open thread – April 8-9, 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 :)

{ 1,276 comments… read them below }

  1. Random Reader*

    I’ve been at my current job for three years and classified as an hourly employee. In the past, I would fill out my timesheet with the hours I worked per pay period (37.5 hours per week). However, this past week they’ve started making hourly employees punch in and out. I timed how long it takes me to punch in in the morning. Turning on my computer, booting up the internet, getting to the correct page- it takes between 3-5 minutes. While it only takes a couple of minutes, over the course of the year it adds up to not an insignificant amount of time.

    Am I supposed to be paid for that time spent booting up my computer? Is there a law that addresses this? Any advice would be much appreciated!

    1. ZSD*

      I think legally you’re supposed to be paid for that time, but I’m not sure.
      Could the office set up one central computer where people clock in and out, so that you don’t have to wait for bootup time?

    2. Is it spring yet?*

      I would punch in first, just as I would punch out after I’d shut the computer down. If your job requires equipment and you must start it then they should pay you for it.

      1. Kyrielle*

        It sounds like the “punch in” process uses a web page, though – hard to access that when the computer is off.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Could you preload the webpage when you leave the night before and not turn off your computer overnight? That way, it’s ready to go when you arrive in the morning, you just have to wake up your computer and log in.

      (I know it’s not the most eco-friendly option to leave your computer on all week long, but…)

      1. AndersonDarling*

        This is what I did, I left the computer in sleep mode. But then we installed a centralized punch clock for all the hourly employees to use.
        I feel your pain. The worst is when you get stopped on the way to your desk and you loose 15 minutes answering job related questions.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          When this happens to me, if it’s more than 5 minutes, I put a note on my punch saying “Please adjust to [time]” and send an email to my supervisor explaining why I’m requesting the adjustment.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        We have the same thing and I log off when I leave, so I have to re-login to everything in the morning. I could stay logged in but then I would have to remember to mark myself as out of office on IM. :P
        But I can adjust my time–if it takes me an extra five minutes to clock in, I just clock out five minutes later. I don’t have a rigid shift.

        I do not restart my computer or turn it off–it gets a restart every time we have monthly updates. But I do turn off my monitors and close my laptop when I leave.

    4. Adam V*

      As I understand it, you’re supposed to be “ready to work” at whatever time your shift begins, so if that means booting up your computer early, you wouldn’t get paid for that.

      I’m not a lawyer or any kind of employment expert, though. I’m just going by what I remember the last time this came up.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I think court decisions have been all over the map on this–I’m not sure there’s a firm standard yet for “stuff that is necessary for work, but not quite part of work” and whether people should get paid for it, like putting on gear or booting up a computer.

        (And why do the companies that nickel-and-dime this stuff always have horrible computers that take a decade to boot up?)

          1. nofelix*

            I’m still so confused by the ruling. The security screenings were certainly integral and indispensable to the working of the warehouses, and clearly benefitted Amazon and not the employees.

          2. Artemesia*

            The SC members who do these rulings are hot house flowers who have never had to worry about their own health insurance (hence their ridiculous views on health insurance to quote “why don’t these women just buy a special policy that pays for birth control”) and have never worked a day in their lives. The idea that a mandatory security screening is not integral to the job when the job requires it is absurd on its face. People who get junkets from people with cases before the court and generally have no experience of punching time clocks and living on minimum wage are spectacularly ill equipped to make these judgments.

            1. I'm a Little Teapot*

              YES. That’s pretty much the problem with every political decision-making body in our country: it’s made up of sheltered rich people who don’t understand the real world.

            2. Elysian*

              That’s not really what they said, though. In this case, it is just a bad law that they Supreme Court was enforcing – this is a write to your congressman problem. The law isn’t about whether it is integral to “your job” it is about whether it is integral to your “PRIMARY job duty.” Their primary job duty was working in the warehouse (inventory, packaging, whatever) and standing in security isn’t a necessary prerequisite to that, even if it is required by the employer.

              1. Jadelyn*

                +1 – this is based on the Portal to Portal Act, which was implemented decades ago as a way to limit employer liability for overtime immediately after the Fair Labor Standards Act went into effect. The law is shitty – and frankly, I think the decision is poorly reasoned on top of that, but that’s neither here nor there since I am not a SCOTUS judge – and is the real problem here. The court’s decision is just a symptom.

            3. Anxa*

              Oh my goodness, was that really part of the discussion!?

              Do they not understand how many self-insured/uninsured woman would have purchase that if it was feasible? There were literally 0 options for birth control coverage if I wanted it. And maternity riders more than doubled the premiums. No coverage for birth control, maternity, or abortion.

          3. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

            It’s been quite a few years since this happened to me, but I received a teeny tiny sum from a former employer after a class action lawsuit for making employees clock out and go through security screening after the fact (not Amazon). They saw it as a problem because we couldn’t leave the job without doing it, I guess.

            It is interesting to see how each court is seemingly setting their own precedent.

            1. Anxa*

              What’s interesting to me is how these norms and expectations vary by industry. Reading this comment, I thought…well..of course they should be paid fo putting on PPE, which is part of their uniform.

              But in restaurants, it’s very common not to clock in until after you’ve adjusted your uniform. And while I think you should come prepared for a shift, sometimes you need to make adjustments…at the very least…to wash your hands! But it’s also common not to clock in until after you’ve started working to some degree (wage theft is a given, and the tipped-based structure makes it complicated to track fairly and appropriately even when the restaurant isn’t trying to squeeze extra labor at the 2.13 wage)

    5. fposte*

      Obviously I don’t know whether there’s any relevant state law for you, but there’s no explicit federal law, but there have been lawsuits by employees whose booting up of the computer took a substantial amount of time. I don’t know the overall win-loss ratio, but the court has definitely found for the employees some of the time. The time you’re talking about is much less, but there is DOL guidance (for call centers, but I don’t think it’s limited to them) on this that suggests starting up the computer for work-related reasons counts. On the other hand, you’re not talking about a work duty so much as a work prep, so the recent Amazon case, where the workers not getting paid for waiting to go through security lost, may affect the situation.

      The other question, of course, is what you want to do. In most situations you’re a lot better off raising your concerns calmly about the new policy rather than threatening a DOL investigation; however, if you make your point calmly to no avail and then call the DOL, it’s not likely to be a secret who did it. Now, legally they can’t retaliate against you for exercising your workplace rights, but obviously it could still make your workplace uncomfortable; if they do retaliate, that gives you another course of action, but you’d probably rather have your clock-in money in the first place.

    6. JennyFair*

      We resolved this issue for work-from-homers at Giant Company by adding 7 minutes per day to everyone’s time–6 minutes to boot up and clock in, 1 minute to shut down after clocking out.

    7. Guinness*

      I’m assuming you’ve checked this, but I’m just throwing it out there – are you sure they are counting you to the minute? Our system and every system that I’ve used rounds time to the nearest increment — so right now with my system you can punch up to 5 minutes after your start time and it rounds to your start time. I’ve used other programs that round up to 7 minutes automatically.

      1. StellsBells*

        Good point! I forgot about this, but when I was hourly our system rounded up/down to 7 minutes when you clocked in.

        So if you arrived at 8am, but it takes 5-6 minutes to clock in, you still were counted for the 8am punch time.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Yes, I used to work somewhere where it rounded to the nearest quarter-hour. Not going to lie, if I was ready to clock out at 5:07, I’d wait until 5:08 so I’d get paid until 5:15. :)

        1. Parfait*

          Yup, when I worked under a system like that, I totally made the power of the 7 minutes work for me. With 4 punches a day, you could shave a not-insignificant sliver off your workday and still hit 8 hours. I used that sliver to catch an earlier bus home.

          Now I’m salaried and exempt and they are getting all that time back from me.

    8. beachlover*

      we have a similar situation here. I usually just lock my computer at night, then when I wake it up in the morning, it does not take long to punch in (website timeclock). However there have been times, when our IT dept upgrades software over the weekend, or overnight and everyone is “kicked” out the system. Then I have to reboot, and sometimes it can take longer than 5 mins. I just don’t punch in, and then email my supervisor, so she can adjust my time card accordingly.

    9. StellsBells*

      I don’t know if it would work for your office, but at a former employer what we did was had a few computers set up just inside of the entrance door that was only for clocking in and out. They stayed on, did not require a password, and allowed people to clock in as soon as they walked in the building (clock out just as they were leaving).

    10. Fawnling*

      We have a similar system and I keep my PC on with my credentials pre-typed into the field. Make sure you *lock* your computer instead of walking away and leaving it open at the end of the day. If you’re on a Windows OS, hold down the Windows key and tap the L key. As an IT Pro, security is a huge deal for us so locking the computer is the way to go.

    11. De Minimis*

      Glad this topic came up, I got a call yesterday about a class action settlement at my former employer for unpaid overtime. I know I qualify for some level of payment [mainly small things that have added up over the three years I worked there] but need to come up with an estimate [and they say they understand that it will just be an estimate.]

      I came in early a lot, and probably did some work during that time, and also had some times when meetings ran late, especially some that were located off site. I did some work at home a few times too, though it wasn’t specifically authorized.

    12. Hush42*

      I don’t know what system your company is using but we use ADP and there’s an App that you can put on your smartphone that’ll allow you to clock in and out. I usually just clock in as I’m walking down the hallway to my office.

        1. Average Joe*

          We have a slightly different way of clocking in/out. There is a program on the computer to clock in on, but we can also call our call center to clock in(and they assume that a few minutes late clock in was because of a long queue for the call). They usually don’t watch the time too closely(though I think that is the lower management’s choice as the favorites roll in 15 to 30 minutes late every day). Although a few guys have been caught clocking in while at home when they thought the manager was going to be away.

    13. Elysian*

      If is is under 10 minutes it is usually considered “de minimis” under the law and you won’t get paid. There are cases where it takes a VERY long time to boot up the computer – think 15-20 minutes – where employees have gotten paid for that. In general, you don’t get paid for short amounts of time spent clocking in and clocking out (usually less than 10 minutes), whether you’re standing in line, waiting for the computer, walking to the time clock, etc.

  2. Sandy*

    On the theme of that post a few days ago…

    My assistant’s father died a couple of days ago, very suddenly. We don’t have an official bereavement policy at our organization, it’s basically up to manager’s discretion.

    Knowing my assistant, I’m inclined to let her take as much time as she needs. The problem is, I just need to know how much she wants/needs so I can plan accordingly. If she’s going to be gone for much longer, I’ll redistribute the files and/or hire a temp so we can keep things afloat.

    The trouble is that I’m struggling to find a good script for this. I don’t want her to misinterpret a message from me as subtle pressure to come back before she’s ready, or be *that boss* that pushes for an answer by text message in the middle of the man’s funeral.

    1. fposte*

      “I’m so sorry for your loss, Jane. Please tell me how long a leave you think you might need, and I’ll make it happen.”

      1. Tuckerman*

        This is great. I think she’ll also want to communicate how much of it is paid/unpaid.

    2. Dawn*

      Having been in your assistant’s shoes last year:

      “Demelza, please take all of the time you need during this difficult period. I am and will continue to be here for you and will welcome you back to work when you feel ready to come back. When you are able to, can you please let me know how much time you think you need now so that I can plan for your absence? If you need to extend your time away past that amount that is fine- I understand that it’s hard to know how much you’ll need.

      Please know that we are all thinking of you and your family and are here for whatever you might need.”

      1. regina phalange*

        That’s perfect. I am so sorry for your loss, too. My Dad also died suddenly last year. we have a policy at work for immediate family members that is five days and I used them all. I also got a text from one of the VPs saying if I needed anything at all to let him know. So, I’m fairly certain if I had asked for more time, I could have gotten it, but going back to work actually helped me insert a bit of normalcy back into my life. Plus my Dad was a workaholic and would not want me missing work on his account.

        1. Phyllis B*

          My step-father died a couple of years ago, and my company gives 3 days bereavement pay. I didn’t need it all at once, so I asked my boss could I take one day to help my mother then take the other two when the service was being held/out-of town family members were there to be seen to. He said “Well, I don’t see anything that says all days have to be taken at once.” So I took one day the day after death, the other two I took two weeks after we had the visitation/service. It was nice to have that flexibility.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This is so timely for me– one of my co-workers also lost her father suddenly a few days ago. We all rallied and told her to take as much time as she needs. We’re also trying to insist that she actually take the time (that’s a different story), but what we’ve all been reiterating (we are a small operation) is that we will handle everything we can and we want her to spend her energy on herself and her family.

      Check in with your assistant, and assure her that you want to make sure that she can take the time she needs without worrying that things will get done.

    4. TootsNYC*

      “If you are able to estimate, it would help me plan; I’ll redistribute files, or get a temp, or just have things wait for you, depending.”

      and maybe see if there’s an interim point at which she can decide: “If you let me know by Friday, that will help me plan.”

      I’ve had people go out for surgery, and I just always assumed that I needed to be able to cope with them coming back 3 or 4 days after they originally said. And tried to make somewhat-easily-cancelled plans. (Like, I’d call a freelancer/temp who was familiar with us, and ask if they’d be on call, or on-call-with-two-days’-notice, or something.)

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Since it’s so hard to know how much time she will need, I’d plan on a week at any rate. Some people might have extenuating circumstances where they would need more. If she takes the week, when she gets back she might be distracted to where it make sense delegate work to others to finish up. This would mean on her returning Monday, if you can take anything off her desk that has a hard due date of Monday or Tuesday that week that would probably reduce her stress/worry about work.

    6. Stacy M*

      You already got a few good scripts, but I just want to say that I love how accommodating you are being and how conscientious you are being of not wanting to inadvertently pressure your employee into choosing less time. After a loss I was allowed up to two weeks unpaid, my boss told me to do what I needed but of course he would prefer if I only took one week. I was so torn and am the type to avoid looking “bad” or “lazy” so I only took one week off. I definitely needed two.

      My boss also brought up that “situations like this” is why I shouldn’t use all my vacation. I’m still hurt by that, no one plans for things like this and I had no objection to the unpaid time off. I don’t think he had malice, but what I’m trying to say is you are right to want to be careful with your wording during a time like this.

  3. LTR*

    Hi all,

    I could really use some advice today. To shorten what could be a long and convoluted story, my old boss is back (after having been gone for about a year) but working in a different capacity (I no longer report to him). Both he and I report to New Boss. Old Boss has asked me to assist with some work which shouldn’t take more than a few hours to complete. Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about this, but there’s some tension between Old and New Boss, and I seriously doubt he’s looped her in. For the record I think New Boss is spectacular. Do I loop New Boss in on what I’m working on as a courtesy? If so, how? My work is fairly autonomous so I don’t want to come across as bothersome to her, but I’d hate to think how it’d make her look if someone mentioned the work to her and she had no idea what was going on.

    1. Dawn*

      If the request wasn’t a weird one, or out of line for either your or Old Boss’ job duties, AND it doesn’t interfere with any of your other work, then I wouldn’t mention it. However if it was weird (like Old Boss wants you to do part of his job for him) or if it would significantly impact your workload, then yeah I’d loop your New Boss in.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I agree. Especially if you think it could impact your workload or sense it could be an ongoing thing. If your relationship is good with New Boss, you could maybe phrase it as a super-short email like “Hi, New Boss, Old Boss has asked me to help with X”.

        If you think it will be a one time, few hours thing, then probably don’t need to mention it, unless you think New Boss would be really upset to find out about it after the fact? (In my company, my boss’s boss–who can also give me assignments–wants to know if my boss gives me more work…)

        1. Analyst*

          +1. One-time request should be NBD as long as it doesn’t impact your time materially. But a pattern of requests is something NB should be looped in on and approve.

      2. Sadsack*

        I disagree. A few minutes is one thing, but a few hours is different. I’d mention it to you manager, nonchalantly like Adam suggested below. Give her a chance to weigh in. You don’t want to set the precedent with Oldboss that he can start dumping work on you, unless your manager is OK with it.

    2. Adam V*

      I’d just drop in and let New Boss know. “Just FYI, I’m going to be busy for the next few hours doing Task for Old Boss, and I’ll resume Normal Task after I’ve finished that.”

      It keeps her in the loop on what you’re doing but in a way that says “this is just another task I’m adding to today’s workload” and gives her the chance to say “no, Normal Task is more important, do that first” or “wait, why are you doing Task? I’ll go talk to Old Boss”.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I would loop New Boss in on it in some of these ways, for this reason:

      Old Boss’s needs for assistance, or Old Boss’s pattern of asking the wrong person (and NOT asking the right person) may end up being masked because you’re quietly taking care of things based on an old dynamic.

      New dynamics won’t have a chance to be seen and dealt with.

    4. Bend & Snap*

      As a manager, I’d want to know, especially if this is a new setup. Definitely at least mention it to New Boss.

    5. NicoleK*

      What is the norm at your company? If your work culture is all about teamwork and collaboration then I wouldn’t mention it unless it turned into a regular pattern. If that’s not the case, then yes, let your boss know with an email or during an one on one.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I’d ask the new boss before agreeing. Start by saying you have a courtesy question that you would like her clearance for.

      It shows respect for her authority.
      It allows her to let you know that new project X is coming up immediately, and you did not know about X.
      It protects you from Old Boss thinking that she can rope you in on whatever project she feels like, because you tell the old boss that you feel you have to get it okayed first.
      Since you really like new boss then she’s the one you want to align yourself with, not the old boss. You can demonstrate your alignment by asking first.
      She sounds like she is a cool boss, so her answer will probably be yes. But if old boss keeps doing this to you, you will already have started the conversation with new boss and new boss can say NO at a future date when you REALLY might need her to say no.

  4. Golden Yeti*

    It’s been a weird week, and I think I should vent a bit somewhere.

    I have seniority time-wise, but my position is the office peon. There’s a new manager, and the general office feeling about him is…conflicted. The higher ups are fawning over him, while the regular schmoes are less impressed (putting it mildly).

    He spends a lot of time making charts and plans, and also hiring, but the numbers haven’t really shown much change. Also, he has a knack for creating more work for everyone and passing his duties onto lower-ranking staff. I realize this is a manager thing–you have to prioritize, and that sometimes means delegating; but I’m talking about things he specifically agreed to do that he lets fall through the cracks, leaving others to clean up after. For someone who is supposed to be a revered expert, he seems oblivious in general (when he first started, he asked me to create an email list in Outlook for him because he didn’t know how). Basically, for those who have a day-to-day vantage point, his competency is debatable. With this background, here are some of the things that have happened lately:

    -What was originally presented as a weekend for sales staff training has been convoluted so that office staff must also attend. The reason given is that office staff are “technically inside sales.” I’ve never received any commission (even when I was promised it once a few years ago). Again, I realize occasional business trips can be part of the deal, but having the bosses twist it around just to make attendance mandatory for everyone (even people who don’t have sales as a core duty) is frustrating.

    -When a colleague pointed out that the new guy was shifting his responsibilities again, my manager asked me to address this other manager about it. It was like he was shifting his responsibility, and then my manager was trying to shift her responsibility to me (again, office peon). I was flabbergasted. I told my manager that given my low rank, it would be pointless for me to correct a manager. My manager said I have seniority, but she would address it with the new guy. Honestly, I’m still amazed that something so obvious would not have crossed her mind.

    -I was specifically asked to set something up for the company, and I spent a couple days setting it up. When I asked the boss (who was in that meeting) a question about it a few days later, he didn’t know what I was talking about, which made me want to bang my head on my desk. Not an unusual occurrence in an office, but this added on top of everything else. The new guy had proposed this new thing, and when I asked the boss what role new guy should have with the new thing, boss admitted to me he had a feeling new guy wouldn’t use his fancy new thing too much. *smh*

    -My annual raises are under $1/hr. The company always brags on my work, but says they don’t have the money to give more. New guy implemented a sales promo for the sales staff where they can earn triple digit bonuses each month. Already a slight slap in the face. Then, new guy brought me a similar promo for office staff, except our bonuses are $10, $20 bucks. The office staff have seen both promos, so it’s right there to compare. Talk about salt in the wound.

    There was something else that happened, but it could dox me, so I’ll refrain. It just seems like lately it’s been doubly reinforced that I will never be rewarded for my work here; all I can look forward to is being jerked around and taken for granted. I’ve never enjoyed this job, but the things that have happened lately have increased my dismay and have caused me to amp up my long-term job search again. And, in the meantime, I have developed an annoying intermittent eye twitch this week–only at work, go figure…

    1. videogamePrincess*

      Your workplace sounds like it’s more caught up in fads than actual results, and doesn’t seem like it’s going to work on procedures that actually benefit the company (e. g. rewarding the office peon). It will backfire when said office peon gets an amazing role at an awesome company. :) Don’t worry, if you feel like it’s time to move on I’m sure there are other places which will actually respect and reward your skills.

    2. Anna No Mouse*

      I can empathize with a lot of this (including the stress/work-related eye-twitch.

      I work with an upper level director who forgets things he asked for, changes what he wants regularly enough that I have wasted countless project hours just trying to accommodate him, and on the rare occasions that he doesn’t pass off his work to someone else, he misses every deadline he is given, even the ones he creates for himself.

      I sounds like this is a place that creates a real rift between certain types of employees (sales vs. office) and that generally creates a pretty toxic environment. I’d say it’s time to move on and find a place that doesn’t set up such a damaging “us vs. them” attitude in the office. Best of luck!

      1. Golden Yeti*

        Ironically, rewards this significant for sales reps have never been offered before; nobody was really rewarded for anything, which isn’t right, either. And now that rewards are a thing, them being so disparate between departments is creating that rift you mention.

      2. Sadsack*

        Agreed. It may be time move on. One thing I’ll comment on is that unless he is an expert in Outlook, I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised he doesn’t know how to do what he asked you to do. Maybe it is just one more thing that irks you on too of everything else, but is minor.

    3. FTW*

      So it’s hard to comment without some more specifics… but you might be looking at this the wrong way. To be clear, I don’t know this situation or think I know this situation, but I think a different perspective might be helpful.

      The new manager has come in and is taking a more strategic approach, which may not move the needle immediately. He is working on alignment and cross training by inviting inside sales to training because he sees you as valuable team members. He gave sales a bonus structure because it would drive revenue that the company desprately needs; he fought for a bonus structure for inside sales, but was only able to get something small because they do not directly generate revenue. He should not be spending time creating email lists because the company is not getting maximum value from him if that is what he is spending his time on. There is a general lack of alignment / communication among management, which causes problems including new tools where process/roles/responsibilities are not clear.

      I am not saying that this IS what is happening, but I thought it might be helpful to look at the situation through a different perspective.

      1. Golden Yeti*

        I see what you’re getting at.

        It might help context a little if I mention that we are a TINY company. I think part of the issue is that this guy is coming from a bigger company, and he’s probably used to having teams of people jump when he snaps his fingers. He gave us a schedule for the year, which is great, but the turnaround time each month very tight. So now we’re trying to squeeze this in with all our other responsibilities.

        I’m sure there’s a bit of underlying resentment on my part at play, too. I found out this guy makes WAY more than me; he’s a manager, he should make more–but if my boss recognizes my “seniority,” you would think I at least make more than I do, and that wage gap wouldn’t be so significant.

        Thing is, I was actually offered his role a few years ago–except with my regular under $1/hr raise, and on the condition that I would do the managerial job and my original job unless we could bring on someone to replace my original role (which would’ve been doubtful because most office staff leave within the first 3 months). I declined because it just wasn’t worth it. Seeing them bankrolling everyone else when for the last X years, anything extra for me was “beyond what the company can afford” is quite grating.

        1. NarrowDoorways*

          Ugh, the “beyond what the company can afford” the worst! I LEAD the editorial department of a publishing company, covering my job and my former boss’s job. But the promotion came with only a $1 an hour raise because there’s “no spare capital.” And yet not only does the sales team get new bonuses, the company has hired new people!

          I mostly try to let it go. They bring in money directly; I don’t. Without them doing above and beyond, no one would get paid.

          That’s not to say it isn’t tough, but it is what it is….

        2. Lady H*

          I completely sympathize with your frustrations. However, it’s not the new guy’s fault that your company is paying him so much more than you, nor is it his fault that you’re getting minor raises. (It sounds like you get that, but I do want to point out that while this guy might be a total tool, you can’t resent him for what the company is choosing to pay him. Sometimes total tools ask for the moon and get it, and it’s a good lesson to the rest of us not to undervalue ourselves during salary negotiations.)

          I’m curious what your job title/role is vs. the new guy, and why seniority comes into play. Do you mean that you’ve worked there longer than everyone else? When you were offered the managerial role, did you negotiate for a pay bump? I see that they didn’t offer you a pay raise, but what was your negotiation like?

          Generally, people who stay at a company for a long time end up making less than people who have switched up jobs because it’s easier to negotiate when you get a job offer. If you’ve been getting those small raises year by year and haven’t made your case for why you’re now doing X, Y, and Z and adding value to the company it may not be possible for you to ever negotiate up higher. In which case, unfortunately, it’s probably time to move on.

          Best of luck!

          1. Golden Yeti*

            No, you are absolutely right. When I first came on, my previous company was cutting my hours, so I needed something fast, and I didn’t push back hard enough on negotiations–I actually took a pay cut to come here, and it’s taken a few years to recoup it just to my previous wage.

            I’ve been here several years (new guy a few months); since I started, no other office staff (outside previously established management) have made it this long. I was offered the promotion within the first year or two, if I remember correctly; I tried to negotiate, but wage was non-negotiable. I tried to negotiate one extra day off per year in lieu of a bigger pay bump, and couldn’t get that, either. I’m coming up on a big anniversary, so I’m hoping I can make a good case for myself.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              It really sounds like you should make a good case for yourself to have a job somewhere else! (But I realize that is easier said than done.)

            2. Not So NewReader*

              You have been there several years and you are senior person? High turn over?

              1. Golden Yeti*

                Yeah, it’s kind of weird because my position is technically the lowest ranking, but outside of management, I’ve been there the longest because of the crazy high turnover, as you said.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Not what you are asking about, so this is an aside. Hopefully it helps a tiny bit. When I had the eye twitch thing it was heart and thyroid getting tired from non-stop stress. I started investing more in rest/good foods/hydration and that pretty much took care of the twitch.

      This was a bfd to me, because I felt like the twitch telegraphed too much info about where my thoughts were at. To get that under control made me feel a bit more confident in the face of chaos.

  5. Anonymous Cookie*

    Semi-frequent poster here going anonymous for htis.

    The good news: I have a phone interview scheduled!

    My former boss knows a lot of the people who are involved in the hiring process (my industry is a small one). What are some words I can use to reach out to him to ask him if he knows anything about the institution and their culture? Is it too early to do that for a phone interview?

    Thanks!

    1. Adam*

      I don’t think it’s too early to reach out to your former boss if you have a good relationship with him. You have a confirmed contact and appointment with the potential employer, so it’s perfectly reasonable to try and get the best sense of the organization you can at this point.

      I would send your contact a friendly email, do a bit of checking in/catching up, then mention your upcoming interview and ask if he has any experience with the organization to get a general sense of what they are like.

      Good luck!

      1. De Courcy*

        And in terms of wording, I think this is a totally normal request, and you could say something like “I’m speaking to X Company soon and just wondered if you have any thoughts about them you’d be willing to share with me.” Everyone knows that due diligence is part of the jobhunting process!

        1. TootsNYC*

          I would use more confident language than “Just wondered if you had any…” Kill the “just”; use “want to ask” instead of “wondered.” You don’t need to apologize for this contact or pussyfoot around this request.

          I’d say, “I have a phone interview with Ms. Wakeen Higgins at Teapots Inc. and wanted to pick your brain about the company. Would you have time to talk before then?”

      2. Edward Rooney*

        I reached out to a former colleague about a job after an initial HR screening call. Him leaving was the whole reason the job was empty. He gave me some very good pointers that led me to not pursue it further, the earlier you reach out to your contacts, the less time you will waste if it might not be a good fit.

        1. Corporate Cynic*

          So true! I had exact same experience very recently, where I learned that 1. the company I’d considered applying to was not doing well at the moment and 2. one of the people the position interacts closely with is a psychopath. Bullet = dodged!

    2. TootsNYC*

      I’d ask as soon as you can, before the phone interview.

      For one thing, you don’t know when he’ll be able to get back to you–it’s not like you can just turn on the tap and have his attention come gushing out.

      And for another, it might help you create some great questions to ask, so you can get more insight yourself, and also to demonstrate that you’re truly researching the company.

      I’m w/ Adam: send an email to your former boss first, and ask to talk with him on the phone. (But I wouldn’t bother w/ too terribly much checking in/catching up; I never, ever think it’s weird to have a former colleague contact me out of the blue for job-hunting things. We’re not personal friends; I don’t expect that from them. It’s nice to get a “hope you’re well,” or something, but anything more is sort of a waste of time. )

      One other thought: information flows both ways. From your former boss’s perspective, colleagues of his are interviewing his former employee. And he may want to tell THEM things. If you have a great or even a good rep w/ your old boss, he may call up his contacts at that company and say, “Hey, I hear you’re interviewing Anonymous Cookie–she’s a great employee, has XYZ skills, etc.”
      If you have a crappy rep, he may call to warn them–but I would think that will only be if you really were awful, or criminal, or something. If your rep was pretty neutral, I would imagine that the vast majority of people would not bother to contact the company under their own steam, but let you sink or swim on your own.

      1. Anonymous Cookie*

        I work in the information field; it’s not uncommon for hiring managers to reach out to common acquaintances of a potential employee to learn more about that employee’s background. Additionally, I worked in an area where everyone either knows each other or knows someone who knows someone.

        1. TootsNYC*

          My boss did that all the time–if we got a resumé in that we really thought was interesting, she asked everyone on staff who they knew who’d worked at any of the places that were on the resumé. Even sometimes at the current company (I think she trusted that the people she was asking wouldn’t go and tattle). And get them to call and ask people what they thought of the candidate.

  6. Blue Anne*

    So, I’m still in the process of moving back to the USA – I’ll be there within the next few weeks.

    As soon as I get there, I have an interview for a part time job I would LOVE to land. I’m just concerned about the fact that it’s part-time. Working multiple jobs to make up a full-time salary (or more?) seems more common in America, and I find it pretty interesting, but I have no idea how to go about doing it.

    Has anyone here worked multiple jobs? How do you work out the hours? At what point do you tell prospective employers that you have another job? Are part-time jobs really common enough for this to be reliable?

    Any experiences or advice would be very much appreciated!

    1. ZSD*

      Would the hours at the part-time job you’re interested in be stable/predictable, or would you be having to juggle the changing hours at this first job with the hours you’d need to work at a second?

      1. Blue Anne*

        I’m not sure yet – it’s one of the first things I plan to ask about! But it would be mostly an evening/weekends job, and the place is closed altogether on Mondays, so I was hoping to be able to also pick up a steady admin type job.

        Here in the UK I’ve seen office-based part time jobs that are either a few days a week, or short days – like 9 AM – 1 PM. Is that pretty much true in the USA too?

    2. Adam*

      A few years ago I took a part-time seasonal job in addition to my regular full-time job to supplement my income. It was pretty exhausting and got in the way of a lot of my off work activities, but I’m still glad I did it as the extra money really helped and having a part-time job that was near completely different from my regular job injected some interesting challenge into my usual routine.

      By far the biggest challenge was schedule and commute. Both employers knew that my time would be going to both of them and were very reasonable to accommodate, but I still ran into trouble getting from one job to the next when shifts were scheduled close to each other on the same day. Compounding the problem was having to take public transportation which wasn’t always reliable and dealing with traffic that was reliably terrible.

      My takeaway from this if I were to ever do it again is to do my absolute best to make sure both jobs were as close as physically possible to mitigate any sort of travel issues that might arise. Aside from that, if you can find several jobs you like and are in good health I think you can handle having multiple jobs for a while just fine.

      1. KR*

        I work two jobs to make up a full time one and agree that having them as physically close a possible is best.

    3. overeducated*

      It can be tough because in my experience part time wages often are not prorated to a full time salary, getting hours to match up can be tricky unless at least one job is remote or flexible, and you don’t necessarily earn vacation the same way so it can actually be harder to take a week off. (That last part is why i’m really debating going back to one of my jobs this summer – I just really want to see my family or leave town sometime other than Christmas.) But perhaps your field is less stingy than mine, and it’s worth finding out about this stuff before accepting.

    4. Collie*

      I have a full time job, two part time jobs, and I’m finishing up my last semester of grad school. To be fair, my two part time jobs aren’t traditionally part time — one is just four hours a week on the same day and the other is a sort-of on-call deal where I get asked a few weeks in advance if I want a shift and I’m free to say yes or no. With commute time, it can be a challenge if I overschedule. I use Google Calendars and have it connected to my phone with reminders set for 30 mins before any given work event, as that’s how long it’ll take me to get there typically. If I forget I have an upcoming shift, my phone reminds me.

      Unless there’s a company policy that requires you to tell them about your other job or it becomes relevant to scheduling, I don’t think there’s a compelling reason to tell anyone you have multiple jobs unless you just want to. When I took on my third job, they had a policy that required me to inform them of outside employment, so I did. When training for job #3 was going to cause scheduling issues with my full time job, I requested to adjust my schedule so I could make it for training (of course, my supervisor understood that FT job was a stepping stone to long term plans that new PT would get me even further for, so she was totally supportive). To my knowledge, there’s no legal reason you have to supply this information.

      Part-time jobs are absolutely that common (unfortunately, IMO). It’s going to take some getting used to and you’ll be exhausted (at least, I am!) but if you have a plan for the future or if your plan is to be part time forever, it can work. You may want to keep in mind that you’ll be commuting extra, so if you spend money on your commute, consider that (internally) in your salary negotiations if it gets to that point.

      Figure out plans for food in advance, especially if working multiple jobs in one day will make grabbing lunch difficult. Check and double check your schedules, especially if they’re not regular. Take time to rest. Good luck!

    5. Jinx*

      I think this depends on the type of jobs you are looking at, because it varies. I worked two jobs while I was in college, but both were targeted towards students are were good about setting a fixed schedule based on your semester availability.

      My husband has tried to work two jobs in retail/food, and it’s a struggle. You can do it, but you have to be very firm and clear upfront, and have a trustworthy manager. There are a great many minimum wage places that simply don’t care about scheduling preferences, and if you phrase something as a “nice-to-have” it won’t get honored. Even if you are firm, they can just schedule you on a blocked day anyway and say tough.

      My only real advice is to screen the jobs beforehand as best you can, to make sure they are really okay with part-time, and won’t start pressuring you to change your schedule. I know I have a cynical view on this, and I’m sure some places are totally cool about this, but Mr. Jinx has had some really bad experiences.

      1. Jinx*

        As an amendment, if your part-time jobs both have a fixed schedule, that’s very different from a place that schedules week to week. I wouldn’t recommend having multiple variable schedule places at once, for the reasons I went into above.

      2. SophieChotek*

        I agree with Jinx and all the above comments.
        I currently work 1 full-time job and 1 part-time job and 1 on-call job.
        It helps that the full-time job has set hours and the part time job is evenings; it is very stressful to work 8am to 9:30 pm Monday through Friday, but it is necessary to pay bills and, as several people have pointed out, these situations can only work because the hours are set or 1 job is flexible and can accommodate fluctuating hours.
        Unless you’ve got a great manager in retail/food service that really is willing to work with one’s schedule (and I have had two, but it helped that before I had to ask the to make their schedule partially around me I had a good reputation so they wanted me when they could), it’s really hard to get accommodations in that industry. I mean, if you say “I can work 6pm to midnight, M-Saturday” ou better be able to and not plan ahead ever, because those retail jobs typically only post a schedule 1-2 weeks in advance. In my last retail job, we could still not know by Sunday morning when/if we were working the next day (Monday) which was so annoying.
        I definitely agree — plan your meals; or just plan to pack lunch & dinner. There’s no point working 80 hours a week if one ends up spending $$$ every day to eat. To me, it cuts into profits. Ditto for commute time/expense–that needs to be weighed and factored in.
        And as others have mentioned; 2 part-time jobs do not = full-time job, especially in terms of benefits and PTO, etc. So even if one works more hours in 2 part-time jobs than one would in 1 fulltime job, the actual $ earned at the end of the day is likely to be less.
        But many of us here have/or are doing it, to make ends meet, or “for a season” to earn extra money, etc. Many people do it, it’s not impossible, but does take some careful consideration, etc.
        Also I agree, if possible, different employers don’t need to know, unless you have to tell them–but it’s also important to consider — do these part-time jobs “end” when you walk out the door are they the kind that you can take work home and need to? Becuase that can cut into time and if you’re working another job, Employer 1 might not understand why one cannot get work done, especially if one does not want to explain that one actually works an evening shift every day too…or something like that.

