open thread – May 13-14, 2016

It’s the Friday open thread — as well as my birthday! 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 :)

{ 1,341 comments… read them below }

  1. Mockingjay*

    I’ve started a list of my favorite AAM aphorisms and quotes.

    #1: Hanukkah Balls!
    Voluntold
    “This is how we do it here, Bob.”
    “No, no, no. Don’t do that.”
    Culture fit
    Co-irker

    What are yours?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Your boss sucks, and she isn’t going to change. (Was that it? That’s how I remember it.)

    2. Revolver Rani*

      I learned “bitch eating crackers” here and I love love love it and have introduced all my friends to the concept.

      (For those who don’t know, the phrase refers to that situation where someone just gets on your nerves SO MUCH that any small thing the person does annoys you, as in: “Look at that bitch eating crackers like she owns the place.” It’s such a great insight on how we respond to people we don’t like, and a great reminder to be objective when evaluating how out-of-line someone’s behavior is. Love it!)

      1. GOG11*

        BEC is PERFECT for describing that particular flavor of annoyance, and the struggle of reacting professionally when you’re at that level with someone.

      2. Mander*

        I too have explained this concept to many people. I don’t even know the actual origin of the phrase but it’s infinitely useful!

      1. ithinkyouhavemystapler*

        I love this one too. I say it all the time so it made me so so happy to see Allison use it like I would.

    3. MsMaryMary*

      “Is this the hill you want to die on?” and its variations. I might have heard the phrase before I started reading this site, but it’s AAM that I think of when I use it. And it’s great advice! Pick your battles, people.

      1. the_scientist*

        My partner had never heard this phrase before I introduced him to it, and it has now become one of his favourites! I think it’s an excellent life lesson.

    4. Confused Publisher*

      I also really really like that we are all Teapot Designers and Teapot Analysts working on Chocolate, Caramel and Vanilla Teapots, whether spout or handle or body.

    5. LSCO*

      The name Wakeen. I really wanted to call one of my hamsters Wakeen, but was overruled :-(

        1. nutella fitzgerald*

          “Ack” and its family of distress are my favorites, so I would like to imagine your Gravatar retreated into the shadows to let them shine :’)

      1. Amber T*

        Whyyyy did we never get an update to that one? I think that was one of (if not, the actual) first AAM articles I read. It was a great way to start!

        1. Emmy*

          We did and it was … disappointing… They decided it wasn’t that big of a deal or something. I know someone will be able to find it.

          1. B*

            I REALLY want an update on the update. It’s been almost a year…. what’s the current status!?

            1. Snork Maiden*

              MEMORANDUM

              To: All

              An update on the status of Duck Club will be held in Conference Room B at 3:45 pm. Please bring something to write on and a change of underwear. Attendance is at your discretion.

              Sincerely,
              Your Duck Club executive.

          2. KK*

            I really wondered if this was Zenefits after the news came out that they were having crazy parties and finding condoms in odd locations.

          3. Chaordic One*

            While not as quite as sordid as the Duck Club, at my former workplace (an office with a very casual dress code) there was a thing called “Freeballing Fridays” where the young people in the office (both male and female) went “commando” and did not wear underwear.

    6. Bekx*

      I really want to cross stitch all of these and hang them above my office door now. Thanks a lot, guys.

    7. Gene*

      My question, who owns the rights to things like Hannukkah Balls or Wakeen?

      >He asks while sipping coffee from his Chocolate Teapots, LTD. mug<

    8. PlainJane*

      How about, “Also, your boss is an ass.” I crack up every time I see that one.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Another may baby! yay! Happy Birthday Alison. Thanks for putting up this blog, and everything that you do! :)

      2. Christopher Tracy*

        High fives to all the May babies here! (My bday was Tuesday.)

        Happy birthday, Allison!

    1. Liana*

      Wait, how do you know it’s her birthday?? Did I miss something??

      Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yes, for your birthday you have greetings from all over the world. How cool is that?!

      Happy birthday from Washington state.

      1. Jules the First*

        Happy Birthday Alison!
        Hope you get to spend it doing your favourite things!

      1. JaneB*

        Happy Birthday from Northern England, to add to the international variants… hope your kitties didn’t provide birthday hairballs for clearing up or anything hideous like that…

    3. Gene*

      Yay for beating Death another year!

      I turn 60 next week. As does my wife; but she won’t even say the number. :-)

      1. Jessica (tc)*

        That’s what we say! I got that card for a family member once, and now it’s how we say it to each other. :)

        Happy birthday, Alison!

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Hah! You saw open thread and didn’t even read how it started: “It’s the Friday open thread — as well as my birthday!”

    4. junipergreen*

      Wishing you a very happy birthday! I love this site and it has seen me through so much. Thank you for your hard work!!

    5. GreenTeaPot*

      Happy birthday, Alison. Thank you for sage advice and all you do to help us navigate life and work. :)

    6. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      Happy birthday! Thank you for continuing to run this awesome site, and put up with our giant pain in the butt selves.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I hope you had a great day.
      And I hope you print out all these birthday wishes and hang them on the wall for a bit.

    8. Dot Warner*

      Happy birthday, Alison! (The timestamp will say 5/14, but I live on the West Coast and here it’s still your birthday for another 48 minutes. :) )

    9. Me2*

      Happy belated birthday! I was out of town without internet access for eight days so just catching up on things. I hope you had a wonderful day.

  2. AnonymouslyAnonymous*

    I’m an internal candidate for an in-person job interview, but I just saw another job opening at a place where I used to work. Should I go for it?

    1. NarrowDoorways*

      You can keep trying for both. Learn more about them ,see how far you get in the processes, and then make a choice.

    2. Pineapple Incident*

      Until you have a written offer in hand, go for everything! Operate as if you don’t have a new job yet, because until then you don’t know what might happen.

    3. Liana*

      Definitely go for it! Just because you’re applying as an internal candidate doesn’t mean you’re only allowed to apply at that one job. Proceed like you would in a regular job search until you have an offer in hand.

    4. SophieChotek*

      I agree if you’re interested in both, apply for both. Having two different opportunities might also help you evaluate the pros & cons of both jobs.

    5. Camellia*

      Well, you “used to work” there. Why don’t you work there any more? And if the reason you left is still there/still bad, are you sure you want to go back?

  3. Anon Mouse*

    It’s now two weeks past the decision deadline for a job opening I interviewed with as a finalist over three weeks ago. I’ve not spoken with them since my thank you email following the interview so I want to reach out one time before I put it entirely out of my mind as a no-go.

    Any tips for phrasing in that email? I want to keep it short and sweet so I was thinking something like ‘I wanted to ask if there had been any progress made with the Teapot Maker opening’.

    And should the response be a ‘thanks but no thanks’, would it be appropriate to send an email asking if they might keep me in mind for future positions and reiterating my hope to work for them in the future?

      1. Pineapple Incident*

        Seconded! Short and sweet is good- and reiterating your interest in their organization politely is never a bad thing

    1. Ms. Didymus*

      I am on the opposite end of this. I intereviewed an amazing candidate and would love to extend an offer. I wanted to do it several weeks ago. However we have a new system that requires the sign off of a lot of people and several of them have been involved in high priority projects or on PTO.

      I’m concerned I’m going to lose my candidate over this. I’ve made sure they know where we are but…ugh how long can I really expect someone to stick around!?

      1. Anon Moose*

        Not too long, unless its an industry without a lot of similar jobs. Chances are, if you want them someone else will too. If you’re their first choice they’ll maybe wait… but if they have another offer pending then probably not.

      2. Rocky*

        Ugh. I had to deal with this last year during the holidays. Fortunately I’m allowed to do a (totally non-binding) verbal offer before the formal written offer, which is contingent on two signatures and a background check. The candidate told me she had a competing offer she had to respond to in the next two days, but would prefer our position if it was offered. All I could do was be super transparent about what was happening, without overcommitting. I felt like I could reasonably say, “I’m waiting for someone who is out of town to sign off, but I’m pushing to get you an offer letter by tomorrow evening at the latest.” But I knew I’d probably lose the candidate if I couldn’t make that happen.

      3. MeridaAnn*

        Be sure to keep her in the loop! You don’t want her to be in the same position as Anon Mouse, without any information about her status – then she might assume that the job fell through or she’ll at least be annoyed by being left in the dark, which I imagine might even make her less likely to accept the offer if she sees it as a sign of disorganization / disrespect of her time.

        I don’t know if you’re allowed to tell her that she’s your expected pick or not, but at least let her know that she is a finalist and that there has been a delay due to your new system and you’re just waiting on final sign-offs before formalizing the decision / offer. I’d expect you’ll get a lot more patience from her if you keep her informed about what’s happening.

        1. Ms. Didymus*

          Thanks everyone, I have been very upfront with the candidate. They know they are my choice and that this is not about them – at all – but instead about a new process that is running into some hurdles.

          I am lucky in that they are currently working and only passively searching but ugh I worry that this makes our company look flakey.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            I’m late to the party on this, but…

            Don’t just be upfront with the candidate. Be upfront with your company’s management about what bureaucracy might cost them, especially if good candidates are hard to come by. Is there someone — your manager, perhaps — who can run this up the food chain and say, “I’m afraid I’m going to lose this candidate because Wakeen, Jane, and Valentina are out — is there any way we can expedite the process?”

      4. Mike C.*

        They’ll stick around longer if you keep in touch with them. Also, if you lose this guy, make sure that your superiors know that the extended time and lack of availability (they don’t delegate signature authority?) were key issues.

      5. Sarah*

        I would be sure you keep in communication with the candidate. Reiterate your interest and ask them to keep them apprised of competing offers as you work through your processes.

  4. NarrowDoorways*

    Salary negotiation experience to share!

    My company is really hurting to add people in one particular department. We lost 3 people in a very short time for reasons like a spouse transfer or switching to work with family.

    Because we’re looking for people to start immediately, the company is primarily using temp agencies (rarely need 2 weeks notice). We give the set salary rate and say the intention is to hire them in 3 months with a raise.

    We had a few interviews, but one of the first interviews was perfect. Competent, knowledgeable, intelligent, professional. She was offered the job.

    She told the temp agency she’d come on, but only for a dollar higher rate. The temp agency advised us to immediately reject her! Apparently they “don’t pay that game.”

    The CEO slept on it and decided she’d meet halfway at 50 cents extra an hour, again emphasizing that in 3 months she’d be hired at a much higher rate.

    The interviewee refused and said a full dollar or nothing. So she gets nothing and we’ve wasted time focusing on making it work for her.

    I’m so disappointed with both sides. She knew the rate when she interviewed and had already decided it wasn’t enough. It’s unfortunate that so many people on my end reacted poorly to an attempt at negotiation, especially considering she probably was worth a higher rate and we are in need. But also, I’m surprised the interviewee didn’t meet the company halfway.

    Ugh. The whole situation frustrates me.

    1. esra*

      That is a bummer. Pay negotiations are so fraught. Was she told what the higher rate in 3 months would be?

      1. NarrowDoorways*

        Yeah. The only reason for a three month wait is because my company doesn’t like to pay the super high flat fee to the temp agency to cut them out. So we need the agency to get someone immediately, but then are stuck with them until the flat fee prices lowers after 3 months.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Maybe I’m not getting all the details here, but it sounds to me as if the interviewee was in the right, unless the job posting (or temp agency contract) said specifically that there’s no negotiations for salary. And the fact that the candidate was able to walk away means your company needed her more than she needed you all.

      1. NarrowDoorways*

        See, that surprised me too! I don’t know what the temp agency would immediately recommend against negotiating with her.

        I think the fact that we didn’t meet her price and cut her loose shows neither of us needed each other that much.

        1. Brett*

          At least for agencies I dealt with in the past, if an employee starts at a higher rate, the agency eats 50-100% of that increase in wages, and eats 100% of any increase in taxes and benefits from the increase in wages.
          This might not be the case with your contract, but it could be the case with other contracts they have, leading to a company-wide policy.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      “A higher rate in three months” so often translates to “oops, nevermind” that I don’t blame her for trying to get higher to start. Once you’ve started, you’ve lost a lot of negotiation power. She didn’t know that for you it actually did mean something.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        This. I would never accept that kind of future promise unless it was part of a contract.

