open thread – March 4-5, 2016

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

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

{ 1,322 comments… read them below }

  1. 12345678910112 do do do*

    Rice Sculpture

    I’ve noticed that “Rice Sculpture” is Alison’s new example-du-jour. A quick search of the AAM archives reveals that rice sculpture or sculpting is not mentioned before Feb 12, 2016,

    February 12, 2016 post “people keep telling me how hot my field is, I got a bad reference but don’t know who it was, and more” – “so tell me about Norman’s new RICE SCULPTURE!”

    February 15, 2016 post “letting a manager know employee is job-searching, texting recruiters, and more” – “It’s like how you wouldn’t put, say, your weekend RICE SCULPTING hobby on your resume, but it would be perfectly appropriate to include your job doing PR for the Rice Sculptors Union.”

    February 18, 2016 post “attending an employee’s wedding, interns and gift-giving, and more” – “Hey, we’re giving Fergus this amazing RICE SCULPTURE that we found on Etsy”

    March 3, 2016 post “how do I write a compelling cover letter when I don’t have much work experience?” – “I founded and led a campus drive to raise funds for a RICE SCULPTURE of the university president”

    My question is, what is rice sculpting? Are these sculptures cut from a single grain of rice or from many mashed-together grains? Short, medium, or long-grain? Is there a particular rice sculpture that has inspired this new metaphor? Is it related at all to underwater basketweaving? Is this a diversification of the teapot market?

    Also, the word Sculpture looks funny when you write it this many times.

    1. Adam*

      I googled to see if this was really a thing (and of course it was) and I saw lots of images of figures assembled from what I can only assume would be thousands of individual grains of rice. Many were pretty impressive. It looks like white rice was what was commonly used but I’d be curious to see if rice of different shapes and colors could be integrated into the designs as well.

      Just one problem for me: a piece of art like this I would want to be able to touch, because I bet the texture would be amazing.

      1. AMT*

        Next you’ll be telling us that you can’t really make teapots out of chocolate. I’m losing faith.

        1. Anonsie*

          Recently I had a story on here about teapots at work and had to put a side note that it actually was teapots in this particular situation, not a euphemism. I now wonder if this is the first time someone has posted here about a job in which teapots were actually literally part of the gig.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            While we aren’t really a teapot company (gah! I have spoiled the illusion!), we actually have a few teapots to sell. They came into our product base after “Wakeen’s Teapots, Ltd.” came to be on AAM and you can imagine I was like: OMG!! TEAPOTS!!!!!! :-)

      2. 12345678910112 do do do*

        Oh wow:

        And when I picture them being sculpted, I picture that Demi Moore scene from Ghost (minus the Patrick Swayze distraction).

        This is amazing.

  2. Anon for today*

    I’m looking for a help for a friend re-entering the workforce. She’s been out of the official working world for a while, at least a decade, and needs help with her resume.

    More specifics: my friend is a woman in her mid-fifties. Her marriage of 30+ years is ending and he was the breadwinner. She worked early on in their marriage, mostly odd jobs and sales type positions I think, but once his business (auto/home insurance) got going she moved to being a stay-at home mother/homemaker who would also assist with various administrative aspects of her husband’s business here and there. It’s been years since she had an actual job, but she does do volunteer work and is fairly proficient with computers. She has two kids who are fully grown and out of the house.

    She has lots of friends who will help her with contacts to possible positions, but she needs help putting together a resume and I’m not sure how best to advise her considering her circumstances. I don’t know if she has any idea what she wants to do, but I get the feeling just paying the bills is a more pressing concern than finding something truly satisfying. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. ZSD*

      Wow. What a rough situation for your friend. Send her my best wishes.
      In terms of putting together a resume, this is really basic, but I’d start with sending her yours in Word (or other editable) format so that she can just copy your formatting. Figuring out how to format a modern resume might honestly be one hurdle she’s facing!
      Then, I’d suggest having a conversation with her about accomplishments that she can list. This should focus on the admin work she did for her husband’s business and on the volunteer work, not on the work from 30 years ago.
      And of course she should read the AAM archives on resumes.
      The good news is that if she’s just looking for something to pay the bills, not something challenging and fulfilling, she can apply for more entry-level positions, where demonstrating lots of accomplishments might not be as necessary.
      (Then there’s the problem of how to deal with age discrimination…)

      1. EA*

        I agree. I watched my mother re-enter the workforce after a 10 year break. She thought the admin volunteer work she did for our schools didn’t count, because she wasn’t paid and it wasn’t full time. Once I restructured her resume to include that, she did much better. Obviously, its complicated because she worked for her ex-husband. I would just recommend she presents everything objectively. She can call herself an admin, and say she did intermittent duties as needed at the company.

      2. The Butcher of Luverne*

        I would not even raise the specter of age discrimination — it’s too negative and unhelpful. I also think that today, 50 is hardly over the hill or an automatic “she’s too old.”

        If she’s going for entry level, her attitude will do more to position her favorably than her resume. Businesses appreciate a level-headed, loyal, dependable worker who knows what true customer service means. Help her see that she can fill a need, not that she’s the needy one.

        1. Observer*

          I also think that today, 50 is hardly over the hill or an automatic “she’s too old.”

          Unfortunately, that’s not how many employers think. I agree, it’s stupid. But we all know that a lot of people are stupid, and a lot of smart people have a few stupid ideas. And, this is one of the common ones, unfortunately.

          1. TootsNYC*

            then again, I know employers who would leap at the chance to hire someone that age who’s coming into the workforce at a salary point that’s more entry level.

            1. Observer*

              The smart ones would. The not so smart ones – or the ones who think that classes like the one @gold digger mentions are widely necessary – not so much.

              If you think you are going to have to teach someone the very basics of what needs to be done in an office, they just are not so attractive, even for an more entry level position.

          2. the gold digger*

            I was so happy to see a new hire announcement at my job a few months ago saying that the guy had 30 years experience.

            I was not impressed to see our recreation center offering classes on how to use email for adults over 50. Honestly. My mother, who is 73, has a degree in computer science.

            1. Observer*

              Tell me about it. My mother doesn’t have a degree, but she does email just fine.

              On the other hand, we run senior centers. Some of our seniors are savvy enough to be something like backup tech support for the centers. Some, on the other hand really don’t know the basics. And there is everything in between. I know that there are plans to do a class on getting good photos with your smart phone at one of the centers.

        2. Development Professional*

          I have to say that I agree. Depending on how proficient she is with computers, I know of at least one open position at my organization that’s basically entry level that no one would bat an eye at hiring someone 50+ for.

      3. Anon for today*

        When focusing on the Admin work how would you structure it in a resume? It wasn’t an official position, so for a traditional resume format she would be making up a job title and all that. Would you list the time served as well, even though it wasn’t a day-to-day, year-after-year type thing?

        1. The Butcher of Luverne*

          Maybe something like:

          Administrative Assistant, 1988- 2014, as-needed basis
          Auto/Home Insurance Company Name
          Bullet point tasks

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I’ve hired a few return-to-work women in the last several years. I would advise the following:
      – Don’t try to pad the resume a la “CEO of household”. I don’t need a CEO. Highlight relevant work experience from the insurance business and volunteering.
      – It’s okay to admit that you need the work. Money is a need.
      – Don’t apologize for opting to stay at home.
      – Be enthusiastic about returning to work. My return-to-work people are some of my best employees and they seem to appreciate this new season of life, even if it isn’t what they imagined.
      – It’s okay to focus on a job vs. a career. I don’t expect everyone I hire to make this the great passion of their life – just a piece of the puzzle that they appreciate and enjoy.

      Good luck to your friend in this new season!

      1. HR Recruiter*

        I agree with all of this. As well as making sure she includes her volunteer work and skills she used there. A good cover letter explaining the motivation for wanting a X job after being out of the workforce is great too. Just leave out personal information like the divorce.

      2. RKB*

        I’m glad you highlighted that women (and men, but this is more of a sociological aspect with gender and work) really enjoy returning to work as its a new part of their life.

        It’s not the same thing — but my mother is 50 and she just got promoted to a different position in a totally different office with different duties. She made her first ever six figures. She is so delighted. She loves the work she does and enjoys these new challenges.

        Too often I think employers, employees, and even women themselves write off their abilities after their 40s because they presume it’s time for grandma years and thus they have no value. No way! Women excel at any age. My immigrant mother could have never imagined a fulfilling career at 50, but it’s possible for everyone!

        Thanks for what you do!

        1. Natasha*

          Hey RKB,

          My immigrant mother is in a similar position at a similar age, and I am so proud and happy for her! She did stay at home with my brother for nearly a decade, so she also faced the difficulty of reentering the work force the writer above mentions, though I don’t have any advice to add besides that having friends and connections is a big part of making the transition work and that a person in their 50s may be more likely to have a wider circle of people in a position to help. So that’s one advantage that comes with age, and I agree with your statement that women can excel at any age.

    3. Anna No Mouse*

      It sounds like your friend would meet the definition of a “displaced homemaker.” I am familiar with the program that exists to help them within my state, and it’s not the most helpful thing in terms of finding a job, but she should start by finding out if there is such a program in her state. They can offer training, job search assistance, and even childcare if needed.

      Also, in terms of paying bills, her state may have short term assistance available for things like utility bills. She should look into that while she job seeks. Because of her break in employment, it may take her longer than average to find something, so her first priority should be keeping her lights on and a roof over her head. Pride may have to take a backseat for now, but being secure is the best way she can be in the right mindset for finding a job.

    4. Turanga Leela*

      I like ZSD’s advice about giving her your resume so she can copy the formatting. Help her work on a cover letter as well—that’s a good place to explain that she’s been out of the workforce while she raised her kids, but she’s looking to work again now.

      This must feel like such a scary time for her. I’m glad you are there to help her (and it sounds like she has other friends helping too).

    5. Sualah*

      I don’t know if it’s the same now, but when I was using temp agencies to apply for jobs (gosh, 10 years ago), no resume was required. They had an application to fill out, and things like typing proficiency tests, but a resume wasn’t required. She would probably look like a really attractive candidate if she submitted a resume and cover letter to those places with the application. Once she gets her foot in the door with a temp job (or temp-to-perm job), she will have some more traditional things to put on a resume for the next job.

      Also, depending on your area, if she would be OK working a call center, those are almost always hiring, and usually 4-8 weeks paid training before actually starting on the floor. That was my foot in the door at my job. It can be draining for sure, but at least it is a job that once you walk out the door, you absolutely leave it behind, no emails at home to follow up with.

    6. Student*

      Realistically, what is she qualified to do? Given your presentation of her prior work experience, it sounds like she probably needs to aim lower than work that usually requires a resume. If your depiction is accurate, she doesn’t have any professional accomplishments or skills worth mentioning on a resume, so what exactly would be the point?

      There are lots of jobs that are unskilled and geared at unskilled laborers, and those are probably where she should aim until or unless she acquires some relevant job skills. Store cashier, physical labor jobs if she’s in good shape, maybe work at a cleaning agency or as a janitor, young-age childcare facility, stuff like that. If she’s good with computers, perhaps a technical help-desk type job at a local school or small business. I won’t say the jobs are plentiful, but it sounds like it’d make the best use of her homemaker experience and give her an avenue to build up more professional-level skills for a couple years down the road.

      Otherwise, maybe it’s time for her to try to drum up money for some professional training of some sort. Local community college program? Training program for a low-level healthcare worker? Volunteer work somewhere she can develop specific professional skills? Any local or state-run resources that might help her? If that’s not in the cards, she’ll pretty much have to hope someone hires her based on pure friendship and/or nepotism.

      1. lawsuited*

        Erm, she has experience in sales and administrative duties so I assume she’s be looking for a sales or administrative position? Where I live, even people applying for a cashier or retail sales associate position use a resume (they may complete a job application form as well), and certainly anyone looking to work as a receptionist or administrative assistant would need a resume.

      2. Observer*

        These are some very odd suggestions, in my experience.

        young-age childcare facility, Do you really think that this is “unskilled labor” that doesn’t need a resume and / or some background? Think again.

        If she’s good with computers, perhaps a technical help-desk type job at a local school or small business. Seriously? No reasonable place is going to hire someone who has NEITHER formal training NOR recent relevant work experience. And, that means ACTUALLY SUPPORTING people. “Being good with computers” does not come CLOSE to being a reasonable background for that type of job.

        On the other hand, her experience does mean that she probably DOES have the skills for an office admin / office manager type of job. The issue here is not the skills, but a way to show a prospective employer that she has one.

    7. Susan*

      I’d suggest that she also go to a local government employment office. They should be able to help with her resume too and they may have good connections with employers looking to hire for entry level roles. Also she should contact recruiters like Robert half office team.

  3. Someone else*

    Is there a way to encourage coworkers to think critically and troubleshoot things on their own instead of coming to me for ideas? I don’t mind because I’m good at it, but I feel like it could strengthen the team if others were able to do it. Since I’m only their peer, I don’t know if there’s a way to do this without coming across as bossy.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think talking them through it is the best way to go. It takes a little more work on the front end, but it will pay off more in the long run. It’s the whole “teach a person to fish…” concept.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      And if they’re coming to you for help, you aren’t coming across as bossy if you actually tell them what to do.

    3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      Can you ask questions?

      I do this a lot with my staff. Rather than saying “go do X,” I start with “what have you tried?” And when they come back with nothing I’ll try something like, “What did you try last time when Y happened?”

      I’ve found tone is the key to this (because I often have to do it for my boss!) if I sound caring and helpful, people react well and feel great that they solved the problem.

      1. HR Recruiter*

        This! If you always give them the answer they will never leave you alone. I learned the hard way you have to teach them how to find the answer and point them in the right direction. But do so in a way that sounds helping. If you are too harsh they won’t come to you in the future which leads to them making big mistakes. But if you guide them then they will start only coming to you when they truly need your help and have exhausted other options.

        1. TootsNYC*

          They ask a question about how to do something in Word, and you say, “I don’t remember, I think there’s something in one of the drop-down menus. Have you rummaged around in those?”

          So you say, “No, I won’t help, have you tried Tactic?” (Not solution, tactic.)

    4. Adam*

      Always ask what ideas they considered and tried before coming to you. That will at least get the concept going in their head that they can solve things on their own without your input. If they keep coming to you at first blush without thinking about it beforehand perhaps you can gently point that out?

    5. Shiara*

      Something I’ve had some success with is making them wait 15ish minutes while I finish whatever I’m in the middle of, and then if they haven’t gotten it figured out themselves when I follow up, asking what they’ve tried with more of a “I don’t want to rego over solutions you already attempted” than a quizzing tone, and then trying to do some of my troubleshooting aloud.

    6. Kay*

      Yeah, Alison’s covered a lot of this kind of thing in the “advice about your coworkers” section. You can use the “search this site” box near the top of the page if you want to narrow your results.

      1. Someone else*

        She just posted a helpful link above! I thought I remembered reading about it but thought it was targeted toward managers. So much for my own troubleshooting/critical thinking skills ;)

    7. K*

      “What have you tried so far?” is a good question. It implies that they should attempt to solve it themselves, and it starts the troubleshooting conversation.

    8. Kimberlee, Esq*

      On the obverse of this, I have become better at troubleshooting myself rather than going to a manager by thinking for a moment “What is the first question Manager will ask me?” Usually, I know what it will be, so I can go through the steps to make sure I can answer the question. Sorta like power-cycling your computer before calling tech support not because you think it will help, but because you know it’s the first thing they’ll ask, and they’ll make you do it anyway. And of course, sometimes it works. Then I just keep working thru questions until I don’t know what she’ll ask me anymore, and then I go to her for help. This process has helped me find dozens of solutions that I was initially inclined to ask my manager for.

    9. TootsNYC*

      I feel like we’ve covered this in comments lots of other recent posts, so rummaging around here might help.

      Especially the one about the boss who won’t answer a question.

      There’s the “tell it to the duck” school of debugging: explain your problem in depth, and suddenly you see the solution.

      Also–don’t help them. Be too busy; then it will be EASIER to figure it out than to ask you.
      Right now they ask you, and you do the heavy lifting. Stop.

      My mother used to say to us, “What would you do if I weren’t here?”

      1. JaneB*

        My mother used to say to us, “What would you do if I weren’t here?”

        And we used to say:
        “wait ’til you got home” or “ignore it” or “eat toast for tea” or “set the laundry on fire”

        My sister and I weren’t the best of students in the home context…

  4. TGIF*

    I just found a job posting that sounds right up my alley. However, before I started on the application, I realized that employer is a small company where a former co-worker, let’s call her Judy, is now working.

    Judy was the head of marketing/public relations where I’m currently working. I didn’t directly report to her but I saw her every day and we did work together on occasion, mostly when I was assisting with front desk duty or with a public event. She was really nice and I know she liked me, but I don’t think she thought much of my capabilities. She often complimented me on always being willing to pitch in with any task but was constantly correcting me for minor things (if I didn’t give the perfect greeting when talking to customers or if I wasn’t fast enough to transfer calls). Never mean or harsh but I always felt Judy was nitpicking on me above everyone else (maybe because I was the youngest and newest person in our whole department?). There were others factors too that all gathered together made me think that she appreciated my effort but I didn’t live up to her standards.

    So all of that makes me think that if she heard I was applying, she’d have them toss my application. Plus there’s the fact that she’s still in close contact with my supervisor and the other departments heads so she could potentially give them a heads up that I’m searching around.

    Given all this, should I just skip this posting? Should I apply and hope Judy doesn’t get wind of it (unlikely, it’s a small company and I think this posting would work fairly close with her)? Should I reach out to her to ask about the post but also request she not say anything to her former workplace?

    1. fposte*

      Apply and don’t fuss about Judy. Either you’ll get it or you won’t, but there’s no point in trying to manage her on this.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yup. You could be right about her…or maybe she was like that with most people, and you didn’t notice; or she thought you were extremely capable, and that’s how some people try to “encourage” those who they think are not living up to their potential.

        Or maybe she’ll have nothing to do with the hiring, so it won’t matter. There’s only one way to find out….

        1. Dan*

          I have “nothing to do with hiring” either, but that doesn’t stop our HR department from asking me what I know about people from a former workplace. Some people I know better than others, and some people I know more based on reputation. My current org has hired several people from my former work place, and now, they basically say that they won’t hire others from there unless one of us here can give a strong recommendation.

          If a former coworker who I couldn’t “recommend” reached out and tried to manage me, they wouldn’t get far. My obligation is certainly to my current employer than it would ever be to someone who I couldn’t get a strong positive reference to.

          At the same time, there’s really nothing to lose by applying.

      2. limenotapple*

        This is great advice. Also, without having concrete evidence, it is hard to know what is really in another person’s mind. It’s hard to know why she nitpicked, and what she thinks now. Apply! Good luck!

    2. Elle*

      Another angle to consider…maybe she saw a lot of potential in you, and so tried to steer you in the right direction on certain matters she saw as correctable. I could be totally misreading it, but as others said, you don’t have much control of what she does, so you might as well proceed with your application.

      1. K*

        This is true. If she wasn’t your direct manager (meaning your performance didn’t reflect back on her), and she made the effort to give you feedback that may be a sign that she thought you had potential. I generally don’t put much effort into people that are lost causes. But, at the same time since she wasn’t your manager and nitpicked you there’s a high change that she just has a meddlesome personality. You may want to think twice about whether you’d want to work with her again at a small company.

    3. TootsNYC*

      What do people think about reaching out to Judy: “I saw that position, and I think it’s right up my alley. What can you tell me about it? Do you think it would be a good match for my skills?”

      Maybe even saying, “…a good position for me, especially now that I’ve got more years of experience.” To remind her that you are more experienced than you used to be.

      (also, if she’d like this frequently, that may make any negative comments be taken with a grain of salt, or she may even know she’s kind of picky, and will not apply her narrow standards to you now.)

    4. Another Job Seeker*

      If I were in a similar position, I’d probably pass on this position. Since Judy is in close contact with your supervisor and others in leadership roles at your current company, might she feel obliged to tell them that you are looking for a new job? Best wishes to you – whatever you decide.

  5. Over Development*

    I just wanted to give a huge THANK YOU to everyone on the open threads who has offered advice or sympathy about my frustrations with my current job and boss.

    I have a new job! I’m going back to a big organization and will be raising money for something I am truly passionate about.

    But honestly, without AAM and this open thread, I don’t know if I would have gotten over my apathy and anger enough to be a good candidate. THANK YOU!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Will you say more about this part: “I don’t know if I would have gotten over my apathy and anger enough to be a good candidate” — what helped you do that?

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        There were a couple of things. From reading AAM, I realized that I had become the person my coworkers could be writing in about because I was so miserable. Also, your answers to people’s questions also made me take a long hard look at the fact that things in my office simply are not going to change. I refer to our department as an “Emperor’s New Clothes” situation because no one will acknowledge how bad of a manager my boss is (for point of reference of her four-person team, we have two vacant positions, and both of the remain folks have put in notice)

        From the folks on the open thread, I saw that some of the things that were frustrating me were common (i.e. board involvement), but because of my other issues, I saw it through distorted lenses. There were also a few folks that offered harsh but true criticism of my outlook, which forced me to confront why these things were such big issues. This also made me start refining what my “perfect job” would be from a unicorn position to the job I actually applied for.

        Finally, I bought your book! As I was working on my cover letters and preparing for interviews, I realized that I was still carrying my baggage with me. I was working on a cover letter and muttering pissy comments to myself, and it was a wake-up call that I couldn’t carry this attitude with me. I have not prepared for interviews like this since I was applying for my first job. I enlisted two different friends to have me practice, and they grilled me on the “why are you leaving this job” question.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            And now you have inspired a few people. We may never know just how many.

        1. Fish Microwaer*

          Thank you for your forthrightness. We are often told that we can’t change crap, only our reaction to it and to do that one must start with honest self evaluation which is difficult. Your experience shows how valuable this can be when approached with courage and resolve. Best wishes on your success. You’ve earned it.

    2. HardwoodFloors*

      I second that AAM has been lifesaver in a stressful (8 month) job search for me. I am awaiting a written job offer from a company that a former supervisor of mine is a higher up at. I found relief in reading others had some of the same frustrations: horrible ATS questions, interviews with unprepared interviewers (‘Of course the big boss who interviews everyone and is always here is not on site today so we can’t go further with you interview process, ever’), validation that a former job was a toxic environment-And no need waste time crying over the past. And of course some of the laughs really, really helped. Thanks a million to Alison and community.

      1. Jean*

        >And of course some of the laughs really, really helped.
        +1 million
        Humor is almost always helpful.

    3. Jean*

      Congratulations and thank you! It’s good to hear that you found a better situation after accepting reality about your Exjob (rather than being immobilized by your wish that the situation would change) and assimilating some tough-to-hear feedback. If you can do it, so can the rest of us who feel hip-deep in glue, peanut butter, or another sticky, unhelpful substance.

