open thread – October 16, 2015

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

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

{ 1,225 comments… read them below }

  1. Anie

    Desperate for advice!! I have a meeting at 11:45 with the COO.

    My cowoker with anger problems crossed a line yesterday. Normally I ignore him slamming his hands on his desk and under-the-breath verbal abuse. He’s not directing it toward anyone in the office, it’s rare, and it’s only before the person he’s on the phone with picks up/before he leaves a message.

    But he used the C-word yesterday. I’ve never spoken to him about the swearing before (and I know I should have), but this time I immediately approached him. In a very calm but firm tone, I said that language was inappropriate and he should not be saying that in the office.

    He initially denied it, but came back an hour later and apologized, promising never to do so again.

    Now, here’s what else I did, whether or not this was the best course. I spoke with the office manager. I wanted to cover all my bases by notifying someone that there was an issue just in case my coworker continued with his outbursts. The office manager offered to speak with my coworker, which I turned down as I’d already done so.

    Well, the office manager must have informed his boss, the COO, who wants to speak with me about the issue.

    My question is this: How do people even speak about this kind of issue? Stay vague and mention inappropriate language and cussing? Use the shortened “the C-word?” That sounds so juvenile to me, but I honestly feel my gorge rise a bit at the idea of actually saying the word.

    1. fposte

      I think either the juvenile “c-word” or spelling it out is the way to go. I know it feels weird, but it’s such an outlier word in US discourse that I don’t think you need to be able to calmly use it yourself for this discussion.

      And I think telling the office manager was kosher, even though he wasn’t directing it toward you. I would go with “He did apologize and promise not to do it again, which is good, but I mentioned it to Jane because I wanted to make sure the bases were covered on this.”

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

      I think if you’re uncomfortable saying the word the best way to go is “swearing which made me uncomfortable”.

        1. Anx

          I absolutely agree. It’s such a violent, sexist word. I’m very numb to most swearing, but whenever some group of guys yells something with the C-word out a car window, I feel horrible for days after. It causes such a visceral reaction.

      1. The IT Manager

        I agree. I think you need to say the full word once initially during the discussion and then later on say “that word” / “c-word.”

        Do not use “swearing which made me uncomfortable;” that is way to unclear.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          I agree. If you can, I’d say “c*nt” once, and than “that word.” It’s powerful. That’s why you spoke to him this time – that word is different, and more shocking, than other curse words.

      2. Observer

        No. Because that could cover a huge amount of territory, from things that could make the OP look out of touch to words that are generally considered out of line in any professional setting. It’s important the the OO understand what actually happened, and the implications of a staff member exploding into that kind of language vs just language that makes ONLY the OP uncomfortable. Yes, that’s an issue, but not something you go to the office manager about so quickly. On the other hand this stuff really needs to be on the radar immediately.

    3. Turanga Leela

      It’s very important to say what he said. Inappropriate language could mean anything. Your coworker called you an offensive name, which is on a whole other level than just “cussing.” If you feel really uncomfortable, you can say that too: “I feel uncomfortable even saying this, but my coworker called me a cunt.”

      That’s what he called you, right? The problem with “the c-word” is people don’t necessarily know what you mean.

        1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

          And if you’re comfortable with it, a calm “he called me a cunt” said calmly can pack quite a punch. A word like that said with a calm, non-judgemental tone will convey everything that needs to be said.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            I agree with you, but for clarity’s sake, it appears that he didn’t use that word to refer to her; he said it to himself. Is that right, OP?

            1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

              That’s a fair point. I think in general, saying calmly “this happened” can be a powerful tool. You’re not passing judgement or accusing him of anything. You’re just saying “he said this.”

            2. Anie

              Yes, he didn’t call me the word. Though it’s true, Leela, that would be a very powerful statement. I suppose if he had directed it at me, I’d have a have the type of anger enabling me to say that phase and pack that punch.

            3. Turanga Leela

              Yes, it looks like I misread. I think it’s less critical to say the word if it’s not used as an insult, but still helpful.

      1. Chris

        +1. You aren’t cussing, you are quoting. It needs to be said as an impact statement. If he said “you are a c-word,” then that’s what he said. If he said “you are a cunt,” that needs to be expressed.

        1. Cath in Canada

          I dunno, when a colleague once had to report someone for using the n-word, she reported it as “he used the n-word, except he said the full word”, because she really wasn’t comfortable saying it herself, even as a quote. I’d probably go the same route here with the c-word, and provide a rhyming word if clarification was needed. It depends on what you’re comfortable with and on your relationship with management, I guess.

          On a tangent, I once saw an awful comedian who kept using the c-word as part of his act, and saying that it wasn’t a bad word due to [obscure etymological reasons]. I don’t care what the etymology is, if people are taught that this is the worst word you can ever use, it becomes the worst word you can ever use, in a very real sense, because people only use it when they really want to have that kind of a shocking impact. But that would have been a very difficult heckle to pull off, especially on a friend’s hen night ;)

          Additional tangent: don’t ever plan a hen night that includes a comedy club. No-one can talk to each other, so the bride’s friends from all different times and parts of her life don’t get to know each other ahead of the wedding like they do on a really good hen night, and the comedians are too much of a gamble.

          1. Alice

            “… if people are taught that this is the worst word you can ever use, it becomes the worst word you can ever use, in a very real sense, because people only use it when they really want to have that kind of a shocking impact.”

            I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to retort with something along these lines but couldn’t find the right string of words. This is brilliant, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to need to borrow it.

      2. Turtle Candle

        Yes, absolutely this. I think it’s fine to say right up front that even repeating the word makes you uncomfortable, and I think you can get away with saying it only and exactly once, but I think in this case it’s important to make clear that this isn’t just run-of-the-mill swearing/bad language.

        (Side note: I do realize that in other countries, this word is part of run-of-the-mill swearing, but in the US is it several steps beyond, say, “fuck” or “shit.” There’s a small category of words that even the very filthy-mouthed will shy away from, even when simply quoting, and this is one of them.)

        1. RVA Cat

          Yes. It’s pretty much the strongest insult that you can direct at a woman, and I’d consider it about as offensive as the N-word and other racial slurs.

          1. OhNo

            I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it certainly does strike a similar tone of denigrating someone based on a specific class (gender, in this case).

            As an aside: I’m really glad I knew about the differences in swearing language before I went on a trip to the UK, otherwise I would have been very pissed off when people were throwing that word about casually. It’s just so weird to me!

            1. RVA Cat

              Yep, kind of like how a certain other anti-gay slur over there just means a cigarette.

              Also, “fanny” means the same part of the anatomy as the word in question in the UK.

              1. Turtle Candle

                I learned this when my freshman-year English roommate in college was mindboggled by the suggestion to bring a “backpack, bag, or fanny pack” on a day trip. (She was like “…are they reminding me about tampons? or… what?”)

                1. Lindsay J

                  It does mean butt in the US (and is a mild word for it. I remember my grandma telling me to sit my fanny in a chair). It means the other thing in the UK though. I’m kind of curious how we managed to split on this.

            2. Turtle Candle

              Yes: I think that “the c-word” and “the n-word” are referred to that way even by people who will use most other swear words without a blink is because they have associations not just as swear words but specifically as slurs. In fact, all the swear words/”inappropriate language” that I can think of that would make me blanch to repeat them (although I’d do it as part of a quote if I absolutely had to) are in that category, not just swearing or “bad language” but words I associate as slurs with a particular category or group of people.

              1. Excel Millennial

                Yup. This. I swear all the time, I don’t even register fuck/shit any more. I don’t swear at people, just at equipment or at mistakes/errors I make as I’m working. But the words you mention? Not a chance I’d say them.

                1. Lindsay J

                  Yeah. I have a mouth like a sailor, and I don’t think I even learned the C word until I was 21 or 22 because it’s just so very much not said.

                  But yeah, the c-word and the n-word are not coming out of my mouth (and a few other words as well. Like you said, all pretty much slurs against a specific class of people).

            3. FiveWheels

              Yeah, UK here and I have no problem with “the C word”, it even seems strange to me to censor it! I only know one person who really gets bothered by it, and he’s a man. To me it’s on a level with “d**khead”.

              Context matters though, if someone called me a “stupid c-word” in a joking /friendly /banter way that’s fine, but if someone swore *at* me, even in a mild way, I’d be livid.

        2. afiendishthingy

          Yup. I swear a lot, grew up in a household where everyone swore a lot, but I didn’t even know there WAS a “c word” until sometime in high school. I regularly drop f-bombs in the office, so do a few others – not directed at others, just, you know, conversationally – but I would be pretty shocked to hear the c word.

    4. Jerzy

      I wouldn’t repeat the word. Sticking to saying “inappropriate language” is fine, and if pressed for specifics, using “the c-word” is perfectly appropriate. They will know what you mean.

      I would focus less on the specifics of the words he’s using, then the overall aggressive tone your coworker uses, and slamming his hands on the desk, etc. That to me is a bigger problem.

      1. Gwen Soul

        The C word is so unusual in this region (although becoming more common) that I wasn’t sure what it was for many years.

        1. Honeybee

          Yeah, I only actually knew what it was after having extended conversations with online friends from the UK. I rarely hear it used over here in the U.S.

      2. ThursdaysGeek

        A few days ago, my spouse was reading something and the article referred to “the c-word.” He had to ask me what it meant. Once I told him, he recognized it, but don’t assume that everyone knows the word without specifically saying it.

    5. BRR

      I would say, “Jim regularly does A,B, and C and yesterday he used an incredibly sexist vulgarity. I spoke with office manager in order to let someone else know that is occurred and also that I told him that language was not acceptable in the office.” If asked what the word was, say you “don’t feel comfortable repeating it, but it’s a slur against women and begins with a C”.

    6. Not Today Satan

      I definitely think you should specify which word (whether saying C word or spelling, whichever you’re more comfortable with). Lots of people might feel like someone should be handle coworkers cursing sometimes, but the C-word is really crossing a line and is unambiguously misogynist. It’s one of the words you just Do Not Say.

    7. Lamb

      I would mention that his grumblings usually (or “sometimes” if that is more accurate) contain cursing, “but on this occasion he used a particular term starting with C, and that just went too far.”
      I feel like mentioning the pattern of swearing clarifies that you are not the Naughty Language Police, but some one who gets that adults may swear but finds his use of a word which, in that context, is so nasty that most people who swear don’t even come up with it, unacceptable.

    8. Moonpie

      There is nothing wrong with spelling it out or using “C-word” and I think you were wise to disuss it with management. However, if during your meeting you feel like you need to make the point, saying it is perfectly within your rights. Words are amoral, it’s the intent that gives them meaning. His intent was to try to demean you. Your intent is to clarify facts and in no way reflects negative meaning towards yourself or anyone you’d say it too. Kind of a “don’t let his poor handling of his feelings make you feel bad” thing.

    9. Anna

      You could always let them work it out by saying See You Next Tuesday. I’m joking, but that’s always been my favorite way of describing it. “What did he say?” “He said ‘see you next Tuesday’ ” with very pointed looks. But I do think C-word is okay. Most people will get what you mean right away.

      1. Jenniy

        I say “cant, but with a different vowel if you know what I mean. I’m not comfortable saying it unless necessary”

      2. Apollo Warbucks

        I had a co-worker who always worked from home on Monday so when he left the office on Friday he always used to say “See You Next Tuesday” it always made me laugh a little bit.

        1. Businesslady

          Yeah, I once received an email from an incredibly sweet senior colleague–who wasn’t from the United States–confirming a meeting, and the entirety of the message was “Thanks, see you next Tuesday!”

          The idea of someone so gentle and inoffensive following up on a scheduling email with “Thanks, c*nt!” was so absurd that it still cracks me up, years later.

      3. ThursdaysGeek

        That would go so far over my head that I would probably not even notice the pointed look. It would just confuse me. Unless he was going to be gone on Monday, in which case I’d take it literally.

        1. Sarah in DC

          Agreed, I would just stare blankly if someone said that instead of saying “the c-word” or just saying it.

    10. Florida

      I would say the word you are talking about so there is no ambiguity. You don’t want him coming back later and saying, “Oh, I thought you were talking about the word, ‘crap'”.
      Think about a court case or something like that, if the witness says, “He call me the c-word.” The attorney would say, “What word is that exactly?” and the witness would have to say it to be sure there is no ambiguity whatsoever.
      Granted this isn’t a court case, but I would say the exact words that he used.

      1. fposte

        I think it’s fine if you want to, but I also think it’s okay not to. As you say, this isn’t a court case, and Anie is merely reporting on an event.

        I hate to say it, but I think there’s even a strategic value in not saying the word. It emphasizes the reporter’s discomfort with it. I would say the word because I have a high swearing comfort level and would feel like I’m pretending otherwise by using a circumlocution, but I don’t think that’s true for Anie and I think it’s fine for her to make the point without quoting.

    11. Lily in NYC

      Wait, he just used the word – he didn’t call you one? It looks like I’m alone here but I think that you should not have gone to the office manager after he apologized. If he had reacted with anger, sure. But you told him something bothered you and he apologized and said he wouldn’t do it again. To me, it should have ended there and he deserved the chance to prove himself to you.

      1. Court

        I disagree. If this is habitual, someone else needed to be made aware of it in case it happens again. This way, if the office manager hears him using this kind of language again, the manager is more inclined to discipline him because it’s a known problem that he’s been spoken to about and not just a one-time slip.

        1. NJ Anon

          Agreed. Besides, what if the person on the phone heard him say it? And if he feels comfortable saying in this situation who’s to say he wont’ direct it at OP or someone else in the office at some point. This needs to be nipped in the bud.

          1. Anie

            I think that’s another way his language is beyond acceptable. He says these things while waiting for clients to pick up the phone! To my knowledge they’ve never heard—but what if they did?!

      2. Come On Eileen

        I disagree. This is bigger than “hey that word bothers me.” It’s a word that has absolutely no place in a professional setting and the fact that he uses it indicates he doesn’t really have a good grasp on what’s appropriate at work.

      3. Jill

        I agree…and plus…I’m not sure how it is possible for the OP to determine that a coworker has “anger problems”. I’m thinking she is his co-worker and not his therapist. I’m frankly a bit tired of the reactionary responses from people over what should amount to a non-issue. So what if he used a word on your objectionable list. Not everyone subscribes to that same list. Grow up and get over it. If his outbursts truly disturb you, you should have just said something before…such as “hey Ted…when you beat on your desk and mutter under your breath it interrupts my work day. Can you cut it out?” Now you end up sounding like a whiny baby with the COO.

        1. fposte

          This is pretty harsh, and I can’t imagine why communication with your manager would make you a whiny anything, let alone a baby. Let’s allow for the possibility Anie knows her workplace better than the rest of us and has a good sense of what’s considered to be a problem there. Whether you think it should be or not is beside the point for the person on the ground.

        2. Boston admin

          Jill, if you are in an office environment I truly hope you realize how out of bounds and unprofessional that language is. It doesn’t reflect on anyone except for the user. It signifies a problem that that person doesn’t know what is and isn’t appropriate in the workplace.

        3. Court

          Even if not everyone subscribes to the same list, there are certain professional conventions that cannot be ignored, and this guy is pretty blatantly ignoring them. If a manager decides to run their office in a manner that allows for cursing, that’s entirely their prerogative, but that’s pretty clearly not the case here, which is why it’s an issue. This isn’t something to “grow up and get over.” Anie isn’t being childish in reporting this to the office manager; she is managing someone according to standards of professional courtesy.

      4. Kyrielle

        He didn’t apologize until an hour later, though. He denied it at the time. I’d have gone to the office manager after he brushed off being called on it – if that’s what she did, then the apology would come after that conversation…..

      5. Observer

        I disagree. For one thing, it’s an incredibly inappropriate thing to say altogether. Furthermore, this is part of a pattern of problematic behavior, which seems to be escalating.

    12. Anie

      MEETING OVER.

      Thanks to all who helped out. The COO knew the exact word that I was referring to (I ended up saying C-word, though I was prepared to spell it). She was horrified!

      Apparently there’s been some issues in the office with people using inappropriate language in the past and the COO prefers to know about it immediately, though she’s not going to address it with my coworker unless I let her know he’s done it again.

      Honestly, I’m glad I said something to the office manager. My issue was noted and it also opened the door for me to discuss a few other issues that have popped up, notably with my new boss’s condescending and dismissive behavior. Go figure, but that has also been mentioned to her by someone else, so now that multiple people have raised concerns with her it can be addresses with him.

      And that’s exactly why you make note of things like this! You never know if it’s also happened to someone else.

    13. Observer

      The only non-viable course is being vague, because that leaves a huge scope for doubt as to how inappropriate the language is. “The C word” may be juvenile, but it’s an accepted usage for describing terms that people just find too offensive to actually use.

      Keep it calm, and make sure that you keep on reiterating that you mentioned this to the office manager, as this seems to be an escalation that could lead to issues in the office. In other words, not running to the principle because Johny was meeaan but trying to avoid having the OM blindsided by an explosion of some sort or other.

  2. Moonpie

    Glad it’s Friday! I have a chance to contribute some topics to a panel discussing how to best help high school students prepare for the business world. What would have been/was helpful for you to have learned at that age?

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

      Sulking will get you nowhere!

      …I blush when I remember my first job and how much I used to passive-agressively sulk about things (You mean I need water to make the washing up liquid work? *sulk*) Thankfully they often employed teenagers and took it all with a pinch of salt, but I wish I’d known better techniques – or just that sometimes you should listen and it really doesn’t matter (What do you mean I don’t know how to wash up?!)

      1. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA

        I think something that I see a lot in my high school/college interns struggle with is how to manage office social situations. I think sometimes they think they always have to add something or jump in and sometimes it’s just not appropriate/needed. I’ve learned way too much about some my interns when they share about their weekends as they don’t know what to filter out as well.

        The other thing I would say is to not have your cell phone out all the time. I know its something we all do but I think it really reinforces the stereotypes about the millennial generation and it just looks like you don’t care.

      2. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA

        I had a couple of interns who use to always tell me how “busy” they were all the time. I”m sure they were but it was really always an excuse to not do something or explain why they didn’t. I always keep in mind their schedule but when whining about how busy they are is mentioned a few times it weeks, it started to drive me nuts.

        1. Nom d' Pixel

          That is a good one. Also, if your boss is aware of your workload and doesn’t think it is much, but you say you are busy, they are going to have a problem with that.

    2. ZSD

      Sadly, once you’re out of college, people don’t care about your high school GPA. Your high school GPA (and achievements, honors, etc.) are good for getting you into college, but please prepare yourself now for the fact that they won’t get you a job.

      1. Dasha

        Ohh yeah this… but on the same note, sometimes your college GPA will matter (or matter for a little bit).

        1. Naseem

          definitely matters for many federal jobs in terms of which pay grade one is qualified for at the entry level…a difference of around 9k.

        2. Felicia

          On another related note, sometimes your college GPA won’t matter at all, not even sometimes and not even a little bit (depending on what career you want to get into).

          I wish my college GPA mattered because it was great. Sadly, it doesn’t.

        3. Anx

          Yeah. My high school GPA was pretty great and my college GPA was pretty not-great. I have shut out a lot of opportunities for myself with that low college GPA, but my high school GPA doesn’t count for anything. I would have been much, much better off going to a community college, then state school and earning a good GPA later.

          This ties into another thing I wish I learned: mess up a little in high school. It’s so much easier to struggle and flounder a bit when you have a second chance than to do so during college.

      2. KD

        Yep. I dropped out of high school, got my GED, worked my way up to assistant manager at my fast food restaurant, decided I hated working with the general public, and then went off to college. Four years later I graduated with honors from an engineering program and no one has asked about high school since.

        Straight out of college I got the “perfect” job at a well respected company. And it had nothing to do with my GPA. What got me the job was my unusual choice of emphasis and my management background. Having an understanding of how your speciality fits into an organization in very valuable.

    3. Kara Ayako

      This is really silly, but introductions. When you meet someone, shake hands and say “Hi, my name is…”

      SO MANY TIMES when I meet interns, I put my hand out and say “Hi, I’m Kara.” And they shake (often weakly and without eye contact) and say “Nice to meet you.” But I don’t know who they are! Because they didn’t actually tell me their names.

    4. Anie

      Tell them they’re not too good for any job. I don’t care what a person’s background or education, no task is “a waste of your time.” (At least when a person first starts out.)

      I just had a man poo poo a task I set him at during his first week of employment. He asked if I was joking and outright said his time was worth more than that. Little did he know it was a task I do AND my boss does, regularly.

      1. TootsNYC

        “considering I am -paying- for your time, and I have essentially -purchased- it from you, it is now my time, and *I* get to decide what it is worth.”

        Come to think of it, this is not a bad idea to point out to people who haven’t really entered the work world. It’s not your time–it’s your boss’s time; she bought it from you.

    5. Connie-Lynne

      Reach out for help when the problem starts, not after the deadline is missed or the project has gone irrevocably off the rails. Think of it as looking for assistance when the river starts to rise rather than when it’s a full-bore flood.

      Not only will people see this as responsible, but they’ll also be far more likely to be able to help out.

      1. Ama

        THIS. I was so used to the relatively solitary nature of being an English major, with professors who tended to start the year with a big lecture on “don’t you dare ask for an extension on a paper, you should be responsible adults now,” that it took me a long time to understand that it’s not a sign of failure in the working world if you admit a project is having trouble meeting its deadline and you need some assistance.

      2. Kelly L.

        This is huge, and something I wish I’d learned earlier. (Insert bad childhood experiences here) kind of taught me the opposite, and I’ve had to unlearn it.

      3. Sparty07

        Beyond this, admit when you made a mistake, explain (or ask for advice) how you will fix/what the best way to fix it is, and what you plan to do to prevent it next time.

        1. Shan

          Yes, this is a great point. I would also say, when you do make a mistake: be upfront and honest with your supervisors about it as soon as possible, and when you tell them, try to have a solution ready. Don’t brush it under the rug wait until the mistake gets noticed by someone else. People will respect you for owning up to your mistakes. The times I’ve let mistakes go, they always get noticed later and sometimes get worse, and by then my boss is irritated. My boss cares far less about my mistakes when I present them with my correction or solution.

      4. Hiding on the Internet Today

        So much this. All of this.

        And its great if they can bring a solution with them, but if they can’t saying, “I have problem X, I’ve tried A and B, and I’m hoping you can help with more options, because I’m spinning my wheels here.” is SO VALUABLE. Its basically how I tell when I can go from having to check in as often as possible with my newbie staff to relaxing a bit. Knowing when to yell for help is vital.

        There’s a huge difference between ‘not trying to figure stuff out’ and ‘genuinely needing assistance because the river is rising’, and figuring it out is a big professional step.

    6. Jerzy

      Share some info about digital footprints, and how doing something stupid/embarrassing/illegal online can follow you well into your adulthood. Employers use Google A LOT to find out about potential hires.

    7. Rita

      I know this sounds weird, but what people do for a living. More specifically how many industries there are out there and the different types of jobs in them. I hope this makes sense. I was pretty lost when I graduated high school and headed to college.

      This is probably easier now with the internet, but I grew up in the mid-90s as the internet was getting into homes. I was a child of the restaurant industry, so that was my big experience to what people did for work. I knew the common stuff like doctors, lawyers, accountants, journalists – stuff people did on TV. If I had a better idea of what people actually did, I would have not majored in journalism just because I liked writing. I was pretty clueless as to what was available out there to pursue. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have done computer science.

      1. katamia

        Oh, man, what people do for a living would have been so helpful! My dad was a federal employee, my mom was a SAHM and then a public school teacher, and all our family friends were lawyers, so I knew almost nothing about how anything corporate or even business-y worked, and tbh I still feel like there’s so much I don’t know.

      2. Turanga Leela

        Yes! This is a great use of informational interviews—find a field you think you might be interested in, and ask people in it about what they actually do all day, what they like about it, and how they got there.

        I was in my 20s before I really thought about this, and I’m still amazed at how many jobs there are that I know nothing about.

        1. AMT

          I know, there are so many things I’ve never even heard of. I’ve been listening to the Working podcast lately which I find absolutely fascinating, hearing in a lot of detail exactly what someone does throughout the day in a specific job.

            1. AMT 2

              I must have stolen yours, I’ve only recently begun posting! I saw you further down and switched to AMT 2 ;)

        2. SL #2

          Informational interviews are good, but I think for me, the difficulty as a high school student is that I would be too afraid and anxious to approach anyone remotely resembling a professional of any sort to ask for an informational interview. There are high schoolers out there with the confidence and composure of someone twice their age, but that was definitely not me!

          1. Kyrielle

            …you know, this could be a really cool “from the readers” post, if Alison wanted to go there. “What do you do, and what would you tell people considering it as a career, especially high school or college students?”

            Of course, whether it would get back to anyone who’d actually use it is an open question. ;)

            I’d like to see it just so I could see some more of what’s out there, because I probably still don’t know a lot of the options. I mean, I’m basically doing a variant of what my Dad did! (And loving it, mind.)

      3. AMT

        This is a really huge thing I think – majors are SO broad, but coming out of high school you have absolutely no clue how very many different ways there are to use a degree. The other part of this is that many people do not start at go and take a clear-cut path to their final career, most of us wander around until we wind up somewhere we wouldn’t have ever thought of, so having a defined plan at 18 is pretty useless (I was 18 and planning to teach Latin and Greek – I am now a 32 year old accountant. Things go off track pretty quickly out of school!)

        1. Kyrielle

          Having a defined plan might be useless, but it’s common. Having contingencies is rarer, and I think would be potentially awesome. (And sometimes, knowing ‘what can you do with X degree’ includes, in fact, no job you actually want can also be valuable.)

      4. Dana

        OMG this is so true. I still have no idea what jobs are out there and wish I would have never been an English major because I liked to read and write. This blog has exposed me to a lot of different jobs people do and makes me really wish, even today, that there was some place to go read about what jobs exist and the skills/interests/majors people who do them have/need/suggest.

        And ditto for me on something in tech/computer science.

        1. bentley

          Despite the dry title, you might find the jobs/career information you want in the Occupational Outlook Handbook at bls.gov/ooh/ (now online and searchable; also, scroll down for the Teacher’s Guide).

          (I’m guessing my first attempt at commenting didn’t go through because it had a live link? I hope this one works.)

      5. Muriel Heslop

        YES! I think all high schools should offer a mandatory class on careers and jobs. What are we preparing kids for, other than this nebulous idea of “College for Everyone!”.

      6. Nom d' Pixel

        Not weird, necessary. I remember going to college and trying to pick a major with no understanding of what type of work I could do with it.

      7. Honeybee

        It’s honestly not that much easier with the internet – I do volunteer college counseling and also moderate another forum on this issue, and this is one of the most common questions I get. Most teenagers are unfamiliar with careers other than what their parents and their parents’ friends do and things you can see on TV.

        Similarly, I wish we talked to students about the scarcity vs. availability of some jobs and how majors can be widely applicable to a variety of things. AKA, journalism is actually a really competitive field to get into and be paid a living wage, BUT an English major can be used for more than writing novels. (I was trying to explain this to a potential English major the other day who insisted that only jobs related to writing would make majoring in English worth it, and anything else would be a waste of time and money. Ugh.)

      8. steve g

        I concur. If I knew that there were jobs where you got to do dramatic things with computers and spreadsheets AND be creative and come up with your own work (as opposed to just processing requests) I would have picked my first jobs differently

      9. Manders

        This is so very important! I’m a few years out of college and still struggling to understand how all the skills I learned actually fit into what’s needed in the job market.

      10. More Cake, Please

        Oh yes. I thought I should major in the only class I enjoyed in HS–a foreign language. And then that fell apart, so I felt I should play to my strengths (writing dry papers) by doing journalism. And then I hated that, but my parents forced me to graduate, so, BA in journalism. I’m going back for my IT degree, but BOY do I wish I’d gotten it the first time. It’s so much harder the second time, not only due to life circumstances, but also because much of the aid I thought I’d qualify for being an independent student I can’t get due to having a degree (my parents made to much to qualify my first time around). Unfortunately my only taste with computing in HS was a programming class, which I did not enjoy. Didn’t realize there was more to the computing world until really graduating college.

        I grew up in the early 00’s. I blame my parents refusing to purchase high-speed internet until I left for college for my lack of knowledge.

        1. Rena

          I’m dealing with this too. I have a degree in History that I didn’t know how to leverage. 7 years later and I’m back in school for geosciences, with a focus in fresh water hydrology. As a post-bac student, I’m automatically disqualified from a ton of aid and most scholarships. College isn’t any less expensive just because I screwed up the first time =/ The best I can do at this point is make sure that my investment is worth it, and that I milk the school for all possible resources, internships, and connections.

          1. Anx

            I hear you on this.

            I have a B.S.

            There are a ton of technical fields that I could try to get into that are relevant to my degree. But it’s just so hard to go back to school when you don’t qualify for any aid or scholarships.

      11. Lindsay J

        Yeah, I’m currently working a job that I didn’t even know existed until like last year.

        And if I could do it all over again I probably would have been a technical writer.

        1. Lindsay J

          Adding on, my dad works in the restaurant industry as well, and my mom is an english teacher. So I knew about food service and academia, but my other exposure was basically all with public facing positions – so I knew people could be doctors or lawyers or cashiers, etc, but I didn’t know what an administrator did or that there was such thing as a project manager.

          And in school I was generally pushed more towards “pink collar” professions such as teaching and nursing, even though they don’t fit my personality at all.

      12. TootsNYC

        There are studies that have shown (unsurprisingly) that kids’ career choices are greatly influenced by the communities they live in; kids who grow up around other kids whose dads are investment bankers are more likely to enter that rarified business world. Kids whose friends’ dads are medical professionals, ditto.
        And of course, blue collar.
        So someone whose entire family is, say, retail workers can greatly influence their kids’ employment future by pinching pennies to live in a neighborhood where more people are accountants or optometrists.

        So I agree, give them an idea of the breadth of jobs.

    8. Dasha

      What to wear to an interview, basic interview questions, how to make a resume and cover letter or at least resources for them to look at, and who you should use for references on job applications.

      And in some cases not listen to your parents’ job advice since it is outdated…

      Even if some of this seems kind of fundamental I wish someone would have gone over it with me in high school just so I would have had the basics down.

    9. BRR

      -You’re going to start at the bottom.
      -I’m not sure how to explain this best but keeping quiet is best at times. Such as not giving excuses and not speaking too often if you’re in a meeting with senior coworkers. I’m not saying just keep your mouth shut but keeping quiet in certain situations is beneficial.
      -Education usually don’t get you a job, it’s just will keeps you from getting a job but it’s important because you’ll use what you learn eventually, especially writing skills. Emphasize writing skills.
      -Brevity in writing is cherished, it’s the opposite of school.
      -Get as many internships as you can. If you can do a one longer one versus a couple shorter ones it will help you as you will get more responsibilities and it shows you can stay at an employer for a longer period of time.

      1. BRR

        Also share what I think are Alison’s golden job hunting rules:
        -Tailored cover letter and resume.
        -Apply then assume you didn’t get the job and move on mentally.
        -Don’t read into anything the employer/hiring manager/recruiter does.

      2. Dana

        +1 on getting an internship, even if not required by your college or major. I had no idea they were A Thing if not specifically required and reallllly could have benefited from one.

        1. afiendishthingy

          Same! My college offered “off-campus work study” jobs in partnership with a number of local nonprofits, and I really wish I’d taken advantage of that instead of being a student worker in the anthropology department for four years just because I liked paid to sit on a couch, do homework, and occasionally make photocopies or pick up the mail.

      3. Not So Sunny

        Was just coming here to offer the same on your second point. Learning when to listen is so important and so valuable — it helps a young person learn to read people.

    10. Anonymous Educator

      * Learn how to use Excel or some other spreadsheet program.
      * When people send you emails asking you stuff, you should respond within a day, if not the hour… and you should respond!

    11. Dot Warner

      1. That’s it’s OK not to have your whole life planned out at 18.

      2. The type of things that actually are illegal in the workforce (e.g. verbal abuse, discrimination) and the type of things that are just annoying (asking you to do things you don’t want to do).

      3. You need to ask questions at job interviews (I was in my 20s before I knew this), and what types of things to ask. Also, that it’s a good idea to practice your answers with a brutally honest friend or family member.

      1. AnonAnalyst

        A big yes to needing to ask questions at job interviews. I didn’t learn this until I was in my late 20s and had managed to do okay with interviews despite not asking questions unless I, you know, had specific questions that hadn’t already been answered, but I could have definitely done much better. Whoops.

      2. Ad Astra

        AND it’s ok to change your plans! A lot of the anxiety about picking a school/major/career path is the idea that these decisions are set in stone and if you make the wrong choice you’re stuck with it forever.

        Ideally, every kid who’s starting college will have some kind of 4-year plan, with either a major or a career field in mind. College is too expensive, imo, to be a place where you spin your wheels trying to pick a path when you have zero direction. But picking a path and then changing your mind later? That makes sense. For kids who come from extremely wealthy families or who are going directly into the workforce, I think having a plan is less important.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Yes, this. It’s okay not to have your whole life mapped out. You are launching your life, pick something that you seem to do well with*, start there. Go in the direction of things that come to you naturally or you know you can work through comfortably. Everyone has a different answer as to what these things are. Don’t feel out of the loop if no one around you is drawn to the same things you are.

          *If you are not sure what you do well with, ask others around you. You can ask your folks, your neighbors, relatives and your teachers.

    12. khoots

      Watch how you word any electronic communication. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve created a snap judgement of an applicant based off their lack of grammar/punctuation. You’re not sending a text message to a friend, you’re communicating with a colleague/boss/vendor etc.

      1. cuppa

        I would als0 put in here to be careful in general what you write in an e-mail. In my first corporate job I used company e-mail to chat back and forth with a co-worker, and I consider myself pretty lucky that I didn’t get in trouble over it . I’ve worked in a few highly-controlled industries now, and that would be a HUGE no-no. They need to understand that e-mails can be read by others and it still needs to be professional (and preferrably work-related).

      2. SL #2

        But on the opposite side of the spectrum, don’t veer so far towards “formal language” that you come off stiff and awkward! The best thing I learned from working in the tech industry after college is how to relax my professional writing style (but remain grammatically correct). Even my new job said that one of the things that stuck out about my application was that my cover letter wasn’t uptight or so formal that it was off-putting. All of this takes practice!

        1. Elsajeni

          My cue for the tone I want to hit is “email to Grandma” — a notch above “email to friend” in formality and grammatical correctness, but casual enough that my voice and personality still come through. And conveniently, the parts of my life that I edit out for work are pretty much the same that I edit out for Grandma.

    13. Lily in NYC

      1. Show up on time. 2. DON’T GOSSIP. 3. Don’t call in sick when you aren’t sick (often). 4. Don’t get involved with office drama. 5. Don’t wear headphones unless it’s part of the office culture. 6. Drop the attitude if you have one. 7. Don’t say “that’s not my job” to your boss. 8. Look at how everyone else dresses and don’t be more casual than they are. 9. Don’t play on the internet or your phone unless you are on a break.

      1. Ad Astra

        To your point, I think it would be helpful to explain the concept of workplace culture, and give some examples of stuff that’s ok in one office and forbidden in another. In high school, the rules are pretty much the same no matter which class you’re in, and they’re all expressly stated. The working world has tons of unwritten rules and very few universal rules, so that can be quite an adjustment.

      2. grumpy career changer

        corollary to number 3:
        If your office culture allows it, please do use sick days when you are actually sick. It won’t always be possible, but when it is, stay home. You’re not going to earn brownie points for coming in with a hacking cough no matter how much Purell you use.
        And on a related note, know that there are places out there where sick days are not viewed by your boss as a crazy imposition, so study hard and get to one of those wonderful places!

    14. T3k

      Try to intern or shadow someone for a day ASAP to know if that’s what they really want to do. I spent the majority of high school and college wanting to do one thing, only to realize there were other parts of the job I felt were life draining during an internship just before I graduated and now I’ve been fighting to get out of it for 2-3 years.

