should our office stop cake collections, disclosing a wage garnishment, and more

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

1. Should our office stop collecting money for cards and cakes when people leave?

In my office, there is a custom that when a colleague leaves, folks in the office contribute a few dollars towards a card, a farewell cake, or similar. It used to be mostly informal with someone doing the rounds with cap in hand. Is it appropriate?

More importantly, the HR manager has recently started coordinating this initiative — with all the best intentions, but I’m afraid it may seem like an imposition if it comes from an HR person. As head of office, should I allow this to continue?

No, you should stop it, and good for you for thinking about it because all too often people don’t. You should stop it because it usually results in people feeling pressured to contribute even if they don’t want to or can’t afford to. And that’s especially true if HR is coordinating it.

If the company wants to give cards or cakes to people who are leaving (which is a nice thing to do), the company should pay for it. Don’t let it be funded by employees.

2. Am I obligated to stay in my job while covering for a colleague on maternity leave?

I work as a client relationship associate supporting an senior executive with a roster of about 20 clients. My role is underpaid (woefully) and under recognized by management. I took this job after six months of unemployment almost three years ago and have excelled at it – I have more than 20 years of business experience. The people in my position really run the day-to-day operations and our executives are thankful and generous, but management is not. After no raises and no way to move up in the organization, they brought in another executive without posting the role for any of us who would like to apply.

The person I currently support is going on maternity leave for 12-16 weeks, and I am tasked with supporting our clients while she is gone. I am not getting an increase in my hourly rate, but the company has agreed to pay me a flat monthly fee for the time I am in this role. Once she comes back, I will revert to my regular rate, no monthly fee. I was told that if in the future “a role opens up, you will have a leg up because you’ve done it.”

Here’s the rub – I will have an opportunity in Q1 of 2016 to move into a role more in line with my experience, with more money and more responsibility, more recognition, less drama. What’s my obligation to stay in my current role to fill out the maternity leave? I have nothing in writing, just an expectation that I will handle the role for the expected maternity leave.

Your obligation to stay is zero. People leave jobs while covering for colleagues on leave all the time. Give appropriate notice, of course, and leave your work in good shape, but do what’s best for you.

For what it’s worth, it’s not really outrageous that your pay will revert back once your colleague returns; that’s pretty normal. And it’s not necessarily outrageous that they hired someone without giving internal candidates a chance to apply; if they knew that no current employees would be real contenders (and there are many situations where that’s legitimately the case), that’s reasonable for them to do, rather than going through the motions for the sake of appearances. I don’t know if that’s useful or annoying to hear, but it sounds like you might be so frustrated with the company that it’s coloring your interpretation of everything they do (which is all the more reason to leave if you get a good opportunity.

3. When should I disclose a wage garnishment?

I’ve been at my current job for a little less than six months now. My employer has been more than accommodating, and all things considered, he is generally a great boss. However, the work itself is not fulfilling and it has inspired me to look for a new career. I’ve heavily thrown myself into the job market, and have applied and interviewed for positions with companies that want to fill their respective positions by the beginning of the year, meaning that I may very well end up with a new job in a few weeks.

However, because of a silly mistake in my earlier years, I have a wage garnishment from my state for a speeding ticket that I completely forgot about. Is it better to disclose this fact now before they make me an offer, or would it be better to approach this topic once I get hired? Or, alternatively, would I just not discuss it at all? (If I were to get a new job, I’d simply pay off the rest of the garnishment with my increased salary.)

If you’re going to pay it off within a few weeks of starting the new job, you probably don’t have to disclose it at all because the new employer will probably never hear about it. If it might take longer that that, you’re legally required to report the change in job to either the court that issued the garnishment or the creditor (I’m not sure which; check your local laws), and around the time that you do that, you should alert whoever handles payroll at your new employer so they’re in the loop. However, you certainly don’t need to disclose it before you get an offer or before you start the job; treat this as a minor logistical thing, not something that could cause you to lose an offer.

Also, it might give you some peace of mind to know that federal law prohibits employers from firing someone for having one wage garnishment (although it doesn’t prohibit it for two or more garnishments).

