burden on your parents as soon as possible. My parents helped me out A LOT when I was working “pay your dues” jobs in my field for $22k/yr and going to grad school, and I always felt a little guilty and I could never quite determine exactly how much of a burden I was — my mom is anxious about money (and everything) and would give me periodic guilt trips regardless; my dad actually handles their finances and like yours would never tell me if they couldn’t really afford it. However, it seems pretty likely you are going to have other opportunities even if they’re not quite as fast-moving as Job A. Would a few more months of reliance on your parents make a huge difference, do you think? Would they think it was worth you taking a job you didn’t like, with no room for advancement? Maybe a few years down the road you will even be out of the hole enough to pay back some of their investment in you.

            In any case if there’s only one other candidate for Job A I would think that puts you in a pretty good position in terms of time to consider the offer and salary.

            Only other thing I would mention is be sure to factor in relocation costs when evaluating offers.

            Good luck!!

    3. The IT Manager*

      I’m a play if safe person so it’s possible I might take the bird in hand (job A) even though it sounds like job B is the best choice for you.

      You should ask job A to give you a few days to consider the offer. That includes money/benefits etc so its not flaky to consider these things even though you have already worked for the company. Once that happens you should inform job B and ask them if its possible for them to excelerate their timeline so you know if they want you before you have to give job A an answer. But before you play this card, you need to have a good idea if you’re willing to risk turning down A on the chance of B because they may just tell you on the phone that no they cannot excelerate their process.

      Good luck. I hope company A is delayed in responding to you so that get an offer from B before A.

    4. Rex*

      If you’re got a really great rapport with someone at Job B, you can let them know informally that you’re expecting another offer, but they’re your first choice. Otherwise, you’ll probably have to wait for the offer.

      Also, this isn’t the question you asked, but any chance salary in Job A is negotiable? If you’ve worked there before, maybe they’re used to undervaluing you. And if we’re talking a *BIG* job, chances are you can bump up the salary at least $5-10K over what they are offering you. Maybe more. Just food for thought.

      1. Anon for this*

        Job A isn’t as big as Job B. Job A is an executive level administrative assistant position in a technical operations division of a global corporation. I would be supporting the executive who heads up multiple umbrella divisions as well as his direct reports. This executive reports directly to the CEO of the company. It’s about the highest level admin position one can get, except maybe directly to the CEO. It also requires technical knowledge beyond the typical admin position. Having family there I was able to get inside information on the pay grades. It maxes out at $50K for this admin role, which I think is low for this level of responsibility. I will try to negotiate, but I know this company does not pay outside of the grades they have in place for anyone.

        Job B is a creative job, also with a global corporation. Not as high level but involves more decision making and significant technical and analytical expertise. It is a big job for me because it’s a huge break and offers incredible value to me as a professional. The sky is the limit with this position. I will also try to negotiate with this but they already asked me what I was looking for and I said about $60K, which apparently was too low. His response was “Great and we’re flexible on that too.” I have no idea whether that means I should try for more or whether it would look bad since I already said $60.

        1. Rex*

          If you said $60K already, you might not have a ton of wiggle room, but maybe. Don’t be surprised if their offer comes in at $50-55K if they’re hoping to settle on $60K with you. Maybe spend this time doing a little research on pay ranges on this new field for you. Alison has some good advice on this, but if it were me, I’d say something like, “I’ve talked to a few folks in this field since we talked last, and it seems like $YY is more in line with market rates for this position. Any way we can get closer to that?” I think the fact that you would have to move for this job might also be a bargaining chip in your favor, especially if you have another offer in hand. “I’d rather take Job B, but I’m realizing that the move will be significant expense, uprooting my spouse who will have to find work, etc.” Good luck!

          1. Anon for this*

            Oh that’s a good way to phrase it. The impression they left me with was that $60K was right on target and it was flexible. It sounded like I came in low and this company has a track record of paying high. I could be way off base though.

    5. Gwen Soul*

      I think it is fair to ask for a few days or even a week to think it over and then let Job B know you have an offer in hand. They may also be slower than they think and hoepfully you can get both offers the same time!

    6. kristinyc*

      Congratulations on what sounds like several pending job offers!

      It sounds like you’ve already decided that you want to take Job B. If you get an offer from Job A first, ask for a few days to think about it. Then contact Job B and let them know that you have another offer and need to make a decision soon, but that you’re very interested in Job B and want to be able to factor it into your decision making if you’re still in the running (which it sounds like you are). If you do decide to go with Job A, ask for more money. A job that you’re not as excited about and that doesn’t pay you enough is probably not a job you’re going to be happy with for very long.

      It also sounds like you’re really not interested in Job A, and you could potentially have other options. I was recently in a similar situation, and ultimately cut loose the jobs that I knew were just “okay” while I held out for the one I really wanted, even though they had a much slower process. It was a little scary when I was waiting to hear back from the one I wanted (seriously, the process took 3 months), but I’m really glad I did.

      Also – when you start getting offers, be sure to try to negotiate. I know that right now, any salary probably seems better than no salary, but if you’re feeling more financially stable, you’ll be less stressed and happier, and that will carry over to your job performance. Good luck with everything!

    7. Sunflower*

      If Job A makes an offer, contact Job B. Don’t say anything until you have an offer. Doesn’t sound like you’d be happy at Job A at all so if it was me, I would not take it. Of course, I don’t have a family or dependents who might have a say in that. Have you talked about this with your family/parents? They might be expecting you to take the first job you get.

      Still I’d wait til I get an offer to say anything to anyone

      1. Anon for this*

        Planning to talk to my parents this weekend. They might be expecting me to take the first job and that is a big reason why I feel such a heavy sense of obligation to take Job A. But they have also encouraged me to take the path that will actually solve problems, not put bandaids on things. So they may agree with me that Job A is a bad choice. But I also know this is such a heavy burden for them right now. I think it may come down to whether they want immediate relieve from the cost of our rent for a much lower level of assistance going forward or whether they want to finish out this path and have a successful outcome where I don’t have to rely on them at all. The former is obviously my preference. I feel like a failure taking money from them at all. I hate it. But then, I’d feel better taking $400 per month over $2600 per month.

        1. Sunflower*

          I would wait to see if you get the offer first and then explain to your parents that you are getting bites for jobs that pay much higher. That should help. Job A doesn’t sound like the right fit for you so I would avoid taking it unless its an absolute necessity. Try to negotiate with them and that should buy some extra time as well. Good luck!

    8. Cristina in England*

      Ooh we have been in this situation before where you know one employer but the other job pays more. I think it has been said before on this site many times, that accepting or rejecting job offers, just like leaving a job, is not a personal attack or statement. It’s the nature of doing business. If you can keep telling yourself that, and be respectful and honest in your communications, you shouldn’t burn any bridges anyway (not with reasonable people). Good luck!

      1. Anon for this*

        Thanks. The manager at Job A was very concerned about my short-term work history. He asked about it twice, then had his current admin ask me, then had the recruiter call and ask me. They clearly want a long term commitment. I may be able to leave without burning bridges but I think it would look really bad for me having so many short stints already.

    9. TeapotCounsel*

      >Can I give Job B a heads up before I even have an offer or does that look presumptuous?
      Looks presumptuous. Wait until you actually have offers in hand and in writing.
      So, let’s assume A comes through with a WRITTEN offer. Thank A, you’re oh-so-excited, and will talk it over with your family and get back to them within a week. Then go to B and say, “I have this offer from A. My preference is to work for B. When would B be in a position to extend an offer? I apologize if I’m hurrying you, but I want to be courteous to A and get back to A in a reasonable time.”

    10. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

      It sounds like if there’s ever been a time for you to gamble, it’s now. If Job A comes through with an offer, talk to Job B and see if you can get them to push their timeline up a bit. But I wouldn’t take a job that has poor long term possibilities, doesn’t solve the whole problem and keeps you stuck in a high COL place just to be safe.

        1. Anon for this*

          It is 2 hours away. My husband has a job here and I am thinking I will do something short term (like stay in a hotel) until we can make a full transition. I can come home on the weekends easily and the move won’t be crazy. We live in an apartment so I don’t have to sell a house or anything like that. Our lease is up 2 1/2 months after I’d start and we were planning to move someplace less expensive anyway. It wouldn’t be too much of an overlap.

          1. Beth*

            Would you or the job consider a 4 day workwork and a work from home day until you move to make it more manageable? Could you possibly commute? Where I live on the East Coast 2 hours of commuting isn’t unheard of. I worry your hotel costs may eat up the additional income if you aren’t careful.
            Good luck. Let us know!

            1. Anon for this*

              They seem willing to work with me for the transition so I can probably figure something out. It’s definitely possible that the hotel costs would eat up the additional income. However, it’s short term and once we make the transition we would be in a better spot.

          2. Journalist Wife*

            Don’t forget that you can also wait for the written offer from Job A, then ask for a renegotiation of salary in hopes that the person you ask will have to relay that to others (which will add more time to the Job A offer acceptance process). If you push the buck for what it maxes out at (well, just inside that so it’s not as easy of a “no”), it may buy you longer time even if they say no to that salary at Job A. It will elongate the process another step and then when you hear back on the “adjusted” salary offer (or non-adjusted if they’re not playing ball), you still then have the opportunity to say “Let me think on this for two days” after that. But I agree with everyone that taking Job A sounds grim.

            1. Anon for this*

              Great point! I hadn’t even thought of that. Well, that makes me feel a bit better. I will use the negotiation as a bit of a buffer. Thanks!!

              1. fposte*

                Though I would note that if you ask for what you really want (which should be enough for you to break even and then some) and then they give it to you, it’s not a great move for your rep to then turn it down–it looks like bad faith. So be ready for that, too.

                1. Elle*

                  I don’t think its bad faith to ask for more money and still weigh another offer. You want to push both to try to get the best possible outcome in the end. I’d just be transparent I have something else on the table and am weighing two options. There’s more to consider here than just the money – even if Job A gets to the $400 more a month, the fit still doesn’t seem quite right. So if Job B is sound monetarily and is a better fit, I don’t see any harm in taking Job B even after you negotiated with Job A.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  I am not sure how this works but it’s not just money she wants. She wants out of Expensive City and she wants opportunities for growth. Neither of which Company A offers.

                3. fposte*

                  It might be okay if she’s transparent, though I think you still have to be careful. But what I think she has to avoid is this progression: Job A offers her $70k. Anon, trying to string them along so she can safely take Job B, says Oh, thank you, but I would need $100k to take the job. Job A then says okay, here’s 100k, we’ve met your terms, and Anon says So long, suckers. my terms didn’t really matter.

                4. Anon for this*


                  I agree with you. That is definitely not something I want to do. I am going to try no to begin negotiations with Job A until I hear about Job B. My plan at the moment is to not follow up with Job A and let them follow up with me. They may not have the written offer ready on Monday and I think they won’t be in touch to discuss anything else with me until that comes in. If they do call me to discuss more details I’m just going to say that I need to see the offer before I can commit to anything.

                  If I do get the written offer on Monday then how I respond will definitely depend on what it is. I have a pretty good idea what the range is for the job. If it comes in higher than that range, I don’t think I can negotiate much. If it is within that range I will try regardless. Either way I will ask for a few days to look everything over.

    11. some1*

      It sounds like you can’t accept the salary at Job A, so I don’t think you should take it. If you are getting that many interviews, I think you should hold out for another offer (whether it’s B or someplace else) that will at least pay something you can live on.

    12. fposte*

      I know some of this is just you showing your preferences in the description, but I don’t think job A sounds good for you, period. You can’t afford the way you currently live and job A would just lock you into that life without changing the fact that you can’t afford it. If you do end up with A, I think you need to consider moving to someplace cheaper that you can afford, because this just isn’t tenable and you’re almost certainly shorting your future to make things barely work in the present.

      And Job A’s expectations of your time are neither here nor there–it’s perfectly reasonable to want to take time to consider an offer. I’d let B know immediately if you do get one, as people say. (But I’m leaning toward B or keep looking–though I don’t know your field and its opportunities.)

      1. Anon for this*

        You are right that Job A doesn’t sound good for me. It’s a sense of responsibility that is making me feel like I should take it.

        As for moving someplace cheaper, we have been planning to do that for a little while now. But we will only save about $150 per month by moving. It’s not a real solution but it’s something. There isn’t a place cheap enough that our income will cover in this area unless I get a better paying job. Households need a minimum $100K income to get by out here. Average rent for a basic, no frills 2 bedroom apartment runs about $24K per year. The lease expensive place locally is $1800 per month and they had 3 murders in that complex in the past year.

        We would love to not over extend ourselves but it’s just too expensive out here.

        1. Mackenzie*

          I think we’re in the same metropolitan area, though you might be on the other side of the river.

          One trick to finding slightly cheaper housing is the apartments that have 1 bedroom + den. There’s no window in the “den” so it’s not a bedroom, but you could put a crib in there. (I’m guessing unexpectedly starting a family means baby) Dens might not have a closing door either, but I used a curtain for a door way in my dorm room.

          Before my husband and I got together, he was renting basement apartments, which were in the $600/mo range, versus well…exactly the numbers you gave. It’s just that with those you’re renting from individual homeowners instead of apartment management companies, so things tend to get a bit less formal (you might share washer/dryer with your landlord, for instance). I renting someone’s basement would be a big change versus a highrise, but it might be something to do for a year or two to build up savings, pay down debts, and give you a chance to prove your worth before asking for a raise.

          1. Anon for this*

            I have considered the basement apartment and actually we did the 1 br with den thing after my daughter was first born. She’s turning 3 this month and I’d be willing to do it if we could find something that would work. But I honestly haven’t seen anything. Even the basement apartments around here are super expensive. Before we met my husband was renting a 8′ x 16′ room with no kitchen for $800 per month, and that was 4 years ago. The place we were at with the den was $1600 per month and it was a total nightmare. Constant water leaks, bad management, bugs, obnoxious neighbors, drug use, and what seemed like hundreds of stray cats. My husband makes just above the poverty line so we don’t qualify for any assistance.

      2. A Non*

        That’s what I was thinking too. Job A sounds unpleasant, and still wouldn’t pay enough to live on. It’s better than what you have now but it doesn’t actually solve the problem. It’ll only extend it. If you can continue as you are for a couple more months to job hunt further, I’d say hold out for something that will pay you enough to live on in an area with a lower COL.

    13. Sherm*

      I think you’ve gotten a lot of great advice here. I want to add that, if you ask Job A for a bit of time to consider their offer, and they say “No, we need to hear your answer RIGHT NOW,” consider that a red flag. Even though you’ve worked for Company A, your experience of a company can totally change if you get a new role. People sometimes think “I know this company has problems, but I really need a new job!” but a bad job is often worse than staying where you are.

      Also, keep applying to Jobs C, D, E, etc. I was once in a similar position with two companies seemingly interested in me, where Job X was OK and Job Y was better but behind in the interview process. Well, it turned out that BOTH jobs were cancelled. So continue to apply until you get that written offer. And good luck!

      1. Anon for this*

        Yup. I’m still looking. I have a 2nd interview with Job C next week and still waiting on more from a Job D.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You know, it’s not like A and B are the only two companies in the world. They become the only two companies in the world if they are the ones with job offers, though. Maybe it’s just intuition and nothing solid but I think you should hold out for what you want.

          I know it’s exhausting, but keep moving. I think you are on a good, strong path.

    14. Anon for this*

      Welp. Job A already called and “unofficially” offered me the position. I still don’t know the salary. I said I wanted to know all the details before I could accept but remained enthusiastic about it so I didn’t throw them off. I’m not sure I will turn it down or not yet. They are going to send me info and give me time to think about it.

      Can I email Job B now or do I have to wait until I get an official offer in writing?

        1. Anon for this*

          I did. My contact wrote back and said “Great news. But I have no additional information at this point.” He is pinging the hiring manager to see what he can find out.

    15. Anon for this*

      Job B just contacted me back with the final steps. A creative assignment that I would present to them, Tuesday morning and it sounds like they will make a decision soon after that. I don’t know how to hold off Job A but I am going to try.

      1. Anon for this*

        I presume my thinking over period doesn’t begin until I actually have the written offer, correct?

    16. Anon for this*

      Amazing, Job B is moving up their timeline to meet my deadline. They are going to let me make my presentation on Monday and make a decision right after. This may actually work out. I almost can’t believe it!!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh this is wonderful! I’d wish you the best, but I already know you are going to knock it outta the park!

      2. Windchime*

        Congratulations! I know you will do well. It seems like all the stars are aligning for you and this could quite probably work out. Yay!

    17. Anon for this*

      I am rethinking my conversation with Job A earlier and wondering if I screwed something up. She asked me if they were to offer it to me would I say yes, as the first part of a two part question. The second part was concern about my short job stints (for the 4th time). I answered the second part first, saying if I were to accept the job it would be for long-term. I then said that I’d like to see all the details, including salary and benefits, before I can make a 100% decision. Which she understood and offered me a few days to think about it, presumably once I have all the details.

      I definitely avoided saying the word “yes”, but did I indirectly accept this when she unofficially offered me the job and I didn’t say no? I still said I needed to review the details but now I’m wondering if I made some sort of commitment here. Or am I just over thinking because I’m so worried about how my actions will reflect on my family who works there?

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I think you gracefully sidestepped a direct answer to the first question while speaking directly to their concerns in the second question. Well played, so far as I can tell.

        1. Anon for this*

          Thanks. My dad said something similar when I told him about this yesterday. He was actually really annoyed that they even asked me that at all. He thought it was really crummy to ask someone if they would accept a position without having mentioned salary at all, especially when they weren’t even prepared to talk about it at that moment. Since he’s worked there for 35 years and is well respected (which is a big part of what is making me over analyze this), it was nice to have him backing me up.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You didn’t indirectly accept. No sane employer would expect you to accept a job, even informally, without knowing salary and other details. All you conveyed was “I’m still open to it,” basically.

    18. Anon for this*

      One final update on this thread. My parents are on board with me taking Job B. They are helping me navigate the offer with Job A so that I can get the answer from Job B. It’s undecided whether I will take Job A if I don’t get Job B. We all agreed to cross that bridge if we come time it. For now, we are hoping Job B comes through, which I should know about tomorrow! Then all I have to do is pray I can get a written offer from them quickly enough.

      Thanks to everyones super helpful advice. I was in a bit of a panic and this calmed me down. I appreciate all the thoughtful responses. I’ll post an update on the next open thread and let you all know what happened. Hopefully I will have some exciting news!

  7. SanguineAspect*

    I have a career dilemma and hope you guys might have some advice for me.

    About a year ago, I left a job I’d been at for a year and 8 months. I’d been working for product companies for years as a project manager, and was offered a role at a consulting firm. The company is big and well respected, and they reached out to me about the job on LinkedIn, so I was even more intrigued than I might have been otherwise. I was excited to try something new, have a shot at learning new skills, and work on a variety of different projects, so I left to work for them.

    I very quickly discovered that the company culture was a facade, that they burned through their employees, and that there was absolutely no training or support. I was basically on the clock 24/7, was dropped into the middle of insane projects, and quickly became completely miserable. I came here to ask about what to do at the time, as I was on the verge of a mental breakdown by my second month and feeling like I’d made a huge mistake. Someone advised me to set an alert on my calendar for 6 months, and if I still hated it, to consider next steps then. So, I did that. After 6 months, still miserable, I decided to extend my feelers to see if I could find something else.

    A former coworker had an opening at a small consulting firm (50 people, compared to 15,000 people), and he seemed to really like what he did. We talked for a long time about the company and the opportunity. I met the CEO and CTO, and felt really optimistic about making the move. I think after the last company, I still wasn’t 110% sure I loved consulting, but I knew I definitely didn’t love the bureaucratic, non-supportive nightmare of the other company.

    Fast forward 3 months, and I’m at this new company, and I’ve discovered that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows here either. Things are mishandled from the top down, it’s difficult for me to do my job well as a result, we over-work our people, apparently everyone rarely takes vacations, and work/life balance is non-existent. I’m no less always-on-the-clock here than I was at my last place. I also think I’ve finally concluded that I REALLY just hate consulting. I don’t want to be involved in the sales process or the negotiation of contracts, and I don’t want to work with clients.

    I just really want to go back to working at a product company. But because of my last few job moves, I feel like I’m stuck here for at least a few years. I’m trying to decide if I try to find something else now, and ultimately leave this 3-month job off of my resume, or if I try to stick it out and see if it gets better and I hate life less. Because right now, I have a 4-year job, a 1 year 8 month job, an 8 month job, and now a 3 month job on my resume.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Given what you described, I recommend you start looking for a job at a product company. You can mention that you have discovered your prefer that to being a consultant in cover letter and when asked about why you left the job so quickly. Know that if you you do take a new job, you have to stick that one out for a while, but between disliking consulting and being overworked it sounds like you need to get out sooner rather than later.

      All you lose is time (which I know is precious) by jump hunting, but if nothing comes of it you’re till putting in months in your new job making it less short term and if something comes of it you have a chance to get out.

    2. Sunflower*

      I would start looking for new jobs in project/product management immediately. You might be able to find a new job pretty quickly and you can leave this one off. Any job gap less than 6 months is probably fine and even 8 months wouldn’t necessarily raise an eyebrow. I also think this is not a terribly difficult gap to explain- you tried something new, it didn’t work for you and know you know what you’re looking for. You probably won’t even have to explain that you were in 2 sep. consulting roles unless you had to fill out an official job history form.

      Make sure your next job is something you really want to do. Or consider trying out freelancing or contract work.

    3. CheeryO*

      I can totally commiserate. I learned the hard way that consulting is just not for me. I was lucky enough to land a state government job recently, and it has been SUCH a breath of fresh air in comparison.

      One obvious-sounding thing to keep in mind is that your would-be employers chose to work on the product side, knowing that consulting also exists as a career option. I’m guessing that they are fully aware of the downsides of the consulting business, and they probably wouldn’t judge you too harshly for your short stints, as long as you are able to articulate what you’re looking for in a new position. That has been the case for me, at least – I got downright congratulated by most of my new coworkers for escaping the world of consulting, and no one seemed to question my six month stay at my last job.

    4. puddin*

      I think it is fair to start looking for what you really want to do now. It might be harder to get your foot in the door because of your work history, but you will lose nothing by starting now. If so, I recommend leaving the 3 month gig off. Not necessarily because it was three months, but more because it will add nothing to your eligibility if it is not something you want to pursue. Be prepared for an explanation in your interview but not something I would put on the resume at this point.

      At the same time, I would look at any education or training that can keep you engaged and positive about your career, personal confidence, and life in general; even if it is something non-career oriented like getting a pilot’s license or art classes. Being in this learning mode often helps people when the job outlook is bleak. You say you cannot find fulfillment in your job, more than likely you can in learning/hobby activities. If you are on call 24/7 – taking classes is a valid and reasonable way to take yourself off that clock as well.

      Finally, along the same lines – I would advocate that you are in charge of your work life balance. People will take from you what you let them. Yes, your job performance or even job itself may be held in the balance. However, saying no can be a huge part of being successful at what you say yes to.

      1. SanguineAspect*

        “Finally, along the same lines – I would advocate that you are in charge of your work life balance. People will take from you what you let them. Yes, your job performance or even job itself may be held in the balance. However, saying no can be a huge part of being successful at what you say yes to.”

        Thank you so much for your response. The above really stuck out for me, and it’s something that I needed to hear.

        I do need to have better boundaries. I tend to try to go with what my workplace culture is when it comes to hours, overtime, etc., and the last two places were very unhealthy. I feel guilty leaving after an 8-hour day, when my team is way over-allocated and staying late constantly. The guilt complex is strong with this one.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That’s not a function of consulting per se, it’s a function of poorly run consulting firms. Of which there are many, I’ll admit, but I am glad that I do not work for one of them. But I hear horror stories from retail and other professional services, too, and I can’t quantify if it’s more common in consulting or not. I will tell you that you almost definitely could be happy in consulting, but it might be harder for you to judge if you’re still relatively new to it, so I wouldn’t blame you in the least if you jumped ship.

      1. SanguineAspect*

        Thanks for this perspective. There were definitely a fair share of workplace horror stories and ridiculousness from the product companies I’ve worked for as well–no workplace is perfect.

    6. Steve G*

      I would get out of there….small companies have their own form of bureaucracy which is even more annoying than the bureaucracy of large companies. At least large companies have reasons for it; at small companies, it’s more often the case that xyz person just wants abc done some particular way, or wants to stick their hands into it just because they used to do it, or they like to stick their hands in everything even if there is no point of it.

      I’ve come to hate working for small companies for this reason. Medium sized is best. Small companies also always have a clique, and staying for a couple of years won’t ensure that you make it into that clique, I’d rather go somewhere larger where you can get ahead by performing against more objective criteria.

