my coworker is annoyed that I read out loud, taking an admin job to get a foot in the door, and more

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

1. I read my work out loud, and it’s annoying a coworker

I recently started a job in a place where there’s like 50 cubicles. I have the bad habit of reading my work out loud/whispering/whatever you want to call it. My coworker asked me to stop because she can’t concentrate, but there are other people talking around us. It seems like my whispering is bothering her more than other people around us talking. I don’t get it. How do I stop?

Yeah, there’s something about whispering and one-sided conversations that’s more distracting than other background noise, for some reason. (It’s the same reason why someone on a cell phone is often more distracting than two people talking to each other.) I think it’s reasonable of her to alert you that it’s bothering her and ask if you can control it.

As for how, I think all you can really do is be especially vigilant about it and try to be really conscious of what you’re doing for a couple of weeks, which hopefully will be enough time to break the habit. Meanwhile, let her know that you’re trying but it’s sometimes unconscious — but that you’re going to make an effort to rein it in.

(For anyone wondering why the letter-writer should have to change, instead of the coworker finding a way to block it out, it’s because generally the default operating principle with two clashing interests like this favors the person who wants to be able to focus over the person who wants to do something out of the norm that might be disruptive.)

2. Telling my manager about a major mistake made by my predecessor

I work for a public agency in a role serving members of the public who have a stake in the agency decisions. Those stakeholders have the right to timely advance notification of decisions; that is set out in statute. I’ve been at the job about six weeks and so far I love it. The person who held this job before me retired last spring after working here for 26 years, but has kept working part-time while the position was filled and has continued to work training me and getting things wrapped up.

This colleague is an institution and very highly regarded within the office and by other partner agencies. However, for whatever reason, after starting, I discovered a huge backlog of stakeholders who had requested notification but had not even been entered into our database. I’ve seen requests dating as far back as 2006. I have no idea why these requests were not processed, but have almost caught up entering them.

My concern is the potential liability the agency has been exposed to. Basically, these unprocessed requests mean that stakeholders entitled to input on the process were not contacted or notified before decisions were made, even though they had done their due diligence. I think my supervisor has some idea of the backlog, but no idea of the scale. How do I broach this subject with her without seeming to badmouth the colleague who I replaced? I wouldn’t say anything and just focus on fixing the backlog if it wasn’t for the risk of future lawsuits, so I feel like I need to give my supervisor a heads-up.

Just be direct and factual: “I want to let you know that I’ve found a backlog of about X (number) of stakeholders who had requested notification but hadn’t been entered into our database, going back to 2006. I’ve been working to get these people all entered and am almost done, but I wanted to give you a heads-up in case it ever comes up down the road.”

Say this with a tone of “I’m just reporting facts to you” — no look of horror or scandalization on your face, just very matter-of-fact. She’ll be able to draw her own conclusions from there.

3. Should I take an admin job to get my foot in the door at a company I want to work for?

I have a question for you about a piece of advice that I seem to be told often. I work in public relations and marketing (entry-level) but have administrative/reception experience and am looking to switch jobs. I want to stay in the PR/marketing field but am told that if there’s a company I want to work at that isn’t hiring for positions in my field but in something else I’ve done (like administrative work), I should apply for that job, then once I’m in the company I can move into my preferred department. I think this isn’t good advice.

I don’t like this advice because I feel that it’s not always easy to switch between departments at companies, particularly big companies, and people shouldn’t act like it’s so easy. Also, I feel like it looks confusing to employers when it’s obvious I want to work in PR but am applying for a job that doesn’t really have anything to do with it.

What do you think? Is this advice not worth considering or is this really good advice that I should be taking?

Yeah, it’s bad advice. First of all, most companies aren’t going to want you applying for another internal job until you’ve been in your current role a minimum of a year — and often more. Second, it makes no sense to leave your field — the very field you want to stay in — and take an admin job in the hopes that maybe, somehow, it might give you an in back to your field in time.

You’re already in your field; don’t move yourself out of it in some circuitous path you hope will lead back in.

4. Should I turn down a job offer out of bitterness?

I interviewed for a communications-related position (a position very well suited for me) over two weeks ago. I got the interview because one of my former colleagues works there, and he sent me a message out of the blue saying he was trying to get me an interview for it. The position was not advertised anywhere; it was more my former colleague trying to make them hire someone with good written skills to clean up their online content. As far as I know, they were only interviewing me for the position.

I had the interview in the last week of August. It went SO well! I really got along with the manager and he was even talking specifically about all the tasks I would do, introduced me to the team, and told me he would let me know by the end of the week. I sent the manager a personalized thank-you email after the interview. I didn’t hear from him that week. As he gave me a clear timeline, I thought it appropriate to send him a follow-up email requesting information about the timeline going forward. Again, no reply.

So I asked my former colleague who works there if it was ok to call him and he said, “Yeah, definitely call him. He probably just forgot!” (not a good sign). I did, and no answer. Today, my former colleague asked me if I had heard from him and I told him no, despite reaching out twice. He was very disappointed in his boss’ behavior, and said he would say something to him.

If I were to get the offer (which I highly doubt I will), would it be okay to reject it purely out of bitterness? I know the job hunting process can be exhausting, but because it wasn’t a generic interview process (it felt quite tailor-made to me) I feel like I at least deserve to know I wasn’t selected.

Although I really need another job due to financial reasons, I would be tempted to turn this company down because of the way I was treated post-interview. Do I have a right to feel so irritated and bitter? I feel like I would piss off my former colleague if I rejected the offer after all he did for me.

It’s certainly your prerogative to turn down a job offer because you don’t like how you were treated. That said, this kind of unresponsiveness post-interview is very, very common, and if you really need a job, you probably can’t write off everyone who operates this way, or you’d be closing yourself off to a huge portion of employers. (If you have plenty of options, then the calculation might be different.)

As for whether your feelings are justified by the situation, I’d say that it’s reasonable to be annoyed, but bitter feels stronger than warranted (and probably isn’t in your best interest, no matter how this plays out; it’s far better for your quality of life to know that this kind of thing, while rude, is really common and not personal).

5. Checking up on a payment from a freelance client

In spring, a nonprofit I’ve been involved with asked me if I could help them with some projects. I love this organization and their mission, they’re in an industry I want to get into, and the work they asked me to help them with is in line with what I do for my day job. Since what they were asking was a bit beyond the scope of what I would consider a volunteer role, they offered/I asked to be paid. We agreed to $X for 6 months of work (March-August), then I said we could sit down, see how those 6 months went, and go from there. I said I would be flexible on the payment schedule and they offered to pay me a monthly retainer that actually would be a bit over $X for 6 months, which I agreed to. I outlined what they would get for those 6 months of work and everyone was happy.

In July, they said they were a bit tight financially at the moment, but could most likely pay me in September. Because I’m a bit of a pushover (I’m working on it; I was proud of myself that I asked to be paid for my work in the first place) and because I really do love working with this group, I said that’s fine. They said just keep doing what I’ve been doing for them and they were happy with my work.

It just occurred to me that when they said they’d pay me in September, I assumed they meant the balance of what they owed me for July and August, plus now the retainer for September, but that was never clarified.

I know the obvious answer is to just ask, and ask ASAP, but how? I mostly interact with this organization via email and electronic communication, though I just asked the head (the one who brought me on board and the one who told me about the financial issues in July) if we could meet to talk about projects for fall. Do I bring this up with her then (when they told me in July, it was at a meeting I set up to talk about summer projects and I was caught a bit off-guard, which is also partly why I just said “ok”)? Do I give her a heads-up by email that this was my understanding and I wanted to make sure it was mutual?

I’d send a quick email that just says something like this, “Hey Jane, I just wanted to verify that you’ll be paying me this month the balance of what you owe for July and August, plus September (totaling $X). Let me know if that’s not correct!”

Also, if this payment does go through without issue, great — but if it doesn’t, I’d take that as a sign that you’re likely to be chasing down your money from them throughout your work there. If that’s the case, you’d want to decide how much you’re really willing to do without getting paid, and I’d consider having a hard stop where you won’t continue to work after a certain point until they’re caught up on paying you.

I’m all for cutting a good client some slack, especially a charity, but they committed to paying you, and if their ability to do that becomes less certain, they need to do the right thing — which in part means not asking more work of you until a time that they’re able to pay you what they owe and confidently commit to paying you going forward as well.

{ 323 comments… read them below }

  1. Sonya Mann*

    #4: It’s probably nothing personal. I’d try to look at this more as a signal about how the company operates than a personal slight. That said, job-hunting is frustrating and I sympathize.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Taking everything as a personal slight is a good way to mess up your career. Most people don’t have your priorities as their priorities. On the scale of things, this is a minor slight, if it is even a slight at all. Many companies move slowly. It is harder to fill a slot if it wasn’t advertised first, as the manager has to get permission for it. He may have intended to get back to you in a week, but couldn’t get permission to fill the slot.
      You come off as high maintenance when you get upset at such little things. Don’t do that to yourself! You’ll lose too many opportunities if you let your ego get in front of your life.

      1. OP*

        The reason why I’m feeling disappointed is because I interviewed with the big boss (it’s a start-up so there isn’t a hiring manager or anything like that). That’s probably also why I got my hopes up; I thought he would have most of the hiring power. However, you might be right that he couldn’t get the other partners to agree to fill the slot! I just have to chalk it up to them being very busy and not having the time to respond to unsuccessful candidates, which while is not entirely professional, very common…

        1. Daisy*

          The question you asked makes no sense to me though- you’re bitter because you think they’ve rejected you and not bothered to tell you, but you want to know whether you should reject the job if they offer it to you because… they’ve rejected you without telling you? That doesn’t follow. Surely if you get offered then there’s no problem, they just took two weeks to make a decision? That doesn’t seem outrageous to me.

          1. Space Ranger*

            It makes sense to me. If I were in the OP position, I would feel like the hiring manager was ignoring me and I would be annoyed. I think it’s reasonable to ask if this practice of not following up with candidates post-interview is normal and if it is not, would it be reasonable to turn down their offer.

            1. AnotherHRPro*

              We need to remember that while the status of the position is frequently one of the candidates #1 priorities, it is typically not for the hiring manager. You do not know what was going on within the company. Honestly even in normal time, 2 weeks without communication is fairly typical. I’m not saying that it should be that way, but it is.

              1. Koko*

                The manager is definitely rude to be flat-out ignoring the call and the email, but I agree that 2 weeks is not a long time at all, most hiring proceses take a lot longer than that. And while the manager absolutely has bad manners for not responding to a call or email, if something caught fire at the company that week I can easily see hiring for this essentially non-critical position sliding to the bottom of his list of priorities.

                In sum, the only judgment I’d make here is that the manager may be one who isn’t as responsive as an ideal manager would be. Personally, I wouldn’t reject a job over this. Of all the weaknesses or flaws a manager could have, poor responsiveness with external non-vendor/non-employee contacts is pretty tame.

                1. Ad Astra*

                  And since this is the big boss rather than the person who’d be managing OP directly, the lack of responsiveness may not be a huge issue once she’s on the job — though it depends on their workflow.

            2. fposte*

              I think there are several possible motivations in turning down an offer in a situation like this, and it’s good to figure out for oneself which ones are in play. If I’m turning down the offer because they’ve made me so frustrated that I can’t envision shaking it off to work for them with an open mind, fair enough. If I’m turning down the offer because I have reason to believe the company is problematically disorganized in a way that’s going to make working there a pain, fair enough.

              But if I’m turning down the offer because the delay made me mad and I want them to be sorry, that’s worth questioning. For one thing, they’re almost certainly not going to regret their process, because candidates turn down offers all the time. For another, that’s the classic cutting off your nose to spite your face–that’s trying to make them feel bad by hurting yourself. But usually all you end up with is hurting yourself, and I say this as somebody who is very tempted toward spitey nose-cuttings, so if this is how you feel I really do understand it. I just don’t recommend the action :-).

              1. Anonymous This Once*

                This, this, this. They haven’t gotten back to you because…they haven’t finished their decision-making process. That’s it. They’re not against you or trying to insult you or going out of their way to waste your time. Two critical people went on vacation in consecutive weeks, and now they have a big project to finish before they can get back to this. It’s not about you. They haven’t turned you down until they’ve turned you down.**

                If that reality of job-searching makes you so bitter that you’ll be a terrible employee for years on end, then yes, decline the job. You’ll end up declining 90% of jobs for which you ever interview, but hey, do what you gotta do.

                But if you think your declining the job means that in the future they’ll think again before two people go on vacation in consecutive weeks, and then they have a big project to finish? Nope, sorry. Not only that, someone else will happily take this job, and you’ll STILL need a new job.

                **I am currently sitting at a job where I applied in September, they interviewed me in January, they made the offer in March, and I started in May. By November, I had forgotten all about it. By February, I had forgotten all about it again.

                1. Vicki*

                  “By November, I had forgotten all about it. By February, I had forgotten all about it again.”

                  This is (for me) THE BIG take-away advice from AAM: Move. On.

                  Apply (and move on). You may hear back. If so, Interview (and move on). You may hear back. If so… whatever (and move on).

                  Oh, and congrats to Anonymous This Once.

        2. Today's anon*

          Even if he has the most hiring power, you don’t know if maybe he had one or more important meetings to get ready to or there was some fire he needed to put out, or more prosaically, make sure budget numbers work to hire you, where he needed to get information from the finance guy (who maybe is getting ready for 3rd quarter deadlines).

          1. Vicki*

            If he’s the “big boss” he probably does have important meetings to attend, fires to put out, investors to meet with, budget numbers to crunch…

        3. BRR*

          If your concern is if this is how he normally operates, I would ask your friend about it.

          A slightly delayed time frame though is normal. Often times hiring managers have to get approval from a number of people and aren’t allowed to say anything to candidates. A super awesome hiring manager I interviewed with who kept me up to date and was very honest about everything didn’t reply to my email. She later sent a very nice rejection. I’m going to make a guess that she just wasn’t allowed to say anything at all due to HR rules of limiting lawsuit potential.

          1. College Career Counselor*

            +1. Many times, the organization won’t get back to ANYbody (even those they do not wish to interview) until the candidate to whom they made the offer accepts.

            1. SquirrelInMT*

              +1. This is an unwritten company rule when we are hiring. We don’t notify candidates about rejections until after somebody has accepted an offer. Sometimes, the person who gets hired isn’t the business’ first choice!

        4. Anon for this*

          It’s not respectful but it is common. If you turn down the job (and you want it) you’ll just be hurting yourself, not making a point.

          I hope an offer comes through!

          1. JMegan*

            I agree. It’s certainly your prerogative to turn down the job out of bitterness, or for any other reason, but the outcome is the same – you won’t have the job. At most, someone at the company will say “Oh, that’s too bad, best of luck in the future.” They’re not going to suddenly turn around and say “Damn, that’s right – we SHOULD have been more responsive to OP! Let’s call her back right now and offer her the job!”

