coworker is forwarding requests to my boss, do I have any shot at this job, and more

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

1. Coworker is forwarding her requests to me over to my boss

I started my new job a few months ago, and everybody has been great compared to my old toxic workplace. However, there is one coworker who seems to think I can’t do my job – or maybe I’m just reading into it too much. For example, she will email me a request and then forward that same email to my boss in a new email with no additional notes to him. The only reason I know this is because he will reply to both of us on the forwarded email with his input. It’s possible she forgot to CC him the first time, but it’s happened more than once. We got along really well at the start, but now she acts coldly towards me and it’s become really frustrating and I feel petty being this paranoid about it. She has no say over my job but she does have far more seniority than I do.

Should I approach her about this or is it all in my head and I should let it go?

If she’s just forwarding her own requests to him and there’s no hidden subtext (like “I shouldn’t even be having to ask for this!” or “this is my third request!”), then it’s hard to see how this is her implying you can’t do your job. But I think you could just ask her about it, by saying something like, “I noticed you often forward these emails to Fergus. Should I cc him when I reply, or otherwise keep him in the loop?”

The acting coldly is more of a concern to me. I’d take that as a flag to examine whether there’s anything that she could be legitimately distancing herself over, including concerns about your work, professionalism, or responsiveness … but if you can’t spot anything on those fronts, I’d ignore it as much as you can and just be pleasant, professional, and responsive to her (and everyone) and let it be her own issue, since there’s not much else you can do at that point. (Although if there are opportunities to ask, “Hey, is there a different way you’d like me to do X?” it might draw out of her whatever’s going on … but it also might not.)

2. Should I really send my resume to the brother of a coworker of my mother-in-law?

I recently applied for a librarian position at a local university, which I casually mentioned to my in-laws over Christmas dinner. Yesterday, I received a text from my mother-in-law, asking me to email my resume to Jane (one of her coworkers), who will then forward my resume to Jane’s brother, Bob, who works in a department at the university completely unrelated to the library or the department for whom the librarian would be a liaison. I wrote a great resume and cover letter – shouldn’t that be enough? However, my husband, like my mother-in-law, thinks that it’s “worth a try” to send my resume off to Bob via Jane in the hopes that it might possibly be of some assistance. To me, it just feels weird and pointless. What do you think?

Also, about 7 years ago, I worked on a grant for the department the librarian would liaising for. My former boss is now the associate dean for that department. If I wanted to reach out to her, would it be appropriate, and if so, what do I say?

It’s possible that Bob has zero pull and sending your materials to him would be pointless, but it’s also possible that Bob has lots of standing with the hiring manager and a note from him saying “you should take a look at this candidate” would get you extra attention. For all we know, Bob mentors the hiring manager or plays soccer with him or used to job-share with him. Who knows, but there’s really no harm in doing it, and potentially something to gain. I’d do it.

As for your former boss who’s now the associate dean for the department you’re applying in, yes, definitely reach out to her. Attach a copy of your resume and cover letter and say, “I wanted to let you know that I applied for this opening in your department and would love to talk with you or (hiring manager) if it seems like it might be the right fit!”

3. Do I have any shot at this job?

Last summer, I got to the final round of interviews for a slightly-above-entry-level marketing job at a major university. I was ultimately rejected for that job, but after I asked the hiring manager (let’s call him John) for feedback, he replied with a very pleasant note, saying that I was a very strong candidate but that they decided to go with another applicant who had a more experience in higher ed. He encouraged me to keep an eye out for future openings.

Cut to today, months later. I received an email from John’s boss, who I also met during the interview phase. He said that John was leaving his position, and that he remembered enjoying meeting me when I interviewed over the summer. He encouraged me to apply for John’s newly open position.