4. When should I tell job candidates that I’m pregnant?

I am a fairly new manager, hiring my first direct report. After an initial phone screen and brief online exercise, I will bring the top candidates (1-3, depending on the outcome of the phone screen/exercise) to our office for a final round of interviews with me and several others. My question is around when or if I should tell the finalists that I’m expecting my first child this summer. The person should have at least 3 months overlap with me before I go out for at least 3 months. This will slightly change the nature of the position, as they’ll have to fill in for some tasks and/or work with others on tasks that I would normally handle and that would not normally be part of their responsibilities.

I want them to have all the information they need to make a good decision on taking the offer and ultimately be happy in the role, but I don’t want to divulge what might be seen as personal information too early. Should I tell the candidates when I invite them for the final round? During that day? Only when making an offer? Something else? For the record, my supervisor and colleagues do know about the pregnancy.

I wouldn’t worry about it being seen as divulging personal information; you’re giving them work-related information about the job expectations. I’d mention it some point during the interview process — not as a big deal, but just simple and matter-of fact. For example: “I’ll be out on maternity leave for three months over the summer, so I’d like this person to start by April in order to have three months overlap with me before that, since they’ll be covering some work that I normally handle.”

I wouldn’t wait until the offer stage or do it when issuing a final interview invitation because that makes it seem too much like “drawback that I must now disclose to you” rather than “pretty common thing that happens in the course of business.” Just do it in the normal course of talking about the job.

5. How to share a portfolio of work at the phone interview stage

I have built up quite a large portfolio of work with my most recent job. I have examples of everything from marketing materials to training manuals that I created. Most of the jobs that I apply for have the initial phone screening interview, which I sometimes bomb. Recently, I had a phone interview for a great position that would carry me much further up the ladder in my career. I was nervous, I fumbled with some of my answers, and I was recovering from the flu (which did not help). On a side note, I explained to the interviewer that I was sick and she was sympathetic, and we bonded a little over both having toddlers, but I digress. I feel like the portfolio is a good way to confirm the skills I speak of which I speak so highly. Only, during a phone interview there is no chance to flip through the binder.

Is it okay to mention that I have a portfolio and how would I go about doing that? Do I mention that I have one and would like to send a digital copy to them? Or is it best to wait until I have the face-to-face interview and bring it up then?

Put it online if possible (or in something like Dropbox), and then include a link to it on your resume.

If it’s too late for that, it’s fine to send a link to it when you’re confirming the phone interview. You’d just say something like, “In case it’s helpful, here’s a link to see a portfolio of my work.”

{ 73 comments… read them below }

  1. Cas*

    I work in government so the org is not allowed to pay for cards or presents. We have a good technique though that takes the pressure off for the most part.

    The person’s manager organises a card and envelope and prints out a phone list for the branch. Then they pass it on to the next person who has the options of writing in the card, putting money in the envelope, neither or both. They then cross their name off the list and pass it all on to someone whose name is uncrossed until it gets back to the manager, who can then organise a present with the collection.

    This way, no-one knows if or how much you contributed and you can still wish someone well without money pressure or skip the whole process for someone you don’t know well.

    1. CayceP*

      My office does this. You simply sign the card, throw some cash in the envelope (if you want), check your name off, and pass it on to the next person on the list. We tape a department list to a manila envelope and put the card inside for easy transport.
      Nobody would ever know if you didn’t put money in and simply signed. It’s nice.

      1. PC*

        I love this idea, thanks for the suggestion! It achieves both objectives of letting us send people off nicely, while moving it away from HR or making people feel pressured to contribute. Thanks Cas (and Alison!) for this feedback.

    2. A*

      Our admin assistant keeps the card/envelope, and you can stop by and sign it/donate. Or not. No one is keeping track, and if you don’t do it, people would probably assume you forgot rather than that you are cheap.

      I don’t love the idea of passing around the a list. You’re going to know if the first few people put in money or not, so it’s not really anonymous.

