open thread – March 27, 2015

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

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

{ 1,556 comments… read them below }

  1. Tigress*

    Everyone, I’m a little frustrated and I need your help to understand if I’m crazy or not. In the last month, no fewer than three different teachers (one of which is the director of the program) in my grad program have recommended and encouraged the students to make infographic resumes for their job hunt this summer. The director even posted examples for people to look at. I’ve tried to say that this is a bad idea, that the resume is not the right document for showing off your graphic design skills, and that the infographic thing will work against a job candidate – but everyone just thinks I*m being “old-fashioned.” One of my professors raved about a former student who had made her infographic look like a page from and the employer could “buy” the job candidate. I think it sounds awful. Please tell me I’m not crazy! Do employers actually like getting infographic resumes?!

    1. Joey*

      Cheesy. Dont take job hunting advice from someone who is in a field that has some of the weirdest hiring practices?

      1. Tigress*

        No, and that’s the thing! Everyone seems to focus on how cool and creative is is, but no one can really tell me if it works.

        I feel there are so many stories of people who tried out some weird trick and got lucky and got a job from it, but few stories of all the people who missed out on jobs because they went the gimmick route. This makes many of my fellow student friends think that a “creative” approach is the way to go.

        I wish there were more stories floating around about how candidates were passed over because they went TOO creative. Alison is certainly doing her part in sharing some of the readers’ good stories, I’m sure we can all think of a few…

        1. Ezri*

          I’m a programmers with UI / design / art background, and at one interview the interviewer actually commented on how plain my resume is compared to the typical ‘artistic’ candidate. I got that job, and others, with that style of resume – I like flash and creativity, but you just don’t need it on a resume.

          1. Anondesigner*

            Yeah, I’m also a designer, and other than my logo being up at the top, my resume is also pretty plain. Worked to my advantage when I made a move into a new field that didn’t directly have design as the task.

        2. AMT*

          I’ll be involved in hiring M.S.W. interns this fall and I can say that if I got an infographic resume, I would question the candidate’s judgment. They tend to obstruct rather than convey information, and since written work is a large part of what interns would be doing, this would give me serious doubts about their writing and communications skills.

        3. ECH*

          Tigress, if all of your classmates use this weird format and yours is normal, maybe you will get the job.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I hire several graduate students a year and I would not interview an infographic resume. It’s not appropriate for my field at all (education) and it sounds gimmicky. I would be interested to know if there is a field that responds to this type of resume.

      1. Lizzie*

        Someone in my grad program (in education) last year did his/her entire teaching portfolio in infographics. It was really obvious the entire time s/he was presenting it that our academic advisor and the university internship supervisor were trying to restrain themselves from jumping up and screaming “Noooooooo!!!” I mean, it looked snazzy, but it was also really, really difficult to read.

    3. GOG11*

      I would think this type of thing would fall into the gimmick category. Let your qualifications and achievements speak for themselves instead of relying on a hokey thing like this to get attention from hiring managers.

      1. C Average*

        The green background. The ponies. The third-person narrative.

        Honestly, I’m surprised the text wasn’t written in rhyme.

        I just have no words.

        1. OhNo*

          I’m mostly just cringing every time he refers to himself (or others) as “ponies”. Also that is way more exclamation points than I’m comfortable with.

        2. Creag an Tuire*

          On the plus side, my daughter would hire this guy on the spot.

          On the minus side, my daughter is 3, and can only pay in hugs and imaginary cupcakes.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Ha. With real cupcakes, she could even hire the illustrious Jamie, if I have correctly interpreted some of Jamie’s comments re: her love of sweet baked goods :-)

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        The horror… and he used Hobo

        I wonder if he got sued for trademark infringement as I doubt he paid to be allowed to use these characters in any fashion, let alone the logos. Oh, the teams of attack lawyers!

      3. Short and Stout*

        Can you print out the article Alison linked to and, you know, casually leave it in that book?

        1. ella*

          Ha! Unfortunately, I don’t think it would stay put for very long. And I’m sure the district has multiple copies.

          I would be really happy if I could convince my bosses to weed out job hunting books that were published in 2003, but, alas…

    4. Sascha*

      You’re not crazy. I’ve been working in higher education for 8 years, and to me this sounds like just another fad thing instructors get excited about. Higher ed tends to get excited about fads. It’s annoying but I’d just brush it off. If any of them make you turn in one as an assignment, I’d just do it and then use your real resume everywhere else.

      1. C Average*

        This. It wouldn’t hurt to have the experience of creating an infographic version of your resume; knowing how to build a decent infographic is a good skill to have. So create one to make the teacher happy, but then create a normal resume to actually use in your job search.

        (The trouble with the infographic idea for an actual job search is that the hiring manager is trying to move through application materials in a systematic and efficient way, and having to deal with a non-standard resume is going to throw off that effort. By turning in something other than what was asked for, you’re being a pain in the ass, not creative. When your boss asks for a Word doc, you don’t give her a PowerPoint.)

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Unless their field is web design or communications (in a sector where infographics might be used a lot), this is a horrible idea. I would toss it right away if I got it for a position on my project.

      1. MsM*

        Agreed. And even in design, I think it’d be better to send a(n impeccably formatted) standard resume with a link to a portfolio that has the more creative stuff.

        1. infj*

          My coworker and I just had this discussion. We are in a design related field (more architecture than web design but still need graphic design skills). I’m in favor of the standard resume with an infographic resume included inside your portfolio (if you feel you want to use one).

        1. Felicia*

          No. That doesn’t change anything, In design and communications, infographic resumes are not a thing (i am in communications). We require a normal resume, and all other companies hiring for a design or communications position, require a normal resume. All your creative stuff goes in your portfolio.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          No. Please no.

          No no no no no no no no no no no no no no.

          I’ve barely recovered from the mess artists’ resumes were when Word Art and “oh look at all the fonts you can get out of a computer USE THEM ALL” became a thing.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            Off-topic, but there’s a contestant called Joaquin on the current season of Survivor. When he got voted out this week by people writing his name down, there were four different spellings of his name, but not one of them was Wakeen. I was so disappointed!

              1. Cath in Canada*

                LOL, Rodney is a doofus. I hope whatshername and Joe and Mike and that other white collar guy form a new alliance to get rid of Rodney and the older misogynistic guy

                (names are not my forte)

                1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  Ha. My husband and I have entire conversations about our TV shows where we call characters nothing more descriptive than “that one guy” and “that other guy”, and we know what we mean :-) Names are not our forte, either.

      2. Ezri*

        Even if the field is web design – part of good design is making pertinent information as easy to access as possible for your viewer. I’ve seen plenty of infographic resume examples that are harder to read.

      3. Felicia*

        I am in communications and have been involved in hiring for design, and this is a horrible idea in these fields as well.

    6. cardiganed librarian*

      You know what would really make your resume stand out and show that you’re up to speed with cutting-edge trends? A word cloud!

        1. fposte*

          Heh. I just made my first one last year, but just for background when I had to yap for a long time. I was hoping maybe they were old enough to be retro now.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Heh, I dig word clouds.

          If I got a resume with a word cloud, I’d do this:

          “Oh, look at that. That’s pretty cheesy and old. A word cloud.”

          and then I’ d read every word, compare the sizes of the words, chuckle, find cool words I liked, and probably waste 15 minutes because, I dig word clouds, and then recommend we phone interview the person if she had at least the minimal anything we are looking for.

          Word geek. Don’t try this on a random hiring manager.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        I still see these in library presentations. I keep wondering when they will die out.

        1. cardiganed librarian*

          So true! Librarians LOVE the things. (They also love to keep calm and ___.)

    7. Not Good At These*

      I’m no expert, but this sounds like a gimmick. Employers can have to sort through hundreds of resumes for each job posting, so coming across one that requires extra time to examine might be off-putting. There is the chance that an employer will really like it because it is so unique, but you might want to consider if *you* want to work for that employer.

      My colleague, who is our hiring and recruiting expert, has just advised me that a clean, clear, skimmable document is really the ideal. If you work in a creative field it might be different, but most recruiters want a document that doesn’t require ten minutes to interpret. Plus, you should have a portfolio to showcase your skills anyway.

      Reading your comment made me wonder if the former student was hired based on her infographic resume. It might have been a nifty design and well-executed, but what’s the point if it didn’t help her get hired? Perhaps that’s a question for your professor. ;)

      1. Michele*

        A skimmable document-yes! So few people understand that. Give me something easy to read and pull information from.

        1. Artemesia*

          This a thousand times. The last time I was hiring, we had several hundred applicants. I knew what I was looking for on the initial pass where I weeded out about 65% of the resumes before I and my committee then seriously reviewed the top 35% on our way to 10 to discuss, on our way to 6 to phone screen, on our way to 3 to bring in for interviews. A junky resume that I cannot quickly grasp to see if the person is a plausible candidate is going in the bottom 65%. I got several ‘creative’ resumes — each one shouted squirrel to me. Of course my creative resumes were really awful —

    8. Cordelia Naismith*

      Are you studying graphic design? Because that’s the only way I can think this might be appropriate. Otherwise, no, don’t do that.

    9. INTP*

      If you absolutely cannot convince them that the infographics aren’t a good idea, maybe they could be convinced that they should also attach a conventional resume “Just in case the hiring manager is old fashioned?”

      I’m not sure about hiring managers in graphic design fields but recruiters want a resume where they can find the relevant information to determine whether your resume is worth actually reading or is an instant discard within a few seconds. That means the titles and dates of your most recent positions should be very easy to scan to, as well as school and degree name as these are internship seekers and new grads. That’s usually pretty easy with proper use of indentation and bolding on a Word doc but not so much on an infographic. If they’re tossing most of the resumes within 5 seconds and yours takes 30 seconds to find the right parts to even determine if it warrants a thorough reading, that might not work well for you.

      1. Marcy*

        I’m thinking the other students will be competing with Tigress for jobs soon. Let them use their infographic resumes. Let the competition eliminate themselves!

    10. Melissa*

      This may vary a bit depending on how much non-academic experience the professors in your program have, but in my experience professors usually have very little to no non-academic experience and are mostly to completely unhelpful when it comes to applying to non-academic jobs. In fact, many of them aren’t even very helpful when applying to *academic* jobs.

    11. cuppa*

      I’m fully aware of what an infographic resume is, but if I got one, a “WTF is this?” would definitely cross my lips.

    12. thisisit*

      thanks for posting this! I am assisting some people in my network fill some positions at their amazing org. One of the openings is for an associate comms director. A friend of mine forward me her friend’s resume, and it was this weird infographic-like document with, like, clipart, and other distracting things. I did due diligence and read through it all carefully, and actually she has great experience and could be a good candidate. But I can’t get past the resume. But then I thought, it’s a comms position, so maybe it’s ok?

      But I want to email her back and ask her to send me a standard CV to forward along. Should I say why? Express caution for the gimmicky-type CV? Or just ask for it as an addition?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Be direct; you’ll be doing her a favor. “This kind of resume format really won’t go over well here or with most people in our field. Can you let her know that and tell her she needs to send over a standard resume instead?”

    13. Swarley*

      I don’t like this idea. You might catch a hiring manager’s eye, but the type of person who would respond positively to this is someone who values flash over substance. Not a manager I’d want to work for.

    14. Austinite Product Manager*

      Tigress, use this opportunity to practice thinking for yourself, and not getting frustrated if people see things differently.

      It’s not your job to convince the other students or even teachers that this is a bad idea–you can ask questions and share your opinion with people who ask for it, but otherwise, just shrug your shoulders and continue on the own path.

      That’s how I built a successful career, ignoring people who said my methods were “old fashioned”. The thing is, you’d probably not want to work for an employer who preferred a resume in form of infographic that looks like a page from anyway, so it’s a great way to self-select out of the process with companies that would consider these weird methods to call attention to their resume a good idea.

      You’ve proven that you’re capable of thinking for yourself; in the future, just ignore when someone suggest one of these gimmicks to stand out from the crowd, stick to your guts, and you’ll do fine in your job search :-).

  2. TotesMaGoats*

    I had a phone interview yesterday and ROCKED IT! I’ve never felt so confident in an interview before. I’m hoping to hear back from two other places that I applied soon. I know they are in the application review stage. As I mentioned, negotiation isn’t something that is normally done at my level/in my field. But if we get to the offer stage, how would you phrase the question to find out if that’s an option?

    And fingers crossed for my sister who is one of two final candidates for a position but they’ve already gone a week over when they said they’d get back to her.

    1. Dang*

      Great news! Good luck with the job hunting.

      I’d wait and see about the negotiation. I don’t think it’s necessary to negotiate just to say you negotiated. It’s likely that salary will come up before an offer and you can assess from there, or give your appropriate range if it’s much different.

    2. GOG11*

      Congratulations! And best of luck to you and your sister!

      Are you worried that you won’t be given a fair offer the first time around? Are the reasons for not negotiating legitimate ones (i.e., that the offers are usually generous or fair and it’s entry level so the candidate would have little to base a counter offer on?)?

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yay! Good luck to both of you!

      I’d say if you are willing to take the position at the offered salary/wage but don’t want to be lowballed, I’d ask something like “Is there any flexibility with salary or benefits?”, so it sounds more like an open-ended question instead of a negotiation. As we saw recently, negotiations aren’t always welcomed.

      1. puddin*

        Sorry to be a debbie downer on this…but your question is not open ended. The hiring manager can answer,”No.” and that leaves the conversation at a dead stop. Any question that can be answered with a Yes or a No is closed.

        If you want to ask, I recommend this instead, “What flexibility is there with salary or benefits?”

        I do alot alot alot of negotiating, and the minute someone asks me a closed ended question, I know that they are not experienced negotiators and I can probably talk them out of what they are asking for.

        1. Artemesia*

          Really excellent point. The suggested phrasing requires a response that may come back to ‘no’ but at least invites something more complex — and it is good to throw benefits into the mix because lots of times there is the possibility of a creative way to sweeten the pot.

    4. puddin*

      Oh do not ask if the offer is open to negotiation – just negotiate, if you want to. If you feel the offer is unfair or less than what you expected build your case for why a higher salary is warranted. Your experience, the rigor of the job, a particular set of skills- skills you have acquired over a very long career, comparable salaries…

      After receiving the offer and asking for a day or two to weigh your options, here is how I would phrase the negotiation, “I am very excited to receive the job offer and I agree that this is a great opportunity for both Chocolate Teapots and me. With my specialization in bittersweet chocolate and the company’s reliance on strategic development in this role – which is my area of expertise – I think that a salary of $30 reflects what I bring to the table, the importance and structure of the role, and is more in line with the market research I have done. What are your thoughts?”

  3. Muriel Heslop*

    In my small department of all women, two of us have become the defacto birthday planners. No one offers to help, buy cards, etc. and despite requests for assistance, no one wants to help out. We are increasingly busy and the birthdays have become increasingly time consuming. Our old department admin helped out but our new one doesn’t want to do so. The next two birthdays are ours and we plan to just let the now-annoying birthday lunch do an Irish good-bye. Other suggestions?

    1. Lia*

      That is exactly what happened in my department, and tbh absolutely no one has complained about the lack of birthday celebrations. To be completely frank, I think birthday parties are great for kids, but don’t belong in the office.

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        I agree! There are a few people who seem to get weirdly excited about their birthdays which I totally don’t get. It’s a workplace!

        1. INTP*

          I have consciously avoided mentioning my birthday just to avoid the possibility that other people might make a deal of it, lol. If someone is really into birthdays, they can celebrate their own by bringing in cupcakes or something, but otherwise I think it’s fine to do nothing.

          1. Michele*

            I agree. There reaches a point as an adult, where if you want people at work to celebrate your birthday, you bring in donuts or such and call it good.

            1. Judy*

              I’ve never worked in a place that celebrated birthdays beyond the person bringing in treats, except one place did a bit of a pranking (photoshopped posters on entryways, bottle of prune juice on desk, and cane at desk) on birthdays with 0 on the end and another did one monthly cake for an entire division with the meeting notice stating who had birthdays that month.

            2. Ops Analyst*

              I have a few friends who plan birthday parties every year. Like going out to fancy dinners, having people over with catering, and actually having a cake, blowing out candles, and accepting birthday presents!! We are nearing our 40s. I will be happy to buy your child a birthday present but I’m not adding a real gift into my October budget for your birthday every year. I find it absolutely ridiculous. Even the fancy dinners rub me the wrong way because it’s really hard to say no when your best friend from childhood invites you out to celebrate her birthday, but I just don’t have it in my budget to go to a $40-$60 sushi dinner and then also split the cost of her meal.

              I haven’t had a birthday celebration beyond a gathering with immediate family since I turned 30. I might do another when I turn 40. I think it’s one thing to do big milestone birthdays, but every year?

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I do the same thing. If other people would like something for their birthday, I do not mind. But I enjoy a quiet birthday.

      2. Lizzie*

        Totally agreed. In my workplace, staff birthdays are mentioned in the weekly information bulletins (which one can opt out of doing), and the boss sticks a “Happy birthday!” sign to your mailbox. That’s it. No food, no singing, no discomfort-inducing birthday traditions. I think it’s perfect.

    2. CrazyCatLady*

      No, that’s exactly what I’d do. Is there someone saying you have to do birthday celebrations? Maybe I’m just anti-fun but I find them to be an annoyance, whether I’m helping to plan them or not. Another suggestion would be to just group birthdays together by a certain period of time (e.g. one celebration for everyone whose birthday falls in Q1, or January, or the first half of the year… or whatever)…. but I’m a fan of no birthday celebrations.

      1. Artemesia*

        It boils down to a couple of women being the organizers and thus in the role of office mom which does not enhance one’s professional reputation. I’d let it go.

    3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      You could also just shrink what you do – for example, only do a communal card. Is there a way you could bring it up a meeting, where you could ask if either (a) people want to let it go or (b) ask who would like to be part of a rotation to keep it going?

    4. Khoots*

      We ended up putting ours to a vote during one of our staff meetings. It was presented as, “Hey X, Y, and Z always falls onto only Teagan and Sara. If we are going to keep doing this we’re going to need to set up a rotation on who’s in charge or we need to get rid of the birthday thing all together.”

        1. Khoots*

          That’s why you don’t want them to always have to be running the birthday celebrations! They want to do other things too!

        2. Noelle*

          My name is actually Tegan (I use my middle name here). Not only do I like Tegan & Sara, but now more people know how to pronounce my name!

      1. Sunflower*

        I’d vote something like this. I wouldn’t want the next person in the rotation to think you just forgot about them. Guaranteed NO ONE will want to keep the birthday thing going.

    5. Sarah Nicole*

      I posted this below as its own discussion, lol. Here is my reply!

      At my old job, my manager had a great idea. The last person to celebrate their birthday would plan the next person’s birthday! So I celebrated in December and the next person on our team had a February birthday. I got a card, passed it around, and brought in a dessert, and I definitely didn’t mind because I knew that would be the only time for me to do it for the year.

      I’ll also mention that this was not a full lunch. We had a meeting time blocked off for 30 minutes where surprised the person and all sat around talking and having dessert. Then we went back to our work. It was the best celebratory work situation I’ve ever seen. Maybe you guys can try this?

        1. Sarah Nicole*

          Yeah, that would be fine, too. Either way, at least each person would only be responsible for one birthday a year. And it helps spread the “office housework” type of task to everyone on the team.

      1. Barbara*

        Honestly, I’d hate working in a place that did this. I’m not wild about having my birthday celebrated at the office, and I’m terrible at party planning. For me this would be an unpleasant chore with a lot of pressure to figure out something that wouldn’t disappoint the next birthday recipient, especially if the person before me was good at it and did something brilliant and elaborate (while my idea of a party is a cake and maybe a card).

        1. Ama*

          Yeah, I don’t like being fussed over on my birthday at the office — usually if I’m unable to take the day off it’s because I have too much work to do, so a party that requires my presence is just going to be more inconvenient. At my current office, the office manager keeps track of birthdays and then lets the people they work closest with know it’s coming up. Usually you get at least a card from the CEO and a small gift card to one of the lunch places around here (or Starbucks). This year, I also got an separate extra card from the two other people in my department. I think it hits a nice balance of recognizing the birthday without making too big a fuss.

        2. LizB*

          I would think that ideally, there would be a way to leave yourself out of the rotation. Someone must keep a master list of birthdays to know who should plan for whom, and in a perfect world you’d be able to say to that person, “Hey, I’m not a big birthday person, I’d prefer not to have mine celebrated or plan a celebration — can you just skip over me?” And then the person with the birthday before you can just plan the party for the person with the birthday after you, and you don’t have to deal with it!

          I don’t know if this is how it actually works at Sarah Nicole’s workplace, but I think that would be the best way to handle it.

          1. Sarah Nicole*

            Yes, exactly. I’m not saying everyone has to be celebrated. If I had told my manager that I didn’t want mine celebrated, it would have been perfectly fine. Besides, Muriel didn’t say anything about having issues with those who didn’t want to celebrate, just that the planning always fell to a couple of people. My suggestion is just a way to spread that chore around so that no one feels like they are the office party planner. By all means, if folks don’t want to celebrate their birthdays, I would never suggest making it mandatory.

          2. Anne*

            We have a birthday cake rotation that works similarly, you buy cake (no card, no party) for the person with the birthday after yours. If you want to be in the rotation you write your birthday on the wall calendar that we use for vacation planning, if you don’t put your birthday down you’re not expected to participate.

      2. Nanc*

        Yeah, I worked in an office where this was the practice. The problem: 1. I don’t celebrate my birthday, never wanted to as a kid and refused to do so as an adult except for having pizza and watching a baseball game (there’s almost always a game on my birthday!) and 2. the person with the birthday before mine was the second biggest asshat in the department and had I participated they would go out of their way to plan something that I would dislike. And had we done it so the next birthday was responsible, the biggest asshat in the department would have planned my party! Out of a department of 50 there were only two asshats . . .

        I lean towards a group card at most.

        1. Cherry Scary*

          We do something similar, but keep it to a card. Whoever’s birthday was last gets the card and passes it around for the next person. Individual supervisors have the option to do anything extra, and its usually at the discretion of the birthday-haver.

      3. Persephone Mulberry*

        I worked in an office that did this, except that the only requirement of the “planner” was to bring in a cake. No surprise, no balloons, no passing around a card, just ask the next person in line what kind of cake they like, and bring it in. The office would take a 15-20 minute “cake break” (NO SINGING), and that’s it.

        We never had anyone who didn’t want their birthday acknowledged, but if we did, I imagine they would just be exempt from the rotation.

      4. LQ*

        I would hate this. I would really want to opt out entirely. I don’t want to celebrate, I don’t want to plan. Just leave me out of it entirely. Ish.

      5. little Cindy Lou who*

        I worked at a place where we shared offices (2 to an office) and you and your office mate took care of getting a dessert and card for each other. Then a 15 minute hallway meeting where the team all got together to say happy birthday and have the dessert. quick, low fuss and nice.

        At my current place the CEO buys everyone a cake for their birthday.

    6. INTP*

      I think it’s fine to let it die out. People are probably not volunteering to help because they are not that invested in the birthday events, to be honest, and would rather allow them to die out than spend time helping.

    7. fposte*

      I hadn’t heard the phrase “Irish goodbye” before, but after confirming it means what I think it means, that’s what I’d vote for. It sounds like it’s swollen beyond reason.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I never hear it either! I grew up and married Irish and I realize we do this all the time! :) I just didn’t know we had a name for it.

          1. SevenSixOne*

            I married a guy with an enormous extended family. Leaving his family’s parties is a massive ordeal that can easily take an hour (Bonus: There’s this weird standoff that happens 2-3 hours into any gathering, where everyone’s had enough but no one wants to be the first to leave, argh).

            We were together for almost a decade before he would even consider the Irish goodbye as an option. He still only does it about 20% of the time, but maybe in another decade or so I can get him up to 50%?

          1. fposte*

            That’s hilarious. I picture you slipping out silently then returning to say goodbye; slipping out silently again and then returning again.

      2. Cass*

        I come from a proud Irish family and I thought the concept was hysterical when I heard it – 0nly because it would be sacrilegious at our gatherings! It’s a whole song and dance to leave.

        1. Cass*

          I should add I explained it to my mother who was very offended and said NO Irish person she knows would do that. (….I wish I could sometimes ;)

    8. Retail Lifer*

      Our office admin takes care of cards and cake, but only for those of us she likes. My boss and I don’t get birthday celebrations, so I’m all for just eliminating them celebrations altogether. But I guess I’m a little biased.

    9. C Average*

      PLEASE let the birthdays do an Irish goodbye, and please (God, are you listening?) let the Irish goodbye happen to workplace birthday hoopla everywhere.

      There are a couple of people at my office who always try to arrange birthday stuff and always have trouble getting participation and help. The reason is simple: No one else cares. I hate having to sign cards for people I barely know, and I hate having to pretend to value cards signed by people I barely know. And I don’t need to hear “Happy Birthday To You” from four cubicle pods over when I’m trying to write code.

      Birthdays are awesome, but I’d much rather celebrate mine with my friends and family and let my colleagues celebrate theirs with their friends and family. And I’m not alone.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        CurrentJob does birthdays better than any job I’ve every had– No singing, no fanfare, no awkward gift collections or passing around a card for everyone to sign, Boss just waits for you to leave your work station, then drops a cupcake and a handwritten card for you to find when you return. If even that is more fuss than you’d like, you can opt out of that, too.

    10. Lizabeth*

      Quietly take yourselves out for a great lunch together to celebrate your birthdays and send an email out that the birthday fairies have retired, cards, cake and all.

      1. Leah*

        Agree with this. No need to take it to a vote, since I’m assuming it wasn’t an official policy to begin with. You actually are in the perfect place to stop it, since the next two birthdays are yours. If people complain, you can explain that you didn’t do anything even for your own birthdays.

        1. Ops Analyst*

          If people complained, I’d just say “you’re free to plan the next one if you like” and hope they take the hint.

    11. Ima Mgr*

      Our dept just uses birthdays as an excuse to go out to company-paid lunch together every so often. No other celebration done (no cards, no cakes, certainly no gifts). We lump them in with whatever is happening, so it’ll usually be something like “Celebrate Maude joining the team and Bertram and Franklin’s birthdays! The company is picking up the tab!” And they only happen about 5-6 times a year. The feedback from the team seems to be that it’s a good way to get “team building” in on the company’s dime without infringing too much on personal time. Plus, free lunch.

    12. Sadsack*

      Why do you have to “do” birthdays? No one where I work really cares about them, except to be thankful when the birthday person brings in food to share to celebrate. I would not want to have to plan birthday celebrations for coworkers, and I do not want one planned in my honor by anyone else. It is really not necessary at all.

      Why not announce that starting on X date, if people want to celebrate their own birthdays, they are welcome to bring in food for everyone to share. Otherwise, department-wide celebrations are coming to an end. And this by no means that people must bring in food on their birthday, it is strictly voluntary.

      1. Sadsack*

        Ha – my last point got muddled – This policy does not mean that anyone is obligated to bring food in on their own birthdays.

    13. CupcakesAbound*

      At one point I became the defacto party planner and HATED it. I don’t believe birthdays/showers, etc belong in the workplace, but that’s just me. Don’t get me wrong – if people want to celebrate w/co-workers on their own time (i.e. lunch breaks, outside of work), I think that’s perfectly fine, but I just don’t believe we need to take time away from the work day to do stuff like this.

      I think your plan of letting it phase out gradually is a good one. If anyone brings it up, you can always do what I did and say, “Since you seem so interested in celebrating, maybe you should be the one to take this stuff over.” That usually puts a halt to the conversation.

      Thankfully, all of the “birthday” people (i.e. the ones who were super into celebrating/being recognized) have since left my department and we don’t really celebrate much anymore.

      And one last thing – if you have to celebrate birthdays/occasions, try to make it as fair as possible. For example, if you get a really nice gourmet cake for one person, don’t bring in box mix bran muffins that taste like cardboard for someone else (unless that’s what they like). That happened to me. :(

    14. Anonicorn*

      So many people secretly (or openly) hate office birthday celebrations. I imagine your workplace would be happy to have them quietly fade out.

    15. Relly*

      At my office for birthdays, we have the person whose birthday it is be responsible for bringing in treats for everyone. That way the choice is on them if they want to celebrate or not. It works, really, really well.

    16. Celeste*

      I vote yes on the Irish goodbye, and I think you should take it a step further and just you two go out to lunch for each other’s birthdays. I think you should reap something for your years of doing this for others.

    17. More Cake Please*

      My office emails a birthday card on each person’s birthday. No physical cards, no cakes, no parties, but each person is recognized. Usually the “card” is just a picture of a generic birthday greeting copied off Google. For those who don’t care, it’s easy to delete the email. For the admin who does it, the whole process takes less than 10 minutes a card and, with Outlook’s Delay Delivery function, it can all be set up months in advance. Our office is smaller but generally close knit and it seems to have worked well for a while.

    18. Michelle*

      My office just does one event a month to cover all birthdays. We have dessert in the kitchen, it takes 15-30 minutes and that’s it for the month. I think it works really well for us. If you’re a small office, maybe do it quarterly? You can cover everyone but if you’re only doing a few events a year it won’t end up taking a lot of time.

    19. Melissa*

      No, I think you should just let it fade out. If no one offers to help then it must not be that important to them, and you don’t want it to cut in on your own work. I’m also one of those Scrooges who believe that birthday celebrations are personal things that should be enjoyed with friends and family not not at the workplace.

    20. JB*

      I love how my office handles it, although when I first started I thought it was strange. You are responsible for bringing cake or other birthday treats for everyone. That way you get what you want and you only have to do any birthday planning one a year. I also like it because it makes it like you are hosting a birthday party rather than expecting others to celebrate you. Not that office parties are demands for celebrating you, but I mean it kind of changes the tone, so nobody feels like they are being forced to buy cupcakes for the birthday of that coworker they don’t like.

      For the card thing though, we have one person who had to take care of buying and circulating a card for one other person, so no one person has to do it for everyone else. And if a card isn’t bought, you in our whose fault it is. Though honestly we don’t really care about the card. We’re all about the cake. It makes you really look forward to other people’s birthdays.

    21. Artemesia*

      Doing stuff no one cares about and is not professional is not the way to establish oneself as a valuable professional in the workplace. Just letting it go works fine — or make an announcement that you are retiring from organizing this and that people are invited to bring in cup cakes or cookies on their own birthday.

    22. Lucy*

      My old department had a monthly “all hands” meeting and they would roll the month’s birthdays into that – i.e., the October meeting would end with the director announcing all of the birthdays that month, and then we would get cookies/cupcakes (something small and handheld, not a big cake!) and could chill out for a few minutes before going back to our desks. Some people liked the recognition, others didn’t but they didn’t mind because the spotlight wasn’t just on them….although now that I think about it, we may have just been bribed with treats to pay attention in the meeting lol.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Exjob would do that at the quarterly meeting. We’d have a big cake for all the birthdays that quarter. If anyone wanted to do anything for their birthday specifically, they could bring in cupcakes, etc. The only exceptions to the cake thing were the married bosses; one of them liked pie and all the office people got pie that day.

        I had the list and we did cards for the office people, but I would send an email for everybody’s birthday (except the one person who opted out). If the birthday person were in the shop, I printed out their email and posted it on the bulletin board out there. I would look for cake pictures online either with their name on it or some huge chocolate monstrosity and post it in the email. For my own birthday, I put this giant Batman cake in my email. Yes, I sent one that said, “Happy birthday–TO ME!” I also picked out my own card.

        Nowadays, I celebrate my birthday by taking it off and going shopping. :)

    23. Ops Analyst*

      Wow. I’m honestly surprised by how many people dislike office birthdays. I mean, I’m not one who likes a ton of attention so I don’t particularly care to have my birthday celebrated in the office, but I didn’t realize so many people seem to almost despise them.