      3. Blue Anne*

        The part time job I’m interviewing for is at a gaming cafe – I’d be serving coffee/beer, making board game recommendations and showing people how to play. I’d probably be spending all my free time there to play games and meet the local geeks anyway so I’m pretty psyched and tentatively thinking that it wouldn’t drain my brain/soul as much as other jobs I’ve had. I haven’t worked food service before but so far, the people running it seem both friendly and reasonable, and I’m sure they’d understand me needing another job.

        I’m hoping to get a set-hours office job on top of it. I have pretty decent experience in both admin and finance, so maybe I could get something with like 20 hours a week and health insurance? Hopefully.

        I *think* that combination could work…

        1. LCL*

          Find out how the taxes work where you will be living. This varies by state. Everybody has to pay federal income tax. Some states have income tax on top of that, and some cities have income tax on top of that. Or, the state doesn’t have an income tax, most govt funds are raised by sales taxes and property taxes. If property taxes are the main source, this tends to drive the rent market higher.

          Not that you can change the tax structure, you just want to know what it is so you are prepared.

    6. orchidsandtea*

      I’ve worked up to 7 part-time jobs and it was awful. Some weeks I’d work 6am-9am and 2pm-6pm weekdays as a nanny, babysit for someone else midday, do freelance editing in the evenings, teach a fitness class Saturday morning, and work at a vintage shop Sunday afternoon. And I still wasn’t making ends meet.

      It’d be one thing if you worked 9-5 Mon/Weds/Fri at Teapots R Us, and 15 hours with complete flex-time as a remote worker for The Teapottery. Or if you did mornings 4 days a week at The Teapottery, and worked for Teapots R Us evenings 3 weekdays and all day Saturday. But it is definitely harder than just working one job, and I definitely needed 2 days off to feel sane. The energy loss in making a transition is real.

      Also, tax time is a bear.

    7. Partly Cloudy*

      Not sure if insurance is a factor/issue for you, but having two part-time jobs vs. one full-time job probably means you won’t be eligible for benefits. Just something to consider, depending on your circumstances.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Very good point, I’m used to just paying a bit more tax for access to the NHS. Health insurance is kind of scary to me, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out…

    8. MK2000*

      I work two jobs right now. I’m extremely lucky because my primary 20 hour/week position is a salaried position with set mid-day hours. Then I’m always free to teach in the evenings. I also have friends who teach at multiple places who make it work. I think it’s more complicated if you’re trying to work a part-time position where you are assigned shifts that can vary– for example, I couldn’t really do retail/restaurant work because I couldn’t be assured that I wouldn’t be scheduled during my other job.

      There are perks to my schedule. I like that I start later in the day, I don’t commute during rush hour, and I don’t get bored the way I did when I was supposed to sit at a desk for eight straight hours. But I’m not eligible for benefits from either job, so I have to buy my own health insurance, and when the school where I teach closes (for holidays, inclement weather, etc.) or if I need to travel/get sick, I don’t get paid, so my income varies from month to month, though that’s just the plight of the hourly worker in general. I’m lucky that my other job does offer PTO, so that keeps me a little ahead of the game, plus I try to pick up private clients for side money… but that means always hustling. So I think it depends on your personality whether you’d be comfortable with these things. Good luck if you choose to go this route!

    9. NarrowDoorways*

      You know, I just switched to one full time job after having two part time jobs for years, and I’m not sure it’s better.

      With two jobs, yes, occasionally I’d work 15 hour days and sometimes both weekend days. But I’d get overtime. Yes, sometimes I’d work 15 hour days, but other days I’d be done by 3pm.

      Now, as a salary worker, I’m making almost exactly the same (less with the lack of overtime factored in) and almost always work 10 hours a day or more five days a week.

      I think it always comes down to the specific job. I worked in places with a regular, steady schedules that I had a hand in making. Not every job is so flexible.

    10. Chalupa Batman*

      I cobbled together two part time jobs for several years. I started out in Retail Job, then took Healthcare Job on the weekends. Then I quit Retail to take Government Job, which was a set 8-4:30 schedule 3 days, no weekends. That meant I had 2 rotating days off during the week. Then I quit Healthcare and took Education Job, and that’s when things got tricky. Government needed 3 days on a set schedule, but Education said that I couldn’t go into overtime hours, so I didn’t have enough days in the week to get to my 20 hours. I went through Education’s employee handbook and found out that I could work 10 hour days without going into overtime as long as it was my normal schedule. Boom! Education Supervisor approved scheduling me 2 10 hour days as my normal schedule (I could adjust it for events if needed as long as my typical week was 2 10 hour days), so I was working 5 days a week, no weekends. That worked pretty well for about a year before a full time position opened at Education Job and I took that.

      So the moral of the story is, to balance multiple part time jobs, read your handbooks. Knowing the rules meant I could have a schedule that worked for me and for my employer, in the field I was interested in with full time options later, instead of just taking whatever would fit my schedule to pay the bills.

  7. SaviourSelf*

    I am starting to see major problems at my current company and am thinking about moving on. However, to complicate things I’ve only been at the company for 3 years. The last two companies I have worked for have also been 3 year stays. Is moving on now going to look like a job hopper or that I can’t stay anywhere longer than 3 years?

    1. AFT123*

      I’m sure it depends on your industry as well as what career level you’re at, but 3 years seems fine in my opinion. Especially if you can illustrate how each move was a new challenge and you had growth in each one, and it wasn’t a series of lateral moves.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      3 years is a lifetime in advertising, so I would look at a resume like yours and think, “Wow, she’s pretty stable!”

      YMMV by industry, but I don’t think you have anything to worry about.

    3. LTR*

      I think 3 years is plenty of time to consider making a move. And a string of 3 year stints on your resume wouldn’t raise an eyebrow for me, at least.

    4. Anna No Mouse*

      My last three jobs have all bee 3 year stays, mostly because there wasn’t any opportunity in any of them (small offices, limitations of civil service promotional rules) for me to move up. Each move was a step up for me, in terms of salary and responsibilities, if not always title. I have never heard from anyone that I was seen as a job-hopper, though personally I’d like to be able to find a place that offers more upward mobility so I don’t feel I have to change organizations just to move my career along.

    5. Panda Bandit*

      You are most certainly not a job hopper for being at all of those jobs for 3 years. If it was less than 1 year you might look like a job hopper. Avoid short term stays and you’ll be fine.

    6. Honeybee*

      Three years seems like plenty of time to be in a position without looking like job hopping.

  8. Synonym for Sunrise*

    I’m currently helping a manager develop a PIP for an employee and prepare for the (probably inevitable) firing of said employee. Other than AAM, what are some good resources for info on how to put together a really clear, cohesive PIP and how to make PIP goals/milestones absolutely blindingly clear? This PIP is going to have to be extremely detailed and as clear as crystal as to what’s acceptable and what’s not in order to give the employee the best chance for a turnaround. Also, other than AAM any good resources on the best way to fire someone? There’s some great posts on AAM about that topic, just wondering what else is out there.

    1. NoCalHR*

      My guidelines for PIPs:
      1) limit PIP to one issue, even if multi-faceted: Poor Work Quality: Timeliness, Attention to Detail, Accuracy.
      2) detail 3 current examples of the issue: Jan 2, 2016….; Jan 28, 2016….; Feb 4, 2016….
      3) detail coaching, verbal warnings and written warnings already delivered (coaching 12/14/16; 12/29/15; verbal warning 1/2/16; written warning 1/29/16; 2nd written warning 2/5/16)
      4) detail requirements
      5) detail schedule of check-in meetings (usually weekly, documented, with sign-off by manager and employee)
      6) include penalty for blowing the PIP: “Failure to successfully meet these requirements will result in further corrective action up to and including termination of employment.” (recommended warning language in California)
      7) include offer of assistance from manager & HR, including training if that is available
      8) include signature block & date for employee and manager

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        So I’m going to disagree with #1. You want the PIP to spell out what the person needs to do to attain a strong enough performance to stay in the job. If there are multiple issues, they need to go in the PIP. At the end of the PIP, the question should be whether the person is now working at the needed level or whether you need to let them go. You shouldn’t do PIP after PIP for different issues; tackle it all up front. The person should know “If I do what’s laid out here, I’ll meet the bar for keeping my job” — so don’t hide the ball, and don’t drag out the process of figuring out if this person can perform at the level needed.

        1. NoCalHR*

          I agree, and in other organizations I wrote multiple issue PIPs whenever needed! However this organization prefers to hit the biggest issue or constellation of issues; the thinking here is that if the big issue was there, the other issues would be minor/coachable. Clearly this isn’t always true; however (and YMMV) folks here either pass the PIP and clean up the other issues as a side benefit, or fail the PIP and are gone.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, she said probably inevitable. I do think when you’re 100% sure it won’t work out, it’s a kindness to just say that. But when you’re more at “probably,” there are a few reasons: (1) The person might surprise you and turn it around. (2) It’s important for your other employees to know that if they’re having performance problems, they’ll be warned and get a chance to improve, rather than just being fired. (3) Your employer might have a policy that requires a PIP before firing for performance.

  9. Adam*

    Ihaveaninterviewthisafternoon!
    Ihaveaninterviewthisafternoon!
    OhsweetMotherofMercywishmeluckIhaveaninterviewthisafternoon!

  10. Master Bean Counter*

    I’d like to thank the person that recommended Google music for a free music player at work. It’s been a week and I’m loving it.

    1. Hattie McDoogal*

      I listen to it for lack of anything better, and because it has most of the playlists that I liked from Songza. But (and I know I’m spoiled about this) the ads really grate.

      1. Boop*

        I use Hulu (ad free) and Netflix, so when I started watching some shows through a different app I was really irritated to see it has ads! Unfortunately, that was the only “free” way to watch this particular show, so I’m stuck. Isn’t it funny how you get used to certain conveniences and then are really put out when you have to go back?

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          I have SiriusXM in my car and my husband doesn’t in his, so I make sure we take my car places whenever possible.

        2. Chalupa Batman*

          We upgraded to ad-free Hulu pretty quickly because Netflix decimated my patience for commercials. I get so irritated watching regular TV!

      2. Fenchurch*

        I use 8tracks. They are all playlists put together by other people, so it’s always interesting to see what comes up! The ads tend to only be once at the beginning of listening to a playlist.

  11. Some*

    Anybody here went as a lateral (experienced) hire to MBB? Not from another consulting company but from the industry. If any, could you share your interview experience (round 1 and 2)? It’s very hard to find any lateral hire case interview experience.

    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Not quite MBB, but I interviewed at both Deloitte and E&Y for lateral move from industry into (strategy) consulting teams. I came from an internal corporate strategy team that essentially taught me the ropes based on how BCG develops and executes projects. Round one at both was phone interview as was round 2 at E&Y (they bailed as it looked like I had too much experience). Round 2 at Deloitte was case-based, 2 or three hour stint at their office in the evaluation center (in the basement. it was great /s). First was here is a document, I will leave the room and you read over it and answer the questions on the sheet. Interviewer came back 5 mins early and proceeded to grill me, but wasn’t unfriendly. Next guy I had an awful vibe from, and I had an oral case study – “how would you estimate annual sales for X pizza chain”. I had been nervous with the first guy but the second one I just wanted to get out of there and I drove that one home right down the line. Got a call later from the recruiter asking how I felt and I asked to withdraw – no idea if they wanted to proceed, but I realized that probably wasn’t the place for me.

      Have you had a look at Victor Chang’s website/blog? He does a lot of case work prep for those looking to get into MBB either out of B school or as a lateral. He also answers emails I believe, but you want to be prepped in the basics of setting up a case and that can take a lot of practice. He also does case studies of cases that you are likely to get. The M currently sitting next to me was sharing one of the cases the other day – something about how would you estimate the total amount of spam email in the world. Be good on your numbers and ready to calculate in your head, but from what I’ve heard, MBB is nothing compared to LEK where they want a LOT more mental math gymnastics!

  12. Turanga Leela*

    Advice column crossover! (And work-related!) Last week, there was a guy on Dan Savage’s podcast whose girlfriend got off on hearing him talk on the phone. So the guy called Verizon with a question about cell phone plans, he and his girlfriend quietly messed around while he was on the phone, and when they were finished and the customer service representative put him on hold, he hung up.

    Dan’s feeling was that this was okay, so long as they weren’t making the customer service rep uncomfortable. I think “don’t creep people out” is good advice as far as it goes, but I don’t like the idea of wasting the customer service rep’s time on a fake call. Those of you who have worked in call centers: thoughts on this? Will the representative be missing out on commissions, getting in trouble, etc. if he spends his time on a call that turns out to be fake?

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Not to mention the rest of us poor saps who are on hold waiting to discuss ACTUAL issues. Not cool.

    2. Dangerfield*

      I am uncomfortable with this couple involving someone else in their romantic life without that person’s consent, and it is wasting that person’s time. Plenty of people call to waste time in one way or another though, so I kind of feel like that’s a lesser sin!

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        >I am uncomfortable with this couple involving someone else in their romantic life without that person’s consent

        This. It feels really icky to involve someone without their consent.

    3. Is it spring yet?*

      Doesn’t matter what you’re doing but wasting others’ time (and money) for your personal enjoyment is just wrong. There’s a humor columnist who calls company reps and uses the “funny parts” for columns. Never found them funny.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Will the representative be missing out on commissions, getting in trouble, etc. if he spends his time on a call that turns out to be fake?

      I don’t think any reasonable manager (yes, I know some managers are unreasonable) would hold it against the customer service rep. There’s no way for her or him to know that the call was fake.

      1. Tuckerman*

        I think it’s more that if they have to hit a certain quota then that’s time they could be putting towards a caller who actually plans to pay for something.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Right, this is my primary concern. If you’re supposed to make a sale on X% of your calls, every call from this guy (or someone prank calling, or whatever) is driving down your percentage. This is especially true if the caller actually follows Dan’s advice and isn’t creeping out the representative. If it just sounds like a regular call, and the caller hangs up when he’s on hold, that makes it look like the representative isn’t good at keeping people on the phone to close the sale.

          I just haven’t worked at a call center, so I don’t know how the reps are compensated.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            Also, the company has to pay for all that time on a toll-free line. And he’s taking the place of anyone who might have real questions that they want answered.

            The metrics for a call center depend upon the type of work, but call time is generally an issue, as are results.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          Yes, I was more addressing the getting in trouble part. Obviously any time wasted is money wasted.

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

        In my experience, very few call center managers are reasonable.

      3. Miles*

        The thing with call centers is all of their metrics are automated. They see number of tickets, amount of time wasted, things like that, but never the actual content of the call, except for the few that are selected for someone to listen to to make sure they’re actually work calls.

        One call probably won’t do too much damage by itself though, since a reasonably staffed T1 tech support line will see something like 100 to 200 calls per day per person.

    5. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Ugh, NO. Because how would they know if the rep is uncomfortable? The rep has been trained to be polite and engaging no matter what. This is like guys who hit on waitresses and then say that she was being friendly back, so it’s OK. As customers, you have the power. Don’t abuse it.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Dan had an extended, mostly accurate discussion of how what he calls “secret perving” is only okay if it is actually secret. For example, if you are a shoe salesman, and you are really into feet, and you fantasize about your customers when you go home at the end of the day, that’s fine so long as no one can tell that you are having sexual thoughts at work. If you are staring at people in a way that makes them uncomfortable, or you are visibly aroused, or you say things that are inappropriate for work, there’s nothing “secret” about what you’re doing and it’s not okay.

        On the phone, it wouldn’t be hard to hide this sort of thing from the customer service rep. If the guy is having a normal-sounding conversation, without any heavy breathing etc., then the rep isn’t going to know what the guy’s girlfriend is doing at home. The advice on the podcast was pretty clear that if the caller was acting at all sexually toward the customer service rep, he needed to knock it off. That’s why my question here is mostly about the representative’s time and money, not his discomfort.

        1. Adam*

          I totally understand his concept of “secret perving”. I mean anyone who has sexual feelings at all is going to have them come up day to day as they interact with people. Just having thoughts is usually not an issue. But I don’t consider this phone act secret as he’s having some sort of pleasurable experience while he’s engaged with another person who didn’t sign up for that, even if they aren’t really aware it’s going on. It does feel to me like reducing that person to an object for your own gratification, which is different from seeing somebody and then fantasizing about them later in your private time.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yep, and pretending not to notice is not the same as not noticing. As others have mentioned, there’s no way to really know if the rep was oblivious or just trying to stay polite.

            1. HeyNonnyNonny*

              Yeah, this. You’re relying on the perv-ers interpretation that it wasn’t noticed.

        2. Applesauced*

          On the idea of “secret perving” there was a great article in the New Yorker this week about a motel owner who spied on his guests through faux ceiling vents – and claimed that since no one knew, no one was hurt. Just… ick.

          1. J*

            No one was hurt except the girl the voyeur/motel owner claimed he witnessed being murdered!

            That story was bananas.

    6. Adam*

      I don’t like this for a number of reasons others have said.
      – It’s involving an unwitting bystander in your…erm…activities…without their consent or even knowledge. (Some may argue the “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”, but I almost never accept that rationale)
      – It wastes the rep’s time.
      – It wastes the time of actual customers who need help but are stuck on hold.
      – It’s pretty selfish of the caller.
      – Call centers aren’t known for being particularly rewarding jobs. Why give the rep one more reason to dread their day.

      So for me pretty much none of this situation is cool. I feel it leans toward the more pranky side of the jerk spectrum rather than something seriously malicious so not unforgivable, but still a lousy thing to do.

    7. anooooooooon*

      Ignoring the fact that this is Dan Savage giving sketchy advice (and as much as I want to rant about him, I’ll refrain), I think this is horrible.

      You’re involving someone else in your sex life without their consent and in my experience, when your job involves customer service for a phoneline, you have to put up with most things even if they make you uncomfortable. It’s not like the customer service rep can ask if the person on the other end of the line is having sex because they’ll probably get in trouble.

      It’s rude, selfish and totally out of line.

    8. fposte*

      Nononono. Bad Dan, bad. You do not get to treat other live people as sex toys. You especially don’t get to do that with live people who are required to serve you and whose ability to freely consent is hugely compromised.

      (Was it Tomato Nation that had the story about the sub plumber who handed out instructions from his dom to his customers? Ew, no.)

    9. Elizabeth West*

      Not ever a call center employee, but this is a HUGE waste of that person’s time and the time of customers who are waiting to speak with them about legitimate problems. Not okay. >:(

    10. Pwyll*

      I worked in the call center of another cell phone company. I don’t think this is appropriate at all based on the sexual nature, and it’s a complete waste of the company’s time. As to the CSR, unless they called the sales line (and not customer service) I’m not so sure it really affects their job. We didn’t receive commissions in customer service or tech support, though part of our performance criteria were -offering- upsells, not necessarily tied to the customer actually accepting them. That said, we needed an average call time of less than 2 minutes calculated both weekly and monthly in order to meet our targets. So, if they were on the phone for more than 2 minutes, which it sounds like they were, it could lead to a PIP or a lower quarterly bonus. Frankly, any time I was on a call longer than 5 minutes, a manager would walk over to wave at me to basically tell me to hurry it up.

      So, it’s not so much that the call was fake that hurts, but rather that it wastes the company’s resources and could harm the employee’s performance metrics. And let me say, this story really isn’t all that strange. Goooooodness some of the things people would say to us on the phone (especially when I was on the evening shift!).

      1. Jennifer*

        My ex worked in a call center and apparently some girl’s boyfriend answered the phone. He was told that the party he was calling couldn’t come to the phone because she had his dick in his mouth right now.

        My ex would probably be okay with this scenario happening, come to think of it. This one gave him a laugh.

        1. Pwyll*

          Hah! Oy. We had one caller whose phone was malfunctioning and it was an EMERGENCY because she needed to “make a booty call IMMEDIATELY.” It was a 45 minute call that was pure gold.

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

      I’ve worked as a CSR in 2 different call centers. I didn’t do sales, though I was expected to upsell if the person was placing an order. (Instead of just calling about a problem.) Calls that are time wasters are usually people who are very lonely and just want a person to talk to. Usually the issue has been resolved and they want to go on about their kids or grandkids or whatever and not something related to what they called about. Those are hard to get off the phone with and can bring down your numbers because you feel bad for the person and don’t want to be rude to them, but you really have to get back to work.

      Having said that this is creepy as hell. And gross. And if you think the CSR didn’t know what was going on, think again. You can hear A LOT going on in the background, so much so that it’s often quite distracting if someone else is talking in the background or there’s a TV on, etc. That CSR might not have known exactly what was going on, but they had an idea that something was up.

    12. Dynamic Beige*

      Uh… did he have the phone on speaker or something? I mean, the girlfriend likes to hear him talk on the phone… so why can’t he just pretend to call someone? It seems she’s got some fetish where she wants to be watched (sort of) and having someone on the phone is a safe way to do that. But, just like John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda, he could pretend to speak to another person if that’s what gets her off, he doesn’t have to actually speak to another person. It may be easier for the boyfriend to not have to create a conversation and think but it’s just not on to use poor CSRs like that. They have to take enough abuse.

      Or, he could call my new 1-900 number, it’s only $4.99/minute to speak to fake CSRs and indulge your partner’s fantasies. Call now, operators are standing by!

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        A service that takes up where, “What are you wearing, ‘Jake from State Farm’?” leaves off.

    13. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Ew, this gives me the heebie jeebies. When I worked for a department store, I had a gentleman call and ask a bunch of questions about a certain type of underwear. It seemed innocuous at first (he was looking for a gift for his girlfriend supposedly), but once I realized what he was doing on the other end of the phone I hung up immediately and felt so violated. They may think they are being low-key about it, but they may not be. That was probably 7 or 8 years ago and it still squigs me out when I remember it. *shudder*

      Also, I’d be pissed if I was a customer waiting to talk to a CSR with an actual problem. I already hate having to call anyone.

      1. cardiganed librarian*

        I have never worked in a public library but a LOT of my friends who do have stories about this type of thing. “Oh, I heard about this book… 50 Shades of Grey? Can you tell me more about it..? More details, please… Yes, tell me more…” Oh. They have a lot more patience with this behaviour and some feel like professional ethics dictate that the caller still has an information need and it’s their job to meet it, at which point I thank my lucky stars I work for the government.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Ugh, I worked in an “adult novelty” store (we sold sex toys and drug paraphanalia basically). And there was this guy that called and the call started out normally enough; he said he was looking for some lingerie for his wife and described what he was looking for. But then the call segued into his creepy incest fantasies. I was glad I had the ability to tell the guy off (professionally) and hang up.

    14. Hlyssande*

      No, not okay. Dan is completely, unequivocally wrong about this one. That’s incredibly gross behavior.

      It’s never okay to involve other people in your scene without their informed consent.

      1. Biff*

        Dan’s been on a bad-advice bender for a number of years now. I stopped reading his column when he started telling people that they HAD to date transwomen if they were on the virtual market. I couldn’t understand his POV after that. It seemed so contradictory to his previous, good advice.

        1. Anonymouse*

          I stopped paying attention to him when he gave advice to someone by saying that they should dump their bi partner and date a “real” queer person instead. I honestly can’t take anything he says seriously after all the verbal bs he’s spewed over the past decade.

    15. Nico m*

      I think its ok, as long as they pick companies and organisations that make unsolicited sales calls, and/or suck.

    16. Miles*

      It’s gonna hurt that representatives performance metrics. Number of completed tickets, tickets completed to opened ratio, time spent on call, these things are what determine a call center rep’s raises & promotions.

      Not to mention the person who has to listen to the whole call as part of the daily random sweeps…

    17. Not So NewReader*

      “Will the representative be missing out on commissions, getting in trouble, etc. if he spends his time on a call that turns out to be fake?”

      We have not eliminated AH bosses yet. Because of this, I strongly encourage that it is safe to assume that YES, they have gotten someone in trouble and possibly gotten someone fired. Because there are bosses who do not use good judgement and who are not fair to their employees, there are many things that unaware people do which cause employees to lose their jobs. To deliberately do something like this, well… let’s just say that I hope that when karma strikes this couple does not mind losing their jobs because of a random customer’s actions.

      It strikes me that particular company seems to have an awful lot of unhappy employees. For some the work place is misery. To add to someone’s miserable day at work is wrong on so many levels. The couple seems to think that businesses are there for their personal entertainment. I am concerned about this couple’s detachment from reality and their total lack of awareness of how the world works.

    18. Isabel C Kunkle*

      Right: I usually like Savage Love, but I think he was coming at this from a sex POV rather than a job one. I’ve worked retail, and I don’t care whether you’re perving on me, trying to use me for therapy, or want to tell me the good news about Jesus: if you’re talking to me about non-job related shit, you are wasting my time. KNOCK IT OFF.

  13. Anne S*

    My department is discussing implementing a ‘continuous incremental improvement’ approach to our work and processes, sparked by some discussion of the success that the software engineering teams we work closely with have had with Scrum. I’m looking for resources so that I can spend some time thinking about different ways to approach this question. Do any of you have recommendations for books or other in-depth discussions of this sort of thing, either in the Agile/Scrum model or other frameworks?

    1. VintageCampus*

      Lean Six Sigma has a few continuous process improvement models. Paste, champion-challenger, and 5 whys come into mind.

      One thing I caution about “continuous improvement” models is to not over look the little pieces. There are lot of small improvements I have made to my processes that, over time, save a lot of time and money, but definitely would have been a waste to try and force through a continuous improvement model. Your best resource here are your employees. What processes are frustrating to them? And why?

      1. Anne S*

        I agree that people who run processes have the best insight into them. The part that I’m trying to think about is how to set up a framework that encourages people to look at their processes with that mindset (because I think it can be hard to make that switch!) and also to create a space where people feel comfortable bringing up suggestions for change.

        1. TootsNYC*

          My experience w/ our failed Lean-type effort was that there wasn’t ever a truly safe space to talk about stuff.

          And, it was way too big and focused only on the top managers.

          if we’d have many subgroups of people way lower down int he process, we might have had some improvement inside each subgroup.

          Of course, for us, the biggest problem was the top of the pyramid, and that was never, ever, ever going to be something anyone felt safe talking about. I was probably the bravest, but I wasn’t close enough to the problems to speak credibly about them (and I wasn’t completely sure of all the problems).

        2. VintageCampus*

          Graciosa below talks about this below, but I would say rather than trying to thrust a framework onto your employees you should be talking with them about pain points and waste.

          If people are not opening check yourself and the company history. Have people who “complained’ about a process been told – “Great. You fix it!” or worse? Do you get defensive if your pet projects or goals are causing problems down the line?

          You have to be really open to have lean six sigma really work.

      2. Augusta Sugarbean*

        You know, for the longest time I never realized Six Sigma was a real thing. I only ever heard Jack Donaghy talk about it! Jack: Are you familiar with Six Sigma? Frank: Oh, yeah, it’s special kind of GI Joe.

      3. TootsNYC*

        My experience w/ a Lean-type “continuous improvement” thing was that it was SO VERY easy to focus on the metrics, and manipulating them, instead of ignoring them and focusing on the process.

        The other thing was that we never really went to the nut of the problem. We have one approver who is a bottleneck, and this person holds onto things, delays decisions, etc. But it never, ever got addressed.
        As with any process (I believe), the place problems arise is in the initiation of things; the first half. And it’s hard to measure (but NOT impossible). So it didn’t ever get measured, and it didn’t ever get discussed.

        I ended up not really being a fan. Maybe it’s because half of our process is more creative and harder to measure, but mostly because you have to have complete and total buy-in and humility from the people at the top (who are often at the beginning of the process).

      4. TootsNYC*

        I agree w/ the “lots of little tweaks to the process that can add up” idea, and these are best teased out through relatively simple “let’s meet after the deadline and see if anybody has ideas,” and a sheet of paper on the wall that you write down snags as they arrive, and then deal with them now and then.

    2. FJ*

      I used to lead a team that used Scrum for our work, even though we were not a software team. It took a while to transition, but then we were cruising quite well and improving our process along the way. The main output of our work was the major input to the software team. The key thing for us was the team retrospectives, planning meeting, and choosing *only one thing* to improve during our next sprint.

      The Scrum Alliance organization has a number of good training courses about scrum in general, and specific roles. I took the product owner class and found it to be quite helpful. Scrum Master and Product Owner are the two important roles I would start with for a non-development team, in addition to the general overview.
      (Links in Follow Up Comment)

    3. CAA*

      It’s a little hard to only adopt the continuous improvement part of Scrum. Improvements come out of retrospectives, so you need those. Retrospectives happen at the end of sprints, so you need those (or some equivalent time box).

      Some books that might help:
      Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great
      Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process
      Retrospectives for Organizational Change: An Agile Approach

      I haven’t read the last one. I just came across it on Amazon as I was searching for the exact titles of the others, but it looks like it might be the most relevant. There are also many, many websites and blogs about Agile and Scrum.

    4. Graciosa*

      One of the risks as a manager is that you can spend a lot of time learning or strategizing about these types of activities when what you really need is just to do it.

      My greatest success in “continuous incremental improvement” has been asking the people who do the work.

      What do we need to do to make it faster? What steps can we eliminate? Is the work really necessary at all?

      I have eliminated reports that no one reads, extra paperwork and checklists, approval steps (or if I can’t eliminate the requirement, provided blanket approvals or delegations so no one has to wait for responses to individual requests) and a host of other non-value add steps without a lot of fanfare or study. People are generally *thrilled* to tell you what they don’t need to do.

      There are occasional exceptions (“But I’ve always mimeographed the handouts – emailing a file just isn’t the same!”) but they are pretty obvious as resistors and can be dealt with accordingly.

      Please do not undo the good work that can be done with CI initiatives by creating a cumbersome process around CI itself. When you start saying you need to measure the advantage of moving the waste basket from spot A to spot B so you have good metrics about the reduction in unnecessary movement, you have gone too far. Yes, there are some basic items that need to be measured, but it tends to be way overdone.

      If you remember the very old Domino’s slogan (delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free) that was one clear metric that could guide the entire process – not a slew of metrics measuring every aspect of it.

      As a manager, your job is to make people more effective, which means making their jobs easier, which means not getting them wrapped up in detailed new processes for CI.

      If you get them used to the idea that they can tell you what will help and you will listen and act (when appropriate), you will be way ahead of the curve.

    5. Terra*

      There are a lot of article about the 1% method which was used to get the British cycling team to gold in the Olympics. Basically it’s just the idea of taking every part of something, no matter how small, and make it 1% better to reap extremely large improvements. It may not be for everyone since it doesn’t have official “rules” but it’s generally easy for the average person to grasp and makes a decent starting point.

  14. afiendishthingy*

    Ever feel like your job is to provide comic relief to coworkers?

    Recently I accidentally laminated a piece of my own sweater (fluttery cardigan, I was leaning over the machine, lapel got caught, coworker and I were in hysterics removing it and photographing the process). The next day I was reviewing records and couldn’t find my phone, which I’d JUST HAD, so I used my work phone to call it… office manager walked in with a stack of complete records she’d just taken to re-file and said “Um, one of these records is vibrating?”

    Fortunately I am at least as entertained by my spaciness as my coworkers are! Any other geniuses/accidental slapstick virtuosos out there?

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      “One of these records is vibrating”
      I’m dying over here. I’ve done some similar things…

      Thanks for sharing!

    2. Lillian McGee*

      A lawyer colleague that I HATED for perfectly legitimate and infuriating reasons left his phone in a client file at least twice and I was twice tempted to turn it off, pretend I never saw it and file it away….

    3. Bunny Purler*

      Oh my. I had a boss like this once. She was the most accident prone woman imaginable. Her disasters were legion, and she was not beloved by senior management, although everyone else loved her. She once laminated our CEO’s tie, as he was foolishly leaning over the ancient machine. It wouldn’t stop immediately even if you switched it off, so with great presence of mind she grabbed a pair of scissors and cut his tie before he went head-first into the machine. He was unamused, because it was his old school tie (an object of some veneration by those who have been to certain UK schools).

      1. Might out myself if I use my real name here*

        I once accidentally shredded my company credit card. It flew out of my hands as I was shredding something else, and…. it was like a comedy moment.

      2. Hlyssande*

        He should’ve been grateful that she saved his life. My company would refer to that as a near miss and it’d be subject to safety investigations.

    4. orchidsandtea*

      On my 19th birthday, I was going horseback riding with my mom and could not find my cell phone ANYWHERE in the car. Being a self-respecting teenager, I also couldn’t just leave without my phone, even if it was in our dang car. So I asked her to call it for me.

      My cleavage started vibrating.

    5. voluptuousfire*

      Dropping my iPhone in the toilet when using the ladies room (phone was in my back pocket and I forgot) and taking it to the IT guys I work with to see if it was still usable. They had a good laugh.

    6. Jen RO*

      I once opened a bottle of drinking yogurt and then shook it vigorously to mix the yogurt. I managed to get it all over me (down to my bra), the window, my desk and my coworker’s chair… luckily I have great coworkers who rescued me with a ton of tissues while I was laughing hysterically.

      1. Hlyssande*

        I did this exact same thing with a bottle of milk last fall. Opened it, then shook it. Milk everywhere. Keyboard, monitors, phone, me. I’ve been extra careful since then.

        1. Karowen*

          Not at work, but at home about a year ago my husband was shaking the Parmesan cheese container really hard to get the clumped stuff un-clumped. Unfortunately, I hadn’t put the lid back on all the way after I had used it (since I knew he had to), so he gave it a really good shake and it went EVERYWHERE. The dog was very happy that night.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            Bahaha, this exact same thing happened to my husband. Back when we had just moved in together, I’d had a bad day and he offered to make dinner so I could relax. I heard a loud expletive from the kitchen and ran in to find it looking like it had snowed in there! He even had it in his hair!!!! Needless to say, it did cheer me up.

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

      Wasn’t me but I had coworker get her arm stuck in the copier trying to clear a jam. We had to call the mail room, who called Gordon Flesch, who eventually said we had to call the paramedics. It wasn’t even her jam, she just walked in and was trying to help out someone else who had jammed it.

    8. Karowen*

      I once managed to hook my heel in a cabinet drawer as I was trying to stand up from my chair. I fell over and pulled the cabinet on top of me. I was fine, but my co-workers and I laughed at my clumsiness for a good 5 minutes. There are a lot of others, but that one always sticks out to me.

    9. StellsBells*

      Yes! I once accidentally wore flip flops to work (I forgot to change into work shoes after walking the dog), and that was totally against dress code (and since I was in HR, I couldn’t be caught by union reps breaking dress code). Since my commute was at least 45 mins (and I was hourly), I instead went to Target that was near the office to grab a cheap pair of work appropriate shoes.

      I didn’t realize until I was back in the office that the box contained two left shoes. So I spent the entire day wearing two left shoes. Everyone in the building came by at some point to see and laugh (in a good natured way).

      Sad thing is, that was the second time I’d accidentally work my dog walking flip flops to work. The first time I borrowed an extra pair of flats my cube-mate had one hand….and they were 2 or 3 sizes to big.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        In the trunk of my car, I have a pair of Dr Scholls emergency flats. They look like fold-up ballet slippers, tucked into a tiny wristlet purse (the flats fold into thirds). I have yet to use them for a shoe emergency, but I once used the wristlet to avoid bringing my giant messenger bag to a post-work dinner.

        1. Grace*

          I have those same shoes! I carry them with me when I wear heels to an event. When the heels inevitably start hurting or rubbing my feet the wrong way out come the Dr. Scholls “Fast Flats” and I don’t have to limp around in pain. I never thought about storing them in my trunk for shoe emergencies, though. Good idea!

      2. SaraV*

        My plan for work was to wear a plain t-shirt (gray) underneath a v-neck sweater. I’m halfway through my 30 minute commute to work, and realized I only had the t-shirt on. I called my supervisor’s voicemail, telling them I’d be late, and I’d explain later why. Stopped by Target, found a long sleeved shirt with a little tie at the neck on the clearance rack, and changed in the bathroom at work.

        Oops.