      1. Kyrielle

        Yes this. And the more education you need to get started in it, the more critical it is to look at all the aspects of the job with clear eyes and decide if you can live with and do the ones you’ll need to. (I have an acquaintance who got a law degree, then discovered that he hated most types of lawyer jobs…. He enjoyed the school side of it but not the actual jobs. Oops. That is a very expensive mis-step.)

        Speaking of education, point out that they can trial interest in a topic by looking to see if there’s a free MOOC on it too. That’s not (obviously!) going to show if the jobs will be of interest, but sometimes it’s really handy.

      2. Lindsay J

        This. I decided my sophomore year of high school that I wanted to be a music teacher. I was a music ed major until the middle of my junior year of college. At that point I got a couple observations/student teaching assignments under my belt and started to have doubts. And then I got a job working with a high school marching band and I hated it. I dreaded going to practices once a week. And it hit me that if I was dreading teaching a three hour practice once a week, there was no way that this was what I wanted to do for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for the next 30+ years.

        It would have been a lot cheaper to come to that conclusion sooner, but I’m glad I realized it while I was still in school and it was easier to switch paths.

    15. SL #2

      Keep in touch with your professional contacts! I’ve lost touch with my supervisors and mentors from my first internship and I regret not putting more effort into keeping up with them.

      1. Kyrielle

        This. Also, make a note of your jobs! I had a full-summer job sometime during high school or college that I can’t list on a resume because I didn’t note down any of the details. It’s no longer relevant now, because it wasn’t in my field and it was a long time ago. But I didn’t have the information to list it accurately when applying for my first job out of college, either, and that might have improved my rather weak resume at that point. (Since, to piggy-back someone else’s point, I had no internships, so unrelated jobs was all I had, and not many of those.)

        1. Lindsay J

          Plus, if you’re going to go into government work or other sensitive areas you need a record of this stuff for background checks.

          I just had to do a 5 year job and 7 year address history (and for my previous job it was 10 and 10). Any gaps of more than a month had to be accounted for with jobs, an no gaps allowed for addresses. Having it all recorded in a document somewhere would make life a lot easier than trying to remember years after the fact. (Especially when they want the day you were hired as well as the month and year).

          1. Kyrielle

            Yeah, this is now far enough in my past to survive a 10-year search. But I couldn’t, right out of college, have given the day – or the address – it was “chain X” in “medium city” where there were probably more than one such. Ooof. I’m not sure I could have given the months; it would have been a guess. By five years out of college, the _year_ probably would have been a guess. One of those summers in there, somewhere….

            Good thing I wasn’t applying for jobs that required the complete listing, but still.

    16. Nom d' Pixel

      It is OK to call in sick, but it is not OK to call in “sick”. If all of your sick days are on a Monday or Friday, people will pick up on that. Also, we have had a few people in our department with the habit of calling in sick whenever they just weren’t getting their way. Don’t call in sick the day after being reprimanded by your boss unless you are in the hospital.

      1. catsAreCool

        And your co-workers may also dislike you if you take sick days when you’re perfectly healthy and aren’t at home taking care of a sick kid or something. People tend to be a little more talkative around co-workers, and the rest of us don’t appreciate those who take advantage of the system by lying.

        1. Lindsay J

          I’m okay with taking a “mental health day” as long as it’s a case where you really do need the day off from work or you’re going to be too stressed/overwhelmed/angry to be effective for the rest of the week.

          I’m not okay with taking a “mental health day”because all your friends are going to the beach and you want to go, too.

    17. NK

      I’m huge on professional appearance; I think it can make a big difference in how you’re perceived, especially at a young age. I think this is particularly difficult for women (and I am one), because the “professional” clothes that stores for young women sell are not always actually professional. I would tell them to be mindful of this and try to find people (not their bosses, but other professionals they know) who can help guide them.

        1. Windchime

          Yes; don’t look at TV shows to see how a business woman should dress. Women who work in offices in the real world don’t generally wear skin-tight pencils skirts and plunging necklines that display their cleavage. At least no place that I’ve ever worked.

        2. Tara R.

          Alternatively, everything being covered up doesn’t mean something is professional! I went into the work world assuming that as long as something wasn’t “sexy”, it was work appropriate. Not true.

          Try to remember that your students are coming from a variety of backgrounds, and many don’t have a parent in an office job to learn these norms from. Spell it out VERY carefully. With pictures if possible. (And try to avoid being super gendered. I find 90% of the time, it’s not necessary to specify whether you’re talking to guys or girls. There’s nothing worse than “And…. LADIES…. avoid deep v-necks.”)

      1. Lefty

        Please tell them that integrity matters… there are so many issues caused by false pretenses, broken promises, and lack of follow-up. If someone isn’t sure of something, that’s ok- just be honest. If you don’t know something, that’s ok- be willing to learn it. If you say you’ll do something, do it- even if it’s not turning out the way you expected, follow-up and follow-through!

        Also- a rejection from an employer isn’t a measure of your value as a human being, it’s just a matter of fit. This is something Alison points out often in so many ways but I still find myself needing to hear!

    18. themmases

      I was so shy at that age. I wish someone had told me that life, work, and college are nothing like high school. You may never see your instructor or supervisor after this one class or job, they are not always thinking about your progress, and they will not remember you later just because you’re bright if you don’t seek them out and talk to them.

      Seek out people and opportunities that don’t necessarily seem closely related to your main goals. I got some of my best contacts and skills from my weirdest jobs. Often it turned out that those jobs weren’t as random as I thought when I applied, because I didn’t know everything! Especially when you’re starting out, there can be a real value in being able to say you’ve done even a little of something outside your major.

      When you’re applying for jobs or asking for any new opportunity, your best bet is usually to focus on how *you* will help *them*. There are some scholarships and other opportunities where the point is to develop people who are under-represented in that area or be a point of entry for people who don’t already have amazing resumes. But even then, don’t just talk about what a great opportunity this would be for you. It may be true but it’s not an effective thing to focus on. Put yourself in the decision maker’s shoes and think about why you will be likely to succeed at whatever the program is trying to do.

      1. catsAreCool

        “When you’re applying for jobs or asking for any new opportunity, your best bet is usually to focus on how *you* will help *them*.” This!

        1. Hiding on the Internet Today

          I have a young colleague who still needs to learn this one. They’re bright, they work hard, and their great ideas of changes we could make to the department are about how things could be made better to support their career. And when they are really trying to think big picture – my career as well.

          I keep trying to point out that it has to make sense for how the department works. As a whole. As a structure even if it didn’t include us.

    19. plain_jane

      The paperwork and admin is part of your job too. Treat it as such. No manager wants to keep after you for your timesheets, or explain the project management/accounting systems to you multiple times because you didn’t take notes the first time because you think you should be spending your time on Important Things instead of that.

      Conversely, just doing your job well will only take you so far. Eventually if you want to progress in a business setting, you’re going to need to do something that sets you apart from the pack in the eyes of the leadership/decision makers. I really wish someone had explained to me that the boss’ “special projects” were actually more important than client work from a career perspective.

    20. Anne S

      I was sort of slow-to-launch in my career because I hadn’t realized how important doing internships and making connections would have been until well past the time many of my peers had already done one or two.

    21. Terra

      Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and know your rights. Not all jobs/bosses will be jerks but I’ve noticed that a higher number of people who hire a lot of young people tend to be bad bosses or will take advantage of people who don’t understand their rights.

    22. Mike C.

      Learn your rights, be willing to speak up for others who are being abused and don’t put up with bullying behavior.

    23. Boston admin

      I think what I have observed is that when you are starting out you really need to be reliable. Do what you say you are going to do and you have to actually prove yourself. If there is some fun project you want to work on you need to prove yourself before you get “fun things” to do. Basically entitlement.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Be sincere. If you decide to be sincere this will help you show up on time, help you keep your promises to others, and it will help you to be transparently clear to others. You will meet people that do not do this stuff, or they do not do it all the time. Don’t slack off because you see others slacking. Do your best every day and learn as much as you can every day. Matter of fact, make a promise to keep learning every day no matter how old you are. That will serve you well for your entire career.

    24. Hiding on the Internet Today

      People can be Excellent in their Work, A Joy to Work with, or Get Everything Done on Time. Careers are made with two of the three.

      Be aware of your value to the business. Know where the money comes from and how you fit – there are things you can care about deeply that have little to do with why you have a job, prepare to let that go. There are things you can really dislike that are why you have a job, either suck it up or find a different job. There’s a reason its called work and they have to pay you for it.

    25. Anx

      I wish I hadn’t worked so much in college and high school and focused more on grades and school work.

      I thought that having some work experience would be beneficial. And it was, to an extent, but didn’t help me transition into white collar work or help me get a job in the fields I was most interested in.

  3. Roaming Antelope

    I’m starting a new job on Monday. I’m also planning a vacation for Summer 2016. In December, I want to ask about taking a week off during Summer 2016. Would that violate the “don’t talk about taking time off after starting a new job” rule?

    1. Sascha

      I think December is far enough away from your start date to safely ask about vacation, especially one you are planning so far in advance.

    2. YourUnfriendlyPhlebotomist

      During your on boarding someone will tell you how long in advance requests should be made. At my job its 1 month- my old job was a year….. I think as long as it fits those requirements its fine, its not like you’re planning a week soon- its months away.

        1. YourUnfriendlyPhlebotomist

          yes mam’ I worked for the 5th largest company in the US and they required a year for more than 3 consecutive days!

              1. Academic Librarian

                my first librarian job was in a big city. Union shop and tiered benefits.
                Last hired got two weeks vacation. The managers got 6 weeks AND because of seniority first dibs. Vacation schedule was written out a year in advance for all days off. So…I started in August- could not go home for the Jewish Holidays because I had not scheduled the time in advance. I worked Christmas Eve the next 5 years. (husband is Catholic) If you needed to change your vacation dates it had to be typed up on the Change Vacation form and give a reason.

      1. Not So Sunny

        Onboarding differs from workplace to workplace, though. No guarantee that it will be brought up on day one.

    3. danr

      You’ll also find out when the vacation year starts and how vacation is accrued. At my old company the vacation year started on June 1, and if you started work after Labor Day, you had a pro-rated set of vacation days.

    4. BRR

      In addition to the advice above, I think you can also start learning about how vacation works before asking. This will help guide when and how you ask.

    5. ElCee

      Good question! Piggybacking: I’m interviewing for a job that, if I get it, would start mid-November. My sister, who lives on the opposite coast, is getting married and we have two trips out there in the works–one for dress shopping/other bridal stuff (early 2016) and one for the actual wedding (summer 2016). When is it kosher to mention/ask about these?

      1. Snargulfuss

        Personally, I’d just ask for time off for the actual wedding. I get that dress shopping and other wedding related things can be a big deal, but if I were hiring a new employee I’d also expect them to get that sometimes when you start a new job you have to make certain adjustments. Dress shopping can sound frivolous and not a great reason to ask for an exception, whereas a sibling’s wedding is reasonable (but then I’m the type of cold-hearted person that thinks that shopping for someone else’s wedding dress is the furthest thing from an enjoyable experience).

        1. RVA Cat

          I think the key difference here is whether or not ElCee is a bridesmaid – if so, then it’s shopping for *her* dress. Otherwise, I’d try to see if maybe you could squeeze it into a long weekend (MLK Day?).

      2. Z

        During the interview, when they ask, “Do you have any questions for me?” ask your good questions, and then finish with, “I have a couple of trips already planned for X and Y. If I take this job, will having those times off be a problem?”

        I started a job in Oct. 2011, and this was the last question I asked b/c my brother got married in Jan. 2012…on a Friday.

        1. Court

          Yeah, definitely ask this at the interview stage. If you don’t, you run the risk of being unhappy and blindsided if the employer tells you you can’t have that time off when it comes around, or you risk your employer being unhappy if they have to make accommodations to cover your work all of a sudden.

  4. Emma

    For a long time I’ve been thinking about moving overseas and lately these thoughts are starting to become all-consuming. The only thing stopping me is my fear that I won’t be able to get work in my field. I’ve done some research but it’s hard to get a gauge on the job market without actually being in the country.

    Back in August I did a month-long course in the country I want to move to (I took leave from my current job), and I thought it’d be a good chance for me to get a feel of what was available. Over five weeks I applied to around 10 jobs (I would’ve liked to apply to more but classes took up a lot of my time, and I thought it’d be better to prioritise quality over quantity). I got 3 interviews but no offers during that time.

    At this point, I’m not sure how to put that in context of my decision-making. Is that a reasonable ‘response rate’ in terms of getting interviews? Do I have any cause to believe I stand a chance if I took the plunge? Anyone with experience of moving overseas without something set up?

    I’m feeling so torn right now. Living in that city made me fall in love with it even more and despite being stressed I hadn’t felt so happy in a really long time, and when I went back to my old job I just felt so empty. The thought of this whole thing is both so exciting and so scary at the same time. Right now I don’t know which feeling is winning out.

    1. over educated and underemployed

      I think that’s a pretty solid response rate – it’s way better than mine ;) My only concern would be, if you take the plunge, what is the backup? How long can you make it there without a job, and if you do hit the point where you have to move back for visa or financial reasons, what would you do then? I believe in not making decisions out of fear, but having a plan for the worst case scenario.

    2. katamia

      I was in that boat very recently. Living abroad has been a lifelong dream for me, and I finally got tired of, well, not doing it and applied to a job abroad (I lucked out and only needed one, which is fortunate because I have no idea where I’d find other jobs). I moved abroad in August for a job, although I was hired before I got here (interviewed via Skype and everything). Different countries have different rules for emigrating, and some require that people moving there have a job. The country I moved to mostly does, although there are some exceptions.

      I don’t know what your field is or what country you’re looking at, so I can’t speak to the specifics, but can you contact anyone from your course to ask them more about the job market? Industry-specific sites and maybe country-specific sites (Reddit should have a subreddit for that country if nothing else) could also give you a better idea.

      How important is it for you to get work in your field versus just work that will let you pay bills and live there? Because these thoughts are consuming you (they were consuming me, too, before I applied–I NEEDED to do this like I’d never needed to do anything in my life, it felt like), I think you should explore it.

    3. Barbara in Swampeast

      Have you checked all the visa/work permit requirements? European countries were tightening requirements even before the war in Syria. Have savings so you can get back to where you are now if things don’t work out and if you can get the visa/work permits settled easily, go for it!

    4. nep

      I say take the leap. You might just land one of those jobs. (Three interviews after applying for about 10 jobs — that’s a pretty good rate!) And even if things don’t go exactly as you might ‘plan’, you’ve got to know you’ll land on your feet and you’ll handle whatever comes along. Things you never expected might open up for you.
      Just reading what you wrote about how happy you were there, and how ’empty’ upon getting back to your job — that says a lot. Seems to me that needs to be heeded.
      All the best to you. Keep us posted.

    5. Toriew

      I have been considering making the same move for a while now, and have finally decided to take the plunge. I plan on leaving in late December, and I definitely understand how you feel. Unfortunately, the countries I am most interested in moving too have extremely strict visa requirements, and I am unlikely to be sponsored in my current field or offered a job before moving there. I plan on just moving and trying to find something once I get there.

      Just out of curiosity, what is your field and what country are you planning on moving to? Three interviews for ten applications seems like a great response rate! Go for it!

  5. Sera

    I went to an interview early last week, at the end of it they gave me their timeline, which was that they’d be interviewing for the rest of the week and will make their decision once the interviews are done.

    So it’s been almost a whole week since their interviews would’ve concluded, and I haven’t heard anything back. Instinctively I feel that this must mean I’m out of the running – since surely if they’d wanted to proceed they would’ve been in contact already.

    Is that a reasonable assumption? I’ve read comments here where people wonder whether they should follow up after two weeks, but I’ve always thought that if it was good news it’d come a lot sooner, and anything longer than a week (after their interviewing period ends) is pretty much a sure no.

    1. fposte

      It’s always reasonable to assume you didn’t get it and to move on.

      Is that the likeliest explanation for not hearing back? No, not really. The likeliest explanation is that hiring almost never operates on the stated schedule. But assuming you didn’t get it and moving on is always the best response anyway.

    2. over educated and underemployed

      You never know. I interviewed for a part time job last week, and when a week had gone by without hearing anything, I got bummed and wrote it off. Then I came into work and my supervisor said, “hey, I got in that written reference they asked for! I know it’s late but they said I could take until the end of the day so hopefully that’s ok!” I had no idea they were doing reference checks at that point (I had to submit the contact info with the application), but that signaled that I may still be in the running.

    3. Ad Astra

      It’s more likely that interviewing and deciding on a candidate is taking longer than they expected. But you’re not doing yourself any harm by assuming you won’t hear from them and moving on in your search. If you’re wrong, it will be a pleasant surprise!

    4. BRR

      It could be any number of reasons: somebody is out, they’re checking the budget, checking references, you’re the second choice, it’s not a priority (this really happens, at my last job they just took a while because there was no rush, not smart in my opinion but whatever) etc.

      Assume you didn’t get it any move on though.

    5. Vanishing Girl

      I just had this same dilemma. They told me they’d definitely let me know by [x] and it was over a week past [x] with no word from them. I figured I wasn’t in the running anymore, but decided to follow up anyway. I sent them a quick follow-up email like one I’ve seen here, just checking on the timeline.

      I got a call from the hiring manager the next day asking me to come in for a second interview. She was already planning to call, but also saw my email, which was good timing. They’ve just been really busy lately.

      So I’d say follow up if it’s been a while past that original date. It can’t hurt if you do it well.

    6. SL #2

      Hmm, I wouldn’t say that. If I remember right, it took 2 weeks for me to move from final interview to actual call from the boss saying that the job was mine if I wanted it. I got a call from HR asking for references about 3 days after the interview but they had trouble reaching some people.

      Sometimes you just don’t know what happened– a decision-maker is out on vacation for a few days, home sick, HR’s having trouble in their department… who knows? Alison’s advice about assuming you didn’t get the job, and continuing to look for new opportunities until you have the offer and are sure that you will accept it (that also means being done with negotiations), is always applicable.

  6. louise

    I have to ask an awkward questions about weight by phone to a lot of employees over the next few days. Any ideas for how to nicely word it?

    Background: we are shopping for new health insurance and all employees had to fill out new insurance forms. I think it’s SO, SO, SO ridiculous that everyone has to disclose so much personal info for this process, but it is what it is, I guess.

    Anyway, a ton of people didn’t put their weight on the form. Our broker tells me they MUST have this. These are mostly construction workers who don’t have email addresses and who are never all in the same place at the same time, so I’m going to have to do this by phone.

    I feel weird calling to ask people their weight and that’s going to come through unless I have a decent script to use. Any ideas?

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

      “Unfortunately our new insurance forms require weight for me to be able to process them. Please can you give me a ballpark figure to put on the form?”

      I think as long as you are matter-of-fact and give enough information that people know why you’re asking people won’t give you asking a second thought.

      1. The IT Manager

        I would at least remind them that the problem is they did not fully complete the form themselves. Perhaps some of you will call it a jerk move, but they created this problem by not filling in the form completely.

        “Unfortunately our new insurance forms require weight for me to be able to process them, and you left it blank when you turned in the form. Please can you give me a ballpark figure to put on the form?”

        * Also I don’t get sensitivity about weight. It’s a number. Knowing that number won’t make anyone say, “I guess Joe is obese. He doesn’t look obese but number don’t lie.” If someone is overweight it shows. But I am not “normal.”

        1. em2mb

          Do you have copies of their driver’s license on file? I mean sure, they’re mostly rounded down, but if that’s information you have quick access to (we would in my office, for instance), then it might be easier and faster than calling everyone to ask their weight.

          1. Windchime

            My driver’s license has the weight that I told them I was when I was getting my license at age 16. I was so embarrassed at that “high” weight. Now I would give just about anything to weight that little again. Whenever I’ve had my license renewed and they said, “Is the weight the same?” (with a doubting glance at me), I look them in the eye and say, “Close enough”. They have always backed down.

        2. themmases

          When I have to follow up with people who didn’t do something right, I always try to make it sound like a favor to them. For example, “I noticed you didn’t fill out this field so rather than send the whole form back to you I thought I’d just call…” It gets the point across and sometimes it even fools people into being happy about it! I used to use it on medical trainees who didn’t finish assignments during their rotation through my department. “We want to be able to publish this case report on the website, so I’m emailing to help you finish it…”

        3. Moksha Maginifique

          You’ve obviously never had your boss put up a sign for uniform collection that listed your rather large pant size. And then had your jerk coworkers begin referring to you as that number for the remainder of your time at the job.

    2. fposte

      People who left their weight off quite likely don’t want to tell you their weight. I might try to make it a little easier by asking not what their weight is but what it was last recorded as being. “Last time you went to the doctor, do you know roughly what was put down for your weight?” might fly better than “How much do you weigh?”

      1. Beck

        I don’t know, this just seems to be purposefully dancing around the question when really, you’re still asking how much they weigh.

        1. fposte

          I don’t have any problem with dancing around the question as long as it gets to the same thing. It’s also a way of making clear that I personally do not care. Put down the fantasy that’s on your driver’s license if you like :-).

    3. over educated and underemployed

      Can you assure them that this will not be used against them in their own future benefit levels, they will be used to decide on insurance plans at a group level? Or can you not promise that since you haven’t purchased the insurance yet? Maybe they are worried about privacy concerns or penalties.

    4. Kasia

      Would it be possible to give them options?
      A. Tell me right now over the phone
      B. Send me an email (I know they don’t have work emails but I’m sure they have a personal one) by X date
      C. Come in and finish filling out the form before X date

      Then if they don’t come htrough you’d have to call again but it might make it a little better for them to have options. Obviously I would word it much nicer.

      1. cuppa

        I kind of like the “please come by and complete the weight box on your form”… it seems less personal to me. You could even watch them fill it out and put it in an envelope without actually seeing the number.

      2. Sunflower

        I like this- esp the last part. That seems way less invasive. Also sorry you have to do this- it super sucks

    5. BRR

      I’d pretend it’s no big deal and just an administrative task. If you can give them options I think that would be great “I’m sorry to be a pain about this but on the new health insurance forms a couple of fields were left blank/not all of the fields were filled out. I’m going to need this completed by X date to submit them to the insurance company. We can do this over the phone, email, or you can come in to fill out the missing fields.”

    6. The Cosmic Avenger

      Can you give them a more specific justification, like “I’m sorry to have to ask you this, but if we don’t get this information we may all be paying a lot more for our health insurance soon!” (Assuming that’s true.)

      1. Florida

        I like saying “I’m sorry I have to ask this…” it acknowledge that it is an awkward question for all parties. I also like he ballpark figure that was mentioned previously.

        What’s also important in this exchange is how you respond to their answer. You might have to make an effort to act like it’s no big deal, regardless of their answer. Even people who are on the low end (think 100 pounds where someone their height might normally be 130 pounds) might be very insecure about their weight.

        I also like giving them the option to come in and fill it out. “I need to know your date of birth, address, and weight. Do you want to give me that information now over the phone, or would you rather come in and fill out the form?”

    7. Some New Guy

      Assuming you have driver’s licenses on file (or whatever photo id was used to verify hiring eligibility) could you just pull the numbers from there? Obviously some of them may have changed, but that’s always the case.

      I don’t know if there are legal issues with you filling in info as opposed to them doing it, but this might be an easy solution.

      1. blackcat

        I’ve had drivers licenses in 4 states; only 1 has listed weight. All have listen height/eye color, but for some reason weight is a state to state decision.

        1. Natalie

          Indeed, I don’t think it’s that common to list. Makes sense, really – “200 pounds” or whatever really doesn’t tell you anything about how a person looks (is it more muscle or more fat? Are they 5′ or 6′?) which is presumably the point. And weight fluctuates a lot.

        2. afiendishthingy

          Huh. I’ve had licenses in three states and they’ve all listed weight.

          OT, but my sister has been dyeing her hair hot pink for the past decade or so, but the DMV won’t let her list her hair color as “pink”, which is just dumb. That’s what color it is! And now that I’m looking I see that mine doesn’t list hair color at all, just height, weight, and eye color.

    8. Mpls

      Push back on your broker’s request, or at least clarify who is requesting and why. I’ve dealt with a couple small business applications for group health insurance, and we’ve never had to provide that sort of information. I know insurance interactions can vary by state, but I haven’t heard this be an issue in the shopping process.

    9. Observer

      I haven’t read the responses, so it could be you already addressed this. Why do you HAVE to have this? Before you call all these guys, please clarify this with the broker.

      Also, when you call them, it might be worth asking about email addresses. They obviously don’t have work addresses, but I’m sure most of the actually have personal addresses.

      1. louise

        Several do have personal email addresses, but pride themselves on not checking them, not being into computers, etc. etc. When we quit printing paper pay stubs and went to electronic pay stubs for direct deposit, I don’t think I can overstate the resistance. Some reluctantly got an email address, but have since confessed they just don’t bother to check it and never end up looking at their paystubs. Others refuse to get an address and come into the office periodically to ask me to print them out…

        We’re in a rural area and most of our workers fall into a “good ol’ boy” category, many still have non-smart phones and few have home computers or internet access and it’s mostly by design–they don’t want to be overconnected.

        The worst part of getting everyone to fill out these forms was how many suspiciously said to me “Well just as long as you don’t get us an Obama plan. I don’t want no Obamacare.” I had to bite my tongue every time and stick with, “Oh, we’ll definitely a choose a private plan.” I get frustrated by ignorance and want to educate…

    10. insert pun here

      I know this isn’t your decision or your fault, but for what it’s worth, I would straight up refuse to answer this.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I have no idea what I weigh–I refuse to let the doctor’s office tell me, and I don’t have a scale at home. I go by how my clothes fit, how well I can exercise/do physical tasks, and pay attention to my blood pressure to gauge overall fitness. When asked, I just give a rough figure.

        1. Cath in Canada

          Same! Although I do let the doctor weigh me occasionally, but I never remember how much it is. I would probably remember if it was in stones and pounds, which is still how I think 13 years after leaving the UK, but I can’t remember just the number of pounds.

      2. Noah

        I would actually refuse to complete the form in its entirety. My personal health history is not the business of my employer. I’ve put my name and identifying information on this type of form before and just turned it in blank. One time HR asked about it and I simply said “I would prefer not to provide that information”.

    11. Not So NewReader

      “I am in a bit of a bind and I am hoping you can help me. We are shopping for new health care insurance for everyone. Our broker is a real stickler. He said people MUST answer all the questions on the health form. He cannot proceed if the forms are incomplete. Unfortunately, this means that if anyone has left some blanks on their form, I must call them and ask them to either come in an finish or tell me over the phone what to write in. So which would you prefer?”

      OR

      “I have your health form here, thank you for getting it to me in a timely manner. Unfortunately, I had to call you because there is a blank (or two) on your form and we have to have the forms completely filled out. Where it says weight, what would you like to me to write in for you? I’m sorry to ask, but I can just fill it in which would save you a trip to the office.”

      This is a thank you, then the question, then “here let me make it easier for you- you don’t have to come all the way down here to fill this out the rest of the way.”

  7. katamia

    I’m still having a lot of trouble adjusting to my new job, and I think the biggest problem is actually the hours. I’ve always been a night person, and while I do get enough sleep, my brain just never really seems to “wake up” until afternoon, so I have 3 hours when I’m just never as productive as I should (by my definition and work’s definition) be.

    In addition to that, I’ve always been a sprinter, not a marathoner, when it comes to work. I get tired (mentally) very easily, and need to take a lot of breaks when I work. And this job is basically the opposite–it’s very steady, and the scheduling assumes that you will consistently work at a steady pace. For 8+ hours at a time.

    I’m so frustrated because while they’re very happy with my work quality so far (I’ve been there for under 3 months and am still in training), I know I’d do a better job if I could work the way I work best. I miss certain things that, when I get feedback, I know I would have caught if I were working better (for me) hours.

    Any other sprinters and/or night people in similar predicaments? What can I do? How can I adjust?

    1. fposte

      Oh, tough adjustment. On the sprinter thing: is it something like data entry where it’s the same thing over and over again? Or is it possible for you to break it into sprint tasks that you can play off against each other?

      1. katamia

        It’s not quite as “same thing over and over again” as data entry, but it’s relatively close. I was hired to paint teapots, say, and while each teapot is different (more different than the average data entry job), painting teapots is the one task I do in this job. There’s not even any paperwork or admin duties (paint mixing?) that I can use to break it up–I’m supposed to spend 8 hours painting teapots, and that’s it.

        1. Jennifer

          Is painting teapots a metaphor? If so, I’m jealous you get to paint for 8 hours/day. Hope you find a schedule that works well for you and your team!

        2. Vanishing Girl

          Sounds a lot like my job! I am lucky in that I have been here a while and so I work fast and have room for lots of little breaks in the day. I either physically get up and not look at my computer, or do things like read AaM so my mind has something else to do.

          Is there any part of your job like training that you could continue doing? Reading the company manual? Our department is big on cross-training so I set that up as often as I can get the opportunity. For me what helped was just getting faster and making room for more breaks during the day.

          1. katamia

            They hire people to paint teapots and expect people to stay there (which isn’t a negative, actually–under nomal circumstances, I like painting teapots, and it’s a relatively specialized position, not entry-level or anything). The only other job I would be capable of doing at this company requires a language I don’t speak and is actually very similar to the teapot painting I do now, so I don’t think there’s much training available. There is a manual, but I consult it frequently for what I do now, so it’s not really a break.

            I am getting faster in some respects, but different teapots have different difficulty levels (okay, stretching the metaphor a bit here, lol), so I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point of being truly fast, if that makes sense.

        3. Ad Astra

          Are you able to take several breaks throughout the day and still meet your teapot-painting goals? Taking a minute or two to fill your water bottle, grab a snack, go to the bathroom, even pace the hallway can help you break it up.

          Look for any opportunity to group tasks into sprints. You’re not painting 8 teapots a day, you’re doing the two-teapot Williams project, and then you’re sprinting through the three-teapot Johnson project, and so on.

          1. katamia

            Yeah, I take a lot of breaks (bathroom, water cooler, AAM, news sites), but a minute or two just isn’t long enough, even though it does help. :(

            1. Elizabeth West

              I’ve had jobs like that–once, a temp agency sent me to a bath products factory and we spent eight hours shoveling flavored Epsom salts into small plastic bags and weighing them. That would have gotten old extremely fast, but they let us talk. Otherwise, I would have fallen asleep face first into the table full of salt.

              I really enjoyed that job, actually–we also had great discussions on the packing line, and as long as we kept up, they didn’t care how much we chatted. Plus you smelled good when you went home. I always requested to be sent there if they needed hands. :)

    2. WLE

      Are you trying to maintain a consistent schedule? I think it’s fairly typical for night owls to stay up very late (particularly on their off days) and then sleep in late. It is important to keep a consistent schedule. Start going to bed at a reasonable hour at the same time each night (even when you’re not working). You should wake up around the same time as well. If you’re not already doing this, this could take some getting used to.

      1. T3k

        The problem I see coming from this for Katamia is that, as a fellow night owl, we could get 9 hours of sleep but if we went to bed too soon (say 10pm) we still wouldn’t feel awake until around late afternoon. In college, without fail, I had to take a 2-3 hour nap in the middle of the day if I had to be up for early morning classes, but as soon as my schedule switched to all afternoon classes, meaning I didn’t have to be up until 11am-1pm, I no longer felt the need to take naps and felt in my zone all day. Ideally, Katamia could see about flex hours, but I don’t know if her job allows that.

        1. katamia

          Yeah, in addition to not waking up until afternoon, while I do try to go to bed early, I just don’t get tired before midnight (and sometimes later), which leads to the dreaded “lie awake for hours because I went to bed at a socially acceptable time” problem. :P

        2. Anx

          Yes to this!

          I work better on 4 hours of sleep from 7am to 11am than i do with 7 hours from 1am to 8am.

    3. Kara Ayako

      You could be describing me in my first job at this company! I would so much rather take a call at 8pm instead of 8am.

      So this is what I did: when I first started, I gave myself a “pass” for the first couple of hours for the day. Then I would make it up by working later (I was salaried, not hourly). I developed a reputation for working hard, and now I get to pretty much make my own hours. I come in later in the day, stay later, and no one really cares about the frequent breaks I take–like you, I work best in short bursts. I’ve also found it helpful to switch tasks rapidly, but this didn’t work for me in my initial job when I was, like you, generally painting teapots all day.

      1. katamia

        I’m salaried, too, but I have to be there by 9:15, unfortunately, even though really there’s nothing about this job that I couldn’t do at home at 3am. :( I’ve been thinking of asking to come in later (same schedule, just shifted 1.5 hours later–the office is always open that late anyway, so they wouldn’t be keeping it open just for me) once I’m out of my probation period, but nobody else does anything like that, and I’m pretty sure I’m just too new to actually get anything like that, unfortunately.

        I also just find it really frustrating to be at work when I’m not working, though. I was the kid who always hated watching movies in school because “You made me get out of bed and get dressed, so teach me something!” so I think giving myself a pass early in the day might not work so well. :(

        1. Jules the First

          Have you thought about trying the Pomodoro technique? Set a timer for a set period of time and get through as much as possible. Then deliberately switch to as different a task as possible, so for example you might spend 20 minutes painting pink petals on the teapots, take a short break to batch some email or do a water run, then spend your next 20 minutes painting teapot handles…

          1. katamia

            I have to admit I haven’t had a whole lot of luck with similar techniques in the past, but I’ll give Pomodoro a try–it’s a little more formalized than what I’ve tried in the past, so that might make a difference.

    4. aliascelli

      I hate mornings with a passion. Especially on the wrong side of the equinox when it gets light so late.

      One thing you might want to try is a light therapy lamp to try and shift your awake period a little earlier. My doctor recommended an online quiz to tell me when my ideal awake time was and when I should use my light to try and shift it earlier. It’s…a process, but every little bit helps. And they’re so much cheaper than they used to be.

      1. katamia

        Oh, I didn’t know they could be used for that! I thought they were basically just for SAD. I’m moving soon so I don’t want to buy anything bulky right now, but maybe after I’ve moved if I’m still having problems.

        1. Schmitt

          My birthday gift this year was an alarm clock with a light. It gradually gets lighter for half an hour before the actual alarm goes off. I was skeptical, but it’s started getting dark in the mornings now and I have not even been tempted to smack the snooze button once.

          Now if only it also smelled like bacon….

      2. Manders

        Yep, a light therapy lamp made a huge difference for me in the winter. I also try to chug some coffee *before* I get into the office; if I wait until I’m already in to brew it and then slowly drink it, I’m not really running at full speed for the first two or three hours of the day.

        If you can walk to work or walk around a bit before you sit down, that helps a lot.

        I used to be a night owl but I had to train myself to be able to handle an 8 am start time. I wish I could go back to a later schedule, but I like getting paid enough to house and feed myself more than I like having a flexible schedule (and sadly, in my area, you pretty much have to choose one or the other).

      3. Hiding on the Internet Today

        I second the lighting.

        I’ve also had great success shifting my body by using Hue bulbs in my bedroom, programmed to do a sunrise color shift at the same time every day. They go from deep red through orange to a sunny warm yellow slightly before my alarm used to go off – I haven’t needed it in a long while. Now I’m not a morning person, but I don’t loathe getting up. It took me getting to a very consistent bedtime and morning time, every day, including weekends, to get more comfortable with it. I have a pretty strict sleep hygiene pattern as well, doing the exact same things before bed every day, taking a shower to manipulate my body temperature to imitate/initiate a sharp drop followed by a slow rise that happens during sleep, no lit screens, etc.

        I’ve also heard great things about melatonin taken just before bed to kick off sleep ‘on time’

    5. Not So NewReader

      I see this as a two part problem.
      You are shifting your waking hours AND you are working steadily not in sprints.
      I think it’s good to separate the two problems and do things for each one.
      I’m going to talk about sprints because I’m definitely a sprinter.
      I spent years supervising an assembly line. Probably not what you are doing, but the work was repetitive and eventually it got pretty boring. You had to make a game out of it to keep your mind engaged and get through the day. It’s good to know how much they expect you to do each day. Try to find out. You can just say, “I am concerned about my productivity levels and I was just wondering what the range was for completed work for someone in my position. I want to work on getting my productivity levels up.” If one person won’t answer you, then ask someone else.

