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:
            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:
            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: 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 ( 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:

  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.

        4. JPixel*

          Hahahaha! I had the same reaction! I eat yogurt every day but manage to keep the volume down.

      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*


            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.


        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*


        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*


        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.


    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*


        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*

      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! ;)

      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.

      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.