networking contacts keep sending me bad job leads, surgery right after starting a new job, and more

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

1. Networking contacts keep sending me job leads that are too senior for me

I’ve been looking for an intern / entry-level engineering position for a long time and I’ve spoken with a lot of people about my job search (former classmates, professional engineers, hiring managers, neighbors who work with engineers, etc.). I noticed a recurring pattern that happens a lot and I was wondering if you had some insight on it.

Sometimes I get referrals to job openings or direct input to HR about certain positions. The problem, though, is that those positions are never entry-level. Example: I ran into an engineering director at a conference and he knew that a client he was working with wanted four junior level engineers. He asked for my resume, but told me honestly that they’re looking for people with 2+ years experience and it was very unlikely I’d get a call back. Occasionally, a neighborhood engineer (or friend of the family that works with engineers) offers to see my resume (some straight up, some after an informational interview) and show it to someone in hiring, but then later hear back from the person that “they’re not looking for entry-level candidates and are looking for people with more experience.”

Do you have any advice regarding this conundrum? There isn’t a lot of information about this “networking entry level” problem out there, and I’m wondering if you have any strategies for networking with respect to this issue?

It’s not really an entry-level networking problem; it just comes with asking other people for help. It’s pretty common for people who are trying to help you in your job search to send you leads about jobs that just aren’t quite right for you (and sometimes are incredibly wrong); it happens because no one really knows your professional history or positioning like you do.

When someone sends you something that’s not the right level, it’s fine to just thank them and politely explain that it’s more senior than what you’re currently qualified for, but that you really appreciate them keeping an eye out for you. And know that this is going to happen at all levels of your career, and don’t be thrown off when it does.

2. Surgery right after starting a new job

At my previous job, I had everything thing aligned for a surgery I am planning on having. It takes 6 months to complete all of the requirements for surgery, due to various pre-doctor visits, tests, etc. and recovery time is about 2 weeks. Once I complete all the requirements, I can then schedule surgery. Although this is an elective surgery it is medically necessary for me in the long run. After much deliberation, I decided to leave that job for several reasons, despite the fact it was approved by insurance and management.

I recently started a new position at a great nonprofit. During my second round interview with my now boss’s boss, I was asked if I had any plans for time off and I mentioned that I was planning on having surgery in the new uear (depending on benefits) and he didn’t seem to have an issue with this. Nothing else was mentioned as part of the interview process. I accepted the new job about a month ago. The new job is now cyclical, and much of our work won’t ramp up until March. I recently talked to my boss about completing the remaining steps I have to get surgery scheduled, and she didn’t have a problem with me talking the time off for surgery. In fact, she told me that I shouldn’t put my life on hold because of the job.

I was then talking to my mom (who religiously reads your blog) about everything and she was concerned about me taking time off after just starting a new position. I’m now afraid that even though my boss said it would be fine, there could be negativity surrounding the situation in the long run. I don’t want to be negatively dinged in the future for deciding to follow through with my plans. Are my mom’s concerns justified? Should I follow through with surgery?

Follow through with the surgery! For one thing, this is for medical reasons, and for another thing, you already discussed it during the hiring process. Your mom is right that it’s not great to ask for two weeks off right after starting a new job if it’s for vacation, but medical stuff is different. Believe your boss when she says it’s okay!

3. Would following up with this interviewer be overkill?

I had an interview that went well. A week later, the manager left me a voicemail while I was on vacation for the New Year and my phone was down. Because I didn’t want to keep him waiting, I called back as soon as I received the message (the very evening), even though I had just come back from my trip, was really tired and hadn’t thought about what I was going to say.

He asked me if I was still so motivated as I had seemed to be during the interview and explained that he was still set on my application but was facing huge administrative hurdles, so the process would take some time. I thanked him and assured him I was still enthusiastic about the job. I can’t remember how I sounded over the phone or the exact words I used.

I was wondering if it’d be worth sending him a quick note to reiterate my interest or if it’d smack of “overeager.”

Note that in the meantime I sent him a postcard for the new year, but that was not strictly related to the interview.

I was about to say “yes, that would be smart to do” until I got to your last line. If you sent him a postcard for new year’s that wasn’t an interview follow-up, I’m hesitant to tell you to send something else now. In general, I wouldn’t recommend sending interviewers general greetings or postcards. Sending something like a news article that you think they’d be interested in is fine, but a new year’s postcard is a bit outside interviewing norms.