      Let’s say they tell you, they want 8 teapots a day, because the number works well for my example here. Well, most people do straight math on that- “Oh, that means one per hour.” Nope, it does not. Most people have points during the day where they are more productive than other times. So, Perfect Sue, who is always a superstar, is actually doing 3 teapots at 45 minutes each when she comes in fresh in the morning. By afternoon, Sue Superstar is tired and starting to drag. She ends up taking 1 hour and 15 minutes on her last three teapots. On paper it looks like she is hitting the goal day after day- but her timing is not equal for each item. No one says anything. In the afternoon, Sue knows she does not have to push as hard as she did in the morning. This allows a bathroom break or a stretch break or time to chat with someone next to her.

      One way Sue got such tight control over her timing was by looking at EVERY SINGLE THING she was doing. Back to making a game of it. Each day come in and challenge yourself to find a way to make one aspect of a task go a little quicker. One thing Sue did, was she decided to cover her paints in plastic wrap, rather than unscrew the lid on each color 8 times a day, then have to screw the lid back on eight times a day. The paints don’t dry out with the plastic wrap on them and she can quickly move to the next step. This saves her time and frustration fighting with paint lids that get stuck on the container because she had not wiped it down before covering.

      If you can, ask your coworkers what their favorite time saving tips are. Collect tips like people collect seashell or old coins. Modify the tips to suit you. Sue is a lefty, her paints are on the left. You’re a righty, your paints should be on the right.

      Watch your self-talk. I could tell who was talking negatively to themselves, it did slow them down. Speak encouragingly to yourself.

  8. A Noodle Moose

    I’m thinking of taking a new job and struggling with guilt. I work for a small company and my boss heavily relies on me. I know no one is irreplaceable, but it is actually very hard to hire someone else in this city with my skill set (we’ve tried). If I leave, I’ll be leaving my boss in the lurch. Plus, this boss has been extremely kind to me, including creating flexibility for me to deal with a family medical issue last year.

    So I’m struggling with whether to leave, as well as with how to act while I’m interviewing. Do I stop talking about the future? (That’s hard, since I work on long-term projects.) Should I try not to be scheduled for business trips going forward? I’d appreciate advice from people who have been through this.

    1. LBK

      What’s pushing you to leave? Do you think you could spend the rest of your life working in this position? If not, you’ll have to leave eventually, and in a small company like that there may never be a “good time”. There’s no sense in putting it off for the vague future if you know without a doubt that you’ll be leaving eventually.

      Keep in mind that it’s extremely rare that a company will go under because one person quits (in fact I’ve never heard of that happening before). They may struggle, but they’ll survive. Even if they can’t hire someone to replace you exactly, the work will get done somehow.

      1. A Noodle Moose

        I’m thinking of leaving mostly because of a new opportunity that’s come up at a different company. It would let me use my background in teapot engineering directly, whereas right now I’m using it indirectly for a role in teapot communications. The company isn’t a direct rival of ours, so I don’t need to worry about that.

        The new job also looks like it would have more structure and a livelier workplace, which I would like. I enjoy my current role, though; I wouldn’t leave for anything that wasn’t great.

    2. Kasia

      Definitely do NOT avoid talking about the future/avoiding scheduling things in the future. For all you know it could take you three years to find a job you really want (unlikely, but still).

      Just go about your normal business and take personal days when interviewing. Turn over is a normal part of business and reasonable managers understand that and woudl probably be happy for you for finding something you really like (although probably disappointed).

      The best way to help with the transition is to start writing a manual with everything you do so that the next person who takes your job can pick up right where you left off. And if you are able to, give a longer notice period so they might be able to hire someone and have you train them for a bit before leaving. You definitely don’t have to but if you’re feeling guilty that might help.

    3. Barbara in Swampeast

      You mentioned that you have tried hiring in the past. Does that there is a job open for someone? If you can’t find someone with your exact skill set, can you find someone who could do part of it? That way you don’t leave your boss at a total loss.

      1. A Noodle Moose

        Yes, there’s a job opening for another person in my role. I described my job above as “teapot communications.” The difficult part of hiring is that the person has to be able to understand and research teapot engineering and then communicate his/her findings to non-professionals. There is not a big teapot industry in my town, so finding people who understand the engineering and can also do communications is a challenge. So far we have had no luck.

        Unless I tell my boss that I’m leaving, I don’t think he will hire someone who can’t do the whole role. He seems to have settled into the mindset that he’d rather have a small, great staff rather than a bigger, not-great staff. That’s fine but it means there is no redundancy and no one who can pick up my role at the moment.

        1. Not So Sunny

          You can’t base your life decisions on whether your current boss can “survive” without you. You have to look to your own future and professional growth.

        2. Jules the First

          I also work in a very small field that’s very expert (there are maybe 100 people who do what I do at the level I do it in a city of 8 million people). Every so often, someone goes on maternity leave, retires, or changes jobs and we all play musical chairs for a few months until someone is left with the empty chair. The best advice I can give you is to conduct your daily working life as if you will be the one with the empty chair, so create an in-depth manual (which will probably be easier to do for teapot engineering than for communicating) and add to it a little bit every day. Hire someone who is sharp and has some of the skillset and road test your manual on them. They’ll learn, and your boss will have something in writing to refer to when they panic.

          You will move jobs eventually (and trust me, your boss knows this) and you are actually doing your boss a favour by now allowing him to remain completely dependent on you personally…

    4. NicoleK

      It’s natural and normal to feel conflicted about moving on, especially if you enjoy your work, colleagues, and organization. Do Not Stop Talking About the Future. The new job may fall through, you may change your mind, or it may be a while before you receive a job offer. Proceed as usual. Companies should have contingency and transition plans.

  9. HR Noob

    How do you get your boss to pass more tasks and projects on to you when you don’t know exactly what you’d like to take on? My boss is really busy, and honestly has way too much stuff on his plate, to the point where things regularly slip through the cracks. Meanwhile, I’m bored and have a lot of time to spare. Just asking “what can I take off your plate?” hasn’t been a good strategy, but the problem is I’m not familiar enough with his tasks to say “I’d like to take on task Y.” How do I get a better handle on what he’s dealing with so I can be more proactive in asking to take stuff on?

    1. Jillociraptor

      Do you have 1:1s? Could you ask him about what he’s working on and make recommendations from there about what you might take on?

      You might also think about your strengths and what you’re really good at doing, or think about an area where you’d like to learn and develop your skills. Having something specific like that might help your boss identify some new projects and feel good about sending them your way.

      You also mention that you’re seeing things slip through the cracks? So you have some idea of what’s not getting done? If you can find a pattern in that (is it administrative details like agendas not going out on time, or paperwork not getting filed? or is it falling behind on plans for longer term projects? etc) and find a way to disrupt the pattern, that might be helpful too.

      When I was a manager in this position, it was so hard to send anything my employees’ way, not because I didn’t trust them, but because I was fighting each fire as it came up and didn’t have the brain space to think two or three steps down the line to explain to them what actually needed to get done. I think that’s something that always challenges people in various degrees of crisis–there’s just SO MUCH that you can’t get your brain together to be specific. So it’s great that you’re trying to do that part for him. Good luck!

      1. HR Noob

        Thanks for this, it helps a lot to hear the perspective of someone who’s been on the other side of this issue. I’m going to start asking what he’s working on during our weekly meetings, and pay attention to what things aren’t getting done, and see where that overlaps with my skills/things I want to improve on.

    2. Development professional

      Is there a way for you to regularly start asking about what he’s working on, in a more neutral way? For example, if you have a weekly meeting with him, can you add a short section of your agenda that’s just an update for your own information about what he has on his plate? The key might be not to couch it in terms of what you can take on, but just ask for your own knowledge to help you grow your personal base of information about the company and the work of your department. In those terms, he might be less defensive about telling you things, and over time you’ll have a better idea of what to ask to work on yourself. It might also have the effect of jogging his own thinking of what to delegate to you, without your having to ask, which would be good.

      1. HR Noob

        I say this to him about once a month and it never really goes anywhere. He’s a lot busier now than when I first started working for him (he’s been promoted to COO and has a lot of new responsibilities), so I think he doesn’t have the brainspace to think of stuff for me to do, which is why I’m looking into strategies to be a little more specific about what I can help with.

    3. Jady

      Ask to job shadow?

      That can be the best way to learn without (significantly) slowing down the person. It would give you knowledge about a little bit of everything and let you slowly pick up tasks as you figure out what’s going on.

      1. Jules the First

        I second this…in my early career I was an EA to a guy who’d never had one before and had no idea how to delegate. To start with, I sat down with him and said ‘look; I’m here to make you more productive at the things only you can do. What are those things?’ Once we’d established where his time was best spent, it was a lot easier for both of us to see what sorts of other tasks he should be delegating, and then the next time he had to do one of those tasks, he’d call me in, we’d do it together, and then he’d offload that permanently.

        Part of the problem is that your boss doesn’t know what to delegate because he/she doesn’t know where to start.

    4. Jules

      I have a peer who does this and I regularly pass by his cube and say, “You look stressed, what can I do to help you manage that. Send work my way, don’t worry if you feel that it’s elementary.” Slowly he gets more used to delegating and now we are a team.

    5. Not So NewReader

      Can you back into things? Such as you do the wrap up on a task- get it all boxed up or filed away. In the process of doing the wrap ups, you start to learn what the task actually entails.

      If no, then ask the boss to pass you some of the repetitive tasks. He can talk you through one and then give you the four others that need to be done.

      The common thread here is that you are looking for inroads. Take on the part of the project that you CAN do and get that part done. When you start it could be that you work on it for 15 minutes and then you are done with your share of it. Use that 15 minutes to observe and absorb as much as you can. Then repeat the process on a different day. Keep doing this. The next thing that can happen is the boss says, “oh, you have done a lot of task b’s. Here, you can do c’s also because it is very similar with one minor change.” Things can snowball like this once you get it rolling. I have gone as far as looking at the work in the boss’ hands. “Oh, I can do that up for you.” The more times you do this the easier it will be for the boss to pass stuff to you.

  10. Blue Anne

    I was recently working on a project with a manager who works part-time. She CCed me on to one of her emails to her client. Say the email was sent Tuesday. At the end of the email, she said she would look into it and come back to them about the question on Thursday, because Wednesday was her day home with her children.

    I found it really strange and I can’t exactly put my finger on why. I think if our roles had been reversed, and I was her manager, I’d have suggested to her in future that she not give that kind of explanation for when she would reply to a query. But then… why? Because saying that you work part time because you have kids is unprofessional? Hmmm, that doesn’t seem right…

    Anyone have thoughts? I can’t quite sort this one out.

    1. Sascha

      To me, it’s squicky not because of the reason, but because she’s giving a reason at all to a client. I don’t think clients really need a reason like that, most of them understand that there are many things that can go on during the work week and the reason for it doesn’t really matter. I might give that reason to my boss, but he’s in a more need-to-know position than a client. Of course, she may just have that kind of relationship with this client where they share info like that.

    2. NYC Redhead

      I agree- her reason for working part time or what she does when not working isn’t relevant. I would have clarified as “I will respond Thursday, as I do not work on Wednesdays.”

    3. Paige Turner

      That sounds weirdly personal to me, too. I’d say that a more neutral response would be something like, “I am off on Wednesdays, so I’ll get back to you on Thursday.”
      That said, it doesn’t sound like you can or should do anything about it. Just agreeing with you that it sounds odd (and possibly, a tiny bit judgy toward full-time working parents?) to mention that the way she did.

      1. fposte

        Totally agreeing. This isn’t an applicant situation; it’s a co-worker. I don’t think this is hugely different from saying “I can’t make the meeting Friday because I’ll be off on my honeymoon.”

    4. Beezus

      The irrelevance of the information and the misplaced focus is the problem, not the activity itself. “Wednesday is my day home with my children” rubs me wrong in the same way that “I’m going shopping with friends on Wednesday”, in that context. “I’ll be out of the office tomorrow, but I’ll get that to you on Thursday” conveys enough context for the delay and keeps the focus on the information the client is looking for.

    5. CM

      I think it’s fine. She’s trying to be clear about her boundaries here, and maybe she’s consciously trying to improve a workplace culture where admitting you have a family or outside obligations is considered somehow unprofessional.

    6. Jady

      I don’t think it’s a big deal either way.

      Things like this can depend a lot on the current relationship with the client too and how their personalities click.

      1. AnotherHRPro

        I agree, while I would not respond that way, I don’t know what her relationship is with the client. It is very possible they had previously had a conversation where she mentioned her schedule or her kids. I wouldn’t spend any time worrying about it unless there are more examples of her “over sharing” things with clients.

    7. Not So NewReader

      I don’t see anything wrong with it. She works part time. I would assume the client knows that. Maybe the client and manager have discussed their kids together, so this fits a conversation you were not privy to.
      It might be strange because you never heard anyone else say that. Or it might be strange because she is the only part time person you work with and you do not have an opportunity to hear other part-timers say things like that.

      People who work odd hours weave their work into their life differently than people who work a regular business hours job. I just had a conversation today with someone about a product for my home. We were trying to schedule an available day. He said he was working 12 hour days and x day is family time. Hey, I can relate to that. I am glad he explained it to me so I knew not to sound pushy. I ended up telling him to figure out what is doable for a, b and c days and give me a shout. Technically speaking, I am his potential client. I want him to have family time so when he works on my house he feel free to do so.

  11. Golden Yeti

    Hi everyone. Need some good vibes and also advice: I’ve made it to a second interview with a non-profit–this is only the second time I’ve ever gotten this far.

    I was super excited about the job when I first applied, but in doing some Glassdoor research, the few reviews that are there aren’t exactly rosy, and now I’m feeling more hesitant.

    One former employee told a story that happened just last year: Anonymous feedback was requested, and when it was reviewed, management didn’t like said feedback. According to this person, they went on to track who said what, and scolded the manager of the dissenter(s), saying if (s)he couldn’t keep employees in line, they would find someone who could.

    This comes across as a huge red flag to me, and I especially need that concern resolved before I can move forward with confidence. I know Alison has mentioned how to ask about Glassdoor in the past, but given that the story was so specifically told, I’m wondering if I should still be general, or if I should ask about it specifically. Also, should I ask about it in the interview, or wait until I have an offer?

    And, I’m trying to hold myself in check. Even though I have some hesitations, I’m getting super excited because someone finally seems truly interested in me. They have worked around my schedule quite a bit just so I could interview, which seems promising. But I took the first thing that came along last time, and ended up in a bad situation; I desperately want to avoid jumping the gun again. Any tips on staying objective when making The Big Decision?

    1. Not Today Satan

      Do you have any contacts (or contacts of contacts) at the org you could speak with? Also, what is the general theme of the reviews? There’s a big difference between most being negative and mostly positive (or average) with a few bad experiences.

      1. Golden Yeti

        I’ve been trying to do research on LinkedIn and contact former employees who I think would’ve worked in the office, but no responses yet. The reviews I have found have all been from people who had a different role (that probably wouldn’t have been in the office). The review that was posted from this year was positive. But in the other reviews (there aren’t many), there was only one other review that was 3 stars or more. And, the story that’s concerning me so much just happened last year.

        1. Golden Yeti

          Just heard back from one of my LinkedIn feelers. We’ll see what I find out.

          Thanks everyone!

    2. over educated and underemployed

      Honestly I am really bad at staying objective, but I have turned down two offers because even though I was thrilled to be “in demand,” it turned out some aspects were not acceptable for me at this time. In both cases I had to go with my gut but I needed almost a week to process what my gut was really saying, because the excitement and flattery masked the dread at first.

      1. grumpy career changer

        Bravo! It’s hard to turn something down, but that really is sometimes the best decision.

    3. Chriama

      I think you have every right to be specific about the glassdoor review. It’s publicly posted so you’re not outing anyone. Maybe start by asking how they solicit feedback here, then mention the review and state you have a few concerns and would like to know if they can provide another perspective to the story. If they get upset with you for asking then you know it’s a red flag.

    4. BRR

      I would interview and look for red flags (there is a post on how to spot red flags). You can always turn down an offer.

  12. SevenSixOne

    It’s open enrollment time, so let’s talk employer-sponsored health insurance! Some questions to get you started:

    What’s your monthly premium (either as a dollar amount, percentage of your paycheck, or both)? What’s your deductible? How much more is the premium if you include your spouse/children on your plan? Do you have the option of a FSA or HSA to offset your costs?

    Do you have multiple plan options? Can any employee choose any plan, or are different employees eligible for different plans?

    If you’ve had insurance from other employers, how does your current plan compare to them?

    Do you have some asinine wellness program that requires a blood test, weekly logging, or other invasive bullshit that’s none of your employer’s business? What happens if you opt out of it?

    If you AREN’T eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance, what do you do?

    1. Bekx

      I’m pretty unhappy with my current health insurance. It’s grandfathered in………………..so that means a lot of the new benefits like preventative care aren’t free. It also means that my medically necessary birth control is subject to scrutiny every year because my plan only covers medically necessary bc.

      I think I pay about ~90 a month for just me. $1000 deductible. We do have both HSA & FSA options. I think last year I put $600 for my FSA and I’ll probably do that again.

      We have 3 plans. One with a $350 deductible (which I think I’m going to switch to this year because I’m undergoing cholesterol and thyroid testing and those are only covered after my deductible). The 1000 dollar deductible, and then a HSA I believe?

      My insurance is cheaper than my last company, but it doesn’t cover as much. My last company told me that once I hit 25 my insurance was going to go up because I’m now considered a higher risk to ensure? (babies). I dunno, that might have changed by now.

      We do have a wellness check every year that checks cholesterol (it’s how I found out that I have dangerously high cholesterol despite being 115 lbs and mid-20s) and offers a flu shot. You also can fill out a health questionnaire online. Until this year they gave you a gift card for doing this…but this year budgets are tight. I imagine a lot of people won’t do it because of that but since I’m a medical mystery, I did the testing. As far as I know, nothing happens if you opt out. They do come around the day of and say that there are open spots if anyone changes their mind.

      But needless to say, I’m not very happy with my coverage. I don’t think it’s very good. I think when I switch to the lower deductible I’ll be paying like $150 (which is about what I paid for my coverage at my old company). Hopefully that will cut down on the $500 bills for checking my thyroid (which my doctor just ordered a retest for ugh.)

      Oh, and I pay something like ~12 a month for dental and VSP. VSP is maybe saving me 10 bucks a year, and only because I use contacts. If I get LASIK I’ll probably drop the VSP.

    2. Brett

      We have two plan options available to all employees (and a few other grandfathered plans you can only have if you are already on them).
      One is an HSA plan with a $2000/$4000 (individual/family) deductible plus 20% co-pay and $6k out of pocket limit. If you take the HSA, the employer chips in $450/$850 per year. Premiums are $0 for individuals and $180 for families per month.
      The other is a PPO with a $550/$1100 deductible plus 20% co-pay and $5.4k out of pocket limit. Premiums are $25/$490 per month. (Though apparently the individual premium was calculated wrong and may be $180 per month instead.) You cannot have the HSA if you have the PPO.
      A health care FSA is available too.
      And yes, we have a wellness program. I think you get a $250 bonus if you participate (though you have to either have a BMI under 25 or reduce your BMI by a certain amount to get the bonus).

    3. AnonHere

      Can I just praise all things holy and kitten-like that my husband’s insurance, which I am on, does not enact a penalty if a spouse declines to do their stupid wellness program? It was apparently impossible for Alere to either email me to schedule calls or pay attention to requests that they call after 5pm, so I’m not on the clock. Which was great, since “unexpected medical contacts” are super good at giving me panic attacks.

      Their behavioral health nurse couldn’t get it through her head that some people with crippling depression and ptsd stuff still go to work.

      1. Nom d' Pixel

        Ugh. Our company has started that wellness garbage with a penalty if you don’t join. Of course, they claim that it isn’t a penalty. Instead, they increased the rate and said the increase wouldn’t apply if we joined the program. The entire thing is such a hassle, and I don’t even have any issues like depression to complicate matters.

    4. super anon

      full disclosure: i’m canadian so idk how this compares to us health plans.

      I have no monthly premium for the basic coverage, or the extended which includes dental and vision as my employer pays all of it. the deductible is $25 each year, and there’s an extra charge for adding spouses and family members that scales, but is also covered by the employer. there are multiple plan options but you can’t choose, there’s a specific one for each type of employee group that works here. i do pay around $3 a month into our company’s version of EAP (but it extends to families too, as they can use the counselling services provided at no extra cost). i also have a pension plan that the company pays a significant portion into, which is exciting, but there’s no option to choose the investment type.

      my current insurance covers 80% of prescriptions (with the idea being that you enrol in the govt sponsored prescription drug plan so that 100% of drug costs are covered in the end) and some other things (like hospital stays, those are free here but you can use private insurance to pay for things like a private room, etc). vision is 100% covered up to a max of $400 a year. dental ranges from 65 to 100% coverage depending on the service done.

      there was no wellness program or test for me to do aside from the one needed for the optional life insurance, but even that was just an online questionnaire.

      my old insurance that i had through my mother’s company was better in that it had built in out of country insurance for up to a 90 day in a row period, which was great for spontaneous day trips to the US, but other than that i think the insurance i have now is better.

      i didn’t have insurance for a few months and it wasn’t a big deal, my prescriptions were mostly covered by govt insurance and i can go to the dr for free w/ my province’s medical card, so really the only things i would have had to pay out of pocket for were vision, dental and things like counselling or massages and physical therapy.

        1. HigherEd Admin

          Healthcare Spending Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts. Both are accounts where pre-tax dollars go to be used for health-care related costs.

          1. Volunteer Advocate

            I love FSA! Yes, it takes money out of every check, but it’s done before taxes and you can get every penny back throughout the year if you have qualifying medical and drug expenses. Last year I took the full $2,500 and had almost all of it reimbursed within the first 7 months! I always love January when FSA starts over again for the year. By the way, you can use FSA money for qualifying expenses for your spouse and children, too.

            HSA, on the other hand, has to be used with (and linked to) insurance plans.

            1. fposte

              But it also has the opportunity to be an additional tax-deferred investment vehicle, which can be great in its own non-medical right.

              1. grumpy career changer

                With an HSA, do you also have to predict in advance how much you’ll spend on qualifying expenses during the year? I know there are roll-overs, but I have the impression they’re quite limited.

                1. fposte

                  I think you can roll them over in their entirety–that’s why this can be helpful.

                  In general, you should max out your IRA and 401k first, and you should absolutely know what the restrictions on investments are and how much they cost–in a lot of cases you’d be much better off just using it for medical expenses. But it’s not bad to have tax-free growth going on while you’re planning for the high medical expense years.

                  I’ll post a link about them in followup.

                2. Sunflower

                  FSA’s are much more limited and you can only roll over a limited amount. HSA is like a bank account- you actually pay for things with a debit card. I have X amount taken out every paycheck but I believe you are able to make large deposits or change amount you deposit at any time although it may be a complicated process.

                  FSA’s are also much more monitored than HSA’s and you may find yourself defending more of your purchases than with an HSA. TBH- our HR coordinator told us you could buy a TV with your HSA and most likely no one would notice

            2. beachlover

              And you can buy some OTC items that are FSA approved. I use mine for co-pays mostly. There is also a Shopping website for FSA approved items. Its called FSA store (go figure!). If you need to used up any extra money at year end. This is a good place to look.

            3. Noah

              I used FSA to pay for 100% of my Invisalign and am considering setting enough aside next year for laser eye surgery.

              My current company doesn’t offer HSA, but my dad’s company does. The best part is they fund it at $1500 per year. That’s $1500 in essentially extra money that will stay in the account and you get to keep even if you quit.

          2. super anon

            What would the benefit of something like that be if you have insurance? If you have insurance do you not need an FSA or HSA, or do they go together? If you have money in these accounts but never use them do you get it back or is it lost forever?

            1. fposte

              They go together. What they do depends on both the law and your employer–the law allows some things but doesn’t require your employer to do it.

              You can use your FSA to pay for co-pays, deductibles, prescription costs, dental care, glasses, etc., even some OTC medications, up to $2550 per year. That means that’s income you don’t pay tax on, so not using it essentially means you paid 15% more (crudely) for those glasses. Some employers offer an additional dependent care FSA, which means you can get the same pre-tax advantage for care including day care, etc. The law has opened a little window on the formerly strict no rollovers regulation–it used to be that if you didn’t use the money that year it was just gone–but it’s still really limited and your employer may not permit it.

              An HSA is for anybody with a high-deductible health plan, which has to meet specific conditions. On those, you have more choice, if your employer allows it, on where your money is housed before you use it, and you can roll the funds over each year. I think the allowable expenditures might not be as broad as FSAs, but I’m not finding confirmation there–maybe somebody else knows.

              1. Johr

                The allowable expenditures are different – you can use FSA for things like contact lens solution and first aid kits which aren’t covered under an HSA. Also health care FSAs are now allowed to have a $500 rollover or a grace period, but not both. I haven’t seen this mentioned yet but there are also limited purpose FSAs for people who have an HDHP/HSA which allows you to establish an FSA that can only be used for vision and dental expenses, ie, anything not covered by an HSA.

            2. Doink

              In the US most insurance plans have deductibles (an amount of money you have to pay in healthcare expenses before insurance kicks in) and/or co-pays (a set amount of money you pay whenever visiting a health care provider, generally somewhere in the range of $10-$45 a visit). It’s nice to have some tax-free money set aside specifically for those purposes.

              Plus, depending on your plan, you might be able to use the money for expenses insurance doesn’t cover. For instance, my vision plan only pays for one set of glasses or contacts, but I can use my FSA to buy the other.

            3. Cordelia Naismith

              I have a high-deductible plan, so I have an HSA, and I love it. I use it all the time for stuff my health care plan doesn’t cover, like visits to the dentist or chiropractor or to pay for my contact lenses.

              1. Cordelia Naismith

                Oh, another thing I like about it is that the university I work for matches the amount I contribute every month. So if, for example, I asked for $50 a month to be taken out of my paycheck and deposited into my HSA, my employer matches it so $100 a month actually gets deposited. There’s an upper cap, but I haven’t hit it yet.

                If you don’t spend all the money in your HSA by the end of the year, it rolls over to next year.

              2. super anon

                So, I guess the HSA takes the place of vision and dental plans here, kind of?

                The US health care system sounds really complicated to me, I’m glad I don’t have to try to navigate it!

    5. Gene

      My packet literally just landed on my desk. I’ll answer as I go through it. Mine will be myself and one dependent.

      Choice of two plans, which anyone here is eligible for. FSA is available, I use it every year and usually claim all I have taken out in September or October.

      Plan 1, Conventional PPO Plan:
      Premium $120/mo
      Deductible $600/family
      Out of pocket max $1500

      Plan 2, Group Health
      Premium $311/mo
      Deductible $$0
      Out of pocket max $2000

      Single rates are a bit more than half what mine will be.

    6. HR Noob

      Things I like about my insurance plan:
      -company contributes a flat amount towards your premium and puts any remainder into your HSA, which means that even after fully covering my and my fiance’s premium, I still get $50/month of “free money” in my account
      -having an HSA
      -no-questions-asked coverage for domestic partners–I was able to insure my fiance before we got engaged
      -wellness program is optional and minimally invasive, and I’ve never experienced consequences for not participating

      Things I don’t like:
      -Premiums are extremely variable depending on age and plan (we offer traditional HMO, HMO HSA, and PPO HSA) and they’re hard to explain to employees
      -our FSA plans are stupid and barely more convenient than paying out of pocket–I wish we could just get rid of them
      -high deductible is a pain, and a primary reason why people aren’t switching from the traditional HMO even though an HSA plan might be a better long-term financial choice
      -poor out of network benefits for HMO HSA (I really should switch to the PPO)
      -information about what vision expenses they will or won’t cover seems to change constantly

    7. CrazyCatLady

      I pay $60 through my employer’s plan. No deductible, no FSA or HSA. I only have one option and they don’t let us add spouse or children.

      It’s not AWFUL but it’s through Kaiser Permanente who I hate. I have a $30 copay for office visits, $60 for specialists, $500 for inpatient and ER visits, and 20% coinsurance on nearly everything else. Maximum out of pocket is $6350 I think, for individual.

      It’s worse than every other plan I’ve had.

        1. Noah

          I had an insurance plan at old employer that had a large ER copay, but if the ER visit was deemed a true “life or limb” emergency or if you were admitted to the hospital it was waived. I think they are trying to cut down on parents running to the ER at 2am with a feverish child.

        2. Windchime

          I thought I broke my nose once and went to the ER. I literally paid $500 for an icepack. The doc came in, said, “I dunno; it’s too swollen to tell”, and gave me an icepack and sent me home. For a $500 copay.

        3. Anx

          What do you think would be normal. I’ve always been self-insured, and I’ve usually had $500 copays so that seems incredibly normal. And really cheap, too, compared to the coinsurance parts.

      1. Mirilla

        Ours is $500 minimum just to walk in the door, then 20% of whatever services are after that. My husband went for atrial fibrillation but it stopped while in exam room & he received no medication. Just a blood test I think. Still $500.

    8. SL #2

      We have options between an HMO and a PPO on different providers. HMO plans are fully covered by our employer, PPO plans have a premium of somewhere around $100 a month, and it increases for spouse and children. And there’s also dental and vision add-ons that you can get with the plan. All of this is open to every employee here. I think we have FSA options too but I don’t have one set up.

    9. AvonLady Barksdale

      My employer doesn’t offer health insurance. It’s kind of a sticking point with me– I used to work for companies that had excellent plans with big contributions. My last job paid 100% of my health insurance; I didn’t like the insurance itself, but they paid. But, I can afford an ACA plan, so there’s that. My company did put together a plan for us, but it sucked and they offered no contribution.

      My plan is a Silver PPO with a mid-range deductible. I pay a $25 co-pay for primary care and $50 for a specialist. I’m very lucky to live in a region with excellent medical care available.

    10. ElCee

      My share of the premium, which I carry for myself and my spouse, is $250/month. Dental is $30/month. It’s an HMO though. No mandatory wellness checks or programs, TG.

    11. fposte

      My open enrollment is in May (state thing, maybe?), and it’s tough finding the info otherwise. I’m paying $162 a month for a PPO with individual coverage only; I know the managed care options are cheaper. No HSA; the FSA has in the past been so fussy to deal with, but I should crunch the numbers and see what it would save me per year and reconsider.

      However, because my state is in budget limbo payments for my health plan aren’t being made to the providers right now. The providers are still accepting patients, fortunately, but it’s not fun for anybody.

    12. Honeybee

      My company covers our health insurance and we have no monthly premium, even if you have a spouse and/or dependents on the plan. The only time you have to pay a premium is if you decide to cover a spouse who has access to a health insurance plan through their employer, and that’s $75/month. It’s also possible for your spouse to enroll in their health insurance through their employer and then for our coverage to act as secondary coverage to cover gaps or expenses that the spouse’s employer’s plan doesn’t cover; that doesn’t cost extra.

      We have two plans: there’s an HMO plan that works like a typical HMO (copays of $20 for doctor visits, $40 for specialist visits, $75 for the emergency room, and out-of-pocket maximums are $1500 a year). We also have a high-deductible Health Savings Plan with an HSA, which is the one I chose. I cover my husband and myself. Preventive care is always covered 100%, but for other kinds of care on my plan we have an annual deductible of $3,000. After the deductible is reached, we also have an annual coinsurance of 10% up to $2,000, after which the plan kicks in and covers 100% of expenses. However, the kicker is that my company contributes $2,000 to my HSA, so the most I will pay in one calendar year is $3,000 between my husband and I. I chose it because we rarely go to the doctor and the HSA essentially works like a savings account for health expenses over time. I also chose it partially because it’s nationwide: The HMO provider is really only active in Washington and California (with limited facilities in eight other states), Right now my husband is in New York, which is not one of the states covered, and so the HSA/HSP plan allows him to get coverage where he is just in case. This plan is also Blue Cross and I’ve been on BC/BS before – they have a good network.

      You can choose either plan without paying a premium – it’s up to you. I think it’s relatively clear that my employer favors the HSP based on how they presented the information during orientation, though.

      We do have a wellness program but it’s completely optional. It doesn’t require weekly logging or anything like that – although if you do join that program you get a credit towards the purchase of a electronic health tracking device like a Fitbit. You can also opt for the simple one that involves getting your cholesterol, height, weight, etc. tested and getting personalized counseling on how to improve your health, and also getting a free flu shot. It’s all completely optional.

    13. Kate

      We pay close to $500 month for me, spouse and child. $500 deductible, 20% copay. Employer (large private research university) claims that this is really great coverage, but it is actually much worse than my previous employer (private sector)

    14. Elizabeth West

      1. Grrr. Every year the insurance company raises premiums, so there goes any raise. >:(

      2. Options.

      3. About the same; healthcare costs and deductibles are too high across the board. But we get dental, which I didn’t have before, and our vision is okay.

      4. We have to do the biometric screening. I don’t let them weigh me.

      5. When I wasn’t able to get insurance through work (food service), I went to Planned Parenthood (yay!) for yearly exams, BC, and what-have-you. The rest of the time I just hoped I wouldn’t get sick or took care of myself when I did.

    15. beachlover

      Our plans Medical, Dental and Eye care, are provided for free to employee by company. Spouse, children and domestic partners can be covered at a cost to employee – Not sure what that is, since I am single. They also offer discounts on Wellness items like Health club memberships . They also offer HSA and FSA.

    16. Arjay

      We haven’t gotten this year’s bad news yet, but in general, we have only two plans available from the same provider – an HRA and an HSA. Premiums and company contributions to the health accounts are banded by salary. I think my 2015 annual raise bumped me out of the lowest band by about $2,000, so that’s sort of a bummer. We can also participate in a voluntary FSA.

      And we have the asinine wellness program too. Annual biometric screenings for all adults covered on the plan. Exercise, activities and learning modules to earn status points throughout the year. Our premiums are also banded based on our status level in the program. If we choose not to participate at all, we pay an extra $80 a month EACH (so $160 every month for me and my spouse). Of course, choosing not to participate means that they can’t do a nicotine screening, so then you pay the smoker’s price.

      I hate jumping through their hoops, but we don’t have a better alternative.

    17. periwinkle

      I’ve had some okay benefits before but my current employer’s offerings are more than okay. We have several options including an HMO and traditional PPO. We also now have two different preferred partnership offerings with regional health care networks. I picked one of those. It’s a $1300 deductible with $2850 max, no monthly premium. We’ve got FSA and/or HSA (can’t remember which) but also a health savings account to which the company contributes generously and that rolls over so there’s no use-or-lose (and it’s ours to keep if we leave the company). It’s not perfect but it beats anything I’ve had before except for when I actually worked at a regional health care network.

    18. the gold digger

      Speaking of asinine programs – my husband and I both just lost 45 minutes of our lives trying to get his online account set up with the insurance company so he could take the (incredibly invasive) online health assessment so we can get the premium discount. (He also has to get a physical and a blood test.)

      The insurance company website swore up and down that he did not exist. They could not find any record for him. So I had to call my HR and they verified that he is covered.

      I had to call the insurance company. Yes, he’s covered. No, we don’t know why he’s not showing up.

      We had to call the number for website service because of course that’s different from member services.

      Turns out that someone, somewhere, has truncated the last letter of my husband’s first name (think “Marco Antoni” instead of “Marco Antonio”), which meant that when he typed in his legal name, there was not a match.

      IT PEOPLE! Please! Give us a name field large enough to accommodate a long name. This is not a ridiculous requirement.

    19. Noah

      Our is a bit complicated, but here we go:
      $48 per month for employee only coverage, for both medical and dental. I’m unsure what the spouse or family rates are.

