open thread – August 14, 2015

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

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

{ 1,365 comments… read them below }

  1. ACA

    My last day of work was yesterday! My two favorite coworkers and I were the only ones in the office, so at our boss’s suggestion we closed down the office to take an extended lunch at a nearby restaurant (on the department credit card!). I finished up two non-essential but high-profile projects, just to make sure I leave a lasting impact. Over all, it was a really fun, low-key last day. Today I go on vacation, and when I return, I start a new adventure!

    …a new adventure in a new office for the same employer. But hey, I think my cubicle might face a window this time.

  2. Sunflower

    Interview for job where I’d be reporting to an off-site manager

    I have a 3rd and final interview for what seems like a good position at a great company. My manager would be in a different city/office than me- I would be at HQ and her at the office in a city that is about 140 miles away. I’ve never worked in a job where my manager wasn’t around basically 24/7. I don’t think I will have any problem with this since even though my boss is always around, I’m a very independent worker within the office and there is no one checking my work.

    I really want to nail this last interview. Are there any questions I should ask or things I should emphasize that I wouldn’t necessarily for an on-site manager? She already told me she visits HQ at least once a month, usually once every 2 weeks and we’d be mainly communicating on the phone. I also really want to convey that I am a good independent worker so anyone who has worked with an off-site manager(or who manages someone off-site), thoughts/advice would be appreciated!

    1. Dawn

      ” I really want to convey that I am a good independent worker”

      When you answer interview questions or talk about projects or whatever, couch what you did in terms of how you did it independently while still keeping your boss in the loop about stuff. I imagine your potential future manager is going to want to know that you can handle yourself just fine without any hand-holding, but will also keep open lines of communication and make sure that any potential problems are brought to her attention way before they become actual problems.

    2. Voluptuousfire

      I interviewed for a similar role and I asked what her remote management style was. That gave me an idea of what she expected from me in the day to day.

    3. Koko

      Maybe ask about communication preferences. My manager works in another state and visits my office for 2-3 days about once a month, but our work overlaps very little. She’s more my manager in that she helps to prioritize/manage my workload, conduct my reviews, and provide feedback on some of my work, but the work she herself does is substantively different from mine and we have non-overlapping skills. So the biggest thing for our relationship is just for her to know that us being in different cities isn’t getting in the way of us reaching each other when we need to.

      We use IM a lot to check-in on quick questions (“Do you have a copy of the latest inventory list?” “Can you answer Lucinda’s email to our team about the project timeline?” “) where if she was here in the office she would probably just pop her head into my office. She’s also more likely to email me a heads-up or send me a calendar event if she’s going to be away from her desk for only 30-60 minutes, and I do the same for her, even though the office culture here is that folks don’t really announce or send calendar events unless they’re going to be gone for a couple of hours. It’s just a lot more critical for our working relationship to know when we’re available/away from the desk and to be able to chat quickly and informally by IM than it is for other folks here in the office. I’d maybe talk about some of these solutions to proactively keeping your remote manager appraised of your schedule and making it easy for her to reach you.

      1. Koko

        Oh, another one is video conferencing. There are free solutions like Bluejeans that allow remote employees to join a meeting on video and I’ve found that’s essentially to really being able to fully participate. Meetings that we used to conduct by conference call, which we now do over Bluejeans, have noticeably increased in quality. When people are on the phone they can’t read or transmit facial expressions and it’s hard to “read the room” (is everyone nodding thoughtfully or balking in horror at my idea?) plus the room will have a tendency to forget there’s another person on the phone and may not actively solicit their feedback the way they would in person. Video conferencing really is almost as good as actually being there, and if your team isn’t already using v-con for meetings with multiple locations participating, you could be suggesting a radical improvement by recommending they use it.

      2. Sunflower

        I asked if they had IM and she said they do but they don’t use it that much. She herself has only been there about 8 months and she only recently found out people use IM in the company. I’m hoping it becomes more common as I’d find IM really helpful.

    4. NacSacJack

      Ask if the company has an instant messaging app in use. It help me a lot as a remote work when people are always on the phone or in meetings. Also, ask how she wants to handle day-to-day stuff. Does she want to be involved or will you be expected to be independent on day to day? What is her daily schedule and does she want you to conform to her work schedule? She may say no, but to be honest if I didnt have NaC or SaC, I’d be working 6-3 to conform to my manager’s schedule.

    5. RR

      I manage remote staff, and have had a remote manager in the past. Things I look for: yes, be a good independent worker, but also have a good sense when/how to loop manager in. Since it’s harder to have spontaneous chats, someone who is good about looking ahead, and staying on top of larger picture items as well as the day to day. Someone who is not afraid to raise concerns to the manager. For my staff, I am not in their same office, so I am really relying on their judgment as to what might be a larger concern for our organization. Regularly scheduled check-ins are a must. Being adapt at more than one method of communication also really important — as others have mentioned, IMs, Skype, video chats, etc as well as email and regular phone calls.
      Are you able to effectively and cogently summarize key information to the manager, with succinct suggestions for next steps or at least identify where more info and help is needed? Again, since poking your head in the office door is not going to work as well as often, it’s likely you’ll be relying on emails more often, and there is a skill to this.
      Good luck!!

    6. Artemesia

      I’d focus on the processes to keep each other in the loop. Is there a routine weekly check in process to review status of projects. What are the procedures during the onboarding weeks for you to clarify policies and procedures as you learn the norms and processes of this business. What are the procedures for alerting the boss to problems or to get quick feedback when unexpected problems arise?

      It is hard enough for this to work when you are right there with some bosses but with an off site supervision there need to be formal processes of periodic communication in place.

  3. Minty

    I was going to email Alison about this but I think it would’ve been too short notice.

    About a week ago I applied for a job, and I’ve just been invited for an interview. It’s supposed to be in person, but I’m currently living in a different country (will be moving in a few weeks), so they arranged to do it over the phone.

    By the sounds of it this would be more in-depth than standard phone interviews used for pre-screenings, so I’m trying to balance the advice I’ve read here for phone interviews and in-person ones, but I’m quite worried how this might affect their assessment of me.

    At this point I’m almost certain I won’t get this job, since I’m pretty sure I’m up against local candidates who can present themselves in person. Nevertheless I’m taking this as a learning opportunity so I’d like to do my best, so any advice on how to (literally) sound good?

    (Also, to people who make regular international calls: this might be a silly question but do long-distance calls have lags? I know Skype tends to be a bit troublesome, but I don’t know if phones (or teleconferencing) would have the same issues.)

    1. Daisy Steiner

      In my experience*, long-distance calls shouldn’t lag any more. If they do, you’ve got a bad connection and you should hang up and call back.

      *Calling between US, UK and New Zealand

      1. Blue Anne

        I’m in the UK and use Skype weekly for therapy with my counselor based in the USA. When we do have problems, it’s due to my internet connection crapping out. As long as my internet is fine, it’s more than good enough for intense therapy, which I would probably make it fine for an interview as well.

      2. The IT Manager

        I lived internationally over 10 years ago and I do not not recall any noticeable lag on the phone (landline).

          1. OhNo

            Same experience here. I’ve called a friend of mine via Skype on cell phones (in W. Africa & China) and landlines (in India & S. America), and only really noticed significant lag when cell phones were involved. Make sure to use a landline with a stable connection, if you can.

    2. Bangs not Fringe

      Lag is negligible. But honestly, I’ve used both Skype and Viber for interviews and both have worked very well and were much cheaper than making international calls without VoIP. If you have a good connection, just stay in one place!

    3. Apollo Warbucks

      I never had a problem phoning the UK from overseas in the couple years I was working abroad.

    4. JB (not in Houston)

      I regularly Skype between here and S. Korea, and the lag is really not that noticeable. And the last time I had an overseas phone call, it really wasn’t very laggy.

    5. BRR

      I had no lag when I called from Costa Rica to the US (except the usual lag of my mother not hearing well).

      I think a lot of normal phone advice. I’d keep my email open in case there are phone issues. I prefer to stand up when doing a phone interview. You have the advantage of water and notes.

      Maybe call someone who can give you feedback on how you sound. I have no idea what my voice sounds like on the phone. I read something like 40% of our communication is non-verbal so it’s important to compensate with tone.

    6. Anon for this

      Being remote for the interview may not work against you like you’re thinking. I recently helped interview for a position we have open, and my top two picks among the candidates were both ones I didn’t meet in person–I couldn’t be onsite that day so I spoke with both of them by phone. They had great answers to my questions, and that made them stand out.

      1. Jen RO

        Yup, we just made an offer to a non-local candidate. We interviewed him by Skype and he was by far better than the candidates we saw in person.

    7. AnonPi

      Test out your connection with someone else, that way you can find out ahead of time if there’s any problems and have time to check into using another phone/computer/app etc. This goes for any phone/skype/etc type interview regardless if its international or not. I was supposed to have a skype interview a few years ago with a person a few states away, and he couldn’t get his skype to work so then he wanted to do a phone interview. Except his cell phone was cutting out, so he had to call back on a landline. He was so embarrassed, and I was just glad it wasn’t me!

    8. ptrish

      I’ve done phone interviews via Skype both with and without video, and on a cell phone, from Senegal to the U.S. Some lags happened, with both Skype and the cell phone, but less with the cell phone. Call quality (i.e. do I hear words or an unintelligible jumble?) was still an issue with the cell phone. My best advice is to be honest about the situation (I am on a cell phone because xyz) and professional about dealing with it. My most challenging interview, I repeated back every single question because the quality was so awful. (I got the job!)

      Also, the way they handle any technical difficulties will tell you a lot about the organization–I actually had to cancel an interview because my power went out five minutes before it was supposed to start, and no power=no internet, and I was incredibly impressed by how politely and professionally they handled it, right down to assuring me at the beginning of the makeup interview that it was really no big deal and not my fault.

  4. Dawn

    Happy Friday everyone! No question, nothing to vent, just feeling good and excited about the weekend!

    I hope everyone has something fun to do that they’re looking forward to!

      1. Ann Furthermore

        Fun! I went to that many times as a kid; my parents were both born and raised in Iowa so we spent many summers there.

    1. Anie

      Are you crazy?! It is still daylight on a weekday. This is not the time for happiness!

      (Ha. I’m actually off by 2pm today and stoked about it!)

        1. Anie

          No, he’s still here. My bosses vacation got extended until yesterday, so she’s struggling to catch up on other things from the last two weeks. The new guy I just…avoid. He’s gotten very quiet around me though, so it’s possible someone said something to him.

          Thanks for asking!

              1. Elizabeth West

                No no, that’s Tolkien! Wormtongue is from LOTR!

                I do really like Narnia, however. :D I have a box of Turkish Delight in the kitchen. Does that make me the White Witch? o_0

    2. Hlyssande

      Prep for our local Renaissance Festival (MNRF, starts the 22nd)! I have so much to do that it’s ridiculous. Laundry. Putting things together to lend a friend. More laundry. Cleaning because friends will be crashing at my place (I’m ten minutes away from site).

      What I do out there honestly a job in itself, just a volunteer one where we fundraise for the local nerdery (Geek Partnership Society). Lot of customer service-y things. And sun. And heat. And oh lawdy, the walking.

      1. Liza

        Oh, fun! I used to perform at MNRF, and my sister still does. I’m amazed you’re just doing laundry, not still constructing a whole new costume–that’s what I always used to be doing at this point in the summer. :-D

        1. Hlyssande

          I’ve got bits that are in progress but I want them to be done right rather than last second. If I’m lucky I’ll finish the shirt I’ve got halfway done on Sunday though!

        1. Meredith

          Something is going on with the Minnesota Ren Fest? Do tell, we try to make it over from Wisconsin every year when we can and it would be super sad if something is going awry!

        2. Hlyssande

          It’s still on the same site through 2016, and after that it’s still going to be in the area, possibly near Jordan rather than Shakopee. Don’t worry, it’s not ending!

      2. OriginalEmma

        I’m part of the GPS! I didn’t know MN held a renn faire and am excited about the Highland Games events. This is my first summer in MN. :D

        1. Hlyssande

          Then I might know you!

          MNRF has been running for over 30 years now actually! It’s pretty much an institution like the state fair. If you’re going to go, get there EARLY in the day. The traffic is absolutely terrible if you get there even mid-morning. And the pre-open gate shows are fun too!

          You should definitely come. :)

      3. OhNo

        Oh, hey fellow MN person! You might be able to help me out if you’re familiar with the Ren Fest – do you happen know how wheelchair-accessible it is? All the official sources say access is no problem, but the people I know who have gone recently give me dubious “well, maybe…” answers. So if you have any info to share, or maybe suggestions on who I could ask, I’d be really grateful! I’ve been dying to go, but I really don’t want to get stuck in the mud somewhere! :)

        1. Liza

          Well, there are no stairs, so it’s wheelchair-accessible as far as that goes. It’s unpaved, and the grass gets worn down pretty early in the season by all the foot traffic, so on rainy days it does get really muddy. If you go on a dry day after a string of other dry days, I’d think you would be all right. (With the caveat that you know your chair and your chair-handling skills, and of course I do not.) The grounds aren’t totally flat, but not steep either, and there are at least two ways to get to just about any point on the grounds, so if there’s a steep area I’ve forgotten about, you can go the other way and still get to where you want to be.

          Stuff to do during the day: there are stage areas here and there with performances scheduled throughout the day (music, dance, juggling, comedy). At some stages I think you’d be able to roll your chair to the front row, at others you might have to make your own space in the back row. Shopping: tons of little shops, some of which will be easier to navigate than others. I think there are things to do besides shop and watch performances, but that’s all I do there so I don’t know what others do…

          The one thing I can think of that might be difficult is buying food–most of the food booths have counters, and some of the counters are pretty high. If you’re attending with someone who isn’t in a chair and can go to the tall counters for you, you might have a better range of food options than if you have to go to only the places with lower counters.

          Oh, and food reminds me about bathrooms! It’s all port-a-potties, but every “Privy” area has at least one of the big wheelchair-accessible ones.

          If you do go, I hope you have a great time! I recommend Terpsichory courtly dance troupe’s performances–I used to be one of their musicians, and my sister is one of their dancers. :-)

        2. Katie

          Depends where you go on the site, I think. There are two gates to the Ren Fest, King’s Gate and Queen’s Gate. The King’s Gate area is flat and grassy, but the Queen’s Gate area includes a steep irregular hill and is definitely not wheelchair-friendly. King’s Gate is off of Highway 169, Queen’s Gate is off of Highway 41, so if you go in the 169 entrance you’ll hit the right place.

          Once you’re actually on the Festival grounds, most of the pathways are a mixture of plain dirt, gravel, and woodchips. I’d say it’s comparable to an unpaved park trail, perhaps? I can think of two steep-ish places offhand I wouldn’t care to take anything with wheels through, but as Liza said, there are other routes around those areas. But most of the area is either flat or a series of quite gentle inclines (meaning I think of them as flat except when I’m helping to pull our cart, when suddenly I can tell the difference!).

          I really hope you can come, and that you have a huge amount of fun! There are lots of great stage acts (Zilch the Tory Steller for wonderful wordplay, the Danger Committee does great juggling, too may good musical groups to name), there’s the joust to watch, and lots and lots of talented crafters who have made the most amazing things.

    3. Lalaith

      I do I do! Good friends getting married tomorrow, and another good friend coming in from out of town for the wedding and staying with me :) Which means I need to clean tonight, but I can’t wait for tomorrow!

    4. Elizabeth West

      A potluck meetup with my Doctor Who group, where we will most likely play Cards Against Humanity. Other than that, cleaning. Arrghh!

      Oh I do have a horror movie to watch so I can mail it back to Netflix. It’s been on my coffee table for AGES.

      1. Someone Else

        A Doctor Who group!!!! I wish we had one of those in my area…. or how to find one. Also, Cards Against Humanity is so much fun to play :)

      2. spocklady

        Oh my god that sounds like heaven. What does your Doctor Who group do together? “Just” watch the show, or other stuff like go to events and stuff? I mean, obviously you play Cards Against Humanity too…that sounds like a fan-freaking-tastic weekend.

        1. Elizabeth West

          We have been just watching episodes and having game nights, but we’ve recently begun attending events. I don’t really cosplay and I can’t travel to conventions much, so eh on that part of it. We all LOVE Cards Against Humanity, and indeed, I had never played it because the only other friends I’ve hung out with lately are all too holy to play it or have young kids in tow. (The fact that we meet in a church would absolutely SLAY them, heh heh.) We went bowling a few weeks ago, just to get out of the church for a change. It was fun. :D

          Recently, our fearless leader went to Dallas and met Sylvester McCoy; she gave him a thing we all wrote greetings on for him. :)

    5. Connie-Lynne

      Indeed! Crazy burlesque show tonight, then finalizing packing for my annual trip into the desert.

      I leave Monday to go work at Burningman; I’m an electrician and logistics for the crew that puts neon on the “Man.” Three weeks essentially off-grid, with some of my besties but without my husband or kitties (I bring pictures and hang them in my sleeping space).

      I’ll see AAM when I get back!

  5. katamia

    Hoping this is work-related enough….

    I started my new job this week, and I have a couple of huge knowledge gaps that I’m not going to be trained for. Was hoping people here would have resource suggestions..

    First, my job deals with academic writing (as in for journals). I’m not writing it myself, but I need to know the conventions. I’m looking for good books or websites (preferably websites because I don’t have good access to a library right now) that cover academic writing conventions. I’ve done Internet searches, but it’s hard to know what’s good advice and what isn’t.

    Also my job would be much easier if I knew statistics. I know nothing. I need “Statistics for Dummies…Who Suddenly Need to Know Statistics at a High Level.” (Things I’ve seen mentioned: Cronbach’s alpha, p < various things, chi-square tests.) I know about MOOCs and Khan Academy and all that, but I really don't learn well from videos and would prefer a more textbook-y resource.

      1. eee

        oh, and meant to mention–that site is especially helpful if you click around, not just the particular link I sent. Their statistics workshop was helpful for me!

    1. Aspen

      What level of statistical knowledge do you need? Are you looking for ways to identify conventional language/terminology used in writing up quantitative methods and results for publication in peer-reviewed literature, or do you need to know how to do some of the calculations yourself?

      1. katamia

        I need to be able to identify when someone’s typed something wrong or is talking about it in a grammatically incorrect way. I need to know the equations and how they’re used, but I won’t actually be doing any calculations myself.

        1. AnotherFed

          The best way to get comfortable with stats concepts is to use them. It might be worth it to take or audit a stats class. If that’ll take too long, maybe try Coursera? As you do that, try to apply the concepts to anything you can in daily life – matching socks in the laundry (drawing without replacement, or binomial distribution if it’s does the load have all matched socks), cleaning the litter box, number of red lights on your way in to work, etc.

          And if you really want a book, the Cartoon Guide to Statistics is a pretty approachable book at an affordable cost.

    2. Barbara in Swampeast

      Academic writing conventions, wow, that is minefield. You need to find out what style manual is followed by your department and the main journals you will be submitting to. Chicago Manual of Style, APA, MLA, AMA, etc. And you really need to BUY the current style manual for which ever style you need. People can tell when you use an older manual because things change. And you will need to buy a new manual whenever it is updated.

      1. Barbara in Swampeast

        Forgot to add, that you will need to adhere to the style manual very strictly for academic journals. Each style does things a certain way, so you can’t get any old style manual and use it and you just can’t fake it.

      2. katamia

        I have the style manuals. I’m looking more for the academic writing equivalent of “Show, don’t tell” and “Never use the word ‘said'” for fiction–good writing versus bad writing rather than “With APA, you write numbers as numerals starting with this number, while with AMA, you do it starting with this number.”

        1. fposte

          I think a lot of fields don’t have anything like that. They draw on the basic English stuff and hope people extrapolate.

            1. Danielle

              I highly recommend Writing Science by Joshua Schimel. It’s focus is on how to tell the story of your research in an academic journal article but there’s also a lot on style that I think would fit what you’re looking for.

              1. fposte

                Ooh, that sounds really interesting. Sorry, katamia, sounds like you were right and there was something.

        2. Small Creatures Such As We

          There are typically “how to write well” resources for specific fields (will link to one in a reply), but they can be a bit hard to locate — the Bem article I mentioned below might be useful, just ignore the advice that sounds like HARKing (hypothesizing after the results are known; see Norbert Kerr, 1998, Personality & Social Psychology Review).

          Even in the business world, I still live by Bem’s advice that “as an unclarity detector, your reader is never wrong.” That “reader” includes YOU. If you are editing a paper and something is unclear, then it will be unclear to the rest of the audience. Often, academics write as if they only need to be understood by the 10 other people who specialize in their little research interest, but if they want to get cited (and really, that IS the point), then it needs to be clear to all of their readers.

          But honestly, the definition of “writing well” in any field varies WIDELY. If you are editing papers for a given set of authors, they may well have their own hobbyhorses (ahem, especially if they are academics). You may simply have to ask them what they are (and I second the suggestion to ask if there’s an article or two that they can point to as being well-written).
          Case in point, my grad advisor was probably not a natural writer, but he worked at it a lot; he came from the George Orwell (“Politics and the English Language”) school: short, active-voice sentences and write CLEARLY and with as little jargon as possible (also: DESCRIBE your results in plain English, so that your reader can understand what happened, even if they know NOTHING about statistics). My husband’s post-doc advisor, on the other hand, is a prolific writer and well-regarded in the field (and ALWAYS has grammar edits for papers), but I find him well-nigh impossible to read (think passive-voice sentences that go on for a paragraph, “utilize” instead of “use”, etc.).

          Good luck!

          1. Small Creatures Such As We

            For psychology, I like the handouts at UWash: http://www.psych.uw.edu/psych.php?p=187
            I especially like the “Style points for scientific writing” — I actually have an older version of that PDF, which also cited the following, although I’ve never read them:
            Pechenik, J. (1997). A short guide to writing about biology (3rd ed.). New York: Addison-Wesley.
            Zinsser, W. (1998). On writing well (6th ed.). New York: HarperCollins.
            and “On Writing Clear, Economic Prose”, by George Barlow, former editor of Ethology.

            Oh, and this link: http://people.exeter.ac.uk/SEGLea/psy6002/writing.htm
            Read the “Grammar (etc)” section, if nothing else. I’m something of a grammar stickler (I cannot NOT see typos and grammar mistakes, but I try to only use those abilities for good…too bad I’ve never mastered the art of writing concisely), and it covers all of my pet peeves.
            The fastest way to make a psychologist (or other empiricist, I would think) suspect your writing abilities is to misuse affect/effect (the extra complication for psychologists, where “affect” can be a noun that means emotion). And he does accurately describe APA’s perfectly ridiculously rule about only using “since” as a synonym for “because”.

    3. Mimmy

      I like the Online Writing Lab, created by Purdue University. Haven’t looked at it in awhile, but they have a lot of good material. Specifically, there is a section on academic writing, which I’ll post as a reply to this – keep your eye out for it once it passes moderation.

      1. Cordelia Naismith

        I love the Purdue OWL and use it all the time. But I just want to repeat Barbara in Swampeast’s point that academic writing conventions (especially conventions around citation) vary from field to field and sometimes from journal to journal! The Purdue OWL is a great resource for MLA and APA styles, but if you’re in a field that uses a different style, you might be out of luck.

        It’s still a great resource for grammar in general, though.

    4. themmases

      I picked up journal conventions on the job a few years ago; you can do this! In general your field(s) will have a broad outline of how a journal article should go, with some formatting and length changes for specific journals.

      Go to the websites for major journals in your field. They will all have some sort of section with instructions for authors, and it should be public or easily accessible by registering without submitting a manuscript right away. The best ones will give you a table of the topics, sections, length, and max number of references for each type of article they accept. They should also have a longer section with guidance about formatting, especially reference formatting, and ideally a link to files of their preferred reference style that you can just download for your preferred reference manager. Read a few of these documents and you will start to see some common themes.

      If you’re not doing the writing yourself, chances are the authors you work with will produce work that is broadly within the format norms of their field. Once they pick a journal they want to submit to, you can go through the manuscript and systematically compare it to anything specific that journal wants.

    5. Anonmanom

      As someone who also likes a text to reference and sit on the shelf, I have to recommend the text I used for the MBS course on stats. It was very much a “hey, if you haven’t taken a math class in 20 years and need to survive finance, here is your refresher class.” The book also goes through how to use Excel to model and do a lot of calculations for you, which I used for class and still use a lot! The book was Essentials of Modern Business Statistics with Microsoft Excel, first author David Anderson. You can find it for like $25 online.

    6. CanoeSeeMe

      I agree with Mimmy-the OWL is a great resource. My job also deals with academic writing. Requirements are on a journal-by-journal basis, and you can look up examples of APA style (among others) as needed.
      As far as statistics go, I’m sorry that I don’t have a book I can recommend. I didn’t use textbooks in my stats courses. You can always ask coworkers for old notes (you might be surprised how many people have kept them in a back closet somewhere).

    7. themmases

      Also, regarding statistics: I think I knew most of the terms in your list by the end of my first stats class, and definitely by partway through the second. If you think you’ll ever need to calculate these things yourself or critically interpret them, definitely take a class because you’ll probably only need one. Either way, buy a textbook. No non-statistician keeps every test in their head all the time. You will appreciate having a reference in the future that isn’t too high level.

      I would say don’t depend on Google for stats. I’ve found that many online statistics resources are written at an inappropriately high level– for example, referencing advanced concepts or variations when explaining what an elementary concept like alpha is. A textbook will give you the information sequentially and avoid that. Also, slight differences in notation or approach between authors can be incredibly confusing in the early stages of learning statistics. Take a class or get a textbook, learn it that person’s way, and it won’t be too hard and the higher level understanding will come.

    8. the_scientist

      What field are you in? I’m guessing Pyschology, based on the reference to Cronbach’s alpha? That’s going to be extremely important! Like Barbara in Swampeast said, you will need to get the style manuals for the style you’ll be writing in. Each academic journal has their own (very, very particular) requirements and you cannot fake it or half-ass it; that’s the fastest way to piss off an editor.

      The Owl at Purdue is a great high-level resource for different styles, but you’ll really need the style manual.

      Pechenik’s “A Short Guide to Writing for Biology” is a pretty helpful writing guide for beginners in the biological sciences. It’s targeted to people writing the manuscripts, but I used it as a reference in undergrad, so it’s also pretty introductory. If your field is the bio/life sciences, you could probably get a used copy of this for pretty cheap.

      For statistics: Coursera has a tonne of statistics courses for various levels and fields. Again, having more details on the field might be helpful in terms of suggestions. You could also try the Statistics Hell website. All the statistics textbooks I’ve used have been pretty terrible, like really dry and hard to follow, so I don’t have great recommendations there unfortunately. Also, if you’re required to use any analytical software (SAS, SPSS, R), it’s worth taking an online course on whatever you’ll be using- especially SAS and R, unless you’re naturally talented with programming. SPSS is more user friendly.

      Also, stats for psychology can get pretty hairy (face validity, internal/external reliability, content/construct validity) so if you can find a course in statistics for psychology, it might be worth taking one.

      1. Small Creatures Such As We

        Yes, my thought was psychology as well? katamia, can you confirm?

        If so, then let me know, and I’ll add some specific recommendations this weekend. My graduate advisor taught a GREAT graduate-level research-methods in psychology course (and I know I have the course info somewhere on my home computer, because my husband is teaching a similar course for masters students). There are a few high-level articles that might be useful (Daryl Bem’s “Writing the Empirical Journal Article” comes to mind, along with SOMETHING that went through all of the various forms of validity).

        And do you need to RUN/INTERPRET statistical analyses, or just understand them? For the latter, I second periwinkle’s recommendation of “Statistics for People Who (Think They) Hate Statistics”. For the former — which statistics software package will you be using?

        1. Laura

          If you can find that course info I would LOVE it, at least a reading list :) I am prepping to teach my firer methods class as we speak.

          1. Small Creatures Such As We

            No problem! Within this set of syllabuses, the grad research-methods syllabus here looks similar to my course; it looks like the actual articles are secured, but hopefully the multiple syllabuses might give you some ideas: https://osf.io/vkhbt/ It looks like if you start Googling for the citations, you should be able to find electronic versions of the articles/chapters to give you a sense of whether they’ll work for you.

            I vaguely recall that the Shadish chapters had detailed descriptions of the various forms of validity, citation is:
            Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. William R Shadish, Thomas D. Cook, and Donald T. Campbell (2002)

            And I vaguely recall these articles as being useful (and of course, everyone should read Cohen’s “The Earth is round p < .05, if only for the title):
            Rosnow, Ralph L. & Rosenthal, Robert. (1989). Statistical procedures and the justification of knowledge in psychological science. American Psychologist, 44, 1276-1284.
            Wilkinson, L., & Task Force on Statistical Inference. (1999). Statistical methods in psychology journals: Guidelines and explanations. American Psychologist, 54, 594-604

            And I suppose I should walk back my statement about Bem's article a bit — after his GD "empirical" article on PSI abilities, I think his advice seems a little…dodgy (published in that "prestigious" journal that was practically REQUIRED to get/keep an academic job when I graduated). I don't know if there's been a better replacement for that advice, though?

            Good luck teaching your methods course!

      2. katamia

        My job involves editing papers. I’ll be editing papers in different fields that have (so far, some STEM, some education, probably little to no humanities). I’m not sure how much they take workers’ educational backgrounds into account, but if they do, I suspect I’ll be doing more psych/education and maybe some biology or math, but it could also include chemistry, physics, etc. Basically anything.

      3. Honeybee

        Most introductory statistics classes in psychology won’t teach about validity and reliability. She’d have to take a research methods class for that, and even then, I don’t remember learning about internal reliability and construct validity until a graduate class in statistics.

    9. periwinkle

      “Statistics for People Who (Think They) Hate Statistics” by Neil Salkind is a great entry-level text on stats that keeps it simple without dumbing it down. One of my professors recommended it when I needed to teach myself basic statistics.

    10. AnonAcademic

      What do you mean by a “high level” of stats knowledge? The things you mentioned would all be covered in a good Stats 101 course. Higher level stats usually refers to multivariate models (multiple regression, structural equation models, etc.). If your job expects you to go from knowing nothing to mastering multivariate stats quickly they do not have realistic expectations. If they expect you to learn to interpret p values and such that’s more reasonable.

    11. Dang

      What kind of academic writing? I work with a lot of medical writers and I found reviewing the ICMJE materials was extremely helpful. I think most disciplines have something similar.

    12. OhNo

      I know the APA guide (the actual blue book) has some significant info about writing conventions for academic papers that use APA style. I’m guessing other actual style manuals might have similar information, so that would be my first suggestion for writing conventions.

      For stats, may I recommend “The Practice of Social Research” by Earl Babbie? It’s more of an overview of research techniques, but there are a couple of chapters on data analysis and statistics that I found really easy to read and understand. I’m also a big fan of the In A Nutshell series, and I know they have one on statistics, so that might be worth a look as well.

    13. abby

      Agree with the others. Academic writing for journals is highly specific by discipline, so you need to identify the style manual that your discipline uses. And keep updated. Some style manuals are so complicated that one can take courses in them.

      For statistics, the things you mentioned are pretty basic. You could likely pick up what you need in a stats 101 course at a local community college, though a semester might be more time than you want to spend. I took a number of statistics courses in college and graduate school and always found the hands-on work to be the most effective teacher; books are only so useful, in my opinion. As such, other than stats 101 textbooks, I cannot recommend any good book resources.

      If we knew why you need to know statistics and how you will use them, we could suggest other options. For example, maybe you need to read and comprehend what the authors are describing. A research methods class that gets into design and basic analysis might be a better choice. But if you are actually doing and interpreting, you need to know statistics. You also may need to consider a class in the software you’ll be using, such as SPSS or SAS.

      1. Artemesia

        Let me suggest you also get colleagues to identify 3 or 4 journal articles that they consider exemplary. There is a lot of dreadful journal writing. I know because I review for several journals and a lot of it is so very badly written. One of the best ways to get the feel for conventions and good writing is to read some of it. That plus the style manual — maybe APA if it is psych should help you get that under control. Decades ago SPSS had a wonderful guide to the software that carefully explained the function of each of the statistical processes that was just perfect; then they revised and the more recent manuals are terrible. So the idea of finding a good intro text for your field is probably the best bet. It doesn’t sound like you need to do stat but rather to understand what forms of analysis are appropriate for different data sets and purposes so a text that focuses on purpose is the right idea. I’ll bet there is actually a basic stats for dummies book to start.

    14. TheAssistant

      I just finished Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan and was very impressed. I was essentially reading it for fun (because I’m a nerd sans quantitative background), but it gave a high-level overview while providing appendices for how to actually calculate. It will basically help you understand the basic terminology and methodology for academic research without making you an expert statistician. I don’t remember if Cronbach’s alpha or chi-square tests are mentioned, but p-values come up frequently. Then I would buy a field-specific reference text to keep on your desk for any weirdness you need to know but haven’t seen before.