So now I’m torn, and I think I’m coming down on the side of just checking in with him in a few weeks. Keep it job-focused this time!

4. I can’t remember my former managers’ names

I’m almost finished with an application for what appears to be my dream job. But I’ve run into an odd snag. The work history section requires detailed info on the past 10 years (e.g., pay rate, weekly hours, supervisors), but I can’t remember the last names of two of my former supervisors! To make matters worse, those jobs were three years ago, through a temp agency, and lasted 1) six weeks and 2) three months. Even if I knew the supervisors’ last names, they might not remember me if they’re called. I’ve searched the companies’ websites, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google, all to no avail. My next step is to call the companies (or the temp agency) and say something like, “I used to work there and I’m applying for a job that requires [supervisor’s first name]’s last name on the application,” but to me that seems so intrusive. I would be mortified if I didn’t get an interview simply because I said my supervisors were “Satchel” and “Bucky” instead of “Satchel Pooch” and “Bucky Katt.”

I’d just write “uncertain” or “info no longer accessible.” It’s not ideal, but sometimes this happens — you’re certainly not the only one to run into this — and reasonable employers will understand, as long as you give them some way to verify the employment (which in this case would be the temp agency contact info) and have other references. (And actually, because these jobs were through a temp agency, it’s probably better to just put down the name of your contact at the agency — since the company where you were placed probably has no record of you, which is normal with temp work.)

5. How should my resume show that a job was to cover for a short-term vacancy?

I would like to list a short-term position on my resume. I was promoted from an internship to provide temporary cover for an NGO’s public affairs officer when she was suddenly fired. I took on most of her duties during the six months that it took to find a replacement. Although I am sure that I did not perform at the same level (my official title was public affairs assistant), this job was a huge step up in responsibility for me and I achieved a lot in those six months.

How can I concisely convey that I left this job because they found a replacement with the required level of expertise, not because I was job-hopping?

List it like this:
Public Affairs Assistant (interim)
* short-term position to cover while organization searched for a Public Affairs Officer
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

That’ll make it clear right up-front that it was always intended to be temporary. Job-hopping really only applies when you’re quickly leaving jobs that were never intended to be short-term, but this one was — so as long as you explain it like this, it shouldn’t be a concern!

{ 57 comments… read them below }

  1. ginger ale for all*

    LW 2 Hurray! Finally a letter with a parent who isn’t telling someone out of date, back in my day advice. This makes me smile.

  2. HardwoodFloors*

    LW2’s question is a concern I have. So to the commenters I ask: I worked almost two years in my most recent position. That job ended in a layoff and it was a placement by temp agency for an employer who closed the entire site. I have been writing on my job applications the name of my on-site supervisor (not temp agency) because they would know my technical skills and if asked I have their personal contact information. But if the company whose products I worked on (now in another state) was contacted they would have no record of my working there. So how do I write my resume and how do I answer ‘supervisor’ on ATS applications?

    1. Artemesia*

      You would indicate it was a temp placement through X agency and on site supervisor was Fred Wimbly. You certainly don’t want to indicate you worked for the company and have them be told you never worked there.

  3. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

    LW2’s medical scenario rings very familiar to me. If it’s the same or a similar procedure to what I had almost three years ago, I hope LW2’s experience is similar to mine: surgery went well, recovery was pretty much a breeze, and I started feeling better and more “me” almost immediately. In any case, best wishes for a safe surgery and uneventful recovery!

  4. MK*

    OP1, sorry if I sound harsh, but networking contacts are not your personal employment agency or even a recruiter trying to fill the position. They are doing you a favor by bringing job leads to your attention, but it’s not their job to match you with a great fit; that would require them to extend way too much effort examining each lead than you can reasonably ask in this relationship. And you really don’t want them to vet each lead so strictly that they end up not telling you about many jobs that you might be eligible for.

    If they are repeatedly giving you leads that your aren’t interested in or qualified for, it’s fine to casually mention “I am not looking for X” and “I am not qualified to apply for jobs that want Y degree or Z years of experience”, but don’t let even a whif of “why on earth do your keep refering me to unsuitable job leads” color your tone. But exasperation towards people who are doing you favors is a great way to get them to stop bothering with you at all. (I am not saying you are doing this, or even that your letter sounds like this, I just mention it as a precaution).

