applying for a job when the posted salary is too low, am I an overstepping upstart, and more

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

1. Should I apply for a job if the posted salary is too low?

I’m currently a grad student studying public policy, and am graduating in two months. I’m hoping to work in local government in a major metropolitan area that has proven to be very difficult to break into.

The county recently posted several one-year fellowships aimed at students who will graduate with their master’s degree this summer. The position/responsibilities/potential for learning all look perfect. The only catch is that the fellowship only pays $40,000, and I don’t know that I can afford it with the amount I took out in student loans.

My career advisor thinks I should apply, and that perhaps they’ll realize through the interview/offer process that they’re low-balling the salary. You’ve posted before that individuals shouldn’t apply to positions if they know they can’t accept the salary since it’s wasting everyone’s time. I definitely don’t want to burn bridges before I even move to the area. What should I do?

Get another career advisor. This employer has done what job candidates always want employers to do — they’ve posted the salary up-front so that you can self-select out if it’s not for you. Going through the interview process only to say at the end “oh, that salary that you were clear about from the start isn’t enough for me” is not operating in good faith.

Plus, this is a government job, which means that the salary is very unlikely to change.

2. Did this interview panel think I was an overstepping upstart?

This week, I interviewed for a position in a large company that is significantly senior to the one that I currently hold at a close competitor company. I met the minimum qualifications advertised and some of the management hiring preferences. Honestly, I was a bit surprised to be called for an interview because it was such an upgrade from my current position, but also excited because I am very interested in advancing my career.

The interview turned out to be with a panel of the very highest level executives — not at all what I expected when the direct supervisor of the position, who was not on the panel at all, invited me to interview.

The panel commented that I answered several of their questions well, one exec tried cracking some jokes, and generally they seemed kind. Then, at the end of the interview, one of the highest ranking guys asked if I believed I was truly qualified because of my young age and because my experience is specialized in one particular area — the position I interviewed for requires work in that area, but also many others. And of course, at this point, everyone leaned forward. I had to admit they were right, but tried to salvage by explaining how aspects of my current position could apply to learning other areas. I didn’t get feedback on that question. I left feeling nauseated and wondering if this was a total mistake on my part.

First, I worry that I didn’t acknowledge that I knew how very senior the panelists positions were during my interview and in hindsight I’m afraid I came off as either disrespectful or just plain dumb. Second, the “do you think you’re qualified” question has freaked me out. I’m torn between hoping I’m an actual contender for the position and fear that I came off as an overreaching upstart. Maybe this job was pegged for someone else and they had to interview X number of candidates? I don’t want to hurt my chances of being hired by this particular company in the future. Should I ask them to withdraw my name from consideration? Help!

No, don’t ask them to withdraw your name! If they don’t hire you, then so be it — but there’s no reason to take yourself out of the running unless you’re no longer interested in the job.

If they didn’t think you were reasonably qualified, they wouldn’t have invited you to interview. So you met some baseline of “potentially the right person”; you were not doing anything presumptuous or overreaching by being there. They asked you to be there.

As for that guy’s question, it’s possible that he meant it in a rude way, but it’s also a perfectly reasonable line of inquiry — they want to hear you talk about why you think you’d excel at the job despite some potential obstacles. That’s not a “gotcha” or a trap.

You don’t need to acknowledge how senior your interviewers were. In fact, that would be kind of weird. You just treat them like normal people.

Overall, it sounds like you got intimidated and are letting that color your perception of the whole experience. But nothing egregious happened, let alone anything out of the ordinary, and you have nothing to feel nauseated about.

3. My boss is applying to jobs from work, and his resume is full of lies

My boss has been applying for jobs on the office computer, and I came across his CV on a file. It states that since moving to this workplace “I have been in charge of running the kitchen and have had to develop the staff, who were all untrained in the catering trade,” which is a lie as I studied at college for two years and I have been in the catering trade for nearly five years now.

I find this humiliating. I don’t know whether I should take this to HR because he’s been applying for jobs on the company computer behind their backs, I’m really stuck for what I can do because it’s degrading to me. And he’s lying on his CV about other things also, claiming that he has had to run whole business due to the fact our manager was let go and has to fulfil certain roles, which is also a lie.

I’d let it go. Your boss is apparently a resume liar, but it’s not insulting to you — he’s not saying this stuff to people who know you or will be evaluating your work.

HR certainly might care that he’s been applying to jobs from work, but it’s not really yours to deal with. I’d roll your eyes and move on.

4. Should I apply for a job that’s asking for a one-year commitment if I plan to leave before that?

I want to apply for a part-time retail job as a buyer at a local consignment shop. Since I want to go into fashion buying and I have no experience, I know this would be a perfect transition for me. I currently work full-time in an academic setting, so I have summers off. I plan to start working the part-time retail job on the weekends, then transition to more hours over the summer.

By the end of summer, I want to be applying to full-time buying jobs. Unfortunately the job requirements for the retail job include that applicants commit (they have it in bold!) to working with them for at least one year. Would it be unethical for me to apply on the grounds that I might be working with them for a year if my plans don’t pan out? Additionally, would they be able to make me stay for a year if I agree? And lastly, would I get a bad reference if I left early?

It’s not at all unreasonable for an employer to want new hires to commit to staying for a year; they’re investing time in training you, and they don’t want to do that with someone who will leave after six months.

That doesn’t mean that these sorts of commitments are legally binding; they’re typically just informal “here’s what we expect — does that work for you?” conversations. (If it were legally binding, you’d be signing a contract, and they’d probably be making a similar commitment on their end.) So, no, they can’t make you stay — but yes, you’d definitely be burning the bridge and ruining the reference if you came on with a clear understanding that they wanted you to sign on for a year, and then left at the end of the summer.

Sometimes people make this kind of commitment but then something comes up that prevents them from keeping it, like a health issue or a move. Reasonable employers understand that. They will not understand you operating in bad faith from the very start, which is what this would be. (I see your point that you might be working with them for a year if your plans don’t pan out, but I don’t think that’s a loophole; you’d be accepting the job hoping and intending to do the opposite of what you’d be committing to.)

5. I missed an application deadline by 20 minutes

I’m a college junior and I have this PR internship I really want for over the summer. The writing test, a cover letter, and a resume was due through email by Friday, March 11. This week is currently my spring break and I went to New Orleans, which is an hour behind where I’m originally from. I didn’t really think about this until it was too late and I submitted my email 20 minutes past midnight on Friday, March 11. Do you think that I’ll automatically get skipped over and not given a chance because my email was submitted past midnight on Friday, which is technically Saturday?

I doubt it. It’s possible — some people are really rigid sticklers about this kind of thing — but most aren’t.

That said, it’s smart to apply earlier when you can (recognizing that you might not always be able to), because sometimes application deadlines are misleading. (More on that here.)

{ 289 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    #1: Depending on your loans, you might qualify for payment reductions or loan forgiveness if you stay in public service or government. But yeah, I wouldn’t apply if that salary won’t work at all. I doubt they’ll budge much (if at all).

    1. Manders*

      Ooh, that’s a good point. I would try looking into that, OP (maybe with the assistance of someone other than your career advisor).

      If you can, it’s also a great idea to try to get in touch with recent graduates from your program to figure out what salary range you should expect when you’re starting out and where you should be looking to find jobs in that range. Professors and career advisors can be pretty far off base on this, especially if you’re in the kind of program where the people advising you have been working only in academia for decades.

    2. Jeanne*

      They’re not going to budge on that salary. But with the internet research available, OP ought to be able to do some rough math to see if it’s possible. Check out rents in the area, car insurance, and loan repayment rates. If the job can really help, maybe a family member can help with finances for a year.

      Also look at other potential jobs. Would you really get a much better salary elsewhere or not? It depends on the field.

      1. Spooky*

        “Also look at other potential jobs. Would you really get a much better salary elsewhere or not? It depends on the field.”

        This. When I graduated with my second Masters and tons of student loan debt, I was looking for jobs and judging the salaries based on what I needed. It took me many months of rejections before I realized that I needed to judge them based on what the field and market paid instead. Employers don’t care about what you need – they care about paying a fair market wage for the position.

        It sucked, but in the end my first position paid lower than what OP listed, and I just had to move back in with my parents and deal until I worked my way into a better job. It’s not fun but it’s the unfortunate reality of most people in our generation.

        1. VictoriaHR*

          This. Unfortunately these days, many many new grads are having to live with roommates or parents for a few years after graduation, especially if they live in a large city.

          And honestly, if your field of study is a very specific one, you kind of have to take what you can get, at least at first right out of college. If there were high demand for public policy local government workers, then the salary would be higher. More than likely, the folks who do those jobs are in the same position for the majority of their lives and they retire from there. You have to wait until someone resigns or retires.

          When I graduated college in 2001, I was able to defer payment on my financial aid (federal grants) for 2 years.

          1. mskyle*

            Yes, AND having a fellowship that pays $40K for a year and then moving on to a better-paying job is pretty much the same as job searching for 3-4 months before landing a job that pays $60K a year.

            Just make sure you’re being realistic about what your other options are, is what I’m saying.

          2. Judy*

            I’m not sure that having roommates after graduation has ever been uncommon. I graduated with an engineering degree in 1991. My friends who ended up in LA, SF, NYC, Seattle, etc all had roommates.

    3. bridget*

      Another thing to look into is the REPAYE Program; I’m certainly not super educated about the details, but it’s worked well for some of my public service oriented friends. IRRC, your payments are based on a percentage of your disposable income, calibrated off of the excess $ you make over and above 150% of the poverty line, and interest is subsidized.

      Your details and options obviously may vary, but make an appointment with your schools financial aid office and explore your options f you haven’t already, OP!

      1. Sunflower*

        FWIW there are a TON of repayment plan options and they are open to everyone. I had a plan where I wasn’t required to pay anything and I didnt have to defer my loans. It’s worth it for every person to check these out and do what is right for them!

      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        This is a good point. Some public sector positions also qualify for loan forgiveness…which doesn’t help the immediate need, but is something she should look into!

    4. Jen*

      Op should alsOnlook at the market. Boston, for example, is full of very low paying government jobs in a very high cost of living. These jobs get *tons* of incredibly competitive candidates that make the low all salary work (roommates, public transit, second jobs, etc).

      OP may need to rethink their salary requirements and/or target location of the salary for the roles is below what is possible due to loans.

      1. the gold digger*

        I think the way it works for a lot of people – this was my guess when I was in DC i 1996 and they wanted a master’s degree, international experience, and fluency in a foreign language – and were paying only $20K – is parental support. If you are an ordinary person without wealthy parents, those jobs are not for you.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          OMG, I was in DC at the same time looking for an entry-level job, and there were SO MANY that required an advanced degree and were UNPAID. That was crazy.

          I ended up as a receptionist making $20K, but at least it was something?

        2. RR*

          @ gold digger: it sounds like we were applying for the same jobs! I was in DC in 97, and while they had upped the salary to a whopping 23K, they were still requiring MA, 2+ yrs international experience, and a foreign language, (plus mad excel skills). The only thing that saved me was despite all these requirements, the position was still non-exempt, so I earned a lot more with all the overtime we had to do.
          OP: these jobs are often effective stepping stones to better paying positions, so I wish you luck. As others have noted, look into loan forgiveness programs and cheap housing options. A number of my colleagues waited tables a couple of nights a week as well.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I was in DC then too! I had a great job for a national magazine but it paid crap. Thank goodness I didn’t have student loans to worry about because I am not capable of living with roommates.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          My god, I made way more than that as a waitress back then, working part time. (of course, that doesn’t lead anywhere career-wise, but still, wow)

        4. Artemesia*

          My daughter worked in DC 12 years ago for 30K a year — that meant living in a share house with 4 other people. She managed to save money to travel with on that. Of course she had the benefit of not having student loans — but you can’t live in high cost areas on salary starting out — roommates or share houses or Mom’s house are pretty much required to get by. But then when my father started out as an engineer with a master’s degree in 1939 he lived in a boarding house; he certainly couldn’t afford his own place. (and of course in those days, being a man, could not be expected to cook his own dinner.)

          1. Judy*

            I graduated with an engineering degree in 1991. I was one of the few in my circle of friends at school who didn’t have a roommate during my first job. I was in a medium size city in Texas. Most of my friends who took jobs in Seattle, LA, SF, NYC, etc had roommates after graduation.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              1991 was not a great time to graduate with an engineering degree, though.

              I was fortunate to graduate just before the next recession (2000), and we were all flush with cash. People were buying new trucks. Only one person in my class didn’t get a job. Ahhh, the good ol’ days.

              Honestly, reading this thread (and many here at AAM) makes me angry about what companies pay people. I don’t want to take this off on a living wage tangent or a what-I-made-back-in-the-day tangent, so I’ll just stop right here, but I was looking at BLS data the other day, and it was a reality check. People are not making money out there.

