interviewer asked me to describe myself in one word, I was fired after only three days, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Interviewer asked me to describe myself in one word

Although I felt well prepared for a recent job interview for an internal position at my organization, there was one question that threw me: “Describe yourself in one word.” What is the purpose of this? Admittedly the first word that came to mind probably wasn’t appropriate to answer with. I ended up saying “balanced.” But it was really awkward to just say this, and then full stop. There doesn’t seem to be any room for further discussion when you’re only asked for one word. They didn’t follow up with why. It felt vaguely like some sort of psychoanalytic test. What if I said, “sparklehorse”?

It’s a crap question. It puts people on the spot, it’s gimmicky, and it’s unlikely to produce particularly useful information. There are so many more useful questions they could be asking instead that would get at what you’re actually like than a single word picked under pressure will (for example, “how would your coworkers describe you?”) that it’s hard to see it as anything other than bad interviewing by someone who isn’t particularly thoughtful about the questions they’re asking.

2. I was fired after only three days

Last week, I was notified by a staffing agency that I was selected for a customer service position they had with one of their clients. I started on a Monday, but on Wednesday my recruiter at the staffing firm notified me that that she received some negative feedback, and that the client had chosen to end my assignment. I had forgotten to check my email before I started making calls that day, and there was an email with some very important information regarding what we tell customers. A manager came to me and said, “Don’t look at the call lists from the day before, because they were already picked up by other agents.” My recruiter said that they told me some information to tell customers (I don’t remember that). However, my recruiter told me the other new candidates followed suit. So my recruiter told me that I was giving the clients the wrong information, and they had to backtrack and call all of these clients and notify them. My recruiter told that they got the impression that I don’t follow directions.

In the three days I was there, I made every effort to my knowledge to perform my duties the best that I could. Every time my manager notified me of something I needed to be doing differently (that I remember), I did. Other than this mistake that I made, for which I am sincerely sorry, I have put forth effort. And I don’t feel that three days is adequate in assessing someone’s ability. And I feel I should have been conferenced about this first. Is this mistake steep enough to warrant a termination? In so little time (same day)? I followed all of the directions that I knew of, and this is no excuse but I am diagnosed with ADD, though I’m currently not receiving treatment for it.

Well, they think it’s enough to warrant dismissing you, and that’s their prerogative. I don’t know if they acted rashly or not, but it does sound like there were other mistakes being made too, so it’s possible that they reasonably concluded that it wasn’t quite the right fit. And one reason some employers use staffing agencies is so that if they’re not happy with someone’s work, they can easily and quickly replace the person with someone else.

Effort is good, but ultimately employers are going to judge you on the quality and accuracy of your work. If you do think that your ADD might be playing a role, it might be worth revisiting it and seeing if that helps in future jobs. Good luck.

3. My company HR rep is in a LinkedIn employment group I joined

I recently joined my college LinkedIn employment network group. I am in the process of looking for a new job while I am still employed. As I was scrolling through the “see who else is in this network” list, I came upon an employee who works in the HR department of the company where I currently work. She is a recruiter and apparently a graduate of the same college as I. It is unclear if she is on this network as a recruiter for the company or if she is seeking an employment move away from our current company.

I am now worried about posting any questions or seeking guidance from this group. Do you think she has the ability to let the HR department know I am on this network and looking for employment? If she knows I am looking for work outside of my current company, is that grounds for them to fire me? I feel stuck as I was excited to add to my search through this site but am unwilling to risk loosing my job.

Yes, she could do that, although it’s far from a sure thing that she would. And yes, some employers do push people out if they find out they’re looking, although it would be pretty unusual for that to happen simply because you’ve joined an alumni networking group. In fact, I’d frame it to yourself that way and if anyone happens to ask you about it: it’s an alumni networking group and you hope to connect with and be helpful to other alumni. That means that you probably can’t post specific job-searching messages to the whole group, but it shouldn’t stop you from using it to connect with people more discreetly.

4. Can I ask to the change the start date for my new job a second time?

I recently asked my new job for a different start date from what was specified on the agreement letter due to a family affair. Unfortunately, I was notified a few days later that my family event was moved to the week after, due to some complications in the scheduling. It’s an important event that I should go to, but I feel uncomfortable asking my new employer to change the start date again. Should I commit to what I had already confirmed to my employer or explain the situation and ask for another change?

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to ask for a second change in start date either; it risks you looking flaky and/or uncommitted to the new job. I think you’re stuck with the new start date and shouldn’t ask to change it again.

5. I haven’t yet received the scholarship letter I was promised

I’m a graduate student in a field where receiving a stipend (not much, but enough to live on with a roommate or two) is quite common. Upon my admission to the university, I received an email from one of the professors in charge of admission telling me that they were impressed enough with my background that if I attended, the department chair would send a letter offering me a scholarship that would be given as an increase in my stipend. That letter never arrived.

I’m unsure what to do — I don’t want to spend a lot of time chasing money, especially because the two professors involved ended up on my academic committee, and I don’t want to give them a bad impression, but on the other hand, the promised scholarship was more than a 10% increase in my yearly stipend, and I could really use it! Is there a way to bring this up softly, or should I just forget about it?

You don’t need to tiptoe around this or find a way to bring it up softly. It’s fine to just be straightforward and direct. Email the professor today and say this: “I wanted to touch base with you about the letter you mentioned I’d be receiving about the increase in my stipend. I haven’t received it yet and just wanted to make sure that I didn’t somehow miss it!”

{ 262 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth

    Regarding #3 … You could just block the HR person on LinkedIn. Then she can’t see what you’re up to, even if you’re in the same group.

    1. Product person

      I don’t think LinkedIn works the way you think it does. Blocking someone from your profile does not block them from seeing your posts in Groups. If it worked that way, think how weird threads would look, with holes in them from hidden messages written by people who blocked you.

      Moreover, even if it was true, you could still get in trouble by posting there. Say you are John working on the pharmaceutical industry. Mary is the HR person you blocked.

      [Moderator of the Group] Hi, everyone! If you are looking for a candidate for an opening at your company, or seeking a new opportunity, do post here so we can help each other out.

      [You] Hi, everyone! I’m starting to look for my new challenge, and would appreciate if anyone with knowledge of product jobs in the pharmaceutical industry would let me know of any opportunities.

      [Another person]: Hi, John! Good to see you here. We do have a couple of job openings here at [Biggest competitor of John’s firm]. I’ll send you the details via private message and we can talk.

      —-
      Even if all of John’s messages were blocked to Mary, here’s what she’d see:

      [Moderator of the Group] Hi, everyone! If you are looking for a candidate for an opening at your company, or seeking a new opportunity, do post here so we can help each other out.

      [Blocked message]

      [Another person]: Hi, John! Good to see you here. We do have a couple of job openings here at [Biggest competitor of John’s firm]. I’ll send you the details via private message and we can talk.

      (It may be very easy for Mary to connect the dots and realize that the “John” mentioned in the reply is the same working at her company.)

      1. thelazyb

        no idea about linked in, but that’s how I discovered that someone had blocked me on fb. the resulting threads were very weird.

        1. themmases

          Yeah, I have a couple of people blocked (contacts of my mom’s who have a nasty racist, political, or just rude response for everything she ever posts, no I don’t know why she doesn’t unfriend them) and I see lots of conversations with weird holes. I don’t know about LinkedIn, but the fact that some public conversations wouldn’t make sense isn’t a good reason to take all the teeth out of blocking someone, and in fact Facebook for one handles it pretty much like Elizabeth suggested.

          Product person is correct that you can often tell what’s going on in the other half of the conversation, which is why I’ve never felt tempted to unblock these people! I think it’s a stretch to say that the HR could put two and two together based on a casual first-name conversation in a large alumni group though.

      2. Merry and Bright

        My manager from my Toxic Job joined one of my LinkedIn groups. I dealt with it by leaving the group.

    1. BRR

      I’m a fan of the OP’s “sparklehorse.” I’m going to start asking this question in interviews and if they answer with sparklehorse I will know they’re an AAM reader.

      1. Anonicorn

        I loved it because it reminded me of Buttstallion. Which is a fairly vague video game reference.

    2. HB

      This was for sorority rush, not a job (thank heavens) but I actually said “high-strung, like a poodle” when asked that question at age 18. So not only can I not follow directions, but that’s a pretty terrible answer.

      1. Elizabeth West

        When I joined the TKE Little Sis org in college, the brothers interviewed me. One of them asked what my bra size was and my answer was, “None of your damn business.” I got a resounding ovation and a unanimous vote. :)

  2. voyager1

    #2 I was in a similar spot with a job many years ago. I was let go at 2 weeks, it really hurt. But now when I look at it nearly a decade later, I realize I was way in over my head.

    I wish you the best, don’t let this get you down.

  3. snuck

    #2 I’m sorry this has happened to you, it must be really difficult to have been so keyed up and engaged and let go before you felt like you could really get some runs on the board.

    I’m wondering if it was a highly regulated industry (finance, legal, government services, banking, telecommunications etc) where small mistakes are dangerous (financially) or a lack of attention could become Very Messy Very Quickly for both the organisation and the client. It sounds like this have a specific person in mind and you didn’t meet that in those quick few days – one consolation may be that you are early enough out of the job search that you might still have other irons in the fire and you haven’t had to reject other jobs yet or stopped searching completely so are starting cold again?

    And yes, if you think it’s ADD related maybe spend some time researching how ADD works.

