open thread – February 6, 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 :)

{ 1,233 comments… read them below }

  1. Betty*

    Busy people! I need organization tips. How do you keep track of everything you need to do? I’m normally a post-it person but my workload has tripled and I’m having trouble keeping track of things. I need a way to stay on top of immediate to-dos, long-term to-dos, and things that may not necessarily require action but that I need to be aware of. So far I’m managing to stay on top of everything but I feel like at any moment I could lose it.

    I’m wondering if I should start utilizing my iPad more but I’m not sure how to transition from post-its to a tablet.

    Tips? Suggestions?

    1. Kyrielle*

      I’m just checking out Trello. I can’t advocate for it yet because I literally just loaded it yesterday, but so far, it looks promising. It’s a web site and an app for your iPad (or in my case iPhone).

      And at least on my phone it was free. There are paid expansions, but I can explore the basics for free, so…win.

      1. Ethyl*

        I was literally coming here to ask about Trello! I use Basecamp at my current job but am looking to start a nonprofit in the next year or so, so something free is particularly attractive, since at least one of my collaborators is in a different city. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts!!!

        1. CherryScary*

          I’ve used both Basecamp and Trello, and I found Trello 100x easier to use. Its pretty straightforward, and you can find lots of templates out there that you can modify to your needs.

      2. Mary (in PA)*

        I love Trello for projects! I haven’t used it for personal organizing, but for projects, it’s great. It gets you out of that “Oh, it’s in your email” mentality, though it will take a group some time to get used to it.

        My own favorite personal organizing tip is to take five minutes at the end of my day to write down what I need to do in the next day. It’s super helpful to get to work in the morning and be able to start right away.

        1. nep*

          I’m an evening list-maker too. (Just plain old pen and paper.) Helps me immensely.
          I also have a steno pad (use whatever sort of notebook or electronic device suits) that I keep with me all the time for things that come up throughout the day — Things I’ve got to jot down to be incorporated into the to-do list, things I want to look up, what have you. Sort of like that ‘miscellaneous’ folder that you go through and sort at the end of the day.

          1. Lizzie*

            Same. I learned this from my first boss, who probably kept the 3×5 notebook companies in business.

        2. Anony-moose*

          I started using Trello for my to-do list about a month ago and I am so obsessed with it. It’s AMAZING. I love how forgiving it is, how easy it is to use, how I can look at all the color-coded tabs and assess my day at a snap, and how I can email to certain boards.

          I think the best value for me has been the “later” board and the “wishlist” board. It helps me prioritize what I need to do so I can tackle those two boards on a weekly basis.

        3. Karowen*

          Conversely, I only use Trello for personal things! To do lists around the house, shopping lists, Christmas gift lists, etc. It’s pretty fantastic on that end, but I can’t speak to it in a professional sense.

          I also make a list of items to deal with as I leave work each day, and I also try to keep my inbox very clean so that the only items in it are items that I need to deal with. And I flag those and have them marked in different categories so Outlook reminds me to follow up and I can know at a glance why I need this information.

          1. Anony-moose*

            I’ve been using it for home stuff too! I emailed myself my flight itinerary for an upcoming trip, ideas for holiday presents, and even tax information I know I will need shortly.

            And then I have boards with things like “to do – get a flu shot.” It really is a fantastic tool.

      3. Risa*

        I don’t like Trello for anything remotely complicated. I need at time functionality that includes reporting…. but my biggest peeve is that I can’t assign due dates to individual items on a checklist on a card. So it totally depends on what your needs are. Definitely think about how detailed you want to be in your organizing. I personally use a simple excel spreadsheet with a few columns including a sequential numbering (for sorting), task name, primarily person responsible (if group work), estimated due done, actual completion date, status (not started, in progress, contingent, complete, late) and notes. I can print it easily if I feel the need for the paper and pen, or if I want to have something I can jot new to-dos on in a meeting.

    2. Sadsack*

      I use Outlook at work, and utilize the reminder flags, task list, and pst folders for certain things. I have many routine deadlines, but I tack a handwritten list to my cubicle wall of the deadlines that are not routine, usually a month at a time. I am also tracking these bigger items with my Outlook task list, but I like them to be in front of me where I can glance over and remember what I need to get done in the next week or month.

      1. Sadsack*

        Thought I’d add that my manager is the post-it king — seeing post-its all over his desk makes me wonder how he can stay organized, but somehow it seems to work for him. I would fail miserably if that’s how I tried to stay organized.

    3. Helen*

      Is this for work? I keep a spreadsheet of all projects/deadlines. The columns are something like this “name of project,” “client,” “due date,” “what has been done,” “what needs to be done,” “waiting for X from Y,” etc. When I’m done I highlight the row in grey and move it to the top.

    4. kozinskey*

      (Repeat post because I accidentally posted this as a separate comment) — I have a Word document on my desktop listing in outline form the things I need to get done that I check each morning. I organize it by deadline with the most important things at the top and most new stuff at the bottom. It’s not a perfect system but it helps me stay focused and keep from forgetting about things I need to do.

    5. Future Analyst*

      I find that using my Outlook calendar is very useful to keep track of items that need to happen, because by scheduling time to deal with x, y, and z, you can actually see what you have time for, and what will need to wait. That way you don’t walk into every day with a list that contains 24 hours of work to be done. And don’t schedule something for every single block of time: try to keep at least three hours a day free, so that you have capacity to deal with things that come up (as they always do), and you can use some of that time to work on long-term to-dos. Alternatively, if you find that your long-term to-dos keep getting pushed out, start adding time on your weekly calendar to address them.

      Hope that helps!

    6. HeyNonnyNonny*

      If you like post-its for the physical/writing aspect, then giant monthly calendar is the way I go. I can write in all my due dates, see everything in a glance, and put date-less items along the side in the ‘notes’ section.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. I tried several systems, but it turns out, I work best with my old fashioned linear mind, with a physical calendar I can write on. I have high lighters to mark different categories of task. I also keep a running list in a word document.

    7. C Average*

      What are you trying to keep track of? Information or tasks or both?

      I know there are lots of organization philosophies out there, and there are adherents to all of them. I like a tags-and-flags approach, and I like having everything in one tool. I live and die by Outlook. I use the “categorize” function a lot, I create tasks for myself a lot, and I sometimes intentionally search-optimize my own content by making sure I use certain keywords in my responses to ensure that I can easily find the right thread. It feels intuitive to me.

      What feels intuitive to you? Start there and build. Do you like having everything in one tool, or do you like having a whole tool kit with a specialized tool for each thing? Are you a paper person or a screens person? Do you tend to remember things by words, names, visuals, etc.?

    8. Lore*

      My overall to-do list is an Excel spreadsheet, organized by project. I’ve got conditional formatting set up to highlight anything whose next due date is this week no matter how it’s sorted (though I usually do keep it sorted by date); the other columns are completion date, next task, notes, and then a couple of other columns for specific features that need approval by someone else for each project (which also use conditional formatting to highlight things waiting on certain actions). Now, I should note that my department also operates a master FileMaker database which holds overall project schedules, so it’s pretty easy for me to update to the next task/next-stage due date in my own spreadsheet when the time comes. I also use Outlook flags/tasks/reminders for things requiring follow-up but not necessarily associated with a particular project.

    9. HR Noob*

      My best advice is to keep all your information in one place–one notebook, or your Outlook task bar, or one app. I have ADHD and write notes and lists to myself somewhat compulsively, and I always have to make sure they make it to the task management app I use (Asana, for the record, though I don’t necessarily recommend it) or else they get lost on my desk and I forget things. It’s not enough just to write things down; you have to put them someplace you will regularly check.

      1. Midge*

        I use Asana, too, and it’s been great for me so far. I make projects for my various ongoing job tasks, which I used to keep track of in a notebook. It’s helpful for me to have my notes and tasks in a searchable format. Once I send out an email relating to a task I also give the task a new deadline a few days to a week in the future to remind myself to follow up if there hasn’t been a reply.

    10. Jordi*

      I’m a fan of handwritten lists–not of the post-it variety, but full sheets of paper that I can cross things off, make multiple columns, and rearrange by making a new list as needed (every few days/every week). I like having everything in one place and easy to do.

      1. Lizzie*

        Yeah, I still hand-write it all. I usually either pin the lists to the bulletin board next to my desk (at work) or clip it into my planner (which is also made of paper, still!) if it’s something I need to take home.

    11. matcha123*

      I’ve stuck to writing things down. I, too, have a tablet, but I don’t normally take it to work with me and when I do have it, I don’t remember to look at certain apps.

      I stick a post-it on my desk with everything I need to finish that day/week. I add to it when needed and things that are going through a check get a check and when they come back to me, I cross them off the list.

    12. Anonicorn*

      I use Podio at work, which is similar to Trello and its basics are free for up to five users. You can access it online and it has an Apple app (though I haven’t used it). I will say it could probably seem a bit daunting to setup at first, but the customization is pretty awesome.

      For something more simplified, you could try Evernote. Also free. Also has phone apps.

      Another option might be Todoist. This might be best for you since it’s more akin to your post-it note to-do lists except they’re online. If you use Chrome, there’s a free extension for it and it integrates with your gmail. It may also be available in other browsers. Again, also free and available in an app.

      1. Rachael*

        Todoist is great! It allows you to keep subprojects for everything that you need and you can share with your colleagues and write comments. I have been using it for the last six months, as part of a GTD process and think its great. Also, read Getting Things Done. The main idea that I found most helpful was to write EVERYTHING down, even when you are waiting for a response, and so you don’t need to worry about it.

          1. Rachael*

            Sure! So this is a loose interpretation of GTD, but here goes! I have seperate projects for everything at work, and also projects for Agendas for standing meetings, Projects for staff who report to me, and keep track of either things I need to ask people about, things that my colleagues are working on for me, or action items that need to be done. For each project, I also have a waiting for project, with subprojects that list the name of the person and the item I am waiting for. I really like the whole Projects/ subprojects function, because it allows me to keep track of the never ending projects, but cross things off to see my progress!

        1. Aardvark*

          Seconding Todoist!
          I really like how you can set up recurring tasks–there are things I have to do every week, and I don’t have to constantly re-type them. I also like being able to set a website as a task (we use a web-based ticketing system), and have an Outlook extension so I can flag an email as a task. It has IFTTT integration, and I use that to keep a google spreadsheet of all my completed tasks for weekly check-ins with my boss and more detialed analysis (I pay for premium so I can see them, but this helps me break down the data better since their API and I are still doing battle…) I like that I can assign a date and a time to a task, as well as a priority.
          Also, I find the karma feature really motivating…

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve been using Trello for about a year, and I love it. My list set-up, from left to right is: Incoming ( this is where I email tasks and move them to other categories later), Currently Doing, Most Important for Today, Today, This Week, Later, Waiting, Done, and Reference ( where I keep things I want to reuse, such as checklists, etc).

    13. CrazyCatLady*

      I’ve tried Evernote and other things but I really just end up going back to a notebook. The trick for me is to have one notebook that I ONLY use for a To-Do list. I usually take a few minutes at the end of each day to make a list for the following day. I also flag lots of things for follow up on a certain date/time in Outlook and use calendar reminders a lot.

      I usually have a small post-it kind of notebook to keep track of random things that come up during the day, but that’s all I can use it for, otherwise they end up getting disorganized, too.

      1. AVP*

        I have the same thing! For some reason hand writing out tasks and notes is what makes things stick in my mind. I have one notebook that is to-do lists on the right side of the page, leaving the left side blank for any phone numbers or things that I need to jot down quickly (those get put in their proper places immediately afterward). I also keep a second, smaller notebook for longer notes or project-based notes that I use left often.

        1. AVP*

          Oh, also, I’m a huge nerd and have a special green Muji pen that I use for writing and crossing out to-do items. Using a pen you love makes it exciting!

          1. afiendishthingy*

            I have an ultra-fine tip Sharpie pen and I draw little boxes next to each item so I can put a check mark in it when I’m done, stole that idea from a coworker and it’s way more satisfying than crossing something out!

    14. AnonPi*

      I’ve found the easiest thing is a notebook, and have a different page for immediate to-do and long term to-do. Then as I mark out stuff/run out of room, I start a new page. For stuff that has a hard deadline (x must be turned in by midnight on day y) or stuff that has a routine deadline (timesheets!) I set up either a task or appt in outlook, and add reminders. I’ve tried using Outlook for all my organization/to-do tracking, but for whatever reason I’m not as good doing that, and found writing stuff down in a notebook is easier for me. Admittedly there is a bit of satisfaction seeing work crossed off :) Also its small enough (little bigger than a 4×6) that I can take with me and add stuff during meetings and what-not.

    15. Anonamouse*

      If you are more of a paper person that needs to write items down, you could try the Day Designer (sample download is available to print out and try) or an Erin Condren planner. They have different layouts depending on how you mind works but don’t follow the typical planner layout.

      1. DG*

        I use an Erin Condren in conjunction with Outlook and it’s saved my life. A couple years ago I read Getting Things Done. I added a paper planner to my day-to-day routine for keeping track of next actions and things like that. It’s been life changing. I really can’t recommend it enough.

        And GTD is a super short read that really will help you get organized. I skim through it every 6 months or so to keep myself accountable to the system. I absolutely love it.

      2. Kelly O*

        I have to interject here. I really, REALLY dislike the Erin Condren planner.

        I got one in the fall, and it is just not working for me. It’s big and bulky, and I’m just not using it like I used other planners. I actually ordered a MomAgenda/MyAgenda at 50% off and am just going back to what works.

        The other thing with Erin Condren is that the cover bubbles up. I use my flat iron to push them down, but considering what you pay for them, I just really don’t think it’s worth it. It’s pretty, and I like the cover with my name on it, but it’s just not worth the money.

        Here endeth my rant on Erin Condren. I guess I just like to tell people my experience, because there are just so many gushing reviews, and I’m not feeling that exuberant love… especially at the price point.

        1. Al Lo*

          I just ordered a Plum Paper planner — similar to Erin Condren, but more customizable in some ways, less in others. Because I didn’t order in January, I was able to pick my start month; and because each one is custom made, I could pick the different elements — you can add up to 75 or so pages, so I added some direct sales planning sections (I sell Jamberry, and am planning to mostly use it for that, since I have my job and other stuff organized elsewhere), stickers, and some extra calendar months, but I could have added extra notebook pages, home planning, diet planning, teacher planning, etc. I could also choose from something like 5 different layouts for the weekly pages.

          I’m really hoping I can make the best use of it possible, but I was drawn to the other ways I could customize, even though it’s not quite as cute as an EC planner and doesn’t have as many accessories.

    16. KMC*

      I use a paper written list for daily items – this allows me to add to it throughout the day, and since it’s a notebook, I can refer back to it for resolutions, and also move things forward each day (or to the next week, etc).

      I put recurring items on my Outlook calendar, so I have weekly/monthly/yearly recurring items on there. This works for me for long term tasks, and I normally set up a reminder before they are due, so they can then move to my paper list.

      I also have another, smaller notebook that I leave my longterm open items with other people on, so that I can refer to it when needed, but it’s not cluttering up my daily list.

      And, I try to keep my email inbox in Outlook empty except for open items (this has been an issue lately, but it’s a good goal!) – once an item is done, it gets sorted into another folder, generally by name of project or name of person.

      lastly, some open items wind up arranged on my desk – I’m trying to move to a file folder system, but am afraid of out of sight/out of mind.

    17. Anon Accountant*

      I’m not very fancy. I use Excel with recurring due dates such as client name, requirements such as sales tax filings, due dates, and a checkbox for when completed. My spreadsheet has different tabs for immediate, recurring, long-term tasks.

      If it’s a very important task I’ll email myself about it and benchmarks. “Chocolate Teapots books completed through June 30th by Tuesday. 4th Quarter done by February 15th”.

    18. Natalie*

      Critical caveat in that I don’t have multi-step projects, but personally I find that an overly complicated organization system ends up being totally counterproductive for me. I spend too much time designing it and not enough time using it, or it requires too many steps and they get broken down. So I’m an old fashioned lists & alerts person.

      What helps with lists is that I have them broken out into sublists. I use the Reminders app on my phone (I know there are 3rd party ones, but I like the simplicity of reminders) with two shopping lists (“need immediately” and “get when on sale” and several different to-do lists. I have some tasks set to recur (for example, paying my bills every payday) and anything time sensitive gets alerts. I also reorganize my lists constantly, so the most critical things are on top.

      Occasionally when my to-do list gets too long and overwhelming, I move less important items to a B-Squad list.

    19. JB*

      I’ve known some people who were fond of workflowy, but I’ve never used it, so I have no personal insight on it.

    20. GeekChick603*

      I use Evernote because I can load it on my home computer, office computer, and smart phone. It syncs with all 3, so my lists are always up to date.

    21. HR Generalist*

      I keep a pile of scrap paper on my desk that’s clipped together like a note pad. I keep a running list on the front page and cross off things as I complete them. They are short and long-term items, there’s no real method for organization. As I come up with something I need to do (or someone gives me something) I put it on my list right away.
      I read the list regularly as part of my daily activities, making a point not to skim – to REALLY read and figure out what I can cross off. If the page starts getting full, I un-clip it, transfer all un-crossed things to the next page and continue on my way. I’ve tried other methods but this is the only tried and true one that has worked for me!

    22. LMW*

      I use outlook and my calendar for meetings, and sometimes I’ll schedule time for stuff that’s critical, so I get a pop up reminder.
      I also keep a written to-do list — I use a date book and write down goals for the day, checking them off as I go. If I need to flip a page and still haven’t finished a to-do, it gets moved to the next page. I also use a note-taking method where I star things that should be added to my to-do lists and take a few minutes at the end of each day to add those to the list. I imagine that this could be done using an electronic medium too — I’ve just found that handwriting works better for me personally.

    23. C Average*

      One other thing: I think there’s a common fallacy that if you just find the right tool, all you have to do is install it and you will magically be all organized and stuff.


      Once you settle on your tool(s) of choice, be prepared to watch tutorials, explore features and settings, Google reviews and how-tos, and peruse FAQs. Then set aside some time for implementation.

      Once I realized a key thing about myself–I wanted everything in ONE PLACE, and which place was kind of incidental–I went all-in on Outlook. I spent the better part of a long international flight exploring the nooks and crannies of Outlook and making myself into an Outlook ninja. It’s been one of the most useful things I’ve ever done.

    24. Anon369*

      Organization-related hijack – is there a way to store Excel and Word files in particular in the cloud, and update them there? I have been using Dropbox on my home and work computers, but I’m not comfortable with continuing to do so, since my company backs up everything on the computer and my files include things like medical records I want online access to (Dropbox stores your files on the computer and syncs them somehow). Day-to-day, I want access to my Excel to-do list both at home and at work. I Carbonite, but I don’t think I want to down/upload each day. Any way to do this?

      1. Lore*

        I think office 360 does this? But I also do something similar in google docs /sheets. They’re not as sophisticated as the ms versions so it wouldn’t work for, say, heavily tracked documents or spreadsheets with elaborate formulas. But for to do list sheets it’s totally fine.

    25. Grace*

      I use Basecamp at work for projects, and the team and clients are on there as well. However, Trello is really great for pretty in-depth internal task lists—I love it! I suppose you could connect with clients on there as well. I actually got my whole team to start using it in addition to Basecamp for project tasks, as it has many more dimensions to it than spreadsheets, and the @ comments/replies are great for quick and easy communication on tasks. I love that you can attach different file types as well.

      I’ve also used it for personal planning, like recipes, parties, etc. It’s a very versatile tool, and is also easy to use on your phone!

    26. Noah*

      Workboard is our newest tool at work and I love it. It was a little overwhelming at first, but once I figured it out it has been perfect for our organization. My favorite feature is designating people as “in the loop” and the multiple workstreams and teams. It is free, although there are some premium feature that my organization hasn’t used at all.

    27. Betty*

      Wow, you guys are awesome. I’m on Outlook all day long and, in addition to post-its, I like to use my inbox as a to-do list. I make sure my inbox doesn’t scroll – if I can scroll, I’m almost certain I’m behind on tasks. The problem is I’m doing the job of 3 people and I’m finding I can’t rely on my “no scroll” method anymore.

      I’m still reading through the responses but so far I think I’m going to try to fully utilize Outlook based on some of the comments here and I’m going to look into a large desktop calendar to write long terms tasks on.

      When I have some downtime, I might explore some of the apps mentioned here.

      THANK YOU!

    28. Purple Scissors*

      Our museum’s special events team just started using Redbooth at the start of the year and they are in love with it. It’s a little pricey, but great for long-term project management, you can assign tasks to people with deadlines and then integrate with your Outlook or Google calendar so that the tasks show up in the same place as all of their other appointments. There are also chat, calendaring, and file-sharing options I believe.

    29. Betty (the other Betty)*

      Hi other Betty,
      I keep track of a lot of projects. I just did a quick count: I have around 25 active projects going right now. That’s a little crazy but doable. A couple more and I might lose it! (I’m a freelance graphic designer.)

      I like Evernote. I have a projects notebook and each project gets a note named with the project name. I use that same project name on the project folder on my computer and for an email folder.

      Then I use Evernote tags to show status and priority for each note. I have tags for 1-First, 1-Now, 2-BOLO (Be on the Lookout; stuff that will be coming in soon), 2-Next, 3-Follow Up, 4-Waiting, 5-Inactive, 9-Done). The numbers let me sort the list with the most urgent jobs at the top. It’s easy to change the tag on a project note when the status changes. Evernote also has reminders so I can have it email me to remind me of future stuff.

      The tags were inspired by a website called The Secret Weapon (.org) which uses Evernote for the GTD Getting Things Done system. I think someone else mentioned Getting Things Done: it’s worth a read. The basic philosophy is get everything on a list so your brain doesn’t have to remember it all.

      For daily work, I put my projects on a computer calendar in a special “To Do” calendar. I look at my email and Evernote to see what needs doing, then add it to the calendar. If I have a project or task to do in the future, I put it on a future date. I try to block out the appropriate amount of time for each project task, but if I don’t it is easy to move the To Dos around. I just delete from the calendar when the project is done for the day (or move it to another day if needed.)

      Both Evernote and my calendar sync to my phone so I can check or add things on the go.

  2. Future Analyst*

    I need some advice—I am a new supervisor for a small division, and most of my reports do fine work. However, one consistently works very slowly, and the others are left to pick up his slack. I outlined a plan for his current project with deadlines based on his performance on good days, and sought input from HR, since I was told from the start that HR wants to make sure we’re not setting ourselves up for being sued. (I have no idea what I walked into, only that the division manager and this employee have not gotten along, and it appears I was hired to serve as a buffer between the two.) Instead of providing a different deadline or plan, HR told me not to give this individual any deadlines. I really don’t know how to forge ahead—I’m still measuring his productivity between batches, but my hands are tied in terms of addressing how his slow work is affecting our other employees. I don’t want to lose good workers because they (rightfully) feel as though they’re being treated unfairly.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      It sounds like there might be an ADA concern from HR. While they might not disclose the details, I would ask them if their concerns are ADA related, and ask that they provide you with guidance about ensuring the the essential components of the job can be done by this employee, because right now x, y, and z essential job functions are not being done.

      1. Spiky Plant*

        This makes a lot of sense. But yeah, “never give me a deadline” is not a reasonable accommodation in most organizations. If it’s not ADA related, then that person just needs to be managed!

    2. fposte*

      I’d get clarity from HR on just what the limits are and what has to be met. In other words, can you actually manage and even fire this person if necessary, and if so what guidelines do you need to observe to do so, or are they committed to non-action and you just have to deal?

      1. Celeste*

        Yes, this. It might help if he was given a lesser workload to begin with. That way the other, faster workers won’t have to take up the slack at the last minute. That to me is a bigger morale killer.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Did they tell you why you can’t give him deadlines? That would drive me up the wall! Even if, as another poster suggested, it might be an ADA issue — sure, I recognize that ADA requires that one make “reasonable accommodations,” but if your job is deadline-oriented, then it sounds like an unreasonable accommodation to me not to be able to assign any at all.

      Anyway, I’d kick this back to HR. “This position requires that we get X done in Y amount of time. Can you help me figure out how we can do that if I can’t ask Wakeen to adhere to the Y timeline?” This is one case where I think HR shouldn’t be able to give you a problem without proposing at least some kind of solution.

    4. Anonicorn*

      I currently work along side someone like your employee, and the absolute worst thing is having to take over a project at the very last minute, or whenever we realize the work won’t get done on time. From that perspective, I would rather be given the lion’s share of the work up front, that way I know what I have to do and I can budget my time.

    5. Anon Accountant*

      Will HR tell you why you can’t give him deadlines? Can he receive smaller projects or something where his work or lack of progress won’t hinder the others too much? I have no advice on morale though.

  3. C Average*

    Been waiting for this! I’ve got a doozie.

    A couple months ago I accepted a stretch assignment to write a long-form history of one of my company’s product lines for our company archives. Typically, such pieces are published in the internal-only archive website, where they remain available as an ongoing resource.

    I’ve worked on or around this product line for my entire time here (7+ years), which is true of very few people. I’m a card-carrying SME on the product line.

    I’ve put together a 12,000-word document based on my own recollections, interviews, and secondary sources. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m proud of what I’ve written.

    I sent out my draft to my interviewees and got mostly really good feedback. People had minor tweaks, but liked the piece overall.

    One of the interviewees forwarded the draft to someone else (let’s call him Zeus) in his department he thought would like to review it. He didn’t ask me first.

    I had actually tried repeatedly to get an interview with Zeus when I was working on the first draft, but he never responded to my emails. He knows who I am, so it wasn’t a cold-email situation. We’ve worked together before and know each other well enough to say hello in passing.

    So Zeus skimmed my draft and then emailed me to tell me he wanted to talk because he had some issues with my piece and felt that he could fill some gaps. I reached out to the archive team and asked whether we could push back the deadline to schedule an interview with Zeus, and they agreed.

    I met with Zeus, and it turns out he feels that the entire piece doesn’t focus enough on and is too negative about a couple of products that failed. He was heavily involved in these products and is insistent that they failed because they were “before their time,” and weren’t marketed effectively. (I disagree, and the piece reflects my thinking. I’ve used quotes from others who concur.) He hinted strongly that he would really like me to rewrite the whole piece.

    I then met with the company archive team, and they LOVE the piece and don’t want me to significantly change anything about it.

    I am leaning toward making sure that I weave in some quotes from Zeus and try to incorporate his viewpoint (which I’m sure represents many in his department), but I am unwilling to rewrite a piece I’m proud of, especially when the people who tasked me with writing it are happy with the draft I’ve given them and want to move forward.

    I’m meeting with Zeus for a second interview this afternoon. How shall I communicate to him that I plan to revise to ensure that his voice is included, but that a significant rewrite is not going to happen and I’m going to leave in place some content critical of his failed product line?

    (Also, if you’ve made it this far, can you think of anything I should ask him today that might lead to some good quotes and interesting content?)

    In the interest of full disclosure, he’s important and I need to have a decent working relationship with him. I don’t care much for him–I find him arrogant and kind of a blowhard. I don’t think he’s crazy about me, either. But we’re always cordial and I’d like that to continue.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I don’t have any advice I’m afraid but just good luck and please let us know how it goes.

    2. Iro*

      Zeus I appreciate your position here and want to incorporate your thoughts, however I want to be clear that we are way beyond the point of rewriting chapter 10. I was thinking that the best way to incorporate your viewpoints was with a [insert section]. Considering the constraints we have on this project, do you any additional ides for incorporating your viewpoint?

    3. Mary (in PA)*

      Ooof. A thought occurs to me – would he be able to write a dissent, almost like a Supreme Court ruling? That way your original document remains intact, but Zeus still gets to have his perspective represented.

      Other than that – good luck.

      1. C Average*

        Considering he didn’t even read my whole document ( . . . yeah), I can’t imagine he’s going to find time to write his own.

        That’s another reason this irks me–he basically said to me, “Yeah, I skimmed your document, and I have some thoughts.”

        Thanks, and good luck to you, too! It sounds like you have lots more to gripe about than I do.

        1. Mary (in PA)*

          He didn’t even read it? Ugh. I am with the posters downthread – they have good suggestions for you.

          And thank you for your good wishes. I love the commentariat on this blog; everyone is the best.

        2. Student*

          No no, that’s perfect. What you want is to make him felt respected and heard so that you continue to have a reasonable relationship. You don’t actually care about incorporating his specific information.

          Ask him to write up his perspective in a short (~5-10 pages? whatever makes sense) appendix. Give him a hard deadline, 1-2 weeks out. He’ll miss the deadline, but it’ll be his own fault instead of your fault for excluding him.

          1. themmases*

            I agree. When you’re doing the work of writing up someone’s contribution for them, you are the one doing them a favor. Give them a deadline to contribute and then don’t baby them about it.

            I used to run a research newsletter and this was what I did. Tons of people would ignore my emails asking what they’d accomplished lately, yet also had the personality type that would be offended to be left out and have the newsletter look like they did nothing. At the same time, there were others with the common sense to realize they shouldn’t need to be asked for this information and would just forward me good news as it came in. I would send out one, maybe two emails depending how long I could wait, name-dropping the department head who wanted it done and giving people a deadline to “get to” be included.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              OMG this sounds just like how the faculty would react to our communications director’s requesting (nay, begging for) updates for the quarterly newsletter! No response to multiple attempts tho include them, followed by extreme umbrage at being left out.

      2. Karowen*

        I was thinking something along the lines of a dissent as well. Even if you don’t use the dissent phrasing, having that in your mind may make it more palatable to write.

    4. Dan*

      Do you need Zeus’s blessing? If not, don’t explicitly ask for it. Remember the old adage “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission?” Work his feedback in there.

      Oh, and make sure your boss is in your corner and will got bat for you if necessary.

      1. C Average*

        Thanks, good call. I love that adage. I do not actually NEED anyone’s blessing, but given that I plan to spend the rest of my career at my current company, Zeus is a person who could help or hinder me in the future and I need to remain in his good graces.

        My boss is out of the country at the moment, but I know she would support me philosophically; however, she’d also expect me to fight my own battles.

        1. The white zone is for loading and unloading only.*

          I feel for you, I truly do.

          I think you might need to do some meta-thinking about the purpose of the document you’re composing. Please don’t take this wrong, but sometimes the company is less interested in truth and historical accuracy than they are in handing out warm fuzzies. Pragmatically, this works out to the question: are you sure your management will back your decision here?

          I think / hope that a total rewrite – especially when suggested by someone who hasn’t even given the piece a full read – should be relatively easy to fend off.

          The sections he’s unhappy with, I don’t really know what’s there or how it reads, but despite the fact that he ignored your earlier requests for input, I think that Zeus’s opinions on the umm “less than successful” products probably have some validity. If I was in your shoes, I might just bite the bullet and re-write those sections so that they’re factual in terms of sales and whatever numbers you’ve got, but they offer multiple interpretations of what was going on. “[someone] says the Mark 10 failed because they were stupid and ugly. But [Zeus], product manager of the Mark 10, offers a different perspective: “people were too stupid to know how to use the product …” etc etc etc.

          Again, though, I stress the importance of making sure your management has your 6 on this. Zeus has the potential to interfere with this project in a number of ways – for instance, you kindly ask him to review a draft and he never gets back to you, thus potentially causing delays. I understand that your manager expects you to solve your own problems, but this situation really sounds like a case where it’s important that you and your manager discuss and reach an explicit agreement.

          1. C Average*

            Thanks for the thorough and helpful response.

            To be clear, I am very interested in capturing his point of view and making sure it’s added! I’ve been planning to rewrite the sections that specifically deal with the product in question. I sought an interview with him repeatedly when I started the project, proceeded without it, and then asked for an extension to make room for his viewpoint because it’s valuable and will make the piece a better piece. Talking to him isn’t an exercise in appeasement.

            At the same time, when I balance his stated outlook (the piece needs to be rewritten to give the failed product more of a starring role and equal standing with several successful products to which I devoted more ink) with the outlook of everyone else who commented (the piece is great, and has a really readable narrative flow, and gives a true recounting of events), I think he’s asking for too much and that the only reasonable answer is no.

            When I send out the revised draft, it’s going to have the same general tone and structure, with rewrites of the specific sections that concerned him. And, because he only skimmed the first draft, I’m concerned that he may find those changes too subtle when I send them to him.

            I want to set clear expectations with him. I want him to understand that I value his viewpoint and I’m going to make space for it, because it adds to the depth of the story, but I am not going to rewrite the entire piece, and he’s also not going to have any kind of final editorial say-so.

            He’s someone I think is used to getting his way in all things.

            I don’t think I can consider my manager a factor here. She’s very hands-off in pretty much all things, and she doesn’t know the personalities or the politics involved. I am confident she wouldn’t oppose me, but I don’t think I could count on her to defend me, either.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      Oh my goodness. I feel your pain. I am quite familiar with the concept of too many damn cooks spoiling the broth, especially when one of them is an opinion you didn’t solicit in the first place!