              1. themmases*

                I agree with you. Although 40K is normal for a post-grad fellowship, I’m not sure that makes it right. Almost anyone qualified for this fellowship is burdened with debt they must pay because of policy choices we all made. On an individual level, sure, each of us should be careful to understand the job market before getting a degree and not to borrow more than we can afford. We can each suck it up for a year or three to get ahead. But this situation is so common that clearly normal people with normal judgment are having problems. It hurts our whole society when you have to get ahead even to pay what you owe, and the middle of the pack is a miserable place to be. (I think we are seeing just how big the hurt is this primary season.)

                It’s not a rational solution to suggest that as a population we just get smarter or more successful and start to have more perfect knowledge of our options 3 years in the future. Students and new grads have not gotten way more naive or less responsible than people just a generation or two before. (What would even explain a massive population-level shift in intelligence like that?)

              2. fposte*

                I think that might be an outlier position in the other direction, though. “Flush with cash” is a fairly unusual state, historically, for new college grads.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  Agreed, but traditional engineering is historically cyclical. People graduating at the top have a totally different experience than those graduating at the bottom, yet there are plenty of both cohorts out there. Graduate engineers also earn more than most, but don’t see the big jumps that other fields do. (For example, some of the feds have said their salaries doubled in 6-7 years. Not typical for traditional engineering. . .oil fields excluded.)

        5. Koko*

          Yep, it’s very common for nonprofits in DC to pay recent law school grads somewhere in the mid $30s to be their junior political analysts.

    5. Not Today Satan*

      Yeah, $40,000 really doesn’t seem that low for a post-grad one year fellowship, and it’d probably be a good way to get her foot in the door. If it were me I would take it (if offered) and sign up for income-based repayment.

      1. Elysian*

        When I was coming out of law school most of the fellowships I looked at were paying $50,000 in DC. This was just a few years ago, and this was for lawyers — three extra years of school loans with (usually) no scholarship and a high interest rate. I didn’t apply to fellowships for this very reason. Only a one year job, can’t pay the bills… there are lots of great fellowships out there but I gotta eat and pay bills and loans and stuff. Fellowships can be great opportunities but they’re not for everyone.

      2. Pretend Scientist*

        Yes, this. We offer our physician fellows in the $50k range. We are indeed in a lower COL area than DC, but we’re also talking medical school debt.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        It seems like a good opportunity & decent deal to me. I wouldn’t take a full-time job that I couldn’t live on, but the way this is framed, it seems like there’s more of an educational/training component involved. It sounds like a good stepping stone, whereas you may get a F/T government job that pays more, but is more grunt work and starting at the bottom than a policy fellowship would be.

      4. Chalupa Batman*

        Unfortunately, my thought was the same. I live in a low cost of living area, but public policy isn’t a particularly high paying field here, and the salary is unlikely to change. This sounds like a really good opportunity for the OP to have a shot at better paying jobs within the field later, though, and the “pays well/in my field” overlap gets pretty small not too long after graduation in many fields. I’d at least consider whether there are options to keep afloat in favor of the long term benefit.

      5. Not Karen*

        Yeah. My first job out of grad school paid $50,000, but it was a) not a fellowship, b) at a company that toted high salaries, and c) in the tech field, which my impression pays on the high end.

        Keep in mind, OP, that this is the STARTING salary. You aren’t going to be getting paid $40,000 for the rest of your career.

      6. Kate M*

        Yeah, when OP said that they paid a low salary, I was envisioning like minimum wage or something. I started at a lower salary than $40k in DC of all places (which is very common here) with a master’s degree (and a lot of student loans), which has a very high cost of living. I’d definitely consider the fellowship, OP! I mean if you really honestly can’t afford it, then you can’t afford it. But would you consider taking on part time work on the side? I wouldn’t normally suggest that, but since you said that you’ve been wanting to break into this local government, this seems like an awesome chance. And I really can’t imagine most entry level jobs in local government paying much more than that.

        Definitely check to see if what you envision as salaries (for entry level jobs especially) for local government is realistic. It might be, if you’re in NYC or something. But a lot of times, local government is not going to have super high paying jobs.

        1. Kate M*

          And another point – you mention not wanting to “burn bridges before you even move to the area.” You don’t even live there yet. I think that employers, especially government, are much more likely to hire people who don’t live in the area for fellowships than for actual jobs. It always helps to live in the area that you’re applying, so this might be a VERY good chance to get your foot in the door. Otherwise, would you just move to the area without a job? I think you’d be much more hard pressed doing that than you would be on $40k a year. This might be your best chance at getting a job in the place that you actually want to work. Please consider applying!

          1. themmases*

            I agree. If the OP is trying to break into a particular city government, they may also be at a disadvantage due to residency requirements. For example, in Chicago city employees must be residents starting from their employment date; the city employee handbook makes it look like the rule used to be for all applicants. The fellowship might give the OP insight into what made them unsuccessful before.

            FWIW this would be a very normal salary for a government fellowship in my area too (public health), even in high cost of living areas, and even for people for people like statisticians and epidemiologists who could get much more than that from private industry. People do it anyway because the work experience is that valuable, and because that’s the deal when you choose a public service field.

        2. Anxa*

          Region is a big thing. My partner was looking at fellowships, and one in DC providing a 50K fellowship. At first, I thought…..what do you even DO with so much money? Of course, once you factor in student loans, the high cost of living, and potentially having to support other people as they look for work…it doesn’t seem so high.

          I live in an area with a low COL, and 40K seems like so much money. If I ever found a job that paid nearly that much money, I’d have work pretty hard to maintain my composure during an offer so I wouldn’t start weeping with joy.

          1. Koko*

            Ha, I almost spit my coffee at the idea that 50K was “so much money” in DC! It took me almost 3 years in the nonprofit industry in DC to get to $50K. I had to work a second job on nights and weekends just to tread water in my student debt, not increasing it but never being able to pay it down.

            It took another 2 years to get pay raises to $60K, and it took me another year at that salary + the second job before I finally paid off my student debt, 6 years after graduating. And I pretty much paid it all off in that final year because it wasn’t until that final year that I was actually making more than the bare minimum to live off of. I had no savings and was only contributing the minimum 2% to my retirement account so that I could put all my extra money towards my debt.

            1. Koko*

              (I will say that I moved out of a group house and into a single apartment at $45K and probably could have paid down my debt or had savings sooner or not had to work a second job if I had been willing to live with roommates a few years longer, but at 25 years old and being an intensely private and pathologically clean/organized person I just couldn’t deal with group homes anymore so I made the choice to take on the second job so I could get out of that situation.)

              1. Anxa*

                I’m pretty nocturnal. I am lucky enough to live with someone who makes more than me (I think I’ll make about 10K this year) and that I’m dating, so it’s easier to navigate around that. I’m also someone who is not laid back at all about living issues, and I imagine that when I need to get proper roommates, it will be a large shock.

                I think the regional differences matter most at the lower levels. When you are low income, rent and utilities are going to be a huge part of your budget, often far more than 30%. You’re spending almost all your money on transportation, housing, and food. Housing and transportation is so much more expensive in DC than where I am. And they’re also so closely related. We comfortably share one car and walk or take the bus a lot, so we ‘splurged’ on rent close to one or work/near bus routes. Housing prices in DC may mean suburban living, making it much harder to get by on one car.

                But on paper 50K is over 5 times my salary, so it just looks like so much.

          2. Elysian*

            I’m with Koko, I shouldn’t have read this during lunch! What do you DO with all that money?? I would say pay rent… and that’s about it really. My rent alone costs me $27,000 a year for my one-bedroom in DC. Thankfully I have a working spouse and make more than 50K. At 50K you really have to live far out, or share housing, or something because otherwise you’re going to eat through that money pretty darn quickly.

      7. irritable vowel*

        The problem with a one-year fellowship, though, is that it gives you just enough time to get established in a city, make some friends, hopefully find a housing situation you like, and then you might find yourself without a job (or without a comparably paying job, anyways) and have to uproot yourself again. I’m not a huge fan of these one-year gigs because you have to spend at least half that time stressing about where you’re going to go next. It’s a tough way to start out in your professional life. Say you move to NYC or DC to take one of these positions–is one year of experience really going to give you a leg up on any comparable or higher-paying permanent positions? Or are you more likely to be looking at moving back home or picking up multiple part-time jobs after the year is up (neither of which is going to do your resume any favors)?

        1. Koko*

          It probably varies by field, but in my former life in academia I know that PhDs who do a post-doc are MUCH more employable than those who try to go right into full-time work. Those who go straight to full-time often end up leaving their first school after a year anyway because they weren’t on a tenure track and after a year they’re more competitive to get a tenure-track position elsewhere. So at least in academia, the fellowship would definitely help you get a better-paying FT position when it was up.

          Also, just anecdotally, fellowships tend to be extremely competitive and pursued by overachiever/top-of-their-class types. They strike me as less likely (though of course not impossible) to suddenly flounder after the fellowship the way a mediocre student might suddenly flounder after graduation.

          It’s also an interesting question for me to consider because I grew up in DC, so to be quite honest, not living in a big city has never seemed like a viable option. Sure, the cost of living is lower, but there aren’t nearly as many good jobs. I know more skilled professionals than I can count who followed their dream of moving to Oregon or Colorado or California and ended up as retail store managers when they had been doing white collar skilled jobs in DC.

    6. Mianaai*

      You can actually look a bit farther; some government fellowships are eligible for loan deferral. My NIH fellowship had a simple application process for deferral, so I don’t have to worry about my loans until my training here is complete.

    7. Kimberlee, Esq*

      FWIW, that seems like a very reasonable starting salary for a major metro right out of college/grad school. You can live reasonably well in DC on $40K a year… you’re going to want to get deferments or an IBR on those loans, but I can promise you you won’t be the only one doing so. The wage on that job isn’t keyed to what a new grad moving to the city needs to have a one-bedroom apartment and pay their full loan payments every month; they are keyed to the wage they can pay and still get good candidates. $40K is plenty to live in a group house and take public transit and get an IBR.

      (I totally agree about the socio-economic impacts of unpaid internships, that they give a leg up to people who can get support from their parents, but this isn’t one of those kinds of jobs. $40k is a perfectly reasonable livable entry-level salary in most places in the country… SF is the only one I can think of where it starts teetering on unreasonable. It’s not IDEAL, but few entry level jobs are!)

    8. Anxa*

      This is a possibility, although I would never count on something like this when making career plans or loan payment plans.

      There are just too many horror stories of people who consolidated their debt and don’t qualify (or reset the 10 year count). Or people who have to fight to get the forgiveness even after filing their paper work and being told everything was all set only to not get the forgiveness. I’d worry that I’d less aggressive about paying them down, and so more interest would pile up, that wouldn’t be forgiven in the end.

      Also, I think this particular form of student debt relief is more likely to be cut depending on political climates. I had read that there was at least one bill proposing to cut the program, and there have been other discussions about capping it. Some people may get grandfathered in, but what if you haven’t started your 10 years yet, have an interruption in employment, or otherwise slip through the craps?

      Lastly, the PSLF program fails to provide relief for some of the most in need in public service: the contract employees, part-timers, or otherwise contingent workers. I personally get frustrated that my job will not hire full-time workers, and many people have degrees and student loans to pay back. Not only do we work poverty level salaries, but we don’t qualify for the assistance we wouldn’t need as much if we had full-time jobs. I wish they’d give credit for volunteering, or working one part-time job in public service with another in for profit to survive. The trend seems to be more for a more and more contingent workforce. I don’t think the PSLF program has kept up with the current economic and labor climate.

      It’s definitely worth looking into, but I really wouldn’t count on it.

      1. fposte*

        “Or people who have to fight to get the forgiveness even after filing their paper work and being told everything was all set only to not get the forgiveness. ”

        If you mean the public service loan forgiveness program, nobody’s been eligible for forgiveness yet–the program only started in 2007.

        1. Anxa*

          I did mean the PSLF.

          My apologies. I meant that they can’t get credit for years worked even after being told they were signed up. Then they find out that the past few years hadn’t ‘counted.’

            1. Anxa*

              The one person I know in person said that she contacted her loan officer at school and her then-current servicer. She was working full-time for about 2 years, then was reduced to part-time, so was no longer eligible. She was on an income based plan, and paying $0 a month during that period, but it was the same loan she HAD been paying on. A few months later she quit, and got another full-time job in a different field, but one that would probably qualify. When she called to ask, they said that she wouldn’t be getting credit for those two years, that the paperwork wasn’t right.

              Her loan servicer had changed during that period. She had unconsolidated nonqualifying loans as well.

              She’s still fighting for credit for those years, but is also being realistic. She makes a low wage, her full-time job is likely getting cut at the end of the fiscal year, and she’s considering nannying for her cousins and their neighbor, as the pay would be much better and she’s getting married and wants to start a family. She’s still on the fence about the kids thing, because her and her fiance aren’t doing great financially, but she also would like to have them while she’s still young-ish. If that happens in the next 8 years or so, there’s a good chance she’d be going part-time anyway, and would never qualify for the 10 years full-time work.

              So she’s still considering that field, but doesn’t consider PSLF an option, whereas if it were an option she’d probably be less tempted to trying to nanny.