            As Alison and others have pointed out, a wait time of two weeks is not all that long from an employer perspective, and is also very common. So it’s worth adjusting your expectations on that front, rather than getting worked up about it every time it happens (because it will most likely happen again at some point!)

            Good luck!

            1. TootsNYC*

              It’s going to naturally be an even longer wait since the position doesn’t even exist yet, and it wasn’t his idea.

              Heck, it may never materialize.

          1. Dang*

            Exactly. Plus if it’s a startup, the positions and responsibilities could be in flux… he could be figuring out where exactly to fit you in. This happened to me (I don’t work for a startup though), they never even filled the position I initially interviewed for, but I ended up with the same job in a different division of the company. Point is, you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, and yes it’s rude to not hear back, but you still could and it would be silly to turn down a job just because of this. In my case, the lack of responsiveness and exhaustive, eyerollworthy interview process did not translate to a hot mess once I started working here- I’m happy at my company.

        5. Cordelia Naismith*

          I get why you’re feeling disappointed, but I think turning down a job you really want because they were slow in getting back to you would be cutting off your nose to spite your face. If there are other reasons why you’re thinking this may not be the right job for you, fine — but if literally the only reason you might turn this job down is because they didn’t reply to you within a couple of weeks…that’s your prerogative, of course, but, like Allison said, this kind of delay is really common.

        6. Alli525*

          I think it’s important to note that your colleague told you from the outset that he was “trying to make them hire someone with good written skills to clean up their online content.” That doesn’t mean that they were completely sold on hiring someone – “Bob said we needed to hire someone, and you know what, we really do! Yay! We have all the necessary approvals and budget to hire someone! Double yay! Let’s do this!” is an extremely uncommon scenario in most cases. Interviewing can sometimes be more of an informational meeting, where they get to know you and hopefully find a place for you down the road… but especially considering that the role did not already exist (nor was it posted/advertised anywhere) when you went in for the interview, I think it’s safe to assume that getting the approval and budget squared away could likely be a primary cause for the delay.

        7. Ad Astra*

          There you go. I don’t blame you for being frustrated and disappointed, but pretty everything in life is easier when you have the ability to not take things personally. It’s a skill that will serve you well.

        8. Koko*

          Just a point on the vocabulary here, since a lot of new readers get confused on this one – the “hiring manager” is the manager who is hiring for a vacancy on their team, the manager who the position will be reporting to. It doesn’t refer to an HR manager in charge of hiring for all positions, which a lot of people seem to think when they hear the term.

        9. KimmieSue*

          Having worked in many start-ups…it’s crazy & chaotic. Everyone is likely doing the job of 2-3 people. While hiring someone is a priority, it likely takes a back-seat to many other fires going on. If the start-up is in rapid expansion, it could be even more craziness.

        10. catsAreCool*

          The people at the top of the ladder in a start-up can be extremely busy. It’s probably not personal.

      2. MK*

        I think the real issue is not that the OP wasn’t hired, but the lack of response. The process might have stalled for any number reasons, but the proper thing to do would be to shoot a “this is going to take longer that we originally thought” e-mail, especially once the OP reached out.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I have been the hiring manager who drops off the face of the earth a few times lately, and here’s why: I really think things are going to move faster than they are! So I keep hoping tomorrow, I’ll be able to reach out to the candidate(s) with some actual news, but then tomorrow comes and goes, and I don’t have things nailed down yet, and and and. Of course, I’m in a more bureaucratic place than a small start-up, so there are many approvals needed at various steps of the process.

          1. Koko*

            I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that it took me years to realize that it’s better to reply and say, “I don’t have an answer yet, but I received your message and I’m working to get the answer. I’ll update you as soon as I have more information,” than it is to wait days for an answer before replying.

            I don’t think I’m alone in that, either. For whatever reason, people tend to want to wait to reply until they have a full answer and don’t think about how from the other end the other person has no idea if you didn’t get their message, if you’re ignoring them, or what, and that, “I don’t have an answer yet,” is a response they would welcome.

            1. Charby*

              Agreed. This is something that’s super helpful not just in this context but in any kind of personal role. People tend to get irritated if they think they’re being completely ignored; they can handle delays or complications as long as they can tell that they’re in some kind of queue. It’s the same reason why call centers say something like, “there are two callers ahead of you,” or why package delivery services like to give people updates about where their package is.

              It’s not the delay that freaks people out, it’s the uncertainty as well as the vague, possibly irrational fear that they’re not hearing *anything* it’s because they’ve been completely forgotten.

              1. Dana*

                This is why when I delivered pizza it was so important to err on the side of a long delivery time estimate–you think saying a shorter one would make people happier, but they’d much rather wait longer (and be pleasantly surprised if it arrives earlier) than watch their estimated time come and go and then be uncertain if their pizza was coming at all.

        2. Product person*

          Some of my best jobs, in which I not only earned a lot of money but felt happy in, and led to important accomplishments that help me get new gigs, started off with what could be very disrespectful behavior from HR / hiring managers. I just left a job in which everybody was super nice and considerate during the hiring process, but the work itself turned out to be way below my experience level, and I’m in a much better professional position now. So I would consider “being kept informed of the progress of the hiring process” as a nice-to-have, but definitely not the main criteria for my decision-making on whether to take a job or not.

          Some people involved in the hiring process may be involved in too many things and fail do be considerate to candidates — that doesn’t mean you should make that your central data point for deciding whether to take a job or not.

        3. Suzanne*

          LOL, MK. In my experience, hiring people reaching out to tell a candidate that the hiring process has stalled or been delayed almost never happens. I know they are busy, but I have never understood why this common courtesy is so lacking.

          1. Koko*

            I’m not sure what it is about humans that makes us do this, but it’s not limited to hiring. I see it all the time with inter-departmental emails at almost every place I’ve worked. You email IT or Finance with a question and 3 days later get a reply that begins with, “Sorry for taking so long to get back to you, [explanation of delay,]” rather than a proactive email saying, “I’m working on this for you, but [circumstances causing delay]. I’ll let you know as soon as I can.”

            For whatever reason people seem to have a strong preference to not reply to emails until they can put the issue to bed. It took me years to unlearn this habit, personally.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              So true! There used to be a general rule of if you didn’t have the answer by end of business that day, to send an “I’m looking into it” email. But I think that’s devolved in this increasingly busier and busier world we live in. The place I work now, there’s certain emails I send to certain people that I never ever hear back from. I’ve taken to copying myself and moving the messages into a “follow up” folder for these particular people, but how sad that I would even need to do that.

          2. SquirrelInMT*

            I think it’s tricky. In, say, one month’s time, I’ve had a hiring manager go from telling me to replace a terminated employee to rewriting the job description to, hold up, maybe we don’t need anybody at all, to whoops, OK, we have a monster deadline, we need somebody yesterday, but now you need to look back through the existing applicants for these other criteria. And then maybe you finally pick someone and they quit or get fired after the first few days. Businesses don’t operate in vacuums, and on the hiring end, the instructions HR is receiving can vary by the day. But you really, really don’t want constant e-mails telling you that we *might* pull the job or *might* completely change our minds and create an entirely different opening until those decisions are final, do you?

            1. F.*

              Very true. I would also add that the HR Department of most small companies is One Person. And that single person may be running ads for multiple openings and receiving literally hundreds of resumes. In addition, the same person handles new hire onboarding, terminations, all insurance benefits, background checks and drug screens, employee professional certification training scheduling, tracking PTO, all administrative duties for the 401k, all ERISA reporting, employment verifications, maintenance of the ADP files, legal research into HR laws, updating the employee handbook, answering employee questions, sales support and executive assistant duties for the general manager AND filling in for the receptionist/admim for months. That is why I simply cannot respond to every resume I receive. I do respond to people we interview, once the hiring manager makes up their mind.

    2. Kate M*

      I hire and manage interns for my office, and I’m basically the only one who makes the decision, so you would think it would be a quick and straightforward process. I thought so too at first. But it normally goes:

      -I gather all the resumes, look through them, and try to set up interviews with about 7-8 people (for 3-4 intern slots) for a 2-3 day period (including Skype interviews for those that can’t make it in).
      -In the interview, I ask everyone to send me at least two references.
      -I tell people I hope to have a decision made by the end of next week. (So if interviews are Tuesday-Thursday, I hope to have a decision and let people know by a week from that Friday).
      -I choose my top 3-4 candidates I’d like to hire, and it could take them until Friday sometimes to get me references.
      -I reach out to references Friday or Monday. I sometimes don’t hear back for a few days, so let’s say I hear back from two interns’ references by Wednesday, and they’re great. I offer the position to those two, and they ask to have until the next day to make a decision.
      -I reach out again to the other interns’ references, and it takes another couple of days to hear back.
      -One intern accepts on Thursday, the other turns it down. I offer the position to the other two on Friday, and one accepts, and one turns it down. So I’m left with two accepted interns for 3-4 slots.
      -Now it’s the Friday I thought everything would be settled, but I have to decide whether I start contacting candidates’ references who are lower down on my list, or start from scratch if I’m having second thoughts about any of those. I don’t want to reject them yet because I’m not sure, but I don’t want to string them along either.

      That’s just an example of how it usually goes for me. I’ve learned to give a longer/more ambiguous timeline, but you would think it would take a couple of days to contact references and make an offer. But it always takes so much longer than you think, and this is just for interns (who only go through one interview with me, and nobody else has input).

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Our decision making process is pretty lean and if we’re back to somebody before 2 weeks that’s because someone has personally decided to fast track and shoved things through every step of the way. It happens, but it’s not the process for every hire (’cause it can’t be).

    3. Vicki*

      Dear OP #4 –

      Hiring managers have a Very different Sense of Urgency than candidates. Unlike us (the job seekers), their lives revolve around actual in-place projects. New people are “nice to have” and “we’ll get to it”, while day-to-day activities take up most of their mind space.

      As far as I’ve been able to figure out, for people already in the job, a week passes in what, to us, feels like an hour… and vice versa.

      Think back to childhood and waiting for Christmas, your birthday, or a vacation. The time went so SLOWLY. The goal was always so far away!

      This is job searching as an adult. The job seeker keeps asking “Are we there yet?” The managers are concentrating on driving the car.

      Please do NOT reject a job out of “bitterness” because the manager hasn’t gotten back to you. He will (or he won’t). In the meantime, move on.

  2. Limepink22*

    #3 I also wouldn’t count on being hired, there are people with admin backgrounds who would be tight competition and seeing your job history, as a hiring manager I would assume you’d look to jump ASAP and prefer a career admin over you. Also, even if you got hired AND got to transfer, people might still see you as the receptionist that should now be your colleagues.

    #4 Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face- take the job, take the money and keep looking. Also, if I was your former colleague Id be irritated if i chased my boss down thinking I was helping you (wasting political and social capital) for you to reject my place of employment. If you feel that strongly, tell your friend and don’t let it get to the offer stage, or i think you’ll make their future referrals look bad

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Don’t take the job if you’re going to keep looking though — it’ll make the friend who went to bat for her look bad, will burn a bridge, and could potentially impact the OP’s reputation in her field. If she takes it, she really needs to operate in good faith and stop looking for something else.

      1. Limepink22*

        Ahh. Yes, if its a full time job, take it in good faith. I read “clean up their online content” to be a part time job, or a one time gig Alison.

        1. OP*

          This would be a part-time agreement to begin with, and they said if all goes well we could re-negotiate a full-time copywriting position.

          What’s your take on taking a part-time position even though you’re still on the look-out for a full time job, Alison? I would feel guilty if I quit a part-time job after a few months, so I probably would stop looking and instead focus on securing that full-time agreement.

          1. MK*

            That sounds unwise to me, considering there is currently no one covering the work at all, let alone full-time; the is a good chance that it might never happen. I don’t kow much about part-time positions, but I don’t think they carry the same expectations as full-time; I don’t think it’s inappropriate to keep looking in this case.

          2. Zillah*

            I’m not Alison, but IMO that would be a huge mistake. You have no way of knowing when you’ll find full time work, and you need to pay the bills. IME, part time jobs generally understand that one trade off of not having to pay for a full time employee is less stability in the role.

          3. Jules*

            Since they want to trial you, I would see if they would be willing to make it a contract or remote role while it’s part time (allowing you to fit it around other commitments and/or keep job hunting for something full time).

            But I should also point out that with ‘customised-for-you’ roles, the hiring process can be really long, even if you are the only candidate – it takes time for an organisation (even if it’s wholly in one person’s hands) to figure out how the person they met at an interview fills a hole in the organisation. It could be that they thought they had a part-time-copywriter-shaped hole, but that once they met you, they also realised that there’s a part-time-speechwriter-shaped hole that you could also fill which would change the part time job to a full time job.

            Most of my jobs have been custom-designed for me and the hiring process always takes time while we figure out exactly how we can work together profitably. For my first custom job, for example, I interviewed in September and got an offer in February; my current job, I interviewed in October 2013 and didn’t actually get an offer until June 2014. Admittedly, what I do is quite a bit rarer than copywriting….

            1. the gold digger*

              Most of my jobs have been custom-designed for me

              My boss changed the job description after he interviewed me in January. Then they hired a new VP and the VP had to weigh in. Then they made me an offer but the title had been changed from “manager” to “analyst” and I said I was not analyst level and had not been analyst level for almost 20 years. So then they had to change the title and re-post the job and we had to negotiate vacation because HR gave me the boilerplate offer letter that they give to new college grads and it had only two weeks of vacation, etc., etc., etc.

              (PS HR, do not do this! If you must send a boilerplate letter, then design one for experienced hires that is different from new college grad hires. It was a little bit insulting. And I am not going back to two weeks of vacation after having been in the workforce for over 20 years. Honestly.)

              First interview: January
              Job start: August

              1. Ad Astra*

                My department’s new hire has at least 20 years of experience, took a hard-to-fill position here, and imo adds a great deal of value to our team. I found out recently that she gets the same ONE week of vacation per year that I get, because that’s the policy for everyone below VP level. I was floored.

                1. Charby*

                  Hopefully they make up for that by having superb employee benefits and above market pay! (Ha ha!!)

                  No, that’s my favorite employer quirk — really mediocre benefits/pay for skillsets that are extremely rare and in-demand, then spending a lot of time wondering why it’s hard to fill the role.

          4. Not me*

            Oooh, I’ve been there.

            Two and a half years. Still in the part-time position. Training for more advanced work never materialized, no matter how hard I’ve worked, no matter how qualified I am.

            Don’t do it.

    2. INTP*

      Very true about #3. Admin work is like any other profession, it requires experience to be very good at, and they may not want to train someone from a different line of work rather than hire a career admin. (There’s really no reason to unless OP is willing to accept entry level admin pay.) It drives me nuts when people think they can’t get an admin job because they’re “overqualified.” No, you are underqualified because you have no admin experience. (OP doesn’t seem to be saying that, but it’s a common sentiment and goes along with thinking someone is qualified for admin work because they’ve done other office work.)