      Question: Old job used to do one party per month for everyone who had a birthday during that month. There was no singing, cards, or gifts. They filled a conference room with tons of cakes, desserts, and coffee. Then sent out a monthly invite and you could go or not go any time during the hour long block. Just wander in and eat and leave or stay and chat.

      That obviously doesn’t work for every office, but is that sort of thing better, without all the awkwardness? Or is it just birthdays in general and the feeling of your work day being interrupted?

      1. AnotherFed*

        AAM tends to collect people who lean towards being more introverted and/or task focused – we may not represent the general population. That said, while free food is good, having to sing and waste an hour EVERY time it’s someone’s birthday sounds like it’s one of Dante’s circles of hell! Optional wander in and grab leftover treats sounds much better.

    24. Amber Rose*

      My boss buys one cake a month. It says Happy Birthday but nobody’s name, and just sort of generally represents all possible birthdays for that month. Nobody is called out and everyone who wants gets cake. Win-win!

      But my prior experience is that whoever’s birthday it is will bring something in if they want to. If i’m feeling ambitious I make cupcakes or cookies for coworkers on my birthday. Just for a little fun. And that way works out fine too.

    25. bridget*

      This may not work if your department is too small (as in, in many months of the year there may be fewer than 2 birthdays), but my current company employs my favorite way of handling work birthdays. Once a month, there are treats in the conference room. That morning, an email goes out saying that there will be treats in the conference room at X time, and the people who have birthdays this month are A, B, C, and D. Its not disruptive if I’m too busy to swing by that day, people feel recognized, and its super easy to coordinate.

    26. Betty (the other Betty)*

      Too many replies for me to read them all, so sorry if this is a repeated idea:

      At my old office, we had a birthday ‘club.’ If you wanted to participate, you were responsible for getting cake for the person who had the birthday after yours. So Sally (April 21) brought cake for me (May 15) and I brought cake for Joe (May 28) etc.

      One person kept the birthday calendar and sent out reminders a few days ahead. I kept a cake-cutting knife, birthday candles, and a lighter in my desk. Otherwise it pretty much ran itself.

      Only participants would be notified of cake, but we would share with others if they happened to be in the area at the time. (There was always enough cake.)

    27. Cassie*

      We don’t really do birthdays in our office (except for the staff who work in student affairs – they’ll get a cake, invite faculty/students/staff, sing happy birthday, etc). In my sis’s office, they used to handle it like you do in kindergarten – if you want to celebrate your birthday, you bring in food to share with others. Now, they have a quarterly birthday cake for staff whose birthday falls within the quarter.

  4. Dang*

    It’s my last day as a temp (after over 9 months!!!!) I start my new job next week and have a week off to relax, do some spring cleaning, and shopping for new work clothes! So excited.

    1. Amethyst*

      Yay, congratulations!! Not being a temp anymore is such a great feeling. Have fun shopping for clothes!

  5. Sunflower*

    I guess this is to anyone who works in a hospital but particularly people close to organ donation. I was just approached out of nowhere about a job as a Donation Coordinator. I’m not totally disinterested- I’ve always been interested in human services and I’m not set on event planning/marketing but this is not a career change I’d ever even thought about before. I’ll also admit the salary/benefits is really what is really intriguing. I’ve never considered myself a sensitive person and the job is definitely more on the administrative side but I will have some interaction with the families and I’m a little nervous just thinking about that. Anyone who works in a similar environment, I’d appreciate thoughts/advice!

    1. C Average*

      I have a friend who had this job for a time and still looks back on it as the most rewarding professional role she’s ever had. (She left the role for family/personal reasons.) She did mention more than once that it was emotionally exhausting at times. And she had a long background in health care, so the life-and-death aspect of the work wasn’t foreign to her. I think it takes some pretty big reserves of empathy to do this job well for a long time.

    2. Dang*

      I just turned down a job working with advanced stage cancer patients (it was research related, but I would have a fair amount of interaction with them), partly because the offer was completely bizarre and I’d have to relocate, but also partly because I don’t know that I could deal with the sadness of it.

      I think it’s a very individual thing, and you don’t necessarily need to be *sensitive* to thrive in a job like that, but you need to be able to show compassion and not take it home with you at the end of the day.

    3. Beebs*

      The organ donation process is definitely a two sided story. While one family is dealing with a tragedy, another family is receiving much anticipated hope and good news. Focusing on the good that comes from the difficult loss is helpful. Also just have a frank understanding of the nature of this kind of work and general compassion. On your time you can also keep a very pragmatic view of the work. You may be surprised to find that it is not necessarily as emotionally challenging as one might expect. I currently sit on the board of directors for an organ donation/transplant, we work with recipients, donor families, and other stakeholders. It is a truly remarkable and resilient community. I think you will find more positive emotions than negative will come from this type of work.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        This is a good point.

        Also, perhaps you could ask in your interview how people deal with it?

        1. Sunflower*

          Good point, I’ll ask about it. I also found out that everyone job shadows before they accept an offer so that makes me feel a lot better about making the decision should it come to that.

      2. themmases*

        I agree with this. I used to do research with children and young adults who had either brain tumors or congenital heart disease. It is just… different than you might expect, and I think these types of jobs might have to be worked to be understood. Fundamentally, patients and their families are just folks this happened to. Some of them are inspiring, some are really unpleasant. Not everyone will benefit from your help, or not the way you imagine. The professional ethical principles of your specific role can help you think deeply about how to treat them all with empathy, serve them best, and have effective boundaries. That can be incredibly rewarding.

        At my hospital, services for patients– for example the chaplains– were also available to employees. There are also popular events like Schwartz Rounds and ethics rounds that are intended for employees specifically to talk about the emotional and ethical challenges, respectively, of caring for patients. We also had “town hall” meetings for all people who filled my role regardless of department and various care/interdisciplinary conferences and educational sessions. They are worth going to every single one you can even if it is just out of personal interest, because you will learn so much about how others experience and think about patient care and meet coworkers that it’s safe to talk to about your thoughts and feelings. If I were going into a patient coordinator role, I would want to know that it’s a priority for me to be able to attend that type of event any time it doesn’t directly conflict with patient care.

    4. Christian Troy*

      FYI, the salary is usually good because you’re on call and can work crazy hours. The positions at my hospital were not 9-5 positions so that’s something to consider.

      1. Sunflower*

        Good point- this was something I was definitely thinking about and wondering if that had something to do with the high salary and good perks. I am actually going through a recruitment agency so I will make sure to ask them about this up-front.

        1. Anonsie*

          Also be prepared to not have a lot of coverage, meaning your schedule’s flexibility can be severely limited in addition to how demanding it is overall.

          And take a microscope to those perks– if you get X hours of PTO, when do you have to use those? Holidays? Regular workday hours when you’re not scheduled, even if you are working at night or on the weekend? What needs to be arranged for you to be allowed to take off?

          1. Anonsie*

            Also– when you’re called in, where can you park and how much does that cost? Can you even park at the hospital at all? What does that mean for your daily commute, and what does it mean for an emergency call?

    5. bridget*

      I have a friend who is an organ donation coordinator at a hospital. She has to be on call for long stretches of time and works a lot of nights, because when an organ becomes available, she has to move really fast. It makes it hard for her to go out with friends on a Friday night, because you might get called in at 3 a.m., or plan vacations, or have pets, or whatever. If you already work in a nursing or hospital environment where this is a typical part of your career, this might not be bad, but it would be a tough transition for me.

    6. GiggleGiggleGigglePop*

      I used to work in tissue donation – but not in consents, actually in event planning/marketing. So if the field interests you and this job has perks you enjoy now, there may be opportunities to move around within the organization (whether you are working for the hospital or the OPO – often the OPO will employ someone who is based at the hospital, if that makes sense.)

  6. CrazyCatLady*

    This is related to question #3 in the earlier post today about leaving your job and then coming back. If you’re a manager, how long would the person need to stay after returning to not burn bridges, in your opinion?

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Two years. At least for us, it takes several weeks (if not a couple of months) to hire someone, and then 4 to 5 months before they are on their feet. Doing this on an annual basis is difficult. I know you could argue that you don’t need the training, but if you’re just there a year or so, you’re basically just delaying them having to go through a hiring process by several months.

    2. August*

      I did this. I am thinking minimum two years. But I think I will be staying as long as my manager manages this team (because she is awesome..!!!).

  7. Worth it?*

    I work for a news website and have a degree in something unrelated. The dangers of picking a major at 19… By the time I was sure that I had made a mistake, I was too close to graduation to change majors.

    It really seems that I can’t advance here or elsewhere without that communications, English, or journalism degree. I’m thinking about going back to school. How does this sound to you all?

    1. fposte*

      For an MA or another BA?

      I’d research the heck out of this in the field, asking people about credentials, and then find the shortest, cheapest program that will get you a gatekeeper-sufficient credential.

        1. Melissa*

          Going back for a second bachelor’s rarely makes sense, unless you’re trying to enter a small handful of fields in which the bachelor’s is really the only thing necessary (like engineering or nursing). Financial aid for second BAs is also pretty limited. Communications and journalism MAs usually have few required prerequisites and take people from all kinds of backgrounds – especially if you have work experience in that area – so if you’re going to spend two years in school anyway, I think it probably makes more sense to get a master’s.

          1. De Minimis*

            I agree completely, it matches up with my experience when I went back to school…I was going to have to take so many courses since it was a new field that it made far more sense to get a graduate degree.

            Actually in my case it was the only option. Space was limited in that particular university system and they stated outright that they were not accepting students seeking second bachelor’s degrees at that time.

          2. Treena Kravm*

            I have a friend in a journalism master’s program and she says it’s really just an opportunity to network and get bylines. The education piece isn’t super helpful in the overall scheme of your career though. Funding a MA will be infinitely easier than a 2nd BA.

    2. GOG11*

      Former English major/BA in English grad here. Would you be able to build a portfolio or would it make sense for your situation to gain experience that demonstrates your writing abilities as a way around having the degree? Or do you feel that you are lacking skills essential to the jobs you want that would be learned in the course of getting the degree?

    3. Kerry*

      I’ve worked in news journalism for eight years (and progressed well into different jobs) without having a degree in it – in my experience both hiring journalists and being hired, your degree isn’t important when you’ve been working long enough to have a good record. If you can’t progress at your current employer without a specific degree, I’d look at other employers before I looked at going back to study.

      1. Jennifer*

        Well, the new trend to rule people out of jobs is to require a specific degree, which seems to be what the OP is running into. I agree with you that degree type should not be an issue in the actual job though.

        But getting a second BA in order to go into writing jobs? Not worth it, given how writers are usually the first to get canned and the pay is low.

    4. The Office Admin*

      My brother in law has his bachelor’s degree in History and when he got out of college 13+ years ago he went into pharmaceutical sales.
      My husband is finishing his degree in Computer Science and will be working as a software developer so….

      Anyway, I have this theory that if you want a technical job like: lawyer, doctor, nurse, software developer ect. get the specific degree you need. It’s totally necessary. If you want to do anything else, you have the piece of paper that says you stuck with college, got your degree and then found out you didn’t like/couldn’t use your degree in real life.
      You have work experience in a media field, stay where you are, ask someone you work closely with to mentor you so you can advance your career with projects or news stories instead of another degree. It’s a better use of your time and money in my opinion. Also, every year you spend in school is a year you aren’t maximizing your income potential. Or so my husbands mantra goes ;)

    5. Retail Lifer*

      I’m going to have to go back to school for the THIRD time if I ever want to get our of my field. I’m really salty about that, although I can say I did enjoy college as an adult the second time around. I took all online courses and made it work around my ever-changing job schedule. Just make sure you pick a field where the starting pay os MORE than what you’re making in your current field. I didn’t do that and now I’m stuck.

    6. soitgoes*

      Is there a way for you to gain more experience in your current role? That way, you could move up in that industry based on experience rather than looking for jobs based on your specific skills.

    7. INTP*

      I’m not knowledgable about your field so I can’t answer questions about whether it’s a good idea overall, but I would absolutely in any case pursue a MA over a BA. It takes half as long and with years of work experience you can likely get into a program. No reason to put more time into a less prestigious degree.

    8. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Ugh, where have you been looking? Of virtually all subjects, comms/English/journalism/writing are the jobs that are typically most available without a credential if you’ve got the goods. I mean, you can prove you’re a good writer in a way that you can’t prove other things.

      Rather than go back to school, I’d first try to create a blog to get a year or twos worth of content up, do some freelance writing if you can, get your citizen journalist on… prove your chops, in addition to continuing to work for the news website. I just cannot imagine that someone who is good at this stuff would need to go back to school to get a degree in it.

      If you’re finding that you’re applying to a lot of jobs that are rejecting you and they *say* you need the degree, that’s one thing. But if you’re getting rejections and you’re not really sure why (or if they tell you the degree thing only if you ask for feedback after applying), you might want to make sure you’re writing is locked down (error-wise) and awesome. Most anywhere that publishes any kind of writing will take a superior writer and editor without a degree over a pretty-good writer with a degree any day. (So, if you’re pretty good at writing and don’t have the degree, you’re at a double disadvantage, but getting the degree is not the best way to address it.)

      1. Worth it?*

        I don’t know the reason for rejections. I’m assuming it’s because other people are more qualified – and because there is a very good journalism school in the area.

        Your first paragraph: This is what I thought, and what I heard before I graduated. But I’m finding that I just can’t get anywhere. My interest is not taken seriously.

        1. Melissa*

          It could be because other people are more qualified, but those qualifications don’t necessarily have anything to do with the degrees. Before you shell out the money I’d try to figure out if there is another, faster, cheaper way that you can establish credentials and qualifications.

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          I don’t know what your other skills look like beyond writing, but the days are gone when that’s all media companies want you to do. You need to be able to shoot photos & video, edit video, do some light graphic design, etc. If you lack those skills, you’re losing out to people who have them. A good way to get them is by using online training programs like If you can integrate that type of work into your current job, you’ll be in a better position.

          A grad degree at some place like Medill is going to cost a fortune and you won’t see a return on that investment for a long, long time.

      2. Tris Prior*

        +1. Honestly, this is the first time that I’ve heard of a company who actually thinks a BA in English (which is what I have) is in any way necessary for employment. :)

        It is incredibly tough to get a paid writing gig these days – so many print jobs have vanished or been outsourced, or are being handled by freelancers willing to work for pennies. I’d blame that more than your lack of degree – unless of course that’s the direct feedback you’re getting from employers; that your lack of a specific degree is the reason they will not hire you.

    9. Gwen*

      I work in writing (started in editorial, moved to copywriting, some freelancing)…I was an english/creative writing major, and in my experience, clips are king. If you have the samples and bylines, no one cares about your lack of degree (and no one cares about you having your degree if you don’t have clips).

    10. Gnome*

      I write without an English degree and know lots of other writers who don’t have a related degree. I also know a lot of unemployed English majors…

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Yeah. Journalism in particular is just hard to break into, and writing in general is tough. If OP is not a great writer, he/she probably just isnt going to make a career out of it (though there are exceptions). Having the degree isn’t going to help if people just don’t like the writing style!

        And even if you’re really good, there are just so many more applicants out there than available writing/comms/journalism jobs.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            I just don’t think that’s the case. Perhaps the company, or geographical area you’re in, are really niche or something? I don’t know of any writer who first judges other writers by anything other than a sample. You obviously know your situation better than anyone else, but I really just don’t think having a degree or not is the issue here.

            Maybe you can find a professional writer (even like a blogger that you like or something) that you don’t know that might be willing to take a look at your materials and give you feedback? Or have you been asking prospective employers for feedback after a rejection?

            I also obviously have no idea how good a writer you might be, but I will warn you that 1) everyone has a different style, and some people just won’t like yours, and 2) if you’re being rejected because people just don’t think you’re a good writer, they’re highly unlikely to tell you that straight-up, which does make it hard to figure out what you need to do differently. :(

            I wish you luck!

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, I’m agreeing with Kimberlee here. I’ve hired for a lot of writing jobs, and been hired for a lot of writing jobs, and the degree just really doesn’t enter into it. It’s about the quality of your writing and published clips. Clips clips clips.

        1. DEJ*

          This, so much this:

          And even if you’re really good, there are just so many more applicants out there than available writing/comms/journalism jobs.

    11. literateliz*

      Journalism major here. This sounds nuts to me. What is your degree in?

      Granted I’ve never worked in news– I’m in book publishing now–but I always had the very strong impression that journalism was one of the fields where experience counts for a lot more than the degree. All the better if your degree is in finance or science or something and you can bring your background to writing about those things. My degree at least gave me a good understanding of the field (most profs were working journalists), but English… really would not help, IMO.

      Maybe your current company is an anomaly? I’d look around. If you’re worried because job ads ask for a related degree, but you have experience, I’d apply anyway.

      1. literateliz*

        Bleh, posted this before I saw the above responses (thanks, smartphone!) The good journalism school in the area may have something to do with it, and honestly, it is a fairly difficult field to break into in general. If you do go back, I would at least go for journalism or communications over an MA in English. My impression is that the latter is geared towards going into academia.

      2. Tris Prior*

        Former journalist here and you are absolutely right. My English degree had nothing to do with me getting hired; it was my clips and my internships at actual newspapers, doing real reporting work.

        1. fposte*

          But would they have even looked at your application in the first place if you had a degree in Spanish or phys ed? I think that’s what the OP is worrying about.

          1. Worth it?*

            Yeah, that’s it. When I say I’m getting nowhere without a degree, I really do mean it.

            1. fposte*

              Right, but it’s also possible that it’s not the degree–that’s what you need to figure out before you spend money and time. So you need to find out from people who are hiring in the area where you’re looking to work if they’re factoring degrees into their decision.

              1. Tris Prior*

                This was sort of where I was going with my comment too. OP, are they telling you that you’ve got awesome clips and are clearly a skilled writer but they won’t hire you because of a lack of a specific degree?

                I reread your post and see that you’re currently at a news organization. What are you doing there? I wonder if “you don’t have the right degree” is code for “we want you to keep doing your current role” and that you’re actually just being pigeonholed into a non-writing role. Especially if you’re an admin or reciptionist or another role where people can sometimes get stuck. :/

          1. Tris Prior*

            Sorry to say that it was in the late 1990s-mid 2000s. :/ Before the economy went down the toilet.

    12. C Average*

      I have an English degree, and to be honest, your question might be the first time I’ve EVER seen an English degree described as a commodity with any value whatsoever. (I’m excepting the opinion of the English department of my alma mater, which of course viewed an English degree as the portal to many wonderful but vague career opportunities.)

      If you write well and have a demonstrable record of delivering publication-ready work, it really shouldn’t matter what your degree is in. And in most places, it won’t matter.

      What kind of role are you hoping to get into exactly?

      1. april ludgate*

        As a recent graduate with a BA in English “wonderful but vague career opportunities” is so accurate it hurts.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Some of us have a soft spot for the humanities, don’t worry! When I look to hire I want curious minds that know how to think and question, and good writing skills. There are more specifics, but if you can hit those big things I’m happy.

    13. Macedon*

      Experience >= clips >>>>>> journo degree.

      Depending on what kind of journo roles you’re applying for, you’ll need a few years of hands-on experience of writing in the particular field. If you want to do tech or financial journo, for instance, you are significantly better off with a CompSci/Econ degree than with a classical writing one. This is actually one of the few industries where big-name employers are less particular about your education, while heavily emphasising your writing experience: a national might take you even if you’ve never set foot in a journo classroom ( funnily enough, a smaller publication might be more snobbish about this, since a lot of them don’t really… get… news editorial).

      That said, it’s a pretty cut-throat industry, and our job market promises more famine than feast. Give it time. If you’ve already done so, and all lights’re still red, take a good, long look at your cover letter and CV. You’re in writing: your cover letter is your first portfolio piece. Figure out what’s not catching their eye.

      If you’re intent on going back to school for this: do an actual journo degree and look into programmes that require field work for assignments. Don’t assume all of them surely do – very many don’t.

    14. katamia*

      Oh, man, I feel ya there. I’ve been trying to get copyeditor positions (not specifically news-oriented, basically whatever kind of editing would have me) for ages but they all want an English or journalism degree, and mine is in something else. What I’ve been trying to do is kind of go sideways–for the last year and a halfish, I’ve been doing transcription for a couple companies (work at home) and have also taught ESL (so in other words, I do know my grammar). While I have yet to get a response from a job ad that wants one of those precious degrees, I have a 100% response rate from the few places I’ve found that don’t have that silly requirement, so I’m confident in saying that, yes, my degree being in something else is keeping me from being considered for those jobs.

      If you’re up for maintaining a blog (I personally am not and would rather spend my free time writing fiction), that could be something you could use as an example of your writing/editing skills. You can also look at websites and publications geared toward the subject that your degree is in and keep an eye out to see if they’re hiring.

      I wouldn’t go back to school, personally, unless it were an MA.

    15. Come On Eileen*

      I work in communications and my degree is in psychology and political science :-) Not really related to the work that I do at all! I’ve just always liked to write and found a way to incorporate it into my jobs (which it sounds like maybe you’re doing too?) and so now, I’ve never had a recruiter or hiring manager blink when they see my degree isn’t related to communications. My work history backs it up, which I think is most important.

    16. anna*

      You seem set on doing it but I’m going to echo everyone and say it’s a waste. I went to Medill for undergraduate and while I look back at those year fondly, the professors there are more about inflating your ego and pushing you into the integrated marketing communications track. It’s just an age where getting a Master’s in journalism isn’t necessarily going to open more doors for you and will leave you in a mountain of debt.

      Aim for getting more clips. What is your role at the news website?

      1. Worth it?*

        I’ve decided against it for now, after reading advice here (thank you!). I think I’m just frustrated with how hard it has been to get *any* experience, thinking that school would help. I’ll keep working on this.

  8. Mockingjay*

    Happy Friday, all!

    We spend a lot of time on this forum venting about managers and managerial problems. Let’s flip the coin.

    Name an outstanding characteristic of your favorite supervisor/manager, past or present.

    Mine is the quality manager who spent a year implementing real, intelligent processes to save our program. He showed us how to work smarter, not harder. He let the technical leads do their thing and made sure we had the systems and support to do our jobs. 15 years on, I still miss him.

    1. Kelly White*

      I had a manager who, when he received a complaint about something, actually took the time to discuss it with us- not just to assume that we (CSR’s) were at fault. It sounds like a reasonable thing to do- but, out of all the jobs I’ve had- I have only had two managers who responded like this.

      1. Snoskred*

        Me too – my best manager would write us an email asking for our side of the story, she would take time to sit down with us and go through the situation that happened, identify where things went wrong, and put procedures in place to stop it from happening again.

        The best manager always, always, had our back with the clients even if we’d made a mistake. But believe me, if we screwed up, we would never ever make that mistake a second time, and if anyone around us was about to make it, we would speak up and everyone took the speaking up as intended – to do our very best work at all times, not to nitpick or upset each other.

        She was such a great manager that none of us wanted to let her down and she inspired us to hold ourselves to the highest standard. She did all the training herself and she made it hilarious which turns out to be one of the best way to learn. A training shift with her was like stand up from the best comedian ever.

        She also managed the rosters and she remembered every single persons availability and personal situations without needing any paperwork to keep track of things and this was a major accomplishment given that she had a team of over 60 staff across multiple offices, including one overseas where she never got to travel to herself, so a lot of the work with those staff members was over the phone.

        When she left, obviously, no one person could step into her shoes. In fact it took 3 people to take on the role she had covered – one trainer, one rostering person who took a week to put out a roster that she could put out in just a couple of hours, and one manager.

        The people who tried to replace her in all 3 roles were so very bad at it, and most of us who had worked with her were upset to see the new staff were not trained anywhere near as well, we had no end of trouble with our rosters, and the manager could not manage her way out of a paper bag let alone 60+ staff. The new manager would not have our backs, nor would she check in with us for our side of the story. I cut my hours way back, and eventually left as a result, and I was not the only one.

        I’m sad to think I will likely never have a manager like that again in my lifetime, but I do think you have to be very lucky to have just one who was that kind of brilliant, let alone luck into having more than one. :)

    2. Jules*

      He coaches me about the whole department’s function as a whole and let me grow as quickly as I needed.

    3. C Average*

      One of my former managers did a great job of setting a steady, consistent emotional mood for our team. No matter how frustrated, ecstatic, stressed, tired, etc., he got, he maintained a calm and competent persona that let us all know we had dependable leadership.

      I took this completely for granted at the time. But having now reported to someone moody for the past couple of years, I see how much value there is in having a manager who presents a steady-as-she-goes face to the world.

      1. Temporarily anon*

        I think you may have nailed it. I was about to say I knew who I’d list, but couldn’t put my finger on why, and then I read your comment. It was so nice to feel like nothing was on fire, and even if it was, it would fizzle out after talking to her.

      2. Sandy*


        My favourite boss of all time never (appeared to) let anything faze her, and she was in charge of mediating some really crazy crises.

        It was FANTASTIC. especially now that I have a boss that gets frazzled and yells over the tiniest, least-crisis-worthy things.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, managers, if you can’t do anything else, least get this part down pat.

        If you remain calm you appear more intelligent. Seriously. I have some smart managers that were yellers/throwers. No one thought anything of them professionally or personally. Because the manager knew they had shaky footing, that lead to more yelling/throwing. No job is worth coming unglued over.

    4. Mike C.*

      I have a manager that actually supports us – tools, runs interference with politics get in the way, is incredibly transparent and ethics driven and really, really works hard give us opportunities to learn new skills, get promoted and so on.

      He’s the kind of guy you want to support and do well for not because you have to, but because you don’t want to let him down.

    5. OfficePrincess*

      One old manager recognized that the mental health issues I was experiencing were real and not just an excuse to get out of work, but that there was no way I could continue in the job. He went to bet for me to get two weeks of partially paid leave so that my last day was the first of the month, giving me an extra month of healh insurance (it ended the last day of the month you resigned in, so quitting on the 1st vs the 20th is a huge deal).

      1. Melissa*

        Oh, that was another one of the best things about my old boss. She had a background in mental health counseling, so when I was struggling with mental health issues I felt comfortable telling her about it. She still treated me like a competent and intelligent human being but made sure to ask after me and give me the tools necessary to recover while still working (flexibility, time, etc.)

        Bosses who understand mental health problems are golden.

    6. beachlover*

      I love the fact that my manager does not “manage” me. I am pretty much a self starter, and have been in management before. So she has complete trust in my skills and decision making. I just keep her in the loop on things that are “big” picture.

    7. stillLAH*

      My boss in grad school let me use one of our programs as the focus of an individual study. He let me evaluate it, make and implement suggestions, and even present my final presentation to the board. He was awesome in other ways, too–always made my input feel valuable, had the balance of work and office chat down to a science, and taught me that what we’re doing isn’t saving lives. I met some seriously awesome people in that job. 5 years later and it’s still been my favorite past-job. I’d work for him again in a heartbeat.

    8. HeyNonnyNonny*

      My manager is always careful to shield be from extra work if she’s just given me a huge project– I love that I can buckle down on a big task without worrying about prioritizing with other departments.

    9. Leah*

      My current manager has absolute faith in us. He trusts us to manage our time, get things done, and that we’ll come to him if we need help. He is the best and we love him.

      He also couldn’t care less if we show up on time, as long as it’s a reasonable window and we make up the billable “butt in chair” time.

    10. Melissa*

      I once worked in a dysfunctional department with a lot of problems, but my immediate manager was amazing. One of my favorite qualities was that she took us seriously and incorporated our feedback and ideas into her plan of action. I was a graduate student worker at the time on a team of three, and this particular department tended to disregard the employees as some sort of sub-adult life form (although most of us were mid-20s to mid-30s and several had years of work experience outside of this job – we just happened to be graduate students) and didn’t take our concerns seriously, including our indications about why they were losing quality candidates when they tried to do hiring.

      My manager in my second year at this job was brand-new – she was hired at the end of our first year – but immediately came in and sat back and really listened to us. The year before my two teammates and I ran our area without direct oversight, and so she assumed that we were competent individuals and used a lot of our insights and knowledge when managing our area. She didn’t come in and try to change everything, but when she saw an area of improvement, she gradually incorporated it in while asking for lots of feedback from us about whether it would work in this setting. This made us enthusiastic about supporting her when she did make changes.

      She was great, and happily I found out that she recently got a promotion – she’s now in charge of the entire department, even though she just started at the job like 3 years ago (because she’s awesome). And she’s making significant changes that we had talked about being beneficial for attracting top candidates and improving the services that the department provides to students.

    11. August*

      I think the best managers I had were the people who had confidence in themselves and non controlling. Along with delivering the products/services that we need to deliver, they focused hugely on development the careers of the people who worked for them even if that meant they were losing the employee to take up more senior level positions.

    12. GOG11*

      I had a manager in retail (of all fields!) who always seemed to notice the things you did right, not just the things that needed to be fixed or changed – and he let you know that he noticed, appreciated it, what impact it had, etc.

      He was also great at figuring out what you would excel at and he tended to delegate based on that. A coworker who wasn’t super speedy but who had a great eye for detail was assigned to an area of the store that got trashed somewhat regularly and he made sure to let that person work on that area during their down time. Nobody else had the patience for the monotony of it, but this person was great at it! He matched us with tasks that suited our abilities/interests well and then gave us the time and resources to get the job done (instead of just paying lip service to things).

      1. ACA*

        My best manager was actually in retail, too. She always had my back (even to upper management!), and never made me feel stupid or small when she had to reprimand me. Once I accidentally undercharged a woman by $1000 on her wedding invitations, and my manager was furious…that the customer had deliberately come in on a day my manager wasn’t working, even though it was such a complicated order that my manager had given the customer her schedule for the week to make sure that she (my manager) was the one to handle the order.

    13. Luxe in Canada*

      I’ve had two managers who saw that I was really interested in working my way up. They’ve talked to me about my career plans and what skills I’d need to demonstrate in order to take advantage of any opportunities for promotion. Most importantly, they’ve given me responsibilities so I can develop these skill sets. I know a lot of people might not think “my boss gives me extra jobs” is a good thing, but it’s the difference between just doing my job as a worker bee versus building up my resume and track record in order to move up out of entry-level work.

    14. Michele*

      My best “manager” was my graduate research advisor because I could trust him. He was a new professor, so there was a learning curve on his part as well as mine, but he always did what he thought was best and always had my back. He was also consistent in his instructions and not tempermental.

      It is really common for faculty to misuse students and treat them poorly. For example, I was known for being a very hard worker. Shortly before I defended, one of my committee members went to my advisor and said that he would refuse to sign my dissertation so I would have to stay and work more without making my advisor look like the bad guy. Of course, quid pro quo was expected. Fortunately, my advisor not only rejected the offer, he was so shocked that he told me about it. Fifteen years later, we still keep in touch, and he is the only former boss of mine that I am still in contact with.

    15. LQ*

      My current manager is great because he tries very hard to be a good manager and he’s a good manager for me. (Hands off, gives me the resources I need to do my work, knows I’m interested in new and engaging work, supports learning.)

      My former boss who was the best boss ever was my first Real Job boss and she coached me through everything, “LQ come listen to how I handle this call. Ok any questions? Next time you’re doing it. Great, but do these two things different. Ok now you’re on your own!” And she helped me navigate a job that was a huge shift from what I thought I wanted but was incredible for me. She believed that if I couldn’t get my job done in about 40 hours a week I had too much work or I wasn’t working effectively and would tell me which was which. Etc, she was really amazing.