              1. fposte*

                Oh, wow, how enraging. I haven’t heard a lot of frontline stories (I think because most problems are going to come when people try to file for the actual forgiveness) and was curious–thanks for filling me in.

    9. OP*

      Hi all – Thanks for the comments, everyone, and for taking my question, Alison.

      I do feel the need to defend my career advisor a bit, as they’ve been helpful and responsive in all other areas. I was just curious about this piece of advice since I’ve been reading AAM for so long. I also appreciate all of the advice re: student loan debt. I’ll be moving from one *incredibly* high cost area to another, and could make more than double the fellowship salary if I worked in the private sector, so I think I just need to decide whether the fellowship can be the stepping stone I need since I’d really like to work in local government/for the public good. Grad school loans operate a bit differently than undergrad student debt, so some of the advice below won’t necessarily apply, and with my partner’s income I won’t qualify for some of the others. Hoping to pay it down as soon as possible so that we can start saving for real life things.

      Thanks again, AAM community! You’re wonderful.


      1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        I have to say I had a job in local govt in a high COL area right out of grad school–it paid about 40k. I moved to the private sector and am currently making double what I made in local government. My plan is to work the corporate world while paying down debt and while my partner is in school and eventually moving back to the public sector when I can afford to.

      2. Koko*

        IANAL, but you may wish to consult with a tax professional and find out if it might be advantageous to file as married, separate, so that your partner’s income doesn’t affect your relief eligibility.

      3. Roll Fizzlebeef*

        As a fellow soon-to-be MPP grad, $40k matches what I’ve seen from other non-Federal government positions. Federal would generally be GS-9, or $42k base, but up to $50k+ in urban areas. If money is a concern for you (like it definitely is for me), then you’re probably better off looking for jobs in the private sector. Personally, I plan to do that and then volunteer on the side to “do good” and ease my conscience. ;)

  2. Stephanie*

    #3: I’d move on. This guy will either get caught at your current job or get hired somewhere else and be in over his head.

  3. Stopping By*

    #1 Isn’t there a one year grace period before you have to start paying back loans? (Mind you, my loans were long ago so this may no longer apply.)

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        And, note, it doesn’t always apply.

        I had to start paying back loans as soon as I graduated. I’m deferred for now, but, it was a nasty shock.

        I still feel woefully undereducated when it comes to student loans!

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          What?! Yikes!

          I think you should have to sign-up for a class (a la Drivers Ed) before you can take out student loans and before you can graduate. It’s pretty complicated and I wish I would have had a better understanding.

          1. Forget T-Bone Steak, Let's Eat T-Rex Steak*

            I was required to do some kind of credit counseling online class when I graduated because I had loans. That was almost 8 years ago. I do wish I’d gotten more guidance before I took out the loans, but then again I was 18 and probably wouldn’t have paid attention anyway.

            1. Anna*

              Everyone who takes student loan is required to do the counseling. The problem is it’s not very comprehensive and it certainly is geared more toward the assumption that everyone will immediately be able to afford to pay their loans, get a job that pays decently, etc.

                1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

                  I graduated with undergrad in 2011, and had to take it then, so at least 5 years ago!

                2. Lindsay J*

                  I had to do it every year, and I started college in 2004.

                  However, it was very geared to not getting you to absorb the information. There would be a short blurb about some financial aspect of the loan. Then they would tell you the answer to the question they were going to ask. Then they would ask the question and like 3 of the 4 multiple choice answers would be ridiculous.

                  So yes, they did give you the information. And I do believe in personal responsibility and I did read the information.

                  No amount of little blurbs, though, would prepare someone to the reality of graduating with tens of thousands of dollars of student debt, into an economy where you can’t get a job that makes a living wage.

                  I understood I would be on the hook for several hundred dollars of payments a month. I didn’t understand how far (really not far) my salary would stretch when I needed to attempt to pay rent, feed myself, pay for transportation, pay for health care, etc.

          2. Random Lurker*

            I had to do exactly this when I was in college in the 90s. There was a required “lecture” every semester explaining all you needed to know about applying and repayment. 30 minutes of my time each semester seems like time well spent when I hear how many people are truly unaware of these details.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              What?! Neither my undergrad or grad school required any form of counseling.

              1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                Sorry…my disbelief was over my excitement that such a program existed :)

          3. KR*

            There’s something called entrance and exit counseling for the government loans. When you take out the loan it even has you do a little budget exercise to show you how your loans will take a chunk out of your paycheck and you can’t take out the loan without doing it. When you graduate the school has to go through exit counseling where they (in my experience) give you a pamphlet with all the vocabulary, how the loans and interest rates work, and what exactly to do if you feel like you can’t make a payment. I’m sorry you didn’t have that resource.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I don’t remember if I had to do that the first time I went to college, but I did have to when I went back. It went in one ear and out the other, unfortunately.

            2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              I finished my masters in 2007, so I don’t know if I missed it while it was going on, or if I just didn’t receive it.

              1. Hillary*

                My masters program (at a flagship state school) it was just an online checkbox. The school had more available face to face, but you had to seek it out.

          4. Hush42*

            I completely agree! I know someone who goes to Clarkson University and they make all of their incoming students watch an hour long video on how student loans work for orientation. I think this should be something taught as a semester long class in people’s senior year of high school so they actually have a grasp on what they’re getting themselves into.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              My son is a HS senior, and his personal finance class teaches the Dave Ramsey curriculum, but unfortunately it’s an elective that not all kids take. I’m not going to condemn anyone for having school debt, but 18 year olds don’t naturally realize how limiting $100k in school debt is going to be. I wasn’t much smarter. I didn’t have school loans, but I got a $165,000 mortgage when I was 22. When I was signing the paper work and saw the 30-year amortization table, I about died.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Is this a public school? I have…some separation of church and state issues about that, if so, but that’s a whole other argument.

                I agree that they should educate kids about the loans when they’re still in high school and applying to jobs, rather than only when they’re adults on their way out of college. In my experience, all through high school it was like “Get student loans! They’re awesome! You’ll pay them back in no time with the awesome job you’ll get!” and then you’re signing away zillions of dollars at the age of 17 on the advice of all the adults you trusted. And then partway through college maybe you realize what you did…but it’s too late.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  Yes, it’s public, but I believe the school curriculum is secularized, unlike his “financial peace” material.

                  To your point, when you’re part way through and realize what you did, you almost have to keep digging the hole to actually come out on the other side.

                2. Artemesia*

                  I find the Ramsey religious and political twaddle very irritating, but his financial advice is very sound for young people starting out and I imagine you can teach it without the religion. He advises what my husband and I pretty much did as a matter of course and it served us well. I think it wasn’t until I was 30 or so that I even realized you could borrow money on a credit card. My parents paid off their cards at the end of the month and so did I. I didn’t realize I didn’t have to do that. Living without debt even if it means forgoing immediate pleasures is the best possible path to a pleasant life. The only debts we have ever had are mortgages and for our first car, a car payment. After that first car we saved up and bought cars with cash. For the first, we could afford the $65 a month payment (this was nearly 45 years ago) but we could not afford to get an old car repaired so the inexpensive new car worked for us financially.

                3. Stranger than fiction*

                  Absolutely we need to give more personal finance education in high school. Not only are kids faced with student loans, but as soon as you get to college (or turn 18) they start offering you credit cards.

                4. Lindsay J*


                  I don’t even think there was a push for student loans and how they were awesome when I was in school.

                  They were just kind of assumed as a given. We all knew we would be expected to go to college, and we would be expected to take out student loans to help cover the cost.

                  Not one adult ever said, “Hey, about these student loans. You might not want to get yourself into that much debt right off the bat.”

                  I did understand that school was expensive. And I knew I wasn’t going to go into a high salaried career, so I chose to go to a state school.

                  But really, there really were not any other alternatives if you wanted to go to a four year school right off the bat.

                  Most class schedules for “traditional students” didn’t allow you to work a full time job to pay for school – you had to take specific classes each semester to stay on track, and they were only offered at certain times. I was often on campus for awhile in the morning, has a couple hour break where I went back to my dorm, and then more classes at night; there wasn’t really a chunk of time during the day long enough that anyone would want to hire me to work it.

                  Working a couple weekday evenings a week, weekends, and the summer making $7 an hour was not enough to make a dent in my loans. Lets say I could manage to work 26 hours a week (two 5 hour shifts during the week, 8 hour shifts Saturday and Sunday). Over 36 weeks of the school year I would make a whopping $6500. But I still needed to pay for car insurance, food other than what the meal plan offered, books for each semester, parking fee each semester, supplies, fees for certain classes, and other misc expenses. And if I worked 40 a week at $9 in the summer, that would be another $4500 maybe.

                  And, if my parents weren’t paying the parts of tuition that my loans and scholarships didn’t cover then any money I made would already be eaten by that.

                  Plus, some schools I looked into both required freshmen to live on campus, and didn’t allow students to have cars on campus, both of which make working very difficult.

                  So the student paying their way by working in college wasn’t really a solution.

                  A lot of people have parents that won’t or can’t contribute to their schooling for various reasons, so saying that the parents should have saved up or that they should be contributing isn’t the answer.

                  The only options are getting a ton of scholarships, taking a couple years off to make money (which I was specifically forbidden to do because, “If you don’t go straight out of high school you’ll never go”, going part time and working full-time which stretches your schooling out for several years and has actual and opportunity costs, going to community college for a couple years and then transferring to a four year school (best option but probably not done as often as it should be as community college carries a stigma), or going into a trade or another career that pays well but doesn’t require four years of school.

        2. Christy*

          FutureLibrarianNoMore, can you write an update in an open thread about how your username changed? Or if there’s an old thread, can you link me? I’m curious how it changed, and another former future librarian.

          1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

            Since you’ve asked here, hopefully Alison won’t mind terribly if I just respond here. If so, feel free to delete this Alison, and I will respond on the weekend!

            It changed only because I am now a librarian. Graduated with my MLIS!

            1. teclatrans*


              I have been wondering if that name change meant good things (librarian now), versus, well, something else. Congrats!

        3. Z*

          This. I didn’t get any kind of deferment period on my grad school loans, and I graduated from grad school in 2008.

          I recommend the OP look into Income Based Repayment*. I find it to truly be a godsend. The loan company thinks I can pay $600/month, but they’re full of it. IBR bring it down to $190/month. And if it’s not paid off in 25 years, the remainder is forgiven.

          (* not all loans qualify. I don’t remember the requirements.)

          1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

            Yup. I can’t imagine paying the full amount. I don’t even have *that much* in loans, and it still is enough to lease a high-end vehicle each month. I don’t make that kind of money, though I certainly wish I did!

    1. Mando Diao*

      Plus if you weren’t attending full-time for your last few semesters, that clock is already ticking. It took me an extra year to write my MA thesis, and I was paying back those loans while I was still a student.

  4. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

    #1…I agree with Allison, don’t apply if it’s too low. Government bands/pay rate generally aren’t flexible.

    I would also recommend you spend some time figuring out how much you have to make, so you have a good idea of what’ll you need. Even sketching out a basic budget can be incredibly helpful.

    I would also encourage you to spend some time looking at what entry-level positions in your field pay. My best friend really struggled finding a job after finishing her Masters because her professors and other college staff kept telling her that she should apply for mid-manager level positions and expect a significant pay range (they also told her that her degree was the equivalent of three years work experience. It gave her some very unrealistic expectations were wildly different from what hiring manager thought.

    1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*


      I think, based on personal experience, that OP #1’s salary expectations are…not realistic. Masters degrees are not a ticket to a big salary, particularly in government. Entry-level, that salary sounds right about average. (I have found several government jobs that require a Masters that paid between 5k-10k less than that!)

      However! Don’t let it deter you. You can go on an income-based repayment plan to make the salary feasible. Look at getting roommates! There are many ways to make a smaller-than-expected salary work. If this is something you truly want to do, you can find a way to make it work. Also, definitely look into public service loan forgiveness!

      1. Manders*

        In the industries I’m familiar with $40,000 would be incredibly generous, but from the OP’s description (many jobs posted at once, multiple openings in the same county at the same time) I’m assuming this is a fairly specialized and in-demand field.

        Recent graduates of OP’s program may have more up-to-date information about what to expect than the career advisor.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          I didn’t read multiple fellowships as specialized or unique, especially for a local government role. Most of the cities I have lived in have a cohort of government fellows that start at the same time.

          I do think getting in touch with people from her program would be very helpful.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            I agree with you, I used to work for a consultancy firm and there was always a massive graduate intake in the summer and at my current firm there is a similar scheme for IT grads. Both are highly competitive schemes with plenty of applicants.

      2. Random Lurker*

        I am 20 years out of college so I have no idea if OP’s expectations are realistic. But I think it’s important to also balance this with what other leads for employment they have in the field. Better to be underpaid and gain experience in your field than holding out for an ideal situation that may not come.

        I live in a college town. There are lots of baristas and bartenders with graduate degrees here who are “just waiting” for that $90k/yr job.