    10. Sadsack*

      My S.O. couldn’t find his TV remote the other night — tore his house apart looking and then went the rest of the evening with no TV on. The next morning he found the remote in his shoe.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        Not at work, but I broke my foot while getting dressed. My foot got caught in the top of my pants as they were halfway up, and I fell over. This was just over a month ago, so I’m still in a cast.

        I work on the second floor of our building and last weekend, the elevator broke. I had to scoot up and down the stairs backwards on my butt for two and a half days until the elevator was fixed. Only one co-worker openly laughed at me.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I can’t believe that they let you do that. omg. I hope the elevator gets fixed FAST.

  15. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    I mentioned before that we have a new mat leave hire in our office, and it’s causing a tremendous amount of stress. While he is pretty bad at the actual job, he’s friendly with my boss. The thing is that he has made a lot of suggestive remarks to the women in our small office–things like “I got some stuff at X Lingerie Store for my girlfriend…do you shop there?” Or “I see you changed your hair. It makes you look really hot.” He’s in his 50s, it’s not like he’s unfamiliar with professional norms, he just enjoys invading our personal space and making these remarks.

    We approached our boss and his response was “he is just new to working in an office full of women!” And claims he hasn’t done anything against the policy and can’t fire him for nothing. So we have started to document every weird thing he says and does. My coworker who’s bearing the brunt of this is on the verge of quitting, which I hate, but to me this seems like a “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.” I’m just riding out my time here until my move this summer, but I have no idea if there’s anything else that can possibly be done besides what we have done: alerted our boss, told the guy “that isn’t an appropriate thing to say at work,” and document any other things that come up.

    The kicker of all of this is that this guy is making more than all of the rest of us. My boss has consistently refused to give raises to even great employees after 5+ years, which led to one quitting earlier this year, but this is just the final nail in the coffin. Today is a rotten day at my work.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

      It sounds like you’ve done all the things we’d normally advise. Your boss sucks and so does this guy.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      “He is just new to working in an office full of women!”

      AW HELL NO. Is boss at least TALKING to him about this? I bet he’s not, but if he is, his response should be, “I’m sorry that happened to you. It’s being dealt with.” NOT implying that you should let it slide!

      What do you plan to do with the documentation?

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        He is not, because he is a terrible manager in a variety of ways.

        The documentation we are hanging onto so that if in a couple weeks if things haven’t improved dramatically we have some hard copy evidence to take to our boss. “On Monday he said this at 10am,” and so on, because my boss keeps making noises that he “can’t do anything on a he said she said,” so we have a few shots in the locker.

      2. Kira*

        Agreed, that’s such a strange response. It’s like a satire – “Oh, don’t mind Bob. He’s just never seen a female before. Once he learns your exotic ways I’m sure it’ll resolve itself.”

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “He is just new to working in an office full of women!”

      “That may be, but he’s running afoul of sexual harassment guidelines and putting the company in legal jeopardy, so we need you to talk to him.”

      1. Observer*

        This is what I was thinking.

        If he won’t take action, take it to his boss, if he has one.

    4. fposte*

      Your boss sucks, FDCA. But your boss has always sucked and always will, and if there’s a sucky thing to do for anything coming in the future, he will do that thing then too.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Yes. Him getting away with this behavior, plus the pay inequality tells me your boss is a pig.

    5. Navy Vet*

      “He is just new to working in an office full of women!”

      Is this his first time meeting and speaking to women?

      1. Jennifer*

        Yes, he’s in his 50’s and he’s spent his entire life in a tower full of other men.

        I am so sick of creepy older guys creeping on every woman in their vicinity.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      And no one says, “That’s not appropriate in the workplace. I will not be answering that question”?
      Please start a wave. Let others see you saying this.

      I hope that people start standing up for themselves even if the boss won’t stand up for them.

      All it takes is one person showing other people what to say and sometimes that is more powerful than any boss with a write up.

      As a 55 y/o woman I am disgusted that this is my generation. I am sorry you are having to deal with this.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        That’s it exactly. I wish I’d had these words in my 20s. “Frank, we don’t talk like that in this office.” “Frank, that’s inappropriate.”

        And then you escalate.

        Most companies that have sexual harassment policies also mandate that managers MUST report if they hear any allegations, so you might want to remind your manager of that.

  16. Lab rat*

    Yesterday’s letter about the April Fool’s prank gone wrong reminded me of a prank that may have been played on me last week. I work in an analytical laboratory, and I was getting a container of liquid out of an upper cabinet. The container has a spigot for dispensing, and the side with the spigot was facing up. We normally store these containers with the spigot closed for obvious reasons, but it turned out the spigot was open on this one, so when I turned the container on its side, it spilled all over me and the counter.

    I was annoyed, but I assumed it was an accident and someone forgot to close the spigot after filling the container, but a coworker informed me that I had probably been pranked because this was a “classic Fergus” prank. Now that really pissed me off because I think it’s totally inappropriate to pull a prank that results in someone spilling chemicals on herself. I should note that the chemical was totally harmless (a salt water solution), but it was annoying to get wet, and it also screwed up my work because some of the spilled liquid went into a beaker of acid that was on the counter below it. Luckily, all that happened was that I had to dump out the acid and get some more, but what if the acid had splashed on me? What if being startled cause me to knock over the beaker of acid? Whoever put the container there had no way of knowing who would take it out or when or what would be on the counter.

    If this was intentional, I think it really crossed a line… But I can’t be sure if it was a prank or just an honest mistake. I also hate pranks in general, so maybe that is coloring my perception here, but I’m curious about what other people think. Am I overreacting to a minor prank, or is this really pretty outrageous? Am I being paranoid to believe my coworker who said it was probably a prank? I think management would be furious, but I’m not going to report it because (a) I don’t want to be a tattletale, and (b) there’s no way to prove that it was intentional (if it even was) or who did it.

    1. Is it spring yet?*

      Given the potential of bad consequences accidentally leaving the spigot open is bad enough but to do it deliberately is out of line as far as I’m concerned. I’m not a big fan of pranks either but mostly because too many of them seem to be aimed at humiliation not humor.

    2. Meredith*

      A prank that messes with any kind of lab equipment sounds like playing with fire, to me. However, I guess I only assume something like that is a prank if someone confirms they did it later. Like you say, it could have been an accident.

      Is there a way you can bring up equipment storage safety at the next lab meeting or something?

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      Granted, I’m also not a lover of pranks, but pranks in a chemical lab ARE SO NOT COOL.

      I would go to management and report the incident, because I think they should know what happened in either case. You don’t have to blame anybody (“I don’t know if it was accident or an ill-conceived prank, but on Friday this happened…”) If it was an accident, they probably need to document it, and if it was a prank, you said yourself they’d be furious, and for good, good reason.

      1. Lab rat*

        The thing is, if it was an accident, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Spills happen, and everyone (including me) has spilled much worse stuff than that. If I reported that I (or someone else) had spilled this salt water by accident, my manager would probably just say, “Uh, did you clean it up? Why are you telling me?” I’m pretty sure it would be a different story if I were certain that someone had intentionally set it up to spill on someone else, but I don’t know for sure.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Well, if I were your boss, I’d be saying, “Oh, snap, we need to make sure everyone understands to store those containers w/ spigots down and closed–because this sort of thing could happen.
          “Oh, and I guess you’ll remember the next time that a spigot-up container could have an open spigot and stuff inside. But we should probably use your example to remind other people too.”

          And if you told me that you’d been told it was possibly a prank, I’d say, “Hmmm, well, we don’t really know for sure, right? But if it’s even a possibility that it might be, we should bring this up.”

          And then we’d have a brief team meeting in which I said, “Hey, this happened. Please remember that best-practices are “spigot down & closed.” If you see a container on the shelf w/ the spigot up, pls be careful–and also fix it even if it wasn’t your screw-up. And last, on the off-chance that this was a prank, I want to say quite clearly: Pranks in this lab are not cool. People can get hurt. And people’s time can get wasted if their solutions are contaminated. Any prank like this will be a firing offense; this is your official notice.”

          1. Shell*

            In my last life I was a lab tech. This is not cool. So not cool.

            I’d go with TootsNYC’s verbiage. I’m a wiseass with coworkers I’m cool with, and I can think of a lot of people in my last lab that I’d be comfortable playing pranks with, but they’d be like…hide all the scoopulas kind of thing. Spills can have bad consequences, even with innocuous reagents! I mean, you did spill the water into acid and it was fine, but say if you had spilled a bunch of water into conc acid…there’s a lot of ways this could’ve ended badly.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          It’s only words*. I would take the risk and report it. If that is the worst thing your boss thinks of to say then you can just say, “Okay I see your point. But if this happens again, I will be sure to let you know.”

          The next time it happens, you go back in and say, “We have to return to the conversation about improper storage of containers with spigots. Here’s why: ______”

          Try to remember it’s not a court of law where you have to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. All you have to do is report a safety issue and say that you are concerned. Be sure to use the words “safety issue” and “concerned”.

          *It’s only words. I have had some bosses that were beauts. I started realizing that some bosses just use their words, there’s no harmful action later on. These bosses that say things like this MIGHT be reached on a different day. You might make your point later on, so lay the ground work now.
          Some bosses you report something like this and they make sure your work day is a living hell. For those types of bosses, my answer would be very different. This guy is just non-responsive. Sometimes you can talk to these types of boss and get their thinking turned around later on.

    4. Daisy Steiner*

      Surely the whole ‘know your audience’ advice goes out the window when you work in a laboratory? Also any kind of factory or workshop? Health and safety just cannot be compromised for a joke. I’m an utter prank-grinch, so maybe that’s showing, but I can’t believe pranking would be appropriate in such a workplace, no matter how laid-back and prank-friendly in general.

    5. LabTech*

      No, I don’t think you’re overreacting. Lab spills (even with innocuous solutions) aren’t an acceptable prank. In addition to the hazards you mentioned, if that salt water spilled on anything electrical, it could have started a lab fire. (Electrical fires are surprisingly easy to start in a lab. Don’t ask me how I know that.)

      That prank’s more on the scale of shredding documents in an office as a “prank” than, say, novelty pop-up snakes in a desk drawer. It’s directly sabotaging your work.

      1. Rye-Ann*

        Or (though maybe this isn’t a problem in Lab rat’s lab) what if it spilled on something that reacts with water?

        Less important but still bad: what if it spilled on something that will get ruined by getting wet?

        Anyway, I am in agreement that this is not an appropriate prank. It doesn’t sound like you know for sure that it was intentional, so my guess is that it wasn’t but someone should still get a talking-to about proper reagent storage.

        1. TL -*

          Anything that reacts with water should be contained in a fume hood if it’s open.
          But – I’m also a lab tech and I’m also giving this the side eye. Don’t deliberately spill things in lab.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Not an okay prank if it involves anything remotely dangerous, or the potential for someone to get hurt. I would just act as if it were accidental, and maybe say where Fergus can hear it that you nearly did get acid on you when this thing happened, and maybe we should be careful to close spigots from now on.

    7. mockingbird2081*

      I believe there are some places of work where pranks have to be very carefully done. I would a lab would be that kind of place. Many things could have gone wrong. I would bring it up if you ever find out it was an actual prank. I’m not really sure what you should do in the meantime. By the way, I also am not a big fan of pranks at the office…unless they are completely harmless and not mean spirited.

    8. TootsNYC*

      It doesn’t have to be a prank to be not cool (I mentioned this sort of above, but I want to call it out).

      It’s sloppy storage, and it shouldn’t happen period. So I’d bring it up on that reasoning alone.

    9. Marzipan*

      I think I would be tempted to bring it up with colleagues, but (outwardly) assume good faith. A kind of ‘can everyone be extra careful to close the spigots on containers; one was left open and I narrowly avoided being splashed with acid’ type message? That way, if it was a prank, Fergus (or whoever did it) gets an implied warning shot not to do it again; but if it wasn’t, no-one’s been accused of something they didn’t do – and either way, the safety issue gets raised.

      Also, does your workplace not have any kind of ‘near-miss’ reporting? I don’t work in a field involving chemicals, but certainly our health and safety processes include recognising near-misses as well as actual accidents. Like, if I trip and nearly fall down because there’s a hole in the floor, I still need to report it, because the potential for a serious accident wasn’t negated by the fact that I got lucky. So, I saw you said below that your manager would be like ‘eh, whatever’ if it was an accident, but even if it was an accident the possibility for the dangerous outcomes you identified was still there, and maybe it would be a good idea to address that (like, maybe it should be lab procedure to not have open beakers of chemicals on the counter when lifting heavy things down from above the counter?). That way, maybe you get a positive outcome from the experience (and, if Fergus did it, it’ll be even clearer that This Is Not A Thing We Do).

    10. Honeybee*

      I don’t know the nature of your work, but messing with chemicals in a lab seems like bad news bears. Even if the chemical itself was pretty harmless, you could’ve spilled it into something else that reacted to it or maybe been allergic to whatever it is or gotten it in your eye or something.

      Reporting a serious prank that has the potential to hurt people isn’t being a tattletale; it’s relating important workplace information. But the problem is you don’t really know whether it’s a prank or not – all you have is coworker’s guess.

  17. super anon*

    Project Managers of AAM – I need some help! I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with my life and I think that I would be really interested in becoming a project manager. After reading about them I have all of the key traits a good PM would have, and my favourite parts of my job are the PM related aspects. I am highly organized, able to prioritize and work with changing deadlines, am good at working through distractions and interruptions, I can delegate tasks, I work well under pressure and most importantly, I can look at a goal/project/etc and quickly create a plan for how to get from point a to point b. Oh, and I think from reading online I finally found a role where being a jack of all trades but a master of none would be a useful quality. In my current role I’ve fallen into some project management situations, and they’re by far the thing I’m most excited about doing at my job.

    So, with that said – how do I become a PM? I work at a university and our continuing studies department has project management courses that will give me a Certificate in Project Management. It’s around $5000 – $6000 to do these courses at all of the PSE places around me, which is a lot of money when you’re in your mid twenties and are paying off student loan debt. For someone looking to transition careers – is this worth doing? I saw that the PMI has a lot of certifications, but the PMP and CAPM seem the most relevant. Should I look into doing the CAPM after I take the continuing studies course to make me an attractive candidate? Is the PMP worthwhile to do after getting experience in the industry?

    Finally, my boyfriend asked me what industry I would be interested in working in, and I wasn’t sure. Do all industries use PMs? I was thinking I would be interested in working in IT project management, but I don’t have an IT background (I currently work in student recruitment). Would that be a hindrance? How did you decide what industry to work in, or did you just fall into it?

    tl;dr: Project managers, tell me everything you and how you got your jobs, what you do, and if you love it/hate it/etc. Thank you!

    1. AMG*

      I got my job by getting an internship at a big 5 consulting firm and going from there. It’s true that there are many different kinds of ways to PM. My expertise is in Operations/Supply Chain. I have a degree in SCM.

      Sometimes the PMP and other certifications are very relevant and sometimes people don’t care at all. I would guess that it would probably help if you don’t have any other experience. Not having an IT background will definitely be a hindrance, as many projects involve automation of a manual process. There is almost always a systems component. Consulting is the best way to get some technology into your background because you get familiar with many types of systems quickly.
      You can also start by working in your current role in some type of process improvement capacity. What types of special projects are at the university that you could assist with? Do you have a degree? What is it? What is your experience? That will tell you where to start. There’s always a project.

      1. super anon*

        I have a BA in Asian Studies and International Relations. What I do now have absolutely nothing to do with it, but I can tick off the “has a degree” box so it was worth it to me.

        I’m currently designing and executing multiple projects in my current position (and hiring staff to either do the work for me, or to help me on projects where I am doing the work). My role was a brand new one in a new department, so I’ve been creating processes from nothing for all of the work I do. I think I can do it, but figuring out how to make myself an attractive candidate to industries that aren’t academia is going to be a challenge, especially because all of my work experience is in public institutions. I’m also still unsure of what industry I would be suited for.

        1. Gwensoul*

          You might find it helpful to see if there is a PMP chapter in your city, you might be able to talk to some members and see what their work is like in different industries.

        2. AMG*

          The first thing that comes to my mind is a position in a company that has a presence in Asia or abroad, or is manufactured somewhere else. One of the best PMs I ever met was a biology major and is not an IT Director of special projects. Sometimes you degree just doesn’t match your job and that’s okay.

          You have some good experience, so that would help. And I think you have answered your own question about making yourself an attractive candidate. You have the enthusiasm, a great skill set, and some project experience. I’d go start looking!

    2. Gwensoul*

      I fell into being a PM and LOVE it.

      I was actually and attorney in my previous life and during the recession was out of work so I took a job to pay the bills, project analyst. Over time I built up the skills and work to transition. That said, every industry and business uses PM’s differently. There is also a huge difference in an IT PM and a business PM. IT PM’s it is usually good to have some IT background, but not always necessary. I have been in the filed for 7 years and only got my PMP 3 years ago. Note that to get your PMP you need several thousand hours of project experience so you may not even be able to get it now anyway. The test is hard but doable. I took a free class my workplace offered, but it is doable without the classes as well. If you want to be a PM long term I think a PMP is a really good certification to have.

      1. super anon*

        Thank you! I have a 4 year degree – according to the PMI site I would need 4500 project management hours (or about 2 years of work experience). I think it’s doable, but getting to that point from where I am now is what I think will be hardest.

        1. Witty Nickname*

          I had only officially been a PM for a year or so when I applied for my certification. But I was able to count the project management I had done in previous roles (product launches and other marketing projects). Look back over the things you’ve worked on to see what you can pull out from those projects. I believe you can go back as far as 7 years.

      2. Witty Nickname*

        I fell into being a PM too, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. A former boss (same company but I had been moved to another team) emailed me one day and said “I’m staring a PM team; are you interested?” My immediate thought was “ugh. That sounds really boring.” But it was a promotion, and it would move me back under that boss, who was a fantastic boss in every way, and I had just been moved to a new role that was supposed to be a great move for me with a lot of potential (based on what my VP said when he told me he was moving me), but seemed to be going nowhere (based on what my actual boss was giving me to do). So I went for it and discovered I am a project manager by nature.

        OP, I’d suggest looking at some job sites and seeing what kind of project manager jobs there are in your area, and what types of qualifications they are looking for. I’d LOVE to be a construction project manager, but I have absolutely none of the major qualifications needed when I look at job listings. Also look at the types of project management experience they want – my training and experience is all in the traditional waterfall method that PMI teaches for PMP certification, but a lot of the postings I’m seeing now want Agile/Scrum experience. I’m actually working on incorporating some Agile approaches into my projects just because of the way my company works.

        I’ve actually been moving more into program management over the past year (and officially got my title changed at the beginning of this year) and I’m finding that’s really what I like to do most. I’m a program manager on a marketing team for a tech company.

        Whether or not you’ll need your PMP depends on the company and job. Some companies really push it, others don’t care. Some of the PM’s in my company have it, others don’t, and it doesn’t really affect our jobs in any way. My boss wanted me to get it, and as someone who had experience managing projects in the past but no real training on PM methods, the class I took (a 4 day bootcamp) to fulfill PMI’s education requirements was extremely valuable. My company paid for all of it, or I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

        1. Gwensoul*

          I recently became a Program Manager and it is even better than being a Project Manager. I cannot imagine doing anything else now.

          1. HarryV*

            What is the difference between program manager and project manager? Is it accurate to say program manager manages projects and pm’s?

            1. Gwensoul*

              A program manager basically oversees a portfolio of projects, so instead of concentrating on each project individually I look at all our chocolate teapot projects; white, dark and milk, and make sure they are staying on budget as a whole and are getting us to the larger strategic goal of market penetration and highest quality. It is more strategic than project management and is great for people who like to look at the big picture.

    3. AMG*

      To elaborate a bit more, I do love my job. You need to roll with a lot of BS, but you are always challenged, always learning something new, thrown into situations you don’t know anything about, get exposure to the exec level with insight and knowledge that the people on the lower rungs never get, you get to make a real impact to the company, meet tons of people, the list goes on.

      Change is hard for most people and there’s a lot of animosity on most projects. You have to put forth a positive face and be strong and firm, but positive, friendly and professional no matter what.

      Also, I guess my first experience with projects came from a university. My boss advertised for a research assistant to help with MBA students and doctoral candidate’s theses. I did that well, then he had a project come up for his private business–economics and real estate research for a very large, high-profile local lawsuit between 2 banks. I was a grunt. I stayed up all night proofreading, photocopying, 3-hole punching and organizing documents. I poked around at government organizations all over the city looking for information that sometimes existed and sometimes didn’t. If it didn’t, we had to create a picture. I practically lived at the university library. People thought I worked there. You will almost certainly start that way; you won’t be the PM overnight. Be prepared to put your time in stapling things and listening to people around talk about the fun stuff. But do a good job and you get more & more responsibility.

      What city are you located in?

    4. ten-four*

      Hey there, I was a PM in a tech company and now I run it. You absolutely do NOT need a certification – experience is much more important! Feature your PM experience on your resume, and if at all possible see if you can get some experience working on a project with tech or digital elements.

      One of the things that I’ve learned to my cost is that a project manager with years of non-technical project experience can be totally sideswiped by technical projects! A PM’s main job is to keep projects on time and on budget, and since with tech it’s not always easy to identify what features/requests are out of scope it can be very easy to mismanage client expectations in a way that leads to project failure. This is the main reason why certifications aren’t very helpful: they can’t teach you how to evaluate requests. That’s the kind of thing you learn by doing, and it’s very company and industry specific.

      One way to tackle this is to look for entry-level PM jobs. These roles are more like schedulers or traffic managers: figuring out a team’s availability, putting together timelines, overall wrangling. These might be a good type of job to start with because you can learn the ins and outs of features and requests without having responsibility for making the calls. Then there are project managers that are responsible for the overall success of a project – that’s a much more client facing role and one you might want to graduate into once you’ve got a few years practice. Those roles also have an element of sales, which is something to consider.

      Overall, I think you are right to think about project managing as a great role for a jack of all trades! I loved doing it, and I learned a lot about all the different jobs that go into making a successful project. It’s that kind of broad insight that makes me good at my current job in management.

    5. the_scientist*

      Hi, I’m in a really similar place myself! In my industry (healthcare) and area (North America), the PMP is the gold standard for PM certification, with Lean and Six Sigma becoming extremely popular.

      Basically any industry that produces projects can use project managers, and PMs don’t traditionally need to be subject matter experts. Now, I’m not in a hiring role, so I can’t speak to whether or not a hiring manager would want someone with some subject matter experience……probably, because you need SOME understanding of the required processes and how long each activity takes. Also, it’s kind of hard to prioritize effectively if you know nothing about the project at a technical level.

      Regarding taking courses: just be aware that the PMP only requires 39 educational hours to be eligible to write the exam. That’s basically one project management course. I’m currently taking an introductory course through a continuing education program that also offers a certification. I don’t plan on doing the certification because in my experience that’s not really what employers care about. They want to see a PMP certification, or, failing that, actual, workplace project management experience. Of course, classes are helpful for theoretical knowledge and your own learning, but a certificate in Project Management from a continuing education program doesn’t really count as a “real” certificate.

      My advice would be to register with the PMP and start logging your hours (it’s free to do this), so you are prepared to write the CAPM/PMP. You can also get as much project management experience as possible in your current role. Would your office pay for you to take a class? If you have less than 1-2 years of PM experience, I would say that it is WAY too early to be applying to PM roles. PMPs around here are a dime a dozen, so nobody will be interested in someone with only 1-2 years of PM experience…..however, 1-2 years of PM experience on your resume is a fantastic stepping stone to higher level jobs. In my organization, having that PM experience seems to be key to moving into any time of leadership role. Also, nobody in my organization bothers with the CAPM. It’s not cheap, and there are annual fees to maintain your certification, so for most people it makes sense to just wait to do the PMP.

    6. Vanishing Girl*

      Is there any way your university will pay for the certificate? A lot of times there are benefits for employees for these kinds of things. If not that, if you make a good business case for why it would be helpful in your current job, they make make room in the budget for it. Not always, but check it out and see if it’s possible.

      1. super anon*

        Yes – through our tuition waiver system & our PD funds I can likely pay off $3000 of the cost or more, depending on if I take the courses through next year as well when the funds reset.

    7. Anonsie*

      I’m in this boat right now, too. What I do is quite similar to project management and I’ve been trying to figure out how to best leverage that into a PM job for a little while now.

      There is no way my current employer would sponsor or carve out time for me to do any training or certifications, so I’ve just been trying to read job listings to see what people are most interested in seeing to gather information along those lines. Can’t say I’ve been making a lot of headway, though, since it looks like (except PMP) everything is used in pretty equal measure.

    8. Glod Glodsson*

      I was a PM at a translation agency for years. I also landed the job more or less by accident. I think being a PM is one of these things that is more of a matter of inclination than something that needs four years of formal training. You need to be able to prioritize in the moment, remain focused on the main goal and be able to get stakeholders on your side. I enjoyed it a lot, it’s one of those jobs that makes days fly by.

      As to certification…this really depends on the industry. Some industries such as IT lean more heavily towards being certified in one of the methods than others. I’d rec looking through job openings and to see what kinds of jobs interest you, and check the sort of requirements that those jobs have.

    9. Starts with Zed*

      Seconded to joining the local chapter of PMI! I did that, started connecting with people there, and landed a job as a Project Analyst through a job lead I got from a PMI contact. I also took the PM Certificate program at our local college (similar cost to your uni) and that really helped — I was about halfway done when I wrote the CAPM, but I was job-hunting and wanted the designation. If you’re in your mid-twenties, you’ve definitely got time (I was 36 when I started the courses.)
      I work in IT projects, and I don’t have an IT background either, but that knowledge can also be gained by continuing education. As a PA I started with financials, got more involved in scheduling, and am now managing a workstream on a major software replacement project.
      Go for it, and good luck!

    10. Mkb*

      I’m a senior PM in the market research industry, I fell into it after college by taking an entry level pm type role at an MR company. I worked there for 3 years then moved to a larger MR company for a formal PM title. I’ve been at my current company for ~5.5 years and been promoted once to sr PM, where I manage people as well as more challenging projects. I have no pm certifications and majored in something totally different in college (fashion merchandising.) I would suggest trying to find an entry level role or paid internship that would give you some experience in project mgmt.

  18. Jinx*

    One of my performance goals for the year is to make progress on a particular certification in my field. I’m taking the first exam today. It’s on a subject that I use every day, but I have text anxiety of the sort where I overthink things and confuse myself over topics that I use every day in a non-test setting. I’ve studied, and gotten around 80% on practice tests, but I’m still freaking out.

    So, no question here, but if anyone has some calming vibes to spare I could really use some. 0_0

    1. Jinx*

      I passed! Not by as big a margin as I would have liked, but I passed! :D :D :D

      I was noticeably less stressed once I sat down to take the test, so the calm vibes must have worked. :) I think I still second-guessed myself a few times, but it all worked out and now I can start my weekend on a relaxed note. Thank you everyone!

  19. Turanga Leela*

    My office is overhauling its vacation policy, and I’m curious about what we need in order to be competitive. Can anyone share what your overall policy looks like—vacation, work holidays, sick days, and any special categories (paid maternity, bereavement, etc)? It’s looking like ours will be 3 weeks of vacation, very few fixed holidays (maybe 4-5 total), and flexible sick leave. For the sake of comparison, we’re in the United States, and most of our employees are exempt professionals.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      10 holidays, 25 PTO for new employees, 30 for VP title or 5 years (I think?) at the company.

      I believe maternity falls under short-term disability, so you’d be paid at some percentage of salary (percentage increases the longer you’ve been at the company; not sure where it starts and maxes out). Bereavement is not terribly generous — I think it’s less than a week for a spouse, parent, sibling, or child, and one day for any other family member.

    2. anon for this*

      US nonprofit industry
      20 days vacation (increases to 25 after 5 yrs)
      2 personal days
      10 sick days
      Maybe 10 paid holidays, though I might be forgetting some
      3 days of bereavement
      16 weeks family and medical leave, 6 of it paid
      (Most of this is unusually generous, I think.)

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Just from talking with my friends, that sounds like a good package but not unusually so—the paid family and medical leave is unusual, but the 20 days + 10ish holidays seems to be a common amount. My big concern about our proposed package is related to what Dawn says below: “three weeks of vacation” sounds generous, but if we’re not giving a lot of holidays off, that’s much less vacation than it sounds like.

        1. MillersSpring*

          At my company, we have about 9 paid holidays plus three weeks of PTO, which is used for either sick time or vacation.

          The best bereavement leave plan I ever experienced gave 5 paid days for the death of a close relative (parent, child, spouse, sibling), 4 paid days for a grandchild, grandparent, MIL, FIL, SIL, BIL or stepchild, 3 paid days for a niece, nephew, aunt or uncle, 2 paid days for a cousin, spouse’s niece, nephew, aunt or uncle, and 1 paid day for any other relative. At my next job after that company, I took three days when my grandmother was dying and died, and my Awful Boss acted like I was being selfish and trying to cheat them.

      2. AnonToday2016*

        I am rather jealous reading others policy–but it sounds like others have similar plans so maybe it’s not so bad…
        US for-profit
        10 holidays off (i.e. Xmas, Thanksgiving)
        2 weeks PTO (this includes sick days)
        – restrictions on vacation (cannot be used May-August; cannot be used around Christmas)
        No paid family leave
        No medical leave

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Out of curiosity, what industry do you work in where you can’t use vacation in the summer or around Christmas?

    3. Dawn*

      Last job was 15 days vacation, 2 “flex” holidays- one given on Jan 1, the other on July 1, and they didn’t roll over from year to year, 5 days sick leave, 10 fixed holidays (including Black Friday and Christmas Eve).

      I really like the flexible sick leave idea- getting sick towards the end of the year is *so stressful*! I think having more fixed holidays would be important- and take a look at the days when most people in the office are taking off, because it might make sense when you’re deciding which fixed holidays to include in your list. If most people take Christmas Eve off or July 4th, it’d be easier to have those as a fixed holiday so 1- people aren’t resentful at having to work on a day when most people take off and 2- you don’t have to try to scramble to run the office on a skeleton crew.

    4. AFT123*

      That seems pretty decent IMO.

      Current company policy: 13 days vacation, 8 hard holidays, flexible sick leave. Mandatory vacation has to be used between Christmas and New years which effectively takes away 4 of our PTO days (please don’t do this). Vacation days are accrued, which I don’t love. Can carryover 5 days.

      Previous company: First year 6 days of PTO + 2 floating holidays, 10 set holidays, sick time included in PTO. After you’ve been there a year, you got 17 vacation days plus the other stuff, which was great. PTO was awarded in a lump sum. Could carry over 10 days I believe.

      The best thing about previous company’s policy was that you were awarded on your anniversary date, NOT calendar year. So when you had PTO time expiring, it was at different times for everyone and you didn’t end up with half the company taking the last 3 weeks of the year off. The 2 floating holidays were awarded January 1.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        This is interesting to me — I get more leave than you do, but I think the way they frame it is especially key. We get 15 days vacation (20 at four years) PLUS the days between Christmas and New Year’s. We can’t carry over any days, which I hate. We also get three personal days, and 12 sick.

    5. Not Karen*

      We have one PTO bucket and it’s quite generous at 7 weeks. I don’t know much about our maternity, bereavement, etc. leave off the top of my head, though, sorry!

    6. ThatGirl*

      from 0-5 years, employees get 18 days (16 PTO, two floating holidays), up to 3 days bereavement leave per death, fairly standard paid holidays (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and the day after, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Maternity I believe is paid at 60% for up to 3 months? But I don’t have kids.

      PTO increases at the five-year mark and ten year mark, up to a maximum, I forget exactly how much. But it seems pretty generous to me. I work for a Fortune 500 corp of mostly exempt professionals.

    7. anon anon*

      I’m in Canada at a university. Our vacation policy is different for the different employee groups, but for mine it’s 4 weeks of vacation after your first year of service (it accrues at a rate I can’t remember for the first year, but I ended up with 8 days off in my first 6 months there), maxing out at 6 weeks after 9 years. We can carry over 2 weeks of vacation. We also have all federal and provincial holidays off, and the university closes at Christmas so the 3 days between Christmas and New Years and paid holidays as well. We get 6 months of sick leave that is separate from vacation, and a 1 year Mat leave. We have other types of leave as well including bereavement (3 days but can be extending to 6) .

    8. Graciosa*

      I think there’s an interesting fundamental question of how many categories you have – this isn’t an easy answer.

      My previous employer changed from a system with specified vacation plus essentially unlimited sick leave. The vacation started at 2 weeks, and went up about a week every five years maxing out at 5 or 6 weeks per year (I can’t remember). It was the same regardless of your position in the company. Although sick leave was unlimited, there were triggers that converted it to short term (eventually long term) disability.

      They changed that system to one of an annual PTO bucket while I was there, by adding a lot of days (like 12-15?) to the vacation entitlements and eliminating sick leave. It’s a great system if you don’t get sick often, and it worked really well for me. I had one unscheduled day off in more than a decade, and I was getting around six weeks of vacation a year – and yes, I took it, because of a no rollover policy. People with chronic health conditions did not like it, though, and felt that they were being deprived of a chance to take a real vacation because they needed to “save” their PTO in case of a medical emergency.

      My current employer hires people in with different amounts of sick leave depending upon your level in the company. Most individual contributors come in with 2 weeks, senior individuals and most managers start at 3, and executives start at 4. It can increase over time, but much more slowly, and the bumps are to fixed levels. This means that after 10 years, you can get 3 weeks of vacation *if you didn’t already have it* due to your rank.

      Both of these were Fortune 100 companies.

      If I had one suggestion, it would be to follow the California rules regarding vacation roll over. Too many large companies have insisted upon “getting to zero” for employee vacation liability at some point, usually the end of the year. Allowing some carryover is a huge benefit to the employee, and I think a competitive advantage.

      If you start by following California rules, you will not have to ever have two systems to track, and it could be an advantage in attracting candidates.

    9. Mona Lisa*

      Your policy sounds pretty good. Are you including any kind of parental leave as part of your new solution?

      My university’s policy is pretty small (only 10 PTO for new, non-exempt employees or 15 for exempt, accrued over the course of the year, and 15 sick). We also shut down for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, plus federal holidays and the day after Thanksgiving.

      What I would love to see (and what I would find attractive in a new job when I start looking again) is undifferentiated sick and PTO time. I’m relatively healthy and don’t need most of the sick time I’m given, and my employer’s policy is that sick time can only be used for that, which, as a rule follower, makes me feel guilty if I want to use that time for something else. (I’ll usually schedule an early morning doctor appointment and use the rest of the day how I please for example.) Sick at my current employer is also a “use it or lose it.”

      An undifferentiated policy (with at least 1.5-3 months paid parental leave) would be a huge selling point to me!

      1. Turanga Leela*

        We haven’t settled parental leave. I think we’re leaning toward six weeks’ paid leave, but that includes vacation for the rest of the year–so you could think of it as three weeks of parental leave, plus three weeks of vacation.

        1. Mona Lisa*

          Interesting! My former employer essentially complied with FMLA (up to three months off) even though they didn’t have to (something they would snidely remind us of when we discussed the idea of incorporating some kind of paid leave). The idea was you would use all of your PTO and accrued sick time for however long it strung out and then take unpaid leave after that. My feeling is that was kind of harsh because then it leaves you with no opportunity to have any vacation time for the rest of the year (to visit family, etc.) if you have the baby near the start of the fiscal year. That would be my only concern with a policy like what you mention where all three weeks of PTO is used for the birth.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Yeah, if this is going to be our policy, I’d really like us to increase the number of holidays and/or have vacation time accrue over the course of the year, rather than appear every January. Otherwise you could have your baby in February or March, burn through your vacation time, and get basically zero days off for the rest of the year.

            I realize that many people have this policy or worse, but our company wants to use its generous vacation package as a selling point, so I want to make sure the higher-ups have thought this through.

      2. Turanga Leela*

        Also, we’re too small for FMLA, although I suspect that we could take additional unpaid leave if we wanted to.

    10. Anoners*

      Started with 15 days vacation (at 20 now), 10 sick days, 5ish bereavement days (Canada, ON – at least two weeks vacation is mandated by law)

    11. Being a nonnie mouse*

      Large financial company.