  6. isthisreallife?*

    Please let me know if I’m being oversensitive. Yesterday at 3 or so, the VP of the company sent out an email to several departments saying that the CEO scheduled a meeting for today at 1. No other info. Most of us work remotely, so a last minute meeting is a real inconvenience and the lack of info made a lot of people panic. The CEO heard about the concern and worry, laughed about it, and still refused to share any information. Is she as much of a jerk as I think she is?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Did anyone reply to the email? I don’t know if “jerk” is the appropriate label (could be a jerk or clueless). Honestly meetings with no agenda are scary. They’re not often “Surprise! Everyone’s getting a 25% raise!” announcements…

      1. College Career Counselor*

        I got one of those on a Friday once, for a Monday meeting. Normally responsive boss ignored my follow up request for anything I might bring/do in preparation.

        It was not good news, that Monday. And I spent the entire weekend wondering what the hell was going to happen in this meeting because the messaging was so out of character. Note to bosses: don’t do this. If you’ve got perceptive people on your staff, they’ll figure out that something’s up. So either have the meeting that day, or don’t call for it until you’re ready to have it right then and there.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      Not oversensitive at all! It’s like getting a note that the principal needs to see you!

      One of the best tips I picked up from AAM was to always tell people why you are calling them into your office (or in your case a virtual meeting).

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        I’ve been in education for over 20 years, but I still have never gotten over “the principal wants to see you” feeling.

        1. Callie*

          One year my principal put all teacher’s contracts for the next year in their boxes except the “specialists” (art, music, PE, dance). she said “come to my office to talk about your contracts” to us and of course that scared the life out of us. Turns out she only wanted to do that so we would have to come to her office and talk to her about some spring festival she wanted us to do. WTF. It was one of many things she did that always made me feel like I was about to be fired and it made me want to quit. But I was super stubborn and stuck around until after she retired.

    3. F.*

      This is not unusual when the company wants to announce something big and not have it be leaked or unduly speculated about. There may be absolutely no reason to panic, either. At any rate, being over-anxious prior to the meeting isn’t going to help in the long run. Best of luck, and I hope the meeting is to announce something great!

    4. Jillociraptor*

      Seems like there’s a lot of missing information here to jump to the conclusion that the CEO is intentionally being a jerk about this. Who saw the CEO laugh? Is it possible that in the already stressful situation of an unexpected meeting, they are misinterpreting something benign? Is it possible that the VP was supposed to communicate more information, and didn’t, but the CEO doesn’t know?

      There’s a possibility that your CEO’s a jerk, for sure, but not enough info right now to jump to that conclusion.

    5. fposte*

      Can’t say until after the meeting, and it’s mostly whether it makes sense to call people in or not.

      I know people get nervous about meetings, but it really isn’t her obligation to reassure those prone to knee-jerk anxieties–especially if there is reason to be anxious.

    6. FS*

      We have had a few of these meetings where I work. You come in to a meeting notice at 7:15am, private, all employees. Unfortunately, some of these were about layoffs. They haven’t actually included most work groups but they need the information presented at the same time, consistent message. It’s definitely intimidating, but for those meetings, it’s generally incredibly important to not let rumors fly around about sensitive work information. Good luck!

    7. hbc*

      I imagine if I had good news to share and couldn’t let a whiff of it leak, I’d do something like laugh. Not in a “Watch the peons panic” gleeful way, just a “Yeah, what are you gonna do?” kind of way. Or maybe if I had the order from the Board or Owner to not say anything, and I asked if I could at least tell them that it was good news, there would have been an “I knew it” laugh.

      I guess you’ll find out in 90 minutes or so whether it’s a jerky laugh or understandable.

    8. Ama*

      I don’t think she’s being a jerk if there really is no reason for people to worry — but she could be a little more sensitive to how people might interpret a last minute/no details meeting request.

      Our current CEO and her predecessor used to send out requests like that and it would turn out that they had arranged for snacks, sometimes just because and sometimes because we’d had several very good things happen that week and theywanted to celebrate them. But after we went through a couple of last minute/no details meetings that were not for fun (layoffs, the first CEO resigning unexpectedly), we started having “Happy Friday snacktime” meeting requests. I don’t know if the CEO figured it out on her own or if someone pointed out to her that the lack of detail was making everyone panic.

    9. BRR*

      It’s not the biggest jerk move in history but it’s kind of crappy. I think there are times when a meeting agenda can’t be shared but at the very least a “it’s nothing bad” or some sort of general statement would be nice.

    10. CM*

      I say yes, she’s being a jerk — meaning that she’s being really insensitive to all the people who are panicking that they’re about to lose their jobs. I agree that “don’t worry, it’s nothing bad” would go a long way. (And if she is firing everybody and laughs about it…)

    11. SophieChotek*

      I agree. it sounds rather insensitive but can hope it’s something good. (Although the last two times the CEO of the company suddenly called a meeting, it was to yell at everyone, and included a company-wide quiz.)

      keep us updated and fingers crossed it’s just Friday snacks or celebratory!

    12. Not So NewReader*

      I was told, learn to put up with it. I think from a practical standpoint, the advice is good. We have to be able to roll. Indeed, I found toughening up a little bit has only helped me through stuff like this.

      From a realistic standpoint, I think if the boss does this too many times, the boss discredits herself. People are concerned for their jobs and their workplace. to laugh at that or use that against people sends a message, “You are silly for worrying about your job and work place.” A wise boss, looks for unintentional messages and acts in a manner to reduce problems with covert messages.

      In your example, how hard is it to say, “I have good news, we will talk about it in detail”? Apparently, it’s incredibly difficult for this boss.

      However, my advice is that to survive working under this boss you could develop a “wait and see” attitude and encourage others along the same vein. I hope you chuckle: One thing I have told myself is that if the message was urgent or the message was directed at me, I would receive the message immediately and in stereo. In some cases my reasoning would continue on to point out, it can’t be that important if there is time to play head games with it. The latter part of this reasoning would kick in for me with a boss that routinely played “guess what we are going to talk about now”.

    13. Elsie*

      The first time I got one of these emails, it was to let us know that the company had been sold. Big news, but didn’t really affect us peons day-to-day.

      The second time, about a year later, it was to let my department know that all our jobs had been eliminated.

      So… who knows.

    14. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I had a CEO once who did that … usually to announce something bad (restructuring or someone being let go). I think it’s a jerk move totally – but it’s possible that it’s something she doesn’t want to announce beforehand.

    15. Florida*

      I had a CEO who used to have bait-and-switch meetings to give us bad company news. We had an ice cream social at the end of the day to celebrate a successful United Way workplace giving campaign. At the ice cream social/meeting, they announced that the company could no longer afford the janitorial service, so everyone would have to sign up to do a chore (clean the bathroom, vacuum the hall, etc.). I’m not joking. I didn’t stay around much longer (at the ice cream social or the company).

  7. Evy*

    Quick question on reference check with a snapshot of my work experience-
    Past work- 3 years as Role A. Enjoyed this work.
    Recent work- 2 years as Role B. Didn’t like the work.
    Currently I am out of job and looking for Role A again. For reference check I am giving people with whom I worked with in Role A. Is it going to be a red flag that I am not naming anyone from my recent company (role B) for reference check? If so, any advise on what I can do?
    P.S- I am not sure I will get good referrals for my work in Role B. My colleagues agreed to give me good referral but I dunno if they have changed their mind since.

    1. limenotapple*

      If I were the hiring manager, I would wonder why there was no one from your most recent position that you named as a reference, but I’d still be willing to talk to you if the rest of your resume fit my needs.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Keep in mind Alison’s observation (advice?) that potential employers can check any references they want. Not listing a reference doesn’t prevent people from checking with that person. Also, reasonable employers (not all are reasonable, but you don’t want to work for unreasonable ones if you’re already leaving a place you don’t want to be) will take with a grain of salt bad references from a current place of employment, especially if they can ask detailed questions of good references.

      Is there really no one (doesn’t have to be a supervisor) who can give you good reference from Role B?

      You can’t do co-worker from Role B who knows your work well but didn’t manage you and then manager from Role A?

    3. AFT123*

      Not necessarily, I would probably assume that you don’t want anyone from your current role to know that you’re looking. And a few years ago isn’t that long ago to make those references less valuable.

    4. Kyrielle*

      They’ll almost certainly want to speak to your most recent supervisor since you’re not still there; if you were, you could do the whole “my supervisor doesn’t know about my search”, but that’s not going to work in this case. I think it will cause concern, but I’m not sure how to manage that.

      I’d be tempted to list your last supervisor at role B but perhaps also explain that you don’t think role B was the right fit for you and you want to return to role A where you really excel and can contribute more. But I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not, just what I would probably try.

  8. Collie*

    We have an intern with three framed photos and a 2’6″(ish) model of a famous structure (think Big Ben) in her work area. One of the pictures is of her with a significant other, kissing. It’s all outward facing and visible from the walkway in front of her cubicle. We work in different departments and it doesn’t affect me at all, but I’m kind of curious how others would receive this. Is this standard or over the top?

      1. Collie*

        I think I’m just more conservative with my work space. I find the model to be a bit much, as is the “PDA.” But, like I said, it doesn’t really affect me — I walk by it once a day, but I’m not traumatized. Just curious about others’ thoughts. :)

        1. EA*

          I would classify it as a little eccentric/immature. Not a big deal, but I would notice. My coworkers have some engagement announcements at their desks, but they don’t place them in outward locations.

    1. Kelly L.*

      The framed pictures in and of themselves seem normal. Big Ben might be too big if it’s in the way or takes up too much of her space–it probably depends on how much space she has and whether she can still work normally and walk around freely, kwim? I used to have a sizable bust of Nefertiti in my office (she came with the office!), but she wasn’t in the way because she sat up in a tiny window that was of no other use.

      The kissing…I guess the context of the picture might matter, is my first instinct. Wedding pic? Not weird. Kissing in front of Big Ben? Probably also fine. Red Solo cup party? Perhaps not so much. It’s silly, but that’s my first thought–does the event look vaguely dignified?

      1. hermit crab*

        A bust of Nefertiti!!! The only thing that ever came with an office that I got was cookie crumbs in the desk drawers.

          1. Nanc*

            I am clutching my pearls upon your behalf and also thinking that if I found this and knew the culprit this is an absolute Gibbs Smackable offense of office etiquette!

          2. Heather*

            !!! I will admit that I do keep clippers in my desk (hardcore nailbiter who’s trying to switch to clipping & filing instead of chomping). But I don’t save the clippings in a drawer and I do make sure to clean up anything that falls off the clippers when I put them away!

        1. Ife*

          I got a bunch of Dilbert comics from one of those page-per-day calendars. I read through them, laughed, and recycled them. In hindsight, some of them were pretty accurate…

        2. Resident of Apartment 23*

          I’m on my third desk-side cabinet. I got my second one after the office remodeled, and it came with a can of Campbell’s condensed chicken noodle soup. Swapped it out for one that I could actually lock and inherited a half-empty bag of Dum-Dums.

        3. Kimberlee, Esq*

          I inherited a My Little Pony!

          And I also have a plush Zoombini on my desk. I hope that nobody thinks I’m immature!

          1. JaneB*

            I inherited an odd video tape about the city I was moving to and half a diary – literally, the pages for the part of the year that had gone were torn out, and the rest left.

            And the guy didn’t even leave the department, just moved offices (I was new to city, company and job).

      2. Karowen*

        These were basically my exact thoughts, but then I’m a tchotchke & picture person. I probably have more than the average amount of clutter for my workplace, but not by much.

    2. Collie*

      Yikes! I think I came off as more judgmental than I intended for this, based on responses. Sorry, y’all. It’s just something that strikes me as odd because I don’t see it elsewhere in this environment. I think it’s just a combination of the conservative environment and the way I like to keep my own space. I really don’t have an actual problem with this or anything.

      1. Cube Farmer*

        That is how I took the question: Just asking what is *normal* in other work spaces.

        In my previous work space, that would be tame. A coworker once had an inflatable three foot Sponge Bob (think the Christmas yard inflatable kind) in her cube.

        In my current work space, the display you describe would be considerably frowned upon and most likely a request would be made to remove it.

          1. StudentPilot*

            I’m making really big eyes right now. I want to work in your office so.bad.

            Also, I’m getting a new office in two weeks (as in being built right now) and now I know how ro decorate. (Just smaller)

          2. ExceptionToTheRule*

            I’m extremely jealous. I used to have a cardboard 6′ Mr. Potato Head that we liberated from Burger King, but his cardboard eventually wilted and died…

      2. Lillian McGee*

        I’m the only one in my office who has brought in artwork (not just family photos–actual art prints) and if anyone’s giving me the sideeye I haven’t noticed! They are pretty eccentric pieces but not inappropriate. I wish more people would put up art! But I haven’t inspired anyone yet…

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          I’ve been to a handful of those BYOB painting classes and brought most of those in to hang in my office along with a few pieces I’ve done on my own. Occasionally folks poke their heads in to see if there’s anything new. A number of folks have asked about putting together a group outing, but we haven’t gotten around to it yet.

        2. Anonymosity*

          I have nerd posters in my cube–the Starship Enterprise, a huge Gryffindor Quidditch banner, and the Star Wars 1977 A New Hope poster, the one with sexy Luke and Leia. That last one is in the corner of my cube where you can’t really see it that well if you walk by–we do have cube patrol once in a while to check for confidentiality issues. So far, no one has objected.

          I wanted to hang the complementary Batman and Joker prints I bought at a convention, but Joker is holding a rocket launcher and I didn’t think my company would let me have that.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I have posters from “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” and “Stardust.” I also have one of Optimus Prime from the first “Transformers” movie. I also have an action figure of Jareth (the Goblin King in “Labyrinth”) and a little Dancing Groot.

            But then, we almost never have outside people in where I work, and my coworkers are used to my nerdy ways.

      3. BenAdminGeek*

        It’s better than the former co-worker who had a digital slideshow that included pictures of his partner giving birth. And not neck up photos- all the goods were on display. He couldn’t understand why he was asked to take it down.

        All other photos are judged by those from now on.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, I’ll be the prude here and say that I think a kissing photo — especially arranged to face outward specifically so others see it — is odd and especially something I wouldn’t want to do as an intern.

      1. Christy*

        I’ll offer that basically everything in my cube faces outward unless I’m specifically trying to hide it by having it face away from my cube opening–and that always strikes me as odd. So maybe it’s a situation like that for this intern.

      2. Anne*

        I agree with this. Honestly I don’t much care for kissing photos being prominently displayed period, I have one from our engagement pictures on my nightstand and I think there’s one from our wedding displayed in our hallway at home. But at work, ehhh. I have a ton of pictures at work in my cube but they are mostly of my toddler, a couple of family pictures and one of our dogs.

      3. Ife*

        Yes, the kissing photo, even if it’s just a kiss on the cheek, or even if it’s a wedding photo, seems really weird to me. The Big Ben thing, probably depends on the office culture. We have a lot of strange displays at my office. There are flamingos on top of some cubes.

        1. Karowen*

          A kiss on the cheek doesn’t seem weird to me – or it wouldn’t if it were in a place where really only the intern would be able to see it.

    4. anonanonanon*

      In my last company, this was pretty standard. In my current company, only a few people have pictures of their partners or kids, and even then they’re printed pictures taped or clipped to the walls, not framed photos so something like this – especially facing outwards – would look weird. Mostly people just hang art if they want to decorate or don’t decorate at all.

      I think it depends on your office environment. If no one else does this then yeah, it’s going to stand out more. I have noticed in both my offices, though, that interns and some assistants do go above and beyond with decorating so maybe it’s just a matter of not knowing office norms and culture?

      1. De Minimis*

        We have one person where I work that has very elaborate decorations in their cube to where it looks like something from a teenager’s bedroom. I think it’s a bit unprofessional but we’re a nonprofit and our location tends to be a bit quirky.

        1. anonanonanon*

          There’s one person in my office who has probably three dozen of those Pop! Funko toys in their cube and it’s a little weird tbh. Nothing so offensive that I think they should put them away, but it’s definitely out of the ordinary for our office.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            At first I thought maybe you work at my company…but there isn’t just one person with that kind of stuff in their cube/office, so it’s not that weird here. :)

          2. Anonymosity*

            A few people here have bobbleheads and action figures–some sports, some nerd-themed. I went to the IT department once to ask someone a question and there was Star Wars stuff everywhere. I was all OMG I wanna sit here.

            Though it was kind of funny–I said hi to the person I had gone to see, and all these dudes popped their heads out of their cubes like prairie dogs. It was like, “There’s a girl in here!”

          3. Oryx*

            This makes me appreciate working at a place where these sorts of items are everywhere (I have three Pop! figures, one was a gift from a co-worker). But it’s definitely a culture thing here. At previous jobs those would have been very out of place.

            1. De Minimis*

              The person at my work has things like cutout pages from magazines on the wall….

              1. Oryx*

                Yeah I have a bunch of co-workers who have magazine cutouts in their cubes.

                Again, it’s very culture specific but these things aren’t out of place in our office.

          4. Fawnling*

            Oh gosh. I have a Pop! Funko, one 3″ Star Wars figure, and 3 ship models in my cube and now I’m feeling super self-conscious. Are people judged heavily on this stuff? I work in IT but the only people that see my desk are my co-workers.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I hope not! I have various photobooth pictures, a calendar with my dog’s pictures on it, a few WALL-E figurines and a couple stuffed animals…seems pretty normal for this company.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              I think us IT geeks are allowed to be a bit different.

              I have assorted Lego min-figs and other Lego toys; half a dozen plants; a 6′ tall ‘Dimensional Man’ poster* showing the circulatory, skeletal, and muscular system; books and magazines and photos and office supplies; various shaped Rubik’s puzzles, some modelling clay, rubber band balls, a dozen+ small plastic lizards… ok, there’s too much more to even bother listing them all.

              *I like the poem posted with my Dimensional Man, a poem I wrote decades ago and looks like a speech bubble from him:

              Doesn’t matter if your skin is black,
              Or white, or pale coffee.
              Inside your mind
              You’re still mankind.
              Underneath, you look like me.

            3. anonanonanon*

              The only reason I mentioned that specifically is because my coworker literally has about three dozen of them. A couple wouldn’t seem unusual, but enough to cover almost all the free space in the cube just seems like overkill.

              I know part of that is because I’m very minimalist when it comes to decorations so too much seems like clutter to me and makes me twitchy (but that’s my own issue), but it is very unusual for our company to have that many decorations and I know other people feel awkward about it too. It’s definitely a culture specific thing, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much if no one’s commented on it or it’s no unusual in your office.

    5. hbc*

      I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an outward-facing kissing pic in an office, and don’t really want to. I’m not the kind to go around gossiping or starting a campaign to bring it down, but my judgment of the person’s professionalism goes down a notch or two.

      Of course, I don’t believe there’s any photographic evidence of my husband and me kissing (unless you count the indirect evidence of my kids existing), so I might be unusual.

    6. Beezus*

      Arranging the photos to face outward is odd if that means she’s looking at the backs of the photo frames where she normally sits. If she can also see them, or they’re displayed along a back wall facing the whole room including her, that’s not so weird.

      The kissing photo is a little personal for a work photo, but I wouldn’t think a lot of it unless it’s super sloppy or her relationship seems to distract her at work.

      1. Collie*

        They’re on a desk that’s a few feet away from cubicle but still within the confines of her cubicle’s space. I’m not sure what direction her desk faces within the cubicle, but I don’t think she could be facing them based on the outside setup. It’s a really weird design. Like so: where the top is the wall and the bottom is the walkway, her work space is to the left with the opening on the right. Her items are on the wall side of the counter on the right, kitty-cornered (the X’s). I don’t know if her work space is on the left side of the left section or the bottom (walkway) side of the left section. Either way, I guess she can’t really be facing it.

        _____________ _____
        | | X |
        | | x |
        | | | |
        |_____________| |____|

        Man, that’s beautiful work right there. Definitely putting that on my resume. ;)

        1. Karowen*

          I think I get what you mean…and that makes it weirder! Pictures where you can look at them: totally normal. Picture of kissing where you can see it: Probably not work appropriate, but also not insanely bizarre. Pictures where you can’t see them at all: weird.

          1. Christy*

            Oh, like she has photos displayed on another surface of her cubicle area, but not where her actual desk/computer are. I have a few coworkers who have the space for that–just pictures of kids though. Personally I would leave the kissing photo by my computer, not on display like that, but I have a better sense of your objection now.

          2. Tea Pot Dome*

            My last boss had a photo of herself with a famous playwright, facing out so visitors who sat in front of her desk could see it. She routinely criticized the staff for the items they displayed at their desks, so the placement was a frequent inside joke. Fortunately, a reorg eliminated her position.

    7. Audiophile*

      My current job, feels like my first real professional job. Although, I did have another one briefly before this. At the previous one, a director had photo-booth pictures taped above their desk. Of course one or two in the set, were of them kissing their partner. It wasn’t something that would immediately draw your attention, so I didn’t think much of it. In my current job, most people have a framed picture or two of their partner (usually a wedding photo) and any other photos (kids, pets) are taped to the wall or door.
      If I were interning, I wouldn’t be putting up a kissing photo or making myself appear so “cozy”. The most I’ve put in my office is Poppin office supplies and even that I’ve sneaked in.

    8. General Commander*

      This seems like the best time to share the stuff a former 40-year-old coworker had on his desk.
      The first thing to know is that we worked shifts, so he shared his desk with someone else who would come in for second shift.

      The items pinned to his cube walls (and every inch of one half of the cube walls were COVERED) included:

      A framed “Nickelodeon” magazine featuring a 14-year-old Larissa Oleynik as Alex Mack.
      The sticker you peel off a new television that gives you the specs for the TV. (55″, LCD, etc)
      Several slipcovers for Criterion Collection DVDs.

      The rotating dioramas on his half of the desk included:

      Two photo albums of him as a child, and each day he would flip a page so we’d get to see the next photos in the series.
      Dragonball Z DVDs, along with several action figures.
      And the best ever — Miniature Barbie dolls from Happy Meals, along with one (just one) child-sized pink princess dress-up high heeled shoe.

      As you may have surmised, he was completely nuts.

    9. EddieSherbert*

      What field do you work in? I think that can make a difference as well.

      My partner isn’t allowed to have those kind of photos because he works in mental health care. He actually isn’t allowed to have any type of personal photos that are easily visible when someone walks into his shared office – and his desk faces away from the door (so if the photos face him, they face the door… if they don’t face him, they are against the wall/window). I ended up making him a 5×7 collage photo of about 10 pics that is “small enough” you can’t see anything specific from the door.

      On the other hand, I probably could but don’t like kissing photos :)

      1. Alma*

        When I was working for BigBank (before interstate banking, before anything but platform computers), our security training was to turn your name plate on your desk or station face down if anything happened. We were also told to limit family photos, have them facing us, not the rest of the room.

        One of the affiliate bank’s president had received a call at work from people who had identified his home, and were holding his wife and children at gunpoint. This was 4:00-ish, after the children had returned home from school.