      1. SanguineAspect*

        Of the places I’ve worked, two fell into the 200-400 employee range, and I do feel that I like it best. Large enough to have some structure, but small enough to be nimble.

    7. Camellia*

      I second the other replies but want to add one thing – look at the questions you are asking or not asking when you interview/talk to these people. For the second job you say “We talked for a long time about the company and the opportunity. ” How did you not get an inkling of the culture of this company? Were you asking the right questions or was your former co-worker flat out lying or concealing? Pinpointing that answer could really help you in the future. You deserve a place that isn’t a life-suck, where you are appreciated for what you bring to the table. Alison has a lot of info on how interviewing is a two-way street with suggestions for questions to ask, what to look for, etc. to help you get there. Good luck!

      1. SanguineAspect*

        I had VERY candid conversations with him about work/life balance and what I was looking for. I thought he’d been up front with me — that it was a 40-hour work week most of the time, with some periods where you’ll have to crunch because of the stage of the project. Which I TOTALLY get. I’m not opposed to occasional 60 hour weeks when we’re trying hard to hit a deadline, or I need to be available to work with the client and the team during things like UAT. But that’s just not how things have played out. And I’ve watched their expectations just eat into my team members’ lives. I have a developer who they called WHILE HE WAS AT THE HOSPITAL because they were in crunch and didn’t know how to get information otherwise. Not only was he at the hospital (very ill), but he was also on vacation–it was over Thanksgiving week. I was horrified.

        They had an “unlimited vacation” policy, and when I asked about it I was told that taking vacations are no problem, as long as you work with management to get yourself covered. But I now know that we’re stretched so thin that any time someone takes a vacation, it’s a huge hardship on the team. So key players just don’t do it.

        I dunno…I should have probed deeper, or maybe have been more skeptical of what I was hearing. I really, really wanted to leave the big consulting firm and this seemed like a sane place to land. It really wasn’t. Once I am interviewing again, you’re right in that I really need to make sure I slow down and get picky.

    8. Mandi*

      OMG. Interesting. I too was contacted on LinkedIn from a large consulting firm about a PM position. I was really excited about it for the exact same reason you were (THEY contacted ME!!! Eee!!) but I withdrew after going through some of the interview process because I did more research and found out how they do performance evals.

      I wonder if this is the same firm….

      1. SanguineAspect*

        If their performance evaluations are like Lord of the Flies… then yes, it’s probably the same firm. Basically, you’re force-ranked with everyone else in the ENTIRE company in your area of expertise by people who have no actual view into your day-to-day beyond metrics which, most of the time, end up being out of your control.

        1. puddin*

          Forced rankings suck eggs. Actually they suck something worse than eggs, but I save those rants for WOW trade chat. (Joking, I am not one of those axxhats.)

        2. Mandi*

          YEP!!! That’s it!! I’m glad I dodged a bullet with that one. (but sorry for your experience. Had I not stumbled upon that information, I’d be in the same shoes as you)

  8. First Time Caller*

    I am a librarian who is looking for a career change. I’m currently in a toxic environment, and finding a new job in my field is probably not going to happen do to a tight market and the need to be in a particular location. I did some looking within and figured out that the things I like most about the library jobs that I’ve had have been 1. Teaching students and patrons about our services and what they can do with the library 2. Planning programs 3. The ability to work with a variety of personality types. I’ve been mulling over the idea of pursing work as a career coach/resume writer, but the resume writing post from earlier this week has me spooked. My question is two fold: 1. Are there any career coaches/resume writers on here and how did you find your way to that career? 2. What other career paths might be good for a person with the interests listed above? Note: I am 34 years old, and have probably around 8 years in the library profession (not necessarily consecutive years) I am also an AmeriCorps Alum. TL;DR I’m having an existential work crisis, HELP!

    1. GOG11*

      I used to work in social services (through AmeriCorps, actually!!) and I think your list would tie in well with individuals who need assistance. I worked with people to determine their needs and abilities, found programs that could fill certain gaps, assisted the client in applying for those resources and also served as a general resource/source of support for my clients. I was also able to plan larger programs in addition to taking individual appointments.

      It was not a good fit at all for me (no background in social services, tend to be much more process than people oriented) but maybe it’d be a good fit for you.

      1. First Time Caller*

        Thank you so much for your feedback. You are right that social services would be a good fit, and I’ve even thought about going back to school for it. (I probably won’t go back though, because the student loans for one advanced degree are all I can handle.) I think I will widen my search to include jobs that might have some of the social work aspects that you mentioned :-)

        1. afiendishthingy*

          A lot of social service jobs don’t require advanced degrees. It may be a bit harder to find ones that pay enough to live on without experience, but if you can give a good rationale for how your Americorps and library experience gave you necessary skills you could find something decent. “Ability to work with a variety of personality types” is pretty crucial – just make sure to show don’t tell.

    2. OhNo*

      As someone who is also working in libraries, I feel your pain on the tight job market within the field.

      As for jobs – it sounds like you might be well-suited to most kinds of tutoring, teaching, or training positions. These would involve a lot of the teaching aspects you said you enjoyed, as well as planning of instruction sessions/training events that would be similar to planning programs. Maybe it would be worth examining your technical skills and seeing if there are any programs you could train people on?

      Heck, with training skills, you could even work for a library vendor – I know the libraries I work for will often have vendor reps come in to train the staff on new technology (especially ILS and the like), so that might be something to look for.

      1. cuppa*

        I agree with looking at training opportunities with a vendor — however sometimes those require relocation or travel. Also, I would look at public libraries. Your skill set is a very good fit for that.

      2. afiendishthingy*

        Yes – jobs in training sound like a great idea. The main trainer at my human services non-profit never worked in human services before, previously did training in manufacturing companies. I also know a woman who is a trainer for Whole Foods and looooves it. I’m not sure how she got into it – she’s in her forties and I think she previously supported herself as a sculptor.

    3. HumbleOnion*

      I jumped from librarianship into a customer support job at a software company. The ability to work with lots of personality types is a huge advantage. There are also lots of opportunities for creating tutorials & workshops for our products. Plus, lots of those jobs are remote.

    4. Meredith*

      I’m also a librarian with AmeriCorps experience! :)

      I am not a practicing librarian, however – I work for an academic department as a coordinator of continuing studies. I suggest that you should look at outreach sorts of jobs, either in academic (extension) type work, or for non-profits, or even government. Depending on what exactly you’re doing, you’d be using a lot of the same skills. Most of my job is teaching, planning programs, and working with various personality types. Those are really, really good skills to have for these types of jobs. You might even think about being a corporate trainer, depending on your interest and skill-set. I would check out local/municipal/state/federal government jobs in your area, as well as Idealist and Indeed.

      1. Meredith*

        Or, if there are academic institutions in your area, take a look at those job listings. You may have transferable skills for event planning and/or public-facing types of roles.

    5. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

      Fellow AmeriCorps Alum as well! I work at a shelter and we have someone on staff who helps our clients with their employment searches as well as educational opportunities. Lots of organizations have volunteers who help with this so that might be a good first step to see if it’s something you’d be interested in longer term. There are also jobs out there coordinators who can help get people connected to social services, make connections in the community and plan programming relevant for their client base. I did that for a couple of years and loved it.

      1. First Time Caller*

        What you describe (community coordinating) is exactly what I see myself doing. How did you find a job in that field and why did you end up leaving? (If you don’t mind my asking)

        1. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

          The first time I had a position like that was when I was in AmeriCorps. I worked at a food bank and I was the client relationships coordinator. It was a wonderful job as I got to work in an awesome program and I really grew to love the community I worked in. Once my VISTA year ended, I ended up working @ the food bank after a few months and went through a couple of positions. I ended up leaving because I wanted to move the DC metro area but also at the organization I was at, there wasn’t much movement for the path I was on. I could have moved to another program but wanted a change and when I saw my current position, I decided it was the change I need. I do miss working with clients and getting them connected to services and building those relationships.

          I would recommend looking for social service agencies that may not have case managers but will need folks to work with their client base. Organizations such as food banks, agencies that help people get connected to social services (food stamps, health care, etc.) might be a good fit. At the shelter I work out, some of our staff do teach employment workshops for our clients. is great as you can set up a search and they’ll send you any jobs that fall within your parameters. I find this helpful as it gives me a chance to see whats out there even if its not a position that might not work out for me.

    6. LAI*

      I’m probably a bit biased because this is my field, but it sounds like your interests might align well with university student affairs. Many Academic Coordinator roles involve all of the things you mention: teaching, planning programs and working with a lot of personality types. In particular, if you are interested in career-related topics, you might look for positions at a university Career Center or coordinating professional development programs in HR.

    7. First Time Caller*

      Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. You have reminded where my heart is (non-profit and public services). Part of my current problem is that I work in the for-profit education field and it’s really not a good fit for me. This conversation is helping me figure out where I would be a better fit.

  9. Sunflower*

    Anyone know anything about working remotely in the US while traveling/semi-living in other countries. I’m looking for a job that will give me more flexibility on where I live. As long as the company and myself are okay with this, I’d like to move around every couple months, primarily outside the US. I’d still keep my permanent address in the US and come back every so often but I’m wondering if there would be special tax/legal issues with this?

    1. just laura*

      I’ve never done this but a guy in my company did. I can’t imagine it would be a big tax/legal deal– it’s essentially vacationing a lot. You’ll be paying US taxes on your salary and probably under travel visas, right? I don’t think there would be anything to it!

      1. Sunflower*

        Yes this is exactly what I am thinking. I have been looking into purely telecommuting companies and jobs and I didn’t want to waste my time only to find out that there was weird some weird loophole that didn’t allow this.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t know if this is the kind of work you do, but Automattic (maker of WordPress) is all telecommute.

      1. Sunflower*

        I’ve looked a lot into purely telecommute companies. They all seem really great but ALL of the applications are the things nightmares are made of: quirky cover letters with pop culture thrown in.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          You’re absolutely right. Automattic wants you to read two books before even applying…

    3. ACA*

      I have a friend who’s about to do something similar; he’ll be living abroad for a year while working remotely (part-time) as a programmer. Not sure how the tax situation will work, though.

      1. Sunflower*

        Do you have any tips for remote job searching/where to look? I’m in event planning/marketing/project management(non-technical) but really pushing towards project management which I believe has a good amount of remote work.

  10. CrazyCatLady*

    How much do you care about your work being fulfilling in some way? If you were paid well-above market value for what you do but were somewhat bored, would you have a problem with that? Would you willingly take a pay cut just to be more engaged in your work?

    1. GOG11*

      I am not paid above market value for what I’m doing, but I did take a pay and benefits bump into a less prestigious and less challenging position specifically in order to have better pay and benefits.

      If both jobs had provided enough money to pay the bills, I probably would have stayed in the one that was more challenging/fulfilling.

    2. AnonPi*

      I think that can be highly depending on a person’s living/lifestyle situation at a point in time. I know that what I thought was important before (career) isn’t now (money/life outside of work). Right now I’d take boring if it paid well, lol. Small paycut to do something I enjoy, maybe, but at my current payscale I can’t afford to take a significant paycut to do so. (e.g had a choice between 2 jobs, and only a 2K pay difference I’d choose the one I’d like more, but 5K+ money will win out).

      There’s also a difference in my mind between good work environment vs boring work – I loved my job when I worked in grad admissions, because my work env. was great and had a great boss, not because the work was exciting.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        Do you know what caused the change between valuing career and now valuing money/life outside of work?

        I think for me, the work is somewhat boring, but it’s really hard to put my finger on what’s wrong with the work environment. It’s not toxic like some places I’ve worked but the environment itself feels mind numbing and old, stodgy, stuffy… every day, I feel like a little bit of me dies.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          How are they with following the technology as it develops? Are they stuck?

          I worked for one company that did not keep itself modern AT ALL. When I left there I had so much catching up to do.

    3. Nobody*

      To me, work is mainly about the pay. I try not to have expectations about the work being fulfilling. I have actually kind of been in that situation — I’ve had opportunities to “move up” to positions with more responsibility and that are more interesting, but I’ve chosen to remain in a lower role that pays better.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        My husband is like this, too. He doesn’t care at all about prestige or position – he just wants to make enough money to be able to afford all his hobbies and time off.

          1. CrazyCatLady*

            Haha, that would be amazing if you did! I know he for one would never post to Ask a Manager! He always laughs at me that I love it so much.

    4. Bethy*

      Any tips on meeting with a new company president and his wife? I just got asked to attend an informal welcoming reception in 45 minutes and I’m not sure what will be expected of me–just that it’s a small group of important people. (I only got invited because my colleague had an emergency.) I just have to smile and shake hands, right?

    5. Comms Pro*

      Above-market pay for unfulfilling work sounds like wasting years of one’s life on drudgery…unless one’s financial situation demands it.

      But if you can maintain a decent standard of living on the lower-paying job, well, I would give careful thought to doing that. I’d prefer to come home at the end of the day with a sense of accomplishment.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        It feels like drudgery and I could definitely afford to live on less. And it’s weird because I am able to accomplish things but they just don’t FEEL like accomplishments. I’m not sure if it’s just the dynamic of the workplace I’m in, or what. But I don’t know how much longer I can put up with it, even if it is great pay.

        1. TL -*

          Start putting a lot away into savings and then move to a lower paying job?

          That’s something I would heavily consider, at least.

          1. CrazyCatLady*

            I have over a year’s worth of living expenses in savings and still could afford to live on a lower salary anyway. It is something I’m definitely considering! I also consider just doing a complete career change and going back to school or something.

    6. Sascha*

      I’d be okay with that for the most part, I’m pretty good at finding ways to make my work fulfilling even if it’s boring, but I also view my job as the thing that provides me with funding for my hobbies and personal life. I would not take a pay cut at this point in my life – maybe when I was younger and single I would have, but my family is growing and my priorities have shifted.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        What ways do you find to make your work fulfilling even if it’s boring? I’m usually pretty good at creating new challenges for myself, and finding ways to improve and streamline processes, but in the end, I still feel bored. So if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

    7. Chloe Silverado*

      I personally prefer to find work fulfilling. What I’ve learned is that fulfilling for me doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve found my dream job, or that I’m passionate about my industry. It just means I’m interested and engaged in what I’m doing and have a supportive, positive work environment. I’m being paid a little below market in my current role, but I would hate to leave my firm right now because I genuinely enjoy going to work most days and love my team. I’d rather stay in this role than get a pay bump elsewhere if I didn’t find the work engaging.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        I really like this comment. I’m having trouble thinking of a hypothetical more-engaging lower-paying job than my own, although maybe that’s just lack of imagination. But my job is definitely not perfect – it’s very stressful at times, some of our organization’s processes are inefficient and/or ineffective, and it includes its fair share of repetitive, boring tasks. It’s not boring as a whole, though. My role is maybe 25% client facing, which is a great balance for me, I do care about helping our clients, and it’s culturally a pretty good fit. I definitely wouldn’t work at a call center again for $20k more. As long the fulfilling job isn’t leaving me scrounging for gas money under couch cushions I’ll avoid the completely mind-numbing, but I’m also never likely to say “I can’t wait until Monday so I can go to work!”

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I’d handle boring if the end goal was something meaningful to people/customers. But you are saying “some what boring”. I am not sure how to express degrees of “boring”. If I dread going to work because of the boredom, then I would put in my notice. I cannot handle that level of boredom. If you are saying you are bored because the work seems to be repetitive, I would try creating my own imaginary challenges. “Let’s see if I can get x, y and z done before noon”, just play little games in my head like that.

      If you feel a push from inside you saying “Gosh, this is boring, I can do better than this”, then I would start looking around to see what I could find that was better.

      No, I would not take a pay cut just to be more engaged in my work. There is a honeymoon period where a new job is dandy, then sometimes the walls come tumbling down. So that would mean, I’d have this lesser paying job in a miserable place. No.
      For me to make a move in a setting like yours, there would have to be more than one really good, solid reason, to get me to go.
      It could be just me, other people might make the jump and be totally okay with it. I am not a big risk taker, so that weighs in here.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        I think it’s not so much that the work is boring. I think it’s just the work environment that I dread. It’s not toxic or abusive but it’s just really old, old-fashioned, stuffy … you have a good point about the honeymoon period with a new job though. I know the grass isn’t always greener, either.

        I’m not a huge risk taker either which I think is what makes me stay (so far). The money is good and there’s nothing TERRIBLE about the place itself (and I’ve definitely worked places where the work environment was terrible and toxic)

        1. Snargulfuss*

          It may be helpful to analyze yourself and your reaction to past circumstances. Do you find that you often get bored with new things/new environments after the shiny newness wears off? Do you have a pattern of moving on to new things frequently (perhaps not professionally but in your hobbies and interests)? Of course, we all do this to some extent, but it may be helpful to ask yourself if your expectations are realistic. I don’t think there’s any job, no matter how glamorous it may sounds, that doesn’t have a down side. For example, I really love reading travel blogs, but I’ve noticed a pattern in those who travel and write about their travels full time: after about a year they start complaining about how burned out and tired they are. I’m sitting here at my desk job thinking, give me a break, you have a dream job! People PAY you to stay in fancy hotels and visit exotic locales! It just goes to show that everything has a downside. So in a list of potential negatives, which ones are you most willing to live with?

          1. CrazyCatLady*

            I’ve been thinking about that and yes, I do get bored after the novelty wears off. (I’m not a job-hopper, but I definitely do always want new and exciting challenges.) I also get highly annoyed and aggravated with work situations that would likely occur to some degree in ANY job. So in some way, I think regardless of where I work, I’ll always be bored and annoyed!

        2. INTP*

          The work environment matters more to me than my passion about the subject matter. If I feel like I have to show up every day and be a different person, I find that very stressful and emotionally draining. Far more so than just performing boring tasks. (Though I don’t mind old fashioned and stuffy, and I feel far more stressed out by environments where everyone is supposed to be FUN! and PASSIONATE!. That’s a personal preference though.)

    9. Kelly L.*

      I want to not be morally opposed to it. In my job search a few years ago, I shied away from a couple of employers because I thought their entire business model was teetering on the edge of being a scam. But I don’t need to love it. Just be able to do it and sleep at night.

    10. abby*

      I have never been paid well above market value for what I do. But I have taken a pay cut to be more engaged in my work. It depends on if you value money more or interesting work more. As long as I can meet all of my obligations and have a decent standard of living, I will take the more interesting work.

    11. Sunflower*

      Depends on what you’re looking for. I checked out your reply where you mention the work is drudergy and you could afford to live on less. I think everyone has a number where they could have a happy life outside of work and any extra is great but they could do without it. Sounds like you’re in a spot where that extra money isn’t really an incentive the way it might be for someone else. In that spot, I think looking for a different job that is a pay cut might be good for you. It sounds like you don’t enjoy your work environment and that is often times more important than your actual work.

    12. Bea W*

      I would have a problem with that, but this is one of those things that really is a personal preference. I would rather work in a job that is interesting, challenging, and meaningful to me that paid less than be bored and meh for a better paycheck. I spend at least 1/3 of my day working. I don’t want to also spend 1/3 of my day bored and miserable.

      1. Bea W*

        PS – I stayed at a job for 9 years knowing I was getting well below market value, but I was making enough to pay the bills and I loved the work and my team. When the project ended for me, and I was no longer as happy and fulfilled with the work I was doing and the company atmosphere overall, I moved on. I also got a huge raise, and when I moved on again I got an even bigger bump, but what keeps me at my current job is that I am never bored, enjoy the work, enjoy my team, and feel like I am making a real contribution and that the work I am doing is meaningful. My boss thinks I don’t get paid enough (but has little real power to do anything about that). Maybe so, but it’s not the paycheck that will keep me at a job long term.

    13. puddin*

      I think about intrinsic and extrinsic rewards from work this way:

      My paycheck is compensation for the 20% of my job that is BS, boring, taxing, or stuff I just don’t like to do. The other 80% of my job should be engaging and likable.

      I am currently looking for a new role at other companies because that equation is out of whack for me right now. I’m not willing to take a pay cut, because with my skills and experience I do not have to. BUT I would take a more interesting job that is overall a better fit for the same pay, even though I know I could command more than I am earning now.

      Also, I am currently the sole bread winner, so I really cannot afford a lower paying job without impacting our quality of life which I am not willing to do.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        I was going to say something similar! For me, I need to be doing something I find engaging or interesting to feel satisfied with my job. If my job is not doing that, then I start thinking about the additional compensation it would take to make it worth it for me to stay in *this* job, rather than moving to another where I might get those things. I haven’t ever thought of it as an 80/20 break down, but I like it! My current job isn’t meeting either of those standards, so it’s pretty likely I’ll be starting a job search later this year (I should also note that my value judgment relies on the assumption that I would be able to find another job at the market rate, which would still enable me to cover all my expenses and maintain a similar quality of life. I would not be willing to quit my job to go to something paying substantially less where I would have to downsize/downgrade at this point in my life.)

        This is different for everyone, though. I have several friends who are in the boring-job-but-excellent-pay situation, and many of them have stayed in those roles for quite some time because their value judgment is different: they don’t hate their jobs, they’re just not the most exciting positions but pay at a level they’re happy with. For them, the money and stability are more important than more interesting work.

    14. Anonymous Educator*

      I have a bunch of friends who intentionally seek out boring jobs just for the paycheck so they can focus on art/music or some other kind of personally meaningful project on the evenings and weekends.

      I haven’t had a completely boring job ever (trapped in a windowless room doing the same repetitive task over and over again all day), but I’ve had not-entirely-fulfilling jobs and definitely-fulfilling jobs. I would definitely take a pay cut for a definitely-fulfilling job (and I have). In fact, I’m about to leave a very high-paying job that’s extremely mentally stressful (and not fulfilling) for a much lower-paying job that I anticipate to be more fulfilling (and less stressful).

      My main concern with money is “Can I pay the bills and do other stuff?” If I can’t pay the bills or do other stuff, I can’t take that salary. If I can pay bills and do other stuff, I honestly don’t care about the salary, and I don’t like feeling “trapped” by a high salary either (in other words, you want to leave your position for only an equally-paying or higher-paying job, so it becomes more difficult to leave your current position).

    15. RH*

      My husband and I sat down almost 20 years ago and made a conscious decision that we were willing to sacrifice income and some w

    16. Claire (Scotland)*

      I chose to go into teaching. Clearly, the money isn’t why! I don’t think I could handle a job where I was bored, however much they paid me.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Sorry this is OT, but Claire, could you explain something to me about the teachers’ pay scale? I remember seeing one for promoted teachers (in Scotland). What does ‘promoted teacher’ mean? Does that mean a head of department? Or is that just the year after your probationary year?

    17. Sabrina*

      I would like to know that what I’m doing add some sort of value or makes a difference. But I’ve never been well paid or had a fulfilling job. I’d be interested in trying either. Seems like a novelty.

    18. Brett*

      I definitely would have a problem. I feel very trapped in my current job and underpaid.

      Despite this, one of the few definite outs I have is to take a very specific federal role that pays above market but it also notoriously unfulfilling and stagnating with almost no challenge to it at all. So much so, that people are willing to take 30%+ pay cuts to get out (and finding they cannot get out because their skill development and work experience has been so severely hampered by the federal position).

    19. INTP*

      I’m totally fine with my work being a little boring as long as the work environment is good and it is not stressful.

      Stressful work that I don’t care about, or work that shouldn’t have to be stressful but is made so by a crappy work environment that I don’t care about – that is rough and not a sustainable solution to me.

      But I kind of made a conscious decision not to pursue any of my passions in work. Not that I’m anti-passion, but when I examined the career possibilities related to each of them, it became clear that they all involved unpleasant aspects that when I was really honest with myself, I acknowledged that I wanted to avoid far more than I wanted to work in the field. Instead I looked for a field that used my interests (though maybe not passions) and avoided the tasks that I really hate, with better work conditions and pay.

      I think it also depends on what your passions are, though. My passions are things that are easy to indulge outside of work and that involve low pay or a lot of competition or stressful work environments to work in – travel, cooking, writing. (I’m also passionate about health but I don’t know if I’m cut out for actually meeting with patients all day every day so much as reading and writing about it.) If I were passionate about, say, aerospace engineering, I don’t think that I would have made the same decision and gone into biomedical device engineering to make more money.

    20. Elizabeth West*

      For me, it depends on the actual work and why I’m doing it. My day job is fine–it doesn’t have to be fulfilling and I don’t have to be passionate about it, just so it doesn’t suck. Mostly, it’s a way to pay bills so I can write.

    21. Felicia*

      It’s a balance for everyone, but as long as both jobs pay enough for me to live on without struggling for necessities like food, rent, etc. then I would take less pay for more fulfilling work that i’m more excited about every time. It’s not that I’m never bored at work, it’s just that i like the industry and the company and the culture, and i could have made much more money in a company i didn’t care about but i would have less quality of life.

    22. asteramella*

      I care about being interested and having a pleasant work experience, but I’d jump at the chance to be bored and overpaid.