      Paid time off: 144 hours (18 days) to start, increases up to a max of 264 if you make 25 years with the company. This time off is used for everything: vacation, illness (you or family), weather (if the office isn’t closed), personal business, that kind of thing.

      We also have 16 hours of volunteer time off, for pretty much any non-profit

      Bereavement, up to a week.

      8 holidays

      Parental leave–16 weeks for the primary caregiver, 4 weeks for the non-primary caregiver.

    12. anonanonanon*

      10 vacation days (15 after 3 years, 20 after 5)
      5 personal days
      option for 5 additional vacation days or summer fridays (choice of half days or every other friday off)
      5 sick days
      10 holidays + 3 floating holidays + 1 unofficial “holiday” (we work in Boston and our office is downtown on the Marathon route so it’s impossible to get in and out of the building on Marathon Monday, so it’s considered an unofficial holiday and the building is mostly closed and we’re given the day off. People can work if they want, but no one holds it against you if you don’t)

      We have 3 months maternity and paternity leave, I believe. Three weeks of vacation sounds nice, but when I’ve interviewed at other companies, that 3 weeks usually includes personal days and/or sick time.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        We would have separate sick leave but not separate personal days. Is there a difference in practice in how you’re allowed to use vacation days, personal days, and floating holidays?

        1. anonanonanon*

          No, they’re basically used the same way. They’re just separated differently in our time off system.

        2. Oryx*

          We have personal and vacation days, the only difference is that vacation days roll over, personal days do not. So most people try and use personal days up first when requesting time off in the system.

        3. Stacy M*

          I know this is a few days old but at my old company personal days were for unexpected days off (for me, taking cat to the vet) that did not have to be planned in advance. Or it could be used as vacation. But I liked having the option to take a day off without notice.

    13. ACA*

      I work for a major private university, so things are fairly generous:

      Vacation: Full-time employees start at 1.25 days accrued per month, increasing every year for 5 years until you hit 2 days accrued per month; 24 day cap.
      Sick: 1 day accrued per month; I think it’s a 90 day cap.
      Six federal holidays, plus the week between Christmas and New Years.
      Bereavement: 5 days for an immediate family member, 3 days for grandparent/grandchild/aunt or uncle, 1 day for cousin or niece/nephew.
      Not sure on the maternity leave policy (there definitely is one!), but it’s probably fairly standard.

      1. Meg*

        I also work at a big private university. We get 24 days of vacation, 12 sick days, and 12 holidays (plus the week between Christmas and New Years). Bereavement is 3 days for anyone. Maternity leave is 12 weeks, half of which is paid if you’ve worked here for a certain number of years…I think 5? We also have summer hours, which is a wonderful, underrated perk.

    14. MoinMoin*

      My company starts at 18 days PTO + Sick, 9 holidays (plus usually informal half days before some major holidays), 1 “floating” holiday you can use for anything so basically just another PTO day but it feels special, and 1 volunteer day that you have to clear with your manager and tell them where you’re volunteering but I don’t think you’re required to bring anything proving you actually volunteered. I think our PTO is upped in increments of 5 days at 2, 5, 10, etc years. I work with a guy that just celebrated his 30 year anniversary with the company and he’s gone probably 1/4 of the time.
      I don’t know if any of that really helps, but I like it alright. I’ve worked places where PTO was expected to be planned in advance and sick time was last minute and they were separate buckets. I prefer the one bucket for both since I never got sick and always ended up planning sick days instead, but I guess it probably depends on the nature of the work and coverage and how employees and management approach last-minute vs planned absences.

    15. Lucky*

      My company is unusual, as our vacation time is given as a grant at the start of the year rather than accrued over time. So, white it’s use-it-or-lose-it, everyone is expected to and actually does take all of your vacation time. In my industry (law) I have never left a job without being paid out for at least two years of accrued vacation that I wasn’t able to take, so this is huge for me.

      So, standard for new hires is 10 days vacation, 2 personal holidays and 6 sick days. Vacation can be negotiated at hire up to 15 days (always negotiate for more vacation!), except at VP level that starts at 20 days. Vacation grant increases over time (not sure) and tops out at 60 days, I think.

    16. AMG*

      I get 3 weeks a year for total PTO, and about 7 holidays. People who are exec or have been here longer get more PTO. 3 days bereavement, and I don’t know about maternity. 12 weeks maybe? You can accumulate 35 days of PTO before you start to lose it.

    17. Jubilance*

      What you described is what my company just moved to. Previously the minimum vacation was two weeks and it was out of step with our competitors, and last year they increased the minimum to three weeks. We only get 6 holidays, and the day after Thanksgiving is not one of them, which annoys me. We don’t have sick time, you simply work it out with your manager or go on FMLA or short-term disability if needed. My company also offers 2 weeks of parental leave for everyone, which is 100% paid, on top of the 12 weeks that you can take as well, so now standard maternity leave at my company is 14 weeks.

    18. Kira*

      My agency overhauled ours twice in the last year. Some takeaways:
      Old system: 19 days (entry level, numbers increased every 5 years or so); paid federal holidays
      New system: 10 vacation (for employees with a couple years employment); 2 personal; 5 sick; 3 days per bereavement; paid federal holidays

      – Communication. The first revision was done in secret, and wasn’t well communicated, even to the managers. Suddenly, all our PTO requests came back rejected, with vague comments like “somebody else already took that day” but no way to see which days were available. It took months to finally get anything approved. The second round was much better – the first we heard about it was an official announcement with written rules and a start date (this policy will go into effect on Jan 1).
      – Distinguishing categories. Our old system was just a single pot of 19 PTO days (for my level). I loved it, because I don’t get sick often and could use that time to visit family. But the new system has sick, vacation, and personal days. It’s not really clear what the difference is between vacation and personal.
      – The new system reduced my total leave. I went from 19 days to 10 (plus 2 personal and 5 sick). Nobody ever really acknowledged that our time was being reduced, so that hurt.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Did people bring up the fact that their leave was reduced? That will be the situation for some senior employees here, and I think they’ll be upset (which is totally reasonable). I’m not in charge of the leave policy, but I’d like to suggest some kind of compensation or grandfathering system so that people who were used to our old system don’t feel ripped off. Any ideas?

        Our old system is a big, undifferentiated, take-it-when-you-need-it pot of vacation with no formal holidays.

        1. Being a nonnie mouse*

          The large financial corporation I work for merged with another one just before I started and apparently the time off policy changed and some people lost days. The company added two more paid holidays instead to make up for it. It’s kind of nice having a random day off that lots of other people don’t for scheduling appointments and such (even kids are usually in school, so parents enjoy that!). Or if you can add days like the day after Thanksgiving, that people will usually want off, and now don’t have to use time off for, that might help.

    19. College Career Counselor*

      Private, nonprofit higher education: usually 1.8 days/month (21.6/year), with Thanksgiving and the day after thrown in. Most places I’ve worked give staff the week of between Christmas and New Year’s (including those days). However, other typical holidays may or may not be included, depending on the institution. MLK day, July 4th, Labor Day, Columbus Day are often not holidays because classes are in session. Sick days, typically 1 per month in my experience. Not sure about bereavement, parental leave.

    20. mockingbird2081*

      I work for a large health care organization. We have three weeks of APL (all purpose leave) each year. It can be rolled over but you can only accumulate up two 200 hours of APL (at which point we very much encourage people to take a vacation). Since it is APL it is to be used for vacations, illness, and bereavement. We also have 12 paid holidays off a year.

      The company also pays for long term disability insurance and they have a nice set up with a company that allows us to sign up for short term disability as well.

    21. K130*

      Just for the sake of comparison, I work for a federal agency (U.S.); the basic civilian leave policy is:
      10 paid holidays
      Annual and sick leave are actually counted in hours so if you only need a couple hours, you don’t have to take the whole day: 13 days (104 hours) annual leave at 0-3 years, 20 days (160 hours) at 3-15, and 26 days (208 hours) over 15 years (or a certain grade), with 30 day max carryover to the next year;
      13 days (104 hours) sick leave for everyone, with no max.

      No maternity leave, comes out of sick and annual, but FMLA protection applies. (There’s a leave donation program, so people sometimes give their hours to someone on maternity leave or out for a long-term extended health issue.)
      1 day bereavement for funeral of family member, after that it comes from annual or sick leave.
      Some miscellaneous categories (there’s a bunch!): All jury duty and any time in court as a subpoenaed witness (if it’s work related, that’s just official duty) is paid time. There’s all sorts of paid time for military activities (e.g. reservist training). Seven days of bone marrow donor leave and 30 days of organ donor leave, beyond regular sick leave.

    22. Jinx*

      International industry (my office is in the US):
      -15 vacation days for new hires (18 at two years, 20 at three years)
      -16 paid holidays (give or take a day or two, since Christmas is different every year)
      -sick time at manager’s discretion
      -maternity leave – FMLA + manager’s discretion

      We get slightly less vacation days than other comments I’m seeing, but we have a one week paid shutdown at Christmas, so it probably balances out.

    23. CMT*

      A new person gets 11 holidays, 21 days of PTO (we don’t have separate vacation and sick leave). PTO goes up from there, depending on tenure. There’s a limit on what can roll over at the end of the year. I can’t remember exactly what it is, but I know that if you can’t meet it before the end of the year, you can cash out the difference, so you don’t really lose it.

    24. Algae*

      I work for a smaller pharmaceutical. We have a Time Bank and all paid leave comes from that. Sick, vacation, etc, it’s all one bucket. It can be taken in as small an increment as you’d like. It builds based on length of service (you get 1 day/month your first year, 1.5 days/month for years 2 – 7, and 2 days/month after that). Your bank carries over from year to year, up until you have a bank of 6 months, at which point HR will politely remind you to go on vacation, geez! While that sounds great, in practice it means the younger employees (that do tend to have young children) have practically no time off. Senior Management (who start at 2 days/month and go up to 2.5 days/month eventually) have plenty of time to take off, but can’t seem to carve out breaks for them to do so. (Also, Senior Management is able to work from home, which means a day for me to take care of my furnace is a vacation day, but my boss just counts it as working from home.)

      We have 12 holidays. Additionally, we close the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. The holidays are weighted so that most of them fall during that week, but usually cost every employee two days of Time Bank (this taking away a couple of days from those younger employees’ banks yet again).

      We have no maternity leave policy, just what falls under short-term disability. We have bereavement leave of three days for “immediate family” (which includes, for example, my grandparents, but not my husband’s grandparents).

      My husband works for a large, multi-national, automotive supplier. He started with 2 weeks vacation, but he’s up to 3 now. I don’t remember the gradation. He has 12 holidays and they also shut down for the Christmas to New Year’s week, although his is a complete shut down and they don’t charge any vacation days in the middle of it. He has a flexible sick leave policy, by which I mean if you’re sick, stay home, although they do ask for proof of a doctor’s visit if it’s been a 3 days or a week or something. His boss is pretty generous and extends that sick leave policy to when one of our kids is sick or even when I had LASIK – it cost me a vacation day, but not him since he was caring for me (!). I don’t know if that’s a company wide or just a boss that trusts his employees.

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

      US Fortune 200: To start: 17 Days PTO (includes vacation or sick) (An extra 5 days after 5 years, then 10, then 15), 9 holidays, 5 days bereavement for a close family member (3 for less close), no paid family leave but we do have STD (which is 60% for 6-8 weeks depending on type of birth, with a one week elimination period).

      How do you only have 4-5 holidays? Even bare bones places usually do New Years, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Five would be Thanksgiving & day after, Christmas, New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day. Office culture has traditionally been that July 4th and the three-day weekend holidays are work days, meaning people can take off if they have plans, but they’re not automatic holidays. People have been fine with that because it’s been so easy to take off time in general.

        I mentioned above that I’m worried about pushback from senior employees about our new policy. One of my concerns is that once people are tracking their days off more closely, they’ll be irritated if they have to take a vacation day for Labor Day.

    26. hermit crab*

      Medium-sized consulting firm in the U.S.
      – 10 federal holidays
      – 2 personal days (essentially floating holidays)
      – 5 sick days (with a short-term disability program that kicks in if you go past that)
      – 2 weeks of vacation for new hires, gradually increasing to 4 weeks for people who have been here 5 years (with the option to “purchase” up to one additional week if you want)
      – 2 days of bereavement leave (for any death in the family)

    27. lfi*

      what you come in at: 16 days PTO (plus on on each anniversary); 1 floating holiday, and for 2016 the following holidays: NYD, Memorial day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving day & day after, Christmas, and NYE.

      I will say.. going from Jan 1 to Memorial day with no break is HARD. We are in CA… so technically our paid sick leave law is rolled up into PTO. I think I’d feel a LOT better about this if they gave us the additional 3 days of CA sick.

      1. Sualah*

        I am not at all complaining, but yeah on that last paragraph. From Nov-Jan, we get Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s day, and MLK day. Then nothing until Memorial Day. I’d trade Veterans Day or MLK for Presidents Day in February, or just some random day in March or April, no questions.

    28. Edward Rooney*

      Whatever you do, I think you should be able to use vacation days whenever in a year (or allow roll-over), if someone quits and had used all their vacation time, thats poor form on them. But, for the majority of responsible people it’s nice to be able to take a week off early in the year.

    29. Alter_ego*

      My company has 3 weeks in a PTO bucket that we can use for sick or vacation time. We can roll over up to a week as long as it’s used up by June of the following year. At 5 years, this goes up to 4 weeks, at 10 years, 5 weeks. My company hasn’t even existed for 15 years, so I’m honestly not sure if anything happens at that point.

    30. Witty Nickname*

      I believe it’s 17 days of PTO for new employees (it goes up though – sometime between 1-5 years you bump up to 22 days, and then at 8 years you get 27. After 20 years, you get 30 days, I believe). We have 9 fixed holidays and one that is used either for Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas, depending on what day of the week Christmas is on, or possibly used for New Year’s Eve or the day after New Year’s if that makes more sense. It changes from year to year. Hourly employees get 3 sick days per year, exempt employees have a “managers just need to make sure the job is getting done” policy. My state, CA, has a generous (for the US) maternity leave policy (6 weeks maternity leave, or more up to 12 weeks if medically necessary, and another 6 weeks parental bonding time, all paid through state short term disability). My company just added paid maternity leave benefits at the end of last year- I can’t remember how many weeks it was though (less than the state). I think bereavement is the standard 3 days for non-family, 5 for immediately family members (I don’t remember how they determine immediate family – my husband took a few days when his brother-in-law passed this year, but he was close to hitting his accrual limit on PTO, so he just took PTO for those days). We used to have unlimited jury duty pay (the courts here loved our company), but I think they changed that in the past couple years.

      And, most importantly, the company doesn’t encourage a culture of not approving vacation time. I’ve never had trouble getting my time off approved, though some teams do have to make sure they don’t have more than one person scheduled off at a time.

    31. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Last US corporate job we got:

      3 weeks paid vacation – you could roll over up to a week
      3 – 4 floating holidays (to be used for whatever, but mostly to smooth over any religious needs)
      5 days sick leave
      8 days of public holidays
      Im sure there were additional special categories for pregnancy etc, but I never took advantage of them

      (just to make everyone jealous, I now work for a UK corporate and this year have 30 days vacation, practically unlimited sick leave (heavy union presence – sort of spills over into corporate), 6 or 7 public holidays, and some of the mat leave gals are on 9 months. I had to roll over some vacation because I couldnt comprehend using it all)

    32. TootsNYC*

      My company has decent short-term disability. I know of a parochial school that completely forgot to buy short-term disability insurance, and they had problems w/ a teacher who’d had emergency abdominal surgery and didn’t want to come back to work. The principal granted the leave, and the board was upset because there really wasn’t any policy in place to support it.
      Some states have short-term disability insurance, but having something like that in place is key, I think.

      My company also offers long-term disability insurance that we can buy. I don’t remember if any of it is subsidized, but it’s cheaper to us because it’s in the company’s group. Some people consider long-term disability insurance more important than life insurance.

      We also have flex spending for childcare, healthcare, eldercare and transportation. Those are kind of nice.

      1. TootsNYC*

        well, this wasn’t helpful, was it? I didn’t read closely enough.

        never mind.

        sorry

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Don’t be sorry! This is actually pretty interesting. We don’t currently have a policy in place for what would happen if an employee was temporarily disabled, so it’s not a bad point for me to consider.

    33. Rebecca in Dallas*

      10 vacation days (goes up to 15 after 5 years of service, but that doesn’t kick in until the next calendar year which I think is BS but I digress…)
      6 sick/personal (up to three of these can be rolled over to the next calendar year)
      7 paid holidays (and most of them have early departure the business day before, ex: office closes at 3pm Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is a paid holiday)

    34. KH*

      US ad agency
      10 PTO days to start, 15 at 3 years (or if manager), 20 at 10 years (or if VP)
      9 “Flex” days
      15 paid holidays
      unlimited sick leave
      5 days bereavement + charity donation
      2 weeks new parent leave

    35. NoMe*

      Vacation:
      – 3 weeks (15 days) for new hires – 9 years
      – 4 weeks (20 days) for 10 – 17 years
      – 5 weeks (25 days) 18 – 24 years
      – 6 weeks (30 days) 25+ years of services

      Holidays:
      – 14 (12 scheduled and 2 floating)

      Leave:
      – 6 months paid medical leave
      – 6 weeks paid parental leave
      – 3-5 days bereavement leave
      – unlimited sick days (as we do not allocate time and do not track this time off, employees are expected to be professional and take it as needed with pay)

      1. NoMe*

        You can only rollover up to 5 days of vacation from one year to the next (with manager approval), otherwise it is use it or lose it. But you can buy up to an additional 5 days of vacation.

    36. NoCalHR*

      We’re a non-profit in the greater SF Bay Area. We offer 10 paid holidays (I can comment with the list if you want it); paid sick leave accrued at the rate of 1 day/month for exempt employees, capped at 30 days; paid vacation accrued at the rate of 10 days/year (1-5 years of service), 15 days/year (5-10 years of service), 20 days/year (10+ years of service) for exempt employees. Vacation accrual is capped at twice the relevant employee’s annual accrual rate (i.e., 20/30/40 days). Non-exempt employees accrue on the basis of regular hours worked, to the same number of days. Maximum of 10 days paid jury/witness duty leave; 3 days paid bereavement for local funerals, 1 additional day for travel over 300 miles one way. We offer all the mandated leaves (so unpaid FMLA, for example).

    37. pieces of flair*

      US, public university. For salaried exempt and non-exempt staff:

      Annual leave: Accrues at 4 hours per pay period for 1st 5 years, total 12 days per year. Accrual increases by 1 hour per pay period with every additional 5 years of service (maxes out at 27 days at 25 years of services). Maximum rollover to the next year is 24 days for the 1st 5 years, increasing by 6 days with every additional 5 years of service (maxes out at 54 days at 25 years of service). Unused annual leave is paid out to departing employees.

      Paid holidays: New Year’s, MLK Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, 2 days for Thanksgiving, last 1-2 weeks of December (varies by year – last year we were out Dec. 21 – Jan. 3).

      Sick leave: 64 (8 days) for 1st 5 years, 8 additional hours per year at 5 and 10 years of service. We get the full balance at the beginning of the year (no accrual) and there’s no carryover to the next year.

      Personal leave: 32 hours (4 days) for 1st 10 years, 40 hours from 10 years on. Works the same as sick leave, but we can use it for any reason.

      Maternity: Short-term disability – 6 weeks at 60% pay, concurrent with FMLA. For time beyond those 6 weeks, you have to use your sick leave, and once that’s gone you can either go without pay or use personal and/or annual leave. It kind of sucked that I had a baby in January and went back to work in April with no sick leave left for the rest of the year.

    38. Fenchurch*

      I have 19 days of PTO allocated to me (so 3.5 weeks) at the beginning of the year and can roll over up to 19 each year. However, I have to use the PTO days rolled over the next calendar year.

      PTO is used towards both vacation and illness leave.

      We have all major holidays off, so 9-10 days depending on how the days fall.

    39. SS*

      Current job is 15 PTO days (includes vacation, personal, and sick days all rolled together) and 7 holidays, for everyone regardless of number of years worked. Previous job was 10 PTO days (vacation, personal, and sick) and 6 holidays, with PTO getting increased by an extra 2.5 days for every 2 years worked. Neither are the best packages, but by US standards they seem pretty decent.

    40. Searching*

      Small nonprofit:
      10 days vacation year 1, 15 days year 2, 20 days years 3+
      Plus 4 personal days
      10 federal holidays
      12 sick days that roll over
      3 days bereavement
      Not sure about parental leave

    41. phedre*

      US nonprofit sector:
      11 paid holidays
      2 weeks PTO (includes vacation)
      1 birthday holiday (can be used in your birthday month)
      Short-term disability (includes maternity): 60% of salary
      Bereavement: 3 days paid
      Medical/dental: $30/paycheck premium, very generous medical.

      We are very well paid for nonprofit work. The only thing that sucks is the amount of paid vacation and how it doesn’t include separate sick leave. But the nice thing is they are very flexible about you taking lots of time off unpaid and let me leave early when I need to (I’m exempt).

    42. Drink the juice Shelby*

      I work for a defense contractor.
      Until 15 years you accrue 10 hours vacation a month.

      Sick leave is technically unlimited by corporate policy, but the different business units handle it differently.

      At one it was use as needed for illness. When you used personal business time you had all year to work it off with casual overtime.

      At the one I’m now at personal illness and personal business time is tracked. I was sick 5 days last year (9 hour day) and went over the 40 hours sick leave (stomach illness 2 days and the flu 3 days) and was told I would have to bring in a doctors note if I was sick again. They also said using too much illness time can effect your year end rating.

      You get 40 hours bereavement.

      Holidays – New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, thanksgiving. The business shuts down from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day.

      Also, work a 9/80 schedule, so we get Friday off every two weeks.

    43. Emmy*

      Just for sheer amusement(?) value, here is what my husband, a local truck driver in the US, has had in his last three jobs over 20 years:
      5 days vacation after one year, in three years it goes to 10 days
      6 paid holidays
      At one job 3 sick days the first year, 5 the fifth, 8 after 10, last job no paid sick days
      Paid bereavement 2 days for spouse, parent or spouse’s parent, you could have more, it was just unpaid
      No PTO.
      No idea what maternity leave was as it didn’t affect us and all of the women he worked with were past having babies or not yet interested in having babies. In general, in his industry, men don’t tend to take parental time off. A few days of vacation time, then back to work.
      The last job was a union job and had the same benefits as the non-union jobs, except there was no paid sick leave with the union.
      Lest I leave the impression that it’s all Scrooge all the time, his last company did give him FMLA even though he was two weeks from qualifying for it when he had an car accident not related to work. They also extended it when his doctor wouldn’t release him to drive when it was exhausted.
      So many of your plans sound so nice!

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Oof. Yeah, I do realize that having any paid leave at all puts me and my co-workers in a privileged group.

    44. F.*

      Small, privately-owned, construction inspection/engineering firm in the USA, mix of exempt and non-exempt. Eight paid holidays (though nothing between Jan. 1 and Memorial Day!), prorated up to 64 hours of PTO (vacation & sick leave combined) the first year, prorated up to 104 hours (13 days) of PTO the second year and every year after that (unless you are a friend of or relative of the owner, then you can take as much as you like.) Have I mentioned that we are rather dysfunctional?

    45. Honeybee*

      My company’s policy: 15 days of paid vacation, 80 hours of paid sick time, 8 fixed holidays and 2 “floating” personal holidays that can be taken any day of the year (these do not roll over). We have 12 weeks of paid parental leave, and birth mothers can take an additional 8 weeks of paid disability/maternity leave for a total of 20 weeks. You can split this leave across two periods if you want and you can also slowly transition back to work starting at half-time. I know we have a bereavement policy but I can’t remember exactly what it is – it’s something like 3-5 days of paid time off.

      After 5 years employees earn another 5 days of paid vacation, and after 10 years you get another 5, so employees who have been here 10+ years can have up to 25 days of paid vacation.

      After 10 years you are also eligible for an 8-week paid sabbatical.

    46. Small public company*

      About 9 paid holidays per year (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day,Thanksgiving & Day after, Christmas, and sometimes the CEO grants an extra day near Christmas depending how the week falls.
      Sick leave – first year 10 days, after that up to 6 months, Dr’s note required to return to work if out more than 3 consecutive days. Basically, they self insure for short term disability.
      Vacation – Officially, 0-5 years 2 weeks, then 3 weeks at 5 years and 4 weeks at 10 years. But hiring managers can ask for exceptions for employees that are farther along in their careers. SO someone being hired as a Teapot Analyst will almost always be started at 3 weeks, and a Manager or Director at 4 weeks.
      4 Personal Days. Exactly like vacation except they have to be taken in full days. Vacation can be taken in hours.
      Bereavement – 3 days or 1 day per loss depending on closeness of relative, but may be used ONLY for attending the funeral and related travel. Additional time off is at the discretion of the supervisor, but has to come out of personal / vacation days or unpaid. So if my father, who has specified no services, dies, I get zero bereavement days.

    47. Mkb*

      I’m in the US: 15 vacation days (after 5 years you get an additional 5), 12 holidays, 5 sick days. Nothing roles over. Bereavement is 3 days but can go longer depending on circumstances. Mat leave is 5-7 weeks at 60% pay through short term disability plus one week of full company pay. You can take up to 16 weeks in my state (CT) and use a combo of vacation/sick time plus unpaid.

      Compared to other companies I think our time off is actually pretty good.

    48. Lindsay J*

      Airline (full-time non-crew)

      8 holidays (non-ops employees get 6 specific days and 2 floating holidays, ops employees get double time or equivalent hours off in the next 30 days on scheduled holidays and 2 floating holidays)

      80 hours of vacation time for 1-5 years, 120 hours 4-9 years, 160 hours 10-19 years, 200 hours 20+ years, no carry over from year to year

      48 hours of sick pay per year, you can accumulate 80 hours maximum. Note may be required upon return for 3 or more days in a row.

      STD 66% of pay for up to 76 days

      No paid maternity or paternity, but FMLA time can be taken concurrently with STD and LTD pay.

      1 personal day is earned after every 6 months you don’t use a sick day

      3 paid days and up to 5 days unpaid bereavment leave for immediate family (covers spouse, domestic partner, child, adopted child, step child, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, and grandchildren). “It is expected the time off will be taken beginning with the notification of death”.

      Paid jury duty/court witness time.

      Time off to vote (unpaid).

      1. Lindsay J*

        Also, we can borrow up to 40 hours of vacation time before it is accrued, but it would have to be paid back if you left before your balance was back in the positive.

  20. Friendly Competition*

    Hi! I work at a small company in a traditionally competitive creative field. I often come across fellow industry peers at networking events and on LinkedIn who are doing really cool things at big, high profile companies. I’d love to do what they’re doing, but I’d also like to develop friendships with people who have the same interests and career goals as me. My question: How do I foster a new friendship with someone who works at a competitor without them thinking I’m using them to get a better job – or THEIR job? I’m all for supporting friends and celebrating their successes, but I’m not quite sure of the industry dynamic outside of my tiny office.

    Thanks!

    1. overeducated*

      I think being sincerely friendly and not just pumping them for work information goes a long way! Most people like new friends and contacts. Another way to show you’re not a threat is to be collaborative and generous, whether it’s as simple as offering moral support and complimenting people on their achievements, or as involved as volunteering with them in an industry professional group or project.

      1. Friendly Competition*

        Thanks for the advice! I’m trying my best to do what you suggested, though it can be challenging because our industry networking group only has one or two events a month and they can be a little clique-y. I don’t think approaching one of these groups at happy hour and saying “Hey, wanna be best friends?!” would go over very well, no matter how much I wish it would.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I have had luck with some things by just showing up routinely. It’s an investment of time. Show up, be sincere, go home. Next event the same: show up, be sincere then go home. I’d give it 6 months to a year of doing this. Around the 8th to 12th month mark there seems to be a shift or change, where the group feels more welcoming and more inclusive.

          I can understand why this happens. Groups get tired of the fly-by-nights, the people that some to 2-3 events and then never show again. If you want them to be excited about seeing you, then you have to show a lot of interest in them. Not fair, but it seems to work.

        2. Honeybee*

          Well, you don’t have to use those words exactly – but if you meet people that you click with, you can certainly exchange contact information then. Then a week or a couple days later, reach out to them and ask if they want to grab a coffee, lunch, or drinks or something. That’s how I’ve met most of the new friends I know in my new-ish city – through networking events and exchanging information.

          And I agree with Not So NewReader; it takes time.

  21. Anon Today*

    If a job application asks you to list any driver’s license suspensions you’ve ever had, would you list a DUI from 1992?
    1. Would a background check find it? And,
    2. Would a recruiter care about something that happened 24 years ago?
    I’m all about being honest on applications, but I’m afraid seeing “DUI” automatically causes a screener to think the worst and throw the ap in the bin. BTW-these are for jobs that involve no driving.

    1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      I personally would list it, especially if there is room to write the date. I don’t know much about background checks, but since the application is a legal document, I’d want to be truthful.

    2. AFT123*

      Hmm… maybe check on your state’s rules for how long DUI’s stay on your record. I may be mistaken, but I believe they drop off after 10 years or so for many states. If you’re not in a driving position and you’re not trying to get into Canada, I’m not sure they’d care much, but who knows?! Personally, I would not list it, as my state says it drops after 10 years.

      1. Anon Today*

        It was expunged after I finished my suspension, and it was in a different state. But I don’t know how deep those background checks go.

        1. Shiara*

          IANAL, but if it’s expunged, you do not need to disclose it, and it should not get flagged as a discrepancy in a background check.

          1. Florida*

            Another IANAL, but I think this is correct. I know in my state, if a record is expunged or sealed, it’s like it never happened, and the law says you can answer no to the criminal questions. There are specific exceptions such as: applying for the bar, working with kids or elderly, etc.
            But otherwise, I’m pretty sure that expunged means that you can answer no to that question.
            I would google the expunged laws for your state. It’s likely that the specific statue will come up, plus articles from several law firms in your state too.

          2. Graciosa*

            Not always true – there are circumstances where you can be obliged to disclose past convictions even if expunged, and failure to do so has very serious consequences (even if the conviction itself would not have been a disqualifier or even a big deal).

            I would ask either an HR person at the potential employer (depends on the employer, but I’ve had good luck with professionals in this field at large companies) or a lawyer in your state, or possibly even the state version of the DOL.

            A bit of a warning – if you didn’t realize we also do government defense work, read the application language carefully, or ask the right questions, you might assume it was “safe” to omit something like this in applying at my employer. It isn’t.

            1. F.*

              I second that you can’t assume you may omit it. If you are applying for certain higher-level security areas, such as airports or Department of Transportation regulated jobs, then a DUI would definitely have to be disclosed. IANAL.

        2. I work in thebackground check industry*

          As far as I’m aware, if it has been expunged it doesn’t exist. Maybe try to look up your state’s policy on expunged records and see – a lot of places have laws in place that explicitly state that if it has been expunged it’s like it never happened, you don’t have to list it anywhere, if it somehow shows up on the check you can dispute, etc.

        3. AnotherHRPro*

          You may want to see if you can get a copy of your driving record to see if it is there. We only go back 10 years when we do checks.

    3. Pwyll*

      Also check your state laws: some states don’t allow employers to base employment decisions on expunged criminal records, and so you can generally write “no”.

      That said, you could always just not check either box. It’s not really a valid question if you’re not in a driving position and has been expunged. (Unless you’re applying to work in government. Then disclose everything.)

      1. Florida*

        I would check one of the boxes. To me, not checking either would draw attention to it. The HR person might even reach out and ask you specifically to answer it. I would check the laws of your state, and mostly OP can check No.

      2. TootsNYC*

        the fear would be that they’re making the decision on the expunged record but on the “lying.”
        and, it’s better to not lose the job and file charges, because how would you ever know?

    4. Guinness*

      I worked in recruiting in a fairly regulated industry about ten years ago. Disclosing would be appreciated but it would not bar you from getting a position. They are more common than you think. My place was way more concerned with violent crimes and red flags for white collar crime.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      In NYS a DUI stays on your record for 25 years I believe. The most cautious thing to do is report it. They don’t care that you had a DUI 24 years ago, they DO care that you hid it. From what I am seeing around me, many employers are not worried about an old DUI. By “old” I mean a few years, so 24 years will matter even less.

      If you are still not comfy after reading the answers here, either call the court where the case was heard or check with an attorney. You might be able to check with the police agency who did the arrest and ask them if they still see it in their computer or if the record has been deleted.

      Finally, you can run a background check on yourself. Try to go through a site that your state uses, also. No background check is comprehensive because no reporting system is perfect. Court clerks forget to report dispositions, police forget to report arrests, computers burp and the information gets dropped EVEN though it was correctly reported. Lots of balls in the air on that one.

      1. Lindsay J*

        This. The time and the expungement complicate it somewhat. However, one of my coworkers almost got fired after starting because it turned out that he didn’t disclose a DUI on his background check info that happened 9.5 years ago (the application asked about the previous 10 years). If he had disclosed it it would not have been an issue, but because he didn’t it was a concern and that almost lost him his job.

  22. BringtheCannoli*

    Hi All,

    I have been working in my current position for about 2 1/2 years and never had a performance review.

    A few weeks ago, I was in the busiest time of year, and told my employer I was feeling overwhelmed. When she asked how she could assist me, I asked for a performance review. I asked this so that I could figure out how she was prioritizing the work that I was doing, and so that I could get some ideas for improving my work performance.

    I believe she thinks I am just looking for praise. Is it worth clarifying that I am not just praise seeking?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. misspiggy*

      I might have asked for an informal meeting to help prioritise my workload. During that meeting I would have asked for a more formal performance review in two or three months, to see how the new workload is going and get more performance improvement ideas. Going straight for a performance review may make it look like all you want is a raise to recognise your heavy workload – not that you don’t deserve that, but it seems you also want some advice.

      Maybe you could clarify what you need by emailing your manager your ideas for a workload review meeting.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agree, I’d go back to the boss and say that I misspoke and that what I mean is not a performance review, but rather some help identifying where I can streamline processes and prioritize work to get more done (it may also become apparent in a meeting like this that some work needs to be shifted to someone else or dropped from the list).

    2. Kira*

      Yah, I see your logic asking for a sit-down, but “performance review” isn’t what you’re asking for. A performance review should be looking at whether you’re achieving your goals overall and set a long-term goal for what you are going to achieve in the coming year – not for digging into your current workload issues.

      You told us what you want – to prioritize the work you are doing! Use those words with your boss going forward when you talk about this meeting.

      It’s okay to still want a performance review, but it’s not a solution to workload issues.

    3. BringtheCannoli*

      Thank you all. I think you are correct that I was just using the wrong language. I will rephrase the request during our weekly 1-on-1.

      Have a great weekend!

      1. TootsNYC*

        Another phrase: “feedback, so I can know where I need to focus greater efforts and where I can trust that I’m in good shape.”

  23. Dirk Gently*

    How do you do due diligence on an organization that operates in such a controversial area that it’s incredibly difficult to distinguish genuine red flags from knee-jerk vitriol from people on the other side of the issue?

    I’ve been asked to do some freelance work for a non-profit that’s about to launch a new venture that’s related to, but distinct from, their current activities. Their current activities include promotion of something that’s seen as pretty controversial in some communities. They do a lot of other stuff too – the controversial stuff is maybe 30% of the total.

    Now, I’m generally pro on this issue, with plenty of caveats and gray areas. I’m not pro enough to want to work with a “rabidly-pro” organization though. I’m trying to find a good analogy here and mostly failing. Let’s go with vaccination – not a great analogy, but close enough. I’d be happy to work with an org that promotes the general health benefits of vaccination, debunks the whole autism stuff etc., and encourages people to talk to their doctors. I do not want to work with an org that promotes any specific third party’s vaccine – I don’t have enough nuanced knowledge to know which companies make the best ones, and taking money that comes from a third party vaccine maker would put me in a potential conflict of interest situation on other contracts.

    The problem is that the “anti-vaccine” camp in this area don’t see the difference between the two. So when I google this organization, I get pages and pages and pages of the equivalent of “THEY SHILL FOR BIG PHARMA AND ARE TOTALLY CORRUPT BECAUSE OF THAT. THEY ARE KILLING CHILDREN AND MUST BE STOPPED”. But they say that about literally everyone who’s ever come out as even slightly pro-vaccination.