    My last thought was if they had to go and call a whole day’s worth of your clients and correct them that’s a) time consuming and FTE costly, b) possibly there could have been compensation costs involved as well as reputation damage and c) they might have felt they couldn’t trust you to get it right next time and therefore cut you loose immediately rather than have to manage and watch you closely often.

    Again. It must feel really awful and I’m sorry you have found yourself in this position – I hope your perfect job springs up next week.

    1. snuck

      “And yes, if you think it’s ADD related maybe spend some time researching how ADD works.” Sorry… I got interrupted … I mean tot say “And yes, if you think it’s ADD related maybe spend some time researching how ADD works, and look at whether there’s something you can do differently at work”.

    2. INTP

      Industry could play a role. Or if it’s a call center position, they might just be deciding quickly whether someone lacks the particular soft skill set to deal with that sort of highly structured, fast paced job.

      Regarding ADHD – OP, I do recommend reading about it, the ways it affects you, and the non medication ways to treat it. But the value in that might lie more in knowing what type of work to avoid than making your brain work well at any job. I’m on medication and manage all my lifestyle factors but I don’t think all the effort in the world would make me capable of being good at call center work. (I also lasted 3 days at one – luckily I found another job and quit but I think I was on my way out.)

    3. GreatLakesGal

      A thing that can happen with ADD is that one gets used to the feeling of always being slightly fuzzy about the details. It feels ” normal,” and so doesn’t trigger the spidey-sense that folks without ADD use to act on getting more/better information, necessary resources, etc, before starting a task which requires additional clarity and specificity.

      In other words, one can’t tell when one doesn’t know enough to be getting on with.

      In the situation you describe, the expectation for an agency temp really is to function with reasonable accuracy and the initiative to ensure accuracy.

      I’m afraid that having to re-do an entire day’s worth of an essential job function would be a deal-breaker at my worksite, especially if that function involves external clients.

      This unfortunate situation does give you really important information about the type of work that may not be a good fit for you, and as we’ve seen here before, that can save you years of frustration.

      Best of luck, OP!

      1. Ad Astra

        A thing that can happen with ADD is that one gets used to the feeling of always being slightly fuzzy about the details.

        I’ve never heard anyone describe ADD this way, but it’s so dead on for me. Without medication, details are completely lost on me. It’s like I know of a certain task/concept/policy/plan but I never know the task/concept/policy/plan when I’m unmedicated.

        1. INTP

          Same here. I’ve never thought of it that way, but it’s so, so true for me. Even with medication, I have two modes – ignoring any detail that doesn’t seem important to me, which means I’m missing a large amount of what’s important to other people, or totally overcompensating and obsessively trying to account for every detail no matter how small. Now I work in Quality so my overcompensation mode is an asset, but it sure can be exhausting!

          I do this in every part of my life, too. Keeping a reasonably clean apartment is a huge ordeal for me because I have no eye for what looks like “too dirty/messy” versus “good enough” to other people, so I will start out by, like, spending 8 hours scrubbing my dishes perfectly clean and then have no time left to pick up the objects strewn all over the floor.

          1. Alexandrina

            May I suggest un-f your habitat?
            You can find it by searching unfyh.
            It’s support and tips for people who have trouble cleaning. Depression, back pain, not well taught on the basics, etc. Main focus there is that you can’t hyper-focus on one thing then do nothing else, and its dangerous to your health to work non-stop.

      2. MsM

        Or it’s just a painful but useful reminder that it’s important to check your email or check in with your supervisor before you get started for the day to make sure you’re not overlooking anything. I know you did your best based on the information you thought you had, but I can understand why the company didn’t want to risk having to redo the work or do damage control with the customers again.

    4. NickelandDime

      I really like your answer, Snuck. I think people don’t give enough thought to things like how their brains work, neurotypical or not, and what work they would be best at. It would save so many people a lot of heartache and thinking they are “dumb,” when they just need to find positions that tap into the skills they have.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Yes, this a thousand times! I was just talking to someone about this the other day–he said he had trouble with X sometimes, and I said well maybe that’s not the way your brain works. You might have a different processing style and it works better when you do Y. He was like, “Yeah, I never thought about that.” Yay for Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory. That failed grad school education did come in handy for a second. :)

    5. Anon369

      It does seem a bit odd to me that they’d give a task to a temp on days 1-3 that would have such a high cost to re-do/un-do. Do others use temps this way? I temped for a while and it was typically office admin kind of stuff. Nothing that would be tough.

      I wonder if the OP dodged a bullet.

      1. Lucky

        I thought the same thing. If one temp’s failure to read a single email caused the company to re-do a day’s work, maybe they should be doing more training/oversight of that temp, or deliver the email message in a different way, i.e., print it out and hand it to everyone, lock people out of the call system until they’ve read it, have an actual live person deliver the information and follow up with an email, etc.

        1. NickelandDime

          Right! An email that caused a company to re-do an entire day’s work shouldn’t have been in an email in the first place. That’s a conversation that needs to take place face to face. Emails get lost, deleted, misunderstood, etc.

          Screw these people.

      2. Today's Satan

        To be fair to the company, the other temps they hired to do the same thing were able to accomplish the task without a need for a big do-over. So it couldn’t be all that complicated.

    6. Valar M.

      Yeah OP, I worked as a CSR at an insurance co at one point. The training was dodgy and constantly changing. I am a very quick learner and never had an issue at any other job. I asked for guidance on several items, and never got it. Clients were frustrated because the new training class couldn’t answer questions quickly or efficiently enough for them. Several people were let go even though it was probably 95% the fault of the trainers, though as complicated as the system was they probably felt like they couldn’t train us. I didn’t get fired but quit soon after when I realized that I was giving people vital information that affected their lives in major ways and could never be sure if it was correct. Not to mention it was frustrating to be trying to do the job correctly and not feeling like I was really getting the opportunity.

    7. Stranger than fiction

      Highly regulated, yet it sounds like her training and instruction was mostly via email? Actually, why was she on the phones already and not shadowing someone for at least the first week? This seems so weird to me.

      1. Jessa

        Because temps never get the training regular employees do. They’re expected to be up and going fast, and have that skillset. I worked for Kelly at a bank that did credit cards for stores. Corporate training was three months. You learnt everything. Temp training was a week and 2 days of that was on the phones doing easy calls. Yes they limited us to one store brand card set, but still, we had to be up and running and doing the work. Unless the idea is temp to hire, you’re only going to be there for x days/months. Most companies have rules about going over 12 months because they don’t want to be seen as having used temps to avoid a union or permanent employees.

        That’s actually the main, number one skill needed by temps. Go in there and do things with a fraction of the training/info the person sitting next to you got, and do it to the same standards they do.

        And my ADHD is the reason I am the number one crib sheet provider in nearly every job, temp or otherwise, that I’ve had. If I don’t have the task set down on paper in order, and immediately make changes if something new comes in, I will NEVER be able to remember how to do it. Then everyone including the permanent employees wants copies of my stuff.

    8. Todd

      I spoke with my recruiter yesterday, and she actually said that it wasn’t all of the calls made, but just a few. For the most part I was doing my job correctly. She said it may have had something to to do with the client I was handling, thigh the employees I spoke with for this client were for the most part rather laid back, I think they would have understood that it was only my third day. And I was diagnosed with ADD as a child, and I’m very sure right now that it has transferred into adult ADD.

      1. kara

        I’m a little late to this thread, but I worked as a temp for a long long time (I liked the flexibility). There are some places that hire temps to fill in for people who are out sick and they NEED someone who catches on quickly. 3 days is generous for some places.

        There was one place I temped many years ago as a receptionist. It wasn’t a difficult job, but for the life of me I couldn’t pronounce the name of the company correctly. It wasn’t FAR wrong and in another day or two I’d have been ok. (As a close example, imagine the name of the company was Markwell and I kept saying Marxwell). They let me go after one day. Was it fair? Maybe, maybe not. If they’d given me another day to keep carefully saying the right name, it would have been fine. But factually, the switchboard got hundreds of calls an hour and I was messing up more than 50% of the time because I was moving so fast.

        That’s life as a temp. Some companies cut temps slack because they’re temps. Some companies expect a temp to be able to be 90% functional in a day or two because that’s the point of hiring a temp to cover for someone who’s out.

        It sucks and I’m sorry you had to deal with it, but it’s good knowledge for going forward for you – you need a job that has a little more ramp up/training time than this one did.

    1. UKAnon

      Heh, now I just want to try and find the most obscure word possible in case that question ever arises…

      “Aporetic.”

      1. Applesauced

        “I’ll give you a topic… Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island. Discuss”

  4. Jen S. 2.0

    It’s unfortunate that #2 had a short duration, but, as Alison said, companies often use staffing and temp agencies precisely so they can do a quick hire, and then a quick release…for any reason. They don’t HAVE to give you a fair chance.

    If that’s an issue, then you probably should go through a traditional hiring process.

    1. Jen S. 2.0

      …also note that being a contractor is essentially the same thing. The company did not do a full-time hire precisely so they don’t have to deal with the rigmarole of hiring or firing a full-time, regular employee. They can let you go whenever. Your primary purpose is to be, essentially, disposable. (Conversely, you have the advantage of being able to accept or decline work at will, which an employee does not.)