        1. Kate M*

          That’s a good point – is it better to work for a year at $40k, with the possibility of moving up after that year and adding a year of experience to your resume, or holding out for a job that’s pays $60k and not being able to find that for more than a year, to the point that you finally take that $40k job after a year of applying? In the second scenario, you’ve lost a year of work experience and salary, and ended up right where you would have been if you took the offer in the first place.

          I mean I could be off base and maybe $40k is really low for this field of work, and getting a higher paying job is not as hard as I’m envisioning. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a master’s degree automatically qualifies you for a higher-than-entry-level job.

      3. BRR*

        My thoughts exactly. $40K doesn’t strike me as unusually low for an entry level government role which is the type it sounds like the lw would be applying to. I’m happy to hear the lw is smart enough to know to not apply to a job they won’t take but they might need to figure out what the pay is for the type of job they want in addition to what salary they want.

        1. Person of Interest*

          Agreed – this sounds like a pretty great opportunity for entry into what the OP describes as a tough-to-enter and pretty specific job market. One year at a less than ideal salary might be a good trade off for the future opportunities it could lead to. I also agree that s/he should go into this with the understanding that government salaries are pretty inflexible and can be below other market rates for similar skill sets. Good luck!

      4. Ella*

        What stood out to me was that OP #1 mentions that it’s a field that’s tough to break into. If that’s the case, I’d jump on this, to get experience. Or at least apply, while looking for other (better) jobs. What’s the harm in applying? If you get an offer, at that point hopefully your research will have given you a better idea as to both starting salaries and job availability. And if it turns out that this actually is a realistic starting salary for breaking in the field, you won’t have thrown away an opportunity. Another nice thing is that the fellowship is only for 1 year, so you wouldn’t be locked into his salary forever. Masters or Phd does not always equate to a great salary, unfortunately. Sometimes experience can give you a leg up.

        1. uhmealeah*

          I completely agree, Ella: get the experience! I disagree that #1 should be deterred from this job because the experience of the position may totally be worth it. One year of experience might put the OP ahead of another candidate in a future job search. I think it’s important to weigh the value of the experience of the position. If there’s some way to live on that college student budget for one more year, it might be worth it. Consider what the long term cost/benefits are.

          I know everyone is throwing out their opinion about the dollar amount itself but it’s important to note that salary is somewhat relative to the city you’re in. Yes, the OP said “major metropolitan area” but are we talking Minneapolis or NYC? Depending on the state you’re in, you may be able to find public salary data available about state/local employees. In California, there’s, where you can check and see what the mid- to experienced level employees in a similar role have made.

      5. Barefoot Librarain*

        I’m wanted to specifically expand on the income-based repayments on student loans. Thank you for bringing that up!

        OP#1, if you have government student loans, you can get a lot of flexibility in repaying them. They recognize that initial salaries are often not high. You just need to NOT let the loans go into default and keep communication open with your lendors. There are several repayment options that are either based on your actual salary or are designed to start with lower payments and ramp up as your pay goes up. There are also many options for loan forgiveness (I’m a librarian also and after 120 payments, a big chunk of mine can be forgiven under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program). Educate yourself about what your options are so you don’t get bogged down or have to turn down otherwise good jobs.

        Unfortunately, the options are considerably more limited with private loans.

    2. Milli Vanilli*

      Yesss. I came here to say the same. Research, research, research. What is realistic? Truly. Don’t just look at “masters required”. Look at masters preferred and entry level too.

      And as someone who definitely felt like hot stuff after getting a Master’s…I was realistic with what salary I was going to get and I was still surprised with my low offer. It’s government, what else is there to say.

      To add another unrealistic expectation story: my neighbor has sat on her behind for 8 years since she graduated from Haaarrrvard because some bozo told her that she could get any job she wanted. She had 3 great job offers in the first year but they weren’t good enough. Prestigious enough. Paid too low. And she just has a BA. Ha. Never be like the neighbor in apt 52D.

      I hope things work out for you, OP.

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        Yikes! Even an ivy league degree is going to be worth very little after 8 years of doing nothing with it.

    3. babblemouth*

      I also have the experience of university professors insisting that our diploma was The Best Ever, and that we should be able to demand a high salary for it… Let’s just say that would have been bad advice in any year, but in 2008, it hurt a lot of students who followed it.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        Ugh. 2008 is the year I graduated. I ended up working fast food ($10-$12 an hour) for two years until I was able to get an internship in DC (which was also around $10 an hour). It’s been going great from there, but dang, 2008-2010 or so was an economic black hole for a lot of people.

    4. Nye*

      Most fellowships for recent graduates don’t pay particularly well – it’s considered an extension of your training, in a way. (Whether or not that’s fair is another matter, but it’s the perception.) They are usually not compensated as well as jobs, but (at least in theory) are designed to give you experience and skills that a typical just-post-graduation job won’t. $40K seems typical if not generous, especially for a fellowship that requires a Master’s degree. If you can’t afford to take it, that’s completely reasonable, just know that it doesn’t seem at all unusual.

      Also, echoing others, the money for fellowships (gov or not) is often completely non-negotiable. They’re not budgeted or treated like salaries. They are often not even paid like salaries – you may not get a W2, and many fellowships aren’t considered earned income, which had major tax implications. You may also not be covered by the employer’s insurance with an employee’s subsidy, or even at all. Something to ask about if you do apply to this kind of position.

      1. AVP*

        This is really interesting! Do the tax implications work in favor of the worker or against them?

        1. fposte*

          Depends how you look at it :-). They’re often not taxable, but then you also can’t contribute to an IRA.

          1. Anxa*

            I would imagine some don’t contribute to SS either. Which, again, depends on how you look at it.

          2. Nye*

            Every fellowship I’ve had has been taxable. You can only write off tuition and expenses required by the school (e.g. mandatory fees), but pay taxes on your stipend and any research funds you receive if not handled through your institution. (If you know a loophole to this fposte, I’d love to hear it before mid-April!) There’s no withholding, so you need to remember to pay quarterly and doing taxes is a pain in the butt. Also, the IRA thing is a huge drag. I’d like to be saving money, and it’s disappointing to have one of the major avenues for retirement savings off-limits in my 20s and 30s.

            You also may not count as an employee for the purposes of workman’s comp, and I’ve never heard of anyone on a fellowship getting any kind of retirement benefits. Financially, I think it’s a pretty bad deal compared to working. Intellectually, though, it’s great to have a lot of freedom and independence while becoming established in your field, and I love that I have no grad school debts hanging over my head.

            1. fposte*

              You’re right–I just zipped over the IRS summary without going into the details.

              Then there’s the fine print on whose tuition waiver is taxable and whose isn’t.

  5. Is it spring yet?*

    For #5 – this is why I’ve always told my kids – Do it when you know you have the time; don’t wait and then hope you have the time.
    Procrastination is not your friend. But so many of us have made it our best friend.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I learned the hardway after automatically losing 50 points of an essay when the Internet in my dorm randomly shut-off one night as I was trying to send something at the deadline.

    2. snuck*

      For high interest entry level jobs where there’s a lot of applicants and plenty of fish in the pond… I’ve been firm on the cut off. I’ll only look at people past that time IF I can’t find suitable applicants that applied on time. Part of the role is often being able to demonstrate to me timeliness and self management (and hopefully not procrastination or poor executive functioning skills). That being said, if I received an email say “Sorry, I got the time zones wrong, please if possible still accept my application” I might toss it in with those that were on time – if that email came swiftly (within a day or two). A job with certain aspects (specific attention to detail, hard to find technical skills etc) might be viewed differently, but I don’t know if entry level internships would fall into this for me.

      That said, I’d also bend the other way – I lean toward not having a cut off time of Friday night so much as Monday morning. Send it before 5am Monday and I’m likely to treat it as though it arrived 6pm Friday and not fuss. But 8am Monday and it’s into the business day after, and is treated as slightly late.

      1. Bleu*

        Yes, and add to this that it is a PR fellowship. It’s a field where there are lots of deadlines. I’m afraid this deadline is probably (not certainly) the first and easiest screen.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Yeah, typically anything PR or journalism based is strict when it comes to deadlines because meeting those is the job. That said, since it’s an internship, they may be a little more lenient than if they were dealing with professionals.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I encourage you to reconsider this. A job application isn’t like a school assignment that everyone gets at the same time – you don’t know when your applicants discovered your job posting.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq*

          Eh, in lots of jobs you have to work on short deadlines that didn’t need to be short deadlines… you missed an email, a colleague didn’t CC you on that message, etc. Information asymmetry is definitely a thing in the real world! I think snuck’s rules seem pretty reasonable.

        2. fposte*

          I understand that argument from the applicant’s side, but I don’t see why that makes it in the employer’s interest to look at submissions after the close date. It’s not like a school assignment where fair access is an important consideration–the goal here is to hire a suitable person, and if snuck and I get enough suitable candidates before the deadline, I don’t see the advantage in extending it.

    3. BRR*

      My husband lost out on a couple positions because they closed before the deadline. That finally gave him the kick in butt he needed to start applying earlier instead of trying to figure out if “by March 20th” meant March 19h at 11:59pm or March 20th 11:59pm. I said why don’t you apply March 10th and this wouldn’t be a problem.

      1. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

        Can you come give this talk to my students?

        * This post brought to you by today’s summer program application deadline and the barrage of emails I woke up to.*

      2. Lily in NYC*

        Ooh, this is a good point. Our entry-level PM positions often get over 500 applicants. After we get a good bunch of candidates, I’ll admit that I usually stop checking the new resumes that come in if we are close to making an offer (even if the deadline hasn’t happened yet).

    4. Agnes*

      Yes, when we had that thread about deadlines a few weeks ago, everyone was like, “No, don’t penalize things that come in at the last minute! Adults can organize their time!” (and I agree that everything before the deadline should be treated equally.) But the flip side is, adults should realize that things come up at the last minute – websites are down, computers malfunction, you get sick – and build in some extra time.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      Procrastination is not only my best friend, it’s my lover and husband all rolled into one. I am a professional procrastinator.

    6. Lindsay J*

      This. Plus, if the job didn’t specify “by 11:59PM on Friday”, I would have assumed that the deadline was for COB Friday and would have emailed it sometime that morning, not within the last half hour of the literal day.

      Though if OP didn’t find the posting until a few hours before the deadline that’s understandable.

      And either way I don’t think it would hurt for them to shoot a quick email and mention the time-zone mixup. The worst the job can say is that they can’t/won’t consider her.

  6. Dan*


    The reality is that salaries are set by market forces, of which your budget is an indirect part of.

    You say that the market is tough to break into, what will you do if you can’t find a job paying what you want? Do you know what entry level salaries are actually like in your field? Tough to break into fields generally have a long line of people knocking down the door for entry level jobs that pay near poverty level wages.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Agree with this. I hope the latter isn’t the case, OP, but is that salary less than you realistically should make based on a true survey of entry level salaries in your field…or a perfectly average salary that, unfortunately, just is way less than you hoped for once the loans added up?

      Employers don’t have to worry about your personal budget when setting salaries. They pay what they can afford that they think the job is worth, and when that amount agrees with what you want, everybody wins. But that’s not a given.

      Don’t apply if the salary is unacceptable.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      I agree too and I’m surprised that Alison didnt touch on that in her answer. Personal circumstances don’t affect salary.

      $40,000 sounds reasonable to me for a starting salary but the only true measure of that is the ability to find other jobs paying more.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I didn’t think the OP was saying that she (or rather, her career advisor) was hoping the employer would raise the salary because of her personal circumstances, but instead that the employer might realize at some point during the process that they need to raise the salary. Presumably they meant that could happen if the employer heard from a bunch of the candidates they were interested but the salary was too low for them. I don’t think that’s likely, for the reasons in the post.

        But I do regret not making the point that others have made — that before the OP writes off this job because of the salary, she should make sure that she has a realistic picture of what salary she can expect at this point in her career (if she hasn’t already).

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          I thought it was less that OP expected them to raise the salary *for her*, and more that she felt the job couldn’t possibly, realistically pay $40k because she feels that is just not enough to live on (especially because the master’s degree required for the job means the candidates likely have loans, plus it’s an expensive city, plus…). We’re just pointing out that despite all of that, the job almost surely will stay at $40k because that is what the market will bear. Whether someone thinks they can live on it is beside the point.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I completely agree with this. I have a master’s degree in a communications field, and when I completed it 12 years ago, I also had 3 years of work experience in a related field. My field is notoriously hard to break into and very desirable. I ended up taking an entry-level job in New York City for $30k, as did many of my cohort (I ended up being one of the few with a growing career in the field, though I did take some twists and turns along the way). I had no bargaining power– dozens of people were probably lined up to take that job.

      I’ve come to see it as the nature of the beast. Very few master’s degrees lead to high-paying jobs straight out of the gate. Research is critical, as is planning– taking advantage of loan consolidation, deferrals, that kind of thing– and realizing that no degree is a guarantee of a sizeable paycheck. My degree gave me connections, a foot in the door, and a higher level of knowledge, but it took a few years to leverage that into a well-paying job.

  7. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

    #4 this is the one situation where I would recommend calling or going in to speak to the owner/manager.