    15. Honeybee

      A good general academic writing book is Booth & Colomb’s The Craft of Research. You might also be interested in How to Write a Lot and Write It Up, both by Paul Silvia. Although both books are sort of more functional books (the first about how to carve out time in your writing schedule and the second about how to write an academic journal article) there is also some stylistic and general writing advice in both of them.

      There’s also a really excellent book called Discovering Statistics Using SPSS, by Andy Field. Yes, the book does teach how to perform statistics using SPSS – but it also gives a good basic overview of statistical concepts, and it does so in an informal and irreverent tone that’s much nicer than some of the dry statistical tomes out there. (There’s also a version for SAS and for R.) Andy Field also runs a website called Statistics Hell, and that page has some websites addressing basic statistical techniques with examples.

      If you need a good research methods text for reference, a good one is the classic Shadish, Cook, & Campbell 2002 Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference. There are chapters in there on validity and reliability (mentioned above) as well as a bunch of other things. We use it in our graduate research methods classes, so it’s a bit dense, but it has what you need in there.

      1. Cb

        There is also a recent book called Stylish Academic Writing which might help for some of the conventions of style.

      2. Small Creatures Such As We

        +1000 for the Andy Field recommendation (I have the SAS version). I didn’t discover it till I was TEACHING undergrad (psychology) statistics, and I wish I’d discovered it much, much earlier.

        I also highly recommend UCLA’s Stats website (http://www.ats.ucla.edu/stat/). They have modules for most of the major stats packages,

        In my first year of grad school, our stats professor was writing an R-based textbook that was still a draft-with-revisions after eight years, my lab used SAS exclusively, and my TA position required SPSS. I only survived that because of UCLA’s “which statistical analysis should I run” page and the rest of their content: http://www.ats.ucla.edu/stat/sas/whatstat/default.htm

  6. Anna

    Posted last week about about a growing crush on my team leader. This week hasn’t made things any easier. Since I’m new to the team we’ve had quite a few one-on-one sessions so he could get me up to speed. It feels like I’ve regressed about a decade back to my teens, because I can’t stop myself from blushing (not all the time, but seems to come and go at random) and I can’t exactly ‘clear my mind’ or try to distract my thoughts because I need to be listening to what he’s saying.

    Commenters here gave me some lovely advice last time, and I’ve been trying to follow them. I just seriously need to grow up.

    1. Dawn

      It’s not a legit crush, it’s a work crush. It’s a “hey this is the most attractive person in the immediate vicinity and I am forced to spend large amounts of time in close proximity to them so my lizard brain is going to translate that into SUPER CRUSH.”

      I have had a stupidly huge crush on a boss before (stupid huge) and after getting some distance from that job realize that it was just a case of “They’re the most attractive person that I see at work” and not a case of “I am desperately in love with this person.”

      Doesn’t make it much easier in the moment but maybe it’ll help a bit.

        1. Anonymosity

          *sigh* Yes, eventually it will.

          Mine has mostly passed, though I’m still disappointed at the outcome of my effort. It’s his loss, really. Or maybe Fate saved me from something really annoying!

      1. Retail Lifer

        THIS. I look back and laugh at myself at some of my previous work crushes. If I had known them under any other circumstances, it wouldn’t have happened. I was in a female-dominated major in college and the one random straight guy in class was always popular for that same reason.

      2. K.

        My best friend has a crush on her boss for the same reason. I think it’s also partly that she and her boss frequently have the same minority opinions. She works remotely now for the same company and boss and her crush has weakened significantly since she’s no longer in the office with him (in fact, she’s halfway across the company). It’ll fade.

      3. Temp Anon Unless He's Reading This Then Call Me

        I have one of these. Fun at work, might be friends outside of work, dear god don’t want to be in a relationship. Things that I find unique about his personality and possibly quirky now would drive me insane in a relationship.

        Also I have the crush because he reminds me of my husband.

    2. Sunflower

      I was reading a blob for a book I just added to my goodreads list (For reference it’s called: Adulting)

      She suggests imaging your coworkers have plastic, featureless doll crotches. Maybe not the best advice but worth a shot!

      1. Liz

        This is a wonderful book. My sister gave it to me as a graduation present and it really does help with learning how to be an adult. (I am the oldest child and the first of my family to do the high school – college – job away from home track, so everything that I am doing in new for everyone)

        1. Ruffingit

          I read this as “I had a mouthful of soap..” and totally wondered why you were eating soap. LOL!

    3. Amber Rose

      Don’t be so hard on yourself. I randomly crush as well, and I’m married. =P

      It’s just the way your brain is wired. As long as you don’t act on it or start being super flirty it’ll pass without notice.

    4. Anonmanom

      So, here is the good thing (at least for me) about work crushes. Work crushes tend to make me want to work harder, be better, etc. Wanting to impress someone is totally something you can try to harness to be a rockstar at your new job. It is also the number one way to ensure that I dress like a professional, actually do my hair in the morning, and in general keep myself at the top of my game.

      Basically, until it fades, harness the weird energy and use it to your advantage :)

      1. Elizabeth West

        Yeah, I did that once–completely crushed on a new guy at one job, someone I never had a chance with and who wasn’t even close to being my dream guy (he was really cute, but he was kind of a bumpkin). It inspired me to get off my ever-growing ass and lose some weight.

    5. Juli G.

      I have some really dysfunctional ones – including the latest which was just… I knew as it happened it made no sense. For me, it’s that my partner is not “corporate” and sometimes, he doesn’t get my work stuff like someone at work does.
      Luckily for me, a gallon of milk lasts longer than my crushes.

    6. Koko

      You actually do still need to “clear your thoughts” because (if you’re anything like me) while you’re sitting there thinking, “Oooh, he’s so CUTE and he has the CUTEST smile while he’s talking to me oh em gee,” you might find that you’re no longer paying attention to those things he’s telling you that are so important. A good reminder to yourself would be, “Wait, what is he saying here? Yes, this is important because… I’ll need to know this when I… Do I have any questions about this? Has he covered all the possibilities?”

      Just keep reminding yourself this is a work conversation and focus on what you need to get out of the conversation to do your job, and let that push out the crushy-feelings.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yes, to clearing your thoughts. (Good name for the process, BTW.) Clear your thoughts out even if you are not at work. These thoughts are just an oasis in your day, that is all. Worse yet the oasis is a mirage.

        A suggestion I have is to growl at yourself as you say “OH YEAH! So What!” (Your internal voice, of course.)

        This fits a lot of situations. He smiles good morning as you pass in the hallway. “OH YEAH! So WHAT!”, you tell yourself. He tells you that you did a super job on X. “OH, YEAH! So WHAT!”, you tell yourself again.

        I think that 50% of the work crushes happen because nothing else interesting is going on in life. Build yourself something else that is interesting to you.

      2. Honeybee

        I sort of had this experience in an interview recently…I mean, it wasn’t SO bad because I ended up getting the job, but one of my interviewers was distractingly attractive. I had to consciously remind myself to listen to his questions, lol!

    7. AE

      Try thought-stopping, or thinking of something disgusting when you think of this person, because nothing good could come from entertaining inappropriate thoughts.

    8. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      Carolyn Hax had advice recently for someone with a work crush: look for his flaws. Deliberately find the things about him that bother you. Then focus on them.

      Usually I agree that we should look for the good in people, but sometimes– looking for the bad is a good thing. :)

      1. Elizabeth West

        That’s great advice. I was talking to a crush once and he said he didn’t read–well that’s kind of a deal breaker for a writer! So I kept thinking about that every time I was tempted to encourage the inner swoon. “He doesn’t read. He wouldn’t want to see your work, and he would never understand why you like Harry Potter so much. He does not read.” It was hard, because he was soooooooocuuuuuuute but it helped.

    9. spocklady

      Oh my god sympathy. Every once in a while I have one of these too — I wish I could just make them totally stop, but it hasn’t happened yet :/

      What seems to help me is once we start moving into friends territory — then usually I start to learn enough about the person that I can start to identify stuff that would drive me CRAZY if I were in a relationship with them.

      I have a current one that’s especially difficult to shake, and I’m hoping that if I invent awful habits they *might* have, then every time I catch myself getting silly and gooey, I can remind myself about this fake habit. If it’s annoying enough, my hope is that even though I know I made it up, it’ll jolt me back out of it. I hope?

      Good luck and solidarity. It’s such a frustrating experience.

  7. Crunchy

    Does anyone have suggestions for desk-friendly snacks that are both healthy and not to loud to eat? I want to steer clear of cookies or chocolate, but when I tried carrot sticks or apples they tend to be quite noisy even when I try to chew quietly (I’m in a very quiet office).

    1. Daisy Steiner

      Bananas? Though then you’ve got potential for that sort of lip-smacking sound that makes me want to squeeze things.

        1. nep

          Seems to me the smell gets strong-ish only if peel is left in an office bin, or if a peeled banana is left about too long. Does the aroma really get to you if someone’s just eating one nearby? (Good to know because I’m all about eating bananas at work.)

          1. OfficePrincess

            Once they get close to overripe, they do smell all the time, even if still in the peel. But a just ripe banana is normally not too bad.

          2. Cordelia Naismith

            I really, really hate bananas, and I find the smell to be really strong. If someone’s eating one in the break room, that’s no big deal, but if they are eating one at their desk and leave the peel in the trash there, that drives me crazy. The smell just lingers.

            Maybe putting the peel in a ziplock baggie before throwing it out would help. That’s what I do with my apple cores, and I find it keeps me from smelling the apple remains all day. I’ve never seen anyone do this with banana peels, though, so I don’t know.

            1. nep

              I see how it can be annoying if you really hate bananas.
              I often carry ziploc bags to throw out that kind of thing, or dispose of it in an outside bin.

        2. Dynamic Beige

          TMI Alert: I have some issue with bananas.

          It’s not about the way they smell, it’s about the way I erm… make certain smells the day after I eat them. I will not eat a banana unless I know I’m going to be by myself the next day and have access to a book of matches.

        3. katamia

          I can’t even eat bananas (as in I’ve never had one in my life) because the smell gives me such bad nausea. Ugh. Same with pineapples.

    2. badger_doc

      Some of the things I bring: String Cheese, Grapes, Cherries, Dried Fruit, Yogurt, Nuts, Apple Slices and Peanut Butter…

      1. AnotherAlison

        Oh no. I will never forget my cube neighbor at my first job & his lunchtime yogurt.
        *scrape scrape scrape*

        1. Mimmy

          LOL!!! I was thinking the same thing!! My husband had an office mate who always had a snack in a plastic bowl, and would make that scraping noise. Drove him nuts!

          1. INFJ

            I would prefer the scraping sound to watching a former coworker (who always took the same break time as me) dig out the last bits of yogurt with her finger and then lick her finger clean. She also licked the yogurt off the foil lid. *cringes*

            1. infj2

              hahahahaha. i had a coworker who used to bring his yogurt to staff meetings and always licked the foil lid. i had no idea that everyone else noticed it until after left and someone mentioned it.

        2. Hermione

          For what it’s worth, those yogurt bite things that are made for babies (the size of m&ms, almost) are pretty good. There’s also always gogurt, aha.

        3. Bea W

          I had a co-worker like that. He had a bowl of yogurt and a banana everyday and would CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! the metal spoon on the bowl getting the last bits. So glad he moved on. That wasn’t his worst quality.

          1. Bea W

            I forgot to mention it was a ceramic bowl and he’d bring the yogurt in a glass jar. Plastic would have been easier on the ears.

      2. Ragnelle

        I could be the only person, but I find the smell of yogurt really gross, and it tends to carry quite a distance (for snack food). I hate it when my office mates eat it at their desks, but I don’t think I’ve ever said anything, because I figure it’s my problem, not theirs.

        Snacks, with their attendant smells and noises, seem to be a minefield, so maybe just be as conscientious as you can and let your coworkers tell you if something is really annoying them.

        1. Honeybee

          I was just about to say…it seems you can’t please everyone. I never realized bananas and yogurt were potentially annoying foods before this thread.

    3. Jerzy

      Cucumbers tend to be a little quieter, as are bananas, and most nuts aren’t that loud (as long as you aren’t cracking open the shells, though there’s problem there of allergic reactions of coworkers).

        1. kozinskey

          Some people have bad enough allergies that just being in the vicinity of, say, peanuts can cause a reaction. It’s rare, but it happens.

            1. Rebecca

              I have food allergies, but geez, I can’t imagine having to scrub my work snacks by somebody. It’s not like it’s an airplane (and I don’t check with anybody before opening a snack there, either…)…

              1. zora

                No, but on the airplane they will tell you if there is a passenger with a severe enough allergy that it would be life-threatening. I have been on a handful of flights where they announced they would not be serving peanuts because of a passenger with an allergy, and asking that no one eat any peanut-containing foods while on the flight. Which is always a bummer for me, because my standby travel food is peanut-butter filled pretzels, but I can survive without eating them for one flight.

                If someone is allergic enough that they would have a reaction if there were peanuts in the building at all, they would be proactive about letting everyone know.

          1. afiendishthingy

            True, but I’d expect someone with allergies this severe would proactively inform her coworkers in the immediate vicinity of her needs.

      1. GoldfishObituary

        Grapes are always good, or maybe a trail mix with dried fruits and softer, less crunchy-sounding nuts, like cashews?

    4. themmases

      Have you tried nuts? That’s a fairly healthy snack and although they are crunchy, you aren’t crunching off a piece of them like with apples– they enable you to just chew with your mouth closed. I also like granola bars (the trail mix kind with no chocolate) and string cheese. I’ve even eaten a granola bar, string cheese, and an apple for lunch together in a pinch!

      Just as an aside though, I used to share an office (as in she sat directly behing me and if I rolled back less than a foot I could touch her) with someone who packed baby carrots in her lunch every single day for years. I never remember noticing the noise or feeling bothered by it.

      1. Windchime

        I used to have a cube neighbor who would eat baby carrots for her morning snack. I could hear her, but it didn’t bother me. I’m sure I made noises that she could hear, too, but we are in cubes and that’s just kind of how it is. It didn’t occur to me that yogurt or bananas would be offensive snacks. I eat an orange nearly every day and I wonder if the scent of that is off-putting to people? I love the smell of oranges, but maybe some people don’t.

    5. Ezri

      I’ve had to revamp my work food somewhat, in an attempt to be more healthy… these days I’m bringing 2 or more of the following: roasted peanuts (no shells), strawberries, banana slices, apple slices. I’ve noticed the apple noise problem is somewhat mitigated by cutting it up and putting it in a baggie instead of biting into a whole fruit. It’s just easier to chew small pieces quietly.

      If you are worried about your fruit browning after you cut it up, I’ve found that a couple drops of lemon juice in the bag helps it last a bit longer.

      1. MM

        I just learned that pineapple juice will do the same thing as lemon juice to keep apples from browning – and it doesn’t impact the taste as much. Neat food service trick, apparently!

    6. Sara The Event Planner

      I always keep individual tubes of trail mix in my desk drawer, and usually some type of dried fruit. Yogurt is a good choice, as well (and convenient)

    7. Snacks and Allergies

      Please consider avoiding common (Top 8) allergens like nuts/peanut butter. The particles can wreak havoc even just in the air.

      Grapes make a good healthy snack.

    8. TotesMaGoats

      Sargento Snack Breaks. Love them. Cheese cubes, some sort of dried fruit and nuts. But not a ton of nuts, so noise shouldn’t be a factor.

    9. Cordelia Naismith

      Graze does some really good work snacks. And it’s mail order, delivered right to your workplace. It’s awesome.

      1. OhNo

        I’ll add my agreement for the Graze snacks – aside from a few options, most of their snacks are healthy, delicious, and quiet to eat. Plus, they come portion-controlled, which helps me out a LOT.

    10. Elizabeth West

      I have nuts, and cheese is always good. You can leave Babybel and string cheese out for a couple of hours and it’s okay. You could make some of those healthy snack bites I always see pop up on Buzzfeed, with oats and fruit and stuff.
      Tiny packets of oatmeal you can add water too and heat in the microwave (just make your own from oats in a carton), and add raisins or other dried fruit.
      Almond or cashew butter isn’t as smelly as peanut butter, and you can put that on little pieces of whole-grain bread or crispbread (though that might crunch a bit).

      I apologize to everyone in my office because I’m eating watermelon slices right now and they are a little bit smacky-dribbly. But oh so tasty.

    11. another IT manager

      Dry/loose packed olives. No juice, and they come in various flavors (I got the peppered green olives and the regular green olives this month, nom nom). Amazon has them on subscribe and save. They come in little individual serving packs.

      1. Chalupa Batman

        Smoothies freeze pretty well, too. Schwans had some that came in super convenient 12 oz cups with straws. I would take a frozen one to work, then set it on my desk and it would be drinkable within a few hours, right when I needed a snack. The cups are reusable, too, but it was like $10 for 4. I would think a big batch of smoothie portioned into sealable cups or baggies would work fine for a DIY version.

      1. zora

        when I had easy access to a microwave, I would buy the frozen pre-cooked edamame pods (from Trader Joe’s). I’d put a handful in a small tupperware add a splash of soy sauce and a little salt in the morning. Keep in the fridge at the office, and then throw in the microwave for like 30sec-1minute. It was super easy!

  8. bassclefchick

    Oh, my. It’s been a ROUGH week. I am a temp at a major food manufacturer that just completed a merger last month. Wednesday was layoff day. It’s been in the news. 2,500 jobs lost in the US and Canada. Luckily, I survived this round. But it’s still very shaky as to what will happen here. Let’s just say the ketchup colored writing was splattered on the wall in huge letters this week. Really bummed that opportunity last week didn’t pan out. Have to step up the job hunt, but I just don’t even know where to start looking.

    1. Colette

      My advice? You’re safe for now, so give yourself a couple of days to process the lass before you start looking. A little time will hopefully give you some perspective.

      I’ve been there, and it’s extremely hard to be one of the ones left after a layoff.

      1. Another HRPro

        My advice is actually the opposite. Your local market is getting flooded with other folks who are now looking for a job. You want to be on the earlier side of this if the layoffs are going to continue. Good luck.

        1. Colette

          A couple of days won’t make much difference. Personally, I find I can’t effectively job hunt when I’m upset/stressed. However, job hunting is not a skill I’m great at (or enjoy)’, so that may be different for others.

        2. bassclefchick

          Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. Luckily the 2,500 aren’t all at my location. I think our office had about 160, which shouldn’t flood the market too much. But it’s still 160 too many.

    2. Lefty

      Ugh, I know this feeling… it’s like layoff survivor’s guilt. You miss your former colleagues, you’re learning new things to cover some of their work, and you’re worried about your own employment future too. You need time to let those things “set in” sometimes.
      Whenever I start the job hunt again, I focus on getting my resume in line with my latest & greatest work accomplishments. Maybe start with the things that you can do easily- resume, rough draft of a cover letter- it might let you see what you really enjoy anyway so you can pursue that with your new search.

  9. GoldfishObituary

    I’ve really been struggling at work for the past couple of months. I used to excel at my job, and now I’m consistently about 20% short of where my metrics need to be. My coworkers aren’t having a hard time meeting their goals, so I really don’t know what’s going on with me. I thought I was burned out, so I took a (lovely) vacation about a month ago, but my performance actually got worse after I returned. Management hasn’t approached me about the issue, but it’s really stressing me out. I’m not doing well, and I don’t know why, what’s changed, or how to fix it. Anyone been through anything similar? Any tips?

    1. Sunflower

      First ask yourself if you are sure you don’t know what’s going on. Are you still happy at your job? Feel challenged? Is there something going on in your personal life that might be subconsciously taking your energy?

      I would be pro-active and talk to your manager first before waiting for her to talk to you. They have to know you aren’t hitting your numbers and they want to see you succeed because you succeed=they succeed.

      1. Nanc

        I second talking to your manager. If they’re any good as a manager, they know you’re struggling. If you can, write up a little outline of what you want to cover and (if possible) ID the areas of the job where you most struggle. Ask for a 15 minute meeting to discuss and email him/her the outline with the meeting request. Hopefully the two of you will be able to come up with a plan to get you back on track. And ask for a follow up meeting, even if you feel like you’re no longer struggling.

        Good luck–let us know how it goes.

        1. GoldfishObituary

          Thank you, I think I will do that! I’ll send it today and kind of give her the rundown on my performance this week, asking for a meeting on Monday. I did send her an “I’m aware of the situation and concerned about my numbers; if you feel there’s anything I could be doing differently please let me know” type email about 2 months ago, but she never responded or acknowledged it in person. Maybe I just need to be more proactive and solicit feedback more.

      2. BRR

        I second all of those questions. Also has your manager changed or anything related to your work environment? If you’ve been there a long time you might be bored.

        1. GoldfishObituary

          I very possibly could be bored! I’ve been here for over 2 years, and there’s really not a lot of room to grow. I don’t feel challenged at all, but the schedule works well for me, and it pays well enough for me to pursue my side projects and passions, so it’s always felt worth it enough and I’ve been able to throw myself into for that reasons. I try to stay motivated, but now I’m just getting more and more frustrated, as I can’t seem to reach my goals. Management hasn’t changed, and nor has the environment.

    2. AdAgencyChick

      Have your metrics been raised or are you now having trouble meeting the same bar you used to?

      1. GoldfishObituary

        The metrics haven’t changed, but the lead sources have. Coworkers are not struggling, but I really am.

        1. Not So NewReader

          The lead sources changed. Can you add more to this statement or it is too identifying?

          I have seen situations where one thing changes and -bam- like dominoes the next stuff goes down-down-down.
          I have also seen times where I am the only person who is wrestling with something because I see problems that others have missed> OR I think something is a problem and I keep fixing it (time suck) and everyone else does not bother to fix it.

          Were you doing fine until the sources changed?

          1. GoldfishObituary

            Exactly this! I feel like I am the only one struggling and I feel like I find problems that others don’t. Many of the leads are not qualified for us to produce teapots for them, and I think I might be spending too much time explaining to them why/offering information and possible other avenues, as opposed to moving on to the next lead.

            1. Not So NewReader

              Okay, sounds like you are on to something. Target that, make some changes and see where that puts you. I wrestle with doing things the so-called right way or doing it the way everyone else does. Try to avoid that pit if possible. Go back to “What does my company/boss expect of me on this particular point?” If you boss does not want you to do all that explaining, then let it go, if for no other reason than you would like to keep your job.

  10. badger_doc

    How does one get better at creating presentations? I am an R&D function that frequently presents to our business team, so all of our graphs and data don’t always cut it sometimes. I need a more creative way to present data. In addition, I am sometimes asked to put a timeline together or map out how things are related for certain projects. I try to use the SmartArt in PowerPoint to help me but it just falls short. Are there any other programs or tricks people use to be more creative with presentations? I am always amazed by what some people can put together and wonder why I can’t think of that on my own. Thanks for any help you can give!

    1. KarenT

      Read The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte (published in 1983, but still very relevant).

      It is an artistic and stunningly beautiful book of ways to present data creatively. I took a course on information visualization in university and loved it.

          1. the white zone is for loading and unloading only

            +1.6180339887…

            He has several books out, past the first. I have the first three. This might crude some people out but, they make for good bathroom reading (which makes it less likely that someone will ask to borrow them, too).

            Awhile back a friend of mine sent me a copy of David Byrne’s “Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information” from back around 2003. I’m recovering from a long but good business trip this past week – maybe I’ll give it a proper unboxing (with pictures and stuff) this afternoon.

    2. Nerdling

      I use i2 Analyst Notebook for timelines and link charts, but I assume it’s pricey (it’s provided by work). It has a learning curve, but I’ve personally not found a better software for doing the two yet (doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, just that we haven’t gotten something better approved for use on our computers). Our own in-house link chart software doesn’t even provide for creating timelines at all. That said, I found a list of several free timeline creation tools. I’ll post it in a second link in case it gets caught in moderation.

    3. Rat Racer

      One more thing – are your powerpoints presentations or stand-alone documents? If the former, remember that not everything you say needs to be on the page. I hate (HATE) powerpoints that are full of long and prosaic bullet points. I like to think of PowerPoint as illustrations to a story I’m telling. In this context, you can’t understand the story without the narration the presenter provides.

      1. MsM

        Huh. I use the opposite philosophy: if I can’t figure out why the slide’s there and what it’s trying to convey from a quick glance, out it goes. The “quick glance” part is key, though, so no long strings of bullet points you have to sit down and read closely.

      2. badger_doc

        They could be both. One thing I had to learn coming to this company is there can never be enough information on a slide, which bugs the crap out of me. Too many words!! That is why I am looking for a more creative/visual way of mapping both words and data to avoid writing a novel. We keep these documents as learning materials for new employees so they just can’t have a picture on it with no words to talk to. It actually has to have background information and convey the appropriate amount of information for others to read after the fact.

        1. Dynamic Beige

          Aside from “hire me!”? <– just kidding Alison!

          You've already figured out that a presentation is a passive medium, like television. When things are too small or complicated, people tune out and small details get lost because they simply cannot read 14pt text. But if the information is important, it needs to be there, especially if they will review it on their own. You have 3 choices:

          1. You make a busy slide with everything and several kitchen sinks on it. If it's being presented, everyone gets a hard copy handout.

          2. You make cleaner/less cluttered slides and put the other information in the notes (which may require there being more slides because you may need to break things out) — which then becomes the script that anyone giving it as a presentation uses. Individuals who look at it on their computer can read the notes below the slide. Obviously, this will not work if you have a lot of complicated animations on your graphics but on the whole I find people really hate animations of any kind (which is a shame because animations done properly can really help explain things better/give a visual "rest" between frames)

          3. You make 2 decks. The everything and several kitchen sinks version that is more like a booklet and the cleaner one for presentation — and everyone gets a hard copy of the booklet before the presentation with the extra information. — this may even be like #2, but you print it out in Notes rather than slides.

        2. Rat Racer

          I think that’s the problem with presentations that also need to serve as standalone documents. Word and Publisher are better platforms for standalone documents – plus you don’t have to worry about people being able to read the font from the back of the room.

          I think it’s very hard to create a deliverable that can exist successfully in both worlds.

          1. Dynamic Beige

            The problem is that when you’re dealing with Word, unless you are a Word Ninja, putting in graphics/working a layout is not very easy. I’ve done a few documents in Word and it was an exercise in hair pulling. If I was given a choice between Word and anything else, I’d say “InDesign!” but that’s a whole ‘nuther skillset issue. And, depending on what version of Office you have, you may not have Publisher as it’s available in the higher priced packages IIRC. In all the years I’ve been using Office, I’ve only used Publisher once so I don’t bother with the higher priced upgrades.

            I hate to say it but I am seeing more and more that PowerPoint is being used as a page layout program because it is easier to use than Word. Even Nancy Duarte of Slide:ology and Resonate fame was pushing something she called Slide Docs a while back which is the same concept, using a slide program to do handouts — not for slides.

            1. fposte

              Hah. We’re using PowerPoint instead of InDesign. No more psychics needed to tell me what layer I’m on!

              1. Dynamic Beige

                You will get a better result with InDesign and I’m sure you know that! It has so many more robust features than PowerPoint, especially when it comes to text. But, people gonna DIY for a variety of reasons (no money, no time, no this, no that) and they will use what they find easiest to work with and there’s nothing I or probably anyone can do to change that.

                1. fposte

                  I think it’s kind of like driving. If you know what you’re doing, I’m sure there’s more to be done with the Porsche, but if you’re an average Jane, the Honda’s a lot likelier to get you there.

    4. Jillociraptor

      Have you tried any infographic type things? The website Piktochart has lots of really user-friendly ways to represent your data more graphically. It might be worth a try.

      I don’t know that much about R&D and what you’re communicating to your business team, but whenever you’re working with data, it’s helpful to put it in the terms that matter most to who you’re talking about. To give an example from my world, in my last job, my colleagues traveled constantly (and feel it’s the most important part of their work), so whenever we have to make a budget decision to reallocate money, I always put it in terms of trips — i.e. “Yes, we could do X project. It would mean reallocating about $X–that’s about 6 trips.” If your business team cares most about how much money you’ll make, foreground that in the data; if they care most about customer experience, foreground that, etc.

    5. HigherEd Admin

      I like Canva and Infogram. Both are websites that help you create interesting and aesthetically pleasing presentations (or social media images) and are free, unless you use some of their not-free items.

    6. GOG11

      Information is Beautiful is another great source for examples of how visual elements impact the way data is conveyed/understood. Link to follow.

      I also really enjoy David McCandless’ Visual Miscellaneum (a book by the same guy who does stuff for Information is Beautiful).

    7. catsAreCool

      Toastmasters can be helpful for this. I joined because I was giving presentations and wanted to get better at it. It has helped.

  11. KarenT

    Anyone out there working as a personal trainer?

    I work full time in another completely unrelated industry, but have this urge to get certified as a personal trainer partially because I truly love it, but also to make some money on the weekends. I’ve heard insurance is crazy expensive, so I’m not sure how feasible/realistic this plan is. I’m just starting my research now.

    1. Dawn

      I am not personally a trainer but my best friends are running a very successful personal training studio and I have lots more friends who either are or were personal trainers.

      Basically it takes very, very little to become a personal trainer but a LOT to actually be a GOOD personal trainer. One way you could explore the possibility without taking on personal liability is to see if you can get a job at a gym as a personal trainer- all of the gyms I know go through trainers like popcorn and will hire just about anyone who can string two sentences together and is willing to get training. Some gyms don’t even care if you come in with experience/certification- they’ll train you for the job.

    2. Ad Astra

      Would you be interested in getting certified to teach some kind of group fitness class like Zumba or Body Pump or regular old aerobics? It’s not the same thing as personal training, obviously, but from what I’ve heard it’s a more viable side gig. A lot of my fitness instructors have been teachers or accountants during the day, but all of my personal trainers have been full-time trainers.

    3. M

      I’m all nope nope nope nope on being a PT. I wanted to do this too, several years ago. But the reality of it was –
      1 – it’s expensive to get certified. Also time consuming and at the time, I didn’t have time to devote it it.

      2 – PT is more sales than it is actually doing the ‘personal training.’ That was the big thing that steered me away from this.

    4. AnnieNonymous

      Personal training is sort of like cutting hair…a lot of people are certified to do it, but many give up fairly quickly because it’s hard to make good money at it. However, it might work for you as a weekend hustle. I’d ask some trainer friends in your area if they think it’s worth it.

    5. Emily K

      I don’t work as a PT, but I do work with a few!

      As others have noted below, half of the work of being a trainer is actually nothing to do with fitness and training and all just the dreary reality of running a small business. Getting certified and insured, marketing and finding clients, setting and managing a budget, filing your tax returns, managing vendor relationships, etc.

      I actually train at a professional training studio franchise called FitnessTogether. They’re not a big gym that offers training; they only offer personal training services. They have a bench of about six trainers working at the location, plus the franchise owner and an office manager who handle all of the non-training aspects of the business, from payroll and taxes to marketing and new client orientations. It means the six trainers who work there can just come in and work with clients all day and not worry about the other crap. It also means that they can go on vacation or have a sick day and cover each other’s clients without disrupting our (the clients’) regular routines.

      I think if I were interested in training I’d prefer to work at a place like that rather than have to become a small business owner just to help people get fit.

    6. nep

      If you’ve had this urge for a while, or if you give it some time and it’s still strong, I say go for it — see where that passion leads you. If it doesn’t work, what have you lost? Perhaps some time and resources you put in for the training and such, but seems to me it would be worth it on many levels — you find out whether you’re cut out for it, you learn a lot, you’ll have given it a shot.

    7. Lisa

      Liability insurance is actually quite affordable (usually less than $200/year). Contact an agent for a quote to put your mind at ease. The other replies are spot-on. It’s all about being a GREAT trainer, which is an art. I know I love mine!

      1. Trixie

        I’ve found this too when surveying other instructors on FB groups what their experience has been. It’s an expense but nothing too outrageous.

    8. Trixie

      AFAA is probably the most affordable certification you’ll see, especially if you are located near an APEX convention held twice a year. (Just google AFAA APEX.) Better quality/more expensive with ACE but you’ll appreciate the difference immediately in the programs, plus I think they offer payment plan at no additional cost. NASM is further along in quality/price. Search for “ACE” PT certification and you’ll see quite a few blogs with a total review/breakdown of the process. If you’re a regular member at your gym, ask if they would be interested in taking you on after certification. Put your time in there, learn the ropes, then go independent.

      Getting certified in Zumba, Les Mills, something your gym already offers is also a great way to get your foot in the door. Once you’re certified, see if you can get added to their sub instructor list and go from there. If you go this route, take plenty of classes so you’re really comfortable just doing the routines, sequences, etc. The great thing about this plan is that the subbing requests add up, and then when that weekend class or weekday evening class opens up you’re in a great position to accept it. My gym needed instructors and through them I rec’d a discount on training as well as partially paid training time, and my own classes right away.

  12. themmases

    Are there public misconceptions about your work, or a topic you know a lot about from work, that just drive you up the wall?