    1. Ultraviolet*

      That does sound harsh to me. OP1’s letter didn’t sound frustrated or ungrateful in any way whatsoever. I would guess they actually worded the letter very carefully in order to avoid that impression. Maybe your warning will be useful for other readers in similar circumstances though.

      1. MK*

        I didn’t mean to sound harsh, but frankly, even the question “why are my contacts sending me jobs I am not suited for?” seems self-explanatory to me. They are doing it because they aren’t spending time and brain-power considering whether the OP is the right fit, they are just passing along any leads that seem relevant at first glance.Which is all one can reasonably expect them to, in my opinion.

        1. Chris [OP#1]*

          That’s fair MK.

          The biggest issue is that I’m trying to come up with a good strategy to circumvent this problem as it happens incredibly frequently. From the people I’ve spoken with, it seems that there’s many more doors open for people with experience, and unfortunately, I’m at a point in my life where I just don’t have any. I just noticed this trend really recently and I’m trying to work around this problem.

          1. Rana*

            I ran into this a lot as a career-changer and my suspicion is that it comes from your peers making the reasonable – but incorrect – assumption that you want work that’s at a similar level as their own. As your friends and colleagues, they’re probably used to thinking of you as an equal with commensurate experience, rather than someone junior to them. So jobs that are a good fit for your experience levels (from your perspective) may seem a poor match to them (from their perspective as your personal – but not professional – peers). I don’t think there’s any good way to correct this unconscious impression, either, at least not for casual references and contacts.

        2. Ultraviolet*

          I agree that “Why is this happening?” is easily answered. But the question was really “What should I do about it?” and I think getting advice on that part is very reasonable. Even if you suspect the answer is going to be “pretty much nothing,” it’s well worth checking whether an expert has some advice you’d never have thought of. And asking how to handle it definitely doesn’t imply that OP thinks their contacts are doing something wrong.

          Good luck, OP!

          1. Miss M*

            You have to remember that people will help in ways they think will benefit you – even if it might not be a fitted match or they don’t get what you’re looking for. I’ve had friends suggest jobs for me that I had to explain did not fit my background, and one person took it the wrong way. Maybe clearly state more of your background and what you’re looking for. But don’t be afraid to state your case about what your level of expertise is. Some people just take it the wrong way when others turn down their suggestions – even if their advice won’t help.

  5. NJ Anon*

    #2 It sounds like you are good to go! For your own piece of mind you could get the approval in writng. Maybe a quick email.

    1. CPA Chick*

      Yes it does sound like I’m good to go! Once I’m able to schedule surgery and have an official date, I will get everything confirmed via email. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Coffeepots by Hazel*

    #1, ITA with Allison, and can assure you that this will also happen in the other direction as you progress in your career!

    After a few years of un- and short-term underemployment that began with the Great Recession, I took a job as a teapot production management consultant. Same industry as before, but instead of working directly for one teapot company, I’d go from company to company to do anything from covering short-term staffing vacancies to evaluating the spout design process to writing procedure manuals. This means I’m away from home a LOT. For a while, I continued to look for teapot production manager/director jobs at individual production companies (which was understood and even encouraged by the consulting company I worked for at the time), and I had lots of folks in my network who were kind enough to pass any teapot-related lead they came across on to me. Interestingly, the ones from people I knew professionally were usually fairly close to the mark. It was the ones from well-meaning friends and neighbors that tended to be for teapot lid assembly specialists requiring 1-2 years of chocolate teapot experience, or for food science generalist positions that were peripherally related to my grad degree but had nothing to do with the teapot industry I’d worked in for almost 20 years. Typically, I thanked them for thinking of me and that was that, though I may have admitted that a given position was a bit more junior than what I was looking for if pressed.

    I had a different, more detailed response to those people who suggested I should be grateful for any job, even if it was at a far lower level of challenge and responsibility than I was looking for, if it allowed me to stop this road warrior nonsense and go home to my husband & daughter every night like a good wife and mother, but that’s another post!

    1. Snowglobe*

      I had similar experiences, but I’ll mention the industry. I’m in banking, in a fairly high-level risk management position. I can’t tell you how many people over the years (including my own sister) have told me about openings for tellers or new accounts representatives. Those are the only banking jobs they know.

  7. Rubyrose*

    #4 – I feel your pain. I wish I had, along the way, kept a written record of managers (both name and contact information), job start and end dates, company contact information, start and end pay rates, and information on how to verify employment (some companies have a special email or hot line). Full names of some immediate coworkers would also be good. You think you will remember, but you won’t. Everyone out there, start this list now.