      1. Goldensummer*

        The manila envelope is how I handle things with my staff. To take the pressure off of the first few people I start the envelope with a couple of five dollar bills then start passing. I manage a retail outfit and I know some of my people are in better situations than others. If we’re passing an envelope it’s usually for flowers for a family death not a birthday card *4 times in 2 years* so I really don’t want the social obligation to pressure someone.

      2. TootsNYC*

        As for the anonymity: when I did this, I tended to first approach the people who I knew were shoo-ins. Because they’d asked me directly about it, or bcs they’d given before, or whatever. So there was money there before the “might say no” people got it. Then after that, nobody knew.

        But I didn’t pass around the money–it wasn’t fair to put that temptation in front of people, and it wasn’t fair if someone got accused of taking it.
        I held onto the money, and sent an email that said, “We’re buying X; come contribute if you want.” I had a rep for discretion, and even when it wasn’t me, nobody ever knew how much money someone had given. Sometimes people would ask me, “How much am I supposed to put in?” and I’d say, “whatever you want. Some people put in $5, and some people more. Nobody will ever know.”

        And the card was separate.

        I have to say I liked it. I liked the idea of contributing to a gift for a colleague, and if I didn’t care about the person enough to contribute, I never felt pressured.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Oh–I kept records of who gave what, in case anyone accused ME of mismanaging the money. But after a couple of weeks, I shredded it.

    3. Caroline*

      We do the exact same thing (in America, working for an international government). I came here to suggest this! It works well.

  2. Anon V Gov*

    Similar to Cas, when a new staffer starts where I work (also in gov), they are asked if they would a. like to have their birthday recognized, and b. if they would like to be on the list to sign cards. I said no to the first, and yes to the second. Each time a birthday comes up, a card comes around, I sign it, and pass it onto the next person. This is organized by some of the other staff, and I am not sure where the money for the card comes from actually…
    Something similar happens when someone leaves (or has a baby, or other things) again a card and envelope comes around, people put money in (as much or as little as they want), and sign the card. I have taken care when new staff are signing the card and I’m around, to say “it’s not compulsory, either to sign the card or to give money”.

  3. Wehaf*

    To OP #4 – I like Alison’s suggested wording very much, and it’s easy to drop the word “maternity” from it if you aren’t comfortable divulging your pregnancy. They need to know they’ll be covering some tasks for you, and for how long, but they don’t need to know why (although of course they will find out eventually).

  4. R. Dangerfield*

    #3: Firing someone for more than one garnishment seems a little harsh… throw in the practice of refusing to hire someone with a wrecked credit score, and suddenly you have a person who will have significant difficulty getting a job, regardless of their qualifications, simply because they are poor. Especially odd for a well-paying job, since a few years in a middle-class position paying usual middle-class wages does wonders for one’s credit score, and tends to clear up whatever debts created the garnishments. Is firing for garnishments another form of ensuring “cultural fit”?

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Speaking as someone who used to be horribly irresponsible with money, and had an abominable credit score for a very long time because of it, I can say that a bad credit score is not necessarily an indicator of being poor. I never had my wages garnished, but probably only because I was lucky.

      Plenty of people who have bad credit scores have them because they’re just careless, irresponsible, or don’t get what a big deal it is to screw up your credit. At the time, I was completely broke, but not truly “poor” in a socio-economic sense as I had my parents for any kind of “in case of emergency break glass” situation. Many people aren’t that fortunate.

      Garnishing wages is a pain for the employer. I’ve done payroll, and it really is a hassle It would be burdensome to keep track of multiple orders, especially in a small business where there may only be one payroll person. So on the surface it does seem harsh, but I understand the reasoning.

      1. Rita*

        Agreed. I may or may not be a shopaholic, if such a thing actually exists, and my credit score reflects that (though it has approved in the past couple of years as I’ve reduced my horrible spending habits). I’m paying for that in spades now, literally and figuratively, but I don’t think that should affect any job prospects ever.

        1. finman*

          It can really matter when it comes to finance and accounting jobs. Someone who can’t make correct fiscal decisions at home may make similar decisions at work. Put yourself in the seat of a business owner, would you trust the financial models and decisions of someone with a history of making decisions that led to late payments, repossession, foreclosure, etc?