    2. INTP

      Yeah, and I don’t necessarily think it’s even unethical or wrong of the company. There is no investment, which goes both ways – no one is moving or quitting their job for a temp assignment. If this is high volume, high turnover work, I could see it being more cost effective to let anyone who isn’t catching on after a few days or doesn’t seem to have the temperament to do well in the work go rather than investing another employee’s time in training them more closely. (OP, I’m not saying you couldn’t succeed and deserve to be fired. Just that I can see the company’s side here too, and it’s part of the arrangement that neither of you are long term invested.)

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Well yeah, but it’s a shame nonetheless. I mean, that speaks volumes about how little they value the employees in this role (and yet, they need perfection) and they didn’t even talk to her about it.

        1. Green

          I think someone below captured it well — it’s”speed dating” for employment. I don’t think it necessarily says anything about how they value the role, just that they need it filled quickly with someone who can do the work.

        2. Jen S. 2.0

          …which is why they don’t have an EMPLOYEE in the role. That’s precisely why they got a temp.

        3. INTP

          If this is a call center or other sort of high volume, make-100-calls-a-day type environment, it makes sense in my opinion. Sometimes what you need to do the job is more temperament and soft skills than anything that can be coached. It’s not that they don’t value the position, it’s just that success in the position is more a matter of innate skills than experience or training. Specific background knowledge isn’t required, training is minimal, but the person absolutely must have the natural ability to handle work that is both fast paced and structured/detailed – so it’s a lot faster to start over with training than to try to coach someone who doesn’t have the temperament for the work into being able to do it. It seems to me like the OP fell quite short of perfection, so I wouldn’t necessarily accuse the company of expecting perfection.

          I see why feelings might be hurt over the company not speaking to fired employees, but that’s essentially what they’re paying the staffing agency to do. The onsite manager should do coaching, but if they decide that they definitely want the employee gone (which IMO was reasonable here), they are paying the agency to have those awkward conversations. It’s pretty standard for the agency recruiter to do the firing. To the company’s credit, they did give the staffing agency all of the information about the reasons to relay to the person – sometimes they will just say “It’s a personality issue” or something without concrete information.

          1. Jen S. 2.0

            “It seems to me like the OP fell quite short of perfection, so I wouldn’t necessarily accuse the company of expecting perfection.”

            Agree with this. It sounds like it may have been an either-you-get-it-or-you-don’t type of thing, and OP3 was unlikely to get it. There’s no blame to be assigned and it’s no one’s fault, but…it wasn’t going to work, and they could see it even if OP3 couldn’t. Trying to make it work may have meant spending 3 months getting OP3 up to a C+, and the work was only scheduled to last 6 weeks. (I’ve encountered jobs like this in my life. There is a reason I do not work in sales. I had one interview for a door-to-door cold-calling-type thing, and…no. Those are not my skills.)

            I also think I don’t view this kind of thing as “getting fired.” Temp jobs are more like tryouts. Or, to use the dating analogy, not connecting with someone after one cup of coffee is not really “getting dumped.” Doesn’t make you a bad person, just means you’re not their mate.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      I like having temporary agency placements in our mix because it allows us to give an opportunity to non-traditional, sparse resume or higher risk candidates. The guy who is team lead in a small department right now started out as a temp employee with a swiss cheese resume and difficulty finding a job. He’s great but you couldn’t tell that by the resume.

      Temporary employees do not go through anywhere near the careful selection process that hires do. The selection takes place during the assignment. We do one, relatively brief, interview and have the person start with 1 to 5 days, depending on their schedule. Our fail rate is about 1 in 3 in the first couple weeks and the full time hire rate is about 1 in 3 after three months. Sometimes people don’t make it past a few days.

      1. Merry and Bright

        It’s true but depends on the agency. The agency I worked for for two years had a lot of government contracts and I had detailed reference checks, an enhanced criminal record check and anti-terrorism checks. I’m still working in a government agency in the UK but on a direct contract although I began as a temp. These agency checks were pretty normal for the type of work though not the general workplace. With a few agencies I interviewed with, I was surprised how slapdash it seemed. Mostly they sit sonewhere in the middle.

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

        Yeah, I went through an agency to hire my last assistant for exactly this reason…i didn’t have enough money to hire someone experienced and I had done a bad job hiring two before her (I have tons of experience hiring people in my field, and apparently didn’t know what to look for in an entry level admin). I really liked knowing that I could try more than one person quickly if I needed to. It turned out that the first person was a great fit, though.

  5. Nina

    #2: Allison is right; staffing agencies can let you go with no real notice because they can just bring someone else in the next day. A few years ago, I fell into a great temp job. Good pay, local, and the work was interesting. The manager told me that they usually kept the temps on full time, so I figured my odds were good. There were several temps in the office who had been there a few years.

    So one morning before I left for work, I get a call from the staffing agency telling me the company was ending my assignment, because I wasn’t “a good fit.” They wouldn’t even let me get my things from the office, the agency would send them to me. I was really upset and I called the agency several times trying to get some answers, but there was no real resolution. Eventually I had to let it go and move on because it was driving me crazy and I figured something else better would come along, and it did.

    If you did make some mistakes, then try to be cognizant of them so you don’t make them again, but don’t dwell on this job. I know it’s difficult, but just mentally close that chapter and move on. Best of luck to you.

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever

      There is a big difference in relationships and action between employees and temps. If this were an employee who made a mistake, then invest time in fixing it and move forward.

      Since this was a temp, then cut the loss and move on. It’s unfortunate, but that’s often the thinking in temp culture – if the temp can’t perform, replace immediately with someone who can.

  6. OP #1

    Haha, I like your responses. For the record, I just found out I got the job. So maybe if you get this question in the future, try balanced.

    Or sparklehorse.

    1. Merry and Bright

      I did get this question a while back. I said “reliable” but didn’t get the job. Another time I will try “balanced”.

      I will find a use for sparklehorse though:)

    2. Blue Anne

      Congratulations! I’ll have to remember to seem balanced in interviews. Which is always difficult for me. ;)

    3. Persehone Mulberry

      I bet it was the “one word and shut up”-ness of your response that sealed it. I can see a lot of candidates going “I’d say ‘balanced’ because blah blah blah….”

      Hope you enjoy the new job!!

      1. Elysian

        That is exactly what I would have done. Would that have been wrong? Maybe it would be a bad answer, but it is also a bad question, so…

    4. Sadsack

      Congratulations! Maybe when you are there long enough you might feel comfortable asking the reasoning for this question. And maybe you’ll come back and share your insights with us?

    5. Prismatic Professional

      Congratulations! :-D

      Sparklehorse reminded me I named Ixion in Final Fantasy X “Sparkle.” It made my morning more awesome. Thanks!

    6. Sarah

      Congratulations!

      Once you’ve been there for a bit, can you ask them what the best/worst word they were given were and give us an update? :-D

      1. OP #1

        Haha, yeah I think I’ll have to, part of my job includes recruiting new employees, so I’ll probably cut out that question first thing if I’ve got the power! Otherwise I’ll take note of some of the best responses :)

  7. Worker Bee (Germany)

    #4 Couldn’t OP4 go back to the company and explain the situation? Offering that s/he could start at the companies original start date and if s/he could instead get a day or two of to go to the family event later that month?

    1. Worker Bee (Germany)

      Rethink my own question.. It still might look a bit flaky. For me as your future boss it would depend on what kind of family event. Wedding or funeral I most defenitly would try to make it work for the OP.

      1. UKAnon

        This is what I was thinking. As was said yesterday, you *can* ask and it doesn’t matter what the reason is as that shouldn’t figure in the manager’s thinking, but when you are new and unknown, you have to be prepared for the conclusions they will draw unless it’s wedding/funeral/last chance to see Gran before she moves abroad forever. Which is more important OP – attending or your reputation at your new work?

        (If you don’t need the extra time, I would also offer to move your start date back and explain why – even if they say no because that would now be a hassle, it means you won’t get caught out with “Oh I didn’t actually need that time” later on, which can also be awkwardness)

    2. Adelaide

      You kind of never want to start out at a job by immediately asking for time off. In my experience as an employee doing so and as a manager getting asked, it has gone profoundly poorly in probably 80% of cases. As a person who who has a very, VERY large family (one parent is one of eight children, the other is one of 11), I got shut down a whole heck of a lot when I started working, and for many years thereafter. Now as a manager I only really tolerate this for large (like “major life event” large) events in which hires actively play a role. If you’re the maid of honor in a wedding that was set many months ago, I’m likely to give you the time. If you want to go to a family birthday barbecue on the weekend, make your apologies and send a nice gift/card.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        We don’t have a problem with people asking for (reasonable) planned ahead time off when they accept a job offer. We have someone starting next week who has a planned family vacation at the end of the month and will be off a week.

        Much, much better done at acceptance than asking off after a week on the job.

        Re the OP, changing your start date a second time would not be a good idea.

        1. Merry and Bright

          I agree. Also, sometimes the employer brings it up at the interview or offer stage.

        2. Gene

          When I was offered CurrentJob, I said that I had a planned vacation the week they wanted me to start for a family reunion 4 states away (and for you East Coasters, 4 states out here is a 2-3 day drive). We agreed to delay my start date to the end of the month. I turned in my 3 week notice, stayed a week, then took the vacation, returned and gave back my keys and cards, and started work the following Monday. Never missed a day of pay, though I told everyone at the reunion I was currently unemployed for the sympathy.