      Have you talked to your manager about the issue? If I were your manager, I’d be very likely to tell you, “Well, everyone else loves it, so Blowhard can suck it up.” And then when you speak to Zeus, you butter him up and ask him all kinds of questions that make him feel included, but then if he asks you whether you’re going to completely rewrite the piece, you say, “Boss and I talked and we’re sticking with the general flow that’s there now — but I’m so glad you agreed to talk to me, because we can use your input today to make the piece even stronger.” (Basically, something that indicates you have the backing of another authority, followed by some honey.)

      Anyway, good luck. Opinions really are like a-holes (and unfortunately, it’s the a-holes who tend to be loudest about expressing their opinions).

      1. C Average*

        Good stuff–thank you! It’s been a struggle to even get my manager to read the piece and she’s been out of the country for nearly three weeks, so I’m probably on my own on this one.

        (She does really like the piece, so there’s that. She’s just not heavily invested in any of this, because it’s a stretch assignment and she’s been minimally involved.)

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          She may not be heavily invested in the piece, but she’s probably interested in not having it eat your time to the extent that she can’t have you do other things! In your shoes, I’d probably say to her, “Rewriting the piece the way he wants would take another X months, can you back me up on keeping it the way it is, especially since everyone else loves it?”

    6. Cristina in England*

      If he asks you outright, you could say something like “I really appreciated having your point of view on the product line since you worked on it for so long. I have incorporated some of your thoughts into that section to round it out. Thanks again.” If he pushes back, maybe add “I am happier presenting both points of view.” Good luck!

      1. C Average*

        Thank you, this is really nicely phrased and strikes the kind of tone I’m hoping to hit. Appreciate it!

    7. Gene*

      “Can you give me a couple of written edits for specific sections by end of day Wednesday so I can consider them?”

      BTW, SME?
      Society of Military Engineers?
      Sausage McMuffin with Egg?
      Special Minister of the Eucharist?


      1. Cristina in England*

        I love this. If he REALLY wants it to be rewritten, he can do the work himself and you can choose whether or not to incorporate it.

    8. Larry Scroggins*

      I used to be an internal auditor, and if there’s one thing auditors are experts at it’s negotiating with people that aren’t happy with something you’ve written.

      My first piece of advice would be to stick to your guns. If you don’t want to re-write the entire article and everyone except Zeus doesn’t want you to re-write the article, don’t. But, in the interests of making nice and maintaining a healthy relationship, come up with some compromises you can make on the parts that he’s bothered with. Read through those parts. Do they seem harsh to you, then figure out a way to soften the language. As much as I dislike passive voice in writing, it can really help to soften things by taking away the whole blame factor. You could include some of his quotes, or maybe not in quote form, to discuss how the pieces were marketed or point out how it somehow might have been too early for adoption and that something similar being done by Facebook/Boeing/Starbucks/Children’s Health/whatever is being accepted now. It might even result in someone taking another look at the project if it’s now been proven effective by someone else.

      Be as diplomatic as possible, especially if Zeus is someone you’re going to have to work with frequently. People are weirdly attached to the projects they work on, as you can see by how proud you are of the article you wrote. Zeus probably worked very hard on the projects, and was very disappointed when they didn’t succeed to the level he was hoping for or to to at least the level of his effort.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Think like a historian, which is sort of what you are doing. I would stress how you want to make sure that you talk about many aspects of the given thing. You can talk about how it is important to include as many people’s stories as possible, anyone writing a record would be concerned about these things. Of course, you are interested in accuracy and fairness, etc. This can lead in to a conversation about allotting a finite amount of space or hard set deadlines or whatever other constraints you are facing.

      Short formula- what he has to say is important to you. Add in constraints. Equals this is what you can do right now. And “Of course, I am most willing to do that and I will work on it immediately.”

      What I like about this is you totally escape the conversation about re-writing the thing. If pressed I would just say “I promise you I will do as much as I am able to do, but I cannot promise you an entire rewrite”.

      People are amazing. Sometimes just by the simple fact they feel that they have been heard, they will take a giant chill pill on their own and in the end just go along with what you are saying. Make sure he feels heard, maybe ask a couple questions to show that you are involved in this conversation with him.

      Good luck!

    10. puddin*

      Would it be feasible to work in some of his feedback now and then create a new archive doc that is more reflective of his opinion/style?

      I would also keep in mind the ‘prove it’ tactic that was mentioned here this week?last week? Ask him to being the process with by writing and submitting a draft to you. I know you said that was unlikely. But if he is that interested, would it be unreasonable to put the project as a new item in his to-do list rather than altering yours?

    11. C Average*

      Arrrgh, serenity now.

      Zeus and I were supposed to meet today for the second half of the interview, and he just bailed on me because he’s “so busy,” but can we reschedule for next week?

      After laying it on thick about how valuable his point of view is, I can’t very well say, “no, I must proceed without you.” But the man is singlehandedly destroying my ability to stay on deadline with this project.

      1. misspiggy*

        Accep the delayed meeting with him, but in the meantime revise the article and submit it. Send him the revised article, saying that unfortunately you couldn’t delay any further, but pointing out all the ways in which you’ve incorporated his point of view. (It actually sounds like you’ve done quite a substantial rewrite to bring in his perspective, so tell him that. No need to highlight that you haven’t done everything he wanted.) Then say you hope that in the meeting, you’d like to get any further insights from him to record so that if there is follow-up on the issue you can make sure the organisation is learning from his experience. He may well cancel the meeting and drop his objections once he realises you have actually taken his points on board.

  4. I am now a llama*

    Yay, getting in early!

    I’m looking to transition out of sales after 7 years. I love the customer/people interaction aspect but the high stress of sales is too much.

    Any suggestions for roles that use my experience without starting back at entry level? Also, should I mention in my cover letter why I am looking to transition?

    1. HigherEd Admin*

      I would imagine your personality and skills would be well-suited for something like campus recruiting, college admissions, or alumni/donor relations. (As you can see from my username, I have a higher ed lens on.)

    2. Kyrielle*

      Customer support, training, and in some companies project management roles all carry a lot of customer/people interaction.

      Beyond that observation, I’m not sure what to advise you. I do know that some of our absolute best at supporting customers are (unsurprisingly) best described as ‘a people person’ and really are able to convey to our customers how much they care about and are focused on resolving their issues.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I don’t see sales and project management as having similar skill sets at all! At least where I work. Our project managers are highly skilled in “XX” (depends on the dept) and all have advanced degrees in their topic areas. For example, our PMs in one dept. all have engineering degrees. In my dept, they all have MBAs or urban planning grad degrees. Having people skills is important in sales, but not so much in project management. Tons of our PMs are socially awkward and it’s not a hindrance to their jobs, like it would be in sales. It just seems like apples and oranges to me.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Hence my “in some companies” – in one I’ve worked at extensively, project managers are managing customer install/deploy projects and are responsible for getting what they need from engineering (they do not manage the engineers, but have to talk to the engineering managers to get resources), training (ditto), etc., and also for interfacing with the client. It’s all schedules and people, people and schedules.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I noticed that after I submitted, sorry. So the PMs at the place you mention don’t need specific degrees? That’s so interesting, I’ve only seen that in marketing before.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Nope! They also don’t direct development. They say “my client wants system X implemented with settings Y” (which were filled in by a trainer, using a standard document), and sometimes “and they’d like to know if we can add feature Z”. (Or several features.)

              That goes to an engineering group, and they respond with the appropriate software (for the first request) and a number of hours for any enhancements, as well as whether they’d be custom or baseline. The project manger then tells engineering whether they want any of the enhancements (which may have been promised to the client and will definitely be wanted, or may be something they will ask the client if they want to pay for first). At that point, engineering responds with a schedule. (And if the schedule doesn’t match their needs, the PM(s and their boss) get to figure out which of their prior requests can be done a bit later in order to squeeze these in faster.)

      2. Ebonarc*

        Backing up your point, in the telecom industry, there is a lot of moving between sales and project management, at least at the company I work for. Usually it’s project managers moving into sales (for more money), but there have been sales folks who’ve moved into project management as well.

    3. Helen*

      In addition to highered’s suggestions, you might be a good fit for development/fundraising.

      Also, what about account management? (or is that the same thing? I don’t know much about sales…)

      1. Celeste*

        I was just thinking fundraising. That is all about relationships and sales calls. Not everyone can do this; having done it in sales, you are ahead of somebody who has never done either.

      2. brownblack*

        I went into fundraising because I wanted to work in the arts. It never occurred to me that fundraising was essentially just sales. Thinking in those terms really helped me clarify my career goals.

      3. OOF*

        Fundraising, however, is high pressure and stressful. Most sophisticated shops have rigorous performance metrics. So beware if you’re looking for less stress – a high performing shop likely won’t give you that.

    4. E.R*

      It really depends what your other skills are. I’m personally working (long-term) on a transition from media sales to public relations, because I have strong writing skills and high-level corporate experience, and I think my experience in sales has has helped me develop a lot of relevant skills, like pitching, stakeholder engagement, communication etc.

      My colleagues who I’ve worked in sales with have moved into marketing roles, fundraising roles, business development and other roles in the industry they were selling in (since sales gives you a good understanding of how an industry works). What are you excited to do next?

      1. Rachael*

        I am actually looking to move into sales! Could you tell me why you want to leave? I don’t know anything about sales, but any information would be appreciated!

        1. E.R*

          What do you do now, Rachael? I actually like sales, but I’ve been doing it for long enough at 6 years. The upsides include good money, lots of opportunities to develop skills and grow, lots of challenges, flexibility, meeting lots of interesting people. But it can be stressful. I often feel like my bosses take me for granted when things are going well, and really harp on me when things aren’t going so well (but dont have any advice or support to offer) and that’s been pretty consistent across all my jobs. I’m getting tired of the stereotype that successful salespeople have some sort of magic powers, rather than just crediting plain old hard work and skills.

          Not all sales jobs are equal, as I’m sure you know. Definitely seek ones out that have a good training program (if you’ve never done it before), a living wage for a base salary, and in an industry you find at least peripherally interesting.

          Sorry, that was a bit of a ramble :) Good luck!

          1. I am now a llama*

            E.R, you definitely hit the nail on the head as to why I’m looking to transition out :)

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          After over 15 years in software sales, I have gone back to school to get a degree in accounting. Many things have driven me out:

          (A) The “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” syndrome, where you can close a $2.5M deal on Friday, and come into the office on Monday only to have your manager screaming at you because you haven’t met quota for the week/month/quarter.

          (B) Managers who can’t do anything to help you meet quota except scream at you because they either have never been in sales, or were in sales but don’t know how to manage or translate their innate knowledge into something teachable.

          (C) Kicking ass on quota for the year only to have it raised by 30% the next year, when I worked 60 hour weeks with no vacation just to kick ass the year before… which means now I’ll have to work 80 hour weeks just to meet this year’s quota.

          (D) The never-ending stream of cold-calling and networking and constantly talking your product and company up at every freaking opportunity, lest you not exceed your quota.

          (E) Meeting quota isn’t enough. You’ll eventually get PIP’d out of a job if that’s all you do.

          (F) Having to sell things the company can’t deliver on. Sure, we’ve got the software, but we don’t have any consultants available to implement it for another six months, at minimum. But close that deal or get fired. And then dance your way around the customer’s ire.

          (E) And to circle back to the first one, It Never Ends. There’s never a break; there’s never a lull; there’s never a pause for celebration that lasts more than a celebratory lunch. There aren’t extensions on your quota “deadline”; there’s no benevolent manager who understands that you crushed your ankle and need 12 weeks to heal; the quota drives everything.

          And similar to E.R., my experiences have been consistent across all software companies that I worked for.

          Mind you, there was a lot that I loved about sales, or I wouldn’t have done it for so long. It was great to work with a customer that had been struggling with kludgy software systems for years, and finally get them something that worked for their business model. The pay was fantastic. I made a lot of decent work friends, many of whom I’ve stayed in touch with over the years. I learned a lot and kept my brain engaged, because technology is ever-changing. But it wore me out and, I believe, made me sick eventually. I now hate talking on the phone to anyone about anything, hate networking and “mingling”, and hate promoting anything to strangers (even little things like getting neighbors to sign up for our neighborhood association). I used to love all that stuff.

          If there’s any way you can shadow someone in sales for a few days, just to get a feel for it, that might be helpful. Well, maybe. I remember it all looking so glamorous and exciting from the outside, before I got to really see how the sausage was made. :-)

    5. Chloe Silverado*

      At some companies, marketing and sales are very much intertwined. Maybe you could look for a marketing role where your sales background would be useful?

    6. Sunflower*

      Second that marketing and sales go hand in hand. Also maybe event planning or promotions? A lot of promotional events focus around educating a person about a product and selling them but it’s not your job to close the deal or hit certain numbers.

      Also someone mentioned fundraising down below but something related to that might be donor relations maybe? My friend technically works in fundraising for a hospital but her job is really to talk to donors and set up their fundraiser as opposed to find new donors.

    7. GeekChick603*

      Customer Success is the latest name for ‘continuously improving the customer experience’ initiatives. With your background in Sales, you have seen where the products fail to meet expectations of the clients and potentially where your processes fall down in keeping clients after they sign-on. It could be a good place to transition.

      You could use your sales experience as a catalyst for moving. “I’ve seen the issues some customers have with our product (or products in general) / process / system / etc. and I wanted to shift my focus from getting clients in the door to keeping the good clients we already have.”

      1. C Average*

        This goes under the moniker “member services” at my company, because we use the “member” terminology for people who set up accounts to shop online with us. So if this line of work interests you, I’d add “member” and “consumer” to your keyword searches.

      1. I am now a llama*

        Thanks, Apollo Warbucks! It’s insipired by the previous post and the alternate meaning to IANAL :)

    8. puddin*

      Last week I recommended purchasing to a reader looking to leave sales. Its like sales but in reverse :) Less pressure but maintaining the people interaction you want.

      I would not mention in the letter, but certainly you should be prepared to answer that question in the interview. I would highlight the skills that would transfer but the desire to transfer should wait til someone asks.

      1. I am now a llama*

        Hi Puddin! Your post is actually what inspired me to gather more suggestions in the next open thread.

      2. I am now a llama*

        Can you tell me more about that field? I guess I don’t know too much about it but… What is purchasing?

        1. puddin*

          Happy to help!

          Direct Buyer or Purchasing: You act as an agent for a company (usually a manufacturer) to obtain components or parts needed to build/manufacture an item. Sometimes the buyer will also buy parts to be used as ‘spare’ or service parts. You would be responsible for a set of parts or a ‘client list’ of suppliers that you develop a relationship with. Normally a purchaser ‘owns’ the relationship with the supplier. They cultivate terms and good business relations. In a healthy business this means a partnership with both entities…one of those win-win situations.

          Daily activities include:
          +Getting quotes for new parts or re quoting.
          +Performing market studies to see who has the best value/price combo.
          +Negotiating current pricing or purchasing terms like minimum order quantities or lead times.
          +Improving quality and delivery times of the items you are purchasing.
          Your performance can be based on metrics like item cost, inventory carrying costs, and supplier quality performance.

          Some purchasing requires product knowledge like clothing and other retail. For example, Kohl’s wants people who understand fashion trends, fabrics, and customer base in their purchasing. But many positions will not require product knowledge. You do not have to know about the items you are buying – what they do are how they are used – in many cases.

          Indirect purchasing is related to buying things like office equipment, facilities upgrades, services like cleaning or maintenance. I do not know a whole lot about that, but it is typically more financial in nature.

          1. puddin*

            Oh I forgot – usually one of the perks is that you get schmoozed by the sales people of the suppliers you manage. Its kind of fun to be the customer instead of the salesperson for a change :)

        2. Shell*

          Purchasing is dealing with the supply. You’d work with the sales team pretty closely, because you’d want to purchase products that your customers want to buy (or ideally you’d already have them in stock). Working with the sales team you might even do some inventory analysis to figure out what’s selling well, what’s not selling well, should we discontinue this product or not, should we have clearance sales if we discontinue it, if it’s selling well how much should I order for the next shipment to keep up with the sales team’s needs, etc. etc.

          There’s also a lot of dealing with vendors. You want to build up relationships with vendors, you want to figure out a lot of logistics (“so if shipment A comes in from Warehouse 1 in Idaho, and shipment B comes in from Warehouse 2 in Nevada, and I need something to give to the customer in four days, what magic combination of shipping speeds and priorities do I need to make it the cheapest overall package but still have everything on time?”). You will also probably be the one to decide to switch vendors if need be, or add new vendors to your roster, or source new products.

    9. Felicia*

      Member services for a professional association. I work at a professional association and have experience with others, and a lot of people who work in member services (which is like customer service, administrative and data entry, mixed in with some marketing) used to work in sales. It’s a sort of niche area and there aren’t really school programs in it so it could work for you maybe.

  5. Helen*

    You all might enjoy this–I have a phone interview with a temp agency Monday. To get to this stage I had to send them my resume, references, and fill out one of those online portals from hell.

    Yesterday, they sent me a paper application (in PDF form) saying I needed to fill it out by hand “IMMEDIATELY” and mail or scan it back. (*None* of the information asked for on the paper app is any different from what I’ve already given them.)

    They haven’t even told me if they have me in mind for any positions yet….

    1. Sadsack*

      Would it be terrible to write back to them asking why they need this form completed when you have already provided the information online?

    2. AnonPi*

      The nature of temp agencies, they will drive you mad with all the paperwork in triplicate you have to fill out, not to mention they often put you through a battery of skill tests…

    3. College student*

      They’re probably just getting information from you so that you can be in their system. Hence why I avoid staffing agencies. They act like they have a position for you, phone screen you, ask you to come in for an interview, ask you to do their online application, provide an updated resume and references, then tell you at the end of it all that they’ll contact you when there’s a position available.

    4. The Manager*

      I was sought out by a temp/staffing agency via LinkedIn. Went through their process and once they had secured me an interview, I was sent a four page document, that I needed to fill out “immediately” – but it was actually for the company that I would be ultimately working at.

      It was a lot of information to write by hand – not a task I enjoy at ALL. But I filled it out. Interviewed. I was hired on as a temp-to-perm role, and after 4 months, transitioned to that organization and into a HIGHER role than what I started out with.

      So, yeah, temp agencies are a pain in the butt, BUT, they have skills, they do know what they are doing…

  6. HAnon*

    Best languages for front-end developer to learn?

    Hi all, I’m trying to transition from being a full time graphic designer to the more web/digital side of things, and was wondering what are the best languages to learn? I am decent with HMTL and CSS, but not sure what my next steps should be to become a more competent developer. I’m interested in learning how to do design and develop for web, mobile, tablet, and possibly apps as well. I’m going to be investing some significant time and effort into whatever platform, so I want to make sure that I’m learning the most relevant languages that will make me competitive and current. Thanks!

    1. Barbara in Swampeast*

      PHP is a must and probably WordPress. There is lots happening in the WordPress area. There are frameworks like Genesis, Elegant Themes, Builder, etc. WordPress also allows customization of themes for people who don’t know how to code, but… it’s still helpful if you are familiar with CSS and PHP.

    2. Spiky Plant*

      I’m not a dev, but in a lot of roles I’ve seen in the web/digital space, SQL is super handy to know if you don’t know it already. Lots of content management systems have a database component, so being able to write queries and whatnot makes you much more of a power user of those systems.

    3. Sally*

      jQuery and/or javascript. Every single front end position is going to want you to know one of these. Codecademy’s online tutorials are a great place to start.

      1. Bun*

        Seconding this and Brett below. I’m a manager of front-end developers, and jQuery/javascript is essential to our work.

        Frameworks like LESS/SASS aren’t strictly development languages but will be very helpful to know and be familiar with. Learn about content management systems, too. Chances are anyplace you want to work will have one.

        Also, be sure you’re familiar with the basics of web servers, versioning, code repositories and the technical side of how web pages are created, stored and served up. A little knowledge in this area goes a long way to being a self-sufficient front-end developer.

    4. Brett*

      Javascript. Everything is moving towards HTML 5 with responsive design, and that means lots of Javascript/HTML. Php is still pretty popular; but while you can find plenty of projects that will not use php, you will not find many that are not using javascript.

      Thanks to Node.js, you can even use javascript for backend development too.

      Meanwhile, for app development it is going to still be Objective C (iOS) and Java (Android). A lot of backend development for apps is in python and C (or basically, python unless you need things to be really fast, then C).

      1. Thor Arthur 66DDZ*

        +1000 to what Brett said, but I can’t resist adding my own comments: HTML 5, CSS 3, and Javascript w/ jQuery are the heavy-hitters. For extra credit pick up some experience with the Javascript Dojo framework.

        You’ll want at least a passing familiarity with SQL for “traditional” relational DBs, plus it would be good to get to know Cloudant and redis. Yeah, these are all ‘back-end’ technologies, but you’ll want some passing familiarity with them.

        Android devices will require Java and iOS devices will require Objective C or possibly the new Swift language – at this point in time it’s impossible to tell if Swift will be a huge success or a failed experiment.

        You’ll want to know some stuff about XML and JSON.

        Back-end can be anything, but C, C++, Java, and Python tend to be the big ones. Node.js – which uses Javascript on the server side – has been gaining in popularity. But I don’t know if it will ever been the back-end of choice for serious Enterprise projects.

        You should learn and use Git. And I guess it goes without saying that you should learn to use the Xcode development environment and tools if you’re working in iOS, and Android Studio (or possibly Worklight if you prefer an eclipse-based environment). Worklight is supposedly moving to support native iOS and Android development, so it might be advantageous if you’re targeting an app at both iOS and Android.

    5. just laura*

      Not a dev but look at the job ads for companies you like/would like to work for– what is on their “must have” and “nice to have”? Go for those. :)

    6. LeisureSuitLarry*

      If you want to do anything in the web development world, you absolutely must learn JavaScript and jQuery. There are literally no relatively modern sites in the world that don’t use JavaScript and the last time I looked @53% of them have a jQuery component. Plus, JS is largely browser neutral, so it’s used in desktop, mobile, tablet and can also be used to write apps (both web apps and standalone apps). Really, if you want a job in the web dev scene, JavaScript is your ticket to success.

    7. Front End Dev*

      Hey! I’m a front end developer. In addition to HTML and CSS, jQuery is a must. Admittedly I’m not 100% versed in it, but I know enough that I can do the basics and figure out how to do the more advanced stuff by googling it. For an entry-level/early-career position, that’s all you really need.

      For responsive stuff, familiarize yourself with Bootstrap or a similar responsive framework.

      Learning the basics of WordPress and PHP would be a nice bonus, but not every company uses WordPress, and if you’re not using WordPress, you probably don’t need to know PHP as a front-end dev.

    8. Bexk*

      I’m a front end web designer….not a developer.

      I know HTML, CSS and enough JavaScript to debug. I haven’t used PHP at all, except for maybe once a few years ago. I am a mix of graphic designer and web designer, and social media has now become a new addition to my plate.

      Responsive design you want to take a look at various frameworks and learn media queries in CSS. I like Foundation, my boss has played around with Twitter Bootstrap. Both are ultimately media queries.

      Email marketing is another big part of what I do. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE mailchimp, and made sure to become familiar with their platform (I love their culture, honestly.)

      Hope this helps!

    9. C Average*

      To build off of this conversation, for those of you who are self-taught in these skills, what tools and resources did you use to learn?

      I had to pick up basic html on very short notice a couple of years ago due to the phaseout of the WYSIWYG pane in our publication tool, and I’m proficient in the very basic basics, but I’d like to build on that.

  7. Jordi*

    One of my coworkers gave a powerpoint presentation to part of our department a couple days ago. I was scheduled to cover essential services and so I could not attend, but I found out afterwards that he included a picture of me he had pulled from facebook in the presentation. The picture was from a recent vacation and showed me and some friends, all in bikinis/bathing suits and covered in mud at the dead sea. Although I have a good work relationship with this coworker and we joke around sometimes, we are not friends on facebook–he used someone else’s account to access this photo without my knowledge. Even if he had asked ahead of time, there is no way I would have given permission for a photo of me in a bikini to be shown at work, and it is making me uncomfortable knowing that my coworkers saw this at work. Some have commented about it to me, and I think they all assume that I okayed the photo. I told my coworker that I thought it was inappropriate for him to have used this photo, but he didn’t offer any apology, just told me that everyone thought it was funny. I realize it is largely my own fault for having shared this photo on facebook, even if it was only visible to my friends, and it is a photo that I wouldn’t mind sharing myself with anybody in a casual setting, I just don’t want it displayed without my knowledge in a meeting at work. I really don’t know how to handle this, maybe I am overreacting, but I really feel like he crossed a line on this.

    For some additional context, he was giving a talk about breast cancer, and apparently came up with some sort of funny story to tie in my photo but I don’t know what the story was, and frankly I don’t think I want to.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I…I don’t have any advice, but you have my complete and utter sympathy. I would be tempted to complain to your boss since talking to him directly didn’t resolve it, but I’d also worry that would (further) sour the working relationship and some companies would possibly be “can’t you take a joke?” about it.

      1. Jordi*

        Thanks. I thought about talking to my boss but I know it wasn’t meant to be malicious and escalating things would probably make our whole work environment very awkward (moreso than it is right now).

        I’ve kind of been avoiding him since this happened so I think he gets how upset it made me.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          Wasn’t meant to be malicious? OK then, but he did state that it was meant to be “funny”. Talking about a coworkers breasts is completely inappropriate no matter what words he actually used (“So let’s all hope Jordi never loses her great boobs to this dreadful disease.)” Nah, that still doesn’t work for me.

          He needs a reprimand from his boss.

          1. Jordi*

            I got the sense that the tie-in wasn’t directly breast related, but more the health benefits of the dead sea. Still doesn’t make it any better.

          1. HR Generalist*


            You should not be uncomfortable for something he did to you, he should feel uncomfortable for crossing a line of appropriateness and not asking your permission to use your photo

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      That is beyond creepy and inappropriate. If he didn’t apologize, I’d talk to your manager about it! (And it is in no way your fault, the guy had to jump through a lot of hoops to access it, and even if something is available online does not make it sharing-at-work appropriate!)

    3. Sadsack*

      I’d be going straight to my manager and possibly HR with this. Your coworker needs some education.

    4. HigherEd Admin*

      I realize it is largely my own fault for having shared this photo on facebook

      I disagree with this premise. You shared it on a social network, for social purposes, to a limited audience. That doesn’t give someone outside that audience the right to take it without permission for a professional purpose. I’m sorry your coworker did this, and I agree that he crossed a line.

      1. Lo*

        seconding HigherEd Admin. I would definitely say you can change up some privacy settings (so people you are friends with with whom you work can only see some of your pictures? Maybe) but this person did something relatively disgusting, and kind of creepy. HR and boss, ASAP.

        1. Jordi*

          Thanks. I went ahead and deleted many of my photos from facebook altogether after this.

          I keep my privacy settings pretty tight and I honestly wouldn’t care about anybody (including him) seeing this photo if it were in the setting of “hey everybody, who wants to see my vacation photos”. I just want to be the one in control of sharing my photos.

      2. JMegan*

        Agreed. This is not okay, and just because you shared the photo with your friends, does not mean that someone who is not on your friends list (!) has permission to share it at work (!!) without asking you (!!!). Definitely escalate this to your manager, or his.

    5. Kelly L.*

      Eeek! Ick! No, this is not your fault for having it on facebook. That doesn’t make it OK for him to put it in his work presentation or to make what was probably a rude joke about it. >:(

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. That is like saying it is your fault for going on vacation, or wearing a bikini.

        No, he used your personal photo without your permission. Compounding matters there was a questionable remark about breast cancer. No. Just NO for so many reasons.

        I get wanting to climb into a shell or something- but the opposite action is the route to go.

        Also have a chat with the friend that gave him access to the photo- if you can.

    6. sev*

      Wow. That was a really gross thing for him to do. And then for him to dismiss your totally legitimate complaint by saying everyone thought it was funny? Not OK. You’re not overreacting at all, but I bet he wants you to think you are. “Maybe I’m overreacting, better keep quiet” is how gross guys get away with being gross.

    7. fposte*

      Yeah, that’s way out of line, and it feels kind of stalkery given that he apparently couldn’t have gotten the image directly off of your Facebook. I’d chat with my manager, assuming a good relationship with her, to clarify my options. I also think guy is no longer a workplace friend whatever you do, given that he clearly doesn’t care that he upset you, so I wouldn’t prioritize keeping the friendship in my reaction.

    8. Katie the Fed*

      You are not overreacting. That’s insanely inappropriate and creepy. Even worse that he doesn’t seem to grasp how creepy and inappropriate it was.

      You’ve tried to talk to him. At this point I would elevate the complaint to your boss, his boss, HR, wherever. He’s a creep and has no sense of professional conduct. I would fire someone for a lack of judgement that severe.

      1. Adam*

        Agreed. OP is NOT overreacting. I’m a dude who’s pretty laissez faire and my eyes went wide when I read the post. Since addressing it with your coworker didn’t help I’d bring it up with your supervisor. Absolutely nothing about what he did is ok.

        1. The Othe Katie*

          I agree with Katie the Fed and Adam. This is insanely creepy. This needs to get escalated to your boss and possibly HR. You were not wrong for having it on Facebook and you are not over-reacting.

    9. AdAgencyChick*

      I’m a big proponent of “don’t put anything on Facebook you wouldn’t want the whole world seeing” — but I think of that in terms of “people may see something if they’re poking around,” not “someone may grab your clearly personal photo and drop it into a professional context”!

      It’s not your fault. He’s a jerk. I’d go to your boss and say that you’re upset that this happened, you approached him and you got no apology. (Seriously? He just told you “everyone thought it was funny”?) And you would like such things not to happen again. If your manager is worth her salt, she’ll have your back here.

    10. Mike C.*

      First of all, this isn’t “largely your fault” just because you posted it online. This is completely the fault of your creepy, stalkerish coworker. I would be livid.

    11. Anna*

      I can’t think of a single funny story about breast cancer that would be even remotely linked to a group of women in bikinis. Other than that, no it’s not your fault for this guy’s boorish behavior. AdAgencyChick is right; this is not what is meant by “the whole world seeing” something you post on social media.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, what is up with the “funny story about breast cancer”? This is a person with no filters, I mean that in an extreme way. He sounds like someone who just does whatever he feels like.

    12. Jordi*

      Thanks to everybody.
      I’m glad I’m not overreacting. I was just so stunned that he would think it was okay. And also, there was a supervisor at this presentation (though not my/his manager), and she must have thought it was funny as well, or at least she didn’t react to it being inappropriate.

      1. Snowglobe*

        But the supervisor most likely thought that you agreed to having your photo used. I’d say something to your supervisor, to let her know how he got that photo and that he didn’t apologize when you told him that he shouldn’t have done it.

        1. Jordi*

          I noticed that everyone is assuming my manager is a women, but he is a man. Which shouldn’t make a difference, especially since he is generally great and approachable, but I would almost feel better going to the supervisor (woman) who was at the meeting. At least she is already familiar with the photo and knows in what context it was discussed.

          1. fposte*

            We default to “she” when gender isn’t identified here; it wasn’t about assumptions.

            I’d still go to your manager first. If it were my employee, I’d want to be in the loop on any subsequent actions.

          2. Observer*

            No, don’t go the supervisor who was there. She is not your supervisor, nor his, so this is not her issue to deal with. Go to your supervisor and his supervisor / hr.

    13. Artemesia*

      This is pretty much a textbook example of sexist and inappropriate. If it were random women from stock photo, it would be inappropriate. (just as a doctor who includes playboy shots in a lecture on anatomy is sexist and inappropriate — and this was commonplace 30 years ago) The fact that it is a work colleague without her permission increases the inappropriateness by a factor of ten. This is demeaning, objectifies you, and inserts ‘sexy’ into a talk where it is not appropriate.

      The fact that he wasn’t mortified would cause me to escalate this. This guy needs some training before he gets the company into trouble for his lack of judgment.

      1. Jordi*

        The photo was me, one other women, and three men. And I don’t think he directly mentioned breasts in relation to the photo, but I’m sure it popped into the minds of more than one person in the audience given breast cancer was the topic of the talk.

      2. Jordi*

        Although I agree, still hugely inappropriate which is why I am still upset over this a couple days later.

    14. Beezus*

      You’ve gotten a lot of great advice on dealing with your coworker, so I’m not going to add to the pile, but have you any idea which of your friends assisted him in getting a copy of this photo? Do you know how that came about? In your shoes I would really want to know how that photo was shared, and I would have a serious problem with a friend who knowingly provided access to it for the purpose it was used for.

      1. Jordi*

        It was another coworker who I am friends with and occasionally (but not regularly) talk to outside of work, but he is really close with, has known for years, and spends a lot of time with away from work. I don’t know if she knew that he used her facebook to get the photo before the fact or not–I wouldn’t be surprised if he sometimes has access to her personal computer without her being there.