          Also, someone with access to checking accounts has the added incentive toward fraud if they have large outstanding credit balances at home.

    2. MK*

      As far as I can tell, all Alison said was that firing for multiple garnishments was legal, not that it happens all the time.

      And as Ann said below, garnishments plus wrecked credit score means the person is in debt; they might be in debt because they had, say, a medical emergerncy or because they overloaded their credit cards buying luxury items, there is no way to know. For what it’s worth, all the people I know in a similar position aren’t and haven’t ever been “poor”; they are mostly educated middle-class people who are/were irresponsible with money. My friends who actually have been poor (or at least low-income), on the other hand, are usually very aware of the value of money and very carefull with avoiding debt.

      1. Financial Counselor*

        Higher income is directly related to higher credit scores. There are absolutely people who make good money who are terrible with it and have tons of cc debt/bad scores (as well as poor people who have good credit), but poor people are disproportionately likely to have bad scores. Look up “Credit Sesame Credit Scores by Income” and there’ll be an article with a chart showing average credit scores by income. Poor people get lower credit limits so they’re more likely to max their cards out, they’re more likely to rely on credit for essentials during hard times, and at least in my experience they seem less likely to have had financial education, whether in school or from their parents.

      2. Fluffernutter*

        Hmm. My experience has been the exact opposite, but maybe that’s because I grew up poor and have more acquaintances of that socio-economic class than I do middle-class.

        Most of the people I knew with garnishments were poor. Some emergency would happen, flat tire, car broke down, etc and they would put it on a credit card. Or they would get sick and find themselves in medical debt. Or maybe they took a stab at community college before dropping out and all those loans came due.

        It didn’t matter that they highly valued money, and lived frugally, there simply wasn’t enough to go around. When the bills came due most of the people I knew would simply avoid it. There is a lot of shame in being poor and not being able to pay your debts. At least that is the experience I had growing up.

        Also my experience has been that the poor are not good at budgeting simply because they never have enough money to need to budget. They have enough to cover most of their bills, or if they are lucky all of their monthly bills, and that’s it. They float and rotate the “past due” bills to try and keep everything 30 days or less behind due.

        This probably isn’t true for all the working poor, but when my family came into some money (think $30K settlement) they blew it in a month because they did not know how to budget, how to invest, or what to do with more money than you need to pay your bills. It’s one of the first things I had to learn when I got out of college. What do I do with all this extra money that I don’t need to survive on?

        1. Myrin*

          I think it depends. I, too, am from a poor family (my mum can’t work anymore and lives on welfare) and definitely learned budgeting and thelike because of that. Admittedly, I’m a naturally frugal person and also generally interested in money stuff, but I’m good with it the way I am because of my family’s poverty. (Nota bene: My country’s social security net is very good and well-developed so you shouldn’t technically get into a situation of not having enough to pay extra bills [unless they’re a large amount, obviously] – even on welfare, it’s completely possible to save money for a saftey cushion. And also, credit cards aren’t really a thing here. [I just read up on it and apparently about 30% of people here have one.] I don’t know if that’s in any way significant but I feel like it could be.)

          On the other hand, I know other poor people who are like you describe and basically have no idea how to deal with money, especially significant amounts, simply because they have no practice with it.

          And on yet another hand, my father is actually not poor at all and is absolutely terrible with money. In fact, he himself had to deal with a garnishment not too long ago so, I don’t know, I really feel like a lot of this comes down to personality types? Which is not to say people can’t learn but I’ve often found that if the basic understanding of money and finance is not there, you can train someone to a certain degree but there will be situations where stuff won’t work out because they don’t “see” what is going on with the money.

          1. Fluffernutter*

            That’s a very good point.

            The ones I know with garnishments are typically the “avoid it” personality type when it comes to problems – and I’ve seen that hit people’s wallets hard across the income spectrum.

        2. doreen*

          Hmm. My experience has been the exact opposite, but maybe that’s because I grew up poor and have more acquaintances of that socio-economic class than I do middle-class.