      2. the gold digger

        I have done it twice – accepted a job and explained I already had a planned vacation two weeks after the start date. Neither employer blinked at all. ER #1 didn’t even bother to tell payroll not to pay me, although I said that of course it should be unpaid time off.

      3. Lily in NYC

        Wow, my experience has been completely different than yours. It is very common for people to ask for time off when they first start for pre-planned events – may I ask what you mean about it going very poorly in 80% of the instances? What actually goes poorly? I’m not sure if I’m reading this correctly.

        1. Retail Lifer

          Pre-planned events are OK, as long as you bring them up late in the inetrview stage or the offer stage. Sometimes not having the candidate available right when you need them might sway the hiring decision in favor of someone else (i.e. in retail, you CAN’T miss Black Friday). In this case, though, I think the issue is that the OP might be perceived as unreliable since they already changed the start date once. It isn’t necessarily a huge red flag, but it makes them seem less committed.

        2. Artemesia

          My son just had the start of a new job delayed for his own wedding. That did seem like something you would want to accommodate.

      4. Stranger than fiction

        In general, I agree. But I have noticed, that it’s common for new employers to actually ask if you have any upcoming vacations planned upon hiring or at the very end of the interviewing process, to give the candidate/new employee a chance to say “well, I have a wedding in October that I’ve had planned for months”. Seeing that the Op’s event got changed, though, I highly doubt it’s a wedding. However, it does look a little flakey to postpone the start date again because, as others have said, they really don’t know her yet.

    3. neverjaunty

      But the situation is “after I already moved my start date to accommodate my family’s event, my family changed when the event was going to happen.” OP already did the right thing by getting one change of date to accommodate her family. A second time is indeed going to make her look unreliable – plus, honestly, it’s not reasonable of her family to ask her to keep screwing with her new job because they had a change in plans.

      1. Xarcady

        I agree. I know the LW wants to attend the family function, but changing the date after she has managed to get a delayed start from her new employer–that really means that the LW won’t be there. And the family that caused the change should be able to understand this. If they don’t, it on them.

        I feel for the letter writer. My family is large, and getting larger with the next generation. But there’s only so much vacation time. This is one of those times when the LW has tried her best to attend and the people planning the function have had to change the date. They must realize that not all their guests will have the flexibility to move their schedules around to accommodate this change.

        1. Persehone Mulberry

          True enough! And who knows, depending on the event and OP’s role, the family may be willing work around the OP’s schedule if the alternative is that she can’t attend at all.

      2. Artemesia

        Agree. This is a chance to teach the family that they can’t yank people around and expect them to show for these events. It would be a big mistake at work and also a mistake within the family to sacrifice a new job for a social event. Be the person who needs to be considered not the person who is taken for granted and always trampled when family plans.

        1. VintageLydia USA

          Mr. Vintage’s family can be like this. Even now, after over a decade of living out of the house, and 6 years out of the area entirely, they still expect him to drop everything to attend an event with maybe a week of notice. They like to point to his cousins who can–because they’re stay at home parents or live local. Like, we’d love to come down for Grandpa’s birthday but we already are taking a week off less than a month from now specifically to hang out with the grandfather and the other family members in the area.

      3. Since I have not heard from you on this, I have to assume your priorities have changed.

        I gues I’m in the minority, but I really don’t see a problem with asking to move the start date again in these circumstances. I don’t see how anyone could rationally view OP as being “unreliable” based on her family’s planning snafus.

        Still, if I were OP, I’d talk to my new employer and say “I’m sorry that I’m asking for another change. But I want you to know that this is it. This is the last one. If my family decides to pull the rug out from under me again – I’ll just tell them I’m sorry but I can’t make it.” And then I’d turn around and tell my family what I’d done.

        Back when my parents were alive, I skipped out on a couple of family reunion because of work, and I regret it now. There are some group pictures from the even that have 150+ people in them. Organizing a large event like that is not easy. I do not remember if they slipped the date once or twice, but I could see it happening.

        1. sittingduck

          I think the OP could look unreliable because it could seem like they are just making up excuses to start later. While we are inclined to believe her that the family event date changed, the new employer doesn’t know her at all, and could think that a fun opportunity came up, and she is using the ‘family event’ as an excuse to get to do the other opportunity.

          Is this fair? No. But some people do think like this, and could think OP is taking advantage of the new employees generosity in moving back the start date once already.

          When you start with a new employer they don’t know if you are trust-worthy – therefore you have to build up that trust before you can expect them to just take your word for anything.

          This is why I think people are saying she could look unreliable – not because her family changed plans, but because the employer doesn’t KNOW that the employee is telling the truth, because they don’t have a rapport yet.

  8. NutellaNutterson

    I accepted a job offer and gave a heads-up that a grandparent was likely passing away very soon. Obviously I couldn’t predict when, so I wanted to find out how difficult it was to request leave without pay. I ended up taking the lwop the following month, and it felt far less flaky since I’d brought it up as part of the hiring process.

    1. Sweatin' like a pig

      It was very similar for me – I alerted my job-to-be that my parent had terminal cancer. I had my first week at work, then was off a week for my wedding, then back at work for a week, then off a week to go deal with funeral stuff. Was it ideal? No. But my office was very understanding, particularly as I then didn’t take any time off until the following year (pushed my honeymoon back).

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      Yeah, I would have said yes to this with no hesitation. It’s certainly not something that would make me question your priorities. Like others said, if it was a barbecue or some non life event that is different. Also, to me having time off after a month is very different than your first week or two.

  9. Chocolate Teapot

    I started my job on the first of the month (a Monday) and took the Friday off as I had pre-booked travel for a major family event which had been planned even before I applied.

    But after that, I did not take any holiday for several months.

  10. Labyrinth

    LW 2: I’m so sorry, mate. I have ADD too and I’m intimately familiar with the line between “remembering almost everything” (as most people do) and “remembering ALMOST everything”.

    ADD is weird, because it’s so close to “normal”. Other people don’t remember everything either, they screw up, they get delayed sometimes, and I only forget, screw up and delay just a tiny bit more than a completely able-bodied person. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t shrink that margin of error, and it’s enough to make me fail. It’s like the high jump – you need to clear the bar. You can sail over it, you can touch it and leave it shuddering, but it shouldn’t fall.

    I just can’t get over that last half inch without meds. With meds, I can clear the bar (only barely, but it helps to work on my technique), without meds I touch and fail, no matter how hard I try or how skilled I am. I have a really sophisticated system for calendars, reminders, routines, planning, EVERYTHING, but even if you have perfect jumping technique, you won’t clear the bar if you lack power and stamina.

    If it feels like they’re demanding unreasonable perfection from you (which I get, so much), that’s a sign that you need to check your ADD again. Nobody can do well with a mind like a sieve, because it leaves no margin of error. If you do have a sieve-like mind, you WOULD need to be perfect to do as well as other people, and that’s impossible, because no one is perfect. They do well because they aren’t at the very limit of their ability. If they temporarily slack just a little, they still clear the bar, but if you slack (which is INEVITABLE, because EVERYONE’S attention slacks unconsciously every day), you crash into it.

    I can’t tell you what to do, I just wanted to validate that the struggle is real. There are a few solutions that help some people like us, and I hope you find something that gives you a few more fractions of an inch in clearance over that bar.

    1. BRR

      “They do well because they aren’t at the very limit of their ability. If they temporarily slack just a little, they still clear the bar, but if you slack (which is INEVITABLE, because EVERYONE’S attention slacks unconsciously every day), you crash into it.”

      I’ve been struggling and this sums it up so perfectly. It’s like trying to get my car to go faster when I’m already pressing the gas pedal to the floor.

    2. Dreaming of Self-employment

      +1000000000 Thank you. As a fellow ADHDer, that was beautiful. I wish more people understood it.

    3. plain_jane

      As someone without ADHD, I really appreciate this post to get a bit of a window into your experience. Thankyou.

    4. Catherine from Canada

      This describes Asperger’s so well too. Thank you.
      Something I’ve been trying to get across to my family – especially my husband – is that when I make a social mistake (pick one of the thousands of possibilities), I’m not doing it AT them, I’m doing it because even with my best effort, I can only jump so high.

      1. Tau

        Another person with AS here and I admit I’ve become very bitter about the fact that I can do all sorts of emotional damage to myself by trying too hard to learn social cues and end up in scary, scary situations because I’ve learned to prioritize “looking neurotypical” in ways I really shouldn’t… and *still* have people act like I’m “not putting enough effort in”. Sometimes it makes you wonder why you bother at all.

        It’s also a fantastic metaphor for executive dysfunction stuff, as well – probably not too much of a surprise given the symptom overlap here is pretty big. Still, I know I’ve often felt as though my best days in terms of time management and organisation and getting stuff done are equivalent to most people’s average to slightly good days and my “average” is equivalent to other people’s “slump”.

    5. Ad Astra

      This really resonates with me. On bad days, it feels like the forgetful and ‘careless’ mistakes are totally out of my control. And yes, meds do a lot to reduce the number of bad days.

    6. Erin

      Thank you for this explanation. I don’t know much about ADD, and have a close friend with it, and this provides so much insight.

    7. straws

      This is an amazing analogy. I don’t have ADD, but we have an employee who does (not assumed, he’s diagnosed and has informed us). Unfortunately, it’s painfully obvious that he’s off his meds and/or struggling with his control, and this describes his current behavior really, really well. For those who have ADD/ADHD, is there a good way to gently point this out to him? He’s a great performer when he’s managing himself well, and I don’t like to see him hurt himself in this way.