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I have a different view on this one – I am an executive assistant who has been promoted in every single one of my jobs except this one (but I have turned down two promotions here because I don’t want to be a project manager). It depends on the field – there are some industries where is is very common and almost expected for admins to be promoted out of the role – I have seen it very often in more creative fields with a heavy female presence, like publishing, marketing, fashion and PR. But in professional services, like law, consulting, etc…it is extremely rare and you would likely be considered a slight “troublemaker” for trying to get out of an admin role.

        However, this should be made very clear in an interview (hopefully). We only want career admins here and we state that multiple times during the interview process so there won’t be problems later.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Exactly what I was thinking. Most companies are interviewing you looking for someone interested in *that* job, not someone that’s immediately looking beyond. After all, they have to take the time and effort to train you on their processes, etc. Maybe it is different in some fields, as you mentioned. But none of the fields I’ve worked in have a promotion track for Admins. Plus, your Marketing skills will get rusty while you work in another role, which is also a concern if you start applying to Marketing roles outside this company. Your interviewers may say to themselves “well, she hasn’t done any marketing or PR in two years so…”

        2. TootsNYC*

          Editorial Assistants often move up to Assistant Editor. But at one publication I worked for, we were all so very relieved when they filled the slot with a floating admin professional. I think it was supposed to be temporary, but we saw such a difference that we lobbied to keep it that way–and we did.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        In my experience, admin work is like most other professions in that it doesn’t require a lot of experience to be very good at. I find in general (unless you’re working a highly specialized and skilled area) experience is overrated or has significantly diminishing returns.

        I had no problem getting into and keeping up with admin work when I was an admin assistant. There were definitely things I had to learn on the job, but my ability to juggle things and be detail-oriented was something I brought to the job—the actual logistics were easy to pick up. I’ve seen many admin assistants who have decades of experience who can’t do simple things themselves, and I’ve seen newbies come in and clean house.

        When I was involved in hiring my replacement, I made a strong push with my boss to hire a candidate who had “less experience” because she was tech-savvy and eloquent. Another candidate whose résumé looked good on paper couldn’t find her way around an Excel spreadsheet. Fortunately, my boss listened to me, and my successor turned out to be amazing.

        Same deal even with teaching (to a certain extent). I’ve never seen an amazing first-year teacher, but once you get to year three or four, you can easily have a stellar teacher who’s leaps and bounds ahead of a veteran teacher who’s been doing it for 15 or 30 years.

      3. WorkingMom*

        Taking a different role to get into the company can backfire. I once had a direct report (whom I hired) and during the interview we discussed how this role takes time to learn, often a couple of years to get good at it. We expressly tell interviewees, it’s not the job to take if you’re trying to get your foot in the door. Well, that’s what this person did. Then fast forward 2 years, and this person was furious that they couldn’t move to another business segment, because they were on a corrective action plan, for poor performance. (Because this role was NOT the work the individual really wanted to do – but they played along to get the job, to get a foot in the door.) Bad situation all around.

  3. Chickaletta*

    #3- That seems to be very common advice because I heard it a couple times during my job search too this summer and I’m not even entry level (15+ years in the workforce). I’m still not sure why these people thought it was the best path for me, especially considering that they did not take that path themselves. Was it because I’m a female? (ugh, I hope not, but I’ve been around long enough to know that people don’t even realize they make those types of associations). Because I look young? Because I’m well organized and some people translate that to administration? Because they were just trying to be helpful and didn’t know what else to say? This happened particularly when I was targeting specific companies that I really wanted to work for and I was willing to take a less-than-perfect job to get my foot in the door. But some people interpreted that as taking a truly entry-level and commonly advertised position: the admin (I was also advised to apply for entry-level teller positions and call center rep). None of these jobs required a college degree or experience (at these particular places), which made me pretty over-qualified, even if I parred down my resume. Fortunately, something much better came along.

    Hang in there. YOU know what you’re worth, and if you really believe it then it will come across that way and you will eventually get a job that fits your qualifications.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      It feels like kind of a dated mindset to me – “Start in the mailroom and work your way up to vice president!” or something.

      1. Three Thousand*

        Being told to try to start as an admin is almost exclusively going to happen to women. I agree that it probably comes from a fairly dated, folkloric idea that this is how people start and build careers or begin tenure at new companies. It also seems to come from a time when more people worked for one company for pretty much their entire careers, since it’s bizarre to suggest someone already established in a field should aim for “entry-level” (not that administrative jobs should necessarily be thought of that way) again just because they want to move to a new company.

          1. Jerzy*

            All I kept thinking about was Peggy Olsen while reading this letter. It’s important to remember she’s a fictional character who stumbled into a career that she made a successful one. Not everyone is going to find someone to open the door for them and invite them to the grown-ups table. It’s better to go directly for the job you want, even if it’s entry level, than expect that Cinderella is real.

            I apologize for all the metaphors. I’m on a new migraine med and I think it’s making me a little giddy. ;)

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Plus, she spend the rest of her career defending herself against rumors she slept her way to the top. No fun.

          2. Lily in NYC*

            Wow. Some of us have CHOSEN to be career admins. This attitude is one of my biggest pet peeves about my job – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that I’m “too smart” for my job and it’s always from people who have no idea what I do all day and assume I make $5 an hour and that I’m just dying to get off the admin track into a different role. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a career admin and it can be a very lucrative position.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              This. Plus, OP, if you think you’ll get out of the admin role into something else, you should know that doesn’t happen in a lot of companies. It’s really easy to get stuck on the front desk forever.
              They are two very different skill sets. They hire someone into the role rather than promoting an admin.

              Even if a company isn’t looking for career admins, they’re not likely to look at someone in that role. They’ll wonder too why you’re not just applying for PR positions.

            2. Michelle*

              + a million. I’ve chosen to be a career admin, too, and I love what I do and I am great at it. Every single evaluation I’ve had states that I do exemplary work.

              Just a side note for OP #3 the company I work for is very big on promoting from within. I started out as a part-time guest services staff member and was promoted to my current position as soon as a need for this position was realized. Our current Director of Marketing started out as a part-time guest service staff member at a sister location, promoted to admin at that location, transferred here as the membership manager and then got the DOM job. Current membership manager started out as a part-time staff member, current gallery manager started out part-time, etc. Many of our current part-time guest services and education staff members started out as volunteers, just to get their “foot in the door”. So I think it depends on how each company views promoting from within.

            3. Ad Astra*

              In my experience, many of the admins at PR and marketing firms are not career admins while banks, law firms, and various large corporations have almost exclusively career admins. It sounds like the OP wants to move from a PR firm to a large company that does something else entirely and happens to have a communications department.

              Being a Season 1 Peggy might not be appealing, but being a Season 1 Joan sure could be.

            4. Stranger than fiction*

              Indeed. I, too, am an Admin. I began as one years as years ago, and I came back to it by choice after years and years of sales and customer service. I got to the point that I was tired and burnt out from dealing with customers, lol. But, it’s such a generic title and duties vary so greatly across companies and industries- you could be entry level or someone’s right hand person that knows everything. I still get to use my brain, because my job is 90% running reports and manipulating data all day. I filled a hole they had, and it just happened to be assisting two managers so they labeled it Admin.

            5. Jerzy*

              This is very true, and a good admin can make or break an office. I have seen the best and the worst in this role and have no doubt that career admins are essential to any organization.

              But just as some people choose to be a career admin, some people do not and those who don’t wouldn’t want to take a job doing that when their eye is always going to be wandering to other positions. It’s not a foot in the door to something else as some people might hope. It’s a career within its own right, and should be taken seriously.

            6. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              When I was looking at options during my last job search my friend suggested I take a look at his dad’s open EA position.

              The fact that it would have been a $30 -40k bump in salary was tempting, but the job requirements were daunting. There was an extreme level of detail, organization, and zen required that I knew I didn’t have!

        1. Natalie*

          I wonder if it dates from a point when one of the only ways to get in the door as a woman was as an admin (secretary, at the time).

        2. Gumption-grabber*

          Not really, there are just different words in use. The original gendered words for dead-end office work were “clerk” for men and “secretary” for women. Secretary got push back due to its cultural baggage and sexist connotations, while clerk just started to seem dated — if you had an office full of clerks you might as well be Mr. Burns bursting out of his office shouting for people to fire up the teletype machine. So the terms were changed to “office assistant” and “administrative assistant”, which immediately became gendered again (although at least mildly less than before). While men may rarely be encouraged to apply as administrative assistants, they are frequently encouraged to apply as office assistants.

      2. PoorDecisions101*

        This sometimes works if you’re entry level – I started off admin as a new grad and went into a professional role a couple of years later.

        What worked in my favour was that my boss was fantastic and hired specifically thinking of the role as a foot in a door position and would consistently provide higher level work. I was involved in the hiring process after I left and one downside was when she was interviewing non entry level people and talking up the role. I felt that it was misrepresenting the role. Maybe she was right though, since the next long timer was a public service manager who stayed for a while before moving on to a BA role (apparently we paid more to an admin than a statistics manager in federal government), though one person left after a short timeframe because of it.

        1. Jen RO*

          It happened at my company as well – out of four admins we’ve had since I’ve been here, two have moved on to other internal roles (one in HR, one in professional services)… but I still wouldn’t suggest it as a career move.

          1. Jazz*

            Also, HR is a lot closer to admin (entry-level HR roles typically involve a lot of admin) than, say, copywriting.

            1. Jen RO*

              Yep, she was hired on an HR admin position (basically supporting the rest of the HR recruitment department).

        2. AVP*

          This worked for me as well, but I know how rare it is and how frequently it doesn’t work out so I really hesitate in recommending anyone try… unless I know the company personally and I know that this is how they operate. What worked for me was that it was a very small company with some really fantastic direct managers, and because we were understaffed at the time I had the opportunity to volunteer for projects to get my work on peoples’ radar. Also I was entry-level at the time anyway so there was no risk in going backward, career-wise.

          Another thing that worked in my favor was that the skills that make someone a good admin are very similar and transferrable to the skills you need in the job I wanted, so it was essentially an extended paid try-out at a prestigious company.

        3. Ad Astra*

          I agree that this is a reasonable approach if you’re not currently working in the field or position you want to be in. Some companies do emphasize promotion from within, especially if you’re more or less qualified for a position that just isn’t open right now.

          But quitting a job in your field to get your foot in at the ground-level of another company? Yeah, that’s bad advice.

      3. Gumption-grabber*

        That upward job mobility is considered a dated mindset is kind of depressing, don’t you think?

        Not saying it isn’t, but “Work hard and go to school because one day you’ll be doing the exact same thing you did before — I mean, really, nobody is ever going to hire you for anything else, who do you think you are? — but at least you won’t have been fired!” isn’t exactly the most motivational motivational speech, horror and despair of long-term unemployment nonwithstanding.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          I don’t think upward mobility as a whole is dated – but the idea that you should start with whatever and you can work your way up through unrelated roles, is dated. A typical career track is not to start by washing windows at World Wide Wicket Company, then get a job sorting packages in the mailroom, magically get promoted to junior systems executive, leap to VP of advertising, and then become Chairman of the Board. A more logical progression is to get a degree related to advertising, do an internship or two, then move to junior copywriter, senior copywriter, junior art director, senior art director, creative director, and perhaps eventually VP of advertising.

    2. BRR*

      I’m skeptical of the advice because I’ve heard at a lot of companies admins rarely move up.

      Also be careful of “I want to work at THIS company.”

        1. Alli525*

          Absolutely true. I work for a small-ish-but-growing company (~40 when I started, ~70 now), which you would think meant that they would be more willing to promote admins as we get bigger… but that has absolutely not been the case. Only one woman has ever been able to leave her admin role and switch into a research role, and that happened this year. One other got a “manager” title but she was managing data, not people, and she still had to do all the same admin duties. It looks like I will be in a similar position at the end of this year, and by then I’ll have been here 4 years.

        2. Shan*

          This is very true. My organization doesn’t have an admin and I’m the most junior at my organization, so I do a lot of admin work, even though my title is something else completely. I do a lot of client-facing work and have clients who have mistakenly called me an admin, assistant, etc.

          I’m trying to move up and build my career but it’s really hard to not be seen as an “admin.” Even though that’s not even my title, and not even the majority of my work, that’s what clients see me doing, so it’s really difficult to get them to realize I actually do something else.

          1. Shan*

            Just wanted to add that there’s nothing wrong with being an admin, career admin or otherwise! I work with many (probably why there’s some confusion surrounding my role) and they have helped me so much. That’s why I really dislike the outdated advice of “go into admin work and move up” – it’s assuming that admin work is something anyone can do, and it’s definitely not!

    3. JGray*

      I agree with Allison on the advise for this person. I went through something similar with my last job. I am an admin and have 10+ years experience as one. I worked for a nonprofit program that I believed in the mission but there was no upward movement in the particular program. The program was part of a larger organization and so after awhile I was encouraged to look for other upward movement roles in the larger organization. I did so and I think that it only made me look bad to those that I was working with (the comment was also made to me that I “wasn’t happy in my current role”) because people made assumptions. No one wants to be stagnant and it was more about growth- after 5 years I knew a lot about the organization as a whole but different roles can teach you different things. The only role that I was offered was a unilateral move with a pay cut (!). So feel that even if you have proved yourself by working somewhere for a period of time that doesn’t mean that they will promote from within.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes, we should add that to Alison’s list from yesterday about outdated job search advice for sure.

    5. seisy*

      I do think it’s the woman thing. People keep trying to shunt me into admin roles, which I hate and am not particularly well suited for, and I’ve got two advanced degrees from good schools and four years experience in a management-level role (admittedly in non-profits, and I’m trying to get out of that, but still). The thing that really gets me down about the whole thing is that I have a guy friend from one of my universities who never actually finished his degree and his work history is primarily high school-type jobs, but the career advice he gets and the career advice I get are very, very different. We both ended up working the same (short term) admin job (I recommend him for it after I left), and people were falling over themselves to tell him that it was a waste of his talents (he is very smart and hard working, but neither am I chopped liver) and me, I always ended up having to defend the fact that I wanted something more than admin work.

  4. Stephanie*

    #3: I did this at my company and it’s a very common thing to do here. It’s a big part of our culture and is even parroted all over the website. So it can be done, but it’ll be very clear upfront that advancing like that is a thing and there should be several examples of people who did this around. But as an upside, you can be sort of honest that you want to do something else aside from what you’re currently doing.