        There was a ransom request, demands for transport, etc. It was really awful. All were safe in the end.

        With sick people carrying on with senseless acts of violence, I think back on that training, and see the wisdom in it. If you are not outside-customer facing, there’s a lot more leeway; it is one thing for someone to walk past your work space and say, “my son is a Sponge Bob fan, too.” It is another thing for an intern to have a 2′ plus photo that is as described. Newlyweds or partners may have a small 5″ x 8″ framed photo, but it is placed for their appreciation.

        It sounds to me like one of those office culture things the intern hasn’t become aware of yet.

  9. Camellia*

    It is thunder-stormy here so I am looking for the positive! Name something good that you got to do, or saw done, at work this week.

    Mine is that I sent an email to their respective managers detailing the fantastic job that three of my co-workers did on a project. I drafted it last week and opened it during yesterday’s acceptance meeting. As soon as the project was ‘accepted’ I sent the email. Thirty seconds later they popped up out of their cubes like a whack-a-mole game, waving and giving me thumbs up. I was so happy for them; they deserved it!

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      A career counselor at our college met with a student who needs a wheelchair due to a degenerative muscular disease. The student’s insurance was refusing to pay for the wheelchair, and the student didn’t know what to do. The career counselor asked for advice through our college “personals” listserv, and so many people offered the names of organizations that would assist. Within about four hours, the student had a lead on a used power wheelchair, and the college HR person compiled the list of resources onto our intranet in case it is ever needed again.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Our personals listserv is usually used to alert people to the presence of leftover food or to give away unwanted ballgame tickets, but once in awhile I’ll see the faculty and staff really pull together to help someone. A few months ago, for example, someone wrote that they knew a 10th-grade boy who needed a pair of size-15 shoes and his mother couldn’t afford to buy him a pair. A professor in our department had just bought a pair of tennis shoes in that size that he was thinking of returning, but instead he gave them to the staff member for the boy who needed them.

    2. themmases*

      My boss asked me where I got my glasses (which I’ve had wayyyy too long but haven’t had time to replace, so great to hear someone thinks they look good), she liked the place I recommended her, and said she’d drop my name when she goes (awesome since I am going soon). Then I was able to find a really great coupon for her in my email! I love when recommendations work out like that.

      I am learning a new-to-me stats package (Stata) and really liking it so far. I can definitely see myself using it in the future, especially because I am learning to do some pretty advanced analyses with it that I don’t even know how to do in “my” software (SAS). Excited to be able to put it on my CV and be more flexible in the future.

    3. Prismatic Professional*

      I have two!
      1. A client asked for my supervisor’s contact information to sing my praises! I can’t tell you how excited that made me, the rest of the week has been extremely difficult clients.

      2. A different client complimented me on my poise and graciousness when dealing with conflicting directives relevant to making an eligibility determination. She appreciated my transparency and open communication. :-D

    4. Headachey*

      I worked from home for the first time! My manager has been encouraging me to try this for a while so that it’s an established option should I want to do it more often/regularly – not sure why I waited so long to try it out :)

    5. Audiophile*

      I was included on a long chain of emails, in one email my manager’s boss gave credit to my manager for catching a mistake. In actuality, I caught it. My manager chimed in on the email and gave me credit for catching it. I was impressed, because I’ve worked under a few managers who would have let it go or taken the credit.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      1) My boss interacting with the people. She is very good at explaining complex things so the average person can follow along without feeling insulted. I’m proud of her.
      2)Boss said, “Oh don’t worry about x. We won’t need it and it can wait.” My intuition went in to overload and I did x anyway. Sure enough. We needed it. And it was done. Dang. This does not happen all the time, so it’s tough not to throw our fists in the air in victory, albeit, a minor victory.

    7. Ama*

      I found out my very first solo grant application (for corporate sponsorship of a grant my org gives out) got funded! It’s exciting for my org because it is a new corporate sponsor at a time when one of our older corporate sponsors looks to be scaling back. It’s exciting for me both because I’ve been expressing interest in getting grant writing experience for years (over two jobs) and this is the first time I’ve been allowed to do more than just proof and provide background data, and because I have at least one grant funded before we even start the next grant cycle.

      1. Camellia*

        Thanks, I appreciate it!

        It’s great reading the responses; a nice ending to a difficult week.

    8. Nye*

      2 things:

      Did a pilot run of a fiddly 2.5-day lab procedure that uses a lot of expensive reagents, and I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s working. It’s my first time doing it in a new lab and with very small and precious samples I spent the last year collecting, so this is a big relief.

      Finally sent a manuscript of my 4th dissertation chapter to my advisor! It’s taken over a year to get the time and energy together (I’m on a new project now), so has been weighing heavily on my mind. Hoping I can get it submitted to a journal soon.

  10. Anon for this*

    My husband wants to take a leave of absence of 1-2 months to deal with mental health/addiction. He has the vacation time available, but he is fairly high-ranking at work and he has several long-term projects he’s heading up. Any advice from managers how you would like your employees to broach this with you? I think they will be supportive, but my husband is anxious about it (for obvious reasons.)

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I haven’t taken time off due to mental health issues, but I’ve had to “come out” to managers before (and negotiated projects off my plate). I think his best bet is to treat it super straightforwardly, as he would with any other health issue. Imagine the conversation if he were telling his boss that he was going to be out for a month because he’s finally having that back surgery he’s been putting off. “Tenzin, I wanted to give you a heads up about something that’s come up for me. I’ve been struggling with my back/an addiction for some time, and I’ve decided that I need to be proactive in tackling this. The treatment plan I’ve decided upon with my doctors involves surgery/in-patient rehab, and it means I will need to be out of the office for eight weeks. I appreciate your support, and here are my proposals for how we handle my workload while I’m out.”

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Err, I should say “come out” with mental health issues – not coming out of the closet (which is obviously none of my employers’ business).

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          That did confuse me at first! I imagined it as “Tenzin, I’ve put off back surgery for too long. Also, I’m gay. Anywho, I’ll be out 8 weeks for the surgery, here’s the plan.”

    2. LCL*

      Boss, I am having a serious health crisis. I must take 1-2 months of medical leave for treatment, per physicians recommendation. Or I will continue to get sicker.
      He doesn’t have to tell anyone the nature of his illness.

      And good on him for seeking treatment before everything falls apart.

      1. fposte*

        And, presuming it’s applicable, “This is an FMLA-covered absence, so what paperwork do you need for that?”

        1. Anon for this*

          FMLA applies, definitely. He’s been struggling with how to word it, and the suggestions here are great. His immediate boss is not very discreet so he wants to be as vague as possible. Thank you everyone!

          1. Engineer Girl*

            FMLA applies, but hubby needs to make sure he doesn’t qualify as a “key employee”. FMLA rules are different for key employees VS regular ones.

      2. A.S.*

        I would second this–unfortunately, addiction still has a stigma in our society and I worry about the unintended biases your husband’s boss might bring into the interaction. The phrasing I would go with is something like: “Boss, I’ve been dealing with some health issues lately and unfortunately things haven’t been improving. I met with my doctor and she has told me I need to take 1-2 months of medical leave for some more extensive treatment. I do expect to be back to full health afterwards and return ready to continue where I left off. In the mean time, I want to make sure everything is lined up so that my work will be taken care of while I’m out on leave. I can get started on creating a workplan” etc. I would also do this either during a weekly check-in or just put 15 minutes on your boss’s calendar so you can do it behind a closed door.

      3. Busytrap*

        I like this approach. Unless my coworkers really want to tell me, I wouldn’t want/need to know about the specific medical issue, just that it was serious enough to trigger FMLA and that they were going to need some time off (and then I’d offer support, ask if there was anything I could do, and remind them of our confidential EAP).

    3. BRR*

      As fposte mentions, FMLA might be applicable. I think he needs to just say he’s going to need X time to take care of a health issue and frame it as working out logistics. Just because he has the time doesn’t mean he can just request it off. But think of it in the same way if he left for another job or got hit my a bus, there are situations where they will need to figure out how to complete projects without him.

  11. Cass*

    I’ve been asked to help out on a TV shoot at my workplace tomorrow. (I’m in radio, but background in TV and looking to transition to the TV side at my workplace so I’m pumped to have the opportunity.) It will be a 15 hour day and in general I usually dress business casual for work. However, in the past when I’ve done long TV shoot days, I know from experience things are a little more casual (jeans, maybe sneakers.)

    Is there a wording someone can help me with to ask the executive producer what kind of dress code she expects? I’m concerned with the shoes I’d pick, since I don’t really have a business casual style shoe that would also be comfortable for 15 hours. I mean it more as “hey, what are your expectations of the dress code because I’d like to be prepared” but anything I come up with sounds like “Hey, I can’t dress myself so please help.” Any input someone could give would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Dot Warner*

      I think the wording you used here: “hey, what are your expectations of the dress code because I’d like to be prepared”would be fine. Since you’re concerned about shoes, also ask if it’ll be outdoor or indoor – IDK where you are but a lot of places are hella muddy at this time of year, and you wouldn’t want to get your nicest shoes all muddy.

      1. Cass*

        I’m fairly certain it will be inside, thank goodness. And you may have a point, I think my mental block from this is coming from being low on the totem pole and having imposter syndrome. (I just don’t want to come across as unsavvy or bumbling in a way if that makes sense.)

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          Don’t worry at all- I continue to obsess over dress code for these sort of events. In my experience, no one cares that you asked, except if they’re happy you asked.

    2. overeducated and underemployed*

      If the issue is mainly shoes, can you just wear a business casual pair and pack a more comfortable pair to switch into, either right away if everyone is casual, or later when your feet need a break?

      1. Beezus*

        Yeah! My job mostly involves sitting, but I had a streak where I’d have an unexpected running-around day anytime I wore heels, so I started keeping a pair of basic black flats handy to switch to. Blisters suck.

    3. fposte*

      I think you’re overthinking :-). It’s a perfectly reasonable question, and most ways you phrase it would be fine. “Can you tell me how the assistants usually dress for a day like that?” is one among many options.

      1. Cass*

        Ah, yes. Something like “Can you tell me how the production assistants usually dress for a day like tomorrow? I usually dress business casual, just wondering if that is in line with the norms for you guys.” (I think this way if she says something like yes business casual is fine, then I will suck it up and wear nicer shoes, but not heels. I guess I didn’t want to come across as asking for permission to slum it up with jeans and sneakers.)

    4. Heather*

      I think you could do it just the way you did here – ask what the dress code will be and if she doesn’t give you all the info you need in response, just explain that at the past shoots you’ve been on people wore jeans and sneakers and ask if it will be the same tomorrow. If she takes that as “I can’t dress myself,” she’s an ass ;)

      Good luck, I hope it helps you move into the TV side!

      1. Heather*

        Haha – this is why I don’t post that often; it takes me so damn long to write out my thoughts that by the time I hit submit 3 other people have already said the same thing! Oh, the joys of being a copyeditor with ADHD….

    5. evilintraining*

      I like low boots for that kind of thing. They’re usually comfy but still look nice.

      1. em2mb*

        I was just about to suggest a low bootie for this kind of thing. I’m a reporter – when I get dressed for the day, I’d like to think I’ll be home by 5:30, but that can change without warning. So comfortable shoes are a must. Steve Madden makes a lot of very comfortable booties with low heels (about an inch) that hold up well. I’ve also had good luck with a brand called Diba.

    6. Kim*

      I’m an EP working in television and would absolutely welcome the question as you state it here. (I’ve had PAs show up in the most inappropriate clothing possible). In our shop we have logo shirts that we require for everyone on a crew but other places have different requirements. Also, conditions in the field play a role in what to wear. It’s always a good idea to ask if you’re new to the role. Shoes are crucial though. You have to have comfortable feet for a 15 hour day. If you can’t buy business casual shoes with good support, get out your nicest sneakers or athletic shoes and give them a good clean and some shoe polish so they look as nice as possible.

      1. Cass*

        Whew, glad to hear this from you and ElCee. I think I’ll ask, but plan to wear something business casual and feel OK pairing with sneakers. Nothing makes a long day more exhausting like foot pain….

    7. ElCee*

      It’s no problem to ask! My partner works in TV and if it’s something fancier (jeans/boots or sneakers is the norm for most technicians/PAs), he just double checks. Totally normal question.

      1. Cass*

        Thanks to everyone for their input! I emailed the executive producer asking, and she reassured me comfort was key so jeans, sneakers and a nice sweater would be fine.

        And the day turned out AWESOME! (16 hours of hard work, but enjoyable!) I was doing the functions of more a PA role (production assistant) and I was really rocking it so the Exeuctive producer asked if I wanted to step up my role for parts of the day to produce some of the interviews. All in all, got some great Face time with several producers at my station and I’m fairly confident, secured some great recommendations for any future video producer jobs that may open up.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I am not sure about now, but it used to be that certain patterns bled on screen in a very distracting manner. I believe herringbone was one example. I am not sure if this applies any more. My inclination would be to wear solid colors if I knew I was going to be videoed for tv.

      1. fposte*

        And I now have Sue Ann Nivens in my head saying piteously, “Strobing and bleeding!”

  12. Anon for this*

    Those of you who’ve had Bad Job PTSD, how have you dealt with it? Last summer, I took a job that was a lousy fit; I knew it would be but was in a bad situation and so desperate to escape I refused to consider that I’d be getting myself into a worse one. That was a dumb thing to do, and the consequence of that dumb thing is that I lasted all of a month at the bad job. The good news is that a few months ago I got a new job where I can actually be successful, but the bad news is that all the crap from Bad!Job keeps haunting me at New!Job. When I make a mistake, I can hear my trainer from Bad!Job telling me that I “can’t even do Task X, which is something interns can do” or that they “can’t work with someone who trembles and cries” and I start worrying that this is going to end badly just like my last job did and I’m in the wrong profession, etc.

    I need to get past this or I’m hosed. Any thoughts?

      1. Anon for this*

        Thank you, but I’m looking more for ways to deal with the anxiety aspect of things and while that post was useful, I didn’t feel like it addressed my specific situation. Thank you for taking the time to respond, though.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Definitely keep reading AAM. It will help you to see other people going through stuff and how they are doing with it. And it will help you learn new skills and learn new ways of looking at old things.

          Anxiety can come from many root sources. So a good thing to do is to reassure you that YOU will help YOU. Start there. use affirmations.

          Next.Knowledge is power, anxiety is the absence of power. So what kind of knowledge would you like to grow? how about reading up on how to deal with difficult people. Gather some tools and put them in a tool box that you carry in your mind. All of us can always learn more on this topic, so dig in.

          Next, realize that your body has been taxed, depleted of vitamins and minerals. How about a protein drink or some electrolytes? Get something into your body to help your body support your brain. Realize that your brain might be physically exhausted as well as drained thought-wise.

          Lastly, realize that this going to take time. BUT. As the weeks and months roll by you will have good moments and even good days. If you knew for a fact right now is the worst it will ever be, does that change the picture at all? Live as if you know for a fact this is not going to keep getting worse. You will keep trying various tools and you will hit on things that actually help you.

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      From someone who still struggles occasionally… *hugz*

      I thinkt eh biggest thing that’s helped me so far is just experience and being here for a good while.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Honestly, sounds like some therapy could be useful. Or at least a trusted friend you can talk it through with. For me, honestly, it would be my mom — I could cry it out with her and she would reassure me that the problem was Bad!Job, not me.

      Good luck. You can do it!

      1. Anon for this*

        Honestly, that had occurred to me too, but then I was like, “Ugh, no, it was just a stupid job, what kind of whiner goes to therapy over that?” But since I just moved to a new state and don’t know many people here yet, maybe that is the answer…

        1. BRR*

          I started therapy when I was struggling with my last job and my manager was less than perfect at time. I was fired and four months into my new job and I’m doing great but I can’t shake it. Time has been what has helped the most. When I get particularly anxious, I make sure to get out at lunch if I can. I just walk a little or get a quick chair massage. The physical distance between myself and my office helps me calm down.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          I feel like you can go to therapy for any reason without being a whiner! (And should take my own advice…)

        3. Lady H*

          It may seem like it’s just about the job, but speaking from experience, once you go to therapy to talk about bad job PTSD, you can make connections to all areas of your life to clear the way for smooth sailing in the future. Therapy isn’t just for people who have had Awful Things happen to them! It’s a really smart, proactive way to deal with things and move past them. It gives you coping skills and makes you a better employee/friend/partner. Look at it like going to a professional conference or taking a business course. You wouldn’t think that you were a whiner for needing to develop business skills, and it’s the same thing with what you learn in therapy—we’re not born knowing this stuff!

          Maybe your old job was so bad because you weren’t able to set boundaries, or when you did, people disregarded them, so you’re panicking in your new job because you still don’t feel comfortable setting and enforcing them. (This is just an example that was true for ME, not trying to project on you!) Or maybe you’re unaware of why a bad management style really rubs you the wrong way even after you’ve left that job—it could be related to another person(s) who made you feel the way your manager did. My therapist has taught me that the way to process trauma* is to follow the feelings even if you’ve forgotten the action that caused them.

          *Trauma really is anything that’s impacted your life in a negative way. It doesn’t have to be big to anyone else, just to you! Honestly, once you start therapy you’ll be like me and try to talk everyone into going because it’s massively helpful. It’s impacting you to the point where you’re seeking out advice from internet strangers, why not trust a trained professional? :) (Not saying that posting this question won’t be helpful for you, internet strangers can be wise—especially here!)

        4. Anon for this*

          I went to therapy over my job. It was getting to the point where I was miserable and anxious and that was making me unproductive, which made me more miserable and anxious and unproductive. A year later, and I’m in a much better place (mentally – still at the same job but happy and productive again).

          1. TootsNYC*

            Your job is such a huge part of your day! I don’t think there’s any shame in getting some help to deal with the affect it has on your mental and emotional health.

    3. LizB*

      Call your EAP. Seriously. Get a few sessions with a counselor that specializes in trauma and/or anxiety, describe your problem, and ask for some tools and coping strategies you can use during the workday.

      I’m currently in therapy for several reasons, but the thing that actually made me get off my butt and find a therapist was a terrible, terrible job that’s left me with a lot of anxiety and occasional flashbacks. I’ve only done a few sessions, but I’ve already learned some interesting coping strategies that have been working really well to calm me down. One that I like is the idea of a “container” — my therapist had me visualize some kind of container, being very specific about what it physically looked like, its size, its shape, its color, etc., and had me mentally place it in her office. Whenever I have some anxiety come up that I need to put aside, I close my eyes, imagine my container, and imagine myself putting the memory/anxiety into the container and closing the lid. It sounds incredibly cheesy, and I was definitely skeptical, but it’s actually been working really well!

      For crying: yawn and/or drink water. It’s really hard to cry when you’re yawning or swallowing.

      1. Anon for this*

        Thank you so much! This is great advice. I’m not sure if my current employer has an EAP but I’ll definitely try to find out.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I agree with the concept LizB is bringing up which is that there are many, many useful mental strategies that are available for you.

        I found cognitiive behavioral therapy to be really usefl. It’s a skill, actually!

        Crying: I’ve heard, “look up.” When your eyeballs roll upward, it’s hard to cry.

    4. A sex addict*

      If the above recommendations from Alison don’t help, you may need to seek professional help. I had to do it because a previous boss triggered some deep rooted and highly involved PTSD from my past. If you can find someone who specializes in Trauma therapy that would be best. Hopefully you won’t have to seek professional help.

    5. anon968*

      Try some CBT type techniques for yourself. Try and pick out the thoughts/behaviors you want to change and then when you notice them happening work on challenging them. It will probably take some time to develop new habits and so on.

      I’m in a similar situation. It took me 6-9 months to stop being utterly terrified of conversations with my manager (as at my last place any conversation would end with abuse screamed in my face). I still have hang ups though, e.g. I’ve just had some time off sick and I’m unbelievably panicked about getting in trouble (you simply weren’t allowed to be ill in my last job). I’m getting there slowly though.

    6. EddieSherbert*

      Hey Anon:

      I feel you and I’m sorry you’re struggling!

      I definitely think you need some time to adjust and get used to things at New Job. I moved from super micro-managing Old Job to “you’re an adult and can handle your own schedule” New Job several months ago and I STILL occasionally find myself asking my manager’s “permission” for things (like… a slightly long lunch).

      Don’t beat yourself up when you have those “flashback moments.” And if you have a bad moment where your “trembles and cries” comment comes into to play – and that’s how you feel – seriously, just give yourself a moment to recalibrate. Walk to the bathroom. Do a lap around the building. Whatever. Give yourself that moment and don’t worry.

      And you didn’t ask about this, but you mentioned moving to a new state in the comments. I also moved away from my friends/family. Get involved. Seriously. Find a bowling league, volunteer, join a knitting club or a gym, something. It’s going to feel SO awkward the first time or two, but it makes a huge difference.

      I started volunteering at a local animal shelter and started doing yoga. I’d never done yoga before, wasn’t really interested in it, but it helped me meet people and gave me something TO DO. If I was sitting at home getting worked up, I could get my butt out the door and distract myself at the animal shelter. And I met people there too.

      Best of luck!

    7. NicoleK*

      You’re not alone. I left toxic job two months ago and still haven’t dealt with it all.

      1. JaneB*

        Also, small things that help with realising you aren’t THERE any more – I’ve found actively collecting evidence that I’m competent and that my environments are sane useful – a mix of an email folder for any email from coworkers or clients that says thanks or that what I did was what they needed and a paper notebook or word document in which to jot a note every time someone says something positive or does something sane and helpful. As a naturally anxious person with bad imposter syndrome even before I encountered Toxic Situation, I found the act of actively looking for the positivein order to record it very helpful in recalibrating my thinking once I was out of the Toxic Situation. It’s easy and natural to be looking for signs that things are going wrong again, or that you’re in trouble, and if you’re looking for them you’re more likely to find them. By looking for good things, you start to retrain your brain a bit, in my experiecne.

  13. Jubilance*

    I emailed this to Alison but I don’t think it’s going to run, so I’m throwing this out to the group.

    My question is about listing a Six Sigma certification on my resume. For context, typically Green/Black Belt certifications are done on a company by company basis, though there are organizations like ASQ that also offer the certification. It’s not like a PMP where there is 1 certifying organization. I have worked in process improvement since 2010. At the time, I worked at Company A, which is known for implementing Six Sigma throughout their company. I learned Six Sigma/DMAIC methodology through completing several different Six Sigma projects; due to funding issues my company was unable to send me to a class right away. I wound up leaving that company and that role before I could go through training, but I did complete 3 projects during my time there. I’ve been at Company B since 2012, and I completed Company B’s Six Sigma training and passed their Black Belt exam. However, the company has gone through a major restructure and they have scrapped their Six Sigma program – both curriculum and roles. I’ve used DMAIC methodology in subsequent projects, but there’s no one to go to “sign off” that I’ve met all the requirements as a Black Belt.