While I am happy that he remembers me, I am wondering if I realistically have a shot. I was rejected for that junior role specifically because I didn’t have enough experience. I can’t say that much has happened in the intervening time to make me a stronger fit for the old role, much less this new, more senior one. I suppose I have nothing to lose by sending in my resume and cover letter, but I am kind of dreading the idea of going in for a lengthy interview process for a job I’m unlikely to get. That said, if I did get this job, it would be a colossal step forward in my career. Should I throw my hat in the ring?

If you don’t have much of a shot, you’re unlikely to get sucked into a lengthy interview process. By definition, if you’re far away from what they need, they’re going to realize that pretty quickly and not invest that kind of time.

Also, the fact that you were rejected for the more junior role because you didn’t have enough experience doesn’t actually mean that you can’t be the right fit for this role. It’s possible that you did have a reasonable amount of experience for that role but someone else just had more. It’s also possible that the senior role requires experience in different things, and that you have that. Or even that they simply liked you and are willing to see if they could make this position work.

You have nothing to lose here, other than the amount of time it will take to apply. You should do it.

4. Hiring manager from previous interview is the new manager at another position I’m applying to

I interviewed for a position a few months ago, but after several rounds of meetings and a promising outcome, the hiring process for the position stopped. The hiring manager I was meeting with had resigned, so the company was no able to go forward with a hiring more junior position when the senior position needed to be filled.

Fast forward a few months, and a new opportunity has come up for a position at another company that I am very interested in working for. After researching on LinkedIn, I see that the hiring manager at this company is the old manager who I had been meeting with at the previous company who had left!

I am wondering how to approach this situation since we’ve already met and she has interviewed me for essentially the same role, but in a competing company. Do I write to her directly or go through the normal application process? If I get called in for an interview, do I simply laugh it off as coincidence or should I let her know I was aware of the change in her employment and an excited to meet again?

Apply through the normal application process, but then send her an email letting you know that you did. I’d say something like this: “Jane, I just saw that you’re the new teapots director at Teapots Inc. — congratulations on the new role! I really enjoyed our conversations about the teapot analyst role at Tea World before you left, and I thought I should drop you a note to let you know that I’ve applied for the teapots coordinator position with Teapots Inc. (I applied through your website, but I’m also attaching my materials here in case that’s helpful). I’d love to talk with you if you think it might be the right match.”

Definitely don’t just pretend you don’t know. It’s possible that her prior conversations with you will give you a leg up, or that she can save you some time if she knows it’s not the right fit.

5. Am I supposed to reply to this thank-you note from an SVP at my company?

I am a trainer at a call center. I recently received recognition for being a high performer, and the senior vice president sent me a thank-you note, including his business card. I appreciate the note, but I don’t know whether I’m expected to do anything with the business card. Should I contact him in some way or is sending business cards just something executives do? I’ve never met him in person.

It’s pretty common for people to slip a business card into communications like that, to provide their contact information. It doesn’t mean you’re expected to contact them; it’s more “here’s my info in case you ever need it.” That said, it would be gracious for you to send him a quick email letting him know how much you appreciated his note.

{ 68 comments… read them below }

  1. irritable vowel*

    #2: Academic librarian here, with multiple tours of duty on search committees for positions like the one you’ve applied for. Sending your resume to the person in the unrelated department, who is not even someone you know personally, is a waste of time, unless you do some research and find out that the guy is a big library supporter or otherwise very involved with the library (on the faculty senate’s library-related committee, etc.). Plenty of people apply to librarian jobs and say “I know professor so-and-so, he said I should apply,” and it means nothing to the search committee if their applications aren’t otherwise noteworthy, and actually shows a bit of naïveté about how the search process works. I know that’s not quite what you’d be doing, but I still wouldn’t bother–that guy is not likely to contact anyone in the library about you.

    It *is* definitely worth contacting the associate dean who used to supervise you, though–not only will his position in the department you’d be liaising with be significant to the search committee, but he’ll know who, specifically, to contact in the library if he wants to personally recommend you. Good luck!

    1. irritable vowel*

      Just a note to correct my gender mistake in the second paragraph–your former boss is a woman, my mistake!