        1. Natalie*

          Alternatively, in privacy settings one of the optional levels is “Friends of friends”. If you have that set on your photos (or if it’s automatic?) he wouldn’t need to get onto her computer.

        2. Observer*

          No, don’t go the supervisor who was there. She is not your supervisor, nor his, so this is not her issue to deal with. Go to your supervisor and his supervisor / hr.

          1. Observer*

            That was an accidental double post.

            What I meant to say HERE is that if he used her account without her knowing it, you REALLY need to escalate it. Even if the use of the photo was appropriate (which is was NOT), using someone else’s accounts behind their back is just utterly out of line and, as I said elsewhere, asking for trouble.

    15. A Teacher*

      No. Just no. What he did was way out of line. Please don’t blame yourself for having a personal life and posting pictures to facebook–its not like you were doing something highly illegal. What a jerk.

    16. another IT manager*

      Whose account did he use to get this picture, and did they know that he was doing it? If they did, I’d probably take them out of the “vacation photos” group. If they didn’t, WTH?

    17. Observer*

      How utterly inappropriate. I think that both your boss and his need to know about the background. You need to make sure your boss knows that you did NOT ok the use of the picture – There are too many possible unfortunate conclusions your boss could draw from this.

      Your co-worker showed appallingly bad judgement – stuff that could potentially get the company in hot water. He used someone else’s Facebook account to essentially snoop on you. And then he put an identifiable work inappropriate picture of you in everyone’s faces – while making it look like you were ok with it. I can’t imagine how a stupid stunt like that would play out if someone decided to go after him for harassment or the like. But I’m sure it would not go well for him or the company.

    18. Observer*

      If someone shared their account information with him, then you need to unfriend that person. And, if he figured out someone else’s password and used it without permission, his boss / HR need to know that.

    19. Grace*

      This is appalling! The fact that he went out of his way not only to get the photo, but to get it in a way without alerting you to it or asking you for it, means that he obviously knew you would be uncomfortable with it. If he thought it would be okay with you, then why wouldn’t he have asked?

      Not to mention that the whole thing is just a completely inappropriate crossing of boundaries, and a really creepy invasion of privacy. It would be even if you weren’t in a bikini, but that just makes it so much worse! I think that this could even be classified as sexual harassment, (however, I wouldn’t mention that term).

      You should definitely go to your boss. This is unacceptable. What if he thinks he can get away with this type of behavior, and does something else inappropriate?

    20. Lizzy*

      Because there are people who think anything put on social media is fair game, I will throw this angle out there: a person should always ask another person if it is okay to be the topic of a presentation. It doesn’t matter if he pulled a picture of you from LinkedIn or the company website; he should have cleared with you first. Just the thought of being the topic of someone’s presentation–especially someone that isn’t a very good friend–is making me stabby.

      The fact that he went out of his way to do this ups the creepy factor. You are definitely not overreacting.

    21. Unmitigated Gal*

      I would absolutely tell my manager. If he is only doing this sort of thing to women, it could be sexual harassment. Even if it isn’t, it is completely out of line and unprofessional. He should be spoken to by leadership.

    22. beckythetechie*

      Since the privacy violation happened on Facebook, I’d put it on Facebook too. “It’s come to my attention that someone I thought I could trust was willing to share a private photo for a third party to use in a public situation without my permission. The person who used it sees nothing wrong with this, but I do. So, if you no longer see updates and photos from me on here, it’s because I apparently need to be more careful about who feels entitled to use my social life for his or her personal gain.”

  8. kozinskey*

    I have a Word document on my desktop listing in outline form the things I need to get done that I check each morning. I organize it by deadline with the most important things at the top and most new stuff at the bottom. It’s not a perfect system but it helps me stay focused and keep from forgetting about things I need to do.

    1. Adam*

      I do the same thing, but mine is in a text doc. Also I set a daily reminder in my outlook to tell me to check it by 8:00 a.m. when my day usually starts.

  9. Sunflower*

    Hoping for some advice talking to someone interested in my industry? I’m not sure if this is imposter syndrome rearing it’s ugly head

    I’ve been working in event planning for 2 years(graduated 4 years ago). I have a good friend who is in fashion as a buyer(she’s been out of college for 12 years) who is doing well for herself but tired of the industry and looking to make a career change. She wants to sit down and talk to me about my job- what I do, if I like it, etc. I really want to help but feel somewhat like I have nothing to give? I think I’m feeling this way since she is tapping me for advice yet is so much further along in her career. Beyond knowing that it’s common to go from fashion to event planning, I don’t actually know how people do this.

    I’d also like to help her out because in addition to being an all around great person, she has a great network. Any advice? Facts I should definitely include about my career/job? I’m used to being on the other side of this so any tips would be great!

    1. HigherEd Admin*

      Just keep in mind that while she may have 12 years of experience, it’s not in your area of expertise. She’s coming to you for advice because you honestly have more experience and insight in event planning than she does. I would let her lead the conversation, ask the questions she wants to know, and answer as honestly and fully as you can. If you see areas of overlap or skills that transfer, tell her about those; those will be the most helpful in her job search.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Tell stories. Talk about getting your first job, the interview, etc. Tell her about what types of projects you have done so far. Talk about problems you have been expected to solve.

      If she is as smart as you say, she will have good questions lined up for you. She might ask if you know anyone who would talk to her that might have more to add. But never underestimate the power of stories. People learn a lot through stories.

    3. girlonfire*

      I agree with HigherEd Admin — own the knowledge you have spent two years accruing! Think about your daily work: what hours are you putting in? what does a typical day look like? what skills would someone need to be successful at your job? what do you honestly like/dislike?

    4. NatalieR*

      I’d get into what a typical week/month/event cycle is like in terms of tasks involved, typical issues, the varying types of events you do, etc.

      I’ve been events my whole career (almost 15 years, eep) and worked on long-cycling events (annual fundraisers, festivals, conferences, etc.) and very short cycling events (catering sales and small meeting planning). Though the core skills are the same, the day to day work is totally different. I also think the level of reward is quite different. I like to work on longer and more intricate events like professional conferences and festivals more, as I find them to be more satisfying. The difference in event types isn’t always something people moving into the work think about.

      Also, there are event jobs that are design-heavy and others that are logistics heavy. That’s something to mention that she should look for, depending on her skills and interests.

      Also, there are internal event planning jobs for companies/universities, fundraising events, catering events, hotel event planning, festival jobs, wedding planners, private planners for other types of events … they run the gamut. I have no idea what sort of planning you do, but I’d mention that there are opportunities across many organizations and industries.

      Also, it’s easier to get into event planning from another career if you take a position that takes from your old profession with events peppered in. For example, since she’s a fashion buyer, she might look for jobs that involve planning fashion shows or fashion/merchandise marts, so she’ll know the players involved and expectations.

      Wow – this was a lot. A final recommendation (for you too) is to look on LinkedIn for a group called “Career Advice for Event Professionals” (or something similar). It’s really active, and there is a ton of great advice and wisdom in their threads.

      1. Sunflower*

        Wow thanks for all that great info! I am also looking to make a slight career change- I want to get more into more long-term, project management based events. Right now my events are short-term and there isn’t much design work- it’s purely logistics so this is great info for me as well!

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        Former event planner here and I second all of this. Like one of Natalie’s examples, I kind of ended up in event planning accidentally (had a job where it was a peripheral part of the role and when I was looking for my next job, ended up in a job focused on event planning due to the previous experience)

        I had a couple of these types of conversations when I was in my event planning job, and I think what stood out to me was that the people I spoke with didn’t have a great grasp of what event planners actually do. Your friend may have a better idea if she’s involved at all in events in her current role, but I tried to make it really clear what the job actually entails and what your typical work week/month will look like. Granted, a lot of the people I was speaking with were younger, but I think to some people event planning sounds like an awesome job with no downside, when it’s actually pretty difficult and definitely not for everybody.

        I’ll also echo some of the other advice above that she’s coming to you so you can share your experience, as it’s something she’s less knowledgeable about than you are, so try to let the nervousness go!

  10. Mimmy*

    A bit of a cautionary tale for job seekers and HR reps:

    This morning, the HR department of a major hospital near us called to return someone’s call. My husband answered, told them he didn’t call, then asked me if I’d called. I didn’t call either. So they obviously had the wrong number. Either the original caller didn’t clearly give their number, or the message taker didn’t write the number down correctly. I sure hope they get in touch with the person who’d originally called!

    Just goes to show that it’s so important, when job seeking or recruiting, that you give / receive information very carefully!! :)

    1. Rebecca*

      I remember I got a message on my answering machine at home from a college out West. They were leaving a message for someone, not me, for a graduate program, and asked that this person call them back immediately as spots were limited. I called them back, gave them my phone#, time of call, and who called, and asked them to please call the right person. I was very concerned that someone could miss out on an opportunity because someone probably misdialed an area code.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        My mother once got a voicemail from a local high school talking about work experience placements. Since our number was very similar to a local dental surgery, she called them first, but they said they weren’t taking anyone on. Then she called the school, but without a name of who they were trying to reach, the school had no idea what she was on about. So someone may have lost a work experience placement.

      1. Mimmy*

        Since my husband had to ask if I’d called this HR department, it doesn’t sound like the person calling specified who they were looking for. Good point.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      My home phone number is one digit off from the phone number for a town court that is several towns over from me.

      I get messages on my answering machine, “Hi, Judge, this Bob Scofflaw, I am going to miss court tonight, okay?”.

      It’s okay by me, Bob.

      I state my phone number in my greeting. Sigh.

      1. The Othe Katie*

        When I was growing up, my dad’s business was listed in the yellow pages right under the number for the local mental hospital. Even though his answering machine message clearly stated the business name, we would get some REALLY strange messages.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I’m one digit different from Child Support Enforcement. I had to put their number on my answerphone message because people would leave messages with their case number and “Call me back.” One woman left her Social Security number. 0_0 I did call her back and told her not to do that any more.

      3. Ama*

        My first job in academia our department extension was one digit off from the Bursar’s. The week tuition bills went out was never a particularly pleasant time to be answering the phone.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      But again, this is why you follow up a call with an email. This way you know you’ve covered your bases with contacting someone.

    4. Sabrina*

      I once missed out on a job because my brother took a message on a paper plate, which he didn’t tell me about, and then threw the plate away. And then I bought a pager. Like you did in 1997.

    5. sittingduck*

      Ugh. I had this problem! My phone number is from my home-state, its the only number I’ve ever had and I didn’t want to change it when I moved to a neighboring state. Well my new state only has 1 area code. Even in today’s dynamic world, a lot of people who are dialing from a land-line will just omit the area-code when dialing a phone number – therefore when people were trying to call me, they instead got a lady in another part of my state that has my number with the state area code.
      I only figured this out when someone who had tried to call me emailed me to let me know they were getting someone else when trying to call. Together we figured out that apparently people were just glancing over my phone number on my resume an completely ignoring the fact that the area code was not that of the state I live in.
      I ended up doing two things:
      1. I got a Google voice number with the correct area code for the state, and started putting that on my resume
      2. I called the lady who was getting my phone calls and explained the situation to her and asked her to let me know if anyone else called. I never heard from her.

      So hiring mangers apparently just don’t look at complete phone numbers sometimes. I have a great job now and am not applying for jobs anymore, so its not an issue. But it was a pain! I have no idea what calls I might have missed because of this.

  11. Labratnomore*

    I have a question regarding a cover letter. A couple years ago I applied and received an offer at a company. The job was a lateral move, but the offered pay and benefits were less than what I made then so I did not accept the offer. Now there is a job I am interested and am wondering how to wright the cover letter. This job is to replace the person who would have been my boss had I accepted the other position, which is still a step up from my current position. During the previous discussions, when I said I was not comfortable with the offer the HR person said that she saw me more on an equal level to the hiring manager and thought I would be promoted quickly. I just brushed it off as trying to sell me on the job, though I do believe I was qualified for that job then. The HR person and the former hiring manager have left the company, and the person formerly one up from the hiring manager is now in a different department. Long story, but the question is how do I write the cover letter, considering I turned down an offer there before and none of my former contacts in the company are involved in this hire?

    1. TOC*

      If everyone who was involved in the process last time isn’t going to be involved this time, I don’t see any point in wasting space in your cover letter to acknowledge that you received an offer from them once a few years ago. Focus on the current position and why you’re great for it.

      Also, don’t feel so apologetic about having turned them down, years ago, for a different position. That’s a normal thing to do, and companies (at least most of them) know better than to take that personally. If it comes up during your interview process, just say, “Yes, I did receive an offer from your company a few years ago. I was, and am, really interested in working for you, but that position just didn’t turn out to be the right role at the right time for me. However, when I saw this opening come up I jumped at the chance to apply with this company again. This role is definitely what I’m looking for because of…”

  12. Colette*

    I was notified yesterday that I’m being laid off at the end of the month. I’m fine, but I’ve spent the morning comforting people. I’ve been laid off before, but this is the first time I’ve had a transition period – previously, I wasn’t expected to work after being notified. I like being able to transition things, and it’s good to be able to say goodbye, but it’s a bit of a struggle to get my head together today.

    1. Celeste*

      My suggestion is to leave early today if there is any way that you can. Take the weekend to regroup.

      I totally feel for your situation.

      1. Colette*

        I left early yesterday, but today my issue is that I have tons of things to do. (Start goodbye email, figure out who to transition X to, update resume, register with outplacement service, ….) Those things are almost all easier at work.

        I think my issue is that I have too many things that I want to do. I should make a list to help me focus.

    2. Cautionary tail*

      I hope you have a supportive network. When I was laid off I was a good friend of the HR VP so he thought he did the right thing by being able to keep me on for 3 additional months. My boss on the other hand was a backstabbing slimeball (a near universal assessment) and he made those three months pure hell for me.

      So I wish you well with the transition period and your future and hope all works out for you.

    3. fposte*

      Uch, Colette. I hate that situation where you have to manage everybody else’s distress about what’s happening to you.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        People do this with sick people as well. Hey, um, can we get back to MY feelings?

        Sorry you’re dealing with this. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying “I don’t really feel like talking about it today, but thanks for your concern”

        1. Ama*

          The “comfort in, dump out” ring theory is a really great concept I wish more people would use. I first heard about it in the context of serious illness (link in reply), but it applies to SO many things.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I think if I’d really figured this out during a previous long-term relationship, it might well have saved it.

        2. Colette*

          Yes, I’ll use that if necessary, but right now I’m really just trying to restrain myself from saying things like “yeah, I don’t know what you’ll do, either” or “glad that’s not my problem anymore”.

          I’m sure I will reach a point where this is upsetting to me, but I’m not there right now.

      2. Colette*

        The hard part for me is that this is good for me. I would have preferred to move to another job within the company, but I was ready for a change. (Also, all the parts of my job that I don’t like, I no longer have to do.) And when people are upset and trying to sympathize, being too happy is … not really the right approach.

    4. Mimmy*

      I was one laid off to with a month’s notice, but I was the only one! And it was on a Monday! I know there’s no set rule on what day to let someone go, but at least you get the weekend to process this in private. Best of luck to you going forward.

    5. Sunflower*

      Ugh so sorry. I agree to try to take the rest of the day or take the weekend off to just kind of relax. good luck

    6. Rebecca*

      Oh, I can relate! I also had a month’s transition period and to be honest, it was annoying to spend a whole month being like, “Yeah, it sucks. No, I don’t know what I’m going to do” Especially the first couple of weeks, it was only a few of us getting let go and I had never been laid off or fired before so I was a little bit of a wreck in private. But the good part was that I had a head start on job hunting and had an offer from another company within two weeks. And like you, I wasn’t particularly happy at that job so I was actually relieved to be able to move on.

      Good luck! Like others have suggested, take the weekend to re-group, then start reaching out in your network to let them know you’re looking.

  13. OriginalEmma*

    I started a new, permanent government position late last year, moved to a new state for said job, and am starting to really get comfortable with my responsibilities. I’ve been here less than 3 months, at this point. It’s the same role as that which I did as a fellow years ago, but with the proclivities inherent in working at a different field office as well as adapting/adopting any new protocols developed during my absence. I legitimately feel good right now – about my job, my life…pretty much everything. Yayyyy!

  14. Ayeaye*

    I have a new job I was very happy about. Except! It involves lots of behaviour management of quite feisty 16-18 year olds in a library. I was interviewed in a lovely place, but then they switched me elsewhere so I’m now having to unexpectedly deal with this. When I ask about level of noise tolerated, I’m told “use your judgment” – but I’m getting the impression my tolerance is significantly higher than theirs. I am fairly relaxed about “rules” in the library, I think this place is more old fashioned than the campus I originally interviewed for. I can imagine really enjoying the job if it weren’t for this aspect – I pretty much have panic attacks when I am supposed to be “monitoring” the library because I just have no idea what my expectations should be, or how to enforce anything when half the time I don’t agree with the rules so when they argue back I struggle to not just say “well, yes, fair point! Carry on.” I am also short and young looking so feel totally lacking in authority, besides which it just isn’t my style – I like to talk to them as though they’re actual humans and develop rapport! But that’s not what is expected there from what I gather. I’ve tried asking for feedback but get vague “use your judgment” and when I ask for clarification of rules, it’s about consistency and so on, which I understand, but still don’t agree with… I don’t have the most welcoming colleagues. It’s genuinely massively impacting on me in weird ways. I had a pretty much total breakdown about this on Sunday – I am not very good at feeling incompetent at work. I’m going to buy “Authority Clothes” (not sure what this means yet, shoulder pads?) to try and boost my sense of Being In Charge. It just wasn’t expected in the role that I would have such a position so I’m totally thrown by it. This is rambling and incoherent, I just need some sort of solution before I really do drive myself totally around the bend. Does anyone have any ideas of how to either get better at this, or how to get through feeling like this about being bad at it? Or how to get uncommunicative colleagues to be more supportive? (Directly asking doesn’t work, nor does hinting).

    1. fposte*

      “I am also short and young looking so feel totally lacking in authority”–I know tons of short and young-looking librarians who have a roomful of teens cowering when they speak, and tall old people who kids run riot with. Sure, appearances may be initially what people read, but it’s quickly about more than that, so I think you’re getting overfocused on appearance when it’s your experience that’s really the obstacle here. There’s also nothing about following rules that makes people less than actual humans :-).

      So–you either need to have library guidelines, need to have clearer library guidelines, need to change library guidelines, need to decide what your guidelines are if you’ve decided to deviate from the library guidelines, or need to follow library guidelines. If you’re on point in a library, you’re almost certainly going to need to know how to redirect noise, kick people out, etc.–that’s pretty SOP for just about any patron group. Maybe the existing librarians are not teen-friendly, it’s true–but also, maybe they’re making too much noise and the teens want a space to work quietly don’t have one.

      Your spelling puts you out of the US, but I’m not sure how far out–there’s a ton of writing, workshops, etc., about this in US librarianship (maybe an actual YA librarian will weigh in). I Googled “YA librarians teen behavior issues” and found quite a lot to start with–I suggest you drill down into that topic and find some work to draw in, since I think part of your anxiety is that you’re trying to reinvent the wheel when there are whole tire shops out there. (And if you’re looking for a starting textbook, go for Connecting Young Adults and Libraries, originally by Patrick Jones and now multiple editions along.)

    2. Crabtree*

      I have been there. As a student librarian I worked in the Children’s/Teen department of a public library and it can be hard to figure out noise levels. Later I worked at a much smaller public library so I was managing everyone’s expectations. My rule of thumb when kids/teens argue back is to say ” I know that (what you are doing) doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if everyone was doing this, then the space would be too loud/too wild/unsafe for other patrons. ” Even if you don’t totally agree with the rules you are forced to follow , it’s a good stance to take. Work on seeming strict but fair, which means going along with the rules all the time. People always remember if they got away with something in the past so it actually makes things worse if you let it happen most of the time and then are just strict when the library is really full. Stay calm, serious and even voiced throughout all those discussions. I like half-smiling during the first interaction, and then my face became more neutral if it continued after the first discussion. I have in the past kicked people out for not following the rules. If you have to do that then do ask for back up from a colleague and see if they can stand beside you while you tell them they have to leave. The more practice you get, the better you’ll be.

      For authority clothes in the library I go for washable blazers (it can be colorful if you are working somewhere more casual) or cardigans. Being a little more business-y can help add authority. I always wore machine-washable business casual pants that had quite a bit of stretch so I could get down on my hands and knees when work required it. If that never happens to you (and you’re a lady) I might suggest pencil skirts. My colleagues were always really supportive but depending on patrons who were more complain-y on certain days, the rules sometimes changed.

      Be patient with yourself. Young adults are great, but they can be exhausting.

    3. Lt. Short Stuff*

      I’m a short, fairly young (27) female volunteer firefighter who was promoted to Lieutenant about a year ago. I was pretty confident about my general competence up until that point, but then suddenly I was placed in charge of 6-8 ego-and-testosterone-driven young (teens and 20s) volunteer firefighters and EMTs. All of whom were taller than me. When I need to give orders and I face any kind of resistance, I think about the short-but-scary people that I know, fictional and otherwise, and try to channel that energy and confidence. Do you know anyone, particularly women, who are tiny but seem to radiate authority? Even if you don’t, I’m sure you know of the general trope of the 5-foot-tall angry drill sergeant, or Napoleon, or whatnot. Work towards emulating that. Fake it till you make it, basically.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        LOL, I love your name. I recently read that Napoleon was 5’6″. I was so surprised – I always thought he was much shorter than that.

        1. Lt. Short Stuff*

          Several history nerds have corrected me on that (apparently common) misconception, but it holds up well as an example of this trope, so I won’t stop using it. Sorry, Napoleon!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      “…. how to enforce anything when half the time I don’t agree with the rules so when they argue back I struggle to not just say ‘well, yes, fair point! Carry on.’ ”

      I hate when I have to enforce rules that I do not agree with. So here is a couple things that have worked for me.
      The person states their disagreement with a rule then I use one of these options:

      1) Tell them that I can understand why they are saying that. But the rule is in place because [fill in with reason].

      2) I give them indication that I have heard/understood what they have just said, but unfortunately the rule is in place and we must adhere to it. I point out the rule is required of everyone, so we are all in the same boat. If I can I offer some one to contact to discuss changing the rule. [I use this when I reeeeally disagree with the rule.]

      3) Sometimes my thinking changes. After I have been on a job long enough, I start to understand why the rule is necessary. In those cases I will mention this, “you know, when I first started working here, I would have totally agreed with you. But , now I see that once in a while we have problems with X so we actually have to have this rule.” I expand on how I learned that, or came to understand the importance.

      4) I am surprised by how often a redirect works. “I am sorry that is the rule. Hey, was that book helpful for your project?” This is good in low key situations, with people who will probably not push the envelop. I shrug sometimes along with my words, as if to emphasize- “Eh, it is the way it is. What can ya do?”

    5. Ragnelle*

      When it comes to enforcing rules at the library (and trying to feel authoritative in general), here are my suggestions:

      -Don’t discuss–inform. Practice saying a few key phrases like “I need you to stop doing X” and “You’ll have to leave if you continue to do Y.” Resist the urge to over-explain or equivocate. Hand the person a copy of the policies, if you think it will help (if the policies are vague, it probably won’t).
      -Wear “authority clothes” if you need (this is how I feel about my eyeliner), but only pick things you can wear comfortably. Don’t wear 3-inch heels because they make you taller if you can’t walk confidently in them. This will actually undercut your authority.
      -Reward good behavior. If your usual troublemakers learn that you are nice and friendly and will talk to them about books and recommend good movies when they follow the rules, most will start following the rules.
      -Consider ways that the current library environment is either encouraging bad behavior or discouraging good behavior. Talk to library management about what you’ve noticed, and advocate for the teens to have a better place to chit chat, meet, study, whatever it is they need to do. Maybe propose some more teen programs where they can meet somewhere else and game or do crafts or some other activity they enjoy. Even if they cause problems, they are your patrons, too, so try to find innovative ways of engaging them.

      Hope this helps. Try not to be too discouraged, especially if having to do enforcement is only a small part of your job. Focus on the things and people that make you feel like you are making a positive difference, because you are.

      1. Aisling*

        I absolutely agree! As a 5’1″ female, I’m the one who polices the teens the most in my library. Size really has nothing to do with it. Inform, do not discuss – as they will generally always try to convince you that you’re wrong. In my library, after 2 warnings, we boot them for the day. The teens know I will actually do that, so I generally get better behavior from them than my coworkers, who feel mean if they kick kids out. I’m also in a library where the level of noise that will not be tolerated is just not clear. I give warnings for cussing, inappropriate conversations loud enough for everyone to hear, yelling or calling across the library to their friends, running, wrestling, and some others. I really had to try giving warnings a few times to see what level of noise my management was comfortable with, and to date they’ve never told me to knock it off.

        I can be just as authoritative in jeans as anything else, and I don’t wear blazers. I really think it’s confidence. When I talk to the teens, I give them a choice: quit what you’re doing, or you’re going to have to leave. At that point the choice is up to them, and I don’t feel bad for asking them to leave if they don’t behave. They made that decision themselves. If they see you wavering in what you’re saying, they’re going to try to talk you out of it. If they won’t leave when asked, ask a security guard to escort them out, or call the police if you don’t have a guard. Things will settle down after the kids see you’re serious.

        It sucks, and this was not something that I knew I’d have to do either. I have learned to tolerate a higher noise level than I’m comfortable with, but I’ve also learned to nip issues in the bud as fast as I can. No running – you might knock over a toddler or an unsteady elderly person. No cussing or inappropriate sex talk – the 5 year old’s mother does not want to explain that one! And on and on. I see it as making the library a safe and welcoming place for everyone.

        And no, I don’t hate teens. I’ve worked with our summer reading teens for the past few summers, and I had a blast! I’m just all for a library that everyone is able to use without anyone hindering access for anyone else.

    6. girlonfire*

      Another script you can use with the teens when they push back is, “I know you disagree, but it’s my job to enforce the library’s rules. If you can’t follow them, I will ask you to leave.” That way you’re not agreeing with rules but making it clear you will follow them and expect them to do the same.

      Also, can you observe other people when it’s their time to monitor the library? Maybe keep a notebook where you note when they enforce rules, or when they decide it’s too loud, to better evaluate the boundaries you’re expected to keep? Or keep a journal where you evaluate your day; if you didn’t handle something the way you wish you had, reflect on it and determine what you would do differently next time. Then put it out of mind and don’t dwell on learning mistakes!

      And, FWIW, “talking to them as though they’re actual humans and developing rapport” is not mutually exclusive with “having authority”. You can absolutely develop a rapport with these kids, and they likely will respect you more for it. But you still have to be consistent and fair when rules are violated, without letting your rapport with them give more slack than they deserve.

      1. TL -*

        Yes to the last paragraph! You can absolutely develop rapport while maintaining a position of authority – and, frankly, with kids and teens, you should strive to do that. Teens rely on authority figures to make decisions and enforce boundaries that they’re still struggling with.

    7. Observer*

      I’m betting that I’m overlapping what others have said, as I haven’t read the replies yet.

      The rules are the rules and everyone needs to abide by them. Period. This is not up for discussion. When the kids start to argue, you need to shut it down.

      Your clothes need to be put together and a bit (not too much) more formal than what the kids wear. And you need to carry yourself with the authority that you have the right to enforce the rules and the assumption that they will do what they are supposed to.

    8. cuppa*

      A lot of great advice here. The biggest thing with teens is that you need to have guidelines and enforce them. I’ve learned as I get older that I did a lot of things as a teen and child that were, really, super, annoying to others, but that thought absolutely would not have occurred to me at the time. “Use your best judgement” doesn’t really work for teens.
      Do your teens have a place to go? Things to do? If they are going there, and have nowhere to sit, etc. etc., then yes, they are going to be in the way and they are going to be a disruption for everyone. Is there a way you can set up a space for them to be a little more “disruptive” (a meeting room?) in order to prevent a disruption for the rest of the library? Is there any way you can relax the rules during the peak teen times and allow a little more noise in the library?
      Another thing I have learned is to not look at teens as a problem from the second they walk in the library. In order to gain respect, you have to cut them a little slack. I realize that this can be a slippery slope (yes, you let adults have conversations in the library, but one adult having a conversation is way different than ten teens having a conversation), but I see so many librarians just acting like teens are the plague of the earth, and one giggle gets them kicked out. That absolutely does you no favors.
      The key is to set expectations and enforce them fully. I know that “use your best judgement” is tough, but essentially, that is what you have to do. Probably the best thing I would do is make every effort to minimize their ability to be disruptive, and then enforce from there. There are also hard deal-breakers (cursing, shouting, running, etc.) You get one warning and then you have to leave. It has to be absolutely consistent. Be sure of yourself, be friendly when you aren’t kicking them out, and be consistent. Good luck!

    9. HR Generalist*

      I used to work in a library so I love this question!

      I learned quickly that the authoritative style doesn’t work for me, and I think treating them like humans is a better ideology anyway. I would approach loud groups the way I’d want to be approached, “Hey guys, you’re getting a little loud and might be disturbing other people in the area – do you mind taking it to (outside, conference room, coffee shop, etc) if you need to be this loud to work together?” I found that usually works and I still use the same approach if it escalates. My second warning would be “hey guys – I hate to do this but I’m giving you a second warning here, you’re just too loud and my boss is going to crack down on me if I don’t act on it. If I have to ask you again it’ll unfortunately mean you have to leave.” It’s a little passive aggressive I guess, but I prefer acting like they’re my friends (on the same plain of respect) than “you have to listen to me!!”

      Consider re-zoning – our library was a “one size fits all” quiet area but I found it much better in university when the libraries I’d go to were zoned into separate quiet areas and loud/teamwork spaces.

    10. Cristina in England*

      Ugh, this is a personal pet peeve on mine. I cannot stand it when libraries’ behaviour policies begin and end with “what personally annoys the librarian”, because that’s what you get when you don’t have written, clear policies. Even a simple “be respectful of others’ need for quiet, no eating and drinking, 4 people to a table, and no cell phone conversations” posted on a wall is a mile better than “use your judgement”. It is incredibly unfair to staff working with young people because kids are so prone to pushing boundaries.
      My suggestions would be to try and develop rapport when possible. In the end, a library is a service and patrons are customers. Without customers, you’re out of business. One of my favorite research papers about the service profession used the terms “service enthusiasts and service bureaucrats”. The bureaucrat might be a school librarian who punishes students for having the wrong kind of hall pass by sending them back to class, even if it was the teacher’s fault for filling it out wrong. The enthusiast would be a school librarian who let students break the ‘4 to a table’ rule if they were working on a group project (this is a good “use your judgement” example, but it is in fact based on a concrete rule).
      Anyway, back to your question. If the noise isn’t bothering you but is bothering other librarians, why aren’t they the ones to go address it, why are you being put in the middle? It seems like there is some poor staff behaviour going on that is adding pressure on you.

    11. TL -*

      Authority is about attitude, not appearance. When I TA’d, I was only 2 years older than the kids in my classes and often wore hoodies and jeans, but they figured out quickly that I meant business.

      Just be firm – make clear your boundaries and then outline consequences, then follow through. Do this verbally enough and you’ll be able to correct your regulars with just a look after a while. Be friendly and polite and firm. Follow through; don’t make empty threats. Apologize if you’re mistaken about something. Remember that you’re not their friend, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good rapport with them or that you can’t be interested in their lives/selves.

  15. Sunflower*

    Wondering if I handled this the right way. My sister works at a great public accounting company and I’d like to get in there working in support services. I applied for Job A(not in my city) and am now in an internal referral system. I was contacted by a recruiter about a Job B in my city. After looking at the description, I asked my sister about the job and she said she had no idea what it was. It didn’t really seem to fit with where I wanted to go next and it felt like a big step down(Job A was degree and 2 years experience, Job B was high school diploma and some college credits). I told the recruiter I was looking for something more project focused and to keep me in mind for any future openings at which she said to apply through the internal system for anything that interested me.

    My sister FLIPPED out. She came back and told me that 1. I should have applied because I want to get my foot in the door 2. Job A and B are actually very related and close to the same job(I didn’t get that at all from the description). 3. They don’t hire anyone who doesn’t have a degree and 4. Said a lot of jobs are never posted on the system so I should have told the recruiter more about my future plans esp since she recruits out of the city I want to move to.

    Should I have said I was interested in the job? Gone into more depth? Maybe if the job was actually way more hands on and invasive than the description said I would be interested but I felt it was so obvious that I was overqualified for the job- I kind of got the impression she was contacting me as only a courtesy. Also, I doubt the salary would have been what I’m looking for and I would not want to stay in the role for a long time. Just wondering if I burned a bridge or if my sister is just being nuts(she got recruited her out of college so she has never really gone through a formal job search)

      1. fposte*

        Seriously. No need to loop sister in in future, especially with that initial “I dunno” that turns into “I know everything about this job and how you did it wrong!”