    That being said, I think we’re an outlier. And it has its downsides–I think our pay is low because of it (as they can just give you a raise based on your curent salary) and you can’t really say no to a promotion. I got offered a less than ideal promotion and couldn’t really say no without awkwardness/ramifications because the internal advancement culture is SO strong. IME, I’ve found that upper management takes umbrage if you want to do anything less than work here until you reach Social Security age.

    So it’s a double-edged sword. I think most places, this is not the case and that that is bad advice.

    1. Dan*

      And even then, I’m going to guess that some jobs *still* require a specific degree to get? IMHO, that’s why a lot of schools like Strayer and the University of Phoenix exist. Those places are unlikely to get you a new career job, but they’re certainly going to check that degree box that is required for advancement in a promote-from-within company.

      1. Stephanie*

        The more technical or detailed ones do, especially past the entry level for that function. Now you could go to school (and not just at a Phoenix or Strayer), get the degree, and get into the higher-level functions.

        My dad’s ex-company has a fair amount of Phoenix grads floating around who were employees who got in when the degree wasn’t required and then needed a degree to keep their job or get a promotion.

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    4. My rule of thumb with job hunting timings is that whatever the interviewer tells you, double it. Mind you, my current record is 3 months between 2nd interview and the email which starts with “We really enjoyed meeting you but…”

      1. Merry and Bright*

        +100 When I got my current job, I enjoyed contacting a bunch of places I had interviewed at and who had promised to follow up (but hadnt!) to thank them again but to let them know I had accepted another offer. I was ever so polite and professional, but oh it was fun!

    1. OP*

      3 months?! Wow…

      I also had the advice of doubling the interviewer’s timeline in mind as I’ve read it on Alison’s website several times, BUT at the back of my mind I’m thinking: They are a small, young start-up company. If it were a big, established corporation I would not think this is a long wait. Or would you apply the “double it” rule across the board?

      1. Colette*

        There is no company, regardless of size, where everyone’s entire job is to hire. A startup is going to have competing priorities, just like a big company.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I would actually triple the timeline for a start-up. A large, established corporation has processes in place and fewer risks. A start-up often has a few people doing many jobs, limited resources, and a lot at stake. If the organization is run by partners, they all have to come to an agreement. If there are investors, sometimes the investors have to get involved. Every single decision that costs money is, sometimes, looked over with a fine-toothed comb.

        Regardless of process, at a start-up, you’re also a bit more likely to fall into the, “I didn’t like her shoes,” trap– if one person feels like they didn’t gel with you, then you’re out. You could be the most qualified of the qualified, but if the vibe isn’t there, that would stick out in such a small place.

        1. Alli525*

          +100 to your first paragraph. I feel a little “meh” about the second bit of insight – not all start-ups are that stringent or picky, especially in larger start-ups – but I’m positive it happens more often than it should.

        2. INTP*

          This plus a large company has employees dedicated just to the hiring process and corresponding with candidates. At a startup your contact may be the hiring manager and your anxiety about whether you got the job or not is pretty much their lowest priority, and if you have an HR contact, that person may be responsible for all of the HR, marketing, and biz dev functions in the company. And all these people may be working 80 hour weeks at their regular jobs and not feel inclined to add more to that to make sure the hiring process is swift and candidate friendly.

        3. TootsNYC*

          and maybe quadruple it because the role is not established already, AND because its existence was suggested by someone who is not the top decision-maker.

          Also, if they decide they want that role, they’ve interviewed only one person, so they might decide to look around a little bit.

      3. Alston*

        Hahahaha. We are small young start up who can take months! Why so long? We are dreadfully understaffed and hiring is such a hassle (not my department, we take two to three weeks, for the record). Startups can have even worse organization/no timelines, and we want rockstar/astronaut/cowboys because we are capital A Awesome and we won’t settle for less…. Or we don’t actually know what we want.

        but my sympathies OP.

      4. BrownEyedGirl*

        I once had an interview where they flew me cross country and put me up in a hotel. I interviewed with an entire department including the department head and had a really great experience. Then I flew back home and didn’t hear from them… for a year.

        And then they flew me out for a second round of interviews and hired me.

        I’m still working there three and a half years later.

      5. Stranger than fiction*

        My BF was just contacted last week from a company he interviewed with 10 months ago. He’s currently working another job, but went out of interest. It’s also a start up, and one of the first thing out of the guy’s mouth was “I have to be upfront, some months we have trouble making payroll”. It’s a higher level position, but still, just goes to show you it can take an indefinite amount of time.

      6. Chalupa Batman*

        Yeah, I applied for my job in February and didn’t get an offer until mid-May. I didn’t even get a call until late April, and I knew they wanted the position filled by the beginning of April. My field is notoriously slow at hiring (academia), but I even when I was interviewing outside the field, I always assumed that I can completely ignore the timeline they give me because it ain’t gonna happen. 1-3 weeks from their target date seems pretty normal.

      7. LQ*

        The company I applied to that would best be described as a young start up took 9 months. I got a government position and a government promotion in that time. The only offered me the job when I withdrew from the process (I just got the promotion). 9 months, 6 interviews, all for a very entry kind of position. And they were small and I interviewed with the CEO.

        Don’t assume tiny companies make fast decisions. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Oh this is definitely true. I got two calls from companies I’d applied to after I started my current job–they wanted to interview me. Which was nice, but I had applied at least two or three months back. Too late!

  6. Mean Something*

    #4: it sounds like it’s been between two and three weeks (interview last week of August), which just isn’t very long in hiring terms. I mean, when I’m hiring I don’t let a candidate go two weeks post-interview without hearing from me, but lots of hiring managers do.

  7. Dan*


    In general, I think it’s more outdated advice than bad advice. Admittedly, I work in a field where peoples’ degrees matter, I can’t just pluck you out of the mail room and “see what you can do.”

    If you work in the mail room, or even as my admin, I can’t hire you on as technical staff without some sort of technical degree. And if you did have a technical degree, I would want to know why you are applying for a job in the mail room or admin.

    BTW, our mail room is contracted out, so if you work there, you’re not even working for us. We don’t have reception, but we do have a security desk. Same applies there — the only way that security job is getting you a foot in the door is that you are finishing up your education in a field we care about, or are getting training in the military or something, and you somehow are able to make connections with managers who would interview you. But even that’s a crap shoot — 3500 people work at my facility, I’m not sure how security would even really get a chance to interact with our managers in a meaningful way.

    1. dawbs*

      For me, at least, if I see you in our mail room, and you’re AWESOME, there’s also the fact that I may very well be stepping on the toes the mail-room-manager by luring you away. Some departments don’t share well with others–and while the company would rather keep a good admin than loose a good admin to an outside poaching, the admin’s boss might prefer to keep a good admin rather than loose that admin to the teapot sample department..

      And as much as I might be able to use a good Chocolate Teapot Pourer intern, I would rather sandpaper off my left toenail with dermal denticles than piss her off. (I made that mistake once, with the literal manager of the mail room at my workplace. She never did anything malicious, but she quit going out of her way for me and making my job easier for a few years. I have purchased my way back into her good (or at least neutral) graces with baked goods & a sincere apology [because I screwed up -me and my big mouth].

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Most excellent point! Some (bad) managers like to hold great people back because they don’t want to lose them! Seen it many a time, not just with Admins.

  8. Duncan M.*

    #3 This is indeed a common advice, and there is something true about it, but not applicable in your situation. To be more exact, this is something I would tell someone who does not have a clear path about what he/she wants to do or does not have enough experience in a certain domain. Only then it is advisable to apply for a job in a big company (even though it is not your dream job). It is the opportunity to prove yourself and get a promotion in a couple of years. However, this is a long-term process, thus it does not work for you, considering that you already know and do what you like most. Do not fool yourself that you will enjoy working something else simply because you are working in a bigger company. On the contrary, you will feel frustrated most of the time and won’t be able to evolve.

  9. Cambridge Comma*

    #1, credit to you for being willing to change even though you don’t quite see the annoyance. I have a colleague like this who won’t change because she thinks it’s a delightfully quirky habit of hers.
    Perhaps you could try holding e.g. a toothpick between your teeth when reading, to remind you not to vocalize? It might help to break the habit.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Don’t be embarassed, a lot of people do it! If sou weren’t working in cubicles, it mightn’t be a problem.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Yeah, this is a totally normal thing to do. It’s only a problem because you work in such close quarters. Though I’m always embarrassed when a coworker asks me to stop doing something, regardless of whether the request is reasonable.

        1. Midge*

          Yes! While gum might help you not read out loud, it might end up producing a far worse sound.

          What I usually do when I’m proofreading something is silently mouth the words. I’m not disrupting my officemates, but I get a better sense of the flow of the writing than when I just staring at my screen.

    1. BeeBee*

      For the record, I don’t think reading your work out loud is a “bad” habit!
      It’s one of the BEST ways to proofread press releases and other business communications and you often catch mistakes that way.

      But agreed it can be annoying if you’re in close cubicles. Can you go to a conference room or something if you must?

      1. TootsNYC*

        I wanted to suggest this as well.

        I go to a conference room and read aloud, when we’re sending stuff to the printer.

        And if you talk in order to mentally process stuff, you might go to a conference room whenever you have something you really, really need to concentrate on. Then you can murmur without bothering people.

        in other words, don’t try to eliminate it–the fight might cost you too much.
        Try to steer it.

        Think of it as a big river, and you’re the Army Corps of Engineers, building locks and dams and side channels. You’re steering it. You can dam up a river for a little while, but that doesn’t always get you what you want. Better to divert it.

        (I think of laundry the same way.)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Heck yeah. I read a writing blog where the author recommends that any time you make major changes to your manuscript, or if you are sending it anywhere, that first you print it (no proofing onscreen) and read it out loud. That’s a bit easier to do with a cover letter or a press release than a 385-page manuscript, but it really does help. Though it wastes a lot of paper.

      3. Brittany*

        Agree, BeeBee–I clicked through the comments to say this. To the OP, try to be particularly aware of how loudly you’re reading…and maybe you can put a fan or something on your desk to drown out the whispery bits? Or make a concerted effort to limit how often you read out loud?

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Or, you could come work here, Op. Where many of us mumble and talk to ourselves and curse out loud all day! :)

    3. Vicki*

      OP #1 – you can change. At my first job, I was a person who talked out loud to myself and my computer a lot. I shared a cubicle with someone who had the same habit.

      There’s nothing quite like the continuing comedy of “Are you talking to me?” “No, to myself”, to help someone learn a new habit.

      Do you have a smart phone? Get one of the apps that meters sound and visualizes it with color. Place it near your work area and set it so you can see when you’re talking.

      You’ll learn to subvocalize.

  10. AdAgencyChick*

    #3, the advice you’re hearing is actually good advice for new grads — in my experience, the ad biz at least is not willing to pay admins well enough to get people who want to be career admins, so it’s very common for people fresh out of college to apply for a receptionist/admin role and use that as a stepping stone to a job in the creative or account department.

    But if you’re already in the field, there is no need to do this. Caveat: switching from, say, PR to advertising or vice versa would be enough of a change that you’re probably not going to be considered for jobs with an equivalent title to what you have now.

    1. New Grad and Admin*

      This is refreshing to hear, as I am a recent grad who is an admin at a large IT company. I wanted to get a scope of the different career paths before committing to one. Reading this advice made me nervous that I had made a mistake!

      For background, I’ve already been here for 6 months, and I plan on staying in this role for a while. I’ve decided I want to pursue project management. I’m working with some higher-ups to get small projects to gain experience, and maybe even take classes to get certified before applying for different roles in the company.

        1. New Grad and Admin*

          This is one of the downsides to a less-than-desirable job market though. Entry-level positions are difficult to find, and I wanted to learn more before jumping into a career path.

          I’m re-assured by the fact the last admin who had my position moved into another role within the company. My boss also knew when hiring me that I was interested in the admin role as well as having the potential to be promoted internally. I’m currently working with the CIO and project management team on different IT projects while working towards getting certified in project management. I hope these are all good signs, because I’m happy in my role, and it’s too late to change the path I’m on now.

  11. steve g*

    #2 – are you sure you should be entering the backlog into the system w/o checking w/ boss first? Did you rerun historic reports to see how this would change things? What if the backlog being entered changes the decisions that should have been made? I’d definitely check before entering any more of the info……also, is there a common thread in the stuff your predecessor didn’t enter?

    1. Dew E. Decimal*

      Those were my thoughts as well. Picturing this in my workplace I can see both scenarios – someone’s potential incompetence creating a backlog OR there being a whole story about why something happened a certain way – and asking about it in a non-accusatory and plain way would be of tremendous benefit.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Absolutely. There could be a reasonable backstory as to why those weren’t entered. And the supervisor may not want those entered or only some entered. I’d ask first.

      2. steve g*

        I’ve seen people get in trouble for prematurely entering data, thinking they were being proactive to get the work done….when the real work was finding out how to handle the data, order, customer – not entering it or typing it up

      3. Kelly L.*

        I was wondering if maybe there was a whole different system back in 2006 that they were entered into, but that for whatever reason is no longer in use–but I may be overthinking it.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Yes, definitely check with the boss to see if there was a systems conversion around that time and the historical data was not ported over.

        2. steve g*

          No not overthinking that is a good thought…reminded me of past job where SAP was used from the mid-2000s forward, but sales data from before 2005ish was in another sys (which I didn’t have access to so don’t know the name)….so yeah, this could be the case. Of course OP could just check to see if other data from the 2006 time period is there

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Where I work there was an awkward period involving computer and paper. Some things were on paper and some things were on the computer annnd some things were in both places, just to keep you on your toes.

          Something this large definitely requires the boss’ inputs. I have saved myself tons of work and gain tons of work by asking. Where this puts me is I still have a massive task, but when I am done it will be done in way that will be meaningful to others for years and years. If I just went under my own steam, I would have done a lot of stuff that was of no value in the long run.

          Talk to the boss the way Alison describes. But do not be surprised by eye-rolling and other things that indicate annoyance. The annoyance is not directed at you, OP, remember that. What I have to fix, I will never, ever complete the repair. My boss is very much aware of that. She wants me to what I can, as I can. But more than anything she does not want me burning out so that I quit on her. I chip away at it, I will be entering year number three and I think I have fixed about 5-7% of the problem. Communication is good, OP, in my case it allows me to keep my job in spite of Crushing Task.

    2. Rat Racer*

      I might start by asking former colleague if there’s a reason for these backlogged entries. It would be good to have all the facts before notifying your boss that there’s a problem. There may not be.

      1. JGray*

        Agreed! It might be that the predecessor didn’t enter the entries for a very specific reason. If the LW doesn’t trust the explanation she can then go to her supervisor and ask about it. LW can also mention that she talked to the predecessor & say what she said. There are lots of reason why things are done one way (which doesn’t mean it can’t be changed) but at the time the reason was a valid one.