        1. NarrowDoorways*

          That would absolutely worry me, too! My sister temped for a while and I remember them promising and promising to hire her on. Ended up taking a 4 months longer than they’re initially said. If you budget your life for a certain rate, it doesn’t make sense to accept below that.

          1. Anonsie*

            I’m third this one, I wouldn’t trust your company to stick to this agreement and I wouldn’t be too impressed by them deciding 50cents an hour is worth telling me to take a walk. If I were her I’d probably have bounced too.

      2. Ama*

        Yeah, I’ve been burned so many times by empty promises about salary and promotions for jobs I was already in that I’d be extra wary if an employer wanted to *start* our relationship making a promise about a future raise, unless I could get something in writing that was actually enforceable.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        However, I do think it’s more common for temps to get higher pay when they go perm. But the usual direct hire given the line about revising it at some point? No.

    4. matcha123*

      I’m not familiar with temp companies in general, but did the CEO or people from your company speak directly with her, or did they tell the temp company?
      I mean, if they told the temp company, and this is the same company that said to ditch her because she asked for more, I wouldn’t be surprised if they told her that your company wouldn’t budge.

      1. K.*

        Usually the agency handles all money discussion – the company pays the agency, the agency pays the temp. I’ve done contract work through agencies and have hired temps through agencies, and that’s how it’s always worked.

        1. NarrowDoorways*

          All salary discussions when though the agency. I can’t imagine they’d lie though. What would they gain? But then I can’t imagine why they’d recommend not negotiating with her either!

          1. Anon Moose*

            All you’d need is one cranky employee at the agency who adhered to their policy and not yours (whether authorized to do so or not). Its entirely possible it never got to the potential employee.

          2. Stardust*

            I have a story. I had an interview with a temp and asked her about pay. She told me she made X. Then when I reached out to the temp agency to bring her on board the agency told me she was looking for a higher rate. The temp agency flat out lied to me, saying the temp had just received a raise at her current job. It’s possible the temp agency is trying to up the rate so they charge the company.

      1. K.*

        I wouldn’t negotiate, but I HAVE held firm to my guns about my minimum required rate (and been prepared to let a job go if it was below that rate) and been offered more by the agency after doing so. Like “We have something at $X an hour.” “Sorry, my minimum is $X+5 an hour.” “OK, we’ll submit you at $X+5.”

        1. NarrowDoorways*

          So you wouldn’t have gone to the interview in the first place? Because she knew the offered salary going into the interview. I haven’t temped in a good ten years, but I think I remember just turning down the agency when they’d suggest places below my rate.

          1. Tuckerman*

            “Because she knew the offered salary going into the interview.”
            But that’s just it. An offer is up for negotiation. If it is non-negotiable, that is out of the realm of what is expected in most fields. I’d absolutely negotiate a temp agency offer because the temp agency takes a sizable cut of the billed rate; to secure the account, the agency may be willing to take a slightly smaller cut.

          2. K.*

            No, I wouldn’t have – as you say, I’d just turn down the agency. I’d say “I can’t do it for less than $Y, thanks anyway” and fully expect that to be the end of it – but occasionally the agencies have come back and been able to meet me at $Y. I never expected them to, though. Tf they can’t budge, no harm no foul – I just don’t move forward. I wouldn’t negotiate after an offer because that is Not Done with contract work in the same way it’s done with salaried positions (although again, I don’t apply to salaried positions with salaries that are below my minimum, because what if they don’t budge on negotiation?), so you need to iron all that out before you even get the ball rolling.

    5. TCO*

      That was short-sighted of your CEO. An extra dollar an hour for three months is $520 (so you could argue it was also short-sighted of the temp to walk away over the offer falling just $260 short). I can see why she and the temp agency might be taken aback by a temp trying to negotiate, but your CEO should have overridden the agency and hired the temp.

      1. NarrowDoorways*

        I think it really spiraled. Instead of “she knows her worth,” it became this weird discussion about her attitude and the idea that if you give an inch, she’ll be so full of herself later she’ll think she calls all the shots.

        1. animaniactoo*

          I think both your company and the temp agency have picked up the mindset that people should be happy for whatever work they can get rather than that people get to decide what they’re worth and ask for that.

          If somebody is regularly getting rejected for the rate they think they’re worth, that’s one thing. But you guys also have to remember on her end – she doesn’t get the full rate you’re paying for those 3 months. She gets a portion of it while the temp agency takes a large chunk. So she’s not just getting less than the rate you’re hiring her on for later, she’s also getting less than even what you’d be paying her now for those 3 months.

          I suspect the agency doesn’t want to deal with people who might then start to think about negotiating their percentage rates *with them*, so they stamp hard on that kind of initiative.

          1. hbc*

            Yeah, our temp and recruiting agencies can get a little…irritated about employees who make their lives more difficult, and lose sight of whether that actually makes the person a bad candidate for us. I actually got warned because one guy (who was pretty great) wasn’t putting in notice until we were past the background and reference checks. I’m like, “That’s smart. He doesn’t know if I’ll freak out about a drug arrest from ’91 or if one of his references will sabotage him.”

            They’re human, they’re going to prefer the people who are easy on them, which is usually the meek people who go where they’re told and take what they’re offered. But a lot of those “difficult” people end up being the best employees in the long run.

        2. Camellia*

          I’m curious though – discussion with whom? Were you talking directly with the candidate and that is how she came across in the discussions? Or were you actually talking to the temp company who was “reporting” her attitude? I am always extremely skeptical about second-hand opinions and information.

          1. NarrowDoorways*

            Sorry, the above may have been confusing. The discussion between the agency and my company (HR/CEO/the rest of us). She didn’t have an attitude. She was a strong woman confident in her abilities.

            But the temp agency and my company were reading that a potential attitude could arise because of this. It’s the stupid idea that if she successfully argued for the higher rate, she’d see it as a reason to argue everything later on. Like the “Give an inch and they’ll take a mile.”

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              In a perfect world, I would agree with that assessment, but in our current cultural context, the norm is that negotiating is what you’re supposed to do, and you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t, and employers may even lose respect for you if you don’t negotiate. With all that societal messaging, even people who wouldn’t otherwise push for things will still negotiate hard on salary.

              If we can change the culture so that employers just pay at or above market rate and give raises when merited (not asked for—merited), then I will fully agree (in that very different world) someone pushing for an extra dollar may just be pushy in general. In our current world, not so much…

            2. SAHM*

              Would they have reacted the same way about the “attitude” if it had been a man who requested more?

            3. Not So NewReader*

              Five hundred dollars is not an inch, though,it’s like a quarter of an inch. It’s kind of strange that they were so steadfast. And I wonder if she sees your company as miserly.

        3. Anonsie*

          That’s a prevalent but gross attitude and she’s probably all the better for not walking into it, honestly. It sounds like the temp agency / your CEO assume this is a game because they’re playing one, and dropping fifty cents was a power play more than anything else.

          1. NarrowDoorways*

            Meh. There’s a million better reasons for me to side-eye my company. This is just a drop in the bucket.

    6. animaniactoo*

      fwiw, I did not accept my current company’s half-way offer back when I was first dealing with them. We did have an established relationship, but I also knew that given what I needed to have in order to be able to afford my life (rent, health insurance as they didn’t offer it at the time, etc.) it didn’t meet my minimum requirement, and I had the leeway to keep looking. So I held firm and they came back and accepted it.

      What you may not realize is that her dollar above offer was her attempt to meet halfway to begin with, and it was her bare minimum she could accept.

      1. animaniactoo*

        also fwiw, I would see the halfway offer from you as translating to “and the higher rate 3 months down the road will also be less than I am willing to work for, given that you’re not willing to go this high now.”

      2. overeducated*

        Yeah, I don’t think the temp did anything wrong here. There is a minimum I need to make to pay my bills that is, unfortunately, higher than the rate many jobs in my field pay, and that determines what jobs I can take. I can’t work for less for the sake of “meeting halfway,” and have had to turn down or withdraw from what sound like pretty great jobs as a result; maybe your possible hire couldn’t either. Sorry everyone wound up losing in this situation.

    7. New Girl*

      Back in my temping days, I told the agency that I would only work for $x/hour. They sent me on an interview and didn’t disclose the pay until after I was asked to take it on (hindsight, I should have asked before taking the interview). It was $2 lower an hour than my requirements so I stuck to my guns at $x/hour. They were kinda mad at me but I ended up getting my requirement.

      1. animaniactoo*

        I was working with a placement agency, not a temp, but I had the same thing happen. Except the company couldn’t meet my minimum, and they looked like they really regretted it. To a large extent, I still think it was their loss and shortsighted of them, because they came back to me twice to ask me to reconsider after I completed their one-hour field test in 15 minutes – absolutely perfectly, above and beyond what they would have considered acceptable. I understand that they had a pay structure and limitations around that, but it was pretty clear that they’d more than have gotten the volume out of me to justify the additional cost. I liked the company and the work, but I just couldn’t go significantly backwards from where I was to make that work for them.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Yeah, we use temp agencies frequently and unless I knew the backstage conversations on this one, I wouldn’t be 100% convinced the issue was the potential temp.

        IF the employer said to the agency, $18 an hour firm, and IF the agency said to the temp, this interview I’m sending you on is for a job that pays $18 an hour firm, the potential temp did indeed waste everybody’s time and make the agency look bad to the employer.

        I’ve found the quality of communication from agencies to their temps to be all over the place. (And, of course, I drop agencies with poor communication.)

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Meaning, hourly temp positions with a firm $ rather than a range are not intended to be negotiated. That’s part of what you are buying when you contract an agency. They are sending you people who will work at the rate you’ve set.

          We have some jobs like that (think, sub for the receptionist for two weeks) and we have some jobs at a range because we will pay more for more qualified candidates. We’ll negotiate a range.

    8. Angela*

      As a temp, it would never occur to me to negotiate, but I also see her point. The “higher rate” I was promised that last time I was a temp ended up being a 0.15/hr increase when I was brought on full-time.

    9. newbie*

      Is it typical for temps to negotiate salary? I was under the impression that the time to negotiate salary was when you were offered a permanent position.

    10. The Butcher of Luverne*

      “Competent, knowledgeable, intelligent, professional.”

      I can’t help but think it’s worth AT LEAST a dollar more an hour.

      1. NarrowDoorways*

        I’d have said $10 more an hour. (But then I think that way about myself, too!)

    11. TootsNYC*

      If you are in need, maybe other companies are too, and she’s got other options.

      Though it is too bad–let’s see: 50¢ per hour = $4/day = $20/wk = $80/month = $240/3 months.

      So for $240, she passed up a very strong shot at a permanent job.

      Then again, that’s nearly a plane ticket home for me to see my dad.

      1. TootsNYC*

        And, for $240, spread out over 3 months, your company passed up a quick solution to a big problem.

        Too bad nobody did the actual math!

      2. Christina*

        This is like what my mom told me when I was negotiating buying my first place. The seller and I were quibbling over $1,000 in the asking price, my mom pointed out “do you really want to lose a place that has so much of what you want over something that, in the long run, ends up adding about 3 cents to your monthly payment?”

        I love my home :-)

  5. Pickle*

    I’m in a bit of a pickle at the moment. In a few months I am planning to leave my current job to pursue a new opportunity. However, as I tend to be quite risk-averse (read: paranoid), I don’t want to give notice until everything is confirmed.

    There’s about a three-week window between the time I’ll have confirmation and the time I have to leave, so I should still be able to give a decent amount of notice. Also, that would happen during a quiet time in our business cycle so it shouldn’t throw client deadlines out of whack.