      $1500 deductible, but we also have an employer-paid HRA that covers the first $750 of that. Once you meet your deductible, the HRA covers half of the 20% coinsurance the employee is responsible for. Dental coverage is not that great, but it covers two preventative visits a year and then up to $1500 of other stuff with a 20% coinsurance. Dental doesn’t apply to the HRA.

      We also have FSA available, which I always use for vision exams and contacts. I typically don’t put a ton of money in FSA, but it is nice to know it is there if needed. For both the HRA and FSA we have Visa cards that access the accounts, so you don’t have to pay and then wait for reimbursement.

      I can’t complain too much about the plan, although it took me forever to wrap my brain around the HRA concept. Apparently we are a reasonably healthy employee group, so it makes sense for our employer to go with a higher deductible plan and just absorb the costs for the few people that have medical issues.

      No crazy wellness stuff. They give you a FitBit when you start and you are encourage to join the corporate team on that app/website. However, lots of people don’t even wear them and it is not required by any means. They offer the flu vaccine each year at the office, but once again, not required. Certain positions are required to have other vaccines (or sign a declination), but that relates to OSHA requirements.

    20. Big Tom

      No employer-sponsored insurance, company can’t afford it. Right now paying about $400/month for me and a spouse on our own.
      We don’t qualify for any marketplace subsidies, so we basically have the lowest level of coverage we can get away with (catastrophic, plus a few covered visits per year) despite having significant annual medical costs.
      Deductible is around $6000 for each of us. Our premiums basically get us a slight discount on some visits and procedures because of deals the carrier has with the provider, but beyond the annual physical and two other GP visits a year, we pay out of pocket for basically everything and go to doctors as little as possible.
      No dental or vision coverage whatsoever.
      Be grateful for your sponsored insurance, everyone.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I’m hearing you. My insurance has increased 800% in recent years, just for me. I will say, I thought the premiums were pretty low in the beginning, I don’t think that any more, of course. I pay $113 for an appointment. It’s not good. The insurance company is like a invasive weed- they call here, send me mailings, I quickly figured out not to give them my email address. I saw how they handled my husband’s bills in his final illness, so I have a fair idea of how they really are.

    21. Ad Astra

      My husband is a public school teacher in a large, urban district. (This district has the highest salaries in the state, but I’m not sure how the benefits compare to other districts.)

      For just himself, the premium is $0. When I was unemployed, I was also covered for free. Now that I’m eligible for insurance through my own job, we pay $100/month to keep me on his plan. I don’t know our deductible, but it doesn’t include office visits and prescriptions, which is my primary concern. Normal doctor visits are $30, specialists are $40, and I think urgent care is $50. Emergency rooms might be more like $100? I forget. The brand-name prescription I take every month retails at like $436 but is $30 with our insurance.

      There’s an FSA option, but I think it’s just for reimbursement (as in, no debit card that you can just use at the store/doctor’s office). I know myself well enough to know that I won’t consistently save and submit receipts, so we don’t participate.

      As far as I know, this is the only plan available. Fortunately, it’s a good fit for our needs.

      This is probably the best plan I’ve ever had. My last job only offered a high-deductible plan with a $1500 deductible, and that doesn’t fly when one of the medicines you need is $436 before insurance. Before that, I was on my dad’s plan, which was free to me and that same medication cost me $50.

      There is a wellness program, but it’s not the worst. To get your discount, you have to build up a certain number of points. Most people can get their necessary points with an annual checkup, a visit to the dentist, and I think like a gym membership or something. The insurance also pays for a certain number of visits to a nutritionist, which is worth a lot of points in the points system.

      Overall, we feel pretty fortunate to have the insurance we have. The plans my employer offers are almost as good, but the premiums are a little higher and our companies do open enrollment at different times, so switching would involve either going without coverage or doubling up for a couple of months.

    22. Corrupted by Coffee

      I also get mine through Group Health. PPO plan- free monthly for me, but $500 for my spouse. $15 copay flat for pretty much everything and pretty much everything is covered unless you go out of network. Its pricy, but I love not needing to worry about how much emergencies cost.

    23. Cruciatus

      I may be too late but….

      I pay 1.81% of my monthly salary, so about $44 a month. $250 deductible (individual).
      There are other options in between, but an entire family is 5.61% of salary.

      Savings plan is available-.52% of salary (individual). 1.60% of salary for family. $1300(individual/$2600 family) deductible. Employer ponies up $400 (individual) for HSA.

      Anyone can choose any plan. I’d probably be OK with the savings plan, but I felt like $530some dollars for a year wasn’t too bad. Of course I’d like to save money but I wrestle with that idea of “what if…” especially as my supervisor was just in a car accident. On work property (campus).

      My previous employer paid the premium, but my current insurance is way better. One of my monthly prescriptions is now free instead of $25 ($75 without insurance). So I’ve been looking at it like, OK, so I pay about $530 a year now for the insurance, but on my former plan I spent $300 yearly on just that prescription alone. I’m only paying a few hundred more now than I did before–again, that’s just based on one prescription, not even doctors’ visits! Copays are now $10, not $25. Preventative care is 100% covered. $100 ER visit which is waived if admitted. (I don’t know what it was on my previous insurance. Probably close as my former employer was associated with a local hospital (that no one wanted to use).

      So far no intrusive wellness program. My sister is a doctor and where she works has one. You get all sorts of discounts for getting blood tests done or logging walks, or filling out this wellness chart and on and on. She’s not a fan.

  13. HigherEd Frustration

    As I’ve said before, I have been trying to get a job in higher ed for about the past year. I’ve gotten a fair number of interviews, have gotten to the final round for most of them, and have also gotten great feedback from interviewers despite being passed over for the job. I know it’s hard to get into higher ed and that their standards aren’t exactly the same as public/private sector jobs, and I was wondering if anyone had any websites for advice? I’ve looked at some and they don’t seem that reliable and fly in the face of advice given at AAM, so can anyone point me in the right direction?

    1. Sascha

      What type of jobs are you applying for? Standards and expectations can be really different across the disciplines and departments. Also, are you looking at public or private schools, or both?

      1. HigherEd Frustration

        I’m mainly looking at entry level positions in a public university. I’ve gotten most of my interviews through them (think administrative assistant, graduate coordinator, etc). All of my feed back has been positive (that have gotten back to me anyway). I either lose out to an internal hire or my lack of experience (2-3 years). I just don’t know if there are different interview standards in higher ed that I should be aware of that will give me a better edge/make me come across better.

        1. Cruciatus

          It took me a long time to get into the administrative position I have now at a college. Just keep trying. Actually, in August I received 2 offers at the same time after not even any interviews at colleges/universities for over a year. I think part of it was 1) the right people saw my resume at the right time and 2) I had even more experience by that point.

          If you are getting good feedback just keep doing what you’re doing. My role is student and faculty facing, but they were more concerned about faculty and whether I could deal with them being big babies (their words!) about scheduling issues. I was even prepared to talk about the positive things I knew about the school but it never came up. What they want will depend on the school, the role, and even the people leading the interview. After applying for the millionth time to the same school, my application landed in my now supervisor’s hands who was newer to the role but she liked what she saw. So it sounds lame but…right application seen at the right time by the right person. If she hadn’t come in, maybe I wouldn’t have been hired. I wasn’t an alum and I had no ties to the school. So keep applying to those positions that interest you. You never know what scenarios behind the scenes may have changed. Good luck!

    2. Mimmy

      I’m curious too, actually. I know there’s HigherEdJobs.com, but a lot of their advice seems geared towards faculty and administrators.

    3. HigherEd Admin

      I don’t have any resources to point you to, just empathy. I’ve been on the interview committee for a few hires and will say our department head has almost always picked the person who seemed most enthusiastic about higher education, helping students, and the department’s mission — whether or not this directly related to their skill level for the job. Example: we had two candidates for a computer service role. Both were qualified, but one knew software and operating systems far better than the other. We went with the one who talked about how much s/he loved working with students (even though this is not a student-facing role).

      1. Sascha

        I have done the exact same thing in the entry-level support role I hire for. It’s support for a web application that’s easily mastered…so I don’t necessarily need someone with lots of technical experience, but rather someone who genuinely wants to do the work we do and has good customer service skills. I can teach anyone to use this program, but I can’t as easily teach patience and the ability to explain things in a simple and friendly manner.

    4. Barbara in Swampeast

      Do the institutions have a temp pool? That is a good way to get into an institution. Although I got stuck in the temp pool because I was so good at temping they didn’t want me to get a perm job until one boss called the HR dept. and told them they needed to hire me on full-time.

      1. HigherEd Frustration

        A long time ago I found their temp agency, but now I’m having some trouble finding it. I was considering doing that, it just makes me nervous to leave my FT job for a most likely PT temp position.

        Maybe I do need to talk about the students/department more, I just felt like my excitement was pretty clear. Maybe my general excitement to work at the University needs to be more focused. I’ve talked about the department as much as I could, but considering some of them are not in my field, and the job description was vague I sometimes have a hard time illustrating my genuine excitement.

    5. Anx

      Have you tried walking around campus?

      I’ve seen a lot of jobs posted in hallways that aren’t advertised on the main page. It’s mostly for part-time or new-grad or student work (sometimes you have to be a student, maybe even with FWS), but I’ve found the hiring systems at universities to be very disjointed.

      I work in a non-staff, non-faculty (well, I guess I’m staff) part-time job by just walking into the center where I work with a cover letter and resume because they weren’t at the job fair I had prepared to go to. I never applied online, but I did fill out a standard application. A few months ago they reworked their ATS so that wouldn’t be an option now. And I wouldn’t suggest walking in in person, but I’ve only ever gotten one job with an online ad, and that wasn’t even one with an ATS (it asked for a cover letter and resume), so it’s the only thing that’s ever worked for me.

  14. NeedHelp

    I desperately need to find a part time work from home job either doing A/P and/or A/R (I have years of experience in both) or as a Virtual Assistant (I don’t have a admin experience but am confident I could do it due to my technical and organizational skills).

    Does anyone know of resources to find legitimate jobs in these fields?

    I just cannot take office life anymore and other than the social aspect would not miss it one bit. It’s just weighing too heavily on me; I’m so unhappy I’m thinking about quitting but would much rather have some money coming in if possible. I’ve been searching for awhile without success and thought someone here might be able to help guide me in the right direction.

    1. This is not me

      We’ve been using Upwork to hire recently. So far it’s working quite a bit better than our local agency for finding decent people. Although our work isn’t admin type stuff, it doesn’t fit any of their other categories so that’s where I look.

      Think about taking some of their skills/assessment tests (I’m pretty sure there is a charge for this, but wouldn’t swear to it). That’s one of the criteria companies can sort on, and it’s a quick way for me at least to narrow down a huge field to a smaller pool with people who are serious about working this way.

    2. katamia

      I did WFH before (and would love to do so again), and these are some of the sites I used:
      realwaystoearnmoneyonline.com (my personal favorite)
      wahadventures.com
      wahm.com (stands for “work at home mother” but most of the site isn’t geared specifically toward parents)

      I don’t know about A/P or A/R, but I know they have virtual assistant jobs ad company reviews as well as other types of jobs.

    3. Ruffingit

      This is how I feel too. So tired of office BS. I just can’t deal anymore, but I’m putting one foot in front of the other until I have an alternative.

  15. Lamb

    OK, I’m writing Letters of Interest today looking for unskilled/office work at architecture firms to get an inside look/make me a stronger candidate when I apply to architecture masters programs in a couple months. The experience is the thing I really want, so I’m willing to put the time in unpaid, but if they’d pay me it would be good to earn money. Is there a way to say that in the Letter of Interest?
    NOTE: I am not an architecture student yet.

    1. Development professional

      It’s unlikely that a for-profit firm would consider employing you without pay for legal reasons. If you’re applying to internships, that’s different, but I can’t imagine a legitimate business hiring a regular office worker without paying them.

    2. Applesauced

      I’m an architect(ural designer – I haven’t passed all my AREs yet). Here’s some random thoughts on this:
      -I wouldn’t include being able or willing to work for free – and I don’t think office work WOULD be unpaid at architecture firms “interns” are students or a recent grad working towards their license (like me!)
      -you’ll have better luck at larger companies – smaller firms often have people trained as architects pitch in for office stuff, but large companies let you focus on one thing
      -highlight your office experience and WHY you’re look at architecture firms and why you’re going to grad school – was your undergrad somewhat related?

      1. Lamb

        Thank you! I found out that that was the only meaning of “intern” in the field of architecture when I first started looking for “get your feet wet” type opportunities.
        Given that they probably wouldn’t take on someone unpaid for office work, do you think I’d be better off asking to shadow for a day? Particularly since at small firms which seem more common in my area.

        1. Jules the First

          Yes, shadowing is definitely more useful than trying to work. Most practices don’t have much budget for support staff, and there’s a limit to how helpful you can be with no architectural training (not to mention a limit to how much you can really learn about being an architect if you’re doing admin stuff).

          If you’re in the UK, I’m happy to have physical or virtual coffee if you want an insider’s perspective on training and working as an architect (part of my last job was hiring interns and coaching our trainees through their final certifications).

          1. Lamb

            Alas I’m in the US, but maybe you’d have some insight on something. Every male architect I’ve spoken to (or, in one case, that my mother chatted with and relayed the conversation to me) says “it’s a very male field” and doesn’t elaborate. I’m aware of the gender breakdown, but I’m not sure what they’re getting at. Are they saying “prepare to be underestimated/ignored”? “prepare to be groped/harrassed”? “take your stupid ovaries and go apply to beauty school”?
            I’m d*** good at calculus and I’ve been able to walk through a building that’s just studs and tell what the rooms were going to be since I was twelve. Being the only woman in the room isn’t going to scare me off.

            1. Applesauced

              It is heavily male, but getting better; 90% of the time you probably won’t be the only woman in the room (the 10% are site visits and coordination meetings – I’ve found that most contractors, construction workers, and engineers are still male) – my graduating class was about 50-50 (but the majority of professors were men), and my office is 60-40 (skewing male). There’s lots of speculation on why the profession skews male – history, long hours (some women leave once they have kids), women being “guided” towards interior design rather than ground up construction.

              1. Jules the First

                It skews heavily male, in my experience, because qualifying takes a long time and working hours during the period around when you qualify are ridiculous (it is not uncommon, in a certain type of practice, for a 100-hour work week to be typical), which makes it very hard to have a life, let alone a family. Also, the pay is crap.

                I’ve never been groped on the job, but I have been stared at, patronised, treated like a receptionist, passed over for promotions and/or plum projects in favour of less-qualified guys who played soccer with the boss, and called ‘sweetie’, ‘little lady’, and, my personal favorite, ‘her’. I had middle eastern clients who considered me inaudible and invisible – my male delivery partner had to repeat everything I said in every meeting in order for them to acknowledge it. And there was one memorable building site where I and another woman were the snagging team and the entire crew (including the engineers, contractors, and others who ought to have known better) called us ‘Tits & Ass’, to our faces, for three years.

                My usual response when I meet someone who says they’d love to be an architect is that you should only become an architect if you live, breathe, eat, sleep, and love architecture. If, as you say, you rock at calculus and you can ‘feel’ a space just by walking into it, may I recommend becoming a quantity surveyor or construction manager instead? You’ll make a lot more money, have a lot more female co-workers, and work much saner hours.

        2. Applesauced

          Asking a firm to shadow someone or for an informational interview is a good start. There’s probably an AIA (American Institute of Architects) in your area, they’ll have information about different firms and volunteer opportunities. Before you go back to school and dive into becoming an architect, take a look at NCARB – they’re the licensing body and can help you see what becoming an architect entails. Post something on the AAM LinkedIn and maybe I can find you there if you have more questions. Good luck!

    3. F.

      As in other lines of business, the office staff (non-architects) at an architectural firm are professionals in their own right. “Office work” is not just a collection of random, unskilled tasks that anyone can just step in and perform. Besides, working for free, even if is called an internship, is illegal in the US if the employer benefits in any way from the intern’s work. You mention that you are applying to the architecture masters program. Why do you feel that performing office work at an architectural firm would help you get into the program, especially at the masters level? Is you undergrad degree in a related field? As for shadowing an architect for a day, I can’t see where you would learn enough of value for a masters-level program. I would think that is more for high school students performing a career exploration exercise.

      1. Lamb

        I understand that office workers are professionals. I did not mean to imply that any specific office job required no skills to complete. I have experience working in offices (as well as other work experience) and every company I have worked for has their own basic tasks that aren’t hard but need to get done; print these reports and order them by date, purge everything out of the binders from before 2014, remove clips and staples and put these pages through the shredder, address and stuff these envelopes. I’m interested in the work because I would get to observe the ins and outs of an architectural firm, see what the architects do day to day.
        This would help me be a better candidate because I would be able to see and explain how my past experience would transfer to being an architect. These are things that could also be gained from shadowing, but then I’d have no sense of if this was a typical day or if they invited me on a day they weren’t too busy or for a day they thought would be particularly interesting.
        As for why I would dare apply to a masters program, that’s the required degree. You can do a combo bachelors-masters program right out of high school, or if you already have a bachelors degree, as I do, you go into a masters program. Shadowing wouldn’t make me eligible for the masters program, it would show me what I’m getting in to.

        1. F.

          It wasn’t why you would “dare apply to a masters program” but more of 1) how would performing office work for an architectural firm translate to helping you get into the masters program; and 2) why are you planning to go into the masters program for architecture? For example, I have been a bookkeeper at a commercial printing firm, but that did not give me a understanding what it’s like to run a press. I was an administrative assistant for an engineering firm for seven years, but I don’t think that would help me get into an engineering degree program (despite having a BS in Math). If you want to know what architects do on a daily basis, can you reach out to a professional organization in your area or talk to grad students in the program you want to join?

  16. Audiophile

    Any advice on a good place to Skype?
    I applied on a whim for a job in Oakland and miraculously made it to tbe 2nd round. They want me to Skype with them but I don’t have a good place to do it. I don’t want to pull out just because of this. But part of me thinks I should.

    I have a separate interview for a job locally where I live in NY and that’s on Tuesday.

    1. JMegan

      Your local library should have a meeting room you can use. If not, do you have family or friends nearby who can lend you a quiet space for an hour or so? Good luck!

      1. Paige Turner

        And if you have time, do a test run the day before to Skype with a friend- hopefully you can get feedback on lighting, volume level, etc.
        Actually, I first found AAM when googling for Skype interview advice for my boyfriend. I found good tips on how to make eye contact look natural (look at the webcam, not the screen) and more :)

        1. Florida

          I heard a tip to draw two eyeballs on a piece of paper and tape it on the web cam. That makes you look at the webcam, not the screen.

      2. Audiophile

        I thought about that, but they want to Skype at 4pm (most likely their time) which means 7pm my time. So that doesn’t work. Thanks for the tip and well wishes. I may have to ask for another date and time or drop out.

          1. Audiophile

            The only local coffee shops around are Sbux. While they’re open later, they don’t have quiet space.

            I can’t do it in the house, because there isn’t an appropriate area to do it in. Plus the ceiling and bathroom are being renovated.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          Do you live somewhere with a community center or government hall? You can often reserve small conference rooms places like that. There might be a small fee, but at least you know it’s probably going to be used for the community.

        2. Honeybee

          Don’t drop out, there’s got to some some solution!

          If you live in a city, some cities have rentable office space for meetings – you can rent a little quiet pod where you can get a Skype meeting done. I think they were established partially for this reason.

          Also, many university libraries have small meeting rooms where you could have a Skype meeting. You can get a visitor pass to go in (I did this when I was visiting my university as a prospective student). They open later than public libraries.

    2. kkcf

      Is there a quiet coffee shop near you? I did that when I Skyped with a recruiting firm for a job (the interview was during the workday so I had to go elsewhere but my home was too far away to get home, interview and get back over lunch). I used these earbuds: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/skullcandy-inkd-2-earbud-headphones-black/6461052.p?id=1218738048111& and they could hear me just fine. Nobody in the coffee shop looked at me funny either.

      Would that work for you?

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Google “meeting space” or “nonprofit meeting space” in your town. In the Twin Cities, where I live, I can think of a half dozen places with conference rooms you can rent by the hour (or for free, which is plenty common).

      The kinds of places I’m thinking of are: nonprofits with their own buildings, libraries, coffee shops and restaurants, coworking spaces, etc.

      In fact, that might be where I would go first: a coworking space. If you have any in your city, you could be upfront with them about your need, offer to pay something (typically they work on a membership model), and throw yourself at their mercy.

      1. Honeybee

        If you bring your own computer you can just hop on their public WiFi. Most colleges have public networks alongside networks for affiliates.

    4. SL #2

      Coworking spaces, if your city has them. You’ll probably have to pay a fee, but they have wifi and private rooms (WeWork in San Francisco calls them “phone booths”) that you can use for an hour or so.

    5. Audiophile

      They want to do this next Friday and I don’t know any libraries open late on Fridays. The other issue is I’ll likely be scheduled to work at that point. I think I’ll write back and ask for the following Monday or Tuesday. There’s a coworking/meeting place -Serendipity Labs near my job but they close at 5:30.
      Let’s hope one of the jobs in NY pans out.

      1. Audiophile

        The house is being renovated – bathroom is being gutted and ceiling was being retiled. I’m now officially scheduled to work, so I’ll have to see if they can reschedule. Besides that, not sure how professional it looks to be sitting in a kitchen conducting an interview.

        1. Lisa

          I’ve skyped from my car on an iPad with a data plan. Our City Hall and libraries have wifi that is accessible from the parking lot after hours if you need wifi

        2. Mander

          I can’t see any sane employer having a big problem with this. As long as you don’t have piles of dirty dishes or a general mess in the background I can’t see it being a problem. Maybe not ideal but I’d be surprised if it was a deal breaker.

          How about temporarily hanging a sheet or curtain behind you so that there is a blank background?

  17. RS

    Has anyone else ever had trouble of letting go of this idea of that “perfect” workplace that only exists in their head? Throughout college I think I just created this fictional place that’s so ideal and cool, that no place I interview ever lives up to and I’m disappointed.

    1. danr

      Search for “dream job” on the site. Think about what happens when you actually get your dream job and it doesn’t live up to your expectations.
      In my experience, your dream job finds you, you don’t find it. You’ll be working someplace and find that your colleagues are friendly and helpful (most of them anyway), there are plenty of ways to move around and do different jobs and grow professionally, and there is a promotion track for those who want it.

    2. NicoleK

      I never bought into the idea of a “perfect job” or “perfect workplace”. Every job comes with pros and cons.

    3. Volunteer Advocate

      Another option is to create the dream job yourself, if it can in any way be worked into an entrepreneurship opportunity. That’s what I’m trying to do.

      1. danr

        That’s what I did during my years at my last company. I started in my “dream job”… sitting and reading all day. :)=. And it morphed into a series of dream positions. I wended my own twisty way in the company and had fun doing it.

    4. Snargulfuss

      This isn’t really answering your question, but here are some of my mostly-relevant thoughts on the topic. I know everyone’s conception of a perfect workplace is a little different, but I’ve come across numerous companies lately that really emphasize what a cool office culture they have. They’re all open office plans, cereal bars, dog-friendly, ping pong table, video game room, etc. Honestly, it makes me wonder if anyone other than 25 year old “bros” work there. Cool office culture seems to equate young office culture, and it makes me question if there is room to move up in the company, how long people actually stick around, etc.

    5. Christian Troy

      I feel you. I’ve been job searching a long time and there have been a few positions that upset me a lot because in my mind they were perfect and special. At the same, interviewing for multiple “perfect” jobs also has given me some awareness that there are multiple scenarios in which you can find enjoyment and feel excited about the work.

    6. F.

      Coming from someone who was around with the dinosaurs, I think letting go of this idea is part of growing and maturing, just like letting go of the idea that there is one perfect romantic/life partner, one perfect house, etc. for a person. While it is great to have high standards, sometimes it takes looking inside ourselves to find out what WE can do to improve our own situation or see it differently. A change in (internal) perspective works wonders for me sometimes.

    7. periwinkle

      It’s a bit like scrolling through Pinterest. You see all these fabulous pantries with the charming storage jars and high-tech inventory and delicately painted drawers… but in the real world, you find opportunities in what you have and let go of the idealized pantry (or relationship or job).

      A classmate thought her dream job would be working at a certain entertainment company. She was beyond thrilled when she landed an internship there. Unfortunately, she learned that it was just a typical corporation with the usual politics and management issues and road blocks.

      To quote from one of that company’s recent works, just let it go…

    8. catsAreCool

      The way I figure it, if you like most of what you do and don’t hate the other stuff you have to do, and if most of your co-workers are nice people, and if the few who aren’t nice are people you can avoid, and if your manager is straightforward with you, that’s a pretty good job.

    9. afiendishthingy

      How long/how many jobs out of college are you? It took me a few years to get a realistic idea of what I wanted from a job. It’s true that your “dream job” is, well, a dream, but I think it takes some time and trial and error took figure out what’s really important to you in a job. Maybe it turns out to be fine that all of your coworkers aren’t fabulously witty and attractive like TV led you to believe, but you really do want a job with decent vacation time. Or you’ll figure out that you can live with an early-for-you start time as long as you’re not expected to bring work home with you. No job is ever going to tick ALL of your fantasy boxes, but after you have more experience you can figure out some more realistic criteria. If you find something that meets >80% of THOSE, you’re in good shape. And remember, it’s totally ok to work to live rather than live to work. You don’t have to be defined by “what you do.”

  18. Ad Astra

    I’m hoping to leave work early, around 3:30 or 4, so I can make it to an out-of-town family event today. The even is not an emergency, but it does have a strict start time and is not something I can reschedule. I’m exempt, and I work through lunch most days (but not today). I have no pressing deadlines and my to-do list is a bit on the short side today. I’m a fairly new employee (about 6 months in) and, for the sake of argument, let’s say my performance is satisfactory but I’m not a star employee.

    Managers, would you typically be ok with an employee ducking out early in my situation?

    1. Amy M.

      If you are exempt I don’t see why it would be an issue, especially if you don’t normally leave early. Have fun!

    2. danr

      My managers always appreciated an early heads up for leaving early. For myself, I would have mentioned it to my manager at mid week and reminded him that morning.

      1. Ad Astra

        I wanted to mention it yesterday but I wasn’t sure if I was going (honestly, I won’t know until the last minute) and our meeting got cut short so I didn’t get to bring up my topics for the week, which included this. And also because my coworker has often asked “Hey, do you mind if I leave at 4 to go out of town tonight?” So, we’ll see…

        1. Dawn

          Honestly, tell your manager what you said here, and tell her now. “Hey, I have finished up everything for this week and have a family event tonight that got nailed down last minute. I want to leave at (whatever time) to make it to the event on time, is that OK with you?”

          Particularly if you’re stellar, never leave early, and have all of your ducks in a row, I can’t see why in the world your manager would have an issue unless something literally catches on fire because you’ll be gone.

          1. Ad Astra

            I’m feeling fairly confident that he’ll let me go, but this is the first job I’ve had where it would be a possibility. At past jobs, they would have asked me to use PTO, even if I’d already worked 40 hours that week.

            So I’m mostly interested in how other managers and offices deal with exempt employees occasionally leaving early or putting in only 38-39 hours in some (rare) weeks.

            1. Dawn

              At most of the jobs I’ve had with exempt workers management didn’t care and treated us like adults. I think it’s kind of insulting for an office to care about the exact minutes an exempt employee is in the office since I assume everyone’s an adult and can get their work done. You’re not a child and you don’t need constant adult supervision to make sure you’ve done all your chores and completed your homework before going out to play. If you’ve never been in an office that’s treated you like an adult it can be hard to get used to at first, but just take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re an adult :)

              1. Ad Astra

                In my case, I think my managers wanted/”needed” me to work 50-hour weeks, so it was less about being treated like a child and more about being treated like a work horse. It was one of those jobs where you could find legitimate work to be doing 24 hours a day; you were never really done, so you feel like you have to have a pressing reason to leave the office every evening. My new position is much more project-based.

    3. Jady

      As long as it hasn’t been a reoccurring thing, it sounds like there would be no issue. However, just vanishing can look really bad on you if it’s noticed. I’d suggest swinging by your manager’s office and say something akin to ‘Sorry for the late notice, I’ve had [obligation] come up and I need to leave at [time] today.’

    4. Minion Wrangler

      I manage a technical support team for a software company. I have 19 direct reports and I get this question all the time. My policy is the answer to requests for flexibility is always yes unless there is a good reason to deny, because sooner or later I will need flexibility from my staff. I treat exempt and non-exempt staff the same. My hour staff always say they’ll work early or shorten their lunch break to make up; I always say no they won’t, they can just leave early/come in because I don’t believe they should be inconvenienced because they fill out time cards. I will say it does irritate me if they ask this on the same day, because they knew about it in advance, but I don’t refuse.

      1. Ad Astra

        It’s interesting that so many people picked up on the short notice, which really hadn’t crossed my mind. Most days, my absence wouldn’t affect anyone else’s work, nor would anyone need to cover for me. (That hasn’t been the case at my past jobs.) I also know that my coworker occasionally asks to leave at 4 the day of, though maybe that’s not actually the best way to do it.

        1. Windchime

          Just for another perspective, my boss couldn’t care less about short or long notice. Most of the time, we don’t even say anything to him when we leave. He trusts us to get our work done and we don’t have the type of job where we have to be there at certain hours. If we need to leave early, we go. On the flip side, we will often stay late or work from home sometimes, so the work gets done and everyone is getting an average of 40-45 hours.

  19. Amy M.

    I’m going to a “Paint and Sip” party tonight at a co-workers house. A school art teacher will be instructing us as we paint on canvas and drink wine. I’m in HR and the rest of my co-workers are nurses. I’m excited for painting but not excited to have to be on my best behavior while everyone is enjoying some wine. :-(

    1. Ama

      I’ve been to a business that did that kind of program (with family, not coworkers). When I did it, if you were actually trying to keep up with the instructor you didn’t really have a lot of time to drink. It was fun, though.

    2. danr

      Why can’t you be on your best behavior and have some wine? And why do you have to be on your best behavior? Relax and have fun… and don’t talk about work.

    3. ED

      Why can’t you have wine? Seems like one of those situations where if everyone is partaking, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to as well.

    4. Charlotte Collins

      It’s paint and sip, not paint and chug. You probably won’t be able to finish more than two glasses, tops. My dad had a Czech friend that he sometimes used to paint with, and they always had wine, but it was more about painting, talking, relaxing, and enjoying some high-quality wine. Bad behavior never entered the picture.

    5. steve g

      I don’t understand these. I draw and can do portraits and it requires SO much concentration, can’t imagine doing it well with a buzz!

      1. Natalie

        These things are usually pretty casual as to the actual quality of the art. You’re probably aiming for a higher standard and concentrating more.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          I’ve never attended one of these, but my impression is that the lesson is more like teaching kindergartners to finger paint. You don’t expect great art, just for the attendees have some fun and maybe, maybe learn a little hand-eye coordination. And be really, really proud of what they did.

          1. afiendishthingy

            Yep, it really is. I’ve been once, I cannot draw to save my life, but my lighthouse and bridge are recognizable as such. It’s pretty idiot proof. I went with coworkers and had two drinks over the course of a few hours. A good time was had by all and nobody was noticeably impaired.

        2. Cath in Canada

          Heh, yes. When my friend and I did a paint night a couple of months ago, I said “well, I remember why we’re scientists”. It was really good fun though, as long as you don’t expect too much from it!

          I found a fitting place to display my effort: behind the cat litter boxes :D

    6. Amy M.

      Ha! You’ve never met these nurses – it will be more about the “sipping” with them! I am also new-ish to this region of the country and this is the first time I have hung out with them. I want to maintain my professionalism (so as not to lose any respect at work) while still enjoying some girl time with a few drinks! I spent many years as a manager at my last job where I never hung out with fellow employees, as they all reported to me, so I am excited to see how this goes. I don’t like to mix work with my personal life, mainly because I cannot be myself with them outside of work. I am very by the book and professional at work, but outside of work, I am definitely not the HR professional they would expect!

  20. Dasha

    This has probably been asked before but I am curious…

    What’s been your best job so far in your career? Why do you think it was the best? Was it your boss, team, co-workers, the company, benefits, vacation time, salary, the work, etc that made it your favorite?

    1. Sascha

      Well, as much as I complain about my current job, probably it’s my favorite. Especially now that I am officially a “data” person and not a “support” person anymore. I’m doing data warehouse development/business intelligence work, and I love it. It feels like what I was meant to do. So it’s now my favorite because of that, but also because I telecommute 3 days a week, which was awesome when I didn’t have a kid, but now that I do, I really like that I can be around her during the day (though I have a baby sitter with me all day so I can actually get work done!).

      1. Gingerbread

        Data warehouse development sounds interesting. What kind of work does that involve? I’m looking to transition from a “project manager” (I don’t really manage projects, but my responsibilities are all over the place) to more of a data analyst role and what you do sounds interesting.

        1. Sascha

          It’s like data analyst with programming/server admin work thrown in. Since the goal is to build a self-service reporting environment from a lot of different data sources, I’m doing a lot of different things – I program and schedule extraction jobs from the various source systems, I script transformation jobs, I build OLAP cubes for the application layer. I’m learning a lot of new programming skills and server administration type tasks. There’s a fair bit of traditional data analyst work going on, as we typically fulfill the reporting need first, and then do the self-service version in the warehouse afterwards. It’s very interesting work, and I like the creative problem solving aspect of it, but also that I get to work on a variety of tasks.

          Prior to, I would have identified as “project manager” myself, the way you describe it – I take care of pretty much all things IT in my department. I started out in an application support position and sort of worked my way up. I got into the data world because we needed more and better reporting solutions than what our campus’ reporting group could provide (big state university), and my director hired a BI analyst, and chose me to serve as her back up.

    2. Florida

      For me, every job that I’ve enjoyed has been because of the people – both my boss and co-workers. Every job that has been miserable has been because of the people.

      I can handle funky hours, lower pay, not the best benefits, etc. But I can’t handle assholes.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I was just talking about this with friends, and I’m always interested in how our best jobs tend to be early in our careers.

      My best job ever was when I was a teenager. I took ponies to kids’ birthday parties. It was independent (I’d go to the ranch, select and groom a pony, and hit the road to my assigned parties); it was well paid (literally the best hourly rate I’ve ever been paid, still – although it was only a few hours a week); outdoors, playing with kids and ponies, etc.

      My husband’s best job was when he was a professional musician (classical). Lots of the same benefits – independence, being out and about during the day, doing something he loved.

      1. FutureLibrarian

        As someone whose parents got them a pony for a birthday party, thank you!

        I was the 7 year old who couldn’t take lessons (no place available), and couldn’t have a real pony of my own, so they rented one. It was the best present of my life.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          Yup, I was that pony-crazed kid too. I hear ya.

          You don’t happen to be in Minnesota, do you?

    4. Volunteer Advocate

      My best job so far in my career was the three years I spent as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya. I got to choose my own hours and my own projects, and even got to do some computer programming while I was there (my favorite thing to do work-wise)!

      Prior to that, my favorite job was three years as a medical transcriptionist in a Level I trauma center. We sat smack-dab in the middle of the ER!

      1. Expendable Redshirt

        My favourite job is the one I currently have. This is what I like about it…
        . It suits my personality as a highly introverted, logical thinker who can work independently. My office has a door, so I can close it when I need to concentrate/think privately. Most of my work is One-on-One with clients, and I can schedule when people come in.
        . The work culture fits. I can decorate my office with Star Trek items and people think it’s great. The dress code deems Gothic attire and cat print skirts to be acceptable.
        . Wages pay the bills.
        . Know with complete certainty that my work Makes the World a Better Place. It’s cool to shift human existence into the “Net Positive” category and get paid for it.

      2. Sara

        Quadruple thumbs up for this one! I served in Peace Corps in Namibia for three years. Now I teach ESL at a public elementary school in the U.S., and that’s pretty awesome too. (And many days, not all that far off from what I did in Namibia, either.)

    5. danr

      My best company was my last one. Good vacation, interesting people, good health care coverage and an opportunity to grow professionally. I had a steady series of ‘stealth’ promotions (not announced, but with a raise and more duties), decent raises, and a good reputation in the company.