    Personally after studying epidemiology I can’t hear colloquial uses of statistics terms anymore, they just drive me crazy!

    1. Daisy Steiner

      Oh, *rage*. At ExJob, “Public servants are just pencil-pushing desk jockeys who sit on their arses all day. They wouldn’t cut it in the private sector”.

      1. CheeryO

        Yup, this. There are a handful of stereotypically lazy employees at my state agency, but the vast majority are hard working and super dedicated.

        1. Cathy

          I’ve always wanted to meet that mythical “overpaid and underworked state employee”. Heck, I’d like to *be* them!

          1. schnapps

            I’d like to be that public servant too. My job is feast or famine.

            People also assume that because I work with the politicians and have direct access to upper management, that I know more than what’s going on in the media.

          2. SO

            Then you should come to my office. Sometimes it feels like this state is running a charity with the people they keep employed.

          3. Num Lock

            Hi, that’s me! *waves hand*

            I don’t think you want to be me. I’m bored out of my skull for 9/10s of my day. My desk is in an area viewable to the public, so it’s stressful trying to look busy and like I’m not wasting taxpayer dollars. Management doesn’t support me extending myself into new skill areas or improving my skills to try and get a promotion. Now if the economy tanks again, I’ll be beyond busy, but until then I’m twiddling my thumbs. I’m looking to get out though I could feasibly sit here for 30 years and retire–I can’t stand be bored and unchallenged for the rest of my life. All my free time actually gives me the chance to read the directives coming down from the capital and I 100% disagree with the direction our leadership is taking towards serving the public. I hate spending my day explaining nonsensical state policies and apologizing to the public for poor service. It’s not what I signed up for.

            I do get paid enough to be comfortable (but not pay off my student loans), and the benefits are stellar. Perhaps if I was closer to retirement I’d ride it out like my coworkers, but I’m too young for this nonsense.

          4. Parfait

            I was one of them in my youth. I had to be at the office 40 hours a week, just in case someone called or came in, but I really only had about 15 hours of work to do in that time. I stretched my tasks out as long as I could, then tried to look busy on the internet. Then someone complained about how much time I was spending online and I was forbidden to do that.

            I got a new job soon after that.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot

          Yup. Former state employee here, and there was really only *one* stereotypically lazy person I ever met there. (Who also inexplicably decided I was stuck up when she once waved at me and I didn’t see her, so she made snide comments every time she saw me. That maybe colors my opinion of her a little.)

      2. M

        I didn’t want to believe this, but then I took a job at a government agency (county gov) and this stereotype was 100% true. I can’t see any of former coworkers hacking it in the private sector! I only worked there 9 months and I left to go back to private.

        Sorry!

        1. NJ Anon

          Hate to say it but we were just discussing the state workers we have to deal with. It’ as though they have never worked outside of their office and have no clue how a “regular” business is run. Hate to stereotype but I’ve seen it over and over.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Government is not run using business principles. Stuff that would never fly in business is okey-dokey in government. I have seen this first hand. If they even applied a few basic principles the cost savings would be mind-boggling.

          2. Observer

            They may not know how “regular” business works. That doesn’t make them lazy, overpaid, under-worked, stupid or incompetent.

            Yes, I’ve met some who would probably never have survived in private employ. But that just made it far more difficult for the mass of competent folks who just wanted to do a days work for a days pay, or wanted to really get something done. Also, keep in mind that many of the things that drive people nuts when they need to interact with government employees are not about the employee but about agency or government policies that they can do nothing about.

        2. brightstar

          I’ve worked for both federal and state governments, as well as the private sector. My experience is so opposite of that, it just depends on where you are I guess.

    2. some1

      Yup, and it’s been addressed in letters here in the past.

      I’m an admin and part of that is sending out mass emails about rules or policies and enforcing them, so I have had to deal with the fall-out from that: “Who does some1 think she is telling us that we can’t leave dirty dishes in the sink/tape a Twilight poster on the painted wall/plug in a fan?”

      1. GOG11

        Hahahaha! Yes, I make all the decisions and force you to abide by them because your whining entertains me so.

      1. Nanc

        The one and only time in my life I had to call the IRS, they were fantastic! It took awhile to get me to the right department because the letter I received had a fax number instead of a phone number (which turned out to be a toll call) The woman I ended up working with spent over an hour on the phone walking me through the paperwork, giving me an address where I could send a copy of the letter with the incorrect phone number so they could correct the form letter/merge info and was just a wonderful all around helpful person. She also mailed me a form so I could submit a request for a reimbursement of the phone charge and the stamp for mailing the letter with the incorrect info–I didn’t, I figured her help was worth the $1.75 or so!

        Long winded way of saying thank you for your hard work–I know from experience there are wonderful folks in the IRS. Now, can we talk about rewriting the tax forms/instructions in simple language?

        1. one of the regular feds

          Yay, thanks! We really do a lot of work to put the instructions (and letters, and notices) into plain language. The forms are really complicated but we really do try to make everything un-jargon-y. I totally understand, though, that 104 pages of instructions on the 2-page 1040 might be confusing. (Goodness.)

        2. AVP

          I also had a fantastic experience calling the IRS help line last tax season….I lost the information needed to e-file, they verified my identity and got it to me, with about 10-20 minutes of hold time. Could not have been more pleasant or easier to deal with. So, thank you, IRS customer service people!

        3. Honeybee

          Ditto this! I have completely lost all misconceptions about the IRS. Several members of my family have also called the IRS, sometimes repeatedly, and they are the friendliest and most helpful folks I’ve had the pleasure of talking to.

        4. Observer

          What a perfect example of what I just posted in reply to someone else. Let’s not blame individuals for the problems caused by regulations and rules they have no control over.

    3. Former Diet Coke Addict

      Weirdly, 3D printing. We sell 3d printers and the level of ordinary misconceptions about them is just astronomical. I quit including them in my “what do you do” speech because I was so sick of hearing “So can you print a gun? Can you print a pizza?”

      Now I just say “we manufacture and sell tech training equipment to high schools and colleges.”

      1. Honeybee

        …so sorry, but the first thing that popped into my head was definitely “Can you print a gun?” LOL!

    4. CheeryO

      I work in an environmental field, and everyone assumes that I am an expert on ALL things environmental, including but not limited to: the cause of and solution to global warming, the bottom line on hydrofracking, and whether or not you can recycle a variety of random objects. I have a little bit of background on a lot of those subjects from college, but I’ve had to brush up on some things just to feel like a decent ambassador.

      People also assume that we’re all super-liberal, crunchy granola hippies. While that’s somewhat accurate when it comes to the younger employees, I’ve heard enough anti-Obama rants to know that it’s FAR from universal.

      1. Clever Name

        Ha ha. Me too. Although, because I read a lot, I actually do know a fair bit about those topics. But not because I do it for my job. And I am pretty much a crunchy granola hippie. I drive a Prius. ;) Everyone else at my company seems to drive a Subaru.

        1. hermit crab

          I think Subarus have long been the car of choice for geologists — Subaru even gives you a discount on a new car if you are a member of the Geological Society of America!

      2. themmases

        I can relate to this, ever since I started public health school people send me news about every possible public health topic and seem to think I will be interested or have a hot take on it.

        Epidemiology is really just research methods for health sciences; you could apply it to anything! And I personally am interested in cancer and racial health disparities. So I don’t automatically know much more than the share-er about, say, Ebola. Although maybe now I do after a year of having Ebola articles pushed on me weekly…

        1. Honeybee

          Yay public health! (My PhD is in public health psychology – health promotion/health behavior type degree. I did racial health disparities research, too, although in HIV and drug use. Now I’m moving into tech user research so it really can be applied to anything.)

    5. Muriel Heslop

      Teacher. I don’t personally know anyone who has been tempted to get involved with a student (gross!) but people seem to think that’s a serious job hazard. Thanks, Hollywood! Plus, everyone thinks that a teacher’s job starts and ends with the bell. Um, no.

      My husband’s a lawyer, though. I think he has it much worse. Don’t get him started on the show SUITS, either!

        1. Bea W

          LOL I read “show SUITS” literally as clothing for show…probably because my ex-bf only wore suits when he had to go before a judge or something.

      1. INFJ

        Similarly, I have a psychologist in the family who HATES how psychologists are represented in movies and TV (that they all fall in love with/ sleep with their clients).

    6. The Other Dawn

      Publicly: I’m a banker. People think all banks and bankers are evil. They don’t realize that it was a few very, very large banks that were responsible for the failures and other issues back in 2008.

      Internally and in my personal life: Other areas of the bank think that people in the back office (I’m back office) just sit around and do nothing because we’re not waiting on customers in a branch. We sit at a desk, therefore we have a “cushy” job. Never mind that we have tons of tasks to do, projects to move forward, problems to solve, among other things, all with limited time and resources, and go home just as exhausted as if we worked a physically demanding job.

      1. The Other Dawn

        Oh, and the fact that I’m a banker doesn’t mean I’m qualified to advise you on how to invest your money. If you want sound financial advice, go to a financial planner. And I don’t know every single thing about banking ever.

    7. Sunflower

      Event Planners- we are just party planners! We just waltz around and go to parties and drink champagne and laugh over cosmos and ahh parties are so fun and easy.

      Umm no we’re the people that you don’t see at the party because we are running around frantically behind the scenes to make sure even though the event probably almost didn’t happen because of a million diff things, you’d never think a single thing went wrong. We are paid to make the events LOOK easy.

      1. Sara The Event Planner

        +10000000

        I hate that misconception SO SO much. Professional meeting/event planners are business savvy, need great negotiation skills, and are masters of organization. No, I don’t just book your hotel room and order lunch.

      2. NDR

        Yes! People think it’s all glamour and partying. No thought to the budget revisions, moving furniture in a dress, irate guests, food allergy matrixes, etc.

      3. GOG11

        “We are paid to make the events LOOK easy.” It’s strange that some people view a polished, composed professional as not working hard, but I’m thinking this is more common than I realized.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Oh how true. And yet, a cussing, frantic professional is NOT professional. I say good luck with this dual thinking.

      4. spocklady

        Oh man seriously — I was trying to figure out why planning a wedding was so exhausting, and I realized it’s basically huge event (I have some experience from work committees), for which I *couldn’t* be running around because I was in it, with two different locations and food for 150 people and…and…In retrospect I wish, for much more nuanced reasons, that I had been able to make space in my budget for a wedding planner. Would have made my life 1000x better, especially the last few months.

      5. S

        +10000000

        I am so thankful that my boss knows the work I put into our major donor events so that she can gracefully tae the stage and thank everyone for being there–I can’t imagine how awful it’d be if she didn’t know and appreciate the work I do.

    8. Retail Lifer

      Poeple think everyone is retail is stupid and/or unmotivated to do anything better. Most of us long-term employees have been to college and have tried to get out but we can’t (not without a $6000 pay cut at least).

      1. Num Lock

        Yes–I used to work retail with a brilliant, hard-working employee with a teaching degree who couldn’t afford the paycut. Retail is much harder mentally than it looks. The “stand around and do nothing” employees tend not to last long, in my experience.

        1. Not So NewReader

          That is because the sources of the difficulties are not obvious to people in general. Annnd there are plenty of things that are made difficult that should not be difficult.

    9. Oatmeal

      I trained to be a classical musician (2 degrees in performance), but don’t work directly in music and I stopped pursuing performance as a career path years ago. When people find out they’re inevitably like “you should play with [local world class orchestra] sometime!”

      … I used to explain that there is only ONE of my instrument in the orchestra, the person who currently plays in the orchestra has been there for 30 years, when he retires 250 people will audition for his job, and that all of them will have been practicing 3-5 hours per day for years…. now I just agree with them that yes, it would be fun to play in the orchestra.

      1. Retail Lifer

        Yeah, I took a lot of dance classes as a kid and people will sometimes ask why I gave it up and didn’t pursue it professionally. There aren’t exactly a ton of professional ballerina jobs.

      2. The IT Manager

        Wow! I would never ask you that because that’s a dumb question. Do they really think the performers in a world class orchestra are just anyone off the street? I’m not really a music buff myself, but I know better. That’s like telling someone who studied acting that he should be in the next Mission Impossible film with Tom Cruise.

        1. Oatmeal

          I do think that plenty of people underestimate the level of training it takes to play in an orchestra, and they do not understand how competitive the audition process is.

          I don’t think they are saying anyone off the street could do it, though – I do have graduate level training in classical performance, so they see it is a logical step without understanding the level of “next level” intense training it requires.

      3. AdAgencyChick

        My lord that is a dumb comment! I mean, it’s not even easy for violinists and there are like 40 of them in any orchestra!

      4. Amy Farrah Fowler

        I have a friend who’s in Music Performance… (oboe of all things) and she FINALLY got a job that required her to move over 1000 miles from home to work for the philharmonic in another state. In the meantime, she made a living making and selling reeds… It’s definitely a tough lifestyle.

      5. BRR

        I have a masters in music performance and ugh. When it was in the paper how much musicians in the Chicago Symphony made, my family who lived in the area kept “joking” how they need to go work there.

      6. Honeybee

        Academia is like this, too. Professor positions in social science departments routinely get 250-300 applications, and the good ones in desirable locations tend to get 500+ – and a good chunk of them will be qualified for the position and competitive for it. I have a PhD and, until recently, wanted to be a professor. Cue my in-laws and other well-intentioned folks suggesting that I “look into” applying to several well-known, very competitive universities in my hometown, or call up the departments and ask if they have any openings. Uh…no.

    10. Blue Anne

      I’m an auditor. Notably I’m an auditor with the company who audited FIFA.

      If a company we audit turns out to be engaged in fraud, it doesn’t automatically mean we were complicit or even that we weren’t doing our job. If we give a flawless audit report, all it says is that everything we looked at seemed to be fine, and thus we think they’re probably not doing anything underhanded. We are not able to, and don’t pretend to be able to, give absolute assurance that a company is doing nothing illegal.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        Certainly not an automatic assumption, but with cases like Arthur Anderson who were up to their necks in the Enron scandal they had to be either complicit or incompetent, and more recenlty the Tesco audit failures which were shocking it’s easy to see why prod came form this opinion.

    11. Tagg

      I work in healthcare. If I have to sit and listen politely while a patient goes off about how Obamacare is screwing them over one more time, I may crack.

      No, it’s not responsible for your copays going up. That’s just your insurance company being a dick.

      No, it actually wasn’t a massive failure. It was incredibly successful in providing medical access to patients who previously could not afford it.

      No, I don’t “know what you mean,” and No, I’m not agreeing with you. Now, can you please just verify your birthdate for me?

          1. NacSacJack

            +2 My now-ex SO sat for a year on my health benefits costing me $3G in premium and taxes and never used his benefits. He signs up for Obamacare. His premium: $0.00

        1. Bea W

          +1 My employer blamed Obamacare for rising premiums and cutting benefits. I live in MA where we’ve had our own laws on the books since well before Obamacare. I have a friend whose (well known burger joint) employer told people he couldn’t let anyone work full tine because “Obamacare”.

        1. Windchime

          My aunt is in her 60’s and works full-time (and always has). A couple of years ago, her employer had to stop offering health care because it was just too expensive. She is now on ACA insurance (I refuse to call it “Obamacare”). Her premiums are higher than she might like, but at least she now has coverage and can afford her visits for routine screening exams and other things that she just couldn’t afford to do while she was uninsured.

      1. Kelly L.

        I think I’ve told this before, but I was working in a pharmacy back in ’08, and I got a few people ranting at me in, say, December ’08 about how Obama had made their Medicare Part D co-pays go up and so on. Yes, he had been elected. But he wasn’t even inaugurated yet! He had no control at all over it. Think back to civics class, people. LOL.

      2. BRR

        I get irritated when I read or hear people complain about how doctors charge a fortune for aspirin. Also insurance’s fault. It’s a company that wants to make a profit which depends on either charging you more or providing you with less.

      3. Anonsie

        Oh my god I hear you on this one, only mostly patients have been asking me how I feel about it rather than going on tirades.

        The thing I am tired of is the execs in the hospital, at insurance companies, with suppliers, etc. playing this “we don’t know how the healthcare industry is going to change, the future is so uncertain and who even knows what’s going to happen TOMORROWWWW” as a cop-out for unpopular policy changes. Every single time anyone does something people don’t like they’re all “oh uh, it’s because Obamacare.”

        1. themmases

          Yes, yes, yes. I worked in a hospital and we were self-insured (administered through a major insurance company though) and every update would just be “the future is uncertain.” Yet lots of big decisions were being made in the meantime, none of them ever favorable to employees.

          1. Anonsie

            Oh yeah, these are all things that are unpopular because they should be. They are always slanted downwards with a lot of tut-tutting about how it can’t be helped.

      4. themmases

        Ughhh yes! I did hospital-based clinical research before my current job, and I would definitely get people who would open with something vague like, “So… What do you think of Obamacare?” I would do everything short of saying “You first!” to find out if they actually knew anything about it. The last thing I want is to get into an argument with someone who is pissed about this complex topic but already convinced they understand the complexity perfectly. (Why even ask someone who actually works in health care then???)

        1. Honeybee

          My PhD is in public health so I get this question quite often. I usually try to put on an interested face and say something like “What about it?” but occasionally I’m tired of the dance and I just tell them exactly what I think, which often devolves into some ignorant kind of conversation. Sigh.

    12. Lizzie

      I’m a social worker. No, I don’t steal babies. No, I don’t steal money from taxpayers to pay my salary. No, I’m not training government leeches.

      Aaaaaaaaugh.

    13. KarenT

      Yes! I work in publishing. No, I don’t sit around and read all day. No, I don’t wear a tweed jacket and smoke a pipe or drink scotch at my desk. Yes, I do entertain authors sometimes but is a VERY small part of an editor’s job (and a senior editor’s at that). It is also NOT fun at all.

      1. cuppa

        Librarians also do not sit around and read all day. We are also not all frumpy, dowdy, and repressed.

        We do like to party, though. That one is totally true. :)

        1. spocklady

          Yes yes yes! Also, please stop asking why we still need librarians if we have the internet. ARGH. It takes a lot of work, by humans, to provide context for information, to cross-reference stuff, to link data and data formats.

          But yes. Partying, we do.

        2. Rebeck

          Not only do we not sit around and read all day, but we haven’t read every book in the collection. (Nor can we tell you for certain if you’ll like the book or not.)

      2. another anon editor

        Another one — perhaps more common with authors and wannabe authors — is that editors are all failed writers who couldn’t hack it. No doubt this applies to some people but it’s not even close to common, in my experience. Editing and writing are two separate, though related, skills!

    14. Ezri

      Yes, I am a software developer. No, that does not mean I can tell you what’s wrong with your computer.

      1. Ali

        When I worked from home, I had people surprised that I was on a schedule because they thought I could just login/logout whenever I wanted. Hahaha…if that were the case, I’d have never worked every Saturday and Sunday indefinitely because that was the nature of my work.

      2. Windchime

        Me too. I’m a SQL developer. That doesn’t mean I know how to “root” your phone or fix your printer. Because those things are not SQL.

    15. The IT Manager

      I am a project manager – a software development project manager – and nobody knows what that means unless they work in the industry.

        1. BenAdminGeek

          Or alternatively, don’t want to hear from you when we know that we’re behind on our tasks already :)

        2. Splishy

          Yes! I’ve worked as a technical writer in software development. A good PM (and a good BA) can make all the difference in the project.

          1. Jen RO

            I’m a tech writer documenting a product that is sooo agile it doesn’t need project managers. As a result, no one knows when shit is getting delivered, no one holds anyone else accountable, and there is no way to plan our workload. I miss my old product – even the bad project managers were better than no project manager! (But my new BAs are lovely, at least.)

            1. BenAdminGeek

              “Agile” is always a trigger for me- it can be great, but also it can be a team’s way of saying “we’re constantly iterating and don’t know when we’re going to be finished, so that’s agile!” It’s like how 5 years ago, the development teams were always talking about how they were using “Lean” methodology, which usually meant asking me if the testing could be compressed.

              But maybe I’m just bitter… I agree a good PM makes everything go well!

              1. Jen RO

                The thing is… I’m sure the team knows! But they are 1000 miles away from me, in a different country, hold their daily standups in their office and their language… so we lowly writers are completely in the dark. I enjoyed our bastardized version of waterfall much more.

    16. AnotherAlison

      How about family misconceptions? I’m a mechanical engineer. My family thinks I can stamp their structural home construction drawings, survey their property, etc. I don’t think the general public has any misconceptions, other than the 1950s pocket protector nerd, which I’m fine with. They don’t spend too much time thinking about us.

      1. Vancouver Reader

        I have a cousin who studied chemical engineering, but I had him convince my dad to do something with his house. My cousin said, but I’m not a civil engineer, I said, I don’t care, dad won’t know the difference, he’ll just know you are an engineer. ;)

      2. AnotherFed

        My friend is an electrical engineer. Her dad asked her to help him rewire parts of his 70+ year old house and add more outlets. She, sensibly, refused, because being an electrical engineer does not make her an electrician and she deals mostly with computer electronics, not housing codes. He did it himself, and within a year, the house had suffered an electrical fire.

    17. LawBee

      The misconceptions about lawyers are innumerable.

      No, we don’t all make hundreds of thousands of dollars.
      No, we’re not all ambulance chasers.
      No, we’re not all out to screw the other side no matter what (that tends to be more the clients, as lawyers generally benefit from having good relationships with the other side’s attorneys)
      No, we don’t all live tv-lawyer lives.
      Yes, the majority of us do care about our clients.
      etc. etc. etc.

      1. BRR

        My uncle is a lawyer and after practicing for 40 years his mother doesn’t understand how he has never stepped foot in a courtroom.

      2. YouHaveBeenWarned

        Preach!

        I get these misconceptions a lot from doctors, who all seem to tell the same joke that implies that I will sue them at the drop of a hat.

        I have also gotten variations of “Don’t you have any morals?” or “Do you have a soul?” from people during social interactions. For real.

    18. AAArgh

      I work for a roadside assistance club.

      No, we do not guarantee service within 30 minutes; expect to wait at least an hour for service; even longer if you’re in a safe location, a rural area, and/or your vehicle is anything but a car (i.e. motorcycle, RV, large truck or van) in relatively good condition (major damage may mean your vehicle needs special equipment that not every truck has).

      If you’re in a shopping center and annoyed that you’ll have to wait a long time for a lockout, tire change, or jump start, for god’s sake talk to someone at the customer service desk about it! There’s a very good chance someone there can help you quickly, and it will probably be free.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        If you work for AAA, I have nothing but good things to say about you and your organization. :)

    19. attorney

      Attorney and part-time prosecutor here. Obviously there are lots of stereotypes you can think of for those roles, but my personal favorite is that people think “lawyer” means “defense attorney,” and not any other type of attorney. People have asked me some really silly questions based on that misconception.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        I have a relative who’s a paralegal. People often don’t realize that the title means different things from state to state. Where she lives, it means that she is a professional with a degree and intensive job training (basically, a researcher). Her job is not to make copies and get coffee. (Not that that’s not important, but it’s not what she went to school for.)

    20. Revolver Rani

      I used to be a patent lawyer (did a little trademark work too). There are loads of common popular confusions about that subject.

      * Many people don’t know the differences between trademarks, copyrights, and patents.
      * Many people also don’t know the difference between a patent application and an issued patent (“can you believe X company patented Y invention?” when in fact X merely filed an application for Y invention).
      * Many people also don’t know that the title of a patent does not actually convey the legal limits of the patented invention, which is usually extremely specific and narrow (so if I obtain a patent entitled “Method of Making Toast” it does not mean that no one anywhere can make toast in any manner without paying me a royalty).
      * Many people also don’t know that if company A registers word or phrase B as a trademark, it does not mean that no one else can say word or phrase B, or even that no one else can use word or phrase B in commerce.

      In casual chit-chat I would explain these things if it seemed like someone cared, but more often I zipped it, to avoid coming across as a boring pedant.

      Unrelated: My ex-girlfriend was for a while a prosecutor whose area of focus was sex crimes against children. (Her war stories were much better than mine.) She absolutely could not watch Law & Order: SVU without cringing and yelling at the screen.

      1. RG

        Oh my gosh yes. I’m actually an patent agent, and no I don’t want to hear about your half baked idea that probably isn’t patentable anyway. By the way I’m an agent, not an attorney, so please don’t tell me anything confidential.

    21. Bun

      I manage website user experience and front end (html/css) development. I just tell people “I make websites.”

      In casual conversation I usually hear “Oh I’m so un-techie, tee hee! I could never do your job!”

      When working with actual partners to create websites… they usually try to do my job.

      1. BenAdminGeek

        My client is currently attempting to “fix” the website user experience our company designed for them. It’s going about as well as you’d expect.

      2. Charlotte Collins

        I manage web content. It is not exciting and fun, unless you find arguing with people about best practices and why web standards exist fun and exciting. And while it requires a basic understanding of how websites work, it is not a “techie” type of job. It’s basically a combination of keeping track of data and editing. And looking at the same things over and over again. (The website I work on is meant for healthcare providers, so we can’t even do anything fun with it.)

    22. notfunny.

      I used to work for Institutional Review Boards (the panel that reviews human subjects research) at a number of different academic institutions, and now do related work but not directly supporting an IRB. For a while, people asked if I was on a death panel! Researchers always have something to complain about, without understanding how tricky of a role it is to help facilitate ethical research.

      1. themmases

        Oh my god! I used to be a coordinator so I got to know the IRB staff assigned to my PIs *very* well.

        I felt that my researchers at least had somewhat of an excuse for some of their weird misconceptions, because they were all physicians where the consent rules are quite different and they are used to having their opinion be a good enough reason to do something. But it still shocked me all the time, just as the coordinator, how much stuff they would have really wrong. I basically didn’t let any of them do informed consents, I just did them myself unless the protocol was high enough risk to require the PI to be there.

        I would get crazy questions about research too, most commonly questions or assumptions about the mad $$$$ we must be making doing this research.

      2. Honeybee

        I never understood why my colleagues nearly universally hated the IRB. I often pointed out that the point of an IRB was to protect the interests of our human subjects and that they’re the “good guys,” so to speak. I did health/medical research and so many of the researchers seemed to be under the impression that the IRB just didn’t want them to do their research or something. Their goal was to try to game the system or “get around” the IRB rather than…you know…actually design an ethical study, which was super frustrating.

    23. ExceptionToTheRule

      I work in local tv news. I can’t count that high. If I could count & do math, I’d work in finance and not have 4 jobs.

      1. Ad Astra

        A lot of people assume that working in TV news pays well when the wages are actually quite low.

        When I worked for newspapers, people assumed I was a reporter, even after I told them my job title, which always had the word “editor” in it. Or, occasionally people thought being a copy/digital/features/sports editor was the same as being The Editor (this was more common in college, since the EIC of a college paper is usually 21 or 22 years old, not 50+).

        1. Not So NewReader

          I worked PT/temp very briefly for a newspaper. I had to answer the phones, no automation in those days. omg. I have never seen a biz where people were so interested in screwing up their coworker’s work. For my little square foot of the place, we had 12 lines coming in. The boss could not understand why I did not answer them all at once. Cutely, he would call when the lines would be the most busy. I am sure he was checking to see if I was answering every line. I put him on hold just like everyone else, until I had answered all the lines. ;)
          For some reason, the boss called months later to see if I wanted to come back. It was a tough biz.

    24. Menacia

      I work in IT, so of course I know how to fix, televisions, stereos, cars, or anything else even remotely technical…! I have actually fixed some of those things and more, because I have a logical mind, am patient, and can read a freaking manual but I don’t like people to just assume… :)

      1. Ezri

        I respond to all hardware-related questions with “Turn it off and on again.”. If that doesn’t help there’s nothing else I can do.

        I have picked up quite a bit of computer know-how from home experience, though. My husband is a click-happy virus magnet.

    25. Amber Rose

      Document control. I am not a secretary, and you do need training to do my job. I spend more time reading build drawings and learning how things are put together than anyone except the people doing the building.

    26. Jennifer

      Everyone assumes I literally know every single thing about my entire organization and can answer questions about ANYTHING.

    27. T3k

      Yes, I’m a graphic designer. No, I will not design you something for free. No, I’m not an artist, I’m a designer. That doesn’t mean I can do web design either (though I do have some experience there, it’s not enough to really call myself a web designer).

      1. Bea W

        My brother has a similar issue working in IT. People assume of course he would LOVE to fix their personal computer issues on his free time for nothing.

      2. Tris Prior

        +1. Corollary: Yes, as a graphic designer that means I use a Mac every day. And I’ve got decent knowledge of how Macs work…. nonetheless I am NOT in IT and therefore cannot necessarily troubleshoot whatever’s wrong with your Mac. Especially when it involves software that I’ve never touched before. Why do people think that just because one knows Adobe CS one knows every single thing that can be done using a Mac?

    28. afiendishthingy

      I’m a behavior analyst. People misusing the term “negative reinforcement” drives me up the wall. It’s NOT the same as punishment!

      1. Honeybee

        I’m a research psychologist and that drives me bonkers. It is the one thing that I have to stop and correct people about every time I hear it, which I normally don’t do for other concepts, but for some reason that’s just my berserk button.

    29. AnnieNonymous

      Well, lots of young adults claim to work “in marketing.” Marketing is this generation’s journalism, ie the fantasy field of a lot of recent grads.

      I enjoy the work and I get a kick out of it, but I’m hardly Peggy Olsen.

        1. AnnieNonymous

          Yes, I wake up every morning and say “HELLO I AM JOAN TODAY” and then I look in the mirror and go “LOLZ UR PEGGY.” Not that our Pegz isn’t totally cute (and she got my fave dude at the end), but ya know.

    30. BenAdminGeek

      I work in benefits administration for large client’s health and welfare plans. Invariably, people assume I work for an insurance company and ask me questions about getting claims paid.

      Though that’s an improvement on when I worked tech support for a software company that made kitchen design CAD programs. My mother-in-law was convinced we made kitchen cabinets.

    31. Splishy

      Technical writer here. “The product is ready to launch in 2 days, you can have a complete user manual ready by then, right?” or “Anybody can write” or “Documentation is useless, I can’t understand it or find what I need to know”.

      Large problem with good writing (or good design or good organization — like the event planner) is that when it’s good it’s invisible. It’s only when it’s bad that anyone notices.

    32. Lia

      I work in university administration. No, I am not a professor, and no, I don’t get summers off — there ARE jobs in education that are year-round! Most of them, in fact.

      1. Sophia in the DM

        I’m an assistant professor and don’t get summers off! That’s when I do the bulk of my research – which is basically what my promotion is based on (not teaching).

      2. Chalupa Batman

        I get asked all the time if I take summers off. Nope, and neither do a not-insignificant number of students. If they’re here, or going to be here soon, or were just here, I work. So all the time. Also, I’m not an expert on what other departments do, and I have no control over them. I can’t make financial aid call you back or talk your instructor into changing your grade. I’m an advisor, so I see it as part of my job to be a good all around resource, but if admissions isn’t answering your calls, why are you in my office instead of down there? People outside of higher ed (and a lot of people in it) almost always seem to assume if you’re not a professor, you’re pretty much a secretary. Nope, “secretaries” in higher ed are often career administrative assistants with a job distinct from other departments, and there’s a good chance they make more money than me.

    33. OriginalEmma

      I used to do infectious disease investigations for a city health department and even some of my fellow investigators were vaccine skeptics. Uhh, so what do you propose we do for Hepatitis A prophylaxis then?! Dose them with milk thistle?

      1. themmases

        Wow! I’ve been lucky so far that most of my epi classmates are just as ready as I am to vent about anti-vax at any time.

        I do have an acquaintance who wants to do an MPH, possibly in epi, who I know is somewhere in the crunchy middle on vaccines (i.e. getting them all but on a made-up reduced schedule). I truly like this person otherwise and it is soooo hard to be nice or encouraging about that rather than just tell her, “Other public health people will eat you alive.”

        1. Anx

          I’m a little bit of a public health oddball because I’m very pro-vaccination but I am sympathetic to bodily autonomy concerns and think a convincing argument can be made that forced vaccinations challenge the right to privacy.

    34. Aideekay

      I work in marketing, and I think people actually *under*estimate just how much information we have about you and how we use it. As I always say, “As a marketer, new tracking technology is the best thing in the world. As a consumer, I’m terrified.”

      Also, stop making us reinforce stereotypes. :( If I have to sit through another meeting with my boss about how we should “target women” and make sure to “avoid using aggressive verbs,” I’m going to scream. Since I have one of those today, I think I’ll take a walk and do my screaming outside.

      I also work in video games.

      No, we do not play games all day. Yes, the decisions we make about what to put in the game is sometimes incredibly arbitrary. Yes, our launch dates are set by corporate and business plans – they frequently go whether there are serious bugs or not.

      Relative to the above: If you people would stop responding so well to micro-transactions in mobile games, we’d stop using them! The number of fantastic premium games we release that no one* downloads is way too high.