    I was recently consolidating IRAs into one and was with my banker on the phone with the financial company to start the process of getting the funds transferred. To verify it was me, they asked me for either my start month/year or end month/year. This was for a job I had 20 years ago. I did not have my resume with me. Fortunately I could easily place the start year and by thinking a bit I could narrow down the month to either January or February. I was correct, and they accepted the answer. Wish I had that list.

    1. Artemesia*

      I recently got a visa to visit Russia and in addition to a list of every time I have been out of the country for the last 10 years and where and when (like I remember LOL luckily I had my old passport and could piece it together) they also wanted my last 3 jobs and supervisors — my last job lasted for 35 years — I had a tough time remembering the supervisors of jobs before that.

    2. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Yes! I’ve got a list like that and it’s an enormous help. Then make a second list of all your job responsibilities and accomplishments. It makes great resume fodder. I also kept every project status report. Bytes are cheap and I’ve referred to them many times.

  8. AdAgencyChick*

    #2, I thought you were me for your first paragraph! Very close, anyway. I didn’t tell my boss that I was going to have surgery before I started, but she did know about the medical problem (it was visible during the interview process). I had thought I was going to have the surgery during my week of down time between jobs (since my recovery time was only supposed to be a couple of days), but that didn’t happen due to my doctors’ schedules. So, only a couple of days after I started, I told her that I needed to schedule the surgery, and asked her whether there were dates I should avoid, but made it (politely) clear that not getting the surgery in the very near future was not on the table.

    My boss was totally cool about it, I was out of work for 2 days and able to do my job not-so-effectively the rest of that week, and nobody batted an eyelash, because…whoa, I work with human beings! (At my last job, my boss had given me the stink eye for pushing back on canceling physical therapy appointments to go to meetings. This is one of many reasons I wanted to drop-kick her off a cliff.)

    I would take your boss’s words at face value. She actually said not to put your life on hold for a job? That’s a keeper.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      “My boss was totally cool about it, I was out of work for 2 days and able to do my job not-so-effectively the rest of that week, and nobody batted an eyelash, because…whoa, I work with human beings!”

      So much this! Is it going to be awkward and a bit of a pain for them? Yes, probably. But anybody halfway to having a heart is going to be completely ok with you prioritising your health, and most people are going to be as (/more) concerned about your surgery going ok and you recovering well as they are about the impact on your work.

    2. CPA Chick*

      I’m glad everything worked out for you with your surgery! We did briefly talk about me working from home if I felt up to it. Much of the work at that point in the cycle won’t require face time in the office.

      She did actually say not to put my life on hold. I was super surprised to hear that, my last manager was not so understanding (part of the reason I decided to leave). I believe she’s a keeper and I’m going to be very happy in this new position!

      1. Brownie Queen*

        As your upcoming surgery sounds familiar to me too, being able to work from home is an awesome offer from your boss. You may want to take her up on it, at least for a week or so. I really love that she said not to put your life on hold. :)

    3. newreader*

      AdAgencyChick – a key element here is that you approached your boss with concern for the impact to the workplace. You made clear that the surgery was going to happen in the near future, but balanced that against the needs of the employer by being willing to work around busy times.

      I like to think I’m human (though some might disagree), but I am extremely irritated by coworkers how continually disregard the impact of their absences on those around them. Yes, there are times when circumstances beyond your control require time off. But when you have some control, I think it’s always best to show some consideration and minimize impact wherever possible.

      LW2 – I think it’s wonderful that you were open and forthright by addressing this from the beginning during the hiring process. As a manager, I have never had a problem with giving new employees time off for vacations that were already planned or medical procedures that were already being planned, particularly when the employee was clear about it from the start. Life can’t stop just because a person changes jobs. I agree with everyone else that says to believe your manager and take the time you need to take care of yourself.

      1. Mimmy*

        “but I am extremely irritated by coworkers how continually disregard the impact of their absences on those around them. Yes, there are times when circumstances beyond your control require time off. But when you have some control, I think it’s always best to show some consideration and minimize impact wherever possible.”

        THANK YOU!! At a previous job, a coworker had to intermittently take time off due to a family medical situation, which had an impact on my workload, and nobody was up front about it, even when I asked my manager. I ended up figuring it out myself. So at first, it just seemed to me like this girl was constantly absent for no good reason. Yes I was wrong for trying to get info from my manager and I don’t need specific details, but I would’ve appreciated a heads up that this person had a personal situation that will likely result in more absences than normal and plan accordingly.