    The problem is, our team is quite stretched at the moment (there were two rounds of layoffs not long ago), and the hiring process for this organisation is agonisingly slow (one such process was started in January and is still dragging on). On top of that, one of my teammates is going on vacation right around that time, so that’s not going to help either.

    So basically, is there anything I can do in the meantime to help the transition down the line? I’ve started putting together some documentation for my role, including contact information etc. So…beyond that, what else would be helpful?

    1. Terra*

      If you’re in the kind of role where you’re going to be leaving some things mid project then I’d definitely get together what you’ve started on any ongoing projects as well as notes on what’s left to be done. If you were writing documentation for example you’d want the documentation you’d started (or to tell people clearly where it could be found) and then for the parts you probably weren’t going to be able to finish I’d put in the major section headers and then a brief blurb of “this needs to talk about how you create a new item in the system, remember you’re waiting for the IT department to fix the bug where long item names crash the form – ticket number 73” or whatever so whoever picks up after you knows what was supposed to go there and that they need to check that problem was resolved also.

    2. Student*

      You can start letting yourself off the hook for what happens to the organization after you leave. That’s the best thing you can do to make the transition go smoothly – release yourself from feeling like it is solely your obligation to make the transition go well.

      Be professional, be polite, hand off your work. If they don’t pick it up and run with it when you put it down, that’s on them – not you. If they’re too short-handed to handle a little turnover during a slow time, that’s on them – not you.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I agree–as a manager, it’s my job to be prepared should one of my people leave, even if it’s at an inconvenient time.

        Sometimes that means I just have to do some of their job. usually it means I need to always be doing some low-level recruiting (not low-level in status, but in effort) and networking (here’s where networking helps hiring managers–THIS is their payoff). I’m lucky in that I hire a lot of freelancers, so that’s easy.

    3. SophieChotek*

      I agree with what others said. It sounds like you are being very thoughtful, trying to plan ahead, get documentation and procedures prepared ahead of time. (And don’t get sucked back into working for Old Company as you try to adjust to New Opportunity, unless you’re a consultant or its in your terms, etc.)

      As I (vaguely) recall, AAM has often said, companies/bosses have to be prepared for the nature of real life, employees unexpectedly come and go and it makes no sense to delay one’s departure over worrying how a company will function (not that you were doing that anyway).

      The timing (with layoffs, vacation) is unfortunate, but often there rarely is a “right” time–something always comes up.

    4. animaniactoo*

      Remembering that they did this to themselves (the company) when they stretched themselves so thin with those layoffs. There may have been good reason for it, but they put themselves in exactly this kind of danger. Doesn’t even have to be an employee purposely leaving for a better opportunity, could simply have a family emergency, etc.

      So, try to leave your files/projects as organized as possible, and leave whatever documentation you can. But otherwise, don’t beat yourself up about this.

  6. Fawn*

    Any advice in working on a committee with strong faculty egos in an academic environment? I’m interviewing for a position next week that includes representing my department on a committee of academics with a reputation for being a little difficult and fly by night with their application of policy (I’d be the rep for the policy part of the committee). I know that the interview is going to include a question on how to work with a group of assertive academics, so I’d love some ideas to consider while I’m brainstorming interview responses over the weekend.

    1. Liana*

      Oh man. Working with strong faculty egos is my ENTIRE JOB, so I feel you. It really does depend on the faculty member in particular, but one of the things that has worked well for me is essentially just listening and waiting. It can be really difficult to try and change someone’s mind in the heat of the moment (one of the doctors I support has a tendency to dig his heels in on a decision, even when I just know it’s a bad idea), so I do this thing where I listen and nod noncommittally during our meeting, and then a couple hours later follow up with an email, or spreadsheet, or whatever detailing the better idea I had, but in a way that still sounds like we collaborated on it, rather than “Here is this idea that’s better than yours.”

      Of course, you can’t really say all that in an interview, so I’d recommend saying something like “I would make sure to listen to all sides of an argument, and make an effort to understand where [faculty member] is coming from, before suggesting a solution.” It might also be helpful to throw in a mention about how important it is to have a thick skin during these meetings, because if the interviewer knows that you’ll be working with strong egos, she’ll want to know that you’re able to handle it. I work with surgeons, who are notoriously abrasive at times, and having a thick skin is like, the #1 most important quality you can have in this job.

      1. Ama*

        Seconding all of this. In my current job there were several questions about handling difficult faculty (I’m not in academia but my job handles a volunteer committee full of academics) — if you can point to example of any previous projects where you’ve had to run a high stakes meeting or juggle competing egos (uh, don’t use that phrase if you can help it) it can go a long way towards reassuring your interviewer. I think with a lot of those roles they want to make sure you understand that you have to act in a way that sticks up for your department’s needs and goals but doesn’t piss people off unnecessarily.

      2. AnotherTeacher*

        +1 to ensuring you communicate your ability to work with strong personalities.

        This also sounds like an issue of balancing the big picture. Use those listening skills to determine if the hiring committee is looking for someone to reign in the department in terms of policy compliance. They may not want to say so explicitly, as it indicates problems or weaknesses; but, covertly, they may be looking for someone to enforce tough and/or unpopular decisions.

    2. Stephanie*

      Have you worked in other places with strong personalities? I know one university search committee that ended up hiring someone who had worked with lawyers because the candidate could demonstrate their “thick skin.”

      1. the gold digger*

        In my organizational behavior class in grad school, the prof told us that one of the hardest jobs is being a (non-physician) hospital administrator – that the docs don’t want to listen to anyone who is not also a doctor.

  7. ActualName*

    I decided to try to write a “novel” in 5 days, writing 10,000 words a day. I’m half way through today’s word goal.

      1. ActualName*

        I have a couple of tricks. Many I’m doing this to try to break my habit of editing while I write, so when I come to a part that is either going to be difficult for me to make perfect the first time, or when I’m itching to rewrite what I just wrote I write bad, summary style sentences along the likes of, “The blanket looked like this.” or “And then this happened.” So that I don’t loose momentum.

        I take a break every 1,000 words to stretch. Then, when I’m feeling unmottived or stuck I stand up and pace while either swearing under my breath (I have no idea why this helps but it does) or I say things like, “I am the champ! I rock! I just wrote a crap ton of words! So many words! I can do this! I am the bomb dot com. Go me! Caw! Caw! Fear me!” I also shake it out or play a little tug of war with my dog until I feel focused again.

        I have what is a combination of the outline / first draft done. It’s 6k long right now. So I’m taking a break to rest my brain. When I come back to it I’ll just be beefing up me sentences that are along the lines of “Susan and Tom discuss magic. Exposition happens.”

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Ahahah, I have to do that–so I don’t stop and look stuff up if I don’t know something. I’ll write something like, “Bob took the part off the thing and put it in the doohickey CHECK” and then go back and search for those later. Otherwise, I stop, go online, and look up doohickeys and before I know it, an hour has gone by.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          What we tell ourselves can make a huge difference in outputs.

          I had to do some basket arrangements for the holidays at one place I worked. I had to do quite a few of them one day, so I decided to test out this positive thinking stuff. With each basket I thought about the person who might receive it and may they have a great holiday, etc.

          When I finished all the baskets, I looked at them and thought they came out pretty good. (I am pretty critical of my work.) What happened next was amazing. I was getting compliments and people were buying the baskets. “I don’t know what there is about this basket, but it looks so nice I have to buy one for my friend Jane…”

          Of course, there are externals that influence our outputs. But I do believe how we talk to ourselves matters. A lot.

        3. Nye*

          I love this trick! I do a lot of academic writing, and can easily spend hours on a single sentence. (Usually because I’m looking up references, leading me down the rabbit hole of academic papers even tangentially related to the topic.) Sometimes, just to get things moving, I’ll use WriteOrDie to get the framework down and bypass the editorial part off my brain. E.g., “DISCUSS TEAPOT SPOUT MORPHOLOGICAL EVOLUTION.”

          It’s a huge help! If I can work my way to your method, of moving on by default (rather with an external tool making awful noises and dropping spiders down the screen when I lag), that would be perfect.

          Good luck!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      That’s quite ambitious. I think NaNoWriMo is about 50,000 words in 30 days. Go you!

      I’m in the process of writing a novel, but I’m far less ambitious. My goal is just to write at least one sentence a day. Sometimes I wrote more.

      1. ActualName*

        NaNoWriMo is actually what inspired me. November is not a good month for me to write during, especally because it is in the middle of the school year and also happens to be the start of my “dormant” season. So I decided “Why should I wait until November to try this? I have the time now.” I figure that if I prove myself that I can do this in 5 days I can start getting first drafts of long projects out at least once every month. I really want to be a writer, and I figure the first thing I have to do is actually finish a project.

        I thought about putting together a collection of poems I’ve written or so forth, but this honestly seemed more do-able.

        1. JaneB*

          There’s a NaNoWriMo ‘Camp’ in July or in April every year, if you want to do something like this again but not in November…

    2. Nova Terra*

      Wow! I find it frustrating enough to write 1,000-2,000 words a day, and those are 1) good days and 2) spaced apart. I can’t imagine 10,000 words a day! Go you :D

  8. DCGirl*

    Here’s something that really bothers me about my employer….

    My employer offers two categories of leave in addition to vacation time: annual sick leave and extended leave. Extended leave can be used for illnesses lasting from 3 to 10 workdays (yours or a family member, doctor’s note needed), maternity/paternity leave, and extended bereavement leave (when there’s overseas travel or the person is the executor of the will).

    The issue I’m seeing is that HR actively discourages employees whose illnesses are over three but under 10 days from applying for FMLA because it’s covered under extended leave. You can walk into HR, ask for the necessary forms, and be turned down if you have enough days in your extended leave bank. “You have enough leave in your extended leave bank; you don’t need to apply for FMLA,” is the standard response. One daring employee downloaded the form off the Internet and had his doctor’s office complete it. HR was not amused but had to accept it. Their attitude was kind of, “How dare you!”

    In one case, an employee missed five days in March (serious car accident, including brief hospitalization) and then five days in November (bad case of the flu which brought on an asthma crisis, resulting in brief hospitalization).

    She was actively discouraged by HR from filing for FMLA for both situations because they were “covered by extended leave.” After the second, her supervisor informed her that she had two “incidents of unplanned absence for the year” and that any future absences will be looked at very critically. I think both absences would have otherwise been covered by FMLA had she not been discouraged from filing for it. Five incidents can lead to termination. I also think that there’s a world of difference between a good employee who has an awful run of luck and a not-so-good employee who calls in sick on Mondays and Fridays when it comes to counting incidents of unplanned absence.

    This is a company that really, really discourages people from taking sick leave. It was visibly perturbed when its municipality adopted a law requiring employers to provide seven days of sick leave per year. We get five days of annual sick leave and five days of extended leave. Thanks to the law, you’re now supposed to be able to use two days of extended leave, after your annual sick leave is exhausted, to meet the City law, but I know people who’ve had issues doing so (particularly new employees who may not have much sick leave accrued). The employee handbook, although revised since the law was passed, is strangely silent on the ability to dip into the extended leave bank without meeting the three-day minimum and getting the doctor’s note.

    I don’t disagree that the extended leave program benefits employees in some ways. It’s great that you can use it to extend bereavement leave when needed (I needed an extra day to clean out my father’s apartment at the assisted living facility after he died so that we didn’t go into the next month and have to pay). It’s great to have a bank of paid leave to draw on in case of major illness. I just can’t help but think that the company is on very thin ice with regard to FMLA and the City law. What do you all think?

    1. esra*

      Admittedly speaking as a Canadian, but that sucks. It gets my back up when a company so strongly discourages employees from taking leave or assistance to which they are entitled.

    2. Seal*

      People get sick. Accidents happen. Any employer that doesn’t understand that is one I don’t want to work for.

      1. Katie F*

        Many employers sincerely believe that benefits are a gift they provide their very best employees because they’re just so super wonderful, not a part of the employee’s overall compensation package and therefore essentially as aspect of their salary. So any employee who actually USES that benefit is clearly taking advantage of the employer, rather than accessing their compensation.