    2. Colette*

      I disagree. It’s possible that Bob will do nothing or that he doesn’t know anyone in the library. I’d even agree that it’s likely – but there’s a small chance that he does, and possibly in ways that you can’t find out online. (I still keep in touch with people I never worked with from the company I left in 2007.) All the OP has to do is send an email. Unless she know that someone in the chain that leads to Bob has bad judgement, it’s worth the effort.

      1. Snowglobe*

        My thought was that even if Bob knows the hiring manager well and has some pull – he wouldn’t be able to speak to the OP’s quality as a candidate, because he’s never worked with her. All he could say is that he received this resume from his sister’s co-worker’s daughter-in-law, but he doesn’t know the candidate personally. How would that be a helpful recommendation?

        1. JMegan*

          I agree, and I have to admit I’m a bit surprised at the advice to contact Bob. Alison’s usual advice is to avoid recommending a person unless you can speak to the quality of their work – ideally through having actually worked with them in the past, but at the very least through a solid first-degree connection. Even if Bob turns out to be some sort of deus ex machina on the hiring committee, he doesn’t know the OP personally, and would be unlikely to recommend her based on this fairly tenuous connection.

          I would thank your MIL for the offer, but I can’t see how contacting Bob would be helpful.

          1. AnotherHRPro*

            All Bob can do is send the resume to the hiring manager with a note to take a look at the candidate. That can be helpful as it assures that it is at least reviewed. Not all resumes automatically get looked at when there are many applicants. There is no harm in sending Bob the resume and it can help. The OP should definitely send it to him as that takes no real effort or time.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Exactly what AnotherHRPro says. Sometimes that kind of note will get the application looked at when it otherwise wouldn’t have been. Or, maybe it will do nothing. But it’s not going to hurt, and it may help, so it’s worth taking the minute to do.

          1. get some perspective*

            In openings that get a lot of applications, a tangential connection can mean the applicants resume gets looked at a little more carefully. Which is a leg up.

            Help needn’t be in the form of acting a reference or making a recommendation.

        2. Sunflower*

          Well Bob wouldn’t be recommending her, just referring her which is very different and very common for people who have not worked personally with someone to do. A referral is more like a lead

    3. Oryx*

      As a former academic librarian, I have to agree with you on this.

      I think if the OP knows Bob personally, it would be different. But this reads like a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon situation and the impact of the recommendation could get diluted because of that.

      1. Weekday Warrior*

        Not to mention that academic librarian hiring committees can get a bit tetchy about perceived pressure from people outside the committee, maybe especially from random faculty members. Candidate wouldn’t be blamed per se but would be seen as naive about academic realpolitik.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If there’s something specific to the field about this, then I defer to people in that field. But if we make it non-field-specific, in general there’s no reason not to do it and it could end up helping.

          1. Weekday Warrior*

            Yes, the caveat is field specific. I can see that the advice is fine for most situations, especially where there’s a hiring manager and not a formal hiring committee. Formal hiring committees, especially in academia, can be sticklers for “process” and approved channels. Depending on the college, academic libraries can be very sensitive about informal recommendations that aren’t based on knowledge of professional skills. Lots of cultural, historical reasons for this. Mainly based on status insecurities of the profession and institution. A treatise for another time. :)

          2. Another Academic Librarian*

            Definitely field specific. I would give the side-eye to a referral like this unless the person referring knew the applicant personally (and even then it might get the application a second glance or a bump up to a shortlist, but that’s it).

        2. Higher Ed(na)*

          As another academic librarian here with lots of experience being on search committees- I agree completely. Sometimes we’ll get an informal “Hey, I heard Cordelia applied for the job and I’d like to put in a good word for her- she’s been stellar in my experience” from teaching faculty or colleagues at other libraries. There’s always the understanding that the colleague is personally vouching for the applicant. That doesn’t harm an applicant’s chances and, if on the bubble, can sometimes help. But if a teaching faculty member pushed for an applicant he didn’t personally know- no. I would do my best not to hold it against the candidate but it would be really weird and awkward. I’m squirming in my seat just thinking about it.