        1. Sunflower*

          Initially I did need her because the company puts internal referrals into their own separate system so in order to get the referral, she had to set that up but now that I’m in, I’m in. I’m just not going to mention anything else to her if I do find something I’m interested in there since it seems like I might not even get the real picture of the job.

    1. Sadsack*

      I think you handled it fine. You were honest about your thoughts on the job. There is no guarantee that you will move up any time soon by taking a lower level job than you are qualified for, or that you are interested in. You could be stuck at the lower level for years, being paid way less than you want or deserve, so I think you were right to pass it up.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. Some people want the foot-in-the-door method and some people hold out for the job they want.
        I suspect Sis used the foot-in-the-door method and is not at the job she wants.

  16. Mary (in PA)*

    Ooh, I’ve been waiting for this too!

    I got fired this week. It’s a dumb situation; there is fault on both sides. I got frog-marched out of the building at noon and had to return to pick up my personal effects. However, after talking with my former boss yesterday and getting a copy of my severance agreement, he told me that the company wants me to come back as an hourly consultant “to aid in the transition.” You see, I worked as the only member of the marketing department, and now obviously someone else is going to have to do what I was doing, whether it’s someone there already or someone that they hire. Quite honestly, even though the company is run by a couple of very poor managers, everyone else I worked with was kind, helpful, and genuinely awesome. My leaving so abruptly disrupts their lives more than anything else, and having the chance to go back and prepare adequate documentation for them would be a huge help. I want to be helpful; I want to make their lives easier; I also want to move on with my own life. Has anyone else ever been in this kind of situation before? What would you do? Thanks in advance for your input.

    1. Celeste*

      I wouldn’t do it, because of the frog march. Let them spend the money on a consultant because of their business practices.

      But that’s just me. I totally understand your reasons for loyalty to the others, but the reality is that they work for a crappy company that doesn’t have its act together.

    2. sev*

      Not me, but my partner. They wanted to tell the old company to get stuffed, but old company agreed to not contest unemployment in exchange. But if not for that agreement, they totally would’ve told the old company to get stuffed because it wasn’t their fault the company hurt itself by firing them.

    3. Cautionary tail*

      Since you have extreme short-term value to them make them pay for it. “Sure I would love to help you, just sign here to agree to my $500 per hour rate.”
      Seriously, if you were fog-marched out then this will last as short a time as possible so any hourly rate won’t last long.

      All this assumes you need the money. If you don’t then focus on your future, not theirs, which you will have to do shortly or right now anyway.

      1. Mary (in PA)*

        I estimate it would take me 4 8-hour days to prepare adequate documentation, whether they hire someone immediately or have existing employees pick up what I was doing. And even if they plan to have the beleaguered IT manager pick things up for the moment, the more I can document for him to refer to, the better. He’s a smart guy, but it would be tough for him to pick up and run with a year’s worth of marketing planning in a single conversation.

        I realize that I have no obligation to help them out with their abrupt decision, and I’m not in dire financial straits. But the money would help. It always does.

        1. Cautionary tail*

          If you have no immediate need for the money, like bill collectors knocking on your door, then I have to agree with the other posters to move on with your life and make sure you get uncontested unemployment. Heck if you have an offer in writing from them to do consulting, you could take that straight into unemployment as proof that you were not fired for performance. It’d be hard for them to contest their own words.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I was coming to write this as well. Let them suffer unless you really need the money. Frog-marching someone who hasn’t done something dangerous or illegal seems like major overkill. We used to escort people out after their being let go but our new president put a stop to it because everyone was so disgusted by it.

    4. TOC*

      I wouldn’t do it, either. If this place was so awful, why would you want to remain messily entangled with them? “Feeling bad” isn’t a good enough reason to put yourself through misery. Put your energy into finding a new job at a more positive place. You can reach out to your colleagues personally to express how much you enjoyed working with them, and offer to serve as a reference or resource when they’re ready to move on to a more functional workplace.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree with the “feeling bad” as not being a strong reason. If you have another reason that you are not mentioning that might be worth considering. But lacking any other reason, no I would not do it. The whole thing sounds dramatic- they walked you out then you had to go back in???? ugh. ugh.

        I jumped out at me that you said you want to go on with your life. I think you should go on with you life.

    5. Barbara in Swampeast*

      I wonder if you could negotiation something like sev’s partner. The company and you will agree to say that the separation was by mutual agreement that it just didn’t work out, instead of them saying they fired you.

      If you do go back, remember to ask for AT LEAST 1.3x of your salary because you will be responsible for your own taxes and FICA. And make it part time so you have time to concentrate on finding a new job.

      1. Mary (in PA)*

        The severance agreement says the separation was mutual. (Haven’t signed it yet.)

        If I do go back, they are definitely going to give me a big pile of money.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, good–you kept talking about how you wanted to help them and I was afraid the money part was going to be a pittance as a result. And make sure it’s a big pile of money for a contractor, not just an employee, since your costs will be much higher.

          1. Mary (in PA)*

            Definitely not a pittance. I would probably begin with my current freelance editing rate, which is around US$75/hour. 32 hours of work at that rate would be a hefty sum.

            1. Natalie*

              Hell, if it won’t be too painful for you I say go for it. You’re getting a pretty good deal here – they’ll say the separation was mutual *and* pay you a good bit.

              1. Dynamic Beige*

                And I was going to say double it… you know, with all the additional taxes added in, annoyance tax, jackass tax, I can’t believe you want me to come back here after giving me the boot tax…

        2. Cautionary tail*

          I have a HUGE RED FLAG on the mutual separation. To me this if you sign it as is then you may not get unemployment because you quit, you were not laid off/fired for nonperformance reasons.

    6. Grand Canyon Jen*

      If they fired you and escorted you from the premises, that is the end for them. You are not responsible for their poor decision. If they didn’t think it through, that is on them. I was in a similar situation before (felt responsible to my former co-workers), but if the company doesn’t have a transition plan, that is absolutely not your problem. Your colleagues will understand.

    7. Pooski*

      I would think that you need to balance a couple more things than what you mentioned:
      1) Your need of the money from the contracting work
      2) Your need of a reference for the company
      After firing you and frog marching you out of the building I don’t think you have any reason to help your former employer at all – the co-workers that you found tolerable included. In the end, they still have jobs, and you do not, so they are in a much better situation and you should not have to feel bad for them at all. But having said that, if you need the money or really need the reference, I could understand going back – but in this situation it would be because of your needs, not anyone elses.

    8. BRR*

      First I would look at this financially. Do you need the money? Keep in mind this will affect your unemployment as well. If you can comfortably afford to not do this I wouldn’t and would say, “because of how we parted I would feel uncomfortable continuing to work at chocolate teapot inc.”

      If you need the money or for personal satisfaction you could try asking for a higher hourly rate or your benefits (specifically insurance comes to mind) to continue.

      1. Mary (in PA)*

        That is a great idea, though I am not on the company health insurance plan and was not yet permitted to contribute to the 401K program.

    9. Christian Troy*

      FROG MARCH?? I’m sorry but what??? That sounds insane. I would never speak to these people again.

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, I had to google “frog march” and if this is literally what they did to you, then there is no way in hell I would go back. Like others have said, your former colleagues will understand.

        I would also really have to think about signing something that says that the separation was mutual, unless they are giving you a big pile of money to sign it. I’m guessing that you will not be able to get unemployment benefits if you sign something that says you were not fired.

    10. Artemesia*

      It would be a cold day in hell before I helped a company that treated me like that. Frog march me out of the building and you don’t get anything from me that I do not legally have to provide. Let this be their problem. You are too busy. You don’t have to tell them ‘screw you’, you can just let them know that you don’t have the time to do that. Your former co-workers are their responsibility and helping them helps people who publicly humiliated you. No way.

    11. Jady*

      You’ve got all the power in this situation, so I’d say do what you want or need to do.

      If you need the money, it will give you time to look for a new job while still having an income. You can probably get away with demanding a pretty high rate since they rely so heavily on you, and probably add in other conditions like a better severeness and/or not contesting unemployment claims. Either way, if I decided to do it, I’d try to get as much out of it as possible.

    12. INTP*

      I personally would be open to it if paid at market standard short-term consultant rates — i.e. very, very high, a lot more than it would have cost them to just employ you for another week. Ask for something above your current freelance rate, expect them to bargain down, but still try to gouge them :) If they asked you back after a frog march, they’re probably desperate.

    13. Camellia*

      First, I urge you NOT to do this.

      However, if you decide to do so, please please please have a formal/legal contract with every stipulation possible spelled out and SIGNED by all parties BEFORE you do one little jot of work. My guess is that, if you insist upon this, they will hem and haw and somehow just not get around to signing.

    14. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      People who frog march you don’t get an extension of credit.

      Don’t be the sad letter to AAM three months from now about how they never paid your bill. You aren’t going to have any employment protections on getting paid. You’d have to take them to small claims court.

      Retainer or nothing. You get a retainer. You work the retainer off. Then you get another retainer.

      I’m serious. I can smell a bad credit risk 100 miles away.

      1. Cautionary tail*

        If you work for them, then Wakeen’s has given the best advice of all of us.

        Still the best advice bar none is to walk and don’t look back, after you remove that mutual BS.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Yeah, I agree. I just had the feeling, reading the thread, that the odds were more on the work being done than not.

      1. weird name gal*

        I did too – and this is what I got:

        past tense: frog-marched; past participle: frog-marched

        force (someone) to walk forward by holding and pinning their arms from behind.
        “the cop frogmarched him down the steep stairs”

        Is THAT what they did to you??? whoa. negotiate to get UE, get a good recommendation, and charge a TON of money hourly for your services……if you need the money.

        1. Mary (in PA)*

          Ugh, I definitely used the term incorrectly in my original post. That’s on me. The president (who is the one who fired me) asked me to leave immediately, without saying goodbye to anyone or even allowing me to gather my personal effects (like photos and such.)And hovered, to make sure that I did so. Though the situation was uncomfortable and awkward, he did not physically manhandle me out of the building.

          I have a call out to an employment attorney. Though I believe the offer for consulting services was made in good faith by the company president, the company owner is…well, very litigious. I want to have all my bases covered.

          1. Cautionary tail*

            Mary (in PA),

            Here’s an employment attorney in PA that I have used before and highly recommend: Robin Bond at RobinBond . com.

            1. Mary (in PA)*

              Thank you! I will check that out.

              And thanks to everyone else who replied, as well. I hope to continue to keep all of you updated as the situation develops.

  17. Ariela*

    I gave a 3 week notice, which is generous compared to the normal 2 weeks in my field and pay grade. I’m leaving because I’m moving out of state, but I’m not physically leaving immediately- I have loose ends to tie up, and so I’m budgeting about 6 weeks before I physically move. My manager really wants me to be as available as possible after my end date, especially because I am not starting a new job immediately. I am thinking about asking for a temporary raise on my salary, or to work as a consultant. I’m worried that doing that would spoil the possibility of a good reference. Is there any way I can get the extra money without ruining my relationship with my manager? What percentage higher of my current salary should I ask for?

    1. Iro*

      I’m really not sure what you are asking here. Is it a) you are considering asking for a raise at the job you are leaving for the last three weeks? Which is totally innappropriate. Or are you b) asking for additional money at the job offer you just accepted? Which is also innapproriate.

      I may be misunderstanding your situation, but if you accepted an offer the time for negotiating sign on bonuses, your salary, relocation expenses, etc is over. If, however, you are still negotiating a start date you might be able to say something like “Due to financial constraints I can not start before X date but if I were to be granted reolcation assistance I could start as soon as Y date.” But it doesn’t really sound like you are still in this stage since you have already given notice to your previous employer.

      1. fposte*

        I think she’s talking about doing work for the old job past her notice period. In that case, a contractor arrangement would be appropriate, though a bit uncommon for such a short term; a raise would be highly unusual.

        Honestly, Ariela, I’d discourage you from doing either in most cases, and this sounds like one of them. This isn’t just a “We need to finish up the Andronicus project,” it just sounds like security-blanket stuff from your manager. You’re leaving; you need to focus on your time off and your new job, not ways to tie you to the old job for nonspecific reasons. State that you’ll be happy to answer help emails in the first week or two, so long as they’re below a level that you’d need to charge them for, and move on.

        1. Ariela*

          fposte, that is the situation. It is not only a security blanket issue- there has been a lot of turnover in the office recently. Once I am gone, the most senior person in my department will only have been here for 2 months. Obviously, retention issues are not my problem. I also really don’t want to work extra past my end date- I would much rather have a clean break and work on having an easy move. I’m just worried about both the fallout with me ‘betraying’ my manager and ruining the reference, or the fallout from ‘betraying’ my manager by asking for a 15% raise for any work done after my end date.

          1. Gene*

            15% isn’t enough. You’ll be working as a contractor, so you need to cover all the taxes, you may need to get a business license with the city and or state, your tax filings are going to be more complicated.

            You say “really don’t want to work extra past my end date”; don’t. You gave him a three week notice; do the best you can to wrap up loose ends and document, then leave your badge and key on his desk your last day.

          2. Artemesia*

            3 weeks notice is generous and it is perfectly clean to not be available after that point. Asking for a raise is odd. Don’t give off the vibe that you will be around and ‘could’ help out when you are in the middle of a move and don’t want to do it. ‘I gave 3 weeks notice instead of 2 because I want to do my best to make a smooth transition, but I won’t be able to be available after March 1’

            Less said other than that, the better.

    2. Spiky Plant*

      I would recommend doing this as a consultant, and specifying an hours cap (so you can spend most of your time tying up loose ends), and an hourly rate that is at least 1.25 times your previous hourly equivalent. Since you’re transitioning to a new job, I’m guessing there’s no benefit-purchasing at play, so that would be my sort of minimum. However, if you calculate that out and it doesn’t seem worth it, up it to whatever would make it worth your time to do it.

      If you are polite and professional (maybe adding a “I understand if that’s just not in the budget, but I wanted to offer my services during the transition, and this is the only way I can” then I can’t imagine it affecting your reference. Unless your boss is a crazy person.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Just enjoy the break between jobs and tell your boss you decided to leave town earlier than originally planned. I think many people give their employers way too much information when they leave. I think it would be weird to ask for more money – you resigned, you weren’t fired.

    4. College student*

      I would just leave and not worry about any “work” from your old work place after said date of leave. It just solves so many problems and eliminates any future problems.

  18. Fawn*

    Looking for a managerial perspective on whether a request is reasonable or not. I’m pretty early on in my career (~2 years) in higher ed. My portfolio includes a bit of student counselling, which is by far my favourite part of my job…so much so that I’m considering working towards becoming a guidance counsellor more formally as a long term career goal, and have been exploring volunteer opportunities to gain more experience. I’ve recently found an opportunity in a high-needs high school classroom that would be a great fit for volunteering. The program runs one morning a week, from 9-12.

    Now for the question. I’m salaried in a fairly autonomous junior position. I have a great boss who has generally been supportive of my professional development so far. Am I totally off the mark in thinking that it’s reasonable to request a regular morning off to allow for this volunteering, and make up for the 3 hours by staying late throughout the rest of the week? If you had this request from a report, would you have thoughts or concerns that I could preemptively address at the time or my request?

    1. Judy*

      I’m not in higher ed, but it is not that unusual in businesses to have active recruitment for either JA-type volunteers or STEM-type volunteers. I’ve gone to talk at high schools both at a one time all day event and also a 6 week once a week class. In my case, it was considered volunteering in the same way our company sponsored Habitat builds, so I didn’t need to make up the time. (Of course, I generally work enough extra time, that making up 8 hours to have a 40 hour week would only take 2-3 weeks.) I’ve either taken vacation days or modified hours to go on field trips for my kids school.

      My husband teaches at a community college, and he has “program outreach time” in which he is encouraged to go do STEMy things with the local schools.

    2. Anna*

      I don’t think it’s crazy, but be prepared to answer questions about how you intend to get any work done that would need input from coworkers who are gone for the day, etc. You would also want it to be a new schedule instead of “last week I stayed three hours late on Wednesday, this week I’m breaking it up in half hour increments over the rest of the week”. You might also couch it in how it would be good for your current role and company. What will it add to the work you’re doing now rather than just focusing on how it will benefit you long term.

    3. INTP*

      In the corporate world, this would not be a good idea. As a junior employee you don’t want to give the impression that you’re seeking professional development outside of the company (unless it’s classes in skills you would use in the company, but not volunteering). I am not sure how this would differ in higher ed, though. I believe it’s more accepted for people to openly seek to grow outside their current roles.

      1. Natalie*

        I think that’s an overly broad statement. Whether this would raise any kind of red flag in the corporate world vastly depends on what kind of work you do, how dependent other people are on your physical presence, and the company’s general attitude towards both volunteering and ROWE vs butts in seats.

      2. Labratnomore*

        I disagree on this one. It would not be a problem at all at my company. We have had people who had to adjust their hour to do weekly thing for their kids, go to school, and other personal activities. Often times the schooling they were going to was not related to their current jobs, and we knew they would be leaving upon graduation. If it was a worry that they wouldn’t want you to go because it is career development that is not related to your current job you could easily just approach it as a volunteer opportunity for a cause you really care about. Of course it all depends on the job you do and if there is any significant impact to not being there for part of a day, but if your work is something that can be accomplished at any time I think only a poor manager would have a problem with it. Good luck!

    4. College Career Counselor*

      I’ve seen this done in the higher ed landscape. In one case, the supervisor worked out a combination of flex-time scheduling and vacation to cover someone’s internship while she was in graduate school. Higher education can be more accommodating than the corporate world for this kind of thing, but YMMV, and the needs of the office/dept. are going to come first. I think it’s worth having the conversation, particularly if you can explain during that conversatoin how you plan to mitigate any problems (front desk coverage, contact with colleagues, specific deadlines, etc.) that might arise from your absence.
      Good luck!

    5. Blue_eyes*

      Design and clear plan for how you will make up the hours and get all your work done so you can go to your boss with a solid plan. You might also ask to do the volunteering on a trial basis for a month or so and then re-evaluate with your boss to make sure you’re stilling getting all your work done.

  19. Mar*

    Resume question for ya’ll: How would you list four positions at one company, starting at an associate level and working your way up to director? I’m working with a career development coach (not *that* kind) who strongly recommended that I list it like this:

    Director of Chocolate Teapot Development (May 2011-Present) — with a consolidated list of top achievements from all roles, but not including the prior titles

    She says that I should represent myself by my current director-level position; otherwise, I’m selling myself short…. She recommended I talk about rising up in the ranks in my cover letter. I don’t feel right about this. It feels deceitful! Maybe if I DID do this I could put a bullet saying something like “Previous positions held:…”

    What are your thoughts, fabulous commentariat?

    1. Mary (in PA)*

      I have this, too! I have two positions that moved up in title/responsibility while I was in them. I show them like this:

      Editorial Assistant –> Copy Editor
      Chocolate Teapots, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA
      – Responsibility 1
      – Responsibility 2
      – Etc.

      You may not have room for all four on a single line, but using arrows like that is an efficient way to show how you moved up.

    2. Iro*

      You definitely want to show the progression to directorship. 1) you don’t want to mislead people into thinking you have been a director the entire time and 2) having little to no experience and then suddenly a directorship might actually do you more harm than good because people will assume it’s an inflated title that you didn’t earn.

      If you show the natural progression of your roles you are actually doing yourself a favor.

      Also this is how I do it:
      Director, Company A, January – Present
      Jr Team lead Company A May – January

      1. Mar*

        Thank you for this advice! This resonates with me much more. And that’s such a good point that suddenly moving from an entry level to director role would look like a totally inflated title!

        I’m planning to combine the first two roles (associate & coordinator), and keep the achievements minimal there, so that my stint at this company doesn’t take up the whole page!

      2. EmilyG*

        I agree with this. Also showing these promotions within a single organization would strike me as a sign that you’re very valuable and good at what you do! It would actually impress me more than if you’d been in the same position the whole time.

      3. Karowen*

        I agree that you want the natural progression. To keep from having to repeat my company’s (way-too-long) name, I have it set up as:

        Chocolate Teapot Conglomerates R Us (2008-Present)
        Superwoman (2013-Present)
        Supergirl (2012-2013)


        1. DJ*

          My husband has spent pretty much his entire career at one company, and had also moved up the ranks. His resume is set up just like Karowen’s.

    3. Joey*

      It depends. If the titles are a natural progression in a career path from your then I would just list your current title. For example if your previous job was Engineering assistant and you lateralled to another company and worked up to Sr Engineer it’s sufficienct to just list Sr. Engineer and talk about it in the interview. But, if you came in as Engineering Asst, and got promoted to Budget Analyst, to to Sr. Ops Manager it would be more valuable to list all titles.

    4. LillianMcGee*

      I am also interested in peoples suggestions to this issue.

      Another semi-related question I have is should I include my time as an unpaid intern? I’ve been at the same place for 5 years, spent the first 4 months as an intern and now worked my way up to supervisor.

    5. Judy*

      I’ve generally done:

      Chocolate Teapots LTD, Hershey, PA (2007-Present) ((BOLDED))
      Director of Chocolate Teapot Development (2012-Present) ((ITALICS))
      Stuff ((NORMAL))

      Manager of Handle Design (2010-2012) ((ITALICS))

      Senior Handle Designer (2007-2010)

      I guess I feel it’s good to show longevity with the company, and then be clear about the roles held and timeframe.

        1. Judy*

          I just always felt that if you didn’t make the company the heading, and have dates there, it looked like job hopping at first glance. It also felt that you needed to have dates on each position.

      1. puddin*

        This is how I have mine set up and it conveys the progression nicely. My (otherwise useless) recruiter commented that she thinks that is the best way to set that situation up on a resume.

    6. Apollo Warbucks*

      You should being showing the progression of your career, list them all as separate jobs, after all it something to be very proud being promoted a number of times and it is a more straight forward logical way to present your experience.

    7. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I have:

      Bank 2006-Present
      Job Current (dates)
      Job Before (dates)

      This way I can show the achievements in each role and show my progression through the company as I was promoted without misidentifying that I’ve been in my highest level role longer than I have.

    8. themmases*

      I have two positions at one company due to a promotion, and I list them separately. For me the higher position is also my longest position and I wore a lot of hats, so I am usually claiming to be qualified for stuff on the basis of that job. I give it a lot of space on my CV without implying that I held it the whole time.

      I made the higher position a lot longer and listed only a couple of highlights of the older, lower position. My goal in writing it was to a) not waste a lot of space describing an assistant position, but b) have anyone who did read be impressed at what I did as only an assistant. To me that is both more honest, and worth the trade-off of having someone not read closely and think I changed jobs.

    9. Labratnomore*

      I have done it like this and it has been well received:

      Current title – Dates
      Previous title – Dates
      Title before that one – Dates

      I do it this way because the jobs were so similar, just a promotion with slight additions to responsibilities. If I listed them in separate sections it would take up too much space. Also many of the accomplishments overlapped multiple titles. This avoids the appearance of missrepresenting yourself, and also shows you have been sucessful enough to get promoted.

      1. Anon333*

        This is how I do it too – same situation (similar role, more levels of responsibility each time)

  20. Nervous New Hire*

    So, I just recently accepted a job offer contingent on a background check, and according to the BG check company, the report is done. My start date is in a week, and I’m supposed to get an account to fill out all sorts of paperwork, but there’s been no updates to me.

    Can someone reassure me that no news is good news? I’m pretty sure I don’t have red flags on the background check, but I’m kind of unsure what the general procedure is around hiring and BG checks. The company would respond immediately if there were problems, right?

    1. BRR*

      They would contact you (it happened to my friend when the background company messed up). New employees don’t typically fill anything out until their first day.

      1. Jady*

        This has been my experience in all of my jobs. You get the pile of paperwork on your start day – either at the office or via mail. I’ve never gotten it in advanced.

        OP – To comfort your nerves, you could always send an email to the hiring person and say something like “What time should I arrive in the office on [date]?” It isn’t all that abnormal for a person to be asked to come in an hour or so late to give people time to prepare your equipment and such.

        1. Nervous New Hire*

          Yeah, I’ve gotten an e-mail even before my background check went through that told me my start date & time, along with driving directions. The only thing that’s worrying me is that the e-mail also said that certain paperwork should be completed before that date via their online portal, and I’ve so far not received the info to log in! *stress* I think I’ll e-mail my recruiter closer to the start date if I still haven’t received any further info, if it’s custom to leave the official paperwork stuff close to the start date.

    2. Nerd Girl*

      I’d follow up with the hiring manager/contact person with a quick email.
      Something like:
      I’m really looking forward to starting on Monday. Is there any additional info I may need to bring in with me? (also a great place to ask any questions about parking, building entry, etc).

      1. Nervous New Hire*

        Thanks! I think I’ll e-mail sometime in the middle of next week, and then call on Monday if I still don’t receive the information. Hopefully this is just something they leave closer to the start date and I’m worrying for nothing.

  21. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    This Week at My Job: My coworkers and I received our paycheques a day late, because according to my boss, “you didn’t ask me for them and I just forgot. You need to remind me!” No, we need to remind you if you genuinely forget, but this is the third straight pay period you’ve left before giving us our cheques. Write yourself a damn sticky note, set an alarm, fix it.

    Last week he told us all about how we needed to pitch in and help out, keep our space clean. When I got to work first and was shoveling the walk from the 20 cm of snow so other people could walk in, he turned up and asked “Look at you shoveling all by yourself! What are you doing that for?”

    This is the same guy who referred to the Dean of a local college’s technical department as “just a good Irish girl” behind her back. I give up.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        I would be IN the boss’s office first thing in the morning on payday and not leave until he started his rounds of delivering the checks (while offering to help him, of course).

        Sorry that you’re working for such a jerk.

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      This just in–my coworker was in talking to him and asked about the cheques, and he said “Well, did you email me the things I asked for by Saturday?” And when she said no, she had been busy with other (revenue-producing) work, he said “Get that to me and I’ll give you your cheque.”

      Not. Okay.

      1. BRR*

        My passive-aggressive side would just print out my state’s payment laws if he’s violating them and leave them on his desk. Possibly with the pertinent parts highlighted.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yeah, and also highlight the number that employees can call to report violations, so he can see that that may be under consideration.

  22. Katie the Fed*

    Been on vacation but back for this:

    I work in a male-dominated industry. From time to time I’ll encounter people who curse quite a bit. No big deal; I don’t really care. What DOES however bother me is when a man who will say something to me like “oh, I just realized I have to clean up my language since there’s a lady present! Huhuhuhuh”

    If you don’t want to curse around me, fine. Just stop. But why the need to make such a patronizing announcement?

    (fwiw I usually respond with a slightly bewildered/confused “ok…?”)

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I get that too!

      Especially where I volunteer – and I don’t work in a male orientated place. I think I also partly get it because I’m younger than the people saying it. Nobody my age or younger has ever said to me.

    2. hildi*

      I usually get rankled by all the gender outrage discussions, but I totally agree with you on this. I bet I could put some of those men to shame with my own mouth (which is not something I’m proud of and wish I was smarter to think of a different word to convey my emotions!), so yeah, I’m not fainting flower, dude.

      I usually smile and let them continue. I guess I’d rather have him be that way than a total ass to a woman. But still, it’s kind of a weirdly patronizing way to do it, I agree.

    3. Celeste*

      That’s a non-apology since it happens after the fact (and always will). You are right, it’s very sexist to keep calling attention to the fact that you’re a woman and they are not.

      I guess it depends on whether you want to take a stand or not.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Nah, I don’t want to take a stand. I just find it so patronizing, especially because it’s usually within a group setting, so I feel like it’s a bit of a power play, like “oh you’re probably one of those easily-offended women so we can’t have any fun now.” I really don’t carr, but I don’t feel the need to explain my views either.

        1. Anna*

          What the (actual eff word here) are you talking about?

          At least, that’s what I would do. I suppose I don’t need to say I curse a lot.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Ha. I was able to use something like this just recently. I went out for a beer for the first time last Friday night with my new, all-male, younger coworkers. I think they think I’m all prim because they’re 20’s – 30’s young men and I’m a 45-year-old woman.

            One of the guys, talking about why another one wasn’t there, said, “He’s probably at home [effing] his wife” (who had just returned from a trip). Then he said, “Oh god, Mallory, I’m sorry! God, I’ve got to learn to watch my language!” etc, etc.

            I just said, “That’s okay. Elmer, I know that people like to [eff] their wives.” Bam — hit of the evening!

        2. BRR*

          I would take a stand on the patronizing part. “Oh do you usually treat your female coworkers differently?”

    4. SpecialOps*

      I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself in this same conversation and all I ever want to say is “Oh, FFS.”

      1. SpecialOps*

        I’m also with Hildi on wishing I didn’t swear as much. I find myself doing it as a way to build rapport (not swearing AT people, obv.) but like “hey we’re all friends, I’m being casual and swearing to underscore that fact”. And my guess is it probably backfires.
        It’s a trait similar to the DECADES I’ve spent telling goofy, self-deprecating stories about myself to build rapport and make others feel more comfortable about opening up. 60% of the time it works, 40% of the time I just overdisclose and act like a goofball with no relational payoff…and yet…I still do it.
        Whoaa…Wait? Am I doing it right now??

        1. hildi*

          Wow, SpecialOps, are we the same person? Because you articulated my thoughts exactly. I didn’t really think about that I swear too much in an effort to show I’m casual. Good insight!

          Oversharing – guilty. I think I self-disclose a lot to other people because (a) I mean it. I don’t do it until I feel like I can trust them with myself; (b) I do it for exactly the same reason: maybe others will feel like it’s a safe place to open up if I go first and show that I’m just as normal as them. And you’re right – success rate is most often good. But there will always be those misses.

    5. OfficePrincess*

      Ugh yes! Except with me it’s my boss who apologizes every. single. time. Or preemptively, if certain topics are being brought up. I’ve told him I don’t care, but it hasn’t changed. Of course, not only am I one of a handful of women in the building and the only one at my level or higher, I’m also young enough to be his daughter. At this point, I’m just rolling my eyes and letting it go.

    6. Sutemi*

      I find that with some of this type of man, dropping a well deserved curse (if you are someone who does occasionally curse in your private life) very occasionally does make them lighten up.

        1. fposte*

          The Miss Manners answer (paraphrased due to my fuzzy memory) is “Don’t worry about it–we don’t have time to work on your social graces or your grammar.”

          While it does tend to suggest it was wrong for him to swear, which isn’t a lesson I’d be likely to teach anybody, putting “grammar” in is great because it’s no longer about being excessively manly.

      1. beckythetechie*

        “Oh, guess we can’t cuss in the shop. There’s a girl here!”
        *turn around, look confused* “What the hell, where?”

        “Oops, there’s a lady present.”
        “And don’t you f****** forget it.”
        *shock brings silence*
        “Or maybe not.”

    7. MaryMary*

      I work in a male dominated industry (especially at a senior management level) and get this all the time. I usually roll my eyes and remind people I’ve heard the words before. I made a joke once about clutching pearls and just confused the men.

      What really gets me is that there is a young man in our office who is very religious, and I know profanity bothers him. The only people who apologize to him after they swear are the handful of people who know he dislikes swearing and remember to feel bad about it.

    8. BananaPants*

      I also work in a male-dominated industry. Fortunately my male coworkers/team members are aware that with very few exceptions, profanity isn’t something I’m going to get upset about, and in fact indulge in myself – only among my peers. I won’t swear gratuitously or in reference to a person, of course, but I have no qualms about saying, “Oh sh*t, the chocolate teapot tester just broke again!” when I’m in a group of my peers.

      I’ve experienced the apology lately when I was updating senior management on a major problem and a VP dropped the f-bomb then immediately looked at me and said “sorry” – I simply said, “Yeah, that was my reaction when we found out about the problem.” I wasn’t sure if he apologized because I was the only woman in the room or because I was by far the most junior person in the room, but either way I didn’t want to make him feel like the apology was necessary at all.

      1. Dmented Kitty*

        I won’t mind it much if they apologized for the sake of professionalism, that they realize they are in a professional setting and shouldn’t really be throwing out those words.

        I would feel awkward if they make a big show of apologizing because “there’s a lady in the room”. I would be less affected if they apologize regardless of whatever gender I have, the same reason as just trying to professional or civil (to err on the safe side i.e. if there are people within earshot who are offended by cuss words, or if they’re not sure how I’d react to it).

        IMO, cuss words are only as powerful as the meanings people put into them. To me, once someone throws a bunch of F-words every other word in a sentence, it starts losing its “flavor”. :/

        1. Sif*

          +1 for apologizing for the sake of professionalism, rather than “because there’s a lady present”! At work, people should keep the swear words to a minimum, regardless of who’s around.