        1. Faith*

          At the same time, whenever you try to negotiate your salary, these companies will be the first ones to point out their “wonderful benefits package” that clearly should make up for below the market salary they are offering.

    3. LawCat*

      The employer doesn’t trust it’s employees. Telling an employee who has been hospitalized that because of those absences “any future absences will be looked at very critically” is ridiculous.

      1. Laura*

        Exactly. I was hospitalized after a car accident and management made it clear that they no longer saw me as a valuable member of the team, and that I should worry about my job’s future (or lack thereof). When I returned to work, I started looking for a new job.

      2. Katie F*

        After I returned from (unpaid) maternity leave, my boss at the time made many disparaging comments about me “going on vacation” and how disappointed he was that I didn’t have to ask HIS permission to do so. Eventually HR had to sit him down and explain that FMLA is not vacation and he could be written up for his (constant, repeated) references to it as such.

        He threw a HUGE fit when I wanted a day off around Christmas that same year, because I’d “used up my vacation”. When I pointed out the aforementioned “that ain’t vacation” and also that our vacation had just rolled over, so no I hadn’t used up any such thing, he was so furious he ended up leaving the office for the rest of the day to complain to HR about how an employee who takes FMLA shouldn’t be allowed new vacation time.

        1. KR*

          I feel like that’s pregnancy discrimination. If you were a man and had been out on FMLA for an illness, would he be as mad? Probably not.

        2. Faith*

          how disappointed he was that I didn’t have to ask HIS permission to do so

          I am headdesking so hard right now. The sheer audacity of this comment!

      3. Anon Moose*

        What is the “logic” there? That the employee went into the hospital on purpose in order to mess up the company? Honestly.

    4. Duncan*

      Not just thin ice – sounds like they are violating the law and interfering with employees’ FMLA rights. And since they have notice that these absences are FMLA-qualifying, they really can’t hold them against employees. I’m not an expert on FMLA by any means, but I believe there is a provision in the regulations regarding that – the employer has to advise employees that the absence does not qualify for FMLA when the employee puts them on notice that they need it (and by requesting the forms and being denied them, that would seem to be adequate notice.) For starters, I would encourage folks to submit the paperwork the DOL provides if HR won’t give them the form. And send via email to have confirmation it was delivered. Then if any action is taken against an employee for an FMLA-qualifying absence, I would file a formal complaint.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes, this. The company sucks and is sitting up and begging for legal trouble.

    5. Nobody*

      IANAL, but based on my limited knowledge of FMLA, it looks like your employer is on very shaky ground here. FMLA is a legal right (with certain restrictions — but I am assuming that the employees in question meet the eligibility requirements) and the employer cannot deny it or discriminate against employees who use it.

    6. Kassy*

      I think it’s illegal. IANAL, but the Department of Labor’s website states that “examples of prohibited conduct include…discouraging an employee from using FMLA leave.” Will post the link in a reply since I assume it will get caught in the spam filter.

    7. Observer*

      VERY thin ice. And it may not just be FMLA, but possibly the ADA. The EEOC and DOL have some fairly good materials and “guidance”. It might be worth pointing HR to some of these resources.

    8. it happens*

      I’m a little confused. It sounds like the company’s extended leave is paid leave, while FMLA is the right to unpaid leave. Is my understanding mistaken? Because if not, it sounds like HR is pushing people to take paid leave instead of forfeiting their pay. Which sounds like a good thing to me.

      1. Kassy*

        FMLA doesn’t prohibit paid leave, though. It’s not an “either/or” situation, despite how the company is trying to frame it. They can have their extended leave concurrently with FMLA. The thing with the extended leave is that presumably since it’s the company’s internal policy, they can approve or deny requests as they please. With FMLA they would have no choice, which may be why they don’t want people to apply for it.

      2. nutella fitzgerald*

        I think the trade-off is whether or not you can be penalized for taking the leave: yes for the company-provided, no for the FMLA. By discouraging FMLA they revoke the employee’s right to take leave without it being held against them.

        1. DCGirl*

          Exactly. FMLA is, by definition, unpaid leave. You are allowed (and the employer can require you) to use any forms of paid leave available to you (vacation, sick, PTO) to provide income replacement while you are on what would otherwise be unpaid leave.

      3. TootsNYC*

        It would be a good thing! That’s what I thought was going on at first (I can totally see all the HR depts I’ve worked with in the past doing this, resisting the FMLA thing), and I wondered what the employees were complaining about. But I’ve also never worked anywhere that I’ve heard of people getting in trouble for taking sick days–at all. I’ve seen managers say, “Are you OK?” and I’ve seen HR contact people and say, “I see a lot of absences; maybe you need to be on short-term disability? What’s going on, and how can we categorize your absences?” It wouldn’t surprise me if they said, “Listen, there’s a perception that you’re taking sick day for not-good reasons, and we want to check in with you” from the point of view of making sure you’re not being blamed unfairly, and accompanied by a “if you tell us anything medical, which you’re not required to do, we will never tell anyone else, because we’re Honorable HR.” (which was a true assessment)

        If the company is going to get pissy over something like being hospitalized because of a car accident, then I understand why employees want FMLA.

        1. DCGirl*

          Five “incidents of unplanned absence” put you on probation; seven get you terminated. We have two call centers, so coverage is important (I don’t work in either, however), so I get that. I just think that coverage in the call centers could also be ensured by, for example, hiring more employees. It’s also frustrating to those of who don’t work in the call center that so many policies are designed around the call center. For example, I’ve had some very scary rides to work during and immediately after snowstorms because the call center has to stay open (it’s regulatory thing).

          1. Observer*

            As it happens, FMLA applies to call centers, which means that you CANNOT put someone on probation for taking FMLA leave. That’s why staff need to put in the FMLA paperwork.

      4. Elsajeni*

        The problem is the other protections that FMLA provides. In a way it sounds nice to say “We prefer not to activate FMLA until you’ve exhausted your paid leave” — the best interpretation of that would mean that, should you need it, you could use your regular sick leave and your 10 days of extended leave and then STILL have 12 full weeks of unpaid leave available with the knowledge that your job would be safe — but if the effect is that a lot of people with FMLA-eligible situations are not getting the protections of FMLA because they’re able to come back to work within the period covered by their paid leave, that’s a problem.

        1. DCGirl*

          Yes, if you talk to HR, they couch extended sick leave as one of the best benefits they provide. Basically, any annual days you don’t use roll over into your extended sick leave bank, and you can accrue up to 60 days of extended sick leave.

      5. SpaceySteph*

        IANAL also but I believe while on FMLA qualifying leave you can still use paid leave for that time. I know people who have done this for maternity leave, for example. This may be something company policy can control, but regardless they can’t fire you for using FMLA leave so by discouraging people from treating it as FMLA leave it sounds like they are then calling them “unacceptable” absences and firing people over it.

    9. Mike C.*

      Wow, this is sketchy as all hell, and I would argue actively malicious. It really feels like they’re trying to prevent people from getting the protections of FMLA so that they can fire people for being sick.

      ALSO! FMLA isn’t just for extended blocks of time for illness – it’s also for issues that are short but reoccurring.

      Also, you should look up the municipal authority that enforces sick time in case “extended leave” isn’t granted as needed.

    10. CAA*

      I’m confused about why everyone is saying this behavior is sketchy or illegal. If these employees have paid leave of any kind in their leave bank, the employer is 100% within their legal rights to require the employees to use it before they grant FMLA.

      From the FMLA Compliance page someone else linked to:
      Substitution of Paid Leave

      Employees may choose to use, or employers may require the employee to use, accrued paid leave to cover some or all of the FMLA leave taken. Employees may choose, or employers may require, the substitution of accrued paid vacation or personal leave for any of the situations covered by FMLA. The substitution of accrued sick or family leave is limited by the employer’s policies governing the use of such leave.

      1. hbc*

        It seems like they’re being punished for taking extended leave, though. So it’s like having a policy that you have to use up all your leave before FMLA, and then a policy that taking more than 10 days leave at once gets you fired. It’s either a bad intersection of individually reasonable policies or a really nasty, deliberate attempt to get around FMLA. And if no one fixes it, it doesn’t matter what the intent is, because the effect is the same.

      2. Sarah in DC*

        They can’t require you to take your paid leave before FMLA, just concurrently. FMLA isn’t just about unpaid leave, its also about job protection.

        1. CAA*

          Yes, they can require you to take paid leave before FMLA: “employers may require, the substitution of accrued paid vacation or personal leave for any of the situations covered by FMLA”

          1. Anonsie*

            The passage quoted above means the employer can count absences taken under FMLA against your leave accruals or, in this case, an extended leave time bank. It doesn’t mean they can deny you the right to file for FMLA and its protections.

          2. Stardust*

            That means that the company can require that the employee use up PTO concurrently with FMLA.

      3. Mike C.*

        Using it with FMLA is one thing. The sketchy thing is actively discouraging people from using FMLA in the first place.

  9. Degree choices*

    I really hope this question doesn’t come across as being disrespectful, but it’s something I’ve always been a bit confused about.

    There’s a lot of discussion over how difficult it is for graduates with degrees in subjects such as liberal arts or from creative fields, and it’s probably even more difficult for people with postgrad qualifications in that area. It comes up so frequently that I’m wondering why people go into these fields to begin with.

    For many, I’m sure it has a lot to do with their passion for the subject, but then do they usually go in with a plan of what they want to pursue once they’ve completed their degree? Or was it just something that they’ve never thought about (or been advised about) before they started? Were they presented with unrealistic prospects, or did prospects change drastically while they were still in college?

    1. Journal Entries*

      I was young and uninformed. As the first person in my family to attend college I didn’t get any advice or help, and the college councilor didn’t help either.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        That was exactly my problem. Nobody in my family had studied and those that were doing the best were in admin positions. I had no idea what jobs there really were in the world and expected to end up working in retail or a typing pool. I studied anyway, because at that time tuition was free, and assumed I would figure it out somewhere along the way. I have to say though, looking at my classmates, none of us arts graduates have been unemployed or underemployed; there definitely are jobs out there for arts graduates. I’m now working in STEM, without having had to study anything else.

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

        Yes, this exactly. When I got my associates degree I didn’t know what to pick and went with History because I liked it. However when I went back to finish my Bachelors several years later, it wasn’t that I was young, I just didn’t really understand that what I was picking wasn’t going to be helpful in getting me a job. Sure, I had work experience, but not “work in a job that actually requires a degree” experience. There’s overlap, but in many ways, they are different worlds. And I still didn’t have a college adviser worth anything.

      3. CheeryO*

        Yep. I was the first in my family to go to college, and I changed my major during freshman year from psych to engineering, and I’m so happy I did – not because you can’t have a great career with a psych degree, but because I had virtually no clue what I wanted to do with it. I had zero guidance (our guidance counselors were all about getting you INTO college, and not so into helping us figure out what to do once we got there, and my parents were just ecstatic that my scholarship meant that they didn’t have to pay for it). It’s REALLY difficult as an 18-year-old (any 18-year-old, but especially one from a depressed small town with blue-collar parents) to both know what it is that they want to do for a living AND figure out a realistic path to get there all on your own. So many of my friends just kind of ended up picking something that sounded vaguely interesting, or something that aligned with our strongest subjects in high school.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      Well I can only speak for myself but I majored in the humanities for two reasons (in addition to interest in the subject):
      -I started college in an economy/job market where it was possible for one to major in the liberal arts and still get a decent job after graduation
      -I originally planned on getting my doctorate, but that plan changed when I learned the humanities Academic job market was even worse than the general job.