          I also have to question Bob’s being open to this. Would he be okay with a librarian championing a candidate for a position within HIS department? If not, that shows a disregard towards the library (who often have to battle to be perceived as equals to teaching faculty.)

      2. Chocolate lover*

        If I were Bob, I’d ignore the request. I wouldn’t even consider forwarding a resume for someone that remote. I wouldn’t consider even mentioning a potential candidate to a colleague unless I knew them personally, and well.

        1. Bibliovore*

          Another academic librarian who came in from a small private to a R1 public. I know for a fact that my cv was ignored (“no” piled) as my credentials had all of the “needs” but not many of the “would be nices” (previous librarian had a PhD and spoke multiple languages) of the job description. I applied because the position was exceptional and I brought other talents/experiences to the table. ( And it seemed that everyone in my “very specialized tea-pot literature studies” was going after this one) I did reach out to a specialized tea-pot literature author with strong ties to the University to give a heads up to the hiring committee through the Library Director. I heard later (three years- I did get hired) That the hiring committee was offended by the contact. They felt it impugned their competency to judge and that the outreach was an attempt to circumvent process. Good news for me was that it was a failed search and when it opened up, I reapplied. I was then being considered in the pool. I believe that movement stemmed from polite follow up to HR and the hiring manager more than any references or referrals.

    4. Librarian_c*

      Another academic librarian here.

      NO NO NO – don’t do this re: Bob. As other commenters have mentioned – this will get you a definite side-eye. Libraries are often dealing with experiences of “outside” departments pushing agendas and any perceived pressure from outside departments will only hurt you as the applicant. The academic dean is fine – but academia is all about processes and it’s important to follow them or at least be seen as someone who knows there are processes.

  2. Doriana Gray*

    OP #1 – your coworker is on some passive-aggressive bull. I’d ask what’s up, and also ask your boss if boss has any issues with your work or how you’ve been communicating (since your boss’s assessment of you and your skills is the only assessment that truly matters at the end of the day), then I’d go forth and not worry about the passive-aggressive coworker. You don’t have time for that childishness.

    OP #3 – apply for the job like Alison said and just see what happens. If you get to the interview stage and the hiring manager decides you’re not quite right for the more senior role, who knows? If he likes you enough, he could bump someone else up to that role and hire you for the newly vacated position.

    1. Colette*

      It’s not necessarily passive aggressive – it’s possible the manager asked the coworker to copy her, but the coworker forgot – and the reasons from rnthat request might have nothing to do with the OP. For example, the manager could be working with the coworker on how to train someone, or on general communication skills. The OP should confirm when she should loop the manager in and ask for feedback (if she isn’t receiving it), but she should not jump to the conclusion that there’s a secret message in the way her coworker is communicating.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Then if that was the case, I would think (and hope) the coworker would have said something to that effect in the email when it was then forwarded to the manager since she knew the manager was then replying all. A quick, “Oops, I keep forgetting to copy you on this, boss – apologies.” The fact that she’s seemingly doing it and not telling the OP, then is being chilly in her interactions with the OP outside of email correspondence, is leading me to believe something else is going on. And since I have no patience for people who won’t just come out and say what the hell’s the issue, I’m saying OP should be direct with coworker to find out what the issue is, ask her boss if there’s an issue, and then if boss says no, ignore coworker’s behavior. It’s not how grownups behave.

        1. fposte*

          But you’re assuming an adversariality that isn’t demonstrably there, at least not yet. Start by assuming it’s not adversarial or else you’re going to be the one making it that way much of the time. It’s not a show of weakness to assume good faith first.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I think it’s a show of strength. Most of the time people gravitate toward worst case scenario and totally by-pass human brain farts type of answers. I know I had to work on this myself and I still slip up. It takes a deliberate effort and in turn, strength, to stop ourselves and say, “Is there something I am missing here?”