    3. OP2*

      Yes, I’ve tried to figure out if there was a common thread in the backlog. It seems to have been a case of setting a stack of paper here and getting busy with other things. Predecessor herself has given me some of the backlog that got half entered to finish it up. The ones we are currently working on (while predecessor is out) have been paper copies in folders we found in the office, and a bunch of emailed requests that I thought had been entered…then I checked.

      I see your point about not entering data if there was a reason, but these are people who requested info and we are mandated to provide it. I’m reasonably sure it was a case of poor organization, but in the end the reason doesn’t matter. My concern isn’t the reason so much as on future consequences for the agency.

      1. steve g*

        Is it possible some of the parties rerequested the data in separate filings after no response?

        Ps sounds like a mess with so much paper! Reminds me of visits to the backoffices of the VA. Surprised how much stuff was still being printed and processed in the digital age

        1. OP2*

          Some of the people ended up getting entered at a later date because of follow up. I know that because I have fielded follow up calls and entered them before I found their old requests). And thankfully, there is only one database to check – and they must be entered in order to be notified because it’s that system that generates letters. Yes, it’s a ton of paper. We are killing trees here like its our job!

          1. Steve G*

            Yes, it is crazy that there are still offices out there relying so much on paper. I worked for one in 2007-mid-2008 that didn’t even have email (and even 7-8 years ago it was weird) – everything was still paper/faxes/phone calls! And I totally didn’t mean for my questions to sound condescending, but I have worked with one too many persons who rushed to enter stuff into the order or sales reporting or whatever system (and I have worked in regulated markets for 6 years now, but I never entered the regulatory info into a system, but I do appreciate that part of it), and then getting in trouble for entering it prematurely, so that part of your question struck a chord in me. I hope it works out and you give an update, partially because I am like to learn about how different industries work (I am in wholesale energy).

      2. bridget*

        I agree with Alison’s advice, but I just have to say that I am horrified for the future ramifications of such a severe backlog. I’m a lawyer who sometimes litigates in the administrative process, particularly in the judicial review lawsuits that result. You clearly know this, but the agency notice and comment process isn’t even just a matter of following statutes; very often it’s a due process right that is *required* by the constitution. Stakeholders need notice and an opportunity to be heard. This could be a Very Big Deal.

        1. bridget*

          And once this mess is sorted out, I’d be looking for ways to make sure that this data entry process is reformed to make sure it’s not this susceptible to human error/distraction. Yikes.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I totally agree. However, I also know that tptb must provide the budgeting to support the labor involved in the tasks. When that does not happen, we find things like OP is talking about. I have reason to believe that OP’s situation is very common.

          Unfortunately, our systems are such that the people providing the oversight have very little knowledge of what is involved with the job. And they do not have a method of staying current with new regs, this means that they cannot provide adequate supervision because they have absolutely no clue what needs to be done. Tasks go undone, or not even started, simply because there is no one to do the task.

          A great example I have is a school near me was told that two people should do the books. One person checks the other person. Their answer? “We cannot afford to pay another employee and no current employee is available for that role.” Hard stop.
          After that NOTHING happened. Nothing. Life went on as it always has been.

          While you are correct, if agencies/schools/whatever do not have the funds or are unable to hire someone (rural area), the big wheels come to a screaching halt, stymied and stopped.

  12. F.*

    #3, I would also add that it depends on the company. When I worked at Very Large Corporation as an admin, there was no moving out of that career path, despite having a college degree in a different field.

    1. Jules*

      Totally agree – I’ve worked at companies that were big on promoting from within (including my current workplace), and I’ve worked at places where we would not, under any circumstances, hire someone for an admin role who had ambitions to do something different within the company.

  13. Cube Farmer*

    #1. Kudos to your coworker! So very often we read on these pages of people complaining about the annoying habits of their coworkers but they never take the initiative to go talk to the offender to try to resolve the situation. And double kudos to you for trying to resolve the issue and not replying with, “why should I change?!” It was a breath of fresh air reading this letter.

    1. Foxtrot*

      I’m just like OP #1. I’m an auditory learner and at times I can read and re-read difficult sections in my textbooks but it just won’t “click” until I read it out loud. There’s something about hearing that just helps people comprehend.
      If it turns out there’s a reason OP #1 is reading out loud that he doesn’t realize, how should he address the coworker later? Whenever I catch myself doing this, I’ll make a comment to the people around me as to why I have the habit of reading out loud. It’s always at a light whisper so I don’t make too much noise.

      1. dancer*

        I actually find that low whispers are more distracting because I find I can understand bits and pieces but not the whole thing. It’s far easier for me to tune out a louder discussion.

        If there is a need to read out loud, I’d try to find another area where you aren’t distracting your coworker. Like Allison, I think the onus is on the person who’s doing the out of ordinary thing to make a change.

        1. Koko*

          Yes, like the cell phone conversations that Alison references, it can oddly more distracting the less noise you’re making.

          This is because of a psychological principle called “closure.” When your brain is presented with incomplete information, it activates additional areas in an attempt to “fill in the blanks” and make sense of the information. Because it causes this additional activation, incomplete data is more distracting than complete data – so barely audible whispering or only hearing one half of a two-sided conversation catches your brain’s attention as it attempts to make sense of the partial data it’s receiving.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          True, but I was also thinking the coworker is so used to the other noise, he/she’s simply learned to tune it out, while the OP is a new noise they’re not used to. If Op can’t break the habit, can they move to a different cube next to someone who won’t give a rats?

        3. TootsNYC*

          Whispers are VERY distracting.

          If you are trying to get someone to listen to you (your kid; a sales clerk), whisper to them.

      2. Bio-Pharma*

        Interesting–I wonder how this applies to Alison’s priority rule. In this case, reading out loud increases Foxtrot’s productivity, and others can wear ear plugs.

        1. dancer*

          I still think that because it isn’t super common behviour, she should be the one to adjust.

          I have a coworker who hates people talking around his cubicle and so was assigned a space at the back of the office where no other people were located. However, now that the company expanded, my cubicle neighbour and I are located beside him. The two of us work better by bouncing ideas off each other, which distracts him. So we try to either keep our conversations inaudible to him, or move to a meeting room.

        2. Afiendishingy*

          Yeah, but my coworker says listening to music without headphones increases her productivity. I still ask her to turn it off or use headphones if I’m trying to concentrate. I don’t doubt that reading aloud is a helpful strategy in many cases, but I do think it’s on the person making noise to find a way not to distract their coworkers. If OP could find an empty room to read their work aloud when necessary it would be great.

          1. T3k*

            Eh? That makes no sense. Personally, I wish I could plug in headphones and tune out all the random noises around me (including a highly annoying alarm sound right outside my space that goes off when people come in and stays on until people close the door). Alas, because I’m on backup duty with answering phones, I can’t use headphones, so my music gets played over the computer speakers instead.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            That’s crap. If she’s playing music, she needs to use headphones.

            I had a coworker like that at an old job, and I asked her nicely several times to please use headphones or turn down her speakers, and she claimed that she didn’t know how to turn them down. I finally got fed up and sighed loudly one day when she turned it on. Then she went to management and I got in trouble. On the upside, they moved her away from me to a different cube, so win, I guess.

            That’s how I found out about that company’s policy that stated if you had a conflict that you went to management FIRST. It was only one major dysfunction there out of many, sadly.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I think she was just being a bitch, but she had such a rep for being this nice sweet person that I guess she thought I wouldn’t call her on it. I told her if she was having problems with her computer that our IT people would surely help. That whole place was full of stupid dysfunctions like that.

        3. Ad Astra*

          Like others have said, I still think the coworkers’ needs would take priority over Foxtrot’s because it’s a somewhat unusual and disruptive thing to do, even if it’s also understandable and helpful. If it bothers people, Foxtrot’s best bet is to find a different area to read out loud. If this is one of those offices where everyone has headphones, it could be a non-issue. But “wear earplugs to block out the sound of your coworker reading out loud” is not a suggestion I’d take too kindly to.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      Agreed. OP, I would add to Alison’s advice by eliciting your colleague’s help. Give her permission to tell you when you are doing it. This will help you catch it when you are doing it subconsciously and it lets her know that you are really trying to address it.

  14. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – your coworker is right. This is VERY distracting.

    For some reason, people like to use the area right outside of my tall-walled cubicle to have whispered private conversations. I hear SO much stuff. Yesterday someone told her boss she was 10 weeks pregnant there. Uh, I can hear you! It’s cool, but my ears can’t help but strain to listen.

    1. Allison*

      People whisper where I work all the time! I can never make out what they’re saying, but I can hear them whispering, and it produces this very distracting hissing noise. And it always sounds like they’re discussing some major problem that should probably be discussed behind closed doors rather than out in the open.

      1. T3k*

        Ugh, this brought up bad memories from college. Long story short, I had a dorm room right off the open lobby of our floor (I didn’t choose that room) and there were a handful of assholes on the floor who decided the rules didn’t pertain to them and would be out there talking (loudly) at 2am when I had 8am classes. When I asked them to be quiet (and later shut up) they started to whisper, but still loud enough that it created that hissing noise that I could still hear in my room. I didn’t realize until later I had noise anxiety, which was making that situation even worse. And ear plugs were out of the question as I had to hear my alarm go off in the morning. I do NOT miss that part of college.

  15. Anie*

    #1) I work in publishing and I’ve spent years telling people the best way to find mistakes and check your work is to read the text out loud. That said–I rarely do this at work. It is crazy annoying in an office setting and just not feasible. If necessary, for tricky sentences, I will read it out loud (and I’ve caught my boss doing this too!), but for the most part, whispering is an attention-getter.

    #4) I was the sole interview, gained through a friend/current employee, for my current position. They kept me on hold for, jeeze, 2 months? It was crazy annoying, but I wanted the position and so I just checked in periodically to see where they were in the discussion process. It all worked out. Been here 2 years. Don’t get too wrapped up in yourself.

  16. NickelandDime*

    I think a whole AAM piece could be written on OP#3’s letter. Circuitous Career Paths often don’t lead people where they want to be. I think this advice was good once upon a time, and in SOME companies today (some folks gave some examples here). But most of the time…no. I find even make a switch from one career to another, where you think a lot of your skills would apply, can be really difficult. It seems like hiring managers aren’t going through resumes cherry-picking skills and saying, well, I think these are enough to pass this resume through, not when they have dozens of other resumes sitting right in front of them that fit the job description to a T. I also find it’s hard to explain that to people – no, I can’t just go from a public relations job to an internal communications job. No, public relations and advertising aren’t the same and no, I can’t just jump from one role to the other.

    1. Lore*

      My SO does not understand after many years that production editor and acquisitions editor are two entirely different professions and remarks on my lack of ambition when I try to explain that it is not reasonable for me to move forward in my career via a “promotion” to acquisitions. Makes me crazy.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I’ve mentioned before about my mom and “Project Manager.” It’s a specific thing–I can’t just jump into it because I, like, planned a dinner this one time or something.

      2. AnotherHRPro*

        I work for a large corporation and my family is always asking if I could transfer to one of our “cool” subsidiaries. They don’t understand that it does not work that way and those smaller companies do not have my job. I think people’s impressions of how career paths at companies actually work is very off-base.

      3. NickelandDime*

        Lore, are we married to the same man? I don’t have ambition either. I would also suggest staying out of your S/O’s career is another good AAM topic, but she’s touched on that several times and folks aren’t listening, so…

        1. Lore*

          Well, this is generally in the context of talking about work, and often jobs I am applying for or considering, so I can’t blame him for wanting to participate in the conversation. But it does puzzle me that this one piece of information will. not. stick. (I mean, at a much more junior level in my career, it might have been a possibility, but only because it would have been a lateral move from one entry-level position to a not-entirely-unrelated one. Most of the experience I have since then is of no relevance to the other side…)

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Ha, me too! No ambition because I’m not picking the “low hanging fruit” at my company and just making the changes myself! Um, no, they don’t care to change, I’ve been told that by my managers since day 1.

    2. Bruh*

      So what happens if I get laid off of not one, but two jobs in my career because it is a dying industry? I need to change to another path. I’m relying on skills I’ve gained transferring to another field. Is it completely hopeless? If rather not be unemployed forever.

      1. NickelandDime*

        Bruh, I feel you. I would suggest talking to several people in the field you want to get into, show them your resume and let them help you make that transition. Not necessarily job leads, but getting a feel for how one gets into the industry, a typical career path, companies to target, etc. It would also be helpful to talk to these people to not only see how best to do that, but if your plans are realistic and achievable. I don’t think it’s impossible, but I think a lot of people go about it the wrong way and aren’t successful.

        1. F.*

          I would also add to ask them about wages in the target industry, especially at the level you would be entering. I receive resumes from people who want into the construction inspection industry and are coming from other only slightly related fields. The problem is that they have no experience or the required certifications for CI but are asking for mid- to late-career level wages. To us, they are only worth entry-level wages, though they may be able to advance more quickly than someone with no other work experience at all. In other words, you may not be worth as much to the new employer as you are to the old one and would need to make sure your wage expectations are realistic.

          1. Gumption-grabber*

            Given how common the advice is, (and the wealth of data available on the internet) is there anyone out there who really believes that an informational interviewee is looking for information?

            “Wow, this job of yours with the pivot tables is *fascinating*! What’s this Excel your using, I’ve never heard of it — is there any chance I can ask you for tips? What a great place ReasonableSalaryAndBenefitsCorp seems like — please tell me all about it! Google News? What’s that? Oh, never heard of it. Glass Door? Like in the entry? Oh. Well, but those aren’t important, I’d rather have the opinions of you Bob Paperpusher — your wonderful opinions are so much more real and authentic than the professionally vetted views of journalists or the crowdsourced aggregate of hundreds of employees! Can I buy you lunch?”

            1. Elizabeth West*

              If you’re looking at making a career change, you can do them to learn about the field. You can find out a lot online before you go in, and then have the interview to fill in the information you can’t find there. Obviously, you’re not going to interview some rando working there–you’d want to talk to someone who does the things you want to do. Not everything is available online—GASP!

              Example: I was interested in law enforcement but was pretty sure I couldn’t do a line position (bad eyesight, etc.). (Also this was BI–before I had internet, but it’s still relevant because there is little accurate info online even now about police work.) So I scheduled an informational interview with the police department recruiting officer where I was living to find out more about other careers in the field, where I could work in the department but not be an actual line officer. What kind of educational requirements do they look for, etc. We had a very nice and informative conversation and I found out I had to pretty much go back to college, and a whole bunch of really crazy stuff about a famous local serial killer the guy actually knew when he was a rookie.* o_O

              I did end up eventually getting a degree in criminology but didn’t go into the field for stupid personal reasons so all it’s good for now is for writing crime novels. But the interview helped me learn more stuff I couldn’t have found out without talking to someone who actually does/did the job.