          That could be part of it, but I grew up poor (and have worked with predominantly low-income people for years). The only garnishments that the low-income people I knew had were for child support. I suspect it wasn’t that they were any better with money than the people you knew, but there are rules regarding garnishment that make a difference. For example, in NY the garnishment limit is the lesser of 10% of your gross or 25% of your disposable income (what’s left after legally mandated deductions such as taxes, SS and unemployment contributions). But if your weekly disposable income is less than 30X the NYS minimum wage, your paycheck cannot generally be garnished at all (although I suspect there are exceptions for taxes and child support). Someone who works less than 40 hours a week at minimum wage is unlikely to have a 30X minimum disposable income.

            1. doreen*

              It does. I’m just trying to say (apparently not clearly) that the rules (which differ by state) probably account for the differing experiences at least as much as the socio-economic class of your acquaintances.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          It didn’t matter that they highly valued money, and lived frugally, there simply wasn’t enough to go around.

          This is why I hate the bootstraps argument; you can’t manage money if there isn’t anything to manage.

      3. manybellsdown*

        My ex-husband has a wage garnishment for child support. It could be as simple as that. (He gets around it by taking jobs under the table, but that’s a different problem).

    3. Mookie*

      Anecdata aside, though, the distribution by economic class of wage garnishment in the US is disproportionate in that it is generally used by third-party consumer debt collectors attempting to collect interest against the principal of comparatively small debts (medical, student loans, and credit cards) from middle-aged people earning income far below the median. Regulation of wage garnishment in certain states can be exceptionally lax and tends to indiscriminately favor even the most ruthless of collectors. We know that redlining in the 20th century coupled with mortgage and lending discrimination based on race molded a generation of Americans characterized by disadvantage and inequality who were systematically kept poor and property-less and segregated into poor neighborhoods with poor prospects and few resources; that type of discrimination continues to exist in some industries unabated (car loans, for example) and access to banking and low-interest loans and refinancing is not equal. Without that access, people earning so little that more than half of their paychecks go to basic fixed costs are, when emergencies inevitably arise, forced to use credit cards in order to house themselves or enter into predatory payday loan agreements to fix a car, without which their access to competitive job markets (urban housing is expensive) and basic healthcare (women often have to travel out-of-state to receive medically necessary treatment, while the waiting periods for health checks and recommended screening are long if you’re on public assistance and/or medicaid) and healthy food (food deserts are rampant in urban America) is further limited. And, as we know, being poor is costly and buying the debt of poor people is big business when debt-collecting is so unregulated. It’s not a coincidence that poor people with few assets will be hit hardest here, because we’ve made seizing property more difficult and bureaucratic than seizing wages, and that’s a feature, not a bug, of a system that coddles the wealthy and landed when they go bankrupt while permitting modern-day debtors’s prisons and the unchecked pillaging of bank accounts.

        1. Mookie*

          My pleasure. The reality is that the most crippling kinds of debt in the US are small potatoes to middle-class people and not accrued through poor money management or spending sprees, but racialized social immobility and the unfortunate luck of being born poor in a country without much welfare.

    4. Financial Counselor*

      I think it’s because of the cost/annoyance of having to set up the various direct deposits.
      But I look at pay stubs as part of my job and see stubs with multiple garnishments/loans being paid back through the pay check, so I don’t think it happens often.

      1. eplawyer*

        That’s good to know. Because I encourage my clients to have child support handled through earnings withholding order (wage garnishment). That way the money comes out of the check before it even gets to the person responsible for paying. It is deposited with the child support agency, who then transfers it to the receiving person. A paper trail with no arguments about if it got paid or not. Because yes, I have had dads come to me and say “I paid. I give her cash every month, how can she say I didn’t pay?”

        But sometimes they might have a garnishment for other reasons. I would hate someone to lose their job because they were being responsible about paying child support.

        As for LW3, I know you plan on paying the garnishment off with the new job, but how about doing what you can now above what is being garnished to pay it off. The sooner you pay it off, the sooner you don’t have to worry about your new employer finding out about it.