    16. AmyNYC*

      My current manager works super had and super long hours (and by default, so does her team) that part sucks, but even though she’s super busy and has a million things to do, she takes the time to review work with the team and fully answer any questions I have. Learning so much (almost) makes the crazy hours worth it!

    17. Labyrinthine*

      My current manager gives me real, productive, positive and constructive feedback on a regular basis. He also regularly checks in to ensure I feel supported (as I am the sole member of management outside of the main office) and offers me real opportunities to grow and develop in my role.

      In short, he makes me feel valued and an important member of the team – which is something I haven’t had before.

    18. Bridget*

      My best manager was my very first out of college. In the interview, we bonded over our mutual love of Stephen King and having significant others who work in medical professions. He was very articulate and soft-spoken, and was able to talk me down when I got frustrated (we worked for a national non-profit). I also had an enormous crush on him…so that helped. I think he had one on me, too, but then he moved away and now we only talk occasionally. Which is good, cause, ya know, we’re both married. (And he was 20+ years older than me.)

    19. misspiggy*

      My wonderful manager chose people on personal qualities and potential, rather than just experience, and made it clear she had total confidence in us. She would set us enormously ambitious goals and we would deliver, because we had freedom to determine our own ways of getting there and she was always available for quick advice when we got stuck. Plus she saw her role as protecting the long term goals of the team from the many management reverses and idiosyncrasies. She took a lot of flak for that from upper layers, and as a result didn’t get promoted to the level she deserved, but we really delivered a lot of change in the outside world. Miss her so much.

    20. Molly*

      Couldn’t pick one thing. I’m pretty sure my manager reads this blog – and may in actual fact be Allison’s clone. :) She does it all exactly right.

    21. Windchime*

      My favorite manager ever is my current one. He is really, really smart and skilled in our very technical field *and* he is people-smart as well, which is a rare combination. He is very supportive with regards to helping us in our professional goals and is a big believer in using all of our education/training budget. He’s a great guy and I hope he is my boss for a long time.

    22. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have a really wonderful manager right now. He’s sensitive in the best way– he checks in but he completely understands when I freak out. Case in point: I was having a really hard time on my first project, which technically had nothing to do with him, and one evening he asked how I was and I burst into tears. He just smiled and said, “It’s ok, I get it,” and sent me encouraging messages. He doesn’t treat me with kid gloves or like I’m some crazy hysterical girl– he completely gets it when people have to have their freakouts.

      I really, really wish I could work on a project with him. I was remarking to someone the other day that I was super jealous watching our manager work with another co-worker on a new project. He is so patient and collaborative, and he truly believes that work is not the most important thing in life. He looks out for all of us and keeps us sane, and I know he sticks up for me– and it’s only been four months. He also reminds me in my most paranoid moments that he hired me and he is a genius (!), therefore I must be one too.

      As it stands, my clients are handled by other managers in the company, so it will be a long time before I get to work directly with my own manager. One day! Also? He LOVES my dog, and the feeling is mutual. When I bring the dog in, he (the dog) whines when my boss goes out.

    23. AnotherFed*

      My current manager is the best I’ve had, hands down. I learn best by running into the brick wall a time or two before figuring out that I need to climb over it, and he gives me just enough direction and info that I won’t cause any harm with my head butt moment, then once I’ve got it down, lets me run with it without any interference.

    24. S*

      I love my manager a lot, but really, I think that the company culture implemented by my department director is the thing I love the most. There’s such an emphasis on training and mentorship, especially for the younger folks (fellows and interns) so that even if they’re leaving the org in a few months, they’ll have skills necessary to succeed in their next job.

  9. C Average*

    One of the most valuable things I’ve gotten from becoming a regular reader of this blog is a better understanding of professional norms. It’s always interesting to me when a question comes up about a scenario that’s completely foreign to my experience and there’s a consensus in the comments that the behavior described is wildly unprofessional.

    So it made me wonder: What’s the most unprofessional thing you’ve ever done that you didn’t realize at the time was unprofessional?

    Here’s mine: For the first couple of years I was at my current company, I operated with almost complete obliviousness to the corporate hierarchy. If I had a question, I asked the person I figured could best answer it. I very, very rarely went through proper channels. In retrospect, I’m not particularly sorry, because I accomplished a lot of things I’m still proud of in part because I sought and got buy-in from people way above me and wasn’t bogged down by bureaucracy. But I must have driven my management insane.

    1. Joey*

      I talked to folks the way I wanted to be spoken to- blunt and to the point. I soon realized you have to read people and adjust your style to fit them.

      1. TL -*

        I have a similar thing, where I often come off as much harsher than I intend to (usually because the other person is being incredibly dumb and/or inconsiderate but still…)

    2. some1*

      I would say generally I didn’t understand that when I started working in the white collar world is that didn’t understand that there are some unwritten rules that people won’t tell you.

      When I was in school or in retail jobs, if I did something wrong I faced tangible consequences. In the professional world, that’s a lot murkier. For something like having your significant other visit you every day or spending a lot of time on personal phone calls might not get an actual reprimand from a manager or coworker, but it may cause your coworkers to view you less professionally.

    3. Dang*

      When I was a grad student I was a research assistant and shared an office with my boss. I’d frequently chew gum. Apparently like a cow because after I’d been doing it for at least a few weeks(!) he said “this is uncomfortable, but can you not do that?”

      Ugh, I was the cow chewer and I didn’t even know it.

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      In my first job, I was the youngest employee by 20-25 years. I addressed everyone as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” with their last name until our CPA told me I was making everyone feel old and to use first names.

    5. matcha123*

      Hmm…In my first full-time job out of university I was dealing with that and being overseas. So, maybe not using my sick time when I could have. Instead, I did what I’d done all of my life which was go in sick (not with anything that could be caught by anyone else) and spend a huge chunk of the day in the bathroom.

      The other was not speaking up when higher-ups asked for my opinion because I didn’t want to offend and didn’t think my opinion was worth much of anything to anyone.

    6. Kelly L.*

      Once, thinking I was helping, I barged into a conversation I’d only heard part of, and gave advice that would have actually been pretty dangerous if the other person there hadn’t smacked it down right away. I learned to be sure I knew what was going on before I opened my mouth.

    7. Jubilance*

      In my first job, I spent boring meetings on my phone. I got chewed out by a program manager about it – until then I didn’t think about what kind of message I was sending by playing on my phone instead of paying attention.

      1. Mabel*

        I thought you meant that the meetings were teleconferences and that you were attending the meeting by phone. For a few seconds I couldn’t figure out why you’d get crewed out for that!

    8. Laura*

      At my first internship, I would leave about 5 minutes early. So if I was scheduled to work until 4pm, I’d usually wrap up all my work by 3:50 and be out the door at 3:55. Looking back I cringe and people probably thought I was an ass who should have stayed until 4pm. I was naive.

      1. Lizzie*

        I did the same thing during my internship my senior year of college. (Although I will say that if my boss had given me more than 10 hours of work to fill my 20 hours per week in the office [especially when I pointed out that I was wrapping up my projects up to 2 hours before I was supposed to leave every day and then pretty much just sitting around], I probably wouldn’t have spent so much time staring at the clock.)

    9. Persephone Mulberry*

      Ah, youth.

      Back in my late teens/early 20s, I had a series of short stays at various retail jobs and repeatedly no-showed on my scheduled day. I was all, “what are they going to do, fire me?” and didn’t even think about the bridge I just burnt.

      In this same period, I also no call/no showed two days in a row and was surprised when I called to check my shifts for the next week and found out I was fired.

      1. Alexis*

        Given the fact that you’ve obviously changed, you give me hope for my sister who is doing the same thing! She gets so upset when she’s fired but doesn’t change the behavior.

    10. kdizzle*

      Oh lord. During my first few months at my first job out of grad school, I created a folder on the shared drive that said “Do Not Open – Private,” and then each subsequent sub folder had a similar title (e.g. “why did you click on that?” and “I told you not to continue”). After about 15 layers of folders, there was a picture of Rick Astley (of rick roll fame) that said “Never gonna trust you again.”

      I still….do…not…have….any…idea…what I was thinking. It was an organization of about 150 people, and everyone had access to it. About a week after I posted it, my boss called me into his office and just started laughing hysterically. That was almost 10 years ago, and he still talks about why that made me the best hire ever. I cringe hard when I think of it.

      1. BRR*

        Part of me thinks this is the greatest thing ever. My ideal workplace would have more things like this.

      2. IT Kat*

        ….I am going to do this once I’m back at home office.

        (In my defense, the company bills itself as most fun place to work in the area and jokes like this on the whiteboard in the kitchenette and around the office are not uncommon. And yes, they are usually quiet ones just left for those who want to join in, not dragging people uninterested into them!)

      3. Sunflower*

        I think this is so incredibly hilarious. Was there any reasoning behind it? Did you just want to see if people would click on it?

        1. kdizzle*

          I’m pretty sure I was just testing the waters. I had no idea that things like shared drives existed, and it was my first few months on the job, so I was likely a bit bored while waiting to get up to speed.

      4. kdizzle*

        I was never going to win any awards for professionalism, but I am truly grateful that I’ve worked at places that seem to enjoy my somewhat strange sense of humor (or at least tolerate it). Let’s see…I gave a presentation wearing a snuggie, I hung a portrait of Nicholas Cage next to all of the other former company presidents, wrote ridiculous fake memos…all within my interning time / first 2 years as a professional. It seems like such a crazy departure from the professional I’ve become that I can’t believe I was so oblivious to realities of a workplace.

      5. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Man, if I had thought of that, it would be like my greatest professional achievement. That ish would be on my resume.

      6. Florida*

        I worked at a timeshare resort where there were about three people who loved playing harmless practical jokes on one another. I wasn’t part of this jokester group, but I loved observing their antics. A common thing they did was to put lotion on the ear piece of someone’s telephone, then go back to their own office and call that person. Normally the jokes where fine and fit the culture of the company.

        One time, a recruiter was interviewing a candidate for a sales position The phone rang. She picked it up and got lotion all over her ear and hair. (She shouldn’t have answered the phone during an interview!) After that, HR intervened and said no more practical jokes.

    11. Lady Bug*

      Dressed like I was going to the club, not work. It’s a skirt right, totally professional (even though I can’t bend over)! I shudder thinking about it now.

      1. cuppa*

        I did the same thing. Ugh. I wore plaid pants (that were TIGHT) and a black tank top to work once. And went out on a business lunch in that. *cringe*

      2. thisisit*

        omg, i feel this one. leggings, tunic-type top that barely covered my butt, and sky-high heeled boots (with buckles *cringe*) and the worst part was that i was like 30.

      3. Sunflower*

        One time I wore a legitimate bathing suit cover up(it was really cute and if made with the right material, would have been an adorable dress) with a white slip underneath thinking that made it okay. It wasn’t until I went out after work and my friend kept asking if I was wearing a bathing suit cover-up that I realized I most definitely should not do that again

    12. Ihmmy*

      This was one I learned pretty quickly, but having to adjust to other peoples communications styles. I prefer doing almost everything by email when I can, but there are some folk who are just phone people so you need to be ok with picking up the phone to call them instead of sending them an email. If documentation around the conversation is important, you can add it to a communication log or have them confirm by email a brief summary of what was decided, but still call them.
      (I still want people to email me, but if we both bend on our communication styles we can reach something that is effective and not super stressful)

    13. LillianMcGee*

      At my first office job–an internship–I was asked to move files from one set of filing cabinets to another in a different room. With no instruction other than “move them,” I ended up filing everything backwards (like… alphabetical order coming toward the front instead of toward the back of the cabinet). No one even told me I did it ridiculously until my last week (!) when they asked me to fix it. I felt like such a huge dumbass. Probably an even bigger mistake I continuously made was never proactively looking for work. I always waited for someone to give me something.

    14. Red*

      I have Resting B-face. Any time I’m not consciously controlling my expression, it apparently looks like I am angry. The effect is worse the more I am thinking or concentrating on something. So many people have seen me walking to the restroom, reading a file, listening in on a conference call, or something else that’s not directly speaking with someone else and thought I was enraged or hated them, but wouldn’t spill the beans to me. Only one manager ever mentioned it to me (in a mild, funny way because while it’s an important issue, she also thought it was funny and knows I’m pretty even tempered!) after a meeting in which I had apparently looked either strongly skeptical or rather irritated. (I was actually really interested since it was about employer paid taxes.) I’m grateful she brought it up. I’ve had resting b-face syndrome my whole life and it is so hard to get rid of! I think it’s milder than it used to be just because I’ve really tried hard to fix it, but I’m definitely not all the way there.

      1. april ludgate*

        I have this problem too. Whenever I’m in a meeting or walking around the office I have to think to myself “make your face look nice.”

    15. GOG11*

      One time when I was working retail as my first job outside of college (during college, I had a lot more independence and set my own hours since it was project management and event planning type stuff)…and it was really slow so I kept asking the manager to let me go home. I still cringe when I think of that…part of it was that I was used to setting my own hours more or less and the other part was just plain lack of professionalism.

    16. the gold digger*

      I was the only woman in a meeting of men I did not know well. One of them made a reference to “smegma” and the blood drained from my face. He clearly did not know what the word meant – it was in a completely innocuous context.

      Instead of pulling him aside and telling him privately that he might be misunderstanding the word, I blurted something out in front of the entire group – his peers and his boss.

      He was horrified and so apologetic. He said he thought he had made the word up. He was mortified and shamed in front of his co-workers.

      This was over 15 years ago and I still wince when I think about how I handled it. I could have done that so differently. I still regret not just biting my lip until a better time. I have tried to pick my moments better since then, but I am not always successful. Sometimes, it’s better just to keep your mouth shut.

      1. cuppa*

        I made an off-hand inappropriate comment about someone once, didn’t put much context about the situation, and got the name wrong (first name right, last name wrong). The person that I named was a VERY well respected person in my field (and someone to whom I really look up to) and the person that heard the comment told my boss about it. He asked me about it, and I was able to smooth it over, but if it had just gone out as a rumor, it would have been terrible. I learned to seriously watch my mouth and get my facts straight if I did say something. Oy.

    17. thisisit*

      i had an internship (first summer after freshman year of college) that was at a small US-based office of a japanese think tank. all the employees were japanese (mostly male), except 2 americans (presumably of european descent, one male, one female). the american guy was my direct supervisor.

      first day of work i came in 10 minutes late. then we had a late morning meeting, and i was one of the first people in the conference room. in america, most of the time, the person directing the meeting sits at the head of the table. so i chose a seat in the middle of the table (on the side away from the door). some co-workers come in, see me, sit on one end of the table. room is mostly filled up (though not the seats around me) by the time my supervisor arrives. he walks in a with a horrified look on his face at seeing me and hurries over to my chair, pulls it out, and informs me that in japan, the senior people sit in those seats. he points me to a seat at the perimeter of the room.

      to make this whole thing more mortifying – after the first week, i decided it was all too much work for me (yeah, i know, right???), so i just didn’t show up on monday. or tuesday. or any day after that.

      ugh. and it was a well-paying internship, in a sea of unpaid ones. sigh.

      1. Judy*

        Just as a side comment, in most of the meetings I’ve attended in the last 20 years in the US, the person facilitating the meeting sat at the middle of the table, not the head of the table.

        1. thisisit*

          room size, table shape, etc, make a difference, but as a former professional meeting planner, I almost always put the moderator, facilitator, or head person at the head or “top” of the table.

        2. LawBee*

          Yeah, we always put the meeting leader at the head of the table bc everyone can see her there. In the middle, you’ve got people craning their necks to see around the person next to them.

    18. Camellia*

      The most unprofessional thing I ever did was also the best, because I learned an important lesson.

      A few months out of school, at my first white collar job, I was walking to the restroom with a co-worker and complaining about another group not doing their work, messing up, what are they – stupid?, all kinds of stuff like that. I continued the rant while we were in the restroom. And guess what – a member of that team was in there.

      A few minutes later my manager, who was the second-best manager I have ever had, called me over and said we had to get in front of this immediately. He coached me, then called a meeting with that person and her manager and me. I apologized profusely, ate humble pie, groveled, and begged forgiveness, as well I should. Not sure they actually forgave me but I did keep my job.

      I vowed I would never say anything bad about anyone at work ever again.

      I’ve kept that vow and it has served me in good stead over the years. In the crowded cafeteria, when three women joined me at my solitary table and proceeded to whine and gripe about their department I resisted temptation. And later when we introduced ourselves, one of them was the daughter of my VP. A new co-worker turned out to be best friends with that difficult co-worker in the last group I was in. It has even served me well on something really unexpected: I was looking for an auto-service place in a new town and several people had warned me away from a particular garage with all kinds of bad examples. When a co-worker found out I was looking she recommended that same garage. I simply said I had selected another one already, without mentioning the horror storied I had heard. She said that was too bad since her uncle owned it and he would do a good job.

      I have plenty of other examples from my decades-long career and am still thankful that, painful as it was, I learned this lesson early on.

      1. Beezus*

        Yes! I did something very similar – in my first professional job, I was hired to do data entry for a team of analysts who had accumulated enough low-level work as a group that it made sense to hire someone very entry level to do it.

        None of the analysts were in the office one afternoon, and someone was urgently looking for one of them. He called back repeatedly – this was before cell phones were prevalent – and he gave me a little more grief each time, for not knowing where Jane was.

        I finally got to a good stopping point in my work, and decided to see if I could go find Jane. I headed out in what I thought was the most likely direction, and found Jane about ten minutes later, in a production office with a man I hadn’t met yet. I apologized for interrupting them, “but, Jane, some ******* named Waukeen is looking for you, and he won’t stop calling.” (I’d become friends with Jane by this time, and swearing was pretty prevalent in our environment. The statement itself was not as starkly outrageous as it sounds.)

        The man stepped forward, shook my hand, and said, “Hi, Beezus, I’m ‘some ******* named Waukeen.'”

        I picked my jaw up off the floor and stammered out an apology. He laughed at me. I flushed fire engine red every time I saw him for a month, and every time he laughed at me all over again. We all worked together for the next four years or so, became very good friends. I’m not going to win any awards for extreme professionalism, but I did learn to be more careful with my words and only speak freely if I was saying something I’d be comfortable standing behind, regardless of who overheard me. (It was not the last time I called Waukeen an *******, but he regularly earned the title.)

    19. Rat Racer*

      Oh honey – I have so many I could write a book called “what not to do at work.” Thinking back into my early twenties give me goosebumps of mortification. Here are a few gems:

      – In a large meeting, being asked to take notes on a whiteboard. I got bored and started drawing cartoon animals (cows, elephants, frogs). I thought I was being cute.

      – In job fresh out of grad school, got into a screaming fight with 80-year-old boss when job responsibilities changed from Grant Writer to high-school hall monitor. Of course, that did genuinely suck, but the strategy of getting on a soap box to say that I didn’t go to graduate school so that I could herd angry kids to class… (Oh please kill me now…)

      -Or how about the time I wore a shirt that had shrunk in the wash such that my belly showed if I lifted my arms. My very nerdy, awkward manager (a guy about 15 years older than me) had to tell me to go home and change. We were both mortified.

      – I did get called out once at a Government job for leaving a meeting to use the restroom. That, I maintain, was unfair.

    20. Elizabeth West*

      Bitched about my boss behind her back. It got back to her. She pulled me in and yelled at me. She didn’t fire me but she probably should have. I was young and stupid, though mostly stupid. :P

      1. Saz*

        Is there a difference between bitching about your boss and having legitimate complaints that you discuss with coworkers?
        I mean, I would find it very hard to work somewhere where disagreeing with your boss privately is something you could get fired for.

    21. Dasha*

      This may sound kind of tame but when I first entered the working world I thought all managers would be perfect and of course, handle things perfectly, legally, and professionally at all time. Seriously, I thought this!

    22. ZSD*

      It took me a while to be convinced that communication norms differed in office and academic settings. In my first office job, we had some people who just wouldn’t approve their travel receipts in our online system. After sending several reminder emails in a relatively polite manner, I finally wrote one of them and said, “Dude. Seriously. Approve your travel.”
      My manager was not thrilled.

    23. Katie the Fed*

      My high school job – we had a staff meeting once a month and it was after school hours. No interface with customers, and workwear was pretty casual, I just rolled in what I’d worn to school that day… and I was a senior in my last month and just didn’t give a f**k anymore.

      Yep, I wore a t-shirt and flannel pajama pants.

      I’m cringing just typing this.

    24. AnotherFed*

      I interned for a contractor that had some contracts renovating buildings, particularly some local and state government buildings. The first trip to one of the job sites was a group thing and the project manager wanted to introduce the government rep to all the summer interns, so he took everyone out to lunch on the company card – nothing special, maybe $10 a person. I thought this was normal for trips to the job site, so every time I went out there I kept trying to take the government person out to lunch, without realizing that was probably above the threshold for gifts she could ethically accept. I’m cringing as I type this!

      TL,DR: I accidentally tried to bribe an official.

    25. Winter*

      Inviting my boss’s boss to go out for a drink with me after work to discuss a work issue. Yup. I was coming from a world of tiny non-profits and it was my first corporate office job. I still shudder just thinking about it.

    26. Wander*

      For my first professional job, I consistently asked to leave when my job description said my shift was over. To make it worse, I had been warned in my interview that the job didn’t actually end at that time (though they were very vague about how often that was the case), and it was clear that no one else was ready to go. My supervisor let me, but it was pretty clear she wasn’t thrilled about it. I think I made up for it later (ie, worked hard enough to show that I’m not a complete slacker), but I still wince thinking about it.

  10. Sarah Nicole*

    At my old job, my manager had a great idea. The last person to celebrate their birthday would plan the next person’s birthday! So I celebrated in December and the next person on our team had a February birthday. I got a card, passed it around, and brought in a dessert, and I definitely didn’t mind because I knew that would be the only time for me to do it for the year.

    I’ll also mention that this was not a full lunch. We had a meeting time blocked off for 30 minutes where surprised the person and all sat around talking and having dessert. Then we went back to our work. It was the best celebratory work situation I’ve ever seen. Maybe you guys can try this?

        1. Sarah Nicole*

          You’re welcome! Good luck getting this figured out. For some reason situations like these can get over dramatic at lots of workplaces.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, but that doesn’t work so well when one person’s birthday is right next to another’s. So keep that in mind. If I have to plan the birthday celebration for the next person, and I have to spend my birthday doing so, because theirs is the day after mine…not so good.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            This doesn’t seem like an insurmountable problem. You just buy a card and make/buy treats the day before your birthday instead of on your birthday.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      In a former (very small) office we did this. It was great. We didn’t do cards, just treats. There were only 5 of us, so it wasn’t excessive (either in the number of times per year, or the amount of treats necessary per birthday).

      The one problem was that some folks were much better at this than others, so some people’s birthdays were consistently well celebrated and some were halfhearted. I had the primo spot, right behind a woman who loved to bake and try new things and would bring in amazing creations. My boss was stuck behind the guy who always forgot and would run to the corner store over lunch to buy sad cupcakes every year.

  11. Karowen*

    Inspired by Wakeen’s Teapots, Ltd. comments in the short answers thread:

    What’s your most ridiculous story of someone who gave their notice? Did they try to force you to hire their wife? Did they announce two months later that they were returning? Did they just decide to show up in their pajamas one day to see what you would do to them?

    I need a pick-me-up today, please help a sister out!

    1. Nerdling*

      I don’t have a good story about this, but now I desperately want to be KMA so I can show up in PJs.

    2. Excel Geek*

      I had a coworker who slid his badge under the boss’s door in an envelope that said “I quit!”
      At a different company there was a guy who just stopped showing up after about a month. It then turned out he had done the same thing at his prior 2 companies but wasn’t there long enough to even include them on his resume.

    3. some1*

      I guess I don’t have many funny stories of the manner of the resigntion, but I have seen a few times where people quit with little or no notice claiming extenuating circumstances when they just got another job. Bizarre.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Ugh. Someone in our organization did this. They claimed they couldn’t give the full notice stipulated in their contract due to health reasons…and then their LinkedIn showed them in a new job a few days later. (I wasn’t stalking them, I swear, it was one of those “LinkedIn thinks you might now this person” deals.)

        1. some1*

          At a retail job my part-time coworker resigned claiming to have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and she *had* to quit. She started hostessing in the restaurant around the corner from us that was a theme place with am employee uniform in the mall within a couple of days and had to walk past our store to get to hers from the entrance — did she think we would forget what she looked like?

      2. Windchime*

        Yeah, we just had someone quit like that. She had a vacation booked, so she gave “2 weeks notice”, but 6 working days of that was vacation. So really just 4 days. She drug her feet and complained all four of those days, and then she told everyone that she was being “forced” out when the reality was that she wasn’t willing or able to meet the terms of her PIP.

    4. Geek007*

      I’m a front desk manager at a hotel who’s currently working on BA #2 (english major the first time, big mistake on my part). Former employee quit during finals week which I can’t control, however she keyed “F rhymes with duck this job I $&@#ing quit” into the shuttle van. 4 days before a big group of VIPs including our owner were scheduled to visit. And then showed up for work drunk. She was told to go home and is currently banned from property. So I spent my finals week dealing with a very irate owner, a rented shuttle van, and getting the damage repaired.

      1. Camellia*

        At my job “key it in” means to type something in to the system. So I’m thinking she entered this into one of those digital displays that you see on buses to announce their next destination and the VIPs saw it flashing there. And wondering why it took you four days to key in something else…sooooo glad it’s Friday!

        1. Geek007*

          The idiot used a screwdriver to put some nice deep scratches into the paint job. It cost us $2500 ish to repair it, and the company threatened legal action and would have followed through had her parents not paid for it. She had the nerve to use us as a reference, which didn’t go over well. The hospitality world is a small one and it got around quickly what she did.

      2. ZSD*

        That is a very long message to write with a key. She certainly had patience while telling you off.

    5. Ann O'Nemity*

      A receptionist quit without notice but expected to be paid for an additional two weeks! (In rare cases, we’ll pay a departing employee’s entire notice period but ask them to leave sooner – usually for a business or security reason. Somehow the receptionist assumed this automatically applied to her.)

      Two months later, she reapplied for a management position, stating that her new job had turned out to be temporary but that she’d gained valuable experience that qualified her for management.


      1. some1*

        Oh! I forgot about the former coworker who resigned, refused to train her replacement, and filed for UI.

    6. Delyssia*

      At an old job, a director level person was brought in as my boss. Her first day was a Friday. On Monday, she didn’t show up. She finally contacted the president of the company in the afternoon and said (roughly) “thanks for meeting with me on Friday. After more consideration, I’ve decided that this role isn’t right for me.” That seems like a great response after an interview or an offer, not your first day of work!

      1. anonForThis*

        I had a co-worker, who when he left the job, told me casually that he had accepted multiple job offers. I keep hoping that’s not really what he meant, but I wonder if for all but one of the jobs, he did something like that.

    7. Ama*

      I guess technically she didn’t give notice but I once had a boss that didn’t show up one morning, and then had her “mom” (it’s entirely possible it was her using her mother’s email) email that she’d been hospitalized due to a car accident. We didn’t hear from her for two days and when we attempted to contact her mom asking what hospital she was in so we could send flowers, she called in herself and flipped out on us claiming we didn’t trust her and were checking up on her. Which of course, prompted us *to* check up on her and of course, she was faking the whole thing. She then pleaded a nervous breakdown and was allowed to resign before anyone investigated any further, which was a mistake.

      Come to find out, she was supposed to be audited by our finance department that week and knew they’d find a number of questionable practices and expenses, so she had been attempting to buy herself time to wipe her work laptop and destroy files (which was only about 30% successful, although over a year later we’d still occasionally have a vendor pop up that had never been paid because she incurred the expense without anyone else knowing. I’m still not entirely sure whether her ultimate plan was to recover and return once she’d destroyed the evidence or if she was going to resign while she “recovered” from the accident.

    8. C Average*

      I used to do coaching for the consumer service agents who answered my company’s phone and email contacts. I’d randomly pick a call, pull up the video and audio capture for it, review it, make some notes, and then meet with the agent and go over it again together. I oversaw a great team of agents and really enjoyed this part of my job; it wasn’t anything stressful or high-pressure for anyone ever.

      Except for this one time, when the video capture for one of our best agents consisted of her listening to the call while composing, in her personal Gmail, her acceptance letter for another job somewhere else. That’s how I found out she was leaving us. I had to start that coaching session with, “Uh, Jane? Is there anything you’d like to share with me before we get started?”


    9. Bru*

      I’m going through something a little strange right now. I’ve been at my current job about 6 months, overall it hasn’t been a great fit… my manager has been really bad about training my co-worker and I (we are a group of 3 people including our boss), he has a bear-claw hold on things so doesn’t delegate anything. I’ve tried talking to him and telling him that I have time to do more… but no change.

      Anyways long story short I got offered an opportunity that would cut my commute from 1+ hour one-way to 15min one-way, higher salary, comparable benefits, and very renown company. So I accepted and I am waiting for background check and all that to clear before giving notice.

      Then on Tuesday he pulls my coworker and I into a room and tells us he resigned and his last day is this Friday! He was an associate director who had been with the company for 14 years! So now, my poorly trained co-worker and I are left to keep things afloat and I feel terrible about giving my notice soon…. good times.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Don’t feel terrible. Your manager created the poor situation, not you. Congrats on the new job!

    10. CupcakesAbound*

      I used to work in a library and someone resigned by sending a note through the overnight book drop-off. She had been working there about two weeks. It’s one of the most interesting things we ever got in that drop box and that’s saying something. :)

    11. Lady Bug*

      At old job we hired someone right before Thanksgiving, who was going to start in January due to holiday shutdowns. Boss called her in December to confirm she was ready to start in January. Yep, everything is fine, see you after the holidays. January comes, but the new employee never shows up. We called her that day, but she never answered. She finally returned our call the next day and told us her job made her a counteroffer and she decided to stay. The kicker, she applied for another job at our company six months later!!!!!!! I was tempted to call her job to let them know she’d be asking for another raise soon.

    12. BRR*

      I replaced someone who emailed their boss on a Sunday night at around 11:00 pm they weren’t coming in the next day or ever again. Not terribly exciting, just super unprofessional.

    13. Amethyst*

      The person who had my job before me turned in her two-weeks notice on the morning of the busiest day of the week. A couple hours later she said she actually couldn’t stay any longer and walked out that moment, leaving my coworker alone in the office to handle everything and also tell our boss later (who was in a meeting at the time).

    14. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      It’s not all that funny, but one of my favorites is my older sister. She quit her first job (fast food) by leaving for lunch one day and just not coming back.

      The best part is that she was re-hired a year or so later (same management team). Maybe twice. And I got a job at the same place a couple years after on her reference.

    15. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      My husband once had an employee get into a car accident on his way to work. He then showed up BLEEDING FROM THE HEAD and insisted he was fine. After a few minutes my husband realized this guy was actually drunk and insisted the guy go home. He fired him on his next shift.

      I also heard a story about a teller who quit without notice and sent her friend through the drive thru to give the manager her keys. That one had me laughing.

      1. MrsL*

        I have a personal story similar to that one. Although it has nothing to do with quitting a job, rather starting a new job.

        I was taking the bike on my first day to my new job. A grain of sand gets in my eye and I try to get rid of it, as best I can, with little to no success. I ignore it and get to work. Come lunch, my eye is totally swollen and red, and tears keep coming out. I tell my manager, ” I am fine”. I don’t want to leave early on my first day of work! But I was obviously not fine and they convinced me to go see a doctor. I ended up leaving early and going to the emergency room. I had to wear an eye patch for a few days due to a tear in my cornea. Ouch!