              *It was Edmund Kemper, in case you’re wondering.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        No, it’s not completely hopeless. Many skills are transferable, you just need to find a way to “show” that on your resume and in interviews. And there’s even companies that prefer to hire someone outside the industry so they don’t get someone that brings their industry baggage or bad habits with them. Hang in there.

    3. Ad Astra*

      I made the jump from newspaper digital editor to marketing specialist (which, in my case, is mostly internal communications) but it took a while. When I was still in news, tons of my colleagues were jumping ship to work in PR or internal communications but I rarely felt qualified for any of the job listings I saw.

    4. JMegan*

      Yes! I actually think I’d be a really good Executive Assistant, but after looking at a bunch of job descriptions I realize that it would either require me to make a career change or to go back in time (and make the career change then.) Although I have a decent handle on what an EA does, I really have no idea HOW they do it, and it’s not something I could just jump into. Why would anyone hire me, just because I like to do some of those things, over someone who actually has been doing those things at a professional level?

  17. Esperanza*

    #3 – I’m currently facing this problem as a hiring manager in my organization. I need to hire someone to work in administration (say, a teapot data analyst), and I am getting a lot of applications from people who obviously want a different position — they really want to be teapot makers, and they’re just willing to settle for the administrative position to “get their foot in the door” or because the job market is bad, and they need the money while they keep looking in their preferred career.

    So right now my biggest worry is that I’m going to hire someone who never really wanted this type of job. I can see in our system that many of the same people have applied to be teapot makers, with gushy cover letters about their passion for teapot making — they don’t really want to work in my office, studying teapot data. One candidate even asked me if it would be possible to “transition” to a teapot making position after being hired.

    I can see why people would pursue this as a strategy, but as a hiring manager this is the last thing I want to hear. Right now my top qualification is evidence that suggests they are truly interested in THIS position.

    1. NickelandDime*

      I really like this post. Job seekers really have to stop and think about what hiring managers are looking for. This is why when I was unemployed I didn’t try to apply to admin jobs, etc. I knew I didn’t want to do, and really wasn’t qualified for, admin work, and that no one in their right mind would look at my resume and hire me for that. I just kept plugging away until I found something that made sense for me and the organization that hired me.

    2. AP No Noir*

      I’ve had a few people tell me in their interview that they just want to get their foot in the door. Really? I should hire you and train you just so you can leave in six months?

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yuuup. I work at the kind of place certain people want to get into, so you can see recent grads (and beyond) applying for every single entry-level job (and more), and it’s hard to find the ones who are actually interested in the kind of work my team does, as opposed the work of the larger organization.

    3. jules*

      The counterpart to this is, when people get their job this way and then become a manager, many are actually baffled when they work with an admin who just wants to stay in that position. I’ve overheard a manager once complaining that the team admin lacked ambition, and I was stunned: do you WANT the admin you just spent a year training to pick up and leave? I think they saw it as a negative judgement on their own ambition that some people are just happy where they are.

      1. abby*

        I am not so sure about this. Ambition does not necessarily mean someone wants to move on. It’s a strong desire to achieve something. A good admin, in my opinion, should have ambition.

        Background: I am one of those who took an admin assistant job in the downturn after losing a job in a dying industry. I had to do something and I wanted to work here, but not as an admin. I spent my entire time in that role working on transitioning out. But because I fixed and streamlined a lot of things and took on a whole lot more, it worked out and I am now in a position that is a better fit for me. I think this can only work if you are awesome in the admin role and take on a lot of hard-to-solve stuff.

        So the woman who replaced me is not like me at all. But for the role, that is generally good (I know I drove my own supervisor crazy, pestering her to move me to another position). The department needs someone who is happy being an admin. But I would like her to show more ambition and initiative in her own job. We are finding that we need to draw “road maps” for her more than we would like. She should be able to figure out some of this stuff and just do it. Some ambition would really help here and make her a much more valuable admin to the department.

    4. Overeducated and underemployed*

      Eeeek this freaks me out! I have been applying for all the coordinator jobs I feel qualified for at Major Nearby University, trying to switch from an academic track to a more administrative one (I do have relevant experience, but not in universities). This makes me worry that my applications are just getting thrown out just because they can see I have been applying regularly for openings…..

      1. Administrator at a college*

        My advice is to tailor your resume to the position, and write a cover letter that explains why you’re interested in the role, and why it would be a great fit for you — make sure they can tell from your application that you’re truly interested in an administrative role.

        It’s a red flag for us when the candidate has applied to many different openings at our organization, because it suggests that they don’t want THIS job specifically, so limit your applications to the type of work that you want to do. Don’t throw your hat in for faculty positions if you’re targeting an administrative role.

        I hire for administrative positions, and I get a lot of applications from academics who really want to be faculty members at my college — sometimes it’s obvious because they have applied for faculty positions here, and other times I can just tell from their resume that they’ve been working toward a professor job for years and this is probably a back up plan. If you’re an academic who genuinely wants to work in administration, you need to make sure they know that from your materials. Otherwise, they may think that you’re pursuing academic jobs while applying to administrative jobs as back-up options (or to get your foot in the door for teaching positions — a lot of people seem to be trying this strategy, especially given the bad market for faculty).

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, that. Overeducated, as long as you’re relatively targeted, and clear in your cover letter, it’s not automatically a red flag. I mean, we do all want people who are passionate about working here!

          1. overeducated and underemployed*

            I hope so! I do have a general “coordinator” resume for this sort of position, which I tailor occasionally but not usually (the ads generally require the same duties). I also tailor my cover letters as much as possible, highlighting work experience doing the tasks required (I only had one, very brief temp position with the actual “coordinator” title), my familiarity with and interest in academic environments, and a reason why I’m interested in working on the subject matter of the project, if possible. But sometimes that is tenuous – it’s true, I am not super passionate and expert in the subject matter of every project, I am just interested in learning and can make connections. I haven’t even made it to a phone screen in 3 months of applications, so I’m worried that either my education level is getting my resume thrown out, or I’m just not making a strong enough case….and now I’m also worried that putting in too many applications will torpedo my future ones!

            At least my resume is VERY, VERY different from a faculty CV, and I do have non-academic work experience, although mostly temporary in nature. It actually makes me laugh to think of trying to get a foot in the door to teaching via admin, especially because Major Nearby University only does super-competitive national searches for people with amazing research records, and I assume being in admin instead would actually hurt your chances.

    5. Gumption-grabber*

      If you want people to halt their career advancement and commit to your job, you need to give them the tools that will make them happy to stay. Often it’s not that people really want to be teapot management or teapot consultants or whatever, they just want to escape the exploitative work environment that teapot assistants operate under.

      If the pay ratio between teapot assistants and management was low, if the teapot assistants had final authority in the aspects of their work that they were most responsible for, were allowed to promote craftsmanship in their work and were respected for it, if there was a clear path from halting their career at teapot assistant and retiring X years later with a paid off house, educated kids, and more than enough savings to cover medical bills and live comfortably for their declining years, a lot of people would be perfectly fine with having an administrative job title.

  18. bentley*

    #5: The freelancers’ website Clients From Hell has a good article on the sidebar about “What to do with deadbeat clients.”

    1. Lanya*

      Usually, nonprofits are not “deadbeat” clients – they just operate on their own payment timelines, which are usually net 45 or net 60 day terms, even if they don’t make that very clear to their freelancers. This happens all of the time. It can be frustrating, but you will eventually get paid.

      OP, what you should do is send your contact an updated invoice for the cumulative amount they will owe you in September, and make it sound like you are just being helpful by providing this updated invoice to help keep everyone on track with the payment schedule.

      If your contact at the organization likes you enough and has any clout, they might be able to help push a more timely check through the finance department for you.

      1. OP #5*

        There is no “finance department” as such. This is a really small organization, my contact is the founder and person who runs the org, there are maybe 3 full-time staff, the rest are…I’m not sure, honestly, how anyone else is getting paid. In any case, we did have an agreement (in writing) that I’d be paid at the end of each month. Even if they were operating on the net 45/60 timeline, they’ll have exceeded that when they don’t pay me in September.

        1. Lanya*

          Ah. Well, in that case, the advice in the Clients From Hell article does apply. I still think you should send them an updated invoice just to clarify what you expect to be paid at the end of this month. Then, if you are not paid in full by the end of the month, stop working on the project until they have caught up with your payments. They cannot expect you to work for free for months on end unless that was the original agreement – and they have broken the original agreement.

          1. Lanya*

            (I realize that stopping work on the project may make the relationship tense, but you have to consider that their non-payment has caused it – and also it’s good to reconsider whether you would really want to work for them in the future anyway, after the freelancing experience you’ve had.)

        2. PriorityZero*

          Are you sending them monthly invoices or statements?

          A billing statement showing what has been paid and what is still due might go far to create a further paper-trail and to reinforce the original agreement.

      2. Charby*

        Regardless of the payment terms, they still should be giving people a set payment deadline and committing to that. It’s not really OK to agree to pay someone on July 31st and then just leisurely mention that you might be paying them sometime in September instead. If they can’t quickly pay invoices, they should say that up front and give updates periodically as more information becomes available. The whole, “don’t say anything to anyone,” is kind of a running theme in this letter and it almost universally causes avoidable aggravation.

        1. Lanya*

          I agree with you on that, but unfortunately, every nonprofit I’ve ever worked with has operated that way. It’s pretty crappy, but I believe it is more common than not.

  19. the gold digger*

    LW3, I worked as a temp admin at the World Bank after I finished my time in the Peace Corps. I had an MBA, international experience, and fluency in a foreign language.

    I had two friends who were in the Peace Corps with me who were hired into professional roles (I don’t remember the job titles, but it would be something like a desk officer). I wanted to be hired there in a line job as well, not in support.

    What I discovered is that once they see you as an admin, they will not see you as anything else. I was the person who sent faxes, made photocopies, and delivered the mail. That was OK, because that was what I was being paid to do, but that’s how the people who would have hired me for a line position saw me – as an admin, not as someone like them.

    That may not be the experience everywhere, but that’s how it was there.

    (This is the place where one of the secretaries I temped for had porn sites bookmarked on her work computer. And it’s the place where another head secretary was so surprised that I could send a fax without instruction, which led me to ask her, “You must be used to working with really stupid people,” which was not my best move, but honestly, did I really need to be told to wait for the fax confirmation notice and that I needed to re-send the fax if it had not gone through?)

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Ah ha ha! In college and after, I did a lot of temp reception work, and people were always amazed at how quickly I could learn their phone system! This was the 90s, so it’s not like I was on a switchboard — it was literally knowing the sequence of hold, transfer, announce, whatever.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      At my company, it is very rare for someone to “break-out of” the admin ranks into a professional job. Part of it is what they see everyday is you demonstrating skills related to be an admin. They don’t see any other skills you may bring to the table.

      In the letter writer’s case she is talking about being a general admin and then trying to get to a PR job. Unless she can find a PR admin position where she could use some of her prior experience I doubt a company would promote her to a professional level after a year or more as she wouldn’t have recent PR experience.

      1. Erin*

        Even if she did find an admin role that allowed her to do PR things – which is very feasible – she would still have the *title* of admin, which is…a little bit depressing, and might not look awesome on a resume.

      2. abby*

        I think this happens a lot. I wrote upthread about my experience at my current company (took an admin role in desperation, then moved into something that is a better fit). Even though I am in a completely different department doing different work, I sometimes feel like people may still see me now as the “organization admin” instead of the “department admin”. I have had to work hard to set boundaries, and at the same time not offend people who think I should be happy to take on their admin work. It’s not been easy and, as much as I value the experience from the admin role, I am sometimes very sorry I started in that role.

    3. Erin*

      This reminds me of the later seasons of the office, when Pam continually tries to move out of receptionist role to Office Manager but always seems to land right back there.

      1. Gumption-grabber*

        Even to this day “Office Manager” is still seen as sort of a euphemism for “Senior Secretary” in many circles. This sort of bait-and-switch happens across genders, I’ll point out — the tech support guy who takes shit for years in order to get promoted to the coveted “Sales Engineer” position that is supposedly his ticket out of tech support is no more seen by other engineers as an engineer than other managers see an “Office Manager” as a manager.

      2. Gumption-grabber*

        I will point out that often this isn’t middle-management’s fault either — they are taking cues from the top. Nothing is more likely to get a grim smile from a middle manager than asking how many “Vice Presidents” their company has, and what relationship there is between a job as a company vice president and a company president. :-)

    4. Stephanie*

      Yup, my Outlook email still shows “administration clerk” despite requests to get my title changed in the exchange server. This I shrug off, but it does show that it can be hard to get past being viewed as the admin.

      (I will say, after doing admin work and realizing how not suited to it I am, I have twice the appreciation. But unfortunately…not everyone has that appreciation.)

  20. TotesMaGoats*

    #2-I’ve run into a similar thing at my new job. Sizable portions of applications were never entered even though on paper they were admitted. It was shocking. It had to be cleared up because it meant our data was incorrect. I just sent a very straightforward email to my boss letting her know about it. And let it go. My predecessor was loved by some and not so much by others but I’m honestly not sure what she actually did since it wasn’t her job. Daily it’s WTF.

    1. OP2*

      I have great respect for her and she is a very nice person, excellent at all the other aspects of her job as well. But the volume of material was terrifying. It only recently occurred to be the other consequences (bad press, formal complaints, lawsuits, etc) beyond thinking, well, this is annoying to play catch up.

  21. Allison*

    3) When I interviewed for my first job, it had nothing to do with the field I’d studied and interned in, so they were very nervous about hiring me. The hiring manager was very clear that he didn’t want the job to be a stepping stone to something else, he wanted to hire people who actually wanted the job and were interested in the career path. I had to convince him I really did intend to stick with the job.

    There are entry-level jobs where people are hired with the understanding that they will be promoted within the department in their first year or so if they do well, and there are some fields where they hire recent grads as admins and then promote them to jobs more relevant to their degrees, but beyond that, hiring managers who want admins *want admins* – they want people with admin experience, whose careers have focused on admin work, and who appear interested in continuing to be admins, or only advancing to senior admin or, in some companies, someone who manages or supervises the admin staff.

  22. Betty (the other Betty)*

    #1 Reading out loud. Some people process and understand written material better when they read it out loud. If this is the case for OP#1, they might want to talk to a manager about moving to a different cubicle if there are any that are not right next to someone else.

    Other people need to hear material to get the most out of it, but don’t necessarily need to read it out loud themselves. Maybe OP#1 can try using headphones and having the computer read material using the “text to speech” function while they read along without vocalizing.

    I read out loud when I proofread or if I’m trying to figure out something very complex. I would do a much worse job at both if I had to be silent. Luckily, I’m self-employed and work from home. When I worked in an office, I would move to a conference room for those kinds of tasks whenever possible. If it wasn’t possible, my coworkers put up with it (and probably put on headphones for the duration).