      1. Observer

        Are you his supervisor? If so, I think I would tell him straightforwardly that you are seeing that his performance is suffering. I don’t think you can really tell him that he needs to go back on his medication, but you CAN point out that he needs to do something about the performance issues he is having. You understand that he is TRYING, but you also need to start seeing results.

        1. straws

          I’m not, but his supervisor was asking for my advice on this recently. This is good advice, which I’ll pass along!

        2. Jessa

          Yeh don’t talk about the ADD at all. Talk about what you see as issues. This isn’t getting done. You have 3 obvious errors in this report. Let the employee decide how to deal with the issue (are they on new meds? have they cut or increased their dose? Do they need to make more notes about x?) Your issue should be the performance or behaviour not the cause. If you feel willing to you can ask if there’s things you can do to help them achieve whatever result you want from them. And it may turn into a reasonable accommodation discussion which is okay.

      2. Just Visiting

        Unless you’re their doctor or you’re married to them, don’t EVER ask someone with ADHD about their medication or anything else relating to their medical treatment. Point out the mistakes and lack of focus like you would with any employee, and he’ll get the hint.

        I haven’t disclosed at work (and would never do so) but if I had and a supervisor told me to get back on my meds I’d be so embarrassed I’d probably quit on the spot. :/

      3. Labyrinth

        I don’t think there’s any tactful way to say “you’re failing, could it be because of this thing you inherently are?”, and I must point out that he may not have gone off his meds at all. Sometimes they stop working, and it can be hard to raise the dose because the doctor might deem you a drug seeker. He’s not hurting himself, he’s being hurt. (Personally, it takes me a while to really notice I’ve stopped paying attention and take action – like when you can’t find your glasses because you’re too nearsighted to look for them if you aren’t wearing glasses)

        Also, I’ll always have a smaller margin of error than other people. I think this pretty universal with ADD and other similar disabilities, but I can’t speak for him. You know about the straw that breaks the camel’s back? I can be loaded with tiny responsibilities like everyone else, until I suddenly can’t (just like everyone has a limit, but the pace and amount of “normal work” is set to respect their limit, not mine). It doesn’t matter which type of straw it is, I just can’t hold more of them. For me, it’s harder to do many different small things than one big thing, just like it looks harder to pick up a big rock than to pick up straws one by one until you have a whole bunch of them that may be heavier than the rock.

    8. Not So NewReader

      Labyrinth or anyone who is closely familiar with ADD: Do you folks think that some jobs are better than other jobs given a diagnosis of ADD ?
      OP’s job sounds awful, period. I cannot imagine doing that job and coping with ADD on top of it.
      OP, I hope you don’t let this former job take up housekeeping in your memory banks. I hope you can find an environment where you are more likely to succeed.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever

        I have ADHD. My job involves solving puzzles (technical project management). I am able to deal with multiple items in a day because I can process and context-switch quickly. I also make connections that aren’t immediately obvious, giving a different, creative perspective to dry work. I’m fast on my feet when change is needed and love ambiguity and grey thinking.

        On the flip side, when I get really confused or flummoxed, I can freeze like hitting a wall. I expect people to just do what they say they will do, no excuses. I feel frustration and criticism more keenly. I sometimes procrastinate. I can set ridiculously high bars for myself that I cannot achieve without realizing my error.

        Instead of using meds which left me feeling fuzzy, I drink copious amounts of caffeine and practice mindfulness to help me stay calm in challenged moments and to comfortably invite others to step forward when I’m near the wall. I also review my to-do lists often with a critical eye to make sure I work on valued tasks, not tangents.

  11. Jenna Maroney

    One ADD-related tip for OP2: I know for me, structure, routine, and habit is key, and I also know that for better or worse, constant email awareness has become a professional norm for many (probably most?) workplaces. You might want to consider building a morning & email check (for all your emails) habit regardless of your current employment situation. I am ADD, but I can’t imagine forgetting to check my email any more than I would forget to brush my teeth before leaving the house, because it’s something built deeply into the fabric of my day. I have a lot of advantages there (I am a very plugged-in person, I have a smartphone), but if you really determine to make a specific thing automatic I think there’s a good chance it can be done, and this is one that would serve you well.

    1. Jessa

      And if you’re able to, and you think it’ll help you, create a task flow document for whatever job you do. Then when you get an email with a change, go RIGHT to the document and fix it and print yourself another copy. Don’t presume you’re going to remember changes to the “script” of your task.

      If you have issues printing at work (some places are weird about what computers you can print from) talk to your boss and make it a reasonable accommodation issue.

      I am more than willing to email the document to “person with print access,” but I must have it back ASAP in order to not make mistakes in the work. Seriously I’ve never seen even the tiniest office have an issue with this, they usually don’t make changes every day and it’s almost always less than five pages of information and all of them do not have to be reprinted. Sometimes they even give you print access yourself if you’re reliable and don’t go overboard.

  12. misspiggy

    I’m surprised at the dislike for ‘describe yourself in one word’ (OP#1). I’ve been asked it quite a lot, and I’ve found it useful to prepare for, as it forces you to identify your USP even if you’re not actually asked the question. (I chose ‘helpful’.) I tend to follow up with an explanation, which allows you to describe related skills and achievements. My line of work does focus on distilling information and thinking on your feet: I guess the question could be annoying where those skills are irrelevant.

    A decent interviewer should use follow up questions to tease out more information. But in the OP’s case, it seems the interviewer was happy with just the one word!

    1. Judy

      I think the distaste comes from the entire line of random questions that some (usually HR) interviewers ask.

      “If you were a tree, what type would you be?”
      “If you described yourself as a car, which car would you be?”
      “What color would you use to describe yourself?”

      Personally, I feel like none of those questions gets anyone any further into my experience architecting, designing, writing, and testing code. I have been asked each of those questions in an interview.

      1. Nashira

        I’m now imagining someone asking me the color question and being flummoxed by the answer, which has me giggling. I have, among other cross-wirings, person-to-color synesthesia and can paint my old color set but describing it is… Hard. Same with the colors I have now, after a few months of therapy. Autism traits mean if I’m not on guard, I give the synaesthete answer without blinking.

      2. College Career Counselor

        My spouse got this once: “Think of this team as a pizza–which ingredient would you be and why?”

        As this was a supervisory role, she answered “I’d be the crust, supporting the other ingredients and allowing them to shine.” (Which is as good a food-related metaphor for servant leadership as I’ve ever encountered.)

        She did not, however, get the job.

          1. Karowen

            I’d also be the cheese, but mostly because I make corny jokes.

            Or would that make me corn?

      3. MLT

        Of course, these questions always require explanation. They present an opportunity for you to tell the interviewers something about yourself through analogy to an outside area. I understand that there is general derision on this site regarding these types of questions, but I have used them and still sometimes do (as one of many questions) for three reasons: (1) I have gotten some really interesting answers that helped me understand the applicant as a person, (2) these questions tell me something about whether the applicant can deal with the unexpected, and we have a lot of unexpected in our work dealing with the public, and (3) I really value the ability to think in analogy – people who can compare one situation to another are good analyzers and tend to be able to take lessons from one arena and apply them to another.

        As one of 20 questions I ask at this stage of the process, it is helpful but never the sole decider. And if a person is stumped on trees (or whatever), I will readily substitute something else they are more familiar with (like animals).

      1. Not So NewReader

        So, if you say “cheese” and they are looking for “pepperoni”, you’re basically done here. It’s really hard not to give an explanation. But, I supposed if they are looking for one particular ingredient or specific tree/car then you are probably at the end of the line anyway.

        An explanation is almost built in to the question because the question is looking for the rationale that links the interviewee to that ingredient/tree/car. On the surface, comparing myself to cheese/whatever is kind of shallow, human beings are more complex than that.
        For a long time now, I have felt that those types of questions throw up a yellow (caution) flag in my mind, regarding the employer. Just hearing the question would cause me to start looking deeper at what else might be wrong here.

    2. MLT

      I agree. The question asks you to identify one of your defining characteristics, and it expects that you understand the position you are applying for well enough to try to match something about yourself to the role. I was asked this as part of the interview for a director position, and I said, “tenacious.” It told them I understood that what this role required was someone who would never give up, and that I could bring that to the role. And I do.

      I could have said balanced, helpful, resilient, smart – all things that would add value to the organization, but my choice of words was as much about me as it was about the role I understood they needed me to fill.

      As one of probably 20+ questions you are asked in an interview, I think it has value. Making you choose just one word for this one question requires you to find an essential match between yourself and this job.

    3. Pinkie Pie Chart

      I got this one, followed up by “how could that trait be problematic when taken to the extreme?” which I thought was actually really good. Frex, confidence could become arrogance if taken too far. It was an interesting take.

      I think that the question by itself is only moderately useful if you only give one word without explanation. And one word is all they are asking for. I feel like you would have better luck asking “what makes you right for this role” without bringing one word answers into it.

  13. Katie the Fed

    #2 – We use contractors from time to time in my work, which is similar to hiring someone from a staffing agency. If you think about this from the perspective of the employer, the employer is paying for capability, not effort. Essentially, you’re purchasing a widget from a company providing a widget. The widget is expected to perform.