      It all depends on your situation. I’m the breadwinner in my household (my partner is an artist) and I’m early in my professional career after many years of school and minimum-wage work. Taking a pay cut is not an option for me and it probably never will be.

    23. UncoolCat (formerly Manda)*

      I’d prefer to have an (at least somewhat) interesting and fulfilling job. I used to think I’d be fine with just being a cubicle drone, mostly because I’m not very confident or ambitious. But now that I’ve thought about that more, I really wouldn’t. As a STEM grad, I’d like to have a job where I feel like I’m using my brain. I would have studied something else if I wanted a boring job.

    24. Roy*

      I’m late to the comment game, but CrazyCatLady, I think we’re the same person, or we at least work together.

      I’m in this position right now. I make more than market value for what I do, though I think my efforts and skill should be earning me more. I’m at a crossroads where if I don’t make more for what I’m currently doing or get the new position I’ve applied for, I’m willing to make (slightly) less for something more fulfilling.

      I’m willing to cut around 4K to not be bored to tears and feel like I’m wasting 40 hours of my life every week. What I’m currently doing just isn’t worth that time, despite the pay. Give me something that requires more work and brain usage and pay me a little less if you have to, at least I’ll feel accomplished and still be able to keep up my standard of living.

      I could wrote a thesis on this subject I have so much currently wrapped into it…

  11. Ali*

    Thank God this is up. I just hit rock bottom at my job yesterday.

    My boss did my annual review with me yesterday, as well as discussed my 2015 goals, and he gave me the lowest score possible, or the next-lowest, in every category. I got punished for something that happened back in October (and, mind you, hadn’t repeated itself since) and he criticized pretty much my entire year of work, giving me very little praise. I got no raise (not even a standard cost of living increase), no bonus and he flat-out told me I had no room to grow and wouldn’t work on any of my listed goals with me until I got better at my job. And to boot, him and my other supervisor still want me to come in motivated to improve, ask questions and be engaging. Kind of ironic that you expect that after telling a longtime employee they won’t grow in the company and you won’t find anything else for them to do. They’re just throwing reading material related to my job at the problem and I guess…hoping it goes away?

    I feel terrible, especially since three people on my team have recently gotten promotions and everyone else still gets to be involved in special projects. Really, my boss seems to be so down on me but yet they’re keeping me employed. I don’t understand. If you really think I’m that bad and you tell me there’s no room for growth, can’t you just let me go so I can find something I can actually do? I was also told that I have talents; they’re just not within the company. Again, after working there for almost five years.

    I don’t know if anyone has any advice, but any feedback on how I can keep going when I’m at a dead end will help.

    1. Rex*

      Time for a new job. In the meantime, keep your head down, work hard, do what you can to repair your relationship with your manager. I’m sorry.

      1. Steve G*

        Yup. I mean, I’m surprised your boss didn’t try to give you a mix of good and bad ratings, but perhaps you are just not the right fit for this job……..or your boss is an a***. Again, I have to say that I a surprised that your boss didn’t give you some good ratings, even my former job’s office alcoholic who frequently went missing, forgot how to do things all of the time, and never really took ownership of all aspects of their job, even this person had successes. Not as many as the team wanted, but their review would have been a mix of poor – exceeds expectations…not all “poor”….

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      If you haven’t already, I think you need to throw some of that frustration into a serious job search.

    3. CrazyCatLady*

      Without knowing the context of the mistake or how it was handled at the time, it’s hard to say. Honestly, I had a very volatile and moody boss in the past, and he actually gave me a similar review once. It was also based off a one-time occurrence and it made me feel AWFUL. After a lot of introspection (and a later apology from him), I was able to move on and realize it was really his issues on that particular day. I don’t know if that’s the case for you, but if it were me, I’d sit down with your boss and express your concerns and ask for concrete examples (besides the single one).

      And beyond that, I’d start looking for other jobs because if he is that down on you, it will not be a healthy environment for you to be in, and he could end up firing you at any given time.

      1. Ali*

        I don’t want to say too much about the nature of my mistake, but I will say it wasn’t anything that like had some negative impact on my team or the company. (My role doesn’t deal with clients or revenue or anything like that.) It was just something my boss didn’t like, and once he told me about his disappointment in me, I apologized and it didn’t happen again. But yet when he wrote up my review yesterday, he brought it up again and claimed it didn’t show a commitment to work or a good work ethic. This was already several months ago this happened!

        My company was bought by a bigger company a couple years ago and it’s brought on some cultural changes. I guess maybe I just don’t fit in with the new direction they’re taking. I have also applied for some other jobs in the company (the boss knew I did and OK-ed all of my applications) and kept getting told I didn’t have the experience for other roles, even though I could be capable of learning and doing them.

        I’m now going from looking at jobs in my field to looking for anything that is full-time with decent pay and benefits, even if it means changing careers. My field is overcrowded as it is anyway (communications/media). So I am trying. I’ve had a mix of phone screens/interviews (eight altogether) but haven’t had any offers and have trouble getting to the next step in the process. Most of the time it’s been because I have good experience, but not the particulars the hiring manager is seeking. Other times I just don’t feel a fit with the hiring manager, so those are easier to shake off since no one is a fit for every job. But yeah, definitely frustrating.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          One thing I’ll say is that if the mistake was significant or kind of illustrative of an ongoing concern he has, it’s not inappropriate to bring it up an annual review. That’s a review of the entire last year. People often feel like it should be more focused on just the last few months, but a true annual review really does look at and talk about the whole year. Obviously, if things have really turned around the last few months, there should be heavy emphasis on that. But imagine if it was the opposite — if you’d had a great year but a bad last few months; you’d be rightly frustrated if the review just talked about the recent months. It really is reasonable to look at the whole year.

          More importantly, though, it sounds like this is just not the right fit and isn’t going to be. Don’t wait for them to fire you — do the stuff now that you’d be doing if that happened down the road — job search just as actively as you’d be doing if you were fired last week. (You may already be, of course — I’m just latching on to your comment about why they can’t free you to find something else. You don’t need them to!)

    4. Bend & Snap*

      Agree, new job. I’m sorry–that sucks. They clearly didn’t think their feedback through very well. Your motivation just took 2 in the head; anybody’s would.

    5. Carrie in Scotland*

      Oh Ali that is terrible of them. Really. You come across as such a lovely person, hardworking and you want to know how to get better/survive at this job (which is more than some people do). Ack. I’m sorry they are being so down on you but – you are a great person. Remember that. Treat yourself to something nice over the weekend (even a small thing like a hot chocolate with cream & marshmallows or a small gift) to cheer yourself up.
      In my experience often after the down comes the up. I have faith that one of these weeks you’ll update us on having a new job.

    6. regina phalange*

      Oh, girl, I am sorry. Listen, I have sort of been there. My last job fired me but didn’t give me a reason, however I rarely received positive feedback. And it was work I knew I was good at, it was just a super toxic environment. They gave me no suggestions as to how I could improve and/or set goals they knew were unattainable. And when I DID meet them, I still got shit all over. So, you haven’t mentioned if YOU think you can do your job well or if you even like what you’re doing. But my advice is to look for another job, because this one sounds like a place where you do not want to be. Good luck!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh yeah, sometimes you get a boss with a bee up his butt and there is just NO solving it. The only answer is to leave. No matter how good a job you do, he will never, ever be satisfied. He has decided “Ali will never do a good job here”.

        What is unfortunate is that this has gone on so long for you. It’s sheer torture. Work does not have to be this hard. Your place sounds like everyone fell overboard in the middle of the ocean and there are only a couple life preservers. Chaos ensues as everyone fights each other over the few life preservers.

        I think you could use more of a big picture focus here. I know it’s really hard when just getting through the day is unbearable. But it’s the weekend pretty soon. Use the weekend to step back. Pretend you have a friend who is in a situation remarkably similar to yours. You want to help her. What do you advise her? What do you tell her to do? Remember this is your good friend, and she is hurtin’.

        And take steps to preserve your own mental/emotional well-being. Unfairly it seems very few people do this for us. It’s a DIY project.
        Your answer maybe to just leave before you end up scarred for a very long time. I had to do that with a job a while ago. The boss decided I was never going to be good at the job. I did more work than my peer, I took on bigger projects, etc. In her mind I was a complete failure. And that is when an alarm bell went off in my head. NO one is a complete failure- we have to watch out for people who insist that another person is a complete failure. Move away from those types of people.

    7. John*

      Yes, new job. But I think you should do some serious introspection to determine what criticisms were warranted. Is there someone in your department who might be objective whom you could talk to? Frame it as you want honest feedback to help you identify areas for improvement.

    8. Cristina in England*

      Oh jeez! What a terrible way to treat someone. I’m so sorry. I hope that you can get out soon.

    9. AndersonDarling*

      I don’t know what your workplace is like, but at OldJob, this was a sign that the boss wanted you to leave and was writing a bad review to set up for a PIP then a firing. If you had a bad review and your manager was dedicated to working with you to improve, then it could still be a good situation. But if your manager isn’t setting goals to improve, or not making realistic goals, then it is a sign to leave.
      I hope that isn’t the case and things turn around, or you get the first awesome job you apply for! Good luck!

      1. Ali*

        I don’t really know what’s going on. My boss actually used to be pretty nice to me. We had a good relationship, he was supportive and I generally liked where I worked and felt included. In the last few months, he’s turned almost hostile. It kind of sucks because I don’t feel like bad performance equals being treated disrespectfully. I struggled in another job after college (this was about six years ago now and lasted less than a year, plus theres been pretty much complete management turnover since, so at least I don’t have to really put it on a resume), but my boss at that job was still decent to me even when I struggled. He actually got fired from a previous job himself, so maybe he just empathized better.

        I’m not sure if my current boss is under pressure from up above or if he’s that annoyed with me, or if I offended him in some other way and he’s not saying anything. But yeah, he’s gone from being good to me to just being nasty and looking to strike against me on everything.

      1. Sunflower*

        I’m thinking this too. I’ve been following your story for a bit and it sounds like they’ve been giving you little encourage and feedback. This sounds like it was a last ditch effort to get you to breakdown and quit. Not sure why they kept you on for 5 years but I have a feeling they are going to keep you on but try to break you down until you do actually quit on your own.

        FWIW this is so not the right way to go about handling this. They should just let you go and probably should have done it months ago. Your boss is a jerk

    10. C Average*

      Ali, this sounds really difficult. I’m sorry you’re in such a spot, and hope you can find your way to a better place, either literal or metaphorical.

      With that said, I think there are some things worth pondering here

      I’ve spent the past three years in a job that often hasn’t been a good fit, and the past two years with a manager with whom I don’t click. There have been some periods of abject despair, and there has been some brutal feedback. I would’ve left ages ago were it not for the fact that I really love this company and would like to stay here.

      Working on yourself professionally is, I suspect, a lot like working on yourself in therapy. You’ve got to check your ego, you’ve got to evaluate feedback with an open mind, and you’ve got to have a goal of being better rather than being right. You’ve got to look around at the people who are getting this stuff right and, when you can’t figure out how else to behave, outright copy them.

      Based on your posts here, I suspect that your manager knows you’re a talented writer with a lot of potential. I suspect your manager is also troubled by your tendency to be a downer, to focus on the negative. And I suspect your feeling of being taken for granted compared to your colleagues is bleeding into your behavior at work and is noticeable to others. (These hunches are based on my own experiences and on my 41 years’ experience existing on this planet. I may be wrong!)

      Part of me wants to say, “Get the heck out of this situation and never look back. These people and this atmosphere are dragging you down and sucking the confidence and joy out of you.”

      But part of me also wants to say, “Work on shoring up the sources of your confidence and joy and separating them from your day job. Try to reduce your day job to a set of defined tasks and behaviors and attitudes. Your manager’s feedback should inform this effort, as should the amazing insights of this community. Show up every day and perform that set of defined tasks and behaviors and attitudes to the best of your abilities, and try to walk out of the office every day knowing your confidence and joy are intact and aren’t based solely on whether or not you had an A day or a C day at work. You are more than the sum total of your performance review. Your performance review is just an assessment of your ability to be the right kind of widget-maker or marketer or whatever.”

      Fighting my way to these realizations is an ongoing process for me. It has not been easy. It still isn’t easy. But I am a better person and a better employee for doing the work, rather than tucking tail and fleeing.

      Of course, sometimes tucking tail and fleeing is the right approach, and you may have reached that point. If so, it’s doubly important that you decouple your self-image from what’s happening at work, because you’ll need to market yourself effectively to would-be employers.

      Whichever is the case, I wish you well. I remember when I first started posting here. You had some big dreams, and you haven’t really talked about them in a while. I hope you can find your way to a place where you have respect of your work peers and the self-confidence and joy you need to move forward with the cool stuff you know you are capable of doing.

      1. puddin*

        Fantastic advice, I give it an A! C Average quality it is not. :)

        Ali – regardless of your manager, work on yourself. I don’t mean that you sound like you NEED to work on yourself. But rather, when you are not getting what you need from your job, you have to find it inside yourself. When I find myself in this kid of era of my life, I look into the latest self help craze to find direction. Mindfulness, Servant Leadership, Active Listening…the list goes on. These philosophies and perspectives give me a focus and outline for life. Just my two bits…


  12. Cristina in England*

    I also have another question, I hope that’s all right. I’ve been looking for freelance work on Elance and oDesk, and I was wondering how the conventions for these sites differ from normal job applications. You have a profile including a portfolio and resume on the site, so I can’t tailor those to each job. Are cover letters supposed to be as formal as normal cover letters?

    1. Anony-moose*

      I worked a lot on oDesk for about two years and honestly, it’s a crapshot. I started out with a tailored cover letter/application, and then made it more informal and snappier as I went. But landing decent jobs was still really difficult.

      One thing that helped me was to create a website to have a more significant portfolio of my work. Then when I was applying I would like clients to certain clients, for instance my nonprofit work, my work with animal advocacy organizations, my work with small businesses, etc. I think this helped a lot, and several recurring clients told me that they hired me because of my website. I took it down since I’m not freelancing anymore, but it was a simple site.

      Good luck!

      1. Cristina in England*

        Thank you, I’m glad I am not the only one who finds oDesk frustrating! I will think about building my own site.

  13. Beebs*

    Asking for more money.

    I work for a small non-profit and am the only person in the remote office. After a lengthy period of unemployment I decided to move to a big city and happened to land this job in the process, the job and organization are a great fit for me! However, I did not fully anticipate the depths of the high cost of living here and am struggling to make ends meet despite being rather frugal. When I received the offer they still hadn’t quite settled on salary and expected me to accept without that info, and when they did there was no real opportunity to negotiate. Management doesn’t really “manage” and are quite hands off but I do know they are pleased with my work. I asked about a review and was told these don’t happen, despite being in our contract.

    I don’t want to leave but I absolutely need more money to function. Not sure if there is a way I can discuss this without it sounding like an ultimatum. I want to be honest and not leave them hanging mid-project (if/when get better paying job), but also don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by suggesting I might leave. I’m looking for about 10% increase which would still force me to be very frugal, but would be enough to stay (any less wouldn’t change much). Advice on how to approach this?

    1. Rex*

      Beebs, it was no accident that they pushed you to accept the job without agreeing to a salary. Don’t do that again! And now they are being hostile to the idea of a review, even if it is in your contract? This is an employer that will take any advantage you give them. You need to get comfortable having a frank conversation. “Now that I have had a chance to do some research, it looks like a competitive wage in this area for this type of work is $XX. What can we do to bring my salary more in line?”

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      You’ve asked, they’ve answered. The only way you can effect change is to issue not an ultimatum, but a statement of your requirements. Since it sounds like you aren’t ready to leave without another job lined up, you really can’t require anything of them at this point. You need to make finding another job your part-time supplemental job.

      And don’t worry about “leaving them hanging”, they’ve not only treated you poorly, but reneged on what they did guarantee you. They would be lucky to get the courtesy of 2 weeks notice, and in your case that should be given to preserve your reputation, not for their sake.

    3. fposte*

      I’m not seeing how long you’ve been there; it doesn’t sound like very long, though, and I think that’s going to hurt you, because you can’t really ask for more money if you’ve been there under a year unless there was a major change on the job end. I also think 10% is a lot unless you’ve been a rockstar for them, but currently your justification for 10% seems to be your personal budget, which isn’t relevant to them.

      But you also say “when they did there was no real opportunity to negotiate.” Sure there was. They told you a number at some point. You had the opportunity to say “I’m afraid that’s not a number that I can take this job at–I was thinking $XX. Is there room for movement?” It doesn’t matter if they’ve already started talking about your start date and sending you parking passes–being given a number *is* the opportunity to negotiate, and you can always send the parking passes back. And if you’re not given a number, ask for a number or suggest a number. It sounds like you got stuck on the sunk-costs fallacy and just let momentum carry you forward rather than advocating for yourself. Unfortunately, you can’t really ask your employer to make up for that misstep.

      So what do I think you should do? Check competitors to see what market rate would be for your position, kick serious ass, and make the solidest argument for a raise at a year that you can. And also be aware that you probably aren’t going to get the full 10% even if the market rates justify it, because that’s a big jump, so decide if you want to look for other work if you don’t and get your resume polished.

      But get the money hammered out as necessary up front in future. Don’t wait for them to give you an opportunity–that’s for you to make.

      1. Beebs*

        It has been 6 months of an 18 month contract. I completely agree that I should have been more assertive during hiring, when I pressed for salary they acted like it was a minor detail, which should have been a flag. The whole process was pretty awkward. I also own that given my circumstances at the time I was pretty desperate and not acting as assertively if I had been in a better situation (a year unemployed had a pretty negative impact on me). I realize that my best bet will likely be to find a different job, I was just hoping to preserve something here. I can certainly try. Thank you for the advice.

    4. Sunflower*

      I agree that not settling on a final number was no mistake. I’m sure you’ve learned that next time around, you’ll get a solid number and agreement.

      How long have you been there? Since your company doesn’t do reviews, it is possible to ask to do a review at the 6 month mark. Some companies will give salary increases. My guess is since your company went into salary negocaition this the way they did, they are going to be hesitant to bump you up after 6 months.

      How desperate are you? You get one short job stunt. Are you willing to let this one be it? I also have no idea how far you are into your career but short jobs are usually more normal and forgiving when you’re just starting out. Keep job searching but try to stick it out to at least a year.

      1. Beebs*

        I think I can probably negotiate a 5% increase, I am just arriving at the 6 month mark. I am almost 5 years post grad (Masters graduate), my industry is mainly contracts – which is really difficult to try to make any life plans with. Given how long it took to find this job, I am sure it will be a while before another opportunity arises and I will certainly stay committed until then. Though I have been fraught with worry over my finances lately and would really appreciate some breathing room, but am also grateful to have any job at all at the same time.

        1. fposte*

          It’s really hard to get over that grateful thing, isn’t it? And that sucks, because they’re not doing you a favor, they’re paying you for work that they need to keep afloat.

          I know it’s particularly frustrating to hit a money wall when otherwise it’s a good job for you. I hope you find a way to make it work on all fronts.

  14. Nervous Accountant*

    It’s been a rough week. I had a few good weeks followed by…this week. I have to take on messes from employees who left, some they caused some they didn’t. I had more meltdown and crying jags on the subway and bathroom stall this week than al season combined.

    Basically I was assigned to take over clients from an employee who left, and receive the emails from another employee who left. Not a big deal except a lot of the clients were unhappy with the former employee and some took their frustration out on me. Ok whatever. Biggest one though is of the clients has a HUGE mess where he’s threatening litigation etc. I have absolutely 0 experience in this issue, it’s time consuming etc so I had to spend countless hours calling different places, asking others etc trying to resolve it.

    I can deal with my own workload and clients and I know this is the wrong thought to have — but omg it’s NOT FAIR that I have to deal with others” mess ESP Bc this company probably don’t plan on keeping me.

    Then I had to deal with all the worst clients this week. Rude, demeaning, demanding, the “well no the sky isn’t blue” type.

    I feel like I’m always getting in trouble even though everyone says don’t take it personally, you do the best you can, I get good feedback etc. It feels like every single mistake I make is magnified. I have leftover issues from last year…. I get praise from my manager/director but then I see the VP/owner of the company CCd in on a client complaint that I had nothing to do with–just inherited–and I start trembling.

    I think im just taking so much of this personally. I know this concept of fair isn’t in the work world, and I need to reset my expectations….and my attitude about all of this is so off… just so so drained this week.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Manager’s perspective on this: Right now, your manager is hugely grateful for you; you’re cleaning up someone else’s mess. This can actually be a time when people build reputations, earn good will, etc. I know it sucks, but you sound like you’re playing a really useful role right now!

      Don’t let the measure of how things are going be “is this hard?” because yeah, it sounds like this is a hard period. Let the measure be “am I systematically working through this mess and helping to get us back on track, even if it’s difficult and will take a while?”

      1. cuppa*

        This is really good advice. One thing I would add is to look at this as an opportunity to shine. Like Alison said, if you can pull this off (and it sounds to me like you can and your managers think you can, too), you are going to be golden. If you see it as something that is going horribly wrong, you will derail. Stay calm, stay focused, and know that people have confidence in you to fix it. Good luck!

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        I hope Grateful enough that I not be let go in a couple of weeks :-( That’s the core of what has me so stressed out. Im honestly never sure anymore of how my performance would be (worse or better) if I didn’t have this worry. When I started i knew I was seasonal and I figured I’d deal with it–not let that stress me out or prevent me from doing my best. But it is stressing me now. My manager says don’t worry about it, don’t stress about it, you’re doing the best you can etc. But the history here has me worried.

    2. GOG11*

      I was right there last week. When your work is consuming all of your mental energy and focus, you aren’t able to disengage (which gives you a break) let in other sources of input (which help counterbalance the negativity and hard-to-handle feedback). When that happens, each mistake or misstep or client rant is magnified. It’s not surprising that you’re having difficulty coping and I’m sorry that you’re in this position.

      First, can you reach out at work and get additional support? Could you talk to your boss and say “I’ve spotted this issue on the Jones account. I’m happy to resolve it, but I’m stumped on X. What would you recommend?/Is there someone I could work with to get this resolved who has experience in X?”

      Secondly, can you disengage from work this weekend? If all your off time is spent fixated on work, you’ll feel more drained and worn down and it can be hard to solve problems when you’re mentally exhausted.

      For me, I had a friend and family member come stay with me and they took care of the errands, cooking, etc. so I could finally get some rest and just spent time so I could relax and get my mind off all the things that had been building and stressing me out. You might not be to that point, but don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need – it made a world of difference for me and this week has gone so much better than last.

      Best of luck. Sending you well wishes.

      1. Anony-moose*

        “I was right there last week. When your work is consuming all of your mental energy and focus, you aren’t able to disengage (which gives you a break) let in other sources of input (which help counterbalance the negativity and hard-to-handle feedback). When that happens, each mistake or misstep or client rant is magnified. It’s not surprising that you’re having difficulty coping and I’m sorry that you’re in this position.”

        This is such a great way to describe what I was experiencing this week. I had so much work I was plowing through the day and coming home to fall asleep. I felt like all my tools for coping, from meditation and yoga to even taking a bath or going on a walk were just failing.

        Thank goodness we can come here and process it all!

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        Thank you for the kind words. With the fiest one, I have reached out to so many. Everyone is helpful but it’s still such a messy situation to deal with. Also, i work 60ish hours a week so it’s hard to disengage. I have few precious moments where I’m not stressed by work.

        1. GOG11*

          That’s rough. The nature of your work and the amount of your work doesn’t let time do its magic (because you’re back at it before you know it) but maybe some more targeted activities could be a break in the clouds for you. Are there activities you’ve done that allow you to forget yourself? Funny movies, sports, meditation…anything that puts you in a different frame of mind?

        2. RandomName*

          Are you in public accounting? If so, I totally understand your client-related stress and feelings of inadequacy because that’s what my life was when I worked at a Big 4 firm. As long as you’re keeping your manager informed and going to them with proposed solutions and not just problems, don’t be surprised if you receive great reviews. Based on my experience, everyone is stressed out and people don’t give positive feedback nearly as much as they should. I think part of the reason is that people assume that top performers know they’re doing a good job, even though the reality is that top performers never feel like they’re doing great work.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            Yep, tax accountant, not a Big 4…can’t even begin to imagine the stress there. That sounds like a good strategy, go with solutions and not just problems…but the thing is I’m still so new and inexperienced with some things that I would have NO idea what the solutions are. I try to work out the issue first, if it doesn’t work, then ask, and then final resort is calling support (for software) or the state/IRS…both of which I’m loathe to do. I try not to whine or let my frustration show, but I do ask “how do I handle this?”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I hope this doesn’t sound like I am minimizing your setting down to one thing- but it sounds like if you could get through the stuff with the litigious client, that would be a huge help.
      Have you looped your boss in? This almost sounds like your boss should take over and she should be talking with company attorneys,etc. I think you are over your head on that one.
      (I had a situation where my boss had to step in and start talking to attorneys, that is why this jumps out at me. She just took the whole thing out of my hands.)