    I feel stuck – I completed the required number of projects at Company A but did my “official” training at Company B. I don’t have a piece of paper that says I’m a Black Belt, but I have lots of experience in this area. I’m looking for a new role and there are roles that I’d like to apply to, but most of them require a Black Belt. Should I say that I have it and hope they don’t ask for that piece of paper? In the interviews I’ve had, I’ve explained my situation with training & projects between two different companies, but I don’t have that opportunity if I’m answering a yes/no question on an application. Should I just suck it up and pay for a certification from an organization like ASQ?

    1. Liza*

      I’d be leery of saying you have it when you don’t, but if you’re faced with a yes/no checkbox on an application system… can you explain the situation in a cover letter? If you can, I think you could check “yes” in the application system because anyone who looks at your application and reads the cover letter will know the whole story. Would that fit your needs?

    2. MT*

      I wouldnt waste the money. Every company I’ve ever been with that cared about having green or black belt when hiring will usually require you to go their program.

      1. MT*

        I have my certifications from GE,a well known company for their black belt program, but have worked at 2 separate companies that still required me to complete their black belt program.

      2. Jubilance*

        Curious – when you apply for a job that requires a Black Belt certification, they send you to training all over again? Do they ever ask for proof of your original certification or do you start with a clean slate?

    3. AmyNYC*

      Not to make a joke of this, but I didn’t realize SixSigma was real – I thought it was a fake buzzword-y thing made up for Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock. (Like, synergy, but now I’m at a big corporate company and SYNERGY is real!)

      1. pugsnbourbon*

        Me too! When my husband started the work for it I was seriously amused that it’s a real thing.

      2. Tea Pot Dome*

        I had a dream about it once and in the dream it was called Six Dogma and involved chanting and wearing blue shirts.

    4. Engineer Girl*

      You could mention training without the certification. You could also mention it in your cover letter. On a yes/no box, I’d be inclined to answer “no” unless there was an additional box for clarification.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Can you list “Six Sigma training” instead of “Six Sigma certification”?
      And maybe “completed Black Belt–level classes”?

      1. the gold digger*

        And re-reading and realizing that is not what you were proposing at all, which I should have known because there is nothing you have ever posted that indicates you would lie!

        My comment was based more on my insider knowledge of how ASQ works. :)

        I apologize for even implying you would lie!

  14. Anoning it up*

    Revisiting salary — I recently joined a large organization, and people at my organization and in my role are generally paid according to a salary scale that is published internally. I received my job offer and agreed to a salary some time ago, before the salary schedule was set for this year and with the understanding that I would receive my 2016 salary even though I was starting in 2015, and shouldn’t expect a raise when they are announced. This year’s salary schedule was recently published, and when it was I found out that I am below the minimum of the range for my position – apparently the raises were higher than they expected when I was made an offer.

    I can’t figure out if I should ask anyone about this. I am not unhappy with my compensation, but this is the kind of thing that can compound over time. I’ve asked a few friends/collegues and gotten differing advice. I don’t want to look like I’m asking for money so soon into a new job, but I also don’t want to get caught being paid low on the salary range for the rest of my career because of what seems like bad timing with my start date and offer. What do you think I should do? Is this possible to revisit given the circumstances?

    1. fposte*

      If I’m understanding correctly, I think this is the rare situation where this is revisitable. Go to your manager and say that the plan when you were hired in late 2015 was that it would be at a 2016 salary, and it looks like the estimates for the raises in 2016 were low–would it be possible to adjust so that you are indeed getting a 2016 salary for your position?

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      Revisit it in a year when you have a good track record. Right now you don’t have the personal capital to take a stance. And the company may surprise you and bump you anyway…

      1. Anoning it up*

        They didnt bump me anyway – I actually submitted this to Alison about a month ago but it wasnt answered so I thought I’d toss it out to y’all. It was getting to the point where if I wait much longer and then decide to ask it will be weird that I waited so long. Asking now and bringing it up at my review are the two conflicting bits of advice I cant decide between!

        1. fposte*

          I’d say it depends on your management, your company, and your feelings. And also the specifics of the conversation about your hiring salary.

          You don’t have to answer but I’m curious–how much difference are we talking about, percentage-wise maybe? (I utterly agree it compounds and matters if only for that–I’m just curious if this is egregious enough that I’d say talk to the manager now.)

          1. Anoning it up*

            Haha its ok. It is about a 3% difference in salary from where I am to the bottom of the range, 6% from where I am to the top of the range. Part of my concern is actuallyhow close I am to the salary for the position below me – my actual salary is basically the midpoint between one rung down and my proper rung. Either way though I am happy with my salary as a number, I just dont want to be undervalued my whole career.

            1. fposte*

              I’m a poor academic in a state where we’re lucky to get a 1% raise, so 3% would be a lot to me, especially if it continues that way. What about a compromise? “Manager, I noticed that the eventual 2016 raises put me 3% below the band we were slotting me into–is that something we could correct with raises for 2017 or should we talk about it now?”

        2. Master Bean Counter*

          Ah, well. It’s one of those things that you really have to know your people. if you’ve been great since you started and they are reasonable people, then it might be worth a shot.

    3. Zahra*

      I’d be matter of fact about it: “Hey, I saw the new pay scales and that I’m below the minimum. What can we do so my salary is at least at the minimum for the position?”

      As a last ditch, I’d accept no raise this year, but a merit raise next year, to be calculated from the minimum of the scale at that moment. So, if your performance warrants a 5% increase, your current salary is 48k, the minimum of the scale when you get the raise is 50k, you should get 52.5k.

    4. HigherEdQueen*

      I had the exact same situation happen to me at a state job. I was hired at the minimum (which was already a damn good salary) of the salary range. Their policy was that no one could be below the minimum. So two months after I started, I received an $8000 raise! I would advise consulting with your HR department to see what their policy is.

    5. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      You should definitely bring it up and not wait for next year. At OldJob they adjusted the minimum of the salary band just after I was hired (not that I knew this happened) and I was not bumped up.

      Instead, during the yearly merit review, I was given my merit raise first and then the bump to minimum. That really irritated me since it meant I was getting paid the same as someone who just started at the company, and in some cases I was getting paid less than people who had been their a few months less than me.

      So yeah, ask now.

  15. AndersonDarling*

    My husband was “let go” today. I commented a few months ago that he got the job offer after almost a year of unemployment but I couldn’t be excited about it. Well, it was an awful job, terrible, horrible, unbelievably bad job. I must have been feeling the bad vibes. He was desperately looking for something else since he started, so this is kind of a good thing. But it still feels crappy.
    But the job he applied to 8 months ago is still interested. He had a third interview with them 2 weeks ago. But at this pace, it will be 2017 before he is offered something.

    1. JMegan*

      Aw, that sucks. If there’s anything worse than being let go, it’s being let go from a job that you didn’t even like! Hopefully he’ll find something better soon.

  16. Lily Evans*

    I just resigned from a job for the first time ever and I was so nervous but my supervisor took it really well! She was really excited about the new position I took and we started planning the next couple weeks and I’m just so relieved.

    1. AFT123*

      Good for you! That is a really tough conversation to have, even for people who have been in the workforce for a long time and have had the conversation before. You should be proud of yourself. Congrats!

    2. Merry and Bright*

      I’m glad the resignation part went so well. I remember how I felt and it is a big thing. Your supervisor sounds really nice.

      Well done on the new job and good luck!

    3. Florida*

      Congrats on the new job! I think the thought of having the resignation conversation is usually much worse than the actual conversation. Glad it went well.

    4. Snazzy Hat*

      When I handed in my retail job resignation to my favourite manager, she was disappointed but understanding. About a half-hour later, we met up again in my department (I may have been coming back from break) and she jokingly said, “I talked it over with [the other people in this department] and we decided to tear up your resignation letter and not let you leave.”

      It honestly was light-hearted. All of us in the department made it a habit of keeping each other’s spirits up on a regular basis. (I visited a couple of days ago and it’s still like that.) On my last day two weeks later, one of my coworkers brought in brownies as a “thanks for the memories” gift.

  17. Ms. Didymus*

    I am looking to return to my hometown (in addition to being really uncomfortable with some recent maneuverings within my current company) and as such have begun job hunting. I did two phone screens yesterday. One was with a large, established company in a position created through growth.

    The other is in a small (less than 10 people) company looking for someone to oversee multiple aspects in a company that is part of a fringe market that is often seen as scammy and shady.

    The pay and title are roughly the same at both. Benefits are pretty comparable. I know the stable one makes more sense for what I need in life but…I weirdly feel bad for deciding to decline an interview with the smaller company. The recruiter mentioned they’ve had a really hard time filling this role and how I seemed like such a great match and how he was excited to bring in the CEO for the next step, etc etc.

    Obviously I know I have no obligation to continue (and really, since I know I wouldn’t take the job I have an obligation to bow out) but is it weird to feel bad?

    1. F.*

      Sounds like they were applying some subtle guilt pressure on you to interview. Remember, the process is two-way. If they had a bad vibe about you, they would end the process. You have every right to tell them that you have decided not to proceed further with them and to not feel guilty about it.

    2. rek*

      No, it’s human to feel bad, especially if they were really enthusiastic in your phone screen. I think it falls somewhat close to that “kicking a puppy” feeling. A couple of things to keep in mind: (1) They’re in a field you indicate is at least on the border of shady and (2) you have no way of knowing if this “you’re the best” spiel is one they roll out whenever they get an promising application.(Kinda fits the shady / scammy profile.)
      In any case, be glad you have other options, and listen to that internal voice that is urging you away from a red-flag situation. Best of luck on your search and upcoming move!

      1. Ms. Didymus*

        Thanks rek! I am actually really grateful that, while I’m not incredibly senior, I have enough experience and a strong enough candidacy that I am comfortable saying a job isn’t a good fit for me. It wasn’t too long ago that I would have felt if I didn’t take X job, no other job would offer so I had to take it or be unemployed. It is better to be on this side.

    3. NJ Anon*

      Is it weird? I don’t know but you have to do what is best for you. And of course the recruiter said it was a great match, they probably get paid based on hirings.

      1. Ms. Didymus*

        That is the weird thing. He wasn’t even a “recruiter” He was their marketing manager…who just happens to recruit because they are so small.

    4. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I know this isn’t what you asked but are you sure you want to “bow out” of the smaller company? I have worked for big companies and I have worked for small companies (I was person #7). The smaller company had been in business for over 15 years and had an excellent reputation in the field. I so much more enjoyed working for the smaller company. There was no bureaucracy, it was a true *team* effort, and it was more of a family atmosphere. There was no office politics or clicks. You may want to reconsider the smaller company but of course, do what is best for you.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        My experience has been the exact opposite – that very small companies are horrendously dysfunctional, with no higher authority to keep an abusive or incompetent owner in check. And since Ms. Didymus said what they did was “shady,” I bet it goes double.

      2. Shortie*

        I’ve had a similar experience. While small businesses can be terribly dysfunctional (and the one I worked for certainly was), at least they do not have all the bureaucracy, reporting, and work-very-hard-but-accomplish-little type tasks that larger businesses necessarily have to have to control costs and track results. I am really missing working for a dysfunctional small business right now.

        That said, Didymus mentioned that the small business is part of a fringe market that is often seen as scammy and shady, so that makes a big difference and departs from my experience. I probably wouldn’t consider that either.

        My response here is totally unhelpful, but I just wanted to chime in since I’ve been thinking a lot of late about the general topic of large business versus small.

      3. Ms. Didymus*

        I appreciate the advise and I’ve worked for small companies and loved it. That said, I really need stability and security in my career right now. Certainly no job is a guarantee but smaller, newer companies in a fringe market are less stable larger corporations in stable industries (particularly well rated employers).

  18. BRR*

    I’m looking for some working at home tips. I’ve gone through the archives but am hoping some readers have some additional advice. I recently started working from home two days a week and am having a hard time getting my work done.

    I have a dedicated work space with a large desk. I don’t have anybody at home bothering me. I don’t mind being isolated (and it’s a welcome break as I work in an open office environment with low cubicle walls) but it can be too quiet and I find myself spending too much time figuring out what to play for background noise. My laptop is small and I think that’s part of the challenge. My employer will not pay for any additional equipment. I really just don’t feel as motivated at home. If I didn’t have a super long commute I would consider not working from home but it’s really not an option as it was so exhausting I would burn out. Plus I do enjoy getting to work away from a couple of chatty coworkers. Thoughts?

    1. Erin*

      I like to play lyric-less music in the background so there’s something going on. Create a Pandora station from the French band “Air” or try Google Music’s “Focusing” station.

      Also, allow yourself to take quick 10 minute breaks – take a quick walk around the block, or even a quick yoga video or something, to break up the monotony and get those juices flowing again.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        Seconding Air, although my personal “concentrate” music stations on Pandora are focused on: 1) the bands Agalloch, Alcest, & Opeth when I need background music to take my mind off the passage of time; oh hey, that song was fifteen minutes long, so it’s now fifteen minutes later than when it started, or 2) K-Pop groups Girls Generation/SNSD, f(x), Orange Caramel, and T-Ara when I need to stay awake. I also listen to this one when I’m doing laundry or cleaning.

        And then there are the soundtracks for the Katamari games and the Project Diva games.

      2. zora*

        My other alternative to lyric-less music, is music sung in a language I don’t speak, so I still can’t get distracted. There are a lot of world music stations out there, African music, Bossanova is great, and French music stations, too.

    2. afiendishthingy*

      I like Simply Noise (google it) with headphones. I also find it helpful to identify my priority projects for work-from-home days ahead of time. I have a lot of different tasks to try to keep up with; some are better suited to home and some better to the office. Sometimes I catch up on phone calls (which I hate but has to be done sometimes); frequently I write reports, tabulate data or other things that are best when you have a good chunk of uninterrupted time. (My office is also very chatty, plus people are way more likely to need my input on a work issue RIGHT THAT SECOND if I’m physically present, even if I’m wearing headphones.) Having a nice clear work surface is good, which I definitely don’t have at the moment at the office or at home. Sometimes I give myself star stickers for being on task every time a timer goes off (I’ll set an alarm on my phone and just keep snoozing it so it’s every 9 minutes).

      I’m better than I used to be at working from home, but it’s still really challenging at times. Good luck!

    3. overeducated and underemployed*

      Sometimes “too quiet” is a problem for me too, especially for tasks that you need a lot of concentration and time to get into, so I get into procrastination cycles for that kind of work. (Simple stuff I can cross off a list is no problem.) The best way I have found to get out of them while working from home is actually to put on Netflix or a spoken word podcast, so I can feel like I’m listening to something engaging, and somehow that takes away the psychological intimidation barrier and allows me to dive into the work. Of course, it has to be something I don’t really care about following, because as soon as I am concentrating, I tune it out.

      Just mentioning because this seems to be the opposite of most other people’s methods.

    4. Lady Kelvin*

      I work from home full time since I’m a grad student in Miami but Lord Kelvin has a full-time “real” job in DC. Here is what I have learned thus far:
      For background noise Pandora has some really good classical music stations that you can mix together and have and “work time” playlist, I like their Hans Zimmer station, but they have lots.
      There are some people who thrive when working from home (I’m one of them) but some people don’t. Some people just need the fact that other people can see that you aren’t working to motivate you to work. Also, when my house is a mess/laundry needs done/etc I have a harder time focusing, so make sure that all your house ducks are in a row the day before you work from home. Otherwise you’ll justify not working to take care of things around the house.
      Despite the fact that I am productive to work from home, there are still days that I need to get out of the house. I don’t do well in coffee shops, but I like to go to our local library for an afternoon if I need a few hours of solid writing time. Then there is no commute but you also have a change of mindset so you are in work mode.
      Also think about shutting off your internet for periods during the day, fewer distractions will help you focus.
      As for the laptop being small, invest in an inexpensive extra monitor. It is unfortunate that work won’t buy you one, but I’m not surprised since it sounds like you are not being required to work from home, just doing it for convenience. That being said, the second monitor is incredibly useful.

      At the end of the day, you might find that you never become used to working from home and you’ll know that despite the commute you need to go to work every day. It sucks, but it takes people who very self-driven and motivated to be able to successfully work from home consistently. Good luck!

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        Small laptop? They drive me nuts. Could you connect to a larger screen and more comfortable keyboard? Even second hand is ok for me, it it makes me more comfortable.

    5. AFT123*

      Give yourself a few months to get in the groove – It took me probably 6 whole months before I really felt 100% productive as a remote worker, but once I got the feel for it, I loved it and had no problems with getting work done. You’ll get into a pattern that works for you. I think if you have some kind of large project to focus on, that will help kick-start the feeling as well.

      1. AFT123*

        Also, I had a small laptop but I also had a desk with two big monitors. After awhile, I actually preferred just working from the laptop. I would do a LOT of my work while lying in bed propped up on pillows, with my coffee and my dog, and that was when I was most productive. For me, the physical comfort of being cozied up made working feel less like a chore. My desk and monitors ended up very dusty.

    6. Gwen*

      I usually listen to music (I don’t mind having music with lyrics while I work), but if I’m feeling distracted I like Rainy Cafe, which lets you adjust sounds of both ambient coffee shop back ground noise & rain as you like.

      1. Windchime*

        I lasted about 5 seconds with all of the clanking dishes.

        I have a white-noise app that I use sometimes, or I’ll put on a Pandora station with Zen-type music. I only work at home one day a week and my office is right next to the laundry room. Before I start work for the day, I sort out the laundry and throw in a load. The washer/dryer makes a nice, non-distracting noise and I get a little break every 45 minutes or so to put stuff in the dryer or fold.

        1. Tea Pot Dome*

          I have the same set up. Between the washer and the dishwasher, I’m all set! Having to unload clean dishes allows me to stretch and bend, too.

    7. IT_Guy*

      I’ve done a 2 year tele-work gig and occasionally still work from home, and the biggest thing that has helped me is to get a super-cheapo USB mouse. If you do a lot of typing a good keyboard is pretty cheap if it’s corded. The cordless keyboard and mouse combo are a good move, but pricey.

      The biggest problem that I had when I worked from home was two-fold. I live in a very rural area and would literally see nobody but my immediate family all day. I’m a very social person and this got to me after a while. The other problem was that the fridge was too close. :) I solved these problems by going out in the morning and just getting a cup of coffee from the local convenience store, and just say no to the fridge.

      As far as background noise I just used Pandora and set up a playlist that was just middle of road soft-rock that I would start and ignore.

    8. The IT Manager*

      Connect a monitor to your laptop to get two screens.

      Don’t start doing house work or chores or napping instead of work. You don’t want that habit to develop. I do spend time not working when I should (that can’t be helped), but I’m always still in front of my work computer.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      Music without lyrics helps me concentrate and stay awake. Sometimes when I work from home, I get so damn sleepy. Of course, now that all my neighbors have decided to collectively own six thousand dogs, that’s not really the case so much as music helps drown them out….

      I used to also put on the TV to a boring channel or a marathon of shows I’d seen a bunch of times already, like Kitchen Nightmares marathon, with the volume low. A news channel might work too. It provided talking to ignore, as in the office. I don’t have cable anymore, so that’s not a thing now, but if you do, it might help if it doesn’t bother you to have it on.

    10. Hollster*

      I work from home full-time (and love it!). I have a laptop, but it’s attached to a docking station and I have a full sized monitor, and a wired keyboard and mouse (thankfully, all paid for by my company). That makes a huge difference – I would find it very difficult to work on a laptop all day long. If you can afford it, I suggest that you invest in a monitor, keyboard, and mouse (better for you ergonomically, too).

      I also echo what others have said about music. I listen to local public radio all day. It’s close by, so I can easily mute it when the phone rings. Helps me feel like I have company!

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Do you make a grocery list of tasks each night to do the next day? That might help keep you bumping along. Make a game out of it. “How many of these can I get done before lunch?”

      Sometimes I need to add a strong negative image into the mix to motivate myself. Can you motivate yourself by picturing yourself trying to explain to a ticked off boss why your work is incomplete?

    12. Lady H*

      I’ve worked from home for almost four years now, and my secret weapon is…the Pomodoro method! (There’s a lot of information on Google about the method and quite a few free downloads—I use one on Mac called Pomodoro Time, or you can get a simple kitchen timer.) I find that it’s hard to give myself permission to take a break, so I end up feeling like I’m doing something illicit every time my attention wanders. The Pomodoro method gives me regular excuses to get up, make coffee, browse AAM or personal email, then get back to work. The structure is awesome.

      I’m introverted and wouldn’t trade working from home for anything, though I do struggle to keep focused without anyone here to keep me on task. However, compared to the constant interruptions in an office and those 5-10 minute time wasting conversations I’d inevitably have every day with coworkers it’s likely I’m far more productive at home than I ever was in the office. So don’t beat yourself up for feeling distracted!

      My favorite white noise generator is called Coffitivity. They say it “recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe to boost your creativity and help you work better.” You can play it right from their website.

      1. TootsNYC*

        That Coffitivity would work for me! I did my best concentrating in a table at the edge of the Student Union cafe.

        1. JaneB*

          Seconding coffitivity, I find it very useful.

          Setting myself a work list the night before helps.

          If you have trouble starting work, why not leave the house, take a walk around the block or to the nearest coffee place, then come back and go straight to work? Having a ‘fake commute’ which is short, pleasant and involves a bit of fresh air and a change from ‘home’ to ‘work’ modes (even though you end up at the same place, your house, the act of moving seems to help me believe I’m now ‘somewhere else’) might help with the transition.

          I DO do chores, myself – I make a list of quick 5-10 minute jobs, like cleaning the bathroom mirror, taking out the trash, a short burst of laundry folding or appliance emptying/loading, set a timer on my phone or computer, and take a break every hour – I findthat without the interruptions and natural stroll-excuses of work (check my mail box/see Pete in accounts/copy this/pick up printing from the central hub) I sit too long, and that makes my back unhappy and me very sleepy, so moving for a few minutes every now and then is healthy. On the rare occasions when the house is clean and there are no small chores to do, I do a quick youtube search for a poppy song from my teenage years and bop around (the cat finds it hilarious, no-one else can see) for a few minutes – Abba, Queen, Duran Duran. Youtube because you can get ONE song, and things like spotify draw me in to other distractions…

    13. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I worked from home for about 7 years. It seems that my difficulties were totally different than yours so I am not sure how helpful my suggestions will be.

      It is good that you have a dedicated work space. Is it in a dedicated room? If not, I suggest if possible, that you do move it to a separate room. You should also decorate it as an office. Put up degrees or certifications you have. Have a small office supply “cabinet”/drawer. Only have 1 or 2 truly personal items in your area.

      If you are not doing this already, I suggest that you shower, get dressed, have breakfast, and do everything else that you would normally do as if you were “going” to work. Truly *think*, act, and talk as if you are going to work. If needed, get in your car, drive around the block or so, and then arrive at “work”. If you usually brought your lunch to work, fix it and pack it before you leave to go to “work”. When you get to work, close the door to the room you are in so you are not distracted by other things in the house and also to reinforce that you are at “work”. Do not leave “work” except to go to the bathroom.