    Unfortunately, people are people and not widgets and that’s why you end up in such situations as yours. I’ve had contractors who didn’t perform well at first but I felt they would improve with some guidance and time. I’ve also had some that I kept on WAY too long because I thought they’d get better. I can have a bit of leeway because we have the time/capacity to train (even though we’re not supposed to have to do that – they’re supposed to arrive already capable). Unfortunately, it sounds like you were in a situation where they couldn’t afford for you to wait.

    I’m sorry this happened to you, I imagine it must feel terrible! I hope there’s a position out there that’s a much better fit.

    1. Elizabeth West

      Exactly, and it probably wasn’t the OP but the job itself. Not every job is the right fit. I took one position that should have been easy for me, but for various reasons, I seemed to do everything wrong or the hard way the entire time I worked there (a couple of months). I KNOW I’m not incompetent, but it sure felt like it!

      1. Not So NewReader

        BTDT- at least my own variation of it. It took a while to get over the nightmares. And analyzing fit for one’s self is a wrestling match with one’s own objectivity.

        The topic of fit actually fascinates me. I see so many people doing things I would not even consider. It’s amazing to watch.
        I have tried some things and I was surprised to find I was actually okay at it. Other things were not a surprise when they did not go well.
        It might make an interesting topic/discussion, how do people decide something is the right fit for them?

  14. Chocolate Teapot

    1. I have been asked “How would you describe yourself?” which allows for more than one word.

    1. Tomato Frog

      This is better, but I still dislike any question that tends to evoke adjectives rather than examples.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yes, that’s a great point about another problem with these sorts of questions. I don’t care what you declare yourself to be; I care what you have shown yourself to be, and you show that through specific examples of how you’ve operated / what you’ve achieved.

  15. kdizzle

    #5, I’ve worked in a university for a number of years, and have found that professors are notoriously flaky about these kinds of things. Please remind them! Make it as easy as possible for them to follow through on your request, and drop-in to see them in person.

    We used to have students who would come to me and say they hadn’t been paid. Paid for what?, I wondered. Oh, right, the professor hired the person to work on a research project two months ago, never told anyone, never advertised the job, never got paperwork from the student, and now the student needs money because she literally cannot afford to eat. It’s a good thing these weren’t law students, because we may have been in big trouble.

    All that to say, sometimes administrative things…like paying people…gets lost in the pursuit of a good peer reviewed paper.

    1. Blue Anne

      Heck, even the papers. I grew up with a couple of very well respected academics and my mom is always mentioning how she’s two months late with the submission to this journal or that one and so on. All of my parents students apparently love them but I would not be at all surprised if they’d dropped the ball on this kind of thing… a LOT.

      It spills over into other things too. We always told my Dad to be places 45 minutes before the actual time, my Mom showed up on the wrong side of town for my high school graduation because she hadn’t read the invitation properly, etc. I actually didn’t start to do very well academically until I went off to college (thus getting away from my parents) and immediately became a total stickler for planning, deadlines, and timeliness.

      Paperwork? What paperwork? There was supposed to be paperwork?

    2. fposte

      In some departments/schools, there are student affairs units that help process these things, even if it’s the professor who arranged for it. It’s worth looking to see if there’s a unit like this where the OP is attending, too, and dropping the dean’s office there an email.

    3. Paige Turner

      Yeah #5, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last time you have to remind a professor to follow up on something that they said they’d do. Not to say that all professors are like this, but it’s definitely something that I and others I know have experienced. (Not even going to get into how my second reader for my master’s thesis essentially disappeared for eight months and delayed my graduation by a semester.) It’s tough if you’re not used to it, because it can feel like “hassling” or “nagging” someone who out-ranks you, but most likely, the professor has just forgotten and will not be offended that you brought it up.

      1. OP #5

        Thanks to everyone for the support and advice! I emailed the staff graduate coordinator like fposte suggested who said she would look into it, but haven’t heard back from her. Paige, you got at my feelings exactly- I don’t really want to hassle someone in charge of deciding whether or not I graduate, but as everyone has said, professors are notorious for this and it really is worth it.

  16. Jim

    #4 looks suspiciously similar to a question asked on workplace.stackexchange.com a couple of days ago.

    1. Blue Anne

      Eh, might be someone looking for advice on it in multiple places. I do have a couple different forums I go to for advice myself.

    2. AW

      Yeah, I noticed that too.

      LW #4 – The advice given here is much better than the answers over at The Workplace. I think the answerer’s there are going off of what would be nice of the employer to do, not what would be practical.

      A fun event, no matter how important to you or your family, isn’t an emergency and isn’t going to be viewed by an employer as something that’s necessary. Remember, this isn’t an additional 7 days you’re asking for but 13, almost two weeks, because you already pushed this back by 6 days.

  17. MT

    #2 There are a lot of side issues with using temps. The biggest issue is co-employment. If this mistake is the type of mistake the company would normally issue corrective action to a full time employee, the only remedy they have with a temp is ending the assignment. The issue comes up with a full time employee seeing a temp make the same mistake they made and really got off without any consequences. I have had to remove temps from my facility for things I would normally issue a corrective action for. It sucks, but its to protect the company.

    1. fposte

      That puzzles me a little, though, because I don’t think employees do often see the consequences to other employees, whether they’re full-time or not; it’s not like PIPs are posted in the lunchroom. I totally agree that one of the points of temps is that you don’t have to coach them if you don’t choose to, though, and maybe in your field errors do tend to a kind of visible correction I’m not familiar with.

      1. mt

        The issue atleast in my state, you are not allowed to coach and or mentor temps. You not even allowed to keep documents and write ups on temps. If you are shown to have disiplined them in any way we can be found to have created a co employment enviroment.

        1. Swarley

          Forgive my ignorance but, what is a “co-employment environment?” Are you saying that these temps are contractors, and by coaching or disciplining them aside from firing you’d be creating an employment relationship?

          1. mt

            Co employment is essentially wherr someone is deemed to be workinh for two different companies. A company using temps only pays a set fee to the temp company. If co employment is established thst company is now liable for all sorts of taxes, insurance etc.

        2. fposte

          Huh, interesting, I hadn’t heard of that–can you tell me more, and what the state is? I could see it with contractors vs. employees, or in a union situation, but I’m surprised to hear it with temps. I guess I can see it as a way to ensure that temp classification isn’t a way to get around paying benefits, but I would have imagined duration would be more important.

          1. mt

            Contractors and temps are held to a slightly different stanard. It all comes down to that the temp is a full time employee of a different company that we contract to. The term contractor/temp is verry general and thrown around intermeanily, but conttactor sounds nicer. In a legal sense they are verry different meanings. Im in ohio.

            1. fposte

              I’m not seeing anything that would restrict coaching a temp employee in Ohio, or even any particular risk of a temp being considered an employee of the placement rather than the agency. Is it possible that this is a company intepretation (a stay on the safe side approach) rather than the law? Or do you work in government, in which case all bets are off because the rules get cockeyed :-)?

                1. MT

                  There are laws around co-employment. One of the biggest test is did the contracting company influence hiring/firing decisions

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Right, I don’t mean to imply co-employment isn’t a legal concept — but the restrictions your company has in places aren’t laws, but rather their own internal controls they’ve set up.

                  It’s like the way some companies won’t invite temps or contractors to company parties. It’s not that there’s a law prohibiting that; it’s that a court will look at the totality of the situation, and so some companies choose very specific lines to draw.

                  I’m not familiar with Ohio’s law, but I’d be surprised if it prohibited any coaching of temps whatsoever.

              1. mt

                We are allowed to train and retrain, but we are not allowed to have any communication that discusses any disiplinary ramifications

  18. Ad Astra

    Was OP #2’s customer service gig a temp job? Or did the staffing agency set her up with what was supposed to be a permanent position? Temp work seems like it would be extremely challenging for someone with untreated ADD because it requires employees to change gears and re-acclimate to a new position quickly and sometimes frequently.

    I agree with Allison that the company was probably quick to end things because the staffing agency makes it possible to replace someone pretty much overnight. The OP might be more successful in jobs where the company is hiring directly, because the situation forces the company to invest more in her as a candidate/employee. Sometimes ADD folks, especially those who aren’t receiving proper treatment, take longer to settle in at a new job.

  19. determined

    #1 actually just happened to me yesterday, though I was to provide three words to describe myself. To AAM’s point, there are so many more thought-provoking questions to ask in an interview.

    I do know that this particular interviewer has made some bad hires in the past couple of years and it makes me wonder if it’s partly because of the questions he is asking candidates.

  20. dawbs

    #3, not that you should ever advertise “I’m looking elsewhere” to a current employer, but academia is much more accepting of such things than the rest of the world.
    It’s rampant among faculty (esp part-timers) to sit in the lounge/office and discuss where they have applications in at. And while it’s not quite so blase among staff, I’ve found it doesn’t raise eyebrows like it would in the corporate world.
    Be discrete but, realistically, it’s like running into someone in the strip club–they’re there too.

    1. fposte

      I don’t think #3 is in academia–I think she was posting on an alumni group about her work, so the “college” thing was the connection, not her workplace.

  21. Retail Lifer

    #3 Tread carefully in that group, but join some others. There are a ton of other groups on LinkedIn that have the potential to be just as helpful.

  22. Mimmy

    #2 – Fired after only 3 days? I’ve got you beat on that one – I was let go after just ONE day on a temp assignment years ago! I was miserable though, so I was actually quite relieved!

  23. YandO

    Follow up question….at what point is it ok to ask for time off after you start a new job?