    9. Nerd Girl*

      I have no witty comeback and don’t understand why men do this. The truth is I have the worst potty mouth. The “F” word is one of my favorite words and my husband hates it. LOL…which means when we’re fighting I use it 3 Xs many times I normally would. My husband was worried that my daughter’s first word would be a curse word based on the amount of time she spent in the car with me – I do the worst of my cursing when driving!

    10. CheeryO*

      I am the only woman in a department of 13, and I get this ALL the time. I don’t know how you’re supposed to respond to it. It’s weird, because they clearly respect me professionally and know that I’m capable of doing the job, but there are a couple who treat me like a delicate little flower socially. It doesn’t help that I’m 20-30 years younger than virtually all of them.

    11. Lily in NYC*

      ugh, that’s happened to me as well. I am a mouthy broad and said “Ladies say F*ck too you @sshole” in a jokey manner and the guy just laughed and said “touché”. But I knew it was ok to act like that with him – I would never say that to someone I didn’t know pretty well.

    12. Serin*

      “oh, I just realized I have to clean up my language since there’s a lady present! Huhuhuhuh”

      “Damned right you do! I am fucking offended.”

    13. Cupcake*

      I like the Miss Manners response. Otherwise, I would simply tell him it’s OK, I dropped the “Lady” title when I divorced Lord Farquahr.

  23. OfficePrincess*

    I’ve been mulling this over for a while and would love some thoughts on this. At what point is it reasonable to ask for the company (for-profit) to pay for a hotel during company-paid training? There’s a four-day training coming up that I’m required to go to. In the best possible traffic it’s about an hour and a half away, but it’s on the other side of a major city, so 2+ hours is more realistic. I’d have to be on the road between 5:30 and 6:00 every morning and wouldn’t get home until after 7:00. I’m at a point where I can’t really afford to cover a hotel in that area for that long (even the “budget” places) but 4 or more hours of travel a day for almost a week on top of keeping up with my regular responsibilities would be grueling. What’s normal in this type of situation?

    1. Lia*

      4 hours a day of travel is definitely something to consider — and wouldn’t the company reimburse you for mileage? Perhaps presenting the hotel coverage in lieu of mileage costs would help.

      I would definitely ask for them to cover it, and really, they ought to offer. You could always drive out early morning Day 1 and home in the evening of Day 4, so they would pay for hotel for nights 1, 2 and 3 only.

    2. Brett*

      My workplace goes with the irs definitions of local versus out of town travel.
      Out of town is travel where “duties require them to be away from the general area
      of home substantially longer than an ordinary day’s work, and sleep or rest is needed to meet the
      demands of the work while away from home.”
      Our manual even includes a specific example of travel to a city 2 hours away that would be local travel for a day trip, but should be classified as out of travel (and hotel provided) for a multi-day trip. Several of my co-workers have had that exact scenario (even with the example city in our manual) and always been given a hotel room to stay in.

      1. Cautionary tail*

        And yet I’ve had the opposite experience. I got conference organizers to give me a free attendance to a conference that was critical to work I was doing and the event also included breakfast and lunch. My company would need to pay for one night in a hotel/one dinner because the conference was a four-hour drive away.

        I was told I could attend if I drove the 16 hours across two days and paid for my own dinner, but they would not cover any travel expenses.

        Sadly I had to call the organizers to tank them for their gracious offer and tell them I could not attend

        Your mileage may vary…literally.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Back to part 1 – You should also ask for your regular pay for the driving time (4 hours x your hourly pay).

        THEN settle for a hotel room.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          First, I would ask someone in the office/HR what the policy is for this sort of thing. Odds are, someone else has set the precedent.

          If there aren’t any other alternatives — no public transit, no friends who live in the area that you could crash on their couch for those days — then do push for a room. Honesty is always the best policy. IMO, asking for the room, the first word out of their mouth may be “no”. Assume you’re going to get one, and build your case. Do some research, find out what the rates are in the area and present it that you found X hotel at Y price (which would be cheaper than the $Z mileage), it may not be the hotel that is attached to the conference centre or right next door to the training. Because it’s always easier to go “Oh, I just thought with the 2 hour commute to get there in the morning, that a hotel would be part of this training… because I don’t think I could function at the required level to do the training if I’m exhausted and frazzled from driving in to it.” If then you get the “no, we can’t afford that/the optics on that”, explain to them that you can’t keep up with your work/e-mail as they require you to, take the training, be _present_ at the training and be driving 4 hours a day in rush hour during this period of time, you would need to include those hours as travel time. Hopefully, they will see that your request is reasonable and agree. After all, they do get to write off your expenses. I can see how any company would balk if you handed them a pricelist for the Four Seasons, but something more HolidayInn Express?

          However, I have occasionally been in similar situations where they were not reasonable and so I told a client I drove, charged them the mileage and just booked my own hotel room at a place I found that I could afford. Unless your company demands to see photos of your odometer or something, how are they going to know? You submit your hours, the mileage you would have driven, whatever meals you had and the hotel bill remains on your credit card, they will never be the wiser (so long as you aren’t reading or answering your e-mail during the time you should be driving and you keep your mouth shut) . Yes, it may not be completely above board, but you can’t reason with unreasonable people and I’m at an age where I can’t physically drive like that anymore and be functional — my health suffers. Unless you are the most amazing of morning people, no one could do that and get all they could out of a training course. One day, maybe, four days? They would be a gibbering idiot by the fourth day of 2 hour morning rush traffic.

        2. OfficePrincess*

          Unfortunately, I’m exempt, so it would just be mileage, not mileage plus time. But, thanks everyone for confirming tha it’s ok to ask. I’m still relatively new at this and not sure what’s “normal”.

          On the bright side, I’d be the only woman, so it would be my own room!

  24. Iro*

    How to move into management?

    I have 6 years of experience as a trainer/team lead where I have tangential management responsibilities (training, first point of contact for errors, scheduling, quality reviews etc) and I would really like to move into supervisor position where I have direct reports. Any suggestions for how to take the next step?

    1. Iro*

      Or perhaps a more answer friendly version: How did those of you who are direct supervisors land your first management position?

      1. Jen RO*

        My answer probably won’t be very helpful, because I never wanted to move into management, but here goes: I got this job by being good at my job, reliable, a source of calm in the team, no-drama and – while I wouldn’t call it going above and beyond – I was always happy to train and help my coworkers, who appreciated it and told the boss.

    2. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I feel like a lot of “first” manager jobs kind of happen by accident and getting that FIRST ONE is always kind of the hardest. I would say that you just need to try to be really awesome at your current job and talk to your manager about development so they know you are interested. Also, you might have to move companies… sometimes going to another company can help: you can showcase all the things you’re currently doing at your current job that are “management type things”. Sorry, not the best advice… I got a manager job at my current company and it was because I was previously on the team I now manage but also because I had moved on to a higher level role that was going to be beneficial in this new position. The person who hired me felt that the “management” piece could be taught, but a lot of people are going to want that experience beforehand. Its like the chicken and the egg. Where do you get experience if everything requires experience?

  25. Helka*

    A couple resume/job-hunting questions, I haven’t felt like they’re big enough to send them into Alison, but I’d love to get some thoughts.

    #1 – I’ve been with the same company for about 5 years, in two different roles, and it’s my only office/non-retail experience. Even with plenty of accomplishments to list for the two roles I’ve held, my resume feels pretty bare with just this one company. If I leave off my (generally irrelevant) retail experience, there’s a two-year gap between my graduation from college and the beginning of my work experience. Should I leave retail on in this case? It feels embarrassing and trivializing to have it on there, but bare and underachieving if I have a gap.

    #2 – My experience is in a very niche aspect of a very large industry — think something along the lines of “attachment specialist for nonstandard white chocolate teapot handles” in the “confectionary dishware” industry. It implies a certain amount of easily transferrable knowledge, but no specific training or experience in anything but exactly the thing I do. How would you angle that if you’re looking to broaden your horizons?

    1. Helen*

      Was it more than one job? I might just put “2006-2008 various retail positions” and leave it at that.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the resume looking bare–employers will like that you’ve stuck around at your job.

    2. littlemoose*

      I think it’s better to at least account for the work gap. Maybe just list the retail job and dates, with no additional info about accomplishments or duties, at the bottom of the resume, after your relevant work experience. That way you acknowledge that your retail job doesn’t necessary translate to experience for the professional job you’re currently seeking, but it nonetheless shows that you have been working.

      I had a retail survival job for a long time, and I wasn’t listing it on my resume when looking for professional work after graduation because I didn’t think it was relevant. I really regret this now, as I think that gap in my work history did me no favors in a competitive industry.

    3. Renee*

      #1 – I usually find that separating “relevant experience” and “supporting experience” is a good way to do that. It acknowledges that you didn’t not work for two years, but separates a more “professional” job from retail.

      1. Helka*

        I might do that! Reverse-chronological will put it on the bottom anyway, but giving it an extra divider might help make it clear that this isn’t on the same level.

    4. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      Don’t leave off your retail… even though they may seem trivial, people still learn a lot in those roles. You don’t need to use up a ton of space, but I think it hurts more than helps to leave them off. Even just showing you were employed for that time period helps erase questions. And its even better if you were at one place for a year or longer. If you had a bunch of different retail jobs, you might want to find a way to kind of combine them into just one thing, again, to just show you were employed. And if you do have SOME achievements, I’d list them (like being promoted to shift leader, winning sales contests, etc). Again, your most recent experience is the bread and butter, but if you have the room, use it!

      For your second question, focus on transferable skills for the resume and tailor your res for the jobs you apply to. Even though your experience is super niche, you can talk about it more broadly on the resume to showcase your skills for other jobs and I don’t think it will be a problem. Plus, achievements are achievements at the end of the day!

  26. Trixie*

    Re: Gov jobs. How does one go about getting experience in “gov protocols?” My mother works academic science and has exp in grants/study protocols, but this isn’t carrying over to gov jobs.

        1. Aisling*

          In my case, it was applying for and accepting a job that was a grade lower than what I should have been in. I had a degree, I took a lower-paying position just to get my foot in the door. I was able to move up within a year, but it took being willing to do it that way.

  27. Nancy Blackett*

    I was late to the thread earlier this week on strange things to include on a resume and was hoping for some advice.

    I’m a recent college grad trying to leave my first position out of school after 3 years. I’m updating my resume and was wondering if I should include an online course I took. It topically isn’t relevant to the positions I’m applying to (as much as I wish I could get a position in baseball statistics!) but served as an interesting introduction to some relevant database programs that I have then further expanded my knowledge in. I’m also hoping it serves as a bit of a conversation piece. Would this be an appropriate thing to include?

    1. Trixie*

      I lean away from including courses, online or otherwise. I’d probably include something like, “Familiar with Database Program A, B, and C.” Or say you have experience with them if you’ve actually used them.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Forget the class but mention familirity/skills in relevant database programs that I have then further expanded my knowledge.

  28. JackieJen*

    So I had a two-parter that I wanted to see if people have feedback on.

    For one, I grew up in a pretty high modesty movement. Women wore calf-length skirts and at least some ladies I knew wore head coverings (usually not full coverings, generally a kerchief over the head). I was wondering how that sort of thing would translate to an office environment. Especially the head covering – I know this was seen by many women there as a reason to not work, because they felt like they couldn’t work and still be modest.

    For two…while I’m not in that movement anymore, I still feel really uncomfortable sometimes with women’s clothing. Suit pants and pencil skirts just feel like my ass is highlighted. Is there anything I could wear to an interview that wouldn’t feel quite so exposed? I know I’m probably just being silly but it’s still uncomfortable – I wish I could wear pants loose like men do, but properly fitted women’s pants and pencil skirts make me super self conscious all day.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      1 I’m sure it depends on where you’re looking to work and what you do, but I see women in head coverings around all the time and I’m in a pretty traditional/conservative office.

      2. How about a pant suit with trouser/wide leg pants? I have a pair that always gets compliments, and they’re very loose and flowy.

      1. just laura*

        Agreed on the wide leg pant. They might not be the most cutting-edge thing in terms of fashion, but they (when part of a suit) would be perfectly reasonable for interviewing, etc.

      1. Lia*

        Seconding this. A-lines are often less clingy.

        On head coverings, I used to live in an area with a high Mennonite population, and although most of the women did not work outside the home, no one seemed to mind the coverings for the women who did. The only exception I could see is that if protective headgear was required, you’d need to ensure that it fit correctly (hard hat or whatever).

        1. JackieJen*

          I suspect part of the worry is that few people in our wider area would have recognized the sort of headcovering most women in our group wore. Typically it was just a kerchief tied over the head, something that could be easily mistaken for a fashion choice – if someone didn’t know what the purpose was I could see it being mistaken for someone just not knowing how to dress.

          1. OriginalEmma*

            It may just be my upbringing, but I grew up in an area with a sizeable Orthodox Jewish and Hassidic population. That was my introduction to more modest clothing by worn by a female population. So, I usually always evaluate “long skirt + scarf/snood/headcovering” with “religious group,” not fashion-statement, regardless of the specifics of the head covering (from Mennonite to Muslim) or skirt (fabric to denim). But that’s just me!

            1. Natalie*

              Same here, although around me it’s lots of Muslim women and not a lot of Orthodox Jewish women. Assuming I even notice a head covering I just chalk it up to religion and move on.

          2. Fawn*

            If I saw a combination of modest dress and a headcovering of any sort, I would register it as a religious or cultural choice, and immediately move on. It would not occur to me as unusual or unfashionable, and I suspect I’m not alone in that.

    2. Celeste*

      You can wear an A-line dress with a suit jacket. I’ve seen this worn by Hasidic women who dress for modesty. I think it looks nice.

    3. Helka*

      For the head coverings, I think it makes a big difference whether the modesty movement you belonged to was religious-based or not (at least if you’re in the US…). If you have religious protection, the company would have to prove that the head coverings interfered with core job functions in order to ban them. If it wasn’t a religious group, it would be more difficult, since there isn’t the same kind of protection for secular philosophies.

      As for dressing modestly for interviews… it depends a lot on what kind of job you’re interviewing for. I’m far more comfortable with longer, looser attire in general, and with a little shopping around I’ve found artsy, work-appropriate cardigans and jackets that came down past my hips with an open drape. I’ll include a link to an example in a separate comment. Obviously, if you’re interviewing for something like an attorney position, it’s not going to fly, but in a lot of business-casual environments, it would be fine.

      You also might try wearing very plain pants with a brighter, more eye-catching top — simply redirecting attention can do a lot for your sense of exposure.

    4. Cb*

      Perhaps an a-line skirt in a suiting fabric might be good. Or a suiting dress with a full skirt. It’s a bit of a tough look to pull off proportionally (especially if you’d like something less form fitting on top as well) but definitely worth a look. Often these types of skirts are made in more casual fabrics so you might need to go custom.

      In an early episode of Borgen, the prime minister wore an a-line skirt suit and it was amazing. Not finding a photo but will keep digging.

    5. Purple Scissors*

      I’ve had good luck with professional dresses paired with a complementary blazer. I find that it’s easier to find loose skirts on dresses that are at least knee-length than in suit separates. Of course, I work in a relatively casual industry so departing from a real suit isn’t seen as anything crazy.

    6. Helen*

      I used to dress modestly too and still prefer to. I have found lots of awesome “just below the knee” skirts at vintage stores. One is technically a “pencil” skirt but the only area it’s snug is my waist. The others are mostly pleated. I’ve fit in wearing them and no one has asked if I’m Amish.

      I’m not sure about suits though. Your best bet might be a pant suit with loose fitting trousers.

    7. fposte*

      A lot of this is going to depend on your field and your region, too. Here (Midwest, outside of major cities, academic workplace), you wouldn’t have much trouble. A head covering would probably just have people thinking you were Muslim or Orthodox Jewish, but I don’t think it would hugely shock them; the skirt length and clothing cut thing wouldn’t cause anybody to bat an eye. If you’re trying to be a lobbyist in DC, it’s another story.

      I think you also might consider finding a clothing style that has a style narrative and not just a modesty narrative–I have a friend, for instance, who does a ton of long and flowy because of medical stuff, but it’s just a long and flowy look–Eileen Fisher-type knits, J. Jill, etc. That’s often a lot of longer tops, too, so the top takes care of the ass-highlighting thing if the knit’s a bit clingier.

    8. OriginalEmma*

      What suggestions has Google brought up for you? There must be a blog or two written by a working woman from a high modesty environment (whether Muslim, Jewish, Mennonite, Christian Patriarchal, etc.).

      1. JackieJen*

        Unfortunately google has been low on suitable stuff that’s not trying to sell some super-expensive online stuff. Many of the suggestions I’m finding tend more towards the business casual end, whereas I’m looking at an area where suits are pretty much expected for interviews (and to be quite honest, “modest” dress would probably get you not hired).

    9. Barbara in Swampeast*

      If you are having problems with finding suitable clothing, try They have skirts and pants that have the “old fashioned” waist that is higher than is currently fashionable and don’t show off the butt as much.

    10. MaryMary*

      I’ve worked with women who wore head coverings for religious reasons. It was a non-issue (at least, no one was rude enough to make it one).

      I hope this doesn’t come off the wrong way, wearing a head covering might cause people to make less of a big deal out of non-fashionable interview wear. If you choose more generous cuts or longer skirts along with a head covering, it’s clear that your wardrobe reflects your religious beliefs, not that you’re fashion-challenged or unaware of current interview attire. At the same time, I wouldn’t discount a candidate who wasn’t wearing a skirt suit or trendy pantsuit as long as their clothing was appropriate for an interview.

    11. Gene*

      I know I’m probably just being silly but it’s still uncomfortable

      If you’re uncomfortable, that will come across in an interview. It’s important that you find something you are comfortable in and wear it out a few times so it’s not on your mind.

    12. No to Stella and Dot*

      I consider myself a pretty modest dresser (i.e. religious and I have a rather large bust that I hate ‘showcasing’). I bought my suit at The Limited a few years ago and it has wide leg trouser pants with it. I wear a button down with it and use double-stick tape to cover any ‘gaps.’ Plus, The Limited will tailor it for you for free (as least they used to – not sure about now).

    13. The IT Manager*

      JackieJen – Do you plan to wear the head covering or is that just part of your example of the modesty movement?

        1. The IT Manager*

          This makes it easier for you then. You just want to avoid the tight fitting clothes that show off more of your silhouette than you’re comfortable with.

    14. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      How about something like this? Longer A-line skirt and well-fitted (but not body-skimming) jacket?

      As for head covering, I might consider covering *more* hair, to ensure that interviewers recognize it as as religious choice rather than a fashion choice. Like this:

      It may also help to have a head covering made in a formal fabric (to match your interview suit) – tweed, wool, etc.

      1. JackieJen*

        Looking like a woman who covers is badbadbad in my field. You’d never get hired wearing that thing.

    15. voluptuousfire*

      One thing you may want to look into are skater dresses. They usually nip in at the waist and flare out at the hips. It covers your hips and if you find one in a suiting material with a slightly longer skirt, you should be fine.

    16. Natalie*

      For suits, what about a longer jacket so you don’t feel quite so much like your butt is center stage?

    17. Anonsie*

      I’m not sure whether you’re still interested in fitting the modesty standards or just providing your background to explain why you are uncomfortable in regular suits, but I’m taking it at the latter. In that case, the only way to get around this is practice, and by that I mean wearing the clothes. Wear fitted pants when you’re running errands or something where you’re free to throw in the towel and go home if you change your mind. Try to get comfortable in them before it’s important for you to wear them. It definitely takes time but I would recommend it over trying to work around wearing normal pants forever.

      That’s what I had to do, at least. There was a long period of going a round feeling like everyone in the world was looking directly at me but now I’m wearing whatever and it feels fine, and boy is that an upgrade.

      The thing about going outside the norm for modest clothes is that the regular clothes don’t actually draw attention to your body– but the more modest selections will because they’re unusual, they make you stand out more. If your goal is to prevent attracting attention to the body under the clothes, realistically wearing the same things as everyone else is the best way to do that.

      1. JackieJen*

        The latter, yes. It’s extra confusing because I’m still a religious woman and I do still want to be modest. But I feel like I’m caught between the “long skirts and headcovering” crowd and the “yoga pants and a tank top” crowd, and I don’t really belong to either. I think where I want to be is where things look modest and downplayed, but not so much that it stands out.

        1. Natalie*

          Properly fitting business pants are definitely not in the “yoga pants and tank top” category, although I appreciate they might feel like that since they’re so different from how you grew up.

          In general, if you follow the dress codes of conservative industries (think law or investment banking) you’ll be very modestly dressed but still within more normative styles.

        2. Anonsie*

          I agree with Natalie that regular conservative business clothing is quite modest (in fact I would go so far as to say modesty is a tenant of businesswear) with generous cuts typically meant to prevent the shape of your bottom or bust from being noticeable. The whole point is so it’s the person inside the clothes that gets noticed and the clothes aren’t even on the radar. They feel like they’re drawing attention since they are more fitted in the cut than you are accustomed to, though, which is why there’s an acclimation period.

        3. Observer*

          If you are in NYC, look at where Orthodox Women shop, because a lot of the stuff will work well in office environments. The landsend cardigans are really nice (and I tend to buy the overstocks, so I’m not spending an arm and a leg.) They also have some nice skirts, but a lot of them are dry clean only, which I hate.

        4. misspiggy*

          I have to make similar choices because health issues mean I can’t handle tight clothing. I go for dark polyester panelled midi skirts with a matching colour suit jacket. The skirts drape enough to look interview-smart, but are flarey enough that no-one can see your actual body shape except for a bit of upper hip, which is covered by the jacket.

      2. TL -*

        Yes to this – there’s a lot of good suggestions here but it sounds like you’re in a field where there’s a high emphasis placed on look and in that case – well, you’ve just got to get used to looking like someone they want to hire.

        There’s a lot that’s in between tank tops/yoga pants* and super modest wear, but it sounds like you’re still at a point where everything that’s not super modest feels tank top/yoga pants and if you’re interested in dressing at the in-between point, you should work on getting a better sense of the nuances between the two examples.

        *Also, can I just say that this does not strike me as a super immodest outfit? I wouldn’t blink an eye at seeing someone dressed in this (unless it was in a super professional setting, and even then it would be the lack of professional, not the reveal!). You don’t have to wear it, but I bet most people would not feel that such an outfit was deliberately for the purpose of drawing attention to bust/butt area.

        1. JackieJen*

          I’m not sure how much if it is actually a high emphasis placed on looks – you wear suits to interviews but outside of that it’s pretty casual. The thing is a lot of people in my field tend to presume that conservative religious person equals judgmental bigot. So you might not get hired because people are worried you’re going to cause problems.

          1. TL -*

            That sucks. But if it’s not the hill you want to die on, I’d take a look at ask the options here and then just wear the pants/skirt you find until you’re comfortable in then for the interview (and then never wear them again if you want.)

        2. JackieJen*

          Oh, I should clarify on the examples – it’s more that I feel like I’ve got no one to compare notes with irl that respects my views. I know a bunch of super conservative people that wear the very very modest stuff, and a lot of stuff that looks really outdated or odd. And then I know people who think the whole idea of modesty is oppressive and I shouldn’t even be considering it. What I’m not finding is people who can help me look relatively modest without wearing those awful jumpers and prairies dresses!

          1. Salyan*

            Yeah, that’s tough when you feel like you’re the only one with your views. Keep looking for those like-minded friends. :)
            For my part, as someone who wears long skirts for modesty (but not headcoverings), it is definitely possible to look professional while still feeling modest – especially now that skirts seem to be making a come-back in the fashion world! My favorite ‘power’ outfits match a quality skirt with nice lines with a nice blazer/jacket and accessories. Who says you have to wear pants and pencil skirts to be professional?

      3. Observer*

        Anonsie, I have to disagree with you. In a sense, more modest clothes do draw attention – at first – because they are different. But the other clothes to keep focus on a woman’s curvier bits. This is exactly what they are intended to do. Wearing those clothes does nothing to keep attention of your body – it just makes it easier for anyone who wants a good look.

    18. BananaPants*

      A suit with wide leg trousers? If they’re cut correctly, they won’t look sloppy or baggy.

    19. Observer*

      As part of a “high modesty movement” myself, I can tell you that mostly it’s not an issue. Kerchiefs can be a bit of a head scratcher for many people, but a wig or wig plus something over that mostly goes uncommented on where I’ve worked.

      As for what to wear: Pencil skirts are not too bad IF you get one that doesn’t fit too closely and you wear a good slip underneath. Lined skirts are better as well. Avoid really drapey fabrics, whatever style you wear. Good rule of thumb: if you can see panty lines, don’t get it. Also, for many women a-line skirts work well. Combining that with a blazer or cardigan that falls well below the waist works well.

    20. Andrea*

      Any chance you can afford a tailor or seamstress? It you take clothes with tags on they can advise on the fabric and how to adjust the cut to be more modest. I often buy suits a bit big and then tailor because I prefer a straighter line from my hips/rear to the ground. Usually fuller fabric (a thicker “hand”) in a sturdy fabric with some drape (often wool). Also, linings or “split-slips” will help with feeling modest under both skirts and pants partly because of the increased coverage and partly because they will really help have the fabric fall in a way that follows modest lines even on a more modern suit.

    21. beckythetechie*

      Palazzo pants?

      There are business suitable skirts out there that are neither terribly short nor closely fitted, but they can be difficult to find given the current trend to short with flare or pencil skirts. I’ve had luck finding them at Sears, JC Penny, and Bon Ton, but I’m usually standing next to 70 year old women when I do. The catch for me is that I’m both very tall and very curvy, so I have to do a lot of my own alterations anyway; starting from good quality makes getting the fit you want out of off-the-rack clothing easier.

    22. Mackenzie*

      I somehow lucked into finding a long skirt that’s sort of a tulip shape (widens faster below the knee than above it, but not pencil-skirt-ish) and matches my suit jacket wonderfully, so I wear that combination for job interviews. At some point, I think I will sew myself a long-skirted suit though. Really, it’s finding shirts for with the suit that have all the buttons that’s the problem.

      I do understand the women in your old environment, though. I started covering full time a year and a half ago, and I don’t know if I would be taken seriously in a job interview. My cover is very similar to some midwest Amish ones (except that I made it to not cover my ears), and I am often asked by strangers whether I’m Amish, and I work in the tech industry.

  29. Christy*

    I got a really great work compliment! I’m currently on a temporary assignment to another office, and people keep advocating that they hire me full time. I’m regularly a Grade X, and I’m temporarily at Grade X+1. Yesterday, I found out that instead of trying to hire me at Grade X+1, the big boss (!) who is interested in hiring me (!) wondered if she could hire me at Grade X+2! X+2 would be a nearly 50% raise from X. (Holy crap.)

    She won’t be able to hire me at Grade X+2, but she COULD post as Grade X+1/X+2 and then promote after a year. (How did I find that out? A coworker who has been singing my praises told me!) I’m like ecstatic.

    1. Blue_eyes*

      Awesome! Congrats! Love hearing about people who are doing great work and being rewarded for it.

  30. Elkay*

    Just witnessed a fantastic example of why those tiles that show your most visited websites are a bad idea. Sales pitch and the guy opened a new tab to show in the middle of it a dating site. So if you’re going to browse dating sites on your work computer use private/incognito browsing because nosy people like me will look at your most visited tabs (more interesting than the sales pitch).

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      My co-worker was given a recycled lap top and did a search on it form a reporting tool / software called Crystal, what they found was a number of pictures of a naked woman called Crystal.

      The guy who’s laptop it was still worked in the office, we teased him so much about it for ages.

    2. it happens*

      Awesome! And if you’re making a presentation with your work laptop, don’t have a scanty vacay picture as your desktop background. (yup, seen this, too)

      1. Dmented Kitty*

        Oh jeez!

        Good thing I’m a bit self-conscious, I never would dare to use any self-portrait pictures as my wallpaper — work or home computer. I’d bristle if I boot up my computer and I see my huge face staring at me when I log in. Hissssss! ** Crawls under the table. **

        I only pick still life for my wallpaper. Or cats.

        1. Revanche*

          My profile photo is still the only picture file in my Win8 file tile thing and every time I accidentally open it my face pops out and I have the same reaction. *kkkssssss* I advocate food backgrounds and screensavers.

  31. HeyNonnyNonny*

    So I’m starting keeping track of the annoying conversations my work-neighbors have. Highlights of this week:

    •A discussion if “perquisites” was a word. After a minute, someone suggested Googling it. No one did. The “discussion” went on for 10 more minutes, mostly them just repeating the word over and over and over.
    •The word “diarrhea” at least 6 times in as many minutes. Accompanied by childish squealing of “eew, don’t say that!”
    •“Sex studies? Like how to stick it in?”

    Writing down how ridiculous it is makes it much easier to cope. Anyone else have ridiculous things they overhear?

    1. Helka*

      Yesterday, one of my coworkers ranting about how her son wanted to learn to play the viola — apparently she found this ridiculous, although she didn’t really have any reason beyond “Viola? Really? Who wants to play viola?”

    2. Anie*

      HA! Yes. The other day the IT guy was helping the lady in the cube behind me. I over heard him say, “Don’t worry, I won’t throw you in the wood for the sharks.” He then paused and said thoughtfully, “I think I meant bears. There’s no such thing as a land-shark.”

      I wanted to shout, “Thank you for clarifying!!”

    3. attornaut*

      If it makes you feel better, I can hear basically everything my work neighbors say and 95% of it is vicious, toxic, horrible things about other people in the office, including me. I would definitely prefer ridiculousness.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Oh, that sucks attornaut. You’re right, as much as I sometimes wish they weren’t quite so distracting, it could be so much worse. Hope your toxic neighbors get the boot (or at least get moved) so you don’t have to deal with that!

    4. Jennifer*

      Everything about the health aliments of my cube neighbor. And her husband. And her cat. You don’t want to know the TMI, suffice it to say the contents of anyone’s stool or the condition of their toenails is not acceptable public conversation.

    5. Rebecca*

      Haha, we have an open office format and one of my coworkers says the weirdest things, sometimes to us and sometimes on the phone. My neighbor and I regularly email each other asking, “Did you hear what she just said?!”

      A few gems:
      – She’s not a very computer-literate person. Someone was showing her how to do a shortcut for Excel and she couldn’t get it. She finally said, “I need a new keyboard.” Then proceeded to call IT and ask for a new keyboard. This did not fix the problem. :)
      – On the phone with one of her kids: “Well, now you know that you can’t leave food in your car overnight, especially with milk, and then eat it.” Um, her kids are 27 and 30.
      – We heard ALL about her daughter’s wedding leading up to the event. Every call with a vendor, her daughter, her family members. We could recite the entire timeline, what time people had to be various places, what was on the menu. OMG, we were so tired of it.
      – Daily weather updates.

  32. This is Me Not Being Me*

    So. Our company got bought by one of our biggest competitors.

    They are stopping new sales of an entire product line – they wanted the customers, not the product. It will be supported for existing customers and contracts, so the jobs aren’t vanishing right away. Not all of them. But some of them will and more will go.

    And I work on that product line.

    I know what my next steps need to be, but I could use some well-wishes or “you will get through this” type encouragement.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I’m so sorry. A lot of times these things end up being forcing mechanisms to bring about good changes in the long run, but it really sucks in the meantime.

      Office Depot, by chance?

      1. This is Me Not Being Me*

        I had been questioning whether I should look at moving on. I landed on the “no, I like what I am doing and where my career path is headed”.

        So, now I no longer like where my career path is headed. Swift kick in the pants, received.

        And no; much smaller. Oddly comforting (and yet not) to realize that it plays out similarly so much that an easy recognition of another such situation is possible, though.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      The more advanced notice we get the more time we have to prepare. You will land okay- keep your courage up and keep pushing forward.

      1. This is Me Not Being Me*

        True! I am very grateful to know now. We also have a firm date for the earliest (and latest) point that the first round of adjustments to staffing could occur. It is not as far in the future as I would like but it is far enough in the future to give us time to prepare and ramp up. And knowing we have a short window means we can at least go in to work until then knowing that we need not worry about it happening on any other day. And once the window passes, at least they’re not planning to do rolling cuts. That’s more stability than you’re usually guaranteed in this sort of thing, as I understand it.

    3. This is Me Not Being Me*

      Thanks, everyone. Fingers crossed! I’m trying to update my resume. The last time I job-hunted I hadn’t yet found Ask A Manager, so it needs some clean-up.

      However, how do you list a multi-year stint at one company at which you held five titles, when the company name changed (due to acquisition) in the middle of title #3, then changed back (before title #4 was achieved), then changed again (just now when we were acquired) while under title #5?

      These titles are all increasing levels of seniority/skill of the same career path. The first two logically share a lot of duties, the middle and later ones start to differentiate, but I’m not sure how to make this look graceful on a resume. Listing the company names separately makes it look like I jumped about when in fact I have a long singular tenure. Listing them bunched up seems to mean listing the positions separately, though, and that seems odd in the case of some roles.