    I agree with AAM that you shouldn’t apply knowing that you likely will leave, but who knows! They could end up liking you and thinking it’s worth it to have you onboard.

    1. snuck*

      Another thought on this is what is the likelihood you’ll find another job in that time frame? If you finish your studies what is the average time it takes for someone with your qualification to get a full time job? If it’s generally going to take you past the year then I’d say you can assume you’ll be there a year and be sweet to go. If it’s likely you’ll be looking to be employed elsewhere within months then it’s best to be upfront you’ll be looking and let them decide if it’s a deal breaker (rather than just not applying and not putting yourself in the running at all).

      1. OP #4*

        Not the droid you’re looking for: I’m definitely pondering that. Only thing I’m concerned about is how to explain that I’m going to be ACTIVELY LOOKING for buying jobs during my time with them. If I get hired in May, I’m leaving in May. If I hear nothing until a year from now then I’ll be there a year from now. It’s tricky.
        Obviously I could look into other jobs but even if they don’t require minimum working time then I’ll feel bad applying and knowing that I plan to leave soon…

        Snuck: I work in academia; I’m not a student.

        1. TootsNYC*

          You have no experience in this field; your only experience will be this job that you are hoping will train you.

          You really, really, really don’t want to burn the bridge to the only reference that will help you in this new field.

          And why leave after summer? Why not stay at that job and soak up everything you can get, so you’re an even stronger candidate in this completely new field? You won’t get that much specialized job experience in only a summer!

          1. Artemesia*

            And leaving at the 9 month mark is going to feel less dishonest than at the end of the summer. Don’t burn your own reference in new field.

          2. Ashley the Paralegal*

            I’m with Toots on this. It sounds like you are trying to switch career fields which can be difficult to do with little to no experience in that field. I think a prospective employer is going to find a full year of experience and a good reference to be much more appealing than just a few months of experience and a (possibly) sub-par reference. Plus, you may well make some important connections through this fellowship that leads to an even better position down the road.

            1. Ashley the Paralegal*

              Meant this job, not this fellowship. Sorry, the posts ran together in my mind a little bit… :)

          3. Marketeer*

            I agree, fashion buying is not an easy area to break into. Apply and if you get it, stay for at least a year. It’s possible they might offer you full time after a while because you’re doing well. There’s no guarantee you’ll get a buying job as soon as you start looking; I’d anticipate a 6 month to 1 year job search just to be on the safe side. At that point, it would work itself out.

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          My initial response was to just be open and the worst they can say is “no.”

          But then I read TootsNYC’s reply. If you need experience to switch careers, why not commit to a year?

        3. MerchGirl*

          I’m a retail buyer – and I’m not sure what area of the country you live in or what types of buying jobs you’d be applying to, but consignment buying is not even really relevant experience. Aside from the whole “will this piece sell, how much could I sell it for, and what should I set the price to so that the store makes a profit”, there is SO much more to buying for actual retail or ecommerce… and you’ll be competing with people fresh out of school with degrees in Fashion Merchandising who have interned for a year in Paris, NYC, etc.

          I transitioned to this business 5 years ago but took a massive pay cut and basically had to start in an assistant-type position and fight my way tooth-and-nail to be promoted several times. It’s not easy. I also was extremely lucky to be referred by another employee or I’m sure no one would have ever taken a second look at my resume since I don’t have a Merchandising degree.

          I would take the position with the intent of staying there the full year and do not start applying until you’ve been there 9-ish months. You need more semi-relevant experience than just a few months.

  8. Forget T-Bone Steak, Let's Eat T-Rex Steak*

    LW #1: If they are advertising six one-year fellowships for $40,000 each, the agency probably wrote a proposal and was funded to provide for six one-year fellowships of $40,000 each. I would bet there’s no wiggle room in that amount.

    Incidentally, the NIH stipend for a new postdoctoral fellow is $43,692, so a $40K fellowship at the master’s level seems pretty reasonable to me.

    1. BRR*

      Exactly. This career advisor sucks. They should know with this type of ad the salary is probably set in stone.

    2. blackcat*

      NSF funds post-docs in that ball park range, too. For something like a “fellowship” or post-doc that constitutes further training, I’m afraid the OP might not find something at a much higher salary.

      And, for what it’s worth, 40k is the ballpark starting range for teachers with masters degrees in many states. They tend to be lower cost of living states, but even in high cost of living states, new teachers with masters degrees are quite unlikely to make over 50k.

      1. Doodle*

        Agreed. My salary my first year (no MA) was 38,000 — raised to 41,000 when I finished the MA. This was in a high cost of living area (not SF or DC, but close).

        1. Anon for this*

          I was in a MCOL area and my first salary 16 years ago with an MA and a couple years of experience was 23K. And, like others have indicated I had many classmates who worked retail for several years waiting for a better paying job that didn’t materialize. Unless you have significant work experience your first job upon graduation is generally what you can get, rather than what you want or need.

          If the field is difficult to break into then I would jump on this sort of fellowship. It could give you the experience and more critically the contacts to find a better paying job once the fellowship is over.

          1. Artemesia*

            And a few years in retail or as a barista is not going to help build that career. Getting in on a rung of the ladder, even the bottom rung is important.

            1. Jen S. 2.0*

              This. Years of waiting and turning down good opportunities (while working retail or slinging hash) don’t generally get you closer to your desired salary. Taking a good opportunity and working your way up does.

      2. Blue_eyes*

        Yep. In NYC teachers with a masters start around 50k, but that’s got to be one of the highest in the country because of the high COL and strong union.

        1. MsChandandlerBong*

          Pennsylvania salaries are much higher when you factor in the lower COL. In our local district, uou start at $40K with a bachelor’s and move up steadily based on every class you take/degree you complete. My cousin is 36, and she makes over $70,000 per year teaching at a middle school. Quite a few of my friends are teachers, and they all make at least $52,000 (for elementary teachers) to close to $80,000 (physics teacher).

  9. Mando Diao*

    OP1: I’m going to echo other commenters and very kindly tell you that $40k is a very good starting salary (with adjustments for your field). If it’s a government job and that’s the general type of position you’re looking for, that’s what your initial salary is going to be.

    I mean no judgment here, but I’d take job advice from school advisors with a grain of salt. People in academia cannot be presumed to be familiar with current workplace norms outside of education. This goes double if your advisor is a tenured professor. Academia and government are very different worlds, and $40k is a nice salary that IMO you’d be foolish to turn down if you’re otherwise unemployed.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      And not to toot my own horn or whatever, but I started at 40k as well in government. 6 years later I was making double that. At least with most government jobs there’s a clear path to promotion.

      1. BetsyTacy*

        Yeah, echoing this- I have a Master’s in Public Administration and worked very closely with others in my cohort getting Master’s degrees in public policy. I initially had to take an internship to get a job doing I wanted (it was 2011/2012, the market was tight…)

        So since 2012, my income has gone from 30k to 67k. It’s been worth it.

      2. Murphy*

        Ditto. I started in government (with an MA) in 2002 making $37K a year doing a six-month internship. Within 8 years I was making six figures. Government is excellent for career advancement, salary increases, and stability.

    2. Mike C.*

      People in academia cannot be presumed to be familiar with current workplace norms outside of education. This goes double if your advisor is a tenured professor.

      This is really a bit much. The engineering professors I worked with were constantly consulting on the side and working to bring projects to students. Also, there are a great deal of similarities between working for a government and working for a very large corporation.

      1. Mando Diao*

        The concept of advice depends on being able to predict scenarios based on generalizations. Your experiences with your professors don’t outrule mine, nor to they negate the bad advice given by my relatives (professors) or friends (professors) or peers in the field I used to work in (academia).

        IMO it’s a bit much to call someone’s experiential advice a bit much.

      2. Xay*

        The problem is that professors who do advisory or contract work with government are often not paid on the same scale as full time employees and may not be aware of the pay differential for entry level workers. Many of my professors in my MPH program still work in government but are paid at much higher rates due to their status or the fact that they are contracted through third party sources or simply do not work in the states or municipalities that they used to. For example, my advisor was a health department director in Florida and was shocked when I told him about the changes that have been made on the local level to cap salaries, reduce staff, and limit pay increases.

      3. Chalupa Batman*

        I’d agree that this is a YMMV statement. I’ve worked with faculty all the way through the spectrum, from career academics completely out of touch with the workforce to people who were still active and influential members of their field of instruction’s professional community. I think it’s appropriate for students to ask faculty advisors and instructors (in a respectful way, of course) when they last worked in the field and if they’re still involved in professional orgs, consulting, etc., then weigh that information into how much value the student gives their career advice. I can’t promise all faculty members will react favorably, but I know I wouldn’t put much stock in advice on how to bake a pie from someone who baked one back in 1982, so why would I make someone who’s been active in a completely different career for 20 years my sole source of advice on entering a field? They likely still have something useful to share, but that advice would be weighted against other sources.

      4. themmases*

        I agree, in fields with an applied component or a professional wing it’s just not true to say that academics aren’t familiar with workplace norms. This describes many of the fields that have seen growth in graduate enrollment or entirely new degrees– they are explicitly or implicitly professional programs and the whole point of them is to get a job.

        Tenured academics in my field absolutely work with other types of employers all the time as part of their job, and they may even have employment or stakeholder relationships with both (e.g. faculty of a school of public health in a major city, and a consultant for the local public health department). Much of their research may be about coordinating with these groups. Both of my jobs are academic research projects that require coordinating with state and local government and community organizations, and that is the most common model in my field.

        I also don’t see the relevance of slamming professors when the OP said they were given this advice by a career advisor. That could be an academic mentor but it sounds more like a staff career counselor.

  10. FiveByFive*

    #2 – Even if you ARE an overstepping upstart… so what?? :) There’s worse things to be! Some execs might like that. Go for it.

    Hope it works out for you.

    1. Afiendishthingy*

      Agreed! No reason to withdraw from consideration. I understand why you were flustered, but I think the interviewer was asking a good question. The best applicant often isn’t the most experienced applicant, but employers do want to know if the applicant’s experience has sufficiently prepared them to be successful in the role. Moreover, as the interviewee you don’t want to take a job you don’t think you can handle. It sounds like the interviewer was just trying to determine if you were a good fit.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I think that you made a very good impression during the first part of your interview, because this:

      And of course, at this point, everyone leaned forward.

      They all wanted to hear. Why? Because they were feeling positively toward you at that point, and this is the big sticking point–can you transition?

      You had a chance, honest you did–so you DESERVED to be in that room to answer that question, and to be considered for that job.

      But don’t think of yourself has having blown it. Maybe your answer wasn’t the one they were hoping for, or maybe someone else will just be a stronger candidate. An interview can be a success FOR YOU even if it doesn’t get you the job.

      You know a few things now:
      -your qualifications on paper are impressive enough for a group of high-level execs to put you in the pot
      -you’ve had experience with handling a tough question at the end; now you know to be really prepared for this one. (For the next position you apply for, do the game of Let’s Pretend: If you were the skeptic interviewer, what things in your qualification would people want to ask that question about?)

      And remember this: Those high-level execs think long-term. So even if they thought you were a bit of a stretch right now, for this position, they may be thinking about where else they would like to have you around.
      So it’s very much to your advantage to act as confidently and professionally as possible.

      Be confident! Hey–they called you in, and they listened to you carefully

      1. Elizabeth West*


        Also, I would be more impressed by someone who earnestly tried to answer the question, even if they seemed intimidated, than by some glib cocky person.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I hate to be the wet blanket here, but it occurred to me that they had her interview with the higher ups because she works for a competitor, and unfortunately I have many friends who’ve been interviewed like this just so the competing company can pump them for information. I hope that’s not the case, but something to be aware of, it happens.

  11. Lizard*

    OP#1, for a one year fellowship that offers you a perfect entry into exactly what you want to do in the city where you want to do it, I would certainly apply and, if accepted, try to make it happen–get on income based repayment, get a roommate, do some babysitting or tutoring on the side. 40K isn’t a ton of money, but it’s a real salary, it’s not like they’re offering a 15K “stipend” with the unspoken assumption that your parents will subsidize you. It’s only for a year, and it sounds like it would be a real boost to your career.

    1. caryatis*

      Yes! You can get income-based repayment for the loans, and $40k is PLENTY for the rest of your expenses, even in an expensive city. For reference, the average household income is $44k–and that applies to lots of people who support children or nonworking spouses.

    2. BethRA*

      This (in addition to the other great advice above). Fellowships sometimes give you access to really amazing work experience that most people don’t get right out of school – that can be a big career boost later on. Not always the case, but worth doing some research.

  12. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. If it is only for a year, but will be an excellent opportunity to start your career, then it should be considered as not being impoverished for ever. I took a temporary contract at a slightly lower salary once, and considered it as a training position because of the skills I would be learning.

  13. Alanna*

    It’s so easy to psych yourself out of a job, but if they asked you to interview, they thought you belonged there. No one wastes time interviewing people that aren’t a possible fit for the job. Well, they do that on American Idol, so if your interview included live TV and a singing requirement, you may be right to worry.