    The org’s website states that they don’t take money from any pharma companies and they generally seem to do good work, from the outside at least. Having said that, I think there might be a couple of legitimately yellow/orange flags buried among the knee-jerk vitriol, but it’s really, really, really hard to tell.

    I have a call scheduled with my contact next week and am planning to ask her about their source of funds – the COI thing gives me a good rationale for that. Any other suggestions as to what to ask her, and/or how to conduct any further background checking?

    Relevant background: I’m fairly risk-averse, tend to over-think things, and am new to freelancing!

    1. themmases*

      I would say just don’t go to blogs and messages boards to find this out. You’d be surprised the topics that will move people to indulge their inner conspiracy theorist online.

      When you Google this cause, switch your search to news only or restrict certain buzzwords that you know from your research are used by conspiracy theorists.

      If you’re specifically worried about sponsorship or too-close collaboration, see if the organization archives old news releases or read back through accounts of their fundraising events in their solicitation media or in the news. Most organizations are going to announce major collaborations as a positive thing and you can read between the lines on how involved they are (sponsoring an event vs a whole initiative with input). You may also be interested in looking at the affiliations of the organization’s board members, major donors, who is their foundation named after, etc.

      1. Dirk Gently*

        Thanks, this is very helpful! They don’t seem to do any direct/public fundraising, hence my uncertainty about the source of funds, but I’ll see what I can dig up

    2. Pwyll*

      This may be an unpopular opinion, based mostly because in my industry we have to work with organizations contrary to my personal values all the time, but . . . does it actually matter? As a freelancer you’re in a different position than, say, a volunteer. You’re providing a service, presumably one you’d provide to other organizations, and being paid for that service. You say you generally support the general subject matter, and it appears the organization is valid and not doing anything illegal. Freelancers provide services to people in conflict with their own personal opinions all the time. I certainly don’t prescribe to the values of all of my clients. When I started out on my own, I struggled with the idea that my work could be seen as an endorsement of my client, but that’s not reasonable in most scenarios (this, of course, depends on what work you’re actually doing, of course).

      That said, for other advice: check out Guidestar or your state’s non-profit regulator’s website to review their annual reports or IRS Form 990, which may give you some insight as to their funding sources.

      1. Dirk Gently*

        I hear you, but this would be an ongoing thing and the nature of the work is such that my name would be publicly linked to theirs.

        The COI thing could (worst-case scenario) potentially jeopardize my main source of income, but that’s (hopefully) going to be easier to get solid answers on. At the very least I’ll be able to prove that I told them I can’t take “pharma” money!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Because you new to this, I would say avoid-avoid-avoid. Especially if you have other potential clients where their sources of funds are clear cut. Don’t take the hard, dark road if you do not have to. In a while you will learn more about how to pick organizations and this will get easier than it is right now.

          I am thinking this: Let’s say you figure out that they are okay. It could be they are okay today and tomorrow is a whole different story. Something changes and you do not realize because of being new. If you can, let this one go and decide that if something comes up in the future you will revisit the decision.

  24. 20something*

    I have a casual meeting with someone who owns a network marketing business today. It’s more of a learn more about network marketing and his business and see if we fit than a straight out interview. Does anyone have any advice, experience, or insight regarding network marketing? If I do decide to work for him, it would be just on my own time. I’m intrigued by it, but I don’t intend to quit my full-time job.

    1. Florida*

      Yep, network marketing is the same as multi-level marketing. As yourself, how many people do you know personally who support themselves in MLM? Not how many people does the sales rep tell you about. Not how many make some money but are primarily supported by their spouse. But how many people do you PERSONALLY know who support themselves? If you don’t know any, that’s a signal. If you could make a lot of money at it, you would probably know a few.

      My advice is to not invest any money. You don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to buy sample product.

    2. Joanna*

      Don’t let yourself get dazzled by the stories of participants who have made massive amounts of money as there’s good odds that they are outliers. Even the most flawed money making schemes sometimes result in a few people doing really well but it’s most likely you won’t be one of them. Do the maths on what’s likely earnings, not what is theoretically possible.

      Pay close attention to whether it’s genuinely a good value, quality product that people actually want that you’ll be selling. Too many network marketing business seem to be selling rebranded versions of stuff people can get elsewhere cheaper or that no one really needs which will doom your sales.

      Also consider how comfortable you will be with selling to and recruiting friends and family .

  25. Felix*

    Can we have a thread about advice for what not to do on your first day of work?!

    My biggest pet peeve is new folks bringing in homemade food to share on the first day. It is such a lovely gesture, but you don’t know the culture yet… Folks may have dietary issues, there may not be a fridge for storage, I feel pressured to eat it to make you feel accepted…

    I’d say wait at least a week before bringing food to share- then you’ll have a better idea of if this happens and what to bring!

      1. ThatGirl*

        Same! It wouldn’t bother me, but I can understand the idea of “wait a week or two”.

      2. Felix*

        Lol it happens all the time in my office! And strangely fancy time consuming food like home made eclairs, curries, chocolates, vegan/gluten free/dairy free cookies etc.

        Seriously so nice, but almost TOO nice?!

    1. super anon*

      I’ve never had this happen anywhere I’ve worked, but as a coworker I would be thrilled if someone brought me homemade chocolate chip cookies on their first day. However, I can see why you shouldn’t do it for all of the reasons you listed and more… and I might just be craving cookies right now to make me feel this way.

    2. Lillian McGee*

      I’d say… Do not be too shy to ask for a bathroom break. I have had interns listen to me go on and on and on and not say a thing until *I* decide it’s time for a break and *they* get up and practically sprint to the bathroom! For the sake of your kidneys say something!!

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Oh wow, it wouldn’t even cross my mind to ask these days…but I can totally see this happening with someone new to the workforce!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I had a newbie boss, whose stomach was growling. I could hear it. I told him to tell our big boss that he needed a lunch. (By then it was 2 pm.) Since Newbie found this a bit awkward, I suggested that he ask the boss if the boss wanted them to eat together so they could keep talking.
        What was funny about this is that Newbie had decided NOT to say he was hungry. If his stomach had not been so loud, he would not have had lunch that day.
        Find a way to ask and ASK.

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        Or from any sort of shift work. My work now is flexible but before I’d have to ask co-workers to cover for any bathroom use at most jobs before that

    3. Charlotte Collins*

      Here’s one: asking where the games are on your computer. Out loud. In front of your entire training class. Then getting offended when you’re told that asking that is not a good idea.

    4. HRish Dude*

      I was getting coffee at Dunkin Donuts the other day and overheard that they sent a new hire home because he showed up in a Spider-Man onesie on his first day.

      1. Pwyll*

        I don’t know, I’d be tempted to see that through at least the week to see what he’d do next.

    5. Graciosa*

      Don’t ignore your “first day” instructions.

      We send every new hire a very clear email that specifies when to arrive at which location, who to ask for and how to contact them.

      Do not show up at 8 when I specified 9 “because you wanted to get started early.” I told you 9 because that’s when I’m available to meet you.

      1. HRish Dude*

        I hate this. I’m not starting you at 9 because I don’t feel like rolling into the office until then, it’s because I’m unable to meet with you until that point and have 9-9:30 specifically blocked off on my calendar every single week for a new hire.

    6. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Oh, man, I think I’ve shared this story before but it caused me so much secondhand embarrassment!

      In college, I was hired at a very high end department store. They had a training class for the new hires (we were all working in different departments) our first week, scheduled 9am-5pm. On the second day, at 4pm as our trainer was still going through some materials, one guy just started packing his stuff and got up to leave. When the trainer asked where he was going, he was like, “Oh, I have to leave to get to the bank before they close.” When she pointed out that she was still training and this training was mandatory, he started arguing with her! It was so odd. Like… if you really had to go to the bank before they closed, why wouldn’t you have said something at the beginning of the day to make sure that was ok? He was just going to walk out!

      Then on the third or fourth day, we had VP’s from different departments (advertising, merchandising, buying, etc) come in to talk to us. As the VP of advertising was talking, a girl FELL ASLEEP! And it was a small class (maybe 10 of us) and she was sitting up front. The VP stopped his presentation and stood right in front of her until she woke up. To her credit, she seemed absolutely horrified.

      I never saw those two again.

    7. TootsNYC*

      I don’t know if this is a “big city” thing or not, but I have never, ever, ever seen this happen.

      The only thing I’ve ever seen people do on their first day that was bad was to be late.

    8. Lady H*

      Many people see this type of thing as benign—bonus treats!—but it drives me insane when women bring baked goods to the office at any time. Especially when they’re new. It’s part of the emotional labor thing—women bring in treats to foster a team spirit but this does NOT get them ahead in the business world. Instead they become the office mom, planning parties and making sure everyone signs birthday cards, etc. Is that valuable? OF COURSE. But does it hold women back in the workplace? Unfortunately, yes. Men aren’t doing those things (usually, and I would venture to say almost never on a regular basis) and women don’t get promoted because they plan the office parties and bring in treats on Fridays.

      I love to bake/cook and share with others, but I don’t think it belongs in the workplace. (Except for the holidays or potlucks, but even then, it always seems to fall to women to plan these types of things.) If we lived in a world that valued this type of emotional labor then I would feel differently.

      Also, I worked with an almost entirely female team at my Bad Old Job and they were catty, food shaming jerks who made food into a moral issue and that made me even more uncomfortable with people bringing food into the office. For them it was like a sadistic ritual of bringing in sugary food and enjoying watching their fellow coworkers succumb while they abstained because they were being “good”.

      1. Mreasy*

        Men and women bring in baked goods at my office, hurrah! Two of the men are the best bakers, in fact. I may have a small baking rivalry with one of them, entirely within my mind…

        But I agree in general that it’s better to avoid when these “office comfort” extracurriculars fall to women only.

      2. Honeybee*

        At my office bringing in baked goods (or food in general) is done by both men and women. It’s really not uncommon for the men to bring in donuts or pastries or cake. It’s pretty much a part of our culture that you bring in food to share if the spirit moves you to do so. *shrug*

        I’m also on the morale team at my job. It’s evenly split across gender and the men who are on it are pretty senior.

        1. Honeybee*

          Hit enter too soon. I meant to add that my morale team duties are an explicit part of my long- and short-term priorities and are integrated into my quarterly performance reviews.

  26. Jessen*

    I have a sticky situation. I’m in a job where appearing friendly and cheerful is important. I also have PTSD which can seriously affect my mood. Right now it’s controlled by medication but the side effects are becoming unbearable (especially needing to sleep 10-12 hours a night). I’m looking to adjust medications, but my reactions to medications can be incredibly unpredictable. I might have no reaction at all. I might be a crying mess. I might end up suicidal and need to be hospitalized. There’s no way to know which one is going to happen until I try a medication – but in my experience I do react badly to more medications than I react well to.

    How do I best handle this possibility in a work environment?

    1. Packers Fan*

      Are you comfortable to share with your boss that you are trying a new medications and some the side effects may be x, y or z, and discuss what the best course of action would be if you were to experience the side effects at work? I don’t think you need to disclose your diagnosis, just that you’re working through a medication adjustment.

      Also, good luck. I hope you find a medication that works for you.

    2. Mary Margaret*

      So sorry you are going through this. I’m not a lawyer or HR person but my 1st piece of advice would be to speak with someone outside of your company who knows what legal protections you might be entitled to before speaking with someone in your company. I only say that so that you can give yourself the most protections possible- HR may decide that you are no longer able to carry out your job functions with accommodations and fire you. Sorry to be so pessimistic but you never know. I’d also check out the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) – https://askjan.org/
      Do you have any sick days you can use to give yourself more time away from work in order adjust to the med change? Good luck

      1. Jessen*

        I effectively don’t get sick days. I get unexcused absences, and I only get so many of those before it’s an automatic firing no matter what.

    3. Maggie_Elisabeth*

      I don’t have personal experience with this, but I wonder how flexible your work is as far as sick leave? For instance, if you find your new medication having really rough side effects, can you take a day or two off and say you’re dealing with a medical issue? You’re smart to have a plan in place, but I’d also recommend taking it one step at a time. As you said, your new medication ro dosage might have no effect. Sometimes I get caught up in future-tripping when I don’t have enough information yet.

      Another suggestion – it’s not a replacement for ongoing help, but if you are at work and find yourself overwhelmed, you could take a break and text the Crisis Text Line – you just text 741-741. (Full disclosure: I’m a volunteer counselor there). Again, it’s not meant to be used every day, but if you just need help in the moment, they’re really excellent at helping calm folks down and talking through hard moments.

      I’m not an expert on any of this, so hopefully others can weigh in. Sending you best vibes!

      1. Jessen*

        I effectively do not get sick leave. I get a few days of “unexcused absences” before I get fired.

    4. Clix*

      PTSD can be covered under ADA law – depends, but I know I’ve had accommodations and at times FMLA coverage for leave longer than 3 days for it without having to explain necessarily what I’m directly dealing with. Changing medications happens for many conditions so I like the advice of talking about some of the symptoms you may have that will specifically effect work like you may need time off to recover, I effects your concentration, ability to sleep, etc. mental health stigma sucks so much. There are people dealing with cancer and stuff at my work that can disclose basically anything without reservation.

    5. TootsNYC*

      can you get away with pleasant instead of friendly & cheerful?

      Like, the difference between a slight smile and a grin? What’s the lowest level of “pleasant sliding down to civil” that you can get away with?

      Can you think of a slight smile as a bit of a mask, and the emotions you really feel be something private behind it?

      1. Jessen*

        It really depends. I could be anywhere from “kinda depressed” to “can’t stop crying” to “suicidal.” And I can’t tell which one it’s going to be in advance.

    6. Lindsay J*

      Ugh, no help here, but definite sympathy.

      I tried seroquel for my depression and the first day fell asleep at work. Then then next day, slept through my alarms and was several hours late. :( Meds can be so tricky to get right and it sucks when they don’t and you feel like you can’t really explain without seeming fragile etc.

      I partially lied and said that the side effects were due to migraine medication rather than depression medication (I do suffer from migraines as well). You might be able to say that you’re adjusting medication for a “chronic health problem” without inviting too many questions. I feel like people tend to think that that means something like diabetes or high blood pressure or cholesterol or similar.

  27. themmases*

    Does anyone else here have a job that people in their life don’t approve of (or wouldn’t if they understood what it was)? I’m just curious about what else people are disapproving of out there and how others handle it.

    I am a cancer epidemiologist. My future FIL hates Western medicine and has tried to cure a family member’s epilepsy through diet and acupuncture. One time he gifted me a (photocopied) book about medicinal teas because I am interested in “applying systemic medical solutions to large problems” and also “in case things ever go farther South than we might imagine”. I know he would be pissed cancer registries even exist if he were aware.

    Personally I just keep my feelings to myself because I don’t need a total nutball’s permission to be proud of my work, but it’s disconcerting to be liked by someone only because he doesn’t understand what I do! Wondering if others have experienced really bizarre disapproval of their work.

    1. overeducated*

      Whoa, that’s weird.

      I’ve never experienced bizarre disapproval like that, but a friend in a public health phd program has been told it’s “too hard,” she’s been in school for too long, and should just be a teacher or something. Another friend in med school has been told she “doesn’t have what it takes to be a doctor” and will “break under the pressure.” Both women being told this by other women, which I really don’t get.

      1. Honeybee*

        If I wasn’t already out of my public health PhD program I’d think that friend was me. Several people in my family made that comment to me, about being in school too long and that I should just quit it and do something else. Teacher was bizarrely one of the most commonly suggested routes, although nothing about any of my degrees would qualify me to teach.

    2. blackcat*

      I had an uncle tell one of my cousins (his daughter) that she shouldn’t be a scientist like me. Because she’d never get married if she did.

      (And, as a scientist, I’m super intrigued by “alternative medicine” when it actually works. I want to know how and why! Having had someone *completely numb my arm* with acupuncture, I find it fascinating! Hoooowwwww?!?! But it doesn’t for things like, you know, cancer. )

      1. Annie Moose*

        My married scientist sister (biochem, although I her current position is light on the bio) would be quite interested to hear that, I think. :P

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Let’s get historical, so would Madame Curie.

          Also, my widowed chemist aunt. (Who met her husband when in the Navy back in the 60s.)

      2. the gold digger*

        My husband’s father told my niece, who is quite bright, that he didn’t think she could handle the courseload at veterinary school.

        So she changed her major.

        Then she told him she wanted to be a teacher.

        He told her she was too smart to be a teacher.

        I am relieved he is dead and will not be messing with my nieces’ and nephews’ minds and undermining their confidence any more.

      3. videogamePrincess*

        Is non-western medicine defined as “anything that the Western world hasn’t proven to work reliably (yet)?”
        Because yes, there would be some really awesome things, but by definition almost everything that didn’t work at all would fall into that category.

        I’m pretty confused.

        1. catsAreCool*

          That’s my feeling too. I think there are probably some treatments that “western medicine” hasn’t incorporated yet that at least in some cases will lead to great breakthroughs, but I think the majority of the alternative treatments aren’t all that helpful.

          Then again, you never know. “Bleeding” a patient was a terrible thing to do medically, unless the patient had hemocromitosis. So maybe some alternative stuff is amazing in some very specific cases.

        2. Honeybee*

          Depends on who you ask. For the types of people that themmases is talking about, that’s usually what they mean – usually ‘traditional’ or holistic medicine that doesn’t fall under the allopathic medical model. Some of that stuff really does work and we simply don’t know why, but a lot of it doesn’t.

    3. WhiskeyTango*

      Yes. My dad hates lawyers (I am one) and he hates the industry I work for – financial services …as does my husband (although he’s not a lawyer.) Also, my dad knows more than I do because he relies upon a copy of the 1992 state revised statutes and I use Westlaw. Also, investment advisers are bad because they are only interested in making recommendations that they think are right for the client and they don’t actually care about what the client wants. (Yes, he said this.)

      We just avoid conversations now. And leave if my dad gets aggressive.

      1. Pwyll*

        Amen to that.

        Mine called me up to complain about how we’re all money-grubbers, and that his notary (Yes, “his” notary) had told him that most of the documents he was signing (for his will and trust) were unnecessary, as he could just hand write up anything describing what he wants, have it notarized, and “courts have to respect that”.

        And also I’m an evil ambulance chaser (I’m an employer-side employment lawyer).

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Wait – doesn’t that mean the notary is practicing law without a license? (My sister’s a paralegal and in her state, she has to be very careful about not crossing that line.)

          1. Pwyll*

            Perhaps. It’s certainly not smart, anyway. I found it easier not to engage in a debate and left it to his own estate planning attorney to explain.

    4. MsMaryMary*

      My BFF is a neonatologist, and there are family/old friends she has blocked on social media because of their anti-medicine, anti-vaccination posts. She dated a guy with some, um, new age medical opinions and he did not appreciate when she would send him peer reivewed research to counter the blog posts he sent her. It’s not why they broke up, but it was a factor.

      For myself, I tell people I work in employee benefits, not health insurance. I do work with other benefits, but a majority of my time is spent on health insurance, esp medical. I minimize the insurance aspect to casual acquaitenances and non-immediate family members because I don’t want to debate Obamacare or a single payer system (for the record, both are hugely complicated issues that I have very mixed feelings about). While I have great sympathy and spend a lot of time on advocacy and education for my clients and their employees, I don’t want to spend my off hours hearing people complain about their copays or deductibles. I have helped friends and family with claims issues or in choosing which plan is best for them, but I don’t broadcast it to people I’m not close to.

      1. Amy UK*

        It’s pretty obnoxious of your friend to send him research and studies. Unless he said “please send me studies so I can consider the matter further”, she’s being an ass. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t date someone that ill educated either. But really, the only options there if you don’t want to be an ass are either to say “I don’t agree, but this is a minor annoyance I can overlook” or “This is too big a deal for me, we’re not compatible, we’re through”.

        1. MsMaryMary*

          In her defense, she only responds with peer reviewed articles after he’s sent her a post from Bob’s All Natural Health Blog or something. She doesn’t send him scientific articles out of the blue.

        2. Honeybee*

          If someone sends me blog posts with a bunch of psuedoscience making ridiculous and harmful medical claims, it is absolutely not being an ass to counter that stuff with real scientific articles.

          I don’t even think it’s being an ass to present unsolicited scientific articles if a person is making ridiculous claims, but I could sort of see how someone might make that argument. But I’m baffled as to how someone is being obnoxious when the other person was the one who started sending inaccurate literature first.

      2. Ashley*

        My husband is a neonatologist! He hates this too, though he does hear me complain to him about circumcision because I think it’s barbaric and I hate that he has to do them sometimes.

    5. Lab rat*

      My family has no objections to my profession per se, but they think it’s beneath me. My parents are a lawyer and a pharmacist and they’re ashamed that I’m just a lab technician. I have a degree in engineering, and they are always pushing me to apply for engineering jobs, training instructor jobs, etc., that sound more prestigious. The funny thing is that I actually make good money as a lab tech because I work a lot of overtime, and I would have to take a pay cut to do any of these more prestigious (exempt) jobs my parents want me to do.

    6. Temperance*

      Yes. I’m an attorney, and my family hates it. They’re conservative evangelical Christians and I am their greatest disappointment. I should have married a Christian man and had 3-4 kids, and not finished college.

      This is not an exaggeration BTW; my mother cried and cried when I told her I had been accepted to several law schools, and she begged me not to “give up my one chance to be a mother”.

      1. JennyFair*

        I don’t know about you, but for most of 3 decades now, I have had a chance to be a mother every month.

    7. Safety Grl*

      I work with oil safety. By some people’s reactions, you’d think they pay me to go out in a boat and dip penguins in barrels of the stuff.

      I’ve spent a lot of time trying to explain to people what I do, but if that doesn’t work I end up with a silent smile-and-nod. Some people just need a target for their angst.

      1. Evan Þ*

        Oil safety? Aren’t you, um, trying to stop birds from getting mixed up in the stuff?

    8. Anonsie*

      Oh yeah, I’m also in medical research and a sizable portion of both the world and people I know think I’m a creepy pharma shill and we’re all just trying to cover up the fact that we can treat diseases with nutrition and clean environments. I am continually amazed by how many people are 100% sure that medical research has never actually examined any “natural” (be it nutrition, herbal compounds, acupuncture, whatever) treatments because we’re so myopic. That’s when I start listing drugs and where they came from (spoiler: if it’s an antibiotic, it was probably in some dirt) in nature and they are sooo surprised.

      Then on the flip side, when I talk about alternative things that have been found to be promising in clinical trials, there are all these folks in the skeptic community that start asserting that I’m just reading mommy blogs and Big Alternative Medicine has just been pushing an agenda my dumbass has bought in to.

      You can’t win

      1. Honeybee*

        My background is in public health and I am consistently surprised with the number of otherwise reasonable people who believe that the pharmaceutical industry is just one big conspiracy to cover up the fact that really simple, cheap things cure serious illnesses. It defies logic. If simply eating healthily and drinking green smoothies could cure cancer/AIDS/whatever, wouldn’t far fewer people actually have it? Not to mention that selling green smoothies is far more lucrative than doing the years of research and marketing it takes to turn a profit on a drug, so I’m sure that if Pfizer could they would switch to selling green smoothies and homeopathic medicine instead.

    9. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Not me personally, but my husband is in the military. Whoa nellie. People will say all kinds of weird crap to you (well, both of us). You name it, somebody has said it. Including weirdly mean stuff! Strangers! It’s a weird world out there.

    10. 3D Queen*

      It’s amazing how many of these are about parental approval!

      My folks were not thrilled that I spent eight years in the restaurant industry even though they pushed me into the bachelor’s degree in English(!) and I graduated at the beginning of the recession. They were less thrilled when I went to beauty school (they would have been happy if I was in beauty advertising or something, but the fact that I was working with my hands in a salon was not their favorite). But when I changed careers agaaaain (graphic design) they were ecstatic because I started taking classes at and then working for a school with big name recognition. Fortunately they were pretty respectful throughout my whole journey.

    11. Coffeepots by Hazel*

      Not quite the same as people disapproving of the actual work I do, but I have plenty of people — typically older, female relatives — who disapprove of the fact that doing it requires extensive travel, so I live on the road 50-75% of the time instead of home with my spouse and child where I belong.

      I also have a friend who does important but not especially lucrative work at an education-related nonprofit, and loudly disapproves of the fact that our economic system pays teachers and others in female-dominated professions so much less than it does those in other fields that require comparable levels of education, but employ a larger percentage of men. I mostly agree with her, except when she extends that to disapproving of people in professions who “make 6 figures just for pushing paper around and don’t really help anyone” … knowing that I’m a consultant and yes, my salary is 6 figures.

    12. A Teacher*

      Public School Teacher. Every thing is our fault–even the unbalanced budget because of the pension system that the politicians have borrowed from for years that I pay into each pay check (9.56%). People love to criticize teachers.

    13. Regular poster, new name for this*

      Yes. I am a children’s entertainer. I’m not talking about a birthday clown who does parties for the neighbor’s kids for $50. Rather, this is my full-time job. I make good money. My mother hates that I do it. She think it’s immature and doesn’t represent our family well. We have had many many arguments about it.
      I agree with you that the best thing is to just keep your opinions to yourself. You don’t need the nutball’s approval. That’s what I do. I don’t talk to my mother about my work. I specifically ask her not to come to my performances.
      It’s encouraging to read so many comments that other people are in the same boat.

    14. Snazzy Hat*

      Borderline. I have a friend who is a successful babysitter and a successful artist. Her downstairs neighbor is under the impression that my friend uses the apartment as a “crash pad when she’s in town”. Ignore the fact that the clients and studios are within the city limits, or at furthest in the next town over. Do full-time jobs not exist in the neighbor’s world? What about social lives?

    15. NoMe*

      I work in a normal office job but for a tobacco company. Most of my family is cool with it, but some relatives completely disprove and have the opinion that I am personally killing people. It can make for some rather awkward thanksgiving dinners.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I feel your pain. This is the reaction I got when I worked at a foreclosure law firm a few years back and people found out my firm represented the banks. I always heard some variation of, “How can you stand taking people’s houses away?” as if I was the one strolling up to these homes and kicking these people out. It got to the point where I just stopped mentioning what the firm did.

        1. Rob Lowe can't read*

          Ohh, I forgot about that job! I worked in a county-level office that processed foreclosures for non-payment of property taxes (which usually went hand-in-hand with non-payment of mortgages etc.). This was in an economically depressed state in the early-to-mid aughts, so foreclosure wasn’t constantly in the national headlines at that point, but it was old news in our state. My job was in and of itself kind of a conflict of interest; we were responsible for creating and monitoring the paper trail that would eventually make foreclosure possible, but my boss (licensed social worker) and her boss (nice, non-evil human) weren’t keen on foreclosing on people who were struggling because of our state’s terrible economy, medical bills, etc. (which was the situation for plenty of people). At the time, most people I knew were aware of what I did for a living and thought nothing of it, but after 2008 I got a lot of side-eye.

    16. Karowen*

      It’s not disapproval, but my mother is really weird about my sister’s job. We’ve lost a lot of people in our family to cancer. My sister dealt with it by becoming an Oncology NP; Mom dealt with it by becoming obsessed with vitamins and what you can and can’t eat – like Dr. Oz but not as crazy. They’ve mostly stopped talking about it now, but for awhile my mom would tell us that XYZ causes cancer and my sister would fire back with peer-reviewed papers about how it’s not true.

      Now I get to play go-between. My mom will say “M&Ms cause cancer, so I can’t eat them anymore” and then I mention it in passing to my sister to see if it has any validity and she rolls her eyes so hard I think they’re about to fall out of her head [true story].

    17. RevengeoftheBirds*

      Yes.

      Basically, I’m an HR professional but my practice area (I’m not a generalist) is labour relations (Employment Law.) Most people assume I’m a generalist (understanding of compensation, benefits, recruitment, HRIS..) Nope. I understand the law and how to conduct investigations.

      My family thinks I’m a lawyer. Why? I dunno. I’ve told them many times I just a masters degree in my area and I’m NOT a lawyer.

      1. BrownEyedGirl*

        Hi! I’m hoping you see this. :) I was recently let go as part of a structural layoff from the research department of a major US union that’s in a specific industry related location (think USW and Pittsburgh–but not that). I’m currently trying to pivot and apply to HR jobs in the same industry. Do you have any recommendations for what to put in the cover letter?

    18. Rachel*

      I’ve been wondering about this as I’m interested in the idea of becoming an estate agent (realtor) and every time I tell someone this they start complaining about estate agents and how its a terrible career for terrible people!

    19. Not So NewReader*

      I’d suggest that you are over thinking this one. For your own sanity, let it go. This is who he is, just as you are who you are. It will make your marriage/life/holidays so much simpler if you decide to just focus on things you share interest in and redirect conversations to those topics.

      It is possible to build entire relationships with people and they have no clue what you do for a living. My father had patents. I looked at his blueprints decades ago. I STILL have no idea what my father did for a living. And over all, I liked the guy. In a similar vein, I worked at a job for a looong time that my in-laws never understood. AND I had explained it to them! They still did not know what I did for a living. (They told me they did not understand.) We had a whole entire relationship anyway.

      Decide to put less value or less time into thinking about the Eastern med vs Western med debate when you FIL is around. Call it putting the relationship above everything else. Now, if the guy is not a nice person then that changes my answer of course. I am assuming that overall he is a nice person and there are other things you can enjoy together.

    20. MillersSpring*

      My dad’s a retired school principal who also led a private school for several years. He has to bite his tongue often around the many home-schooling parents at the church he and my mom attend.

    21. Lindsay J*

      Well I worked at an adult novelty store for awhile where I sold sex toys, stripper clothes, and drug paraphernalia. So the disapproval was not so bizarre. I just tended to keep it general and say I worked in retail, and then pivot the conversation to something else before they asked any other questions.

  28. Troubles I see*

    In my monthly meeting with a direct report, she complained that others don’t appreciate how long some of her tasks take. Like what? Well, she had to write a sensitive email to a client- and it took her 6 hours! I had to bite my tongue, take a deep breath, and say while I appreciate her strive for perfection, sometimes you just need to get things done. Is there an appropriate way to say, “work smarter, not harder”, and to explain that sharing such details will NOT impress her colleagues?

    1. Dawn*

      Granted, I am a direct person, so take this with a grain of salt:

      I’d just tell her straight up that people appreciate *results* way the hell more than they will ever appreciate how much work it took to get those results. Tell her that when she fishes for compliments by letting slip how long or how hard she worked on something people can tell that she’s trying to martyr herself and explain how that can hurt her professional image and undermine the results that she achieved with that hard work. And then go on to talk about how being known for getting results quickly and accurately is the best way to advance herself at work, and if she works hard people will notice without her having to tell them.

      And maybe talk about how 6 hours to craft an email is probably overkill, if that’s part of a pattern in her work.

      1. Troubles I see*

        I think if I frame it properly, this will be the answer. I need to communicate that it’s results, not effort, that counts. Thank you!

    2. fposte*

      I’m with Dawn in that I’d directly address the inappropriate use of 6 hours to write a single email. I don’t know how sensitive stuff can get in your workplace, but I can’t imagine an email that would take over an hour to craft, and that’s generous; I’d be clear to her what you think the longest amount of time you can accept is.

      I’d also say that in general it’s a bad plan to look to colleagues for appreciation of your task focus, and that if she’s been regularly telling people how long it takes her to do things, she should stop that.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        An hour to craft- this, this!

        My boss and I have jobs where it is possible to spend days working on a particular thing. Our time constraints do not allow for days, not even hours. So we have rules of thumb that we try to live by.

        All x, y and z type problems we work on for 15 minutes. If we do not resolve it in 15 minutes then we call for help. For example a malfunctioning computer. Experience has shown us that we either figure the problem out quickly OR it is beyond our technical skills. There is no point to struggling for two hours, we will not figure it out.

        Apparently your employee did ask for help but that only added to the time spent on the email. This is a productivity question in my mind. But the time limit idea could still work here. I agree with fposte that an hour is a good time limit to hammer out a difficult email. I would tell her that going forward the company does not want to shell out six hours worth of pay for one email.

        You can ask her to make a plan so that she never spends more than an hour on a difficult email again. OR
        You can tell her that the company can’t pay her 6 hours worth of pay for one email, so this incident cannot be repeated. OR
        You can suggest the use of incubation time. This is the time spent NOT thinking about something, that causes the brain to relax and the words/ideas to flow. In using this technique, she could write for a half hour in the morning, save the email to drafts then turn and look at other tasks. Later in the afternoon, she could go back to the email, spend a half hour polishing it then ship it. Use the time away from the email to help herself write a better email.

        If she starts saying that she is deeply sensitive to others, then let her know that this is part of the job. While it is nice to be sensitive to others she also has to realize that she needs to be sensitive to the company’s needs also. And the company needs her to work in an efficient manner. If she hired someone to clean her home for her and that person took 6 hours just to do one room, she would see a problem with that. Likewise here, tasks have to be handled in an efficient manner.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      “Done is better than perfect.” And then I’d be very clear going forward with how much time she GETS on projects, no matter how much time she would like to have.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Also, I’ve had this conversation with a direct report before. He would do way more background research than the task required, thus not only blowing his deadline but also billing a ton of extra hours to the project. Then he pushed back when I told him he was taking too much time, because he thought all of that extra stuff was necessary. It helped to tell him that I was not only comparing him to how I would approach the same work, but also to other copywriters I’ve supervised in the past, and I helped him identify the time-consuming steps he was taking that others did not (while producing the caliber of work we needed).

        He shaped up after that, and started to understand that although HE likes things perfect, usually good is good enough, and done is better than perfect.

    4. Same Boat*

      Unfortunately I don’t have much advice, but a ton of sympathy. I have a peer that I work closely with on a project where I am the lead. She is like this–sends overblown emails that end up being confusing because she just won’t ask for what she needs, spends hours and hours checking and rechecking tasks she’s done a thousand times. It’s difficult to work with because it’s inefficient and just leads to more confusion.

      It’s pretty apparent that it’s coming from a place of insecurity, that she’s so terrified of saying something “wrong” that she tries to leave no possibility for it. You mentioned that the email was sensitive and to a client, so perhaps talk to her about whether that caused her stress or if she felt it was something some one else should have handled?

      1. Troubles I see*

        So much this! Her worst nightmare is being told she’s done something wrong. So before she sent the sensitive email, she talked to x people about what *they* would put in the email, talked to colleague y because y might possibly maybe be affected by the email, and then wanted me to proof the email before it was sent. And, truth be told, it didn’t need to be that sensitive!

        1. Same Boat*

          Definitely sounds like my coworker! The difficulty I’ve had in dealing with it is whenever I bring it up, I get back “well, I was just trying to be clear” or “I just wanted confirmation” (after something’s been confirmed twice). To someone without these issues, those are all good things, so it’s hard to explain why they’re not in this case.

          Maybe you’ll have more luck because you’re her manager, not her peer? I hope so!

    5. MsMaryMary*

      Is she a recent graduate? I feel like in school students are sometimes rewarded for the amount of time the spent on something as much as for the result – or at least there’s that perception. Maybe less so from professors, but your classmates/friends are going to be more supportive and sympathetic to “I spent all weekend on that paper” than to “I got up at 8am and wrote the paper in time for our 10am class.”

      I’d emphasize that in the working world, efficiency and results are generally more important than the amount of time invested.

      1. Troubles I see*

        No, it’s someone who’s in her early 50s. I think she’s very, very sensitive herself. To her credit, she admits it and says she’s working on it.

  29. Jwal*

    Just wanted to say thanks for the suggestions last week about job/internship hunting in Germany.

    I passed the info onto my brother and, whilst he’s not got anything definite, has had a few more bites so to speak.

    Thank you :)

  30. super anon*

    One more quick one about hiring. How long do you wait after extending an offer to a candidate and hearing nothing back before you rescind it?

    I offered a position to a candidate on Wednesday and have heard nothing back since – not even an email to tell me they need time to think about it, etc. They have answered my other emails in a timely fashion, so this is odd. Do I email them again today, or call them to see if they want the position? I need to have the role filled quickly or I will lose my funding for it. At this point I’m not even sure if I want them to be in the role if this is the impression they’re going to give at the offer stage. I need someone who I can rely on to show up and do good work when I’m not in the office.

    ps: hiring is quite the experience! I hired my first ever employee this week and I am so excited/terrified for them to start next month. i think this process is the best learning experience i’ve had thusfar in my career.