      At lunch time (and take a dedicated lunch time) and leave *work*. Again think, act, and talk like you are leaving work for lunch. I suggest (at least at first) that you go out to eat. If you tended to bring your lunch to work and/or can’t afford to and/or don’t want to go to a restaurant to eat, still leave the house and if possible, eat in a park or someplace similar. This would also give you a chance to interact with other people. Be sure and return to “work” after an hour (or whatever your normal lunch time was). Repeat the morning routine.

      At the end of the day, leave “work” and don’t return until the next morning.

      The concept is to get in the mindset that your “work” area is for work just like you would be going to work in a different location.

      I really like some of the other suggestions that others made, such as creating a task list and checking things off as you get them done. You can even put a completion time on the task if needed so that you know you have to get it done by a particular time.

      Can you maybe provide status reports (via email or some other non-intrusive method) two or three times a day so that have someone to hold you accountable? Can you maybe have an instant messenger installed on your and other co-workers computers so that you feel more connected to them?

      For me, what worked was truly making it feel like a true *work* environment as much as possible.

      1. Lady H*

        I do the exact opposite. Your advice is what most people think is the way to go, though, so I know it works best for most people, but not me! For me, the perks of working from home are that I can wear ultra comfy clothes. I can get out of bed right before I start work—I’m not a morning person, so I’d prefer to just jump right into work instead of getting up early for any other reason. I can take a shower and get dressed when I feel like it, not because I have to. It’s the same with food, instead of having to plan the night before, I just make sure that I have a variety of fairly quick and healthy foods around. I usually eat breakfast an hour or two into work because that’s when my body likes to eat.

        I have a dedicated work space but I also let myself work from bed for the first hour, and if I get tired of sitting at my desk I’ll sit on the couch. If I need a break from work, I’ll do 15 minutes of housework and I love that I can get things done at home like laundry or loading the dishwasher and come back to work refreshed. And if I want to leave and enjoy a walk at 3pm because it’s beautiful out, then I’ll do that and pick work up after dinner. (Note that I have a lot of flexibility because I’m a contractor, so I understand not everyone working from home can choose working hours.)

        If I had to treat working from home like a regular office job then I would be miserable. It’s not that I’m undisciplined—I bill by the hour, so I have to be efficient with my time, otherwise I would “work” 12-14 hours without making any money. As I said above, the structure of the Pomodoro method keeps me on task even if I’m wearing sweatpants and am sitting on the sofa. I would honestly advise people to try embracing what makes working from home different from working in the office instead of trying to recreate the office feel and see if it works for them!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m with you! Obviously people should do what works for them, but half the benefit of working from home for me is that I don’t have to treat it like going to an office.

    14. MegKnits*

      This may be more seasonally appropriate in 6-9 months but the Fireplace channel or Aquarium channel was the perfect background noise for me. Drowned out any neighbour/hallway sounds for me but monotone that I could concentrate and take phone calls with it on.

    15. Fawnling*

      I worked from home for the first time this week and found that and, coupled with ambient lighting, really helped my concentration.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        OK, aSoftMurmur may just be the best thing ever! All The Sounds and I can adjust the volume of each individually?

        1. Fawnling*

          Yes! And you can also set it to “meander” which will take the specific sounds you’ve chosen and raise/lower the volume slowly to keep things interesting.

    16. lmgtfy*

      Music: Try the epic movie scores on google play music or download the Noon Pacific app on your phone.
      Productivity apps: Forest is good for setting up blocks of time where you are not distracted, there are some pomodoro ones as chrome extensions but I’ve found them not that helpful, since while I’m working I’m often also looking stuff up on the internet.
      Set up: Look on craigslist for an external monitor, spend $15 on a mouse on amazon if you don’t have one.
      Lifestyle: It’s great to get up and shower if that’s how you operate, but since I sometimes work out in the afternoon, I don’t always do that. I do change my clothes – out of pajamas, into… well, running clothes honestly and maybe the same ones I wore yesterday, but it’s a change. Brush your teeth also – when I worked from home intermittently and the kitchen was in between bedroom and bathroom I didn’t always manage to do that before noon. Oops. If the cleanliness of the house distracts you, spend the time you make coffee cleaning up the kitchen, or give yourself 45 minutes to work and then a 10 minute sweeping break. If you can IM with your coworkers, it’s a good way to feel in touch and have some background “noise” throughout the day.

      1. Bibliovore*

        When I work from home, I get up around 6:00 am, have coffee and a smoothie, work until 10:45 then go to the gym for a swim. Come home and have lunch. Work until dinner. I work with a laptop on the couch with the little dog tucked under my arm. I return phone calls and email after lunch, otherwise I get sucked into the vortex. I prefer NPR in the background so that it isn’t too quiet.

    17. Mkb*

      I bought a second monitor from Craigslist ($20) and a mouse on Amazon for $7, if made working from home much better

    18. Irishgal*

      The brain tends to work in 20 minute long focus blocks and in offices there are lots of in built natural pauses that cater to that. At home that tends not to happen so focussing can seem more daunting. Arranging to work for 20 mins then a 5 minute break to change music, grab a drink, do a stretch and then heading into another 20 can help. This website is really good and recommended a lot in the industry I work in .. you might find it helpful

  19. I'm not a CPA*

    I am a part-time admin at a CPA firm. I’ve been interviewing (for writing/editing/marketing positions, so a huge step up for me) and it’s been going well. If I get an offer, I may be leaving my employer during the worst possible time: tax time.When I got hired two and a half years ago, my boss knew I was overqualified and feared I might leave, and I told wouldn’t leave during tax time. Which I really regret now.

    I didn’t realize at the time I would be forgoing significant opportunities only being able to job search seven and a half months out of the year. My priorities in what I wanted out of a job have also changed significantly – I had come out of a toxic environment before, and working in a normal, sane office was most important to me. But now money, and lack thereof, and doing, you know, what I actually want to be doing, has become much, much more important.

    In addition, if I do get an offer, I’m traveling the week of May 8th, which I expect might make it difficult to negotiate for an after April 15th start date. So I may really end up leaving my CPA boss right before tax day, and I do feel awful about it.

    But honestly, I am sick of seeing all of my peers grow and prosper in the fields they want to be in while I stand at the sidelines. I’m sick of seeing them make thousands and thousands of dollars more a year than I do, while they buy houses and have babies, and I’m still in my crappy apartment paying off my college debt.

    Not that they don’t deserve these things – they certainly work hard at what they do – but I deserve them, too. I have the education, experience, and drive to get a better position in my field. There is more worth to me than, “How may I direct your call?”

    I am one of those people who constantly worries about what other people think of me, and disappointing others, and always putting others first. I don’t want to screw my employer over. I have worked through bronchitis because it was tax time. I have scheduled a vacation, when I rarely get to travel, for an inconvenient time to work around tax time (and subsequently had bad weather on my vacation). This is actually affecting my own vacations and personal time now. I need to finally do what’s right for me.

    And the truth is, there is never going to be a great time to leave.

    After April 15th, my other part time position is going to offer me full time (which my employer has wind of and is not happy). In which case, it wouldn’t be a good time to leave because this other employer would just be committing themselves fully to me.

    If I wait until summer, well, I have just never had any luck job searching during the summer – it’s like employers are either on vacation or are mentally on vacation.

    So I’d realistically have to wait until fall, in which case, I’d have only a small window frame of a few months to job search before it would be January, and thus, tax season once again.

    I know Alison has said before that there’s worse things than a burnt bridge, but I’m still having a hard time alleviating my guilt over this, and I haven’t even received an offer yet.

    1. F.*

      You might be surprised about negotiating an after-April 15 start date and still getting the week off you need in May. The wheels grind slowly at many companies. And you’re right, there never is a good time to leave.

      You didn’t ask, but you might want to re-frame your perspective by not comparing your career track to your peers. Everyone progresses at a different rate and in a different direction. Some people are slow to start, but then their career really takes off when they find their niche. Based on expectations of me when I was in school, I was supposed to set the world afire. That didn’t happen for a number of reasons. However, at the age of 55, I am a happy person and reasonably content with my career progression and see it getting even better in the future. You will find your place to bloom, too.

      1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

        You know, 2.5 years into a job is a perfectly reasonable time to leave. Especially if it is part time admin work. Your boss, if he’s not dumb, should be expecting you’d be leaving soon. Write up all your procedures and let him hire a temp.

      2. TootsNYC*

        seconding the “you might surprised negotiating an after-April 15 start and still getting time off”

        It’s pretty powerful argument to your commitment and professionalism, that you want to stay at a TAX place through April 15. It should make you look good to someone else hiring you. And you should flat-out tell them that this is a plus you offer–that you would show them the same level of commitment during crunch times, and not just at the end of the job 6 years from now, of course.

    2. AFT123*

      You don’t owe your employer your life. You need to do what is best for you!!! Yes, it will hurt them a little, but as an employer it is their responsibility to plan for these very normal things, like employees leaving. It isn’t your responsibility. Also for what it’s worth, I agree about trying to find jobs in the summer – strike while the iron is hot, get yourself the job you deserve, go through the awkward period of leaving your employer, and live your life. :)

    3. AVP*

      I think you have to take this new job if you get it. I know, it will be terrible for your current boss, but she knows you’re in the market for a full-time position and really, if she can only offer you part-time hours, she can’t begrudge you the opportunity to make a living wage. If she has wind of your other job offering you more hours, she might (hopefully?) already be thinking of how to replace you.

      Almost half the year is an unreasonable demand for people to not leave during. If it was like “March 15-April 15,” okay, but as you point out the current situation only leaves you with a very small window of time to job hunt. You might burn the reference, but that just means you need to be extra careful about making sure the right place is a great fit that you’ll be at for awhile.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Their lack of redundancy/preparation is not your responsibility. It is a bit confounded by the fact that you said that you told him that you wouldn’t leave during tax time, but really, after a few years of part-time work, I don’t think you owe them anything rather than maybe 4 weeks notice during tax season instead of 2 weeks. Because the boss could claim that it takes 3-6 months to get someone up to speed, so you can’t leave during the fall or winter either…oh, and lots of people file for extensions, so it doesn’t end in April, it ends in August!

      And you definitely shouldn’t stop searching at all, even in March — you never know when you’ll apply for a job and they won’t get back to you for months!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oh, and don’t forget the old saw, what would they do if you got hit by a bus/won the lottery tomorrow? Unless the answer is “I own my own company/am one of only # certified X’s in the country/I have all the root passwords”, the answer is they would be inconvenienced, but they’d survive.

    5. CM*

      Just do it, with apologies for leaving at an inconvenient time.
      This happens constantly — there are always letters here from people racked with guilt over leaving their employers in the middle of a big project, or right before that conference that the company paid for, etc., etc. You’re feeling guilty because you’re conscientious. That’s a good thing. But like you said, you need to finally do what’s right for you instead of always prioritizing what’s good for your employer. It is totally normal and fine. You don’t need to feel bad about it.

    6. CMT*

      April 15th is really soon. Unless you’re getting an offer like, today, I don’t think asking for a start date after then would be problematic.

    7. AMT 2*

      Tax time is a terrible time to leave a CPA firm – if you are staying in accounting. I stuck it out through tax season at my (hopefully) last job in a CPA firm (taxes are not for me!) because of that. BUT – you made that promise to your boss 2.5 years ago; I would say that as part-time admin that promise was good for your first tax season. They cant expect you to stay indefinitely. I would not worry about it, you stuck through two (?) tax seasons and your boss knows you are not going to stay there forever. Besides, as others have pointed out, if you start looking right now you might not even get an offer for awhile, so the point will be moot. Let go of the guilt – it can kill you! it nearly did me (I spent my last tax season trying to not cry on the way to work every morning).

      1. Granite*

        Exactly this. For a part time job, I would never hold that promise beyond the first year. I’m also a CPA, though I lasted exactly one day doing taxes, and that was ~15 years ago.

    8. The Butcher of Luverne*

      You said it yourself: you need to do what’s right for you.

      People leave jobs all the time. Your old job will cope.

    9. SbucksAddict*

      I’m going to disagree with a lot of y’all – I work in management at a CPA firm and I can tell you it would really burn the bridge. We had an employee who gave us notice on April 2 last year and negotiated a “after season start date” of April 16th. Her replacement has really struggled because it’s impossible to train and document anything during the last two weeks of tax season/the first two weeks of a quarterly report month. April and October are the worst two months in a CPA firm. They just are and anyone who leaves at that time does cause bad feelings in their coworkers and boss. Everyone is pushed to the max already and then they have to step up and train a new person when they don’t have the time or energy. She did not get the normal tax season bonus because we gave it to everyone else who picked up and helped to do her job during the month of April. Hopefully she’s smart enough to not list us as a reference in the future as the way she left really impacted the firm and we’re still finding issues from that time.

      That said, I think you should job hunt starting in early April if this isn’t the field for you and you’re leaving accounting totally. Our ex-employee was leaving the accounting profession entirely so the way she left was not important to her. If this is a field you’re going to stay in, though, I’d really suggest you negotiate a post tax season start date. I think tax season is a fairly well known time of stress for accounting firms (the grocery clerk even commented to me about it last night!) and I would think most employers would be understanding if a new employee didn’t want to leave their old employer in the lurch during this time.

      I think it’s reasonable to want to leave and grow in your career. I wish you a lot of luck in that and I hope you find something that makes you happier. Tax season stress isn’t for everyone and finding that out for yourself is really good because now you can use that knowledge to find a job that’s more in line with the lifestyle you want for yourself. You should look at that as a positive and a step in the right direction for your career and not consider this job a stall as you seem to be doing.

    10. Observer*

      If you like your other part time job, take it when they offer you full time. The fact that your current boss is “not happy” is just too bad. Retention is always an issue with part timers, and it gets worse as you go up the skill ladder. That’s something your employer should understand.

      If you like this other job better than your other current job, and they offer you a job, take that. If you think it looks highly likely, but they have not made an offer by the time OtherJob makes an offer, that’s one of the situations where it’s legitimate to ask them about timeline and status.

      But seriously, leave the guilt behind.

  20. bassclefchick*

    I had a very positive job hunting experience this week! I applied for a State job and they did open interviews at a job fair. I thought that was a bit weird, but OK. So I started at their booth and answered their questions. Will be a couple of weeks before I hear if I get a full interview.

    I figured I shouldn’t waste the opportunity while I was there, so I stopped at a few other booths. I talked with the recruiter for a different staffing agency than my current one and she interviewed me right away! She DID confirm my fear that being a temp for 5 years might be making employers wonder why I haven’t been offered a permanent position. But she thinks she can help me. She looked over my resume and thought it looked good (THANK YOU, Alison!) but had me make a few minor changes.

    I’ll take their tests this weekend and hopefully she’ll have a posting that will be a good fit for me. She made me see that my current service isn’t doing anything for me and that even though loyalty is good, I need to do what’s best for me and move on.

    Hopefully this will finally be the year for me to get a permanent job! Thanks, everyone, for all your support as I look for something better.

  21. Internal Interview*

    I’m waiting to hear if I got an internal job I applied for. I work closely with everyone I interviewed with, and I feel so awkward interacting with all of them since the interview–like I’m interpreting everything as evidence that I will or won’t get the job. I just want to know already.

    1. Granite*

      I’m in a similar position, though interviews haven’t started yet in my case. It is definitely anxiety inducing.

    2. Jaydee*

      I’m in a similar position, and it is totally nerve wracking. I hope you get some good news soon! I’m reaching the point where I don’t even care if I get the job, I just want to know and be done with the waiting.

  22. Gwen*

    Just wanted to share some good news – thanks to the advice here, I had a frank conversation with my manager last year about feeling like I was underpaid/undervalued at the company (using the major projects I’ve succeeded at & the responsibility I’ve taken on that I felt was higher than my pay grade as leverage), and after my performance review I just found out that I will (in two stages) end up with an 18% increase to my salary over the course of this year! I know I would have stewed in silence without the tools that AAM has given me – so thank you!

    1. Gwyn*

      This is really weird. You have my name, you have my exact experience (to the percentage!). Am I sleep posting, or are we AAM doppelgängers?

      Hello friend!

      1. Gwen*

        Alternate universe AAMers! That’s amazing! (I will confess that Gwen is a nickname and not what I go by IRL, but still)

  23. Anon today*

    My manager was supposed to give me critical feedback on my largest and most important project this morning. This feedback will determine the entire route of the rest of this project, which is the company’s largest yearly spend. It’s feedback I need to move forward in a timely manner.

    She walked up to my desk, picked up my proposal, scanned it for .5 seconds, then said, “I don’t care. I really don’t”, then walked into her office and slammed the door.

    I am supposed to have the finalized proposal to the executive team by EOD today. I have no idea what is the correct thing to do. I guess I’ll proceed with my proposal and hope for the best.

    1. Fabulous*

      Maybe take a couple key areas you’re needing specific feedback on to her after lunch and ask for input? That way she’s doesn’t have to digest the whole thing at once. Might be less stressful and time consuming…

    2. Kyrielle*

      What Fabulous said, but also (especially if you see any further signs of push-back), maybe ask her, “If this isn’t a good time for you to review this, is there someone else you can recommend to have a look at it, before I give it to the executive team at the end of today?”

      Which reminds her there’s a deadline and lets her shove you to someone else if she’s not up to handling it…if there is possibly anyone who can do it, and if she cares at least enough to do that.

      1. Anon today*

        That was great advice. Thank you. But just my luck that she said no one else has authority to review the proposal and got cranky that I brought up the idea of involving someone else.

        1. Kyrielle*

          *groans and winces* Ouch. Not a good day. :( Well, at least you know for the future. Sorry it worked out that way.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      I was having this discussion about reports earlier this week. People are busy and for some of them, even 500 words is too much. It was suggested to a colleague that they put an Executive Summary on the front with key points as bullets. I don’t know if that would help in this case, it sounds like she’s having a bad day?

  24. Oy*

    I’ve had 3 interviews this week and one more this afternoon – that I’m in no way prepared for! I was so focused earlier this week on prepping for the two back-to-back interviews I had yesterday. I figured I’d have time to prep for this one last night, but I ended up not getting home until nearly midnight due to some other obligations I had. Any last minute advice?? Eeek!!

    1. Collie*

      Whew! Go get ’em! The fact that you’ve got so many interviews speaks volumes to your ability and confidence already. I wouldn’t worry too much. Take it one minute at a time, relax, and know that we’re rooting for you.

    2. overeducated and underemployed*

      Google and confidence will get you through! You’ve just had lots of practice, after all! Good luck today.

      1. Oy*

        I’m one of their top 3 candidates, but I was pretty sure of that before going in. Now for the waiting game!!

  25. Momnonymous*

    I posted in January about how my kid was having trouble napping at day care. I wanted to give an update: it’s going much better! His teachers swaddle him, rock him to sleep, and then put him down, and he’s been sleeping for up to an hour at a time. He seems to love day care, and I haven’t had to leave work to get him.

    Thanks to everyone for your comments!

  26. limenotapple*

    My boss plays games like solitaire or jigsaw puzzles or whatever in her office for most of every day. She says she doesn’t have a lot to do but the rest of us are swamped. It is also hard to get her to help us with anything because she will get confused, and doesn’t really know how to do most of our jobs. We’re kind of at wits end. She makes about twice my salary to do mostly nothing, and I’m not sure how to go on from here or if I need to just run away. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of jobs in my oversaturated field to even apply for, so it’s hard to run! I appreciate any ideas anyone might have for dealing with it.

    1. fposte*

      There are two things going on here: you’re ticked off that your manager is playing solitaire, and you’re swamped with work. If you could only change one, which one would it be?

      The first you can’t control–you really can’t tell your manager to quit playing games, and it’s not something worth going over her head about. The second, however, you may have some power over. “I can get to projects A and B, but there isn’t enough time for me to get to C and D, and Lucinda and Percival’s plates are too full to take it on. What do you want to do about C and D?”

      BTW, it sounds like you think she’s a poor manager for not knowing how to do your jobs, but that’s pretty common and nothing to hold against her. She’s not even a poor manager for playing solitaire. She’s a poor manager for not dealing with the fact her team is overloaded.

      1. limenotapple*

        I appreciate your advice. The idea to worry about what I can control is gold, and I am definitely going to think more about that.

        In my field, the manager/director should have some experience and understanding of each facet of running our department. It’s hard to get into more specifics without revealing myself, but this person should have some expertise and experience in at least one of our areas, and usually to get a job at that level you would have a experience in more than one. But you are right, what makes her a poor manager is that she is really not dealing with how overloaded we are and how much isn’t getting done because of it.

        1. fposte*

          Okay, yeah, there are fields where that makes sense. But the “why is this person being paid more when she’s doing less?” issue isn’t actionable and the anger will eat you alive, so focus on clearing your own path.

          And develop as many skills as you can there so that you *can* run if you can’t take it any more.

      1. fposte*

        Maybe, but 1) then the boss should be paying more attention and 2) it’s still going to be a dubious complaint to take to your boss’s boss. My concern isn’t what my boss does that isn’t managing; it’s whether her lack of management is causing work things to fail.

  27. Lillian McGee*

    I survived my first audit! Thanks to yall in previous open threads who advised me to chill. The auditor was pretty emphatic in her praise of my work and there were no material errors (yesss!) but among the recommendations was that I get some additional accounting and nonprofit financial training. A lot of my answers for why I did things a certain way were “I just did it the way it was done before” or “[CPA consultant] told me to do it that way…”

    While I don’t relish the idea of going back to school, I would be open to seminars and courses that last a few weeks at most. Any suggestions for where I might start looking?

    1. LQ*

      That is awesome!

      In my state we have a council for nonprofits that does a lot of support for nonprofits and I know they offer a few seminars for finace. I would absolutely start looking at a place like that for the non-profit specific aspect. For general accounting things I think it might be good to look online like at Coursera or the like where you might be able to take some free things online that would be helpful.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      Industry associations or you can look to your state CPA society or the AICPA for training on those topics. You don’t have to be a CPA or a member to take most of the classes.

    3. it happens*

      Congratulations! Why don’t you ask the auditor if she has any specific suggestions? Also, the nonprofit centers recommendation is good – there are lots of them, even geared to specific kinds of nonprofits.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’m preparing for my first audit at this job [and first ever.] Similar situation, nonprofit-I’m a bit anxious.

        Only positive is I wasn’t here during the time period under audit, but I have done journal entries backdated to that time frame, so some things could still be my fault.

    4. CPALady*

      Yay! I’m glad the audit went well and you’ve got direction for the future. How quick are you to learn new things in a self-paced atmosphere? You may want to just start by getting some course textbooks for Principles of Accounting (usually there are two courses for this in undergrad programs). Buy used textbooks and just go through them chapter by chapter. The principles taught in those classes generally don’t change, and most of the textbooks are basic enough since nearly all business majors have to take at least on Principles of Accounting class.