      Do I use a mixed format? In terms of what logically goes together, that makes the most sense – but it looks untidy to me.

      For example:

      Deep Space Chocolate Teapots Inc (stardate 2231.2-present)
      Enterprise Chocolate Teapots (stardate start 2229-2231.2)
      Senior Teapot Mold Designer and Engineer
      * details go here

      Enterprise Chocolate Teapots (stardate 2228-2229)
      Teapot Mold Designer and Engineer
      * details go here

      Enterprise Chocolate Teapots (stardate 2225-2226, 2227-2228)
      Ferengi Ltd. Chocolate Teapots and Maple Sugar Baskets (stardate 2226-2227)
      Senior Teapot Mold Engineer
      * details go here

      Enterprise Chocolate Teapots
      Teapot Mold Engineer (Stardate 2225-2226)
      Jr. Teapot Mold Engineer (Stardate 2224-2226)
      * details go here

      …and of course, responsibilities of each of the positions include, in part, the responsibilities of the position before it. (But the “what I did better than others in the same position might” talking points do change with time, since what’s excelling for a Jr. Teapot Mold Engineer is firmly expected of a Sr. Mold Designer and Engineer.)

      1. This is Me Not Being Me*

        I have definitely determined one thing from this example: Writing about chocolate teapots makes me hungry for sweets.

        Also, I really dislike the look of both ways of lumping things together. :(

        Maybe I just need to format it every possible way and see how it looks to me when filled in.

        1. Judy*

          We talked about multiple positions with one company above, I’d put this similarly…

          ((BOLD)) Teapots LTD (formerly Enterprise Teapots, formerly Deep Space Teapots) (2007-Present)
          ((Italics)) Senior Mold and Design Engineer (2012-present)

          ((Italics)) Mold and Design Engineer (2011-2012)


          Where you have 2 title levels (on mine bold and italics), one for the company and one for the job. Put dates on both the company and the jobs. Put the current name of the company with the former names in the parentheses. Don’t worry about the dates of the name changes.

  33. LizzyP*

    Just wondering if this is a new trend as I am seeing something and in talking to a few friends they are seeing the same thing…

    to keep this brief, I just started a new assignment as a contractor and am being paid hourly for my work. The other day we had an important email that i sent out, around some issues with a vendor who is not doing their job, and so after much discussion I sent this before I left for the day. But before I walked out someone else on the email told me there was already a reply pushing back on my attempt to get things moving, basically.

    So I logged into my email when I got on the train and replied to my two managers that I was looking forward to their direction. And the reply I got was “we pay you hourly, please don’t log on when you are off”… which is fine, but this was a special circumstance and I certainly don’t make a habit of it. Wasn’t going to charge them for the time to check email and write a one line reply.

    When I talked to other people they told me that they are seeing a trend in this, don’t do more than you are asked, don’t stay late… it’s the opposite of what I was always taught… is this the new way to be?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      It’s smart of them. They’re covering their asses legally, because even though you say you wouldn’t charge them for it, they’re still potentially legally obligated to pay you.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Yes. This is what I am told. Even if there is a fire to put out, I have to get written approval to stay late, and then it’s counted as overtime. I adore it, because everyone knows they won’t get a response from me outside of my hours, and I don’t have to stress about work when I’m not there.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        Yeah, this.

        My manager wouldn’t even let me clear a paper jam in the copy machine because I had just clocked out (and she didn’t know how to clear it, either. I suppose she got another secretary to help her.)

        This is one of those “silly” things where TPTB have a very good reason for doing.

    2. Kelly L.*

      I don’t think it’s a new way to be, in general–if anything, I feel like there’s an opposite trend of expecting people to be on call when they’re off the clock and not getting paid. I suspect your managers might be cheap and don’t want to pay any more than they have to for your contracting services.

    3. The IT Manager*

      it’s the opposite of what I was always taught

      Who taught you this? Because the rules are different for exempt (from overtime) and non-exempt employees. So the rules are not necessarily wrong, but they apply to different categories differently.

      1. Judy*

        I’d also expect that even if you’re doing “exempt work”, the contract that goes with a contractor has terms in it about overtime. Your contract house is probably interested in making sure that they’re paid for all the time you’re working.

    4. edj3*

      I’m self employed as a consultant and I charge by the hour. I’m very careful about the hours worked and charged and I don’t work overtime unless the client specifically requests it or I’ve gone to the client with an updated timeline for the project that includes overtime.

      So at the end of the work day, I’m tools down entirely. No email, no voice mail, nothing.

      That shows my clients that I pay attention to the work load and to their budget concerns. You aren’t being a slacker in the least if you do this, you are paying attention to the bottom line.

    5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      It’s a thing. We’re doing the same thing.

      Nobody wants the $$$ cost that goes with being on the wrong side of non-exempt workers not being compensated for their work time.

      The only feedback I’ve gotten from non-exempt employees on this is unhappiness, but there’s nothing we can do it about it other than authorize extra hours as needed. That’s a lot less freedom than people want to make their own choices like check email, catch up on work for a few minutes, clean up for the next day for half an hour but, that’s how it is.

    6. LizzyP*

      When I did contact work in the past the focus was the work, getting the work done, not leaving for the day until everything was completed.

      I took this assignment and they talked about the availability for overtime. Because this is around a large event in the fall I had to commit to being available in the summer, no vacation after June 1st. But once I was on site I was told even though I’m scheduled for 40 hours I have to take one hour unpaid lunch and even my agency was surprised that after their huge concern with overtime availability I work a 35 hour work week and even 30 minutes over has to be approved (which is still not overtime).

      Not used to this at all but glad to see I’m not alone. Guess I need to adjust but I wish they had been clear about their time constraints from the beginning. I commute a few hours a day, it would have been nice to know going in they were so rigid.

  34. W*

    How can I tell my supervisor nicely she is being nitpicky and micromanages too much in our upcoming review? This is a chance for me to communicate how I feel and work out better ways to improve our professional communication. My supervisor is very nice but a very big perfectionist and doesn’t like it when things are out of place. I feel like I have to notify her of everything or everywhere I’m going. I believe my communication skills are fine as I don’t withhold information or anything. I just feel like she’s asking me to notify her of everything.

    In my last review, which was shortly after I joined, my supervisor told me I needed to work on my communication skills just because I didn’t notify her when I took some work off her desk one time. She was in a meeting until after my day was over at the time so I wasn’t going to interrupt her meeting and she already told me to move on to that work. The next day, she told me I should’ve let her or someone else know. In another instance, I was using a loud tape gun in an empty office so not to disturb others. I’ve done it in that office before but my supervisor still told me I should’ve notified her that I would be in the spare office before I let so she knows where I am.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Frame it as a question, not a complaint. Ask her if she trusts you and has confidence in your ability to do the job, because you’ve noticed that she reminds you a lot about details (or whatever it is she’s doing) and you’re concerned she doesn’t trust you.

      1. W*

        That’s a good idea. I don’t think she distrusts me, as she’s acknowledged the quality of my work. But this way she can be more aware of how she comes across with all these reminders.

    2. GOG11*

      This is something I’d like to address with my supervisor because it leads to delays – I end up having to wait on her replies to move forward, so I have periods of very little work followed by periods of DOING ALL THE WORK. If it causes delays in your work, perhaps you could address it from that angle? I’m not sure about the wording, though, or if it applies to other areas of your work (it seems like this might not work for the examples you’ve provided so far).

      1. Revanche*

        I’ve addressed micromanaging with bosses before by explaining that I have a system (and explaining the system) of how I manage specific tasks, then asked if they were satisfied that they didn’t need to nag me about work or if there was something specific they were looking for when they followed up 30x per task or project. For example, was I moving too slowly or did they want feedback as I worked on them?

        Once I made it clear that the nagging was both slowing me down and established that on the boss’s side it was nothing more than a bad habit we agreed that the routine nagging would stop and we would have regular checkups and reporting at reasonable intervals. Perhaps framing it similarly would help?:
        I work best like X. Is there something more/different you need me to incorporate in that workflow so you can be confident I’m getting things done the way you’re looking for them to be done? Because, at the moment, I’m finding that Y (your style) is at odds with how I work best and I’d like to make sure we’re communicating enough while allowing me to be most efficient.

  35. A.K.*

    I’m reading through applications for the first hire that I’m in charge of selecting, and dear lord are there some terrible cover letters out there. Literally less than 10% of people bother to express anything about why they want to work at our (small, niche, very specific, mission-driven) organization. It’s astonishing.

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Ouch! If it’s any consolation, it sucks to be on the other side, too. I keep submitting cover letters with reasons why I’d like to work there and details about my experience and all the AAM-approved stuff, and nothing.

      There should be a job site that matches good employers who care about things like cover letters with good employees who write them.

    2. Lady Bug*

      Cover letters are the bane of my existence. I just sit there for hours attempting to write why I’m great for the position, feel like a pretenious jerk, and just send something highlighting my experience. I’ve read all the AAM advice, but just can’t do it! Even expressing why I want to work for your organization comes off sounding fake to me.

      1. A.K.*

        I don’t even need it to be all that original or in depth. Simply “I’d love to work for your organization because I’ve always been passionate about ” would be good. It’s not a creative writing position so it doesn’t need to be eloquent. Just state facts. “I like chocolate teapots. I like making chocolate teapots. I’m good at making dark chocolate teapots and I like learning new things. For these reasons, I am interested in your milk chocolate teapot position.” I just need to know that you care even a little bit and that you aren’t just auto-applying to everything you see online, because if you are, you will hate this job.

      2. Jennifer*

        I second that. And sometimes you’re not applying because you love the org or what they do, but because they have an admin assistant job open and you need one. So it’s hard to rave about the awesomeness of …any of it.

      3. GOG11*

        There was a recent AAM post about thinking of cover letters (and other application materials…and the interview process) as a way of helping the hiring manager determine your fit for the role (and vice versa) rather than selling yourself as a perfect candidate. Maybe thinking of it in those terms would help?

    3. Blue_eyes*

      Look at it this way, they’re making your job easier because you can immediately whittle it down to less than 10%.

    4. Revanche*

      Amen. I hate writing them too but as an HM, all I need to know is that you want THIS job and why you’d be a good fit. Not looking for eloquence, selling yourself, or anytjing creative at all. I just need some basic evidence you know what you’re applying to and actually mean it. Unlike the applicant who was truly interested in the position as a lab tech…and the job had nothing to do with labs.

      I had so many bad letters (75% of the pool!!) my last hiring round, I had a bit of a rant (if links are OK:

      1. Kyrielle*

        Hee. I loved the people who applied to work on our Computer Aided Dispatch system touting their experience in Computer Aided Design and so on…yeah, we spelled it out in the job ad once at the start, then abbreviated, and clearly they keyword-hit on ‘CAD’ and didn’t even really read the ad….

  36. Rachael*

    Career change question! I am interested in getting into sales, but don’t really know anyone who has worked in sales. If anyone here works in sales, how do you like it? One thing I am concerned is that many people have described sales as a “frat bro” culture, and I am a woman who has never been in a frat or sorority… I just like the idea of working on a cool product and talking to people about it and working together. Any advice about books to read or places to look for jobs or guidance would be much appreciated!

    1. Snowglobe*

      I’ve worked in sales and hated it, but that’s because I’m an introvert. I work in a male-dominated field, but the best sales person I ever worked with was a woman, so don’t let that stop you. The key is that you need to like talking to people, you need to listen well, and have a problem-solving approach with your clients.

      1. Rachael*

        Thank you! I am looking to get into sales because I am more of an extrovert and think it would play better to my skills that Project Management, which is currently what I am doing. Thanks!

        1. Blue_eyes*

          That’s interesting because I’m also an extrovert, but I actually think I would love Project Management and sales is the last thing I would want to do. While I’m chatty, friendly, and enjoy being around people, trying to convince people to do what I want (aka buy my product) is not one of my skills.

    2. Book Person*

      I love it! I fell into sales somewhat by accident, but found it worked well for me. I’m introverted, so it takes a lot out of me energy-wise, but I’ve built great relationships through regular client visits. I haven’t had any frat bro encounters–I wouldn’t stay in the job otherwise.

      Important things: working for a great company, ample vacation time in down periods to compensate for work travel and overtime, and actually liking the thing you’re selling. If you can find a sales job that isn’t solely paid on comission, so much the better.

    3. Otter box*

      I currently work as a support rep in a pretty aggressive retail sales environment (just got a job in a TOTALLY different field, though, and I cannot wait to move on!). I’ve been there a little over 3 years, and in my experience a lot of our best sales reps have been women, but there is definitely a serious “good old boys” culture. At my current store, for example, I was hired as a transfer back in early 2013, and since I have joined they have hired SIXTEEN men and no women, except for our new manager who was brought on a couple weeks ago. It might just be the particular place I work, but some subtle sexism is there. For example, several months ago my manager encouraged me to look into moving into a sales role, and when I decided to take him up on the offer when we were significantly understaffed, he backtracked and told me he didn’t think I could emotionally handle working with customers and that he wouldn’t promote me until I was “ready for success.” I even received an AUTO REJECTION from the company for the sales position I applied to. Um. Then why the big talk before?

      How enjoyable sales is really does depend on your company’s culture and your management (neither of which have been great in my case). If sales is something you think you’d enjoy and be good at, then I think you should go for it! My experience obviously isn’t everyone’s experience. Just maybe be prepared for the possibility (not a guarantee though, by any stretch!) of some sexism creeping into your workplace.

      Also, just today I had two customers in a row call me a “doll.” So there’s that, too.

  37. Golden Yeti*

    A coworker was privately venting to me this week about some understandable frustrations, and later sent me an e-mail to apologize, saying it was unprofessional.

    This got me wondering: obvious things aside (doing it publicly, slandering character, etc.), is it possible to vent unprofessionally if it’s just privately venting to a trusted coworker?

    1. Iro*

      I think in general venting at work, even to a trusted co-worker, is unprofessional because you never know who can overhear you and it’s usually not condusive to improving the situation.

    2. fposte*

      I disagree with Iro in that I think venting isn’t automatically unprofessional, but it’s not the most professional of habits to develop. I say as somebody a bit inclined to do so myself. I think the very term “venting” misleadingly makes it sound like it was blowing off some steam that had to be blown off, and that’s not really how it works. Most of the time if you slept on it you wouldn’t feel the same urge to kvetch to somebody, or you could find a more appropriate listener (like your spouse–or your cat. They listen very attentively when you have a can in your hands).

    3. MaryMary*

      When I first became a manager, someone advised me to “vent up.” Everyone has bad days, everyone needs to let off steam about crazy customers or that our office PCs have a habit of randomly restarting or how frustrating this new re-org is. But people put extra weight on what a manager is saying, even if they’re not your direct report. And you can look really bad as a manager if you’re bad mouthing a client or a corporate initiative. So when I need to vent, I vent to my peers or folks a notch or two up. Maybe your coworker felt you weren’t an appropriate audience (nothing against you personally, more so your position)?

    4. Jazzy Red*

      I think your coworker meant is was unprofessional to vent to you, another worker. It’s better to vent about work to someone you don’t work with. Sometimes you get a different perspective on it, other times you just want to get it off your chest but not into the office grapevine. As one of the other posters said, you don’t know who else might overhear it.

  38. Helen*

    Do any of you have experience working two part-time jobs? Is it any easier getting a PT job than a FT job?

    If I don’t find FT work within a couple months, I think I’ll start applying to PT jobs with the hope of getting two that will add up to around 40 hours. To be honest, I might actually like the variety, but is it a huge pain? Is it even possible to get two part time jobs in traditional M-F hours?

    1. Ali*

      I am thinking of doing this soon too, but mainly because I’m on thin ice at my current job. I can’t seem to find any full-time either. A lot of listings for jobs in my field are part-time/temp and internships.

      1. Helen*

        Yeah, the fields I’m interested in seem to have a disproportionate number of PT jobs. I’m thinking even if I can only get one at least it’ll help me get more experience in the field (I’m making a career change back to a previous field).

        Best wishes to you.

    2. Cautionary tail*

      At one point in life I had three jobs. Since all of them had set hours I was able to manage it, but if you are looking at part-time jobs where they post a schedule every week or two then you are setting yourself up for failure when both places schedule you for the same time.

      Even if one has set hours and the other doesn’t the same overlap can occur. Based on personal experience by others very close to me, having the company that does weekly scheduling know when you are unavailable is laughable since they’ll schedule anyway if they have a need.

    3. Sunflower*

      It’s defintely easier i think to get a part time job over full time. A lot of companies will start employees part-time as almost a probationary phase. If they like you, they’ll bring you on full time.

      Scheduling them both is a little harder. When I worked part time in an office, my hours were scheduled and I could switch them up a bit if I needed to. Some jobs vary their hours so it makes it a little harder to juggle.

      A lot of part time work lists the hours on the job posting or the hours are flexible. I would apply for jobs and upfront ask about the hours. For you, it might make sense to work 1 job 3 days a week and another 2 days. Working 4 hours a day at each might be more difficult. Regardless, it’s defibrely possible and I would recommend going for it

    4. Jean*

      How about _taking- one part-time job (as an employee) and _making_ another (as a freelancer, hourly, entrepreneur, etc.)? Sometimes an odd job schedule is sufficiently flexible to wrap around another part-time position with more rigid scheduling. Depending on your skills and the nearby job marketplace, you could offer either professional services (consulting or doing research, freelance editing, proofreading, or accounting) or domestic assistance (running errands; doing light housekeeping; helping someone declutter, downsize, or move; or providing occasional child or elder care or companionship). The “second boss” would have to be willing and able to revise your working hours whenever your “first boss” varied your work schedule.

      I don’t mean to chatter blithely or dismissively about having only a part-time income until the second job is up and running! Combining two part-time positions also requires courage, self-discipline, time management skills and the ability to juggle multiple obligations over time and space.

      Disclaimer: I’m trying to do this myself and find it very hard, slow going to add self-directed entrepreneurial activity to my already-full portfolio of working part-time, providing various family members with varying levels of emotional and logistical support, and safeguarding my own mental and physical health. If I didn’t really want the extra income, I’d abandon the idea entirely! (We’re meeting present needs with our present income. I’m trying to stockpile some resources for future situations.)

    5. Gwen*

      It’s a huge pain. I worked two permanent part time jobs (one 9:00-1:00 and one 1:30-5:30) for more than a year, and though the variety was interesting, it became really draining. You generally don’t get any benefits (luckily I was still able to be on my parent’s insurance at the time), little or no PTO. It’s a hassle to try to rearrange your schedule if you need to be at a meeting or an event outside your usual time, trying to make sure you still meet your hours at both jobs. And at least for me, although everyone at both jobs was very nice, I never REALLY felt like I was part of the group until I started one full time. You just miss so many interactions and celebrations as a part-timer, and I feel like people in general don’t think of you the same way. (The worst part, of course, was all the times I’d come in to my second job to an email about treats in the kitchen which were all gone by the time I saw it!)

    6. GOG11*

      My current role is a less prestigious one than one of my PT jobs was but is full time and has benefits…before that, all of my work experience involves two and three PT jobs (and one period of a full time job and a PT job).

      I found that the longer I worked at a certain place, the easier it was to get the hours I wanted and to have the same schedule week after week. This made scheduling MUCH easier. I worked Tuesday through Sunday with Monday off (I was working 50ish hours per week). Also, I think PT jobs that require certain skills may provide better options than something like retail where you could end up working any hours the store’s open and where entry-level employees are expected to have a relatively high level of turnover.

      I did find that I developed time management and project management skills from juggling different positions with vastly different duties (retail and social services, for example).

      I hope you’re able to find some options that are a good fit for you.

      1. GOG11*

        **re current job – I meant that I opted for piecing together part time work until my current role, which I chose for the benefits (paid time off, sick time, etc.), not necessarily the hours or anything else one could associate with PT work.

    7. Revanche*

      I did it successfully some time ago but it was a bit complicated and I think only worked because the jobs weren’t all the same type. I did one retail (worked the most hours there and it was shift work but they were good about letting me have all the shifts I wanted because no one else liked them), one teaching center thing that catered to young adults and then private tutoring and childcare for a young child. They were all sufficiently different and i had more control over the hours so that I didn’t have the problem of opposing or overlapping schedules that you would with more than one retail type job.

      I can’t say it was much better or worse than one full time job except there were more logistics.

    1. Cautionary tail*

      I’m on a PC using Firefox 35.0.1 and I just got an “Error 1001 Access denied” message. “The owner of this website ( has banned your access based on your browser signature. (1b4893a7d8e50926-mh5).”

      I screenprinted the error and then refreshed the screen and it’s been working normally ever since.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I have been getting a lot of 508 (site not available errors) since yesterday. Refresh and still nothing. Then I just wait a bit and try again later. Worked eventually.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve started using a new ad network this week and am still ironing out the kinks. I don’t want the site asking you for your location and will see if they can stop that (it must some, but not all, ads that are triggering that).

      For some reason that’s also corresponded with a jump in traffic, which may be overloading my server a little; we’re working on getting that fixed. Meanwhile, if you’re getting errors saying the site is unavailable, will you email me the next time it happens so that I can look into it? Also, try clearing your cache if it happens again. I think a couple of people had a situation where the site was offline for a minute or two, but then the offline message was in their cache and kept showing up even when it shouldn’t have.

      1. Kat*

        I’ve had all of the above (except the banned one) scenarios with the added bonus of an adult friend finder ad pop up. The lady was exposing her breasts. It happened when I clicked an AAM link embedded in a question.

        I havent visited any sites like that so it was a big shock. I have a routine few I visit from my phone.

  39. No to Stella and Dot*

    Any advice on if it’s *worth* it or not to get a Master’s in Business Communication/Communication studies?

    I’ve been in my career for nearly 10 years and seem to be plateauing. I’ve worked in a variety of settings (i.e. agency, corporate, non-profit) but now I’m starting to feel stuck and bored. I’m thinking of going back to school for several reasons (i.e. higher salary, more/different career opportunities available, and genuine interest in getting further education). If I do go back to school, I will be cash flowing the majority of it and my company will pay for a small percentage of it – I absolutely do not want to go into debt.

    Thoughts? Possible roadblocks/pitfalls?

    1. Trixie*

      Look this in the archives, so many discussions on this. Pay particular attention to those who have Master’s but aren’t including on their resumes.

    2. just laura*

      Do you truly need more education to advance? At the very least, I would start job-searching to see what the requirements to get to the next level truly are. I am always hesitant to recommend additional education because it doesn’t automatically lead to a promotion (obviously, sometimes there are exceptions, but you should know about them beforehand!).

    3. fposte*

      Are you seeing jobs that you’d like that require the Master’s? If not, what do you think it’s going to bring you?

  40. Helen*

    Sorry, another question! Have you guys noticed that almost all “temp” jobs seem to be “temp to perm” these days? They basically want you to commit to working there long term without offering you permanent employment from the start. Unfortunately, most temp jobs are not jobs I’d want longterm. Would it be totally looked down upon to leave a “temp to perm” job within a few months? Also, would I even be able to get any time off to interview in a “temp to perm” role?

    1. Joey*

      Nope. Temp to perm is pretty much both sides try it out before committing long term. And most that do temp to perm understand if you leave for immediate perm.

    2. some1*

      “They basically want you to commit to working there long term without offering you permanent employment from the start”

      True, but that also means that if you don’t like the job or the people you can bail without looking like a flake, too.

      “Would it be totally looked down upon to leave a “temp to perm” job within a few months?”


      “Also, would I even be able to get any time off to interview in a “temp to perm” role?”

      I actually found it easier. 1) You can be honest about why you need the time off. 2) Answers the interview question easily about why you are looking for a job . The downside is that you usually don’t get PTO as a temp so you have to make up the time by working extra during the week.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      If you want to look at it this way, all jobs are essentially temporary. The only difference is that some have benefits, some don’t.

      1. LizzyP*

        This is the way I’ve started to look at this, especially after seeing people with 20 and 30 years in a company get laid off..

    4. Natalie*

      We always hire our admins and other entry level works through a temp to perm thing. Basically, our HR department sort of sucks at recruitment so we use a temp/placement agency. 90 days lets us decide if the temp is solid enough to employ permanently before we pay the agency their giant fee. And if something happens on the temp’s end (one of ours got really sick, one moved to Chicago) the temp agency can get us someone else within a week. And yes, we have decided not to hire someone permanently after working with them for 3 months.

      We would be 100% understanding if a temp didn’t take on the permanent role. That’s the whole point, really.

  41. Anon today*

    Bloody hell.

    I was doing just fine in my job, then a new person was brought in to head up my department. This new person had a radically different vision for what the department should do (despite the success of the business based on what we were doing). I kick ass at, say, making awesomely functional teapots, but my teapots are not pretty. However, 95% of what I do, and what our customers want, is awesomely functional teapots; making the teapots beautiful is 5% of the work. Fortunately, there are other people with my job title who make gorgeous teapots and are less effective at making the teapots functional, so in the past we worked wonderfully well by simply having people work on projects that play to their strengths.

    This new person, however, wanted beautiful teapots above all else, and so I got pushed into another department, with a newly created role, call it “Functional teapot expert.”

    Mr. Beautiful Teapot got fired a few months ago (after one year in the job), and his replacement is back to, guess what, making functional teapots. Unfortunately, my old position has been filled in that department.

    And now, guess what, the head of the department I was transferred to has been let go as well. Which means I have to justify my continued existence at Teapots Inc. to ANOTHER person. My boss (one level below the person who was let go) is optimistic about the transition, but I’m not. IMO my current role doesn’t really need to exist — I could have just gone on being a Teapot Maker if it hadn’t been for that first guy.

    So now I’m job hunting, but I’m senior enough that it’s not going to be easy. I just want to make freakin’ teapots and not be bothered by the upheaval going on over my head!

    Wish me luck, y’all. :(

    1. AnonPi*

      Ugh, that sucks, sounds like you got a real runaround. With the support of your boss maybe something can be worked out. Good luck!

  42. Purple Scissors*

    I absolutely loved the link from last week to the article on how to put difficult performance problems into words from The Management Center. Does anybody have any other blogs/sites that offer these kinds of resources for folks in leadership positions? I love AAM but I feel like so many of the questions here just don’t apply to higher-level folks trying to manage/motivate large departments.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      That really was a great posts! I’m working it into my upcoming Come To Jesus meeting with my problem person

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I wrote that!

            I recommend subscribing to The Management Center’s email list — I do a lot of writing for them (including this article) so it’s like a senior management version of AAM and you’ll get a bunch of stuff emailed to you once a month.

      1. Purple Scissors*

        I did that yesterday with my problem person! Some of those phrases worked really well to open up the conversation and talk seriously about the kinds of changes I need to see.

    2. C Average*

      Building on that topic, how do you manage yourself if you know you suffer from something on that list?

      I am inconsistent. I don’t know how to not be. Some days I wake up brilliant and energetic and focused and ready to conquer the world, and some days I wake up feeling two steps above special needs. I know my A game is special and I can’t bring it every day. How do I find a B game I can reliably bring every day? (My B game is darned good.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Do you have a baseline that you make yourself hold to?

        I watch out for roller coasters- this could be a work roller coaster or a health roller coaster- whatever. Anything that has highs and lows. If you go too high, that means you can go too low. If I have a day where I work like I am three people, I can almost guarantee that I will have a day where I do the productivity of half a person.

        Start with a baseline. This is how much I should do each day. At my current job, I can encounter a task that I feel will take 5 minutes. FOUR HOURS later it is still not done and I have been working on with minimal interruptions. This will zap my energy more than working on ten things. And that is what starts to come out with having a baseline- you start to realize what is sucking your energy. And no, spending four hours on Stupid Little Thing is not going to be a productive day for me.
        Once you start seeing what is sucking your energy you can get even tighter control over the roller coaster. I can bounce back a little quicker, because I can do other things that I know will be successful and recoup.

        One job was so demanding that I ended up taking tight control over my sleeping and eating times, just to establish and keep some kind of rhythm for my health.
        Lastly, I learned the hard way, if I come home from work too drained to do anything at home that means I have no life. There is no point to working that hard that you don’t have a life. This motivated me, even more, to get away from the roller coaster.

      2. Lore*

        I try to divide tasks into things that require the a game, b game, etc and then make sure to find and set aside a pile of ongoing maintenance stuff that can be done no matter how useless I feel–filing, reviewing freelancer applications and skills tests, updating process documentation, whatever. A lot of the time, when I think I’m useless what I really need is an hour of routine, predictable, accomplishable tasks to ramp me back up to feeling competent.

  43. Looby*

    I have a question about references. I moved to a new country in 2011, since then I’ve had 2 temp positions and 2 permanent positions. I’ve been in my current position for 2.5 years. Due to circumstances, I feel like it’s time to move on but I’m having issues coming up with references I could provide.

    When I moved here, I used 3 referees from Home Country and gave their business emails & phone numbers (along with a note about time differences) but I don’t know if they were ever contacted. I personally haven’t had any contact with these people in at least 3 years – I’m not even sure if their details are still accurate. My only other permanent position in New Country lasted only 3 months before I moved onto my current position. My manager from that job is now missing along with $100K of the company’s money and I’ve never worked with any of the current managers so all they could really talk about are employment dates. And obviously I don’t want my current managers/supervisors to know I’m looking.
    Does anyone have an ideas of who else I could use as a reference? Should I try to get back in contact with my original referees even though I haven’t contacted them for years?

    1. matcha123*

      If I were you, I’d say that the people that I could use as references are not living in the country and unfortunately you don’t have their contact information. I don’t know if there are other people that you would feel comfortable mentioning to an interviewer?

      Do the people in New Country typically ask for references? Where I am, outside of the US, no one would call up a former supervisor to talk about the quality of your work.

      1. Looby*

        I think it depends on the company. There was one I looked at that stated up front that references would be contacted. My current job didn’t ask for them as they said they would base it on my 90 day probation period. I have a few personal references I could use, but no one who could vouch for my work.

    2. Adam*

      Could you use any of your coworkers as references? In my current job hunt my most recent reference is from six years ago. I’ve had enough contact with him in the years since then that he’s still happy to be a reference for me. But since I wanted someone more current I asked a teammate who I currently work with frequently and she agreed to be a reference for me as well. Ultimately supervisors are the best but anyone you’ve worked with closely can pinch hit for you.

      Also if you do any volunteer work ask if those supervisors would be willing to help as well.

    3. themmases*

      Personally I would try first to contact my old references. It’s not weird to have not spoken to your references in three years– that actually sounds about right to me because three years is a really normal amount of time between job searches. Most people’s references are not their personal friends and mentors (or at least, all 3+ of them are not), so it’s pretty normal to not be in continual social contact with them in between job searches. Use Google or LinkedIn to find their current contact information, then use that to check in with them.

      I used to worry about whether to use old references if I hadn’t spoken to them in a while. But I think most people actually like to hear from old coworkers, especially if it’s someone they feel like they personally helped. I now send references a short email thanking them for last time, letting them know how the job I’m leaving worked out, and mentioning if I think it’s a good fit for any of their other mentees or direct reports in the future. Then I tell them what my new plans are and ask if they’d be willing to be a reference again and, if yes, whether they want my new CV. I get really good responses to this approach, and while I’d like to take credit for my awesome emails I think it’s at least 50% because this is a totally reasonable request.

    4. C Average*

      May I ask the origin of your screen name?

      True story: my junior high English teacher used to punish people for mouthing off in class by having them come in during lunch hour and copy text out of the dictionary. (He called it “doing inches,” and he’d use a ruler to measure a certain number of inches of text the hapless miscreant had to write out in longhand.)

      Being a bit of a class clown, I was no stranger to doing inches, and once had to copy an entry that included the word “looby,” which as I recall derived from “lubber,” which derived from “landlubber,” and meant “a big, clumsy fellow.” I thought it was a wonderful word and told a lot of other people about it at the time, and it enjoyed a brief spate of popularity as a go-to insult at my school. It’s so much fun to say!

      1. Looby*

        It’s the start of my first name and my last initial all thrown together. Loo + B (and Loob just sounded wrong!) Never even realised it was a word!

  44. Vanilla*

    How do job hunt in a very political company?

    I’ve been job searching internally for about six months. I keep getting passed over for jobs and I’m trying to figure out what I can do differently to position myself better. I’ve lost out to several positions because the hiring manager hired a friend for the role or hired someone for political reason. Many of the people hired lack the actual job skills and end up leaving the position within a year.

    I’ve gotten feedback that I’m fantastic at what I do and am a very hard worker. I will say that I do tend to keep to myself, keep my head down, and don’t make friends with coworkers (for a variety of reasons).

    Another reason I feel I’m getting passed over is my current department’s reputation in the company. Unfortunately, the department is perceived as flaky, lazy, and not budget conscious. I know I’m a valuable asset to my department (because I actually DO work) and part of me thinks that they don’t want to let me go and are preventing me from transitioning to a different area. My current leader knows I am looking internally and is supportive but not particularly concerned with my development, if that makes sense.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Has anyone you’ve worked for or with moved up? If so, I’d start there — it’s always easiest to move when you have an advocate already waiting.