    I am relocating for my new job on the West Coast in a few weeks and I am leaving my family behind on the East Coast. Obviously, I would like to travel back for the holidays and it is crucial to buy airfare ahead of time for Christmas travel. I have resigned to not be coming home for Thanksgiving (this is hard for me!!!!!!), but I really absolutely have to come home in December. We will be moving our actual household at that time.

    I know October – January are very busy months for my industry, which adds another layer of anxiety to me in this regard.

    I am thinking of booking a one-way ticket on December 24th, which is already expensive, but manageable. All other flights are $400+ one way and they are not going to get better. I hope to have at least a week with my family and then drive the moving truck across country on the 1st -3rd.

    Thoughts? When is it ok to bring this up with my future manager?

    ps I hope this is not too much off topic, but all the talk about requesting vacation time after starting a job got me thinking

    1. YandO

      ps – I will have unlimited PTO policy…..which I think is terrible to be honest, but that’s the new thing. So it’s not like I can save up PTO days to use.

      1. AW

        Can you use the accrual rate of PTO from your last job as a guideline? If you were getting 5hrs of PTO every 2 weeks, pretend that’s what’s happening at the new job.

    2. Swarley

      I really think that as a new hire your best bet is to include this as part of your negotiation. During this time you’re in much more of a bargaining position than when you’ve already started work. I can’t tell from your post if you’ve already started, however. If you have, it might make sense to get a feel from your coworkers about how vacation time during the holidays works. If everyone can take off, or preference is given by seniority, first come first serve, etc. I’d do this before going to your manager to request the time.

      1. YandO

        I’ve already accepted an offer and during negotiations I had asked for a later start date than what they wanted (which they were very flexible and generous with!)…And it was beginning of July, it seemed a little silly to ask for time off in 6 months. Plus back then I had no idea what I would need, since my plans depended on my family’s international travel plans.

        They were set yesterday, so I am actually able to make my own plans now. They return on the 24th, so flying in on the 24th would work very well for me. My thought is that…it’s Christmas Eve, who would deny me a day off on Christmas Eve? And I have to come home regardless, if I absolutely cannot take the week between Christmas and NYE off, I will just fly back on 27th

        I start my job mid-August and I don’t feel I can bring this up before I start, but I also feel extreme urgency to buy my flight ASAP

        1. Erin

          Yeah, I really don’t think you’re being unreasonable here. Just be transparent about the fact that you need to finalize traveling plans, but you didn’t want to book anything without speaking to them first.

        2. fposte

          Well, for one, *I* would deny you a day off on Christmas Eve, if you were the new employee who hadn’t earned vacation yet and I needed somebody to cover that day. So please don’t frame it as if somebody would have to be a mean manager to need somebody to work a day the office was open and that someone was you.

          I’m not an expert in vacation travel, but I doubt that there’ll be any difference between now and three weeks from now in terms of booking a flight, so I’d recommend waiting until you start and then asking about this. But I sure wouldn’t book anything in the meantime.

          1. Amtelope

            +1

            I think it’s very reasonable to ask for some time off to move, but that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get the exact days you want. You’ll have to find out what the culture of this office is about time off at the holidays.

            My own office pretty much shuts down between Christmas week and New Year’s, and this would be no big deal at all — our clients are all on vacation, there’s nothing to do, and lots of people take two weeks off. In other offices that are open and busy at that time of year, taking Christmas Eve might be impossible as a new employee. I think it’s fine to propose these dates, but you may have to negotiate about them, so I wouldn’t buy plane tickets until you’ve worked something out.

            1. AnonAnalyst

              Yes, this is what my current job is like, and pretty much all of my job can be done remotely if needed, so asking for this would be fine here. However, certain areas of my last company needed on-site coverage year-round, so there was a lot less flexibility on those teams, especially as a new person.

              Ultimately, it’s not unreasonable to ask about time off (especially since you are also using that time to finish your move), but it doesn’t really follow that you’re entitled to it because it’s Christmas Eve, nor does it follow that someone might deny it just to be mean. End of the year is a busy time for a lot of companies, and so for a lot of people that’s a non-negotiable work day, even if they have vacation time available. In my experience this is somewhat industry-specific, but more company-specific so you may not get a good feel for this until you start your job.

              I feel for you because I also live across the country from my family and travel to see them during the holidays. My experience is that rates for travel during the holidays won’t really change at this point in the year so you’re probably better off waiting until you start your job and can confirm that you’ll be able to take those days off.

            2. Koko

              Yeah, my department is a ghost town between Christmas and New Year’s. My team is actually fairly busy that week, but for the most part our deliverables are all due right before Christmas and we spend that week between holidays doing a lot of performance-monitoring and crisis-wrangling. There are no meetings scheduled and none of us need to be physically present to do our jobs, so most of us go home to our families and work remotely–but it’s more like “on-call-plus” than a regular workday. I respond to emails as they come in like it’s a regular workday, I run performance reports every few hours and make adjustments if necessary, and I put out any fires that pop up. But unlike a regular workday, I don’t work on long-term projects when everything is running smoothly and email is quiet (unless it’s something I just can’t help but work on because it’s fascinating to me!). We’re mostly just expected to keep the trains running and be available if anyone needs us. It would be very easy for OP to go home for that week in a department like mine if they were willing and able to be lightly available. Other industries/departments, maybe not so much. Culture is the big factor here.

          2. YandO

            So 6 months of not taking time off, even for Thanksgiving, makes me a new employee who has not earned vacation and does not deserve equal consideration in comparison to other employees? This is not even to mention the whole relocate across country move thing, which is my choice and I don’t expect special treatment due to it.

            I do think that’s mean. Employer’s prerogative, but nonetheless pretty mean. Not allowing me the 24th off pretty much means I will spend Christmas alone. Away form my family. If that what my job is going to be like, I will be looking for a new job.

            1. LBK

              If no one else gets hired after you, yeah, you’re still the newest employee, and 4 months is still fairly new in general. When you say “relocate across country move thing, which is my choice and I don’t expect special treatment due to it” and then follow up by saying you expect to be prioritized over others who don’t have as far to travel to see family…it’s kind of contradictory.

              I don’t think sympathetic and mean are the only ways to read the situation. It would certainly be sympathetic to prioritize your needs, especially if you’re the only one who has to travel so far to see your family, but not doing so isn’t instantly mean either. Mean would be choosing to make you work specifically because it screws you out of seeing your family.

              1. Meggers

                Yes, seconded. I wouldn’t call it “mean”, either. Me seeing my family is no more or less important than you seeing your family, and using tenure is one common approach to that stalemate. It may or may not be the best or most fair method, but it’s not inherently awful.

                My family is moving Christmas this year to Dec 17 this year because of how my department allocates vacation during the holidays and how expensive it is to travel at that time. No one LOVES this, but we’ll still get to see everyone, it will cost significantly less, and I feel confident Santa will find us. My company isn’t being unreasonable, either. It’s still a VERY busy time for us as well as a time that MANY people would like off. They try to give as many people as much time as possible, typically 2-3 days holiday-adjacent; it simply isn’t enough for what we would need to drive (since it would be too expensive to fly). The week before, however, I can take all the time I want.

            2. mh_ccl

              “Not allowing me the 24th off pretty much means I will spend Christmas alone. Away form my family. If that what my job is going to be like, I will be looking for a new job”

              That’s worrisome language. If you’ve moved across the country from your family, do you think you’ll be able to fly back to be with them every year for the holidays? Some fields might have that flexibility, but most will not allow the same employee (especially a newer one) to take the holidays off every year.

              I know that when I moved 5,000 miles from my family, my mother (who had been a teacher before opening her own company, and therefore had very little idea of what working in the 9-5 world was like) told me that OF COURSE all my co-workers would be willing to let me be the one to take Christmas off, especially since my family was so far away. It was a bit of a shock to her that other people would also want the holiday off for themselves and their families, and that I would not be coming home for the holidays. I had been in the job 11 months and we’d had 2 newer hires by the time holidays rolled around, and it still wasn’t an option.

              1. Not So NewReader

                This is the problem, one person’s desire to be with their family does not trump another person’s desire to be with their own family. It is assumed that everyone has a big desire to be with their family. So, what criteria do we use to decide who gets the time and who doesn’t? Typically it’s by seniority or, sometimes, rotation. Once in a blue moon, a kind-hearted person volunteers to work so that someone else does not have to work.

                OP, maybe if you volunteer to work another holiday(s), you boss would be agreeable to the time off. One job I had I volunteered to work a double on Christmas. It did not matter to me what happened on other holidays. My boss, without consulting me, gave me a few other holidays off. His idea, not mine. OP, if you can offer coverage at a critical time, maybe that would become a bargaining chip for you.

            3. Honeybee

              Well, it doesn’t have to – you could always fly the evening of the 24th, after you finish work. But moving across the country for a job does mean that you’re not going to be able to be with your family as much. I sympathize because I am also moving to the West Coast for a job at the end of the month – and all my family and most of my friends live on the East Coast. But this is part and parcel with the move, I afraid.

    3. Erin

      I think you should bring it up ASAP, while acknowledging it’s weird to ask for time off so soon. But the more advanced notice they have the better they can prepare for that absence.

      I work for a CPA and recently asked for time off during tax season (over six months away). I was terrified to ask for an entire week off during their busiest time, and offered to help them hire a temp if they felt it was necessary. But it was no big deal. :)

      Also, you’re asking for time off during *Christmas.* When you’re moving. Across the country. It is very reasonable and very necessary to ask for time off, here.