      Alternatively, if you’re really doing mainly bookkeeping work (you have a CPA consultant that it sounds like you could rely on for more in-depth situations), take a look at the textbooks from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. They have a certificate program, as well, if you’re interested in that.

    5. Nonya*

      I second the suggestion about looking into AICPA courses. They are comprehensive and should give you a solid foundation. There is even one course that specifically covers nonprofits. Even if the majority of what you do is bookkeeping, there is value in understanding the broader picture.

  28. Emilia Bedelia*

    Got a lesson in “you just don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes” this week- I interviewed for a job a few weeks ago and have anxiously been waiting for updates. Last week, they let me know that I am a final candidate and asked about salary and ideal start dates- yay! I was hoping for an offer earlier this week and spent a long time checking my phone and email obsessively. Monday afternoon, I get an email from the recruiter with an update… it’s her last day with the company and I have a new point of contact. I never would have imagined that would happen- just goes to show, you never know why it’s slow!

    Related: it’s been almost a week- can I ask for an update from my new recruiter contact? She’s only been on the job (or on my case, at least) for 4 days or so, so I totally understand why I haven’t been contacted, but is it ok to remind them I exist, so to speak, and ask for an update on their timeline?

    1. BuildMeUp*

      I think you can definitely get in touch with the new recruiter! If you haven’t already, you can introduce yourself, say you’re looking forward to working with her, etc., then say you’re following up about X job that you interviewed for on Y date and are a final candidate for.

    2. Audiophile*

      I would wait until next week. If I’m understanding this correctly, this is an outside recruiter? Not an internal recruiter for the company? Regardless, I would still wait until Tuesday of next week, as Mondays are always crazy.

  29. Rusty Job Searcher*

    Hi everyone,

    I’m in my first job out of college and am preparing to start looking at options for my next position (I’ve been here two years). I’m feeling rusty in my job search skills, despite being a steadfast lurker here, and am hoping you all can weigh in on a few questions.

    1. What level of detail should I have on my LinkedIn profile? Just job titles? Titles and accomplishments? And does the level of detail vary with the recency of the position (for example, a position I held in college vs. my current job)?

    2. What is the best way to network without any faux pas, given that all of my best networking contacts, by far, I met through my boss? It’s fine if he knows I’m looking, but I don’t want to make my contacts feel like they’re picking sides between my boss and me.

    3. “Don’t go to grad school unless you need to” seems to be a mantra, and I agree…but how do I tell if I need to for the types of jobs I want if those jobs aren’t posted right now online and I don’t have insider contacts in organizations I’m targeting (or I do but they’re too senior to bother them for this type of thing)?

    Thank you!!

    1. Turanga Leela*

      1) Dealer’s choice. I see this both ways. My LinkedIn gives minimal information, just workplace and job title.

      2) This is tricky. If your boss introduced you to someone and you have an independent relationship, it’s fine to ask for that person’s help. If the person is more your boss’s contact than yours, in many jobs it would be weird to reach out to that person about jobs. (I’m assuming your boss herself isn’t helping with your job search—it’s different in an internship, where your boss knows you’re leaving and may help.) Do you have friends who can introduce you to other contacts? Maybe meet people through conferences or professional associations? Also, don’t stress too much about “networking”; it can be helpful, but you can also get a job by just applying.

      3) What kind of job do you want? The AAM community might be helpful with this. This is where networking or informational interviews can be helpful; it’s how you learn about what is required in your industry.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Your LinkedIn is really up to you, but mine is fairly detailed – it helps me keep track of my accomplishments over the years and promote myself to an online audience. I do occasional freelance editing, so it helps me sell myself for that too.

    3. Erin*

      1) For my LinkedIn, I include smaller, less important jobs in addition to the ones I list on my resume – the resume should just be your highlights, but on LinkedIn there’s more room to add something like, working at Barnes & Noble for six months. Or like, I have a scuba certification and have taken a few continuing education type classes I have on my LinkedIn but don’t include on my resume.

      I don’t think the level of detail should vary too too much, but I think it would certainly be acceptable to have a little less detail for jobs a long time ago. Just keep in mind there is more room to add more stuff on LinkedIn, and you should use that, but do not go overboard with it.

      2) If you’re okay with your boss knowing you’re looking, I think it would be acceptable to shoot an email to a couple of your contacts through him either saying you’re looking for a job in X field if they know of something to please keep you in mind OR you could offer to buy them coffee sometime for a more casual networking thing. (I’d be interested to hear others thoughts on this one though.)

      What would definitely be acceptable though would be to follow their careers in whatever way makes sense, thus keeping in touch and staying on their radar without actually asking for something. For example, if they have a blog, be a regular commenter. If they regularly post articles on certain topics on LinkedIn or Twitter or whatever, comment on there, or share an article with them. “Hi Bob, I see you post regularly about tips for remodeling your home – I saw this piece on do-it-yourself tiling and thought you would find it interesting.” (Weird example, but you get me.)

      3) Hmm, I don’t think you need to worry about that too much. As you grow your network and look at job postings I think that answer will come to you. Maybe you could look at job ads for the type of job you hope to get at some point, even though it’s not what you’re applying to right now, and see if they require a graduate degree in the description.

    4. themmases*

      Regarding #3, that really depends why the jobs you want aren’t posted.

      If you haven’t been considering this long and nothing you’re interested in for the future is posted *right now*, I’d recommend setting up an alert on a few sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor so you will get emailed when relevant jobs are posted. While you wait, research the industry other places. See if anyone in your field blogs about it. Look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics handbook to see whether growth is expected for that job and what is usually the entry-level credential.

      If you have been thinking about this for a while and it’s not common for you to see your goal jobs posted, it’s even more important to look into why that might be. Look for networking contacts, blogs, reports from professional organizations in the industry, etc. to see if these roles are often filled internally, if that job is just really competitive to get, or even if it’s on the decline. Even if a graduate degree is a requirement for a certain job, there is still no point in getting it if that job has no growth.

      When in doubt, just keep working. As you get to know your industry more, you’ll get a much clearer picture of your possible paths even without having to aggressively network. Your sense of what degree to get, or whether to bother getting one at all, will evolve in ways you probably can’t anticipate. And unless your job is totally irrelevant to the degree you would want to get, your work experience will make you very competitive for professional programs if you ever decide to go.

  30. Jayne*

    I am curious to know what you all think about this situation:
    I am a receptionist at a large company with many departments, and I receive a lot people who come in for interviews. Usually I get a list of names of who to expect, and who their interviewer is, but when I don’t get a list, I ask the interviewee who they are meeting with. Sometimes they don’t remember the name of the person (which I get, sometimes that can be hard), so then I ask what position they are interviewing for. Every now and then, I get someone who tells me they don’t know that either. I don’t understand this! How can someone not know what position they are interviewing for? One person yesterday said this: “I don’t know what position– someone just called me and set up an interview…Teapots Inc.?” I wanted to wring her neck! I don’t know how someone can prepare for an interview when they don’t know what they applied for. She couldn’t describe what type of job it was either. I thought maybe she couldn’t remember the department name. But she couldn’t even answer that!
    Is this a common thing? As a manager, how do you feel about your candidate not knowing what position they are applying for? Would you factor that into your decision of whether or not to hire her?

    1. Kelly L.*

      It actually happened to me! I was applying to a large university, and had applied to a specific position, but unbeknownst to me, my application put me in a pool for similar positions elsewhere on campus. I got a callback from one of these other departments first. There was a vague connection between the disciplines, so initially I thought it really was connected to the first listing, but I wasn’t sure, and spent part of the interview trying to feel out what this department actually did! :D

      So I guess it matters whether your company puts applicants into a pool–they might be getting called by someone very different from who they thought they were applying to.

      1. Anonsie*

        I was going to say this– it wasn’t at a university, but this happened to me several times. I applied for one job and they brought me in to interview for another one without giving me a lot of information, like as if that wasn’t extremely important. In all cases I came in anyway but if someone had asked me what position I was there for I would have squirmed. I wonder if there are some departments at your company with a penchant for this.

        At the same time it would not surprise me at all of a portion of all applicants that forget what job they were applying for would shrug at this question, but if you get it a lot I would suspect something is up with your company on this.

    2. Emilia Bedelia*

      A similar thing happened to me when I was applying to internships- I’d apply to multiple internships, which would have the same title (Summer Research Intern or whatever) , but would be in different departments. So when it got to the interview stage, I had 3 different interviews for kind of similar lab jobs with different departments… and none of the interviewers would use titles that matched up with any job descriptions I had! I also wasn’t familiar with a lot of the internal terminology, so things like “you’ll be working with the downstream group” made no sense to me. I was too nervous to ask a silly question like “so, what’s this job called, anyway” so I went through multiple interviews not really knowing what jobs I was interviewing for. I managed to get one of them, remarkably, but I certainly felt lost.

    3. Audiophile*

      I worked as a receptionist for a long time and would regularly find people not just at the interview stage (but more than one at the first day stage) who did not know the job title, department, etc. I was bewildered. Certainly more bewildered by the people who had accepted a job offer and still weren’t sure about the job title or department.

      Then a few months ago, it happened to me. I had a applied for an internship, but also applied for a job at the same company. I got a call and the conversation couldn’t have been more vague, asking me to set up an interview and when I called back, there was still no information given. I ended up canceling it later on.

    4. katamia*

      I’m super forgetful, and I’m pretty sure I’ve done this, especially when applying for admin jobs–you have administrative assistants, receptionists, secretaries, office assistants, etc. Maybe there’s a difference I’m not aware of, but the job postings, at least in my area, seem to use all of these to refer to the same kind of job at different companies. If I were applying for a bunch of admin jobs, I might not be able to remember what your company called it. Now, if they’re applying to be senior vice president of marketing, I’d hope they would remember that, but for admin-type positions, I think you should mentally cut them some slack. Interviewing is hard and nerve-wracking, and they may be so busy trying to remember a time they dealt with a difficult customer or a conflict with a boss or whatever they think they’re going to be asked that they’re not thinking about the exact job title.

    5. Observer*

      I see two possibilities. If you are seeing this a lot, then odds are that there is an issue with the way your company is listing jobs or setting up interviews (or both.) If you have the right relationship with someone who could make a difference, I’d bring it up.

      If it’s not common, then it’s probably the person. In that case, it’s information the hiring manager needs to have. And, the person who didn’t even know anything is probably a flake or having a really bad day, regardless of what the rest of the process looks like.

  31. Jimmy Jack Funk*

    A member of my team recently left the company. So, I gave the other team member his old office because she’s been here a while and a good worker. We are now hiring his replacement and it looks like the person will be more experienced, credentialed, and have a higher title than the woman who now has the office. We only had one office to give. How do I go about taking it back from the person who I believed earned it in order to give it to the new person who will also be overseeing some of her work?

    1. NJ Anon*

      Ouch! My initial thought was that you don’t take it from her. That would be really crappy. Perhaps you explain to the new hire the situation and let them have the next office that opens up.

      1. OwnedByTheCat*

        Yeah…If that happened to me, I’d be looking. “We value you! Wait, just joking, we don’t value you as much as this new person who just started.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This is fascinating to me — you and others would leave over this, even if it was explained to you and your manager was super apologetic? I never would have predicted that as a common response (and think it’s not uncommon to have to give up an office to someone more senior).

          1. katamia*

            It would depend on how it was presented. If it was “This office is your reward for being a good worker,” then it would feel like a slap in the face, although I don’t know that I would leave over it if I were happy otherwise. But if it was just “Hey, you’ve been here awhile and we like you. Want this office?” then it wouldn’t be so bad.

          2. CMT*

            I would view this as similar (but obviously not exactly like) to a raise, or other perk that comes with seniority. You wouldn’t offer somebody a raise and then take it back because you had to use it to pay a new hire.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Can you just say that you did not see this one coming and most certainly if you had you never would have put her through moving into the office and having to move out again? Explain that you were trying to reward her good work and it backfired on you. Tell her you will keep her in mind for other forms of recognition.

      1. Audiophile*

        Ooof, no. I just went through an office move and the one of the many things that bothered me about it was lack of communication. I don’t think you can reasonably take it back and expect her to stay put. I’d feel really undervalued, especially as a long time member of the team.

    3. Doriana Gray*

      Take the L on this one and let her keep the office. The new person coming in presumably doesn’t know the person they’re replacing previously occupied – for all she knows, Jane has always been there. Let it go, and I agree with someone above who said that when a new office opens up, make sure your new hire is first in line for it.

      1. Shortie*

        +1 – the new hire probably won’t think anything about it because she’ll assume that Jane has always been there.

      2. Shell*

        I disagree, since the new hire is supposed to be overseeing the Office Dweller’s work. I’m assuming this means that the newcomer may be managing the Office Dweller in some capacity. It’d be really weird for a manager to not have an office but her direct report has one.

    4. Engineer Girl*

      Go talk to your worker and explain what happened! Tell her you still want to honor and reward her hard work. Ask her if you could offer her X or Y instead. Maybe offer to pay for a class? An office is only one way to show that a worker is valued.
      If your new replacement is overseeing work then it is practical and essential that s/he get the office.
      One way to build trust is to admit when you screwed up AND be willing to make it right.

      1. Engineer Woman*

        I second this.
        The explanation provided (new hire more senior than originally expected and will now supervise part of your work) makes complete sense to me to unfortunately require new office dweller to move out.
        Agree also to offer old employee something in return to acknowledge his/her contributions.

  32. Christina*

    My best friend (work or otherwise) and person who has kept me sane (honestly we’ve kept each other sane) in a very insane place just gave his two weeks notice :-( He’s leaving for a great opportunity, and is advocating for me to get a (about 5 years overdue) promotion, but damn. It’s going to be rough when he’s gone.

    1. Mouse in the House*

      I’m sorry that’s happening. :( I feel you! Are you able to move to a different (more sane) company?

      I wasn’t as close with this person, but a coworker of mine–who is arguably the most professional and best person in the whole organization who can deal with the politics here–is leaving today. I used to look to her as a source of inspiration and strength when the politics would flare up in the office. I’m going to miss her. And I’m taking it as a sign that I have to stop telling myself I’ll look for a new job and actually just do it.

    2. NJ Anon*

      You need to follow their lead. This happened to me in reverse. I left insane place first, friend left soon after.

    3. themmases*

      Agreed you should follow their lead. I had a friend like this in a toxic place, and it would keep me up nights worrying how I would handle it when it looked like she was going to leave first. (I was leaving for grad school so I couldn’t really leave early.)

      I ended up winning the quit race after all, and I know it was hard on her the following year until she could leave, even though she also became friends with my replacement. It was hard for me too as her friend to keep hearing about the terrible job I was trying to move on from.

      When your promotion is 5 years overdue, it’s a sign it may never come, or be worth having if it ever does. This happened to both me and my friend. One of the doctors we worked under freaked out at the thought of losing me, reassessed both our roles, and pushed hard for my replacement to be hired at a better title and for my friend to be promoted. Ultimately neither happened, for the same dumb reasons they hadn’t happened in the last 5 years.

      1. Christina*

        Yeah, we’ve both been looking for a long time. We have a new director who I’ve gotten along with excellently so far, and that will be a big help for the promotion and addressing my insane manager in general. Honestly, being able to put a new title on my resume will be a huge help in my job search. And the money would be nice too.

        It actually probably worked out for the best that we were each others “this is crazy, right? It’s not just me?” or he would have jumped for something a lot sooner, but the position he ended up waiting for is an incredible opportunity (basically moving up 3 levels of management in one move).

    4. pomme de terre*

      Keep job hunting, but now might also be an excellent time to angle for a promotion or raise if you’re in the same department and you’ll be picking up some of his work and the bosses want to keep you around.

  33. ACA*

    What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found in your desk/office, that was left behind by its previous occupant? For me, it was four unopened DVDs of the Canadian edition of some obscure Brendan Fraser film.

    1. Virginian*

      The person I replaced left her tax refund information and a lot of the projects she did at a previous university. She must have left in a hurry.

        1. Virginian*

          I sent it to her house, but whether she received it or not, I’m not sure. She took a job overseas but her partner was still living at their house from what I heard.

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      A hoard of highlighters. Like an entire file drawer full of them. Months later we found out he didn’t like other people using highlighters (what?), so he kept them hidden from the rest of the office. But the office manager didn’t realize, so every couple months she’d figure we were out and order more, and he’d hide those as well.

    3. F.*

      Her body odor and stains in the carpet around where her desk was. I had to keep the window open for a week to air the place out, and it still smells bad when it gets too hot in the room (six months later).

    4. Lillian McGee*

      I found a… geez, what is this thing even called… a big rubber band with handles that someone would use for exercise. Resistance band?

      Also mounds of crumbs and what seemed to be a thin glaze of maple syrup over EVERYTHING and, eventually, a cockroach. In the drawer.

        1. CMT*

          I really hope you and hermit crab work together. I don’t want to think about the possibility that there are multiple people out there doing this.

        1. Florida*

          Maybe their co-worker wouldn’t let them have a trash can (unless they signed the no food oath), so they had to put the nail clippings in the drawer.

    5. AFT123*

      A detailed log with time stamps of her boss’s activity… who was now my boss…. We also found a thighmaster in the closet.

    6. MaryMary*

      A catalog for Reniassance/epic fantasy (think Lord of the Rings) costumes and props. The mental picture of my former coworker in chain mail and a cape was priceless.

    7. NJ Anon*

      Underwear (new, unworn). Apparently the woman who had the office before me bought it at lunch time and left the bag in her drawer (her drawers in a drawer!). She still worked there too.

    8. evilintraining*

      My boss resigned under pressure last month, and another coworker and I had to pack all her stuff to be delivered to her house. Right before that happened, she brought in her Shepherd for a checkup (we’re an animal shelter with a clinic). The dog was a little wigged out and was stress-shedding. Everything we packed had a pretty good coating of dog hair all over it.

    9. OwnedByTheCat*

      A wooden dildo.

      I’m in fundraising but it was part of a sex-ed program that my org does. Apparently they’d been handed out by a program staff member with a particular sense of humor and just been forgotten. Just amazing.

    10. CM*

      This thread is the best! I thought loose raisins and a million tchotchkes from trade shows were bad… I’m most intrigued by the short story about coworkers. I’m imagining that Dan the engineer is having a torrid affair with Terry from accounting, who is found under a desk surrounded by paper clips and Post-It flags…

      1. Kelly L.*

        I had a former co-worker who wrote a play script about everybody that worked there, but it wasn’t found after she left, she showed it to us while still working there! We were all saying/doing whatever had become our stereotypical activity or catchphrase. Lots of inside jokes.

      2. Hello Felicia*

        There was some relationship stuff in it and it was the equivalent of Dwight and Pam having an affair. It was hilarious, but not in an I’m going to show this to the rest of the office kind of a way.

    11. literateliz*

      Hahaha! Mine are from an assistant language teaching job in Japan, where (a) you are expected to leave behind lesson plans and notes for your successor, some of which can be goofy because you’re working with kids, and (b) there is a… different… standard of professionalism (lots of teachers just out of college, some of whom don’t take the job very seriously).

      1. A full-color photo of Kim Jong-Il. (It was with other photos of world leaders for a “Who is this?” activity, so it made some kind of sense, but… yeah, I went with anime characters instead.)

      2. A printed lesson plan with suggestions for debate topics, one of which was “Who is the best/worst teacher at (our school)?” Handwritten under that: “Don’t use this. (Head English teacher) CRIED.” Uhh… okay, noted.

    12. Audiophile*

      A floppy disk. To my understanding, there hasn’t been a computer in the building that took a floppy disk in about 10 years, so I doubt it belonged to the previous occupant.

    13. Ife*

      I also mentioned this upthread, but I found Dilbert comics from one of those page-a-day calendars. In hindsight, they may have been an attempt by my predecessor to warn me about some things ;)

      Also, he forgot his badge a lot. One of the drawers was filled with temporary badge clips they give us when we forget our badge.

    14. Hattie McDoogal*

      A locked drawer that no one seemed to have the key to, that apparently held something delicious for ants. They exhausted the supply of… whatever it was within a couple of weeks and stopped marching across my desk/computer, but that was an annoying fortnight.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        Eeeew, this would squick me out so bad. I can feel them crawling on me now. *shudder*

      2. Audiophile*

        Did you ever get it unlocked? I really want to know what they were after in there.

        1. Hattie McDoogal*

          I never did! My best guess was sugar, since another one of the (unlocked) drawers had tea bags in it.

    15. Mononymous*

      A cup full of loose change, several souvenir items (pen, small bottle, etc.) with gold flakes in water inside, and a 70s-vintage macrame wall hanging of an owl. All in the same desk drawer.

      1. Jules the First*

        Eight unwrapped toothbrushes (but no toothpaste), $77 in random coins in six currencies, 34 chipped suit jacket buttons, and (I kid you not) the roll bar from his Lotus. And a Polo mint.

    16. InsideTheBox*

      Hmm. That’s a tough call between the piece of an office chair (and I’m talking just the metal bit that connects the back and seat) and a photo of the team from 20 years prior with all the teams signatures. Only 1 or 2 people were still on the team from that time.

    17. NicoleK*

      Some one left their resume and cover letter saved to the shared drive (cover letter was dated in 2012). Said person is in a different site, but still with the company

    18. Windchime*

      I didn’t find this, but my sister did. This awful man who wore stained shirts and did the bare minimum finally resigned, and left all kinds of personal stuff in his desk including a whole stack of pay stubs. Not only did she have to throw his crap out, she found that he made a whole lot more money than she did.

    19. Rubyrose*

      Two tubes of KY jelly. It was found by our admin, who was packing up the desk of the guy while I was firing him. A small portion of the reason he was being terminated was that he was caught surfing the internet for pictures of scantily clad women. Admin told me about it right after we had escorted him out the door with his personal possessions. Yuck!

  34. Carrie in Scotland*

    Work related updates: this is my second full week of unemployment. I’m still waiting to hear on 2 jobs I applied for – I’m trying to apply for different admin related jobs, rather than just admin assistant ones, so there’s a co-ordinator role I’m waiting to hear back on.
    I’ve got an appointment with a temp agency next week as well, so fingers crossed for that. Hopefully something will come from it, they seem quite keen for me to be on their books.

  35. T3k*

    For those who apply for out of state jobs, particularly for entry/junior level positions, do you say something in your resume that you’re ok with moving or assume they know that if you’re applying anyways (assuming it’s not the type of job application that lets you create a profile and select “yes” to relocation)? I guess you could say I’m in the ideal position where I’m not married, no kids, and in my mid-20s, so I’m up for moving pretty much anywhere in the country (I was never a homebody person).

    1. Virginian*

      Yes, I always mention that I am willing to relocate when applying to out of state jobs, but you also might have better luck if you have some connection to the area where you’re applying.

    2. CMT*

      I’m looking to move and in my cover letters, I’m mentioning in the first paragraph that I’m looking to move to X location this spring. (I don’t actually have a set date. I’m hoping to get a job and then move, and really even the location is up in the air at this point. But they don’t need to know that.) Then in the last paragraph, I reiterate that I’m moving and I write that I’m willing to pay for the cost of relocating and traveling for interviews. I totally am willing to pay for those; it’s not standard in my industry that a prospective employer would pay those costs. I want employers to know right up front that it won’t be a problem.