    6. Clever Name

      My current job is my favorite. I’m a scientist for a small consulting firm, and my company actually treats people like human beings. Travel is minimal, which is unusual in my industry, and we aren’t expected to work more than 40 hours, which is also unusual. Since we’re small, you can really decide what you want to do in terms of the type of projects you work on and even who you work for to some extent. Plus, the work is interesting. I get to go outside on occasion, even if it’s not the most glamorous locations (I do fieldwork around roadsides and bridges). And I actually enjoy the report writing aspect. I get to look at old maps and aerial photos too, which is cool. I love maps.

    7. Elizabeth West

      My current job is the best in terms of pay, benefits, working space, WFH, etc. It’s hands down the best job I’ve had also for playing to my strengths.

      MY FAVORITE job was working in a materials testing lab. I was the receptionist/office clerk and received samples, produced reports, did the filing, washed dishes, watered plants, checked the refrigerator temps weekly, disposed of samples, prepared sample containers with acid, and even learned how to perform pH tests on water (those had to be done right away and if the environmental person wasn’t there, someone had to do it). I thought stir bars were the most hilarious things ever. There were only twelve of us there and we had so. much. fun. Sometimes we’d close up for lunch and walk to this bar down the street and have sandwiches. And we pranked the crap out of each other with this big Frankenstein’s monster cut-out–we’d stick it in places where it would surprise people. Someone brought in a big old rubber squeaky rat for Halloween one time, and we would put it in the break room fridge to make people jump, ha ha.

      I was so sad when the place shut down, and not just because I lost my job. I still have the rat, btw. :)

    8. NicoleK

      In my career, there have been two times where I stayed with the same organization for 4 years. I stayed because I had decent managers, good/great workers, the work was interesting, and I was able to get promoted easily.

  21. Tiffany

    I was laid off at the end of August and have been unemployed since. I have served and continue to serve on several committees/coalitions with a well-known local non-profit. These committees are relevant to the type of jobs I’m looking for (A coalition for a community-wide mentoring program, marketing/communications committee, board training committee). I got inloved with all of them as an intern, but still remain involved after I graduated in May. My question is where do I put these on my resume? I’ve had them in the last section, listed under Volunteer Experience… but I’m wondering if maybe I should fit them in elsewhere? I have a ‘Key Experience’ section where I list my internship and relevant jobs and an ‘other experience’ section for a less-relevant but still recent job that I think needs to be on there. Could my committee experience go under ‘Key Experience’…putting it there would eliminate the need for a volunteer section, saving space, but I’m not sure if that would look weird?

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I have a section I call “civic leadership” that highlights those sort of relevant/professional engagements that are voluntary.

      1. Tiffany

        I like that idea! It’s been bugging me because I feel like calling it volunteer experience is downplaying it a bit, but then it’s also not a job so it doesn’t really fit with that experience either.

    2. BRR

      I’m wondering if with two experience sections is it hard to follow chronologically? If yes you could do an experience section and a volunteer section.

      1. Tiffany

        I’m not a huge fan of chronological resumes, actually. Mine is to an extent (each section), but I do like the break-down I get with 2 sections. I actually added the 2nd experience section (key and other) after reading an article on this site a while back. I like it because the job I have under ‘other experience’ is just a job I had throughout college…the primary purpose for having it on my resume is that I was there for 4 years, so it shows work history…but it’s not super relevant to anything I’m applying to so I didn’t want it to take up space at the beginning of my resume. My committee involvement however is relevant and throwing it under a generic ‘volunteer experience’ seems a bit downplayed to me, I just don’t know where else to put it.

        1. esra

          Have you had much success with these? From a personal standpoint, I always found it frustrating when junior applicants didn’t have a chronological resume. I’d rather they just leave irrelevant jobs off, especially if the jobs were before/during their schooling.

          Also, I really like the “Civic Leadership” heading suggested above instead of “Volunteer Experience”.

    3. CMT

      How about a ‘Professional Experience’ section that combines the two you mention and then a ‘Community Involvement’ or something similar for the committees and coalitions?

  22. Ave

    My coworker and I have duties where we can’t both be off at the same time unless it’s really short-term, like a day or maybe two. We’re both long-range vacation planners and figured out that our “big trips” in 2017 overlap by a week. Our manager thinks we’re silly for even asking for time off a year in advance, so I can just imagine what she will think if we start talking about 2017. Coworker isn’t worried because “who knows if we’ll both be working in these same jobs by then!” Hers is an organized tour where booking dates are already open for 2017, while mine is self-designed and reservations aren’t available yet. I’m nervous that she’ll book her trip and I’ll have to move my plans. Not the end of the world, but I had reasons for picking those dates, you know? For the record, we’re not talking about a super popular vacation time like the holidays, and neither of us are planning around school schedules–it’s just a random week in May.

    The problem feels ridiculous and I do feel silly for already being concerned about it, but I don’t want to leave it until it’s too late, either.

    1. fposte

      Is that week the only booking date open for her? Then as a manager I’d probably give her priority, I’m afraid. Either that or I’d go with a coin flip. With two advance planners who both know what they want, nobody’s going to get the “I asked first” benefit here. Is there a way you could make yours work on other dates?

      1. Ave

        Hers is one of those things where they have dates leaving every two weeks. I could theoretically move mine and it’s not a big deal–it’s just that she brushes me off whenever I approach the subject. I think I’ll work with the assumption that she’s still planning based on her original dates and double check with her after my reservations open up.

        1. fposte

          That seems reasonable; I might email her to have on-the-record confirmation of that plan. And if you and she discussed that you both wanted the last week of May and you said “Fine, I’ll rearrange to the first week of May,” I would definitely as a manager back you if she then wanted the first week.

  23. Jason

    Hey guys I’m not sure what to do.

    So, last year I graduated with a degree in Public Relations and for the last year and a half I’ve been trying so hard to land any sort of media job in New York City, I live fairly close to there.

    My main goal is to work in video game PR but right now I’m trying to get my foot in the door. I had one job at an app developer that laid me off due to budget problems, and now I’m working at a shitty customer service job for a toilet manufacturer to pay the bills. Makes for a good pun but I’m completely serious, too.

    I’m at wits end. I’ve applied to god knows how many media related jobs off of indeed, Linkedin, mediabistro and my college’s career website. I’ve been to a bunch of networking events and STILL can’t land a job in the field I want to be in. I don’t think my resume looks bad either. I have a few internships under my belt, a bachelors and I can hold a job. Maybe the fact that I’m in customer service currently is turing employers away? I don’t know.

    Is there something I’m not doing? I thought joining the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) would help but their networking events are always in the middle of the week during work hours so I can’t even go to them. Also I’ve been applying to a lot of places closer to home as well and still nothing. Can anybody offer advice to an avenue I haven’t pursued? Or just any advice in general. Thanks so much.

    1. LBK

      I don’t have any specific advice for the field but my #1 recommendation if you’re not getting interviews is always to read everything on this site you can find about resumes and cover letters and make sure you’re applying all of it.

    2. Ad Astra

      Well, PR can be a tough field to break into, especially if you’re trying to land a job in New York. It’s very possible that you’re doing nothing wrong, but you’re competing with tons of talented people who might have similar (or better) experience and similar (or better) connections.

      If I were you, I’d take a look at Alison’s advice about cover letters and see if you can improve those. And you say your resume looks fine, but it might be worth a peak at Alison’s advice there, too.

      If you’re not already doing some networking on social media, especially Twitter, that may be a good place to start. I bet there are some good weekly Twitter chats you could participate in and build up a bit of a network fairly quickly. Establishing relationships takes time, but it’s worth doing while you continue to apply for jobs the traditional way.

      Do you have a website with some good work samples? That could be helpful.

      Do you have enough spare time to do some related volunteer work for a nonprofit that you care about? Many charities are happy to have some free help with news releases, low-level event planning, or whatever else you’re good at.

      Would you consider moving to a less competitive market? You haven’t had luck “closer to home,” but if you live very close to NYC, you’re probably still in a pretty competitive market. If the idea of moving to, say, St. Louis or Houston or Reno is ok with you, try applying for a few jobs in smaller markets and see if you get any bites.

      1. Jason

        Moving is definitely something I’ve considered. I just don’t have the funds yet. But thank you for your input

    3. Bend & Snap

      Hello from a long PR career. It’s REALLY hard to get in–basically if you don’t have experience you can’t get hired, so it’s a catch 22.

      Join PRSA anyway so you can put it on your resume. Go to whatever events you can–my chapter (Boston) does have night events and I imagine NYC does too.

      If your internships aren’t specific to PR you should start there. It stinks but it’s a foot in the door.

      If you don’t have a portfolio of work start putting one together–writing samples etc.

      Applying to agencies is your best bet. I wouldn’t go industry specific this early in your career, especially with something so in demand. Look at the big agencies–Porter Novelli, Brodeur, Ketchum, Burson-Marsteller, Edelman, etc. You’re going to have better luck with the large, general agencies than with specialty agencies (like tech, finance or consumer) or small boutiques.

      Finally, if your resume isn’t closely tailored to PR, fix that now.

    4. Volunteer Advocate

      Joining an association is a great idea, but so is volunteering in your field. (You can also volunteer to write newsletter articles for your association’s newsletter.)

      I highly recommend this website for finding online volunteer opportunities: https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en/index.html (Caveat: It’s been a few years since I’ve done volunteer work for organizations through them).

    5. Volunteer Advocate

      (Hmmm… I don’t see my reply here…)

      Joining an association is a great idea, as is volunteering to write articles for their newsletter.

      I also strongly recommend volunteering in your field. You can find online volunteer opportunities with the UN Online Volunteers group (onlinevolunteering-dot-org). (Caveat: It’s been a few years since I’ve volunteered for organizations through their website.)

  24. AvonLady Barksdale

    Last week, a guy I knew in college contacted me– someone told him about my company, he saw my name on the website, he reached out. He’s looking to get out of academia and get into my field, so he’s curious about my company and he’s wondering if he should pursue an opportunity with us.

    Here’s the rub– I honestly don’t know how to answer him diplomatically! I haven’t been here very long, and it’s been rough. The company is going through a pretty lean time and a ton of growing pains, and right now, I wouldn’t recommend us to anyone. (As an employer, not a vendor– we do very good work.) I don’t know this guy well at all (it’s been 15 years since I’ve seen him), so I don’t feel like I can try to discourage him based on fit, because I don’t know his life. I can say that I think it would be a bad choice for a person with a young family, but… maybe that doesn’t bother him. He has an advanced degree and has done very high-level work, and this stuff is way more on-the-ground. I can see someone with a doctorate, who’s been in charge of his own work and research for many years, getting completely frustrated not by our actual work, but by our structure and processes. I had hoped to discourage him simply because of location, but– surprise!– he’s living in the same city as one of our offices.

    I’m going to offer to put him in touch with our manager in that office, as she’s been in this business a long time, purely as an informational/networking thing. But I foresee her getting so excited about bringing in someone with his credentials and all the senior people getting pumped about having him, but one of our biggest issues is that the higher-ups have a tendency to tell prospective hires about a lot of wonderful things and rarely follow through with them. We desperately need people, especially in that office, so I can picture the sales pitch– and I can also picture him starting, getting fed up really quickly, and bolting.

    So what should I say to him? Simply make the introduction and leave it? Tell him the (admittedly biased) truth? I also don’t want whoever introduced him to the company to get a bad impression of us, because my hunch is that his colleague is a client/potential client.

    1. OfficePrincess

      I think this is a situation where you can tell him most of the truth. “Well Steve, I haven’t been here very long, but I can put you in contact with Jane.” This doesn’t endorse your workplace, but doesn’t say anything that can come back to bite you either.

    2. over educated and underemployed

      Tell him the truth! But tell him about what you know on your end, not whether you think he would be happy with it. Hearing about your work experiences, what the day-to-day is like, and some perspectives your manager might not give. If you trust him enough to not repeat it somewhere and get you in trouble (which you may not), you could even tell him that you’re happy to give advice on your field but that things are pretty rough for employees in your company right now due to big changes and you would recommend starting out elsewhere. Please please do NOT assume that he would be frustrated by on-the-ground stuff and wanting to do more high-level work – I have a doctorate, and am in a (sadly, non-permanent) job that is fairly entry level and a lot of colleagues with BAs, but I actually like having a lot of the “high level” stuff like arguing for funding and resources for new projects being out of my hands. It may be the case for him, but it may not.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        The trust is, I think, where I’m most cautious. My inclination is always to tell the truth without thinking about the word getting out, but I don’t know this guy at all, really. We were friendly in college, but that’s it. I have to remind myself that people DO talk and that whatever I say has the potential to seriously bite me in the ass.

    3. fposte

      How much time do you want to spend on this? I think it’s fine to say “It’s a challenging enough time here at DregsCo that I’d recommend you think very carefully before you decide it would be right for you.”

    4. AnotherAlison

      I’d be inclined to tell the truth as far as “lean times” go. I wouldn’t want someone to quit for somewhere that has potential downsizing coming. Not that you can ever know that for sure, but if the company is in cut-costs mode, I’d warn him.

      As far as any fit or work/life balance issues, I’d leave that for him to decide. You can’t really judge what he will think based on his current situation. You could say weekly travel or 60 hour weeks are normal, if that’s true, but I wouldn’t make the judgement that he would or would not like that.

    5. L

      Could you try giving him a straightforward rundown of the culture without incorporating too many value judgments? I think it’s great that are concerned about him getting sucked into a horrible environment, and the culture is such an important consideration in taking a new job. However, I’ve noticed that some of my friends in high-powered corporate jobs are fine with things I would consider insane and toxic. Everybody’s different, I guess.

      On the PhD side…I have a PhD, and it can be really hard to job search because of PhD stereotypes. For some of us, a 9-5 without so much pressure to set the entire agenda and get amazing results at a furious pace would be a really welcome change. He might be transitioning precisely because he’s looking to dial down his level of responsibility.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        That’s the thing, though– this job has a ton of responsibilities, many of them not clearly spelled out. The pace is, at times, completely unsustainable. I’m thinking about him coming from a fast-paced world where he sets his own agenda to a fast-paced world where he has very little autonomy. I came from a slower-paced but stressful job where I had worked my way up to autonomy, and this place was a massive blow. You see why this is so delicate!

        1. overeducated and underemployed

          Would you be comfortable describing it as “very fast paced and very little autonomy” (or something more descriptive and less negative like “the work culture is very fast paced, with processes assigned from above that must be followed to the letter”) with no value judgment attached? That says a LOT to me.

    6. Evie

      How about something like this:
      “While I like working at Teapots inc because of our great work in Teapot technology, internally things are a bit the lean and there’s some changes happening that haven’t fully settled yet. One result of this is that there’s less autonomy in performing teapot maintenance than I’m used to in the industry which not everyone appreciates. Also in light of the changes the upper management can be overly enthusiastic about what they promise in terms of xyz, which can be hard to deliver given the state of things.”
      So you’re mentioning the issues while staying positive about the product. Also I’d do this over the phone/coffee and NOT in an email.
      You can also, as mentioned above, prevaricate about not being familiar enough with x department to know their culture or what not. And on the work end of things, if you do pass of the resume, one thing Alison mentions is the art of the disclaimer: “I’m passing on Horence’s resume. I knew him in college so I can’t speak for his work but he was always a nice guy and very focused on his studies” or whatever is applicable – basically “I’m passing this on cause he’s nice, not because he’s SuperWorker2015”

  25. Holly

    As everyone here knows, I’m working on asserting my personal boundaries at work. Can I get a script for what to say to someone – someone a good four levels above me, unfortunately – who keeps coming by for legit reasons, but gets excessive joy out of sneaking up on me and laughing when I get startled?

    (in fairness to him, I get easily startled because of lingering PTSD from a domestic situation in my past, but that’s not his business or anyone at work’s, as far as I’m concerned.)

    The last few times I’ve been in the zone, headphones on, concentrating on a project and he’s made a noise that made me jump – because I couldn’t even detect that he was around, let alone two feet from me – and then he’ll point and start laughing and giggling. It’s obnoxious, especially when I’m already sensitive about this and why I’m like this. I need to be polite, though, especially because he holds so much power over me (not a direct boss or in my department, but a general member of our leadership team in the company.)

    1. Sunshine Brite

      Is there some way he could introduce himself that you could include? Please IM when you’re on your way over, if I’m wearing my headphones please do x.

      I’d say something along the lines of Please stop. I know I startle easily and probably look a bit out of sorts, but it really affects my focus when there are other ways to get my attention. I’d prefer…

      1. Evie

        “he’ll point and start laughing and giggling”
        I have to say Sunshine, I have doubts that method would work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth trying out, but it’s not like he hasn’t noticed her tendency to startle and the way he’s reacting is already showing himself to be a jerkwad. So that could be a place to start, but then I think you’d have to have something else to back it up.

    2. Hellanon

      Can you tell him that you find it really disturbing to be interrupted in this way when you’re concentrating on work? Sometimes that very flat-affect, “Hey, look, can I ask you to stop doing that? It’s very distracting.” without offering reasons, explanations, or opportunities to argue with you about how it’s “just a joke” makes assholes like this realize that what they are doing is in fact out of line.

      If it doesn’t stop, go to your direct boss – it’s a form of workplace bullying you shouldn’t have to put up with, even from CEOs or angel investors!

      1. Dawn

        Yup, bullying. Doing something to make you react and then laughing about it. I would tell him once, directly, “Fergus, do not ever sneak up on me like that again. It is not funny.” If he does it again, say: “Fergus, I told you to never do that again. It is not funny.” And then immediately go to your boss.

        I used to work with a woman who would sneak up behind me, give me a wet willy, and then get all kinds of indignant (and call me homophobic) when I would get mad and tell her to stop. I wish I had said something to management because it doesn’t get much more bullying than that!

        1. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!

          WTH is wrong with people? So glad I haven’t come across that foolishness, because instinct for would be to defend myself. Oops, did I just slap you?

    3. Hazel Asperg

      Urgh. I have similar startle-response from PTSD and also had an immature supervisor laugh about being able to scare me. My solution wasn’t very mature, nor planned, but exclaiming “WHAT THE F—-?!” angrily when he did it and he stopped. Totally. Apparently I looked sufficiently angry and there were enough witnesses that he stopped.

      I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful, and I sincerely hope he stops being a complete asshat.

      1. Jillociraptor

        I think a less all-caps version of that might actually work well, though. Usually it is best to go the direct route, but when people have judgment this questionable/are such gigantic jerks, sometimes you just need to make them feel awkward.

        “Why are you laughing?”
        “I don’t get it, what’s funny?”
        “Dude, what the heck?”
        “What a weird thing to do!”
        “It’s genuinely odd that you find this so funny.”
        “You seriously think this is funny?”
        “Why would someone do something like that.”

        Lighten up, I’m just joking around? “I don’t really get what would be entertaining about being startled?” “That’s a weird thing to joke around about.” etc.

        Perfect your incredulous “WHAT THE F—?!” face, which is the critical icing on the cake of the “you are acting like a baboon” approach.

        1. Evie

          I like these – the emphasis there is for him to have to explain his behaviour – and as with so many ‘funny’ things, explaining it in full hand (so to speak) takes away the humour. And having to do it every time he makes a ‘funny’ would probably get boring quickly.

    4. Gene

      Can’t help with a script, but since you are easily startled, and it bothers you, put a mirror on top of your monitor. If anyone asks, just explain that you are easily startled.

      BTW, you don’t need to be polite to juvenile a**holes.

    5. CrazyCatLady

      I startle easily for the same reason. I actually scream though (involuntarily!) and it seems to embarrass both parties enough to just leave it alone forever.

    6. edj3

      I also startle easily for similar reasons.

      These days, I generally tell people that I startle easily and to please make noise when stopping by my desk so that I know they are there. I do that because several years ago, I had someone at work startle me so badly that I very nearly punched him. I had such a dump of adrenaline that my face flushed, I teared up and it was clear to both of us that he nearly got punched. And that was someone I liked and who startled me accidentally.

      I figure it’s on me to warn people–it’s not their fault that I react that way. But they do need to warn me that they’re there.

      1. Rena

        I actually did punch a coworker once for startling me. I was working in a grocery store bakery – 6:30 am, I’m alone in the freezer, back to the door, totally sleepy and doing my work on autopilot. One of my coworkers snuck into the freezer behind me and let out the most unearthly scream at the top of his lungs. My fight or flight response kicked so hard to fight that I punched him as hard as I could several times in the back. He’d seen the look on my face and quickly turned away and hunched down. I was so furious. He apologized profusely and ran away, and I was left unsettled for the rest of the day.

        (He was a big fighter, all muscle, and I don’t know how to punch. I doubt I even bruised him.)

    7. TL -

      “Bob, you ass!” worked for me.

      But I think a, hey I don’t find that funny and actually it’s really stressful would work too.

    8. Beezus

      Someone stopped doing this to me when I burst into tears. It wasn’t planned, and I was only mildly annoyed at the startling, but he caught me at a bad time and it just happened. He never did it again.

    9. Rebecca

      My manager thinks it’s funny to startle me. I don’t think it’s funny, and I finally told her to just stop. She has for the most part. I hate the fact that my desk faces the back wall of my shared office so people can walk up behind me through an open door, on carpet, and unintentionally startle me all day long. No, I’m not allowed to have my desk moved. That costs money. And there’s no way to move my computer due to how the counter top is attached to the wall. There’s just no joy in Mudville here.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Mine is the same way–I sit with my back to the entrance of my cube. I had a sign that said “Speak friend and enter” with the Gate of Moria under my nameplate, but people would scare the living hell out of me when I had headphones on. I finally added, “Please knock if I’m wearing headphones.” Now they knock.

    10. Tara R.

      “I really hate being startled, and it knocks me out of my working groove. Could you please (IM before you come by, say my name loudly if you see my headphones on)? Thanks, I appreciate it.”

      Don’t engage with the laughing at all. Stay completely straight-faced and say this straightforwardly, as though you’re making such an obvious request that for him to mock you would be very strange behaviour. If he protests and/or continues laughing at that point: “It really bothers me. Thank you for being understanding.”

      I have an issue with certain conversational topics (mostly existentialism/end of the universe type stuff) and I use this script allll the time. “But it’s so interesting!” “It really bothers me. Thank you for understanding.” “How come you keep changing the subject?” “It bothers me and I don’t like to talk about it. I appreciate you respecting that.” repeat ad nauseum

      I never bring my anxiety into it, because suddenly everyone thinks they’re a psychiatrist and exposure therapy, amirite?

    11. catsAreCool

      “he’ll point and start laughing and giggling.” That’s awful.

      Once when someone deliberately tried to startle me, I gave a smallish scream, and the person didn’t do it again, but I have no idea if that would work in other cases (or really even if it worked that time).

    12. Observer

      “please let me know when you are coming by. I’m much more effective if I’m not startled and the giggles waste a lot of time. Thanks. Now, what was it you needed?”

  26. Squirrel!

    Argh, I’m faced with a major scheduling issue right now. The job I currently have is definitely not what it was promised to be in the interview. While the work is actually interesting and keeps me busy, the management here is a letdown. They seemed so great in the interview, but they are the cause of so many problems, are unsupportive, and just generally a pain to work with. I have been looking for a new job for the past week and have gotten a few nibbles. The issue is that we are currently coming up on a PTO blackout for the next few months, which would make taking time off for interviews difficult. Do I put my job search on hold, continue working at a really crummy place, and potentially miss out on better jobs? Or do I try to talk my boss into letting me have flex time, for some made up reason like medical appointments? It would not serve me to be truthful because I would most definitely face retaliation from management, and would probably start getting written up for non-existent issues just to get me out the door. There is also no reporting this to HR because the head manager has been reported before (for more egregious situations) and nothing was done—possibly because they have friends in high places—and the employees were eventually retaliated against and left. I just want out of here…

    1. Dawn

      Keep looking. You owe these people nothing- NOTHING. Perhaps you can tell your manager that you know that you’ll have some medical appointments coming up during the blackout period and need to work out some flex time so that you can keep them in a timely manner in order to make it easier for you to schedule interviews. DON’T STOP LOOKING!!! Especially since you’ve already gotten nibbles!

    2. misspiggy

      I think go the fake sick time/medical appointments route. Sounds like you’d be a lot happier if you were making progress on getting out of there.

    3. F.

      Keep looking. I wouldn’t lie about fake medical appointments, you may be asked to bring in verification. See if interviews can be scheduled very early before you come in or after your shift ends. Even a phone interview taken off site on your lunch breaks might be doable. I have interviewed applicants at 6:30 a.m. when necessary.

  27. TotesMaGoats

    Sat through a 3.5 hour supervisor training yesterday afternoon. The leader was so proud of herself that we got out 2 minutes early (i.e. 4:58). It was fairly good training but that long, that late in the afternoon and I was itching to get out. Lots of good topics that needed more time for each one. And I’ve had this training before and recently. But no way to opt out of this “strongly encouraged” training. Sigh. It could’ve been worse.

  28. AMT

    Short question. My wife manages someone who—despite being in his thirties and having a master’s degree—is basically unteachable. He’s fine when he has a set of discrete tasks to perform, but can’t problem-solve, prioritize, retain knowledge and skills he’s been trained on, communicate with her when something goes awry, or do anything that requires speed and efficiency. After several months of this, she’s wondering whether to cut him loose. Has anyone had a subordinate like this who turned their performance around? Is it even possible, or should she just start preparing to fire him?

      1. AMT

        Unfortunately, firing someone at her company is a lengthy process and having to take over his duties while hiring/training someone else would make her work life very difficult for a while. He’s terrible, sure, but better than nothing. She’s now taking the steps she needs to fire him in case it does come to that, but in the interim, she’s trying to figure out ways to manage his performance so his projects don’t tank.

        1. fposte

          I doubt there’s a way to manage his performance that isn’t going to take an inappropriate amount of a more expensive employee’s time.

          The employee she has is the employee she’s going to get, I’d say. I don’t know why it’s being phrased as “in case it comes to that”–this is what it has come to, and if she’s not okay with it, firing is the way out. Has she told him he’s going to be fired if his performance doesn’t improve?

          1. AMT

            I don’t think so. I think she’s just realized in the last week that she probably will end up firing him in the near future, even if it’s going to double her workload. The next step would be putting him on a PIP, which she’s now working on with HR, so it does look like she’ll be having the “improve or you’re out” discussion pretty soon.

            1. Evie

              If he’s good at discrete tasks, then it might be worth looking into which tasks lend themselves to having check lists accompanying them and such. But if there’s too much in the job for that to be plausible (and the PIP doesn’t light the proverbial fire) than it sounds like he’s on his way out anyway. Any chance she can start searching before his PIP finished? or trying to make an agreement (I think Alison has mentioned something similar in the past) where after the PIP (assuming it doesn’t work) she has a frank discussion that things aren’t working out and she’ll keep him on for x time (a month? 2) but that it might be better for him to find another position? So he can help keep up with the work while she’s hiring, and it has the benefit of making her look like an awesome boss by giving him time to find something else. But of course she’d have to know he’d be the type of person/employee she could trust with this.

    1. OriginalEmma

      I have nothing to add except that, in a weird way, this makes me hopeful that someone like me – who doesn’t have those problems – can attain a master’s!

      1. AMT

        Haha, I don’t think you want the master’s he has! It’s one of the most useless ones you can get. Think “relevant to the field, but incredibly expensive, and unnecessary to the point where you will almost certainly make more money without it.”

          1. AMT

            Publishing. Nooooo one in publishing has a master’s in publishing, nor do most people really need one. It basically gives you the equivalent of a few months spent interning as an editorial assistant, if even that.

    2. xarcady

      I’d put him on a performance improvement plan immediately. And have a discussion with my boss as to how to handle things if he doesn’t improve, as it appears that firing might be necessary.

      There is the slight possibility that he thinks the work he is doing is beneath him because he has a Master’s degree. If that’s the case, getting the message that his job is in danger unless he pulls his act together *might* get him on the right track.

      1. AMT

        You might be right. He got his master’s so he could change fields and this is his first post-master’s job, so I wonder if he sees it as a lowly stepping stone to a higher-level position, not realizing that you have to do more than keep your head above water to move up.

      2. BRR

        Agree to all of this. It doesn’t sound like he’s the world’s worst employee so I’d get him on a PIP now. Hopefully she’s been giving feedback all along.

    3. Seal

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there are plenty of well-educated idiots out there.

    4. CV

      Not to armchair diagnose, but some mental health disorders have cognitive symptoms similar to what you’re describing. Is there a delicate way to ask if there’s something going on (not specifics but more “you seem to be struggling and I’m worried”) and then refer to EAP?

      1. fposte

        Unless that’s magically going to fix his performance, though, it doesn’t change the manager’s problem.

      2. Evie

        And even if he does have a mental health thing happening, this just might not be the right kind of job for him until/unless he gets those issues sorted out. If he can do discrete tasks but not problem solve than wouldn’t it be better for him to be in a job where he can succeed doing such tasks, rather than trying to stick it out in a job where he just doesn’t have the skills to succeed – and where he’s driving his direct manager slowly insane?

  29. Jason

    Forgot to mention I’ve had a few internships in the past. Should I keep going for another even though I work full time?

  30. Brett

    So, the rumor is rapidly spreading at our workplace that merit raises will be permanently eliminated. (They were put on year to year suspension in 2007 and indefinite suspension in 2013). There is a possibility that they could be reinstated in the future, but cost of living raises were eliminated in 1986 and have never been reinstated. Morale is, of course, rock bottom. The fact that no one has addressed the rumor at all is only giving credence to it. Meanwhile, retirement preparation classes are overloaded as retirement eligible employees are leaving en masse.

    I suppose the fed employees here have gone through similar issues before. Has anyone else dealt with this type of situation before? Other than continuously working on getting out, I really have no idea what to do now. Since we are pensioned (and our retirement savings accounts are worse than an IRA), the long term retirement implications of either the permanent freeze on raises or retiring early are both pretty dramatic.

    1. fposte

      To paraphrase Alison, your job sucks and isn’t going to change. I don’t see what option you think you’d have aside from getting out–insist the government change its policy because it’s stupid? I’d be with you, but we’d lose.

      1. Brett

        I was thinking more about financial and other coping strategies in this situation: how to keep motivated, how to keep co-workers motivated when you work with them, etc. I take a lot of pride in my work and getting great reviews, but the reviews are starting to feel as meaningful as 6th grade report cards now.

        1. Evie

          is there any way the company can recognise great performance in non monetary ways? I’m sure Alison has brought some options up before, but what I can remember is things like (depending if your work place can do it!), flex time, the option to from home 1 day a week (or whatever makes sense), training programs etc? Helping to develop new and potentially interesting and motivating projects? Extra PTO?

    2. Lefty

      Yup, I’m with the feds and your situation definitely feels familiar…

      I used to work with a woman who, when given shining reviews praising her work would say, “Yeah, but I can’t eat this or pay my mortgage with this!” My first piece of advice is NOT to be her- sometimes all our managers have to give are token recognitions because of the budgetary constraints. It’s tough for you and your coworkers (and your staff if you’ve got one) already, but it gets tougher when everyone focuses only on the negativity.

      If you can, try to focus on the consequences of what you do, especially if there’s a human or numeric aspect you’re able to easily find. It may sound corny, but in my case, knowing the outcome of what I do can help (we issue certifications that our customers use to get jobs). If I can think (and sometimes say to my staff), “Wow. We helped 750 customers this month… that’s 750 people who can pay their rent or their kids’ tuition again”- that feels good. If there wasn’t a human aspect, maybe a “Wow! We created 750 teapots this month that exceeded the quality standards. Those are some super safe teapots!” that might work too. Thank each other… express gratitude for the way Jane really goes the extra mile with her customers or the fact that Fergus is always refilling the paper tray on the copier. Genuine gratitude can certainly help to create a positive environment. Also, try to prepare yourself for the fact that some folks will have to leave because of this change in their finances. Some of our staff have been able to handle this well, others feel “left behind” especially if they’ve been looking elsewhere too.

      As for financial suggestions? I’ve gotten used to a longer commute to reduce the housing cost for our family (the office is in a high cost area of Boston)… others on staff share rides and parking costs. We also encourage everyone to pack a lunch so we can eat together. Quite a few of us have become Cord Cutters and have gotten rid of cable. We also have a book swap shelf in our breakroom, so we try to keep ourselves flush with reading material- we clean it off annually and make a donation to a local school’s book sale which is another little morale boost.

      Best of luck- hope the rumor is just a rumor! If it’s not, only you know which path is best for you right now…

  31. thefluter

    I am the manager of a small team. We work closely with a larger team, basically QAing what they do. A recently hired person on the larger team, just out of college, is very nice in person, but I’ve noticed a pattern of them sending pretty directional emails when questions are asked by my team.

    For example, the manager of the other team requested that we not make teapots with blue lids. A teapot came in with a blue lid, and my report asked if their manager had approved the blue lid, since we’ve been told there shouldn’t be blue lids. The junior person replied, essentially “The manager pretty much approves everything before I make it, so it’s fine, and you shouldn’t be asking me about this.” Which, it’s our job to ask, and if a blue lid had gotten through without manager’s approval, it would have been on us.

    In another case, she seemed to be managing my report’s time, telling them her teapots should be QA’d first, despite the fact that we’re shortstaffed this week and my report has other priorities to manage. Her tone and demand are both pretty inappropriate, and I don’t think her supervisor would be happy to know she’s speaking to my team this way.

    So my question: Should I speak to this teapot maker directly? Speak to her supervisor instead? If I talk to her directly, what should I say? That her demands and tenor of her responses to my reports is inappropriate, and that when we ask her a question, she should endeavor to find the answer, even if she thinks she’s right? Help!

    1. Mkb

      I lead a team in a similar role to yours and sometimes have the same types of issues. I would speak to her manager directly so they can clarify the roles for her. If she’s already shown disrespect/ misunderstanding for your team, she may not change the behavior if it comes from you.

    2. Dawn

      Hm. I would speak with her manager first about the pattern of behavior- the pushback and the demands to be QA’d first, to give her manager a chance to correct behavior. Then I’d just follow whatever you heard from the manager and push back on her if she tries to circumvent that. As in, send an email and CC Fergus and say “Sue, Fergus has said that no more blue teapot lids are to be made. Fergus, is this an exception to what you said earlier about blue teapot lids or has that policy changed?” Not condescending to Sue, but instead acting puzzled because Fergus has told you one thing and now Sue is telling you another.

    3. thefluter

      Thanks, both of you! I reached out to her supervisor, and it sounds like this isn’t the only issue with this employee, so we’re going to meet next week.

  32. Mando Diao

    I’m thinking about taking an online paralegal course, probably the Rutgers one. I’ve done some research, and my state (NJ) doesn’t seem to regulate this field. I already have my MA in English. Is there anything I should know before I commit to this? Is it even a good idea? I always told myself I would go this route if I hit 30 and didn’t feel secure in my career path.

    1. OriginalEmma

      I’d question whether you even need the course. A buddy of mine became a paralegal by just learning on the job. While NJ may not regulate, NY might and if you’re in NJ, you may end up working in NYC. Are there national regulations for paralegal?

      As a Rutgers grad, it’s just SO expensive. If you can find another, cheaper course, I’d recommend it. It’s probably one of the most expensive in-state-tuition schools.

      1. Mando Diao

        The Rutgers online course is under $3k, so while it’s not cheap, it’s not like paying for a proper course load. I haven’t seen anything that’s much cheaper, so all things considered, I’d go with the biggest name in that price range, you know?

        I’ve looked at some job listings to see what employers are looking for, and many of the better ones ask for the national CLA certification (which isn’t required by the state, but which the employers are obviously entitled to require). I could go ahead and register for that exam this minute, but I’m utterly unprepared, and that’s one thing the course is really good for.