      I wish I had advice on how to figure out whether they’re just trying to keep you where you are because you’re unusually good for that department, though.

    2. AVP*

      Is there a reason you need to stick with this particular company? If that’s their MO when hiring, it might just be that you need to move out to move up.

      1. Vanilla*

        I’m looking at external opportunities too but what I’ve found so far is that they aren’t willing to pay me anything close to what I make now and they require a lot of late nights.

        My current company is very much about work/life balance and our health insurance is pretty reasonable (I’m still single and over the age of 26 so I won’t be able to get insurance through anyone else). The company is also one of the largest and most stable in my city too.

    3. Sunflower*

      I’d be a little worried about working in an environment where it’s all about politics. Can you deal with the people you work with not being skilled to do the job? Possibly having to pick up extra slack? What about the bosses who hire this way? Aren’t they noticing the high turnover and do they care?

      Is there any chance you can directly connect with the hiring manager for the roles? Can you ask your boss to go to bat for you and tell them how you are one of the best in the department?

      Honestly, I know your company is stable and pays a lot so I’m not saying you should defintely leave but this doesn’t sound like a great working environment. All politics? Refusing to let employees prosper because you need them to continue picking up other people’s slack? It sounds like a nightmare to me. I’d suggest trying to connect directly with the hiring manager if you want to move up here. Good luck!

    4. C Average*

      Are there some ways you can engineer serendipitous contacts with people outside your department and create opportunities to demonstrate your smarts and work ethic? Maybe volunteer for company-wide events, look for cross-functional task force opportunities, work out at the company gym, etc.? I’ve found those kinds of activities incredibly useful in building a network at my company, which sounds a lot like yours. It hasn’t led to a job in another department yet (we’re in the same boat), but it’s led to some productive collaborations that I’m hopeful will lead to opportunities.

  45. matcha123*

    Let’s see how fast I can type :)

    I was looking for a little advice on a past problem at my part-time job. This job was as a bookshelver at a library in my town and I worked there for about 9.5 years. When I started, I had a great supervisor and the people in my department seemed to get along well. However, she was transferred (?) to another branch and a new woman took her place.

    From day one there were a lot of issues. I wasn’t comfortable with her, but it was only a library part-time job and I had always done my job well. I should add, the first supervisor was transferred my second year there. The new woman, I’ll call her Janice, gave me a lot of praise and things were fine. That is until she got into some kind of tiff with a coworker. Us lower-level people could, in theory, work our way up and in fact, one other supervisor, Steph, did just that.

    So, a coworker was looking to move up, he’d trained numerous people, was great at his job, but he was being blocked for some reason by Janice. She told him to stop talking at work, so he put up “No Talking” signs around his area. She told the rest of us that we shouldn’t talk to him. Maybe I should mention that Janice is white and the coworker, Grant, was a person of color.

    At some point, Janice became antagonistic to our whole department. Each of us had a number of sections that we were in charge of; Mysteries, Books on Tape, Teen, etc. The rule was that you come in, check the returns and if there was a significant number, you go and shelve your section first. Shelving is simply putting the books in your section in the correct order (Dewy Decimal System), straightening out the books and reshelving misplaced books. During Janice’s fight (?) with Grant, she started making carts for us and sending us out, usually to the children’s section to shelve.

    Let me pause and say that any parent that takes their kid to the library, let’s them pull a bunch of children’t books off the shelf and then walks off leaving the books on a table, should be shot. It takes literal hours to neaten those thin books.

    Back to the story. So, Janice fills up all of our carts with children’s books, directs us to that section, since no one is assigned to it, and tells us it’s our priority. That’s fine, but we are all part-time and can’t work over X number of hours a week. So, after a week of 10 or so people shelving and straightening the children’s section, the rest of the library is trashed and we get told we’re not doing our jobs.

    Long work up, sorry. What I want to ask about is an incident that happened while Janice was on the war path. She asked me to shelve a certain section since materials were backed up in the back. Of course I fill a cart with materials and go to the area, but there is just not enough room for all of the materials, despite all the magic I pulled. Janice, expanded our circulation to over 1 million materials, but no one thought to add extra shelving for all of that.

    I do what I can during my shift, but I can’t even make a dent, so I take the cart back and clock out at my regular time. The next day, I get called into her office and told I need to sign a paper stating I was “insubordinate” because I didn’t shelve all of the materials like she’d asked me to. I’d never had any problems until that time. So, I signed the paper (I’d been there about 5 or 6 years by that time and was in university) and went home and told my mom.

    Unbeknownst to me, she called up someone on the board to ask what was going on. About two days later, I get called into a room for a meeting with Janice and Steph where Janice tells me I am not to go over her head for anything and my job was on the line. Steph told me that since the economy was bad, a lot of people would love to have my job, so I should think about my actions. And while I sat there crying, Janice just barked, “Why are you crying?”

    Then, a day or so after that, I was called into a meeting with Janice again being accused of ignoring her greeting and giving her a dirty look when I was leaving work one day (I swear, I did not even see her). Again, she warned me about my job and said that, “If it comes down to me or you, it’s going to be you.”

    This is getting long, so I’ll wrap it up. Was there anything I could have done differently in this situation? I am pretty sure that Janice had a target on my (and other coworkers’) backs because we were friendly with Grant. The library is a non-profit and in my case, I did enjoy working there. The other people were nice, the hours were flexible and for someone with no car and a full high school/university schedule it just fit.

    I did stick it out and her supervisor was fired, Janice came close to being fired for getting into a fight with a homeless person at the library and was transferred to another branch, where, I hear she has continued to make life hell for the people there.

    1. Wolfey*

      I don’t know about advice, but you are making me feel grateful for the meagerness of my own gripes. Props for sticking it out. I hope Grant was able to move up.

      1. matcha123*

        Yeah, it’s a TL;DR :(

        But, I know if I say, “My boss pulled me into a room any yelled at me, advice?” or anything slightly longer it wouldn’t be enough for people to work with :p

        I think that Grant quit not too long before or after I did. It’s been a long time.

    2. fposte*

      How long ago was this? I think it sounds like a sucky situation, but it also sounds like it was a while ago yet you’re still feeling in the middle of it, hence the detailed narrative. Do you think there’s a reason this is haunting you years later?

      P.S. Patrons are supposed to leave books out in some libraries, including mine. I would not like them to be obeying my library’s rules and get shot :-).

      1. matcha123*

        I guess you could say it happened a number of years ago. I often find myself looking back at that time and wondering what it was I did wrong or what I should have done differently. When I was there, I wasn’t in a position to talk to a non-parttime worker and get advice, and I moved overseas days after quitting. This job literally comes out in my dreams!

        There were no rules for the patrons about where to leave books. I don’t know if it’s different now, though.
        But, I think you probably leave yours in a neat pile on a table or cart? I’ve had whole sections removed from a shelf and stacked up in the middle of an aisle! Children’s books thrown on the floor or hidden in some strange part of the library. *shakes head*

        1. fposte*

          The only people who leave stuff in neat piles here are the staff. And I don’t mean me–I don’t do neat piles :-).

          I can see that not having a colleague to process with might have left this in your head more. You were young and isolated and, it sounds like, getting pulled a bit between job and parents, and then you transported across the planet without getting a clear conclusion so it feels unfinished. I’d just say now “You know, some crazy stuff went down there” and call it done.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I have a couple jobs that I look back at and wonder about.

          Two factors: I was naive. The job was toxic. I kept trying to make it work, when the correct response would be to LEAVE.
          So you had a toxic boss. Your mom called on it and that exposed your boss. (Usually when this happens, the situation gets worse and it did.) The boss got even with you by setting you up to fail (insurmountable task) and then lying (you were rude to her). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so this is the toxic boss’ reaction. And you left.

          I seriously doubt there was anything you could have done differently. And that can be a bit depressing to think that you had very little power in that situation. But your boss thought you had a lot of power that is why she went after you like that. Just vow you will never let yourself stay in such a toxic environment that long again. You can only change your future, the past can only teach us.

        3. Judy*

          Our local public library has carts at the end of every 3rd or so row with signs saying “Please don’t re-shelve the books”.

      2. EmilyG*

        Yeah, but some people let their kids pull books down just for the sheer destructive fun of it–whole shelves of them. Can we shoot those people? It reminds me of those videos of cats knocking over glasses of water while looking you in the eye.

        1. matcha123*

          Yes, this! My library started the whole “leave your books on this cart” thing a few months before I left and it was a disaster. I thought they did it to take note of what kinds of books were popular, but it seems they only did it because other libraries did it.
          They just take the cart filled with books from 3 – 4 different floors, push it into the back and tell us to shelve it. The quality of all of the sections deteriorated because no one was in charge of any section and there just wasn’t enough time to get the messy carts sorted, reshelved and various sections straightened and cleaned.

          Maybe those libraries have people checking something, but if you know which books are non-fiction/fiction and you know how to put things away in order or using the Dewy Decimal System, I can promise that the shelvers will love you!

    3. Kelly L.*

      I had the same job for a brief time, and IMO there is a weird thing about small town libraries sometimes. Weird turf wars and power trips. I don’t know why this is.

      1. matcha123*

        Power trips were the last thing I was expecting when I started working there. I don’t even get the point of that.

        1. Kelly L.*

          My guess is that in my particular case, it was that the people who worked there had been working there for decades and decades, with no turnover and little advancement (because if you wanted to work in a library, it was the only game in town). So people got really territorial about the turf they’d managed to stake out.

    4. Dynamic Beige*

      I think the only thing you can do in a situation like that is document. When it’s obvious that someone (Janice) is a miserable See You Next Tuesday and has various agendas and is enacting things that give you that funny “This Is Not Right” feeling in the pit of your stomach: document.

      “Feb 6, Janice asked me to do X. It was not my normal task, as I usually do Y so I was not completely familiar with what was involved with it. Within the 4 hour period that I worked, I attempted to complete this project by doing A, B and C but was unable to complete it due to there were too many materials and not enough shelf space for them all. I was able to do about X% of it. Tomorrow, I will ask Janice what she wants me to do with the extra materials” (and one note, by leaving and not telling her that you were unable to finish, that might have also set her off)
      “Feb 7, today Janice told us we are not allowed to talk to Clarence. I do not know why but this is going to make doing my job harder because Clarence is our teapot expert and at least three people a day ask us about them. I am concerned that we will not provide our customers the level of service that they require if we cannot speak to Clarence.”

      As much as privacy laws may frown on it, with cameraphones there is now another way to document abusive behaviour, by recording it. You can look up the laws for your area and find out what’s allowed but I’m sorry, IMO my safety trumps your right to privacy and if you make a habit of coming into my area or hauling me into your office to scream at me or belittle me, I’m going to record you and it won’t be obvious that it’s happening. Yes, this may be bad advice and it may get someone in trouble. I’m not advocating that you go home and post it on your Facebook page, I’m saying you keep it. You build that documentation that shows a pattern of abuse and when you have enough, you can then figure out who to speak with — HR, a superior to your superior, a lawyer. In your case OP, all anyone had was what Janice told them and she was able to build a paper trail showing you to be the one in the wrong. Without documentation, you were blindsided when things went pear-shaped and you lacked the experience of what to do, not to mention you just had not had the expectation that some people can be bat-crap insane and those people might be your employer/manager. I swear there should be a Life Skills course in High School that everyone has to take that explains what the employment laws are, how to search and apply for a job/apartment, sometimes even proper table manners.

      1. matcha123*

        Wow, this question got a lot more answers than I was expecting!
        I actually did what you said and documented everything. But, then I thought, “Would the board members, or whoever is in charge, really care?” Janice was in charge of hiring and firing, so if I quit only the staff closest to me would know.
        Then Janice was unceremoniously transferred to a smaller branch and her boss fired and marched out of the library with a security guard escort.

        I will definitely document if someone like this ever happens again. I really do not understand how people like this can sleep with themselves at night!

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          If it was just you, you’re probably right, they wouldn’t care, especially since they would have had the document you signed admitting your insubordination. If it was more than just you, including Grant, yes they would. If multiple people documented a pattern of abuse and that pattern also included discrimination to a minority, they had better care. Because otherwise, they could find themselves on the end of a lawsuit. Someone there dropped a dime on her, because her trajectory was nothing but down. If they truly approved of her performance, at least she would have remained at that branch.

          How people like that can live with themselves is quite simply that they can’t. They blame everyone and everything for their unhappiness and use their position/authority to show just how unhappy they are. It wasn’t about you, it was about what you represented to Janice. Maybe she never got to have the education she wanted, and so she was stuck working as a librarian instead of being the next Martha Graham and lighting the world on fire with her interpretive dance. Whatever her damage, it doesn’t give her licence to run around and inflict pain on people.

    5. Aisling*

      No, there wasn’t anything else you could do. Janice was on the war path, and short of keeping a record of issues and going to HR about it, there wasn’t anything else you could do. I will add – any supervisor who makes a subordinate feel that they have no recourse but to take the supervisor’s crap should never, ever be a supervisor. I’m betting Janice knew she wasn’t doing a great job and didn’t want you telling anyone, for fear she’d get in trouble.

      The only thing I would have done differently is I would have quit during the meeting you had over you being “insubordinate”. And then talked to HR and the board about why you felt you had to quit with no notice. You never need to put up with that.

    6. C Average*

      Sometimes people suck, in the workplace and everywhere else. It’s probably as fruitless to try to figure this one out as it would be to try to figure out why that one kid picked on you in fifth grade or that one guy in college just wasn’t into you or that one frenemy can’t treat you decently.

      (Equally fruitless is wondering why these people don’t receive their karmic comeuppance.)

      You probably did something at some point that turned her against you, even if it was just aligning with someone else who’d already gotten on her bad side. Once that happened, she began looking for reasons to strike out at you and to threaten your livelihood.

      If you need a “why,” it’s because Janice was awful and you, for whatever reason, became a target for her wrath.

      1. matcha123*

        Part of me feels that I should just forget it. But the part of me that keeps remembering it, can’t. But, thank you for your answer! And everyone else, too :)

  46. Anie*

    Not a question.

    I have had such a day and it’s not even lunch time. My train broke down 3 times so I was more than a hour late. (Thank you snow!) And then I realized I was having a reaction to my new wool sweater and had to run out and buy something else to wear.

    My co-workers have been lovely and patient. I hope all people at other companies can be similarly nice to their equally high-maintenance and suffering co-workers.

    1. OriginalEmma*

      I’m very sorry to hear that. I think we’ve all had those days. Where the train or bus is late, you forgot your lunch, and you’ve been walking around with a giant deodorant smear on the outside of your dark blouse.

    2. TL -*

      MBTA? Because it’s been lovely lately.

      (Actually, I’ve had very good luck with my line but I’ve been completely avoiding rush hour, so…)

  47. New Position Patti*

    I’m hoping for some advice on feeling out an internal opportunity. I’m pretty qualified and think it would be a good career move – while being able to try new things. I’ve been in my current position about a year and a half. I mentioned to a friend in that department that, off the record, I may be interested. But what’s the best way to approach this? Should I go straight to my boss? The boss of this position just left this week and the whole department is in some transition period.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If they have not mentioned any thing specific, then, yes, I would go talk to my boss about it.
      Providing, of course, that my boss is sane.

  48. Wolfey*

    Just popping in to vent/cry about office politics, since there’s no use doing it IRL.

    -Coworkers are still giving me the cold shoulder/interrogating me about a new schedule I asked for.

    -A couple of things I volunteered to help out on for a friend didn’t turn out the way she wanted, either because A) I’m new to that kind of task or B) it was a hot potato project that got passed through others before it got to me and wires were crossed. I *hate* feeling incompetent and like I let someone down, especially a friend who’s taught me a lot about how things work in the industry and helped me through the worst days here (as I did for her. lots of hugs and positive affirmation). The hot potato project happened months ago, so I didn’t even remember what I was looking at when she asked. I feel like the worst worker who ever worked.

    -On top of everyone else turning cold, this friend has been acting for weeks like she no longer enjoys my company or thinks highly of me. Both are obviously her prerogative (and I might be frustrated with me too right now), but it still hurts.

    I’m trying to be compassionate and empathetic to all the reasons that make people act the way they do, so I can see where they are coming from and cut them some slack. I’m trying to forgive myself for mistakes that either had little significance at all or were caught ahead of time. I’m trying to separate my self-worth from the total success of every single thing, because this fear of trying new things at work because of failure is unhealthy. I’m trying to remember that this office is toxic under a normal veneer, which is why staff has turned over %70 in less than a year.

    It just sucks guys. I’m not one of those task-oriented workers. Relationships are really valuable to my whole professional experience; they are the prime motivators for my enthusiasm and work ethic. Trying to be productive and feel good about my work where there are none, or just sour ones…I’m emotionally worn out.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is why I have a dog. sigh…

      I am so sorry this is happening to you. Is there some small way you can invest in yourself? Maybe go for a massage, or take a class, anything that would just be a time out of The Rain?

      Sometimes when nothing is going right, we have to deliberately create something that will go right. Our sanity depends on it almost. I hope things get better soon.

      1. Wolfey*

        Thanks for the kind words, Not So New Reader :) The best part of my work day–since day 1–has been walking by the doggie day care on my way home. They have huge windows and all the doggies are the cutest.

        Things will get better soon. I am investing myself by transitioning from this field to full-time school for a different discipline. (Juggling both right now is burning me out, but it feels good to have a goal that isn’t *this*.) And I started a strict work/study/yoga/gym schedule this week to be more time efficient and structure some physical activity for myself.

        I think I also need to make some new friends in this newish city. Upset-friend is the first I made here and I’ve really relied on her for many many months. It’s probably not appropriate to care so much about how she’s feeling or what she thinks since our friendship is rooted in a professional environment. I just also know that she’s really unhappy here too and it kills me that A) I’ve made things more stressful this week and B) I can’t be supportive like I normally would be (based on her signals I think it would be intrusive).

        Today’s a bit rough, but it’s almost the weekend!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You have a really good handle on things. Stick to your plan like glue, I am sure it will help a lot.

    2. C Average*

      Awww, man. Your description of the hot-potato project brought back scary flashbacks. Been there, done that. If you were in my city, I would personally buy you a beer and offer you a hug (if you’re the type to want hugs) right this minute.

      I think the hardest screw-ups to process are the messy, multifaceted ones like this. Unlike the bright-line “I messed up” situations all of us cringe to remember, these are the ones that don’t FEEL like blatant mistakes in the moment; they fell like you’re muddling along at less than full capacity because you’re not quite sure what actual success looks like, and it’s only in retrospect that the failures and imperfections seem obvious and fixable. There is a project like that in my work history that still haunts me.

      I’ve found that when I’m in this mindset, it helps me a lot to start and finish something tangible. For me it’s sewing: I pick a project, but the materials, and make something. Or if it’s purely in a work context, I look around for something that could clearly use some of my special brand of TLC and I take it on and get it done.

      When you’re in that messy “I suck” mindset, it really helps to prove to yourself that you are a competent person who starts things and finishes them, and that the current situation is an anomaly and not a sign of lack of character, work ethic, follow-through, vision, or any other necessary ingredient for professional success.

  49. Gene*

    I’m looking forward to a burnout.

    Small office, 4 workers and a program manager, mid-size city municipal govt, environmental regulators. Though we all have the same title, two of us (CW1 and I) regulate ~20 industries; CW2 has a couple of industries and half the city for grease program, CW3 has the other half of the city grease program. The industry regulation is mandatory by Federal law, the grease program is semi-mandatory (don’t ask).

    Three weeks ago, CW1 was having some leg problems and eventually went to the chiropractor, then a week later to the doctor. Tuesday he had brain surgery to remove a tumor (no report to us yet on tumor pathology). In-hospital rehab will be up to 3 weeks and an unknown time after for outpatient rehab. Luckily, we have pretty good medical insurance and he has lots of sick leave saved up.

    But, the program has to move on and my workload will essentially double for the foreseeable future. CW2 is relatively capable of managing industry regulation, CW3 is currently on a PIP for getting stuff done and his near inability to write a coherent letter. We’re working on divvying up the workload and I’m going to get, if not the majority of his industries, the more complex ones.

    Just got a call from his wife, he’s been moved to the rehab floor. No estimates yet for timelines.

    1. fposte*

      Ai yi yi. And it can feel churlish to complain about workload when you’re not the one with the brain tumor. Good luck to you. Any chance they can bring in extra help if the timeline looks long?

  50. Amaryllis*

    We are recruiting for an executive secretary and we want to hire someone who is a good (if not great) fit. Obviously, who doesn’t?! One thing that I’ve noticed between average/mediocre employees and great employees is that the latter have some sort of passion to do their job well. The thing is, we’re a regular office setting and few people would say “I’m really passionate about crunching numbers!” or something like that. Plus, just because they say it doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

    How do we sort through applicants and find that “it” factor? We’re also toying with the idea of a skills assessment to test some basic reading comprehension, math, proofreading but that would only test for ability and not really the “passion/desire” component. We’re not expecting someone to be married to their job (no overtime, just regular 40 hours a week) but I don’t think we should settle for someone who performs at a 70% level if you can find people who will perform at 80-90%. Or is this too idyllic?

    1. LillianMcGee*

      I think it’s gonna come down to the interviews… In my experience, candidates passionate about the position really exude it in the interview. It becomes more of a conversation than a Q and A. Maybe try phone interviews as a first round?

    2. soitgoes*

      This is going to sound very pedantic, but make sure you’re offering enough money. It kind of sounds like you want to hire someone with non-secretary interests and talents into a secretary role. That’s all fine and good, but I think that if you want someone who brings other talents to the table, you might have to bite the bullet and expand the role so that it’s more appealing to the sort of person that your company needs. Don’t call this person a secretary if that’s not what the job is going to end up being.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This, and I also think it’s a good idea to divorce the idea of passion from the idea of working hard. There could be someone who could work at 90% while thinking of it as “just a job,” or someone who was really passionate about the job but just not as good at it.

        1. soitgoes*

          Exactly. No disrespect to the OP (who is surely just going along with the company norms), but I’d be very careful about hiring a woman who is going to be vital to the company and from whom you are going to expect brilliance…and then only calling her a secretary.

          If you want someone who is passionate about what the company does and can be involved in the day-to-day non-admin work, you’re not looking for a secretary.

          1. fposte*

            I’ve heard this here before, and I think it’s interesting–to me, secretaries often have been involved in non-admin work (I was, as a secretary), and I think the change to administrative assistant was more a euphemistic treadmill thing than a genuine change of position. And I confess I do bristle a little at what ends up seeming like a backhanded dismissal of secretaries, when they’ve been–we’ve been–pretty significant individuals most places I’ve worked.

            But if a lot of people–maybe younger people?–read “secretary” as “clerk typist” or whatever the limited interpretation is, that may right there be a reason to use a different term. It’s not like you’re going to be able to make a semantic case to all your prospective applicants.

    3. Joey*

      Look for going above and beyond. Handling things that should be someone else’s job is a really good sign.

      I do a homework assignment that involves some research (Ie put together a presentation on [something easily researched]) to see how much effort they put into it.

    4. fposte*

      Can you ask them what tasks gave them particular job satisfaction at previous jobs? Generally, people flow really well when they’re talking about what they liked.

    5. LCL*

      I think you’ve got things backwards. The people here who are really passionate about their work became better at it over time and their passion increased as their skills increased.
      I think your idea of skills assessment is good, but the skills tested should be those that are directly relevant to the job.

    6. C Average*

      Be a company that inspires passion.

      Model passion from the top. Have upper management who are demonstrably engaged in their work and are knowledgeable about the entire scope of the business.

      Have a mission that can be clearly communicated. Does your company offer a product or service that makes the world a better place overall? Make sure that’s not lost in the day-to-day.

      Identify passion where you see it and reward it in a way that speaks to the employee’s motivation. Some employees are motivated by praise. Some are motivated by small rewards. Some are motivated by public recognition. Some are motivated by the knowledge that their output is quantifiable and known by management. Some are motivated by opportunities to learn new skills and take on new tasks.

      If you build it, they will come.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I am old, I think. I am not so sure about being passionate about a job. What I am sure about is work ethic. What do you do when you encounter something you are not familiar with? What do you do when you are hit with five tasks that all need to be done at once? How do you handle a coworker that isn’t cooperating with your requests? You made a mistake, how do you handle that?

      Going back to relationships in couples. Passion comes and goes, sometimes it comes back then it goes again. It’s the commitment to the relationship that makes things work. I would want to see that a person is making a commitment to the position. A person who does that can give examples to the types of questions here. I don’t think there is an exact correct answer to them- but good answers will get your attention.

    8. Serin*

      I’ve been in a position like that, and one of the things that sets a great admin apart from a merely good one is that a great admin is thinking ahead to what something implies, and what the possible consequences of it might be.

      For instance, I was a church secretary. If a member called to let me know she was going in for surgery, it was my job to notify the pastor and the volunteer who was taking care of pastoral care for that month. But the next step beyond that was to say, “Do you want me to mail you a copy of the bulletin while you’re out? Since you’re on the luncheon committee, do you want me to let the chairwoman know you’re out of commission? We’ve got that supply of bath chairs and crutches and other medical equipment — could you use any of that?”

      So you might think of a similar hypothetical question to ask in the interview — “Say _____ happens. Of course the obvious response is to do ____, but talk to me about what else you might do to handle the situation.”

    9. Jennifer*

      My suggestion would not be to look for “passion” or “IT” in clerical work. Look for someone who is pleasant to get along with and preferably gets a lot of work done. Look for someone who is passionate about getting things done, no matter what they are.

    10. matcha123*

      I don’t think you should really focus on passion or an it-factor when interviewing. There are people that can be great at a job without being outwardly passionate about it. In what ways would you describe “passion?”
      Is it someone who seeks out new challenges by meeting with a supervisor? etc. That might help you to attract better people.
      Personally, when I hear “passion” for a job, I think of this kind of religious fervor and it scares me.

    11. Amaryllis*

      Re: the term “secretary” – the position’s tasks are answering telephones, making copies, ordering catering for meetings, and managing an exec’s calendar. This is just the term that the company uses (I didn’t choose it). Salary starts at $44K.

      As others have suggested, I think what I meant by “IT” factor is really just “work ethic”. Some of my friends who are managers used the word passion to describe their great employees vs their okay employees. As for what kind of “work ethic” I’m talking about, for example – when the person enters in an appointment on the calendar, is the name spelled correctly, is the location correct, is the date/time accurate? If there’s a change to the event, is the entry updated? While checklists can help ensure the employee do all these things, there may be some people who won’t be a good fit (but may say all the right things in an interview).

      The reason why I asked this question is because we hear so much about employees with poor performance who are allowed to stay in their jobs while there are lots of unemployed people who would be superstars if only someone who give them a chance and hire them. Given how reluctant managers (at our company) are in coaching poor performers or letting them go if it comes to that, I think it would be good if we could do better in our hiring.

  51. LillianMcGee*

    My husband is about to accept a job as a conductor-trainee (I think) for a local freight train company. Anyone have any experience in railroad jobs and have words of wisdom for the spouse??!

    1. Jean*

      “lucky you! you get to have trains in your life!” However I’m a railroad enthusiast both by personal inclination and from marriage. YMMV.
      Can you find a local in-the-flesh or online community (doesn’t have to be local) of railroad employees and/or spouses? Or railroad enthusiasts? You might also check out information about coping with a frequently-travelling spouse. (The web site corporette . com frequently has discussions about long distance relationships. The topic came up just this week.)
      More practically, is your spouse’s new employer good about maintaining a safe working environment? Will your spouse have access to a union to maintain (or advocate for) said safe working environment? Are any of your municipal, county, state, or national elected officials advocates for safe railroad working environments? If not, are said elected folks amenable to your persuasion?

    2. Snork Maiden*

      If it’s a union shift work job like it is up here in Canada, chances are it’s going to really suck for the first while until he gets seniority, I’m afraid. Though you said local, so the work environment may differ from CN and CP up north. Management can make or break a job.

      One thing I do offer as advice for physical jobs (I’ve had several): please, take advantage of sick leave, physio allowance etc. and get your complaints looked at. Working through the pain or hoping a situation resolves itself doesn’t always work, especially as you get older. It can be extra hard in an environment that dismisses injury or considers leave as “weakness”. I’ve seen too many older people with chronic conditions and painkiller habits caused by an incident they ignored while younger, and had complications as a result. (Case in point: Me. I sprained my foot, didn’t get it looked at, thought it would get better. Resulting favouring of the leg led to hip and back problems, and now chronic tendinitis.)

      Sorry to be so negative! Working the railroads can be a steady and rewarding job with the right people. It’s satisfying to learn new skills. The people I know who work the rails make a very good wage and enjoy being outside.

  52. yoko*

    I need some advice on ‘business development’… I was hired as a paralegal and I like my job. I work at one of the satellite offices of a firm so we are smaller and don’t have a marketing/communications/busdev sort of role or department. Recently someone I work with asked if I could do research to pinpoint potential clients within a few industries we already have experience in. I like research and I’m happy to do this, I have does anyone know any quick and dirty resources for how to do this kind of work? They don’t want me doing outreach or anything (yet) just compiling a list of potentials. Trouble is I am also struggling to identify what would make a good prospect, and it doesn’t seem like they had much more guidance other than that.

    1. LillianMcGee*

      I only have the opposite experience… searching for vendors within certain industries, but… I would start with any professional organizations that exist within the industries you are interested in. They typically have publicly available lists of members.

  53. Katrin*

    So after over a year of underemployment, I finally got a full time salaried position. I wasn’t expecting to get my dream job or anything given that this is my first “real” job out of college and my limited experience, but I have very mixed feelings about this for a few different reasons, the primary one being that I’ve been hired by the agency that my father works for. We’re not going to be in the same department, but we won’t be far from each other, and I resemble him strongly so even if my last name weren’t a giveaway people would probably figure out very quickly that we’re related. I already have a sense of imposter syndrome because my experience isn’t really *that* well aligned with the job duties, and I’m torn between being worried that everyone else will see me and think, “Oh, she’s only here because she’s X’s daughter” and being worried that their expectations will be very high because my dad is pretty well-regarded within the agency. I don’t want to somehow reflect poorly on him. So on top of the usual worries about adjusting to the office culture and a new schedule and all of that, I’m concerned about how to make sure I stand on my own and am able to keep my work and family life separate. I think I could be good at this job eventually even though I accepted this position mainly out of a lack of other options, but I’m putting tons of pressure on myself because of imagined pressure from others.

    I don’t know if I typed this out just to vent or if I was hoping for advice or feedback…haha. I’d certainly welcome advice on how to handle myself or general tips for adjusting if anyone feels like it!

    1. BananaPants*

      I’ve had one experience with a coworker whose hiring could have been viewed as nepotism (her father was a very highly-placed executive in our corporate office). Frankly, it DID look like nepotism and it didn’t help that when she was very new in the role (as a new graduate) she name-dropped a little too much. There were a lot of references to social events and leisure travel that were beyond the means of virtually all of her coworkers. It took around 6-12 months of her actually DOING the job well to start to change that perception.

      1. Katrin*

        Oh god, I assure you that I will be doing the opposite of name dropping and will be actively avoiding talking about my father (other than that, I have no one to name drop). He’s definitely not at executive level within the agency and my salary is standard entry level. Neither of us are thrilled about working together and I had been working very hard to find a job on my own, but when a position came up and he vaguely mentioned me to the person who is now my supervisor, that person was the one who got excited about me and asked him to encourage me to apply. Aside from that, my dad claims he’s been more or less completely hands off, and he says that he was told that I was chosen over another candidate because I genuinely seemed like a better fit. I want to keep that in mind and I’m going to work hard to prove myself, but it’s difficult for me to shake the idea that nepotism didn’t have at least some subconscious role in it.

        1. BananaPants*

          I didn’t mean to imply that you would – just sort of cautionary tale. Let your work speak for itself and you’ll be fine!

          In my area it’s not uncommon for parents and adult children to work for the same corporation (when a company has several thousand employees at one location, odds are that some will be related). They can’t be in the same organizational structure or have a subordinate relationship, but it’s usually a non-issue.

    2. Sunflower*

      This is just my experience but A LOT of people I know got their first job through a relative and I don’t think people automatically assume you can’t do the job. Starting your first *real* job is scary and I think 95% of people go in thinking ‘I can’t believe they hired me for this, I have no clue what I’m doing’ so I don’t think that feeling is because you aren’t qualified- it’s very common.