        1. F.*

          When I paid child support, my state (PA) required a payroll garnishment for precisely the reasons outlined above. I didn’t mind, because then their father couldn’t say I hadn’t paid. What was a problem was that after the child support and health insurance I was required to carry on them, I was left with $600 per month on which to live.

          And for the record, it is not only fathers who pay child support. I am my children’s mother.

        2. Fluffernutter*

          The pro-active child support garnishment is an interesting issue. I’m surprised the agency does not allow for auto-payments to them instead of having to have it “garnished” which does unfortunately come with the stigma of “Could not pay bills on their own.” Or “deadbeat parent” – which is not fair.

          1. Ad Astra*

            I was thinking the same thing. An automatic transfer makes perfect sense, but I’ve only heard the term “wage garnishment” used to refer to deadbeat parents or people who don’t pay their taxes.

          2. manybellsdown*

            At least some agencies do allow both – I won a garnishment on my ex for child support, but he manages to avoid it by getting paid under the table. So every few months the DCSS (California) will track him down and threaten him with contempt charges and he’ll make a payment. He didn’t HAVE to have his wages garnished to pay them, but it does allow them to enforce it when he isn’t paying, albeit slowly.

    5. LQ*

      I think it will depend a lot on the employer. A large employer with a payroll division will likely be very used to dealing with it and won’t bat an eye. A small employer who may have to learn about these things as they do each piece is going to have a harder time with it.

      I also think it depends on industry. I used to work with small construction business owners and one of the professionals was someone who did payroll for small construction businesses. Her standard line was always assume your first employee will have a garnishment of some kind, if they don’t, great, it’s cheaper and easier, but it was so common in her experience that it was easier to assume garnishment than not.

    6. louise*

      This is one of those cases of “can fire” but does anyone? I don’t know. We’re a medium employer that runs payroll entirely in house for 110 people weekly (over 90% of employees are male, and over 40% have a child support order) and we would never think of letting someone go for multiple garnishments despite the fact that it’s an annoyance/administrative burden.

      1. RAD*

        This scared the crap out of me because I didn’t realize wage garnishment was a fireable offense. 10% of my wages are currently being garnished from an old apt i got evicted from when I got behind on rent payments. I just got a promotion to a billing coordinator position, but I also reconcile time of service payments, copays, and have safe and petty cash access. I would have been mortified if this came up in a conversation withmy boss. My employer has over 40,000 employees so maybe that makes a difference ……..

  5. INTP*

    #4: I like Alison’s wording, and as for timing, I think it would be nice and non-awkward to do that while discussing the work duties and timeline of responsibilities. “On a day-to-day basis, the position involves inspecting the teapots for chips or irregularities. However, you will also learn to do the Teapot Non-Compliance reports, as I will need this person to fill in on this duty for me when I go on leave in a few months.” (If the start date happens to come up earlier, that’s also a good time to do it – in my experience, that just tends to happen later in the conversation.)

    For an ambitious candidate this would actually be a positive point – you will have the opportunity to learn and practice higher level skills right away. I would just address it matter-of-factly and focused on the ways it will affect the candidate and the particular position, rather than framing it as some big thing that needs to be disclosed.

  6. Felix*

    Oh I have been wondering about portfolios lately! As some of you may remember from my previous comments, I’m fairly new in my career- 2 years out of uni.

    I’ve been wondering about how to build a portfolio, but can’t seem to find a good example of (except for marketing/art/visual heavy ones).

    I work in a “teapot coordinator” type role mainly dealing with a logistical arrangements, document creation and some collaborative marketing type materials. My manager recently told me I should save a big contract I negotiated for my portfolio, but I’m not sure what this would look like. Do i include a copy of the 10 page document? If so, would I include an intro explaining my role in the contract negotiations?

    Regarding Dropbox, would you just have files of items labelled appropriately? For instance “teapot contracts” file, “teapot promo materials” file….?

    So curious what everyone else does or if you have suggestions for someone starting out creating a portfolio!

    1. Fluffernutter*

      Yeah I’ve been hedging back and forth on whether to make a portfolio or not. I’m an analyst with a fair number of beautifully designed reports … but it doesn’t seem to be a commonly used item in my field so I am leaning towards no.