    2. F.

      I earned a Paralegal certificate from an ABA-accredited university in 2007 as part of a plan to promote from within at a large corporation where I was subsequently laid off before I could be promoted. Paralegals are a dime a dozen in my area. Starting wage at the time was about $28,000/yr. at large law firms where paralegals and other support staff were treated like dirt and worked to death. While I loved most of the work I would have been doing, the most important thing I learned during my paralegal education was that I do NOT want to work for/with 98% of attorneys and the other 2% can’t afford a paralegal!

    3. NJCollegeStudent

      Have you looked at any community colleges in your area? I have a friend who took some accounting courses this way to reach the 150 credit hours for the CPA. If you are in Monmouth County, I’ve taken classes at Brookdale CC and had positive experiences. A quick search showed they have as associates program for paralegals. It might not be online though. Good luck in deciding on whether to peruse your studies!

      1. Mando Diao

        I actually looked at that Brookdale program! It’s more expensive than the Rutgers course though, and I do have a full-time job (though it’s not career-track) so I don’t feel like in-person classes are in the cards for me. Thanks for the tip!

  33. Window Seat Anon

    Any advice for staying focused when your brain just won’t focus on work related tasks? This normally happens to me in the afternoons after lunch. I’m not in that “I need a nap” slump. It’s like once my brain realizes it’s 2 ‘o clock and I’m trying to do work I loose almost all ability to focus on work. Instead my mind goes through: what am I doing tonight? What’s for dinner? What’s on tv? What movies are coming out? What’s at the theater? What are my friends doing? What is my family doing? How long has it been since you talked to grandma? You really need to organize your pinterest boards! You really need to actually do something you’ve pinned! Should you go shopping this weekend? Etc. Etc. Etc.

    I definitely notice that I make more mistakes in my work in those afternoon hours. I make sure I get all the most important tasks done before I ever get up for lunch because of it. Any tips?

    1. Jillociraptor

      So, it doesn’t sound like you’re worrying, but these are kind of intrusive, sort of unwanted thoughts, so this strategy I learned for excessive worrying might help:

      Set aside some time when you’re most likely to go on a brain break like this, maybe 15-20 minutes, whatever you can reasonably get away with, to just think about those questions as much as you want. Write them down, write down the answers, make a to-do list, whatever. Think about it like tipping your head and having all the things you don’t want to be thinking about right then spill out like a teapot.

      In my experience, the more you have to formalize and take seriously the kind of crazy things in your head, the easier it is to regain control over them.

      Also, you might just need a snack and a walk! Maybe start with that :)

      1. Window Seat Anon

        Thanks for your advice! I think I will start with the snack/walk combo and see how it goes. Like you said, I’m not really worrying about anything, it’s just like *bam* no more work for you brain! :)

      2. F.

        Make sure the snack is a healthful one and not something that will cause your blood sugar to spike and them plummet, leaving you even more fuzzy-brained than before.

    2. AMT 2

      I do this all afternoon too! What can help a LOT is I just take a few minutes and a post-it and make a list – write down what I need to do (grocery store, make dinner, laundry, read chapter X for school, etc). Then I can throw it away and focus more. That only works for the things I can make a plan for though, but at least it solves the ‘what’s for dinner? oh crap, do I have clean clothes for tomorrow? I should really do this chore but need to do this other thing too, I can move that to tomorrow night instead and do the first tonight?’ type of problems. My other trick that I’ve started lately is listening to a LOT of podcasts while I work – it gives my brain something else to follow while I’m doing semi-mindless work, I can tune it out if my work gets a bit too complicated, and it stops the never-ending thought train.

      1. Window Seat Anon

        Thanks for your advice! :) I tend to make lists for those things too, but if I’m not careful I get carried away and suddenly I’ve spent an hour and half organizing my life instead of working! LOL

    3. catsAreCool

      If I’m doing a repetitive task that lends itself to mistakes, I try to figure out ways to make it easier to get it right. Not sure how that would work for what you do, but it might be worth thinking about.

    4. Evie

      I’ve been deep in assignment territory lately and after a few intense bursts I keep finding myself distracted and gravitating towards other tasks (like now….) I’ve found sometimes setting a timer (20 minutes on task, then 10 off) can help keep me focused for a bit longer, but also exercising during the ‘breaks’. I’m at home (mostly) for this so I can zumba, but going for a walk or running up and down stairs in your office might also help get your blood pumping a bit more :)

  34. Not Myself

    Question that I’d like your advice on, if you don’t mind. I found out that a contractor who is not in my direct organization/chain of command is drastically underreporting her time, to the tune of probably around 12-15 hours of overtime a week. Should I mention it to her manager or leave it alone? I know that under federal law my employer is required to pay non exempt employees for all hours worked regardless of whether it’s reported properly. It’s just super awkward and I’m not sure how to handle it.

    1. Not Myself

      To compound the situation, her department and mine are not on the best of terms right now, and I’m concerned that any well intentioned heads-up I give will be taken badly and further damage the relationship I’m working on rebuilding. If anyone over there put thought into it, they would notice that she’s staying at work from 5:30 AM to 6:00 PM. The contractor herself and I get along very well, and she told me she doesn’t mind working unpaid overtime – she just really feels the need to get the work done and there’s not enough hours in her workday. Obviously, that’s not ok as far as the law is concerned.

      1. fposte

        Did you mention that to her when she told you about her hours? Is it possible that your employer is, officially or not, aware and really wants her to work extra hours illegally? If you guys have an HR, that might be a place to go rather than directly to the other unit; this is actually the HR wheelhouse in a way that an employee with BO isn’t.

        (I’m presuming she’s a W-2 contractor and not a 1099, and that you know she’s non-exempt.)

        1. Not Myself

          Oh, I told her what the law was and that she needed to report her hours accurately. She responded that she had asked if she could work overtime and had been explicitly told no (but it’s likely that they’ve noticed and are turning a blind eye). She is a W-2 contractor. We’re a Fortune 500 company, so I’d be horrified to find out that the requirement isn’t known.

    2. Lefty

      Since you mention a strained relationship with her department, maybe try to re-frame your thinking about the situation- is this fair to the company and other employees?

      Are there others who do the same job as this contractor? I previously worked in a contract situation where all contractors were expected to meet certain production standards- let’s say 12 Spout Designs per 8 hour day. Most of us fell behind the requirements and made a point that 8 Spout Designs was a much more realistic number. Several of us were put on probation or improvement plans. The contracting company continued to insist that 12 Spout Designs were possible because it was being done everyday for the last 2 months by at least 2 people! It came to light that two contractors were working 10-12 hour days in order to complete their production counts. They were clocking out after 8 hours and working in a conference room to be away from their supervisors. It was unfair to most of us and cast doubt on the management of our contract. The supervisors lost credibility with the company that owned our contract (“Couldn’t you tell they were still in the building?”) and they lost the respect of our team because the numbers were valued more than a group of experienced employees raising concerns about the product.

      1. Not Myself

        Fairness isn’t really my concern. She’s doing good and necessary work, but isn’t being given the resources or help to get it done in her assigned work hours. I’m way more concerned that the employee will burn out -or- have a falling out with the company and make a complaint to the department of labor in the future or something. The other department is kind of notorious for not really treating their contract labor very well – luring them in with an inaccurate description of what they’d be doing, little or no training, little or no direction, promising eventual ‘real employee status’ but delaying as long as they can before delivering, etc. – so that second option could be a real possibility.

        1. Observer

          Well, the risk to the organization is really how you need to frame it. And, I would say that the people you need to talk to are HR. You may also want to point out to HR that if she gets fired for this, you’ve just upped your chances of a DOL investigation.

    3. Gene

      I think this falls under the “Tell HR that the FLSA laws are being broken” umbrella. And document that you’ve told them.

  35. pieces of flair

    I love my job. I’ve been here for 7 years and I’d stay forever if I could. Unfortunately, I’m funded by a federal grant and I just learned our funding is probably not going to be renewed after June. I’m totally freaking out about having to go back on the market. :(

    1. Evie

      I can see that would be freaky – it’s a big change after a long time! I guess the key is to try and get excited about what could come next? Where do you want to go next in your career? Do you want to stay on the same level or move up? Are you looking at relocating or staying where you are now? Are there other similar organisations that you’ve worked with as part of your current work that you might want to move to? I can understand that it sucks but you have a heads up about it at least so you’ve got time to think about these things, research your options and start applying – maybe with luck you’ll have something lined up by the time things wind down in June?

  36. Sara M

    I just wanted to say thanks. You guys were crucial in helping my mental health. Some of you thought I might have ADHD, based on some work problems. My psychistrist and I explored that idea. Turns out meds have been really helpful for me.

    Thank you!

    1. LBK

      Hooray! It’s such a moment of clarity when you start taking ADHD meds and suddenly realize “Oh, so THIS is how everyone else’s brain works?” Hopefully they continue to serve you well.

      1. Ad Astra

        You didn’t ask me, but I thought I’d throw this out there: Vyvanse works great for me, and I have the option to take an additional small dose of Adderall (quick release) in the afternoons if I need it. I used Adderall XR in the past, but for me Vyvanse lasts longer and is “smoother” — I don’t get that panicky feeling when it first kicks in, and I don’t crash when it wears off. My only side effects are that I’m prone to headaches (which I can ward off with good eating, sleeping, and hydration habits).

        1. BRR

          I’m on Vyvanse as well (in addition to intuniv). While even a tiny bit of Adderall made me feel panicky and what I describe as icky Vyvanse has been pretty good. I’m going to up from 40 to 50 as it seems to be less effective than when I started and hopefully that helps.

        2. BRR

          And thank you for your response. It’s tough having a condition and not being able to discuss it (I’m too lazy to pursue quality ADD forums)

        3. afiendishthingy

          This is my regimen too. I have chronic anxiety as well, and I’ve had a lot of traditional talk therapy over the years, but I started DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy, combines some elements of traditional cognitive therapy with mindfulness training) a few months back and I’m seeing some modest improvements in my concentration as well as my stress tolerance.

      2. Sara M

        Adderall, though I may have to go off it because it’s spiking my blood pressure. :( Not sure where we go from here, but meds do seem to help me.

        Also I need to plan time to read ADHD time management blogs and learn specific techniques.

        1. BRR

          Intuniv is a non-stimulant that also lowers blood pressure a little (careful because it can make you tired). Adderall spiked my blood pressure as well but Vyvanse doesn’t, it does give me a high resting pulse though.

  37. JV

    I have been invited for a second interview for a position I’m really excited about. There are two finalists. The interview is over lunch (ugh), and is with the hiring manager and the CFO. I’d love any advice about lunch interviews, as well as meeting with such a high-level officer of the company (this is for a senior analyst role, although I will be working with the CFO). I know this company likes applicants to ask lots of questions, but I already asked nearly everything I could think of in the first interview and in a follow up email!

    1. Dawn

      Don’t order anything complicated for lunch, and don’t order anything on the most expensive 1/3 of the menu. By complicated I mean, don’t order a big sloppy burger that’s probably going to get all over your hands and face!

      You’re going to have a chance to really shine here because it seems like what they’re looking for with the more informal lunch interview is getting to know you more personally as a candidate. Write down all of the questions you asked and all of the answers you gave during your first interviews and then think if there is anything else that you want to know from them and anything else that you might want to tell them or expound on to really shine. Expect that they’ll ask some pointed questions about projects/ results/ experience and be ready to speak in depth about that, even if those were asked in the first interview round.

      1. Chocolate Teapot

        I remember Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions had a whole chapter on interviews in odd locations and it recommended asking the interviewer what they were thinking of ordering so you could choose something similar. It also recommended no spaghetti, things with bones (filleted meat or fish is preferable) and to stay off the alcohol.

    2. Honeybee

      Eat a light meal before the lunch. I know that sounds weird, but when I have lunch interviews I always spend so much time talking that I don’t eat everything I intended to and wind up a little bit hungry. So if you have time to eat something light – like a snack – beforehand, you can talk without worrying about eating enough to not starve later.

      Also, nothing too chewy – like steak. You may get asked a question while you have food in your mouth, and you want to be able to chew it and swallow it quickly so you can answer :)

      Also, you can re-ask a few questions if you’re being interviewed by different people and you may get a different perspective.

  38. K.

    I was laid off five months ago. A lot of my friends and family say things like “Wow, I’m surprised you’re still looking” or “You’re still not working? What’s going on?” These comments are meant to be supportive – they really mean “You’re so great and qualified, I’m surprised this isn’t easier,” because these are people who care about me. But it feels awful to hear. I’m self-conscious about not working. Any suggestions about how to handle this?

    The job search and two other major life stressors within the same time frame have me in a not-so-great space mentally, so I would welcome some coping strategies. Job-hunting is exhausting.

    1. some1

      I don’t have any advice, but I agree it’s the kind of statement that doesn’t come off as intended. Like telling someone who’s not in a relationship, “I can’t believe you’re single!” doesn’t feel great either.

      1. K.

        Ha – I get that too. (One of the other life stressors was getting dumped, albeit in a short-term situation.) Been hearing it for years. Awesome.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Ugh! Me too.

          “You’re so awesome–I can’t believe you’re still single.”
          “Yeah, me either. So you know anyone equally awesome, heh heh?”
          “Noooooo, not really, sorry.” *Too busy to care.*
          *Then shut up.*

          Substitute employed for single and it still works. :P

    2. edj3

      When I was unemployed, I finally just told my family and friends that while I knew they meant well in asking about my job situation, I was getting more down about it when they did. I assured them that they would be the first to know when I got a job, that in fact they would probably hear me whooping and hollering all the way from Boston to the Midwest and west when that happy day arrived. But in the meantime, I would be grateful if we could not talk about my job situation unless I brought it up.

      It worked.

      1. K.

        That’s probably what I’ll end up doing – a polite version of “I know y’all mean well, but knock it off.”

    3. Lady Bug

      This is why I never tell anyone when I’m not working. Weirdly personal and awkward I know, but I just can’t stand those conversations. I was unemployed for 4 months this year and while I’m positive my daughter told my mom she asked me how work was and I answered fine. Love her for pretending along with me.

    4. Sammie

      No advice–just some empathy. It took me 11 months to find my current job (and I HATE it). I hope you find something soon. Don’t sweat the “comments”–keep looking, trust your gut. You’ll find something soon.

  39. Not Today Satan

    Just a rant: I have a social work-type job, and most of what I do is help people put together application packets for certain types of public assistance. (Trying to be vague for the purposes of quasi-anonymity, but suffice it to say that the assistance they are applying for is VERY important to them.) The service is free. But while some clients are great and engaged, others need SO much darn hand holding and basically won’t do anything unless I call them 20 damn times to remember. It’s so freaking frustrating! Like, this is YOUR life–I can’t put in more effort than you do! Sigh.

    1. Mimmy

      Social worker by training here *raises hand*

      Your clients are probably just scared or overwhelmed – you calling and constantly reminding them is probably making them more anxious (unless they ask you specifically to call them). I suggest breaking it down into smaller steps. In other words: rather than sending them home expecting them to fill out the entire packet, have them fill out one section, then go over it with them, then do the same with each subsequent section. Or if they have to make certain phone calls – have them do just one, then they can let you know how it went.

      Yes it is more hand-holding, but applying for public assistance programs can be very overwhelming, especially if the eligibility criteria is particularly stringent. Some people may need that extra support, and that’s absolutely okay. Patience and empathy go a long way.

      1. Not Today Satan

        I’m not sure why you think I send them the whole packet to complete; the tasks I give them are already very small and specific and I call them once a week max. And I do have a lot of empathy for them, but I have an extremely stressful job and sometimes vent on the Internet about it. Sigh.

        1. PontoonPirate

          Have you looked into the trauma-informed care framework at all? You might find some helpful scripts in there. It’s not a diagnostic tool but a framework for engaging with clients and employees who have been impacted (primarily, vicariously or otherwise) by trauma. And folks who need public assistance, I think, are facing a particular kind of socially-imposed trauma.

          One of the suggestions (paraphrased) is to invite the client to be a participant in creating their own wellness plan. For you, that mine mean going over the packet with them at one meeting and asking them which parts are the most intimidating to them, which parts seem easier, etc. and asking them to tell you which parts they can do first (insomuch as that is possible).

          Now, I’m not assuming you don’t already know this, but I wanted to offer the information in case. It’s a relatively new framework so lots of people aren’t super familiar with it yet.

          Also: vent on, as long as you’re taking care of yourself in other ways too. :)

        2. Sadsack

          I think Mimmy was just trying to be nice and offer what advice she could think of, you know, in response to your venting.

          1. Mimmy

            Basically, yes, that’s what I was aiming for….and not very well apparently :(

            Also, I did not mean to suggest that you (Not Today Satan) are not patient or empathic. You’re just frustrated, which I completely understand. My sincere apologies. This type of work can be VERY frustrating, and it’s why I don’t do it anymore.

    2. CMT

      The clients you’re working with are likely dealing with toxic stress that impairs their executive function skills. It’s not really their fault that living in likely chronic poverty is affecting their ability to function. Read up on human services coaching techniques that might help you get less frustrating results.

    3. Krystal

      I’m struggling with this as well. Not a social worker, but I am in the charitable arm of a teapot services company and deal with a similar client base. I do whatever I can to make it easier on these clients to complete paperwork, but they’re adults so I can’t make them be responsible or do it for them.

      I’m plotting a transition away from this work. One client in particular is wearing me out (refuses to sign paperwork that will enable her to get a job, complains about not having money …. all I need is her dam signature), and it’s getting very hard nut to show my irritation when she calls.

  40. SnowWhite

    I need some experience advice…

    How do you deal with a colleague who cries everytime (let’s call her Jane) she is challenged or a conversation doesn’t go her way? If you ask for something that isn’t done, or ask why an action point has not been completed she will cry at some point that day.

    We recently had a blowup in the office where an employee was at burnout stage on a project where the Jane was appointed as project secretary and the main role was to take notes, the sub role was to develop a list of 200 projects to pass onto the burnedout colleague so that they could write 500 word blurbs on each project.
    After waiting 4 months for the project list, burnedout colleague had only 1 week to write the blurbs – with difficult to find information. Due to length of time of list coming together, the deadline had already been pushed back twice and resulted in burnedout colleagues deadlines all falling onto one week.

    CEO feedback was that sample given did not fit the brief given in latest meeting, burned-out colleague asked Jane to see the minutes to cross-check notes from meeting and told minutes were not taken for that meeting. It was an important decision making meeting. Burned-out colleague did not raise voice, explained she was completely overwhelmed at magnitude of task and limit to the deadline.

    Burned-out colleague returned to desk and broke down. This is unusual for the burned-out colleague. Around 20 minutes later, Jane starts crying – saying burned out colleague shouted and was incredibly abrupt, this was not the case but burned-out colleague was later forced to apologise to Jane, by people who were not even in the office when the conversation took place.

    Burned-out colleague is now terrified to ask Jane for anything in case the crying starts again and feels as though she has been made out to be a bully.

    This echos a pattern over the previous year and a half with various colleagues who have either asked Jane for work which has not been completed, or asked why an action point has not been done.

    I now have a number of staff who are going to burned-out colleague about work which should be going to Jane, but they are too scared of making her cry. Burned-out colleague is under double pressure as scared to ask Jane to do anything in case of tears and has been told that saying ‘sorry, that job is no longer me but Jane and Lucy on reception will be able to help you’ makes her appear negative.

    Senior Management aren’t around when this type of behaviour happens and have made clear that they are very happy with Jane’s work.

    What on earth can I do to stop this type of behaviour. It is manipulative and unfair.

    1. Not Myself

      Are you her manager, or do you have a decent rapport with her manager? Because this needs to be addressed by them. Emotional blackmailing isn’t professional and must be quashed. I know some people can’t help but cry in certain circumstances, but they shouldn’t be intentionally doing it or allowing it to hold their coworkers hostage. Do bring it up to someone with authority over her.

      1. Dawn

        Damn, yeah you hit the nail on the head with emotional blackmail. This rises to the level of bullying I’d say, not necessarily at one person but at whoever “dares” to criticize Jane. Could you go to management and frame the conversation that way? Perhaps as a group of employees who all go to management with their concerns about being emotionally bullied into doing whatever Jane wants and the impact that has to the team and to the bottom line?

      2. SnowWhite

        I’m not their manager – more of a peer.

        We had a meeting today set up to discuss office roles and it was a shambles. Because burned out colleague is the HR rep, it has fallen to the finance manager as senior admin to chair mediation – but he doesn’t seem to be able to handle it.
        There was some more information as to when the burned out colleague was forced to apologise to jane – the member of staff who forced her to apologise was particularly brutal and made unnecessary personal comments; labelling burned out colleague as vindictive and what not.

        Burned out colleague spoke with the finance manager over that weekend and talked through reasons for the burnout and a plan was put together to help with both workload and accountability – but nothing was actioned.
        The finance manager was also informed of what his assistant had said to burned out colleague and apologised on behalf of department.

        The meeting today was setup as informal mediation, however when entering the meeting the finance assistant joined to. The meeting turned into another attack where burned out colleague was made to feel like she was being difficult complaining that jane was not completing day to day tasks. The meeting started with the assistant asking burned out colleague to go through her understanding of her role, and a comment about burned out colleague not having much to do. Burned out colleague fought her corner but the entire meeting continued like that.

        Jane said that she found burned out colleague abrasive; and when burned out colleague asked for recent examples the assistant told her to just take it on board. Jane was unable to come up with any examples for burned out colleague as to when she had been abrasive.

        When specific incidents such as the blow up were raised, Jane said she didn’t remember the conversation. When database management was raised Jane said she wasn’t aware that it was her job, despite job description – physical training session and step by step manuals being given by burned out colleague. The assistant tried to pass database management back over to burned out colleague but she said no. All the while the finance manager remained silent.

        When burned out colleague asked the finance manager why his assistant had been included in the meeting he had said it hadn’t really been his choice and she just joined – and when the involvement and comments made by his assistant was raised he said that he had asked her not to speak too much.

        Burned out colleague is now feeling even more isolated and helpless.

        1. catsAreCool

          Crying is one thing, but out and out lying to make a co-worker look bad is just wrong. Sounds like Jane might have some allies, too, which doesn’t help.

          If she was just a crier, I’d probably say, let her have some space to cry and don’t worry about it too much. Jane sounds mean and manipulative.

        2. LCL

          Wow. This is a nightmare. I still don’t know who has the power, on paper. Because the reality looks like a power vacuum, and the finance assistant has jumped right in. The boundaries between work and your personal selves are extremely blurred. Sometimes it helps in these vague personnel complaints to summarize things in simple words, to better understand what is happening. As an aside, I am guessing this is a very small company. Anyways
          1. You are trying to solve this because you see something wrong, but don’t have the authority.
          2 a meeting was held to try to define office roles. Instead it turned into an attack session on one colleague.
          3. Finance assistant invited herself to the meeting, and ran it, and her boss didn’t stop it. Is he scared or just stupid, or maybe enjoying all the drama, or does he think it’s all a distraction and y’all should just shut up and go back to work?
          4.colleague and manager talked on their time off, agree things suck, made a plan, but nothing happened.
          The power vacuum, and the assistant, are the real problem. If assistant dropped dead today, someone else would take her place.
          5. The Janes (both genders) of the world are weak and follow power.
          The best way for you and colleague to help yourselves is to first analyze what is happening. Then figure out what to do. In the mean time, try not to care if Jane cries, or finds you abrasive. Be professional.

      3. Mirilla

        I agree with the emotional blackmailing point. I have this going on at work right now so I feel for burned out employee very much. It’s amazing how someone can twist things around to make himself/herself look good while making the victim of this behavior look like the problem. If she doesn’t get anywhere with management on this, time to be searching for a more sane work environment. It’s just not worth the emotional stress. Jane sounds like a master manipulator. I know, I work with one and they are SCARY.

    2. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

      No advice, but if I were burned out colleague I’d be getting the hell out of there. That’s incredibly manipulative behavior and Jane needs to do her job. :(

    3. LCL

      I’m not sure who has the authority here. It appears to me that burned out colleague has to start advocating for herself, by going to her and Jane’s management and telling them what is happening. Is that the same management? And, you have to advocate for your number of staff who are too scared to work with Jane, by going over Jane’s head to Jane and your management. And you have to be stronger about telling your staff to ask Jane to do her work, as appropriate, and not avoiding her.
      Basically, Jane is holding everybody hostage, and management needs to be aware of what she is doing. Criers gonna cry. You should of course treat Jane with professional courtesy, but stop avoiding giving her work. She is getting rewarded for bad behavior now, so why should she stop?

      1. fposte

        Agreeing that it’s on you to advocate for staff and go to management.

        It sounds like she might not be crying during the actual conversation, but in case she is, you might also try to give your staff some situational tips. Maybe they can stick to email in communicating with Jane. Or they can wait calmly for a few moments until the first wave passes and say “Does this mean there is going to be a problem meeting the deadline and that we should meet with the managers to solve this?”

        But mostly, this is going to continue until somebody above you does something.

  41. Mimmy

    How old can a job be before I can take it off my resume? I was just revising my resume to add something, and realized I have a job on there from 2001-2005. I’m debating whether I should permanently remove it and could use some help weighing my reasons. It was a purely data focused where I did data entry, verification and running reports. The employer was a nonprofit biomedical company

    Reasons for keeping:
    – Demonstrates my attention to detail (accuracy was stressed, big time, b/c of the nature of the products)
    – One of the few steady jobs I’ve managed to have (4 years, 3 months) – I left voluntarily to focus on my masters

    Reasons for dropping:
    – Even though it was a nonprofit, it is no longer relevant to my current work

    With everything else I have on my resume, it’s spilling to a third page. I really need to figure out what I should keep and what should go. UGH

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Get rid of it if you want to. As Alison says, you’re under no obligation to include every job on your resume. Your resume should tell the story you want it to tell, and that can involve leaving off things, highlighting others, etc.

    2. EmilyG

      One thing I’ve done when trying to make things fit is adjust the amount of detail I put for each job. Maybe other people will think this is pointless, but would it fit if you just put the employer, title, and dates? That would encompass part of your reason for keeping it while not taking up much room.

    3. So Timely

      EmilyG – that is exactly what I did on my resume, I wanted to show that I had worked there because of the title and length of time, 11 years.

  42. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

    Hive mind question, topic is Work from Home jobs. I’m interested, especially, to hear from people who have applied to and work what started as Work from Home, and also people who have set up and hired for Work from Home jobs.

    Here’s my situation. I have a job (one job, series of openings) that has a high fail rate. It takes a certain sort of person to latch on to it, enjoy it, and do it well. The people who take to it really take to it but the other 99% percent of the pop think it’s either awful or they suck at it. Personally, I think a significant success factor is a high geek quotient (I love the job myself) but that’s aside from the topic at hand.

    There’s no reason the job can’t be done remotely, other than having to be local remote because we’d still need weekly in office check up meetings. I’m 98% sure the job could also be done successfully part time, as long as the right person put a min of 20 hours a week in, because we’d just hire more people to cover the total of the work.

    the challenge:

    I have zero idea how to set up to look for Work From Home candidates (idea being to expand my available pool) without getting lost in scam work from home opportunities.

    Interested to hear from people who have recruited and been recruited this way! (People MUST be local.)

    p.s. I can’t hire anybody from my AAM posts. Have to stay anon.

    1. ED

      Someone else in this thread was looking for work from home positions and joining Upwork was suggested. Might be worth checking out.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        Thanks. We definitely want employees, not freelancers. Full time, it would be a regular job with benefits and in the market range for someone with a college degree and experience.

        1. cuppa

          IF you have a company website, I would put the posting there, and just mention that some of the work might be remote.
          I think I saw a job recently that said like, “availability to work at different local sites (including remote from home) according to assigned tasks” or something like that. The gist was some was on-site and some was from home.

    2. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

      I’d love to work from home and am thinking about it being my next step, so eagle eyes on this.

      I will say, Upwork (mentioned below) is a mixed bag. If you’re hiring you may be able to find qualified people, but I think it would be a more challenging screening process. As a part time freelancer, I can tell you that bidding sites like Upwork are just…bizarre. Today someone asked me to write a 1,000 word article for $5, and wanted to have a skype call about it first.

      I know there’s the site FlexJobs.com…not sure how legit it is, but I’ve stumbled across it as a job seeker.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        Yeah basically this is exactly not Upwork. It’s the opposite. Which….is my issue, no idea how to not get confused up with that.

    3. katamia

      I never had any luck with Upwork when working from home, but one thing I’ve seen is just regular Craigslist ads with regular job postings, but they include “(Remote)” in the title and state in the job ad that it’s a remote position that must be local (which I’ve seen ads saying before).

      I also posted some websites in the other thread about working from home, so you could look at those to see if any of them look promising.

    4. AnotherAlison

      My concern with the WFH option: the high geek quotient. Not to say there aren’t geeks who would like to WFH, but I am trying to think of a good reason why WFH for LOCALS would open up more candidates than those who have to go into the office. People with technical skills that I know that work from home seem to do it because of a relocation where they’ve kept an old job or they’ve found a job that allowed for a remote candidate. Otherwise, the people I personally see looking for these opps seem to be people in the more generic office skill set category.

      I’m slightly curious if pay isn’t the real driving factor. I once had a $15/hr job that should have been a $50k job, based on the skills needed, but TPTB didn’t think it was worth that. Surprisingly, we didn’t find good fits at $15/hr and restructured other technical positions to pick up this one instead.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        The pay shouldn’t be an issue. The job pays well to start (4ok range) and has a good promotion progression (for, you know, people who don’t fail or hate it).

        Mostly I’m poking around for “returning to work force”, parents who have stayed at home and their kids are now in school most of the day etc.

        The geek part isn’t technical knowledge, it geekiness and interest in things. The job is ecommerce product assistant, so people who get INTENSELY INTERESTED IN TEAPOT HANDLES and variations love the job. There are those of us who just love to learn the tinest kinda crap and the rest of everybody else thinks we’re nuts.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I think a lot of people consider WFH a huge benefit (don’t have to commute, buy work clothes, change out of pajamas, hire a dog-walker, interact with others, etc.) even if it’s local.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

          How about this?

          Literally do not care what time of the day or night the job is done, once trained. The work is so highly visible (either the products are up and done well or they aren’t), that there’s no reason to nanny an independent, self starter type. Plus, even those of us who aren’t working from home use email as a constant communication source so it’s easy to be “one of the team” without sitting next to the team.

          I feel like I’ve a gold mine of a job for the right person but maybe a needle in a haystack to connect up.

          1. afiendishthingy

            Yup this is pretty much my setup, and yes it is pretty great. I spend maybe 4 – 10 hours a week seeing clients offsite, and I have meetings at the office a few times a month. Other than that I can pretty much get things done when and where I want. I still go to the office most days; my role requires a lot of collaboration that’s sometimes easier in person, and sometimes I need access to better office supplies and equipment. But it’s really nice to have the option to work at home when I need a few hours to dig into a project without interruption, or when the weather stinks or when I’m just not in the mood for human interaction or wearing dress pants.

            None of this was mentioned in the posting; it was explained to me in the interview. I’d never had a flexible schedule before this job and it honestly wouldn’t have occurred to me to look for one. I like your paragraph above. I think a posting that focuses on what traits an applicant needs to be successful in the role, but includes a description like that of the flexibility is the way to go.

        2. AnotherAlison

          I definitely agree with that part. . .my thought was a good percent of the qualified job seekers might apply anyway if it fit what they were looking for, and the WFH would just be a nice bonus. I don’t have any statistics on that, of course. I applied for a job that was WFH for a remote candidate, but I was a local. They said I couldn’t WFH since I was local, but I was still interested, so that’s what I’m going off of. I guess I live in a small city, but it could be a game changer if you were comparing P/T with a 2 hr round trip commute to WFH. An asynchronous job would also change the game.

      3. Observer

        There are a lot of reasons that WFH can be really useful to people. Introverts are likely to enjoy that. So are people who are local but still have a commute – being able to save 40 minutes each way to and from work can be really nice (especially if you have family commitments and / or have to pay for babysitting.) Dress can be an issue for some people – being able to “dress down” can be a cost or comfort issue for people.

    5. This is not me

      I posted the comment about Upwork earlier.

      When we’ve looked for in office candidates (we have a mix of in office and remote), we’ve found local college to be a good resource. You might want to consider some of the ‘geekier’ majors, although for us a mix of backgrounds has worked well. As far as finding candidates at the colleges we’ve used job boards (did not work AT all), job fair (worked pretty well), word of mouth (worked well), and social media and actual physical flyer posts (jury is still out). I’ve also worked local elementary school contacts for moms that might be a good fit, but don’t want a traditional 9-5 job. That’s worked really well, we’ve gotten some fantastic candidates this way. My next target for our remote workers will be military spouses. If you’re near any kind of base, that might be a good option.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        We’re actually pretty damn close to Fort Famous (big fort). I’m scribbling that military spouse thing down. Seriously.

        College, not so much. I need a solid 20 and not “it’s exam week”.

        1. This is not me

          We’re extremely fortunate that we’re able to work around exams.

          Let me know how the military thing works for you. There may be a Facebook group for Fort Famous’s spouses that would be willing to put up a post if you want to be that public.

          Are there any brick and mortar stores near you that sell teapot handles? Salespeople there might be willing to tell SUPER EXCITED customers that you’re hiring (if that’s not a competitor situation).

        2. Honeybee

          If you want to contact military spouses, see if you can get in contact with the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) office on base. They’re usually the holders of career/employment opportunities for military spouses and they have email listservs that they send out. I think the particular sub-office is called the Employment Readiness Program – sometimes they have a separate email address listed on the website.

          Also, if you have a local university that has graduate students, that might be an option too. Many graduate students have years of work experience and are more likely to give you a solid 20, and are less likely to have final exams either way (we usually wrote final papers for our classes).

    6. AdAgencyChick

      Are there any past employees who’ve kicked ass at the job but have taken time off from the workforce to be stay-at-home parents or work on writing the great American novel? In my industry we work with a lot of freelancers — everybody wants someone who can be on-site, but we’d have a lot larger talent pool if people hiring freelancers were more willing to take on someone who WFH but is willing to pop in for half a day once a week because so many people drop out of the staff track when they start a family or work on some major creative project. I imagine it wouldn’t be much different if we treated such workers as staffers or freelancers.

      I would also quiz the past great employees you’ve had, even if they’re not willing to come back and work for you again: Do they know anyone that they think would excel at the job?

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        check! We hang onto good employees with white knuckles. They can’t get away.

        The ones in play are already doing other things, damn the management thieves who got to them first. But check and double check on that.

    7. BRR

      Various thoughts
      -I saw one job that said it was telecommuting 4.5 days a week. That was clear to me that it was a work from home. Besides that it was a normal description.
      -When you say a min of 20 hours, is it the option of being part-time or full-time or put in as many hours as the job gets done? If it’s either say the job can either be part-time of full-time depending on how many hours the candidate would prefer.
      -I would just state in the description how people who have traits A,B, and C tend to thrive in this position.
      -I would advertise through the normal channels and also ask employees for referrals. Say it’s great for people looking for a flexible schedule but can come in once a week. I feel like that’s indirectly saying great for parents because maybe your employees who are parents know other parents. Are there boards for parents where you can post this job?

    8. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      Thanks, everybody. This is great input.

      We put the job out to our agencies on Thursday and my internal recruiter returned a SLEW of resumes to my team on Friday afternoon. So, we have a starting haystack………. O.o. Internally, people are giving me the side eye over the “work from home” “part time or full time” part. We never start people that way, that’s a flexibility we offer well after someone is a known quantity and when their life circumstances change and they need it. I being stubborn, though, I want to try this. (’cause what we have been doing isn’t working well enough)

  43. The Cosmic Avenger

    OK, so that interview that I think I rocked (call it position A, with agency A)? I still haven’t heard, and I think that they’ll tell me if I’m rejected, but a sister agency (B) contacted me this week, saying they were allowed access to applicants for Position A, and they want to know if I’d be interested in discussing a possible position with them.

    I guess I should be psyched, but I feel like it’s a bad sign for Position A, which I really think I’d like. I know if I had an applicant to whom I wanted to make an offer, I wouldn’t share THAT application. But then, this is government, so maybe I’m overthinking it.