        1. the gold digger*

          I had a wreck on my bicycle on my way to to work two weeks after starting a new job. Might have lost consciousness – ended up at ER with a huge bruise on my face and six stitches in my eyebrow. I looked like someone had beaten me up.

          (Actually, in the ER, they asked me, while my husband sat next to me, if I “felt safe at home.” I didn’t get what they were saying for a while, but then said, “I fell off my bike!” Like I would have answered that question honestly if my husband had beaten me up!)

          Anyhow, I was at work by 1:00. I thought, “I am brand new! I have no political capital. I cannot take a sick day two weeks after starting!”

      2. cd*

        That first story makes me think concussion – if you see someone with an obvious head injury behaving as if drunk, your first thought should be to get them a ride to the hospital, not send them home and fire them. (If he realized the guy was drunk by smelling alcohol or something, rather than based on erratic behavior, that’s different, but still.)

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          Me too. I was in an accident on my way to work last year and suffered a tbi from my side airbag. I have no memory of a certain time period but evidently I was worried about someone having to call in for me at work. Paramedic apparently thought I was a pita as he commented (to my son, who was in the accident with me but was uninjured) “you can’t cure stupid.” I’m far from stupid, but a brain injury can present that way. Or as if the person is drunk, I imagine. But I went first class air to the local trauma center and my spouse called and reported to my boss.

        2. Mallorie, the recruiter*

          Oh yes, sorry – should have made that more clear. Guy reeked of alcohol. Hubs said it seemed like the guy had been up all night drinking, disheveled, dirty clothes, etc.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      At one place I worked, a consultant got into a screaming argument with our boss and walked out, never to return. We knew they didn’t see eye-to-eye, but it was so shocking that we all tiptoed around like frightened mice for a week.

    17. april ludgate*

      I worked at a large Walmart-like retail store in high school and one of the employees was asked to clean up some poop that was in the fitting room (which was unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence). He said, “I can’t I just clocked out for lunch.” Then he left for his lunch and never came back.

    18. attornaut*

      Someone claimed that they couldn’t find the office, so they just never came in again. Who knows why google maps was not an option.

        1. Karowen*

          That’s what I was wondering! They found it by accident the first time and couldn’t figure out how to get back, maybe?

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        We lost someone that way when the company moved two blocks.

        TRUE STORY.

        What was even funnier is, we were so busy with the move, we didn’t notice she was missing for a few days. (Temp to hire, she’d been with us about a month. I’d specifically said hi and see you in the new place to her late the Friday prior.)

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            We don’t usually lose staff members for multi days without noticing. but moving an entire company over the course of a weekend to open 8 am Monday with two floors of people and a warehouse functional was a little preoccupying.

            And as a temp, she wasn’t in our time system.

            Plus! It’s not as if anybody knew where anybody else’s cubes were to notice. We literally did not notice.


    19. Cath in Canada*

      I used to work with a grad student about whom I have SO MANY stories of inappropriate behaviour. She eventually got let go for repeated abuse of all-staff email lists (sending club night fundraiser posters to everyone in the whole organisation – hundreds and hundreds of people – even after being read the riot act after her first offense).

      She informed everyone of her “resignation” in a team meeting with fairly good grace, considering. She then went straight to Facebook and ranted about how terrible we all were and how much she hated us and how she’d never fitted in and we just couldn’t handle someone who thought differently. She’d friended pretty much the whole department, so we all saw it, and multiple people showed it to managers.

      This is the same person who asked me where the showers were the first time I met her – fair enough question, everyone knows I cycle to work and shower when I get there – and while I was showing her, told me all about the one-night-stand she’d just had with a guy she’d met in a bar at 2 am the night before and who “didn’t have a shower in his apartment”, asked to borrow some shampoo (which I gave her), moaned about her hangover, and then asked to borrow my towel (I did not give her my towel). The second time I met her she came to my desk with a textbook and asked if I had a minute. I said “no, sorry, I’m on deadline for a grant that’s due in an hour, but I might be able to help you later”. She said “oh it won’t take long”, sat down, opened the book, and started asking me some really, really, basic (first year undergrad stuff) about a technique that she’d told the boss she knew how to use for her project. She was astonished when I told her to leave.

      Things did not get better with subsequent exposure to her. Everyone else agreed – I even heard a genuinely lovely colleague, who no-one had ever heard say a bad word about anyone else ever before, call her some very colourful names.

      We did not miss her when she flamed out.

      1. AMT*

        Ugh. Grad students can be tricky to deal with because you never know where they are in their knowledge of basic workplace etiquette. They could be seasoned professionals or just out of undergrad, and their age isn’t always an indicator, either. In grad school for social work, I served on a committee that decided whether a student’s performance or behavior was enough to get them suspended or expelled. I saw some crazy things. A student filing a false police report about a gunman. A student having his girlfriend (a psychiatrist!) falsify a doctor’s note. A student sending bizarre, threatening emails to his internship supervisor. Stuff that you’d think a high schooler would know not to do.

        I’ll be helping hire and supervise interns this year at my current job and my boss ominously told me that they’ve had some “really bad ones” this year. I’m crossing my fingers that I don’t have to be a witness at one of these committee hearings!

    20. AvonLady Barksdale*

      There was a legendary story about a guy who got a job in my department a few years before I did. During the interview, he told the manager that he was responsible for his younger sister because their dad had died, so he sometimes required flexibility to get her to school, attend events, etc. The manager was a real soft touch and this appealed to her. She hired him (he was also qualified, but his story earned him many points in her eyes). He showed up, trained for a morning, then went to lunch and never came back. Everyone looked for him. Three days later, he emailed to apologize and said he freaked out and was sorry he wasted everyone’s time. It also turned out that his father was very much alive and he doesn’t have a little sister.

      This is weird and sad on its own. Then he applied for every available similar position in the company for the next couple of years, GOT ONE, then moved over to another arm of our department. How the guy was ever eligible for hire is anyone’s guess. I know he got his stuff together, and he’s actually not a bad guy, but it was SO WEIRD to look the “legend” in the face. I can’t even imagine what his manager-for-less-than-a-day thought of the whole thing.

    21. Sabrina*

      I guess my story isn’t all that entertaining compared to others! :) In college I worked at a Big Box Retailer in the mall. I closed, which was a pain in the butt. The mall closed around 9, and we didn’t get out of there until 10. I had morning classes, so that just sucked. I had found a new job (or so I thought, but that’s another story) and put in my two weeks notice. Right after I turned that in they hired a new manager for my department who was a jerk. He was just mean and would argue with you that the sky is blue and even if you agreed with him he’d be all “No! It’s blue! You don’t understand.” Luckily he had a different shift than me and we only worked at the same time for a couple of hours a day. Except my very last day, he closed. And he was an ass. We got into it after closing. Something else I was trying to agree with him on and he kept telling me I was wrong. Finally he just yelled at me “You can leave, now!” I said “Fine! Great!” and I left. Clocked out, left my name badge on the store managers desk, and went home. Early for once.

    22. Jaune Desprez*

      I briefly worked with a colleague whom no one liked or trusted, and deservedly so. She wasn’t particularly good at her job, and she used to boast about things like committing food stamp fraud and keying the cars of people who had annoyed her. I suspect she was invited to resign, but at any rate, she eventually did so. She called in sick for Monday through Thursday of her last week of work, and then showed up on Friday and was tremendously miffed that we hadn’t scheduled a going away party for her.

      A couple of months later, she sent us all an email inviting us to contribute to the expenses for her upcoming third wedding. We weren’t invited to attend — just to send money. It was a tough offer to refuse, but somehow I managed to keep my money in my wallet.

    23. Laura Beth*

      We went through a string of not-intended-to-be temporary employees (admin/receptionist types) about 2 years after I started in my law practice, but the “best” one was the lady who quit at the end of her first or second week, via email. She told me that I didn’t deserve her respect because I “didn’t bother to show up to the office every day” (I was going through some pretty severe health issues, and worked remotely most days). She also accused us of basically paying slaves wages (more than minimum wage) despite the fact that the conversation she took issue with literally started with me saying, “You have much better skills than we thought, so we are going to give you a raise at the end of your probationary period.” There were a couple other gems in her email, but those were the two that stood out. I composed a LOT of replies in my head, but thankfully maintained my own professionalism and never sent any :)

      We also had another employee who was planning to leave for months, but we didn’t find out til we found her resume scanned to our shared server. It wouldn’t have been such a huge deal if she hadn’t spent those months promising us she would be sticking around/available due to some other office issues we were having (another employee out on medical leave, and the beginning of the revolving door of new people coming in, in a 3 employee office).

  12. Christy*

    I’m on a 180-day detail to another office within my government agency. This office (and other associated offices) loves me and wants to find a way to bring me over permanently.

    I’m currently a GS-11, detailed up to a GS-12. (I’m a program analyst so the 0343 series.) I’m currently working at the level of a GS-13 or GS-14. Seriously, everyone who does what I do is at least a GS-13.

    Can I suggest or hint or push for being hired on a career ladder? I obviously can’t apply for GS-13 jobs because I don’t have the time in grade at a GS-12. Does the government ladder up to a GS-13? The new group is flat and top-heavy, and I’d likely be at my hired grade for a while, and I’ve been told by senior managers that I’m performing at that level.

    Let’s be serious, I’d be happy to get the 12 permanently, but I’m also interested in advancing past that.

    KatietheFed? Other feds?

    1. Christy*

      And I’m going out to lunch with my old office, so I won’t be here to respond for about 1.5 hours, if anyone has follow-up questions for me. (Also, I meant Katie the Fed, not all slurred together.)

    2. Nerdling*

      What you may have to do is spend time in the GS-12 grade to make your time-in-grade bump to a 13, but they may be able to push you to, say, a 12 step 9 or 10 to bring your pay closer in line to a 13. However, they may not do that because, so many times in government work, it’s based as much on whether you fit the requirements (which frequently include time-in-grade or equivalent job experience). When you say everyone who does what you do is at least a GS-13, you mean you know for sure that they get paid at that level? Or do you just mean that’s the equivalent level, you all feel, for the work being done?

      Here’s why I ask: In my organization, the ladder goes up to a GS-15; above that and it transitions into SES pay instead of GS pay. However, that GS-15 isn’t the top for all job roles; each job role has its own niche within that scale. Mine runs GS-7 to GS-14. The supervisory position over mine is a GS-15. Others run GS-10 to GS-13. Some run GS-3 to GS-9. It just depends on what the organization/government has set as the pay range for that role.

      1. Christy*

        I know they are all paid at that level–we can see everyone’s series and grade on the internal directory. We are all analysts, which goes from a GS-7 up to a GS-14 for nearly everyone, and up to GS-15 for like >1% of people.

        And from my understanding, if they promote me, I have to start at a Step 1. Does anyone know if that’s incorrect?

        1. Nerdling*

          It depends on where you were in the previous grade. If getting the grade bump to the next grade step 1 would put you below your current salary, then generally they will bump you to the appropriate step to keep you roughly in line with your current pay. We had someone change job roles recently, as an example. In the previous role, this employee had been, say, a GS-9 Step 8. The job role change meant the employee was coming into that role as a GS-10, but since a 10 Step 1 paid less than the 9 Step 8, the employee got bumped to a GS-10 Step 3. [Step/Grade comparisons not exact and used for illustration purposes only.]

          Otherwise, if it will be an increase in salary or keep you mostly the same, you’ll likely have to start at a Step 1.

          1. Christy*

            It’s definitely an increase in salary (I’m only a Grade 11 Step 3 in my permanent job) so that’s what I was afraid of. Thanks.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      Are you unionized? One fed job I’m aware of requires certain levels of work to be performed by certain grades and if you do above grade work for a certain number of days you have to receive that grade’s pay. They avoid this by counting the days and taking cases away from you just as you approach the limit. I’m pretty sure it only came about because of the union though so it might be limited to that department.

      1. Christy*

        Interesting! Here, they will occasionally temporarily promote you within your office, but honestly what most often happens is that you get the temporary promotion, work for 180 days, and then when they can’t keep you promoted anymore they put you back down a level and you just keep doing the same work. It would be a union grievance if anyone tried for it but most people don’t.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      The ladder is different at different agencies, and it can change. When I started, you could ladder up to a 12, then apply for 13s. It was later changed to ladder up to a 13, then there were too many 13s, so they went back to the 12. So it depends how things work in your agency and what the requirements are.

      As far as this though: “Can I suggest or hint or push for being hired on a career ladder?” – You have nothing to lose by trying, or at least ask what you’d need to do to be promoted to a 12 or 13, especially if you stay with this new office.

    5. attornaut*

      Definitely depends on the position. I don’t think it’d be presumptuous, however, to make it clear that you are absolutely fine with starting at a 12 but asking what the promotion potential to 13 is. I’d be very surprised if most of the people in that type of position are actually at a 14, tbh.

      1. Christy*

        My organization, when you get into the central offices, is actually pretty flat. In my home office, there are nine 14s, four 13s, one 12, one 11, two 9s (one is a secretary and the other, like me, was hired from an internship–the difference being I have a masters and she doesn’t). Literally a majority of us are 14s.

        In my new office, it’s more of a variety–you have a bunch of 9s and a bunch of 13s/14s. I would likely be hired to an adjacent office to my new office (because that’s where they’ll have hiring authority and that’s where my skills best align) and in that office, it’s a pretty even mix of 13s, 14s, and 15s, with a plurality of 14s.

        This ended up sounding really defensive. I didn’t mean for it to! I just wanted to provide the numbers.

  13. GymNast*

    Probably a rookie question, but here it goes: How do you give examples of work in interviews when your work is confidential?

    In my current job, I work with confidential information for products before they become available to the public. I had to sign several confidentiality forms when I began working here. I’ve recently started interviewing, and I’m struggling a bit with how to answer some basic questions (like “give me an example of a time you dealt with a crisis”) without giving away any information (our clients are sometimes in the news, so sometimes even a vague description can be enough to recognize them.) I’m also finding that potential employers don’t love vague answers and want me to be more specific, but I’m not sure how much more specific I can be. Any advice on walking the line?

    1. Sascha*

      Do you tell them up front that the nature of your work is confidential, and therefore you have to be vague about the exact details? I’d state that and then go with a Chocolate Teapot approach, if you can.

    2. squids*

      Do the interviewers know that so much of your work is confidential? Showing discretion, and being able to anonymize your examples sufficiently, would I think work in your favour as much as having the perfect example. Sharing information you shouldn’t would be a bigger red flag.

      1. Sunflower*

        Yeah I would just not give specific names and explain that what you do is confidential so you can only give limited info.

      2. Xarcady*

        This. You should be able to make the actual product and client anonymous, and focus on the crisis itself. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) really matter that the product that the client changed the name on three times before it hit the stores and as a result left your company scrambling to redo all the [whatever it is your company does] was a video game or toothpaste or a pair of shoes. How you handled the crisis of, for example, having print and TV and radio ads all set to go with now-incorrect information and only two days to change them is what matters.

        Here’s an example from a former job. When I worked at a translation agency, a client sent us two words to translate into 40 languages, with a 2 day turnaround, which was tighter than you would think. Without context, the two words made no sense and couldn’t be translated. The client did not want to reveal the nature of the product, because there was nothing like it on the market and they wanted total secrecy until they launched it. [Details about having to get our translators and all employees in the office to sign new non-disclosure agreements, the owners of the business having to agree to severe financial penalties if word leaked out, my having to warn all the translators over and over again not to say anything, etc.] Then having to deal with font issues for several of the languages, typesetting issues, proofing issues. And we still managed to ship the job on time.

        So, crisis averted. But can you tell what the product or the company was?

    3. Nerdling*

      Tailor your examples to focus on the process rather than the products. So, “We had a client who wanted to achieve X goal but had an extremely short deadline, approximately half the time a normal job of that nature would require. In order to achieve the result needed, I did A, B, and C (where you focus on the skills you used, maybe in time management or rallying people to work together or streamlining a process, etc). This resulted in reducing the amount of time needed by half so that we could meet their deadline and still provide a satisfactory product. They were able to do Y, which led them to achieve X.”

    4. Edited so boss doesn't know I'm looking*

      I deal with this too. What I do is give a tad more info than I’m actually comfortable doing so that the story makes sense but still keeping everything as anonymous as possible. So, as an example I’d say something like “My work is confidential so I have to be careful how I say this and I am going to make it as anonymous as possible. I represent a municipality and they had a problem with their police department over an officer violating a policy that would normally have to be reported to an oversight agency but . . . ”

      So in normal hang out with friends conversation I wouldn’t give this much detail. In an interview, where they should be keeping your responses confidential anyway, where there are 100’s of municipalities and 100’s more police officers and I didn’t say which policy was violated and which agency it would have to be reported to then I feel I’m fine.

    5. AnotherFed*

      Lots of government people end up with a similar problem. It’s really hard to both come up with your answer and then try to scrub it for information you shouldn’t reveal in real time. One thing that helps a lot is to think through potential situational interview questions in advance – maybe write the responses out, or practice on a friend. That way you can take the time to figure out how to get enough information into the story to make it coherent but still keep it sufficiently anonymous without the stress of trying to do that in the interview itself.

  14. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    I had an interview yesterday where the interviewer was totally unclear on what he job would entail (“we haven’t really figured that out yet”) or what it would pay (“we don’t know what we can pay or even a ballpark”) and asked me about four times “Do you think you can do this job?”

    The cherry on top was when she asked me “Would your husband let you take a job like this? Would he mind?” And then “do you have kids? Because if you have kids, you can’t do this job.”

    Thanks, I’ll show myself out.

    1. Jules*

      Wow… takes the cake… “Would your husband let you take a job like this?” Erm… does that mean I can send my husband in to negotiate salary for me too?

      1. Molly*

        At that point I would have pulled out my cell phone and said, “That’s a good question. Hang on a second and I’ll call and ask him what he thinks. … Hi, Honey! I’m in a job interview, and my interviewer has a question, I’ll put you on speaker…”

    2. C Average*

      “I carry a 00 number. Of course I can do this job. The question is, do I want to accept the mission? I don’t believe I do, thank you.”

      (Yes, there was another Bond marathon on recently.)

    3. Dang*

      I’d be looking for the hidden camera and assuming someone was pranking me! Yikes, that’s really awful!

      1. Karowen*

        At that point I would probably actually start looking. As in, laugh, get up and start staring into the corners, moving leaves around in the potted plants, etc. Because they may as well get a good story out of it, too.

    4. Nerdling*

      “No, he wouldn’t let me take a job like this, because he feels I should have more respect for myself than that.”

    5. Nanc*

      Sounds like you dodged a bullet, no, wait, a canon ball, ah heck, a giant missile! Do they even know what they make/sell/grow?

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      So, now I’m trying to figure out what kind of job it is too. You can’t do it if you have kids. Does that work for the men too? People whose kids are grown and out of the house? Since you’d need the spouse’s buy-in, is it something like working on a fishing boat or isolated island for 5 years without trips home?

      What job is not possible to do if you have kids?

        1. AnotherFed*

          Maybe the interviewer was trying to warn you that the specialty meat retailer was owned by former Belgian paratroopers? I seem to recall there was a unit that roasted children as a rite of initiation back in the 90s.

        2. Windchime*

          I wonder if that means you’d be the person driving around my neighborhood with a truck full of steaks and a sad story about how your boss bought too many and do I want a good deal on them?

        3. catsAreCool*

          My mom has told me about a time, probably in the late 70’s, when she applied for a job, and the interviewer, finding she had kids, refused to hire her, saying that she should stay home with the kids.

          It’s bad enough it happened then (when really, people did know better), but to happen now?!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Maybe they are concerned about “mishaps” and they do not want to be responsible for someone becoming orphaned?

        I think the truth is that they have an inflated sense of what the job actually is.

    7. Malissa*

      Bullet dodged! I had an interview for a vague job. They couldn’t tell me what the job would entail. They really didn’t have questions to ask. They also never got back to me one way or another after the interview as promised–not that I really cared.

    8. Ama*

      I had a totally bizarre conversation with a woman I met at a conference who, after talking to me for all of ten minutes, told me I’d be perfect for a job she had which she very vaguely described (“it would be assisting me, but you’re not really my *assistant* and there’s a lot of writing…”). I asked if she could email me a job description. “Oh, there isn’t one, it’s very undefined like I just said.” I added that I’d need to speak with my SO because her job was on the opposite coast from where I currently live. Her face totally collapsed, and she gave a hasty excuse about “giving you time to think about it — I’ll have HR email you” and walked away. HR has not emailed me.

      I was probably not going to take that job anyway (I could tell by talking with her that she would be the kind of manager who would drive me crazy), but watching her mentally cross me off because I was unable to say whether I could take a job on the other side of the country within 2 minutes of even knowing the job existed was both hilarious and baffling.

    9. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      You made that up just to give me something jaw dropping to read from you again this week.

      I appreciate your effort! (and: wow)

    10. Windchime*

      Would my husband take a job like this? I don’t know; you still haven’t told me what the job is.

  15. LostTrainee*

    My coworker is leaving for a new job next week, and I’ve been getting trained on some of the things she does. I always knew it was hard to communicate with her, but getting trained is seriously one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve ever had. She keeps saying, “Well, you can do this however you want,” and I’m like, “Can you please show me how YOU did it so I know how all the people you regularly communicate with are used to things working?” When I ask her a direct question about something she will answer a different question (“Who do you send this report to after you run it?” “You run the report yourself.”) I’m trying not to lose my temper with her because she’s a really nice person, but I feel like I’m losing my mind here.

    1. TeapotCounsel*

      Ah, yes. I remember this back from the days in which I took depositions. We call it the ATFQ problem (Answer the Question; I’ll let you fill in the F).
      There’s a substantial segment of the population that, for whatever reason, simply cannot answer a question directly. I consider a serious personality flaw.

    2. TeapotCounsel*

      For me, it would go like this:
      Q: Who do you send this report to after you run it?
      A: You run the report yourself.
      Q: Right. That’s not what I’m asking. What I’m asking is, “Who do you send this report to after you run it?”
      A: [Some other non-responsive answer]
      — at this point, do a factual reversal to get the answer you want —
      Q: Are you saying that the you send the report to Wakeen after you run it?
      A: No.
      Q: Are you sending it to Hortense?
      A: No. [frustrated]. I send it to Petunia.

      1. JB*

        Yes, this is how I would do this. I have a co-worker like this, and I’ve finally started saying, “that’s not what I’m asking. Listen to what I’m actually saying.” If the conversation is going especially circular, sometimes I will add, “look at me” before I say it because eye contact seems to help. It feels so so rude, but it works and ultimately the conversation is less frustrating for both of us. But I try to say it in as soft a tone so I can.

        1. LostTrainee*

          It’s encouraging just to know I’m not the only one dealing with this! It was making me feel crazy, like the words coming out of my mouth were somehow completely different than what I thought they were.

          1. Lizzie*

            I do this all the time when my students (mostly 1st and 2nd graders) can’t clearly communicate things to me. It works really well!

      2. catsAreCool*

        I usually try a different combination of words when I run into that. “OK, I run the report myself, then what do I do with it?” No idea why, and sometimes it takes a few different combos. And yeah, it’s annoying.

    3. TL -*

      Break it down into tiny little details and then build back up…
      Like, “So I run the report?”
      “And then the report is finalized in X type,”
      “And I send the final version to?”

      1. Karowen*

        I don’t know if it’s the reference to who’s on first earlier, the cadence or what, but I can picture this ending with the guy trying to send it to Naturally.

  16. Anon7*

    How do you find the motivation to go job-hunting in earnest?

    I’m graduating in a few months, and I know I ought to be looking for full-time work, but I just can’t seem to make myself do it. Writing custom cover letters and editing my resume just seems like too much effort. So, does anyone have any advice on how to get myself ramped up for job hunting and all that it entails?

      1. Anon7*

        I mean, I have a part-time job and some savings, so it’s not like I’m going to be living on the street if I don’t get one right away.

        It just seems like I ought to be looking for full-time work in my field before I’m out of the “new grad with fresh skills” window.

    1. The Office Admin*

      Think of the end game, not the slog through the job listings drudgery.
      You get a job! And money!
      Money is a good motivator for me, at least.

    2. Sunflower*

      I would commit to apply to 1-3 jobs a week. Once you apply to a couple, it gets SO much easier. The hardest part is starting. Job hunting has a weird thrill to it. Like the excitement of getting an interview is more than just excitement of the job, it’s a slight excitement of knowing your skills are valuable and desirable. Once you get a couple bites, you’ll want to keep up with it.

      Maybe also try to think of it like practice. Start with a couple jobs that you aren’t dying to do but are still interested in. That will take some of the pressure off and make it easier for you to do apps for the jobs you really want.

    3. gloria*

      This is old, old motivational advice so you may have already tried it, but break it up into manageable chunks, and give yourself the freedom to define “manageable” as absurdly small as makes it actually feel manageable! Like – “add 1 piece of new information to resume,” “revise 1 position on resume,” “identify 1 job to apply for,” “write first paragraph [or 100 words] of cover letter for company x,” etc. Slow & steady, you know? As a bonus, when I do this to get myself motivated to do things I really, really don’t want to do (from job hunting to cleaning my apartment to writing that super boring document), I often realize in the process that none of it is as horrible as I’m making it out to be, which brings down my resistance in the present and the future.

    4. Lunar*

      When I was a new grad there were definitely periods of time when I felt this way. I think a huge part of it is just knowing that you have to in order to pay rent and all that good stuff. But what helped me during times when I was really discouraged and not feeling it was just doing one thing per day. Sending out one application, emailing one contact, going to an interview. Just doing one thing per day kept the momentum going but I didn’t feel too overwhelmed on days when I couldn’t face everything. Obviously, you can’t only do one thing every day (your job hunt would take forever), but it helped me get through rough patches.

    5. Beebs*

      In a way it can be like homework, you don’t really want to do it, but you should and you also want to do it well. Since you are still in school this habit is still fresh with you. Also, I save every cover letter I write and after a while you will have quite a bit of content to work with highlighting various skills and achievements you have, so you can copy and paste chunks of text and then just modify the details to personalize it to the job/company.

    6. Colette*

      I set myself deadlines – I.e. “I have to do X this week” where X is apply to three jobs or update my resume or whatever step is next.

    7. Violet Rose*

      I kept talking myself out of applying for jobs (“That one’s too far”, “I’m not qualified,” etc.), until I recruited a friend to help.

      Me: [Friend’s name], I’ve picked out four jobs to apply to tomorrow. Don’t let me back out!
      Friend: If you do all four, I’ll take you out for ice cream.

      It worked! External accountability, plus the promise of ice cream, was the extra nudge I needed. (Also, *definitely* save cover letters – I shamelessly re-used whole chunks, depending on what was mentioned in the ad listing.)

    8. Marina*

      External accountability is a great idea. If you have friends who are graduating around the same time, set up job hunting check ins. Even just someone to text to say “oo I found this one I want to apply for” is handy.

      I also use the website HabitRPG to give me some external reinforcement. I set up daily tasks and habits related to job hunting (spend 20 minutes on an application, check these five websites for postings, etc) and get gold coins and experience points for it. ;)

      1. Anon7*

        I love that website! Somehow it never occurred to me to include job hunting tasks on there, too. I might have to give that a try, along with all the other ideas people have suggested. I think the external motivation might be key for me. :)

      2. Ama*

        I love HabitRPG! I didn’t start using it until after I got my current job, but if I ever start looking again that’s a good idea. I bet you could find enough people job hunting over there to start a guild and create a resume submission challenge.

    9. AmyNYC*

      There was Freakonomics recently on “temptation bundling” – basically, if you save a special reward for doing things you don’t like, you’ll eventually think of the two together. The example they used what watching your favorite TV show ONLY while you work out, so is there a reward you can give yourself only after you send out X amount of resumes?
      From Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – “You can handle anything for 10 seconds” Figure out what your concentration limit is, set a timer and do work in short bursts, then take a break and do it again. It’s easier to focus in short bursts rather than think I have AAAAAALLLLLLLLL this stuff to do.

      1. Anonsie*

        I can’t do the reward thing like that, because I know full well I can have those things whenever I want and no one is stopping me.

        Like Hyperbole and a Half: “You can’t have any chocolate chips until you do the thing.”

        “I can, though.”

    10. Another English Major*

      External accountability is what helped me. It sounds corny but a group of us all in the same boat treated it like a study group. We would meet up about once or twice a month to work on resumes, cover letters, apply to jobs, and bounce wording off each other.

      It really helped me stay motivated to keep working on the job search on my own. Also agree that saving each cover latter is a huge time saver.

      As far as editing resumes for each job, any time I make a change, the change also gets added to a “master” resume that includes everything I’ve done. That way when I come across positions looking for different requirements, I can cut/paste from one document instead of wading through all the different versions.

    11. april ludgate*

      I made a playlist (I named it my “inspiration” playlist) that was about an hour long with songs that made me feel like taking on the world and I would sit down and work for as long as it was playing. Having an upbeat, optimistic soundtrack kept me from wanting to give up completely. My personal favorite on the list is the queer as folk proud remix there’s one line that says “you could be so many people if you make the break for freedom” and that became a sort of mantra when I was filling out endless applications.

      It also didn’t hurt that I was living at home and my parents were constantly asking about my job search, to the point that I banned it as a topic of conversation at dinner, because I dreamed of the day they’d stop nagging me about it.

    12. Ruthan*

      First of all, kudos to you for even *thinking* about applying for jobs before graduation. I was so mentally unprepared for Life After College that I changed my major at the eleventh hour so I’d have to stay another year.

      Now, hear these words:
      Somewhere out there is a job that you’ll love so much that you’ll daydream about it when you’re not at work and procrastinate on writing a review on Glassdoor because you’re not sure your words can do it justice and they only let you give 5 stars anyway.

      Will you know it right away when you find it? Maybe, maybe not.
      Will it be your first job? Maybe, maybe not.
      Will you *ever* find it if you don’t start looking? Nope! So GO FORTH AND FIND THAT JOB.

      /pep talk

  17. Retail Lifer*

    Is it NOT OK to ask about health insurance in an interview? I touched on this as a comment in a post the other day, and now I’m a little freaked out because of the answers. I’m not in a field where there is much possibility for negotiating a salary, and I’m finding huge differences in the costs of health insurance. Some companies I’m interested in have a decent plan for as low as $80 a month while others only have one option that’s upwards of $300 a month. At the salary range I’m in, $300 a month is an absolute dealbreaker and I want to take myself out of the running for that position as soon as possible to save everyone time. Interviewers always give a quick rundown of the company and benefits in an interview, so is it actually inappropriate at that time to inquire more about insurance?

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I totally understand wanting to ask before because I have a whole bunch of health issues and actually use my insurance. Plus, you do want to know if the total compensation is competitive with what you’re currently making. That being said, I think it’s better to ask once you’ve actually been offered the position but maybe it would be an exception if they bring it up first. I probably wouldn’t get into specific details unless I’d been offered the job, though.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yep, I would say that won’t even do you much good until you get an offer anyway. What if the job pays $15K more than you thought, but has no insurance? That is probably enough for you to pay for it yourself on the exchange.

        So once you get an offer, that and other benefits are what you’ll need to find out whether the whole package is a good deal or not.

        1. The Toxic Avenger*

          Yes, I agree. I know it has to be really stressful not knowing until you are right down to it, but (fair or not), it doesn’t reflect well on you if you bring up stuff like that during an interview.

          1. Retail Lifer*

            I get it, and I’ll follow this advice. However, I went through three rounds of interviews for a job a couple years ago, didn’t ask about insurance until the offer was made, and then turned it down because $300 a month is way too steep, and that’s the same as I’d be paying on the exchange. Seems like a waste of time to wait until then to ask, to save everyone from wasting all that time in interviews, but if it’s turning people off, then I will.