  14. Carrie in Scotland*

    As a non US commenter, could someone explain the loan system to me? It’s so far out of my experience, as my (by which I mean Scotland itself as England is different, I think) country does things a different way. You have to repay immediately, no matter what your job and salary? What if you never earn *that* much?
    Thanks :-)

    1. Nye*

      Most (all?) US student loans are handled by private companies, which expect repayment. Your job and income don’t typically come in to consideration, just the amount you borrowed and the terms of the loan. You can occasionally consolidate to get a more favorable interest rate, which also extends the repayment and interest-accrual period. (This can lead to lower payments per month, but doesn’t lower the amount you owe and in fact can increase it.) You can usually defer repayment while in school, so for example have a grace period in repaying undergraduate loans while in graduate school. And I believe there are some loan forgiveness schemes available if you work in specific fields and commit to a certain amount of service. But overall, the loan company wants its pound of flesh (+interest), and will absolutely send your student loan to collections if you can’t repay.

      I hear it’s different in the UK, but this is the American way. (To the best of my knowledge as someone with student loans – hopefully a finance specialist will comment and fix any mistakes!)

      1. BRR*

        Most student loans in America are government loans. I believe around 10% are from private companies.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Mine was originally just through the government, but at this point has been sold to multiple private companies in succession. And I think more of them are through private companies than there were in the 90s.

          2. Not Today Satan*

            I’m pretty sure that all government loans are eligible for government programs, no matter who the servicer is. It’s similar to how a Fannie Mae mortgage is still Fannie Mae even if the servicer is Bank of America or Citi or whoever.

            And I don’t think federal student loans are ever truly “sold,” I think they just sell the servicing rights.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yeah, I think this is right. Mine’s with MOHELA now, but I can still get Income-Based Repayment and such.

            2. Nye*

              That sounds right. But boy, when a private company services it, it definitely feels like a private loan.

        1. Mando Diao*

          I think it’s one of those things that’s constantly changing. When I was in the middle of grad school, Discover decided to stop offering loans to non-full-time graduate students (not sure if they’ve changed again), forcing me to switch to Sallie Mae. My sister went to a different school than I did and couldn’t use any of the companies I used. I don’t think either of us had many government loans available to us, for whatever reason.

      2. Natalie*

        Private loans also can never be discharged in bankruptcy, which is unusual for personal debt. (There may be some rare cases but they generally involve total disability that precludes working and other kinds of crises.)

        1. Artemesia*

          My husband represented a trucker who became blind and he had a very difficult time getting discharge of his trucker school loans for disability. The lender pushed back hard and they had to go through extensive legal wrangling before they finally caved. The guy was blind but they didn’t think that was disabling enough for a trucker to discharge his loans in bankruptcy. He did this pro bono and it took a lot of time in pre-trial etc because they wouldn’t cave. For someone hiring a lawyer and paying them it would have succeeded probably — because most people could not afford that much lawyering.

          1. Ashley the Paralegal*

            If this story isn’t the perfect example of the banking industry’s unquenchable greed, I don’t know what is…

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, you basically have to be an incapacitated lump to get a discharge of student loans. Or dead. That’s it.

              What bugs me about it is the interest keeps going on and on and on–so almost your entire payment goes to that and to fees. You barely touch the principal unless you can afford to make huge payments, which most people can’t. So you end up paying for years and it never goes away.

              I think they should suspend the interest IF YOU ARE MAKING PAYMENTS. If you’re not, it switches back on. If they did that, people could pay it off!!!

        2. Mpls*

          Student/education loans, whether government or private in origin, are not dischargeable in bankruptcy except through extraordinary circumstance – usually a demonstration that the lender can not be expected to ever recover the funds.

    2. Dorth Vader*

      In my experience (graduated in 2013 with an education degree), here’s what happens:
      The federal government provided me with some loan money at the start of each academic year through the financial aid office. I could accept or decline that money and then had to use private loans to fund the rest. My first private loan didn’t have a deferment plan for while I was a student, so I had to start paying it back immediately. All my other loans were deferred but gaining interest while I was in school PLUS a six-month grace period after graduation. January 2014 I made my first “big” payment to the federal loans and my private ones.
      My husband and I have income-based repayment set up, meaning the payments started small (commensurate with average incomes for new grads) and increase each year or so (about the time that pay raises would happen). There is generally a 10-year timeframe to pay off loans, but with the income-based repayments we have 20 years. Some people in government, military, or public service (teachers etc) can have their loans “forgiven” if they meet certain criteria, but I think it only applies to federal loans, not private ones. If we can’t pay, our cosigners get harassed (in this case, our respective parents) BUT if we die all is forgiven since we aren’t using the degree anymore (except maybe from private lender Sallie Mae? I despise that company). Also fun is the fact that the loans keep gaining interest and at least one of them has a current balance of about $5K MORE than what I took out. So that’s cute.
      I really wish I had gone to community college when I look at my loans (possible to get a decent job in my field, not in many others). I’m determined that any future kids of mine won’t have to deal with loans to get the education and job training they need because it just sucks so much.

      1. misspiggy*

        So income based repayment isn’t based on your actual income, but on an expected average? That’s… appalling.

        1. Carrie in Scotland*

          That’s what I was thinking. Surely it doesn’t benefit anyone to be taking out so much money, as you’d spend less on food, clothes etc which help the economy?

          1. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

            But if you don’t punish people with high loan payments how will they pull themselves up by their bootstraps? Bootstraps are very important in our economy, you know. Can’t be lowering demand for those.

        2. Natalie*

          Nah, they’re both based on your actual income, more specifically a percentage of your “discretionary income”. That number can be a little non-obvious since it takes family size and other items into account.

          And if you have a co-signer, only federal loans die with you. Private loan companies can and will pursue the co-signer for the debt.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Echoing this. I use income-based repayment, and it’s based on my income and family size.

        3. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

          You have a few different repayment options.

          1. Even amounts spread out over 10 years. This is the cheapest way to go long term, you’ll pay less on your loan overall, but the monthly amounts might be too much for you to handle.

          2. Graduated amounts. Start paying say $200/month and after 2 years it goes up to $300/month. You pay a more in interest than in option 1 but you still pay it off in 10 years.

          3. Income Based Repayment – There’s two types of these and I forget what the acronyms are for each. It used to be that you’d need some kind of reason for needing this. Like a financial crisis or something. Since our economy seems to now be based on financial crisis, this is open to everyone. It’s based on your discretionary income and can be as little as $0 but I believe you need to submit income information every year to keep it up. (I just started this so I’m not sure how often they’ll ask for income info.) This will take you about 20 years to pay it off.

          You can also work in a public service type job like teaching or some non-profits and after 10 years of payments they’ll forgive the rest. But government jobs aren’t easy to get and I think this blog has permanently scared me off of non-profits for good.

          And yes, it’s a big drain on the economy because you’re not spending that money on mortgages, cars, or other things you might need. And of course the interest rate it more than what you’d get on a mortgage these days. PLUS you can only deduct $2500 of interest per year on your taxes, if you have more, too bad. It’s an effing racket, I wish I’d never gone back to school.

          1. Judy*

            And I hear from teacher friends that different types of loans have different forgiveness programs, so they may require teaching for 10 years in a school that has more than a certain percent of students on free lunches. And that can vary from year to year, so if you’re teaching at a school that’s right on the edge of that line, your 10 years for forgiveness may take longer.

            1. Ekaterin*

              And different amounts forgiven, too. I teach a high-needs subject (ESL), but it’s not quite high needs enough to qualify for the really good forgiveness/discharge. I think I can get $5k of my Stafford loan forgiven/discharged after 10 years. (Still good, just not as good as what my colleagues in STEM and special education qualify for.)

          2. Afiendishthingy*

            “I think this blog has permanently scared me off of non-profits for good.”

            This might be kind of a tangent but do you mind saying why? It was mentioned the other day that commenters and letter writers often mention that they work at a non-profit, but those in the for-profit sector don’t usually announce it. People who need Alison’s advice are often in dysfunctional jobs, non-profit or for-profit.

            1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

              It’s not just people who have written in about problems, it’s commenters too. There’s a lot of “Oh yeah that’s par for the course in a non profit” and whatever “that” is is something I’m not interested in dealing with.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I say this every time it comes up: It’s about small organizations, and lots of nonprofits are small organizations. You can find well-run nonprofits. You just need to vet well, like you should do with any job.

                1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

                  Right, but it can be quite difficult to do that with any small organization, non profit or for profit.

          3. Natalie*

            Just a PSA, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program applies to all government and non-profit jobs, it’s not restricted to particular fields.

          4. K.*

            You also can’t deduct any interest at all if you make more than a certain amount per year. It’s a first world problem, but one of the good things about my layoff last year (aside from me no longer working at a place where I cried every day) was that my income dropped enough so that I could declare that $2500. It made a difference on my tax return.

          5. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

            Also to add, for most government loans, you get 6 months to start paying, or while you’re enrolled still at least half (or part?) time. Forbearance is an option if you’re unemployed or in dire straits. Getting it forgiven outside of service is difficult, usually you need to be declared disabled for that to happen.

        4. Z*

          No, it’s based on your actual income. I send them a copy of my tax return every year so they can re-evaluate my payment plan.

      2. Afiendishthingy*

        “Sallie Mae sounds like a naive and barefoot hillbilly girl but in fact they are a ruthless and aggressive conglomeration of bullies located in a tall brick building somewhere in Kansas. I picture it to be the tallest building in that state and I have decided they hire their employees straight out of prison.” -David Sedaris

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Haha. I’m now so thankful I didn’t have to deal with any bullies over there. My smallish loan I had with them one semester had only like $58 monthly payments that came straight out of my bank account every month for like three years, and I was (again, thankfully) working that whole time and could handle it.

      3. ElCee*

        Yes, the negative amortization happened to my partner as well. His loan was on deferment for something like 6 years (he never checked and they never alerted him…I was the one who finally noticed).

    3. Anon for this*

      The system in the UK is much better.

      Here you take out your student loans and you typically get a six month grace period immediately upon graduation (or not being enrolled). Depending on the type of loan the interest on the loan may have been deferred or it my have been accruing. Once the six months is up you start paying on your loans regardless of your employment status. You can put your student loans into forbearance, for example, if you haven’t found a job or you can’t make the payments. However, the interest accrues while the loan is in forbearance. There are multiple repayment options, but the bottom line is that you must start repaying even if you have a very low paid job. It’s a crappy system that makes it more challenging for those people who struggle to find jobs and/or when they do find a job find that it’s low paid.

      I prefer the UK system, where you have to hit a income threshold before you start paying your loans, and the payment is automatically deducted from your paycheck.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        Thank you all for your replies. It makes some more sense to me now!

        (and you all have my sympathy)

          1. Carrie in Scotland*

            @ eleizabeth: but that’s stupid, that you can’t retire or be forever paying it off. How is that good for anyone!?

  15. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – they’re not going to realize the salary is too low. The salary is what the salary is.

    However, I don’t actually think it’s that low. I mean, it’s low – but it’s within the parameters of what I’d expect for a starting job with county government. Personally, I’d figure out a way to see if I could budget it and go to the interview.

    1. MR*

      If it’s with a government agency, it’s worth trying to do some research and some math on what the total compensation is, not just salary. You may find that the salary itself isn’t what you were looking for, but that when you add the value of insurance and/or retirement benefits makes it more competitive.

      As someone who hires in government, one of the most frustrating things that happens to me is that someone tries to negotiate above the posted range. Like it or not, the range isn’t moving.

      1. Natalie*

        I think that’s a good point when looking at a career in public service, but if the OP is worried about just paying their cash bills it’s less useful. The loan company isn’t going to accept good health insurance or a future pension as payment.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          True, but if the LW is looking at $40K and thinking “how am I going to pay all my bills, including medical cost/health insurance on that amount,” it’s something that needs to be factored into the equation.

          1. KR*

            I second this. I don’t know what kind of insurance they’re offering, but I’ve been under my dad’s insurance from his government job (hooray for being unmarried and under 26!) and it’s awesome. He doesn’t pay anything extra for dependents, I pay almost nothing in copays, more often then not the insurance covers MORE than what’s expected so I’ve ended up paying a copay and then having a credit at the doctor’s office later on, they cover all sorts of procedures even if they’re not strictly medically necessary, and they’re very flexible about what doctor you want to go to.

      2. Nye*

        If it’s called a fellowship, it’s likely there aren’t any benefits, or that they’re more limited than employee benefits. “Fellowship” is usually code for “not an employee” and they are subject to a very different set of employment requirements. Generally fellowships are different than jobs in that nothing is negotiable and they are not considered compensation, just stipends, which has tax implications as well.

        They can also be amazing experiences in terms of gaining skills and connections, so I’d encourage OP not to write it off if they can possibly afford it. But fellowships aren’t jobs and compensation expectations need to be adjusted accordingly.

        1. ZSD*

          I’m on a fellowship right now, and I get all the benefits regular employees get. (YMMV, of course.)

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Yeah, when my employer hires fellows, we treat them as employees. Offering a fellowship is a way for us to attract recent graduates from out of state, since they know it’s not a long-term commitment.