    Also, the email had NO information about Position B. I am familiar with agency B, though, so I am sure I can wing it, but any advice on how to approach an interview when you’re not sure what the job will be?

    1. Dot Warner

      It could be a bad sign for Position A, but it could also be that everybody’s info goes into the same database and the hiring managers can see the applications.

      For the interview for B, treat it like a practice interview. It could be that you’ll find out more about the job and it’ll be your dream job, or you might find it’s a job you aren’t a fit for. Either way, it sounds like there isn’t much to be gleaned from their website or other outside sources, so give it a try!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        Yeah, agency B doesn’t have any public listings remotely matching what I do, so I have no idea what they’re looking for…but they’ve seen my resume, and “were impressed with [my] background and would like to….tell [me] a little more about the position”, so that sounds promising. But I really hit it off with the people at agency A with whom I interviewed, so I’m already disappointed that I might not have gotten it…but then again, they probably contact every applicant, even just to tell them that the position has been filled, so we’ll see.

  44. FootinMouth

    Merger anxiety

    The office grapevine has unofficially confirmed that my employer will be absorbing another entity to build a particular program. While this is good news for the org as a whole, I am on edge about whether my position will exist in its current form or even at all.

    For background, I joined my org about six months ago in a newly created position that is more “nice to have” than directly mandatory in the rural community where I work. The CEO is supportive of the position, but I do wonder what will happen with the merger.

    The other org has a similar position, but I don’t know if the staffer intends to stay or if s/he will partner with me to create a team. The third possibility, which concerns me, is that as the newer person I will be cut to save money, eliminate redundancy and expedite restructuring.

    Does anyone have advice?

    Thanks!

    1. Charlotte Collins

      How good is your relationship with your manager? I might just ask. (Bearing in mind that your manager might not have information or be allowed to share said information. And you might preface your question with a statement that you understand this might be the case.)

  45. June

    How do you deal with managers who don’t get back to you? I feel like I have to hound my manager to approve things that I could *probably* do on my own, but really need the sign-off so no toes are stepped on. The problem is I’m finishing things much closer to deadlines then I’d like to be because how long it takes to just get an “okay”. I don’t want to hound him, but now he’s out of the country for a week and I feel like some of my projects are stalled EVEN THOUGH I brought up these issues before he left.

    I miss my old manager so much :(

    1. Ad Astra

      Are you me? I have the same problem. My company is very dependent on meetings, and my boss is fairly high up in the organization, so he’s in meetings most of the day. Yet he wants to approve everything I do before I send it to his boss and/or publish it on my own. His boss, of course, is in even more meetings.

      I start with email, and I try to be specific about what I need from him (approval/feedback/confirmation) and when. If I don’t get an answer when I need it, I’ll try to stop by his office and remind him. After three trips to his office, if I still can’t reach him, I send a reminder email. Usually, that’s enough. Not always.

      1. June

        Yeah, even with multiple emails, meeting, and OFFICES NEXT TO EACH OTHER I still can’t get responses. Things are falling through the cracks and I’m really frustrated (if you couldn’t tell, haha)

    2. Jillociraptor

      Ah, I’ve worked for this manager too. It’s such a pain to wait for weeks and weeks for a simple go-ahead.

      Here’s how I dealt with it:

      1) Proactively add a lot of approval time into your timeline for your project. A previous manager (who was super conscientious and always got things done but was super overloaded) requested a week’s turnaround time for every hour of work you were asking. Consult with your manager about their upcoming travel and commitments so you can pick good times to get their sign off on things.

      2) Use your check in meeting times. Bring things that he can quickly review and use 15 minutes of your time to get sign-off.

      3) Give deadlines and make sure your manager knows the implications of not meeting them–particularly in terms that are important to him. If he cares about relationships, talk about who you’d be letting down. If he cares about budget, talk about cost implications. And so on.

      4) Bundle your requests together. For every check in agenda with my old boss who was the worst about this, I would list out everything I was waiting on from her and when I needed it. Then we could talk about when she would reasonably get to it.

      5) High risk, high reward but…know when it might be better to ask for forgiveness than permission. You can bust out the “if I don’t hear from you by X date I’ll move forward with this.”

      It might also be worth having a conversation with your boss about why and whether he really needs to sign off on so much.

      1. June

        It’s good to see that I’m already doing a lot of this…but I am already doing a lot of this D:

        A lot of the sign-off is because it’s only my second year in the working world, so I do like to have a second pair of eyes on things when I send stuff out. But aside from that, a lot of this work is also “his job/my work” situations that I do all of the prep for, but the actually finished product isn’t going out and I’m stuck fielding questions from partners about why. I think we really need to have a frank conversation when he gets back, but I’m not sure how to start it…

        1. Jillociraptor

          Yeah, I think you need to talk about expectations. Fair warning: my boss who was the worst at this just literally didn’t see it as a problem, or saw it as a problem that was completely outside of her control. So you might also just need to accept that you’re never going to get things back in a timely manner and adjust your behavior accordingly. Based on what you’re saying about avoiding toes getting stepped on, it sounds like there’s some professional development you could do to better understand the politics surrounding your work and potentially need less oversight from your boss, so that’s something to consider too.

          For this conversation, I’d recommend asking your boss about his perspective on how the review process is going. Would he like to get things in a different way? Are you sending him too much? Does he actually know that the review process feels really lengthy for you? (Honestly that didn’t occur to my manager.) How does he want you to deal with it when partners are asking you why something hasn’t gone out and the reason is that he hasn’t signed off?

    3. AdAgencyChick

      If your manager is a reasonable person, and just unresponsive, can you send emails with a deadline for response and your course of action if you don’t get the response in time?

      I do pretty well with emails that put the deadline in bold: “Please provide comments by 3 PM in order to have them incorporated for today’s client submission.” Or “I need to hear back by Thursday, if not I will assume that we’re okay to proceed with XYZ.”

      1. Dawn

        Yeah both my old boss and old VP were like that, and in fact preferred things that way- it let them skim over what I’d sent them and then move on without having to craft a reply.

      2. Charlotte Collins

        This works for managers and unresponsive people at your own level. Save copies, and set your email to send a reminder the day before or day of the deadline. Then do exactly what you say you are going to do. If your manager is just busy, s/he’ll appreciate that you’re taking care of things.

        If your manager is just delaying to be a jerk (I’ve seen it), this is more of a CYA.

    4. Anne S

      I work for a fairly casual company, with a manager who knows he’s bad at this sort of thing, so when I really need something approved I go and stand at his desk until he does it. Is there a version of that approach that works for you?

      1. June

        That…actually might work. Not this week, because he is literally out of the office, but in the future I might try this. It’s a good culture fit.

  46. Anon for this

    I interviewed for a job last week and the hiring manager said he was sending me to HR as the final candidate. A few days ago, HR called me to review my job application, and I didn’t tell them about a job I’d left off of the app and my resume. I was only at that job a month (mutual bad fit), and now I’m panicking that I shot myself in the foot by not disclosing it.

    1. some1

      Unless the app was specifically stated that you had to disclose every job you had for a certain period of time, you should be fine.

  47. Nervous Accountant

    Finally finished a tax season, my first real tax season in a professional accounting firm.
    No complaints, just…wanted to share. Feels nice.

    1. Not Myself

      Hooray! Congratulations! That’s a significant accomplishment. Treat yourself to a nice dinner or something to celebrate.

  48. Abby

    I will shortly be applying for an internal lateral position in a different department that is tangentially related to mine. While it’s not required in my company, I would like to mention it to my boss before he hears it from the hiring manager. I’m not worried about a negative reaction since we have a pretty good relationship and he encourages us to look around in the company, but I’m not exactly sure what I should say to him. Scripts?

    1. Charlotte Collins

      I’ve done this before and not really used a script but just explained to my manager that this was an opportunity that I was interested in for X, Y, and Z reasons and that they might hear from the department. And then asked them to wish me luck. I see this not as “leaving my manager” but as “pursuing the best opportunity for the company and me.”

      If I haven’t had a good relationship with my manager, I just apply and let them draw their own conclusions.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        Additional comment: my company used to have a policy that internal applications had to come from the employee’s manager, so this was a conversation that everyone had to have. Unless you wanted to apply without your manager’s recommendation (which was an option but not a good one unless the person was known to be Difficult). They stopped doing that a couple years ago, I think because there were some applications that never got to HR or the hiring manager. (This happened to me more than once. If you want me to stay in your department, being sneaky does not make it more alluring to me.)

  49. Trixie

    I passed my group fitness certification test! Small investment but with that I’m in better position to apply for instructor gigs when I move. I was probably in good shape since I”m already teaching but still worth it. It almost has me considering personal trainer certification but with a better program. If I’m group teaching, I could also connect with potential clients in classes. I’d always thought if anything I’d do yoga teacher training but it’s so pricey. Totally worth it but pricey. PT certification not so much compared to that. Something to think about. That, and barre certification!

  50. Lesbia's Sparrow

    Does anyone have suggestions for where to look for information about making a “kitchen resume”? My BFF recently switched from office work to restaurant work, got a promotion to chef de partie, and says she needs a kitchen resume, but neither of us knows what that entails and Google is mostly spam.

    1. PieSci

      A cook’s resume should not be much different from any other resume. Your friend should highlight her culinary experience, and be specific about the stations at which she’s proficient. The office work should still be included, but I would focus on accomplishments that demonstrate good time management, attention to detail, and customer service. If she went to culinary school, listing the most relevant courses she took can be helpful if her culinary experience is a bit thin.

      In my experience, any cook with a resume that is well-formatted with correct spelling and grammar is going to have a leg up in the industry, at least getting in the door. Beyond that, it’s showing up every day, not melting down during service, and turning out consistent product that counts.

  51. Secret Name

    I work at a small nonprofit in Pennsylvania. Employees have the option of contributing to a 403(b) plan (through TIAA-CREF, in case that’s useful). It recently came to my attention that the monthly employee contributions that are withheld from our two paychecks a month aren’t going into our accounts until months afterward. For instance, the July withholdings from my paycheck were only deposited into our accounts on October 5th. (I know it’s the July withholdings because once my August withholdings go into my account, I will have an employer contribution showing up as well. I also checked with our controller, who said that yes, it was the July contributions that were deposited on October 5th.) Is this normal? My company is going through some serious financial issues right now and has a history of ineffective bookkeeping, so I’m pretty suspicious.

    1. Judy

      I’d check the rules for 403(b)s. A quick google on 403b employee contribution timely shows that:

      The final IRS 403(b) regulations, effective January 1, 2009, require that all 403(b) plan sponsors transmit contributions to 403(b) plans to the insurance company or other carrier within a period that is reasonable for proper plan administration. These final regulations further provide that transferring elective deferrals within 15 business days following the month in which these amounts would otherwise have been paid to the participant will be treated as reasonable.

      I’ll follow with a link to the document on TIAA-CREF’s site.

    2. fposte

      Oh, hell, no, it’s not normal. I get twitchy that it takes my 457 3-4 days.

      You might give TIAA-CREF a call (they’re very nice folks) to see what they would consider “reasonable for proper plan administration” just to tighten up that seeming loophole, but 2-3 months is a bad thing.

      1. BRR

        I agree with calling TIAA-CREF due to their customer service.

        But follow up because you’re missing months of your money working for you.

      2. Cruciatus

        I had to call TIAA-CREF to deal with new employer stuff and rollover and blah blah blah and I *really enjoyed* my phone call! The woman I spoke with was knowledgeable and actually kinda fun to talk to. This reminds me that I was supposed to call them back after my account got up and running. I actually look forward to it!

    3. Intern Wrangler

      This is not that uncommon especially in a small non profit. It really depends on how many accounting staff you have. They often have to calculate the amounts and send checks to the 403(b) plan. They may only do it quarterly because it can be very time consuming. It’s not automated through the payroll system.

      1. Judy

        They already have to calculate the amount because they’ve deducted the amount from the employee’s paycheck. The employer contributions do not have any timeline associated.

        At a past company, I had an investment account with the same company that their 401k was with. It still seems odd that my direct deposit of $X was able to be in my investment account on the morning of the paycheck, yet the deposit of my 401k contribution took several working days. That company did the matching contribution quarterly, so it wasn’t that calculation that took time.

      2. Observer

        Sorry, I don’t buy it for one second. As Judy points out, they already HAVE this calculated. All that’s needed is to cut the check and send it out. There is generally also not that much calculating to do, either, as the amount is generally preset, ie $x per paycheck, so all you have left is to total the list.

  52. SCR

    I’ve been wondering how many people work at agencies and consultancies. Sometimes I read comments around some questions and they seem really different than my industry. Like the expenses thing today and compensation question recently. In 4 years I’ve more than doubled my salary through raises and job switches. At an agency you can move up so fast and demand more money so maybe that’s it but I’ve received bumps every 6 months for years now. And I can always justify why it’s deserved. And a lot of advice just doesn’t translate to agencies. We have our own weird methods.

    So who works at a digital agency? And how does your world differ compared to around here? What are your compensation trends?

    1. Lisa

      Agency life can get you a higher salary fast, but I’ve only seen it for men while women are forced to wait it out and teach men that surpass them in promotions and increases. I should have hopped around so I would be worth market rate since it seems I’m always held back by my last salary. Only offered x% above last salary or lower than even what is advertised as the range. There are only so many agencies though, so if you hop too much – you run the risk of having no where to go in a few years.

      I hope AAM starts talking about Jennifer Lawrence and the pay gap soon. It’s constantly on my mind, how I am not worth market rate and its seriously making me depressed as I get older and the gap widens for women at agencies. So many of my female co-workers are told to wait it out, when guys with 1/3 the experience are hired at the titles and salaries that we are trying to get at. These are women that our bosses freak out when are on vacation or need to take a sick day. They run the company, but they are invisible and not valued until they are not there to make the world go round.

      I once asked my boss, ‘who is the person on your team that if they quit or were hit by a bus, would you crawl under your desk into a fetal position, silently cry and rock back and forth? is it a woman? GIVE HER A RAISE / PROMOTION NOW!’

  53. Roza

    Hello, all! I have a question about how much dysfunction is “normal”. To provide some background, I started my first post grad-school job about a month ago. It’s a career shift in that I did a social science PhD but now work at a consulting firm uses many statistical techniques I’m familiar with in marketing and other research. It’s a very niche area, and the clients we work for are often cash-strapped, so budgets are very tight and there are never enough hours allocated for anything.

    Because of the time pressure, the company is very disorganized because no one has time to think about anything other than shoving the latest nearly overdue project out the door before the deadline. I regularly end up having to spend time redoing work because someone sent me the wrong file, changed their mind, etc. I’m in the habit of checking in with a work plan now before I do anything to head this off, but it doesn’t really help (busy people say ” OK” without actually paying attention).

    This is pretty standard for consulting, I think, and also for technical people managed by non-technical people. The thing I’m struggling with is that because of our billable hours system, I’m only “allowed” to work 6 hours on project x. Project x actually takes 7 hours to do right and ends up taking 9 because the inputs I was sent were broken and I had to fix them. I work for 9 hours because I need to do this piece so that we don’t miss client deadlines, but only record 6 hours. I have to bill 40 hours a week at the company. So repeat this process for each task and you end up with tons of overtime, yet I look like I’m underproducing. I’ve discussed it several times with my manager and she says not to worry, that it’s “on the job training” and I’ll be up to speed in three months or so….but I don’t see any amount of experience fixing the fact that the company regularly lowballs the time needed for technical tasks given their level of disorganization.

    Part of me wants to run away, but part of me wonders if this is the case everywhere and perhaps I just need to suck it up? I like the field, my colleagues, and the nature of the work (assuming I get to take more leadership on projects as I get more experience), but it’s demoralizing working 50+ hours a week yet working only 40 on paper, not to mention being criticized for producing what I was asked to produce, not what was in someone’s head.

    1. Consultant Mouse

      The way it works at my firm is that any hours spent on client work are put down as billable hours. If they exceed the budget, the project lead has to take a write-off so that the client isn’t billed for “wastage.” This incentivizes the project lead to manage budgets more carefully and doesn’t penalize the people who are actually doing the work for the client.

      You might check if you have a billing policy – it should spell this out more clearly for you. But I totally sympathize – my firm also requires a lot of intellectual capital development in addition to tough billable hour goals, so you might bill “only” 40 hours, but you worked 70+ that are not counted for.

      1. Roza

        Thanks! I’ll look into that. There is also a lot of emphasis here on doing and presenting research to position ourselves as “thought leaders”—which is the sort of stuff I especially love, but it sucks on top of the “40” hour weeks.

      2. Consultant Mouse

        One more comment on this… I think this approach is pretty common (all hours worked get billed), because that way you can actually see if a project or client is profitable. If you charge $10K for a project that ends up costing you $15K in actual billable work, you are missing that $5K in revenue and your margin is probably eaten away as well.

    2. SCR

      Are you non-exempt somehow??? I’m an agency Account Director / former Project Director. None of my resources are non-exempt, I’ve been doing this job (AM/PM) for 8 years and never encountered OT issues. Everyone works over hours. That’s a fact of life.

      As your friendly AD I do have some opinions about estimates… Your Account Director, Project Manager, Department Head should be generating budgets based on accurate estimates. To do this the department lead should give an estimate based on a brief. Or you should give that estimate. This number should be taken seriously.

      A lot of times we have to discount things because we need to win business but this shouldn’t affect what you bill. The only thing that would affect your hours to me is if you gave me an estimate for 20 hours and then it took 40 hours. That’s unacceptable. You need to give a fair estimate or you don’t get to overbill. That’s on you.

      Frankly though, you should 100% be non-exempt to handle these overtime occurences. I regularly require my resources to only bill x hours but every last one is non-exempt and their hours have zero bearing on their paycheck, only what I put forth to the client.

      1. Roza

        I am non-exempt, so I won’t take an immediate salary hit if I bill less than 40, but the company would frown upon it. I also don’t get much say in how many hours are assigned to tasks. When I was interviewing I was nervous about what real hours would be, and was told typically 40-45, sometimes higher when there’s an emergency. I’m starting to think this place is always in a state of emergency.

        1. SCR

          You wouldn’t take any salary hit then. I’d just tell your dept head and your PM / AD that what you’re doing takes however many more hours a week and make them handle it. I may ask you to handle it as half non-billable and then make sure your boss knew why. But if something is only quoted at 100 hours and it’s taking you 150, that’s a big issue and needs to be raised separately. You should be able to give me an accurate estimate on the work and as someone with years of experience I should be able to guesstimate costs but ultimately vet through dept heads.

        2. SCR

          Sorry I just re-read your original post. I would refuse to do work until you have all the pieces you need. Demand a brief and client assets and a full timeline and a meeting with the team to understand goals and whatever you need to do you job. Lay this out for the PM ASAP and let them know you don’t start till things are in line. The hours thing is different. Talk to your boss. They know you’re not slacking if you’re not.

    3. AdAgencyChick

      It is endemic to agencies and it is BLOODY ANNOYING.

      The finance people tell you, “Always bill your time accurately! Never, ever start work on a job before you have client approval!”

      The clients drag their feet and refuse to sign on the dotted line on time, but don’t want to change the end dates for their projects. So you start the work before the job has been approved, and beg your account people to give you a place to log those hours. (I have had to say more than once, “‘Just sprinkle the hours around’ is not an answer.”)

      You’re supposed to be as close to 100% billable as possible, of course.

      You log your timesheets and a week later your team gets read the riot act for billing inaccurately.

      Bloody annoying, like I said. I just do the best I can with impossible situations and let the “why aren’t you billing accurately?” speeches roll off my back. Whatevs.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        (And if it gets really bad, I start telling my account people I’ll quit coming to their meetings unless they include the code for what to bill my time to in the meeting request. I call it a hostage trade: You give me a job code, I give you work.)

    4. M

      I spent six months at a small consulting firm with very similar issues, and I ran. Some people thrive in a consulting environment, but I’m not one of them. Almost a year later, I think I’m still burned out from the pressure that naturally results from the combination of the 40 hour billable work week and small projects with razor-thin margins.

      I think some of what you’re saying is inherent to consulting. It’s super common to work 50 hour weeks and only bill 40, whether it’s due to internal meetings or administrative/overhead stuff. It also seems common for technical staff to have to spend too much time worrying about their billable hours. However, if your company is regularly lowballing budgets and putting the heat on you, that’s a bit dysfunctional (but unfortunately still common).

      I would give it a few more months before making any decisions. Being new definitely compounds every problem in the consulting world. Once you’re more established, you might find that the pace and the overtime hours don’t bother you, and that the work and people are good enough to make it worthwhile. If not, you might want to think about trying another company.

      1. Roza

        Thanks all! I’ll try to stick it out a bit longer and look into the things mentioned here. It might just be that consulting isn’t for me, but with more experience perhaps I could transition to a different role in the same field.

  54. Consultant Mouse

    Would you give less than two weeks notice in this case, or negotiate with future employer?

    I have an offer from a company that has a sizeable bonus and stock plan. In order to be eligible for these awards, you must be employed on a certain date (e.g. before the end of this month). I have not formally accepted the offer yet, and it is contingent on a background check being run next week, but the new company is pressing for a start date the last friday of the month to allow me to be eligible for these awards.

    Assuming I accept the offer on Monday, I give notice next Monday it will be short of two weeks (9 business days versus 10). My current employer will not be punitive and kick me out in advance, and I should be able to wrap up existing work, notify clients, transition work etc. by that date. Should I give less than the two weeks, or negotiate with new company to receive a bonus/stock?

    1. EmilyG

      I’m not sure there’s a big difference between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, but I also don’t get why the new company has to have you on board by 10/31. Is this an annual thing for their payroll? Could you negotiate for a 10/30 on-paper start date and a real start date of 11/9 or 11/2? My current job put me on payroll 2 weeks early for similar paperwork reason and I was very happy to have arrived at a level where something like that could be worked out. If they’re offering a bonus, etc., they could probably afford something like that.

    2. Adonday Veeah

      What I have done in the past:

      Start the new job, and negotiate to work a week, then take a week off to go back and clean up old business at oldjob. Give notice at oldjob, and tell them I will be out for a week, then come back to clean up old business.

      I did this when I was relocating, but it worked for both companies.

    3. M

      Nine days of notice should be fine. I gave notice on a Monday morning at my last job because the Christmas party was Friday, and I didn’t want it to be incredibly awkward. (It was still awkward – my boss thought I asked to meet with him on Monday because someone harassed me at the party.)

  55. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

    Two things:

    1) I get a direct report! My first one ever! We’re hiring a PT staffer to join our team and I made the pitch that this person should report to me, not my boss. And voila, I’ll be the new person’s supervisor. We’re still hiring the person, so I have plenty of time to read on AAM “how to be a new manager.”

    2) I’m super frustrated with my school’s alumni network. They put together this LinkedIn group for students and recent graduates to connect with alumni, either virtually or in person, for advice. Tons of us said “sure, we’d love to help!” and then never heard from students. The school then asked “Did you hear from any students” and everyone share that no, they hadn’t. Two days later, another request for advice for students…who still haven’t materialized. I’m really confused about what exactly is supposed to be happening!

    I did have a new alum reach out for a networking meeting, but then when I suggested a few dates/times that worked, she went MIA.

    I don’t know why I’m so irritated about the whole thing. But it’s 100% under my skin.

    1. OfficePrincess

      1) Yay! It may be bumpy at the start, but AAM has been immensely helpful!

      2) I’ve volunteered for very similar things through my college alumnae association. I’ve yet to actually do anything. I think a big part of it is that students either a) don’t realize how helpful the networking opportunities can be or b) are so swamped with classes and jobs and extracurriculars it gets pushed to the back burner.

      1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

        My one alumni just emailed back so I can stop being such a scrooge about the whole thing. Sigh.

      2. M

        Definitely agree on #2. I recently volunteered to give resume and career advice to seniors at my alma mater, and it was a great experience – the students were super engaged, asked me tons of questions, were extremely receptive to my advice… I emailed them all later in the day to let them know how much I enjoyed talking to them and to send a few links, and… crickets. Not one email back, LinkedIn request, anything.

        I also hooked a few students up with a nice internship a couple years ago, and I never got so much as a “thanks” from any of them. I understand, though. When you’re new to the working world, it can be hard to recognize when someone is going out of their way to help you. I definitely didn’t value the mentors I had until the tables were turned.

    2. AnotherAlison

      Sorry to hear about #2, but feeling slightly vindicated. I’m on an advisory board at my alma mater, and a couple people on the board wanted to start a mentoring program to help advise students on career selection and things like that. I was against it, and it ended up not being pursued by the department chair for cost and liability issues. My reason for being against it was that I didn’t think it was something students really wanted. Students complain in their exit interviews about lack of resources, but trends showed they didn’t use resources available. (Case in point, many would say they never were informed of Professional Exam 1, but there are always fliers up around the school about Professional Exam.. .and many of the professors have the designation. . .ummm, you never wondered what that meant? Take initiative and find out.)

    3. squids

      I’ve been a volunteer mentor through a formal program for 4 years now, and there’s a huge variation in how often assigned students/new grads want to talk with me, or what they’re really interested in. Don’t take it personally. Sooner or later you’ll be connected with the one who wants to chat every day ;)

  56. Anon Accountant

    So this week I got serious about applying and got a call from a recruiter yesterday who is going to pass my resume along to his client. We chatted yesterday for about 10 minutes and he’d emailed me twice to confirm my experience, skills, etc. What I really like is he gave the salary range up front so you could screen yourself out if it wasn’t high enough. I wish more employers or recruiters were up front with that.

    I’m also emailing resumes to companies that have the option to send a resume for “considerations of future openings”. We shall see how it all goes.

  57. RG

    Still applying. It sure would be nice if someone would bite…

    Here’s this week’s question – do you include contact info in your cover letter? I usually list my cell number and email at the end, below my name. Typically, I do this when I’m only submitting a resume (or that one job that only asked for a letter of interest). But if I’m going through an application system, I usually find myself taking it out – I can use those two lines for something wise! What about you guys? Do you include contact info in your cover letter?

    1. Anon Accountant

      I do. I have a line “thank you for your consideration” and list my email and phone number in the same line.

    2. katamia

      I do. Something along the lines of “I can be contacted on my cell phone (XXX-XXX-XXXX) or by email (katamia@katamia.com).”

      If it makes a difference, though, I put my cover letters in the body of an email (assuming you don’t from the mention of using those lines for something else).

    3. BRR

      I do in my closing paragraph. Something like “if you would like to discuss my candidacy I can be reached at X and Y.”

  58. Happy Admin

    A very quick query for those of you who have been in the same situation – when you know you have another role to go to in the future, how do you stop yourself from switching off at work?

    1. some1

      Pride, I guess? I don’t want my last impression to be that I slacked off my last two weeks. Also want to keep my boss in good graces in case I need her for a reference down the road.

    2. Honeybee

      Yeah, for me it was mostly pride and my own reputation. I didn’t want to be known as someone who checks out when she’s about to leave. For me I also gave my job a month and a half of notice so that would’ve been a long time to switch off for.

      I made a list of all the things I needed to do before I left and made my motivation checking things off that list. I imagined that each check got my closer to my new position.

    3. HKM

      Make yourself busy with handover stuff. I’m doing this right now, someone is shadowing me to take over and is basically doing all the work now, so I’ve been writing little mini manuals for things so she doesn’t have to contact me when I’m gone!

  59. HeyNonnyNonny

    Nonprofit managers: How do you prefer to hear feedback from donors?

    Long story: I give blood regularly (at the same recurring event), and it is reliably awful– they’re constantly running late despite appointments, often hours late in getting set up, understaffed, and the bedside manner is hit or miss. I have the email address of our region’s manager from a previous complaint– so I’m worried about sounding too complainy. But on the other hand, it’s so unpleasant now that I’m going to stop going. Is it worth bringing up issues like this? Do they have a chance of being solved, or can I assume that they’re just not big enough to get solved?

    1. Florida

      I like to hear from them by phone, particularly if it is a complaint. On the phone, you can get a better ideal of how upset they are based on the tone of voice. Also, it is a dialogue where you can ask more specific questions, ask for their ideas, etc.

      Yes, it is worth bringing it up. It is frustrating when donors quit and you don’t know why. Depending on the nonprofit, sometimes they convince themselves it is because all of the lapsed donors moved out of town, so we are still doing a great job. You should tell them why. Your complaint might not change anything wit their procedures, but at least you gave them a chance.

    2. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

      I’d want to hear that by phone or an email. I also think I’m pretty good at weeding out “I love to complain” donors from “hey, i’m concerned” donors. Just be short and to the point: this has been an issue, it’s making me not want to be involved anymore, it feels yucky, thought you’d want to know.

      I once had a donor who would call every time there was a typo, if she didn’t get a letter fast enough, if our website was too slow, you name it. Those were “complainy.” You’re doing this org a huge favor voicing your opinion!

    3. BRR

      Depends on the organization but since you’re going to stop going I would let them know. Something like I know it must be hard working with limited resources and I hate to make a complaint when people are working so hard but without appointment times being followed and some hit or miss bedside manner, it’s making it very difficult for me to continue donating blood.

      Completely up to you but you can throw in “I’m really hoping for the success of ORGANIZATION so if you would like to talk more I can be reached via phone or email.”

  60. Mel

    Hey all! So, I started a new job about 2 months ago. All going well- nice people, good place, interesting work. My question is this: I report to an interim manager, while also reporting to the department director. The interim manager is a contractor; she’s very good, but she also has a lot of day-to-day w0rk she is also responsible for. The director is not around often and I rarely speak with her.

    I work on a small team that has a ton of work, and I’ve been taking on job functions that my coworkers are too busy for. There is a huge, long-term project going on that effects the entire company, and I’ve also had some of my time dedicated to that project, as have my teammates. A project manager is largely leading the schedule around that project. The project manager told me yesterday that he asked the director for more of my time, which was granted. However, the interim manager knows none of this. I told the PM to loop in the manager, since she’s the one that is assigning work to me, and I want her to understand my time constraints. The PM kept repeating how his project is top priority to the organization and very important. I agreed, but asked him to please loop in my manager anyway.

    I don’t see my manager or the director all that often, and I truly do find all these projects interesting and engaging. I would do all of them if I could, but there’s only so many hours in a day. Is it appropriate to make sure my manager understands what the PM is asking? I don’t want to seem like I’m dodging work, but I’m worried that my time is spread out across too many projects. Any suggestions as to how to gracefully follow-up with this and to make sure nothing falls through the cracks?

    1. Dawn

      Uh, yeah. They’re your manager- their job is to MANAGE you, even if you don’t see them often. Send them an email explaining that this PM is asking for more of your time, lay out everything you’re already working on, ask how they want you to prioritize things.

      As an employee, the onus is NOT ON YOU to say “yes” to every single request that comes your way- run it by your manager fist and let her know how in demand you are.

      1. catsAreCool

        Yeah, what Dawn said. A good manager wants to know if you’re being pulled away for other projects. The manager might be OK with you being pulled away, but the manager will want to know so that the manager can adjust other things, such as expectations.

  61. HigherEd Admin

    I got a new job! I posted in last week’s Open Thread that I was waiting for a pending offer, and it came in! Thanks to this website, I felt confident enough to negotiate salary for the first time ever, too. (The negotiation didn’t yield me as much as I hoped, but the increase was better than if I hadn’t asked at all.) Thanks, AAM!

  62. Future Analyst

    So I’m back at work (from maternity leave) and pumping at work sucks. Our office doesn’t have a designated spot to pump, so I have to ask around every day for an empty office. Yesterday, someone started coming in the room where I was pumping– luckily I put a chair in front of the door and they weren’t able to make it inside. Any working/ nursing moms out there with advice?

    1. Sascha

      Oooh, you have my sympathies. I’m a pumper, too. Does the office door not have locks? Can you put up a sign that says “DO NOT ENTER” or something like that?

    2. Not Myself

      Isn’t it a requirement that companies provide a pumping room that is not a bathroom with doors that lock (and possibly a separate fridge for milk)? How many employees work for your company?

      1. Natalie

        They don’t have a provide a dedicated pumping room, but they do generally need to provide a private area other than the bathroom and breaks to pump. The room can serve other purposes when not in use for pumping (except being a bathroom).

        That said, it seems like the law may not apply to exempt workers, which seems crazy to me.

    3. pieces of flair

      Definitely put up a sign. I tried to be discreet at first with a sign that just said “do not enter,” but that didn’t work because people assume it doesn’t apply to them. I changed it to “room in use” with a picture of a cow and that did the trick.

    4. Thinking out loud

      I’d go to HR and tell them that asking around every day isn’t working and see if there’s anything else they can do for you. I’d mention that someone almost walked in on you. Also, I found that I always forgot pump parts at home because I was tired – I recommend buying a complete extra set of parts and keeping them at your desk at work for those occasions.

  63. Honks

    ooh, my first open thread!

    1) I was the one who asked if it would be helpful to put “went to school while working full time” in my cover letter. Consensus was “no, it should be obvious from resume dates”, and so I didn’t. I’ve only gone on one interview, but several of the one-on-one interviewers asked me to clarify why the dates overlapped (basically “So I see you graduated in August, and you were working at old-job since 2011, so…..[pause]”). So I still don’t really know what to make of that.

    2) Asking for input: My (new) field is technical in a way similar to computer programming, so a lot of job listings have descriptions like “Proficiency in languages A and B, and software C and D”*. I generally have experience with about half of those listed, as well as experience in functionally equivalent ones. On top of that, a lot of the software is easy to learn (as in, it’s used in undergraduate classes, just not mine). Basically, I’m worried that my resume is not getting past HUMAN screening because of my technical shortcomings, even though I keep hearing that job descriptions are “wish lists” not requirements and that I should I apply even when I’m not 100% qualified.

    So I guess the question is, for those with HR backgrounds, are there cases for technical jobs where qualifications are fairly black -and-white when job descriptions really require everything to pass screening?

    * I know developers are going to say “It’s really not about what languages you know, but evidence that you can learn them” but that’s not so true in my field, probably because any given hiring team is unlikely to actually be headed by someone with a programming background.

    Thanks!

    1. stellanor

      As an applicant for semi-technical roles my experience is that sometimes when they say “Proficiency in languages A and B and software C and D” sometimes it’s a wishlist, sometimes it’s mandatory, and sometimes it’s a mix of both. Like maybe A and B are ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED but C and D are nice to have, or any combination of letters like that. Unfortunately this does not always become clear to the applicant — I’ve only found out because I’m applying internally and doing a ton of informational interviews about specific job openings and the hiring manager tells me.

      …so basically I think the only option is apply and hope for the best. :/

    2. RG

      I’ve just been applying. Sometimes it’s just too difficult to tell what’s mandatory, what is strongly preferred, and what’s pie in the sky. On a side note, is there a role for writing job descriptions for people? Cuz some of them (okay a lot) could use some work!

  64. stellanor

    Several years ago when I was fresh out of grad school I interviewed with a small local company. After a phone interview and two in-person interviews they told me they’d make a decision by the end of the week. At the end of the week they called me and said the CEO wanted to interview candidates before a hiring decision was made, so I came in yet again.

    The CEO was late to the interview and, upon arriving, asked if I had a copy of my resume because she hadn’t looked at it. I offered her one and began to explain my experience. She interrupted me and said “No startup experience?” No. “Well we’re looking for someone with startup experience.” And then dismissed me on the spot. Interview over. Never heard from the company again. (BONUS: This company identifies as a startup despite being 10+ years old.)

    It was overall a dreadful experience (why make me come in for a third in-person interview so the CEO could reject me to my face without allowing me to speak when she apparently would have rejected me on the basis of my resume?) and I was VERY put off by the company.

    Now I’m looking for jobs again and someone from the company has gotten in contact with me. I have zero interest in applying because of my previous experience — I now have enough experience to be choosy and I choose not to work for someone who would treat me like their CEO did. But do I tell them that, or do I just politely decline?

    1. EmilyG

      “This company identifies as a startup despite being 10+ years old.” Wow, talk about a red flag of baaaaad corporate culture. I don’t think you have much to gain giving them feedback so I wouldn’t bother, although maybe you could say something like “I’ve interviewed with your organization in the past and am not interested.”