      Try to avoid talking about your dad. If someone brings his name up, I would give a short answer and then change the direction of the conversation. Simply by not talking about him, you’ll build yourself as your own person. Pretend like your dad doesn’t work there. Don’t talk about work outside of the office. If you have a problem, don’t go to him. Think ‘if my dad didn’t work here, what would I do’

      I would just make sure you go in and do a good job with the little things- pay attention, ask questions, want to learn. The biggest issue with nepotism isn’t hiring someone who maybe isn’t fully qualified- it’s hiring someone who just doesn’t care and doesn’t think they have to. This doesn’t sound like you at all but this is the real issue people have when family members get hired.

    3. themmases*

      Oh, I got my foot in the door at my old job totally because of nepotism! It worked out fine. I think the fact that you are self-conscious about this, rather than feeling entitled or proud of knowing people in high places, is going to serve you really well. Avoid bringing up your connection but don’t actively hide it, put in the effort at your job, and with time you’ll stand on your own and it will just be a fun fact that two members of your family work there, with no value attached to that at all.

      My old boss created a part-time job for me out of thin air, because my mom (who is the *very* well loved manager of his professional organization) mentioned in passing that I was job searching. I was qualified for the job, but the job was invented for me. First of all, even though we resemble each other and have the same last name lots of people who had known my mom for years did not make the connection. Second, it didn’t take long for me to have my own relationships and accomplishments that people knew me for and that I was proud of. If you are interested in standing on your own, that in itself is not a universal quality and suggests that eventually you will. Even if you don’t turn out to be the best junior widget maker in the universe, that attitude is valuable and attractive.

  54. The Leafy Seadragon*

    I have a phone interview today (yay!) I am a Chocolate Teapot Painter, and the position is for painting chocolate teapots with different variety of paint that I much prefer (and perhaps some coffee pots as well, which I am actively trying to do.) I am also a freelance Indulgent Beverage Pottery Painter, trying to sell some of my ornamental strawberry wine goblets . When they ask me to talk about myself or describe external interests, should I mention it? I can see both sides of this one:

    Pro: It shows that I passionate about all aspects of beverage vessel painting, and am driven, creative, and can work well with any kind of paint
    Con: It’s a different kind of painting, and it might seem like I won’t focus on my job or would quit soon to pursue freelance goblet work (I wouldn’t – it’s a long, slow process and even if I was somehow successful, it’s not like I’d be doing press tours. That just doesn’t happen to most people.)

    Should I mention the goblet painting or current goblet I am trying to sell, which has actually been getting some good feedback from minor ornamental beverage vessel professionals?

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Hmm. This sounds like what a lot of my colleagues on the graphic design side do — they make their bread and butter doing slick Adobe layouts for the ad agency, and then on the side they do wedding invitations or more personal artistic pursuits like painting and sculpture.

      My sense is that these colleagues discuss the side gigs only tangentially, and only if they’re hobbies that don’t pay. (No art director I’ve ever interviewed has mentioned doing design for hire on the side, but quite a few list painting or photography in the “other interests” section of their resumes.) I think, at least in my industry, that if it’s a side business, it does raise questions about your focus on the job, whereas if it’s a side personal pursuit, it gets you perceived as creative and artistic (an *asset*, not a liability), without raising concerns that you’ll give your job short shrift to pursue your real calling.

      YMMV by industry though!

    2. HAnon*

      I’m not sure if your skills outside of work would translate to your daily work in this job or not…but as someone with a lot of creative experience, there have been times when I wished I DIDN’T mention “oh, I also know how to do X! And I’m an expert in X program!” because that added onto my workload and people came running to me whenever some random issue came up that they needed help with. I would much rather have focused on developing the skills required to excel at the job and start developing a track record that would make me outstanding in a certain discipline, than be forced to wear so many hats/be a jack of all creative trades. Now, that’s probably different from what you’re describing, but there’s my 10 cents (my 2 cents adjusted for inflation).

  55. LadyMountaineer*

    I just wanted to thank fposte and AnotherTeacher for your help last week when the person that I was mentoring purposefully left me out of a happy hour with my boss and a colleague from outside of our organization.

    I wasn’t quite ready to broach the topic on Friday morning and I was concerned that she had some programming books of mine so I popped by her office and excitedly told her that I had purchased a book shelf for home and that I would like to put my books back on it. I wanted to do this before I said anything at all to her because I feared that I wouldn’t see my books again. Plus my boss was taking a rare day off to go skiing with his wife and I didn’t want her interrupting him so that he could patch things up with me.

    Later that afternoon I dropped the news “I think you’re ready to fly solo now but if you need anymore help learning how to program [my boss] and [the DBA] are great resources to you. I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor.” She looked a little surprised and shrugged it off with a quick “okay.” I haven’t totally cut her off. I still tell her funny stories about my dog or hikes out in the mountains and I keep her in the loop professionally and seek out her input where it’s needed but I’m just not going out of my way developing a curriculum and getting her up to speed. I’m using my new found free time to build a self-service analytics dashboard in Python/R so executive management can do some of their own analytics on the health of our social services safety net.

    I feel like this was the best possible outcome. Rather than leaving her uncomfortable and stammering we still have a fantastic working relationship and I can comfortably bow out without any weirdness. I don’t think my boss will go to anymore happy hours. He told me on Monday that it was a “waste of his time.”

    1. fposte*

      I’m glad it worked out–and I’m really glad you got your books back. Not getting my books back would make me crazy!

  56. JMegan*

    In last week’s Open Thread, I wrote the following:

    I have been at Awesome New job for three months now. Since I started, I have requested time off for: a kid with pink eye, a kid with mono, a root canal, and today – jury duty. My manager doesn’t seem to be at all bothered by this, and of course these are all legitimate and unplanned events. But even so, I feel like I’m asking for more time off than I’m actually working – all while I’m barely in the door and am still working on making my first impressions. At some point, I’d like to actually be in the office doing my job for a decent period of time!

    That was on Friday. Then on Wednesday afternoon – three days after my jury duty request – I got called to pick up a pukey kid from day care. It just never ends.

    My manager does seem to be okay with it all, but I’m just so frustrated. Partly because I have no control over these events outside of work, which frustrates me anyway. But also because I’m so new here – it probably wouldn’t be such a big deal if I had been here for a year and had had some time to establish my reputation. I feel like all I’m doing now is establishing my reputation as someone who has lots of drama in her life, and whose drama keeps affecting her attendance at the office.

    1. LadyMountaineer*

      Think about it as if you were her and she was you. I think you would have pity on yourself. This stuff happens to people all of the time and the fact that you are aware and apologetic might be enough for her. This cold/flu season has been a killer for everyone. Try to cut yourself some slack.

    2. just laura*

      Ugh, that stinks. I’m glad your mgr is cool with it, though. Are you working from home/after hours, etc. to stay on top of stuff? That would help me to feel better about it. :/ Good luck– cold and flu season is almost over!

    3. Helen*

      Do you have a partner (or possibly a parent who could help)? If so, could they help with these emergencies while you’re still making a first impression at your new job?

      1. JMegan*

        Thank you all! I think if I were a manager with a new employee in this situation, I would be sympathetic to a run of bad luck, and to the timing of the bad luck, but I would also be wondering if this was normal for the new employee. Hopefully it ends soon, so she can see what actually *is* normal for me!

        Yes, to working at home and making up the hours. It still feels like a lot to ask since I’m so new, but I don’t think my actual work is suffering too much.

        And yes also to the partner and parents – actually, a partner, an ex-partner, and two sets of parents, so there’s lots of help available, if we can plan for it. The week of mono was actually the easiest, because I knew Kid 1 (whose name is also Helen!) was going to be out for a while, so I was able to arrange for everyone to take a turn looking after her. Problem is, if we discover something first thing in the morning, or if it happens during the day, I’m the only one who can stay home and/or get to the school in a reasonable amount of time.

        The root canal and the jury duty are all me, though. No help available for those two. So, just breathing my way through it, and hoping things settle down soon.

    4. The Toxic Avenger*

      Hi, JMegan. I looked at your thread from last week, just so I didn’t post anything here that has already been addressed.

      I managed someone in the same situation as you: after two months on the job, she had a ton of unplanned absences due to situations out of her control. I admit, it annoyed me, and it annoyed her co-workers. But, do you know what annoyed me most of all? She did not approach me at all to say anything like, “Listen. I KNOW this looks bad. I am doing everything I can to stay on top of things, and not negatively impact the team.” When I talked to her, I said, “I realize these events are out of your control. But, they are contributing to a perception that you are unreliable.” Instead of owning it, she got defensive. And, the drama just went on and on. And on.

      It sounds like you are owning it, you are having regular conversations with your manager, you got a VPN token…all the good things. If you were on my team, I’d give you props.

    5. Moonpie*

      I am on both sides of this at the moment. I’m not new at my company but I’ve only been in my current role a few months. I’ve had several sick child emergencies of my own recently, and since my husband is extremely new at his job (and other options are limited), I’m the one handling it.

      On the flip side, I’m the manager of a team where every member has working spouses and mostly young children, so I’m certainly empathic to my employees when they have to be out or leave early unexpectedly to emergencies. Mostly, though, I’m as flexible with them as I can be because they work as hard as they can while they’re here and are diligent in keeping me posted on their work status and making sure deadlines are covered.

      It sounds like you’re doing this as well, so trust your manager’s response. And hang in there – it won’t always be you in the midst of the crisis. Ideally you’ll find ways to step in for your coworkers or even your manager when they are the ones who need to be out, and it will balance out.

  57. Emily*

    Thought I would run this by you guys and see if you could help. I am applying for an internal promotion in my department at work. The only people who CAN apply have to already work in my department because it requires X amount of years with the department. I’ve been working really hard for the last 2 years to sort of prove myself as a leader, have the best stats, contribute to the overall company mission, etc. Yesterday my boss told my chances were slim to none as she knows I am poor at interviews and because of HR they have to hire based on interview score only. She said to pursue it for experience, but she rattled off the names of other people in my department whom are better interviewers, but have not put forth as much effort. My efforts are verifiable; projects, month end scores, etc but she claims they won’t be considered at all.

    I’m kinda crushed. Is this normal for companies to hire ONLY on interview scores? I get that hiring externally, that is all you have to go on, but does working your butt off count for nothing anymore? I’ve been practicing and practicing my interview skills and am following the book/ebook from this site, but I know I am still pretty poor at it and I was hoping my efforts and quality of work would give me a boost. Is this a standard HR practice or is my company off the path?

    1. Cautionary tail*

      In my company work, experience, blah, blah, blah counts for nothing in the interview. All those things get you to the interview but that’s it. At the beginning of the interview the lead interviewer reads a script that says in part, “assume you have never met any of us before and we know nothing about you. Tell us everything with complete detail, assuming we know nothing of you or your work.”

      You are expected to rehearse your stories prior to the interview so when you go in you are sharing stories of how you saved $x / y time and increased customer satisfaction by z% and what your role(s) was in the process. Dig deep and practice the who, what, where, why, how, when of each with a friend. Have a half dozen stories memorized with all these qualifiers and you should be ready to answer most sane questions fairly readily.

      The prep work is hard but the actual interview should be easier.

      Google Star interview format and you’ll understand this better.

    2. nof*

      Are you sure you actually bad at interviewing? After all, your boss hired you off your interview the first time around.

      I would put the comment out of mind and focus on rocking you interview – and that doesn’t mean being the most charming or best spoken, but being able to talk about the things you have already done and are doing very well in your current position.

      As for your actual question – is this standard practice? I don’t really know, but your past work experience with the company can be part of the interview if you *make* it part of the interview, by referencing it throughout the discussion during your interview.

      Good luck!

    3. Cee*

      Wow, that was a *terrible* thing for your boss to say. But unless you know that your boss and your boss alone is the person who makes the decision about who gets the internal promotion, you have a fair shot. Practice, practice, practice interviewing before the interview happens. Do you have AAM’s free ebook on How to Prepare for an Interview? You get it by signing up for the email list. Read it and do all the stuff Alison says in it, and I’m sure you’ll be great.

  58. Ali*

    Well, I’m a little disappointed…I didn’t get the job at the nonprofit I interviewed at two weeks ago. I’m pretty much over it, since I had a few conflicts that wouldn’t have worked with their event schedule anyway. (I didn’t mention these in the interview.) But I am disappointed because I wanted the satisfaction of giving my bosses two weeks notice and knowing that there was nothing else they could do to me once I did that.

    Instead, I’ve been told twice that the next steps in my PIP are coming and…they haven’t come. I was told two weeks ago they would take more formal action. Last week passed by, nothing. Yesterday went by (I’m off on Fridays) and nothing. In the meantime, an opening for my job title has been posted, and no one else is leaving my team that I know of, so I’m trying not to assume they’re looking to replace me and will fire me as soon as they do, but it’s hard NOT to think that. It just sucks that I keep being strung along while they’re potentially reviewing applicants for my job.

    On the bright side (?), I’m learning more that I’m not the only one struggling. I talked to someone on my old team who’s still in the company, and he said in the last several months, they’ve fired three people and have two others on PIPs right now. I guess there’s a chance we’re all just bad employees, but it’s a little unsettling to have so many people who are either currently on probation or who went through it in the last several months.

    1. Trixie*

      The search continues for both of us. I had a phone interview last week, and learned I won’t be proceeding to the next stage. Aside from needing a job, I’m pretty much over the disappointment as well. Stay focused, and steady on!

  59. Anon Today*

    Wahoo! I just got an offer for a job I’m really excited about. I’m not entirely sure I’m going to take it (it’s a BIG salary cut, which I knew going in – I’m now waiting for the official offer letter), but it’s something that I think I would love doing. And regardless of what I decide, it’s delightful to be wanted. I’ve been struggling in my current role and feeling not at all appreciated, so it’s a nice relief to know that I can still be valuable and viable on the job market.

  60. De Minimis*

    Hey, I started experimenting with the Pomodoro technique today and it’s really going great! I am getting a lot more done and taking care of more things that have always been on the back burner. People had talked about it on here for a while and I always considered trying it, but I was putting it off. The thread about focus made me decide to give it a shot.

    As a plus, the day seems to be going way faster, especially for a Friday.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Oh god, Pomodoro is the only reason I can stay employed. I depend on it to power through my unfocused periods.

  61. KTM*

    Just want to say a huge thank you to Alison and the AAM community!!! This week I was called in to my bosses office and found out I will be up for a promotion next month! Previously I think I would have just said thank you and maybe asked a question or two and left. But after reading so many things here, I asked much more detailed questions including at what point we could discuss a potential salary change (so I could do some research first…). I felt very prepared for it being such a surprise meeting!

  62. She-Ra with a Red Pen*

    I could use some advice: I work as an editor/trainer in job that requires fairly extensive training—it takes 3 to 6 months due to our complex processes, extremely technical content, and ocean of standards. One in five trainees make it. I am being driven to distraction by one of my trainees. She has been here for 6 months and should be at a point where she is at least somewhat independent, but I still constantly have to hold her hand and review every single one of her passes of documents because she misses so much, makes up random standards, and changes technical content (or if I’ve been ragging on her to stop changing technical content, she starts asking the programmers if it’s ok to apply our non-negotiable standards).
    For her latest made-up standard, she decided that due dates did not matter, and then told the training lead when called on it that she was doing what I told her! I am extremely pissed off about that as I said no such thing, not even close. Very conveniently, I supposedly told her this a few days before I started making her send me meeting notes after anytime we meet to go over her questions (due to other instances where she was making up bizarre rules and saying I told her them). I go through the notes and correct all of the things that she interpreted/wrote down wrong, which is starting to make me think I am being super unclear or she is just really dense. It does seem to be her MO to get defensive/blame everyone else when she makes a mistake, so I suppose this turn of events isn’t too surprising. If it were my choice, she’d have been fired two months ago when it first became clear that she was going to need several hours of handholding every day forever, but she has become super chummy with her supervisor. Supervisor does not want to fire her and thinks she just needs more guidance to help her reach her potential. She seems to be a completely hopeless case who refuses to take any sort of personal responsibility for her mistakes. I am really starting to resent the amount of time I spend on her, especially after she has thrown me under the bus, and honestly I don’t want to do it anymore.
    I can’t back out, so I would love any advice to help me tough this out.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      So…you’re managing her, but you can’t fire her. Ugh. Not a good place to start.

      In your shoes, I’d frame things to my boss in terms of what holding her hand is causing you to be unable to do. “Because I need to spend four hours a day helping Jane, I haven’t been able to give the other trainees/Project Y the attention they/it deserves. Can you help me resolve this?” The boss may realize, okay, Jane needs to go. Maybe she’ll take Project Y off your plate. Or, unfortunately, she may just stonewall and tell you to just get it done. But hopefully framing it in terms of a problem you need to solve, rather than “Jane is a problem” if the boss is somehow attached to Jane, the boss may be motivated to help you deal in some way (even if it’s not your preferred way of firing Jane).

    2. Gene*

      Can you say something to her supervisor’s manager the effect of, “Zoey has gotten all the training she is capable of learning. She makes up Standards, misses content in documents, and misses non-negotiable deadlines. Here are examples X, Y, Z, and AA. As I have trained her multiple times in A, B, and C, here’s the documentation, but she just doesn’t get it. It’s time for her supervisor to be responsible for her productivity and quality of work.”?

    3. C Average*

      Your position is like that of a stepparent: You have responsibility, but you have limited authority to impose consequences. So you have to come up with your own set of consequences.

      How can you make it preferable for her to do things right than to do things the way she’s currently doing them?

      Is there scut work she can be given if she continues to demonstrate that she’s not up to doing her work correctly? Is there an onerous revision process that can be put in place that both documents her incompetence and makes her responsible for correcting it? Can she be sent back through some particularly boring phase of training until she can demonstrate mastery?

      (All this assumes, of course, that she is capable of doing better. If she’s genuinely not, that’s a different problem.)

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Can you save copies of her work that you give back to her for correcting?
      I think your supervisor is underestimating the severity of the problem. I would try to save several copies and show her, “this is what Jane’s work looks like before my corrections”.

      I have no idea if this will work in your setting, but one time I had an extremely difficult time training an individual. It was retail sales and this person would come to work, select a spot to stand in and not move from that spot for the duration of her shift. I point blank told her she had to move around. She said okay and then did nothing. This went on for a couple weeks. My boss was ticked at me. I said, “You take her and see what you can do”. The employee was fired a few days later.

      1. Jennifer*

        I was thinking something similar: can you somehow get the supervisor that loves her to take some or all of the training and hand holding off your hands?

    5. YWD*

      I previously had a person on my team who was similar in that she took pages of notes when I would show her how to do something but when she later did it wrong would say she had never been shown it. This went on for a couple of months as I thought she was just a slow learner.

      I wrote a detailed list of expectations for the next 90 days, broken into 30, 60 and 90 days. It listed out the major responsibilities of her position, when I expected her to be doing them independently, and how I would evaluate whether she meeting the expectation.

      It wasn’t an official PIP but the foundation for one if I needed it. This was the under performing employee I managed, if I had to do it over I would have done this right when she started so we could use it as measurement of her progress. A difference from your situation is I did manage her and had the ability to fire her. Part way through the 90 days she came to the conclusion on her own that she wasn’t a good fit for the position and voluntarily resigned.

      Maybe you can write up what you would expect of a new employee who has received the same amount of training as she has, where she stands against those expectations and review it with her supervisor? I would run it by your own manager as well to make sure you have support.

  63. ism*

    11 years ago I got a non-violent, non-drug-related white collar minor felony on my record. I was young and stupid in many ways. (Hell, I kinda still am!)

    I was lucky enough to get fired from the retail job where I committed the crime, and was put on probation. They required me to either be employed or volunteer. Which spurred me to move into a slightly better career in IT support for a large university. Unfortunately I was still ashamed about my felony and totally left off any mention of it when I applied and completed hiring paperwork at the university. I moved to a support position in an academic department and left the call center, though I feel I excelled and enjoyed both jobs. I worked for the unviersity for about 2 years before someone finally ran a background check and found my dirty secret. Yeah, idiotic, I know!

    So I was fired again, and on top of that my file in Human Resources was marked “ineligible for rehire.” That was in 2006. I went back to working whatever crappy retail and service jobs would take me – which wasn’t many, since I at least began to honestly report about my criminal record on applications.

    Then, in 2007, a lawyer friend of mine mentioned that I could probably get my felony record expunged, because it was pretty minor and it was my first and only offense. I filed the paperwork with the state and had my record expunged. Now only certain government agencies can see my record if they wanted to, but private background checks by employers, etc., see a clean record. I’m glad I did it because otherwise I’d still be working minimum wage service jobs. However, I don’t love the private sector. I miss academia – the pace, the culture, the like minds around me.

    I really really want to work at the university again. I see opportunities for me there and it’s definitely the best and biggest employer in this little college city. I have good references from the work I did previously for them, but I’m blacklisted in HR so I don’t even apply. I’m afraid to call up HR and explain that my record is clean now and would you please reconsider my eligibility for employment with the university?

    From HR’s perspective, there are two black marks in my file: 1) I am a convicted felon (even though I’m no longer legally obligated to report that and am considered a non-criminal now) and 2) * I LIED. *

    Even if they ran a background check on me again, 8 years later, I can’t have a “clean” file because of the lie itself. Is there any hope for me? Or did I really screw up my chances with this university forever? The HR department is large and vast, because it’s a large institution, if that matters. I might have a better chance if I had been working for a much smaller employer.

    1. ism*

      I’m rereading my post and some subconscious self-advice is floating into my head… I should probably just look forward, not back. I probably don’t have a chance with the university ever again, but now that my record is clean, I have a chance absolutely anywhere else. (Except maybe the government)

      1. fposte*

        That’s pretty much what I’d say, so I think you’re very wise :-). It’s also long enough ago that it should have aged out of the retail theft database even if your employer had submitted you.

        1. ism*

          I’m sure my retail employer submitted me, but that’s not an issue. I have no intention of working retail ever again. I have an OK clerical job with a small business and room for growth right now, but it’s in a different city than the university I worked for after my arrest. I really just want to move back to that city :(

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        I don’t know that you’re 100% blackballed — but you’re going to need to have an “in” to get past that black mark on your file.

        HR doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, drive the hiring process. So if you have a hiring manager who is eager to hire you, that person can usually speak to HR and make things happen. If you have someone whom you worked with at that university who is still there, I’d talk to that person. Tell her how much you loved working there (which will hopefully remind her that you were good at your job), and you were let go because you made the stupid, stupid mistake of not reporting something you did 11 years ago. You want very much to work there again, but there’s this black mark on your file.

        In the event that this person is hiring for a role you’d be good at, or knows someone who is, then you have the possibility of that person’s advocacy for you overcoming the HR black mark. Best: Your former colleague is the one who’s hiring, because she would be the most likely to be willing to go to bat for you. Less likely: the hiring manager is a friend of this colleague, who might listen to your colleague if she’s moved to rhapsodize about your work, but who might also decide that there are other candidates who don’t require that she jump through an extra hoop.

        I do think you need an active advocate to have a chance.

        1. ism*

          Well, when I was fired, it was in a meeting with an HR person. I got a printed letter stating that I’m ineligible for rehire and she told me verbally if I applied again my application wouldn’t even make it to a hiring manager because of the ineligible flag – I’m not eligible to work anywhere in any role at the entire university. The way I understand it is that the flag in the system would block the first step of an application process – it’s an online app that goes through HR first and then I guess the departments that are hiring will then get a list of all the eligible applications, but not mine.

          1. ism*

            Maybe I have it backwards, applications/candidates might go to the hiring manager first, and when she selects those she’s interested in, maybe they run the candidates through HR to see if there are any red flags. Either way, that HR flag means I can’t be hired even if someone in a department wanted me and I passed a new record check, the way I understand it. I guess I’m wondering about these kinds of HR flags in large employers…. anyoen have any stories about/for fuckups like me?

          2. fposte*

            In many universities, there are situations where you might get around it because somebody with clout has pushed for it, but you’d likely have to be at a pretty high level–faculty candidate, that kind of thing. For most people, I think you’re right that it’s just too much of a bar to surmount.

          3. AdAgencyChick*

            Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I think this would work only in a very limited situation:
            1) You have been in regular contact with one or more of your colleagues since you were fired
            2) One of those colleagues is hiring.

            This is because, if I were a hiring manager, I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to help out someone who’s contacting me after years of radio silence, even if I liked her work when we were colleagues. But to help someone whose work I liked *and* I consider a friend? Sure.

            Anyway, if both 1) and 2) are true, I think you can say to your friend/colleague, “Look, I’d love to work with you again, if there’s ever a way to make that happen.” At which point the friend might be able to go to HR and say, “We’re hiring for Associate Teapot Producer and I’d really like to throw ism into the mix of candidates. I always thought her [apologies if you’re a he] work was good and I can vouch for her understanding what a huge mistake she made all those years ago. Can we make that happen?”

            Granted — I don’t work in academia, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the bureaucracy therein is more restrictive than what we work with in the agency world. But I can’t imagine, if I as a valued employee went to HR and said, “Please let me consider this candidate,” that they wouldn’t say okay.

            1. ism*

              Thanks for your thoughtful replies. I’m not in contact with anyone from my days at the university anymore… just nostalgic. The irony is that I actually like and thrive in a big bureaucracy. I’m most comfortable these days doing things by the book. I’d love to work at a place that HAS a book to go by! My current manager sometimes gets puzzled with me when I expect more bureaucracy than we have at my company currently.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Well, there are other places that function as big bureaucracies. I think if your app would be flagged the second it entered the system, there’s not much point in reapplying. That particular horse is out of the barn and long gone down the road.

                Good for you for owning your mistake, though, and getting things together. Now it’s time to follow a new path. :)

      3. Rex*

        Yeah, I think there is a chance you’re idealizing the work at the university, especially since it was almost a decade ago. You would face an uphill climb at this university, but there are literally hundreds of others. Maybe start thinking a little broader.

    2. BRR*

      I don’t think the black mark is as much that you are a convicted felon but that you lied about it. Unless you have someone super high up push for you (and they would need a really good reason why you and not somebody else) I would move on from this employer. This sort of policy is very hard to work around.

      Also the university is dumb for not running a background check when they hired you (not that I care if you have this felony but more that you lied) but that’s not going to help your cause. I just feel better calling them out on their process.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yeah, I think you are shot here. But maybe it’s worth a shot at some OTHER college in another town?

    3. AnonIgno*

      I’m curious: are you sure that the university still has a record on you after 8 years? And if they do – does it contain the “do not rehire” flag? Just randomly Googling, I ran across some guidelines about record retention for a college – long story short, I don’t know how to do this, but if I were you, I’d be trying to figure out if there’s any record left after 8 years.

    4. Artemesia*

      One problem is that your record is not ‘clean’ at that university. Expunging didn’t erase the record there. I’d not poke that sleeping bear and if you want college work go somewhere else. But also realize that if someone else checks that employer, it can come back to bite you with the ‘no hire’ notation.

      Smart move to expunge — I’d be inclined to move to a new industry or a new area and not look back.

  64. Meg Murry*

    Advise on switching to a Mac-based office from PC-based? I was a pretty heavy power user PC wise, and I’m going crazy with not knowing all the shortcut keys on a Mac. Why, oh, why, did you take away my print screen, page down and delete (instead of backspace) keys?? And the lack of right mouse button is driving me crazy!

    Links to resources that have more content than fluff and don’t require me to watch videos or click through 17 screens with one tip per screen would be highly appreciated, as would anecdotes about how you personally got through this and any positives you’ve discovered, because right now I’m only seeing negatives and hassle.

    1. Helen*

      How long have you been working on a Mac? I worked at an office with all Mac computers. I felt the same frustration that you’re feeling now, but it didn’t take too long (maybe 2 months?) until I was almost as familiar with it than I was with PCs, just through trial and error.

    2. Christy*

      I believe Function + (backspace) will delete. And CMD+Shift+f4 will print screen. Oh, and you can probably configure your track pad so that the right side of it will be a right click.

      And I wish I could help–when my personal MacBook dies I’m getting a PC because that’s what I use at work and I can’t handle Mac quirks anymore.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        +1 on three button mouse. I use one on my Mac (which I rarely use) because it just makes sense. The Mac mice always drove me insane, I never found them to be ergonomic and would replace them with Logitech ones ASAP.

        The apple key is essentially the Control key, so most of your key commands, substitute apple for CTRL and you should be fine. I’ve never heard it called the Butterfly key before.

        It’s like that old joke “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice” Eventually, you’ll work it out and get familiar with how everything works, or find ways to make it work for you… or you’ll find yourself in a new job and/or back with PCs again. I personally don’t buy into this one type is superior to the other stuff — computers are tools. You learned how to do your work on one kind of tool, and you can learn how to use this one to do your work, it’s just frustrating to be at a place where you want things to just happen and they don’t.

    3. Natalie*

      I use both (Mac at home and PC at work) – give it a little bit of time. You’ll get used to everything.

      Regarding the mouse, I believe you can change this setting. It’s in System Preferences, and either under Keyboard & Mouse or Accessibility. Or Google, Google probably knows.

      1. Natalie*

        Which reminds me – this is basically what I do every time iOS or my computer OS updates. Google all the changes and how to adjust them if I don’t like them. It makes software updates a lot less frustrating.

    4. 22dncr*

      I feel you! Worked in Silicon Valley and helped develop PC-based software – VERY into it. Then got laid off and ended up at a Company trying to do/develop Accounting software on an Apple platform (before Mac) – WHAT WAS I THINKING??? I lasted 2 months. Did end up working for The Fruit company in the Mac days but in Marketing so no CPU use really. That didn’t last as they ended up having their first ever layoff while I was there and guess what? I was laid off! So no positives for you, sorry ;( I just know it’s never again for me with Apple.

    5. Mimmy*

      I switched my home PC to an iMac last year….it definitely takes some getting used to, particularly the different keyboard shortcuts (I miss Page Up/Down!!!) If you hit “help” at the top, it’ll bring up a lot of good how-to’s.

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I feel your pain! Two months ago I started a great job, but the adjustment from PC to Mac was brutal at first. Excel was the worst for me– I did so much work in it at previous jobs that I knew alllll the shortcuts and now I’ve had to start not from scratch, but from an uncomfortable place.

      I enable right-clicking on my mouse, which helps a ton (I use an Apple bluetooth mouse, don’t know the model name but it was sold with my laptop). I also learned quickly that the “command” key on a Mac does a lot of what the “control” key does on a PC. The thing that worked for me was looking stuff up as I went, honestly.

      Do I love the Mac? Not really. Am I adjusting? Yup. I think I finally felt comfortable after about a month, so do give it time.

    7. puddin*

      Many right click mouse functions can be accessed by holding the butterfly key (also called the command key – next to the space bar) while left clicking. Especially useful if you right click in office applications to get menus.

    8. AKB*

      To right click: you can click with two fingers, if you’re using the trackpad.

      It gets better with time. In a couple of weeks, I bet you’ll be much less frustrated. I found that looking up specific things as I wanted to know them was more efficient than reading lists of shortcut keys.

  65. puddin*

    So Wed night I just get done explaining to Mr Pudd why I will not call to check up on the progress of my last interview, even though they said they would call that day. The very next day I cannot help myself and call anyway; left a message.

    Patience young grasshopper, patience.

  66. Anom for this.*

    I was sexually harassed at a conference my company runs two years ago. I had just started my job a couple weeks before (not full-time because I was finishing my last semester of college) and generally young and wide-eyed. The same annual conference is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I need some tactful avoidance strategies in the high likelihood that I run into this guy. I told my (male) boss about it after the fact and he was less than sympathetic.

    1. fposte*

      Is tactful avoidance the only option? Is there room for “Hi, Bob. Last time at this conference you sexually harassed me and I opted not to report you; if you do it again I will tell everybody associated with the conference”?

      1. Sadsack*

        I like fposte’s idea! However, if you are not willing to be so direct, then I suggest that you remain confident and poised, and respond to any type of harassment with, “What are you doing/what do you mean by that?” to anything he does or says just loudly enough for others to notice.

        1. fposte*

          It’s definitely up to Anom what she feels up to. I just really wanted to lay out the possibility that it should be up to Bob to do the avoiding and that there was no need to be quiet about any of it.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, and bonus–it’ll draw out of the woodwork the other attendees that Bob creeped on. You can go have a coffee together and cackle.

    2. BRR*

      First, that person sucks. Your boss also sucks.

      I would be cautious but not preemptively confront him. I would try to not be near him but not go out of my way running scared. I might also make sure he sees my disgusted face. Did you say anything at the time?

      If he harasses you verbally I would say, “That is completely inappropriate and you need to never say anything like that again to me or anybody else.” If he is from another company you might want to see if somebody is at the conference you could report him to.

      If he harasses you physically I would say, “Don’t touch me and get away from me now.” I would then go to security on premises and ask them to remove the offender because you feel unsafe with him around.

      Does the person who harassed you work at your company? If he does it again and your boss doesn’t care go to HR.

    3. also anon for this one*

      I’ve had this happen to me, and I’m sorry. I don’t know how big your conference is, but I successfully avoided my person