      1. Sunflower*

        Funny I put the part about moving and paying for relocation costs on my own in the fist paragraph right after my opening sentence

    3. fposte*

      You really have to say, and you have to make it convincing. Locals are less trouble, and you’re competing with them. I’ll follow with some AAM links.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      do you say something in your resume that you’re ok with moving

      I think you say something stronger than that. Give some context as to why you’re moving (why that particular company or that particular city is appealing to you).

    5. NJ Anon*

      I’m not but please do. As a hiring manager, it blows my mind that I get resumes from 10 states away with no cover letter. They go in the circular file!

    6. Sarah*

      I did this about 2 years ago (with great success – I got quite a bit of interest and found a job that fit my skills/experience within 3 months from halfway across the country). Similar to CMT I always mentioned in my cover letter that I was planning to relocate to X location in the spring/fall/winter whatever even though I would only move if I got a job. I never explicitly mentioned that I was willing to cover costs associated w/ interviewing but I was and did.

    7. AnontherFed*

      Definitely say something in the cover letter. If you’re looking in places that tend to be magnets for new grads (nearby big city or to an area famous for your industry), that’s enough. If you’re being less specific/standard on location and/or moving far, then you need even more emphasis in the cover letter for why the job, company, and location are exciting to you. Otherwise, you’ll get thrown out because no one expects you to want to live in Super Rural Area, deal with Northeast weather, relocate to a flyover state, etc.

  36. Mouse in the House*

    When I first started my current job, I worked very quickly and felt pretty productive. After a while I felt the work slow down and one day, I literally had nothing to do. I told my supervisor, he gave me some work, but this happened a couple more times. Eventually I just started wasting 1-2 hours every day and working more slowly because I was afraid I’d hit another point where I didn’t have any work and I felt really awkward to keep having to tell my boss that I didn’t have enough. I’m unhappy working more slowly (which does not come with a positive of being more accurate or anything), and I want to work at my usual pace but I anticipate reaching another point where I have nothing to do. I’m dreading that point. Any advice? (Also, I feel like Alison answered this kind of question not too long ago but I can’t find it now. If you have the link, please do share!)

    1. Journal Entries*

      Don’t rely on your supervisor to give you more work, find more work. Is there a new spreadsheet/database/guide you could write to help yourself and others in your position? Filing to do? Manuals to study? I want my employees to fulfill their basic duties, then take initiative and keep busy. That’s what makes an employee more promoteable to me.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t know what kind of work you do, but when I’ve had office jobs and felt the work was slow, I would just give myself tasks to do—improve our current systems, write more thorough documentation. And then I would start doing things that would directly benefit me that would indirectly benefit the organization (teaching myself a programming language, reading up on trends in our industry).

    3. Clever Name*

      That happened to me at my last job. I was in a small satellite office, and I kept asking my boss for more to do (and I was supposed to be 99% chargeable on projects) so I couldn’t really find stuff to do on my own. It sucked, and is another reason why I left that job. (The primary reason was my boss was a terrible person and boss)

  37. CascoBay*

    Two questions on higher ed staff applications & would love to get input from anyone who has gone through the process of getting a job at a college or university (leaving aside the rant about how annoying long, involved applications are):
    1. I’ve left seasonal work off my resume because it’s essentially irrelevant (I have 20+ years work experience, most at one company). My gut feeling is that they’re looking for relevant work and that it might also be ok to drop off some of my very early positions as well. Or is this like government and that’s going to cause issues?
    2. Every higher ed app I’ve come across has requested previous salaries. I’ve gone with all sorts of variations to avoid putting that down ($0, confidential, etc.)—and I also haven’t heard back in most cases. Am I shooting myself in the foot? My previous salary is out of the norm for my new location and seems just as likely to take me out of contention if I put it down as if I don’t. Thoughts?


    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I think it depends on the institution type. I used to work at a large, private university in a major metro area. All applications, regardless if they passed any sort of screening, were sent automatically to the hiring manager, who then weeded them out based on his/her own level of criteria. I think to answer #1 above, you’re fine to leave on irrelevant positions. #2 is trickier. I don’t think anyone at my old job even looked at this section, but YMMV.

      FWIW, my old office would likely have screened out someone with 20+ years of experience for a lot of our positions (most openings were at the Assistant Director or Associate Director level), because they would have been wildly overqualified.

    2. Lia*

      Higher ed staff here

      on #2, if the salary is a required field and you put in $0 or confidential, you will be screened out here, sorry. The reason they ask for that is that most of our positions are salary banded by position level.

        1. Not a Real Giraffe*

          At my old job, we’d publish the salary grade, which corresponded to the salary band, which was easily findable on our website. So, we wouldn’t post the actual range, but you could get a vague sense of the salary by looking at the grade.

      1. Ms. Anne Thrope*

        Question–I’ve had a couple of these that wanted salaries from ALL the jobs on my resume. So, we’re going back to 1993 here.
        a. I have no idea
        b. What possible relevance can that have?
        c. It’s honestly none of their business.
        So if I fudge on these are they seriously going to toss my app??

        Also–what about in a relo scenario where my pay for Small Town is a good $25k less than its equivalent in Big City? Are they going to expect me to take a de facto pay cut on the grounds that I should be happy w/ a ‘raise’ of $whatever?

    3. CascoBay*

      Thank you both, this helps a lot! (especially the wildly overqualified part!) I’ll proceed accordingly.

    4. HigherEdQueen*

      I work in higher education and I am also a hiring manager.

      If the seasonal work is unrelated, leave it off.

      Where I currently work, salary is optional on our applications and many leave it off. If it’s not optional on the ones you are seeing and will only take numerical entries, fill in $1. Trust me, if you have the right qualifications, you will still get called for an interview. I don’t think people should have to disclose salary information. It can only be used against you.

  38. A nonny miss*

    How do people job search while employed, without their boss knowing? It wouldn’t be the end of the world if my boss figures out I’m looking for a new job, I just think it could be awkward. My employer is fairly flexible about working from home and taking time for appointments, and I do have several days of vacation I can take. But how can I suddenly start taking more time off on random days/times for unspecified reasons, potentially with less notice, without it being incredibly obvious that I’m interviewing? I may be overthinking this, but this is the first time I’m looking for a job while employed (first job after university, previously I’ve always been in school when applying for jobs), so I’m wondering how people usually handle this.

    1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      I usually try to schedule appointments for after work hours and it’s almost always been possible. Employers understand! When it hasn’t been possible, I try to schedule it as late in the day as possible, and head out early “for a doctor appointment.”

      1. T3k*

        Same. The few interviews I’ve had while working I try to do before I need to be in (my workday doesn’t start until 10am) or I schedule to leave early for an appointment.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I haven’t done too many secretive job searches (in fact, I think I’ve done only one ever), but it was fairly trivial. Most of the time, you’ll do phone screens before doing an actual in-person all-day interview. So the phone screens you can schedule for before work, after work, or even during lunch (as long as lunch is off campus or you know you won’t be disturbed/overheard). Perhaps you’re super in demand, but I generally will get only 2-3 on-campus interviews in one job search (a lot more phone screens), so you can use vacation days for those… or if they’re not all-day interviews, you may be able to leave work early or come into work late those days.

      That said, if there’s any way (i.e., your boss is semi-reasonable and won’t fire you on the spot or try to sabotage your search) to make your search non-secretive, I’d highly recommend that. Lots less sneaking around. You can actually use your current manager as a reference. Your current manager may even help you with your job search. You can possibly help choose and train your successor.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      Like they said, it’s really not a big deal — a couple “doctor’s appointments” and a “waiting at home for the cable company,” and Bob’s your uncle.

    4. Development Professional*

      Unless you start getting A LOT of interviews all at once, it’s not going to be that much time off, especially if you can schedule at least some of it for early/late times that won’t be noticeable. Don’t over think this too much.

  39. Changing jobs?*

    How do you know when it’s time to move jobs?

    I’m a senior associate in BigLaw. The hours aren’t bad in comparison to other firms, but still plenty of late nights. However, there is a bit of a culture shift afoot, bringing higher target hours with it and I’d rather work fewer hours than more in the future. And, the billable expectations is less the issue, it’s more the conference calls on a Sunday and the unnecessary fire drills (the partner in my team is insecure and terrified that clients will leave him if he doesn’t turn everything around within five minutes). It’s the unpredictability and the fear of your weekend or evening plans being ruined, more than them actually being ruined all the time or even that often.

    I don’t think I want to be a partner here, but I don’t know whether I’d want to be partner anywhere. I like the work I do now, but I am an introvert and I hate marketing, schmoozing clients etc. However, it’s not really clear to me what I would do in the alternative, as I don’t want to be a career associate either. I want to progress. If I did stick around, I think I would make partner here in a few years, but I don’t really relish the prospect. Couple that with the fact I have serious motivational problems in that I can barely get any work done unless I absolutely have to, I figure these might be signs it’s time to move on.

    That said, I really like the people I work with, we have a great fun team and generally (when I can be bring myself to do it) I like the work. I have a good reputation here and I’m concerned that moving on to somewhere else may be a mistake. There are roles out there and I interviewed somewhere this week where the recruiter indicated they would come back with an offer, but I’ve been here since I left law school so cutting the aprons strings is hard.

    How does one decide whether it’s time to move on, other than when you absolutely hate your job (I don’t love it, but I wonder if part of that is just boredom, because I have a pretty good deal here).

    1. Elysian*

      I don’t think you can answer “where should I go next” at this stage in your career without at least a sense of “where do I want to go eventually?” If you want to make partner somewhere, that is a very specific career trajectory. If you want to go in-house, depending on your year, right now or very soon, before partnership is on the table, might be the right time to make a move. If you’re interested in government, it will depend on where you are, what type of practice you have, etc. Moving between firms isn’t too unusual, but the later you get in your career, the more it becomes a question of “why move if you’re so close to partner?” and if you want to make partner, making a move could make it that much easier or harder, depending on your prospects. I think “when should I go?” is really dependent on where you want to go, so you’ll need that answer first.

      1. Changing jobs?*

        Yes – this is exactly the bit I struggle with. I haven’t got a clue. Being partner was always the goal when I left law school and then I realised I don’t want the marketing side of it, but I haven’t got a clue what I would do instead. In-house or government doesn’t really appeal. I feel so stuck because of this as I genuinely haven’t got a long-term plan and I’ve been struggling with that for years (which has been one reason why I haven’t moved anywhere).

        1. Elysian*

          It sounds like you’re in an ideal position for informational interviews (in the way they should actually be used). I know networking is awful, but you might considering looking in your law school’s alumni directory or something and finding some local alums with different types of jobs, seeing if you can get together for coffee, and trying to get a sense of what they actually do in a low-pressure way. It isn’t the schmoozing type of networking, but I think people will understand if you tell them you’ve been thinking about your long-term career goals and are trying to get a sense of what is out there, do they have a few minutes to talk about what their job is actually like? You might also think about how maybe pro bono and CLE could help you answer this question instead of just being checks-in-a-box.

          Or maybe you’ve practiced for a while now and want to transition out. There’s no shame in that either. Would another type of job entirely get you more excited? You don’t have to “burn out” to decide that you’ve done law for awhile now and it was good, but you’d rather move on to a different type of opportunity.

          1. CM*

            I was coming to say the same thing as Elysian. I was in the same position as you a few years ago (well, midlevel rather than senior associate) and I did a lot of networking. Whenever I met other lawyers, I’d ask, “Do you know anyone local who does X type of law, and could you put me in touch with them?” People were totally willing to talk to me (over coffee/phone — I asked them what they did, what they liked and didn’t like about it, how they got there, and if they had any ideas for me about what I could be doing) and I ended up in my current job, which I didn’t know existed before the networking.

            1. CM*

              Also: if there’s a partner at the firm who you trust, consider confiding in them that you’re thinking about leaving, and ask for advice. They may be in a position to help you identify and get a new job.

        2. Triangle Pose*

          I’m curious why in-house doesn’t appeal to you. If you find the right role (a sizable and functional legal department with a Fortune 500 company that is doing well financially), it seems to be it would allow you to practice the kind of work you’re interested in without the billable expectations, numerous Sunday conference calls and the unnecessary fire drills. There is also less marketing because your clients are internal ones so you often use your work as the marketing tool – they come back to you because your work is good, there is less competition, unlike competing with other firms/partners for the client.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      I’m not a BigLaw attorney, but word on the street is that people who move from BigLaw to in-house positions are happy with that choice. I’m guessing you’ve looked into those jobs? Senior associate seems like a good time to make that transition.

    3. Busytrap*

      Oh my gosh, I was you (albeit with less years in when I made the jump), down to the insecure partner. I jumped blindly because this job seemed interesting, which could have gone terribly (and did for a year or so), but got better with time.

      I want to second the advice from Elysian and CM. If you get a lot of client contact, and have a good relationship with a few of them, reach out and get some perspective about how their practice is different from yours. If you get an offer from the other firm, do the same thing — reach out to someone who is a similar spot and see if they can help you figure out if it’s a good move. Lawyers like to talk about themselves; maybe they could help you figure out the direction to take. :)

      And good luck!

  40. Rick*

    Two minor questions about dealing with pushy recruiters:

    1. How do I politely get someone who’s trying to get me to join their company to leave me alone, without burning any bridges?

    I work with a rarely used programming language at my current job. This one startup in my area uses it extensively, and every month or so their head recruiter contacts me through email or LinkedIn. I have zero interest in working there for a bunch of reasons, like the bad impressions they gave me when I did interview with them. So I always politely decline with some variant on “thanks for keeping me in mind, but I don’t think $COMPANY is what I’m looking for, but I’ll let you know if that changes.”

    The other day the head recruiter asked me if I’m interested yet again, but this time it was a text. That’s WAY too personal for me, especially after I’ve told them I’m not interested in working for their company a bunch of times. Should I say anything, or just ignore them?

    2. What about the other side of the coin, when they approach you thinking you’re a hiring manager?

    A recruiter called me a few hours ago, apparently thinking I’m in charge of hiring for my team. They started telling me about this great candidate they have. I’m not a hiring manager, so I clarified with something like “sorry, but I don’t handle resume screening or hiring, so I don’t feel qualified to answer this.” They basically pushed back with “okay, let’s say you were. Would you bring this person in for an interview?” I just gave them a similar answer of “that’s not my decision to make, so I’d rather not give you an answer that turns out to be inaccurate.”

    Is there a better way of handling this?

    1. Quirk*

      1) You seem quite sure you don’t want to work for this company. Unless you really feel there is a real likelihood of this changing at some point in future, I wouldn’t be too concerned about bridge burning. It’s fairly clear from the way they’ve kept reaching out to you that the power dynamic favours you; they’re much keener than you than you are on them, so you can afford to be quite blunt. The recruiters won’t cease to want you simply because you’ve made it obvious that they’re annoying you, and there is no impact on the people you would work with there in any case.

      2) Your answer was about perfect. Again, you could afford to be blunter. Third party recruiters make their money by treating you as a commodity. They’re sometimes depressingly resilient to rejection. You don’t need to go out of your way to treat them kindly, especially when they’re breaching etiquette.

      1. Rick*

        Straight to the point. Thank you for your advice!

        1. I’d have considered working for them in the past. Not my top choice, because they’re located just over the state line, complicating my tax and commute situations, and I’m very doubtful about their long term success. Thinking a little more about it, it’s kinda nuts that they’d think texting someone who declined multiple times before is a good idea. So, I’ve written off the idea of working with them unless it’s the only way to pay the bills.

        2. True, I just default to being very polite, especially when I’m working. The entire exchange was really strange to me. I can understand asking hypotheticals like “well if you were looking, what would your ideal job be like?” But “if you were a hiring manager right now, would you interview this person, based on a 10 second description over the phone?” That doesn’t make sense!

    2. Elysian*

      I would second a request for more info about handling pushy recruiters. Apparently they think its acceptable to call me at work during the middle of the day, and email me at my work email? I’m a lawyer and other lawyers tell me this is normal, but I am just aghast at how out of line this all seems (my contact info wasn’t published at my last job, so this is just a problem for me as of late) . I usually just ignore them, but like Rick I don’t want to burn bridges! There seems to be no acceptable way of making this stop.

      1. Rick*

        That’s bizarre. I’ve encountered it before, but it never stops being bizarre
        to me. I automatically disqualify any recruiter weird enough to look up my
        office phone number — probably an effect of the tech job boom going on right
        now. My personal phone number and email address are on my resume, so it makes
        zero sense to me that someone would dig up my work number rather than try and
        get me through one of those.

        Is it just me or are they always really coy about it? Like my phone will ring, I’ll pick it up and it’ll go a little like this.

        “Hello, who’s this?”
        “Is this Rick?”
        “I’m sorry, who is this?”
        “Is Rick speaking?”
        “You called me, this is my office number, who are you?”
        “Can you put Rick on?”
        “One last time: who are you?”
        “I’m Jimbo, I’m looking for Rick.”
        “This is Rick, is this related to work?”
        “Yeah, I’m a recruiter with XYZ agency and”

        And then I hang up.

    3. CM*

      #1 I’d text back, “Please don’t text me, thanks.”
      #2 I’d say, “Sorry, I am not hiring.” And if they kept talking I’d say, “Sorry, I’m not hiring, and I don’t mean to be rude but I need to get back to work. Goodbye.” And if they still kept talking I’d say, “OK. Goodbye.” (click)
      Blunt, but if people are that persistent, I think some bluntness is called for. You don’t owe them your time and attention.

      1. Rick*

        I like these! They’re quite direct and show respect for my own time, two things I want to work on.

    4. ginger ale for all*

      One of my old bosses told me a trick to handle angry customers that might work. He said that once you have explained yourself and they still do not get it, start using the same stock phrase over and over. So when the patron was upset over how high their fine was the phrase would be “it’s 25 cents per day per book” and he would repeat it again and again. Perhaps you can just go back to your last e-mail and copy and paste the same refusal again and again. Maybe even shorten it to make it more terse? Some patrons would ask him why he was giving them the same answer over and over again and he would just tell them that they keep asking the same question over and over again.

      1. Rick*

        That’s a cool idea! The last couple of times this company (or an agency recruiter who contacts me claiming to work for them, they’re getting a ton of buzz right now) I sent them a copy+pasted thanks-but-no-thanks. I think either this recruiter thinks they’re being “innovative” and “disruptive” by texting me now. Either that or lazy. At the very least, this saves me time!

  41. AFT123*

    Any awesome resources for exploring other career choices? I’m so interested to know else is out there that is completely different than anything I know of, but I’m not really sure where to look.

    1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      Don’t know if you’re a Redditor, but AskReddit has had many threads in the past about interesting jobs. Might want to take a look and see if there is anything there that interests you!

    2. NDQ*

      Read blogs by people in different industries/professions. Find people to follow on twitter who are doing interesting work. Ask your FB contacts about their work. Go to the library and read books about different topics than you usually would read. Watch documentaries about things you don’t know about and see what interests you. Read biographies. Read job postings to see what types of jobs exist and the entry requirements. Look at lists of companies that are members of your local chamber of commerce, then visit their websites to see what they do and the types of jobs they offer.


  42. AnotherFed*

    I posted a couple of weeks ago about having a pair of otherwise very qualified candidates for a posting who had resumes with identical histories/locations (different titles and accomplishments, but always in the same company), making us joke about conjoined twins. It turned out that one of them no-showed for his phone interviewed and never got back to us, but the other interviewed well. New running joke is that it’s really a Jekyll/Hyde multiple personalities thing, and we’re thinking we talked to Jekyll.

    Also amusing – one of Jekyll’s 3 references never could tell the two of them apart!

    1. F.*

      We had identical twins (middle-aged men) apply. The one we were more interested in would not interview without a guarantee that we would also hire his twin brother! Needless to say, neither were interviewed.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Now you need to let us know if you hire him. I hope you didn’t hire Hyde as well as Jekyll.

      Oh, maybe it was one person that managed to snag two jobs for double the pay! That could be why the reference could never tell them apart.

  43. Persephone*

    I’m stuck on how to phrase something without sounding condescending. I’m sure this comes from watching Office Space a million times, but if I want to say something like:

    “I need X, Y, and Z in order to finish A today. If you can get these to me by 2pm, that would be great.”

    How do I phrase the “that would be great” without sounding condescending? I was thinking of using something like “helpful” instead of “great” but that still doesn’t sound right. The best word I can think of that isn’t condescending is “awesome” but it’s not really a great word to use in a professional setting, especially reaching out to people outside my company.

    Thoughts around this? Or am I overthinking?

    1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      I usually change it to “Could you please get these to me by 2pm?” because I am not a fan of “that would be great” either (but I don’t find it awful to be on the receiving end of it).

    2. Woods-comma-Elle*

      What happens if you don’t get them? That sort of affects the terminology.

      “That would be great, nice, etc” suggests it’s not absolutely required by 2pm. If it is, I would turn it into a question or just say “Please send me X, Y, & Z by 2pm” and explain your deadline/the consequences.

    3. LCL*

      ‘I need X, Y, and Z by 2PM, so I can finish A. Thank you.’
      The problem with that would be great isn’t that its condescending. The problem is it’s a squishy phrase. What does it mean, exactly, in this case? Is it optional? or must have?
      Speaking as someone who is sometimes perceived as condescending, I get in the most trouble when I use squishy language trying to be polite. People hear vagueness as condescension, sometimes.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      If they’re TPS reports, I think you should keep in “that would be great” (ducks as people virtually throw fax machines at me).

    5. Marketeer*

      How about: “I need X, Y, and Z in order to finish A today. I would appreciate if you could get them to me by 2pm.”

    6. Granite*

      How about, “I need X, Y, and Z in order to finish A today. Could you let me know if you won’t be able to get those to me by 2pm?”

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        I like this wording. I’d probably throw in a please and/or “I appreciate it” but I think your wording balances urgency and consideration.

  44. MarmaladeChainsaw*

    Thanks again to everyone who responded to me on last week’s open thread! I hope you got my reply in that thread to everyone!

    I’m nervous because I’m getting a new department manager on Monday. My situation is kind of unique because when I started this job, I only worked with my manager for 3 months before she was fired. Then it was just down to my coworker and I who were named “co-managers”. We stayed that way for many months until about 2 months ago when my coworker was fired, leaving just me.

    Basically I’ve become used to running things how I see fit, and only answering to the Vice President/CEO of the company (both of whom are very busy and so I don’t deal with them much). I’m very nervous about a new manager starting and having to work in close proximity to authority/being told what to do again. But more than anything I’m nervous that the new manager will be just as awful as my manager who got fired. She was very mean and nasty, and I used to feel sick to my stomach just coming to work and knowing she’d be there.