      Clients yelling at me would have me right on edge. Have you chatted with the boss to find out how he wants you to handle yelling clients? If they are literally yelling/swearing/other over the top thing can you cut the conversation off until they can collect themselves? If they are just plain angry but remaining relatively professional, does your boss have tips that you could use for those situations?

      As far as being drained- make sure you are eating good foods and drinking plenty of water. Never underestimate the power of the simple things. I bet you are not sleeping well, either. Maybe a soak in a warm tub before bed would help. Please make small investments in you OFTEN. It will help.

    4. fposte*

      More broadly, Nervous, are you in therapy? I can’t remember. But you had a really rough go at the previous job, and I think that if you’re not talking to a professional about it it would be really helpful. Does the current employer have an EAP?

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        No no therapy. I’ve had a rough go at pretty mich every job I’ve had. I’m seasonal so I don’t have any benefits with this company. Ironically THATS the thing that’s stressing me out. I just really hope this is all worth it. My 90 day period is ending but at this point I have no idea if I’ll be hired. People with less experience are hired permanently and when I hear others talk about their benefits I just feel like bursting into tears. Not healthy not the best but there it is….

        1. fposte*

          I really think that’s the kind of stress a professional might be able to help you with. I don’t think the crying jags on the subway are requisite, and I think that you might be able to find a break from them without changing the job. I’ll post the low-cost link in case that’s helpful.

          1. afiendishthingy*

            I hope the low-cost could work for you! Failing that if you have a religious affiliation many clergy also do counseling. My therapist really helps me with job-related anxiety; I went back on Lexapro a couple months ago after the third time I cried at work in a 6 week period. (Pretty new job, good one but huge jump in responsibilities and different setting from previous jobs – I had a similar problem to yours except my most stressful client LOVED my predecessor BUT my predecessor let the client misuse our services for years on end, so now I’m the bad guy who’s changing everything and not letting her do what she wants… she once told me “You’re the professional so you need to make everything perfect.” Thanks for the advice, I will get started on that right away!) anyway – meds = job didn’t really change but I can actually cope with it and dare I say enjoy it now. I hope you can access some good low-cost services.

        2. RandomName*

          Do they have a history of not hiring people after the probationary period? Someone just left during a busy time of year (I just read below that you prepare tax returns), and now you have a lot on your plate. Who is going to do that if they let you go after your probationary period is up? Right now you’re gaining a lot of client knowledge that’s hard to transfer over to another person. These clients are unhappy already; they’re going to be even more unhappy having staff/seniors jump on and off their engagements and managers/partners know that and try to keep staffing consistent.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            You know its funny, I always heard they did. I worked for them last season and was let go. I’ll be honest, I was a low performer and not too good at what I was doing…but only because I didn’t have the experience, not bc I was dumb or in the wrong field. Plus there were financial issues. Slowly, over the next 6 months, everyone I originally worked with was either let go or left on their own. They took a chance on hiring me but I think they were just that desperate for people. So yeah, the turnover is high. Even now I saw it personally so many interns were hired on permanently, but my own position is still up in the air. I hear good things and I would be confident and positive but I’m still scared and don’t want to be disappointed and hurt again.

            After someone leaves, the client is trasnferred to antoher accountant. We never know if the client is going to take all their anger and frustration out on us or go with the flow. Everytime I get annoyed, I try to remember….I probably left behind a few messes and others had to deal with it, so maybe this is karma, or whatever..just put on my big girl pants and deal with it.

            Despite all the stuff I’ve mentioned, I actually really like working here and desperately WANT to make my home here. I’ve worked with horrible people before and while the workload is insane and the clients can be demanding, but 1. I love everyone I work with 2. I like my bosses, and 3. I enjoy the work I’m doing. It’s hard to find a combination of all of these.

    5. Laufey*

      I just wanted to toss two thoughts out there, Nervous, though one is a bit more tough love and comes directly from my father.

      1) No, it’s not fair. It’s never fair when someone has to clean up someone else’s messt. No, it’s not fair when attorneys are yelling at you because of someone’s mistakes. But…how’s that going to help you? Life’s full of “not fairs” and getting caught up on the unfairness of it can be a real impediment to getting anything done (been there, done that). So say it’s not fair, scream it into your pillow, eat a pint of ice cream, and then say “It’s not fair. Now what?”

      2) They gave this giant mess to you. Not Jane. Not Wakeen. Not Tyrion. You. They know that you have the skills/knowledge/experience/patience to deal with all of this. I find it reassuring to know that someone’s rooting for you.

      And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Send the client threatening litigation to whoever’s in charge of your legal department, and if you have one, ask your boss who your firm’s counsel is – it’s possible they’re not even aware of what the client’s threatening. This is a hard, “not fair”, stressful time, but I assure you, everyone else see you as Wonder Woman/Super Man right now.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        See I’m not even sure if that’s the case. I just inherited it Bc of a coworker who left. It was random. Our priority is to do tax returns which I can’t when I’m spending so much time on these other issues. They’re important too, but still. I think I just needed to hear that…that no nothing is fair and I need to get rid of this mentality before it hurts me in my job performance.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is a kind of odd thing to say but maybe it will be a tool for you. I am at a job where I need to clean up several decades of problems. I know it’s not fair, but that won’t make it go away.
          I tell myself “it’s not about the fairness I get in this world, it’s about the fairness I GIVE.”

          Now, I could write for a while on this one, but you just want to see the punchline.
          Fairness begins at home. Do you give fairness to YOU???? Do you hear people compliments and blow them off? Or do you hear people compliments and relish them?
          I don’t see the 60 hour weeks as sustainable given the circumstances. Can you at least go down to 55? What other little breaks can you give yourself?

          Does the boss understand that you cannot work like this indefinitely? I say see if you can get him to develop a plan. And that plan might include some vacation time for you. Even if he just lets you have a Friday. Picture being able to stay home and read the open thread all day.

          My hunch here is that you have huge expectations of yourself and the boss has realistic expectations. Please work on thinking about your boss’ expectations MORE and thinking about your expectations LESS.

  15. Laufey*

    Difficulty staying focused on less important/time sensitive tasks.

    When I’m working on projects that are billed to clients, I am focused on task and productive (ahead of the bell curve of office productivity). When I move onto internal projects, research tasks, article writing and internal training projects, I am so easily distracted it takes me forever to get anything done (well behind the bell curve). Part of it is just getting distracted by tangential research. For example, researching the history of chocolate blends for teapots, when I really just need to present on current practices, but I have a really hard time penalizing my self for because it’s interesting and good to know in my industry, but still isn’t necessary. Another part of it is having a valid excuse to be online, and part of it is just less pressure to be as effective, since there’s no client that I’m passing costs onto and these projects are generally my filler time for the rest of my work hours. Any recommendations for how to maintain my focus?

    1. GOG11*

      Could you break your task into items you could observe by sight or sound? It’s much easier to hold yourself accountable to “find 3 methods/current practices for strengthening teapot handles; write list of implications for Chocolate Teapots’ process” than “research current practices.” I have a hard time focusing on vague/poorly defined things so I find it much easier if I can quantify the results I’m looking for or have some measure that I can clearly see was or was not met. Another way to think of it is to give yourself a result to achieve rather than an action to do.

      Could you time yourself and try to beat your times? Someone suggested this in an open thread before.

      Set aside adequate time to work on this – if it takes you 20 minutes of fiddling around before you get focused in, make that focus count and ride it as long as you can.

      1. GOG11*

        Oh, and another thing – sometimes people say things immediately/interrupt because they’re afraid if their idea isn’t said right when they have it, they won’t remember it when the opportunity to share it comes around later. If you’re getting sidetracked because you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to read certain things, maybe saving them somewhere (like pinterest for example) could help remove any sense of urgency that’s driving you to read them straight away (though this may not apply – it seems like curiosity/interest is largely what’s motivating you).

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Can you make a brief list of points you would like to develop BEFORE you start researching? Then as you go along keep referring to your targeted points to make sure you do not drift too far away from them?

      It might also not be a bad idea to make note of the time-stealing good stuff that you want to look at later on. If you could note it, bookmark it, whatever, you would know that you could go back later and look at it. This might make it easier to move away from it.
      I have been trying to do this more- I jot down a site or book. Then later realize I don’t remember who recommended it or how I found it. So maybe put a little memory trigger note beside the reference also.

  16. Cruciatus*

    Isn’t it funny how, when you’re mulling over a job that you’re not quite sure about–is it worth leaving my current employer? Would I like the duties?–when you hear someone else talk about applying it’s all of a sudden a much more interesting and satisfying-seeming job? I’m sure this is true in all facets of life, but lately many of us here continue to apply elsewhere (to mostly entry level positions) in the hopes of leaving our current employer and some of our applications are overlapping at the same companies (not that our city is that big anyway). One coworker did manage to escape and is leaving today! I’m hoping these things happen in threes and maybe I’ll be one of the next two…
    P.S. That dress, in the photo, is white and gold! It amazes me that it truly is black and blue.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hey, y’all, I’m deleting comments that are just about the dress (like the responses to this that I just removed) — because it’s going to take us way off-track and these threads are long enough when they do stay on-topic! Thank you.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I think of these situations like The Bachelor. Those lady’s probably wouldn’t talk to the “bachelor” in a bar or in a real life situation, but when they are all competing for him on a game show then he is suddenly Price Charming.
      When I know other people are competing for a job, I can dream up all reasons why the job is perfect and meant only for me. I can ignore all warning signs. It must be some primordial response that makes up want what others want.

      1. Cruciatus*

        It could be a couple of factors–like you said, wanting what others want (I can be competitive. Like when I walk down a hallway or the mall or something, I assume I’m in a race with other people…). But, somewhat relatedly, I think there’s a part of “Oh, if they like it too then maybe it’s not so bad.” Especially from coworkers–they think it’s good enough to want to leave this place, so maybe it is worth it. I try to ignore these things a bit but sometimes they get the better of me. I think there are a few places I will be applying to this weekend though…

  17. The Other Dawn*

    My favorite reality show, The Amazing Race, is casting in my area soon!! It’s always been a dream of mine to go on this show, especially now that I’ve had weight loss surgery; I’m in MUCH better shape than I ever was. BUT…it requires about 4 weeks of travel sometime between May and July. Although I started my new job in December, I have almost 4 weeks of PTO available. I’m torn as to whether I should consider it or wait until the next season. I suppose I could try out and just not mention it unless I make it to the next round. I realize my chances of getting on the show are extremely slim.

    If one of your employees approached you about this, what would you say?

    1. Gwen Soul*

      I know 2 people who did this (and one was on the amazing race actually!) it depends on the culture of your office and if they will let people off for the length of time, not unreasonable to ask if you have been a good worker so far.

    2. Nerd Girl*

      My girlfriend tried to do the biggest loser a few years ago when it was a family thing. She made the mistake of telling her boss and he immediately started cutting her workload. She ended up not getting the biggest loser thing (they were cut right before final decisions were made) and ended up losing her job a month or so after that because there was no work for her. She still regrets having said something so soon.

    3. John*

      I would feel out my boss on the matter. Some might be really psyched for you to have a great adventure (and realize that having a breather can recharge an employee, while in some situations it would be a real burden on the company.

      (But I would add that the show’s ratings have declined to the point where I wonder how much longer it will air, so you may not have too many seasons to wait.)

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      I had an intern do this for The Bachelor. She let me know as soon as she applied and actually advanced in the process but wasn’t on the show. I advised her at the time that she could just let me know when she would need to leave for filming. I really didn’t need to know unless she needed leave.

    5. Beebs*

      Personally, I have never worked somewhere where an employee could not be covered for and have seen people take extended time off for various reasons (vacations, major expeditions, medical, etc.). As an employer I would not have a problem with this, because I value experiences and quality of life, but again this is assuming you don’t perform some critical role that would be near impossible to cover or have absent that long. I also think you should go for it and not say anything to your company, and then if you are selected cross that bridge when it comes.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I wouldn’t tell anyone what you’re planning unless you’re actually picked for the show. People can be weird about that kind of thing. Maybe wait a bit and then ask if people ever take the PTO all at once.

    7. blue_eyes*

      I say go for it! As you said, the chances that you’ll get selected are slim, so I would just go to the casting and see what happens. If you make it to a final round, or get selected, you can tell your manager then. I think it’s the kind of “once in a lifetime” thing that people will understand you taking time off for.

  18. Saleslady*

    I just want to vent. I am a senior sales person and I just broke a record for having the best month in the history of the company. My problem is, we operate on teams and my junior is just not growing into his role as quickly as I am. He does not get in the way of my success other than that my boss has expectations that I will magically be able to fix him. Usually the suggestions are on the verge of micromanaging, which I hate and honestly do not have time for, and I am at a loss as to what to do. Do I suck it up and sit there coaching my junior on the phone? Do I recommend we get rid of him? I don’t want his inability to perform to continue to reflect poorly on me. Should I be taking it to heart that I can’t seem to make him better? I basically view it as, he’s been here for over a year and he’s still not getting it, so it’s probably never going to happen.

    1. John*

      If I thought it was true, I would approach me boss and say that the time I’d invested in developing the junior employee didn’t seem to be paying off and that you thought it was getting in the way of building your pipeline and it might be time to move him/her under someone else. They certainly shouldn’t want to constrain their best salesperson.

      I assume your compensation is largely performance-based, so you can’t afford to be the doormat here.

    2. Steve G*

      I would give it one more shot if he is working hard cold calling and trying to build channel partnerships. If he gets the meetings but never seems to close the sale, I’d try to help. But if he messes up even the getting-the-meeting part, then that is an issue, I would be pushing to get rid of him at this point…

  19. C Average*

    I had an interesting revelation about my work last week when I made an offhand comment in the open thread. It was one of those moments when I thought, “Oh, wow, I’ve always felt that way, but it makes so much more sense when I actually write it down and stop to think about it.”

    I realized that I hate long projects and really crave the sense of having COMPLETED something every day.

    This week I’ve been splitting my project work into small pieces and interspersing it with some tasks that can be started and finished within a day’s time.

    I’m finding work so much more pleasurable when I leave the office every day having actually finished a few things.

    What kinds of revelations have you had about your work that changed your approach and/or your satisfaction level at work?

    1. Lore*

      It took me a long time to realize that just because I hate things hanging over my head uncompleted doesn’t mean I have to do everything RIGHT AWAY or answer every email the second it hits my inbox, etc. I’ve trained myself to set follow-up dates, flag emails for later reply, and try to let situations play out a little bit before jumping into the fray. It’s improved my peace of mind enormously.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This is a huge one for me too. Especially since it’s such a peeve of mine from the other side–like when I get a hair-on-fire email from someone about an issue that, if they’d finished reading their inbox before panicking, they’d see it was already resolved.

      2. GOG11*

        I’ve recently realized this. For me, I was struggling with not knowing the answer right away until I realized that I could reply and let the person know that I’d look into X and respond on such-and-such date with the answer for non sensitive/urgent itmes. It’s really helped cut down on the back and forth and allowed me to provide poised, thorough answers instead of tidbits here and there.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I need that sense of completion too, and have my projects set up so I can get something like that on a regular basis (although usually not every day).

      One thing I realized, after working at a couple of different companies, is that I need some structure and repeat-ability in my job. I’m a software developer and I worked at a place where there were no written specifications, no formal testing, just jump in and try this and that until we get it. I really struggled there. My next job had all sorts of required documents and processes, and I was free to add processes that helped me. And I loved it. I don’t think I’m a bureaucrat, but I’m certainly not a cowboy-coder. So now I know to look for that kind of environment, and currently I’m in a place that has all sorts of stuff I need: formal development and testing areas; detailed and repeatable processes for moving work from one level to the next; required documentation that is useful for me.

    3. MaryMary*

      I recently learned to separate activities I’m good at versus activities I’m good at AND enjoy. My current role is split between internal, operational, process improvement work and client facing project work. I’m good at creating new processes or documenting and formalizing existing processes, but I don’t really enjoy it. More importantly, I really dislike the backend step of following up and making sure everyone is using the processes (part of this is a larger organizational issue with accountability). I would much rather work with clients 100%, but because I have the operational skillset I’m stuck with that piece of my job as well.

    4. GOG11*

      I’ve realized something similar – I like to plan things in terms of end result or behaviors I can see or hear. This allows me to track my progress incrementally in ways that are meaningful and doable to me. When I just write vague stuff, I tend to waste time wrapping my head around what it is that I’m doing.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      One thing that changed my work day for me was writing down what I am going to do tomorrow before I leave at night. It is such a relief to come in and not say “now, where was I?” I hate-hate that feeling of trying to pick up and not being sure where I left off.

      1. GOG11*


        I’ve gotten into the habit of transferring undone items (to the next day, next week, whatever makes sense) and it helps me wrap up the day, get a plan together for the next, and ensure that I don’t leave any undone tasks behind.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      It took me until now to realize that, even though I enjoy teaching, I don’t ever want to be a full-time teacher again. I quit teaching a long time ago and recently came back to it, and I’m quitting again. Teaching is intense. No matter how “busy” or “stressed” I’ve ever been at a non-teaching job, it never even comes close to a “light” day in full-time teaching.

    7. LMW*

      I’ve recently realized that I really need to be on a team with people who understand my projects, goals and process to some degree. In my current role and a previous role I’ve wound up in what I call “island” positions, where I’m the only one who does my type of work and I end up really isolated from my boss and other people in the reporting structure. I can’t get the basic information and support I need to get things done. After I reached a crisis point in my current role, I realized that I really need to find a “team” even if it’s outside my reporting structure. So I kind of threw myself on the mercy of someone on another team and told her about my problems and she was so helpful because she understood. I still don’t know if I have long term prospects at this job (and I’m looking), but now that I have a relationship with this other team, things are so much better and easier and it’s made a bad situation much more bearable.

    8. Trixie*

      In the past I’ve had positions which required multi-tasking for extended lengths of time. Since I normally process things fairly quickly it was a good fit but it came to light I still needed slow down and really think things through. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear this directly from my manager but learned that she shared this insight with her boss. Or that I was being better about slowing down and thinking things through. I might have gotten there sooner had she said something in of our many monthly meetings, but better late than never. And I keep this trait in mind when asked my weaknesses.

    9. afiendishthingy*

      I cannot do anything that requires a lot of focus between 11 am and 2 pm; the office is too busy then and I’m just thinking about/digesting lunch. I need to plan to do the thinky tasks first thing in the morning or late afternoon and answer emails/check in with coworkers in the middle of the day. Obvious but I keep trying to fight it.

    10. AnotherFed*

      The biggest thing for me was to deliberately start coming into work a little later and finish the day a little later. This means the first 5 or so hours are the normal zoo of meetings and interruptions and getting very little forward progress on real tasks, but then I get 3 hours at the end of the day to just get in the zone and work. Instead of hitting the end of the workday feeling frazzled and like nothing useful got done, I end with a couple of hours of productive time and feel good about getting things done.

  20. OriginalYup*

    How do you provide feedback and manage expectations for freelancers when they’re new and still learning the ropes of your organization?

    I’ve recently started managing a series of writing projects with freelance copyeditors. I’ve given them all the reference material, style guides, and so forth. I encourage them to ask me questions as they arise, and I’ve been noting specific instances of “hey, you didn’t catch this thing, please note it for next time” in real time. But I’m new to managing this type of outsourcing, and they’re new to my organization, so I’m not sure if I should be approaching things differently. Any advice?

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      One thing that I’d say is important is to set standards for the gaps in style guides– for example, AP has a few hazy sections, like whether or not to set apart an introductory phrase/word with a comma. Make sure they know all the house rules and how stringent you’ll be with things like that.

      Other than that, it sounds like you’re doing all the things you should.

    2. GOG11*

      In a recent post/article, Alison suggested asking for a sample of a larger document to catch problems early on before a ton of work has been done (which also helps keep things on track because problems aren’t spotted 2 days before a deadline). If you’re not already doing that, that could help, as well.

    3. just laura*

      Style guides are helpful– create a custom one for your company. It’ll be worth the time investment in the long run!

    4. Lore*

      This may or may not work depending on the kinds of documents you’re dealing with, but if you have a sample of work that’s been copyedited beautifully to your standards, share a section of it with new freelancers. There’s so much nuance and so many judgment calls in copyediting, and a style guide only goes so far in showing what kinds of issues are most important to your organization in particular. (For example, as someone who works with a ton of freelance copyeditors myself, I find that it’s really difficult to simultaneously be extremely sensitive to tone/voice and extremely rigorous with style sheet and rules, and telling a copyeditor upfront which is more important on a given project helps her enormously.)

  21. Kate*

    When deciding a job how much weight do you put into the culture? My job is very transferable and the most important factor to me is culture. I try to ask lots of questions about culture without coming across that it is one of the most important things I look at in a job but it really is. I would rather have coworkers I enjoy than almost anything else at a job (even taking less money to do so).

    Am I alone in this?

    1. Helen*

      It’s a huge priority for me too. My standards are pretty low, but it’s important to me that the office has a healthy culture. I wouldn’t ask a dozen questions about it though; maybe two (or more if their first answers were too vague to be helpful).

    2. Rowan*

      It matters a lot to me. I spend too much time with my coworkers to not get on well with them. I have found that the kind of companies at which I like to work happily describe the culture if asked directly in an interview, because they also value someone coming in who who is a cultural fit.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Culture is about 95% of what I care about. In fact, I took a huge pay cut and title cut once to take a receptionist position at a school whose culture I loved, and I never regretted. That school is amazing, and I was so glad to be part of it. One of the biggest regrets I have professionally is leaving that school.

      I’ve had jobs with lofty titles and much higher payer in toxic or non-toxic-but-also-uninspiring cultures, and I prefer a “lower” position at a place with a good culture.

    4. RandomName*

      Not alone at all. The culture is so important and can impact your job satisfaction. It’s tough to really get a sense of the culture just asking a couple of questions at an interview though because there are so many factors that play into it.

    5. Tris Prior*

      You’re absolutely not alone! Culture is really important to me too. I would take a less interesting, lower-paying (up to a point) job if it were a great cultural fit – in fact, that describes my current job.

      Working in many, many toxic and super-regimented corporate environments made me place a lot of weight on this.

  22. Teapot Lawyer*

    I am temping for a Teapot Consulting company doing administrative work on their contracts. I am actually a young lawyer and am seeking employment as one. Three days into my temping position, the VP of Ops sat me down to talk about my career and the possibility of being hired here. And transitioning to an in-house counsel for them, as they do not have one but are exploding in size. (4yr old and doubled employees in the last year.) I asked for the evening to do salary research and yesterday asked for a number I would be pleased with as a first year counsel. He said it sounded fair and we would touch base with the woman supervising my temp position next week.

    What do! I am so excited about this opportunity to do exactly where I want to go in my career (business and transactional corporate work in house) but am so blindsided that I am not sure I am actibg as excited as I am.

    Thoughts? Advice? Suggestions? It would be my first Real Adult Job that Requires Negotiation and I have no idea what to expect next week. I do kbow they have been bringing candidates (much fewer qualifications than mine) in for interviews, so I have no idea what to expect.

    1. Helen*

      I don’t have any words of wisdom, but congratulations! (I know you haven’t gotten the job yet but it’s still great news. They must think highly of you!)

    2. Clever Name*

      You got this! If they come back to you with a lower than expected number, don’t wait for a sign to negotiate. You can simply say, “actually I was hoping for $x” and then wait. Don’t fill in dead space with prevarication. You can do it.

  23. NewishAnon*

    I tried Alison’s “what differentiates the ones who were good from the ones who were great?” question in an interview and it totally backfired on me. This was for an admin position and the hiring manager was really emphasizing that he didn’t want an admin to “get him coffee” and that some people were happy to hire admins that would just punch the clock and do the bare minimum, menial task work. His admin is integral to his success. Great. But then I asked him that question and he says “Someone who is a self-starter, as I’ve said 10 times already!”

    First, he had not used that phrasing up to that point. Second, I was hoping for something beyond what he already said. It was clear that a good admin to him was one that would take initiative and pride in their job. But I wanted to hear about greatness. He repeated that self-starter comment several more times and I honestly couldn’t tell whether it was just that important to him or whether he thought I truly didn’t get it.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I think some interviewers are just awful and don’t like being “put on the spot” any more than the interviewee does.

    2. OriginalYup*

      Actually, it sounds like the question worked perfectly — his answer shows that he sort of expects his employees to read his mind as part of being ‘self starter.’

      1. AnonPi*

        Yeah that’s probably about right. I have a manager now that is very much like that, and it drives me up the wall. I don’t know that I car for his response to it, I’d find it off putting, but if you otherwise found everything ok then maybe he’s just not good at being questioned unexpectedly like crazycatlady said.