        1. the sugar plum fairy*

          I’d like to think that I’m human too and considerate of others wants/desires/needs. I’m in similar situation now where a co-worker wants to take six weeks off to foster a baby. (Note: They are not willing to use their vacation time to do this – they want the company to pay for most if not all of their leave.) Our team is very lean currently (going through a merger and not back-filling open positions), so it’s not an ideal time to be without this person for that long.

          Don’t get me wrong – I want people to go after what they want in life, but if you have a job that will depend on the workloads of others, you and your manager should try to work out a reasonable game plan for your absence.

          1. Doodle*

            I’m not sure this one is so clear. If your company would give 6 weeks off (without using vacation) for someone who had a baby, this seems to be analogous. Yes, it might be an annoying time for the company, but people generally don’t get to pick the time to foster — they get a kid when they are needed. It has a simlar level of planning ability as pregnancy, illness, car accidents, etc.

            You can absolutely talk to the *company* about how best to deal with the absence, but it seems shortsighted to blame the coworker doing the fostering.

            1. Ruthie*

              Thanks for saying this, Doodle. It’s vital that companies with parental leave policies offer the same benefits to workers who are adopting or fostering. Fostering is not easy but so very important, so good for the coworker for taking in a child in need.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        “You made clear that the surgery was going to happen in the near future, but balanced that against the needs of the employer by being willing to work around busy times.”

        To a point, only. I was literally asking her if there were important dates to avoid, and by dates I meant individual days. Let’s say this were happening now — if my boss were to say, “We’re going to be busy through at least the middle of February, so wait until then,” I wouldn’t be okay with that. But what she said was more like, “The clients are coming in two weeks from today, so as long as you can be in the office that day, we’re good.”

        Like OP, mine was an elective surgery, not even close to an urgent procedure — but I had already been dealing with the problem for six months at that point (much of that time with a crappy boss who didn’t think treating the problem should be as important to me as minor client requests) and I just didn’t want to put it off any longer. So I’m glad I have a good boss now, and that OP does too.

  9. Brett*

    OP4 is there a background check for this job? The level of info sounds like it is more for the background check than just for work history. If that is the case, the background investigator can find that information too. All that matters really is that you do not lie.

    1. Chanel No. 4*

      It’s a federal government position (office work, not politics), so the probability of a background check is very high. Thanks for the suggestion!

  10. EngiNerd*

    OP1 – While the jobs they send you may not be a fit keep an eye on the companies. Internships and Entry-Level jobs tend to be cyclical with the college graduation schedules. If they’re looking for more senior people chances are they’ll be looking for entry level as the spring semester ramps up. Your best source will most likely be your own campus engineering department. Many professors have industry connections and their recommendations can go a long way. Depending on your school most engineering departments have a separate career services from the rest of the university majors that you may want to look into as well.

  11. TowerofJoy*

    #4 Like others, I’m with you. I have no idea what some of the last names of my supervisors were. In fact, there were a few where on the job I didn’t know what they were either because I saw them very infrequently or they had foreign names they didn’t prefer to use.. I just put first names if I didn’t know. If they ask, I can explain.

  12. Miles*

    OP1 that’s just the nature of engineering right now. There’s a huge demand for experienced engineers but it’s largely due to the fact that most companies won’t hire anyone with no experience to start their careers and get that experience they want so badly. that said, if the amount of experience they’re looking for is low, it can still be worth applying just in case they get sick of waiting to fill the position, especially if you’re an otherwise very strong candidate for the position.

    1. Foxtrot*

      Engineering is really broad, so it depends on what the LW’s specialty is. Mechanical is doing really well, but all of my classmates are getting their jobs through the school career fairs. I don’t think the online job boards do much for entry level candidates.
      OP #1, I don’t have much advice on the networking aspect, but does your school have a spring career fair you can try? My school still lets alumni attend.

      1. March*

        It does depend on location, too – in my province, mechanical and process engineering jobs are almost non-existent, whereas there are plenty of jobs in civil engineering. You have to love the oil price crash in a place heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry.

        OP#1, I’m more than empathetic, as I’m trying to find an entry-level engineering job myself. I don’t have much networking advice, but Foxtrot’s suggestion of career fairs is an excellent idea!