    1. Dawn*

      Did you email them or call them? Email gets bounced to spam, sometimes there are issues with delivery, who knows. Call them!

      1. anon anon*

        I emailed them because my office culture is to have everything in writing. I will call them today for sure.

        1. Dawn*

          Ah, yeah call them! And in the future, I’d call people first, and then immediately send an email with the details of the phone call, next steps, etc so you’d get it in writing.

    2. overeducated*

      Definitely call! I got an email asking to schedule an interview a couple weeks ago, responded, and got a call the following week from the hiring manager to ask if I was interested…she thought her email might have gone to my spam queue, but actually she had missed my response, which turn up in a search. If she hadn’t called we both would have thought the other ghosted. At the offer stage that would be an even more awful misunderstanding if it makes you lose the candidate you want, so it’s worth double checking.

    3. LawCat*

      If they’ve otherwise been good at communicating, why not just give them a call? Maybe they didn’t get the email. Maybe they didn’t know your timeframe. You don’t know what’s going on and it seems unfair to leap to an assumption that the person is just unreliable.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Call. If you get voicemail, leave a voicemail saying that you want to make sure they received your offer letter on Wednesday, and that since you have other candidates waiting for an answer, you’d like to hear back from them within the next few days even if it’s just to say they need a bit more time.

      It’s possible the original email went to their spam folder or something.

      For what it’s worth, I’d recommend always calling to make a job offer. You want the chance to sell the position and get the person excited, and also to hear their reaction so you get a sense of how interested they are. An email doesn’t give you the same opportunity, and can leave you in the positon you’re in now!

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes, typically when I’ve gotten a job offer, it’s gone like this (and I would recommend this approach to hiring managers):

        1. Hiring manager emails me “Hey, can we chat on Friday? When’s a good time for me to call?” I answer back and state a time like 5:00pm.

        2. Hiring manager calls me at 5:00pm and says “We’re excited to offer you this position at _______ salary with blah blah blah benefits. We really hope you’ll come on board, and I’ll email you actual details and an official offer letter right after this phone call.” On the phone call itself, I’ll say how excited I am about the offer, and then ask if I can have until the end of the day Monday (or Tuesday) to get back to her. She’ll usually say that’s fine. The key point here is that by the end of the phone call, you want some kind of mutually understood deadline by which the offer must be accepted or declined.

        3. Over the weekend, I look over the paperwork, talk to my spouse, figure out things. I may even email the hiring manager about clarifying details, and she’ll usually eagerly email back, even though it’s the weekend, because locking in the hire is important (otherwise, they wouldn’t have made an offer in the first place).

        4. On Monday or Tuesday (whatever was previously agreed upon), I call the hiring manager back (or she calls me), and then I do a brief negotiation and then usually they’re fine with it, and then I accept verbally. Paperwork to ensue…

        In your particular situation, I would even impose a deadline if you haven’t previously agreed on one. “I haven’t heard from you in ____ days. We’d like to make a decision on this soon. Can you please follow up with me by _____ if you’re still interested?”

      2. super anon*

        Thank you Allison! I called the candidate and she had gotten my email, but has been waiting to respond to me because she’s fielding another offer at a more competitive pay rate. I was able to tell her that I recognized our offer was low, but I was willing to go to bat for her to get a higher salary.

        I had never done hiring before and was following everyone else’s lead, which is to email candidates and never call. I’m going to file this information (and anon educator’s too!) away for future hiring rounds. Calling was way better than sending an email.

    5. Persephone Mulberry*

      Oh my goodness, call. If they’ve been responsive up until this point, I would guess that the email got eaten in transit and they are as anxiously waiting to hear from you as you are to hear from them.

      I almost missed my chance at the interview for the job I just accepted because I never received the calendar invite email that the interviewer sent.

  31. Ella*

    So my new manager does communicate with me and does a lot of the work that is really mine to do. I feel like it’s a lack of trust and control issues on her part but there’s not much I can do about it, I feel… she treats others like this as well… I’ve been here over 6 months now and the work I do is pretty basic… the more interesting work, that during the extensive interview process they ensured I was qualified to do, she does herself…

    Anyone have any tips? I’m starting to feel like I’ve made a mistake in taking this role…

    Thanks in advance!

    1. misspiggy*

      Did you have a conversation with her at the beginning where you got a clear outline of your duties? If yes, that’s the job you’ve been hired for. You could ask for a review meeting and see whether there is potential for you to be given more responsibility.

      If no, it would be a good idea to arrange a meeting with her to review your first six months and to clarify exactly what duties she would like to see you doing from now on. You can ask for more responsibility but you can’t expect it.

      1. Ella*

        Thanks. Yes we discussed my duties and my qualifications, I was tested to ensure I had the skills… but now she continues to do the work herself. I get nothing but positive feedback about how “awesome” I am from her and others… and others have a hard time with her style…

        I guess I don’t even know what I’m asking. I can certainly speak to her. I came in 3 months before their review process so we had a chance to touch base then and I got nothing but positive input. I asked for things I could improve on and she said nothing, she looked surprised that I even asked. I was surprised at some of the feedback in the review, it was very simple, things that go without saying (for me, like helping others on projects and communicating when I’ll be late due to weather or traffic, etc.)… I took it as I was new and she hasn’t worked with me long…

        But I’m disappointed and frustrated. I was doing the work I’m doing now years ago, I’ve gained a great deal since then and I want to use it… I don’t believe I can change this person but I’m starting to feel I’m not needed here, not someone at my skill level…

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If you were told that you’d be doing X and you’re not doing much X, it’s totally reasonable to say that you’d really like to be doing X as discussed during the hiring process and ask for a timeline for when that’s likely to happen.

          1. Ella*

            Some things I’m not doing at all as she will not let those tasks go. One small thing I did she ended up changing later. It was not wrong she changed the format.

            Thanks for the reply, I’ll have to find a way to bring it up somehow… she is in back to back meetings and even though I’ve asked for more access and time it doesn’t happen.

  32. RG*

    Got some feedback yesterday that I have a tendency to come across as rude or offensive sometimes on paper – or phone I guess. Disheartening because I do try hard not to do that, but not well enough apparently. Feeling a bit down.

    1. greenbeans*

      I’m sorry.

      A friend of mine told me she was getting similar feedback at work, and she was puzzled. She’s a good person, but she can be very blunt, and sometimes people misinterpret that. Not sure if that’s anywhere close to your situation, but I wanted to mention it because you said you were feeling down. Negative feedback definitely doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. The fact that someone took the time to give you feedback could also be positive, depending on the circumstances (they might want to help you out).

      Who provided the feedback–a manager, a peer, a client? Do you feel like it could be warranted, or is it out of left field?

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I’d consider the source, too. Some people like “fluffier” language than others. Also, some people confuse what they’re being told with how it’s being told. They might just not like the content of the message rather than the delivery.

        1. Anonsie*

          This, absolutely. I’m a pretty direct person so I get a mix of both of these. I have to tell people no a lot, and those people will often complain about me saying I’m unhelpful and rude. Then the people who heavily soften all their own messages are sometimes unhappy I don’t add softening exclamation points or smiley faces in my emails all the time, and they take it as me being angry and rude.

          Personally I don’t listen to either camp.

      2. RG*

        Thank you for your kind words! Yeah, that’s pretty similar to how she phrased it – that she thinks what I’m saying in those situations is coming from a place of passion, but to others it may be off-putting. I do think it’s warranted – like I said above, it’s something I try to be conscious of already, but I’m sure I still slip up from time to time. I just thought I had gotten better at it, is all.

        So, I think the person who said it is a peer? It’s a civic organization that I’m involved in. She’s a committee chair and I’m looking to become one. I do think her advice came from a good place – she said that she had the same issue, so she was trying to offer some feedback for me. But still, even though it’s not for work per se, it’s still a learning experience, so I’m trying to get as much out of it as I can. But thank you again for your kind words! I really appreciate it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Sounds like she is open to conversation. Ask her for examples of either yours or hers. Maybe that would help.

          People don’t say anything if they don’t think we can fix it. She thinks you can fix it.

          Also realize that in some places a new person is always perceived as rude. So while you are working at things, know that time is your friend. They will get to know you and you will get to know them. This will help also.

        2. MillersSpring*

          I have received similar feedback, that I was coming across too blunt or brusque. I started softening my emails: starting each with Hi Recipent-name, complimenting their question or idea, asking probing questions, explaining the *likely* challenge or barrier, expressing best wishes for their week or weekend, and signing off with another thank you. I still use as few words as possible for all of the sentiments above, but the “fluff” helps to grease the wheels of interpersonal relationships.

    2. edj3*

      I got this feedback years ago (and in fact was dinged for it on my annual performance evaluation). The problem with written communication is that we don’t get any verbal or non-verbal cues–there’s no indication that you’re using a light voice or ranting and raving. And that can happen on the phone too (in fact I was the one sounding pissed this week on a conference call when in fact I wasn’t).

      So I started using a salutation of some sort and also a closing in every email. That seemed silly to me but it helped a lot. And on phone calls, I generally stand up (for more energy) and smile. Again, not sure why it works, I just know that it does.

      Hope this helps because you are not the only one :)

    3. Meg*

      I’m sorry, that must have been so hard to hear! Do you have a trusted friend who could look over some of your emails (or whatever means of communication you think needs improvement) and make some suggestions? I did this for a friend a couple years ago — she is the nicest person but definitely came across as rude/curt over email.

    4. Ultraviolet*

      It can be really discouraging to hear you’re not improving something fast enough (or well enough). That’s no fun.

      If you’re looking for more advice about not coming off as rude on paper/phone, you might be interested in an Ask a Manager post from last year called “my manager says I’m too abrupt with coworkers.” A lot of that letter/response focused on the OP’s feelings about getting that feedback–they were interpreting it as a negative assessment of their personality and felt pretty bad about it. But there were also a lot of suggestions on how to avoid sounding rude when you don’t mean to be.

  33. Annie Moose*

    The layoff ships have appeared on the horizon, so I’ve started looking around for other positions and putting together cover letters. Actually, the ships have been on the horizon for awhile now, I just was trying to pretend they weren’t there, and I can’t really do that anymore. :/

    Anyway, I’m only a couple years out of college and my current job started as a college internship, so my cover letter-writing skills are… nonexistent. I don’t even think I wrote a cover letter when I interviewed for full-time, and I’m sure the one from my internship application was awful! So I’m looking for some advice on how on earth you write a cover letter when you have very little experience. All the samples I find out there are like “I have twenty years of experience in Teapot Analysis and have been on fifty huge projects with a bazillion dollars in profits”, and I’m sitting over here going… I have two years of experience as a Junior Teapot Developer and have no clue how much profit I may have brought my current company.

    I did read this post (https://www.askamanager.org/2016/03/how-do-i-write-a-compelling-cover-letter-when-i-dont-have-much-work-experience.html) which got me started, but anybody have any other advice?

    Also, this is a more general question, I’m looking into a job in my state, about two hours away from where I currently live. I have family that lives (relatively) near that city and I’ve visited the area several times… worth mentioning in the letter? Should I mention my location at all? I’d love the opportunity to stay in the state, as I have family here and love my state, but I’m not sure if it’s too weird to be like “Oh I love your city, I have family there so I’ve visited several times, blah blah blah”.

    1. Mary Margaret*

      If you have family there I’d use their address. Then if they call to schedule an interview if you need to you can let them know where you currently live.

      1. EW*

        Interesting how different people’s reactions are – I just read the cover letter at the link and found it extremely off-putting. Sounds like the person has an inflated ego and inflated sense of self-importance (“I’ve been successful at nearly everything I’ve done.” Really? that’s hard to believe). Not to mention overly flattering/sucking up (saying I’m going to turn down another offer because “What could be more important than [your company]? Plus, your products have a wonderful reputation.”). While the specific accomplishments listed sound good, I would put this one immediately in the “reject” pile just for the attitude and ego.

        So, I guess the bottom line is you can’t please everyone :)

        1. Honeybee*

          I don’t find it hard to believe that a person has been successful at nearly everything they’ve done. And the letter writer didn’t say “What could be more important than your company?” She said “What could be more important than products that improve health?” That’s very different – it’s expressing a deep interest in a particular field rather than pandering to a particular company.

          For me the dealbreaker is the last paragraph. I’d absolutely be willing to hire someone without a bachelor’s degree for many jobs because I feel like there are many things you can learn by experience just as well, or better, than a college education. It’s the way she said it: After two years of college, it became clear to me that spending more years and a fortune listening to lectures on largely theoretical, academic material would be less valuable than learning in the real world.” To me that evidences a real lack of understanding about how foundational/theoretical knowledge can connect to applications and actual skills, and how much things you think you don’t need can come back around and influence your work later. I’d be worried I have someone on my hands who would unnecessarily push back against structure or certain tasks or learnings because she didn’t see an immediate need for it, even if that invisibility was due to lack of high-level understanding. I mean…sometimes in a job you get an assignment and a deadline by which it is needed. You don’t always have the flexibility to determine how and when you want to do everything.

          That, plus she also leads with her weaknesses rather than her strengths. I’d be super meh about her.

    2. Liza*

      Annie Moose, I recently saw an amazing cover letter (for a position I thought I was hiring for, before layoff ships appeared on our own horizon) and what made it so great was that the writer made it clear they had really read the job posting and understood what I was looking for. I don’t mean they copied words from the job posting into their cover letter, I mean they showed they had thought about what I wrote, and what that would mean about the position, and they talked about *that* in their cover letter.

      This is kind of a strained example, but: if the job posting says they’re looking for someone to sort teapot glazes alphabetically by color name, you can guess that the person who wrote the job description values order and organization, and if being organized is important to you too, you can talk about that.

      Also I would absolutely mention the location thing, so that they know you didn’t apply thinking it’s in your own town. “I currently live in X but have family near Y and would be happy to live closer to them,” for example.

      Good luck!

    3. KW10*

      Regardless of your level of experience, the cover letter should focus on your skills and qualifications that make you a good fit for the job. Make a list of four or five reasons why they should hire you and focus on that. For a fairly entry level job it might be things like experience in admin support, attention to detail, communication skills, and interest/experience with X subject area – even if that’s through internships or college research work or a year or two at your first job.

    4. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      Could you use examples of when your soft skills shined? Or a problem you solved? I felt my cover letters were more memorable when I used two (maybe three if two were mostly related) anecdotes that highlighted soft skills that were in the job description. School projects and volunteer activities can work if they are good, but at least one anecdote should be from your internship or current job.

      I like to close with a sentence mentioning professional development or my passion for my field. That’s because it’s a big deal for the field, but it may be useful since you are a young professional.

  34. Mona Lisa*

    How do you handle an oversharing co-worker who’s eating up time?

    My co-worker tells me all of these little details of her life, most of which I don’t really find colleague-level appropriate (the status of her marriage, for example). I’ve tried to be empathetic while remaining distant (acknowledging that she’s speaking to me while keeping my responses short, not asking follow-up questions, etc.), but she’s not taking the hint. I’ve also tried to continue working while she talks in hope that she’d notice that I’m sending e-mails or something, but she keeps on going. I’ve seen articles where AAM suggests to cut off time-wasters with “I really need to get back to this work” or some variation on that, but it feels kind of heartless to say that to someone who’s discussing her problems with her horrible in-laws while I’m doing tasks that could be technically accomplished during conversation.

    We’re a new, small office of only three in close proximity to one another so we’re not terribly formal, but I don’t feel comfortable going into detail about how my co-worker’s marriage isn’t what it used to be or the status of her husband’s company and employment there.

    (As a side note, I’m sooooo glad I told her and my manager that I don’t Facebook friend my current co-workers because I can only imagine what kind of doors that would have opened.)

    1. fposte*

      “it feels kind of heartless to say that to someone who’s discussing her problems with her horrible in-laws while I’m doing tasks that could be technically accomplished during conversation.”

      Unless she owns the business, though, I doubt that’s how the people who are paying you would think of your time. There’s a good series of Captain Awkward letters up right now about women who felt they had to be completely accommodating unless they could inarguably defend their reason not to be; though those letters are about women and men, I think the accommodation theme runs strong throughout a lot of human relationships and you might find it useful to look at them. (Just because she wants to tell you stuff doesn’t mean you’re obliged to hear it, after all.)

      So you’re not going to like your choices here, I’m afraid. They are: not respond at all; say “Sorry, I need to be better about focusing on work”; wear earphones. There is no magic way to make her shut up without you visibly wanting her to shut up, even in the nicest possible way.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        Thanks for the advice. I’m going to have to check out those Captain Awkward letters. I think my co-worker wants to be chummier than I’m willing to be, and I’m having trouble finding a way to set that boundary without damaging our working relationship.

        And, yeah, she’s pretty dense about some of my more subtle clues. I’m already using the earbud trick, and she usually makes some kind of exclamation over at her desk (“Oh, my goodness! I can’t believe this!”), which is clearly intended to draw me into conversation though I’ve gotten better about ignoring it.

      2. Jennifer*

        Yeah, I have to second this. Some people just can’t be stopped politely without really ticking them off and it’s not worth it to be at war in a small space.

    2. NoProfitNoProblems*

      You could try a slightly stronger hint, like “Wow, that’s a lot of unload on a colleague. I’m not sure how to respond. Have you thought about talking to a therapist about this? They might be more helpful than talking to me.” But ultimately your solution may be to try to override your concern about her feelings.

    3. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I used to sit next to one of these. I tried listening politely at first, with non-committal responses (“Oh yeah?” “Mmm-hmm.”), but it just got worse so I had to change tactics.

      I’d wear ear buds and make a show out of taking them out and asking, “I’m sorry, were you asking me a question?” when she started talking to me. Also sometimes I’d flat out ignore her until I reached a stopping point in what I was doing. I felt rude, but I told myself that she was the one being rude by interrupting my focus.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Haha, we sat in a 4-desk cube kind of set-up so she also did this to the other 2 in our little pod. One day I had my ear buds in and she started talking about something and all of a sudden she stopped and said, “Why does everyone have earphones on?” I couldn’t help it, I just started cracking up! Self-awareness was not her strong suit…

    4. Fenchurch*

      My system for bowing out of really personal conversations usually follow this formula:

      1. Acknowledge what they said “Oh, that’s rough.”
      2. Actively change the subject”I’ve gotta run/do x/etc.”
      3. Wish them well “But I really hope that works out for you!”

      Due to this skill I was usually sent the “chatty” clientele at the bank I used to work at. I was the queen of shutting things down and taking care of business.

    5. Thinking out loud*

      I might try to say something right when you (out coworker) shows up in the morning. “I’ve been too chatty lately and have fallen behind on some work, so I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to try to focus a little more and talk a little less.” Then if (when) she charts at you later, you can use something like fenchurch’s language below – “that sounds rough, but I’m going to keep working right now – I’m finally on a roll!”

  35. Lillian McGee*

    I’ve been told our vacation policy is generous, but I’ve never worked anywhere else so I’ve no basis! Also US, mostly exempt workers.

    We start with 120 hours vacation time per year, 96 hours of sick time and 16 hours of personal time, no rollovers allowed. After 3 years vacation goes up to 160 and after 5 years you get 200. We also get the obvious holidays, and we used to get more of those Monday holidays as well, but we decided to trade most of them for a full office closure between Christmas and New Years. Bereavement is in there, probably, but we’re not strict about it. There’s also jury duty which is not counted toward anything. I think we also are allowed one “floating holiday” which I’m sure came about mainly for the weekday Jewish holidays but so as to be nondiscriminatory, everyone gets one.

    I find it difficult to use all the vacation I am allowed because 200 hours is 5 weeks(!) and I am bad at taking time off for no reason.

    1. mockingbird2081*

      Holy Hannah!!! That is some serious vacation time. What a very generous company you work for.

      1. Lillian McGee*

        I should mention that it’s nonprofit, so the generous PTO is meant to make up for the low salaries.

    2. SophieChotek*

      Seems generous to me. I think I get 2 weeks (after I accrue the PTO, we start with nothing) and no sick days/sick leave.

    3. Hazel Asperg*

      Five weeks’ holiday is UK law, so anything less than that very unusual from my perspective.

  36. A. D. Kay*

    Don’t y’all just love it when you have a really promising onsite interview, you knock the interviewers’ questions out of the park, all the interviewers act like they like you, and then–you don’t hear back from them, and it’s been over a week? Isn’t that just the BEST?

    1. Dawn*

      “been over a week”

      That’s not even a long time in hiring land. You could have been the first of three interviews, and the third interview had to be knocked back because someone was sick. Or something crazy could have gone down at the company like the email server went down and everyone was scrambling to fix it. Or someone got the flu.

      If you haven’t heard back in three weeks, then yeah that’s different. But a week? Really not a long time in hiring land. We all know it’s tough to wait tho!

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I feel your pain. I had an interview on a Monday, they said they planned to make a decision by Friday. I didn’t hear anything by Friday, I didn’t hear anything by the *following* Friday so I reached out, and didn’t receive a response until the Wednesday after that (turns out the interviewer got sick the day after my interview and then had to travel for a conference).

      Good luck!

      1. College Career Counselor*

        I hear you. I’m beginning to think that academia should be called slower ed, instead of higher ed.

    3. mockingbird2081*

      I used to think that when I worked for a small company as a manager and did the hiring. It seemed so strange that people would take so long. Now I manage for a mid-sized company 30 employees but we are just one piece in a very large organization. I finally understand. With everything else i juggle I have become that manager that can go a week or two after an interview before getting back with people. There is just a lot more I handle in a day besides the hiring of staff. This is even more true if the need is important but not urgent.

    4. A. D. Kay*

      I should clarify, the recruiter clearly indicated they would be contacting me in a matter of days.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Doesn’t matter. Those estimates are almost always wrong, sometimes wildly. Assume it’ll be three weeks from now and put it out of your head. (I don’t know that it’ll really be that long, but it’s better for your mental state to assume that it will be.)

        1. A. D. Kay*

          Yes, I know you are right. It is just irksome when I was led to believe they would be making a decision right away and I have to keep pursuing other openings.

        2. Isabel C.*

          I’m trying to tell myself this about two positions. In one, I had an initial screening interview of about half an hour, then a 40 minute phone interview with the hiring manager on 3/25, and they said they “hoped to get back to me in about a week” and that the next step would be another HM interview and maybe meeting some people. In another, I had an in-person interview with two folks on 3/31, heard that they hoped to fill the position in 4-6 weeks.

          Haven’t heard back from either, and am biting my nails a little, but having read the archives of this column does help. I’m continuing to look for jobs, and sending out applications for anything that appeals (which has so far been one every 2-3 days), but I’m really hoping I don’t need to completely give up hope for these two yet, since I really liked them both.

      2. Snazzy Hat*

        The exact thing happened to me earlier this year. Interview went amazingly. “We’ll let you know either way next week,” plus the job posting stated that anyone who has an interview will receive notice of their yea/nay. I received my rejection letter three and a half weeks later. Keep your head up, but keep looking, and be pleasantly surprised if you get an offer, and grateful for the notice if you get a rejection. I know that sounds oversimplified and pessimistic, but my notification:application ratio is abysmal, and that’s unfortunately normal.

  37. Officer NoName*

    TLDR – should I reassure a potential employer in another state that the salary we discussed would be acceptable, or wait for them to make the next move (scheduling travel for 2nd interview)?

    Ok, I applied for a position in another state (2 time zones, big move). I’m coming from the East Coast, so salaries in my field are higher then they would be in New State. I have family in New State, which I mentioned in my cover letter and email to the hiring manager. Video interview went great, I got a call within a few days (Tuesday) from HR to discuss salary and logistics for travel (there will be many people to meet with), but nothing was set in stone. Salary conversation started with us very far apart, but I acknowledged to him upfront that this was due largely to the different markets we were in and I was willing to negotiate. We found a number that was above the initial range from HR that I said I was willing to consider. I asked to see details about benefits as well.

    I received the email with benefits and immediately replied with thanks, glad we found common ground on salary, looking forward to hopefully visiting. Its only Friday, but of course I’m getting jitters about not hearing back. HR said they wanted to hire ASAP and have an ASAP start date. I’m sure they don’t want to invest travel costs in a candidate who might end up being “too expensive” (I’m a woman, so standard – am I asking too much/am I leaving money on the table? – feelings apply). Should I email HR to say benefits look great and reassure them that the salary we discussed would be acceptable, or wait patiently for them to make the next move? Should I give myself a timeline for waiting to check in?

    1. Liza*

      Officer NoName, it sounds like you already did reassure them about salary when you said “glad we found common ground on salary.” I’d leave it at that. Do give yourself a timeline for waiting to check in, and when you do check in, ask them what their timeline is for next steps. When they pass that timeline (ok, they might not, but it often happens) you can check in with them again. For that check in, I like to use phrasing like “I know that in hiring, things often take longer than anyone expects–can you give me an update on your expected timeline for [next step]?”

      Good luck!

  38. Mirilla*

    Happy Friday! Two questions. What’s the difference between a headhunter and an agency? My job search on my own is stalled so I’m thinking of using one. Any advice on either? I’m guessing long term vs perm placements are different or are they the same? Also, how common is it today for people in professional offices to not know how to type on a keyboard? I mean using the 2 finger method only. Ran into this recently.

    1. CAA*

      Headhunter is a slang term for an outside recruiter who is usually employed by an agency, but could also be a free-lancer. The term is often used when employers have a hard-to-fill or very senior position. They hire an agency to hunt for potential candidates (who are usually already employed) and get them interested in the position.

      Generally an agency is paid by an employer for finding temp, temp-to-hire, or perm staff members. Typical arrangements are that the employer pays a percentage of the first year’s salary for a perm placement, or an hourly rate to the agency for a temp or temp-to-hire placement. If it’s not a perm placement, then you would be the employee of the agency and they agency would pay you. Usually an employer agrees not to hire you away from an agency (convert you to perm) until you’ve been there for 6 months or a year.

  39. OMJ*

    My company would like to hold training for managers and employees on interacting appropriately with trans* and gender non-conforming individuals (whether employees or customers). Anybody have any recommendations for resources, approach, organizations, etc.? It’s rarely touched on in standard diversity training, and we’re having a hard time finding any specific resources for the workplace.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      This isn’t a direct answer to your question, but the comments section on Captain Awkward’s post on dealing with racist volunteers provides some really good scripts and training evaluation questions that I think can equally apply to the gender discussion (link to follow).

      1. OMJ*

        We’re in Oakland, CA, with locations throughout California.

        I’ll check those out as well, thank you!

        1. MM*

          THere are a lot of great organizations in the Bay Area! I’d also check out http://accesswhj.org they are a reproductive justice org and could probably point you in the right direction for what you need. I also think the Trevor Project has offices in CA and they might be able to help as well. So great that you are being proactive about this- it will save lives.

    2. PontoonPirate*

      The Human Rights Campaign should be able to either provide a training or point you in the right direction. My organization just did one specific to our line of work (we’ll be credentialed and everything).

      1. OMJ*

        My boss said she’d looked into them and it wasn’t the format she was looking for, but I think I’ll try them again and see what we can come up with. Thank you!

        1. Honeybee*

          I’m not saying don’t look into it, but the HRC has been panned (widely and often) by many for their handling of transgender and gender expression issues. (They’ve also been criticized for a lot of other things within the queer community and…well, I’d just check them out pretty closely before deciding to go with them if they even do offer this, and I’d go with a smaller trans-focused community organization if you have the choice in your area.

    3. Charlotte Collins*

      I don’t have any input, I just wanted to comment that this is a great idea.

  40. ThatGirl*

    Just a random grumble: they are renovating large chunks of the building I work in, and it’s getting to be a pain. Tarps everywhere, kitchen areas partially dismantled, moving crates blocking hallways, the cafeteria is torn up… sigh.

    1. hermit crab*

      Ugh, that’s super annoying! But hopefully the renovations will be worth it, right?

  41. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Curious what the rest of you think: beer at work?

    Not drinking, just having it. I bought a few cases during my last brewery visit (Dogfish Head), and I was telling a coworker of mine about the different beers I had. This coworker has gone to beer festivals with me, and we talk beer, wine, and whisky fairly often. So I realized I was telling him about how good this beer was, and I felt kind of bad, so I put together one bottle of each of the ones I have in 12-oz bottles and brought them in to work to give to him to try at home.

    Is this odd? Out of bounds? I’ve talked about homebrewing with other beer aficionados at work, too, and even brought my boss one of my home brewed beers (again, to drink at home).

    1. Anoners*

      I don’t think this is weird at all. You’re not getting wasted with said coworker at work, just spreading the love. If it was drugs or something more illicit there’d be an issue (or if you work in a supper conservative workplace or something like that).

    2. ThatGirl*

      Kind of depends on office culture, I’d say, but at a minimum you could exchange them in the parking lot, maybe?

      I’d love to have beer exchanges with people here, and I think if it were in a bag and not blatantly obvious it wouldn’t be a big problem.

    3. Lillian McGee*

      Depends on culture. Both of the heads of our org. have mini-fridges in their offices and there is usually beer in both of them. However! Drinking it is relegated to after-hours or special occasions.

      I had four(!) cases of beer left over from an event stacked in my office for about 2 months last year. We were saving it for the holiday party. Many jokes were cracked involving my Irish heritage (mostly by me)….

      On normal days, a six pack displayed openly would get a good-natured comment or interested inquiry, but nothing judgy!

    4. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I’ve never given or received beer gifts at work (clearly I’m in the wrong place) but I’ve had beer at work due to stopping at the store during a lunch break. I think as long as you’re not waving it around in the open, it’s fine.

    5. Dawn*

      Depends on your office culture. My husband organizes a whiskey swap with his co-workers and frequently the managers and even VP’s will get in on it. At my current office, we had beer at a company potluck a few months ago. Honestly, some unopened beer that was given as a gift that was intended to be consumed at home would probably not raise eyebrows anywhere but the most conservative places. If you were worried you could suggest to the coworker that they put it in their car, or have them come to the parking lot with you and give it to them there, for immediate stashing in their car.

    6. Jubilance*

      Does your company have a policy? My company allows you to have it on-site, but it needs to be a bag or box, so like if you went to the liquor store over lunch (I work downtown), you could bring your purchase back to the office but it needs to stay in the bag/box. And obviously, opening and drinking said beer/wine in the office would be a big no-no.

    7. Oryx*

      Depends on your culture. Here, nobody would bat an eyelash and we even have had beer at on site employee events (like office holiday parties).

      At my previous job, just having alcohol, even unopened bottles, was a big no-no.

      (That rule was tossed out when we were closing: our president had already transferred to our other location and those who were losing their jobs wanted to have a good-bye party. He said as long as they didn’t leave any evidence behind, he didn’t care what was served.)

    8. Lady Kelvin*

      If you work in a federal building you aren’t allowed to have alcohol on the premises, even if you aren’t drinking it (not even in your car, although they probably wouldn’t look very hard if it wasn’t out in the open). I’d just double check your office policy just to be safe. It’d be silly to be fired over exchanging beers at work when it can be done any other time outside the office.

    9. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Thanks to everybody for mentioning the policy. Turns out that we are prohibited from even possessing alcohol while on the clock, or on company property, unless it’s an official company event where it’s been permitted.

      Since the culture is pretty relaxed, I think I can still bring in beer once in a blue moon for certain people, but I’m going to be careful about not having it out in the open now that I know.

      And for those beer drinkers who were wondering, I brought my friend here at work a bottle each of Festina Peche, Namaste, Burton Baton, and Palo Santo Marron.

    10. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      For the last two months I have been stumbling over my boss’s two cases of wine that he conveniently had delivered to the office and plonked between our “desks” (open plan – a big bench). Every once in a while he makes a big flourish about selecting one to take home. Which usually turns into a discussion with the other wine heads on the team. But no one has ever opened a bottle and passed it around on a Friday.

      I think so long as you aren’t drinking at work at your desk its ok and thats a pretty friendly gesture to make to bring some beer in for someone else. We used to homebrew and I did that once or twice for people to try. Hey for all anyone knows it could be ginger ale! :)

    11. Rebecca in Dallas*

      You’re probably fine. You might double-check your company’s handbook to see if it specifically bans alcohol on its premise. We gave our beer-loving boss a variety pack as a gift one year, nobody thought that was weird. I mean, it was wrapped up as an obvious gift, not just a 6 pack in the break room fridge or something.

      Also, YUM Dogfish Head!

    12. Marzipan*

      We had half-a-dozen bottles of interesting beers kicking around in our office for a couple of weeks and no-one batted an eyelid. (Someone had given them to someone else as a gift, and the someone else didn’t get round to taking them home straight away.) If you walked too heavily past them, they all clinked!

    13. Doriana Gray*

      The guys in my office have exchanged beer in the office. Granted, one was my manager and the other was an AVP. Still, it’s not really a big deal in my office as long as no one’s actually drinking.

      Oh – and I almost forgot about the time nearly two years ago when I came back from an island with a bottle of wine for one of my coworkers who loved the stuff. I brought it to work and gave it to him – it wasn’t an issue.

    14. Mkb*

      This would be totally fine at my company. I’ve had cases of wine delivered to me at work before.

  42. New Nurse*

    Feeling pretty discouraged after what I thought was a great interview 2 weeks ago. It was for a new grad RN position which is so hard to even get an interview for in this city due to the glut of nursing schools. I’m a career changer so I’m used to the interviewing process and the usual employer silence if things don’t work out, but this interview went well, run super over the time limit, and we discussed the next steps in detail. Even though I was sure I nailed the interview, I know that can never be predictive of getting the job (after reading AAM for years!).

    However, the interviewer insisted she would let all the applicants know ASAP whether it was good or bad news because “she hates letting new grads hanging”. All great things. A decision was supposed to be made early this week and I heard nothing, so I sent a quick followup today, and now I wait again. Not much needed in the way of advice, but man, I forgot how frustrating all of this is. Especially when classmates are getting jobs left and right.

    1. Snazzy Hat*

      Think of it as “we’ll let you know when we know. hopefully we won’t have any snags.”

  43. WFH Seeker*

    How did you find your job working from home? Was it an office job first that turned to remote or were you able to find a remote position from the beginning?

    I’ve come to the realization that working in an office is not for me. All the noises are extremely distracting. The latest is my new cube mate who clicks their mouse like they are trying to beat it into submission. It is stressing me out! I’m on edge hearing that CLICK CLICK CLICK all day long. It’s like a dripping faucet. The thing is, before that it was the constant throat clearer.

    I’ve been asking myself – is the problem me (answer: yes, at least to a point), or am I just unlucky enough to have super annoying coworkers (answer: ditto)? Seriously though, I don’t know since I’m the only person sitting close enough to these people to hear the things that drive me up the wall.

    I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter and it would be best if I removed myself from the environment before I snap. I’m frustrated with myself for being so sensitive but I just cannot tune out these repetitive noises and they are making me miserable at an otherwise ok job. Playing music or white noise doesn’t mask the sound (and headphones aren’t used by anyone in the office so I think they are discouraged, if not outright banned).

    I’ve reached the point where I need quiet in order to function and I’m not getting it in an office so changing my environment is the only solution I can think of. And honestly there are other things I hate about offices, and this office in particular – the handful of people whistling as they walk around, uncomfortable ambient temperature, a small break room that gets too much foot traffic leaving nowhere to decompress on breaks/lunch except my car or the park which only works when the weather is nice. So basically I like my job and my coworkers (except for their annoying quirks) but I hate the environment.

    I can’t work from home in my current role. I’ve asked and the company is too paper dependent which is a bummer since I don’t mind the work and my boss is nice.

    FWIW – I do not have a degree, but I do have 15 years of A/P & A/R experience. Surely there’s something I can do from home with that experience, right? I’d be happy doing data entry if I could earn a decent salary. Not looking for mega bucks and would be fine part-time (would actually prefer it), but searching online hasn’t been very fruitful. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

    1. Microscope Jockey*

      This may not be quite applicable but: I have sound hypersensitivity issues and I just bought Here Active Listening ear buds. They aren’t headphones per se: you can use them to filter out annoying noises, among other uses. They don’t play music. There is an office setting I am playing around with. Basically you are wearing visible Bluetooth earbuds but you can still hear and talk to people. I got them for noisy situations that overwhelm me like crowded public places, but I am interested in how they can be used for annoying repetitive small sounds too, like my spouse having their laptop in bed and clickity-clacking when I want to sleep! So far I have figured out how to tune out the neighbor’s lawn mower and tune way down the annoying conversations and background noise in the doctor’s waiting room. I only got them yesterday but I will let you know how my experiments with them are going if you are interested. Downside: they look a bit dorky because they are fairly large. Maybe you could explain about the distracting little noises and ask your supervisor for a dispensation to have Here buds if you think they might work for you?