        1. NewishAnon*

          Everything else was ok. He was very passionate. And he said some incredible things about admins that I have never heard from a manager. He really sang their praises. He truly recognizes their importance. That was so nice.

          I’m torn between thinking that he would be a mentor that would build me up to be an outstanding admin, or someone who would tear me down and make me feel like I can’t please him.

      2. NewishAnon*

        You are probably right. It definitely tells me a bit about him. I wasn’t expecting quite that answer. It felt rude and abrupt to me. It really took me by surprise and I did not know how to respond.

        I left the interview feeling quite inadequate and intimidated by him. And I’ve always been told I’m a stellar admin. :(

        1. Anony-moose*

          Well, I imagine you wouldn’t want to work for someone who makes you feel inadequate and intimidated – so bullet dodged!

      3. EmilyG*

        Bingo! An interview is a two-way street in terms of learning about the possibility of a good candidate/job match, so learning something negative is disappointing but useful. The questions aren’t just to impress people and if he was irritated by a thoughtful question, imagine when you ask him ten of them per day…

      4. Steve G*

        Yup! The OP’s question didn’t backfire, the interviewer was a nitwit. I wouldn’t work there, they manager is never gonna be able to give you examples of what he wants when it is slow…and so probably isn’t good at delegating or thinking up work in general…….

      5. Jo*

        Yes! Sometimes the real answer is hiding under the words. At my interview with my current boss, I asked if she was looking for any particular time commitment from the person she hires. I didn’t think it was too crazy a question; my previous boss had told me at the offer stage that he expected me to stay at least a year, and I have heard of managers being explicit about how long they envision a new hire being in that position before moving up. But this woman looked at me like she didn’t understand the question and I must be a little bit stupid for asking it. She said something like, “Well, of course I want you to stay for as long as possible.” With a tone and expression that said the subject was closed.

        We now have that kind of basic miscommunication all the time, where she responds to my questions as if they are dumb or incomprehensible, and gives me the most efficient possible brush-off, leaving me to wonder where I went wrong. It’s also still unclear to me how she sees my future at the company. I would have seen this coming if I’d listened to my alarm bells during the interview.

    3. Helen*

      Yikes. How rude. It’s not your fault at all, but to avoid that, when I ask questions, I usually preface with, “I know you’ve touched on this a bit, but would you mind talking more about [topic]?”

      1. NewishAnon*

        I did something similar. He had said that he’s had some admins in the past that were only so-so. I said something along the lines of “You mentioned some previous admins who could have done better. Thinking about all the ones you’ve had, what has differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were great?”

        I admit I didn’t handle that wonderfully. As I asked the question I knew I didn’t phrase it very well. I guess he was talking about wanting a great admin all along but in my head what he was describing sounded like what any “good” admin would do. Any admin who didn’t do that stuff is a “bad” admin. What about a “great” admin? Anyway, that’s how I was thinking about it.

          1. NewishAnon*

            Thanks. I felt like I handled it poorly but glad to hear another opinion that I didn’t. Apparently he didn’t think I did either because he was impressed with how I handled myself. I’ve asked him if I can come in and speak more before accepting. Everything else was fine and I’m not sure I am interpreting the relationship correctly. I am going to try to ask some appropriate but probing questions to see if we will work well together.

    4. Christian Troy*

      I asked this question once and it actually worked really great. I learned a ton about the person currently in the role, why they were good at their job, and what their personality was like.

      However, I have asked it in other interviews and ended up turning it a blah response with no real useful information.

    5. NewishAnon*

      HAHA. Hiring Manager emailed and offered me the job. He was very impressed with me. Crazy. That didn’t happen at all like I expected.

    6. Jennifer*

      Ouch. Well…maybe you don’t want to work for him anyway.

      I honestly had a bad feeling about asking this in my last interview, so I did not and it turned out they had just created the position. (Which…explained a lot in some respects.)

  24. BRR*

    As I have posted the past two weeks I am having a hard time dealing with depression/anxiety/ADD at work while I find what meds work for me best. Has anybody asked for any accommodations or can think of any? Or even just advice. I am having difficulty staying motivated even though I LOVE what I do. The ADD has made focusing on my work a huge issue. Without any ability to focus I can’t catch mistakes to fix.

    I will admit I haven’t goggled for them yet but so much workplace info out there stinks. So far my manager and I decided I would focus on making teapot handles as spouts are proving more difficult. She also said I cannot have an office (which I didn’t ask for but hinted at the problem of editing with so much noise). I know telecommuting and flexible scheduling are most likely out but they would be an uphill battle.

    1. Rowan*

      Can you ask if there’s a quiet room within the building where you could go and work if you’re on a particularly concentration-heavy project? If truly flexible scheduling is out, can you adjust your hours so you’re in in early or leave late and get a chunk of quiet time at the beginning and end of the day? Can you split your lunch into several shorter breaks so you can walk around when you’re particularly unable to focus?

      1. Those are Writing Words!*

        I think the advice about splitting lunch or adjusting hours is really good, since it requires less concessions from your boss.

        Also, if you commute, is there a way you could turn your commute into a period of “resting time” for yourself, or make it more relaxing? Eg when I was unhappy/anxious/in pain and had a job that was sometimes hard to do because of that, I switched to a less-busy route with fewer transfers, and it meant that at least two small chunks of my day were easy/manageable. Like comforting book-ends. Good luck riding this out!

      2. BRR*

        Thank you for your suggestions. I did come up with the idea of going to an empty office to proof things. This seemed to help a little.

    2. definitely not giving identifying info for this*

      First, my sympathies to you. I’ve dealt with something similar (not the same, but similar), and it was really difficult. I felt like I had to hide it from my employer, and in retrospect I was right to do so.
      Second, really pay attention to body, eating, movement, and how it affects your mental state. You’d be surprised how much hungry and sleepiness affect our way of thinking.
      Third, try to discover some work arounds. Coffee. Lists. Upbeat music. Sound-cancelling headphones (expensive, but worth it).
      Keep plugging away. It’ll get better.

    3. Just Another Techie*

      It’s so hard to give advice, because what works for one person can backfire entirely for another. This stuff is just all so personal and varied, you know? But you have all my sympathy. Good luck!

    4. fposte*

      I know there’s an accommodation database at askjan dot org, which is the big DOL ADA site–I haven’t looked through it, but it might be worth a trawl to see if it has something useful. Good luck!

      1. Nashira*

        Thank you for that reference! I’m trying to work out some migraine accommodations at my office right now, regarding lights, and that might help me.

    5. Lionel Richie's Clay Head*

      This post finally gave me the nerve to comment here because I have experienced similar issues (depression, add, anxiety). While I failed many times at managing this in the past, I finally found that I have to micro-manage myself when I’m going through rough patches. It’s basically impossible for me to motivate myself when I’m feeling this way, but I find that I can accomplish tasks when I break them down into tiny pieces and go at the tasks in a logical way. Each time I complete the tiniest of tasks, I can feel good about knowing I’m making progress and that helps to push me on to the next tiny task. I’m also careful to flag for needed followups and future tasks so I don’t have to worry about my mental issues getting in the way in the future either.

      As the other two commenters have said, it’s also important to pay attention to your environment outside the office and on your breaks. Taking care of yourself outside of work will help when you are on the job too.

      1. GOG11*

        +1 I have ADHD and find that if I break tasks into steps I can do steps 1-3, get distracted, return and resume with steps 4 and 5, etc. Try to break your work into chunks that match your smallest common periods of focus (so if you can focus for 2 minutes before you get distracted, think in those terms). This helps a lot because you don’t lose your place every time your concentration is broken.

      2. BRR*

        I think for my next set of task, breaking them down into steps will be perfect. I’m a littler nervous because part of my job can’t really be broken down into steps but I’m hoping my medication will be adjusted correctly before I need to do it again.

        1. Lionel Richie's Clay Head*

          Keep us updated. I would be very interested to hear if things improve and if you find solutions that work for you. As someone who does/has struggled with something similar, I’m always keeping my ears open for new tools I can put in my mental health toolbox.

    6. Laura*

      Fellow ADD-er here with a history of depression and anxiety at work. You have my sympathy, I know how rough it can be to be productive even with the right meds. I mostly just came here to let you know that I did get through it, and you can too.

      I will say that for me, finding the right ADD meds and the right anti-depressant was a game-changer. Obviously, everyone is different, especially when it comes to brain chemistry, and YMMV, but this is how it worked for me: getting my ADD under control was the easiest step and my first one. Treating the depression and anxiety was harder and took much longer. For me it took a both therapy and medication (and a lot of trial-and-error with both) to finally start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Try not to be too discouraged if a medication (or a therapist, for that matter) doesn’t work for you and you have to start over – it’s a frustrating part of the process, but knowing what DOESN’T help you really does take you one step closer to finding what does.

      I don’t know whether you’ve disclosed your ADD/depression/anxiety to your boss yet, and I’m not going to advise you either way on that. The internet is pretty divided on that front. I’ve personally never disclosed to any of my bosses because the prejudices against mental health issues and the widespread belief that ADD isn’t real just make it too much of a risk, in my opinion.

      Noise is a huge issue for me too. Your idea to use an empty office is a good one, as long as your boss and colleagues know where to find you if they need you (it’s never good for people to think you just disappear for 2 hours at a time). If that’s not sustainable, try noise-cancelling headphones or listening to instrumental music if you’re someone who doesn’t find that distracting. Sometimes I can also be most productive early in the morning or by working late, because there are fewer distractions during those times, but not sure if that’s an option for you.

      I have so many more thoughts on this but mostly I just want to wish you good luck and let you know it gets better.

      1. BRR*

        Thanks for your well wishes and all of that advice.

        My story is basically ADD meds started working after a couple tries. Dr added an anti-depressant and it nullified them as well as made me more depressed. Still trying to find the right anti-depressant but now my ADD meds are still not working. I’ve seen the quality of my work parallel the effectiveness of my treatment so at least I know I can do a good job.

        I disclosed to my boss that “I have a medical issue that affects the quality of my work.” She was understanding and said she was relieved to hear it was something like that because she was worried I was no longer interested in my job which puzzled her because I was hired partially for passion.

        1. GigglyPuff*

          One thing I noticed on my meds, is caffeine can really have an effect on ADD meds. Half the time it’ll completely amp up the meds, and the other, it can actually counteract them for me, making me extremely tired. It all depends on when I’ve taken the meds and caffeine. So the fact that the meds seem to be working and then stop, I’d also look at other things can effect the meds, time of day you take them (if I take mine after about 10:30am, I’m up all night long), caffeine consumption, taking them even on the weekends, etc…

        2. Laura*

          Oh, I feel you. The worst part of the process is that it often can take a month or so for anti-depressants and other meds to really “kick in,” which is a really long time when you’re trying to keep it together at work! Not to mention that one of the lovely side effects of most anti-depressants is that instead of sometimes just being ineffective, they can actually make your depression worse. As if it needed to be any harder to a.) seek help and b.) navigate the whole process of finding doctors, dealing with insurance, and getting prescriptions. That’s why I wanted to tell you to hang in there – I know what a drain and a time-suck the whole thing can be. One foot in front of the other. You’ll get there.

          It’s great that your boss was so understanding and I think you handled it right by framing it as a medical issue without getting too specific.

          A few resources that really helped me are –
          For depression:
          For ADHD (if you are a woman), check out Women with Attention Deficit Disorder by Sari Solden. I cannot emphasize enough how much this book helped me.
 also has some great articles and resources

          GigglyPuff’s comment about caffeine is spot on. Also (I know this is so cliche and SO hard to do when you’re depressed but) if you can, try to get in some exercise in the morning before work, even if it’s just a short walk. For me, exercise endorphins are like an extra little boost to my ADD meds and I find I’m crazy productive when I sit down to work after exercising in the morning.

  25. Rowan*

    My increasing amount of out-of-hours work has made me curious about what people in other industries/jobs consider to be a reasonable amount of evening or weekend work. I realise this will differ massively from role to role, but I’d like to get a feel for what people are doing outside of their regular Monday-Friday, 9-5.

    1. Judy*

      As a design engineer, I believe that staffing should be such that everyone works 40-50 hours a week. During pushes for release of projects, it’s OK to work more, but that should be 2-4 weeks maybe several times a year, not a constant thing.

    2. Just Another Techie*

      Depends on where we are in a project. In the early planning stages I rarely work outside my core hours (typically 10-10:30 to 6:30-7), but when we get to the final weeks before a product ships, I’ll work around 12 hours a day on weekdays, and also log in from home for a couple hours a day on weekends just to check on things and make sure everything is okay. I can’t maintain that kind of crazy schedule for more than a month or so, and it only happens once every 12-16 months.

    3. MaryMary*

      To me, at home work is different from outside of 9-5. I’d rather stay in the office until 8 or 9, than log back in from home. I like knowing I’m off the clock when I’m home. That being said, I do check email at night and first thing in the morning. I’ll respond to quick hits or emergencies, but most things requiring me to dig in I’ll wait until the morning. Sometimes I’ll work an hour or two on the weekends. Right now I’d say I average five extra hours or less, and I consider this a light workload.

    4. Hillary*

      I’m an analyst for a manufacturer. My “normal” hours are around 7:15-5:00 M-F, usually but not always with about an hour lunch. At least one lunch every two weeks is a working lunch with coworkers or a vendor. I’ll stay late or put in another four or five hours on the weekend if I get too far behind.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      To be honest, I consider 0-5 hours reasonable, barring exceptional circumstances. But then, I work at a company that values work-life balance and actively encourages teleworking 1 day a week (or 2 or 3, depending on the project).

      I have worked 60-70 hours a week for extended periods, but that’s when I was young, single, and most important, non-exempt.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oops, to be clear, that’s 40-45 hours total. And I spend a few seconds in the evening regularly checking email, a minute or two if there’s something that needs a reply, and occasionally 3-4 minutes if there’s a problem that I can fix easily while off of work. It’s rare for me that there’s substantive work that must be addressed outside of work hours.

    6. K*

      Personally I think no more than 0 evening or weekend work is reasonable, but the US employment system seems to disagree with me.

  26. OhNo*

    When is an appropriate time to apply for positions, when you know you won’t be available until a certain date? I know this varies by field and type of company, usually, but are there any broad themes that you guys have run across?

    For example, I hear that hiring timelines for government jobs tend to be pretty long, so I would probably be able to apply well before the date I will actually be available. Are retail timelines short, so I shouldn’t apply until a month or less before I’m available? What about higher education or generic office jobs? I’m really curious if there is any consistency at all, or if it’s just always a guessing game.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I would just apply.

      One time I applied for a position that was looking for an immediate fill (I wasn’t available until four months later). They interviewed me, seemed to like me, and then I had radio silence for them for a long time, and I thought I’d lost out on that job opportunity. Suddenly they came back to me and wanted me to do all these follow-up interviews and then finally offered me the job. My only stipulation (from the beginning) was that I could not start until X date.

      I talked to the hiring manager later (after working there for a while), and he said they liked me, but they really wanted to see who else was out there and see if they could fill the position right away. After interviewing a bunch of other candidates, they saw I was clearly the best candidate, so they came back to me and just toughed out not having that position filled.

      I will also say that I’ve interviewed for a number of other “immediate fill” jobs, and the process has taken literally months, so even though a lot of companies will say “We’re looking for someone right away,” it doesn’t mean they actually hire someone within one or two weeks or even one or two months.

      Apply. Nothing to lose.

    2. RandomName*

      I would start applying now because your job search could take longer than anticipated. And sometimes you’d be surprised at how far out an employer will hire you. At my job, they actually didn’t want to bring me on until a month after I accepted the offer because they were going through a busy period and wouldn’t have time to train me. That start date was coupled with the length of time it took to find the job posting, get called back for interview 1, interview 2, job offer, and job offer acceptance. I think 3 months from the time I applied to the date I started.

      I think it’s always a guessing game though. And one of the questions interviewers ask most of the time is “when can you start”? So, when you make it to the interview stage, you give your date, and if it works for them you have the potential to move forward in the process. If you don’t apply because you’re worried about start date, you don’t have that option.

  27. YandO*

    I am applying to a job right now and on the application there is this question:

    “In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique. Try to be creative and say something that will catch our eye!”

    What are they looking for? I was considering saying “I am a big picture thinker, where big picture is the success of my company and everything I do is geared towards that goal”


    1. OhNo*

      I think Alison addressed this in a post not too long ago… it might be worth searching the archives to see if you can find it. I remember that lots of people in the comments had suggestions (some serious, some not) of things you could say to answer that question.

      In general, though, I think the response you have doesn’t sound quite right. It comes across (to me, at least) a little brown-nosing and obsequious. Do you have any special qualifications or unique experience that would make you a better candidate for this job than most people? If so, I would put something about that in there instead.

    2. HigherEd Admin*

      Did we apply to the same company? I answered that exact same question in an application a few months ago. Trying to compose a tweet-length statement about my “uniqueness” took longer than completing all the other pieces of the application combined!

      1. A Jane*

        Same here! As soon as I saw that question, I knew I wouldn’t be hearing back from them. The role I was hiring for was more operations and less creative based.

      2. Mackenzie*

        It’s a standard question in resume-submission software called Resumator that a lot of companies use.

    3. Anonicorn*

      Ugh, that’s a terrible question. My guess is they want something like a super-condensed cover letter.

    4. The IT Manager*

      I think it’s a terrible question, but your answer misses the boat because it’s not unique or creative. I honestly think they’re looking for a cute fun fact (<– hence creative/catch our eye) about you personally. Almost any job qualifaction won't fit because in all honesty you are not uniquely qualified for the job, other people are too.

    5. JMW*

      Agree with OhNo that your answer isn’t quite unique. Think about other people who might do the same job as you. What would make you stand out from them? If you were applying to be a teapot maker, for example, being skilled with your hands is not unique, but being really great at math might bring a skill to the job that other teapot makers might not have. If you are applying for an accounting position, your ability to explain really complicated accounting concepts to non-accountants or to translate business needs into accounting solutions might give you an edge.

    6. TeapotCounsel*

      Some suggestions, some serious, some not:
      “I do not suffer fools and have low tolerance for bullshit questions.”
      “I’m unique in that I’m not unique. My twin is exactly like me. Exactly.”
      “Yesterday, of the seven deadly sins, I committed only three.”
      “I am the only person I know who liked Kevin Costner’s movie, Waterworld”
      “I am the only person I know who follows the shampoo instructions to ‘repeat.'”

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        um…I actually did like Waterworld…./ashamed

        So you’re saying that’s a marketable trait? Awesome!

    7. YandO*

      I ended up getting really annoyed with the question, so I decided to go F it and wrote something off the wall

      I basically said “I’ve been doing this age 5 when I started working for my *unique* family business”

      They can do what they will with that. In the meantime I just got an interview with their competitor.

  28. European Law Student*

    Hi everyone! I usually lurk here, but I have a question for which I need your collective wisdom: I’m graduating this summer with a Master of Laws, and have begun to look for work. I’m wondering how picky I should be? Will I limit my choices if I accept a job which is not obviously in line with my ultimate career goals?

    1. anonima in tejas*

      in the united states starting out in a particular area of practice is not severely limiting, but it can be if you don’t work to create relationships/opportunities in other areas. It’s also sometimes hard to fight the easiest next opportunity instead of creating the next much harder to obtain opportunity if that makes sense.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      Hi fellow euro reader! I guess it depends what you really want to do. Is it very important to you to be a lawyer or whatever law-related profession you want to go into, now or eventually? In that case you probably should be a bit picky, because if you do something completely unrelated for a few years, and then look for a law job, you might be at a disatvantage because you have no experience in law and they could hire a fresh graduate.

      But! If it’s not a dealbreaker for you, it can be very rewarding to open up your horizons a bit. I graduated in 2011 with a master’s in international relations, but by the time I graduated, it didn’t matter that much to me if I worked in that field or not. I ended up taking a job in finance and I really lucked out – some of the best experiences of my life came with this job.

  29. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    I had a truly mortifying work experience thia week further compounded by my boss not helping.

    For the first time since age 15, I bled through my skirt at work. Had an “Oh shit oh shit” moment and luckily it was lunchtime, so I ran home and took a slightly extended lunch (an hour vs the half hour I usually get) to change clothes. When I got back my boss stomped into my office and demanded “Where have you been?” (although I should point out that people in my office regularly take extended lunches without needing approval of any kind) and I said delicately that I’d had a personal issue and needed to go home to resolve it, now was all taken care of. “What was it?” “It’s all taken care of now, I’m good.” “But what WAS it?”

    “I bled onto my skirt and had to change clothes.” My boss turned tomato red and said “You should control yourself better! Can’t you plan?”

    Mind blown. This is like when he told my pregnant coworker that she couldn’t let her morning sickness affect her so much.

    1. OhNo*

      Wow, what a dick. It sounds like he’s the kind of person who tries to cover his own embarrassment by making others feel awful.

    2. Kai*

      *screaming forever* That is HORRIBLE. I’m so glad you came out and told him exactly what happened–hope he’s mortified!

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      WTF? I’d be really tempted to take that back up with him: “What did you mean when you said that I should control myself better? Do you mean, like, my uterus? Can you tell me more about how that would work? And what kind of planning have you seen work really well? Is there a particular brand of tampon that you think would be better?”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But actually, in all seriousness, I’d honestly consider marching into his office and saying, “Did you really tell me yesterday that I should control myself better when it comes to menstruation? I find that wildly inappropriate.”

        1. Lisa*

          Shouldn’t she go to HR? He’ll use it against her – start referring to her PMS-ing. There is no good way to make this better by going directly to him – might just be best to ask HR how she should handle his response so that he isn’t claiming she went all PMS on him even if she said everything in a calm, normal voice.

            1. Petrichor*

              I’m sure his wife can set him straight… or rather, I really hope so. Of course you know better than I, but she might actually be a decent ally in this instance.

      2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Oh, God, in a perfect world I could do this, but I’m so uncomfortable with the whole situation that it’s killing me to even post it here, let alone bring it up with him again. I’m fairly confident it was borne out of the stress of his week (since the Labour Board came to do an investigation) but I just wanted to sink through the floor whIle it was happening! I don’t think I’d have the ovaries to bring it up again.

        And if I’m lucky I’ll get the job I interviewed for this past week and make this a moot point.

      3. Wolfey*

        Holy crap. I totally second a scathing follow-up.

        I often think I would enjoy giggling at Dante’s unpublished intermediate volume of the Divine Comedy: the levels of mortification for those who cause it inappropriately.

      4. Tris Prior*

        OK, this makes me remember when my mother had the Womanhood Talk with me. I thought that when you got your period, you’d just go to the bathroom to let the blood out. Like peeing. I was COMPLETELY horrified to learn that that was not the case.

        This manager doesn’t have any idea how the female body works, obviously.

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      Ugh! What immature behavior on the part of your boss! That doesn’t even make sense. I hate when people cover their embarrassment by trying to embarass others.

    5. AnonPi*

      ugh, how awful! It’s enough to have to deal with the situation at hand, but then deal with your jerk boss! I hate when bosses ask for personal details like that. And it seems like the more you try to dissuade them the more they bug you about it. If I keep the reply to ‘woman stuff’ that usually stops them in their tracks, but I hate even divulging that much.

    6. kristinyc*

      Ugh. I would have wanted to reply, “Oh, okay. I’ll try to plan on controlling the volume and timing of blood coming out of my vagina so it’s more convenient for you. Great idea.”

      That sucks. :(

    7. Rex*

      Well, hopefully he’ll think twice before pressing on that question again? Or is that just wishful thinking?

      1. ZSD*

        Alison, can bosses brought up in the open threads be in the running for the year-end Worst Boss of the Year voting?

    8. Algae*

      Flames. Flames on the side of my face.

      I despise when people forget that human beings have bodies that occasionally do not fit a normal work schedule. Bathrooms exist for a reason. Let people use them for whatever and then give them the time to do what they need at home without too many questions.

    9. Chloe Silverado*

      I just wanted you to know your not alone – this has happened to me at work once as well, and it’s absolutely mortifying. I’m so sorry your boss was such a jerk about it!

        1. Eugenie*

          Not at all! I think it happens to everybody at some point in their working lives — I’ve been there too (but without anybody noticing, thank God)!

        2. LAI*

          You’re not! I had this happen on a day when I couldn’t go home easily, so I had to lock myself in the bathroom, rinse out my dress, then hide in my office until the dress dried. Fortunately everyone else was out of the office at an awards ceremony and I was able to blame my absence on my well-known dislike of the spotlight.

      1. MaryMary*

        When I was a brand new manager, a woman I managed bled through her pants and needed to go home…and we needed to call facilities to get a new chair. I did NOT tell her to control herself better.