              It could be that coworker is saying “OP is chilly with me and I cannot figure out why, for the life of me!” I do know that if one coworker gets wary/cautious around another coworker, that second coworker will pick up on that in a heart beat. Then the cycle continues getting worse each time through the cycle. Somebody has to put the brakes on, especially in situations like this where OP does not mention any previous run ins. OP’s discomfort seems to have started with the emails to the boss. There is no mounting evidence, that we see, except for the fact that coworker is getting chilly. My guess would be that it’s in response to OP’s discomfort.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            There’s nothing adversarial about asking someone what’s up – it’s all in the delivery and tone. You can be direct and still polite/professional.

            1. NJ Anon*

              I agree. So often things are incorrectly perceived or left to fester because people won’t say something. Just because you say something, doesn’t mean it has to be negative.

            2. Colette*

              I’m not sure who was suggesting that the OP shouldn’t ask – of course she should, but she should do so without assuming the coworker is trying to indirectly tell her anything.

  3. Trainer*

    Thanks so much for answering my question (about the thank you from the SVP). I figured it was just a formality but didn’t want to miss an opportunity to expand my professional network if that would be helpful. I’ll definitely send him that email!

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        They absolutely remember IME as well.

        Trainer, you’ll want to make your thanks sincere yet short rather than effusive or flowery. Also, SVP is a great contact for your network but use it sparingly :)

        And how awesome for you on the recognition! I know that doesn’t happen as often as it should.

        1. Trainer*

          Yeah, I was amazed to get the thank you, but it felt really good! :) I think it’s really easy to underestimate just how important gratitude really is.

          1. TootsNYC*

            “I think it’s really easy to underestimate just how important gratitude really is.”

            And so, smart of you to not underestimate how much impact *your* gratitude toward the VP would have.

            And yes to the idea that the VP will remember your name w/ a positive vibe in the future.

  4. Lizh*

    OP#2. I don’t see that you have anything to lose. He may have an inside/contacts at another institution who is looking for someone like you. Can’t hurt, and you may be pleasantly surprised, especially since you are not hanging your hat on it.

  5. AdAgencyChick*

    #3, you obviously made a good impression on the big boss, so what do you have to lose? In fact, I wonder whether what happened is similar to a situation I was in a few years ago, in which we were interviewing for a junior position that would report to one of my direct reports. We had two candidates, both of whom were transitioning from other careers and had no industry-specific experience (but who would have had some transferable skills).

    I liked one candidate better because she presented herself with more confidence (without being obnoxious about it; she knew it was about selling how her skills would translate, not about showing that she already had specific experience). However, my direct report preferred the other candidate. I let my direct report have the final say, because she was going to be the one managing whomever we picked. She was right — this candidate turned out to be an excellent employee (though, as it turned out, I was not wrong about the candidate’s shyness, and she did end up having to work on that in order to present to clients).

    This haunted me for a while afterward — I thought of it as, “I wish I were better at making hires. I almost passed on one of the best copywriters I’ve gotten to work with” — until I said that to a colleague who then pointed out, “You don’t know — the other candidate could have been terrific, too.” Even years later, I still wish I had kept in better touch with the candidate we rejected, because that’s entirely possible, and maybe we could have hired her for another slot in a few months.

    Anyway, something like this may be going on with OP#3. It can’t hurt to find out!

    1. madge*

      +1. This is what I came here to say. I’m occasionally involved in the hiring process at a large university and there are many people involved, no matter the role. He reached out to you so you obviously made a solid impression before. Perhaps he is the one making the decision on this particular role. Go for it and good luck!

  6. LQ*

    #1 – I have a person I work with and whenever she sends a request she cc’s a whole bunch of people. Because of her position in the org it ends up being high level people. I asked my boss about it after the first time, if he was worried about my work not getting done fast enough or there were concerns about it. He made it very clear that it was not my work that was in question.