      1. YandO

        I am sure on my first day, I will receive some “welcome” tutorial of some sort. Do you think it would be appropriate to bring it up then?

        I don’t feel comfortable talking about this before I actually get there…I have not even met my future manager in person yet (I did over skype and she was on vacation for my on-sight interview). I think she is awesome, but I really don’t want to start off our professional relationship by asking for time off right after I asked for later start date,

        1. Erin

          Okay, you start in mid-August? I was going for ASAP but I hear you. Waiting an extra couple of weeks won’t be that big of a deal. Wait until you start and then…don’t wait. :)

        2. PegLeg

          I don’t think it would be weird or make a bad impression to contact her now. I would probably say something along the lines of “Hi Jane, As you know, I am moving across the country for this position. I am excited to get there and get started, but in preparation for that I am working on finalizing moving plans. I realize this may not be possible, but if things slow down in our business around Christmastime, I would like to plan to be gone December 24-January 3 to spend some time with my family, pack everything up, and drive the moving truck back to ____. Do you think this is feasible, or is there another time that may be better?”

    4. Amtelope

      I think you’ve got more leeway than usual because you’re going to be doing your actual move at that point. I would bring this up right now, and say “I’m moving without my family so that I can start right away, but I’m going to need to take some days off in late December/early January to help my spouse and kids move here to join me. Will Dec. 24-Jan. 3 work?”

    5. SherryD

      I think this will vary a lot by employer and jurisdiction. In my province, an employer doesn’t have to give you vacation time until you’ve been with them full-time for one year. A *year* with no holiday! Many reasonable employers will be less stringent than the provincial labour code, but some, like my current employer, don’t offer an inch more than they have to. I asked for some vacation after being here six months — I was ignorant of the policy at the time. I was granted my request, but caught some major side-eye from coworkers who couldn’t believe I was taking vacation after being here less than a year. One of the many reasons I’m looking for a new job.

  24. Erin

    #2 – That sucks. It’s hard to say from this context and not knowing y’all who was really in the right, but in any case. I bet a lot of this has to do with the fact that you went through a staffing agency. The employer didn’t necessarily have to tell you to your face you were fired – they could have the recruiter do the unpleasant work for them, while conveniently getting fresh bodies in there from the same staffing agency to replace you.

    Also, it sounds like this was maybe a temp-to-hire situation anyway, in which case, you weren’t *fired* per say, but it’s more like you were hired for a particular assignment and they opted not to hire you on full time.

    I would emphasize to your recruiter that you’re taking this feedback seriously, detail specific steps you’ll be taking going forward (setting an alarm on your phone so you remember to check email first thing, you’re reading articles on X topic, or whatever), and ask to still be considered for future assignments.

    If you have health insurance, consider getting that ADD checked on. It could be nothing. Or it could be something significant holding you back in the work world.

    Good luck! This is not a huge setback and you’re going to be fine. :)

    #3 – I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Just be careful about what you’re posting (which is something you should always be doing anyway, on any social media site).

    #4 – No, I wouldn’t. Maybe there is someone who will be at this event who you don’t really want to see, and now it’s awesome you don’t have to deal with them? Maybe that’s a stretch. But no, don’t change the date again.

    Your family will for sure understand, and if they don’t it’s their problem. It’s virtually impossible to coordinate so many people’s schedules for family reunions or get togethers, which I imagine is why the event got moved in the first place.

    That evening when you get out of work and your family is at the event, plan to have a drink with a girlfriend or something fun you can still look forward to – and toast to your new job.

  25. CAF

    #5 – If your grad school experience is anything like mine, you will have to fight to get the money you were promised. At my school, these things were VERY disorganized. There was one time I wasn’t paid for a month… they messed up my fellowship, which started my pay one cycle early, then they messed EVERYONE’s up. No one offered to get us the money some other way… because why would students living on a stipend in an expensive city need money? Profs are usually out of touch with their poor student days, so find out if there is one person in the school who can fix things like this. For us, it was the secretary in the Dean’s office; she was the only one who could cut through inertia and red tape. If such a person exists, that is who to talk to.

    1. OP #5

      Thanks for your your perspective- part of the reason I wrote Alison is that this is really out of character for my school, luckily- we’ve never had any problems with getting money we were promised before. I asked the department graduate coordinator about it a while ago and while she told me she would look into it, I haven’t heard anything since. I’ll keep fighting though! :)

      1. CAF

        Even at a well organized school, you have to be your own advocate, so keep on it. That said, it may be that not much gets done there over the summer! I’m sure that’s true at most schools.

      2. Cath in Canada

        (I work with my department’s grad students and postdocs on issues that include stipends and awards)

        That sounds like the right person to ask – better than your prof. If she doesn’t get back to you soon, try again (copy the prof as an FYI). If she still doesn’t respond, ask the professor’s admin person, or your HR rep / project manager / finance person or equivalent.

      3. Sigrid

        Yes, really make sure you keep on top of it — when I was in graduate school, every single time my stipend etc. was switched to a new grant with a new billing code (which was…every eight months or so), my health insurance was accidentally cancelled. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. So always keep an eye on anything the school is supposed to be doing for you; it’s easy to fall through the cracks in academia.

    2. Honeybee

      We must’ve gone to the same university. There were so many times I had to fight to get my stipend or other pay, and there was one time that I was never properly paid because of a single account number on one of the endless forms I had to fill out.

      1. CAF

        I finally decided to quit academia after that month of no pay. I finished my degree (PhD) but decided I didn’t want to work in a world where the head of the grad program would feel it’s okay to more or less tell me that I was lucky I got a last minute fellowship at all and that I should suck it up and wait till the school paid me. If your school is a Catholic one in a large east coast city, it might be the same one.

  26. Since I have not heard from you on this, I have to assume your priorities have changed.

    #1: is bizarre. I’ve seen something like this used as a (rather shoddy) technique for keeping a person from leaving: you give a word, and when you say “what?” the ‘interviewer’ says “we’ll discuss that later”.

    But barring that – I have to wonder if it’s like a Rorschach inkblot. I guess there are a number of techniques for ‘reading’ the Rorschach, but I understand one of them focuses on the ‘big picture’ of the responses: it doesn’t really matter if the test subject says “that looks like a man’s face” and “that looks like bees” and “that looks like two dogs” – it’s when you get answers like “that looks like a man’s face, and he’s bleeding from his eyes” and “that looks like bees stinging a horse to death” etc. So maybe in #1’s case they were on the lookout for words like “lethal” or “sniper” or “necrophiliac”?

  27. Steve

    #2 – Temp jobs are good opportunities to make mistakes. Did you learn something from the experience? Always check your e-mail first thing. Write things down. If you write everything down for a project, there can never be a dispute over what you are told.

    I was fired from a horrible job after 3 weeks one time, and another temp job didn’t ask me back. Such is life. It’s another experience you can take with you as you move forward with you in your career.

  28. Just Visiting

    Condolences to #2, I’ve been there. Temping is great for ADHD people because your job site changes all the time so you don’t get bored, but it’s also terrible because you might never be anywhere long enough to really establish a routine. And folks like us learn by doing, not by having things explained, and sometimes that entails making a lot of mistakes. For me, checking my email when I get to work is something I have to remind myself to do, it doesn’t come automatically. After this you will never forget to check it again, so shitty as this is, it can still be a learning experience. Hang in there. :(

  29. Elizabeth

    Regarding #4/changing start date of new job for second time:
    Do not fret. I had the exact same situation happen when I started my new job 8 months ago. Depending on the reason, you can change your start date for a second time as long as you reassure your new boss that these sort of changes are not a common occurrence with you. (I will say that family circumstances and those types of unavoidable situations are really the only good excuses to do this – not reunions or vacations). You should also be prepared that your boss may still want you to start on your previously agreed upon date, and though it could mean missing the family event (unless it is an emergency), you must be willing to accept this. Your family should be aware of this too. I also agree with Alison that this is the LAST time you should change the date.

    In my case, my fiance’s grandfather unexpectedly passed away the day after I received and accepted an offer for my job, just days before Thanksgiving. Funeral plans were changed several times due to various family indecisions, and services taking place in another city. Just like you, I was told the services would take place on my start date, and my boss was more than understanding and willing to change the start date to the next day. A few hours later, my fiance’s family said the services had been changed AGAIN to – you guessed it – my new start date. You can imagine my frustration. My new boss would be out until after the holiday, leaving me to have to ask for another date change just three days prior. (FYI I only considered changing my start date a second time solely because it was due to a family funeral). I assured my boss that these types of last minute changes are not something he can expect from me on a regular basis, and that I would be more than happy to start on the latest agreed date even if it meant missing the funeral, which my fiance understood. Thankfully, my new boss kindly said that it was not a problem, and I was able to start on the previous start date as well as attend the funeral.

    Not every company will be this understanding, so while one start date change can be acceptable depending on the circumstances, you should carefully consider your situation before requesting a second date change. Good luck and congrats on the new job!

  30. Anon.

    With regard to #2, sometimes shortly after starting a new job, one or both sides will discover that things just aren’t working out. It’s basically the equivalent of going on a first date that, for whatever reason, does not lead to a second one. I wouldn’t read too much into it unless you find yourself running into it everywhere.

    (That being said, if they have that little patience with their new employees, this employer probably isn’t one you want to be working for anyway.)

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