      *It’s really just that there’s infinite spending in free-to-play and so we have users that spend *tens of thousands* in a month. That means our average revenue per user is closer to the cost of a console game…

      1. themmases

        I actually feel the same way about personal information as a health researcher. I used to work at a teaching hospital, and for various teaching and research purposes I accessed *tons* of medical records, routinely, and totally legitimately. I think a lot of people know in the abstract that type of research is going on at a teaching hospital but don’t really know what it means in practice.

        I had no idea some people spent so much on micro-transactions! I always see them and wonder who really buys them. Although I do pay to expand one game (Plague Inc.) where the expansions are actually new missions when I’ve gotten bored with the old ones. Not things like coins or lives to make the game a little easier/faster.

      2. Ad Astra

        If I have to sit through another meeting with my boss about how we should “target women” and make sure to “avoid using aggressive verbs,” I’m going to scream.

        This is my biggest complaint about marketing. I hate advertising that assumes women are in charge of all the purchasing decisions and home and men are in charge of anything related to fixing a house or a car.

        1. Dynamic Beige

          And that women will buy anything that’s pink. Pink workboots. Pink hammers. I get nauseated when I have to go into Home Despot or some other place like that and there are the pink tools… and the cloth “gardening gloves” that suck. Because all The Womens do is plant petunias in pretty flower beds and don’t want to chip a nail or get their hands dirty. Aaaaaaugh!

          1. Ad Astra

            Uggh, yes! I’m not a huge fan of pink, and I especially hate that vomitous Pepto Bismol pink that’s supposed to represent “this household object is for ladies.”

            1. SevenSixOne

              I’m so conflicted about this– on one hand, I legitimately love that Pepto pink and love that I can get so many random objects in that color. On the other hand, I HATE that most things that color have super-gross “JUST FOR WIMMINZ” marketing, are usually more expensive and lower quality than the “regular” item, and so much of it is pinkwashed, which…no.

            1. Dynamic Beige

              I watched something, I think it was Pink Ribbons, Inc. that said that the person who made the original ribbons for breast cancer back in the day, the colour she chose was actually a salmon. But there was some kerfuffle (can’t remember what) which I think involved that she didn’t want the idea to be used as a marketing ploy… so they switched it to pink and went nuts with it because that was all they needed to do according to copyright protection laws (or something like that) to claim it was “different” than the original.

    35. Anonsie

      Personally after studying epidemiology I can’t hear colloquial uses of statistics terms anymore, they just drive me crazy!

      This, and study design (“that study didn’t have a control group so it’s not valid” –people who know that term but not when or why you’d actually want one).

      But also, when people talk about infectious disease I go batty. Or just weird stuff about bacteria in general. I’ve met an astounding number of people who honestly believe that you have to wash all your laundry in extremely hot water to kill bacteria or the buildup will make you sick, or think that washing you hands in water that isn’t very hot won’t actually clean them and you may as well not wash your hands at all, or say alcohol-based hand sanitizers make superbugs, or… It’s a long list.

        1. BenAdminGeek

          A fairy loses her wings every time someone spells it HIPPA.

          I used to have a co-worker who would say “Hungry, Hungry HIPPA” whenever it was spelled wrong.

      1. Bea W

        Add all of these to my list.

        Also, people who don’t use the word “valid” correctly. “This study didn’t have a control group so it’s not valid.” – 2 reasons to make people cry.

      2. themmases

        Yeah, it is very hard for me to listen to people critique studies now. My personal nails on a chalkboard thing is “correlation is not causation”. I want to roll up into these conversations and say, “I bet each of you $10 that if you read the actual article, no one actually said it was.”

        A related pet peeve is people speculating that X is associated with Y because of factor Z, or suggesting that the researchers needed to control for Z, without reading the article. Most likely this result *is* controlled for Z and you don’t know because the researchers aren’t going to waste space in the abstract listing every single thing every estimate was controlled for.

        I have to stop myself from going “You’re all wrong!!” by reminding myself that a) most people can’t get past the paywall to the full article even if they want to; b) a few months ago I didn’t really understand regression and might have said the same stuff c) epidemiologists find this really fun to do too, we just do it with more information at our disposal.

        1. Anonsie

          MY GOD YES. Boy I wish people knew how much correlation their healthcare is actually based on.

          suggesting that the researchers needed to control for Z, without reading the article. Most likely this result *is* controlled for Z

          This one is huge. And, unrelated to my job, always comes up in the worst way whenever someone is trying to argue that there is no gender income discrepancy. Like these people actually think all our figures on that are based on averaging up the salaries of a bunch of completely random men and women and going “my god, the women’s are less! RAAAGE.” No bruh there is a plentiful jungle of studies out there comparing within single jobs and single industries and accounting for all time worked and past education and blah blah blah and if you’re too lazy to find them, maybe you should shut it.

        2. Observer

          You are correct, as far as you go. However, very often the reporting on studies say exactly what you describe – even when the study does not say that. It’s gotten to the point (and I’m neither an epidemiologist or statistician) that when someone tells me “Studies show that a causes y” the first question I’ll ask is “which studies” and the second one is “did you read the study or an article ABOUT the study?”

          Also, sometime study authors do, in fact, make claims not supported by their evidence. To take an extreme case: I remember a group trying to prove that pushing babies in strollers facing away from the parents is a BAD THING. So, the dud a study on the matter, and claimed that their results showed that this causes stress and all sorts of long term ill effects for the babies.

          I actually read the study. As I recall, it could stand as a textbook case of what NOT to do when reporting on results. The study tracked certain behaviors in infants over the course of a very short period (I don’t have the details handy, but my recollection is about 2 months.) This was done in a very small geographic area, with no controls for almost any socio-economic, cultural or other environmental factors. There was also no context for the behavior. eg One of the behaviors was crying, but no one tracked thing like what time of day did these cry, what else was going on, what had been going on prior, when did they eat etc. So how did the study show that pushing the baby face out causes long term damage? Well, actually it didn’t. But, according to the study authors, we “know” that there are all of these negative long term impacts from infant stress, so we “know” that pushing the baby outward causes long term problems because we “know” that pushing the baby outward causes stress. How do we know that? Because we know that certain behaviors such as crying was somewhat more common in babies being pushed outward.

          Now, it’s possible that there was a longer piece also published by the study authors that covered all of the obvious questions. But the initial piece that they released (not the click bait piece that “reported” on it) did not answer any of them.

          I’ll admit that this is extreme, but I’ve seen a shocking number of studies that leave at least one or two holes open.

      3. Honeybee

        Oh, my favorite is when a medical study is briefly discussed in a newspaper article and armchair epidemiologists start coming out like “But the differences are probably really due to income” or “this study is invalid because they didn’t control (meaning statistically)” for race.

        Uh…don’t you think the professionally trained epidemiologists adjusted for those things? What makes you think that you, as a not-trained person, was the first person to think of that?

    36. Bea W

      Same about the statistical terms. Can’t take it! Don’t even get me started on the use of anecdotal evidence to back up arguments.

      I knew an ER physician who couldn’t bare to watch shows like ER because he just thinks about everything that’s wrong.

      Acted Boston accents on TV and movies…please stop. They are always horrible and painful to listen to.

      There was also this one recent sitcom that was supposed to be set in Boston and they all talked more like they were from the midwest. That was only slightly less annoying than over-acted accents.

      1. themmases

        I’ve been surprised by how bad a lot of TV medicine is after working in health care in even a peripheral way.

        I used to do radiology research, and I stopped watching Dr. Who after an episode where sparks come out of an MRI somehow.

        1. blackcat

          I have just enough knowledge of electronics and how am MRI machine works to know that I could make sparks come out of it somewhere. But not without pulling out all of the guts of the machine and laying it all over the floor. And I could probably only do it once, for a few milliseconds. And the sparks would be no larger than a couple centimeters long, unless that machine is hiding much bigger capacitors than I think it has. And I’d probably zap myself a few times trying to set it up.

          It would not make for good TV.

    37. BRR

      I work in higher ed fundraising. No I don’t’ call people during dinner asking for $25. Yes it’s a major focus of the administration because the term nonprofit only means we don’t distribute the profit, we still need money to operate and the more we get from fundraising the more things we can do that serve our mission. And focusing on overhead is something to look at but it is not a measure of how successful an organization is.

      1. Observer

        Don’t get me started on the whole overhead thing. That really does rest on misunderstanding.

    38. NJ Anon

      Nonprofits are not scamming people out of their money and spending it on themselves. People complain that we don’t pay taxes. Well our government funding comes from other peoples’ taxes and trust me, we are not riding around in fancy cars with expense accounts.

    39. Mockingjay

      Boss: Mockingjay, as a technical writer, you don’t have a technical background. *Steam from Mockingjay’s ears.* Or,

      Boss: So and So is not performing well in his job as an engineer/logistician/typist. Therefore, move him to Mockingjay’s team as a tech writer, because anyone can do that. (Current boss and boss at Exjob. I’ve had four different slackers foisted onto me or my team in the last 5 years.)

    40. Elizabeth West

      Receptionist!
      I was a receptionist for years–many people assume it is an easy job. No. There is a LOT of multitasking and thinking on your feet, and you have to be diplomatic as hell. Watch the video with Daniel Radcliffe where he tries to do the job for an hour. At one point, he sees someone outside the door and mutters, “Don’t come in here…don’t come in here…” At that point, he sounds like a real receptionist! ;)

      Writer!
      Things people say about writing:
      –That it’s a nice hobby. <__>
      –This question: “You know what you should do?” [write kid’s books/self-publish/write about X/do proofreading] Aaaarrrghh!
      –Me: “It’s difficult to get an agent’s attention.” Them: “You’re just being negative. Just send it in!” *headdesk*

      1. T3k

        Hahaha, I have to go find that video now!

        Because I work for such a small company, I have to wear many hats, including helping with customers and acting as the go between for the boss (which was NOT part of the original job description). There have many times where another coworker comes through when I’m already juggling several different tasks and answering phones or helping walk-ins (because everything else must be dropped to help them *grrrr*) and I’m thinking “Don’t you dare bring me something else to do, don’t you dare do it…”

        1. cuppa

          When I was an admin I was supporting like five people, but they all seemed to think I was only supporting them. I’ll never forget the day one of them came in and asked me to do something fairly straightforward and not super time consuming but pretty low priority during a time when I had three other high priority projects going on. I told him I could do it about three days from that day (and explained everything else I was working on) and he about fell over. :)

      2. themmases

        Haha thank you for recommending that video!

        I’ve never been a receptionist but I’ve been unlucky enough to have multiple desks/cubicles out in the open near the office of an important person. People just assume you work for them! And know where they are all the time just from being near them! I would be terrified to be a receptionist, Daniel Radcliffe probably handled it better than I would have.

    41. AVP

      production manager for documentaries and commercials. I have no idea what people think I do because the questions I get are so far off base.

      One friend (who I had known for years) asked, at a party, “So, are you still working in like, amateur film?” “I guess, if you count ‘highly paid professionals with huge budgets making things you see on tv’ as ‘amateur’?”

      Also, behind every Errol Morris or Ken Burns are a ton of people dealing with legal issues, insurance, research, logistics, etc. We don’t just show up with a camera and hope it looks good.

    42. A Teacher

      Yep, I babysit and get paid for 2 months off, i don’t work over the summer, I try to indoctorine government ideas, i make toouch money, the tax payers pay my pension (they don’t here), etc… Basically because people think they went to school they think they know how to be a teacher.

    43. INFJ

      Biologist here. Every time I see “survival of the fittest” misused in a TV show or movie, it makes me want to smack the writer.

    44. Shannon

      From when I was an EMT: just because you’re a nurse doesn’t mean you know more about trauma than I do. If you try to move that trauma patient who is in a safe situation without immobilizing his c-spine one more time, I will come up at you.

      From when I was a Pharmacy Technician: I’m really sorry that your insurance declined to cover your medication. Talk to your doctor about prescribing an alternative that is covered by your plan. I have nothing to do with your insurance coverage. No, I can’t just give you an alternative covered by your insurance. Your doctor must prescribe it.

      Yes, I understand that you are in pain. However, by law, I cannot sell any prescription without a pharmacist on the premises. Yes, I know it’s all ready been filled and all I need to do is scan you out, but, that’s illegal without a pharmacist on duty. Ask your doctor to cancel this prescription and phone a new prescription into the 24/7 pharmacy. I’m sorry, but, our pharmacist lives in the next city over. By the time I call him and ask him to come in and he gets here, you would have your script filled and be home from the 24/7 pharmacy.

    45. Cath in Canada

      Cancer research. Apparently I’m part of a global conspiracy that has essentially murdered millions of people – including some of my family and friends – all because we’re afraid of losing our jobs if “The Real Cure(tm)” isn’t kept secret.

          1. fposte

            Okay, but I still caved and read them. “It’s too threatening for her to answer you!” Dear Lord, I bet you have these taped all over your workspace.

      1. Vancouver Reader

        OMG, I have a friend who’s all into the conspiracy thing. She swore up and down that she has a friend who’s prostate cancer was cured by some tincture that he got from Mexico, but that TPTB are keeping it secret, but you could find it by googling it. (which made me think then it can’t be all that secretive can it?) My eyes got a major workout from rolling during that story.

      2. themmases

        Yeah I have experienced the research paranoia firsthand from my former job with patient contact! It can be wild! But I do enjoy the challenge of trying to make people feel comfortable even though some creep just asked them to participate in research, even if they never change their mind overall.

        Also, I love your blog! It’s surprisingly hard to find good blogs by scientists that are regularly updated and not all written by very optimistic grad students. Writing about science-related topics (and specifically answering common questions) for a general audience is something I’ve thought about doing myself.

    46. Dynamic Beige

      I do corporate presentations, mainly in PowerPoint. Aside from graduating from an actual Art school and over 20 years of experience in the field in a variety of programs (because I’m so old I did real slides back in the day), if I had a silver dollar for every time someone said “Oh, *anyone* can do PowerPoint! “… uh, yeah, and I’ve seen the presentation you “did” and you didn’t. Or the other one “so you’re the one responsible for all this Death by PowerPoint?” Uh, no, I am not. All the people who think *anyone* can do PowerPoint are. I know how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, AfterEffects all of which I use to create (or edit) the stuff in the presentations, yet as soon as someone hears “PowerPoint” I am suddenly a glorified secretary who knows nothing. I did a job years ago and one of the women on the client side on it just had some sort of beef with my being there — why I don’t know as I had never met her before or since. There was someone in her office who was The PPT Wizard and for some reason she couldn’t be onsite at the conference so they had brought me in. After a Not Fun afternoon keeping up with their changes she grudgingly admitted “you’re *almost* as fast as PersonIWishWasReallyHere.” Gee, thanks.

    47. GreatLakesGal

      I’m a speech therapist.
      No, I don’t know why your 4 year-old nephew isn’t talking yet, and I don’t have free handy tips to make him start.
      ( And don’t press me, because the truth is it’s probably a very serious developmental delay, and no, he won’t start talking when he’s 5, ” Just like Enstein.”)
      Also, please don’t ask me about your grandfather who had a massive stroke and was in a coma for 2 months and who is going to come off life support any day now and start talking.
      Seriously, I don’t diagnose people long distance, I don’t treat people for free, and I have nothing uplifting to say about ” what happens in general.”

    48. Silver

      I work in media and always get very frustrated when people don’t understand basic copyright and rights. I get a bit ranty sometimes when people start talking about how these things should work. My friends are probably sick of hearing me explain why you can’t just print this design you found on the internet on a T-shirt.

    49. ptrish

      Used to work in international development…no, Toms Shoes and other similar giveaway programs are NOT the answer! Neither are piles of donations of your old stuff! There’s even an acronym “SWEDOW”–stuff we don’t want. All it does is hurt the local economy.

      1. Another editor

        Fellow copy editor/former journalist here!
        I concur that people don’t know the difference between copy editors and reporters — and when I tell my more conservative friends what I do for a living, they give me a weird look, like “How can someone as nice as you be part of the godless liberal media?” :)
        No, we are not all evil godless liberals — and even those who are are often pretty decent people!
        When I still worked in newspapers, I had to explain to people that I worked evenings to produce the next day’s edition. That was a revolutionary concept to a lot of them.
        And, I hate the whole “The media only focuses on bad news!”/”The media won’t tell you about this!” trope. Guess what, folks? News is generally news BECAUSE it’s bad and unusual!

    50. Is it Performance Art

      Biomedical research.
      I think a lot of people don’t understand how important methods and study design are. People frequently tell me that “science proved” something because there’s a pubmed-indexed article in a really low-quality journal that comes to that conclusion. And a result in cell cultures doesn’t necessarily apply to a whole organism.
      A lot of people seem to think that scientists have no idea what we’re doing. I have people tell me that factor x cannot possibly affect the risk of disease y because people with factor x are more/less likely to smoke/exercise. Except that I’m not sure you can publish a paper that doesn’t adjust for smoking and, if it’s even remotely plausible, for exercise. We understand that, especially since we’re the ones who figured out what cigarette smoking does to your body. I’ve also been told that a large amount of careful scientific research is not valid because someone without any scientific background reanalyzed the data and came to a different conclusion. (Yes, I’m still convinced that cigarettes cause cancer and heart disease.)
      Finally, a lot of people don’t understand how long the path is from cell culture experiments to new treatment and how often it leads to dead ends.

      1. themmases

        I wonder the same thing all the time. Apparently a lot of people think you can do a PhD in a scientific field, become a faculty member at a university everyone has heard of, get NIH funding for your idea, and then get published in a peer reviewed journal without ever realizing that your need to adjust for age or smoking status or poverty when estimating risk of death. For that kind of searing insight, you need internet commenters!

        I get the impression that many people don’t know what regression is, and so believe that to control for a confounder you must exclude people who have it, or focus on that confounder and deliberately recruit people with and without it in addition to the actual variable of interest.

        I have also read people who think the obviousness of smoking as a risk factor today is somehow a point *against* epidemiology. Ummm… We discovered that, so, no?

    51. ArchForTheWin

      I’m an archaeologist. So basically every single aspect of my job is perceived incorrectly by the general public.

    52. Honeybee

      I’m a quantitative social scientist and hearing casual misuse of statistics (terms and basics) drives me nuts, too.

      My PhD is in psychology and I am constantly asked if I do therapy and if I am, in fact, “psychoanalyzing” a person RIGHTNOW. (No, and no. I do research exclusively. I don’t even know how to do therapy, and am not eligible for licensure in any state or country.)

    53. KitCroupier

      I’m a dealer at a casino with 13+ years of experience. If I have to hear ‘oh it must be fun! You play games all day!’ ONE MORE TIME…

      And we’re just like servers. The majority of our money comes from tips. Plus we have to claim 100% of our tips so while it’s a decent living, I think I made more money when I was a server for a couple of years (but I do have full benefits).

      That being said, I do have fun with a lot of my players, it’s just a few who bring down the table with their complaining and make other people uncomfortable.

    54. Not So NewReader

      As an aside, I cannot remember ever seeing so many replies to one question as this one here.

      Sadly, I think that we collectively are quick to judge and collectively speaking we can be quite negative. Not all of us, and not all the time. But I read down through this and there are people from many professions commenting here, that tells me that this is not an isolated thing. It’s bigger than we might want to believe.

  13. Not me

    A customer is having an ongoing meltdown via email right now.

    Unfortunately, they have used the wrong email address, they are upset about the results of previously contacting someone else (also a wrong address), and there is very little I can do to help them. I have pointed them in the right direction a few times and they are still contacting me.

    :/

    1. Sunshine Brite

      Do you have the right person’s contact info at all? When I have someone contact me and I know who they should be contacting sometimes I’ll call that person and have them reach out to the client.

      1. Not me

        Yep, they do.

        I got an update a few minutes ago. This person is unreasonable and has a history of harassing people. I was told to stop engaging.

        I really should have left the conversation a long time ago, but this being my first time with this person, I want to help them! I can make every customer happy if I’m polite and responsive enough, right? Right?! Haha.

        1. Menacia

          Makes perfect sense, you are dealing with an irrational person who just wants someone (anyone!) to respond to them and you fell for it. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me! Like you said, it’s time to disengage. What is that saying… Not my circus, not my monkeys? ;)

          1. Not me

            They fooled me three times! :)

            It’s a good saying. I’m staying out of it now.

            I think it got to me in the first place because it reminded me of someone. Which is actually a pretty impressive red flag collection on display.

            1. Sunshine Brite

              For sure! I definitely do my best to drop out once the chain is linked up somewhere else.

        1. Not me

          I’ve been told to stay out of it at this point. There have been many efforts to help them.

          This is all good advice for helping someone who is having trouble contacting who they mean to, though!

  14. Mel

    I hate to ask an “is this legal?!” question, but… is this legal? My boyfriend is a non-exempt employee in New York State, and he’s going on a three day trip to Chicago next week for training. His boss told him that because the trip is for training purposes, he won’t be getting paid for the travel time (both flights are in the evening, outside of his regular working hours). My rudimentary Googling tells me that in NY, any travel done as part of one’s job duties has to be compensated, but does anyone know if that loophole actually exists?

    1. fposte

      There’s almost certainly no training loophole, but federally you only have to get compensated for travel during your regular working hours. Unless his work hours are in the evening, or unless New York has broader protections than that, it sounds like his employer might be on safe ground.

    2. Anonmanom

      The Federal stand on this is that it is only compensable within normal working hours, however some states do have stricter wage and hours rules in favor of the EE. New York is one of those states, however they only require that the employee be paid minimum wage for the travel time.

    3. Menacia

      It might be legal, but it’s also bs. I would never go anywhere for training or conferences if it were not paid for by my company. The training he is receiving will benefit the company, won’t it?

      1. Emily K

        It sounds like he’s being paid to attend the conferences themselves, and his company is covering the expenses. They just aren’t paying him an hourly wage for the time he’s spending on the airplane getting there.

    4. Not So NewReader

      I am in NY, my husband was never paid for his travel time. He drove to Columbus, OH- 12 plus hours and never got paid for his time. He did get mileage, though.

      1. fposte

        Was he exempt, perhaps? You wouldn’t incur any additional pay if you were exempt. (It’s also possible that the law was different then or his boss was a jackass.)

        1. Not So NewReader

          His company told him he was semi-exempt. Yeah. Okay. I cannot tell you how many fruitless conversations we had. Meanwhile, a similar company ended up with a massive lawsuit for similar behavior with similar employees.

          My husband had a degree in labor relations. (head to desk; head to desk…)

            1. Not So NewReader

              The problem is industry-wide. There was a massive court case that basically came down on the side of the employees. But nothing has changed in the industry as far as I can tell.

              Yeah. I hear ya. He was exempt from driving semis. ;)

    5. Observer

      As a side note, I think we get a bit too negative about “is it legal?” Yes, some of the questions in that vein are really pretty ridiculous, but plenty of times it’s a reasonable question, even when the answer is “Yes.” Certainly in this case I think that the question is perfectly legal, although I would not be at all surprised if the answer were yes.

      1. John C.

        Allow me to get negative about “is it legal?”
        The original poster wants her boyfriend to be paid for his time. The company does not want to pay extra for travel. Legalities aside, this is a problem that can be solved by taking time off during the day. It could be that nothing in the law says the company must accept this give-and-take, but it might well be something that the people in charge of his time are willing to do (and, for all intents and purposes, have the authority to do), whereas the folks in charge of the pay stubs might be stingier about it.
        If the front-line managers are inflexible about this, you have just learned something about the workplace.
        Caveat I: I am not really familiar with the term “normal working hours,” since I work nights, including weekends. If I have to break from routine on a particular day, the rest of my schedule gets adjusted.
        Caveat II: Returning to the legalities we set aside, but setting aside the special case of travel, the promise of future compensatory time is not enough to relieve to company of paying overtime for a 40 hour-plus week.

  15. Waiting...wishing...hoping

    I’ve been interviewing for an internal position for the last few weeks. Per my company’s standard procedure, Potential Hiring Manager must reach out to Current Manager for a reference. PHM reached out to my CM this week, talked transition plan/timeline, etc. I had a meeting with CM and she congratulated me on getting the job….but I’ve still not heard anything officially from HR or PHM.

    My CM also told me that upper management got wind of me applying for the job. The big boss called my CM and asked what they could do to keep me, etc. CM told them that New Job is a good opportunity for me, that I’m ready to move on, etc.

    I haven’t heard anything in a few days, and I’m starting to get worried that upper management could potential block this. It doesn’t happen a lot in my company, but does happen on occasion. I’ve worked on my team for five years and have been ready to move on for more than a year. Plus, I’ve had no work to do for nearly 6 months (due to a change in our business) and I’m getting tired of having nothing to do, not learning new skills, etc.

    1. Jillyan

      One thing I’ve learned from this site is that a few days seem like an eternity to job seekers but barely anytime for those that are hiring. Maybe you could send a followup email politely asking for a timeline?

  16. Cruciatus

    So I’ve started the new university job and I now have to make a huge decision about which kind of retirement account I want. I only have a few more weeks to decide and once I do I can’t change my mind. Ever. The first option is SERS where I contribute 6.25% of my gross wages, but is only vested after 10 years, with a formula of something like Years Worked X Salary X Something Else. Or TIAA-CREF where I contribute 5% of gross wages, and they contribute 9.29%, and is available right away. SERS is great if you can hang on for years and years, but TIAA-CREF starts right now.

    I’m staff, not faculty, and can’t know where I’ll be in 10 years. Maybe still working here, maybe not, maybe working elsewhere but still in the SERS system. I’m leaning towards TIAA-CREF but would like any information I may not be considering either way.

    1. fposte

      Questions before answers :-). What do they contribute to the SERS account? (It looks like it might currently be 14% but not guaranteed to remain so.) If you leave before 10 years, can you leave your stuff in SERS until 10 years have passed and then take it out? Do you know how well-funded the SERS system is? Do you have the option of contributing more to the TIAA-CREF plan, with or without a match?

      1. Cruciatus

        What they contribute is “governed by state law”(PA) and that’s where that formula comes into play (only after 10 years). 2% X Class of Service Multiplier X Years of Credited Service X Final Average Salary = Maximum Annual Retirement Allowance. So basically, pension vs. retirement annuity. If you leave before then you get your money back plus 4% interest. There is a supplemental TIAA-CREF plan people in either plan can do. I don’t know how well funded it is, but my mom worked at another state university and said once they had too much money and then in the early 2000s not enough.

        1. fposte

          The 4% isn’t a bad deal for a guaranteed return; you wouldn’t want your whole portfolio to be fixed that way, but there will be worse deals around, that’s for sure.

          If you Google “[pension name] pension health” you can often find answers. It looks like Pennsylvania’s been a bit challenged; I’d need to know more than I can hunt down to know how seriously to take this, but if I were you I would research that before deciding to go into SERS.

    2. Barbara in Swampeast

      You will be able to keep, but not add to your TIAA-CREF account if you leave the university. Also know that any money you put into the TIAA traditional annuity can only be taken out over 10 years. If you put your money in the CREF stock accounts, you can close your account and get your money back right away (less any penalties and taxes).

      1. fposte

        TIAA Traditional is actually more complicated than that. If it’s an SRA, GSRA, maybe other acronyms, you can take it out over whatever time frame you like; it’s basically like yer standard retirement account. (This is the one I have.) If it’s an RA or a GRA, it’s not supplemental and then would have to be annuitized. The RA and GRA have higher interest rates to compensate. I also don’t think you have a choice–you go with the version your plan gives you.

        (I love TIAA Traditional and have it in a GSRA, so I can take it out however I want.)

    3. TotesMaGoats

      I worked for my state system for almost 8 years and chose TIAA-CREF. That’s where my first job had my retirement and I knew that I didn’t want to get locked into my state system for 15 years to get vested. I never intended to stay for 8 years but I’ve always gotten a good return from TC. And my new job has them as well. Keeps things organized.

    4. GigglyPuff

      When I left my university staff position after a year and a half (was grant funded), I had to sign up for the equivalent of your first one, but since I was only there for less than X years, I was able to remove the money I had put in and roll it over into an IRA. You could at least look into, if you can take out the money you put into the SERS account when you leave.

    5. BRR

      I vote TIAA-CREF because the way state pensions systems are being handled makes me nervous. Not that the stock market is a safe bet. Also it’s definitely a factor that I am younger and don’t want to be tied to state employers due to my retirement account.

      1. fposte

        Most state pensions are invested in the stock market to some degree anyway; it’s just that some of them have enough money in it to be sure to give you yours back and some of them don’t.

        1. BRR

          Some of them do? haha. It’s my hunch but I don’t see the state pension situation getting any better

          1. fposte

            Wisconsin is pretty much 100% funded, though I don’t know what kind of legislative protections exist for it. There’s a Pew Trust overview that lets you look at the state of each state and ranks them by funding percentages. South Dakota is even better.

            Yes, my state of Illinois is number 50. Go big 5-0! Blergh.

            1. BRR

              Yeah I’m in NJ. My husband had applied for a state job. I was like you choose the not pension option haha.

    6. Not So NewReader

      Just my preference- I like to look at how long it takes to get fully vested, and what the staging is. By that I mean x% at 2 years, y% at 3 years and so on. One company I worked for briefly and in a part time capacity, I was 20% vested after 3 years. Amazingly, that added up to a couple thousand dollars. (It was just a part time job and I only received 1/5 of it when I left.)

      The second thing that is important to me is “Is it portable?” Do I have to keep the account with them and am I forever chained to what their investment people decide?

      In short, I look at how many options I will have in the future. If I have a bear of a boss, I don’t want to be tied to working 10 years to be fully vested. Any money I gain there, will be lost to health care costs from ulcers, etc.

  17. Jillyan

    Hi all!
    I started applying for a new job a month ago and finally had my first in person interview two weeks ago, after a phone one. I haven’t heard anything back, but did send a followup. I checked online yesterday and the position says filled. They were pretty responsive before and it’s disappointing that I wasn’t hired (I think?) but their main concern is that I was too qualified. I respect that concern. However, I am confused at the phenomena of not sending out rejection emails to those who have actually interviewed in person. Why would anyone think this is okay?

    1. Sunflower

      It’s possible that the company has weird policies like whoever filled the position finishing a 30-90 probationary period before officially rejecting people. If the system is set-up enough to see that a position is filled, it should be sophisticated enough to send out rejection emails I’d think

  18. Oatmeal

    I had the best experience with a hiring manager this week.

    I applied for a position, with a close date in September. 24 hours later, I received an email from the hiring manager asking if I had time for a quick phone call. We arranged a time, and she called me to explain the position and to tell me about their timeline. She told me that she is going on vacation for two weeks and that I appear to be a really strong candidate so she wants to interview me as soon as she gets back.

    I felt like this was extremely proactive and kind of her and it made me feel super valued as a candidate. I just really appreciated that she was so clear and straightforward with me.

    1. Carrie in Scotland

      That sounds very good for your interview and the whole process. Fingers crossed for you!

  19. Aussie Teacher

    I’ve got my first interview next Monday since starting to casually job hunt this year! I’m a SAHM looking to go back 2-3 days a week, after 5 years out of the workforce. The position was listed as “Full time (negotiable),” but from the job description it was clear that there is some teaching, some extra-curricular work and some tutoring making up the job. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time, so I was up front in my cover letter that I was ideally looking for 2-3 days a week, and urged them to consider the possibility of me sharing the role with another candidate, as I believed I have a lot to offer. I wasn’t sure if I’d even get an interview but they just called me today!
    I’m going to be re-reading AAM’s interview guide and practicing my answers to common questions all weekend. Hoping to go in there with the mindset of “let’s see if we’re mutually compatible” rather than “I desperately need this job” (which I don’t anyway, at least not financially… I’m just getting a little worried about being out of the work force for so long).

    1. Not helpful

      When i see job listings that cover more than one area of responsibility I always wonder if what they really want is either 1)some one part time but are afraid they won’t get any applicants or just poor ones so they try to beef it up to full time and/or 2) really want some one for the parts of description that people usually aren’t interested in but try to make it look like that isn’t the important/main part.

      1. Aussie Teacher

        They pretty much want a purple unicorn, actually – someone who can start mid-term (which rules out a lot of currently-employed people), who can teach classroom music, who is a choral specialist, who can also teach a specific (different) instrument. They obviously have someone in the role currently who specializes in that instrument, does a bit of choir and teaches classroom. I am a choral specialist who actually plays the instrument they want reasonably well, but since it’s pretty easy to find instrumental teachers in Oz, my hope is that they can get someone in to teach that instrument and I can negotiate to take the class teaching and choir stuff, which is what I’m best at.

    2. Kat

      Have you considered subbing as an aide? We call them para professionals in the US, I dont know what Australia calls them.

      I do it and can work 5 days a week if I want, but usually work 2-3 days a week.