    Since then I’ve learned that this person is very concerned about some things and making sure people know them, she ccs people about things all the time, especially higher up people. She still ccs every time she makes a request and after the checking with my boss I only respond to her and sometimes one other person if she’s out. They trust I’m getting the work done so it isn’t a problem.

    I’m going with you might be reading too much into it. Are you getting the requests to her? Are there concerns from your supervisor?

    1. Bowserkitty*

      OP 1 here…I believe you’re right, the requests are getting done, and I said this below but I realized yesterday my OOO was on last week for the one day she sent me something so that explained that instance to me and calmed my anxiety about it all. My boss is fine with my work, so I think you’re right!

      1. LQ*

        I think it is easy to feel like Ack! Someone got copied did I screw something up? When it is the culture of the org, or the habit of the person. Especially if you are still new and tense about a bad former job. Copying your boss and stopping in their office to explain why you were forwarding it would be very common here so not having a message would be perfectly reasonable. Good luck

    2. MashaKasha*

      I agree that copying is fine. But habitually emailing someone and THEN forwarding to the boss is too close to the BCC territory for my comfort.

      Though, if the OOO autoresponse was on, that would definitely explain the forwarding (coworker got the response, assumed that OP was OOO, and forwarded the request to boss.)

      If this keeps happening with the OOO response turned off, I’d be tempted to act naive and ask coworker if this is an established process that I, too, should follow when emailing her with work requests. But I hope the OOO response was the culprit, and that it won’t happen again.

    3. Lee Ann*

      She may be concerned about making sure higher-ups know about her, but what’s she’s most likely done is made sure they put her in the “ignore” list, if not made a mail rule to send her straight to trash.

  7. brightstar*

    OP #3 – In our last round of hiring, we interviewed a candidate trying to move from retail to an office job and had applied for an entry level job. Her viewpoint was she hadn’t worked in an office since college, while we saw that her being assistant manager and manager had given her experience that was easily transferable and we felt she was over qualified for an entry level position. We really liked this candidate and are hoping to find something for her in the future. So, as Alison said, being turned down for a junior role doesn’t mean they don’t see you as qualified for a different role. And applying anyway really doesn’t hurt.

      1. OP #3*

        I agree! I hope you do find something for her. Unfortunately people perceive a real divide between office work and service work like restaurants and retail, regardless of the actual level of skill needed for the roles. I think this divide is obviously classist (this ties in to why so many entry-level jobs require bachelor’s degrees which are strictly unnecessary to do the job well). Kudos to you and your company for seeing the transferable skills. I am sad, though, that this obviously very capable person is underrating herself.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Also, it backs me up on what I’ve said many times–there are TONS of transferable skills in retail/food management. It’s still management, whether your underlings are flipping burgers or producing TPS reports.

  8. Bowserkitty*

    OP #1 is me – thank you for answering my concerns, Alison! Things at OldJob were full of tension and unhappiness so I’m still getting used to what a properly functioning work environment is like, and I think I’m reading into it a lot. In fact, I didn’t realize until yesterday that I had had my OOO responder for last week’s email, so that assuaged my paranoia there, realizing she was reaching out to my boss in case he could do anything. (I still would have put in a note, “Bowserkitty is OOO today, can you help with this request?”)

    My boss has had no issues with my work, so for the rest of it I’ll follow Alison’s advice and just continue to professional as I have been – for all I know, she’s got stuff going on in her life that’s causing stress.

    Thank you to everybody for your advice!!

    1. jhhj*

      Make sure, also, that you are responding to her — if she sends you a bunch a day, you can batch respond, “I got your emails about x, y & z, and I will take care of them by [tomorrow]”, or whatever is appropriate in your office. That way she knows you got them and have taken ownership of the tasks, something that seems to be a concern.

      1. Ashley*

        Yeah, I wanted to leave a similar comment because I’m in a situation that is the opposite – where a more junior employee has proven to be quite unreliable and I need to loop her boss in after going weeks without responses. She’s great at what she does, but she is still a bit green on professional norms and isn’t great at prioritizing and communication, among other things.