            1. CrazyCatLady*

              I can understand that it would be frustrating to find out the insurance cost is a deal-breaker. I wonder if you’d be able to negotiate a higher pay in situations like that? It seems like by 3 rounds of interviews, they would have mentioned benefits.

              Insurance can definitely make or break a job offer for me though (not just the cost, but the quality of the plan). It’s just as important as salary as so I do wish employers would be more transparent about this so they didn’t waste anyone’s time (including their own).

    2. fposte*

      In general, I wouldn’t ask during the interview–it raises too many questions about why you’d need to know, and while some of those questions are illegal to consider, you’re still better off unnecessarily raising them.

      However, if you’re in a field where people regularly do give you a rundown on benefits, including insurance, during interviews, I think that when they say “We have Utopia Alliance insurance,” it’s okay to glide “Oh, do you know their rate?” into the conversation (but not if that’s the only question you ask). They may not know, and I wouldn’t push for it if they don’t for the above reasons, but it’s a low-key way to get the question in earlier.

        1. fposte*

          If only my psychic powers had allowed me to know what you were going to post in the future :-).

    3. INTP*

      I wouldn’t get too in-detail over it in early interviews. I think it’s fine to ask a general question about what the benefits are, but in my experience they will often say something like “We cover 75% of the health insurance” and I would not try to find out more details about what that remaining 25% actually adds up to. (Largely because they probably haven’t memorized the insurance chart and answering that would require a bit of research, which is fine to expect at the offer stage but might make you look high maintenance at an early interview.) It will take some pushing to find out what the insurances cost and cover even at the offer stage in my experience but I think it’s less risky to ask then.

    4. The Office Admin*

      I try to read as much as I can on benefits on the company’s website, or on Glassdoor reviews
      Also, as an interviewer, before we make an offer, we go over “benefits” *cough* We don’t have any *cough*
      I know that’s unusual from a company standpoint, but I want people to know they will not have health insurance of any kind by working here so they aren’t surprised later on.

      1. BRR*

        That should honestly be in the job description. It’s a HUGE deal breaker for many (most?) people and a waste of time to even apply for the job (unless you pay FAR above market rate).

        1. The Office Admin*

          We pay below, at least in my experience. Non-union construction work, most guys start at $12 and top out at $18 after 5 to 10 years.
          So, private health insurance, even through the new government Obamacare program, is still incredibly expensive at that pay rate.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I agree. I ended an interview once because the person said they didn’t offer healthcare to employees. There is no way I would have applied if I had known that, and we just ended up wasting each other’s time. Luckily it wasn’t very far into the interview, and she understood when I said I couldn’t accept a job that didn’t offer it.

    5. Edited so boss doesn't know I'm looking*

      At the end of the day, interviews are conversations and sometimes you just have to go with the flow. I’m kicking myself for asking something that likely shouldn’t have been asked until the offer stage but the interviewer really opened the door. Basically it was something like “you hold X license, do you have any concerns about moving to a job where X license isn’t required that I could clear up for you?” I went over the basics about why moving from X to Y is fine with me but I did say given the nature of the job I would like to keep X license and I was curious if the company would do that for me. Normally the company pays your license fees but this license isn’t required at this job. They weren’t at all prepared for that question and sounded totally thrown off that I asked it. I back pedaled and said it is something we could discuss later if we proceeded to that stage. I was annoyed though thinking “don’t ask me for my concerns about x if you aren’t prepared to address them!”

    6. BRR*

      It usually is but ugh, because we all work for fun and the money and benefits is just something thrown in. Check the company website and glassdoor. You’ll likely have to wait for an offer to ask and with an offer it’s ok to ask about any detail of it.

    7. Julie*

      I’m a cancer survivor and pre-Obamacare I really needed to know what coverage levels I’d get because I couldn’t take a job that offered bad benefits. Not in my first few years post-chemo. I also didn’t want to mention cancer in an interview. What I’d usually do was ask if they had any documents about the benefits package, ask a few questions about who they were insured through, did they have any local partnerships, were there any causes the company donated to or volunteered with, and that usually got me access to a packet of information or contact information from an HR manager. If you don’t get what you need up front, specifically ask an HR manager for the rate sheet from the last open enrollment period.

      I’ve only once had a problem getting at least some sort of additional information and that was a government job where I kept being told “it’s on our website” and naturally the website had broken links and a “last updated” with a date that was 5 years old. It turned out to be indicative of the system.

  18. Contemplating a new job*

    The company I currently work for is having issues and a new round of layoffs has just finished, with rumors of more layoffs to come. The work is okay, the people are great but the morale is very very low and it seems like it doesn’t really matter if you do good/meaningful work – you might still be on the chopping block. I have been there for almost 15 years and am worried about how easy it will be to find another job. I have an interview for a job that I know I can do part of – the technical side. But the more I talk to them the more they bring up the project management side and other expectations such as code reviews and I am not sure if I am capable of doing that or not. There is a part of me that says take it anyway – who knows when/if you will get another offer! But the more logical part says don’t take it and try and see if you can find something that is just technical – you haven’t lost your job yet. There are a lot of benefits that would get on the new job (like 90% work from home) that I probably won’t find elsewhere. But I am thinking that jumping into something because I am desperate to get out of a situation where I think it is only a matter of time before I get fired isn’t a good idea. I am looking for a little advice/affirmation because there really isn’t anyone here I can talk to.

    1. Adam*

      You said there aren’t many people you can talk to, but is it still not possible to talk to your manager about your future at the company given the circumstances? He may not be able to provide much info, but it might ease your worries to talk about it at least a little bit.

      Aside from that with the potential new job is the project management side something you would really rather not do or learn to do, or do you doubt your ability to do it? If you’re not opposed to expanding your skills into this area you could approach it as a new challenge to dive into. Of course you’d want to speak with the new employers and let them know your lack of experience beforehand in this area so they might be able to focus training resources towards those ends for you if they want to hire you bad enough. You could maybe negotiate that as part of your signing package or something.

      1. Contemplating a new job*

        I have talked to a different manager and she seems to think that job searching is a good idea but that there will be no layoffs in our area for the rest of the year. She has no idea what 2016 will hold and if they do the same thing then that they did this year it will be a bleak year then too. I don’t really want to do the project management side of things – I am trained in it and I don’t think it sounds too hard to do, but I would prefer to be a heads down in the technical side of things then be a management type person. This is a company trying to branch into a new area so they need someone who can do everything and I am afraid they might be expecting me to have more skills then I actually have.

        1. Adam*

          So long as you’re upfront about what skills you actually have it’s on the hiring company to decide if you have what they’re looking for and if any lacking experience can be remedied to their liking.

          But if project management stuff is something you really wouldn’t be happy doing than it probably is best to let this opportunity go. You could speak to the potential company about your preferences and see if there’s other ways you could contribute. But there’s no shame in bowing out professionally.

          With your current job while there are no guarantees of your future there you could see this as a chance to get out in front of future layoffs and start looking for something new now. After 15 years it might be time anyways and if you really want to move the sooner you start the better!

    2. Sunflower*

      It sounds like you have some time so I wouldn’t jump on a job simply in fear of losing this one. I would keep applying and thinking about doing a job you’d really like. Any chance these layoffs will increase your responsibility and you can maybe obtain some more experience in different areas you’re interested in?

      1. Contemplating a new job*

        I already did that – I accepted two new projects that will expand my skills and hopefully make me more marketable. I live in a small town where the big employer is my employer – I know that if I want a different job chances are great I would have to commute into NYC, NJ or CT – which means I will be up against a lot of other people who probably have more impressive skills then I have. (I am also not too sure about my skill set- 15 years in one company can make you uncertain about how much you know works only at one company and how much is universal).

  19. Adam*

    I’m curious on what people’s thoughts are on this topic:

    How quick is too quick for a LinkedIn connection? I met a new co-worker in my organization. She’s a temp hired to work in a department I don’t have much interaction with and I don’t even know what her position is. We work on different floors and met in the elevator on the morning ride up. We did the usual casual introductions and the “welcome to the office” pleasantries on the quick seven floor ride up. By lunch time she’d sent me a connection request on LinkedIn.

    This didn’t bother me really, but I did find it kind of weird. Thoughts?

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I don’t know – I think it depends. I think with all social networking, people are just as varied as they are in “real life.” Some people are quicker to make friends, some people want to get to know someone better first.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      As long as I’ve met the person, I don’t mind connecting (unlike Facebook or other sites where I’d like to actually know them). She probably wanted to connect before you forgot who she was.

      1. Adam*

        Funny thing is this actually happened a couple months ago and that person is no longer here. I was going through my connections and had a stop moment of “who the heck is this?”

      2. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

        I wouldn’t think of it as weird. You mention she is a temp, so this may be her effort at reaching out and connecting so she may be able to talk with you at a later time about the job, company, career track or possibly even a future full-time opportunity.

    3. MsM*

      Doesn’t strike me as all that weird. I’ve had new coworkers connect to me before I’ve even met them in person. And even bearing in mind that she’s a temp, I don’t really think it’s all that different from exchanging business cards with a new professional acquaintance.

    4. C Average*

      I think there’s a lot of variation in how people use LinkedIn. I don’t tend to ever send requests, but generally accept the ones I get unless I don’t know the person from Adam. But I notice a lot of people seem to reach out to everyone they meet, and have hundreds of connections. I don’t think there’s a well-established norm in terms of how well you should know someone before sending such a request, but this example doesn’t sound out of line at all.

      1. Adam*

        Off topic: for obvious reasons for many years the phrase “Don’t know him from Adam” confused the heck out of me for years growing up. Even after I later figured out it’s proper usage and all that to this day whenever I hear it I still have a brief moment of “Wait…what?”

        1. Cath in Canada*


          The first time I heard “Chatty Cathy” (when I moved to Canada – never heard it in the UK), I thought it was a personal comment about me! I do like to talk, but I hate being called Cathy, so I was not very happy.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            LOL! Chatty Cathy was originally a talking doll. Pull the string, she talks, etc. I haven’t heard that one in a while, though.

            Off-topic trivia, but the same person who did the voice for the actual doll also did the voice for the evil Talky Tina in the Twilight Zone episode, “Living Doll.”

            “My name is Talky Tina and I think I’m going to kill you!”

            Imagine having THAT on your resume!

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        I also think that many people reach out to their direct connections’ contacts. I have gotten requests from people and thought “Whaaa? This person is in Europe, I know I’ve never met them.” But it turns out that they are connected to someone I do know.

    5. Sunflower*

      People are all different about LinkedIn. My guess is if she’s hoping to obtain full-time employment, she’s probably looking to make as many connections as possible.

    6. Cath in Canada*

      I think that’s fine. She was probably updating her employment history section and had a bunch of “people you may know” from the same company pop up as a result, or something like that. I know I tend to “batch” LinkedIn connections – I’m not on the site very often, so when I do venture over I might have three connection requests, which when accepted spawn a bunch of “people you may know” who I decide to add, and suddenly I’ve added 40 people in 10 minutes and look like I’m job hunting or something!

  20. Not Today Satan*

    Last week I posted about getting a temp job, which I’m happy about. BUT on the off chance that a good permanent opportunity comes up in the meantime, I’d like to take that. I know that doing so is normal if the temp job is through an agency, but at this job I’d be directly employed by the place I’d be working. Would backing out still be burning a bridge the same way backing out after accepting a permanent job would be?

    This is all hypothetical/wishful thinking, but I have a full month before this job starts, so I’m still applying to jobs if they look like great fits.

    1. Adam*

      I’d like to think most employers know for most people temp jobs are essentially holdover positions until the person finds a more stable on-going position, even if they take a few temp jobs before they get to that. And I think it’s assumed that you’ll still be looking all the while you’re in the temp job. My organization has hired a number of temps recently in various positions, and some people have only lasted a week or two before bowing out because a permanent position came into their world.

      I’m not a hiring manager so I hope some of them chime in as well, but I hope this is one of those realities of business that reasonable employers would understand.

    2. Dang*

      If they see it as burning a bridge, they’re dysfunctional. I wouldn’t worry about it at all. Is the assignment open-ended?

      I’ve been a temp for almost a year through an agency, and the company has been trying to hire me (but has been denied by corporate). When I told them I was leaving, they completely understood and were apologetic about not being able to offer a permanent job. I think most employers who have temp employees expect that they won’t last very long.

    3. some1*

      The only way I see this as an issue is if you are hired to do a specific project or work with a determined end date, and your company really wants one person to work out the whole assignment. Then I suppose I can see them being annoyed, but I still think that’s the risk they take when hiring a temp.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        It is for a specific project with a determined end date, but I’m one of 9 temps they hired. So… I guess if I get another offer they’ll be able to live without me.

        Thanks everyone for their advice. I’ll feel less guilty if this hypothetical situation comes up. :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Definitely don’t worry about it. They’ll be fine.

          In reference to Mallorie, the recruiter’s comment below, I’ve never had an agency temp job I’d want to get hired for. I’ve had some I liked, but none worth staying on and doing forever. Most companies don’t hire people for the cool jobs that way anyhow.

    4. Xarcady*

      The advantage to a company in hiring a temp is that they can let the employee go whenever they want. The disadvantage in hiring a temp is that the temp might leave whenever they want.

      I’m temping now. If I get a permanent job, I will try to give my current employer two weeks notice. But if the permanent job wants me to start in one week and won’t budge, then I will only be able to give one week’s notice.

      It’s a risk companies take when they hire temps. If they want full-time people who will give lots of notice before they leave, then they have to hire full-time people.

    5. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I think most companies understand that this is one of the dangers of a temp job. Even though they may be annoyed, and even if it burns a bridge, its really kind of normal for someone to want something permanent. We had several contract recruiters helping for about 6 months, and one left about 2 months in. The manager was annoyed, but not mad – he was happy, at the end of the day, that this person had found a permanent recruiting position elsewhere. It would probably depend on how critical this work was. Are you a temp project manager that will derail an entire project by leaving? Or are you filling in for a role that can be trained easily within a few weeks/is super replaceable?

  21. Blue_eyes*

    I just wanted to give a shout out to two companies I applied to in the past week that had a really great application process, particularly with regards to salary. They did not require your current salary. They did require you to enter the *minimum* salary you would accept, but they stated explicitly that this number was only used to make sure that no one’s time was wasted if your minimum was above what they would be likely to offer. They also stated specifically that that minimum would not be used in determining your salary if you received an offer (your salary would be based on experience/qualifications and company-wide ranges for that role).

    It was great because I felt free to put my actual minimum salary requirements without fear that it would lead to a low offer in the future. I wish more employers would adopt this system.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      Me too! I’m always hesitant to give a minimum salary before knowing more about the position. It often becomes apparent that the job is a lot more complicated that the job posting made it seem, and then you’re locked into an inappropriately low number.

    2. Adam*

      Since most job postings don’t list actual salary ranges, I wish people would adopt this model you speak of. We work for money. It’s ok for everybody to admit that.

    3. Steve G*

      I was actually going to complain about the “minimum salary” question. Fortunately form one of my pre-screens, it seems like the HR rep didn’t pay attention to the amount. But I am willing to work for as low as $62K for a job that has many weeks of vacation/no OT, and is interesting and at a good company, but want as much as $80K if the company is in growth mode, requires OT, and has some inconvenience factors built into it. So……I don’t want to go around putting $62K on every application, I absolutely wouldn’t have done my former job for anything less than $70K, but my job before that…I’d definitely take a pay cut from my last job to go back to there!!!!

      I’d much rather they had a salary-range drop down or ask for a range, knowing that not every range is going to fit nicely into a ten-thousand dollar range.

      1. Sunflower*

        I have a big complaint about min salary too. Minimum salary means ‘minimum I will take IF’ not ‘yes I will take the offer if you give me this amount’. It’s strange that some HR people don’t realize that. I can’t speak for everyone on here but it seems like most people consider their minimum to be the min. you would take if if the benefits and perks are great.

        Also, my friend hires a lot of people and their application has a recent salary box. She said she doesn’t even look at it and if someone didn’t want to disclose their last salary, she wouldn’t care. Of course, the positions she recruits for already have a set range and no one in that job is making less than the bottom of that.

        1. Steve G*

          I don’t mind the “recent salary” box, but I think it can be a hindrance for those who made “too much” as well. I made “a lot” last year (still in the 5 figures though lol) and don’t need/expect to make that much in 2015 or 2016, but I don’t know how employers are going to evaluate that when all they ask for is a #.

    4. Snargulfuss*

      Here’s an even better and more simple process: post the salary range they’re actually willing to offer.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        Well, yes, that is the ideal. But this is still better than requiring salary history or other BS that employers put you through.

  22. OfficePrincess*

    Is it opposite week and everyone just forgot to tell me? Between the candidate who brought a friend to sit in the corner and play with her phone to the interview to the idea it’s ok to just say “I’m not coming” an hour before your shift, I’m so done with this week.

    Overall, I know my job and the jobs I supervise aren’t dream jobs and are pretty entry level, but sometimes I have to question if I’m the one who’s crazy. I’ve only been working in the non-retail/food service world for a couple years, so sometimes I do have a hard time deciding if certain things are just what I would expect is professional and what I should realistically expect from others. Has anyone else here been in a similar area? How do you figure out what is reasonable for the workplace you’re in?

    1. april ludgate*

      I’m new to supervising college students so when I had a similar problem I asked a coworker who also supervises what she does when her students miss shifts without enough notice. Is there someone who’s opinion you can ask? Either way, if you’re their direct supervisor, you’re the one who has to decide what kind of behavior is or isn’t okay. For me it was as easy as saying, “I really need more notice when you can’t come in, could you try to let me know a few days ahead of time if you scheduled volunteer hours during your shift?”

    2. Jessie's Girl*

      I thought it was just me. This has been one terribly screwed up work week. Every day there was 4 or 5 new, horrible things I had to deal with.

  23. wrongjob righttime*

    Hi all,

    I’ve been trying to break into another department of my current company for a while now, and I’ve managed to add quite a few individuals who work in that department to my network. One in particular has been very helpful as far as information about the job goes, but when it comes to expanding my network within that department, she seems to make a lot of promises without actually following through (“I’ll introduce you to xyz person” *after follow-up a week later* “I’ll get it done by end of day!” *no results*). I know that she is busy quite often, she is close with the hiring managers and is a great contact to have, but I am worried about coming off as needy in my communications with her and turning her off to the idea of introducing me to others in her department that could help me land a position.

    I know that networking is a two-way street, but I feel that since I’m still junior to her, I don’t have much to offer her other than a friendly chat once in a while. How do I harness the power of these networking contacts I’ve made without seeming needy or desperate? How can I get someone that owes me nothing to follow through on their promises?

    1. fposte*

      I think you let it go and understand that these things are either going to happen in her own time or not at all. Accept her as generous with information and be glad for that, and call it day.

    2. MsM*

      Have you tried asking her if it would be appropriate for you to reach out to xyz person directly and say you’re doing so at her suggestion or copy her?

      1. wrongjob righttime*

        I had not considered this! I’ll give that a shot and see what happens. Thank you for the suggestion :)

    3. Jessie's Girl*

      Patience is a virtue. I’ve seen people screw themselves out of good opportunities (in similar situations such as yours) because they push too far, too fast. It will come.

  24. Temporarily anon*

    What do you do when you just cannot seem to communicate? I halfway expected to find out Mercury was in retrograde, as hard as it’s been to get anything across to my superiors lately. Here’s an email example. Sorry it’s so vague–I can’t make it too obvious.

    From: Me
    To: Other Department Lady
    Cc: Boss
    Subject: Teapot proposal

    Dear Other Department Lady,

    Today I received a teapot proposal that your office relayed to us. When did you receive it from the teapot maker? If it was after (deadline), then we can’t use it for our upcoming teapot thing.


    I received this:

    From: Boss
    To: Me
    Subject: Re: Teapot proposal

    Please check with Other Department Lady and find out when it was received by her office. If it was after (deadline), we can’t use it for the upcoming teapot thing.


    I mean…that’s exactly what my email was! The one Boss was replying to! Gaaah. I would think it was an oversight, but it’s been happening with multiple people in multiple incidents for a few weeks. People are missing things that I think I’m saying explicitly. This was just the funniest, in a headdesky sort of way. What am I doing? Should I try to set up a time to talk to people about whether I can improve my communication, or is it least said/soonest mended? Am I under a curse? ;)

    1. ella*

      Maybe Boss didn’t notice that Other Department Lady also received the email? That’s pretty funny though. I don’t know how to tell you to cope with it other than to keep your sense of humor about you, which it sounds like you’re doing. :)

      1. Temporarily anon*

        Oh, probably. In my same department are people who don’t understand bcc–they’ll get a bcc’d email from me, and “help” by informing me I forgot to send it to anybody. :D

        1. ella*

          In related news, a couple of weeks ago I misread the “To” subject field and committed the dreaded “reply-all” error….to the entire company of 600+ employees. In my email, I was saying how happy I was that somebody in IT had finally noticed that having an essential software system that only runs on IE with Java installed is a terrible plan.

          Oddly, the only people who reprimanded me (and I totally deserved reprimanding, don’t get me wrong) were people who have no authority to reprimand me. My boss didn’t say a single word about it. It was a little…exasperating? I don’t even know what it was. I was mostly distracted by being embarrassed.

          1. MaryMary*

            Once, when OldJob was in the middle of an accidental company-wide email/please take me off this distribution list/please do not reply to all fiasco, my manager threatened to fire any of her direct reports who responded to the email string (she was joking) (mostly).

            1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

              We had one of these recently. People kept replying “take me off this list”. After HOURS of this, I finally replied all: You cannot be taken off this list. If you all stop replying to the email, you will all stop getting the email. Thanks.

              I then got 5 emails, 10 instant messages, and 1 phone call to THANK ME for doing this. So much for taking one for the team – those were just as disrupting as the original email. TGIF!

        2. College Career Counselor*

          You might send the note to Other departmental lady in the future and then FORWARD it to your boss (who seems to have reading comprehension/too-rapid scanning issues). That way, you can preface it with an “FYI,” which may make the boss better about reading. Extra step for you, of course.

    2. squids*

      Similar things happen here all the time.

      From: Other department
      To: Me
      CC: Boss

      Here is an idea for something that your department should do!

      From: Me
      To: Other department
      CC: Boss

      We are doing that already. Thanks for the input; here’s what’s going on if you’re interested in more details.

      From: Boss
      To: Me
      CC: Other department

      I agree with Other department. Please take on this new idea. Keep me informed of how it’s going.

      1. Leah*

        Could you reply as if he didn’t see the email? Maybe, “Good news, we actually have been doing that since [date]. It’s going [well].”

        But ugh, that is frustrating.

    3. Retail Lifer*

      I keep getting responses back where I ask multiple questions in the same email, and yet the response is simply


      Yes to all four things (unlikely) or did you only read the first thing?

      1. Marcy*

        They only read the first thing. I noticed that whenever I asked a certain person more than one question in an email, she only answered the first question. It turns out, she worked from home a lot and used her phone to read and respond to email. She never saw the second questions because she didn’t scroll down (I don’t know why). I just started emailing my questions one at a time.

        1. catsAreCool*

          I’ve learned to number items when I have multiple questions.

          Also, try to avoid putting any text below a big screen shot unless you explicitly say you have some there – people don’t always scroll past the screen shot.

    4. Cassie*

      My boss does things like this all the time – I’m reluctant to cc him on things because of it (but I can’t not cc him). The other thing he likes doing is to forward me emails that I’ve already received – he doesn’t check the To or CC fields, apparently.

  25. Young Canadian*

    UK readers,

    I’m planning on moving to the UK next year on a 2-year working holiday visa. I’d like to stay in the London area if possible (I don’t mind commuting from the outskirts to the centre). Any advice or comments on job hunting and the workplace? Should I try applying to jobs online or join a recruitment agency? How likely are employers willing to hire an overseas person?

    1. MP*

      I did the two year visa thing in London. I found it impossible to get a call back before I arrived in London but got plenty of interviews and a decent job offer soon after I arrived. Even with economy in bad shape I found that there were plenty of advertised roles all the time but I guess it depends what industry you are trying to get into.

    2. Cristina in England*

      I could only get a job through a temp agency at first, but from there, it was much much easier. I think foreign references freak out some employers. Also, do remain open to other cities in addition to London. London has lots of jobs, but it is EXPENSIVE and sprawling. Depending on your field, you might find that Manchester, Glasgow, etc, are feasible. The UK is the size of New England, so if you can do a little travel at the start of your stay, you might find that you fall in love with a different city entirely!

    3. Cristina in England*

      Oh I forgot this, but you may need to adjust your tone in cover letters. The tone for UK cover letters is more “My expertise in teapot construction could be useful to your project” rather than “I am a cutting-edge teapot guru and a disruptor of the teapottery landscape”. I suspect that the norms for Canadian cover letters would work well in the UK, and this advice may be more appropriate for Americans coming to the UK, but I thought it is worth mentioning anyway.

    4. Angelfish*

      Based on interacting with UK colleagues, I find that (1) they suspect my sincere enthusiasm (I am American) is ironic or sarcastic, especially over email and (2) their sense of “political correctness” is very different from North Americans (and I have found that at least Torontonians are more sensitive to certain issues than many Americans). There is often a default assumption of a basic Christian background that in the US and Canada we would not make (e.g., “you’ll have that by Easter” is not as helpful to a Jewish colleague as “you’ll have it by April 5” and they tend to be less sensitive to the needs of observant Jewish colleagues than I’ve seen in Toronto and New York.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Yes to all of this. I once had a colleague who was running us through some forms and he kept saying “write your Christian name”. He said it so many times I had to ask him to stop saying it.

  26. BRR*

    I believe I’m going to get slammed in my performance review next week, any tips to prepare (I have read Alison’s articles on bad performance reviews already)?

    The past two months have been rough battling with my mental health issues and my work hasn’t been up to par. I don’t feel like my manager is very forgiving about it (I only said medical issues and she is going through a rough personal patch so those are factors to consider). I sent her everything that I’ve done in the past year which contains a lot of good stuff and made sure to point out how well my interim review went.

    It’s just a horrible situation as I’m depressed and anxious which caused my work to slip which leads to my manager being a good manager and providing feedback but it’s mostly negative which doesn’t help me at the moment (and I usually take constructive feedback very well).

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I don’t really have any tips to prepare but I think it’s good that you recognize this will likely happen. I feel like the hardest part would be if you were blindsided by a negative performance review.

      I hope things get better for you soon. I have been feeling the same way lately and it definitely is hard to stay on top of everything when you’re depressed and anxious. I think many people go through similar situations at work from time to time!

      1. BRR*

        Thank you for your kind wishes.

        My manager is awesome and provides regular feedback which is unfortunately why I know it’s coming. I had a bad reaction to one anti-depressant which of course had to happen right before performance reviews and really messed up all the progress I was making.

        I have one project I’m finishing up now which is basically going to determine if I get told “this is better you need to keep this up because you sucked before this” or “this is also crap here’s a PIP.” I’m pretty sure she even moved my review back a week in order to be able to review this project.

    2. Yet Another Allison*

      My 2 cents (FWIW) –

      Don’t get defensive (really – for me this is the hardest part). Own up to areas where improvement can be made. Ask for advice on how to improve in specific areas. Try to focus as much as possible on how to move forward and improve rather than beat yourself up over mistakes.

      1. C Average*

        This. Try to use this review as an opportunity to reset. As much as a bad review hurts, it can also be an opportunity to speak frankly, with no feedback sandwiches or other bury-the-lede nonsense. Try to accept the constructive feedback with an open mind and focus on getting information that’s actionable from your manager.

        One of my favorite things I’ve ever read on this site was this little nugget: we only provide the tough feedback to the people who are worth the time and angst. As so many letters here illustrate, delivering hard feedback to people we value is nerve-racking for managers. They don’t expend this kind of effort for people without potential. If your manager is taking the time to craft personalized, actionable feedback and deliver it to you as kindly as she can, that means she wants you to succeed. All you have to do is be willing to take this feedback in the spirit it’s intended and make the best use of it you can.

    3. Mike C.*

      First off, I think it would be a good idea to discuss your issues with your boss in private in a little greater detail. It helps the manager understand what can be done to help cope, that it’s something you’re actively working on and that there will be improvements.

      Secondly, make sure any feedback you receive is specific, actionable and measurable. You want to know what exactly what you need to do, when it needs to be done by and how it will be measured. Nothing should be a surprise for you.

      Good luck, and I’m willing to bet that it’s going to go a lot better than you expect!

      1. BRR*

        At this point I have told her that I have a medical issue that ends up affecting the quality of my work, I am receiving treatment and my performance has mirrored the effectiveness of my treatment. I had a bad reaction to one medication and I’m since off that and it should get better. I’m curious if you think I should go into greater detail.

        I’m partially nervous about piling anything more on her plate as her father is very ill and an in law just died. On the other hand this isn’t something that just gets better, it gets better and worse some days stick out etc.

        At least she’s a good manager and the feed back is clear and I know what I need to do. The hardest part is trying to buy time. I’m part of a small team with a heavy workload. I’m paid towards the top of what my position will pay anywhere but in return they expect a lot more compared to other organizations. My boss has implied that this can’t continue for too long.

        1. ella*

          Are you able to give her a rough timeline, of the med schedule if nothing else? “I had a bad reaction to a medication I’m on, unfortunately it’s not one I can just stop taking, so I’m working with my doctor to taper off Bad Medication, and Good Medication should start to become effective around Date X.” That might give away your meds as being antidepressants, though, so only you can judge if you want to get that specific.

          1. BRR*

            Not really. I’m off the bad one but haven’t found a good one yet. Often when one seems to work well it then tapers off.

            I’m not opposed to disclosing what the specific situation is. Especially if it will help me keep my job. I have mentioned already the medications take time to start working and take time to leave the system. I have also pointed out multiple times how my cube is in quite possible the worst spot on the floor in terms of distractions. There’s really nowhere for me to move or anybody to trade places.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, BRR, I’m sorry that they haven’t yet helped.

              It’s just a tough situation for both you and your manager here. I think it’s okay to talk to your manager about more details if you’re feeling like it, but ultimately both of you just don’t have the information you want, which is whether you’ll be back to Full Work Power Levels soon. I don’t know that it makes much difference what the actual health issue is–it’s not like the manager knows more than you do about how the new medication will work and how long that would take, or that she would have to tolerate it more if it was a different illness than the one you have.

            2. TL -*

              Can you talk about taking a leave of absence or FMLA or something? It sounds like what you need most of all is time and you should approach this as right now you can’t perform but you will be able to soon. But you want some protection for your job, since this is a medical issue.

    4. ella*

      Sometimes in the past, I’ve had good results with sort of coming out ahead of it, and initiating the discussion with my boss. “I know I’ve been struggling with X lately, and my Y isn’t where I want it to be. I just want you to know that I recognize it and I’m working on improving.” Often just knowing that an employee sees the same things that the manager sees is helpful, I think. If you feel like you can communicate more specifically with your manager about what you’re struggling with, it might be useful to do that. Especially if you don’t think you can immediately make improvements, being able to demonstrate that you also see the problem will be really important. And, of course, even if you can’t talk about that with your manager, I hope you have access to resources and support that will help your depression and anxiety, which in turn will help the other things.

      Also, I don’t know if this happens to you, but depression and anxiety can make me super avoidant of things I know I have to deal with. The fear of dealing with them is often bigger and worse than the pain of actually dealing with whatever it is. Maybe there’s something you can do to make the blocks seem smaller and more manageable? Can you practice conversations with a loved one, or write down what you want to say in advance?