      1. Aussie Teacher

        Yep, it’s called relief teaching here, but they don’t call you until 6-7am on the day they want you, which makes organizing childcare almost impossible. I guess I could organize childcare on set days and only put myself down for relief for those days, but because I teach an elective subject (music), I wouldn’t get relief work in that area alone (so I’d be taking Maths, Science, English etc). I’d rather try and get something on my field, if I can…

    3. Not So NewReader

      You will be okay, don’t panic. A friend had a similar situation and she made the jump back into the workforce successfully. You sound like you are looking over the job and thinking about the particulars. This is good, keep this attitude and you will do well.

  20. Retail Lifer

    Had an interview that went well and I’m waiting to hear back either way. I’m really hanging my hopes on this one, though, as I’ve wasted all of my vacation/personal days on other interviews, being sick and related medical stuff, and a few on an actual vacation. I only have two more vacation days left for the year and I need to save them in case I get sick or something. Is not offering sick time a thing in other industries, too?

    1. Dawn

      Ugh I don’t know if it’s a “thing” or if some company heads all read the same crappy book once upon a time that suggested giving workers a lump of PTO instead of separate sick leave. It’s really, really, really stupid and shortsighted and encourages people to come into work sick.

      1. SevenSixOne

        As long as the company offers a decent amount of PTO, I prefer the lump sum method. It’s not perfect, but I’d rather be able to take days off how I want/need to instead of sacrificing vacation time if I’m sick for a long time or calling in “sick” when I’m fine just so I don’t waste the time off (…and then spending the day feeling guilty and paranoid).

    2. Carrie in Scotland

      I have my fingers crossed for you retail lifer! I’ve been following your posts and am really rooting for you.

      1. Retail Lifer

        I really don’t have it in me to keep doing applications and cover letters anymore, so if this doesn’t work out then I need to take a break until next year. I REALLY don’t want to work another 6pm to 5am shift on Thanksgiving night/Black Friday, so all the finger crossing is appreciated!

        1. Retail Gal

          Ugh…hang in there, RL. I work receiving at a department store, and this was week 1 of a possible four weeks of getting two trucks each week. We were just discussing how our schedule looked from now until the end of January. Conclusion = not good
          (And if 2016 is anything like 2015, it still won’t be good until the end of March)

          Here’s to finding well-paying non-retail jobs before November 1st!

      1. Retail Lifer

        How much do you get? I get ten vacation days and three personal days. And now it’s August and I’m pretty much out of PTO until January. I think I have to be here another three years for any more time to accrue.

        1. Nashira

          My company gives 19 days lumped, which sounds great til you realize that in my office, we lose 3-4 of those. Our client has many holidays my employer doesn’t cover, and we can only make up so much time during the week of holidays.

        2. Lionness

          We lump them together,but we start with 21 days, total. Each year we get an additional day.

          It isn’t the absolute most generous policy out there, but for me (someone who is rarely ill) it is great!

    3. Clever Name

      I had two weeks of combined PTO at my last job in the environmental industry. It was ridiculous. Two weeks of vacation by itself is on the low end, IMHO. Glad I don’t work there anymore.

  21. AnonMarketing

    I’m really struggling with my workload at work, to the point where my boss is pointing it out. I’m trying very hard at my job, but there’s more going on than I anticipated when I took the job (I am quite literally managing 200+ projects). My boss is working with me, but I feel I’m under threat of PIP at our next meeting, which stresses me out more. What can I do?

    1. RaneBoe Bright

      200 projects? Do you mean maybe 15 projects with a lot of deliverables (sub-projects) under the main ones or 200 actual standalone projects???

    2. Dawn

      Have you communicated with your boss about your workload? I’m saying have you explicitly had a meeting in which you sat down and said “Wakeen, I am overwhelmed with work. Here is literally everything that I am working on/responsible for. I cannot keep up with everything and some things are starting to slide. I need your help figuring out what’s a priority in order to stay on top of things. I cannot continue to work on all of this.”?

      If you have not had that meeting, HAVE THAT MEETING. Your boss is not going to be able to know what’s going on unless you TELL HER explicitly.

    3. Clever Name

      200 projects? That’s insane!! I’m technical staff, and I’m working on about 20 projects (with the number of deliverables per project ranging from 1 to over a dozen), and I’m way overloaded.

      You really need to sit down with your boss and detail what you’ve got going on. Say things like, “I have multiple conflicting deadlines and I am unsure what my priorities should be” and “I’m at the point where some things are not going to get done, and I need to know what has to get done”. Try to estimate what your backlog is, assuming a 40 hour workweek. I probably have a backlog of at least 3 months right now, maybe even longer.

      Maybe your boss hasn’t clearly communicated what your priorities should be. Maybe you can put a bunch of stuff on the backburner and do later. It’s also quite possible that they just need to hire another person.

      But please, speak up and tell your boss you’re overwhelmed in the most explicit and specific terms you can. Don’t just keep saying, “I’m overwhelmed” if that’s all you’ve been saying. And don’t wait to be handed a PIP. Good luck!

    4. AnnieNonymous

      So you do marketing? My experience is that employers don’t know how to handle the marketing department, especially if it’s just one person and not a team with delegated tasks. If you’re good at the job, it looks like you’re not doing anything. Plus, they tend to assume that you can handle every aspect of a campaign (for example, they want you to have the skills of someone with a graphic arts degree but won’t pay those rates).

      If there’s more work than can be reasonably handled by one person, say so. Cite company growth and the sheer number of projects. Team expansion is a good thing; it means business is doing well.

      1. Ad Astra

        Yes, if you’re in-house at a company in some other industry (rather than working for a marketing agency), I bet you’re getting assignments from all kinds of departments and the only person keeping track of your workload is you. At least, that’s the situation I often find myself in.

        Make sure your boss understands exactly how much you have going on. It’s possible he thinks 200 projects is reasonable, and then you’ll have to ask him what he thinks you should be doing to manager all that. What’s more likely, imo, is he’ll realize you’re taking on too much and the two of you can work on a way to streamline that workload.

        This may be as simple as having requests and assignments go through him first, or shifting some projects to other people, or empowering you to turn down or delay an assignment that you truly don’t have time for.

    5. AnonMarketing

      More 200 is more accurate in terms of tasks, actual projects is more along the lines of 75 or so, and I’m told we’ll see a drastic uptick soon. There’s so much I need to follow up on and I’m quickly getting my wires crossed (I do have an art degree, and sometimes that work is saddled on me as well, but I try to avoid it if at all possible). I’ve spoken to my boss about it, but I still sense they’re not 100% pleased and I’m still struggling. Part of me is just ready to give up. I work in government, so this isn’t really a “business is doing well” issue as much as “business is just business and it will always be this crazy.”

      1. Ad Astra

        Do you know specifically what’s unsatisfactory about your work, and have you discussed measures to improve that? Is it about deadlines? Accuracy? Presentation?

    6. Not So NewReader

      Can you find a mentor?
      Can you quietly watch how your coworkers are handling things?

      One thing that I am guilty of is trying to get stuff right, in situations where the boss just wants it DONE. For example, I dress the project up and make it look nice, the boss just wants the bare bones work done. Then he wants me to move on.

      How long have you been at the job? What were you told or lead to believe about the workload when you interviewed?

      For me the suspense of waiting for that meeting is almost worse than the meeting itself. Why not ask the boss for 15 minutes of his time and confront it now? Tell him you know you are not up to speed and you would like some pointers that might help. Perhaps there is someone he will recommend for you to talk with.

    7. Kirsten

      I would proactively let your boss know that you’re struggling and want to fix it, ask for there advice in what you can do to stay on track/improve, listen and implement what they say. Good luck!

  22. Anon in Tejas

    I got a really great opportunity to represent my office. I was picked out of a number of folks to speak at a conference with a coworker. I thanked my boss when she asked me to do this. How would you suggest I show my appreciation yo my boss and boss’s boss? I’m not looking to gift up, but I want to express my gratitude at this opportunity.

    1. The Other Dawn

      I think giving them a heartfelt thanks is enough. Let them know you really appreciate the opportunity and that you hope they’ll think you again in the future.

    2. Dawn

      Go to the thing, do a really stupidly good job, demonstrate that their trust is well placed. After the thing, when you have done a really good job, maybe send a recap email to your boss and boss’ boss talking about how well it went and the feedback that you saw.

      You don’t need to do anything more than that. This is a business relationship, not a personal one- your boss and your boss’ boss aren’t trying to do you a personal favor by sending you to speak at this conference. You absolutely should not look at this as a “gift” or anything of that sort, because it wasn’t done out of the goodness of their hearts- it was done out of the need to send the best qualified person to speak and apparently you are that person.

    3. RaneBoe Bright

      The best way to say Thank You for an opportunity is to show them that they made a good choice – do a really good job. I also doesn’t hurt to shoot over one Thank You email. I wouldn’t go beyond that though.

      I was brought on to a team and given some amazing opportunities and thought I needed to remind them that I am thankful. One day the VP says, “I brought you to this team for a reason and everything you do to represent us in excellency is all the Thank You we need.”

  23. TGIF

    I’m interviewing a bunch of internal people for a junior position. A few of them I don’t really want to interview due to various reasons, but HR has made it clear that I need to do it so as to maintain goodwill and not frustrate employees. Fine. I can make it a short interview with some very pointed questions.

    But there’s one candidate who not only has had a lot of jobs in a few years – approximately two per year – she also listed her various local and state beauty pageant crowns and a statement that she’s been invited back as a contestant both this year and next year. This is weird to me. Why would someone put that on her resume? Unless she’s trying to demonstrate that she’s competitive and can be disciplined. When I saw that, my first thought was, “Why is this important?” I terms of looking for a job. Not that it’s not something to be proud of in general.

    In addition, she’s going to school for broadcasting, which is, I believe, WAY different than what she’s doing now and what she would be doing in this job. This job requires lots of alone time with the PC: research and analysis, data entry, working with data, among other tedious things.

    I feel like this is just a way for her to get out of the department she’s in now, which is very low-level and customer-facing. My department is an office environment with no customer contact. But I have to interview her, so I’m thinking one of my first questions will be regarding her crowded work history and then her schooling for broadcasting, which is still in process and has been for a few years.

    1. A

      I don’t think the lattermost part should count against her. Lots of people do things not related to their field of study while they’re going to school. That’s really a non-issue.

      Being a pageant queen is definitely irrelevant to … everything except pageants though, and her work history is concerning (unless they were all explicitly temporary jobs, in which case you do what you have to I suppose).

      1. TGIF

        They don’t appear to be temp jobs, as she has two others that are clearly marked “Temporary.”

        As for broadcasting, I don’t count it against her. But I do wonder if she could be happy in a job like this one. But I also don’t know much about broadcasting.

        1. bassclefchick

          As someone WITH a broadcasting degree and not working in a field even remotely related to my degree, trust me when I say the vast majority of us realized pretty quickly there weren’t that many jobs in the field. And even if you did find one, you weren’t going to be paid very well. As a matter of fact, of all the people I went to college with in the same major, I can think of only two people who are still in broadcasting 20 years later.

          1. Honeybee

            Sure, but she should be able to articulate that if asked – or a more career/socially acceptable answer to that question. When you’re switching careers in that way, you have to be prepared to answer questions about why.

    2. The IT Manager

      Why? She’s clueless about what hiring managers want to see on a resume. My negative opinion of beauty pageant participants make me believe that she’s all about what looks good and has no substance. But, also, that resume sounds like it is optimized for broadcasting jobs which actually do care about what people look like and their poise when the spot light is on them.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        I’ve worked with a former pageant winner (at the state level) who’s smart as a whip. I would never list it on my resume if I’d done them, and I don’t think she does either — but I would say she’s a very poised and polished speaker, which I wouldn’t doubt she learned from pageants.

        So, despite the really bad ones who get (deservedly) mocked on YouTube, I don’t think pageant participation counts as either a positive or a negative. (Stressing it on a resume, though — definitely a negative.)

      2. Ad Astra

        But, also, that resume sounds like it is optimized for broadcasting jobs which actually do care about what people look like and their poise when the spot light is on them.

        Oh, that’s a good point. She’s probably getting her resume advice from the journalism school career center, and pageant experience would be very relevant for someone trying to get a job in broadcasting, especially if she doesn’t yet have internship experience.

    3. Oatmeal

      I hope you will give the people you don’t want to interview a legitimate chance in interviews! These people are likely going to take the time to prepare for this and they’ll be feeling nervous/excited about a chance to advance into a new area they might be really interested in! If you just give them a “short interview with pointed questions” it might create goodwill with your bosses, but it will create very bad will with the candidates.

      I’ve been there as a candidate and it suuuuucks hard to feel like you prepared in earnest and never actually had a shot at the role.

      1. TGIF

        Understood! I didn’t mean to imply that I wouldn’t give them a chance at all. It’s really just two people. The one mentioned above, and then another that HR was pretty iffy on, which implied that he wouldn’t be a good candidate. By looking at their resumes, they’re not people I would pick to interview if they applied from outside the company. But who knows? I might find someone that would be a good fit.

    4. MsM

      Are you planning to ask about her schooling in the context of how she sees it applying to this role? Because otherwise, I don’t know that you’re going to be able to maintain goodwill with that line of inquiry. Or, for that matter, get the real answers you want.

    5. Jennifer

      I dunno, what I’ve read of pageants, those pretty much are a very expensive job in which you learn public speaking skills and performance skills, plus you have to do some kind of charity thing.

      But that said, if the job doesn’t require any of that work, then it’s a little odd. Something I might mention at the bottom of the resume as “other work” or volunteering or whatever.

      Man, I wish I could apply for your department, it sounds right up my alley more than hers. But…who knows, she might have reasons.

    6. Ad Astra

      If she’s still in college, she’s probably been advised that listing her pageant achievements shows dedication, time management, and a well-rounded skill set. That’s kind of how pageants argue that they’re still relevant today, and college students of all types are encouraged to list their extracurriculars on their resumes.

      I get why it could be a turn-off, and I’m not sure I’d recommend including it on a resume in most situations, but my experience is that most pageant girls are very bright, personable people. (To be honest, I think pageants are a real waste of talent and these young ladies would be better off joining choirs, dance troupes, sports teams, debate teams, etc.)

  24. Francesca

    Reading the letter about the analyst who wondered if she should volunteer to do her boss’s admin, I realised that’s the exact trap I’ve fallen in to. I manage my boss’s diary, I track her milage, I offer to order the general office suppliers and I have ended up being default minute taker despite there being five others at my level in my department who could do any of the above. There are two issues:
    1. I’m very concerned about appearing unhelpful or uncooperative if I stop doing something I’ve previously offered and been happy to do. And I don’t mind taking on extra admin tasks in terms of my workload, but I do worry it’s damaging to my professional reputation to be pigeon holed.
    2. I’m really good at these essential tasks. Others in the office will be loudly unhappy when asked to take minutes, and will turn around very poor meeting notes, or any other admin task they deem to be beneath them (despite admin being a part of all of our jobs) so I get asked to do it more. I am seen as good at my work – but I am being given lower level work, when I am capable of the higher level work my colleagues are given to fill their admin-free time.
    Help! I fell in to a trap of being willing to take on any extra task, however basic, to come across as helpful, enthusiastic and useful*. How do I get myself out?

    (* For what it’s worth, I blame this attitude on years of unpaid internships and being told by career advisors that this is what you do to ‘prove yourself’ in the work world. I need to break the habit, badly.)

    1. Colette

      Some thoughts:
      – stop offering to do this stuff
      – prioritize your higher level work, and when appropriate, make it clear that you don’t have the bandwidth to do as much admin as you’re doing
      – if you think your manager would be receptive, have a conversation explaining that you feel like you’re missing out on higher-level work and asking how you can get rid of some of the admin tasks you’re doing.

      1. kozinskey

        Yes, I think the conversation with your boss is key. I would sit down with her and explain how much of your time is dedicated to tasks outside your job description, and make it clear that while you’re happy to help, you’re wondering if some of those tasks could go to a dedicated admin or be divided among your team. You could phrase it as asking for her help prioritizing your workload and see where that takes you. She might not realize how it’s affecting you unless you say something sooner rather than later.

    2. themmases

      Strongly consider talking to your manager about this. It’s hard yo just stop doing things that are perceived as your job without getting your boss’s approval first. Don’t criticize your colleagues, just focus on your goals. I would say something like, “While I want to help and recognize that doing some admin tasks will always be part of my job, my goal is to advance at Technical Technique 2.0.” Specifically ask for a stretch project related to that or to free up some of your time to focus on it. Stop volunteering for new admin stuff or one-off, housekeeping stuff like setting up the meeting room. If you think you’ll be asked, make sure to be busy.

      If you think your boss won’t be automatically receptive, try volunteering for extra technical stuff first. It’s easier to justify not taking minutes at a meeting when you are one of the primary speakers, or to not spend time ordering supplies when your boss is depending on you for a technical deliverable in an area where you’ve proven yourself.

  25. Violet Rose

    Wise readers! I was sacked from my first post-degree job, a week *after* handing in my resignation – the CEO had a very “you are either the best thing since sliced bread or the scum of the earth” attitude, so it really felt like as soon as I’d confessed to wanting to leave, he pulled a “you didn’t quit, you’re fired!” I’m not exactly heartbroken about it, since it means I don’t have to put up with his… extremes of behaviour anymore. Anyway, my actual point is, he suggested that I “not include the details of my employment there on my CV, as [he] would not be able to provide a good reference”. Fortunately for me, it’s been just over 10 months since I actually completed my degree, and just over 9 since my actual graduation date, which is a gap that can be explained without lies except those of omission, but what should I say if asked directly what I’ve been doing during that time? I can truthfully say things like “traveling”, “taking some time off” and mention a brief stint of self-employment; should I just avoid talking about my old company at all costs?

    1. Colette

      He doesn’t get to decide what you put on your resume. If you have good accomplishments, include it.

      Are you leaving for another job? Are there other managers who will give you a good reference?

      1. AdAgencyChick

        +1. Put it on there, have other references from that job available, and be prepared to explain at the reference-checking stage next time you’re looking that your boss tends to turn on people once they have resigned.

      2. Violet Rose

        My actual manager, the person who actually saw my work, said I had done and learned more in my first 4 months than he’s thought possible. Unfortunately, his boss is the one who dismissed me (while my manager was on leave, interestingly enough), and the company is small enough that I’m a bit afraid to contact OldManager to ask for a reference, because I suspect, though it might be irrational, that the answer would be “[CEO] won’t let me” or “[CEO] has told me [incredibly trumped-up story of why I was let go], so no”

          1. Violet Rose

            Good point. It’s really just a load of shyness/irrational fear, tied up with not wanting to deal with anything that reminds me of ExJob, since I was pretty miserable there. But, if I can get over the discomfort, there really is nothing lost by asking!

            1. Not So NewReader

              The whole thing could go the opposite way, where he tells you of a job opening that his friend has. He might do this because he know his boss goes which ever way the wind is blowing today and you deserve a fair shake.

              Yes, that is an extreme example of what could happen. But, in order to get fairness we have to give it. Give the boss a fair shot. If he disappoints as you think he might- you will at least heard it from the horse’s mouth, not from rumor or from guessing on your own.

    2. The IT Manager

      I’d be leery of leaving off 10 months of work. Did you do a good job? Did you not gain useful experience in this job? Is there someone else there that could be a good reference for you?

      It’s one thing to leave a job off a resume, but I don’t think you should lie about it – to include not mentioning working – if asked directly what you did since graduation.

      Basically I think the guy’s advice is kind of terrible, and instead of being helpful he’s actually attempting one last screw you/controlling move by telling you he plans to give you a bad reference.

      I would recommend instead to work out an explanation of why you may not get a good reference from him. “He was so unhappy with my departure he didn’t allow me to work out my notice period and probably won’t be a good reference.” <– This isn't great, but better to me than getting caught in a lie which is all about your failure and not his.

      1. Violet Rose

        Hah, it definitely felt like a screw-you, so I wouldn’t be shocked at all! Honestly, I’m not sure why he referred to himself as the reference-giver, since he never even saw the actual work I actually produced, and judged my performance entirely on things like how often I took bathroom breaks. That’s another reason he wouldn’t be a good reference.

      2. Violet Rose

        Just noticed I forgot to answer your first paragraph at all, so I did so in my reply to Colette!

      1. Violet Rose

        Well, this is the guy who, multiple times, accused me of being on Facebook because I smiled at my computer, and considered being sleepy enough to close my eyes for periods of 1-3 minutes “gross misconduct” – which I agree *looked* bad, but I was working on a task that required me to repeatedly run a computer program that took, you guessed it, 1-3 minutes to tell me anything useful. And yes, I did apologise and try to explain that to him. So, I consider his judgement flawed to say the least.

        I’ve heard that, in the UK, it’s illegal to give an outright bad reference, so a “bad reference” is when an employer refused to say anything beyond a confirmation of employment dates. But, this info comes mostly from students – any UK readers care to weigh in?

          1. Violet Rose

            As far as I could tell, his job was to make (frequently terrible) decisions and just be the source of funding. Oh, and remind us that he was PERSONALLY giving us money out of HIS POCKET and that is why it was so PERSONAL that I got up to pee five times a day. (I drink a great deal of water.) I’ve ranted about him here before; I practically need a quote board for the ridiculous stuff he’s said.

        1. Ezri

          This guy sounds like an ass. I’m sorry you had to deal with that and I’m glad you’re moving on.

    3. Liane

      Didn’t Alison just answer a question like this, that someone’s soon-to-be former boss couldn’t dictate whether they could mention that job?

      1. Violet Rose

        Ooh, very possible – I’ve been reading only sporadically for the last few weeks, so I may have missed it, but I’ll take a look! I feel like there was a recent-ish letter about explaining why you left a job without another one lined up that had similar stories in the comments.

  26. FJ

    Hey AAM folks, what’s the current set of opinions on massive online courses?
    I’m transferring from an engineering job to a marketing job within my current company (in the USA), so I’m taking some courses to learn about marketing and business and competitive strategy and that sort of thing. I’m finding them personally valuable to learn about the new world I’ll be working in, and it’s helping my though process in the transition.

    Is there any professional value to paying for the certificates? The ones I’m currently thinking about are the Coursera Wharton Business Specialization and some of the Slide Rule specializations. If they aren’t valuable as a one-off course, is a large set of courses valuable from a resume perspective? My current thought process is that doing well in the marketing job will be more valuable than the courses, but the courses might help reinforce that this is something I’ve put effort in to. What do you guys think?

    1. TBD

      I think the courses would be personally valuable to you, but not particularly of value for your resume. I’m in that industry, and I think you would be better off spending time doing an MBA. It was fairly common among some of the marketing people I knew. People in engineering don’t need a finance-type top school MBA, just the local State U or something is fine. Engineering is slow to change, and I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time explaining MOOCs and Coursera to hiring managers. You might also look into SMPS certifications, too.

  27. InterviewFreeZone

    Happy news! I’m no longer an Interview Free Zone! I had a first and second interview for a position over the past week and received a call about another position the other day. Now I’m playing phone tag with the HR person to set up the official phone screen, and to be honest I’m not sure if she’s going to call me back, but at least there is interest! Thanks to everyone who replied to my rant the other week – you were right! The summer seems to be a dead period, but there seems to be a little light at the end of the tunnel. Hoping everyone who was suffering through no responses is experiencing the same uptick over the next few weeks! We will find jobs!

    1. ElCee

      I love your attitude! Best of luck! I too have spend the summer on No Interview Island, but I am hoping to come back onto the mainland soon! (Sorry for the dorky metaphor ;)

      1. InterviewFreeZone

        I love the dorky metaphor! Jokes were probably the only thing keeping me going and not feeling beaten down. I’m sure things will pick up for you in the next couple weeks. Positive thoughts! It has to stop raining eventually…that’s how I try to look at things.

    2. over educated and underemployed

      Awesome! I had a couple interviews at the beginning of the month and since then…nothing. I assume I’m probably out of the running for those, and I haven’t even found any new jobs to apply to this week. I so hope there’s more out there in September! Let’s keep reminding ourselves it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

  28. Abacus

    I just graduated from my grad program in Canada, and I’m looking to move back to the US. I’m not tied to any one place, and there aren’t many job openings in the region I’m from, so I kind of have to cast a wide net. Right now I’m looking at jobs thousands of miles from both my family address and my Canada address. I know not being a local candidate hurts my chances, but what kinds of things can I say in my cover letter (and interview) that might put a hiring manager more at ease? So far I’ve tried throwing a sentence into the cover letter about how excited I am to work in [region] and that I’m eager to relocate there. Is there anything more I can I say or do that would make my distance less unappealing to hiring managers?

    1. esra

      Do you mention that you’re American? That’s a big hurdle (speaking as a Canadian who has looked into working for American companies remotely).

      1. Abacus

        To be honest (and I feel a bit bad about this, but I’m not sure what else to do), after the first batch of cover letters where I awkwardly shoehorned in a “as an American citizen, I’m looking forward to returning…” sentence, I switched to just using my parents’ US address and letting that speak for itself. It’s only a few hours away from my current address, and I plan to move back there soon enough if I can’t find a job anyway. But I know that’s not ideal.

    2. CMT

      I think having just graduated helps, at least a bit, because it’s a natural transition period. Employers may still favor local candidates, but I don’t think it would look weird to them that you’re applying from far away. (Although, I’m not saying this from a position as a hiring manager, I just had multiple interviews for jobs on the opposite coast when I finished grad school.)

      1. Abacus

        Funnily enough, I just this hour got a callback from one of the institutes across the country. Maybe it’s not going to be so hard to be considered!

  29. Little Miss Sunshine

    This week, one of my coworkers is retiring after four decades of service to our university. I have never been to a coworker’s retirement party before. I found the whole thing terribly depressing. I’ve only been working here four years, but most of my coworkers have been here 20 years or longer. WE had a luncheon earlier in the week, a party today and there’s a cocktail reception this evening.
    The retiree is a very nice woman, but I hardly know her. SHe kept bursting into tears and telling stories that were in the “I guess you had to be there” category. Either that, or these people are easily amused. I just didn’t find them funny.
    The worst part for me was when she kept saying she wished she could work her four decades all over again. I’ve been working for 30 years, and save for one job, I never had one I really loved. She kept saying, “If you don’t have fun at work, if you can’t find joy, you should quit.” Yeah, lady, I’d love to, except for that landlord of mine…
    The closest thing I can think of to compare it to is what a person with several failed marriages must feel like when they attend an anniversary party for a couple who has been happily married for 50 years.
    It doesn’t help that my experience at this institution has been extremely disappointing.
    I find myself wondering if I’m a normal human being, if everyone’s working life, on the whole, has been overwhelmingly disappointing, and if I’m just being mean because I didn’t think her stories were funny.
    Thanks for listening.

    1. eunice

      You sound kind of grumpy. There are people like that in office but would it kill you to just enjoy the free food?

      1. Little Miss Sunshine

        I’ve had some bad workplace experiences lately (like a clash with my department supervisor) lately, plus a bad week (car in the shop w/probably $$$ repairs in sight, unexpected bills), so yeah, I’m probably a bit grumpy anyway. I suffer from a low-grade depression and social anxiety anyway.

    2. Blue Anne

      Ergh. Yeah, that could get on my nerves too. It sounds like a sore spot for you for a number of reasons, sorry you had to smile while your face was rubbed in the opposite. :(

      1. kozinskey

        +1. Those comments would irritate me too. Yes, it’s great to have a job you love, but sometimes you just have to pay the bills. A lot of people work so they can enjoy their lives outside of work, not so they can enjoy work itself. Her perspective is clearly different than the OP’s — I’d recommend chalking it up to “everyone’s different” and mentally moving on.

    3. Sunflower

      I don’t think there’s anything weird about either of you.

      I see people at my company who plan to retire here and it just shocks me. We are a small company that pays crap and has no retirement plan. I can’t imagine how people would want to work here forever. Some people value friendships or relationships in the work place over everything else and others couldn’t care less. I’m still in my twenties so my feelings might change on this but my career is important and I would never stay anywhere just because I had great friends here.

      Also there are some people who can find joy in pretty much anything(really wish I was one of them!).

    4. Kelly L.

      Here’s how I see it: I’m sure she had massively annoying days, even massively annoying months or years, during her time there. She can look back on it now with rose-colored glasses because it’s over. And she’ll probably genuinely miss the people, so there’s that too.

      1. Jennifer

        Pretty much. Though I got to hear all kinds of insane stories at the last retirement party I went to, about how the lady used to SLEEP UNDER HER DESK, was high at work, passed out in the toilet once, etc. Retirement parties are either depressing or completely insanely funny, in my experience.

    5. NJ Anon

      I just started a new job 9 months ago. Someone who had been here retired in May after 30 years at the organization. I didn’t go to her retirement party. I would not have known anyone and I barely knew her. I feel the same way you do. My saying is that I don’t hate work, I hate working.
      Sigh.

      1. Little Miss Sunshine

        All these were scheduled during work hours, which was the only high point for me.

    6. schnapps

      I came back from maternity leave and got invited to the going-away thing for the person who replaced me. I didn’t go – it just felt kind of weird. I’ve also been to the going-away thing for my manager who retired after she’d been put on a behaviour improvement program after I and a couple of others lodged complaints against her for how she treated us. I kindly informed the person setting it up that I wouldn’t be going given the circumstances – because that would be weird.

    7. Clever Name

      Just tell yourself the party could have been worse. Like when I went to a party for a coworker’s birthday when I was at a summer job. I didn’t know the coworker at all, but hey, free cake. Unfortunately for me and nearly everyone else in the room, they hired a male stripper. Yes. You read that right. A stripper.

    8. Not So NewReader

      “I’ve been working for 30 years, and save for one job, I never had one I really loved. ”

      I think that is it in a nutshell. You and this lady are looking at work from two different perspectives. And those perspectives are opposites to each other.

      I had to quit one job that I really LOVED. After a nine week migraine, I decided that I created my own problem. I allowed myself to get too emotionally attached to something this was just a job. I decided not to make that mistake again. This woman has an opposite story, she had this one job for decades. It’s all she knows. Because she has not experienced enough other jobs, it is a big change for her. Additionally, retirement is just a thing that happens one day. The next day you get up and you no longer have anything to fill up your time and fill up your life. If she is going home to four walls and NO plan, she is going to have a huge void in her life. Hey, I’d be crying, too, if that was me. But then again, I would have a plan with goals. I am thinking that you are probably a practical sort of a person, so you would have a plan, also

      1. Little Miss Sunshine

        Some really good points here. I think this was the only job she ever held (there are several others here like that; they started straight out of high school or college). She is married and does like to travel, so I do hope she has plans for her future.
        But yeah, I can’t even imagine working somewhere for decades. Longest I ever lasted somewhere was 7 years, and that was about 5 too long for that position.
        Thanks for an interesting POV!

  30. references

    What’s a good script to send out to references when you think they may be contacted? I’m drawing a complete blank and don’t want to be annoying!

    Similar note: How do you ask someone to be a reference? I’ve been using”May I please use you as a reference?” but not sure. I think i’m overthinking things alot!

    1. A

      What I’ve done when I’ve made up my mind to start searching again is check in with everyone I normally use and make sure they’re still alright with being used as a reference and would be available to do so starting on whatever date I plan to start sending my resume out/putting in applications/etc. That way they can opt out if they want or let me know if they happen to be going on vacation in the near future, and I’ve also given them the heads-up that I’m looking and they may be contacted since I’ve never had anyone tell me they’re going to check my references in explicit terms.

    2. Amber Rose

      You’re over thinking things a lot. ;)

      Try “I interviewed with [company] and I think they might contact you for a reference soon.”

      And your script there for asking is just perfect as far as I’m concerned.

    3. Mack S

      It might be helpful to mention why (hopefully they already know you are looking for a new job) and include some positive highlights from your working relationship that are relevant to the new position:

      Hi Tracy –
      As I mentioned when we met last week I am currently interviewing for new positions and I would like to use you as a reference in this process. My time working with you at Chocolate Teapots Inc. was wonderful and I learned how to successfully manage my time and work with customers there. Please let me know if this would be okay with you, and if so, if any of your contact information has changed.

      Ive done something like that with references before.

    4. Cordelia Naismith

      I think something simple like “may I please use you as a reference” is totally fine. Maybe ask them what the best, most current contact info would be. I don’t think it needs to be more elaborate than that.

      Once you have an interview scheduled or when you think your references might be contacted, I’d send out a brief note saying exactly that: “I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been job searching and I have a few interviews coming up. You may be contacted for a reference soon.” Or something like that, whatever fits the specifics of your situation.

    5. Tmarie

      Hi Old RVP!

      I had an interview last week with MAYBE NEW JOB. My last position at OOPS, MADE A CAREER MISTAKE didn’t work out very well, so I’ve found myself looking for new work. As there are very few decent OLD JOB positions within commuting area, I’m actually looking at a career change and applied to be a BRAND NEW CAREER. The interview felt good, so you might be getting a reference call for me.

      BLAH BLAH, news about our old mutual company’s location local to me.

      I hope all is well with you!

      This is the script I used letting a former RVP know to expect a call. And, the day after I notified him, he did get a call, so I was very glad I sent the heads up email!