      1. WFH Seeker*

        Those sound very interesting. I googled them and it sounds like they aren’t out yet. Did you get them through Kickstarter or something? I find my hypersensitivity to sound is getting worse and making me even more anxious and on edge than I used to be so I’m excited there are products being made to help alleviate that. Thanks so much for the info!

        1. Microscope Jockey*

          No problem. I missed the Kisckstarter but I got the second limited production run because I wrote them an email telling them why I wanted them. They were $200 but if it makes if they make it bearable for me to be in previously unbearable situations they are worth it. This morning I figured out how to tune down the annoying ventilation system in my lab, but I am usually alone in here, so I need to get some of my coworkers to come talk to me and see how that works with the filter on. I may try answering the phone with them on but nobody calls me that often.

      2. Liza*

        Ooh. Are the Here buds comfortable? And for a reference point, do you find most earbuds comfortable? I’ve found that my introvert factor kicks in a lot faster when I’m in loud places, regardless of the number of people, so this sounds potentially useful for me. (For example, last week I walked into a gathering of maybe ten people, all of whom I know and like, but it was in a small, echoey room so it was pretty loud. I was there for less than a minute before deciding it was too much for me right then.)

      3. AnonAnalyst*

        I have these! I was a backer of the Kickstarter and have had them for a couple months. I’ve found them to be good for ambient noise (the mouse clicking for example) but not so much for louder noise (like conversations, which was one of the things I was really hoping to be able to reduce the volume of or drown out when I brought mine to work). I know they are working on other filters/settings, though, so perhaps there will be something that will help with my noisy office in the future.

        So far I’ve found them pretty comfortable to wear, and I usually have trouble with larger ear buds (I’m looking at you, Apple ear buds). The part of the Here ear buds that actually sits in your ear is fairly small, and I’m pretty sure it came with multiple options for the rubber end tips so there’s some customization possible. The rest of the ear bud is a larger piece that sits next to, but not in, your ear, which is the part that you can see when you’re wearing them. But as Microscope Jockey said, it is fairly large so people will definitely see that you’re wearing them.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I don’t have any advice, but I am now hyperaware of ALL my cube-neighbors’ mouse clicks, keyboarding, paper shuffling and stapler noises. LOL

    3. orchidsandtea*

      I got a job working for a very small company that doesn’t have a central office, so everybody works from home. It’s actually a bit hard on me (I’m working from a coffeeshop right this second) because I work best when I’m bouncing ideas back and forth with others.

      I have a few friends who are working on novels or who are in college, so we’ll have coffeeshop dates or make a big pot of tea at my place, and work quietly together. I’m moderately introverted, I find groups exhausting, and I think most offices are uncomfortable, so I was really surprised by how difficult this turned out to be.

    4. Danae*

      In my experience, telecommuting jobs often don’t advertise themselves as such–with both of my telecommuting jobs, the fact that they were remote was only mentioned when I was doing the first phone screen. When I’m looking for remote work, I look for jobs that I think -could- be done remotely and that don’t say “onsite only” in the description. If I get an initial screening call, then I ask about whether the work is onsite or remote.

      (And I have a lot of sympathy–I’m very sensitive to sounds too, and noise canceling headphones give me instant headaches because I can hear and feel the noise canceling working.)

  44. Felix*

    Can you share your outlook secrets with me? I want to work smarter. Just discovered categories and notes. Share your tips!!

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      I use the signatures feature for all sorts of form emails, so I never have to copy and paste, and they’re a cinch to update on the fly.

      1. Collie*

        I’ve always assumed this was the point of the QuickParts feature, but I can see how this might be faster to access.

    2. Joshua*

      I like to use categories as action items. I have categories for:

      “To do”
      “To Respond”
      “To Follow-up’
      “To Delegate”
      “Waiting On”

      Then, my goal is to not have any messages in my inbox that aren’t categorized. If I’m able to respond to an email quickly, i do so then move it to a folder out of the inbox. Only categorized messages remain. Then, I can sort it. I can bring up all my “to do’s” if I have an hour and start going through those. Or I can bring up the ‘Follow-ups” and see if any are passed an appropriate time that I can indeed follow-up, etc. I find it helpful!

    3. LawCat*

      You can set up “Rules” on Outlook to divert email into specific folders. E.g., all emails from Jane go in folder X, or all emails with the subject “Wellness” go in folder Y. This has made organizing my email so much easier (since a chunk of it organizes itself) and has let me for efficiently go through emails. For example, I look at the “Wellness” emails (and we’re fairly inundated with them because they’re super into the workplace wellness stuff where I work) if I have time/feel like looking at them instead of them interrupting my main inbox.

      1. LawCat*

        You can also have Outlook collapse “conversations” together like on gmail so all email exchanges are grouped together instead of individually appearing disparately in the inbox. This has made finding related emails so much easier!

        1. Persephone*

          I love this feature. The only thing that bugs me about it is if one message was marked as important, it’s shown at the top level. I wish there was a way to remove that once the need for importance is gone.

    4. Meg Murry*

      Flag for followup! If someone says “I’ll have that data to you by Thursday”, flag it for Friday, and then if you have the data, delete the flag, and if not, forward them the message and say “Where’s the data you promised me for yesterday?” Or if you often send things and never get responses, you can make a “waiting on” flag, and then clear the flag once the person responds, or go through every few days to see what items in your “waiting on” file need to have someone re-nagged or escalated up the chain.

    5. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I love making Outlook rules. I am on a LOT of distribution groups. Some of those emails are things I should be actively reading, some are just FYI. I create folders under my inbox for each group and set rules to automatically filter emails to those folders based on the distribution group, subject line, or any other criteria. It helps keep my main inbox clean and allows me to focus on the distribution group emails at my leisure.

      1. Felix*

        How do you make sure you aren’t missing these? My understanding with rules is that you would then have to regularly check those folders for new messages. Do you just write this action into your to do list?

        1. Not a Real Giraffe*

          They won’t get automatically marked as read unless you specify this as part of the rule. So if you expand your inbox so that you see all the subfolders, you’ll see the number of unread messages in blue next to each subfolder’s name.

          1. Beezus*

            Yep, this! And I use the “mark as read” rule feature all the time for report-style emails that I don’t need to actively read but just archive for future reference later.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Reminders! Especially recurring ones on my calendar for tasks I do every month, etc. I would forget my head if it weren’t for those popups.

      Also, email templates are wonderful. :)

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes, this! I have a lot of maintenance tasks that I have to perform every week, every month, every two weeks…it’s crazy, I’d never keep the schedule straight without my calendar reminders! And in each one I’ve put detailed instructions and links, so that if I’m going to be out for more than a few days, I just send the event to someone else, and they have all of the info needed to perform that task.

      2. hermit crab*

        You can also send emails with reminders (regular emails, not just calendar invites)! For example, I used to oversee a task where I had to receive documents from a lot of people by a certain time each month. Compliance got way better when I started adding 30-minute popup reminders to my monthly “this is when progress reports are due this month!” emails.

    7. Oryx*

      Quick parts! I do a lot of copying and pasting into emails, quick parts is a huge time saver: I can write up an email, save it as a quick part, then drop it into a new draft and just change the first name.

    8. Nicole*

      If you click my name you’ll see an article I wrote about the top things I do in Outlook to keep myself organized. In addition to the ones mentioned there, I also like creating email templates for recurring emails I send throughout the month. Not only does it save me time, but it makes my emails to other consistent so they know what to expect.

    9. ThursdaysGeek*

      I use sticky notes a lot.

      Each task gets a separate note, with the task name on the first line. Because I follow some general processes, the steps I’ll need to do are put in the note (I have a note for the process steps that I copy from). As I finish a step, I’ll remove the item from the note (and paste it to my journal, so I know what I’ve done). That way, when I open a task, I know immediately where I am in the process.

      Tasks can take a few hours to several months, steps can take a few seconds to several weeks, and I always have 15-40 tasks assigned at a time. Some steps need to wait for a response from someone else. If something comes up on a task that I need to remember to do, I add it to the note.

      The note also has some information I need, so I don’t have to keep looking it up. I can copy and paste from the note to other applications that need that information.

      I have different colors for where in the process they are, and what kind of tasks they are, so I can see at a glance the work I need to do. Red is unstarted (grouped by priority), various greens and blues are work in progress, an orange is testing, a deeper orange is final processing. Yellow are informational notes, including identifying my various areas.

      I have different areas for the notes: not started, in process, in process but waiting, in testing, in final processing. If I get an email which indicates I need to do something, I move the note back to a working area. That way, I can see immediately what work needs to be worked on, what work is waiting on someone else. It’s like a burn down chart with moving sticky notes.

      When a task is finished, my note is essentially empty except for the title. I drop the note into the folder where I have other files related to the task, and delete it from Outlook. That way I only have pending and active tasks in my notes. (I could just delete it.)

      Each morning, I’ll open up a couple of tasks, the ones I expect to be working on that day. At the end of the week, I go through my journal (a text file) so I can email my boss to say what I’ve done this week. I then go through the notes so I can tell them what I plan to do next week, and give a general overview of all my assigned tasks.

    10. Miles*

      Keyboard shortcuts. There are about a hundred different things you can do without moving your hands off of the keyboard. Here’s a list: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Keyboard-shortcuts-for-Outlook-3cdeb221-7ae5-4c1d-8c1d-9e63216c1efd

      Learn & practice the shortcuts for some of the most common things you do and it’ll do amazing things for your workflow, at least for the parts of your job that involve using outlook a lot. (And if someone is looking over your shoulder they’ll think you’re a magician)

    11. LCL*

      Get into the view settings, and tweak the fonts until they make sense for you. For me, that is much bigger, and body different from headers.
      Turn the reading pane off. Cause it is used to skim, not read, and you can read the first line already.
      If you’re not using a column get rid of it. I never use flags.
      For some reason the default is to display the calendar and tasks on the far right. Get rid of that, so you can concentrate. When I want to check my calendar I click on the calendar icon, and close it when I’m done.
      Play with the display options until you find the way that makes the most sense for you. For me, the default is sort by date. When I go to something specific I sort by sender. Use the search button to search for anything. Searches and sorts also works in sent items.
      Never thread comments.

      1. Felix*

        This is all amazing advice! I’m curious why you don’t thread comments? I kinda like that feature but I agree it is terrible when multiple emails have the same subject but are unrelated!

        1. LCL*

          I don’t thread comments because it doesn’t help in my role. 90% of my job is providing support for my group, I know what needs to be done and who to talk to. The other 10% is different for each job, and often involves arguments. The culture here is, if you want to take part in the discussion you reply to email. So the response is already in the email.

    12. Lydia*

      Use customize views to assign specific colours/fonts to key people who email you (boss, boss’s admin, etc.). If you get a lot of emails you can easily spot important ones. I also use tasks to assign tasks to others and put commonly used folders in the favourites section for easdy access.

      I also second quick parts, templates, increasing the default font size and keyboard shortcuts as mentioned by others.

  45. TotesMaGoats*

    So, I was looking around and found an interesting position at a company in my field but it’s for-profit. Still thinking on that aspect but as I know and worked with one of their Sr VP’s. I emailed him. The job description was bizarrely vague. As in, I couldn’t figure out what the job was. LOTS of jargon. So, I asked. Here’s the response:

    Hello Totes…. great to hear from you. Yes the culture is as advertised! Very young yet very smart. The operations role you are reviewing is much like a very high level project management and operator role where one works across multiple verticals and matrixed systems within COMPANY and the university in order to successfully operate an online program at UNIVERSITY. If you remain interested, I’m happy to send your materials over to recruiting. Let me know. Great place to work and our UNIVERSITY partnership is extremely successful.

    What does that even mean? I’d like to think I’m pretty quick and I know all those words but I just can’t parse it. The glassdoor reviews that I can see are a mixed bag of great or don’t drink the koolaid. Help!

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      I would back away slowly, because if you can’t explain the job in simple non-jargon terms, you don’t know what the job is. Those particular buzzwords also (to me) drip of the “we’re young hotshots who believe in maximum profit in the shortest timeframe,” which is not intrinsically bad, but not the “we’re a long-term company building a strong, solid service/product” that I prefer.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        That’s the feeling I’m getting as well. I just honestly couldn’t understand what that meant.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, if it were an established business and partnership I’d assume it was just the one contact, but there’s considerable risk here that they don’t actually know what the position would be doing. It seems it would be facilitating a partnership, but do you know from their mission what they’d even bring to an online partnership (saying this as somebody associated with a school that runs an online program just fine without vertically matriced synergetic startups being involved)?

          I guess basically he said it himself: “the culture is as advertised.”

          1. TotesMaGoats*

            It’s actually been around for a while (the company) and the position is a refill. It’s still new-ish less than 10 years I think.

            1. fposte*

              Okay, then I guess I misunderstood “young.” To be honest, that changes things a fair bit for me, because when you take out the horrible jargon phrase it’s reasonably informative: you’ll be PM on their partnership with the university on the online project. I’d still push to see where they and the university were on this partnership and to see if there’s a documented plan in place; I’d also consider if I could cope with hearing that kind of stuff on a daily basis.

              1. TotesMaGoats*

                Other comments on their culture from their website include a “no a-holes policy” constant snacks and drinks, and impromptu dance parties. I think he meant young as in attitude and/or the actual age of people working there. IDK but not as in a new company.

              2. Miles*

                Really? What I thought from reading that was that the position is for outsourced IT that focuses on their database of prerecorded lectures.

                Or heck, running the recording booth fits that description, if you have to answer to multiple managers in an Initech from “Office Space” style arrangement

        2. College Career Counselor*

          Verticals and matrixed systems? In a quasi-higher ed environment? I’m with Isben–back away if they can’t give you a non-BS answer to the point of the enterprise.

      1. orchidsandtea*

        I can’t figure out what it means. It sounds like “All the departments are silos and you’d have to answer to all of them.” Is that what it means? Because that sounds like hell in a cubicle.

        1. Anonsie*

          Right? No wonder they have to phrase it like that, they’re describing a waking nightmare.

        2. Persephone Mulberry*

          I’m pretty sure there was a diagram of this in my college management textbook. It gave me a headache just looking at it; I can’t imagine working in it.

    2. HRish Dude*

      “one works across multiple verticals and matrixed systems”

      It sounds like you’ll be at a buzzword farm.

    3. Honeybee*

      It does sound like a buzzword factory but my understanding is that the “verticals” are different management chains that may or may not be across different departments or schools at the university. For instance, if you are running an online data science program, you might have to interface with both the statistics and the computer science department but also the Office of Digital/Online Learning, IT, the Registrar, the Bursar, Financial Aid, etc.

      A matrixed management chain is one that’s cross-functional, and where several different functions report up to one manager (generally speaking…it can take a lot of different forms). For example, for the Teapot Division of Con-glam-O, there might be legal, marketing, finance, and engineering teams all under the same management chain; each of those teams works on Chocolate Teapots, Vanilla Teapots and Orange Teapots. Maybe within Finance, there are five people who report to Sally, who’s the sales manager, and Sally reports to Teapot Project Manager Jane. Jane also supervises the legal manager, engineering manager, and marketing manager. (Sometimes, elsewhere in the company, there is also a manager of each of those functions – like a Finance Director for the whole company or for a collection of divisions. So Sally might report to both Jane the Teapot Project Manager and to a Finance Director, but her day to day work is really managed primarily by Jane.)

      It’s matrixed because when you plot it out it looks like a matrix (with the products along the Y axis and the roles/functions along X). The idea is actually the opposite of silos; the goal is supposed to be that since these “verticals” all report up through the same project management structure, they’re more inclined to work together and processes related to each of the products will be more integrated.

      Wikipedia actually has a decent page on matrix management.

      Basically, I think it’s a complex way to say that you’ll have to be comfortable working with people who take on a lot of different roles/functions across the project, and be good at “speaking the language” of people who do a lot of different things.

  46. Kira*

    I’ve been increasingly unhappy at work and am looking for new employment. Unfortunately, I’m so excited about some of these new job opportunities, it’s making me resent my current job even more! I haven’t even gotten an interview yet, but I’m mentally checked out at work. Any tips on how to stay positive (or at least, focused on doing my job well) when I’m mentally already out the door?

    1. Officer NoName*

      Yeah, I need tips too. I’m very antsy but I know nothing is guaranteed until I have an offer in hand. Its just so hard to deal with the daily frustrations when you see the possibilities!

    2. AnonymousMarketer*

      No advice but I feel your frustration. Every time I have an interview, I feel more demotivated at my current job.

    3. Glod Glodsson*

      Try to stay focused on wanting to get a good reference once you’re leaving! Also, I’d try to take a conscious step back and correct it when you grow too resentful. In my experience that just leads to a spiral of negativity which it’s impossible to escape from when you’re still at your old job.

    4. GreenTeaPot*

      Try to take one day at a time and look at everything you do as another step closer to your exit. Keep focusing on doing your job well and leaving with professionalism. However exciting the future may be, it’s not here yet. Make sure you leave on a high note! Good luck and keep us posted!

      1. M*

        This may not be helpful, but I’ve found I have had the opposite experience. In cases where I was in a second or third round interview for a new job, I actually became more productive at my current one. I think it’s because the workloads in our office are pretty crazy and our boss has a tendency to ask people leaving to do work for the future, not just wrap up current projects, so they have to work crazy last days/weeks OR show them the door immediately. I was petrified of both scenarios. I guess I thought of it as “I want to be super organized and in good shape to leave when I offer my resignation, so I’m not stressed or screwing over my poor colleagues.” Ironically, once I heard that I was the runner up for said jobs, my productivity at my current job went down because I was so bummed. Best of luck all!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Do things in a manner that will give you something to put on a resume or talk about in an interview. This means looking for little opportunities to shine, even when you don’t care or don’t feel like it.

  47. Microscope Jockey*

    I know the adage is: science/academia is a completely different animal, but I find a lot of information here really useful and applicable in ways that other sources of career information are not. When I read the comments I also notice that there seem to be a significant number of people who work in academia and/or science (I don’t mean tech, I think that is a completely different animal).

    I manage undergraduate labs at a small public college. This is not glamorous at all (but I like it), I don’t have much student contact (also a plus), and I do a lot of technical cooking and cleaning with a fair amount of math and computer science involved. Sometimes I get to set things on fire or play with preserved brains. I also do technical and grant writing on the side. I’m finishing up a related master’s degree part-time with the goal of moving onto a lab in the private sector, public (think conservation agencies), or an academic lab that has grad students. The goal is to continue working in laboratory management and I’m looking for opportunities with titles like “lab manager”, “lab supervisor”, “lab tech”, “staff scientist”, etc.

    So my questions are:
    1. Who else here works in science?
    2. Public, private, or academic?
    3. Any specific aspects of science/academia that you have found challenging when making career moves?

    1. the_scientist*

      I was a tech/ sometimes lab manager for a basic science (immunology) lab for about a year. I started as a co-op/undergrad thesis student but they liked me enough to promote me and keep me around full time. I did inventory/supply ordering, supervised and trained new students, wrote ethics committee applications and grants, and did my own experiments/supported grad student experiments. I also worked as a tech in a QA lab at a pharma company for a year- there I did routine QA testing and hated my life (seriously, QA is SO important but SO boring).
      I considered doing a masters degree in basic science, and I was really surprised how interested potential supervisors were in my skills because I didn’t consider myself to be *that* skilled, but I had some key lab skills under my belt and that was enough! In the end I realized I hated working in animal models and did a masters in epidemiology instead.

      In my experience, *most* lab techs don’t have masters degrees, but a lot of lab MANAGERS do…..so with years of experience and a postgraduate degree under your belt, you’re likely going to be a competitive candidate.

      Staff scientist positions almost 100% require PhDs, although that may vary by field. There is a world of a difference between the responsibilities of a staff scientist and a lab manager.

      1. Microscope Jockey*

        Thanks! I am seeing some “staff scientist” masters jobs in some state-agency jobs, but they aren’t using the term the way one would for a staff scientist in an academic lab. They are using it the same way you might use “environmental scientist II” etc. I am totally not PhD material, I love doing the support work though. Since I am not PhD material I am thinking I want to be a generalist skills-wise and that might give me more opportunities. What do you think?

        1. the_scientist*

          I have a friend who’s made a fairly comfortable career as a lab manager. She has a 4-year degree, a lab technician diploma from a community college, and is a certified phlebotomist. She’s worked in labs that did a variety of different types of research but used similar techniques. In my experience the lab managers and technicians tend to have a more generalist skill set, while it’s the postdocs and PhDs who are really, really good at one specific thing- an expert in a tricky survival surgery, or an expert in flow cytometry, or an expert in optimizing PCR protocols, for example. That being said, longtime techs/managers are so integral to the functioning of a lab, and often incredibly skilled and knowledgeable as well. In an academic research group, everyone knows which tech is the best at X/most willing to help students, etc. so you can develop an excellent reputation and make yourself *very* important to the functioning of a lab if you do good work and are helpful. However, moving up is kind of hard. You can go from tech to manager…..but that’s usually about it.

          In my experience with industrial labs, you almost always end up needing extensive training to meet regulatory/compliance requirements, so you need to have good foundational technique and attention to detail. With academic labs, you’re much more likely to be immediately thrown into the work, so if they need a tech to like, exclusively do cell culture, they’re expecting that you already have experience with that (although you’ll probably be following their unique protocol); they’re (probably) not going to train you from scratch.

          1. Microscope Jockey*

            I can’t advance any higher here: I have my own labs, it’s nice but the pay scale is way low (due to the location) and I have obnoxious student loans from undergrad. However, the lab next door has 500 algal samples to be analyzed. I am an experienced microscopist, so I asked if they might be willing to teach me some algal ID when I’m not otherwise occupied. I have kind of a weird skill set: classical microbiology techniques, enough chemistry to be dangerous (I do both of these in my current role…everybody thinks I’m weird), some histopathology/microscopy for certain non-mammal phyla, general pathology screening for the aforementioned phyla (expanding my phyla in current grad program), a lot of PCR experience but I don’t have “good hands”, so I am trying to avoid anything other than basic PCR (hate QPCR), database design and management, and I can do field work but I would rather not.

            Weird skill set aside: I find that I have a lot of flexibility in an academic lab and I am pretty sure that wouldn’t happen in the public sector. Any comments on that? I’ve never worked in the private sector, so I have no idea what is/is not normal there and whether I would like it or not. I’ve only ever been in public or academic labs, so I am not sure what red flags to look for in private ones. Suggestions?

            1. the_scientist*

              My experience with the private sector (pharma) wasn’t great, but that may also have been because I was a naive co-op student, and I was working in QA, which I hated. I think it depends what you’re doing in the private sector- R&D is fairly demanding. I have a friend who is a biostatistician who works for a private sector analytics firm and she makes incredible money and does super cool stuff- but she also works really, really hard. I found in QA that the actual workload was completely manageable- never more than 37 hours per week. Full-timers at the pharma company I worked for got excellent benefits, great vacation, and were unionized, so my coworkers seemed happy and many had been there for decades. There was some gossip and cliquishness/drama, but that can happen anywhere and was more due to the specific collection of people in that lab than to the company itself.

    2. Try Defying Gravity*

      When I was in college I used to work part-time in the academic labs – one year essentially as a lab tech (ordering materials, maintaining a cleanroom, and ensuring general lab functionalities like eyewash/safety showers) and two years as an assistant in a lab doing experiments. The first year wasn’t glamorous at all, but essentially I view it as the year that I learned how hard it was to maintain labs and, at the same time, how important it was. Which meant I didn’t take lab maintenance for granted when I left academia after graduation and went to work as an engineer in industry in a lab environment.

      The lab techs at the company I work for generally have been technicians all their lives with industrial backgrounds (i.e. lots of them were plant operations personnel, to start – and to clarify, I work at a plant – and completed education to an associate’s level). The technicians ran experiments and processes that engineers like me design, or they run the analytical work, or maintain the lab HVAC, but generally they don’t do more high-level project-oriented work than that. The lab supervisor also managed the lab technicians, and typically supervisors were promoted from the lab technicians. “Scientists” were those with PhDs, with no exception.

      1. Microscope Jockey*

        Thanks, I almost never meet anybody who is private sector. I am not a big picture person and I don’t think I’m good at experimental design. I enjoy the general business of running a lab and having PhDs tell me “I need this” and then figuring out the most efficient way to do it (and then writing up a protocol or SOP for it, very satisfying). Right now, interms of where to seek future employment, I am favoring small private labs that do certain kinds of analysis, as opposed to some of the big corporations in my field. However, there are also some government contractors in the area who hire BS and MS level biologists at times, so I am trying to learn about them as well. Speaking of which, I have never had a science job that required more than round of one in-person interviews. Is this still te norm/the norm across public/private/ academuc labs?

        1. blackcat*

          It’s my impression that even some very large Pharma companies actually have some pretty small individual labs. I knew someone running some sort of trials for Allergan a while back, and it sounded like their lab was pretty small and she had a lot of autonomy. As I recall, part of her job involved ordering different types of cells and seeing what botox did to them. She worked at a small Allergan site–maybe 30 or so employees total. She only had a 4 year degree (I met her after she had decided that research *was* her think and she was working towards the phd. But she did the lab tech -> lab manager career for 10 or so years, I think).

          So depending on the company and specific lab within a company, you may have find a role not totally dissimilar from what you do now.

    3. Lydia*

      I work in academia and have at different times been a lab technician/assistant, lab manager and research administrator. In academia I’d say that one of the more challenging aspects as a tech or lab manager is job security. Most times your salary will come from a research grant so you’ll be on year to year contracts. It can be stable if you work for a well established and well funded group/investigator, but that isn’t the norm. Also being funded by grants usually means raises are limited or nonexistent as money is always tightly controlled. If you can get a budget funded position (usually research administration) the job security is better and usually the funding situation is too, I.e. opportunity for psy increases.

    4. Honeybee*

      I work in science – user experience/human-computer interaction research for a for-profit technology company. I used to work as a public health researcher (postdoctoral) at a university before this job.

      There are so many aspects of academia I found challenging, which is one of the reasons I left. I was originally looking to be either a university professor or a staff scientist at a government or non-profit agency/think tank. I felt like the credentials you needed to get hired into those positions were steadily increasing to untenable levels, to the point where you had to have several publications and ideally a small grant funded before you even started a full-time position. This led to really long postdoc phases for young scientists – after spending 4-6 years earning the PhD you then had to spend another 3-5 years at pay far below your worth trying to get enough publications and grants to even be considered for a position. Then you spent the next 6-8 years after that still trying to prove yourself. I thought I was finished with the anxiety of constantly trying to keep up when I graduated from my PhD program, and then realized about 6 months into my postdoctoral fellowship that a university professor position would require at least around 10 more years of constant striving and competitiveness. (And a lot of non-profit and government research positions were kind of similar in terms of what they expected you to have.)

      It just seemed really silly that after spending 6 years in graduate school I then had to spend additional time essentially interning just to rack up some publications. It’s the ultimate version of that idea that no job wants to hire entry-level workers anymore; they want to pay people entry-level salaries but want to get people with mid-career levels of experience. It’s the uber-example! A lot of ‘new assistant professors’ getting hired these days actually have like 5 years’ worth of post-PhD teaching and research experience.

      It sounded awful, so I decided to leave and go into industry. I love working as a scientist in industry. There are many differences – less autonomy and independence, less flexibility, and of course your research has to be related to what the business finds important. But there are many perks: I never have to write another jargon-field scientific article again; my work is directly applicable to the products and services my company provides, which reach millions of people every day; I still get to work with a lot of very smart and intellectually curious researchers; and I don’t have to attempt to pay my own salary out of government grants with a less than 15% success rate.

  48. Interview Questions*

    How do you answer the ‘Why should we hire you?’ question? Just out of curiosity, do you answer it as a specific to the job or general personality trait?

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      I would answer “You should hire me if you think I’m the best fit. From what you’ve said about the job/company, I think I’d be a great fit because x, y, and z [personal experience/traits].”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s a weak question so first you should mildly condemn them in your head, but then you should answer with a variation of “It sounds like really need someone who can ___. I have a track record of (insert something here demonstrating why you’re great at that particular thing).”

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes, I know we’re not always in a place to be choosy about the jobs we take, but a hiring manager asking me this question would immediately put me off to the position and the organization.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          It’s kind of like the rejection letter I got with a phrase like, “We know this is a disappointment to you.” It made me feel less disappointed.

          1. Interview Questions*

            Thanks for the reassurance. I was kind of put off by the question myself, but then it came up in multiple interviews with separate companies. The last interviewer did it in such a bizarre way that it really threw me for a loop. He compared it to Family Feud and gave 5 answers you could not use because they were already “on the board.”

            1. College Career Counselor*

              Did he try to slobber-kiss you a la Richard Dawson? That person is trying to figure out if you think well on your feet, which may or may not be required for the position. Annoying as hell.

    3. K130*

      I was asked for my current job “Is there any reason we should NOT hire you?”. Ummmm, no.

        1. Afiendishthingy*

          “I’m so glad you asked me that! Yes, I reply all to every email, I don’t take criticism well, I put empty milk cartons back in the shared fridge, and I have a history of embezzling.”

  49. Christina*

    So I’m presented with an interesting dilemma related to the question yesterday about job satisfaction. How would you evaluate your options?

    I have a job that I’ve been in for 7 years that I think is on the verge of getting me a promotion and leading to some good stuff. I like the work (would like it better if my manager could be managed out), it uses my skills even though the topic isn’t anywhere near my interests, I like the company, I get good benefits and I have plenty of free time to pursue my passions outside of my day job.

    My passion is teapots–I write a blog about teapots, I taught my first teapot-making class last summer through a non-profit focused on tea and teapots and absolutely loved it, I started a teapot-making club that’s taking off, and teapots are generally the thing I spend most of my time and money outside work focused on. The head of this non-profit approached me last week and said the person who runs their teapot education program is leaving and would I be interested in taking over that role? It’s a very, very small org and most of the people who work there also do freelancing on the side. I’m guessing the pay would be probably 2/3 or less of what I’m making now. But it’s the chance to try to do the thing that drives me personally in a professional capacity.

    Here are the questions I feel I need answers to:
    What is the business objective of the teapot education program?
    What is the current business plan?
    What has been successful/not so far?
    What does success look like going forward? In what time frame?
    What resources are available?
    What happens if the program isn’t successful or you decide to move in another directions?

    1. Intern Wrangler*

      Nonprofits are different than other companies–many I know do not use the language of business objective and current business plan. Don’t be totally surprised if the answer isn’t as clear as you would find in a private setting. I would ask about how the teapot education program is funded? What the requirements from the funding sources? I would ask about governance–what the board is like, how involved are they, what is the role with the board?

    2. VintageCampus*

      Your approach should be all about you.

      I would start by drilling yourself about what an ideal job would look like. What would a typical day in your ideal job look like? How about a typical month? What sort of co-workers do you want? friend outgoing? Quite introverts? PhD geniuses? What about racial diversity – is it important to you to have a mixture of men and women from different countries? What do your communication with an ideal boss look like? What challenges do you need to feel fulfilled? Do you want to be challenged? Do you want to work alone? In groups? How important is being able to trust your company to you? Etc.

      Once you identify 4 – 7 key factors for an ideal role/culture at the company then you need to design some questions around these to help you identify the company and role you want to work for that will help with this. : )

    3. Lily Rowan*

      Really, find out the salary first. In my experience, sector-switchers are often shocked at how low nonprofit salaries actually are.

      1. Christina*

        Well, honestly I work in higher ed now, so my bar is not as high as it would otherwise be. But yeah, that is the make or break question for me (and the woman who runs the org knows this).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Is the teapot job sustainable? Will your skills/efforts still be in demand in 5 years?

      My fav:
      When the economy tanks (which it does from time-to-time) how do Job A and B respond to that tanking? Are the responses different from each other? How different?

      If you do take the teapot job and you don’t like it/it doesn’t work out/whatever do you see a way you can use it as a stepping stone to your next gig?

  50. Joshua*

    About a year ago, I decided to move to a new city. I began setting up informational interviews with individuals in my field (non-profit admin/development) in this new city. I had over 10 meetings with different professionals in the new location. These were so helpful! I’ve been here 6 months and I have still kept in touch with many of these people.

    One of these informational interviews was with the VP of development for a respected nonprofit here. She and I have become professional friends and meet for coffee regularly. The last time we met for coffee she told me that her organization had just finished strategic planning and she is restructuring her department. She told me that she understands I just started a job and she doesn’t want me to feel pressured at all. However, she’d love to have me come in and meet with her and the CEO to discuss the organization and its’ goals/challenges. She wants my input on how this new role might be structured. Then, if I were interested she would like me to consider coming on board. And if not, she totally understands.

    I met with her and the CEO last week – very informal conversation, and I really loved the culture and the people. After this meeting she was pretty frank and asked if I would consider leaving my current job. I told her that I was having some “fit” issues at my current job – culture/role/etc. Which is true. I’m not satisfied. My role isn’t what it was described in interviews and my boss isn’t great to work with. I said all of this more diplomatically, obviously. So, I basically said I would at the very least be interested in learning more once something more concrete was developed. I mentioned that if she thought my contributions could be beneficial that I would love to add input as they cement this role/job description. And we left it at that — she said she would be in touch very soon.

    Since this is such a non-traditional job search, what do I do next? Nothing? Just wait to hear? It’s hard not knowing any timeline at all. I’m going to see her and the CEO this weekend. They invited me to dinner/a performance.

    P.S. I know that I have only been at my current job for 6 months. And this is weighing heavily on me. I’m a very responsible person. But, I have very real “fit” problems and feel underutilized. This dissatisfaction is taking a toll on my happiness/bleeding into the rest of my life. I don’t know for sure that I will take this other job…but it doesn’t hurt to just learn about it in my opinion. But, maybe I’m only justifying that to make me feel better.

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      I’d leave it until the weekend. Nothing is certain until it is. The CEO and VP both like you very much and have you in mind. If something comes up, they’ll let you know. In the mean time just think of your time at your current job as building up a little more experience and less flakiness.

    2. Intern Wrangler*

      I agree with waiting until the weekend or until they contact you about moving forward.
      As far as the short time frame at your new job, I think that development work in nonprofits is shifting tremendously–people are moving around a lot. And fit has a lot to do with it. You need to be able to represent the organization, which I’m sure you are doing professionally. But it’s ok to move on if this isn’t the right job for you.

    3. NPs + SP = UGH*

      Agree with others. I’d wait until the weekend at least. Also, as someone who’s in a non profit that just did strategic planning, I would also say this may take way longer than you think to shake out. Granted my org has pretty dysfunctional leadership, but I feel like moving from a strategic plan to actual hiring/firing/etc. has been sooooo very convoluted. Best of luck!

  51. I am Anon*

    What are the best ways to learn html & css by yourself? Code Academy was recommended to me – is this the best way?

    1. T3k*

      I like Code Academy as it’s free, but I feel it’s kind of rushed if you’ve never coded before. However, it’s a good start if you want to see if you’ll actually enjoy coding in html/css and others (like javascript).

    2. IT Kat*

      Start with Codecademy. It’ll get you the basics, and has hands-on tutorials.

      That said, you’re not going to learn everything from it, and it is a bit rushed as someone else mentioned.

      But – once you’ve gone over all the html & css tutorials they have there, branch out into books from the library, etc. to get more indepth. That would be my suggestion.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I’d highly recommend Elizabeth Castro’s visual quickstart guide to HTML and CSS.

    4. matcha123*

      I learned basic html in middle school and university. I’m in the process of updating my knowledge and I use a combination of codeacademy and the book html & css by John Duckett.
      I think the code academy site is set up well and they have a lot of courses.
      The book is very user friendly with great visuals and they have a starter download on their website.

      Recently I’ve been going through the CSS tutorials on the Wc3 page during work.

      The Wc3 Schools page is kind of meh and it seems that a lot of people dislike their lessons. But, I think that it’s best for me to get practice in when I can. When I have to fiddle with the html for my office’s homepage, I don’t get the luxury of well-presented code.