      I’m sort of flailing because I know my own version of how terrible and helpless depression and anxiety can make me feel, and i don’t want to sound like I’m just blithely telling you to do things that would be totally easy for me (none of the above actions would be easy for me). But I know this: depression and anxiety can make you feel helpless. Feeling like you’re doing badly at a job that you KNOW you can do can make you helpless. Feeling like a boss has all the power over your evaluation and salary and employment can make you feel helpless. I encourage you to find something, anything, to do that will help you to not feel helpless. Best of luck.

      1. ella*

        Also–depression and anxiety can make you really hyper-self-critical. Is it possible that your perception is off, and you aren’t doing as badly as you think you are?

      2. BRR*

        My boss and I are almost on the same page already. Thanks to AAM I addressed it and knew the right language to use. I basically gave myself a warning and my manager said, “Good, so you understand.” She’s an awesome manager and somebody I highly respect. I’ve had some stumbles since I started about 2 years ago and I feel like at this point she’s almost done with me. That at this point I have one last chance to wow her (with a project) but will need to be braced for a really rough performance review.

        1. ella*

          Ahh, gotcha. For me, I had to work on “calm game face,” which it sounds like you may already have, since you and her have had a couple of conversations already. Take criticism calmly, acknowledge it, say thank you.

          It also sounds like you’re doing everything you can do to improve, so I think acknowledging that to yourself is important too.

          1. BRR*

            First, thank you for putting so much effort into helping me.

            I think I do a good job of assessing situations objectively including the ones that affect me. I also take criticism very well because I don’t’ disagree with any of it, I have clear goals to meet, and I want to better myself. This might even just be a venting post and not a question. I’m likely going to get chewed out hard, my job is at moderate risk (I would very likely get a PIP at least), and I am just losing the energy to fight.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I think it is actually a good practice run for how you will talk to the boss. It might go a tiny bit better because you talked it out a little here.

              Not my business really, but does your doctor know you are in this tight situation?It cannot possibly be helping your treatment to have this stress. I was thinking if he knew what a spot you are in, he would try to work sharper and put a little more into helping you.

              1. BRR*

                I have made it explicitly clear that my job is in jeopardy and he has responded appropriately. He has explained everything he does each step of the way and while I don’t have medical training I have agreed with him. Sadly it can’t really be sped up or try multiple new things at once.

    5. TeapotCounsel*

      +1 to what Allison. Don’t get defensive, even if you’re entitled. Don’t bring up the medical issues. Just take your lumps. I promise, promise the manager is uninterested in your problems. When you (or your work) is criticized simply say,
      “You’re right. I’ve been giving serious thought to my performance recently, and I’m disappointed in my performance, too. I’ve thought about how I can use this as an opportunity to improve and do better, and I now realize what I should be doing differently. I will make every effort to improve.”
      That’s hard to say. But really, it’s the best thing to say.

      1. ella*

        But OP shouldn’t say they will improve if they don’t think they can yet, and I think that if they say “I will make every effort to try to improve,” the manager will short-hand that to “I will get better.” But if their medical problems aren’t yet under control, then job performance improvement is still a little ways off, and the manager is more likely to lose patience and confidence in the employee if they feel like improvement was promised but hasn’t happened.

        I know the manager doesn’t care about medical issues, and I’ve never had to navigate this so I’m speaking theoretically, but I have coworkers whose job descriptions are temporarily altered because of physical injury (not being able to lift boxes because of a back injury, for example). If OP is going through a particularly bad episode of anxiety or depression, it really is almost like a mental injury, and I think could be (and perhaps should be, but our society is nowhere near treating it this way, so it depends on the individual manager) treated as such. There are times when medical issues are something to bring up in the workplace.

      2. TL -*

        I disagree – if there’s a medical issue preventing performance, it needs to be acknowledged or discussed and maybe accommodated for.

        It’s one thing if it’s just bad performance, but if there are legit medical issues, allowances can and should be made.

        1. BRR*

          I agree it needs to be acknowledged, at least for my specific situation. I have done all I can to improve in terms of procedures, my improvement plan now is dear good I hope this next medication works (and therapy).

          For me it worked well but it might not for everybody (maybe it can be an article). My manager was relieved because she thought I lost interest in my job and was giving up trying.

      3. Ruthan*

        I agree about not being defensive (it seems like there’s not really anything to be defensive about), but I’m not sure I’m on board with this language. I can’t imagine saying “Yeah, I suck for no reason” without it implying “I don’t actually care”, followed with “so I’m going to say things that I think will placate you, but only if you’re not very bright.”

    6. JPixel*

      If you suspect you know what the negative points are going to be, maybe jot down a couple notes ahead of the meeting so that you are prepared with a response. It sounds like you’re prepared for the feedback, but in the moment, don’t forget to listen intently.

      Do you have a plan going forward if your medical situation does not improve (which, of course, I hope it does!)? Is there someone at work who can can help you out, can you re-evaluate deadlines, or can you somehow shift responsibilities temporarily? As a manager, I’m more inclined to help someone who is struggling if he or she comes up with a couple suggestions or gives me a better idea of what might truly be helpful. I don’t always agree or can’t always make that accommodation, but sometimes it is truly helpful.

      If the situation were reversed, what would you tell your employee or what would you want to hear her say?

      1. BRR*

        Thanks for your suggestions (honestly the support I have gotten through AAM has been so helpful during this time).

        There has been a temporary shift in workload and we’re trying now to shift some back (at my request). I haven’t thought of flipping roles which is weird because that’s a common thing I try and do. Thanks for that advice!

        I don’t have a plan going forward. That’s truly worrisome as I was fired from my last job so now sure how I would handle getting a new job while being fired from my first two, my spouse is underemployed and we live in a high COL area, and I need insurance for this as well as another chronic medical issue.

    7. Red*

      I find myself in a slightly similar position. Overall, the volume of work and crises has been receding in our office. I feel like I can safely claim credit for this–I’ve worked hard on streamlining processes and incorporating on a rolling basis tasks my predecessors ignored; training colleagues from other department on how to correctly do tasks in our system and how to request corrections; and getting buy-in from some of my peers to get stuff done. My previously lazy coworker has been seriously motivated in the past 12-ish months, too, which has helped. My boss has acknowledged I’m good at my work and can finish it very quickly during the day, resulting in downtime. On the other hand, I don’t have much to do so I occupy my time reading on the internet; my coworker’s been latching onto a lot of the incoming work before I can get to it, which is good because it gets done, but bad because it looks like I’m not doing much; my mental and physical state have been poor due to a nasty, lingering back injury that I’m in PT for, so I’m not motivated to do make-work like checking to see if our TPS reports are all correctly alphabetized by last name and I can’t charge up to our front desk very quickly (or pick up huge boxes of incoming mail).

  27. Sunflower*

    How do you force yourself to take the time to edit your resume when you’re applying to a job? I feel like I’ve been doing it a lot quicker lately and I don’t think it’s because I’m getting good at it. I look at an application, look at my resume and think ‘okay I don’t think I need to change anything’ when I know I probably should. It’s a weird mind thing. I know I need to edit it but when I do it, my want to not do it takes over and I tell myself it looks the best it will. I’m debating either giving myself a time frame like ‘I must attempt to edit for 10 minutes’ or ‘I must ask myself these questions before i submit’. Thoughts?

    1. Kelly L.*

      My magic trick for noticing things I need to edit is to print it or PDF it, no lie. There’s something about putting it in a format I can’t edit that suddenly makes me notice the errors. Imaginary irrevocability.

          1. catsAreCool*

            When I print something and don’t need it later, I use the back of the page for notes, grocery lists, etc.

      1. Sadsack*

        Almost every single time that I work on something that needs to be printed, I find an error once I have printed it, no matter how many times I have proofread it on screen.

    2. ElCee*

      Ugh, me too. The questions thing sounds like a good idea. At least with me, if I give myself a time frame, I suddenly realize my dog needs to have his ears scratched for exactly ten minutes before I send off the application. So forcing yourself to answer some questions about it could get better results.

    3. Not Today Satan*

      Are you burnt out? How many jobs do you apply to a week?

      I stay motivated by reminding myself I’ve *never* gotten an interview from an application I’ve phoned in.

      1. Sunflower*

        Yes I’m definitely burnt out. I went on a rampage a couple weeks ago and applied to like 25 in one week. So now I am continuing to apply(I’m trying to do about 10/week) while also fielding calls/interviews from interest in those applications so it’s a lot. 10/week seems like a lot but I’m also at my wits end at my current job. Things are really taking a turn for the worst here- I’m expected to turn around results in unrealistic time frames and my companies business practices are getting shadier and shadier. Applying to tons of jobs feels like the only thing that is keeping me sane.

    4. Ruthan*

      I like the idea of making a list of questions to ask yourself, though other than “Does this version of my resume address all the listed criteria to the best of its ability” I can’t really think of any!

  28. matcha123*

    I never know if I’m doing a superb, average or meh level at any job I’ve held. I’ve gotten praise from supervisors, but I’ve yet to be in a position where I could be promoted to something. Where I am, evaluations are not a thing…or at least they are not a thing for people in my type of job. I’m also not in a place where evaluations are a “thing.” Employers do not call up former places to ask for recommendations.

    Doing translation means that in many “problem” areas, the issue lays less with whether or not I’ve completely missed the meaning of the text and more about whether I’ve used words or phrases that my supervisors like. Even in that case, many times they prefer stilted text and unnatural phrasing. For these reasons, I can’t tell if I’m a great worker or just a meh one. If you were interviewing someone like me, what would you want to hear to convince you that I could do high-quality work?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Can you use past jobs where you did something that was definitely high quality?

      1. matcha123*

        I don’t think I can. I worked only part-time before I moved overseas and all of the jobs I’ve had here are ones that don’t give me any responsibility.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Ok, I guess I would say define “responsibility”, every job has something. Data entry you are responsible for accuracy. Waitressing has numerous responsibilities, customers, health codes, the food itself.
          I suggest looking a little closer. Just because it is entry level responsibility does not make it void. Think of times where the supervisor or a coworker complimented you. See what you find.

    2. asteramella*

      Instead of looking to your supervisors for feedback, can you find someone at the peer level that you’d trust to give you an honest impression of your work?

      1. matcha123*

        This is difficult, too. The other person who is most at my level doesn’t really see anything I do and I don’t see anything she does, aside from behavior at the office.

  29. ElCee*

    Calling all Feds–I had an interview with a government agency back in November. The interview panel said they would be concluding the 30+ (!!) interviews at the end of January. In mid-February, I e-mailed the designated HR contact and she said I was on a final referral list with the selecting official. I haven’t heard anything since then, though, so I am writing it off as it’s been way more than 90 days since I (and the other interviewees) were called. Does that sound right? They usually wait until the selectee accepts to notify non-selectees, correct?
    I’m searching elsewhere, of course, but still clinging to a shred of hope! Aah!

    1. Yet Another Allison*

      Everyone always says that the hiring process takes longer than one would expect. Much longer. If it government, it can be times two (or three!).

      But that being said, the same advice applies here as with any other post-interview situation. Put it out of your mind and proceed as though you didn’t get it. Then let it be a happy surprise if you do.

    2. IT Kat*

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned about working with the Feds… it’s that all their timelines around hiring slip.

      For example, I’m on contract right now, they are supposed to hire full-time person to this position in April… the job description hasn’t even been written yet, let alone posted, let alone interviewing begun.

      However, that said – always, always move on from a job after the interview. As AAM states, it’s fine to follow up once (which you did), but otherwise put it behind you, assume you won’t hear from them, and if you get called, consider it a pleasant surprise.

    3. AnotherFed*

      They thought they would finish interviews in January, but then most of the panel was out of the office for lots of December and early January, and then there’s been all the churn over federal budgets this year, so it’s entirely plausible that they just haven’t gotten as far along as they expected to get. Since it’s been 6 weeks since you last talked to HR, it’s reasonable to email them again to ask what the updated timeline for a decision is.

  30. ella*

    I asked this on another open thread awhile ago, but I think it got buried (I posted rather late in the day) and I don’t think it got any responses, so I’m trying again.

    Can anyone shed light on how online job application systems work? Specifically, I’m applying for a lot of jobs in libraries and universities, and while I’m not just throwing resumes at everyone to see what sticks, there’s often overlap. Either two different institutions will use the same job application software, or I’ll be applying to a university that I previously applied at, and my old information is saved. Often this is great because it means I don’t have to do something like inputs my job history over and over, but it also saves resumes and cover letters from previous applications, and that’s what confuses me. If I know it’s been a while (a month to six weeks) since I last submitted an application to that institution, I usually upload a new resume and I always upload a new cover letter. But does deleting the old cover letter make it inaccessible to users on the other end? Should I be just uploading new files, and making the document names clear as to what job application they go with, and leaving the old files? Does this kind of software save individual applications, or does it overwrite old data every time new data is submitted, as appears to happen on my end?

    1. IT Kat*

      Unfortunately, there isn’t a good answer to your questions, because honestly not only does it depend on the exact software that they use, but also on how said software is configured. I could give you two different software that have exact opposite answers to your questions. Some attach the resume/cover letter directly to a job and leave it in your profile for reuse (thus deleting from your profile wouldn’t prevent someone from opening it for the job you applied to), and others only keep the one copy and overwrite. It’s impossible to tell from the outside.

      That said, a good rule of thumb would probably be to replace or update your resume (and your cover letter) if they show up in your profile while you are applying to a different job. Personally, I’d make it clear in the filename which job the cover letter/resume is going to.

      I’d guess if there are old things in there from like 6-12 months ago, those could be deleted.

    2. sittingduck*

      I’m no expert on this, and this is just my guess (from having used some of these systems myself to apply for jobs) but my guess is that either:
      1. When you apply for a job – it saves the application including any attachments in one place, that the employers can access – if you later apply for another job it allows you to use those documents again, or upload new ones – but the old ones are still attached to the first application
      2. If the system does only allow one set of documents (whoever built it is not to bright) it will still probably have a record of you applying before (which is the only thing I can really see as relevant?) I doubt employers go back and read old applications/resumes/cover letters from previous jobs applied to at the same company to see if they’ve changed .

      Those are just my thoughts though. So I guess what I”m saying is I’m not sure it matters which way it happens, because what really maters is the resume/cover letter you submit for the current job.

  31. Lucy*

    I commented a week or two ago that 8 people out of a ~50 person office have quit since I started my new job 2 months ago. Um, that number is now up to 14 (which includes 1 firing). Yeah. My resume is being updated and I’m applying to jobs this weekend.

      1. Lucy*

        I’m so bummed because this was a really long job search and I was looking forward to finally relaxing! But at the same time I’d rather just cut ties now if it really is a sinking ship rather than do what I did at my last job and waste 2+ years hoping it would get better. :(

    1. Sunflower*

      Yikes! Are you hearing anything around your office about why this is happening beyond ‘the company went in a different direction’? Has you boss mentioned it at all?

      1. Lucy*

        I’ve spoken to my boss about it and he was as forthcoming to me as possible (while still being diplomatic) – I actually really like him, it’s just everything else going down the toilet!

      1. Lucy*

        It seems like a lot of it stems from an org structure change that some higher ups didn’t agree with (and then when they left their team would inevitably follow). Word on the street also points to a certain director who was hired ~8 months ago who people despise…..I was pretty neutral on her but, as more people leave, I start having to work more and more closely with her and I’m starting to get nervous…..

    2. Jen RO*

      I was in a very similar situation in a previous job (in my case, it was a matter of overseas management pushing in a different direction from local management). After a lot of people were laid off or left, overseas management tried really hard to keep the rest of us… of course I kept job searching, but it was not stressful, because I wasn’t afraid for my job. I’ve since moved on and everything worked out fine. Good luck!

  32. TGIF*

    Anyone have any tips for coaching someone who is a “black and white” person when she’s doing something that has a lot of gray areas?

    I work at a bank and I am the Bank Secrecy Act Manager. That means that my team’s job is to spend our days combing through transactions, among many other things, in order to discover possible money laundering, suspicious activity, etc. One of my people (she’s been with the bank for a few years on the teller side, she’s now with us in the back office) seems to be having trouble with determining what needs to be investigated further and what doesn’t, as well as how far to go with the investigation. She’s a “black and white” person, which isn’t a bad thing in most aspects of the job, but it makes it difficult on the investigation side because so much of it involves judgment. Judgment is something that’s developed over time and with years of experience, so I’m not really worried right now as to whether this job isn’t right for her. I think it’s a matter of more training and coaching.

    So, any tips for training/coaching a person on how to handle the gray areas and get her to “dig” more?

    1. fposte*

      Can you explain a little further, or give a specific? Is the problem that she’s being too lenient or spending too much time digging in situations where you see reasons not to bother? I think in general it’s easier to start with specifics with the employee in such a situation, too, and then put a few together to suggest what approach might work better overall.

      1. TGIF*

        I would say not digging far enough and just looking at the surface.

        The process is that we receive alerts from our systems, which scan for certain patterns of transactions, dollar amounts, date timeframes, velocity, etc. She then has to look at the alert (look at the customer’s history to see if it’s something that can just be explained away, or if it looks suspicious) and determine if there’s anything that might need a second look by another person. I’m finding that she’s dismissing the alerts when some of them should have been forwarded to another person for further review, because it looks like something that could be suspicious.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Can you have this person shadow someone (yourself?) more experienced who can walk her through the judgment process out loud?

      1. TGIF*

        Hmmm, that’s a good idea. I’ve talked with my senior person and one thing she plans to work on is writing procedures that can explain what certain suspicious behaviors are and how to spot them. But I think shadowing could help.

        1. LizB*

          Maybe the senior person could create some kind of decision-making flowchart or scoring system? Like, for alerts in Category X, you should be more suspicious if the amount is $YYY and/or the date is ZZZ and/or the sender is ABC; if an alert gets two out of three checks, have someone else review it. This would ideally just be a guideline help train them until they get enough experience to have a good sense of judgment, but it could help make a subjective decision more of a black-and-white process.

        2. catsAreCool*

          Sounds like a good idea. As a computer programmer, I was going to suggest something like instructions/general rules that would help the person decide what to do.

        3. little Cindy Lou who*

          A quicker solution is a checklist. Highlight the key elements of what can be dismissed or what needs to go on and explicitly include if not sure check in with person or people.

      2. cuppa*

        That was what I was going to suggest. If I’m making decisions for people, I try and walk them through my thought process out loud so they understand the judgement process.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      I’ve done really similar work and I had the opposite problem in the beginning – EVERYTHING looked suspicious to me, lol. I think the most important factor is what you already said, she needs time to develop that judgement by experience. In the meantime, if you have any training classes/e-learnings/slides with examples and cases, etc, that might help her?

      1. TGIF*

        Funny you should say that…one new person digs into EVERYTHING and the other doesn’t go far enough. I agree it comes with experience. I’ve dug up some information I’ve found from various places. I would love a book that would explain all this stuff as well as what to look for. That would be perfect.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

          I attended a really good training in the beginning where someone presented cases and the group had to identify if it might qualify as suspicious, why, what they would look for, etc.

          She might also benefit from improving her understanding of whatever system generates the alerts? I assume these run on different scenarios combining factors that (alone or combined) could throw up a red flag. Does she fully understand the rationale behind these scenarios and how/why they are defined?

          1. GOG11*

            I was going to suggest a few “case studies” that could be used as either exercises or as examples of what to look for. Also, if there are particular pairings that come up frequently and which fall either way, those could be outlined, too. Say, if there’s something that looks suspicious to most people but that can easily be explained by a certain chain of events, that could be shared, too, if it’s something that occurs frequently enough in your line of work.

      1. TGIF*

        It definitely is!

        You’d be surprised what people do to try and get around cash reporting guidelines. Rather than just deposit $15k in cash, they’ll structure the cash into smaller deposits so that none of them hit over the threshold. Well, guess what? You just popped up on our radar because it looks suspicious. Much more so that if you just made the big deposit and let us file our cash transaction report. Now you’re structuring and that’s a big no-no. Cash is not illegal, people, but structuring your transactions to avoid reporting IS!

        1. Natalie*

          How did you get into that area of banking? I’m in accounting and leaning towards forensic accounting which probably has some similar principals.

          1. TGIF*

            I just evolved into. I was a teller, then a teller manager, then I went into Operations. All of those positions involved some aspect of the Bank Secrecy Act. I eventually became the BSA Officer, among many other things (the nature of a very small bank). When I moved on, I decided to do just BSA and nothing else. I like it. I’m learning a lot; my last bank was very small and I didn’t see half the volume and “weird” stuff I do now.

        2. catsAreCool*

          Interesting. I’m glad you check on this stuff.

          I just wish my bank had been suspicious when someone used a credit card number of mine that was not the current credit card number (I had cancelled the card because of a concern) and used this credit card in a different continent for about 1,000 each time! I still don’t know why this was allowed (multiple uses of this cancelled credit card number), but when I asked, no one gave me a helpful answer.

          1. TGIF*

            Banks don’t all have the same card fraud detection systems. Some banks have systems that are older and aren’t looking for suspicious transactions in real time. The system does analysis on a nightly basis and then alerts the bank the next day. Other banks have systems that scan in near real time (I’m not sure if we now have real time systems since I’m not in that area anymore) and “learn” a cardholder’s spending habits – a neural network. Those are the best systems.

            In your case maybe the card wasn’t cancelled (by the bank) as it should have been. Or maybe the suspect used the card at a time when the card network was offline, which would likely have allowed the card to go through without being declined. I don’t know.

            1. catsAreCool*

              Thanks, TGIF. I think it went a few days (with multiple transactions) before I caught it.

    4. Anonymous Coward*

      In order to know what’s suspicious, she needs to know what normal behavior is. As a teller she probably has a good idea of what people normally need/do at a bank, but maybe hasn’t considered how that plays into a wider perspective of user behavior. Case studies have helped me immensely in training! “Susie Self-Employed has frequent but irregular deposits, and some of them are much larger amounts. In many cases this deposit activity could be related to illegal behavior like drug dealing, so we need to look further into the source(s) of her funds. We can see in her paperwork that she is self-employed as a Teapot Consultant, and there are reviews of her work on her LinkedIn profile by two managers at Outstanding Teapots, which has a good reputation in the industry. The large checks are coming from that company. Smaller deposits are also checks, not cash, and the ones that are personal checks have related accounts at our bank, as well as “teapot project – web design invoice #446″ in the memo section. This documentation explains the unusual activity, and lets us determine that Susie is low-risk.”

      Construct (or find actual) examples of behaviors that cover the SAR reporting reasons, and have employees use them as a litmus test when they’re getting started with investigations. If this employee isn’t at the level where she’d be exercising that much judgement, a shorter checklist of “What is the total amount transacted? Is it over $X threshold?”, “By what percentage is this unusual transaction higher or lower than the typical activity for this user/account? Is that over the red-flag threshold of XX%? Do we know why?”, etc. may be more useful. Also, the FI doesn’t have the responsibility of conclusively demonstrating that illegal activity is happening, or what it is; just the obligation to report behavior that might be related. Make sure your employees know that — while good judgement saves the bank time and unnecessary effort — there’s no penalty for overreporting. There are high penalties for failing to report.

    5. Hillary*

      One of the things that helped me a lot when I was learning a different brand of compliance (as someone who’s also fairly black and white) was not just shadowing but also talking through the thought process. Not just “that transaction looks wrong,” but “we should look at that order more closely because the ultimate consignee is in Dubai where there’s a lot of transshipping but not a lot of end users in our industry.” Now that I’m the subject matter expert I have to remind myself to unpack my logic because I forget that most of my team doesn’t have that background knowledge.

    6. SaraV*

      While I wasn’t in banking, I had a similar job with having to investigate “alerts”, just on medical records, and deciding whether it was a false alert, or something we really had to take action on. Every record, just like every account, was unique. So you couldn’t say “If you see x, then always do y,” more likely “If you see x, most of the time do y, unless you notice z…”

      I agree with everyone else…
      1) Have her job shadow you or a more experienced person in your department
      2) Type up some examples, using some real alerts you’ve stumbled across if you can. Explain what you saw, what you searched for, where you found it, and why you sent it on for further investigation. I know that if I understand the “why”, the steps needed to be taken will stick in my head better.
      3) If you yourself come across a sticky alert, ask her to come over and see you work it in real time. Again, explain why you’re doing what you’re doing.
      4) Make yourself or someone else available for questions if she has any.

      Hope this helps some.

  33. gloria*

    If I heard from coworker X that our boss (who works in a different city) said coworker Y and I are going to be in charge of an upcoming project that I hadn’t even heard about, am I obligated to get in touch with our boss to ask what’s up, or am I right in feeling like I can wait until he gets in touch with my directly about it?

    (Context: I am currently working on a few other projects which are wrapping up but still pretty work-intensive, and I also heard from coworker Z that while this new project was originally going to be coming up soon, it’s gotten pushed back a few months, so in either case it’s not like I would be suddenly devoting 20 hrs/week to it.)

    1. Sunflower*

      I would just wait unless you really want to get in touch with boss. Unless your coworker said ‘Boss wanted me to let you know that’ I would pretend like you never heard it.

      1. gloria*

        That was my plan, and I’m glad to hear I’m not just being a brat about it! (And coworker very much did not say that; on the contrary, coworker seemed surprised I did not know!)

        1. Sunflower*

          I’ve personally found that not much good can come from ‘I heard from X that…’ I can only relate to things at my company but things change very quickly and frequently so no one tells anyone anything until the last minute. If I approached my boss because I heard something, he would probably get annoyed that people are talking about things they don’t know and now I want an answer he doesn’t have or I’m worried about something I might not need to worry about at all. If you company is anything like that and I was a boss, I would feel the same way. I would check your voice mail/email to make sure your boss didn’t already get in touch with you- maybe ask coworker X how she knows about it? But beyond that, I would just find asking to be a bother to the boss.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This. If you were told it was coming up in a couple days, then my answer would be different. It’s been my experience that something “2-3 months” from now has a 50-50 chance of ever even happening.

      1. gloria*

        It’s not something I’m dying to do, but it’s not something I’d mind either. It IS something that would have a projected completion date a few weeks beyond the date when I am hoping to have moved on (all of the jobs I am applying to start around the same time – if I don’t get one I’ll most likely here for another year), but that’s so tentative right now it’s not something I want to bring up at the workplace yet.

  34. Jessica*

    Just wondering… what is considered a “good” amount of PTO, including sick leave, personal time, and holidays? Can’t seem to find a good answer. This is for the U.S.

    1. Lucy*

      Not sure if it’s “good” but the standard at my last 3 jobs has been 20 days (either all PTO, or spread between sick, personal, vacation) if that helps….

      1. Jessica*

        My most current job is 31 days including sick, vacation, and holidays. Seems about right, based on what you said.

        1. Lucy*

          Oh yeah, I forgot to include holidays – mine have typically been 5-7 in addition to the ~20 PTO.

    2. Sascha*

      Most people I know in non-government jobs get about 3 weeks of vacation or combined PTO. I’m not sure about sick leave, that seems to vary a lot more. In higher ed and state government, we often get ridiculous amounts of PTO, especially if you work for a public institution/state government. For example, I’ve been at my school for 5 years and have racked up 10 weeks of vacation and 9 weeks of sick. I also get paid holidays on top of that (no separate personal time). And I’m fairly low on the totem pole…this PTO structure applies to everyone.

      1. Jessica*

        Is that cumulative (carried over from previous years) or do you get 10 weeks/year? That seems really high!

        1. Sascha*

          It’s cumulative, sorry I should have mentioned that. I earn 8 hours sick every month, and X hours vacation depending on my tenure. Right now I am earning 10 hours vacation each month. How much I can carry over each year also depends on my tenure. So some of our lifers who have been here for 30 years literally have one year or more of PTO.

      2. Steve G*

        Wow! Sign me up. My last job was 3 weeks the 1st year and then 4 the last few years I was there.

        I worked briefly somewhere where they only gave 2 weeks and left for (partially) that reason. One you take off the couple of days around Thanskgiving and Christmas (when they shouldn’t want you there anyway!!!!) you only have 1 week off to use for the ENTIRE rest of the year. Need to take time off to move, or a Friday off to get to a wedding? Now you don’t even have a full week of vacation for an entire year, such BS…

        1. Sascha*

          It comes with the price of working in higher education. :) Also my job is such that I can rarely take time off, hence all the accumulated PTO. I’d probably have used more over time if my work allowed it.

    3. The Office Admin*

      The company I work for, you accrue 1.2 hours for every 40 hours you work. That adds up to about 7 days per year.
      That’s holidays, PTO, vacation and sick time.
      We take 8 federal holidays off and close the week between Christmas and New Years, just for perspective.
      So, anything but that is good IMO.

    4. Someone Else*

      I have what I consider to be a good amount: 4 weeks PTO (Lumped Sick/ Vacation Time), 1 Personal Floating Day, and 10 Holidays. Most days before a holiday, we are dismissed 2 hrs early with full pay for that day.

    5. puddin*

      I think I just heard on NPR that Microsoft is starting to require a minimum of 15 PTO days per year of its supply chain (suppliers with more than 50 employees). Apparently Msoft employees were reporting to their higher ups that their vendors were not allowing employees time off. So they are writing it into the contracts that the 15 day min PTO has to be there. Not sure if this was US only suppliers or if it applied globally.

      I recently turned down an offer where the total annual PTO was 15 days, no opportunity to negotiate for more, and you had to be employed for 5 years before earning another five days. This seemed skimpy to me at my current career position and there were other concerns with the offer. But the PTO especially stood out as scant.

    6. Sunflower*

      My sister works for a great company and they get 21 days + major holidays. However, sometimes they require people to take PTO during slow times(often between Christmas and New Years) so that can be a downer.

      At my company we get 7 sick days and 5 PTO the first year(second year you get 10 PTO) plus 7 national holidays. I think our first year is INSANE but 10 days isn’t unreasonable.

    7. Gwen*

      As a newish employee, I get 10 days of PTO and 10 days of sick time, plus 1 floating holiday (and around 10 company paid holidays), which I find…good but not WOW. The only thing I really dislike is that you have to accrue vacation time and to make it an even amount per pay period, you don’t accrue in months with 3 pay dates which is extremely frustrating (and you can’t borrow against future time)

    8. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

      We get 3 weeks of vacation when you first start ( you get additional weeks based on time of service/position); 10 paid holidays; the week between Christmas and New Years and there really is no policy for sick time. We are a small team of 4 with our parent company in Europe, that really encourages work/life balance and emphasizes family.

    9. Jessica*

      Thanks everyone! It sounds like my 31 total days is pretty good then. I used to get one week at my last job, so I felt like my gauge could have been WAY off.

    10. Christy*

      I’m a federal employee who has been here 7 years. I get 10 federal holidays, 13 sick days, and 20 vacation days, for a total of 43 days of PTO per year. If you’re here less than three years, you “only” get 13 vacation days, and if you’re here more than 15 years, you get 26 vacation days.

    11. IT Kat*

      Most places I’ve been (that haven’t been government jobs) have had 10 days (aka 2 weeks, with another coming at 5 years) of vacation/PTO, and usually 5 days (1 week) of sick time (that you were not supposed to use, according to all the jobs I’ve had :/). Add in about 5 holidays, and that’s a total of 20 days/year between vacation/PTO, sick time, and holidays.

      That said, in the government jobs it’s more like 10-15 days PTO, 5-10 holidays, and in one notable place: unlimited sick time.

    12. asteramella*

      Thanks for posting–I was wondering this recently. I just started a job that provides 20 days PTO and 10 paid company holidays per year–I’ve never had paid time off at any other job and had no idea how to judge the amount.

    13. Ruthan*

      And here I thought 2 weeks PTO plus a few holidays was the going rate. I need to improve my standards! :)

  35. anon account*

    I ran into this issue during my last job search and am curious as to how other people would have handled it for future reference.