    6. Vancouver Reader

      Depending on how long ago your references knew you in your role with them, it’s also helpful to remind them of some of your key roles at the time, and also what the job you’re applying for entails.

  31. april ludgate

    I could use some advice on how to deal with a coworker (who ranks above me but isn’t my supervisor) who keeps forgetting things. We’ll have a conversation about a project and I’ll update her on it, then she’ll ask me a week later for the same update. This happened when I completed a spreadsheet that she’d need to look through and I told her in person two weeks ago that I had finished it. She asked me at the beginning of this week if I was done because we had a meeting about it with our manager yesterday, so I reminded her that I’d finished it. Then she complained about having to look at a 600+ item spreadsheet and make decisions on the data in two days.

    This has happened three times with things we’ve emailed about too. Two of these instances were her questioning why I hadn’t done something already. One of the instances she told me to order a product with a start date of 1/16 for a standing order, she emailed me two weeks later to see why we weren’t already receiving the product, and when I reminded her of her decision, she said that she couldn’t understand why she would have said that. These are conversations that I found through a simple keyword search in my inbox. I’m getting really frustrated with how often I’m having to remind her of decisions that she’s made. I know that she’s really busy right now with her personal and work lives, but I shouldn’t be the one she’s blaming when she forgets something.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny

      I have a coworker like that…I’ve gotten used to doubling up: I’ll send an email, then stop by later and confirm that she’s gotten the email and knows what it says. Often I’ll follow up a day later too with another visit or email. It sucks, because it’s a time sink, but once I accepted that it was the only way for things to get done, I got used to it. :/

    2. Dawn

      If you have an in-person conversation with her about anything, send a follow-up email with timelines and action items immediately.

      “Sansa, from our conversation earlier: I’m going to call Alex about the Chocolate Teapots tomorrow (date). After I touch base with him about when the delivery window will be I will immediately send you a detailed email with all of that information. If I have not heard back from Alex by (Friday, next week, whenever) I will let you know. Please let me know if this timeline for Chocolate Teapots does not work for you.”

      That last line is suuuuuuuuuuper important for CYA. That last line lets you go “I told you exactly what I was going to do and did not hear back from you differently so I did not alter what I was going to do.” It’s businesslike, it’s reasonable, and it covers your butt to anyone else.

      1. april ludgate

        That’s a good idea, and I really like that wording. I was kind of worried that sending a follow up email to a conversation would seem too aggressive or even condescending the first time it happened, but it definitely seems like a reasonable thing to do now that this has happened more than once.

        1. Dawn

          OH MY GOD NO, no no no it’s so so SO helpful and doesn’t come across as condescending as long as you don’t make it condescending. Just make the tone light and emphasise that you’re doing this just to make sure that you are absolutely sure of what you’re supposed to do, oh you just want to ensure that you’ll do it right, oh here’s how you’re going to do it and oh man it really just would be so amazing and wonderful if she’s step in and let you know if that wasn’t up to her standards. But really it’s all about covering your butt and has zero to do with her :)

          I learned this from my mentor and it’s saved my butt like at least a dozen times in the past three years. It’s amazing!

    3. Anie

      I literally just had my boss email me a question that he asked a week or two ago about a very specific part of our publication and its content. I spent about 20 seconds looking for the old email and then copy/pasted the answer in a reply email. He was very thankful. I’m not sure he ever thought, “wow, I feel like I’ve heard this before.”

      Of course, with repeats like this he never gets upset, even if I point out I’m repeating myself…

    4. NicoleK

      New coworker is like that. She’ll ask for documents that were sent to her previously. Forget information that was shared with her. State something like it’s a fact when she’s already been corrected. I can’t decide if she’s lazy, incompetent, has selective hearing, forgetful, or all the above.

  32. Lynn

    I’m currently dealing with some mental health issues (depression, anxiety, being screened for adult adhd) that are impacting my work quality that I have recently started seeing a therapist for. I have been struggling with staying on task and moving forward when I encounter difficulties and my manager has noticed. She wants to have a friendly discussion with myself and our divisional hr representative to figure out what’s going on and how they can help. She is a supportive manager and has often said she wants to see me succeed, so I feel embarrassed by my shortcomings, and I haven’t worked here long enough to qualify for FMLA. I know talking about health issues with managers is a tricky subject but is there any advice that folks could provide for how to approach the topic? The meeting date is likely next week, it hasn’t been set yet. Thank you for any advice.

    1. Intern Wrangler

      I don’t think you have to go into details about what you are going through. I would recommend that you take some time to think about what could help you during this time. Are there strategies or an accommodation that you might need from your employer? What you are describing are not shortcomings; they are health issues. Your manager wants you to succeed; you want to succeed. Now you just have to come up with a plan that can help you and work for your employer. Take some time to think about when you have been successful in moving forward and staying on task. See if there are things that could help you. Do you need a more quiet space to work? Do you need to get up and move around every hour? Do you need some type of project tracking device? Do you need help when you come up against a complication or problem? It might be worth asking your therapist for help in having the conversation.
      As a supervisor, I appreciate it when I know someone is going through a tough time and that we can work together to find solutions. I don’t expect them to be perfect, and I don’t think mental health issues are shortcomings.

    2. NJ Anon

      Just be honest but only reveal what you feel comfortable with. You shouldn’t be embarrassed. It’s probably not as bad as you think. Good luck!

    3. Ad Astra

      Regarding ADHD specifically, there are a lot of resources online (including an older post on AAM) for strategies to help people with adult ADHD succeed at work. Even if you don’t end up with an official diagnosis, reading through those resources could give you some good ideas about changes you can make. If you can, do that before the meeting so you can come armed with some possible solutions. Some of them might be accommodations that your boss would need to help with, but many of them are changes you can make on your own.

    4. Num Lock

      Does your therapist have any suggestions? Personally I use two different approaches if I encounter a task I struggle with motivation to do:

      1) Do it rightnowrightnowrightnow before I get too deep into thinking about it.
      2) Give myself a short break before, do the task, give myself a short break afterwards.

      I also break things down into little tasks and cross them off the list for that psychological win. At least I can point back to the day and see that I got through it, which helps counter that awful “you can’t do anything” voice.

    5. afiendishthingy

      It’s very workplace dependent. However, I’ve been pretty open at my current job and my last job about my ADHD and to some extent my anxiety. I’m in a human services field that serves a lot of individuals with the same problems, among others, and especially at my current job a number of my coworkers are open about their own struggles with ADHD and anxiety and depressio n. (It’s probably not ideal for me to work in the same room as at least four other anxious people with inattentive ADHD, but it’s nice to know you’re not alone.) I had a decent conversation with my supervisor a few weeks back where I proactively admitted that I struggled with planning, organizing, and following through on ongoing projects (which is more or less my entire job description, no big). I don’t know that she gave me any great ideas, but she wasn’t judgmental about it, and I honestly just felt better for having it out in the open.

      I may be projecting here because your comment resonates with me, but it sounds like you may have the same struggles I do with procrastinating because of fear of making mistakes, and probably some impostor syndrome too. But if your manager is so invested in helping you succeed, she must think you’re doing other stuff well or that you have potential. You can be honest about specific things that are hard for you without going into diagnoses. It sounds like she may be able to come up with some help for you. Maybe you need to meet with her more regularly, or need help breaking own projects into smaller tasks with due dates to help you focus, or to move dates. Good luck.

  33. HeyNonnyNonny

    Not a rant, per se, but this week I’ve had three separate people tell me I have BRF (though they were much more diplomatic about wording). ::eyeroll:: Sorry editing documents doesn’t make me grin with delight, everyone!

    1. Anie

      I lose my mind when people tell me I look grumpy or angry or need to smile more. Like, veeeery displeased.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      Remind them that telling you that activates BAF (Bitchy Active Face).

      I asked my direct report yesterday if she was ok, since she looked a little dazed. I immediately felt bad because she equated it to, “You look tired,” and all I meant was that she looked as if she’d been staring at Excel for too long. I apologized and said that I often look angry so I know better than to ask.

      I have BRF too, but sometimes it’s because I can’t stand people.

  34. Amber Rose

    Our air quality index is at 10+, very high risk, after a massive fire started yesterday. I appear to be the only one suffering, but boy am I suffering. My throat feels like it’s closing and my eyes and nose are running.

    Add to that the ongoing soap opera that is my life (my family drama out ranks Days of Our Lives for levels of angst at this point), and I’m basically half dead today. But I’ve missed a ton of work for appointments for my stupid ankle. And I have an inspection to run in an hour and a half, that I can’t print the paperwork for because the network is down.

    Happy fucking Friday. I sincerely hope you’re all having a better day.

    1. JMegan

      Aw, you have a lot going on right now! I hate that, when all the shit hits all the fans at the exact same time. I hope things settle down for you soon.

    2. Clever Name

      Ugh. That sounds really awful. When we have wildfires in the area, I get a scratchy throat and I get short of breath more easily. No fun at all. Hang in there.

  35. The IT Manager

    Any suggestions for dealing with an overly optimistic estimator. This is a colleague in another department. We have to work together; in fact she guides me through an aspect of my job that I am unfamiliar because I would deal with it rarely, and this is my first time. She always provides the best case schedule estimate or better than best case since she’s usually wrong and things take longer. For example recently she told me that something should take 3-4 days; except two other IT managers had already told me that the same process took them 2 weeks! I already knew from dealing with her to add some time, but I never would have guessed I needed to add one and half times what she told me.

    Any suggestions for “magic words” to say to her. I already tried “realistically when can we expect this done?”

    An added factor is that she’s new to her job so she doesn’t have a tone of experience, but I have to rely on her since this is an area I am inexperienced in too. I also sympathies with the idea that longer timeline are like bad news that people hate to deliver, but it’s not helping me at all. Lesson Learned for me next time I am tempted to give an optimistic estimate for a schedule.

    1. Sunflower

      Have you tried ‘What do you think is the earliest and latest possible time this will be done’? If you can get here to give you multiple times, that might help.

      Do you think she’s giving you unrealistic deadlines because she thinks you need this stuff ASAP? Maybe letting her know ‘Hey Jane, I’ll need X done by the 20th of nxt month. Do you have an idea of when I should expect it?’

      You can also reference past projects. ‘Jane, I want to make sure we’re on the same page here. The past couple times you’ve told me X would take 3 days but it took 2 weeks. I want to make sure I’m not misunderstanding something’

    2. FJ

      We also have a guy who gives very optimistic estimates. The detailed breakdown seems to help us the most.

      Lots of PMP type methods you could try… ask for “Best Case” and “Worst Case” estimates
      You could ask her to give you a more detailed breakdown or milestones… “Part A” will be done by X, “Part B” will be done by Y…

      You could also say “Last time you did this, it took two weeks” or “Other people have told me this normally takes two weeks” and tack on “What are you doing differently this time to make it faster?”

    3. MaryMary

      Double all her estimates. ;-)

      Long term, you can start comparing her estimates to the actual time a task takes and discussing it with her. If she’s relatively new to her role, she may not have a good sense of how to estimate. I’ve seen people base estimates on how long it would take themselves to do a task, instead of how long it would take a less experienced person. Or think of the task in actual hours worked, not elasped time (24 hours 1 work day, and 8 hours only = one work day if someone can devote an entire day to it). Or how long one task takes, but not a whole project (including coding time, but not testing or defect resolution). Maybe she’s not optimistic, but inexperienced.

    4. Violet Rose

      I’m with MaryMary; she may just not be very good at estimating yet. I ran into this problem at OldJob (not to mention, when trying to do my coursework!), and eventually learned to start saying, “on the order of [hours/days/weeks]; I’m hoping [number],” and then re-evaluating my estimate once I got started. Maybe it would help to ask if she’d done something similar before or had a good handle on how long that type of task takes?

    5. Not So NewReader

      I pad my time by 20%. If I think something will take 5 days, I tell the person 6 days. If I am done early, I look heroic (rarely). If I am done on time I look like I know what I am doing (once in a while). If I run a little over, “well, I was close….!”.

      Anyway, suggest to her to pad her time. Tell her you do it, or your friend does it, whatever. And you can bring that up the next time she gives you a time frame. “okay, I am going to pad that for you, you are saying 4 days, I am going to figure on 5 days.” Then segue into padding time is a good idea because there are always unforeseens, and so on.

    6. SevenSixOne

      “but I never would have guessed I needed to add one and half times what she told me.”

      I always pad time estimates by 50-100%. If I tell you something will take ten days but it ends up taking a week, you’ll be thrilled… but if I’d told you the same task would take five days, you’d be annoyed even though you’re waiting the same time in each case.

      I also tell people I need things before I actually need them– if I need something by close of business Monday, I’m going to tell you I need it by start of business Friday. Maybe one or both of these strategies could would work with your colleague?

    7. Honeybee

      Ask her to give you a “worst case scenario” timeline on top of the overly optimistic one. So once she tells you 2-3 days, ask “OK, so worst case scenario, how long could this process possibly take?” My mother is an overly optimistic estimator, too, and sometimes asking that prompts them to think more realistically about obstacles and slowdowns that could pop up.

  36. Anna N. Onymous

    I’m a very recent (May) grad. A friend of a family member referred me for a job, and I haven’t interviewed there but suddenly I’ve got something lined up next week where they’re having me come in for a “work sample.” This means something completely different in school. I’ve never been asked this outside of an academic context (although I have worked through school), but I’m thinking they obviously don’t want my old papers, and that they’re going to ask me to do the job for a little while to sort of prove I can do it. (Please correct me if I’m wrong, the nail-biting on my end is pretty intense.)

    I don’t have any information about it except that it’s in a state agency (the office of the CFO in my state) and has to do with workers’ compensation. She gave me a website with some state statutes on it to look over, but that’s all I’m running on. There’s nothing on my resume to suggest I know anything about workers’ compensation, but the friend of the family member said that if I’m used to looking up rules and statutes I should do well. I’m confused as to how I’m supposed to know how to do anything when I have zero experience with workers’ compensation (and haven’t given anyone the impression that I do). Are they going to explain things to me first, is that generally how it works?

    (I tried to ask the person who scheduled this with me and she just kept saying “it’s a work sample, very straightforward.” Well, if you say so …)

    1. Colette

      I assume they’re going to give you some things to look up or respond to on the day you do the sample, so it might be more straightforward than you’re anticipating. It might also be a way of assessing how much training they’d have to give you.

      And if it’s extremely difficult and you can’t do it, it’s not a job you’d likely be happy in.

      1. Anna N. Onymous

        Well, given that I am rapidly approaching the point where I’d be happy in any position that pays the rent (and my bank account agrees with me) … I guess we’ll see! (: Thank you for answering, and I hope you’re right about it being straightforward.

    2. AnotherAlison

      I’d spend my time really digging into the statutes. It may not seem worthwhile, since your at step one of XX to getting the job, but I would read through and understand as much as I can. They don’t expect you to know anything, but as an interviewer, I’d be frustrated if I provided you background info & you didn’t read it. I think it’s similar to knowing what type of business a company does before you go to the interview.

      I’d expect the work sample to be like Colette described, or they just might have you do something onsite and see how you can figure out navigating through their system.

    3. Not helpful

      Sounds like a skills test. Daughter’s first job was clerk in a news paper’s sports department and they had her put together those little blurbs that summarize a game. They wanted to see how well they read and how fast she was.

    4. Elizabeth West

      I imagine it’s a skills test, like Not Helpful said. I’d read carefully over the website they gave you. They’ll probably provide instructions when you get there.

      From what the friend of your family member said, they might just want you to look stuff up on the website and apply it to a test as though you were on the job. For example, “Look up statute 79 about keeping hinkypunks in an enclosed area,” and you do that, and then enter the data you find in an appropriate place. I’ve done this with data entry tests–you get a sample of an order form and then practice entering it into a program that is similar to their data program.

      Of course, I’m guessing, but I would just read the material they gave you so you’re not flying blind. And try not to worry about it too much–they’re not going to expect you to know everything they know right off the bat.

    5. Anon cuz details

      I assume my state is not your state because the testing at my state’s agency is over for the next few months, but I recently applied for a workers compensation position. They gave us a math test and reading comprehension test. We were given laws & statutes information within the test packets and answered the questions utilizing that information. It wasn’t “real” statutes or laws, they were fabricated, but we were able to use their fake information to formulate the answers the testers were looking for.

      1. Anna N. Onymous

        How complex were the math questions? “I can do this in my head and be alright” kind of questions, or “why are they asking me to do this without a calculator” questions?

        1. Anon cuz details

          I was told to take a calculator with me. I’m pretty good at math so I could have done them without the calculator, but I’m glad I had it!

  37. Lisa

    No hope of a promotion

    So my review went well, but getting promoted doesn’t seem likely unless the dept grows from 2 people to a whole lot more. Can’t have more than 2 ADs when there is only 2 of us. Problem is the company is doing a piss poor job of selling our services. I could bounce and be an AD with 10k more now, or I could wait another year and be further behind my peers in salary and title.

    I have the experience and the years to an AD. My boss basically said I can’t keep focusing on trying to get a promotion, but what’s in it for me to stay then? 3.5% raises keeps me from making market rate. My boss doesn’t even make market rate. His salary is what my title gets everywhere else. I had started this job thinking that my salary and title would grow very quickly since they were doing that, but then the company was bought by a cheap big agency that never promotes and gives only COL increases according to their region not the one we are in. Promotions come with 10% increases according to current salary, so market rate isn’t even a consideration.

    Do I leave? My review was super late, so my next review is March. I am thinking of waiting to at least get another 3.5% to bring my salary up a bit for companies that still don’t pay market rate, but only tack on 5% of current salary. The places that pay market rate are a long commute that I don’t want to do just yet. Those places are like prison, everyone in my industry does a stint at some point – i’ve avoided it so far, but I may have to go there to bring my salary up to market rates.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      Is it an awesome place to work? That might be worth making significantly below market, but if it’s just an okay place to work, I’d at least start interviewing. Sounds like there are other okay places to work that would pay more.

      1. Lisa

        I like it enough, but I don’t want to keep sacrificing my career path and salary, because headquarters HR is stuck in the dark ages. I don’t live in an area where jobs are scarce and should feel ‘grateful’ to be employed at all.

        What’s in it for me? I can’t answer that – other than I’m comfy enough. I am not being challenged at all. I had more salary increases at my last agency, more interesting work, and had I stayed would have been a director by now. I left, because the owner was very condescending to women, and I had no self-worth for 6 years.

        I may have answered my own question.

        1. esra

          It seriously sounds like it’s worth it for you to put yourself out there. Since you like it fine, you can really take some time to find a fit you like.

        2. Dynamic Beige

          If your job isn’t challenging, then it’s not. If the owner does a piss-poor job of promoting his business, nothing’s going to change except maybe the doors will close.

          IMO, get out if you can. It sounds like you’ve learned all you can from this job and you’re right that you will stagnate if you just stay there because it’s “OK”.

          1. Lisa

            Its a big company, but our dept is a new service that they are not used to selling. So we are a line item in big proposals that rarely are sold themselves. We haven’t had a new client in over a year so we are not growing. We would need like 5 more clients for a 3rd person to be hired. So it could take several years before that happens.

            1. Dynamic Beige

              And do you really want to wait around that long? Unless whoever The Boss is comes to you on Monday and says “Lisa, we really want to start using your department to its full capacity and we want you to take the reins on developing an advertising campaign to show off what we can do.” then IMO, look for something that’s a better fit or you will be excited about working at. It is so, so easy to just fall into the “this is OK/this is just temporary until I ____” trap. The only one who loses out in a situation like this is you. You see your friends/former college people getting raises and promotions, working on things that you would love to… if it’s not coming in the door and there’s no plan in place to help it start coming in the door and no one is interested in getting you training to up your skills and keep you motivated/engaged… then it’s time to walk out the door into a better opportunity for you.

              1. Lisa

                My AD is doing that, but it all depends on the people who sell. I am thinking of waiting until March to get another 3.5% increase then bouncing to a higher salary from that base.

    2. Sunflower

      I think you should be applying to other places. Remember that just because you apply it doesn’t mean you need to leave and take another job. Definitely worth seeing what else is out there IMO!

  38. Hermione

    I’m incredibly frustrated by my job hunt. I’m staff at a large university (a department coordinator), and I’m really open to new opportunities in any number of offices in various universities in the area, as I’m not sure what I want to do. I’d be open to/have applied to positions in admissions, event planning, faculty development/administration, registrar/registration, or undergrad/graduate advising.

    I started off strongly – had a few phone interviews, but pulled myself out of the running after learning more about two positions, and had two others stop the hiring process altogether (I think due to upper managers leaving) – and now just…nothing. I’m so frustrated, my current job doesn’t pay much and is dead end and just… I don’t know. Frustrated! Anybody else want to commiserate or drink with me or something?

    1. IvyGirl

      Depending on the university, this can be their high volume/busy period, and add that to summer vacations = drawn out hiring process.

      Have you set up search agents with higheredjobs.com and completed a profile on vitae?

    2. InterviewFreeZone

      It takes FOREVER. Back in 2008, it took two months to get through the process for the university job I had. I’m in another process now. On one hand, I’m not sweating bullets to hear something because I know logically it could be weeks, but on the other hand, I’m bummed it’s taking FOREVER.

  39. eunice

    I have a pretty good relationship with my boss. She is supportive and has my back on most things. However, sometimes her tone is So SHARP that it makes me tear up, even if I know she doesn’t mean it to me personally. I do sit right outside of her office, so maybe it’s because she wants me to hear her?

    Does anyone have any advice on how to handle a boss who is… barky, for lack of a better word?

    1. Katie the Fed

      Well, some of this is you and some of this is her.

      Like, you could probably try to be a little less sensitive to it, especially knowing that it’s not personal. And she could probably modify her tone a little. Are you comfortable enough with her that you could raise it?

    2. Violet Rose

      I say this as someone who tears up very often: sometimes it helps me to just accept that I’m going to have a more extreme reaction than I’d like, and make sure I have a discreet tissue handy. Sometimes, just deciding that The Tears Will Flow helps them recede, and helps me think about what’s causing the reaction with a bit more detachment.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Why not just ask her? “Are you speaking sharply with me, so I can hear you or are you upset over something I have done?”

      OR:
      Sometimes you speak sharply to me. I am confused, I think you are a supportive boss and you have my back. So I was wondering if I am doing something that upsets you.”

      Yes, this is hard. But look at it this way, if you like her and you like the job then it is worth the effort. If you do not ask this type of thing will just simmer and simmer. Next month, next year you will be telling us how you are looking for a job because the barking is wearing you down.

      If she tells you that you are too sensitive then reply, “Well, that may be true, also. Can we find a middle area, such as I work on not worrying so much and you have more of an awareness that I am concerned about you and my job?” [Be willing to give a nod in the direction of being too sensitive, even if you know for sure it’s NOT you. By giving that nod, you will have some basis to ask her to make a change also.]

  40. Allison

    Time to rant about my frustrating morning, due to an IT issue and miscommunication.

    Yesterday afternoon a bunch of laptops started malfunctioning, they’d keep freezing up and people were rebooting over and over to no avail. Not awesome. So IT figured out it had to do with a software update that had gone all wonky, and people needed manual fixes. Not great, but . . . fine. I went to the room and put my name in the queue, then went back to my desk and tried to get some work done.

    But after two hours of having to reboot my laptop every 5-10 minutes and getting very little done, I worried that they might not be able to get ahold of me when my turn came and maybe I should go check to see if they were close to getting to me. Turns out, they’d marked me as “done” even though they hadn’t even touched my laptop!

    Luckily, after another half hour of waiting, I finally have a laptop that appears to be working! Huzzah! But I am frustrated that it could have been fixed sooner had it not been for that mix-up. I get things are crazy, but we all have work to do and since I don’t really go to meetings or make calls all day, without my laptop I can’t really do anything.

    1. Anie

      WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT? People can get hurt over casual mixups like that. And by that I mean I would fantasize about whapping them in the face with a rolled up newspaper.

      1. Allison

        I knew how hard they’ve been working in that “war room” today so I tried to put on my patient and pleasant demeanor. But yeah, 2 hours of zero productivity . . . and the only thing to do was look at my phone which I’m sure ate up a ton of data . . .

  41. Katie the Fed

    General question –

    How proficient should a manager be in the details of their direct reports’ jobs. As in – should I manager be able to do the job his/herself, or just manage the people who do.

    I ask because the longer I’m in management, the less I feel able to do the job of the people I manage (which I was once really good at). In the few years since I’ve made the move, some tools and processes have changed and while I’m aware of all of them, I no longer feel like I could do the job myself in a pinch.

    But is that actually a problem? Do I NEED to know how to do the job?

    1. Daisy Steiner

      It depends on your work’s set-up, but I think there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with not knowing how to do your direct reports’ jobs AS LONG AS you’re open to listening to and trusting your direct reports when they tell you about the practicalities of their role.

    2. Rat Racer

      My perspective (for what it’s worth) is that managers – especially senior managers – do NOT need the same skillset as their direct reports. My job as a manager is to ask the right questions, remove barriers, offer coaching and feedback, etc. I can see why it’s disconcerting when you used to be the technical expert and the field has since evolved, but don’t forget that your skillset has evolved too!

    3. infj

      my boss believes–very strongly–that project managers should not do the work that their direct reports do. Its a huge sticking point for me. I feel like my lack of knowledge in some of the processes and software really keeps me from managing effectively. Especially in knowing how long things should take or how to tease out a difficult problem. However, in some cases, I’m unlike you in that i’ve NEVER done that work and only know about it tangentially.

      I try to overcome by asking a lot of questions and I’ve learned in that way. But its very frustrating for me as a manager. I feel terrified at the prospect of being in a pinch and not being able to complete something.

    4. Emmie

      I debate this too, Katie the Fed. I at least need to know enough about my employee’s work to offer useful insight, understand the workload of people, and to create an effective transition plan if that person were to leave (which may mean having employee’s cross train each other.) I transitioned recently from a management position at a company I spent 11 years at to a new company. The further you get away from knowing how to do the day to day tasks, the more uncomfortable it is as a manager. If something happens, I cannot personally pick up the slack immediately without a big learning curve. I’m focusing now on how I can manage my people for a change (SOPs), and address process / legal/ policy questions. What are others doing? I’d love to make changes if needed.

    5. Sara The Event Planner

      I don’t think it’s important or necessary that a manager could do the work of their reports. IMO, what matters is that managers know what a reasonable workload is for the role, what success/failure would look like, and what tools and/or support the person needs to succeed.

    6. Lore

      This is very much the situation in y department–the new tools and processes are so intricate that they’re pretty much someone else’s full time job. Our department head has acknowledged that he’s putting all that in the hands of that person and trusting him (and us) to speak up if there’s an issue the big boss needs to be more fully briefed on. The only time it’s really been a problem is when he promises a higher up something without being fully aware of how much extra time/work that will entail with the new procedures.

    7. some1

      It really depends. The Creative Director at my former company managed designers and hadn’t been one for at LEAST a decade. She had to fill in do the designing when one coworker was out on medical leave and another went on vacation, and basically everything she did had to be re-done I was told.

    8. Sunshine Brite

      I would ask, how proficient do you feel at finding the right answers when more technical questions about the tools and processes come up? That’s what’s really helpful from my managers who don’t regularly use the systems anymore themselves.

    9. MsM

      I think awareness and a plan for coverage if your report were suddenly unavailable is sufficient. You don’t need to do the job; you just need to make sure it gets done.

    10. Jen RO

      My boss hasn’t done this job in 10 years or so. It’s fine, he’s doing the big picture things, but I’m incredibly frustrated this week because he doesn’t really understand the challenges we are facing, and he’s so busy that he can never remember the details of what we tell him. It would help a *lot* if he were more involved (or, alternately, if he just trusted me without feeling the need to push harder.)

      1. Jen RO

        And, in my particular situation (team lead for a team of people new to the industry and the working world), it would be impossible to manage without knowing the intricacies of the job.

    11. themmases

      As an individual contributor, I don’t feel I really need my managers to know how to do what I do. I’ve worked in situations where they did know because they were delegating things to me as the one assistant on a project, and situations where they were and admin and didn’t know at all. Looking back, when I’ve been frustrated with management and wanted to vent, “And they don’t even know how to do X!” other stuff was going on.

      Maybe it is because I have combined technical and admin roles, or have worked in some toxic environments, but I need my manager to have some political and status knowledge of my job; to understand what my job even *is*. By that I mean, knowing what tasks usually are or aren’t part of this role, having some idea of where the line between admin and technical even is for someone like me, what are the biggest challenges of a role like this, who do we collaborate and what are the challenges there.

      When I combined support and technical tasks, my manager would treat me like I was being a prima donna or didn’t understand “other duties as assigned” if I ever pointed out that I was a researcher and Professor X’s pet project is very time consuming despite not being research. He seemed to genuinely not understand that my work wasn’t just secretarial tasks that happened to be research related, no matter how much we talked about it. I would expect a good manager to at least have a basic understanding that “80% of teapot designers don’t schedule meetings, and might not be happy if they have to do it long-term”.

    12. Carrie in Scotland

      In a previous job 2 people became supervisors from other positions (a secretary and from being a supervisor in a separate strand) and it really impacted us admins when they didn’t understand our work and our issues. They also had to do our work when we were off sick/on holiday/had too much work on and you could really notice the difference between people that did the work all the time and the supervisors.

      My last manager didn’t know what I did either and it had a negative impact on me because other managers were asking if I had capacity and she was turning around and telling them I was busy – when she knew fine well I wasn’t!! (which is why I left).

    13. NJ Anon

      No. I don’t think so. I supervise some people who are very connected to what I do and others that are not. I just need to make sure the job is getting done.

    14. Ad Astra

      You have lots of good answers here already, but I’ll chime in. This really depends on how your office/department is set up. Is there someone else in the office who can properly train your direct reports to do their specific jobs? I’ve found myself very frustrated as a more entry-level employee when I needed more instruction than my manager was able to give me. It doesn’t really sound like that’s the case in your office, though.

      Do you know enough to give meaningful feedback? Maybe you can’t design teapots in this new program, but you know a flimsy handle when you see one, and you know what needs to be done to make it stronger.

      Do you know how your own actions and decisions affect this person’s job If you know how long it takes to fashion a teapot spout, you’ll know if requesting a new spout at the last minute will mess things up for your employee.

      The more you know about how someone does their job, the better. I really encourage you to learn about the new tools and processes as much as you can, but if you’re never expected to perform the tasks yourself, it’s not critical that you know them inside and out.

      1. Isben Takes Tea

        I agree strongly with this. As a manager, you should have an accurate feel for your employees’ workloads, and that means knowing what they do and how long it takes them.

        You don’t necessarily need to be fluent in their processes, but you should be familiar with them. When I started after the previous person in my position was let go, there wasn’t much documentation for things. My boss didn’t know the details of processing invoices, but she knew enough to tell me who to talk to and what the general process was, which was helpful.

    15. Not So NewReader

      It does not sound like you have to jump in if a person is out for the day. I think you can compensate in part by being willing to listen and letting them show you things. Let them weigh in with their opinions on various problems. I think you still have to know who is good at what. For example: Bob is good at fixing gizmos when they break. Mary is excellent at figuring out shortages. Sue does really well with organizing the odd tasks that come in. Etc.

      My answer would be different if you had to fill in on short notice for absent employees.

    16. The IT Manager

      No It’s actually impossible for a lot of managers. It’s only a realistic expectation if the manager manages one or two types of positions and if they held that position previously. Many managers have never held the positions they manage or they held the position too many years ago and technology has moved on. It can be hard to change your mindset, but you’re their to provide different managerial skills.

    17. NicoleK

      It depends on your company/organization, the size of your department/team, and the roles of the members of your team. In my organization, being able to do the jobs of my direct reports is a huge asset (not only to provide coverage but also training). Additionally, I see what happens when a manager doesn’t have a clue about what their direct reports do. My boss really doesn’t understand the tasks of new coworker. Therefore she can’t provide training, support, guidance, and set clear expectations about workload.

  42. Rye-Ann

    As of this week, I am basically no longer a student. There are a couple loose ends to tie up still, but I’m no longer doing research or writing theses or anything like that! And I (basically) have a Master’s degree!

    On the one hand, this is precisely what I wanted – I didn’t bother trying to get into a Ph.D program (the majority of my professors & fellow students REALLY want me to do it, though some were louder about it than others). This is because I wanted to get out into the world and start getting experience in industry (since I don’t plan on becoming an academic) among many other reasons. On the other hand, it’s…weird. I’ve always been a student and I don’t quite know what to make of it now that I’m not! There’s also, of course, the lingering anxiety which comes from the fact that I don’t have a job yet, and it could take months. I’ve been looking, and I had one interview awhile ago, but can be tricky to find jobs in my field here. I’m anticipating that it could take awhile more.

    Anyway, did anyone else feel super weird after graduating and finally leaving student life behind?

    1. Blue Anne

      I think that’s completely normal, hon.