    1. Kennia*

      wow thank you yes i did contemplate on moving but i am the new girl don’t want to start things, but yes i need to proofread out load and going to conference room sounds like a plan.

  23. Abyssal*

    #1 – I’ve heard it said fairly often — and find that I agree — that whispers are actually more distracting and attention-grabbing than low murmurs. Something about the sibilance, I think — trips the lizard hindbrain into thinking “snake!!!” You might try seeing if mouthing the words soundlessly works out for you the same.

    1. Kelly L.*

      That makes sense as a reason! I know the increased prominence of S sounds is why whispering gets on my nerves. It sounds like “mumblemumS!mumbS!mumblemumbleS!!!”

    2. Abby*

      Yeah, the “s” sound just sounds louder to me, which is why I find whispering is so distracting. I can usually tune out conversations held at a normal volume because it becomes white noise, but an even volume is key.

      Along those same lines, I can’t concentrate/fall asleep to music that has sudden, frequent changes in volume (even if the absolute volume isn’t that high). Something about a sudden rise in loudness triggers a “pay attention!!” instinct in me.

  24. Yep*

    #3 – This advice might be applicable if you weren’t already working in the PR field, but you are, so it’d be a setback. As someone in the somewhat of the opposite position – an admin with some writing experience, trying to drop the whole admin thing and just be a writer – please don’t backpedal. :)

    1. Fact & Fiction*

      As a former admin, I was able to break into writing but it took a book (fiction) series sale, quitting the full-time job (not something I recommend for most), and building a freelance nonfiction career. I had to quit the FT job for personal health reasons (since resolved) and there were rough times and PT jobs mixed with the freelance stuff. I was eventually able to use my writing experience to move to a telecommute editing position for 2 years that then got me my current full-time editing job in publishing services. All this to say that yes, you can move from admin to writing, though it may take time and thinking outside the box. Now, if my agent and I can sell more fiction sometime this decade I’ll be ecstatic!!!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’d like to sell something AT ALL. :P

        But I don’t anticipate I’ll ever be able to quit my admin job completely. I only know one published novelist who writes full-time, and even he has many irons in many fires.

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          While I am grateful to have something published, it is another type of soul-crushing to go 7 years without a sale and feel like a failure. I wold the trade having my first sale, but this situation comes itch anxiety of its own.

  25. Erin*

    #1 – Yeah, I read my stuff aloud too when proofreading or what have you, but you can’t really do that at work withing hearing distance of coworkers. Are you able to mouth the words to yourself without actually speaking or whispering? If not, you’ll just have to suck it up and consciously make an effort to stop.

  26. bopper*

    #1 OMG YES PLEASE STOP…I live now in open space office land and the guy behind me talks to himself…the problem is sometimes when people do that, they are fishing (or you think they are fishing for) someone to interact with them…like if he says “THIS IS SO COOL”…do I interact and say “what is so cool” or spend energy ignoring him…yes the occasional comment like that is fine but when it is constant it is soooo distracting. Fortuneately he is self aware and mostly works at home and my boss has moved me away from Mr. Talkstohimself and Ms. Can’tnotbumpintomychairwhenshegetsup.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I used to have a coworker who would sing and whistle. It didn’t bother me once I got used to it (and sometimes he was rather entertaining because he’d make up lyrics). But Ms. Chair Bump would drive me NUTS.

  27. Miss Betty*

    No. 3 – don’t do it. Just don’t. Yes, there are companies where admins can move up but I believe they’re few and far between (and particularly enlightened). If you choose to take an admin role be prepared to hear “but you’re valuable right where you are!” whenever you try to advance. I’ve never – and I mean that literally – worked anywhere where admins are promoted beyond, say, office manager, not matter what their skills, experience, and education.

  28. Suzanne*

    #1. Please stop. I sat next to someone like you for about 6 months at job and it was impossible for me to concentrate. It was technical work on a computer, so it wasn’t like I could move away from my desk. I heard my co-worker read every line of every screen in a hushed whisper. We often worked overtime, so then it was 9 or 10 hours a day. We weren’t allowed to use headphones, or I would have done so with some white noise or some calming orchestral music to block it out.

    I understand some people think better this way, but you have to be conscious of the impact on those next to you. It was difficult enough for me to sit, concentrate & focus on my own work all day; I didn’t need to hear my coworker do his work on top of it. If you can’t stop, ask to be moved far away from everyone else. Sorry to be harsh, but I’ve been there and you are impacting others in an unacceptable way.

    1. Rachael*

      I agree. I worked with a woman who would whisper to herself constantly while working and walking around the office. I would be working and hear a creepy whisper conversation as she walked by and it drove everyone crazy. You know the part in horror movies where ghost voices whisper louder and louder, or in thrillers where people hear voices in their head? I think that’s why it bothers me it freaks me out and disrupts my concentration.

  29. OP #5*

    An update/further context since I sent this question in: in the emails back and forth to set up a meeting with the founder (my contact and the one who brought me on board) I asked essentially what Alison suggested (“You had said you could continue to pay me in September, is that still the case, and would that include the balance owed?”). In response, I was told “There’s no money to give right now but we’ll pay you when we can. If you feel you can’t contribute without compensation, we can figure out another plan.”

    Honestly I’m pretty disappointed right now. At the end of September, they’ll owe me a little over $1000, but no apology or acknowledgment that they reneged twice on paying me (and this time I had to ask if things were on track to be paid based on the schedule they told me. Not sure when they were planning to tell me I wouldn’t be getting a check this month…).

    My plan when we meet is to say (nicely, I do understand the constraints of a non-profit and I do still love what this org does), no, I can’t work without being paid and can continue working when I’m paid the balance owed. I’m also considering changing my payment requirements to being paid up front (if they want to continue to do monthly, cool, but I’d want to be paid at the beginning of the month instead of the end).

    1. Kelly L.*

      Ugh, that sounds guilt-trippy and like they’re trying to weasel out of paying you after the fact. Not cool.

    2. Kate M*

      Yeah, to me that’s so crazy. I’m not familiar with the non-profit world, and I understand they have tighter money constraints, but this is just like stealing to me. They obviously know they don’t have the money to pay you, but have been using your services anyway. They might be doing great work as an organization, but they’re taking advantage of you, and owe you a lot of money. This is so shady to me. I agree, with you that you shouldn’t continue working until you’re paid, and then must be paid at the beginning of the month from now on.

      1. Anony-Moose*

        I work in the nonprofit world and this isn’t cool. I’ve been burned by nonprofits as a freelancer and now treat them like any client (although often as a reduced rate).

        You earned that money. The guilt trip is not cool.

        OP, I think your plan is great. You shouldn’t work until they’ve paid you that balance, and you shouldn’t work for free after that!

    3. Mabel*

      It’s so disappointing when an organization whose work you have liked and respected behaves this way. Their lack of apology or acknowledgement is really unprofessional and unacceptable.

    4. MsChanandlerBong*

      I’ve been a full-time freelancer for seven years, so I’m well-acquainted with the disappointment of having a non-paying client. I think the lack of communication is the worst part. If they came to you and said, “Look, we don’t have a lot of money coming in. Please finish up what you are doing and don’t do any additional work until you’ve been paid,” that’s one thing. But to have you doing the work and not communicate that they won’t be able to pay you for it is just dishonest.

    5. Koko*

      This makes me so sad. I’m a career nonprofit worker, so I get that budgets are tight, but it was very bad faith to accept work from you that they had no intention of paying for without being very explicit about that. So not just saying, “We can pay you in September,” but, “We can probably pay you in September. Are you able to do the work on a volunteer basis until then?” And double-bad that when September rolled around they’re still saying they’ll pay you “when they can.” They’re acting like they’d be doing you a favor by paying you. They need to make a line item in their budget for this debt they owe and find out a way to pay it, not just hope that someday there will be extra money laying around to give you.

      1. Koko*

        And honestly even for a small nonprofit $1,000 is something they should be able to come up with in three months’ time. It might require cutting $1,000 from another budget, which they might be reticent to do – but they put themselves in that position by letting you continue to work for them. If every other single thing in their budget was more important than the work you were doing, than they shouldn’t have continued to accept the work from you.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah — if they’re in a position where they can’t find $1,000, their budget is so small / finances are so tight that they were in a position where they shouldn’t have contracted for the work to begin with.

          1. OP #5*

            Yeah, that’s what has me frustrated. To me, if I agree to a service, a price, and a timeline, I build that into my budget. I don’t tell the person providing the service halfway through “Yeah, I had other things that were a bigger priority this month, but I”ll pay you when I can!” and still expect to get the service. I can’t imagine they get to play that game with the electric company.

            And honestly, I gave them a deal for what I charged, and I helped them raise a good amount of money over the past few months.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              “And honestly, I gave them a deal for what I charged, and I helped them raise a good amount of money over the past few months.”

              You need to say it just that way, too. Have some figures handy, for what that same amount of work would have cost if you had been working for someone else.

              Going forward, I know around here some NPOs have rep a mile wide for not paying. Keep an ear to the ground so you develop an idea of who does not pay in your area. The idea of having them pay some upfront is also excellent. I have been having contractor work done here. I fully expect to set out some money before the contractor even starts working.

    6. Anony-Moose*

      OP, just out of curiosity, did you sign a letter of agreement or a contract with them?

      I’m a freelance writer on the side and have been burned by a small nonprofit. 90% of the time I have an LOA but a lot of times I’m like “I’m sure they’ll pay!” Trying to get better about that!

      But for some reason in the last few days several people have had stories like this, across multiple industries. I’m thinking long and hard about contracts (as exciting a topic as it is.) I think a lot of us have a hard time talking about money so we just jump into jobs with our fingers crossed, and are bitterly disappointed when we get burned.

        1. Meg Murry*

          I understand you have emails, but I think you also need to write up a formal invoice. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (you can find templates in Word), but just something that says “Company XYZ owes OP#5 $X a month x 4 months, due Sept 1, 2015”. Because without an invoice, you are definitely at the bottom of the pile. An invoice shows that you are serious about getting paid.

    7. Erin*

      “We’ll pay you when we can”? WTF. I’d want a specific date, even if it’s say, by the end of the calendar year, that would be more definitive than nothing. What a lack of respect for your time.

      Your plan going forward sounds like the right thing to do – being firm, while not burning any bridges and remaining loyal to their cause.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “I’ll work on your project when I can, you have to just be understanding about that.”
        I bet they don’t want to hear that.

    8. Jules*

      When I consult on retainer, I ask for 50% of the first month up front and I don’t start working until your check clears. If at any time your checks stop coming, I write a polite note to let you know that I’ll not be able to continue with our arrangement until the next payment has been received and cleared.

      Now I can do that because my consulting is bonus money, not my main income, so it’s no skin off my nose if someone decides not to pay up (just more free time for me!), but I also like to point out that if you put your lawyer on retainer, he doesn’t work unless there’s money in the bank to cover the hours. Once the money runs out, you need to pay up to get him to start working again.

      It’s also important that you don’t hand anything over to your clients that represents your hard work until you have some cash in hand – I’ve seen many, many businesses fail (including some pretty big ones) because they gave the client the work without being paid for it.

      1. OP #5*

        Yeah, I think this has to be my approach with anything freelance going forward. This isn’t my full-time gig, but I was counting on that money, and honestly I could have been working on other (potentially money-making) projects for myself in the time I spent doing stuff for them. Because the work I was doing with them was on an ongoing basis (think social media, blogging, event promotion, managing an email account) there wasn’t a final “deliverable” as such. If there was, this would probably be easier!

        This was my second freelance gig, and so far both have been lessons in what not to do. The first was doing work in exchange for free classes at a yoga studio–lessons learned there were don’t work in exchange for things other than money, set expectations of how many hours I’d be available during the week and response time, set an end point to check in and see if we both want to continue. Not the kind of lessons I like learning, but certainly educational.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          For that type of on-going, almost maintance type work- why not bill per period. Where a period is a week or a month. Failure to pay during one period means work comes to a grinding halt until that payment is made. Think of the utility companies. We need power on a continuous basis. Try skipping a few payments and see what happens, right? I think this is the idea for you to copy.

          1. OP #5*

            That was the original agreement, they were supposed to pay me monthly. My mistake was continuing to provide the service after a nebulous “We can probably continue to pay you in September…” which has now turned into “We’ll pay you when we can.”

    9. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I also want to add that when a nonprofit gets something for free, it’s pretty unlikely that they will ever budget for it. We do workshops that lots of nonprofit workers enroll in. We used to have people calling us all the time saying “we want to come, but we don’t have a budget to do it”. We used to let a few people come for free, and then we discovered that if we said no, they were able to pay – if not this year, then they would budget for it next year. There’s no need for us to lose money just because other nonprofits are willing to beg for our valuable service.

      Nonprofits have choices about what they pay for. Don’t feel sorry for them – it’s just a fact that they are choosing not to make this something that’s in their budget. If they can’t get it for free, and they really need it, they’ll find a way for to pay for it in the future.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s kind of what I was thinking–and they’re probably hoping the OP will continue to do it as a volunteer. But she shouldn’t, not if they made a payment agreement.

        1. OP #5*

          I know for a fact that’s what they’re hoping. When they first approached me they asked if I’d do this on a volunteer basis, but based on what they were asking, it was beyond that scope.

          1. OP #5*

            And for what it’s worth, when I told them I would like to be paid and emailed the founder the details and we had a payment agreement, her final comment was “If you’re always this easy to work with, we’ll get along great!”

    10. Chinook*

      ” I was told “There’s no money to give right now but we’ll pay you when we can. If you feel you can’t contribute without compensation, we can figure out another plan.””

      The fact that she said “give” and not “pay” sends up a red flag to me. It tells me she sees it as, at best, an honorarium and, at worst, a donation. What she is telling you with her words is that she doesn’t see you as a vendor, which is what you are. Good for you on your future plans for payment up front.

    11. OP #5*

      And another update! The leader texted me 90 minutes before we were supposed to meet that today was too busy and she had to cancel, but nothing about rescheduling. So, because I wanted some resolution, I emailed her the following:

      “The biggest thing I wanted to discuss tonight was my payment. As much as you know I love XYZ and working with everyone, we did agree on a fee and a timeline for my payment in spring. I was willing to postpone my payment for three months, and turned down other projects, because I believe so strongly in XYZ’s mission. However, I need to be paid for my time and work. I’ve attached an invoice for the amount due.

      I’m happy to still volunteer for XYZ as my schedule allows. If you’d like to continue working with me after the balance due is paid, I’d be more than open to that as well.”

      Within 2 hours they changed the password to the email I was helping to manage, took me off the org message board, and I got this email:

      “I hear you loud and clear. When our cash flow improves I will pay your invoice. We can go from there. In the meantime, I’ll remove you from the message board and let the team know that you can’t volunteer for now. Thanks for all you do. I’ll keep you posted when the cashflow opens up.”