        1. Bowserkitty*

          I’ve definitely followed up with her on all requests, so I’m not sure that’s it, but I will continue to respond to everything she sends :)

  9. OP #3*

    Hello everyone, thanks for all your feedback. In the time between I submitted the question and now, I did in fact apply for the job, and yesterday I had a great phone conversation with the hiring manager for the new role. He told me right at the beginning of the conversation that I made a good impression during my interview for the first job, and at the time he actually thought I was a little overqualified. He also knew then, however, that John already had one eye out the door, and it occurred to him that I could probably do John’s job. So he kept me in mind until John officially resigned. He said that as soon as he finished doing phone screens, he would invite me in for another in-person interview, and also indicated that he wanted to fill the role quickly and that he might abbreviate the interview process for me since he had already met me once and didn’t want to waste my time “rehashing old ground.” Even if I don’t land this particular job, having this conversation was a big confidence boost. Since he viewed me as overqualified for the initial job, I’m starting to think that I’ve been setting my sights too low during my search (I’ve been getting a string of what I thought were fabulous interviews for entry-level jobs that ended with no offer; I assumed that I was interviewing poorly, and the thought that I might overqualified never even entered my mind). Thank you again, Alison, for answering my question and everyone else for your insights!

    1. Doriana Gray*

      This is great news. Even better that you now know what’s been holding you back in your job search in the event that it doesn’t pan out with this particular position (though I hope it does). Good luck!

    2. afiendishthingy*

      Yay! How wonderful to get feedback like this, even if you don’t end up in this position. Best of luck in your search!

    3. JDrives*

      That is really cool that you left such a strong impression on the manager, and he had no qualms telling you about it. Great confidence boost, for sure! Best of luck to you!

  10. OP #2*

    Hi everyone; thanks for all your comments and advice! Oryx is correct – I don’t know Bob. In fact, I’ve never even met Jane. And so, the idea of reaching out to someone I’ve never met through someone else I’ve never met was a bit uncomfortable to me. According to a few commenters, it seems that it is pretty important to follow “the process” when applying for a job in academia. Would I be bucking this process by contacting the Associate Dean I used to work for? I have no idea if she is part of the hiring committee, but as I mentioned in the original post, the librarian position is specifically for her department. She can’t speak to my work as a librarian, only as her grant assistant.

    1. Higher Ed(na)*

      I’ve been on many academic librarian search committees. In my experience, I would tweak Alison’s advice a little and send the first part of the email, something that emphasizes how excited you are at the opportunity. You could even ask her to serve as a reference, or ask for any advice for applying (I would give her an out to this, like “If you’re not on the search committee and you feel comfortable, could you tell me a little more about the position before I apply?”) Do NOT send the application materials or mention a hiring manager. That’s completely outside the academic way of things.

    2. Another Academic Librarian*

      As someone who has been on multiple hiring committees for academic librarian positions, I think it would be fine to contact the associate dean. In fact, I think it’d be a bit weird for you not to! This is especially true if you have the grant assistant position on your CV (which you should), particularly if you list the dean’s name. I work at a medium sized university, and campus can be like a very small town sometimes. If the hiring committee knows that you’ve worked with Dean So-and-so, there is a good chance they will have or make an opportunity to ask her about you.

      Being able to cultivate a strong relationship with your liaision department is really important for a subject librarian role, so showing that you already have an “in” probably can’t hurt. (In this case, for example, the fact that the Associate Dean thought your work was good is probably less valuable than that they liked working with you and would like to work with you again. It’s about fit!)

    3. Language Lover*

      Another academic librarian here who disagreed with Alison’s advice (re: Bob) in this instance and agree with the advice in the comments by librarians. It’s not that I would necessarily punish you if Bob from accounting forwarded your info to me without knowing anything about you as a worker but it would put a level of weird on your candidacy. If he could speak about you as a worker, I still wouldn’t want your resume from him but I would appreciate a casual recommendation that might get me to take a second look at your application.