      I graduated 5 years ago and most of that time has been spent building a great career, getting married, getting a dog, moving into a beautiful flat, building up savings, learning to fix the water boiler, and so on…. while my friends and I all constantly look at each other sideways and go “oshit are we adults now? Is this adulting? When’s my summer off?”

      1. Rye-Ann

        Thanks! Sounds like that’s where I’m headed. Although fortunately (?), I’ve spent the past few summers doing research for my degree, so I’m already more or less used to not having those! XD

    2. Emmie

      Yes! You are not alone! When I finished my JD, I felt a bit empty. It was strange not buying school supplies, picking out fun classes, or doing the back to school ritual. I felt much different completing my final degree than undergrad. Yet, I was fine a few years later! I had to find new ways to actually live my life instead of being a full time employee, a part time student, and interning on my vacay days. After finishing my JD, I would sit around my house. I had to remind myself that i could actually say yes to going out with friends, taking an actual vacay, seeing family. Oh, and to remind myself that I didn’t have any homework to do! Good luck!

    3. Clever Name

      I know how you feel. It was so anticlimactic after I had my final oral exam for my masters. I didn’t have a job at graduation either. I finally interviewed in July (of 2004) and started my first job in September.

      Just keep on keep on keeping on.

  43. Log Lady

    Update on the surprise wedding anniversary party.

    It was awkward. First, they called all the guys from the shop in to the lunch room before lunch, and like over half of them go out to lunch, so, they all thought they were about to get chewed out for something. They all sat around looking dumbfounded by the whole thing, until they learned there was cake for them at the end of it, then they got excited. About the cake.

    Boss’s wife got all teary and gushed for an hour over the surprise. Boss acted awkward but he’s just kinda an awkward guy. The part timer who put it together got all sorts of attention from boss’s wife for doing this, so, I’m sure she’s gonna do something like it again.

    Honestly, though, it’s just one of the few weird things that’s been going down here. The part timer’s manager encouraged it, and I think it was in attempt to make things seem better around here than they are. And everyone saw through it. Except boss’s wife and the part timer.

    1. Anonsie

      Hahaha, oh god. Nothing says “this is a happy, functional workplace” like celebrations of upper management and their families.

    2. Elizabeth West

      Hahahah!

      At Exjob, we got pie for our boss’s birthday (he liked this particular pie from this particular place, not cake). I know this sounds mean, but no one cared about his birthday; we just wanted pie. Our shop guys were similarly inclined–if it had food, they were all over it. Didn’t much care what it was about.

      Also, the giant bouquet of flowers he gave Bosswife for Valentine’s Day HAD to come to the office. Not to their house. So everyone could see that he’d gotten her a giant bouquet of flowers. I mean, a whole dozen roses in a vase I could just about climb into. She would become very giddy when they arrived, and I would sit there in a pile of awkward. I did not want to think about their relationship; it was like thinking about my parents. Ugh.

    3. jamlady

      I actually had my very small office do a survey on whether or not they thought this was a good idea and each and every one of them responded with a resounding “HELL no”. I’m glad the couple responded well, but it was still super weird.

  44. Natalie

    My co-worker that continues to insist on editing my work has gone off the deep end. After ignoring me a few more times, she sent me a bizarre response about how RUDE I was, so she had no choice but to not respond lest she face more rudeness. Probably goes without saying but the emails I sent were not remotely rude. The first on was downright chatty and friendly. Some people’s kids, I guess.

    We’ll see how my manager handles it. Unfortunately he’s remote to me but in the same office as her, so I’m not totally confident this will be managed but I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. And otherwise, it’s clearly New Job Time. :\

    1. Anie

      Oh that blows.

      I’ve kind of got a mini-battle happening with my news boss over stuff like this. Some people struggle with grammar changes–seeing it more as an attack or criticism, I suppose. I cannot get him to understand that, yes, he is the boss, but no, that does not mean anyone thinks he’s perfect. Mistakes are okay and honestly completely unavoidable. That’s literally why I read his stuff and he reads mine. But he’s gotten defensive (started defensive?). So now convos that should be short and sweet (i.e. Here are my edits!) are long and filled with his unhappy tones and distressed sighs.

      Yesterday we had the dumbest polite argument I’ve ever had! It concerned our weekly publication. We don’t do Oxford commas. He knows this. And I still had to point out every single one he added (which is a shit ton) and tell him to remove them. And at every single one I had to listen to him say, “well yes, the sentence is still understandable without that comma, but….”

      But what?!

      No Oxford!!!

      Stop adding them!

      1. Natalie

        Ugh, I wish we had a style guide so I could just point to that. As it is, it’s totally up to personal preference which makes her edits all the more pointless (and kind of rude herself). And I’m concerned my boss will tell me to just let her do her thing to avoid conflict as he’s not very good with confrontation. During my review he kept reminding me that “it’s nothing personal” when I was not at all upset or taking things personally.

        This is probably good motivation to GTFO, I guess. My job was kind of stagnating last year but I was staying here because it was a good place to finish my schooling from, but it’s sort of going down the tubes, TBH.

        1. Anie

          Oh I HATE the personal preference stuff. It took me two years to really nail down all my bosses preferences (hates “expertise” and demands it be substituted with “experience” for example). My new boss has a whole new list (hates “approximately” and demands it be substituted with “about”). And you don’t know about a preference until you do it “wrong.”

          I have to listen because this is my boss. Why should YOU have to listen? Is this woman your boss? More qualified? What makes her preference more important than yours?

          1. Natalie

            It’s hers, I guess. She’s not my boss or even in my department – we’re colleagues in the same team but different practice areas.

          2. Not So NewReader

            I saw a lot of that when I was in school- high school and college. One of the worst examples was a prof that said she wanted a rough draft. Those of us who were foolish enough to hand in a rough draft, got a very long and firm lecture. Rough drafts are supposed to be perfect. (head shaking)

      2. Cath in Canada

        Small changes in wording can make a big difference. For example, in my last job I quickly learned to send my tracked changes in to my boss with “here are my suggestions!” rather than “here are my edits!”. I’ve kept it up in my current job even though I don’t work with anyone who’s likely to take grammar correction personally, just because it had such a positive impact with a previous colleague.

  45. Nerdling

    Has anyone had any experience with baking/decorating/selling cakes/cookies/cupcakes on the side of their normal job? I’ve got my first cake that isn’t for friends or family due out next week, and I’m going to use this experience to decide if I really want to do this on a regular basis (which means getting permission for it from my current job) or if I want to stick with just doing this for friends and family.

        1. M.

          Make sure to not only check the regular health codes but also to see if your state has a special rules for what’s called “homesteading” in my state. If you look at the regular codes, it’s got all kinds of regulations, but then doing a little more research finds the “homesteading” which is a small business that works out of a home that makes food items. It has a whole mess of things you can and can’t do, like we were making baked goods, so no fruits could be used but veggies could; all ingredients had to be listed on a label with food allergies marked; we could only make certain items and only could make so much money in a year, but it was a bit looser on some of the other restrictions (how much of this house had to be cleaned/bleached, where pets could and couldn’t be, no inspection needed if it met certain criteria).

    1. Blue Anne

      I have a friend who made cakes for a local cafe throughout uni. It seemed like a pretty low-stress gig for her, but I think part of that was because it was very regular – she had a certain number of recipes she was really good at, every week the cafe told her how many they wanted, and every once in a while she’d try something new and bring in a couple slices for the staff to taste and decide if it should be added to her list. I think a few times they paid for ingredients for her to futz around trying to make one of her recipes gluten-free etc. and still taste good, too.

      It suited her perfectly, but I think it would’ve been hard alongside a normal job.

      1. Nerdling

        I definitely don’t ever anticipate doing more than one every couple of weeks or one a month – I don’t think there’s that kind of demand or anything – which is something I can handle. With everything else we have going on, multiple cakes a week would kill me! “On a regular basis” to me is just more frequently than “my friend has a birthday next month.” :D

    2. kozinskey

      I have a friend who started her own bakery business while she was working somewhere else! Her job was pretty low-key, and I think towards the end of it she was pretty much managing her pastry business from her cube. She has a blog where she talks about the ups and downs of going out on her own as a business owner — I’ll link it below.

  46. AnotherFed

    Looking for advice here. Another dept loaned me a relatively senior person with the understanding that it would be for a specific task for a few weeks to a month. The time period is up, but this employee has had so many unexpected absences in the past few weeks that they barely started the tasking. My own team has gotten through a busy period and now has some more time, so I’d like to just send the loaner person back and have my team take on the tasking they didn’t do. Any recommendations for how to handle breaking it to this person? No one controls when they get sick, but the facts of the situation are that they didn’t accomplish anything for me to give feedback on to them or their department, so I can’t even come up with a “thanks for all your help on XYZ, it made a big difference.”

    1. Colette

      They know they didn’t accomplish much, so I think something like “thanks for offering to help! Now that our busy time is over, we can pick this up again.” Is enough.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        I concur.

        (I was going to write out a post and saw that Colette said literally what I’d already written in my head.) :-)

      2. AnotherFed

        Thanks! That’s what I ended up doing this afternoon – the person acknowledged that she pretty much ghosted on us due to health issues, which made it easy to thank her and her management for being willing to help. It also meant I wasn’t stuck trying to give feedback to her home department on performance when I didn’t have anything to say – there’s just no nice way to say “Well, yes, she has been away from you on loan for a month, but she hasn’t been here, either.” (The home dept wasn’t doing her timecards, so I think they didn’t realize just how much time she’d been out.)

  47. infj

    I work in a kind of small industry in a medium sized city. The community is really small. I’m mid-career and looking for a new job. Not desperately but seriously. I suspect that most of the movement happens via networking as there are almost no job postings that I could/would apply for (I’ve been keeping an eye out for about 2 years).

    I guess I’ve never really networked much beyond maintaining some contacts from grad school. I know conceptually what it is but am not sure how to get started or exactly what to do. Additionally, I am mildly introverted, have a 50+ hour a week job and a toddler at home. Where do I start? Start paying dues/attending things for the local chapter of my professional organization?

    1. Rat Racer

      I know that this is totally contrary to the popular zeitgeist, but never have I ever gotten a job through networking. Only through applying directly to a company who had an actual job posting for which I was interested. Maybe I am weird. But if networking is totally not your thing, it may be worth a shot before you kill yourself trying to schmooze.

    2. Colette

      I’d start by reaching out to people you know, telling them you’re thinking about what you’ll do next, and ask for info on their company (or whatever you want to know). You can ask about openings, but not just that, because if they don’t know of any, the conversation is over (and you do t want to pressure people who are doing you a favour).

    3. infj

      I’ve been applying to the occasional job posting. I have anecdotal evidence, from my observations of my boss’s hiring practices and from other people, that networking actually seems to matter and that publicly posting a job advertisement is a last resort especially for the smaller local firms. Although I too have only ever gotten a job by applying to a company who had an actual opening.

      I have reached out to some people I know to say that I’m on the market. I guess I’m also just looking for something that feels like I’m taking action rather than just sitting here waiting to see if a job opens up. My portfolio is ready, resume updated. The portfolio was a TON of work. So now I feel like I’m twiddling my thumbs on the job hunt front.

  48. Brett

    Well, today ends a string of 12 straight days of working, including 8 days of 12 on/12 off (which actually included several 14+ hr days).
    I am totally exhausted, and unfortunately this killed any time I had to work on the other position I am hoping to apply to soon. Fortunately I finally get the next two days off and can try to crank through everything that has been stacking up.

  49. Not Today Satan

    Ugh, I just had a two hour meeting with the SMELLIEST man. Mostly cigarette smoke, possibly B.O. too. I had to open the window the second he came in. Now I have the worst headache.

    1. Anie

      Ohhhh, I hate that. Fortunately I’m so rarely customer-facing if that happens I just make myself scarce and let someone else handle it.

  50. Malissa

    Oh I could post quite the rant about how things are going, but really it doesn’t change anybody else’s actions, so I’m going to skip it.
    So what do y’all do to keep frustration under control? I’ve been breathing deep and trying to let things go. I zone out while exercising. But I think I need something more to keep my sanity. What has worked for you?

    1. Anie

      Nothing. Nothing works. I internalize and end up hating EVERYTHING by the end of the day.

      Not what you’re looking for, sorry. :( I just…I got so frustrated at work yesterday. I stayed calm and collected, though I did express–a few times…–how frustrating certain things were.

      1. Marcela

        Yes, nothing works for me either. I try to eat my frustration but people can see it, because I don’t smile or make eye contact. And at night, I can’t sleep thinking about it, which make things 1000 times worst.

        I’m sorry too, I would love to be able to use some strategy. My in laws are visiting (2 weeks now) and I’m beyond desperation at this point.

    2. Aideekay

      The deep breathing really helps if you make it somewhat meditative. Not just deep breathing, but focusing on your breath, carefully controlling it, counting down to release, etc.

      Also ranting. Lots of ranting. I’m sure that’s not the healthiest — speaking it out loud/writing it tends to give it more staying power — but it’s cathartic for me!

      I have been known to sit at my desk, head down, arms around my head, for a minute or two. The darkness helps. The fact that all my coworkers steadfastly ignore me and do not comment on it makes me laugh.

      Then just… let it go. Some things are out of your control. If it’s in your control, identify what you can do about it. If it’s something you can’t avoid, think about ways to turn it around in your mind, approach it another way.

    3. Jen RO

      I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately. Humans, which was very good, and Under the Dome and The 100, which are so bad it’s funny. Immersing myself in an episode (or laughing at the stupid) made me forget about work stuff.

      1. Ezri

        I’ve been marathoning Hell’s Kitchen every day after work. For some reason watching Gordon Ramsey yell at people is cathartic. Although my stress has been to the point that I bawl whenever he does something sweet or nice. But I suppose that’s better than not crying and letting things internalize.

    4. Elizabeth West

      The minute I’m off the clock, it’s ALL OVER. I don’t have to think about it for the rest of the day. I had to do this because the frustration at Exjob had begun to creep into my off-work life and ruin it.

      In the moment, I take a deep breath in through my nose and let it out slowly through my mouth. Then I look at this gif: http://tinyurl.com/p2rftxo

      You cannot be upset when looking at that gif. :)

    5. AnotherFed

      I listen to music. Find something that works for you – whether it’s soothing, upbeat, angry so you don’t have to be, totally distracting, whatever. Personally, I listen to metal when I’m ready to go over a table at someone – I can’t scream at them (assuming I want to keep my job, that is), but I can be vicariously angry/screamy and then be back to calm to deal with the next wave.

    6. NicoleK

      Depending on how long you’ve been dealing with the frustration and how deeply it has affected you, what has worked for me:
      1. stop caring
      2. change my expectations
      3. reframe the situation
      4. come to a decision if i can accept things the way they are, if i can’t, then time to leave

  51. Anon for this

    I’m trying to decide whether or not to leave. I love my work, but it’s incredibly niche – literally there is no other company in the country who exclusively does what my company does. But there are lots of companies who do what we do, plus other things.

    One the one hand, I’m feeling incredibly underpaid, very boxed in (my entire career has been just this one thing), and like I’m never going to break a certain salary level. On the other hand, what I get satisfaction from what we do, I love my coworkers, and I feel that I’d have a hard time breaking out of this niche area.

    1. W

      Well the thing about making applications is you get rejected a lot (at least I do), then you interview somewhere and you both decide whether you want the job. So you can apply for other jobs and not leave your current one and you can decide through the interview whether you want the job (as will they decide whether they think you’re the right fit.) Probably explaining the obs to you but job-hunting can take a while and no stage is final, it’s also a process which you improve upon with practice. I don’t think there’s any harm applying and trying to improve your situation – it doesn’t instantly mean you have to leave/nor do you have to accept those jobs. And from what you’ve said it does sound like you’re stuck, do want to leave but are a little afraid of change – so I think the ke thing to think is its a process and due to you already having a job you can be picky and take as long as you need. You could perhaps equally discover that the grass isn’t greener and you prefer your role. But you find out unless you try. Good luck!

  52. Zefram Cochrane

    A few weeks ago, our division president took us all out to a local sports pub to celebrate our fiscal year end, paid for all of the food and drink on his corporate card. One of the guys who reports to me fell while getting off the bus later that night, tearing up his ankle enough to require surgery. Upon hearing the news of his accident, I assisted him with his disability claim and have been keeping tabs on his progress. He’s been with the company about six months and is doing good work. We look forward to having him back as soon as he’s able.

    I related this story to an old colleague who looked at me in dropped-jaw disbelief that I didn’t run to HR to report the incident, considering that it happened after a company-sponsored event that served alcohol. Her words are still ringing in my ear that my career could be toast if my guy sues the company. I saw him for myself that night and heard no concerns about his drinking from the people who stayed at the bar the whole time. Was I wrong to give him the benefit of the doubt here?

    1. Anie

      If you were kind and helpful, I want to say why would something like that ever cross his mind? But people suck. I would mention it to HR, sure, but not in a “deny his claim” kind of way. More of a heads up.

      If it were me, if it’s all being handled and it was just an accident, why would I sue? If I was being told it was somehow my fault or looked at sideways and second guessed b/c I had a drink, well…then maybe I would sue.

    2. Big Tom

      Are you in the U.S.? Can you elaborate on the “disability claim” you mentioned? If it’s a workers’ comp claim that was filed and he’s getting treatment that way, then in most (possibly all?) states he’s not legally able to also sue the company. Workers’ comp is the “exclusive remedy” in such situations.

      It’s not clear whether this is an actual company event (where he was being paid to be there, etc) so it could definitely be a gray area as to whether the injury would be compensable, but there’s also not necessarily any reason to think the company would be liable for anything. Was it a company bus? Was all of this on the clock in any way?

      1. Zefram Cochrane

        Yes, this is the US. By disability claim, I’m talking about the short-term disability insurance that comes in the benefits package. The bus was a city commuter bus, no connection to the company.

        The event itself was an after-work happy hour kind of celebration, off the clock but emails went out over the company system inviting the group. If the boss paid out of his own pocket, there could be some wiggle room but I clearly saw him plunk down his corporate Amex at the pub.

        I’m torn, I don’t want to mark this guy as an irresponsible drunk if it was an innocent accident, but I don’t want all eyes on me if the company gets slapped with a suit and I said nothing.

        1. Not So NewReader

          You pretty much have to protect yourself. Tell the guy what you have to do, first. Then go do it.

          If it is indeed a innocent accident that will become apparent as the story goes along.

          I reported a coworker for an accident. I cannot explain here, but I tried to intervene. My attempt did not work and the coworker hurt someone else who was in the way. Long story short- it was not my coworker’s fault. (I know it sounds like it was, that is because I am leaving out huge parts of the story.) An investigation was done, and everyone could see that it was not his fault.

          I started the whole process like I said above. I told the coworker that I have to report this. He knew that and just said, “so be it.” Never put your job on the line for someone else. If you are supposed to report something, get there, report it. Hopefully, this will work out okay for your coworker.

  53. Sara The Event Planner

    Does anyone have advice on replacing a beloved employee? I’m just over a month into a job that I’m really enjoying. However, the person I replaced was with the company for over 10 years, and was obviously extremely well-liked and respected. I keep hearing stories about how fun and sweet this woman was (she does sound great), and comments about how much people miss her. I know this sounds incredibly petty, especially since everyone has been very nice and welcoming, but I feel a little like I’m competing with someone I don’t even know. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being compared to her. It sounds like she has a big personality, and I’m a little more reserved, so I’m not sure that helps either.

    1. W

      I think all you can say is she sounds like a lovely woman – do you keep in touch since she left? And leave it at that – perhaps they are comparing you – but there’s nothing you can really do about that (and they picked you for this role!) – so I’d try and think of her as some sort of weird ghost they’re all trying to exercise – they keep getting haunted by her but it’ll pass. Alternatively they’re in the first stages of a break up when all they remember are the good things and you kind of have to let them get through it. :)

    2. Oatmeal

      It just takes time, honestly. I replaced everyone’s favorite employee at my current job. It was SO awkward at first. (I actually came home and cried about it several times! I’m a big baby.)

      I was worried because we were SO different personality-wise (she was very chirpy and sweet and outgoing – I am more laid-back, a little more introverted, and have a tendency toward sarcasm). My approach to the role was also very different. After about 6 months it all smoothed out and I had coworkers telling me “You know, I thought no one could replace Elaine, but you’re doing a fantastic job!” Now (3 years later) people tell me all the time they don’t know what they’d do without me/ they can’t imagine anyone else in the role, etc.

      Anyway – good luck! I know it is cold comfort, but I really, really do think it just takes time.

    3. MsM

      Just give it time. All you really can do is be available and responsive and do the best work you can, and eventually, they’ll start thinking of it as your role rather than of you as X’s replacement. (Although a few comments about “She sounds great – I’m sorry I couldn’t have had the chance to work with her” probably won’t go amiss before you start talking about what you can do together.)

    4. AdAgencyChick

      What I learned from the last time I replaced a beloved (to the client) employee: Be incredibly respectful of the love for that person, and let that affect your tone when you’re proposing new ideas. I’m not saying hold back your ideas; however, a tone of “I’d love to build on what Jane has done by doing X” will be better received than “Let’s do X!”

      Also, ask your coworkers about her. “I keep hearing awesome things about Jane. What was it you loved most about her?” Pay attention to the answers — they may tell you what to play up about yourself.

      This is NOT to turn you into a Jane-bot. It’s to get your coworkers used to you. Never underestimate the power of a prior emotional attachment — I did with that client, to my detriment. I think that client would have responded well to me if I had tried a softer approach to winning her loyalty, since she loved my predecessor so much.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yep, do ask what they liked about Jane. Take the best of her best ideas and make them your own. It will make your life easier, it will help people to have something that is familiar to them and it will help you to get away from that competitive feeling. (You can’t compete with a person who is helping you to be great at your job. Use some of her tips that they tell you about and silently send a “thanks” out to her where ever she may be. )It won’t be long and you will be pumping out ideas as good as, if not better than Jane’s.

    5. themmases

      I worked in an office where a coworker who was a close friend to many was promoted to another department. I was worried about her replacement because we all love the former person in her role so much!

      It took time but it worked out really well. We got to be friends with the original person because our work (various types of support staff in a medical department) pushed us to share resources and news and generally act like a tribe. We had some regular events, like going out after work for group members’ birthdays, that we just invited both to. They got to meet and get along well, so our group is just one bigger.

      Basically even though our former coworker really is great, we also had group norms that were conducive to becoming friends with her in the first place, that welcomed the new person too.

    6. NicoleK

      I replaced a beloved manager. The only advice is to just be yourself, relax, work hard, and in time people won’t talk about her as much.

  54. SallyinTexas

    I’ve had a coffee meeting/interview and formal interview (1/2 day & 5 interviewers) for a job I really want. I got a phone call this week with the message that they have “good news” for me. Turns out the good news is now an invitation to dinner next week to meet 2 others I didn’t meet during the formal interview (+a few from the formal interview.) I know this is a good thing, but I’m wondering what I could do at dinner to screw this up…other than the obvious of drinking too much and acting like a bafooon, which of course I know not to do. Any suggestions/thoughts? Thanks!!

    1. alice

      It sounds like this is a more informal, get-to-know-people thing. If that’s the case, don’t treat it like an interview. The people you’re meeting are likely to be more relaxed than they would be in an interview situation, and you should be too. I wouldn’t stick to work-only conversation, too (although scratch that if that’s what they end up doing). And then (obviously) don’t bring up politics or religion.

      Good luck!

  55. BRR

    So my PIP was going pretty well until this week when I produced one piece of crappy work and I have no idea what happened. I think the PIP has exhausted me and the result was something that was truly awful.

    I’m pretty pissed because I was doing a lot better but my manager seems to be weighing this more heavily than anything good I have done plus she turned nit picky just because she could. Not to mention I got RIPPED a new one over this.

    I am losing my ability to have the strength to continue with this. Dear god why do other hiring processes move so slow?

    1. W

      I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you’re getting enough sleep and truly resting at home. Worry can really prey on you at these sorts of times. I recommend “How to stop worrying and start living” by Dale Carnegie. Sounds corny but I listened to the audio version on youtube when I was seriously stressed and it really helped me.

    2. Not So NewReader

      I can’t wait for you to get out of there. These people are exhausting.

      Mental imagery: I can see you posting, “I got a new job!” Can you see that image in you mind?? Hang on to it.

      1. BRR

        Thanks :). My therapist told me she is waiting for me to come in and go “I have great news!” I go, today isn’t the today haha.

  56. Anonymous Educator

    Not about my work, but my spouse has had two back-to-back toxic work environments (the most recent way more toxic than the previous), and she just started official work at her new job yesterday.

    I was all braced for her to come home crying about how awful her new place is, but I guess third time is the charm. Though it’s not the ideal work environment, it’s at least normal, and there are lots of positives.

    So lots of relief!

  57. Navy Vet

    Today is my last Friday at my current job. My final day here will be next Wednesday. Long story short, while my employer and myself are technically parting on “good” terms they are not sad to see me go, and I am ready to leave.

    For the most part I am trying to leave with a good turnover and as much grace as possible. I am one of two Project Managers at this company. The role is by no means an entry level position and they scrambled to find someone to fill my seat very quickly. A young woman just out of college who as far as I know has no previous work experience. I’m not even sure of what her degree is in. I do know she applied for an entirely different role in the company and was interviewed. Right after her inter view the men in the department she was working for took little time to rank her appearance on a scale of 1-10. (Because ladies, let’s be honest, if you aren’t hot than you are not an asset as an employee or colleague) And at least 2 of them said they did not want to work with a “girl”. Perhaps they haven’t gotten their Cootie shot vaccine updated recently. (The boys will be boys attitude is one of the many reasons I’m leaving)

    HR did hold a meeting with them to let them know this was inappropriate and the VP manufactured a reason we couldn’t hire her for that position. So I was surprised to learn she was my replacement and I’d be expected to train her for my final three days next week.

    I have no knowledge of her qualifications etc. and I’m leaving, so who cares what this group of upstanding citizens do after my departure?

    I’m just afraid they are setting this poor young woman up for failure and this will become yet another revolving door position in this company. (We went through 15 admin assistants in less than 2 years)

    Advice?

    1. MsM

      If you’re not willing to just walk away, I think the most you can do is take her out to lunch and find a diplomatic way to warn her about the office culture, or at least that what goes on here isn’t typical of all working environments. Or just make sure she’s got your contact information and encourage her to reach out.

    2. Not So NewReader

      It’s three days. Do what you can to train her. I guess I would just focus on giving her what she needs to know, because the time is so limited. She might figure it out and quit very soon anyway.

  58. Tagg

    So I started talking with my HR department on advancing my career within the organization (which was suggested by my amazing manager) and they gave me a name of someone to reach out to to discuss their area of work and see if it’d be something I’m interested in. I’m going to send them an email…

    But I have no idea what to say.

    Halp?

    1. Delyssia

      Some thoughts… But most importantly, just put down some words, even fragments of ideas, just to have something facing you, instead of just a blank screen. You can spend little bits of time polishing it over multiple days if it helps. Just don’t fill in the “To” line in the email until you’re ready to send!

      Dear Jane,

      Cecilia Smith in HR gave me your name when I expressed an interest in learning more about the dark chocolate teapot area here at XYZ Company. With the encouragement of my current manager Mary Jones, I’m in the process of exploring opportunities for growth within the company. I was wondering if we could set up a time to talk, so I can learn more about the dark chocolate teapot group and how it might align with my career interests.

      Sincerely,
      Tagg

      You might also include a paragraph or two about your background and experience, or possibly attach a current copy of your resume. Good luck!

  59. New manager

    I am having an issue with someone who reports to me that they just spend too much time talking with the other coworkers. I have brought this up to her a number of times in the past; it gets better for a few days, then reverts back. I would like to bring this up to her again more formally. It is unfortunate because she is a good employee overall. The main argument she usually comes back with is “who tattled on her?” and that I can’t know because I don’t watch them all the time – which is true I don’t stand there timing their talks but I go out and come back and they are talking for example fairly often until I come and break it up. Can anyone suggest some good wording and the best way to frame this?

    1. some1

      Can you nip it in the bud in the moment? Like if you noticed that she’s chatting with someone longer than, like, 10 minutes (and clearly not related to work) basically go tell her to back to her desk. I had a manager who did this back in retail and she was polite but firm, “This conversation is clearly not business, and I need you to be working X, Y, and Z right now.”

      1. Emmie

        That’s a good solution. It shows that you are also verifying the behavior before you coach it.

        If you have to address it, my initial thoughts are this: I’m very pleased with your work in [specific area/s]. I remain concerned that you spend too much time socializing with other coworkers. We have talked about this before, and I need it to stop permanently. [Add comment about an acceptable amount of work socializing.] “ If she brings up comments about “tattling” then I would say “I am disappointed that your concerned about whether someone is tattling. If indeed that were the case, I would do my best to maintain confidentiality. I need you to focus instead on long-term solutions to this problem. If this is an issue again, I will be writing you up. What are your solutions to permanently fix this problem? How will you ensure you stick to those solutions?” Yet, I need to think about it b/c I might change it a little.

        1. Not So NewReader

          This.
          Or say, “I walk out at any time during the day and I see you standing there visiting with someone. I don’t have to rely on what people tell me, I can observe it myself.”

      2. Oyster

        When I was in high school working retail, I never understood why I could not have minor personal conversations at work. Now that I am an adult, it drives me crazy when people in customer focused service positions have ongoing personal conversations without paying attention to customers around them. You have no idea how many times I have waited while people discussed personal info, or just shopped at another store because the only employees on the floor (hotels, stores, salons) were engaged in each other and not approachable. Aye, total threadjack. I have higher expectations for customer service employees because I used to be one of them.

      3. Ad Astra

        This is good advice. Remember to focus on the effect this chatting is having on her work, or on her colleagues’ work. It’s not that personal conversations are a problem in and of themselves, it’s that they’re a problem for her because they’re keeping her from getting her work done.

      1. Not So NewReader

        It could be that her work is fine, but other people are backsliding because of talking with her too much.

    2. Not So NewReader

      I think you should write her up. Tell her that you have given her numerous chances, she is okay for a few days then she is back to the usual. You can say, “It’s a shame this is coming down to this because you are a good worker. But you absolutely must stop socializing so much. We are not here to socialize.”

  60. Always anon for this type of thing

    I emailed a professional contact a week ago to ask if she would be willing to talk with me about opportunities at her company. I haven’t heard back yet – although she did accept my LinkedIn request to connect the other day – and that’s fine, I know she’s busy, and she owes me nothing. If I send one more email to follow up, something along the lines of “just wanted to make sure I didn’t get caught in your spam filter!” is that too pushy?

    I’ve don’t know the etiquette for this specific kind of networking. This person is a lot more experienced than I am, and I don’t want to come across as too green.

    1. Jerzy

      I know a lot of people, including myself, who will accept an offer to connect on LinkedIn pretty much right away, but I often don’t bother checking my inbox there. If you have another means of contacting her (like a direct email address), I think a follow-up would be fine. You can follow-up on LinkedIn as well, but she may simply not see it, and then you’ll be wondering if she’s just ignoring you, and that’s never a nice feeling.

  61. Tiffany

    A couple weeks ago I asked about explaining why I’m looking for a job after only 2 months at my first post-grad job. The reason is that my employer is reducing the position to part-time. I get that this is a reasonable reason to be searching for a new position, but I’m unsure of how to explain it on my resume/cover letter. Should I put something on my resume that says that? Or leave it for the cover letter? What’s a good way to explain it? I’ve written several things but I worry that they come off sounding negative. I’m probably just over-thinking it…

    1. Chicken

      Don’t put it on your resume – resumes are for info about your qualifications (past jobs, education, skills), not for explanations. Normally I wouldn’t put the reason I’m job searching in a cover letter, but in your case, it seems like that might be a good idea, since otherwise leaving so soon might be seen as a red flag. It will raise the question of whether you plan to keep the old part time job or not, so be prepared to answer that!

    2. Sara The Event Planner

      I think this is a good thing to include in a cover letter. I had a position relocated to a different state after I had only been there 9 months, and I included a line like, “It has been my goal to move into a role that [is client-facing/focuses on teapot manufacturing/etc.]. With my current position being moved to part-time, I feel that this is the perfect time to make that transition.”

    3. AdAgencyChick

      If it’s been only two months, I don’t even know that I’d put it on my resume, even though it is your only post-school work experience. Treat yourself as a new grad, and if anyone asks you what you’ve been doing in the interview, that’s when you tell them, “I’m currently working, but the position is being downgraded to part-time from full-time.”

      1. Tiffany

        I actually really don’t want to leave it off my resume. Even though I’ve only been there a couple of months, I’ve done some good stuff and the company itself is relatively known in certain industries (which happen to be the industries I want to be in) and my boss is incredibly well-known and respected in my town. So, it’s definitely a resume-worthy job. My concern is that someone will look at my resume and see that I’ve only been there for a couple months and am already looking for something new, decide they don’t like that, and never even look at my cover letter to see why.