      Personally I wish less emphasis was put on college major. Unless it’s a very specialized field, I think it shouldn’t matter much after a few years of professional experience. Tbh I barely remember any of the actual content I learned in college.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Yes, me too. I got my grad degree(s) in the humanities and while I fully expected it to be difficult to get an academic position–and expected to have to pay my dues in the proverbial small college in the middle of a cornfield (that my advisors spoke so disparingly of), when I started there was enough evidence to suggest that if I did well with my program, etc., I should be able to get a decent job after graduation and after X years at small college and building my resume “work my way” back to the bigger/better college or better universities

        Then 2008-2009 happened and that was the end of it…people who graduated before or after me seem to have found jobs but m years….not as much….

        also as That Girl writes below, it doesn’t make sense to get degrees in something everyone says will lead to Great High Paying Job if one does not like topic or is bad at it…

        That said, I would not get the humanities graduate degrees if I could do it over; I’ll pay student loans until I die…

    3. ThatGirl*

      It’s not universally true, is the thing. It really depends what field, where you live, experience, what sort of jobs you’re looking for. Etc.

      Plus, there’s no sense in trying to study subjects you’re bad at, or train for careers you might hate.

      I mean, maybe this isn’t what folks mean – but I was a communication major with a media emphasis. Journalism is a hard field to be in right now, but I did find jobs in it. And then I left newspapers and found work as a copywriter and editor – I was adaptable and now I have a whole new skill set and career path, but it still ties in to what I studied.

      I couldn’t be an engineer or an accountant or a nurse – my brain just doesn’t work that way.

      The world will always need creative and liberal-arts-type people.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Plus, there’s no sense in trying to study subjects you’re bad at, or train for careers you might hate.

        This. I simply had no natural aptitude for hard sciences or math growing up. I was going to have to major in something I liked and did well or else I would have flunked out of school – and flunking out was not an option since I took out loans to pay for my education, so being degreeless and in debt in this economy while trying to find a job that would pay well enough to pay off said debt would have been disastrous.

        I too was a journalism major, and while I never worked in print media professionally, the skills I learned in my program have come in incredibly handy in my current profession. If I could do it all over again, I would major in risk management since that’s basically what I do now, but I don’t think my degree was a waste.

    4. Bookworm*

      I think there are a lot of different answers to this question, so I’ll only attempt to answer as it pertains to me.

      1) When I was 17, entering college, I had zilch, zip, zero idea of what I wanted to do, so a ‘generic’ liberal arts degree seemed perfectly good.

      2) A lot of adults (I think I even read somewhere the majority) do not go into careers that are directly related to their college majors.

      3) For many career paths (including the one I eventually followed) what you studied in college isn’t, well, super-relevant. A lot of businesses require undergrad degrees but their entry level jobs don’t necessarily require it. I studied liberal arts and went into marketing; my peers in that department had degrees in a variety of different subjects. For those roles (this also goes for my friends in sales, support, PR, human resources, business development) WHAT we had studied didn’t seem to matter so much as how well we had done.

    5. matcha123*

      In my case, I suck at math and my interest in building websites was treated as a hobby by the adults around me. I graduated high school in 2001. Also, I never had anyone site down with me and talk with me about The Future. I was only told to go to university. The adults around me had jobs that were in fields that I wasn’t interested in (teaching, non-profits) or fields that would have been impossible for me to enter (doctors, lawyers) due to my lack of math.

      I think that liberal arts degrees are quite important. At least for English (and I’m not an English major), we need people who can take technical writing and polish it into something that’s easily digestible by “regular” people. We need people to write the news, to find the news, to give us literature, art, make movies and more.

      Realistically, everyone can’t become a doctor or an engineer.

    6. Dawn*

      I think a lot of it has to do with the prevailing attitude of “Go to college! One you get a degree it’ll be great! It doesn’t matter what it’s in, you just need a degree! You have to choose your major your first year!” And then you send 18-year-olds off to college and freedom for the first time and the majority of them are just looking for whatever major is easiest that they can navigate between exploring their new found freedom as much as possible.

      Plus add in that if you didn’t grow up with parents who went to college or who went to college 30 years prior or who don’t “do” corporate networking or whatever you aren’t going to college with the knowledge of how to get the most out of it. I mean, I think the reality of college is you get out of it what you put into it, and that to make the most of it students should be doing internships, volunteer work, that kinda stuff. Networking the hell out of those 4 years so they can set themselves up for success once they graduate by having a work history and knowing people. NO ONE TAUGHT ME THIS. I don’t know if any college teaches students this. God I wish mine did.

      Like, for me I was 18 and had zero idea what the hell I wanted to do. I initially went to college with the intention of being a photojournalist because it sounded neat. I changed my major my Freshman year to web design because that’s what major my boyfriend at the time was in. That’s it. That’s the entire thought process behind me choosing my college major.

      1. Liana*

        +1 to this SO MUCH. When I went off to college there was so much emphasis on “Go to college! This is how you’ll better yourself!” (My parents are also a bit elitist). But I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I ended up taking an elective class my sophomore year on Intro to International Relations and discovered that I loved politics. So I chose Polisci as my major. I think when most millenials were heading off to college, there was still so much focus on college as the ticket to a better life that a lot of us weren’t really educated on how we should apply our college degrees in the real world. Any degree was seemingly better than no degree.

        1. overeducated*

          Not just seemingly. I think for our parents’ generation, it really WAS. My dad spent his summers in college working on farms and factories, and walked out with a degree into a technical job where he has learned and progressed for over 30 years. In our generation, to get a technical job like that, you’d need multiple internships and a higher level graduate degree, and you wouldn’t get the security of an amazing pension plan and a job until you retire. Things are different.

          1. Mordecai*

            +1
            Huge generational divide, my parents really don’t ‘get’ how my working life has been.

      2. Lily Evans*

        +1 for having a work history and knowing people. I studied english education and had two internships (each a semester long) plus two jobs (one at college and one at home during the summer) so not only did I have a solid work history, I had awesome references. When I realized that teaching wasn’t for me, those things are what helped me find a job.

        I had a friend who was in almost the same program dedicated almost all of her time to studying and never worked during school. She had awesome grades and graduated summa cum laude, but then couldn’t find a full time job for well over a year because she had no experience or work-based references.

        1. Ex Resume Reviewer*

          Agreed. I had a friend come out with multiple degrees who’s struggled for years because he had no work history. He’s also been handicapped by not getting exposed to professional norms and this has harmed him at jobs he has acquired.

          I can trace all my success back to a job I got my senior year of college that put me on the path I am on today. I almost changed my major to comp sci in school, but I’m glad I didn’t since networks fit me much better.

      3. Sparkly Librarian*

        Yup, this rings true for me. I earned a BA in a specifically useless liberal art because my parents supported that interest and told me that the degree was what mattered in the workforce, not the major. They both have advanced degrees; one was a teacher and the other a CFO. It was utterly expected that their children would attend college. But then I really wasn’t prepared to enter the workforce after college… I mentioned one retail-type job I was thinking of applying to to my mother, and she threw a fit because that was a job anyone could do, and why would I be looking at that kind of job with my BA? And I was shocked, because I’d honestly not contemplated what I’d be doing for work after graduation and how to get started. Looking back on that makes me cringe.

        (I bummed around for a year while my savings and parents covered my living costs, did some odd jobs, eventually applied to a temp agency and got a long-term posting — 6 months — and then got hired on permanently from the third posting. Stayed at that company, doing various customer service/tech support things, for 8 years. Got my MLIS while working. Applied to the local public library and eventually got hired. Have been here for a year and love it. Worked out okay.)

    7. Christian Troy*

      I’m similar to Satan. When I went to college, the economy for all intents and purpose was OK. I knew a lot of people with communication/writing degrees who had an easy time finding work after school.

      I think people see the success of a segment of people in those fields so they think it mustn’t be that hard to find work. I know people from my undergrad who work at Google, tech companies, etc., with liberal arts degrees so I could see why looking at that sample size it would encourage future students.

      1. JuniorDev*

        Off topic but your first sentence made me laugh, then imagine some missing chapters in Paradise Lost concerning Lucifer’s career development.

        –a religious studies major turned code monkey

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          The first sentence made me do a double take, especially considering the username of the poster. :)

    8. Temperance*

      I grew up in a poor family. One of my parents didn’t even graduate high school. I had no guidance or understanding about “job prospects”. I followed the assumption, which many others did, that you get a degree and you get doors opened for you, magically.

      No one ever said, hey Temperance, it’s really hard to break into publishing, or hey Temperance, your family doesn’t have connections to get your foot in the door somewhere. What I was told, over and over, was that I shouldn’t ever “work for free” (intern), and that if I had good grades, I would get any job I wanted.

    9. Ms. Didymus*

      Well, I can only speak for myself but here goes

      I started with plans to pursue a business degree. Two years in, I realized that while I was very good at my business classes, I hated them. The classes I loved were my liberal arts – English, History, Sociology, etc. So, I switched and triple majored in English, History and Sociology.

      All my childhood I was told that unless you were going into specific professional fields (medicine, accounting, law, etc) all that mattered was you had a degree. I wasn’t going into those fields so I figured my degree would be just fine.

      Ha.

      I will say this, my degree taught me how to justify my degree and how to explain the benefits of such a degree in the corporate world. I now manage a team of client facing specialists. But every time I go for a promotion or to switch jobs I have to start over again.

    10. Not Karen*

      I didn’t major in liberal arts, but at no point before, during, or after college did someone discuss with me the options for what to actually DO with my degree. I was always told to major in something I like and to worry about finding a job later.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Yeah, that was what I was told also. Just major in what I liked! Shit, my parents wanted me to major in art.

        I graduated college with a useless social science degree during a recession, and I liked school and my professors were encouraging me to go to grad school, so I did. I realized academia was not for me and bailed during the great recession with an equally useless social science MA.

        I actually have found a field I love, and my degrees do come in handy because while it’s a different field it does require a lot of the same skillset. But I would have gotten here faster if I’d been able to realize I loved statistics before I was 28 (insert rant here about thinking I was bad at math because I’m sloppy at arithmetic and people not encouraging me to get right with math because I’m female — turns out as an adult I love math and I love making computers do all my arithmetic for me).

    11. Anonymous Educator*

      There’s a lot of discussion over how difficult it is for graduates with degrees in subjects such as liberal arts or from creative fields, and it’s probably even more difficult for people with postgrad qualifications in that area. It comes up so frequently that I’m wondering why people go into these fields to begin with.

      I can’t speak for other liberal arts folks, but my spouse and I were both English majors. I was planning to (and eventually did) teach secondary school English. She was vaguely planning to work in publishing (did for a short time but ended up doing other stuff). We’re not living in the lap of luxury, but neither of us has ever been unemployed, and we’ve been able to work a number of non-English-related jobs the past couple of decades.

      1. AliceW*

        My sister graduated from a state school with an art degree. She chose art because she got a full scholarship for art. She is now the global department head of one of the largest banks. She started as a temp. I have a degree in English and am now a director of an investment company. I never thought I would get a job related to my college major. I just tried a bunch of different things until I found something I was good at and liked well enough. Doesn’t matter what degree you get. Don’t limit yourself.

    12. Lillian McGee*

      For me, college was oversold generally and throughout my primary schooling no one even attempted to cultivate the slight interest I had in STEM. I was “bad at math” and no one pushed me to realize that I was really just lazy at math.
      So I went in undeclared and moved into fine arts because it was ~*fun*~! Until it wasn’t and by then it was too damn late. Much later I realized that if anyone had pushed me just a little more, I could have made a pretty good engineer. I had a huge burst of interest in science after graduation too.
      Now I’m also kindasorta regretting not considering skilled trades–I think I would have been good at carpentry or sheet metal…

      1. Tuckerman*

        Yes! I think part of the problem is that we’re told to go into areas where we think we are skilled. But, it’s really easy to say we’re bad at things when in actuality, we simply haven’t had enough exposure or are intimidated by it. Or, we struggled with it for a year or two in school and took it to mean we were bad at that subject. Or, we generalized geometry to mean, all math.
        I don’t believe “You can do anything if you set your mind to it,” but we can do way more than we might think!

        1. Lindsay J*

          This. I stayed away from STEM fields because I was better at english etc. However, I didn’t really realize until I was in college that even though math and science weren’t necessarily my strength, I was still better at those subjects than plenty of the students majoring in those areas.