    2. Lindrine*

      I’m a designer so mine is visual, but here is what I recommend in your situation. Look at your portfolio as a series of supporting examples of how you are awesome at your job. Each piece/example should support the story. Can they help you answer the “tell me about a time when…?” questions? That is how I used my visual portfolio in interviews. I made a case study for each one. Also, any confidential/proprietary stuff I sanitized. Flip your perspective on this and see the items as proof that you know your stuff and it will be easier.

      As far as storage goes you could use Dropbox or Google Docs/Drive or Sharefile. You can restrict people to specific folders or make it so it only shares if you give out the link. Good luck!

      1. Felix*

        Thank you! This is such a good suggestion, Particulalry because I have such a wide variety of projects. Potentially this could help me have several different portfolios specific to different career roles (design/marketing vs coordination etc.) when I decide what I want to pursue as my next step in my career path is.

        How do you sanitize the private documents? Do you censor with black bars or retype those sections to replace “teapot inc.” with “company name”? If amounts of money were involved in a contract, for instance, would you censor that too?

    3. AnonToday*

      (Anon for this as I’ll be talking about my job).

      I’m also fairly new in my career – I’m event planner at a public institution. I’m on contract and my manager has encouraged me to develop a portfolio while I’m here. However, I honestly don’t know where to start. Our events aren’t fun/creative events so photos of them wouldn’t be that appealing (think panel discussions, networking mingles, conventions, high level coffee mingles, etc.). What kinds of documents would I include? Budgets and workflow plans maybe? Marketing materials?

      Any other event planners out there with suggestions for what to put in the portfolio and how to present it (web site vs drobox vs print?).

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’m not an event planner, but can you take the “make it support the story” / “evidence of how good you are” idea, and try to compile the evidence?

        So a summary of the event and what made it unique (size, location, distance, etc.).
        A list of the vendors you used, w/ a note about what it was like to work w/ them, why you chose them, what sorts of deals you were able to bargain for, whatever. Include anecdata, or interesting details. Biggest challenge/how overcome. Measures of success. Names of people you worked with on the project (not nec. at your company) who would be willing to be in your portfolio (possible references).

        Wrap it all up in a report format w/ logo, some pics (maybe marketing pics of people enjoying the event, or participating in whatever *activity* you managed to create for them, or whatever notable speaking, even if you didn’t really personally recruit them).

        Think of it as documentation and marketing. Or an industry-magazine (i.e., event-planning magazine, not teapot-manufacturing industry) article about your conference, or you as a professional. (read some of stories to see what sorts of stuff gets covered)

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      It’s a court order to take money directly out of someone’s wages for things like unpaid fine and child support. The employer collects the money and pays the court directly on behalf of employee.

    2. Chriama*

      If you owe money to someone and haven’t paid, they can get a court order against you and take a certain portion of your after-tax salary directly from you. This is true for things like child support, owing money to the government (taxes or fines like speeding tickets) and I think even if you’re sued in civil court and lose (so unpaid medical bills, utilities, rent, credit cards, etc).

        1. Myrin*

          I’m not in the US, either, but we do have the same thing here. (I just didn’t know the word “garnishment”, language-wise.) I’m not sure about specifics around taxes and whatnot, but the general process exists.

          1. hermit crab*

            “Garnishment” is an odd word too, since we mostly encounter the word “garnish” in a food context. (For example, Meg Ryan saying “That CAVIAR is a GARNISH!” and Tom Hanks scooping it all up out of spite.) In a wage garnishment setting, it always makes me think that someone is, like, adding parsley to a paycheck.

            1. Myrin*

              !!! That’s where I knew the word from! (I mean, as I said above, I didn’t know know it, but it was familiar.) I read several English-speaking cooking websites from time to time and they use the word that way. Man, I did not think of this until you pointed it out.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Okay, now I am picturing sauces/dressings/etc lathered across paychecks.

                I never thought garnishing was a helpful word to describe pay withheld for reason. I thought that garnishing a paycheck should mean MORE pay has been added. Silly me.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          It’s kind of a strange term. It sounds like they are going to put a little sprig of parsley on your pay stub or something.