    I applied to a position I was overqualified for (Teapots Coordinator, 1-3 years of experience) last summer. We were trying to relocate and this company was in our dream city, which I discussed in my cover letter. Never heard anything (long distance candidate, duh) but was pleasantly surprised when a recruiter from the company reached out in the fall with a more senior opportunity in a different department (Chocolate and Cookies Manager, 4-6 years of experience). I have 5 years of professional experience, for context.

    I interviewed and they eventually made an offer….which was the top of the coordinator range I had supplied in my original application (salary was required in the system they used, there was no way to skip it). I tried to negotiate, saying that since this was a completely different (more senior) position, my salary range would have reflected that if I had applied to this one instead but they weren’t willing to talk.

    I eventually accepted that I wasn’t in a position of strength to negotiate and took their offer since the opportunity to relocate was too good to pass up, but it’s bothered me since then…my issue isn’t that I’m doing a manager’s job for a coordinator’s salary, but that if I had applied to the manager position to begin with, I never would have offered the coordinator salary range I did (and, as a catch-22, if I had applied to the coordinator position and put the manager salary range, I probably never would have been called!). Basically, is there anything else I could have done in this situation or was I pretty much screwed from the beginning?

      1. anon account*

        – recruiter called me on Monday to verbally offer, I say I’m excited and said I can’t wait to see it in writing
        – recruiter emailed me the final offer, including salary, later that day….salary is 5k below what would have been my minimum if I had initially applied to the manager position
        – recruiter and I get on the phone, I follow all of AAM’s advice re: negotiation (make your case then shut up!): I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to discuss this earlier in the process, I’m super excited for this offer but since it’s a completely different position than the one I applied for, based on my research, I think a salary in the range of $X would be more appropriate
        – recruiter is immediately on the defensive: “well, this is the range you gave us, it’s at the top of the range, this is on par for salary in the area”, I reiterate that the initial salary was for a completely different, less senior, position, recruiter says she needs to talk to her boss and she’ll get back to me
        – recruiter and I speak a few days later, she says they’re unable to come up on the number, take it or leave it, I ask to think about it for the weekend, talk to my SO and basically decide the chance to relocate with a job is worth a pay cut so I accept the job on Monday

        1. CAA*

          Why was there no opportunity to discuss salary prior to the offer? You interviewed for the manager job, and you knew they had the wrong information at that point, so why not bring it up then? Your best chance of getting a higher salary was to make your expectations clear as early as possible.

          It’s entirely possible they would have decided not to proceed with the offer if they knew you were looking for more than their budget, but that’s the exact situation you would have been in if you applied for the manager position first and stated your real salary range.

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      Is it possible that for this company, the salary you inputted for the Coordinator role is what they offer their Manager-level employees? I say this as I work for a company that has a reputation for paying at the lower end of the spectrum for my industry. I’m currently in a manager role (it’s my first one, so I don’t have TONS of experience), but my salary is similar to that of an experienced coordinator at a more prestigious firm in my industry. The company could absolutely be lowballing you based on an application you filled out for a different role, but it’s possible that their pay grades are just different than what you’re used to (unless they’ve specifically indicated otherwise).

      1. anon account*

        Yeah, I did consider that, and I think that’s a big part of the case here as well. Since we were moving to an area with a lower cost of living I did a ton of research on Glassdoor and other sites looking at salary range in the area/for similar companies and what I was asking for seemed in line with that. *shrug*

    2. nof*

      If the salary band (formal or informal) for coordinator and manager overlap, and your offer was within that overlap, then I’m not necessarily sure you got screwed. But yes, it seems to me that since you weren’t willing to walk away from the offer, then there probably wasn’t anything else you could do. I still think they acted in bad faith a little bit for holding you to a salary range for a completely different job, but maybe from their perspective that range was too high for a coordinator and reasonable for a manager, and they may have made a similar offer either way.

      1. Sunflower*

        I agree with all of this. When they approached you about the Manager position, they should have brought up salary again. Unfortunately, I don’t think there was much you could do besides turn down the offer. The only thing I would have done is asked about a possibly of salary re-negotiation after x months.

  36. cuppa*

    I’m going through a slow time at work and I’m reading Alison’s management book. It’s great!

  37. hrnewbie*

    I feel like I made a huge mistake. I joined this company about a year and a couple of months ago and have slowly morphed my way into the HR person. Throughout this process and meeting with people in the company (size of about 30) there has been rising frustrations due to lack of accountability and perceived favoritism. One of my main pushes was for attendance (it would help weed out people), I notified everyone about the change to the policy in a meeting. In which I said, notice if you’re going to be late must be given and it will be noted. however, if you are still late (3 times or more in a two week period), you will get a written notice.

    Unfortunately yesterday I had to give a notice to an exemplary employee. (I’m trying to be fair across the board.) It is noted in her file that we had a conversation about she would only be late if her children are late. Now she is completely done and didn’t want to come to work (information given via her manager).

    How can I remedy this situation? I feel like I messed up with my push for being standard. What do I do?

    1. fposte*

      Do some jobs need a standard arrival time, or was this just the feeling that people should be at their desks because they should? Are people getting their work done, and if not, is this being addressed in other ways? And do they have actual managers, since it sounds like some management stuff is ending up in HR?

      My suspicion is you’ve fallen afoul of wanting to have a blanket policy rather than dealing with individual situations, but if you’re not their manager you may not have the authority to deal with the individual situation.

      1. hrnewbie*

        The issue is the CEO felt across the board that people were always coming in late.

        In this particular instance, the current Manager fails to discipline employees. The manager is content with his department, however, the CEO is not.

        It’s essentially a culture that has been created over 20 years and i’m trying to change it as possible. This wasn’t to call this employee out at all. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have written her up at all, except for the fact that I was following the guidelines created and articulated to all employees.

        1. fposte*

          Okay, but that doesn’t answer the question of why it’s a problem when people are coming in. This might be an opportunity to raise that point with the CEO–“if we make this just about when people come in, we discourage valuable people like Lucinda.” If this is what you guys are sticking to, turning off some valuable employees is what’s going to happen. Having a policy and then putting an asterisk saying “Except for Lucinda” isn’t going to help, either.

          And I think you might be able to push a little more on the management issue–why does the CEO have a manager who isn’t on board with the CEO?

        2. Joey*

          Then by default the CEO isn’t content with his manager. That should be where the focus is, not getting you to implement some systemwide policy that skirts the issue.

        3. Dynamic Beige*

          “The issue is the CEO felt across the board that people were always coming in late. ”

          At OldJob, the CEO liked to bring clients around to show “where the magic happened.” The client meetings were never broadcast or put into some sort of calendar, they weren’t any set day so none of the “magic makers” knew when or if this was going to happen. One day in summer, such a meeting happened and when the CEO took the potential clients around, instead of people busily working away at their computers making “the magic” happen, there was nothing but empty desks. It was the custom that when you had accumulated a lot of lieu time, you could take time off when there weren’t any projects with the manager’s consent, like the summer which was traditionally the down time. Obviously this reflected badly on CEO and the new rule became that you *must* put 40 hours billable time in every week, at your desk. Which was, frankly, impossible. And, when you did try to take your time-in-lieu (PTO was not a thing there and they would not pay overtime) strangely there wasn’t anything in the new timesheet program you could put it to, only dockets of open projects were there. It was a nightmare.

          So, if this CEO is one of these “I’m in every day at 7am and I expect everyone else to do the same or be there earlier and not leave until I do” types, then I think you’re out of luck. This isn’t about what’s reasonable, but the CEO’s image/vision and what they think is right, and it’s their company to run as they see fit. If (s)he likes coming in and seeing all the bums in seats, working away, then that is what they like. Sure, it will drive away people who need some flexibility but that’s the risk you take when you insist on things like that. And you, HRnewbie are in the unenviable position (along with the manager) of having to spell that out to everyone so that they completely get it, which sucks. Maybe when people start turning in their 2-weeks notice you can suggest to the CEO (if they ask) that people have been generally unhappy and demoralised since the new 9-on-the-dot-not-one-second-late-we’ll-write-you-up policy went into effect.

    2. Joey*

      your mistake was focusing on attendance instead of productivity. Some folks have to be there with near perfect attendance to produce while others don’t.

      Also, does your attendance policy allow enough for “life stuff”?

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, this is exactly what I’m thinking.

        hrnewbie, why do you feel the need to weed out people?

        1. hrnewbie*

          Our attendance policy is simple. If you are late more than 3 times in a two week period (regardless of reason) you’ll get a notice. If you accrue more than 3 notices in a 6 month period, you’ll be brought in for a meeting.

          The reasoning for weeding out people is that there have been people identified that are “bad seeds”. However, there has been no documentation of poor performance. Years of not having write ups actually be kept in files. Due to the fact that there has been blatant abuse of being late, this seemed like the logical step to start holding people accountable.

          1. Joey*

            that’s the problem. If say I’m a high performer yet my car breaks down for a few days you’re going to write me up. That’s a flaw in your policy.

            1. the_scientist*

              Right, hrnewbie, I notice that in your replies you’ve skirted around answering questions about why lateness is the issue your CEO/you has chosen to focus on here. Do people in your office need to be in their desks at a certain point in time every day? Are there roles where coverage during office hours (i.e. reception/admin, answering phones, keeping enough people on a sales floor). Or does it matter? If they are working the required # of hours per week and meeting the requirements of their roles, is it actually impacting anyone that so and so comes in after 9 a.m. because of daycare drop off and other person comes in a bit late because they like to go to a morning yoga class?

              I mean, you can absolutely decide to enforce a strict late policy if you want but you have to be prepared for the consequences. Good performers who have other options WILL leave for places where they aren’t treated like elementary school students and are trusted to manage their time.

              As for “weeding out poor performers” to be blunt- using your strict attendance policy to do that seems like the easy, lazy way out. Start documenting actual issues with productivity, get performance improvement plans in place and actually follow-up on the consequences documented in those plans. Don’t take the easy way out by making lateness the defining metric of good performance vs. bad performance.

              Unless of course, people do actually need to be on time to provide coverage.

          2. fposte*

            But they’re not bad seeds because of when they turn up in the office. It’s bizarre to use that as a metric to get rid of them.

            It really sounds to me like your organization has a weak manager and a CEO who’s weak in dealing with that manager, and you’re being asked to compensate for both of those. That’s not reasonable or functional.

          3. Tinker*

            So, if the actual problem is poor performance, and secondarily you have the issue that you can’t act on the poor performance yet because you haven’t documented it, why is the logical step not working to document the poor performance?

            Granted that the lateness may also be a problem, but the way you’re phrasing it — weeding out the bad seeds and such like — makes it seem like you’re using that policy to generate a pretext for sacking folks where the actual primary reason is something that you don’t have solid documentation for. In which case, at the very least, you are going to have to accept situations like the one you cite where you find yourself having to penalize one of the employees that you didn’t intend to target — that’s one of the downsides of taking this approach.

            If the lateness in itself is actually a problem, then the employee in question is less than exemplary at the moment, is she not? Because an actual requirement of the job, for good reasons, is not being late and she is in fact being late. So maybe the question there is whether your discipline process is productive or not, and how to introduce this change in a way that gets people on board with the importance of it. And there you still have to accept that some people who have useful talents in other areas are not going to perform well in the attendance department, particularly since you haven’t been selecting for that in the past, and you may well lose some of these people.

            What is it that is actually your goal here?

          4. Mike C.*

            You aren’t going to get respect for or compliance of rules that are arbitrary – regardless of how simple or equally applied they are. Zero-tolerance policies are terrible for a reason, and you’ve just seen why.

            Change your policy to something that better matches concrete business needs. Additionally, this “bad seed” nonsense needs to go. If you cannot articulate why they need to be fired, then they shouldn’t be fired.

          5. Joey*

            The good news is it’s fixable. Go back to your CEO and tell him the policy has had an unintended affect – that it punishes high performers for stuff that happens to all of us from time to time. Tell him that you’d like for supervisors to only use it if they can explain how it’s impacting their work. If they can’t they shouldn’t use it

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Exactly. When I was a new manager I used to get a little too fixated on this type of stuff, until I learned to trust my team. I have one person who rolls in late frequently, but she’s also a single mom with a lot of responsibilities and does good work. Why would I punish her? She’s doing well and it doesn’t affect her performance.

    3. soitgoes*

      You did the right thing; it was her fault for thinking that the rules didn’t apply to her. And this might just be my bias, but she already gets preferential Mommy treatment because she has kids? Eff no. Expect her to come up with a bunch of irrelevant excuses for why she needs to be late all the time.

      1. lawsuited*

        I don’t have children, but I don’t hold anything against any mother or father who wants to contribute in their workplace and take care of their children but needs some flexibility in order to do both well. In efforts to balance work and family, I don’t think that families should more frequently have to take the hit. Workplaces are populated by humans, caring for one’s children is a very normal, human need, and I think smart workplaces would plan for that reality.

        1. Mike C.*

          So long as that flexibility is offered to everyone regardless of children, I don’t see a problem with this.

          1. Joey*

            Its not quite that easy. In my experiences, parents tend to have more life emergencies so the perception is they’re favored simply because they have more needs

            1. Mike C.*

              But what about all of us singles/DINKs who go clubbing every night and have hangovers? Don’t those count? :p

                1. Jamie*

                  Don’t give companies any ideas. This shower at work thing catches on I won’t have any excuse to go home on occasion. :)

            2. Katie the Fed*

              Yes, and in my experience a lot of the women DO end up with the lion’s share of family obligations. So there’s something to be said for the idea that flexible scheduling does make it easier for companies to retain good women employees. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Flexible scheduling that applies for everyone, of course – but it can definitely help retain women.

              1. Ruthan*

                YEAH! (And flexible scheduling *also* helps the dads your company employs pick up some of those family obligations, thus reducing the load on their partners.)

      2. asteramella*

        That’s a pretty unrealistic thing to think. Many employees are parents and the reality is that care taking for another human being (regardless of whether that human being is an adult or a child) is often unpredictable. Parents aren’t the only class of employees who need flexibility and railing against “special treatment for parents” is all too often a misogynistic dog whistle given that in most cultures women pull a “double shift” of being primary caretaker and an employee as well.

    4. The IT Manager*

      I feel for you. “Fair” is most often used to mean everyone is treated the same which you did. But assuming this exemplary employee wasn’t impacting her work with her lateness, it seems unfair to punish her. It’s harder to treat people fairly when using more nuianced criteria. Kate strolls in late but does great work while Jo is always on time but does terrible work. In this case Jo needs the warning not Kate. Or if Kate does research she can work when wants, but Sarah Jane the receptionist must be at her desk when the doors opens. I think you need to think about this, but consider what you really need. Butt in chair isn’t the criteria you should be judging.

      And if Kate does exemplary work but is regularly “late” consider changing her hours if the later arrival doesn’t impact her job performance.

    5. Yet Another Allison*

      Good points here.
      – What is the problem that trying to be addressed? If it is productivity, then this policy will not address it. If it is that this is a job where timeliness affects the job performance (or has trickling impacts because others have to cover) then it is a good policy.
      – Why does it matter if she has kids? Everyone has life emergencies.
      – Did this policy have buy-in from the right level of authority?

      My 2 cents: What is this not wanting to come to work nonsense? Did she quit? Or is this a tantrum? And if her manager is allowing a tantrum (or giving into it) then there *is* lack of accountability and favoritism in your office. A policy change to cover up the perception won’t help.

      1. fposte*

        I’m still thinking about the “not wanting to come to work” thing. If I worked 50 hours a week in an office, with several “bad seeds” who were being widely tolerated, and then got written up for some new HR policy because my kid was sick, I could see mentioning my discouragement to my manager. It sounds like we only heard the bit the manager chose to convey, too, so we don’t know what else got said.

    6. Kara Ayako*

      I would be so upset if I got a notice for coming in late despite being an “exemplary employee.”

      I think sometimes we think everyone needs to be treated the exact same way for things to be fair. But it’s just not true. Lateness should only matter if someone isn’t getting their job done (because either part of the job is being in his or her seat by a certain time or because they’re not doing things they’re supposed to be doing by coming in late). Then the issue isn’t about lateness but about not doing their jobs. For those who say that it’s “favoritism” to let some people come in late and others not, shift the conversation to job performance. Address the actual issue.

      1. Joey*

        I tell people that they will flat out see favoritism by me- for anyone who’s doing a great job.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yes! My old boss used to say this. “I get accused of having favorites. Turns out, I do – the people who work really hard and do really good work. What a coincidence!”

    7. lawsuited*

      I think by taking your approach, you risk giving the impression that your company cares about minutes spent sitting in desk chairs more than it cares about the work produced, which is not really the message you want to send to employees. I think this approach rewards employees who arrive at work on time but spend their day playing Farmville, and penalizes employees who are 15 minutes late because they had to drop off their children but work hard and produce stellar work for the remainder of the day. If I were the employee you describe, I think I’d feel confused and frustrated on where the emphasis was being placed, and wonder whether the company and I were still a good fit.

      Of course, none of this applies if the employee is in a front-facing position like a receptionist or bank teller were sitting in the chair at the right time is a key part of fulfilling the role.

    8. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I have to back you all the way up. All the way up. Allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way up.


      You have to build a culture. You have to decide what culture you want to build and then build it.

      Do you want a “write up” culture? Now, I or anyone I who has ever worked with me or for me has “written someone up” exactly zero times. That’s, my opinion, a terrible culture that people will do their best to get out of and good managers won’t want to manage in.

      If you’re working in some big nameless bureaucracy with policies decreed on high, it would be a lot to change but GOOD NEWS, you work directly with CEO and a chunk of this has been delegated to you. You can see how write ups and No Tolerance Rules have landed you in a pickle with this good employee — it will only get worse. And it can get much worse.

      So back all the way up and figure out, with your CEO, what kind of culture you want to make. Then get to work on getting management on board with the overall vision. Then get people some management training. And fire managers who aren’t up to the job before you start firing their employees who may or may not be up to the job but have been managed poorly.

      Building culture can take years but it will save a business.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I was just about to address the “write up” thing so I’m glad you already did.

        I’ve never worked anywhere that “wrote people up,” nor would I ever “write someone up.” It’s infantalizing and weird. You* give people feedback, you document when it becomes serious enough, but point systems and write-ups? That’s a culture that great people are going to flee from. This is not the culture you want to build.

        * “You” in this sentence refers to their managers — not to HR. As HR, you shouldn’t be involved in this kind of thing at all.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I don’t have any experience running a large factory or fulfillment center where practices like this seem most prevalent. I can’t say that if you are running a facility with hundreds of lower wage hourly employees where shifts and timing are critical, I can’t say that write ups and points should *never* be done. (I can say my family would have to be starving before I’d take that management job.)

          Because I do run a microcosm of that – tiny fulfillment center, call center that isn’t a call center but still has to be well staffed at all customer hours, backend operations that need to turn on dime, I can say that it doesn’t have to be done at the few hundred employee number at least.

          We’re at 100, staffed 7:30am to 8pm, 5 days a week, and we’re freaking efficient. No need for any changes on the horizon.

          Would I say the same thing at 800? I hope so, but since I haven’t been there (and this stuff can be very hard), I can’t say.

  38. Violet Rose*

    A question for people with more office experience: how do you sort out what’s part of office life and what isn’t, and what’s worth leaving over?

    This is my first office job out of university, and I think it’s doing terrible things to my mental health. I need a lot of sleep to be a well-functioning human being (think 9 hours per night), and I have a really short attention span. I work best in short bursts of concentration – think 3 hours of intensive work where I’m “in the zone” – but having to work on the same project for more than a few hours just drains me dry. I’m in my office for 9 hours a day, 30 minutes of which is unpaid lunch, and this seems to be 5 more hours a week than is standard for my region/industry. I haven’t had a schedule like this since high school, and I’m slipping back into that bitter, adversarial, burnt-out, me v. my superiors mindset, which is NOT a good place for me to be.

    I’ve already decided to leave my job once I find something I like better, but how do I explain to potential fewer employers, “I left because upper management put a huge verbal emphasis on face time, early mornings (even for same hours worked), and also because my boss’s boss was racist and homophobic and made me super uncomfortable?”

    1. Not Today Satan*

      Honestly, most office jobs suck in this regard, and you’ll have a hard time finding a job that doesn’t require much face time at your experience level. You might want to find a job that’s not totally office based–like a program job at a nonprofit that involves a lot of time out working on programs.

      1. Lindsay J*

        Seconded. I don’t thrive in an office environment. I don’t know whether it’s due to my ADHD, just my general personality, or what.

        I love jobs that involve a combination of office work and being out on my feet moving around and doing stuff. I’m so much happier and more productive in positions like this.

    2. Sunshine*

      I think you need to find a more diplomatic way of saying things, no one likes negativity. People want positive candidates. Growth, or you wanted a change I think are better answers but still need to have some truth behind them when you elaborate but no negativity. You need to spin it. Even thought I have 4-5 years of office experience I have interviewed people before and whenevery they say something off it is a red flag, the interviewer doesn’t know you well enough to know if the problem is actually you or the environment.

    3. fposte*

      I agree with NTS–most of what you’re talking about is pretty standard. The hours may be non-standard for your region, but would leaving half an hour earlier really make a difference really change the problem given the other things you dislike? If you really don’t want to work on one project at a time, it may be your position choice, not your employer, that’s an issue there–there are a lot of jobs that involve more juggling, and it sounds like they may be a better fit, but a lot of jobs do indeed require working on one thing for a long time.

      I would not say any of what you said to a prospective employer. For one, it raises the possibility in their mind that you’re a slacker, because that’s often who complains about having to be in the office; for another, it’s more a personal rant than information that helps them understand your candidacy. You’re looking for a position with more variety, because you’ve found you enjoy balancing different responsibilities.

      1. INTP*

        Good point on the possibility of changing positions. Some jobs require the ability to concentrate on one thing for extended periods and some require the ability to juggle eleventy billion things at once – the OP may be in the former type of job but need to move into the latter.

    4. INTP*

      There could be regional differences, but in my experience, 9 hours in the office per day is pretty much the minimum that you’ll be able to find at a full time job, though usually that comes with an hour lunch if you’re hourly/nonexempt. *Maybe* 8.5 hours with a .5 hour lunch, but usually it will be 9. (However, you usually have the option to leave your desk at lunch which I would highly recommend if you feel burnt out – go for a walk, drive somewhere else to eat your lunch, etc.)

      I would suggest you work on ways to harness your concentration and help your energy levels work to your advantage. No one is really concentrating hard for their full 9 hour day. Most people are probably not even concentrating hard on the same thing for 5 hours. Try to split things up – maybe you could work 3 hours in the zone on the more mentally rigorous or creative parts, take a short break, and then do some of the mindless paperwork tasks? Maybe the pomodoro technique would give you more stamina by making sure you get regular breaks? (I think a 5-10 minute internet or walking around break every hour is pretty acceptable for an office job.)

      I also need 9 hours of sleep a night, and if I don’t get it regularly my ADHD and immune system both get out of whack. The crappy truth is that to have a full time professional job you can’t have much going on outside of it on weeknights. I was eventually able to sleep sufficiently but I had to get rid of my weeknight social life entirely, choose between a workout or cooking on weekdays, and basically eat my dinner, watch an episode of TV or relax for a bit, and get right in bed on weeknights. Then weekends were mostly chores and food prep for the week. I’m a grad student with a part time job now but I still do best if I kind of stick to this schedule. I found that most of the grad students that tried to keep a college style irregular schedule wound up very overwhelmed.

      If you do leave your job there is no way that you can blame it on early mornings and a 9 hour workday without giving major red flags to the interviewer. Leave all of that out and just say “I enjoy my job at Chocolate Teapots, but long-term I think my passion is much more in line with Vanilla Teapot Analytics so this position seems like a great next step for me.” But if you like your job generally, be careful about leaving it – you’re not very likely to find a job where you aren’t going to have to be at your desk at least 8 hours per day. The higher level professionals I know that have the flexibility to work from home often and the trust to get their jobs done without having their hours tracked are also putting in a lot of 60+ hour weeks when the company needs it.

      1. The IT Manager*

        The crappy truth is that to have a full time professional job you can’t have much going on outside of it on weeknights.

        So true, especially for those that need 8 or 9 hours a sleep a night and have a commute.

      2. nof*

        INTP’s advice is right on the head. I also need 9(+!!) hours of sleep a night and prefer short bursts of high intensity work. When I first started working after college, the 8 – 5 schedule was horrible. Building a regular routine, especially in regards to sleep, devoting my evenings to self-care (healthy food, exercise, relaxation), taking a real break at lunch, and using my weekends to prep for the week made a HUGE difference. I bet that sounds pretty boring and like I sucked all the fun out of my life, but having that structure has allowed me to get through the first through years of entry-level work and slowly integrate more “fun” into my weekday schedule, and now, I’ve been successful enough to get a new job with a more flexible schedule. It sucks, but it is really too your benefit to make these adjustments, because the working world will not adjust to you.

        1. Sunflower*

          Hate to say how true this last. Last night I left work around 3:15pm(early because I had to run an errand). I did the errand, cooked dinner, went to the gym, showered and boom it was 8:30PM next thing I knew.

    5. The IT Manager*

      Eight and half hours a day / 5 days a week is fairly standard in the US for a white collar office. It’s only slightly above what’s normally considered minimum full time (ie 40 hours a week). If what you say is true about your region/industry, then by all means look for a new job. But what you described doesn’t sound like hugely demanding “face time” issue if they want you at your desk for 42 and half hours a week.

      You mention needing lots of sleep what may be a warring with your employers demands to be in early. You can control that by going to be early enough to get 9 hours of sleep before your alarm goes off in order to get you to work “on time.”

      By all means look for a job with the desired flexibility. Look for ones that offers variety. Look for a culture that you fit into, but I be aware that jobs that don’t have set hours and don’t clock your hours are rare especially for people just out of college. You seem to be really having trouble with things that I think are mostly part of office life (not the racist homophobe but the other stuff), if you really have this much trouble with it office jobs may not be a good fit for you.


    6. Olive Hornby*

      Yes, this all sounds pretty standard, I’m afraid. I also need a lot of sleep (I intentionally designed my college schedule so that none of my classes started before 11, so–I feel you.) For me to get to the office by 9:00, I need to get to bed by 10:30 and have everything ready (clothes laid out, lunch made and packed, etc.) the night before. I also brew coffee (set the coffeepot to brew) the night before, so I can drink it on my commute. This makes me feel less frazzled and more in control, which might help your days feel less like high school.

      As for the racist, homophobic boss – if his comments don’t rise to the level of harrassment, in which case you should go through the appropriate HR channels to get them addressed, I’m not sure there’s an elegant way to bring it up in an interview. You run the risk (which I know is unfair, but that’s how it is) of seeming overly sensitive. If you’d like a less traditional office setting, though, you can certainly say that you’re looking for a more dynamic, varied set of duties, assuming you’re applying for jobs that would provide those things.

    7. Sunflower*

      Are you sure you’re in the right job? There are lots of ‘office’ jobs that require you to be out of the office and doing different things. Working in account management is a big one that let’s you do lots of different things during the day and you can get out of the office and still be doing work. I’ve also noticed a lot of jobs at universities and non-profits are partially being in the office and the other part outside doing other stuff. There’s also hotel/hospitality work which isn’t for everyone but I know a lot of people who have found happiness there.

      Unfortunately, your schedule is not all that unusual. It’s something you just get used to once you start working. I allow myself 1, maybe 2 days, a week to laze around after work but most of the time my weeknights(and weekends) are filled doing things that I used to do in college just whenever I had a chance.

      I’d really focus your energy on making sure your next job has a little more variety.

    8. Don't give up, restructure!*

      I’m very similar to you, in that I tend to be a bit of a “chunker” as I call it where I can devote 2 -3 hours max of highly effecient time, then I tend to sputter and die. So one thing I do is keep a running list of quick reports/research items/easy tasks and when I’m starting to feel a little tired I’ll switch to one of those tasks and knock a couple of items off that list. This gives me energy, as I”m achievement and task oriented, and then I can switch back to the big project.

      Unfortnately morning people are biased, they like morning people. I think forbes did an article on it, something like “morning people are judging you”. There’s not much getting around that.

      Absolutely be sure to take care of your health, exercising and eating well. Lunch is particularly important. If you are having carb heavy lunches, chances are you are snoozing in teh afternoon. Choose low carb lunches for the best energy. Don’t overload on caffeine, and be sure to get plenty of sleep! : )

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I am not clear here- is the toxic big boss at this current job?
      If yes, then a toxic work place will leave you exhausted. How is your immediate boss?
      There is a huge difference between doing 9 hour days with reasonable people and 9 hour days with toxic people. I occasionally work 14 hour days. Because I have good bosses, I find that I am a very different person than the old cranky me who worked with toxic people. And I do not worry about driving home safely at the end of the day- I can concentrate.

      You can explain it to employers by saying the job was a bad fit- then don’t expand on that unless you are saying something about what you learned at the job.

    10. Ruthan*

      The hours you will probably need to find a way to deal with — I agree with posters below who have suggested short breaks. (It’s amazing how much happier I am at the end of the day when my reaction to realizing I’ve gotten off task is “Time to visit the restroom/stretch/get a coffee/get some water” instead of “I’m a terrible person.”)

      The horrid overboss is *not* par for the course.

    11. Violet Rose*

      Thank you all for your comments! I was out of town for the week-end, and didn’t realise our destination had very limited internet/cell reception, so I couldn’t reply individually.

      When I started my post, I was tired, frustrated, and *very* bitter, but reading all of your guys’s comments helped me readjust my thinking and sort out what in particular was wearing me down. Hearing how people had made the adjustment also really helped: a large part of it really is just system shock. (A quick note on hours: I’m in the UK, and a lot of the jobs I see posted seem to be based on the assumption that 37.5 working hours/week is “standard full time” – but I haven’t even lived here two years yet and the vast majority of my friends are full-time students, so I may be way off-base.)

      Now that I’ve had a nice relaxing week-end to recharge I’m in nowhere near such a hurry to move on, but I’ve seen a few openings that look pretty appealing. I’m hoping that if I start casually sniffing about now, it will help motivate me to step it up at work (I like to finish strong), but I’ll hold out for an offer that feels like a definite step up – and paying much better attention to office-culture fit this time!

  39. Intrepid Intern*

    I got an interview at the place I intern! I was so sure after they finished all the other interviews last week that I’d been passed over. If I got the job, I’d be moving into a staff assistant role.

    What questions should I ask in the interview? What are some of the main differences I should look out for in moving from intern to FT?

    Also, had anyone ever moved out of an admin-y role to a more research-focused one in International Relations? I don’t see it happen, and I don’t want to pigeon how myself, but otherwise this looks like a great opportunity.

      1. Intrepid Intern*

        Oh believe me, I’ve read everything AAM I can about interviewing. I was just wondering if there was community wisdom, in a “things I wish I would’ve known” vein.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      If you want to do research, I wouldn’t stay in an admin role for too long. You’re probably working with a lot of highly educated people, who unfortunately can be quite snobby and they might not see your intellectual capabilities if they see you as an admin type for more than a year or two at most. So it’s a good stepping stone, but I think you need to be clear that you’re looking at this job as an opportunity to learn more about the field and eventually move into a research role.

      Intern to FT – I think Alison had a post about things people wish they knew when they had their first grownup job – I’d read that. A lot of it will be how you present yourself – attire, attitude, willingness to learn. In your internship, you’re there to learn. In your job – you’re there to contribute.

      So for your questions – you might want to ask how someone in this role could eventually transition to an eventual role in research or policy or whatever it is you want to do. Ask what the hiring manager sees as the biggest challenges for someone in the role, or ask about challenges facing the organization.