    Not looking for advice I guess–there’s nothing much I can do–just venting a little, and wondering if anyone else has ever had a similar experience/handled getting a new manager.

    As always, thank you to all who read/reply! I love this blog (=

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Every manager is different. But you know that. Just as you want her to be fair to you, then you should be fair yourself. This means decide that she is a witch AFTER she is witchy, not before you even meet her. Tell yourself you are going to postpone your nervousness until you actually see there is something to be nervous about.

      I think it’s pretty normal to be nervous though. You do have leverage here, you know the people, the work and the culture. You are not unarmed. If she is smart she will want you as an ally.

      1. MarmaladeChainsaw*

        Thanks for your reply! Yeah, you’re absolutely right that I need to just wait and see before making any judgments. Unfortunately I’m a chronic worrier and my mind always seems to jump to the worst possible scenario first. But it’s definitely not fair to her. And maybe having a manager again will actually make things better for me (I struggled a lot here after losing my first manager and having to figure out everything on my own pretty much).

        I’m just going to try to stay positive and see how it goes! Thanks again!

  45. Michaela T*

    Has there been an AAM question about the pros/cons of renting a desk in co-working spaces? I am not sure how to key work search this without bringing up…everything.

      1. Michaela T*

        I would too! I don’t personally have a specific question about it, other then “Have you done it? What did you think?”

        1. NJ Anon*

          I gave it some thought but decided against it. Felt too weird and that I could probably just work from home and save the money.

          1. Michaela T*

            For me I’m interested in it as an alternative to working at home. A chance to get out of the house and be around people in an office environment while working remotely for my own company.

            1. Helen of What*

              I would say it depends on what you do. If you need quiet, make lots of private calls, etc., it may not be the best idea. They’re almost always open plan, and the noise level can be high.
              The customer service of the office mgmt can be iffy depending on the place. The internet connection can be reeeealllyyyy problematic, especially if you need WiFi, since having so many people on one connection leads to issues. Also, they like to throw events and depending on the location of your desk, things might randomly get SUPER LOUD AND DRUNK at 4:30pm on a Thursday. Conference rooms are always in demand.

              But the pluses are interesting desk neighbors, great networking, and getting super loud and drunk for free on a Thursday.

              Source: I have worked in two different coworking spaces.

    1. Development Professional*

      I’ve used co-working spaces a little bit, but mostly to meet with clients for my side business (I get a small conference room instead of a desk). The one I use is great – clean, easy, and people generally keep to themselves. For me, that’s what I want.

      The only thing I’ll say in the negative column is that I do find it kind of expensive, so I don’t do it all the time.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      Ooh, I’m interested in this too. I’ve been thinking about it because one of the coworking spaces in my city also includes use of some storage spaces, and I’d appreciate not having to have lots of boxes of materials in my apartment…

      Anyone have experiences with co-working spaces?

    3. katamia*

      I have friends who are self-employed and have done it and absolutely love it. I know at least one of them hangs out with her “coworkers” in her free time sometimes, too. I’m self-employed and work from home too, but I would never want to do it. One of the biggest perks of working from home is not having to get dressed until I want to. I also have a lot of trouble with noise I can’t control (other people’s conversations, chairs squeaking, even footsteps), and I can control the noise better when I’m at home than when I’m surrounded by *shudder* Other People. Plus I don’t think they’d let me bring my (neurotic, overexcitable) dog to a co-working space.

      For people who generally enjoy the office environment and feel really isolated working from home, it might be a good option. But I have never enjoyed working in an office, so I’d basically be paying money to replicate an environment I can’t stand. No point in it for me.

      1. Michaela T*

        If I decide to reach out to one of the local places, I’m planning to ask if it’s possible to rent or sublet a desk for only a few days a week. I like working from home, but my loved ones feel I’ll get “weird” if I do it every day. I think they’re afraid I’ll go feral :)

        1. katamia*

          Haha, I’ve definitely gone a bit feral since I started working from home. But I’m also happier and more productive at home (as well as more successful in my work), so I don’t feel too bad about that, honestly.

          1. JaneB*

            I prefer to think of it as reverting to a more natural state – only a few hundred years ago nearl;y EVERYONE “worked from home”, getting all your workers in one place where they can be overseen is mostly an industrial revolution type development.

            I mean, part of the POINT of working from home is the opportunity to go a little feral, work in sweatpants if you choose, cook something ultra smelly for lunch (tuna fish AND garlic, heated in an open pan, followed by smelly cheese and durian fruit if you want!), sing to your spreadsheets, wear fantastical hairstyles that are entirely inappropriate to your age and professional milieu (my hair is really comfortable in three rolled knots secured with pencils or chopsticks, but it looks ridiculous even to me) or just not brush your hair for a few days, decorate your desk with offensive mini-sculptures made out of paperclips, never wear shoes… as long as you are still productive, that is.

            In my case, my job has three elements – one requires me to be at a physical location in the office about 50%, the other 50% is email email email (so as long as the internet is up can be done anywhere), one involves too many meetings so has to be done at the office, and the third requires intense concentration and creativity, and is almost totally on me (I share near-final drafts with others doing similar stuff for input, but mostly either AM the boss or have no underlings/collaborators for). The latter is almost impossible to do in the office, even though I have a space of my own with a closable door, and is excellently suited to being done at home – being feral and letting out my natural eccentric actually seems to help me be more creative, and being messier and worrying less about appearances helps me be more precise in my work. So working from home some days makes a big difference in my ability to do that part of my job – and going feral is definitely part of it! If I was 100% work at home – parts one and two can be done remotely through e-conferencing and the like, and are in some companies – I’d probably want a day a week somewhere too, mostly to remind me how lucky I am the rest of the time (and to prevent me becoming totally renaturalised – living alone and not having much ‘natural girliness’ or need for socialising in person, pre-industrial levels of personal hygeine might be a real risk after a month or two)!

  46. Callie*

    I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who responded in a previous post about suit options for plus size women. I did find a Calvin Klein suit online in a lovely charcoal gray and decided to take a chance… and it fits! It’s a little baggy in the waist but perfect in the shoulders and hips, so I’m hoping I can get it taken in some in the waist. The gray is great. Dark enough that it goes with everything but light enough that it doesn’t look like funeral wear.

    Coincidentally, the same day it arrived, I got invited for a campus interview! The interview date isn’t set yet but I’m so excited because it’s my first actual campus interview.

    1. periwinkle*

      Good luck with the interview!

      Calvin Klein plus-sized career wear is a new favorite. I bought a CK gray-on-gray shift dress for an important interview and felt invincible! (got the job, too)

      1. Callie*

        I’m going to have to look into more CK stuff. It’s one of the better attempts at plus size professional clothing, ie, not cut like a giant garbage bag!

  47. NewTraveler*

    I’ll be traveling to Muscat, Oman for business in the next few weeks. Has anyone been there and have suggestions about things to do, or things I should watch out for? I’m female, and will be traveling by myself, although I am meeting up with colleagues for a conference while I’m there.

  48. Vanishing Girl*

    I saw some mention of career counselors in the open thread last week, but was too late to reply. My partner (PhD in Philosophy) wants to find other paths besides the dismal job market of academia, but isn’t sure where to look or even start building skills. He’s mentioned he wants to see a career counselor, but doesn’t know how to start finding one.

    Does anyone have recommendations for career counselors that have experience with academia and/or getting out of the academia-is-the-only-way mindset?

    1. overeducated and underemployed*

      Is your partner a member of There are several career counselors who post there and discussions about career counseling in the forums. If not, some PhD institutions make subscriptions available for alumni.

    2. Callie*

      The Professor Is In is super expensive but she is very, very good. She is blunt and honest and one of her specialties is post-ac careers. She also has a lot of advice on her website and she has a book that’s like $9 on Amazon with lots of advice for jobs inside and outside academia.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Second The Professor is In. The book is very practical and inspiring. (in a non-woo woo sense) I have bought more than a few for my academic tenure track comrades.

          1. JaneB*

            The organisation vitae is mostly aimed at people in the gap between PhD and academic, but does have materials on searching for ‘alt-ac’ careers, and lots of good advice on what you can do whilst searching to develop appropriate competencies

  49. SepalsOnAFlower*

    Trying to solve a work project: does anyone have any recommendations for simulation software to help analyze the impact of installing a turnstile in a busy lobby? Or helping analyze foot traffic if something is built in the way that will impact the foot traffic?

    1. AnotherFed*

      Excel, first. That sounds like a pretty simple discrete event simulation, especially if all you’re trying to do is get a feel for how long the line will backup at the turnstile or how long people will have to wait in line.

      This sounds very similar to a classic homework question in modeling and sim, so you’ll probably be able to find example solutions to apply no matter what tool you want to use.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        This sounds exactly like some of the homework questions I had to do in my modeling and simulation class, so I think AnotherFed’s suggestion of looking for examples online (particularly for solutions in Excel) is right on.

        If you’re having trouble finding something to use as a reference, you could try something like SimQuick, which helps automate the process in Excel and simplify the inputs.

        1. SepalsOnAFlower*

          I don’t think that would work but thanks for the suggestions. We’re trying to figure out what would happen if we place the turnstyle in this spot vs this spot so I think Excel would be too linear of a process. And we want to buy software where we can upload floor plans and see where the traffic jam would happen.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            Sorry about that! I think there might still be a way to do that with an Excel model minus the visualization component, but this type of model (clearly) isn’t something I typically create so I can’t offer any other suggestions. Hopefully others with more knowledge will be able to offer better ideas!

          2. AnotherFed*

            I think you can still do Excel, but you need someone who has the background to do the pathing (particularly turning it into equations). I’d probably use a random gas model, under the assumption that people are about as rational, especially when getting in the way of other people, but YMMV. The big deal is to work out what measurable things you want to get out of the model/sim. Then you structure your model to give you that data. A model can’t tell you which option is better, it can only tell you the specific metrics you ask it for.

          3. Jules the First*

            We use Golaem for Maya, since we’re already running Maya and we don’t need a ton of mathematics. When we do need it 100% accurate, we outsource to someone with Pedestrian Dynamics or Oasys MassMotion (the latter does a 30-day free trial, but will need AutoCAD or Rhino skillz to get maximum benefit)

  50. Rat Racer*

    An open letter/rant to the IM abusers at my company:

    If someone is in a meeting, please do not ping unless you have a question that is urgent – as in, if you don’t get an answer within the next 30 minutes, you will miss a critical deadline. Please do not ping to ask for an opinion about a strategic issue that requires a 30 minute phone conversation.

    If you initiate an IM conversation, it’s on you to keep it going. Please don’t ping me with “hello,” and then let five minutes lapse after I respond “Hi, what’s up?”

    And finally, please don’t use pink italic font – it’s hard to read.

    Phew – now I feel better…

    1. Sadsack*

      I sometimes IM people marked busy if the person’s calendar is fully booked and there’s no other open time anyway. Sorry! Many times people are marked busy who are actually not because their meetings ended early. If you tell me it isn’t a good time, that’s cool.

      1. Rat Racer*

        If you’re trying to hit a deadline, I think that’s totally legit. And I’m certainly not in a position to make up hard and fast rules for everybody; however, in my experience, there are some people who choose to use IM for questions that could be answered over email, and it’s very annoying.

    2. Violet_04*

      I never IM someone if they show “in a meeting”. Sometimes I’ll ping someone with a busy status if I have a quick question. Yes, I hate it when I get questions via IM that are really better suited to email. Sometimes I’ll just tell the person to email me so I can take the time to research their question and get back to them.

      1. Violet_04*

        Oh, and how could I forget this one? The IM that comes in asking me to respond to an email you sent me just a few minutes ago. At least that’s better than the person who used to stop by my desk to explain in person the email she sent a few minutes ago.

    3. Ad Astra*

      I get a lot of IMs from people whose status says “in a meeting,” so I’m usually pretty lax about initiating those conversations, too. I suspect a lot of the time these coworkers are actually watching a boring webinar or have forgotten to switch their status back to “available.” But asking for an opinion about a strategic issue that really should involve a phone call? Yeah, that’s annoying.

    4. Ife*

      The people who initiate an IM and then seemingly run away from their computer drive me nuts! It’s like when you miss a call and immediately call the person back, only to get voicemail.

    5. Glod Glodsson*

      This is one of my biggest pet peeves! About 25% of my coworkers just ping me with ‘hi’ and nothing else until I recognize that they said hi. What’s even worse is that some of them follow up with asking me how I am without getting to the point. Maybe I’m too task oriented, but I don’t really want to spend 5 minutes IM-ing about the weather when you just want to know if I can help you with a planning bottleneck.

      1. Thinking out loud*

        I used to work at a software company where we regularly had clients connected to our computers remotely. It was a standing rule that if you IM’d someone, you said “hi” and waited for them to respond to be sure that no one else was watching their screen. Maybe your coworkers are using “hi” in the same way as a check on whether it’s an okay to talk?

    6. catsAreCool*

      And maybe write out your question instead of saying “Hi” and making me wait while you type. It’s hard to get any work done in that time between the Hi and the question, and the pause is usually long enough to be annoying.

  51. Eager Job Seeker*

    So I finally heard back from the PAC that blew me off and I didn’t get the position. They said it went to an internal candidate. Obviously this can vary a bit, but can anyone speak to a good application to interview rate?

    1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      I would talk to others in your industry who are also job hunting, if possible.

      As someone who is job hunting in a field where there is A LOT of competition, but the size of the competition pool can vary significantly based on the position and the area, I would say the application to interview rate could range anywhere from 25:1 to 100:1, depending on so many different factors. For example, there are probably fewer applicants to a position in a remote North Dakota town, versus a job in San Francisco.

  52. Carla*

    How are people staying sane at work during election season? This is my first time working in an office during an election season like this one. I love talking politics but I stay away from the topic at work for obvious reasons but I do like to put in my 2 cents if the topic comes up. I won’t tell them who I’m voting for and who I disagree with but I will comment on things like – it was funny that Ben Carson asked for someone to attack him at one of the debates. One of my coworkers who I actually like said that she couldn’t wait for Trump to be president so her could get rid of the immigrant criminals in the country. I’m a second generation immigrant and I was very bothered by that but didn’t say anything. Do you stay away from the topic completely?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you should free to say, “Eeeww, I really disagree, but let’s not talk politics so that we retain our ability to work together.” (I’d also stop commenting about stuff like the Ben Carson thing though, because you’re sort of inviting the discussion at that point.)

    2. Florida*

      Don’t engage with people who see the world totally differently than you do. If someone says that she can’t wait for Trump to be president so we can get rid of immigrants, it is so tempting to respond and tell her that all immigrants aren’t criminals, etc. etc. Instead just say something like, “That’s an interesting point of view.” or something that is equally meaningless. If she asks hat you think, don’t engage either.

      As fascinating as this election has been, there really isn’t any good side of discussing politics at work. The one exception is if it affects your business. For example, if you work in a real estate office, you can discuss the latest planning board meeting. Or if you work at an immigration law office, you can discuss Trump’s views on immigration, but not his views on women or guns or anything else.

    3. Ife*

      Sigh. I was at the on-site gym yesterday and one of my coworkers (huge building, had never seen him before) came in and turned on Fox news. When the TV couldn’t get a signal, he switched to CSPAN and it was some kind of speech by Mitt Romney (possibly about Trump? I kept my headphones on full volume because I did not want to hear anything about politics). I feel like it should be an unwritten rule that you do not set the shared TV to politics when there are other people around!

      As for coping strategies, definitely do not engage. My usual strategy is to pretend to know as little as possible so they don’t have anything to latch onto (“I didn’t hear about that/That’s frustrating/I can see why that upsets you”), or if it’s something that hits too close (like the immigrant issue might for you?), I just say something noncommittal like, “Oh,” and remove myself from the conversation. Physically remove myself if possible.

    4. BRR*

      I will always try and stay away. You really have to keep a hard line though. With the Ben Carson thing, it will come off to some people as it’s ok to talk about. I usually go with something like “I follow the rule of not discussing politics or religion at work.” If it’s a more harsh political comment like your coworker, I would probably be more direct and ask them to not discuss it again.

      1. Windchime*

        We don’t really have a choice, we just have to deal with it. I just make it a point to stay away from anything political except if it’s *real* news (not infotainment) and I even limit the real news. It’s exhausting and depressing. I’m just glad I don’t have a landline any longer; when I did, I would come home from work to find a half-dozen messages on the voicemail and they were all political messages.

  53. anon for this*

    Let’s talk salary – namely beginning salary. What did you make when you were starting out in your first office job? I ask because I don’t know if I’m making good or even decent money at my first job, and it’s hard to get accurate data (I’m Canadian, but would be interested in hearing from other countries for sure). As a basis, I’m 27 and make about $36,000 a year as an admin.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      There are other factors to consider, though—what are your responsibilities as an admin, how big is your organization, what’s the cost of living like in your city/town?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Definitely. That’s a good salary for an admin here–average range for jobs below executive assistants (including receptionists) is roughly $13,000–30,000. The most I made before I got this job was around $22,000. I would have starved to death on that if I lived in a larger city, even in this Midwestern state.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Yeah, I fell somewhere in that range as an Office Assistant working at a for-profit school as my first post-undergrad job. It was technically a part time gig through a staffing agency that paid $8/hr. After four weeks of working there, I was hired onto the company and promoted to a non-admin role. My pay was something like $13.49/hr – this was in late 2010.

            I was only in that job for four months before my position was (thankfully) eliminated, and I then began working at a law firm, which hiring managers since have considered my first “real” post-grad job, making $31,241.60/year. This was in 2011 and in the Midwest where the cost of living is cheaper.

      1. Rat Racer*

        And year – don’t forget year! I could tell you my starting salary in Washington DC back in 1999, but that’s meaningless against the wages people make in that market today. When my dad, who was a corporate litigator until he retired last year, got his first job as an associate in a San Francisco law firm in 1972 after graduating Magna cum Laude from Harvard) earned $6,300 year! Just threw that in because it boggles my mind, although I’m sure that was a totally respectable salary back then.

        1. Triangle Pose*

          Yep I’ll bet it was respectable, and I am SURE that Harvard Law charged way less back then. When law firm partners complain that junior associates make “so much” and harp on how little they made when they started, I always have to fight asking them what law school cost back then and how much in loans on average law student had to take out to pay for law school.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      This is really hard to ascertain in a vacuum. Where do you work, what size office, what’s the market rate in your area for your role? Are you more secretarial/reception, or are your duties more project-management or executive assistant focused? Alison posted a great open thread a while back about salaries. That might be a good place for you to start to get an idea of what is similar to what you do/where you work. Link to follow.

    3. Hey Arnold*

      I made 40k at my first post grad school job. This was about 5 years ago with a well known non-profit. Very large downtown city. USA.

    4. anonanonanon*

      This really depends based on industry and location, but I made $17,000 after taxes in 2008 for a small 5 person doctor’s office job (no healthcare either) and then $24,000 after taxes in my first entry level 10K+ employee corporate office job in 2010 in a big East Coast city. Those were not good times.

    5. QA Lady*

      In the Vancouver, BC suburbs I made $10/hour for part time work from 2003-2005 as an admin in a small business (me plus the owner).

      I moved to Edmonton mid-2005 and got full time work at about $13.50/hour and then bumped to $14.50/hour doing admin work but more related to my degree (but still entry level).

    6. Rabbit*

      My first “real” job (meaning not in retail) was $35k in LA, basically entry-level. For the hours, it was sh*t, but it was OK.

    7. Undercover*

      I am pretty similar to you. Canadian, Administrative Assistant (Medical though), 27 years old. As for a narrower idea I’m in Ontario in a fairly large city but, not Toronto.

      I started at $24.50/hr plus benefits in 2013 approx. $45,000 a year based on a 35 hour work week. Currently making $26/hr plus benefits.

      Wage varies a lot though, I was lucky enough to be employed by the University/Teaching Hospital. Others I graduated with are in community practices and a few years out are still barely making more than minimum wage.

    8. Felicia*

      It really depends on what part of Canada, and what type of company. In the Toronto area, for a non profit, and for an admin job, that’s about average. It’s what I made when I started my first office job just over a year in a half ago in Toronto, and my friends who all gravitated towards non profits made the same.

      In other parts of Canada, and in other types of companies, it’s likely different.

    9. Jen*

      Boston area. Started making 27k a year working in a research lab at 22. That was a decade ago and my salary has changed substantially after an additional degree and career change.

      1. Jen*

        University research lab…so, nonprofit. The next company I worked for (private sector) paid the receptionist, an entry Level role, 40k. That was approx 2009.

        1. Bibliovore*

          First “real job” not retail clerk. non-profit, museum manager. 12,500. 1985 Philadelphia.

    10. Mkb*

      I started at $40k in 2007 at my first post college office job in Connecticut. It was a project management type role in market research.

    11. RevengeoftheBirds*

      I’m Canadian (Vancouver) and recently finished my masters.

      My first job was 43,000 (not degree related) and then I moved into the 60’s (degree related) when I found a job in my specialization.

      I specialize in a particular area of human resources though and my masters is tailored to this area.

  54. themmases*

    My thing is related to grad school but I think job seekers will be able to relate too.

    My PhD application process confirmed for me that the best possible fit is where I already am and I should stay. However I applied to some “reach for the stars” type places and other programs I was very interested in just in case. I wrote about my transcript being lost en route to my other favorite program a couple weeks ago (they were very nice but didn’t reconsider), and I got responses from the other programs today. The decision I was going to make anyway, to stay at my current program, has been made for me. I hate that feeling!

    I know I have nothing to be embarrassed about because I was told by a top program that they loved my application but weren’t sure they could match me with a mentor. A technical skill I mastered for my MS thesis is not a strength of their department. However, I still *am* a little embarrassed and I’m glad it’s Friday so I can have a glass of wine tonight and wait until Monday to tell the people who recommended me.

    Also glad Friday is my work from home day so I can be a little bratty in private about getting good news, just not dream news.

    1. SophieChotek*

      So…if I read your comment — you are in a Ph.D. program, you had a couple other programs you were interested in (one which refused to consider you because transcripts were lost, and another becuase they didn’t think they had the right mentor/faculty advisor for you).

      Congrats on getting accepted to a Ph.D program! That’s great news no matter what.

      Regarding not having a good mentor — that can so make or break your job search later; good mentors can help you get a job. I’m from the humanities, so I am not totally sure I agree with the mentor not an expert — many of my colleagues of course were more expert in their dissertation topic than their advisor–but their advisor could still help the shape/mold their dissertation

      Congrats — enjoy the wine and the weekend!

    2. Anonsie*

      I’m sorry, that sucks. I got rejected to every grad program I applied to this year after spending the last three years working ~70 hours a week in a FT job and doing all my prereqs half time, and I’ve been pouting about it like an angry 12 year old for a couple of weeks now. Indulge the brat a bit.

      The absolute worst part of this process is having to update the people who wrote me letters/gave me other coaching through this process about it. Though if I had gotten in anywhere at all it would not have been a bummer conversation for everyone– just me.

  55. LawCat*