    4. AnnieNonymous

      It depends on your field. It definitely has a place in your cover letter, but I personally don’t see anything wrong with listing the job on your resume as “Part-Time Teapot Staff.” You’re in a bit of a bind because you don’t want to leave your only work experience off your resume, especially since it’s relevant.

      1. Tiffany

        Well, it’s not my only work experience…I worked all through college (call center) and had an amazing internship throughout my senior year. I’m still full-time at least through the end of August…starting in September will just be a week-by-week thing. Basically, they can’t guarantee me full-time but it’s possible I’ll get it depending on the amount of work to be done. It was a new position when I took it and it’s at a tech startup, so I guess I’m not too surprised, but it’s definitely not the kind of job security I’m looking for.

  62. Paloma Pigeon

    Has anyone ever dealt with substance abuse issues at work? How did you recognize the issue and how was it handled?

    1. W

      I assume this is a co-worker rather than yourself? Do you manage this person or are you a colleague? Substance abuse is tricky – check your employee handbook at my last place they actually had processes to help the person.
      It depends on a lot of factors really. Have they dealt with these issues in the past? Are you their friend?
      Because people unless they’ve been open with their past abuse are unlikely to be open to someone accusing them of having a problem. It might be something for management depending on what they are doing at work?
      What I was told – in terms of alcoholism- (not for myself) is you’re an addict if you’re addiction is affecting your work or personal life. So is this actually seriously affecting their work life? Or is it a concern? If it’s not affecting their work life depending on your closeness I might not comment because actually that can cause a backlash and a lot of anger. If you are friends/ close co-workers and you suspect they’re having a hard time, tell them that and that you’re here for them to talk to (if that’s the case.) If you find they’re unstable or you find their behaviour to be a concern – speak to management.

        1. Malissa

          It really depends on who they are in the company. Lower level but long-term, point out the performance problems and suggest counseling. Not long term, look at replacing them. Higher-up? How is it affecting the company? Figure that out and bring it to the appropriate person. Head of the company? Get your resume together and get off at the next possible exit.

          1. Paloma Pigeon

            Sigh. It’s a higher up and there is no oversight. The excessive absenteeism has really impacted morale and some co-workers saw it as a license to abuse telecommuting since they knew their manager was getting away with it.

            1. Malissa

              Yeah, first exit possible off that ride is the only way out of that. Just know that you are not alone.

            2. Not So NewReader

              HR?

              I think this is someone above you. There is not much you can do there.

              If this person has a boss somewhere, then you have a much bigger problem. The Big Boss is not paying attention and does not care about the employee.

              I’d take the whole mess as my cue to dust off my resume.

    2. Steve G

      Been there done that and I still need advice! Apparently I was not professional when I told someone higher up that I am 95% sure that my coworker is going on long lunches because they drink. Apparently I needed to actually see them drink. A few months later they were fired for the alcoholism. I thought I was helping by telling someone, but some people think it’s not nice to mention such things……BTW I thought they were drinking at lunch because when we went out they drank way too much, and their lunches were way too long, and they never ate….

  63. W

    Anyone got any tips or online resources to do minutes? I’ve done it before but by following someone else’s outline, and people clarifying in the meeting what they wanted.

    1. notfunny.

      minutes are pretty specific by industry/kind of meeting. I would learn as much as possible about the purpose and scope of the minutes (do you need to have a play by play of everything that was discussed, or is it highlights/a summary of all decisions made) before diving in.

    2. Anx

      One thing that’s helped me take minutes and get committee members to take better minutes is to think about what the purpose of your minutes are and what kind of details you’ve looked for when referring to minutes.

      It also helps to sometimes to be familiar with the communication styles of the people at the meeting, but don’t rely on assuming that if Susie has a tendency to repeat herself often that you can be really relaxed about note taking. But if John rambles a lot, maybe refrain from transcribing everything he says.

    3. Not So NewReader

      I have just done it for volunteer groups.

      Of course, I listed the people in attendance. Then I did a brief paragraph on each topic discussed. I put down the next steps involved. I also made note if someone said they would do something in particular and report back. If the topic was finished/concluded then I would write the conclusion.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny

      If you’re looking for a real go-getter who will pee the best in this job, urine luck! (Am I close?)

  64. Chicken

    How and when is it best to let my company know I’m pregnant? I am almost eight weeks, and definitely not planning to say anything at work until the at least the end of the first trimester – but I am starting to think about it.

    I work at a mid-sized nonprofit – I have a direct supervisor, and we have a two person HR department. I am an exempt employee with my own clients, but I don’t supervise anyone. I was thinking of emailing to both HR and my supervisor – is that what people usually do? And, is it better to announce as soon as possible (meaning as soon as I’m comfortable doing so), or should I wait until I start showing, which might not be until a while later.

    Also complicating things is that I’m not sure whether I will be coming back afterwards – probably not, but I’m going to make a final decision later, and it also depends on some external circumstances. I’m in the US (California).

    1. Jerzy

      I told my old Director when I was about 8 weeks, only because morning sickness had started kicking in, and I could tell he was worried something was wrong. Of course, I had a great relationship with him and knew I could count on him to keep it to himself until I said it was time to tell everyone else.

      As it turns out, when I told him, he told me his wife was also pregnant, and had a due date 4 days after mine. The poor man spent 9 months without getting a break from preggo ladies! He handled it all like a champ and was super understanding when, say the AC in the office malfunctioned in July (while I was about 7/8 months pregnant) and my ankles were swollen up to the size of grapefruits and I just had to go home. I really lucked out in every way with this boss.

    2. W

      If possible I think it would be better to tell them in person and whenever you feel comfortable saying so – obs way before the due date – but 8 weeks seems v early to me. I’d have thought after 12 weeks? But never been pregnant. Email seems sort of abrupt – but maybe that’s just me, I guess you could start with an email and then arrange to meet to discuss how to go forward if that makes you more comfortable.

    3. Thinking out loud

      My annual review happened to be scheduled when I was 15-16 weeks pregnant, so I waited until then. Otherwise, I would have told my manager slightly earlier. The risk of miscarriage goes down significantly when you have a good ultrasound with a heartbeat, which is generally around the 12 week mark – that’s when I announced to most people, although I only told one coworker before I told my manager, because I wanted him to find out from me rather than the grapevine.

      The issue of coming back depends very much on your manager, in my opinion. My manager was very good, so I told him that I hoped to take about six months off afterwards but wasn’t sure how I would feel (based on advice I’d gotten from other parents). I ended up taking about five months off, and he was very supportive. If you trust your manager, I’d say, “I’m hoping to take at least X weeks/months off, but that may change depending on how my recovery and early parenting experiences go. It’s possible that I’ll decide to stay home full-time, but I’m not sure yet. I hope you know that I’ll let you know as soon as I decide, because I know that you’ll need time to replace me long-term if I do choose not to come back.” If you don’t trust your manager to treat you well, I’d say the first sentence above and skip the other two.

      1. Aideekay

        “… when you have a good ultrasound with a heartbeat…”

        Is THAT why they say after the first trimester? I knew it was because the risk of miscarriage was lower, but I thought it was an incredibly arbitrary marker. TIL!

    4. ArchForTheWin

      I’m so glad you asked this. My work is physical and rough, but other women I’ve asked said they were cleared for work while pregnant as long as they were already doing it regularly. However, I happen to do this work in fields of explosives. This is super unusual. We’re planning on kids in the next couple of years and I just had this thought of “I feel like I have to tell them ASAP because I doubt they’ll want me out there at all”. Plus I’m going to start acting weird because I’m the worst at keeping things from my team (they’re pretty awesome). My sister has always said to hold off until you show, but I don’t think my circumstances can allow it. This is has been bugging me all day and likely won’t stop until we actually decided to get pregnant haha I look forward to reading the advice on this particular thread.

      Congrats btw!

      1. Sunshine Brite

        To tell is different for everyone and it sounds like in your work it’d be better to say as early. I’d also tell early if I was getting sick all the time or fainting easily. You don’t have to know the exact outcome yet. Just say that you’re expecting and may need an extended absence at x date. The silence around miscarriage in this country still baffles me. Most people can relate to loss and grief in some way or another.

  65. Allison

    Oh, I do have a work-related question this week!

    Does anyone notice if/when their coworkers get up to pee a lot? I have to pee every hour, sometimes more often than that, and I wonder if people notice how often I’m getting up. No one’s said anything yet and I realize that on my team people are always coming and going due to meetings, so maybe they don’t think much of it, but I’m a little self-conscious about it and I don’t want people to think I don’t work hard enough.

    1. AnotherAlison

      People in my area are always going to talk to people in other parts of the building, pick up a print out, get coffee, etc. I have no idea when they’re going to the bathroom. The only time I can think this might be noticed is in something like a call center when you are supposed to be butt-in-chair all day, except for bathroom breaks.

    2. Chicken

      I work in an office (and also pee ALL THE TIME) and I can almost guarantee that no one notices. I have no idea if the people who sit near me go to the bathroom once a day or once an hour.

      I guess to some extent it depends on how much you’d be getting up if you weren’t going to the bathroom though – no one here has a printer or fax in their office and we consult with each other frequently, so it’s very common for people to be back and forth from their desks all day.

    3. W

      I have to say this as I’m a hypochondriac – but excessive peeing is a sign of diabetes (especially if it’s at night – or if you’re getting up at night to do so) and if you’re drinking loads of water. Caffeine also makes you pee more – and of course seem ppl just have small bladders.

      On the noticing note unless your work is suffering I can’t imagine people are noticing – although every hour seems a lot to me.

      1. Allison

        I’m not getting up to go pee at night, thankfully, and either way, I don’t have any other symptoms of it, nor does my diet/lifestyle put me at risk. I can certainly bring it up with my doctor, but I’m not worried about it. I drink a lot of caffeine and water, and being a tiny person probably also means I have a small bladder.

        I’m a hypochondriac too, but really trying to overcome that.

          1. Allison

            Okay I’m gonna be real with you, it’s totally fine to worry about your own health (and, to a degree, the health of your family and friends), but if you know you’re paranoid about health issues, it’s probably best not to spread that anxiety to others by telling them that this or that minor issue might mean a serious disease, especially if you barely know them. They might brush it off, but your comment might trigger their own health anxiety.

    4. Ad Astra

      Our work areas are relatively private (bigger than typical cubicles, with floor-to-ceiling walls in between them, but no door so it’s not quite a private office) and I can tell you I have no idea how often any of my coworkers get up for the restroom. We also sit pretty far from the restrooms on our floor, so someone who walks past could just as likely be on the way to a meeting, the break room, leaving for lunch, etc.

      Unless you’re in very close quarters, nobody will notice how often you get up at all. And if you are in very close quarters, like sharing a cubicle or something, they probably still don’t think anything of it.

    5. Anie

      I work in a small office, about 15 people, and I pee about every hour. I’ve started to just hold it and be really uncomfortable because there’s no way people can’t notice. There isn’t a lot of movement and because there are only two small stalls, most women wait until they know the bathroom is clear before getting up to use it. The door makes a very distinctive noise when it closes and our office is silent so you can hear it no matter where you are.

      I dunno, I’ve had one person (office manager) come up to me and make fun of another woman for how often she went. I stayed firm and loudly made comments about “who cares?” and “why are you paying attention to something that’s both personal and unrelated to you professionally?” Most people are respectful and just choose not to say anything, I guess.

      My last boss always made comments that I peed so often I had a pregnant woman’s bladder. That took…maybe 3 years (and no baby, lol) before she just started to just roll her eyes and ignore it when I got up to use the restroom.

    6. AdAgencyChick

      I sure hope no one cares, because I drink a lot of water and therefore go about once an hour also.

    7. AnnieNonymous

      I’m that employee who gets up all the time. I’m always walking around with a new cup of tea, or going to the bathroom holding a lip gloss (for touch ups!). Basically, whatever the reason, I’ll be walking up and down the hall at least once an hour. I call it “doing laps.” No one cares, we’re all weird.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Me too, and so do my coworkers. They run back and forth between each others’ cubes, into the break room, to the loo, etc. I can’t sit for too long or I get stiff and my legs hurt. And some days, I drink more water than others, so I pee more. And of course when Aunt Flo is in town, I visit the loo even more.

    8. the_scientist

      It’s 1:00 p.m. here and I’m working on my second litre of water for the day! I drink a tonne of water (I actually used to joke that I am pre-diabetic because I’m always thirsty but really, I’m just always thirsty). So yeah, I get up a lot. No one has ever commented, and it’s not been an issue for me (except when I was working at a summer camp and had to get another counsellor to watch my kids so I could go).

      My one concern is that it actually makes it hard for me to make it through long meetings sometimes!

      1. Allison

        Yup yup yup! I don’t really have to sit through a lot of long meetings, but if I don’t go to the bathroom right before a meeting, I might feel like I’m about to burst roughly 30-45 mins in.

        It is weird that I go so often at work, but less often at other places, like at home or at the movies, or on road trips. Maybe it’s mental. When I was an overnight security proctor I had no problem only going a few times in my 8 hour shift.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I go MORE when I can’t go, like at movies. It’s mental–I’m thinking, “I can’t pee! I might have to go! Oh no, now I do have to go!” I was so proud of myself when I sat through the entire showing of Mad Max without getting up once. I told myself, “You went before you came in here! You don’t need to go again!”

      2. Anx

        I don’t think I’m diabetic (no one’s ever commented on my blood sugar), but I swear I’m like a sieve. I have dry skin, am prone to an inability to concentrate, and yet if I start drinking more water, I just start peeing more.

    9. AvonLady Barksdale

      Depends. In a larger office, not really. In my tiny office, my boss’s small bladder is the stuff of legend. We notice, but we don’t care. When I started working there, water consumption increased significantly because he and I both drink a couple of liters a day. We hired several more people over the last few months, and the day we signed the lease on the space next door and earned an extra bathroom, the angels sang.

    10. infj

      I hope no one notices. I pee constantly. Occasionally I’ll try to crack a joke about it (like this morning when I had a cup of coffee in one hand, a bottle of water in the other and an empty starbucks cup under my arm)

    11. Violet Rose

      I did have a boss who cited my frequent toilet breaks as a sign of poor performance and lack of effort. But, he took more issue with the length of the breaks, which was higher than other people’s since

      a) I refilled my water bottle at the same time, which too, an extra few minutes
      b) I used the toilet on the floor above, which was only a tiny bit further from the office than the one on our floor, but after all that sitting I really wanted the extra exercise afforded by a flight of stairs
      c) I was the only woman, so I could not be a urinal ninja the way my coworkers apparently were
      d) Drinking water is one of my fidgets, so I would be up out of my chair at least 3-4 times a day outside my lunch break

      Oh yeah, and he was also a TOTAL WINGNUT, for this and many other reasons.

    12. Gwen

      I don’t think anyone thinks about it! After all, they have no idea if you’re going to the bathroom, to a meeting, to ask someone a question, to check your mail, to get more coffee/water, to pick something up at the printer, just want to stretch your legs, etc. etc. And honestly most of the time I end up talking to my cube neighbor when she’s not even there because if I’m actually paying attention to work, I don’t notice her leaving. So anyone keeping track of it should probably focus on their own business :P

    13. Intern Wrangler

      I don’t think most people would notice, and it’s actually a great health practice to make sure you get up from your desk every hour. Sitting straight through the day unless you absolutely have to is not ideal.

  66. SallyinTexas

    I’ve had an informal/coffee interview and a formal interview (1/2 day, 5 interviewers) for a job I really want. I got a message this week that said they had “good news” for me. Of course, I was expecting an offer. Turns out the good news is an invitation to dinner next week with 2 that I didn’t meet during the 1/2 day interview (+ a few from the 1/2 day interview). I don’t know what more they can learn about me at a dinner, but of course, I’ll be there. Other than the obvious (don’t order tequila/get drunk or order the most expensive item on the menu), what do you think they’re looking for and what could I do to screw this up? And do I follow their lead on drinks? If others order wine/liquor and I don’t, will I come off as too stuffy? Thoughts/suggestions? Thanks!!

    1. Emmie

      Be your best professional self. No one really knows why they do this. If the job interacts with clients, they may be looking to see how you handle yourself in a social business situation. Maybe they want to get to know you better, or have an excuse to expense a great meal! I wouldn’t overthink it. Remember, this is just as much about you finding a fit as it is them. Regarding the drinks question, I never know how to answer that. I feel strange not ordering drinks when everyone else is, but sometimes I don’t feel like drinking. There are tactful ways to not drink when everyone else is doing so – i.e. letting them pour you a drink from a bottle but not drinking it, ordering one drink and nursing it, ording something that looks drink-like (ginger ale, sparkling water, ice water with pineapple), or just saying it’s not your thing / you prefer water, etc…. People’s reactions to you not drinking says more about them than it does you. It should not be a thing when someone isn’t drinking, and shame on those who make it a thing.

    2. Nynaeve

      A lot of times, with lunch/dinner interviews, they’re trying to get a feel for who you are in a more relaxed social context. How do you fit in with the team? Are you someone they can see themselves working with and interacting with? How do you pick up on social norms? How do you treat the wait staff?

      They’ll probably ask a mix of work-related and personal questions. (My coworker always asks whether an interviewee likes sports because no one else in the office does and she’s hoping for an ally.) I would say follow their lead and feel free to ask slightly less formal questions so you can get to know people better and gauge whether they’re the kind of people you want to work with or whether they’re boring or boorish or dysfunctional.

      As for alcohol, know your limitations. If others are drinking and you have a fairly good alcohol tolerance, one drink is probably okay. I wouldn’t advise more than that in this context. But if you’re a lightweight (like me), I would just avoid it altogether. Just be cheerful when refusing and order a fun non-alcoholic drink: “Oh, none for me, thanks! But I’d love a Shirley Temple.” If people give you flak for not drinking, well, that’s important information to have about them, in my opinion.

  67. ComingFromGeorgia

    Hoping for some help on this situation. I’ve got a team I manage, with four people below me. Two of them are super close friends and frequently have lunch together in another room, away from their desks. A third, Wendy, manages the fourth (Tracie), and has started joining the other two for lunch or just getting work done away from their desks in conference rooms. We have an open office concept, so it’s obvious when they’ve all gone, and Tracie is left by herself (well, I’m still in there because I eat at my desk, but it’s not like she’s going to want to socialize with her boss’ boss.

    Wendy and I talk frequently about her struggles with Tracie. She’s not the best at her job, and on top of that frequently says she doesn’t feel a part of the team yet can never specify why. I plan on talking to Wendy about how her joining the other two for lunch without inviting Tracie must be making her feel left out and is contributing to this problem, but what exactly is the solution here? I certainly don’t care to dictate how, when or who they eat lunch with. But don’t want the general morale affected either.

    1. Billybob

      Hmm, I don’t think it will be effective or appropriate to ask them to invite her to lunch with them. A manager can’t dictate friend groups, only the quality of work. I’d guess that Tracie is insecure and is afraid/uncomfortable with being alone. That insecurity could be causing her to work less effectively…or she could be not that good to begin with, which might feed into her coworkers not respecting her and therefore not trying to invite her to eat with them.

      What you could do is ask Wendy to have regularly scheduled mentoring lunch sessions with Tracie, or cross-training sessions with the other coworkers if their work can overlap.

      Otherwise…Tracie is gong to need to learn how to be an introvert. Or bring a book to read during lunch. Sorry, can’t help there. I used to be depressed about not being a social butterfly at work, and how no one wanted to include me. But I don’t have the personality to mingle successfully, and now I’m pretty happy with a good book.

      1. peanut butter kisses

        I agree, you can’t tell people to be friends with other people. My mother tried that for years with me, I just “had” to be friends with a daughter of a co-worker of hers. There was a good reason that girl didn’t have friends but try telling my mother that.

        Perhaps you can put a positive spin on the situation? Maybe compliment Tracie about her ability to handle things in the office single handedly? And maybe make that remark in front of the others so they can appreciate Tracie’s ability to do that as well? Not sure – but just ruminating on this . . .

    2. Not So NewReader

      It could be that the job is just not a good fit for Tracie. While you can’t make them take Tracie to lunch, you can make sure that Tracie has access to the tools and resources necessary to do her job. You can also make sure that Tracie has the training she needs. You can make sure that they are keeping Tracie in the loop with new information that she may need or progress updates that are useful to her.

      I guess I would take a closer look at what is going on that her work is not up to par. I would ignore the lunch thing. People who know they are not doing a good job, tend to feel like they do not fit in. If her work gets better the whole lunch thing might become a non-issue.

  68. No name

    I am great at asking for help when needed, but how do you let people know that you DON’T need their help in a polite manner?

    I’m a librarian and received a pretty easy reference question. Coworker comes over (diferent department) and asks “what is she looking for?” This has happened frequently since we combined service desks. It’s sort of a privacy thing too, but it’s really annoying to have someone butting in on your work all the time.

    1. Malissa

      By letting her know that you will ask for her help if you need it, but she really needs to quit interrupting you and let you do your job.
      Something along the lines of, ‘Jane I really appreciate your help, but if you keep butting in before I’ve even had a chance to help some one I’ll never get comfortable in my job. But trust me if I need help it’s great to know you are only a step away.”
      If that doesn’t work a more direct, “Jane please stop butting in, I’ll ask for help if I need it.”
      If she comes over after that preempt her with, “Just a minute Jane, I’m helping this person now.”

      1. W

        Seems a little confrontational. I think a I’m fine thanks Jane, I’ll find you/call you if I need any help and turn back to the customer would be a bit better.
        She might be bored and jumping on a chance to do something/unfamiliar with your knowledge level or unclear how this service ‘merger’ works – perhaps something to clarify with her. Hi Jane I was wondering how your department worked with customers? In my department before we dealt with customers individually and only sought outside help ourselves, I find it a bit distracting when you come over when I’ve just started talking with a customer – is that how you’re used to working ?

      2. peanut butter kisses

        I have stopped a co-worker from doing this to me while I am on a reference question. He hoovers by my desk while I am trying to speak to the patron and tries to interject himself into the reference interview. I just stop during the reference interview to say “John, is there something you need immediately? I am trying to help this patron here”. This gets him on his way. He had interrupted one consultation with something that the patron and I had already discussed and the patron turned right around to him and snottily said, “Yes, we have already spoken about that and it isn’t what I need”. I was so happy to hear that patron be rude (I know I shouldn’t have bee but really, I was smiling so big on the inside”.

        1. peanut butter kisses

          Oh – but the blow back is that he thinks I am rude. JMO, I think it is rude to go up to a conversation between two people and try to interrupt and take it over. He is otherwise a nice guy but he needs to realize that everyone hired for this job knows what they are doing.

    2. Lost in Libraryland

      This is such a common challenge in libraries due to our professional and personal bent to be the Answer Person that we screen in interviews for the temptation. We ask “what would you do if you think you hear a colleague giving erroneous information to a patron?” We are not looking for “I’d jump right in!” or “It’s just one answer and it wouldn’t hurt the patron.” We are looking for a carefully nuanced answer that respects the colleague, recognizes, the need of the patron for correct information, and a strategy to carefully suggest an alternative answer. I should also say that we purposefully try to establish a culture where everyone feels free to ask and receive suggestions so it starts with good relationships off desk. So a conversation away from the desk with your colleague, and because we are a high touch gang, very “nice” language. Maybe “Jane, I appreciate that you want our patrons to have the best possible service. I do too! It breaks my flow if you jump in with a question or suggestion while I’m talking with a patron so it would be great if you could hold yourself back from doing that .”

        1. Lost in Libraryland

          Veery carefully. :) The goals are to 1) ensure correct information 2) respect a colleague 3) avoid making the patron uncomfortable or lose confidence by being drawn into a public disagreement (same would go for any customer service type situation – no fighting in front of the customer!)

          Librarians shouldn’t be answering questions off the top of their heads – except maybe during the Desk Set Christmas Party – even if it is their own birthday. “According to my driver’s license, my birthday is May 24, 1886.” This means that any followup can usually be about sources, not facts per se.

          So, carefully joining the conversation, start by assuming that you might be wrong and the colleague is actually correct. And even if not, much use of softeners like “you might consider”, “I thought”, “I might be mistaken”.
          “I thought that chocolate teapots were introduced in Europe in 1799. Good to know it was 1798. I guess the CIA Almanac of Weird Facts was a bit off.”
          This gives the colleague the chance to say, “Oh, I was referencing the Le dictionnaire de la histoire des théières. Maybe I should check a couple of other sources to see if they agree.” Happy checking ensues. Patron, a local hot beverage container expert, also chimes in with a few ideas. A more complete picture emerges. Everyone learns something.

          Of course, if the fact is straight up wrong, no source is given, and the colleague is closed to input, no choice but to be more direct. “Actually, I believe that the first person to step on the moon was Neil Armstrong, not Buzz Aldrin. The Wikipedia article on the Apollo 11 flight is very readable and has good references. ” [Yes- librarians love Wikipedia and Google. Excellent places to start, just not where you might want to finish for some topics/treatments.]
          But basically you need to trust your colleagues and trust that they know their stuff and know when they don’t. You need a culture of inquiry where asking by both patrons and librarians is valued and know-it-alls are discouraged. Librarians as “information counselors” not fact machines. That’s what the Google is for. :)

          1. No name

            Oh my gosh! I agree with everything you have written. And that is how I always answer that question in interviews by the way; leaving the possibility open that I may be wrong and source-checking.

            Also, I love Google so much.

            1. Lost in Libraryland

              The development of the web and online resources has been 1000% great in terms of information to the people but Desk Set brings back the days when we did have to have arcane knowledge in our heads, print tomes at our fingertips, and complex files of WTL (“where to look”) cards for the next time we got that tricky question. I like to think I could have been a blunt and blowsy Joan Blondell type. Hepburn, for all her elegance, is a bit close to the stereotype… :)

              1. fposte

                Yes, the democratization of access to knowledge is a great thing, but it leaves me a little wistful at times.

      1. Trixie

        You probably get sick of hearing this but I’m definitely going to watch Party Girl (with Parker Posey) this weekend.

    3. Anie

      I’m mostly just accepted the people who jump in and answer for me. I don’t need the help, often, but if someone asks me a question or asks me to do something and a co-worker lunges to catch that ball, I just kind of…step back.

      Of course, I also recognize that I can clearly stand on my own, as well, so I don’t think this is something that reflects poorly on me professionally to others. Some people risk looking lazy or like they don’t know the answers. It’s a fine line.

    4. ScarletInTheLibrary

      Ugh. I have had coworkers who do not trust the other information professionals to answer reference questions. With us, there are long lingering control issues. The two head librarians have decided that before the other librarians can even answer a question asked in there department, the other reference librarians in that department must grab one of them and practice and answer. Then the head librarians will monitor the transaction. Even if the same question (e.g. what is the phone number to the baseball team’s ticket office) was asked and answered by a different patron two days ago. No wonder that department has a rep with patrons.

      So glad I left that department, so I rarely have to deal with these control issues. When I do, it’s generally because they two reference librarians have difficulty getting out of their mold. Like I might ask a clarifying question centering around the accuracy of the catalog for a certain collection. Then a long answer about something different that is handled in my department. And basically saying to grab one of them instead and giving me a generality for the tour group. Nothing has worked very well to get these reference librarians on track.

        1. Lost in Libraryland

          Nope, you were clear. :). This kind of control issue is a professional hazard, an extension of the idea that weaknesses are often overdone strengths. So people who prize accuracy become nitpickers, those who prize knowledge become know-it-all’s, those who value attention to detail become unable to see the big picture – our field is full of this and it’s disappointing when it takes over a culture. It’s management’s job to turn this around but it can be hard to root out. Glad you’re in a different department, at least!

  69. Lore

    For fposte: this is what I learned about Box. Not sure if it will help with the particular problems you’re trying to solve but I hope so:
    Here is what I learned about file permissions/versioning on Box.
    1) I was wrong about uploading from different computers. If you’re uploading the identically named file under your login from a different location, it will overwrite. It will give you a version number but that doesn’t help if you needed the old file. But maybe single purpose sub folders would help with that.
    2) you can lock individual files to prevent other people from uploading new versions while you’re working on them–this is in the More Options drop down for the file. Within that settings box/menu you can choose whether to let others download while the file is locked. (I don’t know what happens if someone else tries to upload the same named file while it’s locked–you can’t lock it against yourself!)
    3) one way to avoid the overwriting issue is to enable email uploads for a given folder (in the folder settings menu, under the More tab for the folder). I tried emailing the same file to the folder twice and it didn’t overwrite.

  70. MaryinTexas

    I’ve had an informal/coffee interview and a formal interview (1/2 day, 5 interviewers) for a job I really want. I got a message this week that said they had “good news” for me. Of course, I was expecting an offer. Turns out the good news is an invitation to dinner next week with 2 that I didn’t meet during the 1/2 day interview (+ a few from the 1/2 day interview). I don’t know what more they can learn about me at a dinner, but of course, I’ll be there. Other than the obvious (don’t order tequila/get drunk or order the most expensive item on the menu), what do you think they’re looking for and what could I do to screw this up? And do I follow their lead on drinks? If others order wine/liquor and I don’t, will I come off as too stuffy? Thoughts/suggestions? Thanks!!

  71. esra

    I am a graphic designer. This week I am dealing with a project outsourced to the worst designer I have ever met in my life. He makes constant errors, both design and spelling. Cannot read instructions, or basic emails apparently (certainly never past the first sentence).

    And worst of all, rather than apologize for mistakes, he gives me sass.

    Managing him takes so much time, it actually would have just been more efficient to work overtime and do the work myself.

    I sent out three applications this week, pray for me.

  72. Almost Beyonce

    Long time reader, first time open thread commentator.

    1. First you all are amazing for actually modelling online civility and community
    2. I’m hoping you all can help me with something. A new hire recently brought it to my attention that her colleague (also someone who I manage) has been asking her why she was hired and telling other people that this new hire isn’t qualified. When the new hire brought this to my attention she asked that I not share it – but I feel like it’s my job to ensure my employees aren’t being bullied. I’m fine with offering her advice to speak to the colleague directly, but that places a lot of pressure on a new person. My instinct is to deal with the colleague directly – and tell her that I made that hiring decision and I’m very happy with it and that she should focus on ensuring her work is of high quality (which it usually is). Does that sound right?

    1. Dawn

      Noooooo don’t just straight up go to the colleague! I think that would seriously alienate the new hire and make her feel like she can’t trust you.

      Why not go back to the new hire first and ask her what she’s like to be done? Explain that you don’t want your employees feeling bullied but that you respect her request for privacy and go from there. Give your new employee agency for resolving this situation and let her know that you are happy to step in if that’s what needs to be done.

      1. Anonsie

        On the other hand, if the coworker is openly telling people they don’t think she’s qualified, then she could wait a beat before talking to them and say it’s gotten back to her through that.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Yeah, “It’s gotten back to me” doesn’t necessarily out anyone as the source of the information (which you also could have just maybe happened to overhear).

          1. Not So NewReader

            OP can go with the classic “someone from another department mentioned that they overheard ________.”

            Coworker knows what he is doing is wrong and has been careful that you do not overhear.

  73. Ms Information

    Received my first infographic resume application last week! On the plus side, it wasn’t very slick so I think the person at least did it themselves. :) But really – don’t make the hiring manager/committee work to understand your experience and how it qualifies you for the position. AAM 101.

    For all the job hunters on AAM, you really aren’t competing against 100% of other candidates. In every competition I’ve run, less than 20% and sometimes less than 10% of the applicants know how to present themselves in well in cover letters, resumes, interviews, etc. And generally, hiring managers are trying to screen people IN not out. Truly!

    I think I see about 15% viable applicants in this current hiring process so I’m relieved.

    1. Liza

      I had no idea until recently, but you’re so right! I have a job posting up (my first ever!) and the job posting says to include resume and cover letter with the application. Over half the applicants haven’t even included their resume, of all things, and I think I’ve gotten about five cover letters total (from around 80 applications so far).

      When I think about it with my “hiring manager” hat on, it’s disheartening–but with my “future job hunter” hat on, I feel great about my chances for getting a job the next time I’m job searching if this is what the competition is like!

  74. Lionness

    Another update on the new manager situation.

    It isn’t going well. I feel disconnected and unable to reach the new Director. I requested regular weekly meetings and was told we’ll be holding them monthly. When I’ve asked questions it takes a full day or more to get a response and the responses are curt.

    I have a meeting scheduled a week from today and I am planning to bring up how disconnected myself and my team are feeling but I”m not sure how to do it without coming off petty. In addition, because we don’t have any rapport (like….zero) I’m not sure how well received this feedback will be.

    Sigh. This is exactly what I feared.

    1. Mephyle

      Perhaps it will help if you don’t frame it in terms of your team’s feelings, but about the effects on your work – like things being at a standstill (or similar) when you need a question answered and you can’t get a timely answer.

  75. Jubilance

    I’m super excited – I got an in-person interview! After 2 months and 3 phone interviews, I am flying out and doing an all-day interview. This process has been slow but I’m feeling very encouraged at this point.

    1. Not So NewRe