      1. notfunny*

        Katie is totally right.

        I would also think about what kinds of tasks you can do that overlap with research-related roles. How can you gain the skills and knowledge to make contributions to the research that you’d like. You might consider taking a course (coursera, edX, etc or in person) or taking on some volunteer work to build the skills and get some experience to make the shift.

  40. Lyra Belacqua*

    Happy Friday everyone!

    I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few months about where I want to go, career-wise. I have a master’s in program evaluation (e.g. evaluating whether something like Head Start is effective), but after a year of unemployment following graduation I took an admin job at a construction management firm. The work is deadly boring and not something I care at all about, and there’s not really any opportunity to learn more or grow here as I’m not an engineer. So I’ve been looking for jobs to do social sciences research, but am having a hard time finding anything that fits/getting responses because 1) I’m in-between being fresh out of undergrad and having a PhD, 2) My master’s is now almost 3 years old and I haven’t been able to use what I learned, and 3) I’m not sure exactly what kind of job I want. A lot of postings I see either want someone in a total admin position, which I would do if there were opportunity to move up, or someone with at least 5 years of relevant experience, which I don’t have.
    Ideally, I would love to do something working with people, helping them, but using my research skills/knowledge to reach an informed solution/path. I like having a flexible work schedule and not having to sit at a desk all day. I wouldn’t need to have all of those things to take a job, but I currently have none of them, so anything would be an improvement. I’m thinking of getting a certificate in statistics and survey design so I have something more recent on my resume/can increase my skills, but I’m feeling kind of lost and aimless/hopeless with what to do with my life.

    I’m kind of venting here, but I would love to hear from people who have been in similar situations or who have any ideas/thoughts. I’ve recently been thinking of getting an MSW but I’m not sure if that’s right either.

    1. Dang*

      I have a master’s in public policy, emphasis in social research. I ended up in academia for awhile- check out research coordinator roles at universities, they can be a good springboard. Most of the positions I found were in public health/universities that had medical schools. You could be involved in recruitment of patients into studies, etc, which would require you to be not at desk from 9-5, and academia is often very flexible in terms of schedules.

    2. Sospeso*

      Hi Lyra! You might consider looking into industrial-organizational psychology. The name is kind of off-putting, but if you’re not familiar with the field, it is essentially the psychological study of the workplace and of people at work. Speaking broadly, people with a master’s tend to do applied work, while those with a doctorate tend to do research (although, of course, there are exceptions). Based on some of what you said – “working with people, helping them, but using my research skills/knowledge to reach an informed solution/path” – you might find that I-O blends your goals of meaningfully helping people and using informed solutions to do so. That is exactly what I find so appealing about it (I am applying to programs this fall). SIOP has some great info on possible career paths with an I-O degree, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics listed I-O psych as the fastest-growing occupation through 2022. Many I-O’s go into consulting, which might get at some of that flexibility you’re looking for.

      I also have a friend who is getting a joint master’s in social work and public policy through Ohio State University. You may find that interesting as well.

      1. Lyra Belacqua*

        Oh, I-O sounds so interesting! I took a psychology of organizations class in college, and found it really fascinating, but never know it was an actual job (I guess besides the professor). Thanks for the suggestions!

    3. thisisit*

      I’m surprised you are having trouble finding a job in evaluation, given that’s the big push in policy these days (ACA, Dept of Ed, etc). Maybe it’s your location? If you are up for moving, look at local gov (eg, law enforcement or justice), fed gov (particularly within HHS – NIH, CDC – FDA, etc), and many of the big think tanks in DC. Universities (schools of public health, but also those with social science departments) are also a great place to look. You could also try foundations or grant makers too.

      The certificate in stats/survey design would be a great addition, IMHO. Coursera has one, I think.

      1. Lyra Belacqua*

        I’m in DC, which I think may be part of the problem – there are so many highly qualified people here with better connections (and having connections is something I seriously underestimated when we moved here), that it’s a tough job market. Universities have grad students they can pay less/get to work for free, so I haven’t see much there. Been looking at local government and think tanks, and have submitted some applications, but haven’t heard anything yet. Federal government … I would rather print out a hundred copies of my resume and set fire to them one by one all day than submit another application through the black hole that is USAJobs again! Everyone I talk to about my degree agrees that it sounds interesting and very much needed, but I think a lot of government/non-profits is either all talk, and/or they’re looking for people with 5-10 years of experience already.

        1. thisisit*

          ah yes. connections. essential in DC. have you tried informational interviews and happy hours? also networking opps at orgs (like those lunchtime lectures and the like)? they can be cheesy, but a good way to meet people. and don’t underestimate volunteer and recreational activities. a quarter of my non-job-related professional network was made through my yoga studio.
          Also, USAJobs does indeed suck.

          (i spent 15 years in DC and Bmore)

          1. Lyra Belacqua*

            Funny that you mention a yoga studio- I’ve been studio assistant-ing at one since we moved here and it has indeed proven to be the best source so far for contacts. I’ve got to get back into informational interviews. I admit, it’s been hard getting back into the job search game, especially having already spent a year being unemployed over 2012-2013, with the end result being that I have a job, but it’s not in line at all with my interests/experience. Though looking back, I’ve now amassed a pretty large amount of admin experience which is not strictly what I want to do, which makes me feel even more pressure to get out ASAP. I’ll look into the lunchtime lectures, too – that could be a good option so even if I don’t meet anyone, I might still learn something :)

            1. thisisit*

              random thought – if you have the freetime, there are tons of little NGOs, especially doing direct services, who need eval data for their funders. if you’re up for it, you could get some experience as a volunteer helping to create indicators, eval plans, etc. and also great networking.
              i’m specifically thinking of mental health, substance use disorders, transition housing, etc.

    4. SRB*

      Oooh, de-lurking because I think I can actually be helpful here. I am also in the DC area working for a government contractor that does A LOT of program evaluation. I don’t know if there’s any way to trade e-mails without having them post to a public interwebs board, but here’s my general thoughts in no particular order:

      1. Depending on where you work and the projects you’re on, work type could be super variable. I’ve had a job where I worked on one part of one project 8 hours a, day 7 days a week. At my current job, I’ve been on up to 7 projects at the same time. Even within the job it could be variable. At my company, though, PhD level task leads or project managers are involved in maybe 2-3 projects at a time. Depending on when in the project they start, they could be responsible for developing the methodology, designing data collection, general day to day management of a project, putting out fires (the least fun part), writing reports, editing and reviewing reports, etc.

      2. Schedules. My company is fairly flexible about work from home and time, but (a) that cuts both ways – I will be working this whole weekend, but I also can leave early throughout the week if I’m not working and (b) that’s not true of all companies in this field.

      3. Depending on where you work, the culture and ability to move up are variable. my company is very generous with rewarding employees. One of my coworkers left his last company because he worked there for several years without a single pay raise and felt that people at his level weren’t really respected.

      4. The degree. Even though I have a full time job currently, I’m also getting a master’s degree in statistics. It’s definitely already helping me get ahead at my current job. The degree options in the area didn’t wow me – UMBC seemed like the one I’d go for – but there are a growing number of state schools in other states that do applied statistics degrees online which is what I went with. The degree is exactly the same as the in-person degree on the diploma so it’s not one of those for-profit scam university situations. What will your PhD be in, though? That alone might be enough to land you a pretty good spot somewhere.

      5. At least in my experience you’ll always end up doing some degree of “admin” type work in addition to your “fun” work. It could be meeting minutes. It could be creating meeting agendas (someone has to decide what your meeting is going to even be about!). My PDs still do a lot of admin work in creating budget reports so they know who is billing what, and if it’s over budget. The higher you go, the more you outsource to other people, but it’s nearly always part of the job.

      6. Places to apply – totally with you on the government jobs. After undergrad I tried applying and it’s a true black hole. The university suggestion is a good one. If you’re willing to move/commute to Baltimore, Hopkins is a big research hub. I believe Towson has a project with the MD state dept of education for program evaluation. Think Tanks are also an option (though I remember thinking I’d be uncomfortable actually working for certain ones). There are also a huge number of federal government contractors in the area. I have a huge list of these I could send if you’re interested. Dunno about other companies, but I know for a fact we have hired plenty of PhDs straight out of school with no work experience. I also have an ex-coworker friend who is now working at an industrial organizational psych kind of a company doing process improvement work, but I can’t remember the name of it right now.

      If you want any more information, perhaps we can figure out a way to exchange e-mails. I’m a government contractor evaluating federal (mostly health) stuff, so that’s the only thing I can really speak to, but I like my company and am overall happy with my choice.

  41. HR Shenanigans*

    If you were relocating and your new employer was going to send you a relocation packet of information – what type of info would you want it to include?

    The new employee is getting a stipend for moving but handling all arrangements on their own, per their wishes. We would still like to provide some information to help them.

    1. The Office Admin*

      I like knowing where to go in the city.
      Where do people go grocery shopping? Seriously, that sounds weird but one of the first things a neighbor did when we moved to Kansas was tell us what the best grocery store was, what was cheapest, ect. and I so appreciated it! I’d never heard of any of the store names before!
      Gyms, school info(if they have kids) fun activities for that time of year, top places to visit/see/do like zoos, museums, ballparks.
      Oh, maybe even a welcome basket/box of local foods/drinks? I would love that.
      My husband also refers to me as “the tour guide” so take from this what you will haha!

      OH! We’re relocating in May and last month, the recruiter set up my husband with another member of the team he’ll be with who is about the same age, also married, likes sports and travel AND my husband found out that another woman who is going to the same company from my husband’s college program was set up with a woman in the program about the same age, also single, ect.
      So, we really appreciated such a thoughtful gesture, to “set-up” not just a random team mate but someone who really was similar to the new person!

      1. The Office Admin*

        By set-up I mean, that person made themselves available to answer questions about the program, company and local stuff. It was really nice, they emailed back and forth for a week or two.

    2. Gwen*

      A totally unbiased note that your local visitor’s bureau probably has a visitors guide filled with useful information that would be great for a newcomer to the area! :)

    3. Sandy*

      Have you ever read Real Post Reports? It’s geared to State Dept folks and covers many cities around the world. The questions/answers they provide there would make a pretty good template for a relocation packet.

    4. thisisit*

      housing info, if relevant. i’m probably relocating in the next couple of months to another country and stressing about trying to find a place to live.

        1. Intrepid Intern*

          What is cheap but up-and-coming-although-maybe-with-loud-nightclubs, and what’s cheap because it’s wildly unsafe? Or, for someone a little further into their life, where are there other young families? If you’re moving countries, is it common for the place to come furnished?

    5. Anonsie*

      Not helpful:
      -Popular local restaurants
      -Tourist attractions

      -Utility companies at their new address (even if it’s easy to find where you are, some places matching it all up is a PITA)
      -Commute info from their new address to work (driving / transit / biking if applicable) taking any local idiosyncrasies into account
      -School district info (if applicable)
      -Anywhere that might be useful around a move where they can get an employee discount
      -Emergency rooms/urgent care centers that are in-network for your insurance
      -Contact info for municipal services that might be needed (for example, does your city have a 311 line? standard non-emergency police line? maybe, I don’t know, animal control? my city has specific hotlines for reporting specific issues like graffiti on your property, things like that)

    6. Lindsay J*

      If they’re relocating from out of state, one thing that my friends and I that moved had to figure out was car stuff:

      Where to go to get your license changed over.
      Where to go to get your car registered and inspected.
      How much time you legally have to do that after a move.

      In NJ all this was handled by one office. In Texas I had to go to three different places (DPS for license, DMV for registration, private garage for inspection) and I needed the inspection done before the registration. Once I figured out how to do it I passed my notes on to my friends.

      Similarly for pets – do they need to be registered? Where do you go to do that? What types of documentation do you need?

      Housing information and utility information might be useful as well if they don’t already have that figured out.

      Grocery stores, like someone else above mentioned.

      Basically it’s easy to find tourist type information (where’s the best restaurant, museums, etc).

      It’s harder to find information on how to live like a local – where to buy groceries, work clothes, where do the locals hang out after work or on weekends, where do you go to buy a plunger when your toilet gets clogged at 2AM, etc.

    7. periwinkle*

      Having relocated a year ago with no such assistance…

      1. Profiles of the popular residential areas nearby. Which ones are family-oriented, where do singles tend to live, which ones have big community centers or walkable downtowns or fun bars or live theater, etc.
      2. TYPICAL COMMUTE TIME for said neighborhoods! I lucked out in targeting a location south of our corporate complex even though it was slightly further (on paper) to the popular communities to the north. From my location it was a pleasant 15-minute reverse commute. For the commuters coming from the northside, not so much.
      3. Local quirks that are normal if you’re used to them but could take a newcomer unawares. We moved to the Puget Sound area and learned that: (1) it doesn’t really rain a lot and thunderstorms are really rare but; (2) a drizzly mist is common; (3) which might explain why you have to de-moss your roof annually. I never saw a single house with a basement during my house hunt. There are drive-through coffee kiosks everywhere; some of them focus more on cleavage than coffee, WTF, so you have to check before stopping in for a latte. (the kiosk name and outside decor makes it obvious – you’ll get a tall mocha at Java Jitters and low-cut tops at Java Juggs, and yes, those are both near my house)

      Someone mentioned Real Post Reports. I used to read those all the time until it made me sad that I probably won’t get to live overseas. Fascinating stuff though, and it would indeed make a good model of what kind of information newcomers need to know.

  42. Meowmix*

    Has anyone ever been in a terrible rut at work? I just started a new job coming from a place I was very burned out at and I can’t seem to focus. I find myself reading online articles, Ask a Manager, on facebook and getting distracted. Does anyone have any tips on how to stay focused and energized? I am getting work done but the pace and culture here is a lot slower than where I was coming from. For those of you who have experienced periods like this, how did you get out of this slump and back to work??

    1. Dot Warner*

      Yep! If the pace is slow, maybe you could try getting involved in a professional organization – volunteer to help with political issues they advocate floor or planning their annual meeting. I’ve found that these organization tend to be full of people who are enthusiastic about their jobs, and that tends to rub off.

    2. nof*

      I am in a similar slump after being burnt out at my last job (I posted lower down below before I saw your post) and the Pomodoro method worked for me a for a while. Other than that, I’ll be following this thread for advice!

    3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I had a period like this a couple of years ago. I l-o-v-e to be busy at work, and I was feeling bored and tired of doing the same things. I decided to look at it as an opportunity to have the mental space and physical energy to involve myself in some fun/challenging things outside of work, and I also worked fewer hours (closer to 40 than 50) to emphasize my personal life a bit more for a while. It wasn’t the easiest transition, but I ended up really enjoying it. Things shifted around at work after a while and got busy again, but I’m still enjoying a bit more emphasis on stuff outside of work.

  43. Lee*

    I’ve been working in the field of public relations (with a policy slant) for the past several years, and I’m ready for a change to something less stressful. I’ve had quite enough of the agency life, with its long hours, low pay and demanding clients. But I am clueless as to where to go next! Are there any careers that still offer a 40-hour workweek? Preferably one that doesn’t put its employees on edge every day?

    1. LillianMcGee*

      Nonprofit development? Some legal nonprofits also have policy programs if that’s what you’re into. I don’t know if all nonprofits are as laid back as mine, but we all pretty much work 40 hours, work hard, and don’t kill ourselves!

      1. nof*

        I think nonprofit development can be good hours, but I don’t think most development departments are laid back. I’ve seen too many departments were fundraising and the ED aren’t on the same page which causes tension. Still worth looking into, though!

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I have no idea how widespread this is, but most of the established nonprofits in my area do not expect anyone to work more than 40 to 45 hours, with the exception of a crazy week here and there – it’s not enough pay to ask for 80 hour weeks. However, fundraising/development is the one role that might be an exception. Communications I would expect to be more manageable.

    3. Felicia*

      I work in public relations, in a non profit, and we have a 40 hour work week, and it doesn’t put anyone on edge. It’s pretty laid back, decently paid and it’s not that stressful. If you look at similar jobs in non profits, you might find less stress! All my PR friends who work in non profits work 40 hours a week, and no one is on edge. I did an internship in an agency, and the environment there is so different, i couldn’t do it. So the answer might be the same career, just in a different type of company.

  44. Eugenie*

    I think I posted about this a while ago (maybe under a different name). My boss has announced his retirement this July. This has caused a lot of rumors within the organization and some serious talk of re-structuring (he manages 6 different departments that historically have been put together in a lot of different combinations). I’m currently the closest person to “second-in-command” my boss has and I’ve really enjoyed working with him.

    The last I heard from reliable sources lead me to believe they’re leaning towards not replacing him at all and just have all of his direct reports (the 6 department heads) now report to his boss and use the money from his salary on additional programming. I feel like this is REALLY short-sighted (additional programming is not supported by a lot of people within the organization and requires additional investments that aren’t apparent to people who don’t deal with it regularly). I’ve tried to make these concerns heard, but I’m worried they’re just falling on deaf ears. Not sure I have much say in this whole situation, but I guess I’m just looking for some support or hearing from folks who’ve been through something similar.

    1. Jennifer*

      This kind of thing is bog standard nowadays. If you retire, you won’t be replaced. Pretty much anyone who leaves where I work isn’t replaced. Very occasionally they will replace someone, but that’s only after 3-9 months of trying to do without their position and realizing the hard way that they have to. And if he’s a supervisor/bigwig, they seem to have less incentive to replace them. The money being saved is far more important, and they didn’t even have to lay off the guy to get it!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Will this mean you will be absorbing your boss’ slack when he goes?

      I guess I would make a list of all the things people depend on your boss for. (Okay make a list of the most frequent needs and the most urgent needs) and ask how these matters will be handled without your boss in place.
      Your hope here is that they see the light. If they say you will be absorbing this, maybe you can get a raise.

  45. HR Shenanigans*

    So we’re hiring for a very entry-level position supporting our operations and marketing departments. We recently had someone email in an application for someone else and in the email direct us to contact the person in the resume at a different phone number/email address.

    Has anyone else ever experience this? It just seems so bizarre to me. The person doesn’t meet the base qualifications we’ve set so they will not be moving forward to the phone interview round but it still just baffled me seeing it.

    1. Lia*

      Yes — I was a search committee chair a job that sounds similar to that one, and I had not one but THREE people send me their kid’s resumes for the job. Not one of these kids went through our portal to fill out the app, so we tossed them.


  46. waiting and fading and floating away*

    So I got the news Wednesday: I’m getting called back to the office after 10 years of WFH. I foresaw this happening last year, but there’s a difference between expecting a thing in the abstract, and having that thing happen for real. Ie “we’re going to war!” versus “a bomb fell on my house”.

    I’m still processing it. It concerns me that I’m going back to an ‘open office’. I’ve been WFH for 10 years, and for 10 years before that I had my own office. I’m not sure what it’s going to be like to spend 8+ hours a day with no privacy, no pictures of my family on the wall, no space to call my own, etc.

    Yes, I know I should be happy that I’ve still got a job, and it pays rather well. But I am not certain how well this Old Dog is going to adapt to this new environment.

      1. waiting and fading and floating away*

        > Headphones

        Good idea. I’ve got it covered. Although now I’m wondering if I should look into something like an Oculus Rift.

        *sigh* I can’t win: I’ll be dragging the computer and headphones and etc back and forth every day. I guess I should look for a good backpack, too.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Will you get a desk or something with a lock? You could keep your headphones locked up and not take it back and forth. Will you be required to work both at home/after hours and at work? No point carting a company laptop around if you don’t have to.

          1. Ruthan*

            I wouldn’t expect coworkers to filch headphones, even if your desk drawer doesn’t lock. “Open office” doesn’t mean “all my stuff is accessible to the general public 24/7.” Same goes for monitors.

            If you’ll be taking a laptop back and forth, a good backpack or shoulder bag is totally worth the investment, though — I love my Timbuk2 Alchemist so much that I’m thinking about biking to work just to put it through its paces.

  47. Reluctant Receptionist*

    Throwing this one out to you snazzy people– how does someone grow out of a admin/receptionist role when there’s such low turnover in the organization? only 2 people have left in the 3.5 years I’ve been at the organization. I’ve had multiple conversations with both my supervisor and CEO about wanting to grow out of this role but it’s coming up on 1 year and there’s been no forward movement on this.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      I think you may have to move out to move up. Some places have a lot of continuity and a flat structure so there’s no room to move up. You might ask about taking on additional work/projects outside your scope in the hopes of gaining a promotion/new title. But be careful how much you’re willing/able to take on and still do all the other stuff they want you to do in your existing job.

    2. some1*

      You’re asking the wrong question. Ask for more tasks, responsibilities, etc while you are still the receptionist (of less than a year!), kick ass at the everything you take on for at least several more months, then you will be in a better position to ask for a promotion. Just showing up every day for less than a year isn’t a good enough reason to expect a promotion, vacancy or no.

      Also, unless this company is less than, like, 10 people, I wouldn’t bring the CEO into this discussion again.

      1. some1*

        Oh, I read your post wrong, I thought you had been there less than a year, now I see it’s 3 and a 1/2 years, so I change my answer and agree with CCC – start looking outside the org.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Low turnover is good. . .zero growth is bad. Are you saying that they haven’t added any new positions in 3.5 years? I agree with the others that your best bet is probably looking externally.

    4. Student*

      It’s very pink-collar work that’s hard to “grow” out of. Your best bet is to take some sort of training in the field you’d like to go into (if you haven’t already) and apply for a new job elsewhere once you have the needed credentials.

      There’s a significant, historic view of this being a dead-end job for women, from the time when women either couldn’t or wouldn’t get careers. You’re fighting against a built-in assumption in many of your co-workers and managers that you are an admin/receptionist for life. Even if you do manage to grow your responsibilities at your current job, the odds are good that people will keep asking you to do admin/reception work long after it should’ve been passed down to someone else. Move on if you want to move up.

      1. Molly*

        This is a great point. If you do manage to get promoted out of admin work, your most frequently used job skill for a few months will be “Saying no politely.” I’ve been out of admin work for 4 years, but because I’m at the same company, I still get requests from people who just happen to know that I know how to do X in Word or Excel.

        Honestly the only way I’ve found to make that stop is to pretend I know absolutely nothing about Word, Excel, Outlook, or F&#$!!#$ing printers.

    5. Molly*

      Basically you have to:

      a) be at an organization that believes in promotion from within
      b) kick ass at every detail of your current job
      c) expand your current role to include more of the kind of work you want to do

      If you’re missing any one of these, you’re unlikely to ever be promoted from admin/receptionist.

      I’ve made this move twice in my career, and each time, it’s also taken significant buy-in from my boss. I essentially showed them so many higher-level skills so often that they looked silly keeping me in admin work.

  48. Kerry*

    Is there a business acceptable way to tell my manager I’m very happy with my current job and don’t particularly want to pursue career progression at my company? He’s been encouraging me to think about what skills I want to develop and ‘where I want to go’, which is good to hear, but I like where I am: I love my work when I’m doing it, but I also love that I can clock off after eight hours and read, write, visit museums, spend time with my friends and spouse, etc. I don’t want to move ‘up’ to another role that takes up more of my time.

    1. Dot Warner*

      How about just telling him the truth? “Thanks for your faith in me, but I’m happy where I am.”

      1. lawsuited*

        +1 Except I’d add “I’m happy where I am for now” so that you have room to change your mind later if the right thing comes along.

    2. PX*

      Argh. I know there’s been some similar questions like that here so maybe try searching the archives (or wait for someone with better google-fu than me).

      Otherwise one of the other tips is to think about things like generic trainings/general skills which you could use to freshen up your current skills/learn more – without necessarily being things which automatically mean ‘moving up’. Alternatively, even if you dont want to move ‘up’ – you could still think about how you might like your role to develop (do you really want to be doing the same thing in 10 years? maybe you dont want to manage people, but might be interested in learning more about chocolate teapot spouts in addition to the chocolate teapot handles you currently work with).

      Basically, even if you dont want to move ‘up’ – theres still ways to answer that question which arent ‘No thanks, I’d like to stay here forever’

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        “do you really want to be doing the same thing in 10 years?” +1
        If your company offers training, take it! Right now you may be happy with your work-life balance, but what happens if they get bought out/the economy tanks again and they start downsizing? What if two years from now you’ve read every novel you want and are looking for fresh challenges? Your boss may suggest that you apply for some other position, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it… or next month there could be something that piques your interest. You simply don’t know what lies around the bend.

        1. Kerry*

          What if two years from now you’ve read every novel you want and are looking for fresh challenges?

          Ha, I dream of being able to read every book (not just novels) I want! I may have phrased this in a way that sounds flippant, but just to underline that my main life goals are outside work, not in it – I have a few really exciting challenges and big projects in my life, but they’re things I’m choosing to do, not being compensated for. I genuinely would be happy in 10 years doing the same job – which is challenging but not draining, involves a steady slow increase in skills (like languages) and is well compensated enough that I can do the things I really love. (It’s also in a fairly high demand area and although there’s no way to tell what will happen, I’ve never heard of a colleague or friend in the industry being out of work for more than a month or two. But I don’t think it’s worth worrying about a catastrophe that will change the whole landscape of my industry, because there’s no way to prepare for it without knowing what direction it will be in.)

          I really like the idea of thinking about it in terms of skills acquisition.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Then look at it in that way. Seriously, if your employer said to you “If you start contributing to your retirement plan up to $X per year, we’ll match your contribution” wouldn’t it be worth it to put $100 in to get another $100? If they are willing to offer money or time or both to train you in more languages/better grammar/whatever it is your job requires that would only make you better at your job (which sounds pretty sweet), why wouldn’t you do it? You may not want to move up in role, but gaining more skills could lead to better projects or salary increases or other benefits. It could make you more employable if your spouse wants/has to move to another city/coast/country for their career. Doing what I do, being self employed, *I’m* the one who has to decide what extra training I need, whether or not I have time for it, if I can afford to pay for it, if it’s worth taking. I would absolutely love it if someone said to me “Hey, I’ve got $XK that I’m going to give you so you can study Y and be better at your work.” It’s one of the reasons I buy lottery tickets :P

    3. LMW*

      Since you don’t want to move up, perhaps think about what skills you can develop to get better at what you do? What will help keep it interesting in the long run? How can you continue to increase job security?

  49. Cruciatus*

    Job applications are making me feel stupid. And it’s annoying since I sent in my cover letter and resume. I need some help! Does anyone have any special insights into university employment applications?

    1)Does it matter how I fill out the application and get it back to them? Can I fill it out electronically, or is it better to hand write it (and scan it)? I always wonder if they want to see if you can write legibly? Overthinking it, I know.
    2)Can I get out of putting my driver’s license # (the only time I’d need a car is to get to work, it’s not a driving position)?
    3) They ask about any motor vehicle accidents. I was in once when I was 20 (13 years ago). The other guy was found 100% at fault. I don’t even remember that many details it was so long ago. This seems weird to me as, again, it’s not a driving job.
    4) There is one section that says “Do not complete the next 3 questions until you have spoken to HR or area supervisior”. Those questions are: have the job duties/requirements been explained, do you understand these requirements, can you perform the requirements without reasonable accommodation? Am I supposed to call HR? Do I leave it blank for now and send it back and then they’ll give it back to me if I’m interviewed? WTH?
    5) I have a Master’s degree and there is a section for “highest education received” with 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 16+. Am I 16+ Does it matter that I graduated college in 3 years? I had 4 years’ worth of credits.
    6) Concentration of study…for high school. What? I don’t know how to be un-snarky about it. Do people have special concentrations in high school? I just learned the normal stuff.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      This is a prime example of the one size fits all/nobody application materials at universities. The person driving the mail truck (driver’s license/accident history) gets the same form as the person applying for the research coordinator position (master’s degree not listed on education level).

      Unfortunately, omitting any of these items can probably be grounds for not hiring (or firing you later, if they find out).

      My comments on your questions:

      1) Does it matter how I fill out the application and get it back to them? Can I fill it out electronically, or is it better to hand write it (and scan it)? I always wonder if they want to see if you can write legibly? Overthinking it, I know.

      Fill it out electronically. Nobody at any university I’ve ever worked at cares about your handwriting because we all type everything.

      2)Can I get out of putting my driver’s license # (the only time I’d need a car is to get to work, it’s not a driving position)?

      Probably not.

      3) They ask about any motor vehicle accidents. I was in once when I was 20 (13 years ago). The other guy was found 100% at fault. I don’t even remember that many details it was so long ago. This seems weird to me as, again, it’s not a driving job.

      It’s 13 years ago. You could probably leave it off, but if you put it in, you say “1 accident in 2002, not at fault.”

      4) There is one section that says “Do not complete the next 3 questions until you have spoken to HR or area supervisior”. Those questions are: have the job duties/requirements been explained, do you understand these requirements, can you perform the requirements without reasonable accommodation? Am I supposed to call HR? Do I leave it blank for now and send it back and then they’ll give it back to me if I’m interviewed? WTH?

      I’d take them at their word and leave it blank. If it’s that important, someone is going to come back and ask you to fill it in.

      5) I have a Master’s degree and there is a section for “highest education received” with 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 16+. Am I 16+ Does it matter that I graduated college in 3 years? I had 4 years’ worth of credits.

      I don’t know what country you’re in, but assuming 12 takes you through the end of high school, and you have a master’s degree, you’re 16 plus. You may have done four years of college credits in three years, but it’s still a four year degree so your level doesn’t change.

      6) Concentration of study…for high school. What? I don’t know how to be un-snarky about it. Do people have special concentrations in high school? I just learned the normal stuff.

      I’ve always answered this “college preparatory” (as opposed to vocational program or something else).


    2. TotesMaGoats*

      1. No they aren’t looking at handwriting. Fill it out electronically.
      2. It’s probably for some aspect of background check. Fill it out.
      3. I would say no. I’m not sure why they are asking unless they are using a very generic application that would work all sorts of jobs.
      4. This is super weird but I would leave it blank.
      5. I’d go with 16+. That’s a best guess. And it’s super weird.
      6. It’s a thing now at some high schools. I’d just put something like “college preparatory”.

    3. Sunflower*

      As always, looks like universities are at the top of their hiring game! I can’t comment on anything except 5 and 6
      5. Put 16. I’ve seen other companies work in similar ways. It must be something weird with the way their system classifies people?
      6. I usually just write ‘high school diploma’.

    4. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I can’t help with a lot of this, but I do know that the “standard” answer for area of study in high school is “General Studies.” I would actually *not* put college-prepatory unless you actually went to a prep school (not that anyone is actually looking at this, or at least I super hope they’re not).

      1. Artemesia*

        ‘General studies’ is a code in higher ed for ‘this student can’t cut it and we have to find some way to get him out of here’ — I wouldn’t count on people thinking ‘general studies’ was the classic college prep curriculum. College prep is the academic track in high school; I’d use that as the default. The alternative is Vocational track or some specialty schools do have a focus on science or the arts or whatever, but the classic academic track in high school is called ‘college prep’ and has nothing to do with prep schools.

        1. Cruciatus*

          I don’t know if I’m affected by that or not since I’m applying to be an employee, not a student. I have a Master’s degree so wouldn’t general studies be okay for me to put at this point? Wouldn’t that degree show I can (and did) cut it? I definitely didn’t go to a prep school. Just your normal every day high school (at least as I know them in my region).

    5. Not So NewReader*

      The driver’s license thing is probably for insurance purposes. It could be that the job requires you to drive once in a great while, so they are being extra safe. I don’t think your accident is on your driving record any more, I could be wrong. You can go into DMV online and get your driving record. There is a small charge. But I would not bother doing this if I were in your shoes. It’s just the rules of their insurance company that makes them ask you that question, that’s all.

  50. StarHopper*