          I also feel as though I was steered more towards specific professions since I was female; I had plenty of teachers encouraging me to be a teacher (even though I don’t really have a caring or nurturing bone in my body and I guarantee a guy with my personality and aptitudes would not have been encouraged to go into teaching) and nobody encouraging me to be, say, a programmer or website designer, even though I was adept at HTML and CSS.

      2. KR*

        See, when I was in high school I could only imagine myself as a computer engineer. I didn’t have the perspective to realize that it was not right for me, and my guidance counselor was so happy I was interested in technology that she didn’t really push me to make sure it was what I wanted to do. My parents didn’t know a lot about college but were of the opinion that unless it “guaranteed” a job like STEM careers did, it wasn’t a good major and it was a waste of money in general (we didn’t have a lot of money anyway).
        What really threw me for a loop when I went to college was that I didn’t really know how the whole payment process worked. I told my reach school that I would attend and didn’t hear anything from them until late July when I was provided the credentials to my school email, where tons of reminders for tuition (due beginning of August) were waiting. I had no clue how student loans worked and when I realized that I was totally in the dark with $9,000 due in a week, I dropped the university for community college and abandoned engineering all-together. The amount of money was scary and I didn’t even know you could take out student loans online.
        It’s a good thing too because I had a complete turn around in the first year where I realized that maybe IT wasn’t something I wanted to go to school for. I was failing my networking classes badly. I wasn’t even treading water – I was lost. My advisor/professor told me that if I wanted to be able to do this, he would tutor me and make sure I understood it, but he also understood if I wanted to explore other options. I chose to go undeclared for a semester, took an accounting class and a business class and I realized I was really good at both of them so I moved to a business administration major and I’m an admin for an IT director now – a good mix of technical support which I’m good at but not passionate about and admin which I’m good at and really enjoy.
        If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t be so wild about a STEM field right from the get-go. I think I would have taken a little more time to choose what career/subject really suited me and then maybe I wouldn’t have crashed in college. It’s a good thing I did though, because I learned a lot about what work I enjoy.

      3. Ad Astra*

        Because of your post, I am finally realizing that I was not bad at math; I was lazy at math. Which explains the sharp downturn in math grades beginning around 7th or 8th grade.

        I am, however, pretty bad at science. So maybe STEM wasn’t really for me.

    13. Caledonia*

      Maybe it’s different in the UK…from my experience we don’t have such a big thing about it. I’ve known people go for all sorts of degrees that don’t necessarily translate into jobs (incl myself), but it’s what you learn as skills that matter. I’m studying for a degree in Humanities part time , distance learning. So far I’ve studied, history, art history, English language.
      Some people have asked me what I’m going to do with my degree. I’m not a very good student so I’m not going any further with it. I’m just going to have a degree. And be proud that I do, after 2 false starts in other courses, and after 7 years (I started back in 2010).

      1. JuniorDev*

        I think this is the ideal situation in the US. It’s certainly the message I got from professors and advisors in college (university).

        The reality is that the job market is hard and simply having a degree isn’t a guarantee of a job like it (supposedly) used to be. I got my first non-service-industry job out of college in large part because of volunteer work I had done while working in food service to pay the bills.

        Another thing that influences out decision here is that unless you get very good scholarships an undergrad degree costs more than a house. I believe in education for its own sake, but for student loans that’ll last me years if not decades I’d better get some kind of material payoff.

      2. Snow*

        Randomly are you studying with the OU? I’m in year 5 of 6 with them doing a humanities degree (I’ve done, classics and creative writing mostly) and it was my choice half because of interest and half because I deliberately picked something none work related because I hated the job I had 5 years ago and I wanted something different when I came home to study. What I’ve learnt with the OU has totally helped with analytical skills and report writing and got me two job changes to a much better position. (Where next year they are going to pay for me to do the OU Stats courses.)

        1. Blue Anne*

          The OU is so great! I took a couple accounting courses with them when I started working in that field and it was such high quality stuff, really practical and definitely respected by employers.

      3. Blue Anne*

        I think it’s very different in the UK.

        I’m American and went to the University of Edinburgh for Philosophy. When I got out, no problem finding great jobs, because I had a 2:1 from Edinburgh and no one cared what the degree was in, really.

        I’ve just moved back to America, and the first thing people ask is what I studied. “Philosophy, but I work in finance” is turning out to be a fine answer, but even then I’ve had to explain to a few people that no, I’m really not looking for a job as a philosopher.

    14. Bend & Snap*

      I have a liberal arts degree because the curriculum was one that I could be successful in–I’m terrible at math and science, but strong in language and writing. As a communications major I’m almost 2 decades into a career that aligns with my degree.

      I don’t think the degree holds you back so much as how you apply it.

      1. JuniorDev*

        So in college I did poorly in math and science classes and believed I was bad at those things, so I majored in Religion. Turns out I 1) didn’t have good study skills and 2) wasn’t mature enough to appreciate how much better I could do if I’d worked harder. I also had some untreated mental health issues that didn’t help.

        When I got bad grades in Chemistry and Physics I considered dropping out or taking a year off but all my family members strongly discouraged me. I don’t regret finishing my degree but I think I’d have done better if I’d taken that year off to do any sort of job where I had real responsibility for anything and just generally matured some before making decisions about what to study.

        After college I couldn’t find a job that paid well enough with the education I had so I began learning to code. Turns out I really enjoy learning STEM topics when I’m intrinsically motivated by them and dedicated to pushing through the hard parts.

      2. College Career Counselor*

        I agree with much of what you and others are writing here about why people major in liberal arts and not the more “career/practical” subjects. I tell students all the time to major in something they enjoy/are good at, figure out what the transferrable skills (research, writing, analysis, etc.) are, and get some practical experience WHILE they’re in college to pair with their degree to improve their chances. That can mean internship, co-curricular experience (student gov’t/other organizations), work-study or other campus jobs, being a teaching/research assistant for a prof/dept., summer jobs, etc. This will help you figure out what you do and do not like and can help guide you as you begin your career.

    15. Kassy*

      I have a science degree and am currently working in an admin role. The job market is atrocious even for a lot of traditionally “stable” fields.

      But as far as the degrees you’re talking about, colleges are big on “here are all the things you can do with X degree!” and students get the impression that those are all options. What is not discussed: the lack of openings in those departments, potentially unliveable entry-level salaries/lack of benefits, and the unfavorable ratio of candidates to openings. I mean, there have been job openings in my field since I graduated, but either had 30-40 qualified applicants per position, or the salary is equivalent to what I make now as an admin, but with more expensive benefits (so essentially amounting to a pay cut) and worse hours.

      1. Nova Terra*

        Yeah, certain subsects of STEM don’t really have glowing job prospects either.

        I wised up to that fact about halfway through the last year of my B.Sc. I still remember during my convocation the dean of science (or whoever was being the MC of the ceremony) was all “with a science degree, you’ll open so many doors blah blah” and I honestly haven’t found that to be the case (and I went to a good school). Granted, I was crap at networking, but the existence of the B.Sc–and STEM in general–isn’t some magic ticket. I’ve known engineers who had a hard time finding work too.

    16. Jules the First*

      Well hang on a sec – I have two degrees in art history (just about the most useless degree out there) and I’ve never had any trouble finding work.

      I did a liberal arts degree because I wanted to learn that kind of stuff (I’m good at science but not interested); I majored in Art History because it let me take a zillion different options and still graduate.

      My liberal arts degree taught me to put together a reasoned argument, to write fluently, and a whole swack of research skills. I use those tools every day, in every job I’ve ever had (from call centre work through to high-level project management). If you are expecting your liberal arts degree to be perfectly 100% related to your job, then yes, you’ll probably have trouble finding work, but both my sisters did hard science degrees and have had much more trouble finding work over the years.

    17. Liza*

      I went to college after high school because That’s What We Do (it was the general expectation both in my family and more generally at my high school) but without any idea of what I wanted for a career–so I took classes that seemed interesting, and ended up with a major that combines history & languages. By the time I graduated, I was working full-time in computer support and taking classes part-time to finish the degree so I could check the “has a bachelor’s degree” box. It hasn’t held me back any as far as I can tell! On the other hand, by the time I graduated I did have that real work experience to talk up on my resume.

    18. Kelly L.*

      For me it was a combination of three things.

      -The “Get a degree! Any degree! They just want you to be able to check that box!” message.

      -Genuine love of the subject matter I planned to study. If any degree was fine, then why not major in something I would enjoy? And while there was some annoying sneering about “what are you gonna do, teach?”, I liked the subject matter enough that yes, teaching it would have been an acceptable road to take if other things hadn’t worked out. I would have considered that a success.

      -I had been planning to go to law school. That didn’t happen (and thank all the academic gods for that), but the advice I got at the time was a variation on point #1–that it didn’t really matter what your undergrad was in, just get one, then go to law school, and then that’s when the doors would open.

      We were also all kind of pushed at the time to decide OMGRIGHTNOW and that if we took time off to figure stuff out, we’d never go back.

      (And really, we need people to be in those fields.)

    19. nutella fitzgerald*

      I have a STEM degree, but I only got it because I like the subject. I was in my junior year of college before a professor mentioned the earning potential. Which actually was an unpleasant memory to linger through the 18 months of un(der)employment that followed my graduation :|

    20. Laura*

      I have a bachelor’s degree in history from a small liberal arts university. I graduated a year ago and had a job offer prior to graduation. I knew very early on that I would never use my degree directly in the “real world” but that the skills I gained would be applicable. And so they are. I work in higher education and I use my excellent writing, research, and presentation skills EVERY DAY. History is one of my favorite things in the whole world. Because I’m historically aware, I can be more sensitive to students from all kinds of backgrounds.

      But I only got here because I was committed to being successful– living with my parents after graduation was not an option. I can’t say the same thing for many of my peers. Too many of them are thoughtless, lazy, or don’t understand why loans need to be paid off. I don’t think my department in college gave any illusions that history is a “valuable” degree for the workforce, but my school didn’t really do anything to push students toward the job market either.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        But I only got here because I was committed to being successful– living with my parents after graduation was not an option. I can’t say the same thing for many of my peers. Too many of them are thoughtless, lazy, or don’t understand why loans need to be paid off.

        Or, too many of them have crippling loan debt that makes it so if they don’t live at home, they’d be living in a cardboard box by the freeway.

      2. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

        This is a great example of the millenial martydom that needs to stop.

        The fact that you suffered to get where you are today and your level of success does not mean that everyone should have to “pay their dues” (that term does not mean what the users think it means anymore).

        Case in point, I graduated in 2010 completed a Fulbright Fellowship until 2011, struggled from 2011 to 2012 making even less than I did in 2011 and now I make an OK salary$(62K in a mid-western medium sized town). I have friends who fell into $50K jobs right out of graduation with my same degree. They are now out earning me due mostly to luck, timing, and location. I do not begrudge them their success. I do not think today’s graduates should “stick it out” through shitty paying jobs that can not pay off their loans and do not have the wage growth potential they need.

        The US economy is crazy and unsustainable.

    21. overeducated*

      I think sometimes knowing what you want to pursue doesn’t always involve knowing about all the people who try and fail. Being a full-time artist or actor is well-known as a risky path in which most people don’t succeed, so I think 18 year olds trying to do either of those know that the odds are against them. But being a professor, an archaeologist, a publisher? Those are all well-known “careers” based on the successful examples. How many people are competing for so few jobs, or how salaries differ for people who got into the field 30 years ago vs. people hired as 1099 contractors or whatever now (skewing statistics upward), is not something most people are able to learn until they’re pretty far into the field and have some sunk costs already. The OES survey, for instance, talks about average wages, but not about number of applicants for few jobs.

    22. Elizabeth West*

      My reason for getting an English degree is similar to Bend & Snap’s–because of my LD, I can’t do anything math-related and that cuts out science as well, though I would have LOVED to get a science degree. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a forensic pathologist for a while (thanks to Quincy, M.E.).