  7. Chriama*

    #3 – I’m pretty sure the only person you need to discuss this with is HR, and you can so it after you accept an offer. I don’t see why your boss would need to know since this is a logistical issue more than anything related to how you can do your job, and I think disclosing unnecessarily might cause people to make judgements about your morality that would not be favourable for you.

    1. MoinMoin*

      Yeah, agreed, though I was thinking it would be something to take straight to Payroll like setting up direct deposit. I guess it depends on how the office breaks up duties.

  8. Rubyrose*

    #5 – love the idea of a website and link. Previously I was in a position where I would hire web developers, both experienced and entry level. When I had a link I would go to it very early on, before a phone screen, to see if I wanted to speak with them.

  9. A*

    #3: Is the job unfulfilling…or low paid? OP refers to paying off the ticket with a new job/increased salary, but gives no indication of why she would expect higher wages. I might be reading too much into a brief letter, but reading it as a hiring manager, I see some red flags. Leaving a pretty good but not “fulfilling” job after only 6 mo. + forgetting about a speeding ticket to the point you have a wage garnishment doesn’t point to the ability to commit or personal responsibility that I would want on my team.

    I might suggest sticking with the job another 6 mo., and getting a 2nd job to clean up the ticket, then looking for a new job.

    1. Fluffernutter*

      Your comment just goes to show why the employee should not disclose the the garnishment because it can be used to draw conclusions based off really limited information that reflects poorly on them.

  10. Sunny with a Chance of Showers*

    #5 — Behance is an online portfolio site that is simple to use. I suggest highlighting, say, 6 of your top pieces — let it serve as an introduction to your work. You can post a pdf mini portfolio on your LinkedIn page as well.

    As a marketing writer, I have a nice leather 3-ring binder and I place printed samples in those clear page sleeves that have a 3-ring edge on them. For an in-person portfolio, I suggest limiting your presentation book to 20 pieces at the most — your very best work, the more recent, the better. Be prepared to state the challenge of each project and how your piece addressed/solved it.

  11. doreen*

    Is there anywhere that “the company” want to give cards or cake or a gift to employees and doesn’t pay for it? In my experience, when there are collections for cards or cakes or showers etc, it’s because other employees want to do it, not the company. ” The company” generally couldn’t care less. On the few occasions I’ve seen where the company gives a gift , coworkers still had a collection for a card or a gift.

    1. Chriama*

      My company pays for birthday cakes and cards for new babies (and flowers if someone is really sick), but money for a gift is collected.

  12. Sualah*

    #3 – There’s no need to disclose it to anyone but payroll. Just tell them about it when you’re filling out new hire paperwork like direct deposit, or just tell the department collecting the garnishment about your new job and let them send the request to the payroll department. But there’s no need to talk to your interviewers about it.

  13. Artemesia*

    Re leaving while covering maternity leave. ALWAYS make job decisions that are in YOUR INTEREST; never make personal sacrifices especially for a job that is not rewarding you well. The company will let you go in a moment if it is in their interest to do so. I know someone who just got laid off two weeks after a promotion with no warning because the company is experiencing a business downturn. What if he had refused a good job offer because of his loyalty to this company? There may be an occasional exception e.g. a business owner who has gone over and beyond the call of duty to benefit you e.g. my father in the late 1940 was carried by his company for 3 mos with full pay when he had an allergic reaction to pennicillin that put him in the hospital for 6 weeks and kept him out of work for 3 mos. He was super loyalty to that company as a result. If an owner did something like that for you then doing your best to never leave them in the lurch is a reasonable thing to do. But you are describing a job that provides little in the way of advancement for you — you need to move when it is in your interest to do so. And frankly, a month after you leave they will have coped just fine.

  14. Not So NewReader*

    I knew of a situation where one person was having their pay garnished. Another person said, “Why doesn’t he just pay it off and be done with it?” My thought at that time was maybe the person feels the assessment is unfair and this is the only means left to them to show some sort of protest. Basically I felt that it was none of my darn business. If the person wanted help, they would ask.

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