        1. Foxtrot*

          Oh yeah, I forgot about location too! I’m in the US but I’m pretty much open to any state but Alaska after I graduate. The willingness to relocate helps a lot I guess.

          1. Chris [OP#1]*

            Regarding career fairs, my school has engineering career fairs about 3 times a year and there are a few “grown up” fairs that crop up in the area as well. I have had a much higher fair – interview rate from these grown up fairs rather than school ones, which is probably because the vibe is very different at these fair types (college fairs are extremely energetic and positive. Grown up fairs are the gloomiest places on Earth) and it’s easier to stand out at these types of fairs (I’m one of 500 people with similar credentials at a college fair, and it’s hard to stand out through personality alone. Grown up fairs I’m probably the only guy with 0 years exp., but, it’s much easier to be likeable when you’re the one of the few that dresses nice and the people around you exude an unfriendly air).

            I agree about online job hunting as it’s just very… soul sucking. Ironically, I’ve had much more success getting interviews through making a stock resume on Indeed, hitting “apply from my phone jobs,” then sending my resume to every entry level position that I’m at least a 75% fit toward vs tailoring resumes and customizing cover letters to targeted companies. Doing the latter multiple hours every day is incredibly depressing.

  13. Take Me 2 Atlanta*

    For LW#5, couldn’t she also list her internship in that space on her resume to indicate that she was promoted to cover for someone? I think that would speak well to her work and possibly help her out in the future (Similar to Alison’s advice a few days ago). Also could diminish those “job hopping” labels since her internship would expand the time she worked at that place.

  14. OlympiasEpiriot*

    OP#1–Engineer: You mention”professional engineers” and I’m gonna take a guess that you mean PEs, as in licensed engineers, even though you didn’t capitalise the words. Thus makes me think you are probably in Civil somehow, possibly Mech if you’re meeting HVAC & Mechanicals Designers who have to sign off on permit applications, etc.

    Most companies with Civils are looking for licensed engineers or people close to that point right now if they are hiring. However, there are always intern opportunities… Are you still in university or are you geographically close to you U? Undergraduate or Masters candidate? If so, do the college hiring fair thing and use the college employment office. Also, be involved in your local chapter of whatever org(s) fit(s) w/ your specialty. It sounds like you are out of classes, but talk to the people at your local chapter and they might waive a lot of entry fees or they might have free events. I was on the board of a student chapter of ASCE and I can tell you that between random things sent by mail and just canvasing the professors incessantly, I had loads of info to pass on to my department mates. I have also called organisers of event for my metro area chapter and asked to bring people who were either not engineers but interested in the topics or people between relocations & jobs who just didn’t have funds…I haven’t been refused yet. (Of course, these weren’t expensive events with full dinner included, but, still.) If you were at a research u, contact the professors with the labs during their office hours and ask if they’ve any connection with firms or govt offices with internship programs. Most have connections outside the u. Even if they don’t know you personally, many would be happy to help, even with just a small lead to another org.

    Check out govt Eng websites for internships. Those are usually paid…actually, ime most engineering internships are paid, but I’ve heard it isn’t universal.

    Depending on where you are physically, this can be hard. Being close to a metro area would probably make things easier. But, OTOH, I recall browsing the DOT site for the state of Vermont and seeing internships…not much ‘metro’ there.


  15. Hmm I have heard*

    OP#1–Several years ago a friend of mine experienced this dilemma. Inundated with every posting that included one key word of her area.
    What she did in the end was create a clear, bullet point list (not too long!) and emailed to people she knew that said exactly what she was looking for in work. I can’t recall the wording of it all now but she also included a clear and polite note about what not to send her. It worked like a charm. Everyone appreciated it because they knew what to forward or not forward and she could focus on great leads.

    At networking events she just focussed on getting to know a few people each time and followed up with coffee invites later. She didn’t even bring up her job search until she had taken some time to get to know people and they got to know her. When it did come up if someone said they were happy to help if they could she offered them the same neat little information she had sent to people she knew previously. One of the things about networking events is that people either don’t know or forget that it is intended to get to know someone. Expecting immediate job leads or business referrals isn’t the best way to benefit from the meetings. They are supposed to be a way to get introduced to people that you can follow up with later over coffee (or whatever) but unfortunately this seems to get missed by a lot of people in those events and use them more like “speed dating without the dating” activities. But more importantly you get far better results when someone has a chance to know you than the rushed, crowded atmosphere at these events allows for.