      However, I listened too much to other people. You went to college after high school because everyone did. I was an exceptional singer, so I listened when everyone said I should major in music. I chose performance because I also wanted to be a professional performer. That degree I never finished, though I did get close. It’s doubtful I’ll ever go back to it–I don’t sing much anymore except in the car, though I’d like to practice more.

      Then when I went back to school, I majored in Criminology, thinking I’d go into some kind of law enforcement job. Actual LEO work was out because my eyesight is too bad and I have a psychiatric history (thanks to the undiagnosed LD), and of course no criminalistics because math/science. I switched back to English thinking I would teach and finished that degree and the Crim one as an associate of science. One of my literature/writing instructors told me that people with an English degree can always get a job, especially if they can write.

      HOWEVER…..

      When I enrolled in graduate school to get the education courses, they failed to tell me that in order to teach in my state, I had to not only have a masters, but it had to be IN MY SUBJECT. In addition to that, halfway through the teacher ed program I realized I did not want to teach high school and I did not want a Ph.D, which I needed to teach college. So I quit.

      Round #3–went back one more time after getting laid off from Exjob, this time with a professional writing program through Vocational Rehab (because of the LD, for which I finally got a diagnosis-yay!). Got this job, which pays too much for VR assistance and I did not want to incur any more debt. As it stands, unless I win the lottery or write a killer bestselling book that earns me J.K. Rowling or Stephen King-level money, I can never retire because loans. Not ever.

      So that’s where it is now. I really truly regret not having a gap year after high school. I think that should be a thing, especially now that college is SO expensive and does so little to help you get a job. If I had done that, I think I would have had more time to think about what I really wanted to do. The two degrees I have are good for nothing more than writing crime novels. Which I like anyway, but of course there are no guarantees of success.

      I could have finished the education masters and used it to get a job in corporate training, but I didn’t think of that until it was too late, and now I don’t ever want to go back to school again (unless it’s free or a one-off class on basket weaving, or whatever).

      And we got very little in the way of education about managing financial aid.

    23. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I agree with a lot of people above, there is a big emphasis on just declaring a major and getting a degree without much discussion of the long-term results of that kind of degree.

      However, I’m not sure that liberal arts degrees really mean much fewer job prospects. I chose Sociology as my major because I really enjoyed it. For a time, I thought I would go to law school after undergrad (and chose a lot of my upper division Sociology classes accordingly) but decided not to go that route. Part of my degree requirements was statistics, which I was pretty good at but thought the research side of sociology sounded painfully boring. I ended up in the corporate side of retail, the statistics part of what I learned applies pretty well and on the planning side you really don’t have to have a merchandising degree. I am not sure what I would be uniquely qualified to do with just an undergraduate Sociology degree, but the job market at the time that I graduated was good and I think many times I was given a chance just because I had a degree.

      My sister has a doctorate degree in English with a concentration in poetry. Of course her dream job would be publishing the next great American novel/poetry collection, but in the meantime she is a college professor and many of her friends from school are editors.

    24. Sunflower*

      I was not a liberal arts major but I looked at quite a few majors in college. The problem with college advisers is there was a lot of ‘this is what you CAN do with your degree’ as opposed to ‘here are what your job opportunities look like’. I felt like every time I talked to an adviser, they tried to sell me on their degree- it legit felt like a sales meeting. I debated majoring in PR or hospitality. PR told me that I could get a job doing PR for hotels. There are like 3 firms that do that and I just assumed I would get a job there(cringing at that thought now). No one EVER told me how competitive jobs were in PR. My parents didn’t go to college. They were in the camp of ‘just get a degree’. They told me to major in communications. They had absolutely zero idea of the job prospects for comm majors. Even now, they don’t understand how it took me so long to find a good job. Because my sister majored in accounting and they didn’t understand that not all majors taking (paid) interns and give 90% of them offers from that.

      I got a BS in hospitality. Your major really doesn’t matter now unless you’re in very limited fields. I work in marketing and a very limited number of us(maybe 10%?) have marketing degrees. If I could go back, I’d probably major in something relatively secure(like accounting) and take a job that paid well out of college while I tried to find a job I liked.

      1. Manders*

        Hey there, fellow marketer without a marketing degree!

        Some colleges distribute more money to departments if more people enter and complete a major. It can cause grade inflation (because you don’t want people failing out of your major) and turn professors into salespeople. My boyfriend, who’s making his exit from academia now, has told some real horror stories about being pressured to pass students who cannot read and write at an appropriate age level because his department needs the cash. It’s a real mess out there.

    25. MaggiePi*

      I did it and it was a combination of factors.
      A) I “followed my passions.” That was what my teachers told us to do!
      B) I graduated college just before the economy sank, so when I enrolled it was very much an attitude of any college degree = great job and great future of sunshine and rainbows
      and C) I totally expected to go to grad school for something more “practical” which would have make sense based on my B.A., until life and budgets and debt all became real realities.
      My kids, they won’t go to college because “it’s what you do” until they have an idea of real jobs and what they really want to be doing *with their degree*

    26. Jennifer*

      My best guess is that they’re doing what they’re good at and that they love in college. If you’re just not smart in math and science and business, trying to get degrees in that would be painful and possibly not doable. And people with graduate degrees may tend to ah, not want to go out into the working world ASAP to boot. Believe me, if I had any useful skills, I would have gotten a degree in a hard science or business or something useful–but I don’t.

      As for the future: I never had any clue about what to do in the future and I’ve fallen into all of my jobs, more or less. I knew I couldn’t really do what I wanted to do in life and have money, so…there you go.

    27. Fenchurch*

      I decided to get a degree in English with the original intention of teaching. When I had to start seriously thinking about licensing and really getting into the strict “teaching” tract of the degree, I bailed. I’m glad I did. My generic English degree has translated well into corporate America.

      My current employer identified not only do I have very strong written and verbal communication skills, but the analysis and problem-solving skills I honed during my studies fit my current role very well. I currently work in the financial sector. I’m positive these qualities will assist me in practically any field I would want to go into.

    28. Anon Moose*

      On the contrary, I know many many people who chose their degree based on how useful it would be in the job market. Some of those bets paid off. Some did not because the economy changed while they were in school or the field was oversold (computer science, law). Others absolutely hated the field they got their useful degree in and never worked in it. The economy changes, people change their minds.
      I also know many creative arts majors with fantastic jobs that are unrelated to their major, but don’t regret their choice. And I think that the strength of liberal arts is the broadness of the studies. They still have marketable skills and still get jobs. It may not be the job they thought they wanted originally, but… English majors and art history majors are not all unemployed. That’s silly. Its pretty much difficult for ALL college grads these days.
      Its a crapshoot, basically, whether you go for what you love or you for what you consider useful- but that can always change. Its very difficult to predict the job market when you go into school and many people just try to pick the best choice they can and then end up having to adapt afterward anyway.

    29. john watson*

      STEM fields have never been something I enjoyed (personal reasons). Writing was what I excelled in, so it felt natural for me to commit to English as a major. I had no pressure from my family to get a certain degree, either – they’re baby boomers and still held the idea that any degree would lead to a great job after graduation. I had fun with it and knew that once I was in the ~real world~ I wouldn’t be able to dedicate hours of my life to analyzing novels or writing short stories or whatever, so I enjoyed it while it lasted.

      I had no plans beyond a vague idea of getting into publishing. I’m about three years out and am just now getting a career track together (not in publishing, haha). I was the go-to person for writing guides, proofreading external communication, parsing manuals, etc, and I leveraged that to move into more writing-related positions. I wouldn’t go back because I never wanted to get a degree in anything else and accepted the challenges that came with that! I just wish I had done more networking or an internship.

    30. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I think it’s a combination of assuming that “you can do anything with an [English/History/whatever] degree!” and then graduating and learning that the job market is actually highly skewed (in my opinion) towards candidate with practical, technical knowledge.

      I know, for me personally, that I entered college as a psychology major because the subject interested me and I assumed I would be able to use those “people skills” somewhere later in life. (I switched halfway through my first semester to a major with a clearer cut career path.)

    31. Lily Evans*

      For me, I really wanted to do a creative writing program. Becoming a published fiction writer has been my dream for most of my life. However, I was starting college around the time of the recession so my parents were like “writing will never make you money, blah blah blah, we’re the ones paying for your college do something that will get you a Real Job.” So I said fine and majored in english education because 1. I could easily be a writing minor with that major and 2. even though my parents didn’t really want me to be a teacher, they couldn’t argue that it wasn’t a Real Job with a possible Career Path.

      I knew going into it that it might be hard to find a job, even though I could get a master’s by adding a fifth year to the program, and knowing that it wouldn’t pay a lot. But I liked working with students! And helping people learn things! So I had it all planned out. My friends were jealous that I had A Plan that seemed perfect! Life was good. Then I realized that I hated literally everything else about teaching. From the hours to the politics, none of it appealed to me at all. Then I was stuck with a degree I didn’t want to use because it was too late to change majors without staying an extra year or two.

      I was lucky that I’d worked at the college’s library all four years, with increasing responsibility. That’s what got me a full time job at another college library. Which led me to this job where I’m, you guessed it, working in a college library! In a city I’ve dreamed of moving to my whole life! Where I can take one free class each semester, including creative writing classes taught by amazing faculty. So all-in-all it turned out okay, but it was so not where I imagined ending up when I started college six years ago.

    32. Ashley Dawn*

      In my situation, I started college as a business major. Practical, right? Except I was bored. to. tears. I hated all my classes, and I was jealous of my friends that got to take these fun classes and were learning so much! So I had the thought of “If I’m paying for this, I might as well get some enjoyment out of it” and switched my major to liberal arts. The next 2 years of college were awesome and fun and I learned so much about the world. I honestly credit that change with shaping who I am as a person today. And I still ended up finding a job in the business/HR/accounting world. The degree didn’t matter in the end for my job prospects, but it sure did matter in my actual life. Did I spent a lot of money on classes that I maybe didn’t need? Sure, but I’d pay it again to give me the life experience I got out of it. No question that it was worth it for me. I would still rather pay for a life experience degree than for a practical degree in a field that I would be guaranteed to find a job but hate it (by the way, I hate my job in accounting. So boring. Guess those classes did teach me something…that I hate accounting!).

    33. Sophia Brooks*

      I was a first generation college student in the early 1990s. There was such a push to be an engineer and to major in engineering that was really planning on it. It was what all my friends in the top of our class were doing. They arranged a shadowing day for us with various places, and I shadowed a bio-medical engineer.

      I very quickly realized that being an engineer was Not. For.Me.

      I didn’t really understand jobs that people with college educations had, so I majored in English because my best subject in school was English. I planned to be a high school teacher because high school English and music teachers were my favorite. I went to a small liberal arts school on a very good scholarship because I knew loans were bad. I discovered theatre, and kept the english major, but dropped the teaching. What attracted and attracts me to theatre is that it is really wide ranging– there are so many things to do and analyze and think about. I also realized (a little late) how much the English degree was about analyzing literature, and that what I really preferred was learning about how people lived in the past, but anyway.

      I have only had moments of regretting my major– I have a day job I like and which has lots of variety, and I still work in theatre at night. And I had no students loans. I don’t think I could have made a choice to be in a STEM field, because as was said above– my brain doesn’t work like that.

    34. Mike C.*

      I would point out that there are a ton of people holding business degrees that had/are having problems finding work as well.

      Also, Mathematics and Science are also liberal arts.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I’m aware of a lot of engineers who have had a hard time getting jobs. One young man in his late 20s who had an engineering degree went back to school to study medicine because he said that since graduating he was only employed for half the time, and that he had to spend the rest of the time looking for work. Another person quit to enter a nonengineering-related business. A third person drove truck for a time before he finally got his foot in the door for an actual STEM career.

        The successful engineers that I know all have advanced degrees, either in engineering, or sometimes in something that complements the engineering degree, like an MBA or a law degree.