            1. Nye*

              Maybe it’s field-dependent? I’m in academic / academic-adjacent biology, and have never heard of fellows classed as employees. In fact, in my own fellowship the granting agency is scrupulous about saying that you are NOT an employee and you are being given a stipend, NOT a salary. Nice to know that other fields handle it differently.

              (My fellowships have always been direct appointments, though – I think it’s a bit different if you are, say, a postdoc on a larger NSF grant but I still think it’s unusual to be treated exactly like an employee.)

              1. Turanga Leela*

                I’m a lawyer for a law/policy organization. I don’t know about other organizations, but our fellowships aren’t necessarily funded by a granting agency, which might be a big part of the difference. Instead, we approach donors and tell them that for $X, they can fund half (or whatever) of a one-year fellow to work on a specific issue. The funding goes to our organization, and we use it to pay the fellow’s salary and benefits.

              2. Cath in Canada*

                I think it’s more institution-dependent than field-dependent, although some field-specific funding agencies might mandate a certain benefits rate (I’m not aware of any that do, but it’s certainly possible).

      3. Murphy*

        But, and this can be the downside to government work, your take home pay can be a lot less than you might expect based in the gross salary because of things like pension plans and benefits. So that does need to be factored in.

        In my mind it’s still worth it since I like the security, but I bring home a lot less than you’d expect based on my gross salary.

  16. Afiendishthingy*

    #3- Your boss was thinking about himself when he wrote his resume, not about you. I get that it feels like it’s about you, but it’s really not. He’ll probably be gone soon enough anyway. Keep doing a good job and others will take notice.

  17. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

    OP2, quit psyching yourself out! This is a super common thought trap (especially for women but it can effect anyone). You’re making selective use of information – only attending to the negative information, discounting the positive. This can hurt you in lots of scenarios, not just job interviews. Would you tell a friend interviewing for this job to respond to that question with an “oh you know you’re totally right I am nowhere near qualified?” My guess is no, you would remind your friend of what they WOULD bring to the job. Learn to be that friend for yourself!

  18. Roscoe*

    #3 Why do you find this personally insulting? Its not like he is mentioning your name. Even if he is embellishing a bit, it has nothing to do with you. Now you want to go to HR about it? This sounds like you already don’t like him and are just trying to find a way to get rid of him

    1. Kelly L.*

      Because he’s talking about how unskilled his employees are, which isn’t true of the OP. I can definitely see how that would be insulting!

      I think the key is in realizing that he’s not actually talking about his real, flesh-and-blood employees but about totally fictional ones he made up in his head.

      1. Roscoe*

        But even if that is the case, it still seems like an oddly personal stance to take. It is a resume going out to people she doesn’t know. If my manager embellished how much of a mentor he was or something to me, I wouldn’t care. It just seems a bit petty

        1. Kelly L.*

          I think it’s a bit petty to write about how incompetent your imaginary employees are and leave it on the shared computer where your real employees can read it.

          1. Roscoe*

            I guess we just see this differently. I don’t think saying that someone had no experience is exactly the same as saying they are incompetant. I also don’t think just because you accidentally leave a personal file open that people should feel free to read it. He shouldn’t have been doing it on a work computer, sure. But that doesn’t give her the right to go through and read it. However when you snoop (and she did snoop. She knew this was her managers document and chose to read it) sometimes you find things you don’t like. Doesn’t mean it will make her look good for going to HR about it.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I agree. I think he can be a schmuck without it being HR-worthy. If he’d made the statement about his staff publicly, it would have been more of a problem (though not necessarily HR-worthy even then). But he didn’t make it publicly; he made it in his own little computer file.

              (Though it sounds like IT security at this workplace is in desperate need of updating–a single office computer with everybody having access to everything?)

            2. Roscoe*

              Thats kind of my point. OP just wants her pound of flesh because her feelings were hurt by what he wrote in his resume. Its really not an HR issue. Even if you want to argue that he is misusing company equipment, its not illegal, and possibly not even unethical depending on when he is doing it.

              1. fposte*

                Though you make it sound like HR is just the legality police there, and it’s not like something has to be illegal before it’s something HR would deal with.

                1. Roscoe*

                  No, I just don’t see it as an HR issue period. Its not affecting productivity. Its not negatively harming the company. Its just that someone is looking to leave.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Good point. And, chances are HR or whomever will find it on his computer after he leaves anyhow and be like “what the heck…?!”.

  19. KR*

    $40, 000 for a starting salary sounds wonderful to someone making almost half that, and from the sounds of other comments you might just have to make do with that. I would keep in mind that a lot of government jobs have fantastic benefits. What you may be lacking in pay you could be making up for in benefits.

    1. Erin*

      Agreed 100%. I’m nearly 10 years out of college and I’m making, well, not half, but much less than that.

      I would thank my lucky stars to get $40,000 straight out of college. But in addition to that, your point about benefits is spot on – OP, it’s not JUST about the salary. Benefits, a pleasant working environment, with people you like, in a field you’re trying to break into – that’ s difficult to break into, as you mentioned…

      If you’re really sure that number is a deal breaker, then don’t interview. If there’s any chance the other perks will outweigh this one factor, then I’d interview and hear what you have to say. You’re never obligated to accept a job offer, after all.

      Also, it’s a one year fellowship, right? So I’m assuming you’d only be in this position for that amount of time, at which point you’ll be setting yourself up for an even better, higher paying position.

      1. Lindsay J*

        This. I’m only about 8 years out of college, but I’m making $30K, and I was making $20K until about 3 months ago.

  20. OP #4*

    Thanks for the response, Alison! That makes a lot of sense.

    Has anyone else had experiences with this kind of situation? I’m thinking maybe I could go ahead an apply but if they call me in for an interview I can explain that I may be looking to move out of the area if a job opportunity comes up. Would that be honest? I’m not sure I necessarily need to disclose all of my plans, but I also want to be honest and not lose a good reference!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      If it were me doing the hiring, and you let me know you were looking to move, I would just not hire you — problem solved!

      1. Michelenyc*

        Ditto. I have been in fashion for 20+ years and I would also take you out of the running once you disclosed that information.

    2. BRR*

      That would be honest and I applaud how you want to approach this ethically. I imagine disclosing this at the interview would take you out of the running. Most employers want to hire people who be around for some time so they can get a return on the training they do. I think if you were honest and they hired you, you would get an honest reference. If you started then quit before a year and they did not know you were looking, you would probably burn that bridge and not receive a good reference.

    3. Velociraptor Attack*

      I presume anyone that heard you would be looking to move if a job opportunity came is is going to quickly realize that means you would be actively looking for a job to come up and it would take you out of the running.

  21. Noah*

    #1 – I would take the 40k fellowship. With government backed loans, worst case you can request a forbearance for the year if you really can’t afford payments. This will make your required payment $0 but you can still make whatever payments you want to keep interest from accruing too much if you want.

  22. LiveAndLetDie*

    OP1, like others here have said, $40k is pretty awesome for a first job. Mine didn’t pay that until a few years of working and a few raises got me there. If you honestly don’t think you can afford to live on $40k, do not apply to a job that clearly posts the salary hoping that they’ll change their mind or bump it based on your interview. It may happen, somewhere, sometime, but the odds are definitely not in your favor. Salaries are based on what the company can afford to pay you, not your personal situation.

    There are ways to defer, stagger, or otherwise plan out your loan payments. Government-backed student loans have an income-based payment plan as well.

    1. F.*

      +1 to your first paragraph. Salaries ARE based on what the position is worth to the company. Do not interview hoping to get them to change their mind and pay you more. Before I ever interview a candidate, I ask them what their salary requirement is. This is not so we can low-ball them, but so we don’t waste our time and theirs interviewing someone who wants $60,000 for an entry-level position that pays $30,000. I have applications on my desk right now that fit that description. In my case, the candidates obviously didn’t do their homework and check on the internet for average salaries for the position, size of the company, region, etc.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I remember the first time a new grad applying for an entry level graphic design position that required either 1-3 years or a four-year degree in a medium-ish Mid-Western city told me they were expecting $70k.

        I couldn’t keep a straight face.

  23. Erin*

    #2 – As Alison said, they would not have brought you in to interview if they didn’t think you were qualified enough for the job. And an interview with high ranking people, too – I’m going to go ahead and assume they weren’t just wasting these important people’s time.

    But also, you said, you “tried to salvage [the interview] by explaining how aspects of [your] current position could apply to learning other areas.” I mean, that sounds like exactly what you were supposed to do – explain how your current experience can translate into the areas they’re looking for.

    I think you’re overthinking this and you didn’t bomb this at all. If you don’t get the job, no worries – there could be a million different reasons – but certainly don’t take your hat out of the ring.

    1. Overeducated*

      Yup! I had a similar question in an interview yesterday – “my main concern is that it doesn’t look like you have any direct experience with A under conditions B and C” – and I said “you’re right, I don’t, so I understand your concern. I’ve been working to get related experience with A under condition D in these two positions, and also have experience with the key elements of A through three years in this other position.” The interviewer said “you answered that exactly right – and owned up to it, too.” I still might not get the job because I’m sure there are other candidates with more experience in A under B and C, but that kind of feedback does show that honesty and an argument that you can do the work is what you need for those questions.

  24. HigherEd*

    OP #1 – $40k doesn’t seem like an unreasonable starting salary. If it gets you the experience you need for better (i.e., better paying) positions down the road, do like Tim Gunn says and Make It Work.

    OP #2 – I’ve been in your shoes before, and truly — don’t give this another thought. Something about your background makes you a desirable candidate, otherwise they wouldn’t go through the time and trouble to interview you. Someone above made the really good point that the best candidate isn’t necessarily the one with the most experience. Revel in your young upstart status!

    OP #4 – The company is being very upfront about its expectation that employees stay at least one year. It’s an incredibly bad idea to go into it knowing that you don’t intend to honor that commitment.

  25. Dangerfield5*

    OP2, they wouldn’t have asked you that particular question without having thoroughly read through your CV/application materials. They wouldn’t do that unless there was a chance they were going to hire you. They knew about your experience before they started talking to you, and they still did it. It sounds like you handled the whole thing perfectly and have nothing to feel bad about.

    1. Megs*

      I agree with your last point: I think OP2 handled the situation fine and shouldn’t worry about it. But I don’t necessarily agree that they necessarily were intending to hire you. It doesn’t happen often – exactly once in my many years of job searching to be exact – but it has happened to me that I got an interview for a position where it was extremely clear from the outset that it had been a mistake to call me for the interview, I did not have the breadth or depth of experience they wanted, and I was never going to be hired. I even got almost exactly the same question you did, i.e. “how does your four years as a part-time student tea-pot assistant qualify you to be the business manager of local prestigious tea-pot firm?” (Am I doing the tea-pot thing right?). Also I was about 20 years younger than everyone else interviewing and the only one not wearing a suit. Clearly someone screwed up at the screening level in my case, maybe that’s what happened to you. The folks who interviewed you will blame whoever did the screening, not you.

  26. Rusty Shackelford*

    #4, it would actually be in your best interest, assuming you were hired, to stay in the part-time job for the entire year. Otherwise, you’d be out searching for a full-time job with only three months of experience, and only one very short-term position on your resume.

    When you say you want to start looking for full-time work in the fall, I assume that’s because you will need more income. Could you make the part-time buyer position work if you had a second part-time position? Maybe even the consignment shop itself would give you more hours as a salesperson in addition to being a buyer?

    (And not really part of your question, but how certain are you that the consignment shop would actually be willing to have you start working weekends only?)

    1. Dawnfirelight*

      I totally agree – I just don’t see how 3-6 months part time work in a consignment shop will be interpreted as significant experience. If you can keep your academic work after the summer is over, and you can do the buying work part time again after the summer is over, I would try to stay for the one year minimum commitment.

      Speaking as someone who has done hiring (albeit not in the fashion industry), I don’t place much of a premium on such a short, part time job experience. By which I mean, given a choice between someone who has done what you are proposing to do for just a few months, and a second candidate who has zero experience, I would not see the first candidate as definitely having a significant advantage over the second. But someone who has stayed at a job for at least a year proves not only that she has a reasonable amount of experience (and therefore knowledge) in the field, but also that she knows the demands of the job well enough to know that this is really what she wants, she’s not a flakey job hopper, and will therefore be more likely to commit to a full-time, permanent position.

    2. OP #4*

      Rusty: Bingo! I am not making enough at my current job and I’m kind of desperate to move on at this point. That’s why I’m not planning on sticking around. I’ve been at my current job for almost three years and I still don’t even have enough money to move out of my parents house. (That’s very embarrassing and frustrating for me.)
      Additionally, my workplace is making some significant changes in structure and higher ups and I want to get out of there before these changes kick in.
      It’s not at all an ideal situation, I know that. I’m feeling quite frustrated. :-/ I’m really appreciating everyone’s feedback here! It seems that the overwhelming opinion is that, even if I DID get a few months experience at the job, it wouldn’t be enough to get an entry-level buying job with a decent salary. Hmm…. not sure where to go from here. Any suggestions?