    1. Jennifer*

      I gave up on networking “help” from others because it was along the lines of “Oh, you could totally work in a library! I can give you tips!” Which would be great if (a) I had any library credentials and I have zero even if I could do the job–they won’t let me try it, I assure you, and (b) there’s hundreds of people with library experience applying. Actually, the library thing was as close to reasonable help as I’ve gotten, usually suggestions are even worse and off target. If you know people who work in what you work in, that might be useful, but otherwise….

  16. BobtheBreaker*

    OP#1 I am going to “dog pile” on the advice to that was provided by AAM, in paragraph 2. Because these are “random” folks with no inherent stake in placing you (aka not a recruiter), I would recommend rewarding the behavior of throwing you leads; even if they aren’t good fits (Warning: You have to draw a rational line here. Near misses are OK, complete misses are not).

    A cheap psychology hack is born in this; by Up Playing the value of them helping you, you are creating a measure of Buy In from them. “Hey Fergus, that position you forwarded at Teapots Inc. was exactly what I was looking for! I just didn’t have the experience in spout design they were looking for. Thanks for sending it my way, that really made my day.”

    Additionally, you can use these “near misses” to look for critical knowledge/skill gaps an employer might have. For example what looks like “Engineer 3-5 years experience, preferred spout design and Earl Grey steeping Applications” is really just HR speak for “We need a Fluid Mechanics Person”. And that might be a particular enough skill set that you can Boot Camp and Portfolio your way into a position of competency in a few months.

    1. Chris [OP#1]*

      Thanks BobtheBreaker. I’ll look into the idea of creating “Buy In” measures and see how it affects the relationships of those around me.

      Actually, fluid mechanics is what I had tried to specialize in in college, and after college, took some AIAA coursework on CFD and turbulence modeling to betters visualize fluid flow behavior (and additionally created a wind tunnel sim as a side project). The biggest problem has just been getting through.

  17. Ultraviolet*

    OP #1 (entry level networking) – The OP says they’re looking for an entry level job or internship. I wonder whether the potential employers who are getting OP’s resume through the network are also hearing that OP would be interested in an internship as well as a job? Is there any way to indicate that on the resume itself without the dreaded Objective? Should OP write a brief cover letter to get passed on with the resume in these circumstances?

    1. Chris [OP#1]*

      As the OP, I’ve been wondering how this works too. Currently, I tell people that I’m interested in either (although 90 – 95% of companies I apply to have that dreaded “need to be in school to be considered for an internship” criterion) and have the line in my summary of qualifications and usually the body of the email (which sometimes directly gets passed along to people up the chain).

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I forgot it was so common to reserve internships for students. Can you ask some engineers you know whether there’s ever any way to get around that? I would guess that smaller companies would be more willing to make exceptions, but that is a guess and not something I know from experience.

        Can you do some independent projects, maybe related to the turbulence modeling you mention elsewhere, and put the results on a website that would be linked from your resume? I have heard from people in tech (who are in hiring positions) that this can bolster your application.

        1. Chris [OP#1]*

          Regarding the independent projects, I’ve worked on a myriad of things since graduation (that I put on LinkedIn) and focus my resume on them. Examples:

          – built a complimentary color identifier app that takes a cropped section of an image, finds the average RGB of each pixel, and then displays the comp color. Comes with options to take an image with the camera or directly from the phone image gallery. It was meant to be used for finding matching suit / tie pairs (comp colors work best apparently in 2 color dressing), but, at my current workplace where I dispose hazardous / non-hazardous waste, I found out that it can be used to find out if a wrong color was applied (i.e. Safety Yellow vs Hi Vis Yellow) and once used it to confirm an error.

          – built a 2DoF optimized solar rotator controller. Started as experiment where I found out how voltage readings on solar panels would change based on orientation with respect to the sun. Later on, I gathered summer & winter solstice data and did some curve fitting in MATLAB to determine expected optimal pitch / yaw information for every day of the year at my house. Gathered the data and then input it into an Arduino with dummy hardware (my dad’s vice + a rod connected to a cup with a solar panel latched on to a cup to get the 2 degrees of freedom) and basically confirmed that it works.