      Cordial but no apology, acknowledgement, or timeline on when I’ll be paid. I’m tempted to email back and point out that I am happy to volunteer, but that wasn’t the agreement. I’m going to drop it though, it’s not worth totally burning the bridge that I feel is a little singed already. On the invoice I sent I gave them until Nov 30, so we’ll see what happens.

      Thank you everyone for your input and Alison for posting and answering my question!!

      1. dawbs*

        Ugh, that’s awful of them.

        I’d consider a matter of fact, pretend to be blissfully oblivious (plausible deniability can be your friend) email back.
        “Thanks, it has been a pleasure. I have been thrilled *enumerate some of the good things you made happen, including what you did for their cashflow and donations*. Normally these services would have cost $XYZ, but I was glad to comp $ABC of my services to make these benefits more accessible to Org.
        The invoice for the services your organization hired me for is due on Nov 30, I will expect payment by that date.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Isn’t there some kind of collections option for freelancers? Because this is ridiculous. I’m really pissed off on your behalf, OP #5. Now they’re hoping you’ll eat the money and go away. >:(

      2. Jules*

        Love how the leader neatly elides you ‘volunteering’….if that’s the wording she’s put in her email, I would play hardball – you’re being taken advantage of.

        I’d reply and point out that you were not volunteering up to this point, you were consulting for a fee, which has not been paid, and that you look forward to receiving payment on or before Nov. 30 as stated in your invoice. If they don’t pay up, then notify them that you’ll be taking legal action, and then do so….an organisation that agrees to pay a consultant and then doesn’t because they ‘don’t have the cashflow’ is not a viable organisation.

        1. OP #5*

          Yes, that’s the wording she used, and it set off a big red flag for me too, especially given what I said about volunteering with them in my first email.

          I responded with this: “Thanks. Can you commit to the November date or otherwise give me a timeline for when I can expect to be paid? Also, I just want to clarify, I would still be happy to volunteer and be involved with XYZ as I was before, but the original agreement was being hired to provide a service.”

          It’s not my best wording, and, yes, could still have been more forceful–it’s really something I’m working on. I’m just so, so disappointed with them and how this has gone.

  30. JAM*

    #3- My former job is a place where they tell you to get your foot in the door any way you can and they will promote you up as opportunities arise. No one was hired from the outside for any position other than an entry-level role. The problem is, a new boss came in while some of us were in that track and he had friends he felt he owed debts to. He’d interview those of us on the old track and only then did he realize we were overqualified for our current roles and probably deserved the promotions but he’d already promised them elsewhere. He tried to string people like me along with fake promotions (here’s more work and a new title and office but you need to do this job and your old one for the same pay until next year’s budget) and I lasted the 6 months that I used to scout if he was actually updating the budget (nope) and used the time to gain new skills for a new job.

    The friend I left behind has been doing an “acting” job for 3 years now and when the position finally opened he hired another friend who contributed to his political campaign. She’s only just now getting that the old system is dead and the new one is rigged. You might find that a job has the work-your-way-up mentality and the rug can still be pulled out from under you.

  31. AtrociousPink*

    Re: #1. I talk to myself at work all the time. I find it’s very helpful for maintaining focus — especially when I’m bored out of my mind to the point that I tend to make silly mistakes — and there’s actually been some science backing this up. But I spare my coworker, who sits about 4 feet away, by moving my lips only without making any sound. I had to train myself to do this, but it wasn’t that hard. My take on the horrific open-office concept is all we drones need to stick together and minimize each other’s annoyances as much as we can.

  32. Ad Astra*

    In addition to Alison’s advice, OP #4, I’ll offer this: It is quite likely that you’ll regret turning down a good opportunity out of bitterness once some time passes and perceived insult isn’t so fresh. I have regretted pretty much every decision I’ve ever made based on bitterness and hurt feelings. You’ll likely be hurting yourself and your career by turning down the job, while the company will be at most inconvenienced. I just don’t think you’ll find the satisfaction you’re looking for if you let bitterness influence your choices.

  33. #3*

    Hi Everyone,

    I’m the writer of the #3 question, thank you so much to those that have responded already, I’ve read a lot of your comments and agree with much of what’s been said. I do think the advice is very dated–but I never thought about the fact that it’s possible people are more likely to suggest this to me because I’m female. Sadly, I think that could be very true (and also makes me find it even more irritating). I’ve heard it from my parents, former colleagues, even my boyfriend! The advice has usually been given to me regarding big corporations that I’d like to work for in the communications department. I really don’t see how working an administrative job in the legal department is going to get me there. I do have a few years of entry-level administrative experience (certainly not career-admin experience), so I don’t even think applying is worth my time for most of these jobs since there are much more qualified candidates. I think what truly irks me about the advice is that when people suggest it, they try to make it sound like I’m crazy for not applying to one of these admin jobs–as if I’m missing some big opportunity to get my foot in the door. I really don’t see it that way, and I’m glad that now I know I’m not the only one.

    1. NickelandDime*

      I think your best bet is to target companies you’re interested in and make it a point to review their career listings regularly. And just to give the people you love the benefit of the doubt, it may not be that you are female, but they see you want something and they want to “help.” They heard someone repeat this “advice” and now they’re doing it.

      You know the pros and cons of attempting to get a foot in the door this way.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I second the regular listings review suggestion. Just because they don’t have an opening now doesn’t mean they won’t in the future, and you want to be on top of that when it does happen. That is exactly how I found my job–I kept checking until I saw something open up that I could do (this company is very technical). I interviewed for one position when it popped up and didn’t get it and then kept an eye on the listings and saw this one.

    2. Slimy Contractor*

      I’m glad to hear you feel this way. I’m 100% sure you’re getting this advice because you’re a woman, and it’s not only insulting to you, it’s insulting to career admins who have honed their specialized skills over the years. In my 15 years in the workforce, I’ve only seen one person promoted out of an admin position, and the big boss still asks her to arrange his travel and do other administrative things, even though there’s an admin whose job it is to do that. He will never see her as anything other than an admin. I think she’ll have to wait till everyone who knew her back then dies or retires.

  34. Anony-Moose*

    Does anyone else find the whole idea of “just take an admin job to prove yourself and THEN get the job you really want” to be a bit insulting? (OP #3 this did not at all come across in your letter, I’m just thinking out loud here.)

    Admin work is hard. It’s incredibly detail oriented and crazy fast-paced and you have to deal with just about everything and everyone under the sun. I was an office manager for a high school once and it was by far the most exhausting and demanding job I’ve ever done. Maybe the position I have now has more specialized skills, but that doesn’t make the administrative work any less important or crucial to a well-run company.

    The idea that someone should just “get an admin job” is downplaying the importance of a good admin. And if I had more coffee I’d probably write about how it’s a bit sexist, too.

    1. dawbs*

      I’m (very actively) job hunting right now-with an existing job.
      There’s a company I’d like to work for that has some admin openings–I have some admin experience and considered applying for a nano-second…. I don’t want that admin job because I’m reasonably sure I’d foul it up and get myself blacklisted, because experience or no, the job plays to my weaknesses, not my strength. My current admin saves my bacon on a regular basis.

      It’s hard work. It’s often undervalued and underpaid (which rather relates to it being seen as a female role) work. And it’s one of those jobs where, if you get someone good, a company would be wise to offer the admin the moon and the stars to stay, because they’re incredibly valuable.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I got that advice a lot as I was finishing up college and looking for jobs. I had done a total of maybe 3 months of office work in my entire life and was invited to interview for exactly 0 of the admin-type jobs I applied for. For some reason, people really think a college degree automatically qualifies you for any job that doesn’t typically require a degree. Admin? Bank teller? Construction foreman? Bartender? Retail manager? A degree in communications is all the experience you need!

    3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      Indeed. I am a very good admin. Others in my department– not so much. It takes skills to be a good admin, and no one knows the worth of a good one more than anyone who has had to work with a bad one.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Me. I know. I have worked with a “foot in the door” admin, and a pro admin. I will never again hire a “foot in the door” admin.

    4. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Yes. I made the mistake once of hiring a bright, right-out-of-school person as my admin, thinking that they were smart, computer-savvy, and interested in our work. Bottom line: I needed an admin, she did not want to be an admin.

      My current admin is professional, career admin. She likes being an admin. She knows how to be an admin. She wants to keep learning how to be a better admin. I NEED her – not someone who is just stopping through on their way somewhere else.

    5. NickelandDime*

      This Anony-Moose! A good admin is worth their weight in gold. I know this because I’ve worked with so many bad ones.

  35. Batshua*

    I have been in a similar position to OP #1.

    However, I have discovered that this “habit” is actually a way I process information better — I have autism and was repeatedly rebuked for this in school and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to keep it under control — until I was diagnosed recently and read up on things folks with autism do and why they do it.

    I still struggle with keeping this under control, especially when I am learning something new — I often won’t even realize that I am doing it, but hearing things helps me remember them better.

    If the OP needs to read out loud, it might do better NOT to whisper, as long as they are speaking quietly as possible. I find that for many folks, it’s either the sound of whispering that bothers them, or they’re freaked out by the fact that I am talking to myself, even if I’m not carrying on a dialogue. As long as I’m doing neither, they let it slide, and it falls under the category of acceptable levels of “thinking out loud” or “talking to yourself”.

    I don’t know if this will work for you, OP, but I give you my best wishes for an improved relationship with your coworker.

    1. Ad Astra*

      If you don’t mind me asking: Is auditory learning a common trait in autistic people, or is that just particular to you? (It’s neither here nor there but, anecdotally, auditory learners seem less common than visual or kinesthetic learners, so I wondered if neurotypicality played a role.)

      The suggestion to speak quietly without whispering is spot on. If it’s possible, it might also be a good idea to move to a more remote cubicle, or go to a different room to read things out loud.

      Also, if the OP is helped more by the verbalizing than by actually hearing the information (that’s how I am!), it might be enough to simply mouth the words silently.

  36. CrimsonPirateQueen*

    In regards to reading her work outloud, even if she tries to stop she may not be able to. I am MBTI certified and have done a lot of reading on this. She could be an E (extrovert) which means things may not make sense until she externalizes them. And one way for her to do that is to read her work aloud. I am not saying what she is doing isn’t annoying. I am an E and it would still drive me nuts. But, it might not be as easy as “I am no longer doing it.”

    1. fposte*

      You make it sound like you’re compelled by some evil spell to speak stuff aloud without any choice in the matter :-). Yes, she might work at her best if she processes stuff auditorily, but she still has agency over whether to do it and when and where. And her job may even prefer her to process stuff less well if it puts people near her off *their* work when she reads it aloud. (Usually, though, just finding a less disturbing place or time will solve the matter.)

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I have to say – it’s a pet peeve of mine when personality test results are used as an excuse for bad, inappropriate, or annoying behavior. Yes, it’s helpful to be more understanding of where others are coming from and why they might do what they do. We don’t all have to be just alike. It might be more pleasing and less stressful to an individual to always their own impulses and tendencies, but that ignores the fact that driving your co-workers nuts is unlikely to make your life more pleasant in the long run. Personality might be an explanation, but it’s not an excuse.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Only a couple of years ago did I hear that definition of “extrovert”–that some people talk to think.

      That rang so true for me. I don’t read out loud, but when I’m thinking and learning, I have an overwhelming urge to talk through my thought process. It makes me a really annoying seminar participant, so I’m struggling to curb it, but boy is it hard! It’s been amazing watching my brain struggle with this.

      I’ve been trying to find other substitutes, like writing or typing.

      1. Ad Astra*

        I’m the same way, and was a very annoying over-participator in a lot of my college classes. I often start typing up a reply on AAM comments that I agree with, get halfway through, and realize I have nothing new to add and I was just using my response to process information.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        That’s not necessarily a definition of extrovert–it can, however, be a style of learning. Look up Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory. Linguistic learners are also many times also auditory learners.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I use speaking out loud as a study tool – pacing and speaking the material helps me to retain it better, and test what I remember. I use the same techniques for working through some sorts of problems. And I’m definitely an introvert, by any personality test you can name.

          I also don’t do this when I’m sharing an office with someone, because listening to someone talk to themselves is way more annoying and disruptive than overhearing a conversation – I find it worse than overhearing half a phone conversation, too. If I want to think this way I go for a walk, or do it at home.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I used to do that pace back and forth and read my notes out loud. I was so tired/frazzled most of the time, it was the only way I could force myself to get the info straight in my head to pass the test. I did tire myself right out with all that pacing and talking, a vicisous circle going on there.

  37. Steve*

    #3. You are what you last did. If you take an admin job, you will have a tough time breaking out of it. It’s not worth it to get into a company you want to work at.

    1. Kyrielle*

      In fact, it’s arguably counter-productive, since it will lead people at the company you wanted to be at seeing you as an admin – and might mean you have to leave that company to break out of the role. Backwards from what you wanted.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Yes. I would have a lot of questions about why you made this career move. I might wonder if you couldn’t handle the work you were doing before, and thought admin might be easier. I have learned the hard way to avoid hiring people where a pattern suggests that they are trying to “slow down”. We work hard, fast, and we do more, more more. When I see someone take a step down in their career, or try out a more entry-level role, I am scared that they think that the job I’m offering with will easy and relaxing. I’ve heard all kinds of plausible explanations in interviews, but in the end, when I hire people who are moving backwards (or sometimes sideways), they tend to feel overwhelmed by working here.

  38. Mimmy*

    #1 – Oooooh I feel you on this one. I am CONSTANTLY talking to myself, and it drives my husband nuts. I remember I kept doing it in a computer class years ago, and the girl next to me couldn’t stand it. For me, it helps to process what I’m doing. What I also sometimes do is grunt or swear under my breath if I make a mistake. I used to volunteer with my sister, and she hated when I did that.

    OP, I hope you get some good suggestions because I need them too, lol.

  39. TootsNYC*

    #4–especially because this position doesn’t exist yet, and it was suggested by a junior person in the company, that may mean that they’re not actually going to great it. The pressure to create and fill that job may not be there.

    You should know this going in; it’s a logical expansion of the way things work.

    That should tell you that the hiring process is going to be really slow, and really gappy. And the job may not materialize.

    And if it is starting to look like it may not materialize, he may be too chicken to tell you. So when you follow up, keep that in mind!

    And two weeks is not all that long in general. Given that there was no real recruiting period and the position doesn’t formally exist, two weeks in NOTHING!

  40. WriterLady*

    For the #3, I work somewhere that they not only require you to last one year in your currently hired position before you transfer but you ALSO need your bosses permission to apply for a position outside of your department. Tried that and AWKWARD. So to agree with what everyone else is saying, don’t apply for something just to get your foot in the door.

    Maybe the only exception to this is a recent college grad that maybe just needs a job after looking extensively in their field of choice OR someone unemployed (and just needing something to pay the bills). Those situations are always understandable to take something (in hopes of a future transfer).

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