      Bob still might be useful if you had questions about the school or process but not as a liaison for you.

      The Academic Dean, on the other hand, is a different situation. She knows you and was your boss. In libraries, it is sometimes so difficult to liaise with departments, even when they’re pro-libraries, that you already having a professional connection to that department would be considered a bonus…at least for me. Even though she doesn’t know you as a librarian, a good worker is a good worker. So yes, let her know you applied and ask her if she’d be a reference for you. (I would hope your past experience with the department was featured prominently in your application materials. ) I wouldn’t ask her to forward your resume to the library but if she liked you, odds are that she will get in touch with the hiring manager on your behalf. Maybe others would disagree but I would definitely appreciate knowing what she knows about you. And she likely will understand the norms of the hiring process. Bob might as well but you never specified what he did. I know hiring certain staff, like HR assistants, is done differently than hiring a faculty member or librarian who will teach. So if Bob is in a different areas of the university, their norms might differ.

      So I do agree with Alison in regard to the Academic Dean. She was your boss and it’s her department you’d be liaising with. Pointing out your connection makes sense and wouldn’t feel like grasping like trying to make it happen through Bob.

      1. Another Academic Librarian*

        I agree with asking the Associate Dean to be a reference. I didn’t mention that because I assumed the OP had already submitted her application. I can only speak for myself, but if I saw that an applicant had a member of her prospective liaison department on her list of references, I would move her towards the top of the pile.

        1. Bibliovore*

          And now that I have been here awhile. I agree with the commenters. The Academic Dean that you worked for will be a great reference. I will be likely from you cv that they will reach out to contact them. It wouldn’t hurt for you to reach out to the Academic Dean for some intel. If you are comfortable having a short phone call, that might be best. fWhat was the last Laisson like. What really worked? What didn’t? How research heavy is the position.

    4. irritable vowel*

      I agree with what others have said here. In case you didn’t list the Associate Dean as a reference, I think it would be a good idea to ask her now if she’d be willing to serve as one. Then, I think it would be completely appropriate to write to the hiring manager (or whoever you sent your application materials to)–explain that at the time you applied, you didn’t realize that this person, your former supervisor, was now working in the department the position would be liaising with, and let them know that she’s agreed to be a reference. As a search committee chair I would have no problem at all receiving a note like this (also re-affirming your interest in the position, of course).

      If you DID already list her as a reference, but perhaps not giving her current affiliation, unless it’s a very unusual name the search committee might not make the connection. In that case I would send an “updated contact info for reference” e-mail.

      In either case I wouldn’t go overboard in emphasizing what you might see as the wonderful serendipity of having been supervised by this person who you would potentially be working with. Just keep it factual and reserve your enthusiasm for the position itself.

    5. irritable vowel*

      I also responded below, but something else just occurred to me. What you *don’t* want is a situation where you’re making a connection between your application and someone who has a bad relationship with the library. If this person has a reputation of being difficult to work with, that’s not going to help you. You probably have a fairly good sense of what she’s like as a research administrator from working with her on the grant, but maybe spend a little time thinking back to how she was–overly demanding vs. very reasonable, good communicator vs. making last-minute changes that affected others, etc. It won’t be a direct 1-1 comparison with that and how she may be as a faculty member working with the library, but I guess I’m just saying, be sure this is someone you want to link yourself to before doing so.

  11. Question #4*

    Thanks very much for taking the time to answer my question about the hiring manager, Allison! Since submitting this question The job posting was taken down (it was only up for 2 days mind you) and I have reached out to abother contact at the company letting me know that it should be going back up soon, presumably after the holidays. I do also have the direct email to the HR contact at the company and have gone back and forth with wondering if I should be reaching out to her as well, but finally I have decided I will wait until the job goes back up and take your advice on applying and sending a message to the hiring manager. I will keep you up to date on how this goes!

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