          – did some miscellaneous code projects: built an ecryption game based on the “COMPLETED” trick in Virtue’s Last Reward with a GUI in MATLAB [hard to explain. Basically, 1 player makes a message and gives a numeric key. Once that’s set, the message is scrambled and the 2nd player needs to figure it out based on the numeric key. ], built a Pokemon damage calculator [EV’s, IV’s, adjusts to weather, move type conditions. I used to play online and would get frustrated when I couldn’t access sites with calcs if they went down, so I created my own to get around it.], and made a boring Blackjack game [although code is on my Github, it’s not…good code].

          – helped design a can crusher at my paint workplace[did drawings, calculations, some work on design with mechanic]. Still runs after a year.

          – made a couple CAD designs [One for fun. One for my cousin who’s making a space startup and asked for my help to CAD something. ]

          And maybe some other things. I try to work on projects if I feel like there’s something just missing from my world that I’d like to have. It’s difficult translating these projects to a job or internship though as, from what I’ve heard, online apps showcase experience first and then education, which isn’t where I stand out (3.5 years out of school and being a forklift driver / paint disposer doesn’t scream “top talent engineer”). My general experience with smaller companies is that, while there’s less applications, it’s rarer for them to have positions open and the ones that do open are usually for people with experience (while Boeing or Raytheon could have 200+ entry level / internships open at any given time, but getting through is a pain).

          This experience has been a ton of fun.

  18. Menacia*

    #2 I can’t remember the last time someone was hired into my department where they did not take a *planned vacation” a few weeks or months into their employment. It’s almost the norm because no one knows when they will find (or lose) a job, so plans are made. This is the same situation, you did the right thing letting your boss know up front of the surgery, this is not as abnormal a request as you might think. A good manager knows when to give leeway, it’s all part of building morale and a solid working relationship. Stick with your plans, and then get back to work and show your appreciation by doing a great job! :)

  19. Tracy*

    I read letter number two and, although what I need to say isn’t a “feel good” answer, I would be remiss if I didn’t say it. I do need to preface, though, that my experience is not necessarily indicative of anyone else’s.

    I took a job and within two weeks found out that I had cancer of the kidney. I was extremely lucky in that I didn’t require chemo; “just” a partial nephrectomy (removal of the cancer and about 1/2 of my kidney). I told my boss what was going on, and he was so nice about it; said my health was the most important thing and didn’t bat an eye at my various pre-surgery appointments. My coworkers sent me a card and flowers when I was in the hospital and I was grateful to work for such an awesome company.
    I was supposed to return after six weeks but I felt better after four so I went back to work and everyone seemed happy to see me. Since I returned a little early, I didn’t feel well a few times so I took a total of three sick days in a six week period.
    Long story short (well, not really!) at the end of that six weeks, I was called into my boss’ office and told about things I was doing wrong with my work and I had accumulated a certain number of “points” with my absences so between those two things they were letting me go.
    I found out later from a friend who worked there that they had hired someone else while I was gone hoping that there would be enough work to justify having us both on the payroll but, unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case.

    1. Semi-regular poster going anon for this*

      I hope you’re feeling better! A close relative of mine also has kidney cancer. It’s a weird and scary disease (but then, is there any form of cancer that could be described as familiar and reassuring?!).

      Also, sorry to hear that your former employer handled things so unsympathetically.

      1. Tracy*

        Thank you! Things turned out well for me; I have a clean bill of health and job I love Still, I was happy to see 2014 in my rear view mirror!

  20. TootsNYC*

    Re: #4, with no records of previous employment

    I’ve been in that situation as well, and I think about a lot of new grads (my own kid is about to be one), and the sorts of short-term stuff they’re going to need to patch together.

    I think it would be smart for workers to start keeping a notebook with all these details. Just in case.

    I’ve encouraged my own kid to start a notebook with all her doctor visits, dates, diagnoses, etc., because I’ve found myself now, at age 55, needing to supply all sorts of details of medical stuff when I apply for supplementary life insurance, etc.

    Having an employment record would also be smart! It would be a great habit to build. And it would get you thinking about how to manage your reputation and references and networks from previous employment.

    LinkedIn would be one way to do this, but if that business ever goes away, so do your records.

  21. Chanel No. 4*

    I stopped by my former temp agency today. Although I learned my former contact doesn’t work there anymore, I was given a business card with the agency supervisor’s name on it and the reassurance that “if they call him, he’ll be able to verify your employment dates.”

  22. Ludivine*

    Just a quick note to thank Alison for her excellent advice. I am #3, and ended up landing the job. Not sure the manager ever received my postcard, anyway.

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