      1. stellanor

        Yeah, as far as I can tell from Glassdoor and some stuff that was mentioned when I interviewed (as in people said ‘Well this is a startup so the pay may not be what you’re expecting’) they call themselves a “startup” as an excuse to offer absurdly low wages. Like 60% of what you’d get for the same job at another company in the area.

    2. SL #2

      You can politely decline them while still hinting at what happened: “I appreciate your interest, but I previously interviewed with Company X and did not feel that we would be a good fit for each other,” or some variation of that. The important thing is that you emphasize not being the right fit over immediately calling out the CEO for how she acted.

    3. Honeybee

      One of my pet peeves is companies that identify themselves as “startups” or say that they have a “startup culture” despite being 5-10+ years old. That’s partially because I think “startup culture” usually means “we work long hours and never go home but hey you can take naps/eat free breakfast/play ping pong at work, so it’s a perk!”

      1. catsAreCool

        I remember MicroSoft making that pitch when they were trying to recruit programmers from my college. Not the startup, but the rest of it. The photo of a sleeping bag under a desk (along with a mention of people sometimes working late and sleeping at the office) was the last straw as far as I was concerned.

        I also wonder sometimes if you get the same quality of work from people who work incredibly long hours as you get from people who work sane hours and have free time.

  65. AcademicAnon

    Everyone who reads this blog knows the important of highlighting accomplishments instead of duties on your resume. I’m transitioning from CV to resume to apply for non-faculty university jobs, and I was wondering if any of you have more specific advice or suggestions on how to describe your achievements in college teaching and advising.

    As an adjunct, I rarely see how what I teach helps students in the long-term because I teach gen eds and never have the same students for more than one semester. I also teach Teapot Humanities, so it’s not a situation in which the department is tracking how students do in the next course in the math sequence or anything like that. I’m also not a teaching guru with years of “full-time” teaching experience. I taught a few different courses on the side while finishing my Ph.D.

    I’ve designed materials for my courses that I think are good (of course I do, I made them!). I also have worked with students in several types of college programming outside of teaching, and I think I’m a good mentor because I’m good at building rapport and I’m intentional about helping students figure out the unwritten rules of college and reach their own decisions. Still, noting that I made X number of handouts or presentations doesn’t give employers all that much useful information, especially if they haven’t taught themselves and aren’t sure how much work it amounts to. And it’s not like I can say…because of my mentoring Susie became 25% more confident.

    1. Honks

      Had similar trouble writing an accomplishments/numbers-based science resume, since no matter how hard you work, sometimes you generate bupkis because that’s just not how the system you were testing works. My advice is a) look at throughput (“Supervised 15 TAs”, “graded 98% of assignments on time”, “custom pamphlets geared to three different industries”) and b) ask a friend to help you reframe it – either find one who knows your work, or take the time to really explain it. They can push past a lot more mental baggage than you can and maybe have parallel experiences to draw from.

    2. Honeybee

      I addressed this in my cover letter (transitioned from academia to non-academic job a few months ago). For example, I wrote about how my teaching experience meant that I was really good at explaining complex research/statistical concepts to audiences without a research background. One job I applied to required mentoring junior employees, and I wrote about how my advising experience with college students was transferable to that mentoring in X ways.

  66. Elizabeth

    I’m meeting with my recruiter at lunch today… I really like being at this job and hope it’s good news. I’m in a good place but after the surprises in past jobs I’m just nervous.
    So… Think good thoughts for me around 1230 eastern?

      1. Elizabeth

        It went well! Hopefully everything goes to plan and I will be a permanent employee in the next month.

  67. Log Lady

    Is ‘pounding the pavement’ type of job hunting normal for manufacturing (airplane parts to be specific) or is it just a regional thing? We have machinists show up randomly, and call randomly, looking for jobs and usually, they’ll get an interview right away after filling out their application if they’re qualified. And I’m just wondering if that’s the norm with anyone else or if we’re just weirdos who go against conventions and manage to catch people who don’t want to follow conventions as well.

    1. Honeybee

      There was a thread here a few weeks (months?) ago that suggested in blue-collar/skilled hourly jobs this is much more common. A couple people had anecdotes of welders, mechanics, HVAC technicians, and the like getting let go on Wednesday and having another job lined up on Friday after walking into an office or chatting with someone they knew. My brother works as an electrical line worker and I think that’s how it works in his industry, too, and my dad was a rail car technician for many years and he’s always been a huge advocate of the “pounding the pavement” technique (he calls it “hustling,” with a hilarious Bronx accent that makes it sound illicit and seedy) probably because of this.

  68. Vanishing Girl

    Does anyone have information about working in state government? I’m a finalist for an archives job that I think could be a great fit (having second interview in the next couple weeks) and am not sure if the environment itself is a good fit. I have only worked in academia and am now in corporate, so this would be a big change for me.

    Also wanted to say thanks to Alison and the commentariat here for the awesome resources y’all are! I totally revamped my cover letter and resume based on things here and it’s already working better than my old stuff. I’ts also helped me re-frame this entire process and help me feel much more empowered and positive during each step.

    1. CM

      I’m in state government. It can vary widely, but you need to be willing to tolerate bureaucracy and having a million people sign off on decisions. And I’ve noticed a lot of micro-cultures, where the small group you’ll be working with, the larger department it’s a part of, and the larger organization that is a part of can have different cultures and you need to be able to understand and navigate those. In my job, I love the strictly 8-hour days and the expectation that when you’re not here, you’re not available. And I find that it’s also a great place to take on significant responsibility and to meet people at high levels that you might not otherwise have access to in the private sector, because state government is typically under-resourced and people are thrilled if you want to work with them on a project.

      1. grumpy career changer

        This question is about local government, not state, but still –

        Would you consider it a warning sign of a disorganized culture or problems prioritizing if a local government agency posts a job ad in late April, I send in my materials in early May, and they contact me to set up a first-round interview in October?

          1. grumpy career changer

            Wow — we’ve all heard that governments are slow, but there’s two months slow and there’s five months slow. But I will have a different perspective thanks to your comment.

        1. Sparkly Librarian

          I now work for local government. It took more than a year and a half for me to start the new job after submitting my application. Application to oral exam: 2 months. Oral exam to exam results: most of a month. Exam results placed me in the pool for that position; nearly a year later I was contacted with an offer to interview. Then there was a second in-person interview, and then maybe 6 weeks between that interview and the offer (with a sudden urgency on my end that had me pressing for speedy resolution; I’m not sure if that had any real effect). The delay between the offer and my start date is on me; I wanted to finish a cycle at the old job and asked the new employer to hold off a couple weeks.

          1. Sparkly Librarian

            Oh, I forgot a phase: between receiving (and accepting) the interview offer and actually scheduling the interview, there was a delay of over a month (all on their end). Then I waited 2-3 weeks until the actual interview, after it was scheduled. They offered exactly one date: Christmas Eve.

      2. Vanishing Girl

        Thanks! The smaller group I’d be in looks awesome, but I think the larger environment could be a little stodgy. Seems like that’s par for the course. I am looking for more responsibility and a place where you can pitch in and help out, and people are happy to do that. I have never gotten used to the “just do your job” mentality in corporate. I also love that this possible job is under 40 hours a week, but is full time and still pays more than my current job. This is very good information. :)

    2. M

      My state government job was a big adjustment from the private sector. The pace is much slower, there is more autonomy, very little pressure most of the time. It’s definitely a leave-work-at-work job, and you could get away with doing incredibly little work if you so desired. However, most of us are passionate about the work, so we don’t have too many stereotypical government slackers. It also has a very close-knit feel because most people work here for their entire career. I like it a lot, but there’s a huge amount of variation between departments, let alone the various offices.

      1. M

        And yes, there is red tape at every turn. I’m used to it by now, but it was complete culture shock at first – several signatures required for any purchasing, even for something small like safety glasses, up to and including the big boss. Being aware of what should and shouldn’t be put in writing. Projects that take years, even decades, to get off the ground due to their sheer scale and the number of players involved. The effect that media attention or a change in elected leadership can have on your day-to-day workflow.

        There’s a lot of opportunity to get involved in cool stuff, but you definitely need to have a certain amount of patience.

        1. Vanishing Girl

          Thank you! This is really useful. It seems like the environment of this job is full of passionate people and that is really exciting. I also love being passionate while I’m at work and leaving it behind. I am working on being more patient, so that is something to consider while I’m there.

  69. No Name for Post

    No name just in case my coworkers see this post and then find my other work-related posts. Our secretary’s role is to wash coffee cups and glasses that are from client meetings. The CEO met with several clients this week and they had coffee, donuts, etc. She refuses to wash the dishes because “I don’t use any so it’s not my place to wash them”. It IS part of her role to wash ONLY the dishes from client meetings which isn’t very often. Most of us wash cups from our own client meetings.

    Another manager usually washes the dishes when she won’t but he said he was aggravated with her so he wasn’t going to. She actually told him “you sure have been slacking. There’s a sink full of dishes”. He told her manager about the comment and of course nothing is done. So another staff member washed the dishes.

    She’s also the same one who transferred all incoming calls to the managing partner a few weeks ago I posted about that. Yes she’s still employed.

    1. Dawn

      Who’s your secretary’s manager? Honestly, I’d bring it to their attention, because you really don’t need some petty bullcrap freshman in college roommate fight over whose turn it is to do the dishes at work.

      1. Student

        Stop doing her work for her. Let her boss clean up after her, if someone has to. If there are no dishes available for other meetings, go to her manager and to the meeting-relevant manager and tell them this.

  70. The Other Dawn

    This is mostly just thinking aloud, but feel free to comment.

    I’ve been in my current job for almost 11 months. I love it here: the pay and benefits are great; the company treats it employees great overall; my team is awesome and are smart, hard workers; my boss is awesome and laid back; and I like the other employees.

    My only issue–I guess that’s what I’d call it–is this awful feeling that I’ve created an impression that I’m not so smart. I don’t know how else to phrase it, other than to say that I worry others think I’m an idiot or don’t know my stuff, and I sometimes feel that vibe. The reason I feel this way, I think, is because at my previous job two jobs ago (I was there for 17 years), I was THE person. I was the one with the institutional knowledge, the one who could figure anything out, whether it was tech, accounting, compliance, etc., the one who could fix the copy machine then go to a Board meeting, and who could find a way to extract information from different systems and make it into one usable report. For many years I was pretty much the only person with the drive to take this kind of stuff on, no matter what it was, and just hunker down and do it. At my most recent job (was only there 10 months) I became a go-to person for certain things because I had experience on a system that was new to them (I’d used it for 17 years prior) and was good at coming up with other ways to use resources, and my boss wasn’t one to get down into these kinds of things. Here, though? Not so much. After 11 months I still feel like I’m floundering sometimes. I know there’s a period of adjustment, and mine’s longer because I’m at a bigger company–my long-term job was at a company with 13 employees; this company has 350+.

    I’ve been getting some vibes from certain people lately that they think I’m not “all that.” No one has said anything to me specifically; I can just feel it, usually through their tone when talking to me. As to why I might not project the greatest impression, I feel like it’s really a lack of exposure to working in a bigger company; many times when I want to change a process, procedure, or policy, I forget that three other departments need to be involved. I’m so used to being the one and only person who can do something, either because I’m the one that knows, or because I wore so many hats for many years, that it just doesn’t occur to me that just changing one little process affects three other departments and I have to check with them before I do it. And I’m sure that annoys those other departments.

    The other thing I think it could be is I sometimes jump the gun, which happened last week with another department. I pulled back and my department is going to put some more work into it, while the other department does some research. They were annoyed, but it turns out, in part, they didn’t have all the information and everything was OK in the end. Again, I worked in a small company for years and things got done fast; it helps when you wear most of the hats. I didn’t have to wait for several approvals or for another department to research something. It just got done.

    I think these two things together are hurting my image and it’s causing me to lose confidence. I’m not sure what to do other than to make sure I don’t jump the gun on things and to make sure I involve other departments as necessary. It’s so hard not being THE person anymore.

    Any other suggestions or thoughts?

    1. The Other Dawn

      I think what adds to this awful feeling is that, at my long-term job, executive management and people in my department pretty much felt I walked on water and could do no wrong and regularly told me that. Here, my boss seems to feel that way and I’ve made a good impression on some higher-ups and my own team, but it’s not like it was at that other job. I know, that likely won’t ever happen again, but it was nice.

    2. fposte

      Are you concerned about rep or are you concerned about performance?

      I would focus on the second and let go of the first. I love being the apex knower in situations, so I totally get your affection for that role and the joy of being the go-to never-failer. But I think it’s important to be able to be able to keep contributing and accept your own performance at a lower standard of success than that (and I’ve been doing a lot of that lately myself). This is a version of perfectionism, I think, and it’s the version that keeps people from trying new stuff because they don’t like being anything but expert.

      So you’re not all that. And that’s okay. You’re solid and you’re learning. Work on the learning curve, and let the rep fall where it may.

      1. The Other Dawn

        Good question. I think right now reputation is winning out, although it shouldn’t. A lot of power came from being “that person” and I miss it. Although, looking back now, I can see where it gave me an inflated ego and I just expect to be that person everywhere I go.

      2. CM

        I think this is great advice. I also think you can bounce back from this kind of thing. In my experience, if somebody has a general not-so-great impression of you, and then you are really helpful to them, they’ll drop that impression pretty quickly.

    3. AnonAcademic

      I am also coming from an environment where I was referred to as a superstar and standout (a Ph.D. program at a public university). Now I am at Elite University where *everyone* is a superstar standout. It’s been a bit unsettling especially since my mentor expects me to continue standing out from the pack. But at the same time, feeling out of your depth is a sign you’re being appropriately challenged and given a chance to grow. I try to fight off imposter syndrome type thoughts and just tell myself “fake it till you make it.”

      The one advantage I think I have is I am slightly less technically super specialized than most doctorate holders including having some managerial/project planning type experience so I’m a more versatile employee than most people at my level. But trying to balance management responsibilities with still churning out data analysis has been tough and I’m still figuring out how to do both rather than one at the expense of the other. And then there is the double edged sword of SO MANY networking and prof. development programs here (often with free booze and high end catering), enough that they could be my full time job if I wanted, and knowing what to say yes vs. no to is tricky.

    4. catsAreCool

      I think some of this just takes time (unless you walk in with complete expertise). I agree with your idea of “make sure I don’t jump the gun on things and to make sure I involve other departments as necessary.”

      Try to be patient with yourself. I also sometimes feel like the new person who doesn’t know enough, and I’ve been at my job longer than you, but I was an expert at what I was doing before. I remind myself that I like what I’m doing now, I’m learning a lot, no one expects me to be superhuman (I hope!). Depending on the complexity of the job, it can take a while to become the expert. I’m sure you’ll get there!

  71. MAB

    Alright I have a “fun” problem with one of my employees.

    I work in a manufacturing industry that generally runs 24/5 to 24/6 and my night shift supervisor has given me problems since day 1. I know that she is threatened by me, which is understandable as she had her previous manager in her pocket and for the most part management loves her. I am not enamored by her, I think she does her duties well BUT I think she is lacking in the people management skills and is too much of a black and white thinker.

    Anyway from day one she has pushed back on my changes to the department, first by over reacting to certain things and pissing off her coworkers and now by failing to communicate with me properly. I have addressed the first but clarifying what I wanted (her behavior changed with each clarification) or in the case of communication I told her I will not be excepting text messages (I hate text messages for work stuff) since she did not follow my direction on communication in the first place.

    I ALSO have heard rumors of this same employee publicly shaming and bulling her coworkers and employees in the food chain under her. I just need an instance that I can immediately link to her so I can put a stop to that as well. I do not tolerate that behavior in my department. Ever. End of story.

    So my question to you all is how the heck to I make sure I am dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s with this employee so that I 1) do not surprise her on a year end review (if we do those here) or 2) have to suspend her? I personally do not feel that I need to have her. At this point her behavior is making her less and less valuable to me and if she left tomorrow, the department would continue to run. Heck if she left a week ago we would have made it work. I am keeping my boss in the loop and my coworker (who has to work with her directly as well).

    1. Dawn

      Go talk to her about the rumors, like right now. Even rumors are upsetting to hear because they can be based in fact. Go to her very concerned, and say that you have heard some disturbing allegations of public shaming and bullying and that you are extremely worried about the truth of these rumors. See how this supervisor reacts- is she horrified? Does she brush it off? Does she get angry and defensive? Does she say something that inadvertently confesses to the bullying (e.g. “Oh I was just teasing Horace, he always takes things so personally!”)? Her reaction to the rumors is a good place to start. After letting her explain herself tell her in absolutely no uncertain terms is bullying acceptable with dire consequences to her employment and that you hope this is the last time that either of you will ever have to say anything about it.

      Then sit back and see what happens. I’d also suggest checking in with trustworthy employees under her if you can- not going up and saying: “Is she bullying you?!?!?!” but generally being more available and visible for a while, fostering an atmosphere of approachability and trustworthiness. In any of these rumors was there a particular place where the bullying happened like a breakroom that you could start randomly popping in during different times of the day?

      Apart from the bullying, if you really just don’t like this employee and don’t want her to stay in general is there any reason you can’t get her on a PIP right now? If you can’t right now but know that you’d be happy to start the process at her yearly review then I think it would be a kindness as well as a CYA to take her aside right now for a meeting and say “hey, you are in danger of being put on a PIP for the following reasons. I’m letting you know now that if you show real improvement in these areas between now and your yearly review then you will be able to avoid a PIP.” Best case- she improves. Worst case- she goes ballistic and you have to fire her on the spot. Probable case- nothing happens and you have to put her on a PIP at her yearly review, but you’re in a much better situation because you can show that you tried to informally correct the behavior.

  72. Shell

    Ugh, my productivity has been in the toilet this week. I’m trying to adjust to my new glasses and it’s been…ugh.

    I usually have an adjustment period of about a week or two for new glasses, and this adjustment doesn’t even feel like the worst compared to past history. Generally just a sense of wanting to squint/close my eyes, eyestrain, very little headaches (until today, though my period doesn’t help on that matter). I’m pretty sure I’ve had worse adjustment periods, though they felt shorter (but they were also a while ago).

    I’m grumpy my glasses were thicker than I expected, because now my clip-on sunglasses don’t fit and I can’t find any that does. They do look great though.

    I have lots of work piled up on my desk and I just want to go take a nap with a hot compress on my face. Ugh.

    1. Clever Name

      Are you sure the prescription is right? I have glasses and whenever I get my prescription updated there’s no adjustment time other than, “hey! Things are SO CLEAR!”

    2. Optical Field

      Take them back to the optical shop. Something’s not right. Your eyes shouldn’t be strained at all, nor should you be squinting or getting headaches. My bet would be that the RX isn’t working for you (and if you always have these symptoms, odds are its never been). Something needs to be adjusted, whether it’s the RX or the type of lenses you get.

      If you’d like thinner lenses, it’s usually possible by changing the lens material. If, that is, the thicker lenses are because of a high RX and not just shoddy manufacturing. (In that case, they should redo them for you at no cost). If it’s your RX, ask for a high index lens. That material makes it possible for them to cut most RXs thinner than most other materials.

  73. Career change question!

    I hope I’m not too late to get an answer! Does anyone have any suggestions of science or research-based jobs that someone with a humanities background could realistically succeed in? I’m trying to switch career tracks from non-profit/communications work to something else, and I loved science throughout college, so I’d like to try and explore careers in that area. I’m not really sure where to start, though, given my lack of science degrees.

    1. katamia

      Are you good with spelling/grammar/formatting? I know a woman with a humanities degree who works as an editor at a science journal. Actually, that could overlap with communications, maybe.

      1. esemes

        Agree! Editing/PR/Comm.

        What if you started your industry jump by working on comm for a Science-y non-profit?

          1. Career change question!

            I was actually hoping to avoid communications/copy writing work, because I find it kind of exhausting, but maybe it’s something to think about if I can transition out of it to something else after a couple of years?

            1. Student

              It’s not. You won’t change fields doing that. Don’t join onto a lab as a communications or copywriter and hope to eventually move into research. It won’t happen.

    2. Hellanon

      Grant writing/research development – the science is helpful here, but it’s the communications/writing/project-wrangling skills that really help. And Coursera/EdX courses could help with the language-of-science aspects. Try not just universities but hospitals, etc – here in Southern California orgs like City of Hope and Cedars-Sinai do research as well.

    3. AnotherAlison

      I guess I’m alone on this, but I’m confused about what you’re looking for. Are you looking for an industry job “doing” science? Because it seems those are competitive for science MS and PhD holders. Do you just want to work in that type of environment and company, or do you want to move into research work?

      You’ve said using your most transferable skill (comm) isn’t terribly interesting to you. If you had a strong math background, you might be positioned for a data analysis type position. You could potentially get a job in an administrative role, but it almost sounds like you want to be a scientist instead.

      I also wonder if you need to do some job shadowing or something to see more what working in science is like. I know a few chemists, and it’s just not like freshman chem 101, even chem 115 for chem majors. (I don’t know you, you may have a great understanding of it already, but IME, loving something in school doesn’t translate to OTJ love. I “loved” thermodynamics, but I have zero interest in working in our thermal performance group analyzing power plants all day every day. . .although at age 21 I thought I would.)

    4. AnonAcademic

      Research assistant/lab manager/research coordinator roles! Not the best paying but if you’re already in the nonprofit realm that won’t be a shock :).

    5. Gillian

      If you’re good at details and writing, you may want to look into research grant writing for a lab or academic department. Lots of universities and other research-based organizations have people who work on the applications and help organize the paperwork because government funding for research is super complicated. It helps a lot if you know some about the subject matter being researched so you can help with the writing/editing of the specific aims and goals in the proposals, but isn’t absolutely necessary.

    6. Student

      Go back to school.

      With a humanities degree, the best you could reasonably do is become a person who doesn’t work with science at a science facility. Administrative assistant, or maybe a business-type job if you have some relevant experience (communications, HR, web design). Doesn’t sound like you could do programming, machining, technician, legal, accounting, outreach, or engineering, given your short description of prior work experience. Go look at the jobs posted for some of the national labs – there’s plenty of business-type jobs, and there are certainly communication-type jobs at many of the large labs. There aren’t many such posts, so you’d need to watch for them.

      You also need a graduate degree to do any actual science research. You can get involved as an intern at the BS level, or get lab-assistant or technician jobs at the BS level. That will contribute to research, but you won’t be doing the fun parts. You’d be doing the repetitive parts. That said, it’s never too late to go get a different degree if you are passionate about it. Research is a lot of fun. It can make a big impact on people’s lives. It takes a long time to “pay your dues” but a lot of adult-grad-students are more motivated to power through their PhDs and put up with less bulls*t from professors compared to younger, less experienced counterparts.

    7. Ultraviolet

      My best and most concrete suggestion is to look at professional organizations for scientists. I’ve definitely talked to people without a science background who work there. They hold some of the biggest research conferences, give out prestigious career awards to researchers, and are in general connected to research. You wouldn’t perform scientific research yourself, and I imagine that opportunities to use your scientific knowledge are fairly limited. But there’s a strong connection to science there.

      Can you articulate what kind of involvement you want with science on a day-to-day basis? I think that’s key here. But I can hardly articulate that question so I definitely get that it might be hard to answer. I’m trying to get at this kind of thing:

      -Do you want your work to rely on you understanding scientific principles?
      -Do you want to frequently talk about science?
      -Do you want to use lab equipment?
      -Is it important to you to actually be contributing to the creation of new scientific knowledge (as opposed to research and development on products, say)?

      These sorts of things would help determine what kind of job you could look for.

      Also, when you say you love science, do you specifically mean you love thinking about evolution/lasers/volcanoes/etc, or love gathering/analyzing data and making and testing hypotheses? If it’s the latter, it’s possible you’d enjoy some analysis jobs in non-scientific fields. (I don’t know much about them though, so that’s just a guess!)

      I do think that jobs that really center on using scientific knowledge will be very hard to obtain without a science degree. They’re already competitive among degree holders.

      If your interests include medical research (and advocacy for it), your options might open up some more.

      If you had any interest in sticking with communications, you might find a related job in some research-based companies or institutions. Anyone big enough or busy enough to issue press releases I guess.

      If you’d consider companies that make medical or lab devices, you could look at almost any business position typical among for-profits. Unfortunately, this won’t necessarily feel very sciencey.

      You could look into non-faculty jobs at universities, both in science departments and offices/institutes of research.

      There are a lot (relatively speaking) of resources aimed at PhD holders who are looking for non-research jobs. (NB this is in large part because those jobs are competitive and not abundant!) Maybe perusing those would give you some ideas? I realize that’s not your situation though.

  74. Anon Guy

    We have a meal reimbursement policy when we travel more than 20 miles for work. I’m pretty careful what I eat, so instead of going to a restaurant for lunch I’ll go to a supermarket and buy some fruit and a yogurt, or sometimes just a protein bar.

    The woman in charge of meal reimbursements is giving me a hard time about this, saying that reimbursements are “for restaurants only”. This seems silly–I’m spending WAY less on my lunches than the people who are eating at fancy restaurants. Should I escalate this to my manager or just let it go and pay out-of-pocket since it’s usually only $5 or so?

    1. Not Karen

      Or you could take the passive-aggressive route and buy your fruits, yogurt, and protein bars at Starbucks where there is a 500% markup.

      1. anon guy

        I like this! Starbucks is definitely on the “approved” list. I can buy a $1.50 banana instead of a 25 cent one :).

    2. LCL

      Ask meal reimbursement lady to show you the policy. She may be right, it is a written rule. Or it may just be her understanding of it. If true, it is a stupid rule. I like the Starbucks plan…

      1. Dawn

        I think asking about the policy might be a little aggressive. Have you explained why you do what you do to Meal Reimbursement lady? If so and she still says that you have to go to a restaurant, it might be that somewhere back in the day an employee was abusing the policy and buying groceries for home instead of using the per diem for meals and they had to write a strict policy to stop it. If that’s the case, nothing you can do- enjoy your food money :)

        1. Sadsack

          Why is it aggressive to ask? I’d say, “I am surprised, can I see the policy? I want to have a clear understanding of it myself.”. No reasonable person would balj at that. If she is unreasonable, then who cares if she balks?

    3. CM

      I would talk to your manager since this seems like it could be simply resolved by a phone call or email authorizing you to get meal reimbursements for grocery store meals. Unless the woman in charge of reimbursements is somebody who you need to keep happy.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      As crazy as it sounds, it’s not completely insane to have guidelines as to what types of receipts can be reimbursed.
      Imagine you’re not you and the person who isn’t you spent the per diem on groceries for a couple of days (Ramen, 5/100, couple bags of rice, some cans of beans instead).

      It’s easier to give Meal Reimbursement Lady a list of kinds of establishments she can approve rather than asking her to use her judgement about what on the receipt to approve.

      1. LCL

        Some of us still talk about the (long-retired) person who turned in a claim for two meals ordered at once. He had been working long hard hours and was young and hungry, and actually ordered and ate both meals. He only got paid for one, per contract, and unsuccessfully argued he should have gotten paid for the second.

    5. Red Stapler

      Speaking as the person who combs through and approves expense reports for my company I’m not a fan of grocery receipts either. You do have to pull out and read the receipts closely to make sure they’re meal items rather than house cleaning, dog food, etc.

      I think it depends on the size of your company, mine is small enough that I don’t mind taking an extra minute, but if I had 50+ reports to approve I could see pushing for stricter guidelines.

  75. whataweek

    Only a few hours and two meetings standing in the way of my weekend…so close, and yet so far! Every week has felt like a struggle lately. I thought I’d feel refreshed and ready to take on anything after a few days of vacation last week, but after only 2 days back, I caught myself thinking “I need a vacation.”

    I think I’m slowly but surely coming to the realization that I need to look for some new opportunities. I love the field I’m in (international non-profit), but the nature of the tasks I’m doing are starting to wear me down. I’m struggling to identify what job descriptions would actually fulfill me professionally. Things I don’t like: the brutal hours I currently work, deadlines, too many meetings. Things I like: ? (Writing and research mostly, I suppose. But not TOO much writing and research.)

    Any general advice for when you know what you don’t like, but don’t know what you do?

    1. Jules the First

      Read the book ‘So good they can’t ignore you’. Great stuff about how to figure out what makes you feel like a superhero.

  76. Stealth Mode

    The premium for me and my husband is about $150 (~13%) per paycheck. The deductible for my plan is $5000, which is ABSURD considering the average salary in my department is $30,000. Adding my spouse cost more than twice as much as it would have to insure just me… but we don’t have much choice since he’s self-employed AND has a chronic condition that means comparable private insurance would cost about $1200 a month.

    There are other options with a lower premium/higher deductible or higher premium/lower deductible, but if you max out the deductible (which we nearly always do, hooray for that chronic condition), the total cost is about the same.

    There’s a “voluntary” wellness program that requires a physical, weekly weigh-ins, and other weekly reporting depending on which program (stress, nutrition, cholesterol, etc) but you pay about $50 more per person per paycheck and lose out on $350 for your HSA ($700 for employee + spouse/family!) from the company.

    The saddest part of all this is that this is the LEAST crappy employer-sponsored heath insurance option I’ve ever had :(

    1. Rebelina11

      Did you apply on healthcare.gov for just him to get insurance? I did for my husband and children and kept insurance with my employer only for me (my insurance sounds a lot like yours). I got a really good plan for all 3 of them for $187 per month. That was taking into account our household income and getting the subsidy. Have you tried that option to see if your husband is eligible for the subsidy? Since he’s self-employed, the only income you have to disclose for him would be what you would put on your taxes AFTER deductions (just use 2014 taxes to get an idea). Anyway, good luck!

  77. Jillociraptor

    I share an office area with a colleague who (somewhat rightly) has a reputation for being kind of difficult. You have to kind of squeeze information out of him when you need it, and he’s definitely not the kind to proactively offer to help with anything, but he is always glad to offer some criticism of your approach. I think we have a pretty good relationship, personally, but I totally get why other people see him this way, and I’ve definitely had moments of, “Wow.”

    Yesterday, a student in crisis called our office after being unable to get replies from several of the other places that were actually supposed to help her. Colleague got her message, and immediately sprang into action. He was emailing, calling, and PMing the people who are supposed to be the resource to the student until they guaranteed that they would call her back, and then he personally got on the phone to talk to the student, reassure her, and tell her he had her back. He gave her his personal phone number and stuck with her until the other staff member called.

    It was such a good reminder to keep my eyes open to the complexity of other people, and to try to see the best in my colleagues. I happen to be one of those aggressively optimistic, Yes We Can kind of people, but not everyone shows their care and commitment that way.

    1. SL #2

      Good on him! Although I do wonder why this student’s crisis apparently struck a nerve with him when he has a reputation for being difficult with coworkers?

  78. Nashira

    I have to celebrate. I got an A in my x86 assembly language course! It inspired me to go out and make a better resume for tech jobs, and I’m looking at just straight up applying to one of the local tech companies. My confidence in my abilities as a Person Who Does Code has just gone way up. This was a hard thing to do and I can express a lot of ways it’s improved my skills – much better debugging skills, deeper understanding of loop structure, deeper understanding of memory management, better ability to document code without feeling slowed down, and a better understanding of Visual Studio’s inner workings.

    So this weekend is happyfun awesome cover letter writing time.

    With a side of worrying about a party at my husband’s boss’ house in November. I just have to be pleasant and able to dish on the weather and it’ll be cool, right? I’ve never been to an event like this before.

    1. moss

      Congratulations! I am proud of you and wish you every success :)

      Don’t worry about the party. Yes just be pleasant and everything will be fine. It will be horribly boring but just power through.

    2. Not So Sunny

      Ask your husband if there are a couple topics the boss loves to expound on (golf, kids, his Alma Mater) and memorize a couple questions in case conversation lags. Oh, and be prepared to answer common questions yourself. Even better — you can bring up this recent success and chat about your exciting new career objectives!

      1. AnonHere

        Oh, thank you! I use a similar strategy for family events (good beer, good restaurants), but it hadn’t occurred to me to do the same for a business one. My social skills are a thing I have to consciously work on, so I’m not always great at figuring out what strategies can be generalized.

  79. Bend & Snap

    I must be reading too much AAM. I had a dream last night that I was in a job interview, for a job as MAYOR, and they brought in major campaign donors to observe my interview and give me a hard time. And so I stood up, told them I was withdrawing my candidacy because I didn’t feel like being badgered by ALL THESE DOUCHEBAGS and walked out the door with both middle fingers up in the air.

    Maybe I need to take a break! LOL

    1. OriginalEmma

      Sounds like you’ve been watching a good amount of Ricky and Morty too! What a hilarious dream.

  80. Rebelina11

    I’ve been working for this company for a year and a half. The people are wonderful, the job is easy enough – right up my alley – the pay stinks as do the benefits, so I’ve been applying everywhere. Nevertheless, I feel guilty for wanting to leave. But that’s not exactly the problem. The problem is that I have a tough time getting motivated. I usually have a tough time working on my things whenever I have to share my office with someone else, which I do for 5 hours out of the day. Every morning I feel like I’m dragging my butt into work and I don’t feel like being there. Has anyone had this problem before? I mean, the person I share my office with is not really bothering me (though she’s loud when she’s on the phone). I do get more done when she leaves for the day. But the bottom line is that I feel really blah about my work and the job now – kinda suddenly, actually. I’m usually a very prompt and early person. Now I need a miracle to get to the office by 9AM. Has anyone experienced burnout at a job they actually like?

    1. misspiggy

      It sounds like you’re done with the job because of the rubbish pay and benefits, and have focused yourself on getting a new job. Which is fine, as long as you recognise when you’re switching off from the current job and try to keep engaged for long enough to ensure a good reference.

  81. esemes

    I work in department of 5 people, which includes the boss (2nd in command in the company), a senior person, and three junior staff (of which I am one). Senior Person is not a nice person and tends to be VERY exclusive/gossipy/vindictive/other bad things. Senior person often organizes after work events for the entire department minus me. I actually don’t want to go because I don’t like the way that my department acts when they had a lot of alcohol, but, obviously, don’t like being excluded. Because Senior Person is not someone that I’d EVER want in my life outside of our required work, I have decided to let the lack of an invite to post-work events not bother me. HOWEVER, earlier this week Boss called the other 3 member of my department into a meeting. I didn’t think anything of it because there are projects that the three other department members work on that I am not involved with. I learned, though, from one of the other junior staffers—who also happens to be a friend outside of work—that Boss had called them in discuss getting together after work for ‘a fun night out.’ I felt pretty sad to learn this because I had always assumed that my boss wasn’t privy to the exclusivity of Senior Person and that he simply thought that I had turned down most of the invitations to socialize after work. But now that I know that Boss arranged a department-wide outing without me, I feel slightly demoralized.

    Is this behavior unusual? Or should I apply the “things at work aren’t/shouldn’t be taken personally” mentality to this situation?

      1. esemes

        Thanks! It’s nice to hear that my frustrations are normal. I often convince myself that *I* the one who is overreacting.

        I actually am waiting to hear back on two interviews! Hooray! So, hopefully, the exclusive drama will be behind me soon! :)

        1. Charlotte Collins

          This is not overreacting. It’s a classic “in-group” vs. “out-group” bullying tactic. I had a boss who did this. Eventually, she moved on to treating everyone horribly, but in a different, personalized way for each person. I was the lucky first. (Looking back, I realize that she felt threatened by me.) She did get removed from her position (not a smart idea to start this behavior on the SVP your own boss reports to), and was fired eventually.

          Good luck with finding a new job!

    1. fposte

      Jobs you find through networking. I don’t think there’s any class of office job that has particular openness to people without a degree; there may be employers or fields that are more open than others, but mostly it’s people who know you’re good that matter there.

    2. YourUnfriendlyPhlebotomist

      I liked AR – its accounts receivable- basically when insurance company’s get a claim from a Dr. office/ hospital they decide wither or not they’re going to pay it. if they don’t it gets kick