      1. C Average*

        Sigh. I am FROM Idaho. I swear to God the state is not entirely populated by yokels. The normal people just aren’t newsworthy and don’t run for public office, that’s all.

        1. kristinyc*

          Oh, don’t worry! I grew up in Texas and lived in Indiana for a while, so I’m well aware of politicians who don’t actually represent the people they represent :)

    10. CAinUK*

      Straight to HR.

      I would have made HIM bleed after that comment, but that’s because I need to “control myself better.”

      Total tossbucket.

      1. MaryMary*

        Yeah, I usually don’t think people should run to HR when their boss is nasty towards them, but for this one I would.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        That sounds about right. I am so, so sorry. Who the f demands to know details on their employees’ “personal problems?” He sucks.

    11. LBK*

      Okay…so…maybe I’m being WAY too charitable here, but I honestly would not be surprised if he didn’t understand that it wasn’t “controllable” like other bodily functions might be (ie that you can’t “hold it”). You would seriously be amazed at how uninformed a lot of men are (myself included!) are about menstruation, because (at least in my experience) it is taught very vaguely and very clinically when you’re young. Like, I understand medically why the female body does that, but I couldn’t tell you a damn thing about what women do to deal with it. I sort of know the types of products but nothing else.

      I know it sounds insane because most of you have probably been doing this for decades and not even thinking about it, but like…no one teaches a guy how tampons work (because why would they?).

      1. LBK*

        Oh, and I have 2 older sisters, plus my mother, and somehow this is just stuff that I never learned. Most of what I have learned has been more recently (in my mid-20s) from my female friends in the midst of intoxicated conversations where people are more open about asking embarrassing questions/giving potentially TMI answers.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is a good point, a male family member in all seriousness said to me, “Oh but it stops when you go to work, right?”

        They do not know.

        Since it was a sincere question asked in a respectful manner, I explained it to him.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I think the question was actually “how do you even function with this process going on all day?”
              Yeah, that was my ideal world- it would stop so I could function at work.

      3. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

        Yeah, I think you’re being too charitable. I think most guys know how a tampon works, and even if he had no clue, he still shouldn’t have talked to her like that.

        1. fposte*

          Well, and the other thing is that Former Diet Coke Addict’s boss has a long history of being a horrible moron, so he’s lost any benefit of the doubt. Honestly, FDCA, I might just drive a stake through his heart and take over at this point.

          1. SaraV*

            Okay, that last sentence got me, especially coming from fposte.

            This one hits close to home since I had a “near miss” just Wednesday after being in the car for two hours. Even my husband, who I’ve been married to for 16 years and understands my monthly plight said “Shouldn’t you have planned better?” Ugh. I thought I would be okay, but it just wasn’t at this particular time on this particular month.

            FDCA> Your boss is a piece of slime. I’m about ready to punch him in the throat.

          2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

            fposte, you give me such joy.

            My coworkers and I have an ongoing secret plan that would make the business run much more smoothly. It involves my boss working from home always and hiring a competent office manager because if you’ve noticed, he is Not One.

        2. LBK*

          That was a bit of an exaggeration re: tampons, but I think my overall point still stands that a lot of men might not actually be aware that it just starts when it starts and you can’t stop it until it’s over.

          I do agree with fposte’s assessment, though, that in conjunction with the other horrible comments it seems clear that this guy is an asshole even if this specific situation is due to being uninformed.

          1. Anonsie*

            For what it’s worth I have had this same “you need to plan/you have to control yourself” talk from adult women when I was a teenager still trying to figure out what an appropriate number of sanitary products to keep on hand was and had to bum them from other ladies.

            1. Another Ellie*

              I think that’s actually part of why that comment stings so much, though! It’s acceptable to be a teenager who hasn’t figured out quite how to deal yet, but saying that to an adult implies that they’re extraordinarily immature. It’s like telling an adult who wet their pants that they need to be better toilet trained, except for many women it’s a lot harder to prevent a leak than it is to prevent wetting your pants. It’s highly likely that an adult who had either type of accident is otherwise normally functioning, extraordinarily embarrassed, and either had a series of unfortunate events befall them or has some kind of medical condition (specifically referring to the incontinence scenario). There is no reason for another adult to tell them to learn to control themselves, especially based on a one-time, discreet incident.

              1. fposte*

                Actually, I think the best comparison is to adolescent nocturnal emissions. Talk to the boss about how he dealt with his sheets as a boy.

              2. Anonsie*

                Oh, I actually thought it was a huge jerk move on the part of the women who said it to me at the time. My “for what it’s worth” was that even a lot of women who should know full well what it’s like still act like there’s some secret magic to never ever having a period-related incident and anyone who flubs that needs a good solid scolding, so to some extent I find this attitude not born of ignorance but a very willful insistence that Ladies Don’t Do That.

            2. blue_eyes*

              Eww. What a nasty person. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. In my experience, it’s always been like sort of a sisterhood – I would unquestioningly give another woman a menstrual product, even a stranger, unless I was going to need it in the next hour.

          2. Mackenzie*

            Do we need a mass public education thing, explaining that periods are like having a nosebleed in your crotch that just keeps going for a frickin week?

      4. MJH*

        In college a friend told us this story:

        My friend was going to China for a good chunk of the year and had all her stuff out on her bed when a male friend came over to visit. He noticed that she had several boxes of tampons on her bed and asked why.

        “Because I’m not sure I’ll be able to get them in China, and I’ll be there for 8 months.”

        “Really?” asked the dude, genuinely puzzled. “Isn’t it like, 8 months, 8 tampons?”

        We would repeat “8 months, 8 tampons” at various points throughout the semester, just to illustrate cluelessness.

        1. the_scientist*

          Oh my goodness, I’m crying. This is too funny!

          My woefully clueless significant other has gotten a lot more informed in the two years we’ve been dating. Once (this year) I accidentally left a used tampon wrapped in TP on the ledge of his bathtub. He was horrified, I was horrified, and it was a defining moment in our relationship (for the better, I guess, since we’re moving in together next month!).

          1. Omne*

            This exact thing happened the other day. My wife was horrified, I really didn’t care. I only mentioned it to make sure I got rid of it the correct way ( didn’t flush it ).

            I remember buying a box of pads at the grocery store several years ago. The teenager at the register said ” Gee, you’re brave. My boyfriend won’t even walk down that aisle.”

            I guess I’m not the squeamish type.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              You are a good man. I once went to Target with a boyfriend and when I threw a box of pads in the shopping cart, he walked away from me and got his own cart, then he refused to be seen shopping with me. He was 30 years old. I dated him waaaaaaayyyy longer than I should have.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I’d want to throw a package of depends and a few other things in the cart just to watch the reaction unfold.

            2. Clever Name*

              My husband had a great response when I asked him to get pads and then asked if he was embarrassed. He said, “well, it’s not like they’re gonna think they are for me”. Ha!

        2. GigglyPuff*

          YES! One of my friends in college, shared a bathroom with her brother growing up, and I’d like to throw in here too, the dad is a doctor and the mom is a nurse. One day the brother notices all the tampons in the trash, and is like “isn’t it one for each day?” No, no it is not.

        3. Elsajeni*

          At the opposite extreme, when Sally Ride was preparing for her first space flight, the engineers preparing the supplies asked her, regarding tampons, “Is 100 the right number?”

          It was a 7-day flight.

    12. TeapotCounsel*

      When I read, “This is like when he told my pregnant coworker that she couldn’t let her morning sickness affect her so much,” I guffawed, and now everyone at work is staring at me wondering what I’m doing.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      He turned beet red????

      Can’t he control himself better? Can’t he plan?
      He asked a question, received an answer and then could not handle the answer. He should have anticipated such an answer and he should have planned his response.

      I had a much tamer situation occur and I told the boss, “Please talk to your wife/SO/mother because that is not a conversation you and I can have. But one of these women will explain it to you.”

      This guy is just gross. I am sorry you went through that, OP.

    14. Elkay*

      Your boss is an idiot. For a start I can’t believe he pushed you on the personal issue and secondly “control yourself better”, WTF?! You most certainly have my sympathy because I’ve definitely had “Oh Shit” moments at work and had to rush to the bathroom.

    15. A Teacher*

      WTF. As a licensed healthcare provider, that just disgusts me. I’d probably have said “Wow.” or “Really?!” but then I teach high school so I’m good at being “sassy” as my students tell me.

    16. Sadsack*

      Holy crap, are you kidding me? Control yourself better???? I can’t imagine what to say in response to that, besides looking dumbfounded. What an asshole.

    17. AvonLady Barksdale*

      OMG. I add to the chorus that I am so, so sorry this happened to you and your boss is a massive jackhole.

    18. Cordelia Naismith*

      I am reminded of a scene in one of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novels where one character said something similar to another character who was having inconveniently timed labor pains. Her response was something like, “The next time you need to vomit, why don’t you just swallow really hard.”

      Control yourself, indeed. What an ass.

    19. GigglyPuff*

      I think every woman ever has had this reoccurring nightmare.

      I’m pretty sure someone on here mentioned before that they accidentally got some on their forehead and didn’t notice, while at work….so on the upside, no one saw… a very small upside

    20. Windchime*

      OMG, so sorry. I used to have horrible, terrible periods. Once at work, I was in a meeting and I stood up to hand something to someone, and I felt a terrible accident starting to happen. I excused myself to go to the restroom to take care of things and then returned to the meeting, which was continuing without me. Later, my (male) boss told me to never leave a meeting like that, it was terribly unprofessional, etc. I was too embarrassed to tell him why I left, so I just let him chew me out.

    21. C Average*

      This story just blows my mind so hard.

      I would be tempted to recite the line an old redneck boyfriend of mine used to bust out once a month: “Women, man. You should never trust something that bleeds for a week but doesn’t die.” Then I’d give an evil chuckle and walk away.

  30. Elkay*

    I accidentally made a sex joke at work yesterday, it was meant to be a joke but it just came out wrong. Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s wanted to have the ground open up and swallow them.

    1. Nerd Girl*

      Years ago I had this moment when my mouth wouldn’t stop moving as my brain was screaming “STOP!” I ended up saying something very embarrassing and off color. I’m reliving it as I type and I can assure you – I STILL want the ground to open up and swallow me. I have to remind myself that I learned from it and have never repeated the mistake. (Or even repeated to another person what I said!)

    2. Seal*

      Been there, done that. At a big meeting, no less. This was several years ago and at this point I don’t even remember what I said, but I do know it came out sounding incredibly dirty, people looked at me funny and I sat there wondering why the ground wouldn’t just swallow me whole. Fortunately no one brought it up again and no one ever held it against me.

    3. Jessica*

      Oh yeah, I regularly contract foot-in-mouth disease. My sense of humor is hard to read sometimes and I’m also a very casual swearer, to the point that I don’t even notice it sometimes. Did it seem bad to everyone else, or do you just feel embarrassed but no one else seems to care? I am a big fan of pretending it didn’t happen unless someone says something. Which no one ever has in my case, but good grief, I have wanted to crawl into a hole a few times.

      1. Elkay*

        Thankfully everyone seemed to realise I didn’t mean it the way it sounded and they’re a very relaxed bunch so it probably didn’t even really register but I’m still cringing!

    4. Those are Writing Words!*

      I did this in a high school class once, without realizing there was any innuendo in the joke I was making, while looking straight at the teacher. It happens. (I’m mortified just typing that out.)

      1. Those are Writing Words!*

        *without immediately realizing, I should say. The teacher’s reaction was enough to clue me in.

    5. afiendishthingy*

      When I worked at a call center doing hotel reservations, the script was “What’s the guest’s name? …And am I speaking with (John Smith)?” Except on two (2) separate occasions I accidentally asked “And am I sleeping with John Smith?” Maybe the talk of beds just made my brain go to sleeping? But yeah, mortifying. And not just you. Also my coworker once wore pants to work that had velcro on the back pockets and someone said “Hey something’s stuck to your pants” and it was underwear. Not a sex joke, but super embarrassing! You’ll move on and have a funny story to share.

    6. MaryMary*

      Oh yeah. I was talking to a coworker who apologized for pestering me about a follow up, he said he knew he was riding me about it. I replied, “no, I really need someone to ride me.” There was about five seconds of awkward silence, and then we both laughed until the rest of our coworkers stared at us.

      I also had a manager who was talking to one of her direct reports, and he said that he was anal retentive about details and thought the rest of the team might not appreciate it. My friend said, “no, I love anal!” That kind of derailed the rest of the conversation.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        The second one in particular makes me feel a whole lot better about the time I was on a work trip and accidentally implied that my boss and I were sharing a hotel room, when what I meant to say was that both bookings were in my name because I used my credit card when I called the hotel.

    7. Guy Incognito*

      After too much wine at a Christmas party I told a joke about Jimmy Savile, a cow and a blind fold. I doubt your gaff was worse than that.

    8. GigglyPuff*

      Once I was telling a few coworkers that I had gone to the dermatologist, and had a couple of stitches, which is why I needed help reaching for stuff at work for a few days, but instead of dermatologist, it was totally “gynecologist”…I didn’t even realize it until several minutes later. I’m sure the horror was written all over my face, and like in a cartoon I was whipping my head around, like “did they notice? please say that wasn’t what came out of my mouth”. Still not sure if anyone noticed

  31. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

    I was wondering if anyone works within the field of corporate social responsibility. I’m currently a Volunteer Coordinator but would like to switch to working within for-profit companies to help set up and run volunteer programs/giving for their staff. I feel like it’s a pretty small field (even in the DC area) and I’m just not sure where to get started. I’ve been working with volunteers for about five years and currently work with about 1,000 volunteers every year including a lot of corporate groups which is how I even started thinking about making a move. If anyone has any advice on how to break into the field or even if you can share how you got started, I’d greatly appreciate it.

    1. RandomName*

      I don’t have this experience so I can’t offer first-hand advice, but is there anyone in your current network (even someone you know about in the type of role you’re seeking that knows a friend of a friend or something?) that you could bounce questions off of? You mentioned that you work with corporate groups. You could always make casual conversation with your contacts about how they got into their line of work. People like to talk about themselves so you can probably get good information that way.

    2. Victoria18*

      I’m in this field- I’m an auditor though. I work for a third party auditing company. I don’t really know much about that side of it, but it’s an interesting field! Good luck!

      (And fwiw- I got into it by applying to an ad on Craigslist. No experience. Both my current company and the previous one train auditors internally so previous experience isn’t required. There is a lot of movement between auditing companies and brands/firms, but no one I know is involved with volunteer programs specifically.)

  32. blergh*

    I’ve just received a job offer, and I’m currently in the process of negotiating the salary. It’s a pay cut from my current job, which the new company knows, but my current situation has gotten very negative and I just need a change. Anyway, my question: is it bad to ask HR what their maternity leave is like? I’m not pregnant now, but I had a miscarriage last summer, and my husband and I would like to try for this kid thing again sometime soonish. But will asking reflect badly on me and/or make them rescind their offer?

    1. HigherEd Admin*

      Could you include it in asking to learn more about the complete benefits package? I would think information about maternity leave would be part of that.

    2. Helen*

      I would ask for comprehensive details about benefits and also to see the employee handbook. You’ve received an offer, so I think it’s totally appropriate.

      1. blergh*

        It’s weird, the maternity benefits aren’t covered in the handbook! There is some discussion about short-term disability, which I know is often how maternity leave is handled. But the words “pregnancy” and “maternity leave” aren’t once used in the twenty-page handbook.

  33. Wolfey*

    Gave my 2-weeks notice! I am outta here!

    Seriously, it’s not soon enough. On top of everything else (awful management, cold co-workers, friend leaving, creepy HR, not to mention the awful case-material itself), a co-worker committed suicide last week. I’m sure there were other factors involved, but it’s hard not to think that working here didn’t play a part.

    Thanks again for all AAMers’ advice on truckin’ along for the last couple of months. It’s been a solace.

    1. Wolfey*

      Follow-up question: I agreed to work my notice at my current schedule (3 days in the office, 1 day at home), but honestly I don’t have enough work to fill all those hours. A bunch of my cases just settled all at once and my new ones haven’t gotten off the ground. I’m struggling to fill my hours (I’m nonexempt), but haven’t wanted to ask for more projects since I decided to leave. With the loss of 2 people in a month we are understaffed but I’ve been insulated from this by my part-time schedule & limited availability. They are hiring and should have new people in the next couple weeks.

      What should I do for the last couple of weeks?

      I’m inclined to quietly only work the 3 days in the office and just skip the last day (UNLESS I have more work than I can handle). Obviously, I wouldn’t be dishonest in my time-sheet; my hours would be marked at 3 days. I already have good references that shouldn’t be affected by the number of hours I work during the notice period. Are there things I’m not considering here?

      My other option is to ask for more work. I’m not wild about this for 3 reasons: 1) it doesn’t make sense to start ongoing projects, and even small ones usually require some case knowledge. Most cases are also either 2) about child sex abuse, which has caused me depression and anxiety, or 3) or about personal injury, which isn’t emotionally awful but apparently transcribing medical records describing injuries makes me lightheaded/ready to pass out. (I had no idea!) I admit, I’m not a good fit for the kinds of cases this firm does and the resulting stress is a big reason I’m leaving. I don’t feel a huge urge to hunt down more stress when it’s not already on my plate.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Don’t skip your last day. If you have lined everything up for the next person, check in with your boss to see if there is anything she would like you to wrap up. Casually work into the conversation that you think you will have everything under control by the day before the last day.
        I had one place allow me to use PTO.

        1. Wolfey*

          I worded that badly: What I meant was “skip the work from home day” since I don’t actually have enough work to fill the hours and don’t want to request more. I would never skip a day I was expected to be in the office, especially a last day.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I’d still check in with the boss and find an agreed upon plan for the day. It shows integrity when you do this.

  34. Cath in Canada*

    Who sets an 8:30 am deadline?!

    Up working on grant proposal until after 11pm last night, at which point I sent it to the lead applicant for final sign-off and said “I’m going to bed, but will get up early in case we need to change anything”. He replied around midnight requesting a couple of minor edits… in a document I didn’t have with me at home (that component was finalised weeks ago, so I didn’t think we’d need to change anything – I was focusing on the components that we always leave until last). I saw the email when I got up just after 6 am and was on my bike by 6:30, at my desk by 7:15. Submitted at 8:05. What fun!

    1. another grantwriter*

      I usually tell everyone at the organization that the grant is due one week before it actually is. I’m the only one that knows we have extra time.

      BTW, one thing that drives me bonkers about being a grant writer is when other’s in the organization wordsmith the grant to death, especially when they are doing it less than 24 hours before the thing is due.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Unfortunately, there are always at least two or three all-staff emails for all the major grant competitions reminding us of the “submit to institution” deadline, which is always a few days ahead of the funding agency’s actual deadline (the institution has to review each application for completeness and compliance with all rules before they electronically sign off on it by submitting it on to the funding agency). But I’d be right there with you on the fake deadlines if I could get away with it!

        1. Anonsie*

          For what it’s worth I’ve tried this and I’ve found the people who blow through deadlines have a sixth sense that tells them you’re lying and that they should just be even more late.

    2. Anonsie*

      8:30am deadline, let’s see, I normally say “private foundation idea” for any really silly grant application processes or restrictions but that sounds like weird bureaucracy so I’m guessing maybe a government grant?

      1. Cath in Canada*

        This was the university’s own internal deadline – they have to check every submission before submitting it on to the funding agency (an action that counts as their e-signature approving the submission). But yes, it’s a Canadian federal government funding agency, ultimately.

        1. Anonsie*

          KIND OF CALLED IT!

          Oh man you only have to buffer yours by a few days for institutional signoff? Where I am they ask for a minimum of a month.

    3. Hillary*

      I set 8am Monday deadlines for RFPs (instead of Friday EOD) because I have a couple partners that like to procrastinate. I’m not going to work on it over the weekend, so they can have that time if they want. 90% of the responses come in on Friday anyway, but there’s usually at least two between 6:30 and 8 Monday.

      1. AnotherFed*

        I really like when people do this – I’m more of a night owl, and can’t count on productive working time before 4PM due to all the interruptions. If you say Friday COB and I don’t know you aren’t going to get it out before Monday morning, I have to get it to you Thursday before I head out. Three extra days would be huge sometimes!

  35. LBK*

    I wanted to share a success story about following up after an interview, because I know they tend to be rare! I interviewed for a position back in December that I didn’t get, but I sent thank yous to both of the interviewers and asked politely for any feedback. One of them replied to say that she was really impressed by me and it was a very close call between me and the person that got it, and that they would get back in touch if they had another position open up.

    Lo and behold, two months later the hiring manager emailed me to say the position was open again and he wanted to check if I was still available and interested before he put up the job listing. We had a 5-minute meeting just to reiterate interest and a week later I got an offer. I start my new job on Monday.

    So all those who despair or roll their eyes at “we’ll let you know if something else comes up” rejections – they are genuine sometimes! I’m not a big believer in destiny or fate but I do believe that career changes happen for a reason and at the right time. That mantra helped me stay patient and calm after the rejection, and ultimately it paid off.

    1. Wolfey*

      That’s SO awesome! Congratulations. I will hold you aloft in my mind as a hopeful example that stars do align.

      1. LBK*

        I really think they do! Another example that happened to me: I got rejected for a promotion from customer service rep to shift supervisor that I really, really, really wanted. I was heartbroken. A month later, a shift sup spot opened at another store, so (somewhat out of spite) I applied and ended up getting that one.

        That store turned out to be a phenomenal learning experience. I was entrusted with a lot more responsibility than I would’ve been at the first store and I got to join a management team that was in the midst of cleaning house of 10+ terrible employees and replacing them with fantastic new hires. We took our department from one of the worst in the district to the best with a staff we had hand-picked. I get to put that achievement on my resume, which is something I never would’ve been able to do at the first store.

        Four months later the supervisor that had rejected me for the shift sup spot quit. I applied for his job and – mostly thanks to the experience I had gained at the other store – I got it. It was the ultimate vindication.

  36. MillennialMayhem*

    I have been following Ask A Manager for some time, and I really appreciate the fantastic advice both from Alison and the commenters. This thread was the first thing I thought of when I realized I needed advice.
    I joined a new small company four months ago without realizing it was falling apart. Last month, the boss laid off five employees and gave their work to the three of us remaining. The boss can be abusive, and he’s bullied one of my coworkers to the point where she needs to leave for her mental health. She plans to resign next week, and I’m terrified about what will happen to the two of us that remain.
    I have read Alison’s solid advice about not quitting a job without having another lined up unless your mental/physical health demands it, or there’s another extreme circumstance. I don’t need to leave for my mental/physical health, but I had an idea for a company that I’m really excited about. I cannot test the company idea before leaving this company because of a term in my employment contract, but I have enough in savings for a year of living/company expenses. Is it frowned upon to leave a job to start your own company?

    1. Adam*

      My personal philosophy with bad jobs is the same with bad relationships: once I realize the relationship is doomed and am ready to get out of it I do whatever I can to bring and end to it and take whatever consequences that may result from it. In the long run I think you’ll be better off.

      As for leaving to start your own business, I have no experience in this area but many people do admire the entrepreneurial spirit. So if this is what you really want to do with your life at this time, why wait? Good luck!

    2. VictoriaHR*

      See if there are any nonprofits in your area dedicated to helping entreprenuers start their own businesses. There might be some resources there who can advise you. Good luck!

    3. Veronica*

      I’m not sure why it would be frowned upon to leave a job to start your own company unless it’s the same exact type of business. That might look kind of iffy to future employers. Plus, it’s not like you would want to start a new job AND start your own business at the same time. That would definitely not be cool for most companies and sounds really stressful.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      There are rules of thumb about how long it takes for a new company to become profitable, how much the owner should have as financial padding, etc. You might want to look into this for the type of business you are launching, before you decide to go solo.

      It might be wiser to find a new work place or even a part time job.

    5. fposte*

      I think leaving to start your own company is like leaving for grad school–it’s a life-changing thing that doesn’t require future justification. But you actually have to start the company; it can’t be like leaving to write your novel and then getting really good at Flappy Bird for a year.

      Good luck! It sounds like an exciting prospect, and it sounds like you really deserve that.

    6. Bonnie*

      I don’t think it is frowned upon to leave a job to start your own company but at one place I worked for they had concerns about people who had done that then wanted to back to working for someone else. The concern seemed to be related to how the employee would handle going from being their own boss to not being in-charge any more.

  37. Fante*

    A friend of mine has been at the same organization and has kept a close working relationship with her supervisor from her first position several years ago, a married man in his 50’s. He recently joined twitter and clearly doesn’t realize that the accounts you follow are public knowledge: one of the accounts he’s following is “pussy hunter”.

    Should she risk an incredibly uncomfortable conversation and let him know? To be clear, they don’t work together anymore but are still in the same organization, and he is a bit of a mentor to her.