    5. Miles*

      W3schools has some great tutorials as well, though they’re not organized as a comprehensive lesson plan, just alphabetically by tag names.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I took an online course through a well-known school in my area. I found the first few weeks were rocky for me. I think having someone there to talk with in person would have made a difference. I did do well in the course overall. However, my pages looked like what the prof wanted us to do and other students kind of made fun of my work. Yet their pages were exactly what the prof said NOT to do. It was a weird situation. In the end, I decided I had fun with the course and that was all that mattered. I think if I had done an in person/classroom course I would have gotten more out of it.

  52. anon for this*

    Settle a disagreement for me?

    New job start date was set to be two weeks after fully vesting at current job. Unfortunately manager is going on vacation for the first few days of what was planned to be the notice period.

    Is it better to:
    1. Tell the manager in person, early, risking that manager or someone above will say “actually this is your last day” and lose a lot of money;
    2. call vacationing manager and resign over the phone;
    3. Tell the manager on return from vacation, ending up with more like a 1.5 week notice period?

    I know what I think, and I think it’s what you’ll think, but maybe I’m missing something…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      #1 if you trust your manager not to push you out early. Otherwise #2. Yes, it interrupts her vacation, but that’s part of the package of being a manager; she gets paid for it. If she doesn’t want to deal with it then, she doesn’t need to, but she has the option to and you don’t get stuck without enough notice time.

    2. Is it spring yet?*

      Timing is everything isn’t it? I worked for a company with a 5 year period to vesting. I was leaving at a little over 2 years. They changed the pension plan a couple months and I got immediate vesting. So while not a lot it was a nice start for retirement.

  53. Meg Murry*

    Question for those of you that do a lot of data manipulation:

    I’ve got a big project coming up where we are going to get data in comma deliminated text files (probably CSV), do some math on the information in the file, and then push it into a new comma deliminated text file to be uploaded back to the software. It will be a LOT of text files that each have many thousand rows.

    In the past I would have used Excel for this (possibly with some very basic VBA macros), but I’m interested in learning new programs/languages, etc – so I was wondering what a “real” computer science/data science person would use. SQL? A database rather than Excel? We aren’t doing statistics on the whole data set, its going to be more “do the exact same thing to all 2,000 lines” or “combine the first 4 lines into one line with some math and some concatenation”.

    I’m trying to move beyond that “person who only knows Excel so she uses it for everything when something else would be more appropriate” and also to make something that, if I were to leave the company in the future, would be clear enough for someone else to understand, use and edit as needed.

    1. Not Karen*

      Well, I would use SAS, but if you don’t have access to it already that would be kind of expensive. :P

      If you are good at learning programming, I would recommend trying R. It’s free and works well with csv files – better with numeric fields than text fields, though.

      1. Lady Kelvin*

        Yep, I’d recommend R too. I use it all the time for very large data sets, manipulating, etc. You can right loops in R to run through each line of code, do what you need to is, and then print out the output into a CSV file. It’s pretty easy to learn too. R for Dummies is a good place to start if you aren’t a programmer. Plus it’s free!

        Also I recommend using RStudio as a GUI for R. It is much more user friendly than R itself and for beginners especially it lays a lot of things out so you know they exist, unlike R where everything is hidden and you have to know where to look or how to ask it to show you what’s happening.

        1. Honeybee*

          Thirding R! It’s free and there are lots of free resources online with code you can modify for your purposes. You may just need some dedicated time to sit down and teach yourself how to do it.

          Also, if you are new to R, I would recommend using the free add-on R Studio. Normal R is simply one terminal window which can be kind of intimidating if you are used to a GUI. R Studio gives you a little bit more UI.

    2. Julia*

      I’d say go with SQL – the query language is fairly intuitive, and if you’re very familiar with Excel formulas, I’d bet you’d pick up query writing in no time. I use it somewhat frequently for data manipulation that is too big to work with easily in Excel – you can definitely concatenate, add columns, etc., and then copy smaller cuts of the data into Excel if you need to do further analysis.

      Basically I think of SQL as Excel filters/pivot tables/sum ifs, but super fast, and then save any detailed mathematical analysis for smaller cuts of data in Excel. I’m a consultant, though, so YMMV.

      1. Dan*

        It’s worth pointing out to the new people that SQL is a mechanism for accessing data — you have to put it in a database first. OP writes, should I use SQL? A database rather than excel? That indicates a misunderstanding of the tools — the database holds the data, SQL is the language for doing stuff with that data.

        1. Meg Murry*

          This is true Dan – I was sloppy and mixing my terms. I know I can use SQL with Access, and I wasn’t sure what other databases I can use it with. And I know I could use straight up Access to do what I intend to do – I just don’t know that I could do it *well* with that, becuase I know it’s easy to make bad databases with Access.

          Basically, my input tables will be comma deliminated text or CSV files – that one piece of software spits out, and there will be dozens to hundreds of them that are all identically formated Then I will need to do some manipulation/transformation of the individual CSV files (potentially involving multiplying by factors found in another small table) and rearranging of the data to make it fit the format of the customer’s other piece of software, and then output a CSV file. Basically, I am making an XYZ software to ABC software translation tool.

          My thought with using Access is that I don’t need to import files, transform them and then keep them into a database that just keeps growing – I need to run some kind of batch process on 100 input text files (either individually or in bulk) and spit out 100 output text files. Plus I’ve seen how easy it is to do things in Access *badly* and I’m trying to avoid that.

          I know I’m being too vague and sloppy, but I’m just trying to get an understanding for some options for me to look into. Because, like I said, I know I *can* do it with MS Excel, but it could get really ugly really fast, and I know that isn’t necessarily the best tool to use.

          For reference, I was a CS major for 2 semesters, so I understand some basic programming, but for the past 10 years I’ve basically only had Excel, Access, SAP Business Objects and Minitab to work with, not doing much programming beyond baby VBA or super-basic SQL, but I want to expand my horizons.

          1. Dan*

            There’s one lesson I learned over the years: If there was a single best way to skin a cat, why are there 100 different ways to do it?

            Some people will skin me alive for this one, but the best tool for the job is 1) The one you have, and 2) The one you know how to use. In the real world, your time is worth something, so if Tool A is a “90% solution” and you know how to use it, but Tool B is a “95% solution” that you don’t know how to use, is that 5% worth the ramp up time? Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not — especially if the boss wants a good enough answer ASAP.

            I use Access when I need to slice up data that Excel or Tableau handles poorly because of its size, mostly for “one off” manipulation needs. (Getting csv files into Access is fast and easy.) If I was processing something on an ongoing basis with lots of input files, I wouldn’t use Access as the intermediary, I’d write a script to do it. The script (in whatever language you choose) is going to execute much faster than Access.

            A good process is one that is 1) Understandable, 2) Verifiable, and 3) Preferably a one-click solution.

            One piece of advice that may (or may not) help you: Oftentimes, picking the “best” tool is a bit of a fool’s errand. They all have strengths and weaknesses. It’s more appropriate to identify the wrong tools for the job, eliminate them, and then just pick something reasonable from the left overs.

            If you’re looking at picking up a new skill, pick one that is versatile. If your options include learning Java, R, or Python, I’d do that — they are useful far beyond basic data manipulation. I wouldn’t, say, go through the effort of setting up an Oracle database and becoming an Oracle SQL expert unless you are regularly going to be an Oracle power user. (It’s also worth nothing that Oracle, Access, MySQL et al all have different SQL commands once you get past the basics.)

            1. Dan*

              I should also add that VBA is a semi-legit programming language. It’s just that once you get into large datasets, MS products lose their usefulness. So ramping up on VBA has its limits in terms of what you can do with it.

              BTW, I have code I’ve written in Java that accesses MySQL and Oracle databases, pulls data based on user input, slices and dices a bunch of stuff, and then writes it back out to a different DB. Is it the right tool for the job? Well, it works, and Java is a versatile language.

    3. Tennessee*

      If I were going to learn a new language to work with data, I’d go with PHP language and a mySQL database. There’s tons of good tutorials, examples, and code you can just copy and use freely — google for whatever you are trying to do. And, there’s lots of demand for that skillset, so it could be good for your career. It’s an easy language to understand, too. Of course, you will need access to a webserver that has PHP and mySQL, so not sure if you have that option. I’ve also heard that PERL is good for this, but it always seemed very hard to understand. It may come down to what languages you have available to you in your setup. I would use JSP / Java simply because that’s what I know and have available; it might not be your best choice as there isn’t as many resources like there is for PHP.

    4. SRB*

      Python.

      I had to do something similar earlier this month. I had a huge XML file that I needed to convert to hundreds of CSVs, each with more rows than excel could handle. I had a field I had to strip the “.” from and another I had to strip “,” from (so that it didn’t break the comma delimited end product). For another, I had a bunch of rows with a “Start number” and an “end number” and had to create a new file with a row for every number in between. The python solution was pretty straightforward. Plus it’s free. :)

      The downside is… I find the python documentation to not always be the most helpful? Maybe it’s just my learning method, but I’ve learned most of the programming languages I know on my own, but for python I kind of had to phone a friend. :)

      R is not a bad suggestion either. It would have been my go-to, except that my file was so bit it wouldn’t even open in R. ):

    5. Meg Murry*

      Thanks for the input everyone. I know we don’t have SAS, and I couldn’t convince TPTB to buy it just for this project. But I’ll look into the other resources mentioned, start with some baby tutorials and see what I can come up with.

    1. HRish Dude*

      He was on Fresh Air on Tuesday. The interview was fascinating because there was a part about how the company tried to stop the publication of the book and the FBI got involved – all without him knowing about it.

    2. Honeybee*

      OMG I want to read this. I work in tech but not at a start-up and I loathe the worshipful elevation of start-up culture. I don’t want a candy wall and nap pods; I want to go home at 6 pm and sit on my couch with my puppy.

  54. Crylo Ren*

    When new to a job, are there any good strategies for figuring out the best contacts or the existing process when it seems like no one else in the company really knows this information?

    I started a new job this Monday and I’m pretty overwhelmed. The company is fairly new and grew pretty aggressively in one year (from 100 to 600+ employees). It seems like the majority of people here are still operating with the startup mentality of wearing many different hats, to the point that no one is really sure who actually does what or how this or that process actually works.

    I’m being asked to make a lot of big decisions right off the bat (FTR, I don’t have a leadership role) and there just aren’t any existing resources, history, or data that I can draw on to inform my decisions. While I do have a couple of people “training” me, the vast majority of the time their answers to my questions consist of “I dunno”, shrugs, and embarrassed giggles because “no one’s ever asked us that before, that’s really funny!!!!”

    I guess it just means that it’s on me to start defining things from a foundational standpoint, but it’s still really frustrating to be asked to do that when it’s kind of just like…Do This Thing Now! Buuuut, we’ll wait until after you’ve done it before we tell you you’re doing it wrong. *screams into pillow*

    Alternately, if anyone else just wants to share some first day/first week onboarding horror stories, that would also be very much appreciated so I don’t feel as alone in my general discombobulation. :(

    1. Nanc*

      Wow! Document document document. Start writing SOPs for the stuff they’re throwing at you. When they say you did it wrong, go over the SOP and have them help you update it. This isn’t uncommon for small, quickly growing companies but it’s frustrating.

      Keep a list of questions you have and where you’ve looked for answers. When you go to them, frame it as you’ve looked hither and yon and can’t find the answer yourself–what do they suggest? Also, if you do find a good answer, let them know and put it in the company Wiki if it’s something everyone needs to know.

      Speaking of Wiki’s, ask if they have a company Wiki about stuff everyone needs to know. If not, someone needs to start one–or maybe a group of someones.

      If you’re a book reader, head to your local library and find some books about being a first time manager, even if that’s not your title. If it’s a brand new position for the company, treat it like your the manager of a brand new tiny department and get some structure going.

      Schedule regular one on ones with your manager–even if it’s just once a month. Send them a list of what you’d like to discuss. Ask if they’d like a weekly list of what you’re doing on projects. They may be craving structure, too, and just don’t have the time to implement.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes.

      1. Crylo Ren*

        Thanks for the advice! Great point about looking at this new role with a management perspective, I didn’t think about it in that way, but it makes sense.

  55. Persephone Mulberry*

    I got a new job! I GOT A NEW JOB!!!!

    AND, I got a higher starting salary than I expected. They offered me the very bottom of my range, with a 5% bump at 6 months. I asked straight out, “Is there any room to come up on the starting salary?” She asked what I was thinking, and I suggested a number 10% higher (not quite at the top of the range we had discussed). I was prepared for her to counter with the 5% amount, but she thought for a second and replied “I think we can do that.” !!!!! Lesson learned: always, always ask.

    Now then…what are your best tips for the first week at a new job?

    1. Kelly L.*

      Yay!

      Well, going by upthread, I guess don’t bring a bunch of cookies the first day? ;)

    2. ACA*

      Congrats! My advice is don’t bring lunch for part or all of the first week (if that’s in your budget) so you have time to scope out the kitchen/break room/fridge/microwave situation, plus observe everyone else’s lunch culture – if people eat at their desks or elsewhere, if lunches are scheduled to make sure there’s always someone covering the phones, etc.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Good thinking. When I was there for my interview they were actually in the middle of building out their space, so who knows what state things will be in, in a few weeks. There’s a very good cafe and a grocery store with a deli both within a few blocks, so picking up food on the fly for a few days shouldn’t be a problem.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        II follow the same logic, especially for the first day! Hopefully it will give your new coworkers an opportunity to go to lunch with you (we actually always do that with our new hires) and if nothing else, you can familiarize yourself with the neighborhood and get out and decompress for an hour.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      CONGRATS! Both on the new job and the successful negotiation. A friend of mine just got a new job and was happy with the inital offer, but figured, “what the heck, I’ll ask for $10k more.” And without batting an eye, the employer said “okay!” It never hurts to ask :) Way to go!

    4. Glod Glodsson*

      Congrats! I actually linkedin-stalked some of my future new coworkers so that I’d already at least know their names more or less – I’m terrible with names and it helped me go into the first day more relaxed. Also bring lots of food/water if you can, you never know what the company culture around this is and it sucks to be super famished at first. I kept my calender clear the entire first week and it helped me a lot because I was super tired!

    5. Dot Warner*

      Congrats on the new job! I suggest taking a lot of notes on what goes on. For me, it helps engrain the info in my head and it gives me something to refer back to later.

  56. Unemployment Incoming*

    So I’m pretty sure my company is about to close.

    How doesn’t unemployment work if there is no one available to do the interviews they usually do with the companies? And what documentation do they ask for from the employees if the company doesn’t provide it?

    On a personal note:
    I switched jobs to here in Oct. so I’ll only have 2ish quarters here and then before that I was out of work voluntary from May-Oct.. How does that work? I’m confused about the base pay discussion on the ME DoL page.

    Also related to above what documents will they want from me? I doubt I can find my all weekly pays stubs. I will have most recently and some but not all I suspect b

    1. Judy*

      If the company doesn’t contest the unemployment, I don’t think there are any interviews required.

    2. MeTOO*

      Unfortunately, I came here today to ask the same question. The former operations manager who basically ran this ToxicWorkplace finally left last week bc he couldn’t handle it anymore. I asked the owner if I would be paid this pay period; he promised I would be paid. Today is the last day of that pay period (for me), so I plan on filing for unemployment on Monday. From what I have been told, all of the burden is on your employer to prove you don’t qualify (i.e you were not laid off). I don’t think it will be hard to get unemployment if no one answers the phone bc they are calling if your employer contests it. If no one contests it, you should get unemployment. If anyone knows differently, I would love to know.

  57. T3k*

    I’m now regretting giving them a month’s notice at work. I was trying to be nice and give them time to find a new replacement but 1) they *again* decided to give me a bunch of last minute top priority projects to do this week (I finally had it and told her exactly why I’m not getting the top top one done because she and everyone else keeps giving me other work to do. They left me alone after that) and 2) I get the feeling she isn’t even looking for a new replacement, because I offered to train them when she found someone and nothing. I think she’s hoping I’ll continue to come in 2-3 days a week to help out, to which I’ll go to my “I quit, and decided to switch to freelancer, here’s my rate (3x what she’s paying me hourly)” spew. Just 3 more weeks, just 3 more and I don’t have to deal with these people again…

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I gave my notice on Wednesday, and I debated whether to give two weeks or three…my role is complicated and I know there’s no way they’ll be able to hire for it in either window, but there are a fair number of loose ends to wrap up to transition my work. I still went with two (and a half if you want to get technical), and I’m glad I did. My supervisor has asked me about three times a day “if I’ve changed my mind yet.” It will be bad enough putting up with that for two weeks, much less three.

  58. WornoutEA*

    Definitely looking for some advice at the moment. My life is currently in a bit of an uproar – dealing with some physical and mental health issues, as well as family health issues, and a legal case. My current employer has been very understanding of the stress I am going through and the fact that some of the appointments I have can’t be scheduled outside of work hours. He told me a couple of weeks ago he was happy with my output and I have been coming in early and staying late when I can to try and make up most of the time I am missing.

    In the midst of all of this I had a job interview and am probably receiving an offer this afternoon. I dislike my job pretty intensely and this is a good opportunity that will move me into the field I actually studied and care about.

    Essentially I’m feeling bad about giving notice when I’ve had and have lots of appointments bringing me out of the office, but I don’t want to shift everything to when the new job starts because I won’t have proven myself there. Any advice? I know my boss is going to take this personally and has been making an effort to get me to stay, giving me a raise, etc., but for many reasons there is nothing he can do that would change my decision.

    I’m also worried about it looking like I made up some of the issues I’m having to go off on a job interview, when the reality is just that everything is happening all at once.

    Thanks!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Why not just tell the boss you realize that he has done everything humanly possible to help you stay on, but there are things that are not under his control that he cannot fix. And that is not his fault.

      Really you cannot stop someone from having personal feelings on any matter. You can look for ways to soften the message- such as apologizing or complimenting and thanking. You can ask him what he prefers you work on during your notice period and make sure you are doing what HE thinks he needs.

      The truth is you did go to a job interview in among all those doctor/lawyer appointments. I guess I would have a statement prepared that helps to explain what happened there.

  59. Is it spring yet?*

    Spouse works at a state agency that started a tradition for retiring emplooyees when they moved into their current building. There is an atrium in the building and you go up the the top floor balcony and send off a balsa wood plane and see how far it will go. There’s a gentlemen who’s retiring who was looking forward to this. Turns out it’s reserved for those with at least 25 years service so he doesn’t get to do it. (not sure but may even require all years be at this agency). Moral is bad enough with no raises for middle management, bad bosses, inconsistent rules and all the changes that occur every time there is a change in administration. But the BTB can always find a way to make you hate them even more. When are they going to realize that the small things can be just as important as the big things.

    1. TCO*

      Wow, what a dumb rule to make, much less enforce. Are there really so many people retiring that the constant barrage of tiny lightweight planes would pose some kind of occupational hazard or distraction? You’re right–the powers that be don’t have any idea how these small things add up to big morale problems.

    2. Anon for complaint*

      Sounds like something my organization would do. It sucks and is short-sited. Especially for stuff that pretty much costs them nothing.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think everyone should get their own plane and they should do it together – the heck with this crappy rule.

  60. Bye Academia*

    I don’t know if anyone remembers me, but I’ve posted in the open threads a few times about a long job interview process for a position I thought would be a great fit. Well, I finally got offered the position this week! I’m really excited. The salary is higher than I was expecting, AND I was able to negotiate a 10% increase on top of that. Thanks to Alison for this website, her book, and all the great advice. And thank you to everyone who talked me down when I was confused and/or nervous, haha.

  61. Grace*

    Hi all,

    I’m an admin for a fairly small nonprofit organization and have recently taken on a lot of new projects due to losing some of our core staff members. Some of these projects require the use of Excel, and although I know the basics and am able to get around Excel okay, I feel like my knowledge is pretty limited. Does anyone recommend any particular Excel classes or workshops? I would really like to learn how to utilize this program better, and I am regretting not paying closer attention when I took a computer software course in undergrad!

    I have taken one other “adult learning” class for Quickbooks and was very disappointed. The course was not designed for nonprofit organizations and I feel like I wasted our money because I learned very little. I would like to avoid this type of experience in the future. Thanks!

    1. AdminSue*

      Hi Grace,
      If you just google different things you want to learn, you can find all kinds of info on line.
      Best of luck!

    2. K130*

      I’m the go-to person for Excel nearly everywhere I’ve worked and honestly I just define (to myself) what I want it to do and go google it. The MS Office support page is pretty easy to understand. I taught myself Excel and Access that way. What are your basics? Just basic cell math? Formulas?

    3. Khal E Essi*

      For a good overview of all the different things Excel can do, try signed up for Lynda.com. You can skip the basic 101 courses and go straight to the formulas/macros/pivot tables ones.

      1. Grace*

        Thanks all for your input! I am able to do basic cell math (addition, subtraction, division, etc.) but we occasionally do statistical analyses which has been difficult for me to figure out. What’s frustrating is I did this type of thing in undergrad but I was so eager to take the course, get a good grade and move on that I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on or let anything actually sink in.

        I’m going to check out Lynda.com and see if that has some helpful information! Thanks for the tip!

        1. Zahra*

          There are some free classes for statistics too. If you have free Lynda.com, go ahead, but there are so many free resources available now that I’d check those before paying for a subscription-based service.

  62. always and forever anonymous*

    How do you not get ahead of yourself when you interview for jobs? I have the tendency to be really optimistic after interviews and can’t help but get my hopes up and think about what I’d do in that new job or how my life would be better with a higher salary, only to feel like it’s all crashing down when I don’t get the job.

    It just happened yesterday after the fourth and final round of interviews for a job I really loved. I thought the interviews went well, but they decided to go with the other candidate and I’m cursing myself for getting my hopes up. I’ve still been applying for other jobs while I’ve been interviewing, but I really need to get out of my current job.

    1. overeducated*

      That is really hard when you go through that many interviews because it means you can’t follow the advice to forget about it for probably several weeks, you have to keep prepping for the next interview and putting your emotional energy into the prospect. I’m sorry. All I can do in a situation like that is be crushed for a day or two, and then go do something fun to distract myself.

    2. Crylo Ren*

      Honestly, there’s no magic bullet for it. It’s really difficult when you love the job and you’re excited about the opportunity, but the best thing is really just to try to pretend it either didn’t happen or that you’ve already received the rejection call. Sometimes I’ve even just indulged the mean/judgy side of me and started mentally listing off all the reasons I wouldn’t have wanted the job anyway because this or that person was stiff and the office was open concept or the parking situation was horrible…whatever it took to make me feel better!
      Hang in there and don’t beat yourself up too much about not being chosen.

    3. Anonymous Cookie*

      It is really difficult. I’m trying very hard not to think beyond my phone interview. There was a time when I had interviews at three different organizations, got hyped up about each one of them, but didn’t get the job so I’m trying to temper my expectations this time around.

    4. Anonymous job seeker*

      What helps me is trying not to talk about interviews too much with friends/family. When a friend asks how my job search is going, I’ll usually mention that I just had an interview or have one coming up, but don’t give much detail about the position and/or organization. I find the less that I talk about a potential opportunity, the lower the chance is that I’ll get my hopes up. Of course it doesn’t stop me from thinking to myself about how great a new job could be, but it does help.

      1. always and forever anonymous*

        That is good advice and advice I usually try to stick to, but it hasn’t helped that so many people at work at looking for new jobs and interviewing and among my work friends it’s hard not to get excited about new opportunities when everyone else is, too. I need to be better about keeping most of it to myself because you’re right, the more I talk or think about a new opportunity, the more I get my hopes up.

  63. Jennifer M.*

    Yesterday I received a verbal offer for a job. Got the written offer this morning. We are going back and forth on the start date – I was very clear in the interview that I couldn’t start until May 9 but they had put May 2 in the letter. The salary is good. Benefits are at best okay but not horribly off industry standard. The biggest benefit is that I will get clearance which is practically a form of currency for future job searches. I haven’t officially accepted, but I’m 99.99% sure I will on Monday. So after being unemployed for 6 months, this has been a good few weeks. I’m currently about half way through a 6 week consultancy that will take me to the end of April with a great team. They were probably going to offer me full time, but the work itself is just not that interesting to me, the benefits are also in the enh category, and the commute is killer (for those in the DC area it was MoCo to Crystal City). The job I will probably be accepting has a slightly better commute, a super interesting set of job duties and responsibilities, and as mentioned the clearance. Oh, and I’m leaving in a few minutes to go to another previously scheduled job interview because until I sign the offer letter, it’s not official.

    1. Dawn*

      YEAH GET ON THAT CLEARANCE TRAIN!!!!

      Man I would LOVE to get a clearance even tho I’m not planning on living in DC my whole life. There are *SO MANY* business analyst jobs that need a Top Secret clearance (including three like a mile from my house) I would be rolling in money.

      CONGRATS!!!

    2. Drink the juice Shelby*

      Congrats on the job offer. As far as starting date, my company works a 9/80 schedule and they only start new people on the 5 day work weeks. It was years ago, but my secret clearance was approved in three weeks.

  64. some1*

    Hi Everyone,

    I need to put together an exhaustive list of duties for my bosses. My bosses and other business partners are in other locations in other states. I am the admin in my location supporting people who report to the same manager.

    I frequently get info from Management that requires keeping confidentiality, which is an important part of my job and I think do really well at it. I’m really proud to have my bosses’ trust – is that something I can include somehow when listing tasks, or should I leave it off?

  65. Newbie*

    I’ve been volunteered to be on a hiring committee for the executive assistant to the CEO. Being on hiring committees isn’t new for me; I have some good experience with the process. The dilemma is that the CEO has a reputation for being difficult to work for. His last few assistants weren’t there long.

    I don’t know the specifics of just how difficult the CEO is and don’t want to speculate to interviewees. Based on other AAM posts, I hope to use interview questions that relate to working in high-pressure, demanding roles. Maybe provide some scenario questions and ask the interviewee what strategies they would employ in those types of situations.

    Any advice or suggestions for other techniques to either accurately reflect the work environment to interviewees without trashing the CEO or to vet the capacity of interviewees for handling demanding bosses?

  66. Cristina in England*

    I have a question for the academics out there, US and also outside of the US: When the hiring process includes a taught class, is it generally with actual students, or with a room full of faculty pretending to be students? The job ad doesn’t specify.

    1. overeducated*

      It varies. Ask the admin or committee chair who is keeping in touch with you about the visit.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m guessing you mean higher ed, but if you’re talking about secondary school, it’s almost always with actual students (unless you’re a late hire during the summer).

    3. SophieChotek*

      When I was a grad student we did a job search and the taught classes were taught with actual students and the actual students were asked to write evaluations on the person being considered for the position. As I recall, for 1 person was brought in they had to teach an undergraduate class and a graduate seminar; for another they gave a lecture to the both undergrads and grads at the same time. (Faculty attended too; or at least some did.)
      In both cases, the person being interviewed got to lecture/teach on a topic of their choice (which obviously fell in their specialty, i.e. 19th Century Women’s Popular Fiction in England)
      Also said candidate met with a group of undergrad reps (no faculty allowed) and then met with the grad students (small program, so everyone came if they could), also no faculty.
      I would think the dept. admin would tell you
      a) if it is real students and
      b) if you get to choose the topic or if they are going to assign it

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      P.S. I’ve been in situations in which I’m fake-teaching to a bunch of faculty, and it’s actually kind of fun, even when they act as caricatures of students. If, for some reason, you feel weird about asking, I would just prepare for real students. Even if it’s faculty pretending to be students, they’d want to know how your actual lesson would be if you were addressing real students.

    5. College Career Counselor*

      Depends on how organized the people running the search are. It could also be a combination of both students and faculty.

    6. Jessica*

      I’ve only ever seen a hiring process that requires a public lecture, not a “taught class.” That being said, there is usually some seminar group or class that is required to attend the lecture, or offered extra credit for attending. A mix of undergrads, grad students, and faculty attend.

      1. hermit crab*

        That was my experience too (I was on the student side, not the job candidate side). The hiring process included an after-hours seminar/lecture plus a dinner with a group of students in the department where we could ask the candidate extra questions, get to know them/see if they were a good fit for our hyper-focused-on-teaching liberal arts environment, etc.

  67. Donna*

    Anyone here in the fashion design/apparel industry?

    I have a young relative (I’m asking this on her behalf) who is about to start college and is interested in fashion design and other aspects of the apparel industry. She has the opportunity to attend state college and community college for free, but unfortunately their design and fashion business programs are not well known. I don’t believe these colleges have industry affiliations either, although their students are able to get internships in desirable places.

    We’ve heard that this field is very competitive. Will employers hire someone with a fashion degree from a state college? Is it worth it to pay for a degree from SCAD or FIT? (Or maybe do two years at a community college program and then transfer to one of these places?)

    1. Anderson*

      When I worked at Big Retailer, the technical design department would hire anyone who had any kind of degree as long as they had any experience in fashion. A certificate in fashion merch was good. Tech Design is technical part of fashion design- how to make that picture into a dress.
      Now for the reality check, fashion designers at big retailers don’t sit down and think of beautiful, creative outfits. Their job is researching in magazines and recreating exactly what they see. They go to the big cities, buy clothes, bring them back and make sketches of those exact garments. Then they spend lots of time with manufacturers trying to figure out how to make that big name designer dress for under $6 in China.
      If your relative really wants to “design” clothes, they will need a fabulous portfolio. Competition is fierce to get a job at the major fashion houses. I’d expect a top school degree is necessary + connections + lots of luck.
      I don’t want to be a downer on your relative’s dreams, but fashion design is only glamorous for a few.

    2. Temperance*

      Your relative has the opportunity to graduate from college without taking on any debt. She’s got a golden ticket, essentially. It would be so short-sighted not to go the state school route. Those schools often have amazing alumni networks. I went to Penn State, and it has opened many doors for me.

      FIT and SCAD are ridiculously expensive, and there is little chance for the kind of success she’s probably dreaming of anyway, to be blunt. It would be a really bad idea to take on that debt if she can avoid it.

      1. Treena*

        Agree with Anderson above about really wanting to be in fashion or not. A good friend is wildly successful in fashion (got her first job less than 6 months after graduating with an Associate’s from the Art Institute in NYC, has had 2 promotions since totaling to 50% raises) but her job is not design. Almost nobody in fashion designs things. It’s nitty gritty and she stares at excel sheets all day and deals with obnoxious models. She didn’t go to an especially prestigious school, but she worked her butt off and interned constantly to get real experience. That’s what made the difference.

        That said FIT is amazingly inexpensive as it is a state school. Dirt cheap if you’re from NY (~$5k) and still cheap out of state (~$18k). It’s incredibly difficult to get into, esp as an out of state student. So she should apply, but it’s a long shot even if you’re amazing. Also, if you start at a for-profit place, your credits won’t transfer and you’ll have to start all over and do another 4 years. So she should decide now if she wants to go down the tech/for profit route or the academic route. With academics, she can always transfer later and use her design credits as electives.

    3. College Career Counselor*

      Strongly co-sign the advice below about managing debt. Relevant internships will be useful for her as well, no matter where she goes to school.

    4. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I’m in merchandising (the buying/planning side) and almost everyone I work with has their degree from a state university. One of the state universities in my area has a very highly ranked merchandising/design program.

      Depending on what kind of company she wants to work for, SCAD or FIT would certainly give her a leg up but I don’t think the majority of companies would look down on a state degree at all.

      From what I know about the design side, internships are really key, so knowing that she could get one for a desirable company is great. And being able to graduate debt-free is HUGE, student loans are insane right now.

    5. Donna*

      Thank you for the advice, everyone! I’ll pass it on to her. I also think she should take advantage of the free education. It’s good to know that it’s possible to get a job in the field with a state degree.

    6. Kerr*

      Fashion design major here, community college only, ultimately decided not to pursue a fashion industry career. I know people who attended FIDM, and they weren’t thrilled with the educational value for the cost; I also know people with careers in the industry who went to state schools. On the other hand, there were opportunities that the FIDM students had that my college didn’t offer.

      Does the state college have a good program, even if it doesn’t have popular name-brand value – i.e. is it known to be a strong program within the industry, even if it’s not hyped in the media? This can be hard to suss out, but maybe she can talk with faculty at the school or do informational interviews with people in the industry. (Can she search on LinkedIn to see if there are many people from the state college working in fashion?) Informational interviews are a good idea anyway, so she can get a better idea of what “fashion” actually means, in terms of both work and lifestyle (the hours and seasonal workloads can be hectic and long). Hearing what recent grads have to say could also be helpful.

      Internships and knowing people is huge – if the state school’s students are consistently getting internships in good companies, that’s probably a good sign. And I do mean consistently, not just a “Our students have interned at X, Y, and Z!” tagline. She’ll need to be prepared to pursue these opportunities and connections VERY proactively while in school. I did not do this, and being more connected would have helped me a TON, if I’d been pursuing a design career less half-heartedly.

      If the state program has part-time teachers who are currently working in the industry, that’s great. (I’ve heard that this isn’t necessarily the case at some of the big-name design schools.) Fashion is constantly moving and changing, and having instructors who taught current industry methods was a strong point at my school.

      Note that a state college would allow her more opportunities to explore other electives; a art/design-focused school may have more in-depth art classes (maybe), but it’s a very narrow focus. Also, consider whether the credits would be transferable if she decides she hates fashion, or if she could switch to a different design major.

      Honestly, if she has the opportunity to get a free ride AND the state/community college has a decent fashion program, that sounds like a better return for value than going to a big-name art school. Ultimately, a strong program and good connections should win out over a shiny name. Of course, she can only figure out which one is better via research – she might decide that the design school wins out.

      I hope that helps, or at least offers food for thought!

      1. Donna*

        Thank you, I will pass that on to her. I’ve heard FIDM is expensive, but haven’t heard much about it otherwise.

  68. YSL*

    I felt like I was being hazed this week by my manager. She has never managed someone before, and I’m her first hire. I have the professional/terminal degree for my field, and a number of years experience. I would consider myself newish to the workforce, but not untrained.

    My manager won’t respond to my e-mails (I don’t send a lot, but sometimes I have to e-mail her instead of talk because we work slightly different schedules, or she is otherwise unavailable). She often won’t talk to me for weeks at a time. I told her a few weeks ago that I didn’t feel as though I had enough work on my plate, and that I’d be excited to shoulder more responsibility. As it stood then, I found myself twiddling my thumbs and trying to look busy for hours at a time. It was a real problem.

    She promised me a meeting because she was “too busy to answer e-mails,” and because we did need to touch base because I did need more work on my plate. She scheduled it for 2pm at the service desk, and said it would last about 10 minutes. When she didn’t show for an hour, I asked her if she still wanted to meet and she said, “Maybe later, too busy now,” and walked away. I wanted to cry. I honestly thought she was hazing me by refusing to talk to me beyond “Good morning, how was your weekend?” Talking to her about work related things was impossible. She’d just shut it down.

    At 5pm, she finally came out for our meeting. It lasted an hour. She gave me more work, and talked to me at lengths about projects on the horizon.

    I finally feel like I have enough work to keep me busy during my work day, and I no longer feel like I’m being hazed. It really was one of those situations where you shouldn’t attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance. But I did loose a lot of respect for my manager in the last few weeks. Despite using the phrase “open and honest communication” every single day, I cannot get this woman to communicate with me. She has terrible time management skills, and spends hours a day answering e-mails in a job that really, truly shouldn’t be so e-mail heavy. She cannot manage her time, and it is effecting my job satisfaction. Ugh. Talking to your manager shouldn’t be like pulling teeth.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There should be a rule that you should never work for anyone who’s in their first management job, or at least in their first couple of years of it.

      1. YSL*

        I asked in the interview what her management style was like, how she approached problem solving with employees, how she approached situations where an employee has taken a misstep or made a mistake, and how she best likes to communicate with employees. I thought I had done my due diligence! Oh well, it is a learning experience. In the future, I’m going to ask about my employer’s experience managing people.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, she had no way of really giving real answers to those questions since she’d never actually managed before. It was all speculation on her part. (That’s not your fault at all.)

      2. Lore*

        Now there’s a space-time paradox for you: never work for a first-time manager…but then no first-time manager is actually manager because they can’t effectivley manager anyone!

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          It’s like the rule for “not being a rebound” is to “never date someone who has not had at least one relationship since their previous relationship.”