      1. Michelenyc*

        I am not sure what part of the country or what you studied in school but as someone that has worked/hired in the fashion industry I would strongly suggest that you look at other positions within the indsutry. There so many other positions that can be equally rewarding and glamourous. Most department stores (Saks, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, etc) have programs specfically geared towards new graduates that want to become buyers. You start as an assistant to an assistant and work your way up and you may or may not become a buyer. I started out as a sales associate in the corporate store at a very well known sports wear brand in the PNW. From there I went on to work in customer service/account manager (first corporate job), customer service manager, product development/production manager, and now I work in fabric R&D. There is so much more to the industry and further research will show you what is available to you!

      2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        Apply for the job, but plan on staying for a year. Then start applying for better positions. A year of experience is always better than a few months.

        I’ve been at my job for 4.5 years and am still living with my parents. Six more months of living in your parent’s basement won’t be that much of a difference, but it could be huge for your career.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Totally agree. Plus, there may be a chance Op could get end up getting extra hours at that retail job, but in a different position, if they like him or her. Or, after six months of doing a bang up job, it might even grow to full-time, or at least from 20 hours to 35 or something, who knows.

  27. Christian Troy*

    #1 – I’m not going to sit here and rehash what 40k means. In the beginning of my job search from graduate school, I had well meaning recruiter friends and my career adviser say the same thing about salary: apply for the job because salary is flexible. Well that’s not true. I had enough interviews for low paying jobs to learn that if someone posts the salary is 40k, the salary is 40k. I can’t tell you if this fellowship makes sense for you or doesn’t, but now might be a good time to look at other jobs in your field. If there are a lot of better options salary wise, then apply to those and move. But if that seems like the norm, then that’s information too.

  28. TootsNYC*

    “HR certainly might care that he’s been applying to jobs from work, “

    I must be so weird, because I absolutely would not care.
    I just wouldn’t.

    I -would- care if the person was letting their own duties slide, and wasn’t getting things done promptly enough. But that has nothing to do with whether they’re job hunting, and nothing to do with whether they’re using the work computer.

    I -would- care if the person was a sour influence in the office. But again, that has nothing to do with whether they’re job hunting on the company’s computer.

    I don’t think I’d ever seek someone out to see if there’s anything I could do to make them happy enough to stay. That’s because I’m as generous as I can be with my people all year long–I give them all the flexibility I -can- give them, I give them as much autonomy as is sensible (I can’t give them all my duties!), etc.
    And, I also give them an opportunity every year to ask for more, and I think I’ve created a situation in which they feel they have a voice in what we do and why we do it–as much as is actually possible.

    I think it’s totally OK for people to move on. I don’t care. I wish them well.
    (In fact, there at times that I’m glad of it–not because the person is bad, but just because it changes things up to get different people into the mix.)

    And I think if I were in HR I’d feel the same way.

    1. Roscoe*

      Completely agree. I mean, I know some people do. But if this guy was using his lunch hour to look for jobs, but he was getting just as much work done, it wouldn’t make a difference to me.

      1. yasmara*

        My husband is one of those magical unicorn bosses who had his employee confide in Husband that Employee was looking for a new job because of Reasons XYZ (and then Employee took an afternoon off – unpaid – for an interview, so it was clear Employee was serious). Some of those reasons were actually within Husband’s control and he liked Employee and wanted to retain him, so he swizzled some responsibilities around & Employee is now super happy & not planning to leave anytime soon. No pay raise, no major changes, but the small effort was effective in retaining a good employee.

  29. Dawnfirelight*

    OP#2 Echoing what others have said, plus I think might be having a case of impostor syndrome (happens to the best of us!). Based on what you wrote, it sounds like you answered the question really well.

    Personally, if someone quite junior applies for a position I’m hiring for, my reaction to that would range from impressed (if the candidate is actually good enough to be considered for the role – because that would mean she’s above average for her level) to bemused (that she should be so impatient to move up the food chain, for a candidate who is clearly not ready).

    But I would never, ever think of this person as an “overreaching upstart”. The kind of people who would put down an ambitious but less-experienced candidate in this way are usually rigid, self-important jerks who will be awful to work with. For high level executives to have this kind of mindset will mean serious culture problems in the company they lead.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Plus, if they think you’re an overreaching upstart, they aren’t going to waste their time on you. They’ll roll their eyes and toss your resumé in the “reject” pile.

  30. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#1….some of this will be repeat….but

    1. $40k doesn’t sound unreasonable and it would be a great way to get your foot in the door
    2. The salary isn’t negotiable and they will not change their minds. The budget is the budget
    3. The grace period on student loan repayment is 6 months after graduation. However, if you think that a substantially higher salary is in your future, you can keep the loans in deferment by taking at least 6 hours of college classes (2 classes at a community college). Note: I don’t advise this, but I’ve known people who used the tactic.
    4. Public service loan forgiveness only kicks in after 10 years and 120 months of on time payments on your student loans. Work in local govt for 9 years and quit and you’re screwed.
    5. Income based repayment plans are only for federal student loans, not private. OP doesn’t say whether the loans are federal or private. If they’re private, then move along and find another job because income base repayment plans are not an option for you.
    6. For those that mention that their salary has doubled over a period of years, after getting Govt jobs, this is true in federal government, but not typically true in local and state govt. I am currently federal and after 6 years, my salary is almost double my original starting salary as well due to the structure of the federal pay system. I have also worked in local govt for a city. It did not work that way. The pay increases were substantially smaller and after 5 to 7 years, you most certainly would not be making double your starting salary assuming it was around $40k.

    All that said, if federal govt is a place you could someday end up with that degree, (I’m not familiar with public policy degrees) then I think it would be well worth doing some spreadsheets to see if you could make this fellowship work. Government likes government and many federal employs that I currently work with have worked for either other federal agencies or local or state agencies. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Govt is its own animal in many ways and if you can say that you were with this city for a year, I believe it may help your chances to transition to federal where the pay tends to be better.

    Best of luck with your decision!

    1. fposte*

      “Public service loan forgiveness only kicks in after 10 years and 120 months of on time payments on your student loans. Work in local govt for 9 years and quit and you’re screwed.”

      You’re not screwed–you just haven’t reached eligibility. They don’t have to be *consecutive* payments, after all; if you become ineligible for a year and then can make qualifying payments again, it picks up where you left off.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        That is true. What I meant, was work 9 years and leave for private enterprise and never return to public service, then you would lose out on that benefit.

    2. Another Lawyer*

      “For those that mention that their salary has doubled over a period of years, after getting Govt jobs, this is true in federal government, but not typically true in local and state govt. ”

      I work for the state government and my salary has almost doubled over 2 years.

  31. Michael*

    5. It’s always a good idea to apply for a job as soon as possible, don’t wait till the last moment. I’m sure they will stop looking at emails at the exact time, but I would avoid that in future. I sadly forgot to apply for something a few times, when I put it back with “oh I’ll just do it later” explanation. Never again!

  32. HRish Dude*

    #3 – I don’t know what taking it to HR is supposed to do. They can’t force him to change his resume. And I don’t really care if someone is applying for another job on company time or using company equipment. If they want to go somewhere else, they’re going to go whether or not they’re looking on the clock.

    As long as they are doing their other work, they are free to try to grow professionally, even if that growth takes place in another company.

    1. Artemesia*

      And while Alison is quite correct that ‘tattling’ does not apply to taking a serious concern about a boss or co-worker who is damaging productivity to management, it does precisely fit this sort of ‘going to HR’ to get someone in trouble for something that is not affecting the business. This action would seriously damage the OP’s reputation.

  33. bemo12*

    I’m not familiar with the fashion field. But would a few months working weekends and then a couple of months in the summer really be enough experience to move to a more advanced role? I feel like most jobs require 2-3 years experience minimum, other than entry-level.

  34. Overeducated*

    Something I don’t understand is how

    a) tons of people are commenting to say that $40K is a fine or great starting salary for a recent master’s grad,
    b) there are lots of skilled starting salaries that are less, especially in certain non-profit fields, teaching, and academia,
    c) I know one or two recent engineering grads who are also making salaries in the low 40s (in a stereotypically high-paying field), yet
    c) I see statistics saying that the average starting salary for a college graduate nationally is something like $45-48K.

    How is this possible? Who is bringing that average up so far? Is the starting pay difference between non-profits/government/academia and for-profits business really THAT starkly divided? Because if it is, I may have to reevaluate my career plans…..

    1. fposte*

      It’s not strictly nonprofits vs. for-profits so much as who tends to be hired by each. Here’s the breakdown by field:

      Business $49,035
      Engineering $64,367
      Liberal arts and Humanities $36,237
      All $45,478

      1. Overeducated and underemployed*

        What about the in betweens (economics, other social or biological sciences, etc.)? Are they lumped into the liberal arts? I would think so, but seeing humanities not included is confusing to me.

        Maybe I just don’t know enough business majors, and this blog isn’t swarming with them either.

        1. fposte*

          I’m just quoting from an article on the study, not the study; it may be the actual survey broke them down more. (Humanities are right there in with liberal arts, though.)

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I’m curious about your engineering grads. Are they petroleum engineers in the cratering oil market?

      I can only speak for my market, but we’re paying new grads right around what fposte added. Low 40s is less than I started at in 2000. There is something unusual going on there. Granted, when I was making around $65k, I had a new coworker who was roughly the same experience level who had been at $35k at his previous job. . .he was in a heavy furniture manufacturing industrial area, and that business just didn’t pay well. There’s always some variation by region/industry/company size, but I don’t think there’s a new average that’s suddenly $25k lower for engineers.

      1. Overeducated and underemployed*

        Nope. Working for a construction firm – not sure what engineering specialty but definitely not petroleum. Small numbers, anecdata, etc etc, but not every engineer I know is raking in big bucks.

      2. CheeryO*

        I live in a small, rust-belt type city, and I know civils, environmentals, mechanicals, and electricals who started in the mid-40s. The market can bear it, thanks to the gigantic university here that pumps out mediocre engineering grads like nobody’s business (I know that sounds horrible, but it’s true. I am one, so I’m allowed to say that.)

  35. Hosp Anonymous*

    #3 – The OP mentioned “kitchen” and “catering” and is likely talking about a hospitality job. In hotels and hospitality people don’t typically stick around for more than year or two – at most hotels I’ve worked at managers stick around for 1 year to 18 months before moving on – so it’s not uncommon for there to be more open job searching norms than other industries. In fact, many managers/directors I’ve worked with have encouraged development and pointed out opportunities when they came up.

    I don’t agree with comments about it not affecting the OP that he lies on his resume and says his staff were incompetent. In hospitality, because of all of the movement, people talk and word gets around. Sometimes even working at the wrong property can impact your career negatively. I’ve seen some people move laterally and then have to work a year or two to get out of the cloud of a bad property on their resume.

    If the manager is lying on his resume or otherwise badmouthing his previous team that can hurt them down the line – especially if he brings that attitude to the new job and poisons the opinions of others who may very well be moving up or around to locations the OP might be applying to next.

    It can also backfire for him because his old team will be managers in the field in a little while – maybe he’ll be applying for jobs from them!

    And it’s not just in whatever city you’re in now – people move to other markets all the time and bring their experiences with them. I still meet people who used to work at my first property

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Not only that, they’ll either find out he’s lying when they call his references, or think negatively of him if he continues to say negative things about his current employer when he interviews. And if he lies like that on his resume, I don’t put it past him to say negative things in an interview.

  36. Goofy*

    LW #1… um…look, I know you have high salary expectations and, hey, you’ve (almost) got a Master’s – you should be making beaucoup bucks and all but I’m feeling a bit insulted here.
    I’ve worked in my industry for 30+ years, have a B.A., and have my own bills and loans to pay. I live in a “Gold Coast” area where taxes are high and everything is expensive. Had finally gotten to a wage that was at least enough to cover everything and even squeeze a modest vacation in, only to be hit with layoffs. After a year on unemployment I had to take whatever I could get; a job paying ~ 1/2 what I had been making. My salary of $40K doesn’t cover much but hey, it’s more than making nothing. And it covers most my health insurance which used to be an important factor).

    How much do you think you should be getting paid for an entry level job that gets you a foot in the door for an industry that you say is hard to get into and provides the potential & learning opportunities you want?? Not being snarky here, really want to understand.

  37. Tuckerman*

    #1: Some college rankings use post graduation employment in their metrics. Career advisers are going to push you to take any full time job in your field so they can demonstrate x% of their students are employed full time within x months of graduation.

  38. Rachel*

    #1 – $40,000 is a fairly high starting salary for most recent grads. I’d try to lower your expectations a bit. Oh, and look into IBR for your loans

  39. WhiteBear*

    #4. If you do end up applying and interviewing for this job, I would try and find out a little more about the one year commitment thing. I completely agree with Alison that this might be stipulated because they invest a lot of time and money in training you, BUT they could also be having problems retaining employees due to poor management, work environment, etc.
    My workplace currently has a job opening that also stipulates a one year commitment, because apparently the last 4 people that held the job quit after 6-8 months because their manager is unbearable.

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