    1. Adam*

      I’d give him a heads up just so he knows exactly how it works. If he’d been a mentor to me I’d like to repay the favor and help him with things I know about that he may not completely understand. It’s probably easier for me since it would be two guys talking, so if she has another close male coworker who also knows her mentor maybe she can urge him to do it instead.

    2. Anonicorn*

      I think she could mention it without calling out the particular account he follows. But it would be kind to let him know about it.

      1. Fante*

        Note likely. And since he’s new at this, I think he’s only following a few accounts. In other words, if my friend says something about that info being public, it’s going to be pretty obvious why.

        1. Anonsie*

          It might have been an innocuous name at first and the account holder changed it to that later. I have had a few times where I see a tweet pop up and I go WHO IN THE EVERLOVING CRAP IS THIS and have to read through their feed to know their name used to say Burt Macklin but now says something creepy and weird.

  38. Adam*

    I just had an update. Weeks ago I posed the question in an open thread about organizations implementing Gender Neutral bathroom signs in place of more traditional ones, citing that we were not having unisex bathrooms but just changing the signage. There was some interesting discussion here in the thread and now I know what my organization is looking to do.

    Keeping the bathrooms separate and after getting clarification from the original complaint submitter, it was determined that the person who brought the issue up basically didn’t like the implied message that “Men wear pants; Women wear dresses” of the original white stick figures everyone recognizes. So, after some research it looks like the organization will be changing those signs for ones that plainly read “Men” and “Women” instead.

    I’m not sure this actually makes the signs Gender Neutral, but so long as I know which restroom I’m supposed to use I won’t dwell on it.

    1. Ezri*

      I remember this from your original post. I see what they were going for, but phrasing it was ‘Gender Neutral’ signage was really misleading – they wanted to get rid of the images because of the gender stereotypes associated with them, not the gender meaning itself.

      1. Adam*

        I think it was classic case of using a related term without understanding completely what it actually means. If I remember from the original thread the consensus was if you’re going to have gender separate bathrooms having gender neutral bathroom signs is just about impossible anyways.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree. If the bathrooms have more than one stall, is the company okaying both genders being a bathroom at the same time?
          If the bathroom just has one toilet it’s not much of an issue.

          I couldn’t tell if the question was to have unisex bathrooms or if the stick figure in a dress was sexist. I almost wonder if the person who raised the issue with you, also has no clue which question they are asking.

          1. Evan Þ*

            If the bathroom just has one toilet, it’s an unalloyed positive to make it gender-neutral. If there’re two such small bathrooms, and one is empty, I don’t want to have to wait just because it has a “Ladies” sign on it even though there’s no woman actually using it or waiting to use it.

            1. XX Chromosomes*

              As a female who routinely uses the men’s single-shooter in such circumstances, I hereby grant you with the authority to use the women’s.

              Just make sure you leave the seat down.

            2. catsAreCool*

              “If the bathroom just has one toilet, it’s an unalloyed positive to make it gender-neutral. ” Yes!

    2. PuppyPetter*

      LOL – it amazes me what people get picky about. What about people who can’t read English? That’s why the stick figures were added to begin with!
      Hmmm what do the stick figures look like in Scotland where men might be wearing kilts?

      1. Adam*

        You know, the subject of non-English speakers was brought up and the powers that be said “Well, when I go to foreign countries I eventually figure it out”.

        Go figure.

    3. catsAreCool*

      “the person who brought the issue up basically didn’t like the implied message that “Men wear pants; Women wear dresses”” Eyeroll. I’m a woman. I rarely wear dresses. This is not a big deal.

  39. Gene*

    Worst. Monday. Ever.

    I was on jury duty on the anniversary of my first wife’s death and got a text letting me know the coworker who had the brain surgery and had gotten out of the hospital on Friday dropped dead on Sunday morning. So my temporary workload doubling is now long-term because we are in the middle of doing a reclassification of the job description and testing and hiring process for this position. At least I don’t have to clean out his office, that man kept every piece of paper that crossed his desk (including a postit I left on his monitor while he was on vacation that says, “Something in this office has been down my pants.”

    We’ll miss you Don.

    1. Wolfey*

      NO! Oh, Gene, I’m so sorry–both for your terrible anniversary and for Don’s death.

      Oh, his poor family. Jedi hugs all around.

    2. LBK*

      Wow. I am really, really sorry to hear all of that – it sounds like a lot.

      Take some time to be selfish this weekend, if you can. Just do exactly what you want to do for a couple hours without worrying about your other responsibilities, whether that’s reading a book, calling a loved one, napping, downing a bottle of wine, whatever. It sounds like you will be forced to be selfless for a while in the future so make sure you get some moments that are about you here and there.

      On a side note, that is a hilarious post-it and it’s touching in an odd way that he kept it.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      I keep a lot of stuff too, and sometimes wonder what people would think if they had to clean out my cube.

      I’m sorry, Gene, for you and all your co-workers too. :(

      1. cuppa*

        I’m so sorry, Gene. What a crappy week.
        I, too, find the post-it sweet. Perhaps keep it to remind you of him?

    4. Mimmy*

      OMG…I vaguely remember someone here who had a coworker having had brain surgery….I’m guessing it was yours? I am so sorry to hear of his sudden passing. That Monday definitely sounded rotten.

      Please be kind to yourself this weekend. Sending healing thoughts your way.

    5. Laura*

      I’m so sorry. What a day that must have been. Do something kind for yourself this weekend, you deserve it.

    6. Gene*

      Thanks all.

      I really didn’t mind the jury duty, I could spare the two days and enjoy the process.

      And for the life of me, I can’t remember what, if anything, actually went down my pants.

        1. Gene*

          Made my Monday! Thanks.

          His wife just stopped in and picked up an entire SUV of his stuff. We think she got all his personal stuff. When we get his office cleaned, it’ll be time to clean mine of its 25 years’ accumulation as I’m moving from my cube to his old office.

  40. HeyNonnyNonny*

    This is a tiny vent/thanks to AAM:

    My coworker and I are both non-exempt contractors, in a very strict “you can’t even work overtime without prior written approval and don’t even think of moving hours between days!” sort of way. My manager completely respects this, but my coworker’s manager does stuff like calling on days off. I keep trying to tell him that he has to get paid for the hours he works, but he just ignores me and keeps complaining about it.

    I’m glad I know this sort of thing and how to handle it from AAM. I just wish coworker would either stand up for himself or quit bellyaching.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “Coworker, either handle it or quit complaining about it!”

      I am not good at dealing with on-going complaints, especially when the person can take some steps to remedy it.

  41. T*

    Can I get some advice on how to turn down this recommendation?

    I had a phone interview a few months ago for a position in a different town, the interview was okay but I never ended up getting the job. I was able to find another one around the same time, so that was pretty good! I just got an email from the interviewer for the position I didn’t get, recommending me to apply for a position she’s trying to help the organization fill in another town. I’m really surprised that she thought of me and that I did well enough in the interview to even be remembered positively! However, I have to turn this request down. The position I have is local and I really like that aspect of the job, and I actually think I’m a bit under-qualified for the job she’s recommending me for. How do I write an email turning down the recommendation, but also stating how glad I am that she thought of me? I’d like to keep in touch somehow, but I don’t know what to say. We’re in the same field, so who knows… maybe in the future our paths will cross and another opportunity might come up.

    1. AnonPi*

      Just reply with a ‘thanks for the information I’ll look into it’ and keep it at that? If she contacts you again about it you could let her know that you did look into it, and decided it wasn’t a good fit for you.

    2. Florida*

      Dear John:
      Thank you for thinking of me and recommending me for the position at Teapot Inc. The position sounds very interesting, but I’ve recently accepted a position at Teacups. I am excited about this new position at Teacups.

      Thank you again for recommending me. Please keep me in mind for future opportunities. If the timing were different, I would’ve been interested in this one. If there is ever anything I can do to help you, please feel free to ask.

      Bet regards,

      If you know someone who might be interested in the job, you could say, “I’ve forwarded the information to my former colleague who might be interested…”

      The basic message should be, “Thanks. If the timing were different, I would’ve taken you up on this.”

    3. Newsie*

      What about something like, “Thank you so much for thinking of me for the powered teapot engineer position in King’s Landing. Unfortunately, I’m unable to relocate at this point, so I’m unable to apply. However, as I mentioned I’ve always admired Stark Industries’s work with electromagnetic power, and my situation may change. So please do keep me in mind for any positions that may open up in the future, especially if they’re closer to Winterfell. Thanks again.” [spelling, formality, and grammar will have to be improved – I’m on 4 hours of sleep. But you get the drift]

      You’re acknowledging that this suggestion is welcome, but you would prefer to work closer to home. Does the company have jobs closer to home at all? Was Town 1 closer to your current town?

    4. Chloe Silverado*

      This happened to me awhile back! I had a really great rapport with the interview, so I was perhaps a little more chatty than necessary about it, but here’s what I said:

      “Hi Jane, It is great to hear from you! Thank you so much for thinking of me. While this sounds like a wonderful opportunity, I only recently accepted a position at Company A so I’m not pursuing other options at this time. I appreciate you reaching out, and hope we cross paths again as I would love to work with you if the timing was right!”

      I only said it because I really meant it – I would have loved to work wither her if an opportunity had come up a year or 2 later instead of 4 months after I accepted a new job. She was very gracious in her response and wished me luck, so I think we left things on good terms.

    5. littlemoose*

      I think it’s fine to politely respond that you have found another position, but that you appreciate her thinking of you for the position. If you’ve recently found another job that you don’t want to leave, that’s totally understandable. I think employers reaching out to people they previously interview certainly expect that some of the candidates may have found other employment.

    6. Susan*

      I would actually say the base of what you said here. Thanks for reaching out, something about why you are content with your current position, and final line saying you hope that she keeps you in mind for the future?

  42. april ludgate*

    How bad would it look to leave a job after about a year when it’s my first job after college? The people I work with are great, but it’s a field that decinitely requires a master’s degree if i wanted to have any serious career development and I have no interest in that at all. I’m worried if I stay in this field too long it will be harder to find another type of job (though there are definitely a lot of transferable skills). I plan on definitely staying a year and then beginning to look, but I am unsure if that would be a red flag on my resume.
    I knew going into the job that this wouldn’t be the absolute best fit but I was six months out of college being offered a full time job with a decent salary and benefits and I wasn’t about to turn that down. I’ve just burned out faster than I expected and it doesn’t help that I relocated and I really don’t like living here. I also feel guilty because I try to be committed to jobs (all of my previous positions lasted 2-4 years). Basically, I’m really torn about what I should do and I could use some advice if anyone has any.

    1. Adam*

      If you stay for a full year I think you’ll be fine. Fresh faced college grads tend to get a little more leeway in job longevity to start, and you’ve mentioned in your previous jobs you have held those for a good long while. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with applying for jobs now here and there as you see them since you never know when lightening will strike, but so long as you don’t make short stints a habit I doubt it’ll impact you much.

    2. Laura*

      I’m with the others, wait a full year and you’ll be fine. As an aside, I was looking through the LinkedIn profiles of some of my contacts in my field (policy – I live in DC) and I am continually surprised at how many higher-level folks have a bunch of 1-2 year stints on their resumes. Maybe it’s a DC thing, but it seems like people here change jobs a LOT. Which is not to say you shouldn’t be concerned about it, OP, but just a weird observation on my field and location.

    3. Natalie*

      FWIW, if the only issue is that you’re worried about being stuck in this field somehow, I think that’s extremely unlikely. I remember being very concerned about the same thing when I was fresh out of college, but since then I’ve yet to meet anyone who ended up pigeonholed because of a 2 year entry level position.

  43. Jennifer M.*

    I had an incident at work on Wednesday that was annoying. Background, I am the only American at my company’s overseas office of about 30 people and I am essentially on the same level as the deputy even though that is my title. There was a crisis that I couldn’t talk to most of the staff. I was consumed with dealing with it. I snapped at someone as I rushed to my office – when she started to ask me a question I basically said “A, I don’t have time to talk to you now” and just walked away. Later in the day she sent an email to me, cc’d to the head of the office and the manager from the US office that is out here on a business trip saying that I had disrespected her in front of people and she expected an apology. Okay, I was short with her so I did apologize. And it wasn’t one of those “I’m sorry if I upset you” things. I said I upset you and that wasn’t my intention so I am sorry. But secretly I was pissed. 1) seriously? come talk to me instead of sending a passive aggressive email with a cc to two bosses, and 2) If I were a man, she never would have sent that email. And I think that’s what made me really angry. Part of it is cultural to the country I’m living in. I am younger than her and I am unmarried so I don’t think she sees me as an authority figure even though she is the receptionist and I am basically the voice of US corporate out here. However, if I were a guy who is younger than her and unmarried, she would be totally deferential. I ran this by the HO manager and the 2 other HO people out here and they agreed that she wouldn’t have done this is I were a man. I didn’t address the passive aggressive email since I am moving back to the US in less than a month so I just can’t bring myself to care and dealing with her (unconscious) gender bias is also something that is beyond me bandwidth to deal with while contemplating an international move. But it made me sooooo mad. I did go to the boss and let him know that I had taken care of the situation with A so don’t worry about the email. He thinks A is less than competent so he actually didn’t care, but I didn’t want her complaining to him.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Eeesh. If my manager was cross with me, I would have kept my distance and waited a few days to see if I received an apology. But really, I would have taken the “Can’t talk now” at face value and let it go. Sorry about the drama.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Unfortunately, in a different culture I think you have limited leeway in changing those cultural norms. I have no advice, and I certainly understand the anger. I’m sorry.

    3. Slippy*

      This sounds more like the receptionist has a dominance issue since according to her culture she should be the authority figure. Don’t let her pull something like that again and remember you do not have to make her the focus of your attention whenever she wants it. Respecting her culture may be all well and good but be careful not to let her believe that she is in charge.

    4. cuppa*

      I’m sorry. I had someone pull something with me that she wouldn’t have done with others, and it made me pretty mad, too. In my situation, it wasn’t a cultural issue, so it’s really making me take a look at myself and why it happened. I think you handled it as best you could, and I hope it works out.

    5. AnonAsAlways*

      My 2 cents…
      With regards to gender inequality of the culture in that workplace, you responded as a female would have, no? If you are higher in authority than her, you did not even need to respond to her email…would a male deputy have responded?
      But in the interest of being a decent human being, yes, you owe *anyone* you snap at in the heat of anger/emergency/whatever an apology.

      1. Jennifer M.*

        Yes, I think it is inappropriate for managers to yell as a management technique. And we do have an issue here with one of our managers being a yeller. He is being demoted. So that’s why I apologized. She was legit upset. But I have had situations here that have been problematic. About 2 years ago I lost my sh!t and yelled a lot. It was wrong of me, the only excuse I had was that at the time I was doing the work of 3 people and we were still at the office at 8pm and I was exhausted – though the incident was the impetus for them finding budget for me to hire more people because the big boss was afraid that I was going to quit due to workload. But when I apologized the next day, the two people involved interpreted it as me apologizing for saying they had done anything wrong. Which was simply not true. They had made a huge mess that I could only do so much to clean up and were being disingenuous about deflecting any responsibility for what was a potential disaster.

        Anyway, if I wasn’t leaving at the end of March, I would have addressed the passive aggressive part of her actions. But I’m leaving and she is already on the knife’s edge of getting fired for general incompetence so I’m tired enough that it is just going to have to be someone else’s problem.

  44. ism*

    Someone from our corporate office is in town today, interviewing a candidate for a new position. They’re literally 10 feet away from me and haven’t closed the door. I can hear everything! I feel uncomfortable about it, because they’re already talking about things like pay and the local cost of living – things that I’m currently really touchy about. How should I use this eavesdropping to my or my company’s advantage? (The interviewer is not someone I can just go up and say “Hey I heard all that,” much less “would you mind closing the door?”)

    1. ism*

      Update: The interview ended after they toured the facility. They really didn’t talk about the candidate’s experience or qualifications AT ALL when I was in earshot. I can only hope they did it during the tour.

    2. Steve G*

      I love being able to eavesdrop. I used to die laughing/rolling my eyes at past past job where I’d hear suck awkward interviewees who said nothing real or substantial for an hour, or former boss would talk 80% of the time….and when he’d come out of the office, 80% of the time it would be “just interviewed this great guy, gotta get him onboard.” Huh? The interview I was eavesdropping in on was bad!

      1. ism*

        I suppose I could have – I’ve done it before when there were loud meetings in the room by my desk. In this case, though, I wanted to eavesdrop, and then came here to ask for advice on how to deal with my emotions about my own job which hearing an interview made me think about :/

        1. Sadsack*

          Ah, I see – sorry! At least you are honest! I didn’t see the bit about “How should I use this eavesdropping to my or my company’s advantage?” the first time.

  45. Ali Cat*

    I am a really pale red head and my face goes bright red when I get nervous (or drink wine). In my last interview I happened to catch a glance of my reflection and I swear it looked like I had just run a marathon! I have tried to do some calming exercises before I go in, but I think its just my body’s natural reaction so I don’t think there is any chance that it’s going to go away. Do you think I should mention it to interviewers in passing so they don’t think I’m going to fall over and die mid-interview? Or just pretend like its totally normal even though I know that it is incredibly noticeable? While I have never had anyone say anything to me about it during an interview, I have had a few mention it afterwards.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I’m a pale redhead who blushes easily also. The best thing I’ve done to help in interviews is to practice interviewing several times. Can you practice with your college career center with mock interviewing and explain you get nervous so they can help you practice several times to help overcome this?

    2. Helen*

      I used to turn beet red very easily, but it’s actually gotten a LOT better recently–mostly because I get flustered or embarrassed less often now. I still turn red easily when I drink or get hot.

      The worst part to me is when I start turning red, and then I get embarrassed about turning red and end up completely purple. Ugh.

      If it makes you feel better, studies have shown that blushing endears you to people.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Oh man, I turn red at the drop of a hat! I actually use green color-correcting primer or powder to keep the redness at bay. It won’t stop a full-on blush, but it helps mute the color a bit.

    4. T*

      I’m not a redhead, but I’m exactly the same. I turn red when I feel any sort of strong emotion. It’s so embarrassing!

    5. ism*

      Job interviews are one of the few times I wear full makeup, for this exact reason. I also use “calming” skin care products because my face turns red for just about any reason.

    6. CrazyCatLady*

      I have no advice on how to handle it with interviewers (it happens to me whenever I have to talk to someone I’m not prepared on seeing or talking to!) but I wonder if something like Biofeedback would help you control it better (in the future – obviously doesn’t help much now!). Have you looked into that at all?

    7. CheeryO*

      I’m another member of the tomato face club. I’ve never said anything about it, but that’s partially because drawing attention to it would make it even worse. One thing that can help a little is to under-dress a tad (like wearing a shell under your blazer instead of a long sleeved shirt). If I’m warm on top of all the attention and the talking about myself, things go south pretty quickly.

    8. AnotherFed*

      I’d just continue like it’s totally normal. Try not to get flustered by it or you’ll just get sucked into a downwards spiral. If you don’t make a big deal out of it and keep acting competent and professional, other people won’t think it’s a big deal. A considerate interviewer might ask if the room is too warm or offer to adjust the heat, but anyone who makes a big deal out of it is just a jerk (and you probably don’t want to work for a jerk anyway).

  46. Anon Accountant*

    I’ve posted before about our nightmare secretary but today she is really on my nerves. Our copier keeps beeping and says a component is open although it isn’t. After trying to help her and suggesting we turn it off and turn it back on she became irate and yelled she didn’t want to lose the papers she scanned. There were maybe 10 papers in the stack and I knew she was upset and offered to scan those papers for her.

    There were clients in the reception area when she was shouting and she began slamming the lid down on the copier. Behavior like this is a regular occurrence unfortunately. Anyone want to have an early happy hour? I’ll buy the first round.

    1. Sascha*

      I’ll join you! The annoying person in my office this week was my terrible coworker, who really needs to be fired. He skipped out on work the first two days of the week, didn’t work most of Wednesday, lied and made excuses to our manager about why he didn’t work, and then when he did, screwed up his client emails and kept giving out bad information. This has been going on for a year. HR won’t let us fire him because they say he just “needs more coaching.”

      1. De Minimis*

        Biggest annoyance this week….had words with a patient regarding a refund for the vending machine [which is operated by an outside company.]

        Patients always seem to make a beeline for our department [administration] at the exact moment when there is no one around who can address their concerns. I had thought we were still going with the old policy on vending refunds, which was that they had to contact the vendor, but apparently since we got a new company we are given money to provide refunds to people. Anyway, it got somewhat ugly.

        Just tired of the overall lack of communication regarding any changes that go on. I won’t complain too much about the lack of coverage when people are on breaks or whatever, just because if I did they would probably try to make us all work up there, but they need to let everyone in our department at least know how to address some of the more common issues.

        Also, someone keeps trying to send a fax to my direct line….

        1. De Minimis*

          Don’t know why my reply went here, although it is at least related to a secretary [the only person who apparently knew that we are supposed to give out refunds, but she was on a smoke break….]

          1. Anon Accountant*

            It’s very annoying when policies change and staff aren’t informed. At least they could send out an email or memo to update everyone.

      2. Anon Accountant*

        Wow! Someone needs coaching and that would to fire him. HR is overstepping by not letting the company fire him it sounds like. If he’s in a protected class they should document and seek legal advice but terminate over his behavior.

        Sounds like you have had quite a week!

    2. nona*

      Used to have a coworker like this. Eventually she got herself so worked up in a fit that she quit. So sorry you’re dealing with it!

      1. Anon Accountant*

        We are all hoping she will quit. Today’s fit was a mild one compared to the one a few weeks ago where she yelled in front of a client that she was going to “walk out one day”. It’s a shame she hasn’t yet.

        1. Omne*

          I’m glad I wasn’t there. I would have to literally been biting my tongue to stop saying ” How about today?”

    3. Sam*

      I’ll also join. I had a grad school interview by phone today. Took an early lunch and ended up sitting in a cold parking lot needed to pee for over an hour before I finally got in touch with the guy. By then it was too late and I had to reschedule.

      Second round is on me.

  47. Helen*

    I have a question about contract work. Say that it is February 2015, and your contract job ends April 1 2015. Would it be appropriate to list “November 2014-April 1 2015” (in addition to the fact that it’s a contract job) on your resume, even though April is in the future? I would put information about that in my cover letter, but I know some employers barely look at cover letters, so I would want the term to be clear.

  48. Sascha*

    Going on maternity leave in just a few weeks – if I go full term!!! I can’t wait for the break from work!!! Also thrilled about having my first child, blah blah blah. :)

    I found out my boss actually got approval to hire someone for one of the vacancies on our team, and while I’m glad about that, I’m also a little annoyed I will miss out on that process. I actually like the whole hiring and interview process. And big win – my boss agreed to allow a skills test during the interview! Provided HR approves it…but at least I have his buy-in. I’ve been wanting to do a skills test for a long time. Overall, this will be a good lesson in letting go and not worrying about work for a while.

      1. Wolfey*

        Ooh! Congratulations! I totally get wanting a break from job-work, even if your time will just filled with other things that need attention. Those other things can be more fun!

        Anyway, I hope you get a real break to rest before Baby comes.

      2. Sascha*

        I should rephrase…break from my department, which is driving me insane. :) It’s definitely not a break from work!

    1. RandomName*

      When I had my first one, maternity leave was a nice break. After I had my second (they’re 23 months apart), I couldn’t get back to work fast enough! But I did get to go back part-time so that was really nice. Anyway, enjoy this time with your first baby and getting to nap while they nap and all the time you have to dote on them and take pictures. It’s a really special time.

  49. going anon for this question*

    Should I be worried about this?

    The CEO of our organization is having an off-site meeting with one of my direct reports and I am completely out of the loop on this. The only reason I found out is because I was looking for something on his assistant’s desk and saw he had directed her to schedule a meeting with my report.

    I cannot ask anyone about this because I was clearly left out of the loop. I don’t want to snoop around or ask leading questions to find out more information. But I can’t help wondering if I need to be concerned.

    By way of background, I have been a manager here for a little over a year. Previously, I was a poor-fit administrative assistant in one of the departments. During that time, I was not one of the CEO’s favorite people for a variety of reasons. In my new position, I work hard, try to be awesome, look out for the best interests of the organization, and our relationship is much better than before. Even to the point where I have received praise from him on numerous occasions in recent months, I feel comfortable sharing my opinion on a variety of issues, and I believe he values my opinion. But still, given the history, I wonder if I should be concerned.

    What do you think?

    1. Helen*

      I think there are several reasons he could me meeting with your report–maybe she’s about to be promoted or be assigned a special project. You’ve gotten positive feedback from him. Do you have a good relationship with your report? If so, I wouldn’t worry.

      1. going anon for this one*

        I had thought of that, though I would appreciate being in the loop on a promotion or special project. In fact, I do want to push him forward in the organization; he’s awesome! He and I have different working styles, but our relationship is good.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      If you are really worried, could you do a touch base with your superior and ask if there are any current issues?
      I’d say that you shouldn’t worry, but as irrational as it is, I would worry too. They could be talking about their terrarium collections, or your direct report may have an idea to pitch to the CEO. There could be many reasons.

      1. going anon for this one*

        I check in with my supervisor pretty regularly and am not aware of any issues.

        I think I am being irrational because, at one time, the CEO had a bad impression of me. I’ve worked hard to overcome that and I think I’ve made good progress. But I still have this lingering insecurity.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      I kind of hope they are planning you a surprise party, but I suppose that only happens on tv.

      Try not to stress out about it. There could be many reasons they are meeting that don’t reflect on you at all.

      1. going anon for this one*

        A party would be nice, but highly unlikely.

        I am not as worried as I was when I first came across the note, I am just doing my work, doing the best I can; that is all I can do.

    4. some1*

      “The only reason I found out is because I was looking for something on his assistant’s desk and saw he had directed her to schedule a meeting with my report.”

      You probably shouldn’t read stuff on your boss’s assistant’s desk that isn’t meant for your eyes.

      1. some1*

        Sorry, that was pretty snarky, I didn’t mean to imply that you were snooping (I don’t think you were), but there are perfectly legitimate reasons for the meeting to take place without you knowing (including that the CEO forgot to tell/invite you). My rule about stuff like that is I am probably better off not knowing if it doesn’t directly affect me.

        1. going anon for this one*

          Totally not snarky. And I do realize it was a bad judgment call to look on her desk instead of waiting until the next morning to ask her for it- I work pretty closely with her, too, and we’re always crazy busy here. And normally she does not mind if I look for things we are working on together.

      2. Nerdling*

        Yes, because you can always unread things you glance at while you’re looking for something specific. Going Anon had permission to be looking over the documents on the desk and was looking for one in particular; that means Going Anon was reading the documents to try to find the right one. Reading/scanning other documents therefore is a necessary part of the process, even if it’s just to tell from the first few words that it’s not what you need.

        Going Anon, I like AndersonDarling’s suggestion of checking with your supervisor to make sure there aren’t any issues and try to put it all from your mind (easier said than done, I know!).

      1. going anon for this one*

        No, we work well together. Mutual respect and consideration. It’s a very good relationship. He’s in a new and somewhat difficult role and I work hard to have his back and take some heat for him. My own superior commented positively on this in my own review.

        1. Overly Optimistic*

          I had the same thing happen to me and it was the big boss wanted to call out my report for her excellence in general. I wasn’t told because it was to be a surprise all around. I still wish it could have happened without my worry or hers, but it ended up well.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I bet this is what they are talking about- the difficulties of the role, maybe some up coming changes. I bet if you are mentioned at all it’s in a positive way.

    5. LillianMcGee*

      My boss meets with my direct report all the time without me in the loop. It’s because they have a lot of mutual interests and are collaborating on some stuff, work and non-work, that don’t involve me.

      Still gives me a little jolt of panic from time to time though! The things our imaginations are capable of…

  50. Labyrinthine*

    I’d like some opinions on a situation that has developed on the team I manage.

    One of my employees made an accomodation request. She submitted the required documents, it went off to the appropriate people and they came back with a response that the accomodation that is shared by all employees is all that will be offered – no individual accomodation.

    My team member is upset because in the past, individual accomodations were made (some rather recently) and she is being told to use the communal one. Now, the communal one will work, it is just less convenient.

    Any thoughts on how to approach this? I can see it from both sides and I think, legally, the company is on safe ground since they are, technically, offering the accomodation. But it is a morale killer for this team member.

    1. LCL*

      If you are the manager, you should speak up for your employee. Talk to the appropriate people and tell them what you said here. And give specific examples of individual accomodation in the past. Of course they may tell you to MYOB and stay out of it, but you should still advocate for your employee.

      1. fposte*

        This is a good point on several levels. One, that might be how people get the accommodations, and two, even if you lose, it will mean a lot to your employee.

    2. Labyrinthine*

      I agree completely and have tried to be an advocate for my employee. I can see the situation from both sides and I want to make sure the employee’s voice is heard and their points are made in the discussion.

      That said, the decision has been made and it is final…and the employee is not happy. I’m still pretty new at managing a team so I’ve never been in a position to give such negative news. I want to make sure the employee knows their concerns were heard, that I understand the frustration but that further pursuit of this issue will not be successful and ultimately could be alienating.

  51. Jessica*

    I’ve been waiting ALL week for this and I think I’m in the all clear because I emailed Alison to tell her my good news, not to ask a question. Sorry if I am wrong!

    Anyways, here’s my story. My good news is… my cover letter, and only my cover letter, got me an interview! I had applied for a job online and somehow my resume failed to attach. I didn’t realize this until I got an email from the recruiter asking for me to send my resume for further consideration. We did a phone screening and I made a point of apologizing for my tech gaffe and thanked her for still considering me. She said it was no problem because my letter had made it clear I did my research and that I had written communication skills. I had been immediately been put in the yes/follow-up pile. Phone interview went great (using other tips from AAM… she seemed really impressed that I had gone through the 5-minute effort of signing up for the free trial) and I have an interview Monday!

    I was over the moon because I have been a cover letter proponent my entire work life, but so many people I had talked to acted like they were not a big deal or a stupid waste of time. This just reiterated that, in my line of work, they can make a difference. Score one for cover letters!!! And thank you Alison and commenters for providing so many good pointers!

  52. Pipes32*

    Long time reader, first time commentator! Hopefully not my last.

    I will soon be looking to apply to internal jobs at my current company. When you apply to an internal job here, we have a career tool in which you upload your resume. Then, when you find a job you like, you click an apply button and it sends that uploaded resume to the hiring manager. There is no place to put a cover letter when you apply to the job. So: I assume internal jobs require a cover letter as much as external jobs would, no? Since there’s no place to formally submit it, should I just submit and then immediately email the manager my cover letter (and a quick hello / intro)?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve put my cover letter and resume in the same file so they are both received. But I’m guessing that you’re not expected to send a cover letter for an internal position because they already know you, you are guaranteed an interview, or they may do an informal phone call to get your thoughts.

    2. Hillary*

      You just described the official process at my company, but there’s also an unofficial one that usually happens before you click apply. Here there’s an expectation that you’ll loop in your current manager, network with the team the position is in, do an informational meeting with the person leaving the role if possible, and probably do an informational with the hiring manager if they don’t already know you. So we don’t write cover letters, but we do even more work up front.

  53. Ali*

    So I’m posting this separate from my other topic because it’s actually pretty light-hearted and different from what I talked about above. I know Alison has talked plenty in the past about how applicants shouldn’t use gimmicks in their job search, but have you ever had to do something gimmicky to apply for a job? As in, something the employer asked?

    I applied for a social media job a couple weeks ago, and you had to send your resume to the company careers e-mail. Fair enough. But you also had to tweet to them explaining why you wanted the job, tag them in an Instagram photo and then send them a Snapchat of something creative. I applied, but later I felt like the process was kind of a joke and they wanted the person who was the most gimmicky or the cutest on social media, not a professional.

    I feel torn about this because I know Alison thinks applicants should be put through simulations and testing to determine a good fit. And seeing as I’ve had to send writing samples for jobs, that I can understand. But at the same time, I didn’t find this process very effective. I could see the company asking a candidate to make a mock campaign or suggesting ways to improve their platforms, but I’m not sure if I want to work at a place that puts such importance on my Snapchat creativity, even if it’s part of the job. It just seemed like a gimmick and a joke, not an application for a professional job.

    1. Sunflower*

      This is dumb. If they want proof that you can use these sites, you can show it from your past jobs. But I do see it more often than not.

      This is just my opinion but sometimes I find social media jobs that I don’t think are real- they are just ways to get the company more exposure. Social media jobs are obviously more popular with people who use social media and I’ve seen more than a couple jobs asking for this kind of stuff. I’ve applied to a one or two, never heart back and saw the job posted in every major city across the US.

    2. Fante*

      This is also really short-sighted of the company: job searchers are often doing so quietly while holding down their current jobs, and tweeting about why they want some other job is plain stupid. They’re probably losing out on a lot of applicants who aren’t comfortable making their job search public.

      1. Nerdling*

        I think it demonstrates pretty clearly why they need someone to manage their social media, because whoever designed the application process doesn’t understand it at all.

    3. The IT Manager*

      This is not my field, but is it possible they wanted to know if you are active on/know how to use those platforms?

    4. Gene*

      Since you’re in the social media field, and applying for jobs there, you should probably create a professional account on each of those sites and start populating them. This will keep anything like this off your normal ones where your friends and coworkers may see this type of posting.

  54. Guy Incognito*

    As far as things not to do at work go, loading a naked picture of your girlfriend on to the firms internal social media site that also emails all the groups members a copy of the post you just made is not the best idea, especially when the distribution list being over 1,000 people.

    Not surprisingly the guy was mortified.

      1. Guy Incognito*

        The post had three photos, two relating to the post and one of his girlfriend.

        My best guess is he was posting from his phone and the photo was in the gallery.

        1. Traveler*

          Wow. Poor her, and sort of poor him. Whenever I do anything work related I triple check everything, and I’m just scared I’ll send the wrong invoice or something. Yeesh.

  55. LoFlo*

    For the first time in my 25 year career, I walked off a job this week. I am between permanent positions, and have enough money to be choosy. I was approached by a temp agency for a short term assignment, so I thought why not. From the get go, I was misled about the location of the job (a one hour commute each way), and ability to work remotely. When I got to the assignment, getting the information and system access needed to complete the work was non-existent, difficult or blocked. When I got to work the day I walked off, I didn’t have a desk to use. Just a very dysfunctional organization, which I found out was on the brink of insolvency.

    I know it was wrong to walk off the job, but I felt I was losing out on the opportunity to be searching for real work while I was being strung along in this situation, and I was being misled about a number of things. I don’t think I have hurt my chances for future opportunities. Has anybody else done something like this and did it negatively effect you? I was working in a very toxic environment for a long time before this, so maybe I was reading into things. But basic things like providing me with a desk was just bizarre.

    1. Jessica*

      I’ll give you the flip-side. I *didn’t* walk off a job when I should have and ended up getting laid off. I wanted to stick it out til the end of the year because that would have led to a smoother transition. It was a horribly toxic environment. My boss was all kinds of awful in so many ways. Another coworker was undermining my work. I felt it would have been better, for my ego at least, to be the one to leave. I ended up being laid off at a really bad time, right around the holidays where not a lot of jobs were posted.

      You may hear people say that, flat out, you should never leave a job until you have one. But I am going to say that you know yourself, you worked hard to save that money that made you comfortable to do this, and that life is far too short. I bet it felt good to be free of that place… congratulations! Are you worried that the gap will be an issue? I don’t think it will… there are all sorts of ways you could spin it.

      1. Jessica*

        I should clarify that I would have given notice, just not necessarily had future employment lined up. That was how toxic the environment was.

    2. Steve G*

      I walked off the 1st day on a temp job where they said it would be full-time, I negotiated pay based on that, and then found out on day-one from the company (not the temp agency) that full-time = 32 hours. So I needed $2 more per hour that day. Temp agency talked around that request and said I was being unreasonable and that it was a good place to work. Huh? Who cares, I can’t afford it and YOU should have mentioned it before.

      They said, if you don’t go back (I was at lunch), I could never work with that agency again. I didn’t care, who would want to at that point?

      1. Jessica*

        I originally mis-read this as LoFlo leaving with no job lined up, which didn’t bother me in the slightest to begin with. But to hear that they changed everything and were totally shifty…. run! Never mention it again in a work context and don’t worry about it. I don’t even feel like it was wrong of you. They didn’t hold up their end of the bargain and if you’re not going to put it on a resume, then who cares?

  56. cat*

    I need a little help on interview attire. I’m a woman in my mid-30s. In about two weeks, I’m interviewing with a Fortune 1000 tech company for a marketing position where the target pay is in the 6-figure range (adding that info in case it’s relevant). Ordinarily, I’d wear a skirt suit, no problem. But when they emailed me to confirm the interview, they specifically said: [company] is a business casual attire company; no suit necessary.

    So… What do I wear? I’m thinking black slacks, moderate but professional black heels and a cable-knit sweater, but is that too conservative? I’m a busty lady, so button downs are a no-go and blazers can be rough (but I’m open to them if the consensus is that I need to go there).

    Thanks for the help!

    1. Newsie*

      That sounds perfect. When I was wearing business casual at my job (boring story), that’s about what I would do. I wouldn’t use a blazer. That to me dresses it up a little bit too much, especially if you’re already wearing black slacks and black heels.

    2. Helen*

      I think that whatever you wear with a suit minus the jacket would be fine. I wouldn’t worry about being too conservative unless it’s a particularly “hip” company.

    3. anonima in tejas*

      I would not specifically wear a suit, but wear something on that level. If I were doing pants, I’d do pants/blouse/coordinating jacket (or cardigan). If I were wearing a dress, I’d do a sheath style dress with a coordinating jacket or a cardigan.

      I think that cable knit (if big and chunky) would be too casual in this setting.

    4. Sunflower*

      I agree with Helen- whatever you’d wear with a suit minus the jacket.

      I don’t know your location or climate and it doesn’t sound like you invest in blazers too much but a more casual one with a shift dress would be fine too.

    5. Jessica*

      I’m going to piggy back on your question, if that’s OK. I’m interviewing at a techy, jeans and t-shirt company on Monday… is a dress and tights with boots and a jacket too fancy? We have about a foot of snow right now, so I want to look polished still. I can’t imagine wearing jeans to my interview.

      I think your outfit sounds perfect, BTW.

      1. Newsie*

        What kind of dress? I mean, I feel like Claire Underwood from House of Cards dress might be much. But a less formal dress in a less staid color could be awesome!

        1. Jessica*

          Oooh, I wish I had Clair Underwood dresses. And a place to wear them. No, black Old Navy heavy knit dress, knee length, crew neck, sleeveless (hence the jacket). It is pretty much the epitome of the basic black dress that I could easily liven it up with accessories. I feel like the jeans and t-shirt vibe applies to when you get the job, not when you want it. And I looked up my interviewers and they dress pretty trendy in their LinkedIn pics.

          1. Sammy J*

            I think it really depends on the type of tech company though. I work at a start up in NYC and you could definitely interview in nicer jeans.

    6. MaryMary*

      I suggest a dress as well. If you can find one with sleeves that you like, I’d say you could skip a blazer or cardigan.

    7. krm*

      I like that idea…We are a business casual environment, and my boss, the CEO, often wears dress pants, a nice sweater and a button down underneath the sweater. It looks very put together.

  57. Bekx*

    So since I left evil toxic job… they’ve had the following people in the role:

    Recent grad they hired in less than a week after I put my two weeks in because they wanted someone in so I could train them. I told her the pros and cons (many, many cons) of the company and all she had to say was “well, it pays more than min wage!” fair enough. She lasted 5 months before quitting because she was getting physically ill (like I used to be) and decided to take a pay cut to go to another company.

    Then they hired a man who lasted 2 days because he refused to sign a non-compete agreement. I imagine they googled and found one that was ridiculous, because there was no non-compete agreement when I joined. Part of my job was googling for legal document templates like this and modifying them. Things like injury waivers, video consent forms, contracts…..things that lawyers should look over and not Teapot Designers.

    Then they hired a woman who came from halfway across the US to live with her boyfriend. Her mom got sick and she flew back home and couldn’t stay at company. Obviously no one’s fault here.

    I saw the ad pop up on Craigslist for the 5th time, and once again they are asking ridiculous requirements. Must know Java (no….JavaScript is what you want….), must know Teapot Design, must be able to work in a highly fast paced environment and work closely with Executive Vice President of Teapots (aka, owner’s wife and the reason I left the job.)

    It’s very satisfying. I worked there 2 years, and in the last 2.5 years 12 people have left the company. There is only a total of 14 employees. Most of them have been in my role.

    1. Steve G*

      I like the part about the legal docs, yeah, not a great idea to just be picking those things from random websites.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      Sure your company didn’t turn Voldemort down for that job?

      There’s one where I work that’s gone through four people in a year. However, the current guy seems to want to stay.

  58. Veronica*

    In meetings, my current manager (Dave) uses condescension, belittling and badgering during discussions in order to ‘convince’ people to do things his way. He has been allowed to do this for years and he has technical information that is critical to the company (that he and he alones controls); he is basically unfire-able.

    Because I used to report directly to the same manager (Shay) as Dave, I’ve had multiple discussions with Shay about Dave’s behavior. Shay’s attitude has always been that it’s up to me to deal with his behavior in a productive way. In the past year or so, Dave has made effort to be better behaved, but only when Shay is in the same meeting. When Shay is not in attendance, he inevitably behaves terribly.

    Now that I’m reporting directly to Dave, I’m feeling both demoralized and ragey that he is allowed to treat people this way. In a meeting yesterday, he was being very condescending and at one point said to me “We need to be positive about this [task]” and I said, “it’s hard to be positive when you are being so condescending.” I then excused myself from the meeting.

    Has anyone worked for a bully/jerk? What strategies have worked for you? Finding a new job is not an option right now because I want to have a 2nd child in the next year and I cannot lose my FMLA. Also, I’m sure what happened yesterday will be brought up in my annual review and how do I professionally communicate that I will not subject myself from bullying and will remove myself from meetings when it occurs?

    1. OriginalYup*

      It sounds like it’s a company problem as much as a Dave problem. No one is un-fireable, they’re letting him get away with what he does.

      But to answer your question, I’ve worked for two bullies in my career. Like full on yelling, making-multiple-people cry-at-work, rageaholic bullies. So I get it. It’s tough but you can get through it:

      Keep a file, written or electronic, of every compliment or ‘yay, you!’ comment you get from anyone about your work. Be retroactive – pull together stuff from before you worked for Dave and put it in the file. Update the file religiously. Whenever you have a day where you doubt your basic competence as a human, pull out the file and read ALL of it.

      When he gets going, picture yourself sitting inside a bubble, or wearing a suit of armor. Picture the things he’s saying as a globs of slime that ricochet or arrows that bounce off you. This will help you maintain composure when he’s acting like a sh-t.

      Mirror his body language. If he’s standing up and you’re sitting, stand up. If he has his arms crossed while he’s barking at you, cross your arms. Start subtly, but it’s important to give bullies the impression that you’re not afraid and they’re not going to bulldoze you. Power positions are good.

      Neutral factual language with action orientation is your friend. “I understand this is an important project. What steps would you like me to take?” “I sent the invoices on Tuesday like we discussed. Are you saying that I should send them on Mondays instead?” “I emailed Sue the proposal because that’s what I do for all the clients. Do you want me to cc you on those emails in the future?”

      Try to have important meetings and conversations with others present, both to lessen his actual bad behavior and to have witnesses when it does occur.

      Be candid but professionally detached when talking about him at work to others. This will make you look like the sane competent one, contrasted with his probably already-notorious bad behavior. “Yes, Dave got heated when I suggested X. I tried to make my case but he was already set on that course.” “No, Dave was pretty clear that I should defer to his approach on that. I took notes on how he wants it handled.” It’s a favorite bully tactic to make the victim appear hysterical or unreasonable so they can shrug and say “You know how emotional Veronica is, you can’t tell her anything without crying”, so the more you can keep your cool about him in all ways will work to your advantage.

      Breathe. When it gets to be too much — take a walk, watch a cat video on YouTube, look at the pictures from your last vacation, have a cup of tea. This too shall pass. :- )

      1. Veronica*

        Thank you, thank you thank you, excellent advice. The “professionally detached” is a big struggle for me. I’ve been doing better since I got back from maternity leave (sleep deprivation left me with little energy to get riled up) but yesterday just sent me over the edge.

        1. OriginalYup*

          Yeah, it’s definitely hardest to stay cool when you’re exhausted, already stressed out, etc. Take care of yourself. :)

          If you get stuck in a meeting like that again, you can buy some calm by redirecting to someone else — “Susan, what are your thoughts on the widget deadline?”. The worst it ever got for me, I got up in the meeting and said, ‘Will you excuse me for a moment, there’s a file I urgently need from my desk, I’ll be back in two seconds” and went into the hallway until the mist of rage cleared from my vision.

    2. Anie*

      Write everything down. Everything. Date. Time. His exact words.

      This can go a long way. You have concrete examples and can force others to think about “What would I do if Dave said this to me?”

    3. puddin*

      Stand up to him – but in a professional, empathetic (I know that part is hard), and constructive way. Be earnest, because your goal here is really to help him be a better manager right?

      Dave when you say things like “[insert actual condescending statement here],” I hear that you do not trust me to perform well. Is that the case, do you have doubts about my performance?

      I think if you can explain to anyone the reverberations of their poor treatment, they become a little more self aware. That does not always guarantee behavioral improvement, but when you open the dialog you get to take some control of the situation. Then next time when he is surprised by a lack of positive response to a task, you can remind of the discussion you had.

  59. Not a Hugger*

    I’ve recently started working on several international projects with cultures that are generally more high-touch than the US, as in physical touch like hugs or cheek-kisses. My instinctive reaction to a hug in a business context is to recoil, which is obviously not helpful when developing relationships. Does anyone have suggestions on how to condition myself to be more comfortable with this sort of interaction? Trying to forestall hugs/kisses with handshakes only works sometimes and runs the risk of offending people.

      1. Lizzie*

        For serious. I lived and worked outside the U.S. for three years in a place where this sort of thing is common, and I never really got used to it.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      I got this sooo much where I used to work, haha. Sometimes when I particurly didn’t feel like kissing I’d try to look a bit bleary eyed and be like, *hands up* “sorry, I think I have a cold, wouldn’t want to spread it!”

    2. LillianMcGee*

      I am so with you, it hurts. Hugs. No. BUSINESS KISSES? NOOOOOONONONO.

      I have no idea what you should do… practice with a friend!??

  60. Bea W*

    FYI: 8-9 AM on a weekday is not a good time for a scheduled test of email servers that will make them unavailable. If you are scheduling non-emergency network downtime like this, please stop.

    1. Rae*

      Agreed! Our IT was supposed to update our system overnight, but it didn’t happen until 9 this morning and it looks like we’ll be down til 11. No access to anything. On the day our yearly goals are due.

  61. Those are Writing Words!*

    A few questions about job hunting while working around (recurring) medical issues! (I’m especially hoping for advice for someone who’s early in their career :) )

    First, are you supposed to update references if you’re taking time off from your job search, and do you have to tell them why? For example, I started jobsearching in December and got in touch with references, but now I’ve put the search on hold (because of surgery+healing time) and decided to just work from home for a former employer for the next few months. Would it be okay if I emailed my references in June or July to be like, “Hi, I’m jobsearching again,” with no explanation of the time off/radio silence? Or would that be weird?

    Similarly, once I start jobsearching again, would it be okay to say that I decided to take time off and work from home for a bit and not mention any medical issue, or would a lack of explanation sound like I don’t care about my career/am not a good worker? For background, I’m almost two years out of school, have only worked temp and contract jobs, and the work-from-home job is not directly related to my field (although I’ve been volunteering in a very career-related position for the last year). I definitely don’t want to overshare or sound like I want to be a pity-hire , but I also don’t want to sound cagey or lazy or like I’m not interested in the field or in building a career.

    Finally, does anyone have stories about how they balance a career and medical stuff that involves taking repeated time off/surgery/healing/chronic pain/etc? Especially when you’re entry-level and you’re supposed to be putting in lots of extra time to ‘pay your dues’? I’m hoping that once the healing time for this surgery is over, I won’t have to worry about this issue for at least a few years and can stop devoting so much energy to it, but I would appreciate advice on how to handle stuff in case that doesn’t happen! Thanks!

    1. Rex*

      Most people know that job searching can take many months. I don’t see any need to update them, unless you have a reason to think they might be called soon. But if they are people you talk to regularly, and they are already aware of your problem, I don’t see any need to withhold information or anything.

      In terms of your last question, during the job interview, look closely at what they say about schedule flexibility, work/life balance, etc. And once you have a job, if you have a sympathetic manager, I would bring them in the loop on your issue, and let them know what can come up.

      1. Those are Writing Words!*

        Thanks. I didn’t want to overshare but also didn’t want to come across as weird, or like I was hiding stuff–so it’s good to know that it’s not weird to only update them when I’m close to getting an offer :)

    2. Sunflower*

      I wouldn’t email your references until you are close to an offer or have one. As long as they’ve already agreed to be references, no need to give them a heads up until it’s entirely necessary.

      Don’t have any advice on the medical issue unfortunately. I will say since you’re still early on in your career so jumping around working temp/contract jobs is not a huge red flag. It’s pretty common for people trying to get their career started to do that. Keep up the volunteer work though!