    35. Manders*

      Honestly, I didn’t realize I had any other options as a student who hated math, liked reading and writing, and was expected to go to college straight out of high school. My parents are both tenured professors; I had never seen them switch jobs, or apply for another job, or worry about job security. I was sure that my life would follow exactly the same path. I chose the most prestigious school I got into, like they wanted me to do, and that school sold me on liberal arts degrees as being “flexible” for just about any field. I should mention that they had no business writing or marketing classes at all–they were totally focused on selling that “life of the mind” sub-Ivy lifestyle (I’m still kind of salty about the administration, can you tell?).

      Fortunately, during my last year of undergrad I saw more than my university thought I ought to see about how the sausage is made in academia. I didn’t apply to any grad schools and I moved from the typical post-grad area for my school (Boston and New York, where the cost of living was high and entry-level jobs that paid were hard to come by) to a different part of the country (Seattle, where the cost of living is still high-ish but the job market is stronger for new grads). I was torn up about not “following my dreams” into a job in academia or publishing, but now that I’m a few years into a career, I’m so glad I didn’t.

      1. Manders*

        Oh, I should add that thanks to a rare benefit my parents got as tenured professors, the university they worked at paid most of my tuition at the university I attended. I knew I would be graduating without any loans to repay, which did make me feel like I was more free to choose a major without worrying about whether my future career would pay me enough to make those loan payments. I might have made different choices if I had taken out tens or hundreds of thousands in loans (but I might not have, I was a sheltered teenager and the adults I relied on for advice were not at all familiar with the realities of the job market).

    36. Tris Prior*

      When I started college, I was a theater major because I honest to god wanted to be a performer for a living. I could not imagine doing anything else with my life. (hey, I was 18, and at the time the economy was pretty good….) I was just OK at math and science, had exactly zero interest in either, and was generally a nonconformist arty weirdo who had no desire for an office job.

      After a year, the economy had started getting worse, and I realized that getting cast in shows had a lot to do with factors I could not control other than talent or lack thereof. I realized how appearance-focused it was, and decided that I was not OK living my life that way. So I changed majors….. to English. Facepalm. But, I’d always been an excellent writer and figured that I could turn that into a job somehow. Our writing professors used to talk to us about how we can expect to earn low salaries, but I had zero real world experience at that point and I guess I didn’t really understand what that would mean in terms of where I could live, how I’d pay bills, etc.

      I was fortunate that I’ve been able to stay mostly employed since then, but I think a lot of that has to do with technical skills I picked up along the way, from working at tiny companies that couldn’t afford to hire people with tech degrees.

    37. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      All other things being equal, we prefer to hire liberal arts majors. My marketing dept doesn’t have a marketing or business major in the bunch. I wouldn’t “not” hire a business or marketing major but teapottery has be learnt from the ground up and we find liberal arts majors, especially English majors, to be more adaptive to continuous learning on the whole.

      1. Mreasy*

        I run a mid-sized record label & majored in Latin. The Music Business degree started to come into vogue a few years after the industry’s revenues had peaked, and from the friends & interns I’ve had who have taken it, is largely useless vs. the realities of the business. They’ve all learned through internships, and, later, working their ways up the employment ladder as I did. Professional degrees can be misleading for niche career areas.

    38. Lily in NYC*

      Well, much of it depends on the person’s age. I’m in my early 40s and back then you could still get a good job with a liberal arts degree and they weren’t considered useless.

    39. Brett*

      I don’t think it is the degree. I think the problem is that departments offering liberal arts and creative majors tend to be poor at preparing their graduates for entering a career. If you look at engineering majors, they are mostly full of co-ops, internships, job shadows, and networking. Alumni are heavily encouraged to work with graduating students to introduce them to the profession and help them find job opportunities.

      This does not happen in many liberal arts departments, and this, probably more than the major, impacts the ability of the students to find work after graduating.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        I was in a journalism program at a school that’s known for its co-ops for practically all majors across the liberal arts, medical, and engineering schools, and I think where my program dropped the ball was for those of us who did the co-op and then decided we didn’t want to be journalists anymore. No one was able to clearly explain how we could use what we already learned in an alternative career path. It’s kind of like how school’s that are training PhD’s push academia and almost nothing else to their students. We were taught everything we needed to know about how to make it as journalists (and I even had some professors who told us straight up that most of us wouldn’t make it, not because we couldn’t write, but because the industry was changing), but weren’t given options for other possible paths we could try, though we kept being told how flexible our major was and how we’d be able to find jobs doing just about anything because “every job needs good writers.” Yeah – that last bit turned out to be overly simplistic and not always true.

    40. designbot*

      I have an MFA and absolutely went in with a plan for what I wanted to be doing with it when I got out. Out of my MFA class, I would say that two of us really approached it that way–we had careers already, wanted to shift or expand them somehow, and succeeded in doing so. Two more from our class went back to doing almost exactly what they were doing before they got their MFA, though one was able to advance to a leadership position more easily for having the additional qualification. Two more (not coincidentally, the two who came straight out of undergrad BFAs) floundered–they had a hard time selecting thesis topics, needed an extra summer or year to complete their degrees, and had more difficulty than the rest finding jobs after.
      I know that 6 people who self-selected into a certain program does not a representative sample make, but I think we’re an interesting group to look at for this question. There was a great mix in terms of how much of a plan each of us had, but ultimately the plan or lack thereof had pretty direct correlation to any measure of success I can think of. Based on this when colleagues ask about grad school and especially MFA programs I tell them that unless they have a clear idea of why they are going (and why they are going THERE in particular), don’t do it.

      1. Manders*

        This is a trend I’ve also noticed among my friends who went to grad school. The ones who took a few years off went into school with a clear idea of what they wanted to get out of it, and they were used to working steadily throughout the day without having to pull all-nighters or rush to make deadlines. My friends who went straight to graduate school from undergrad struggled with their coursework and just generally didn’t have develop great habits for health, work/life balance, etc. Many are just now landing in entry-level jobs, and it’s been a rocky transition for them.

      2. Al Lo*

        I have a theatre undergrad and an MFA in a theatre field, and it seems that nearly every one of us in my MFA class (not just my discipline) is working in the creative industry in some capacity, even if not specifically theatre. On the flip side, my undergrad class is about 3/4 something totally different and 1/4 working professionally in the performing arts in some capacity.

        I’m a very strong believer that our society and culture still needs music, art, theatre, dance majors. We need people who study these art forms and disciplines as more than a hobby, and who delve deeply into the craft and history. Maybe 18 isn’t the right age to make that decision, but I will never regret getting my education in this field.

        I work in the performing arts now, and would never, ever discourage a student from pursuing that as a career (or a post-secondary field). Enough self-select out that the ones who carry on are the ones who really want it. It’s a hard field, but I know so many people who make it work. You have to be passionate about it and understand what you’ll need to slog through, and yes, there are a lot of people who don’t end up onstage, but if they never try, we never get the benefit of their artistry in future years.

        1. designbot*

          I wouldn’t discourage someone from pursuing an artistic *career* but I would certainly make sure they knew what type of career they wanted before encouraging them to pursue it as a *major*. Majoring does not a career make, as your undergraduate colleagues are a testament to.

    41. LAI*

      I am a college counselor so I have this conversation with students ALL THE TIME. For many students, it’s because their strengths and interests are in the liberal arts. Yes, computer science majors have an easier time getting jobs, but only jobs in computer science, so that doesn’t help you if you don’t want to do programming for a career. If you want to work in a career field that values communication and interpersonal skills, you are likely better served by majoring in an area that you genuinely enjoy and strengthening your resume with internships and other leadership experience. In my personal experience, the majority of the liberal arts grads I work with have no problem finding jobs after graduation if they are preparing for it outside the classroom.

    42. Chicken Little*

      I got my BA in French – with no teaching credentials. Duh. So I went into the Air Force – where they snapped me up as a linguist. When I got out, I went to library school using my G.I. Bill. Liberal arts folks are great as librarians because we have interests spread across a lot of subjects.

    43. Ad Astra*

      I grew up in a poor neighborhood of a relatively well-to-do college town. The adults in my life were constantly telling me that getting a degree in anything at all was my path out of poverty. I think “choose a major that will lead to a solid career” is a very middle class piece of advice.

      So, I chose to study journalism, which — to its credit — is a program designed to prepare students for careers in a specific field. The problem was that the field was rapidly shrinking (even faster than my professors and most pundits had predicted). My first job in 2011 paid $29,500 a year; a first-year public school teacher in the same city started at $39,500. My second job in a more expensive city in 2013 paid $36,000; a first-year public school teacher in that city started around $46,000. I went into journalism expecting to be paid about as well as a teacher — since nobody gets into either profession for the money, I assumed the money was similar, and I assumed it was better than what I had growing up.

      Actually, I might have been ok if I hadn’t borrowed an absurd amount of money to attend college. But, it turns out, nobody bothers explaining to poor kids how to avoid borrowing more than they can reasonably expect to pay back. I didn’t know any better, and neither did my parents.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        + 100 to your second paragraph. I experienced that first hand and will be paying these loans off for the rest of my life. Ugh.

    44. A. D. Kay*

      I earned a Master’s in English because I thought I was going to pursue a career in academia. I decided academia wasn’t a viable career path; I retool my skills and became a technical writer. There are a LOT of technical writers with advanced degrees in English.

    45. Blue Anne*

      I studied Philosophy because I enjoyed it in high school and all the adults in my life told me that as long as I went to college I would be fine. This was not because I’m a blue collar, first-in-my-family kid; I come from a family of professionals and academics and went to an artsy-fartsy private high school whose guidance counselor flipped her shit when one kid in my class didn’t want to go to college. But basically everyone was funneled into very good liberal arts schools.I think with both my mom and with my school, it was intellectual snobbery, honestly. It is so much more noble to work with ethics or pure mathematics or stage management than auditing or programming or mid-management! Blergh.

      I started in September 2007, so things started to look very different very quickly…

      Now, I’m really annoyed that no one gave me more practical advice. I haven’t had any trouble finding work, but I work in finance and I really wish I had a more relevant degree. I’m definitely at a professional disadvantage (now that I’m back in the USA) compared to my peers who studied accounting or business.

    46. pumpkin scone*

      1. Lack of awareness. I’m 42. When I went to college, just having a BA set you apart from the crowd; the actual major wasn’t that important. My classmates- almost all with liberal arts degrees- had no problem finding employment, and I’ve been steadily employed since getting my masters directly after the BA. I was shocked when my younger cousin got her BA 15 years later and had zero luck finding a decent job.

      2. College is not career prep. Talk to any professor at a 4-year college or university and they will tell you college is about education, not training. There’s a huge disconnect between the purpose of higher ed as seen by students, parents, and future employers, vs. what colleges are actually intended to do.

      3. You can’t predict what will be an employable major 4 years out. People went into engineering in the 1990s- only to see the defense industry get cut to the bone in the 1991 recession. Engineering dried up. and then- guess what- not enough engineers! So lots of people went into engineering. It’s very cyclical. There are lots of stories in the news about people thinking the next big job is going to be X, and then it’s not.

      4. Our state wants everyone to major in STEM. And yet current STEM grads are having difficulty finding jobs; there aren’t enough positions.

      IOW: There are no guarantees in anything.

    47. H.C.*

      It’s a combination of both, for me; I entered into college with a STEM major, but changed to a English & Communications double after realizing that I’d much rather write and make presentations than do labwork / engineering /coding /etc. Since I already had a strong science background, I was able to parlay that into healthcare/scientific writing and content marketing. (My initial hope was to go into journalism, but that field was already starting to cave by the time I was about to graduate – thus the career adjustment.)

      Given my changing majors & focuses several times in college, I don’t think one needs to enter college knowing what their exact career path. But one does need to use those 4-ish years to figure out their strengths and passions and how to turn that into something that pays (building skills, experience & connections in that field.)

    48. English degree*

      Honestly, it depends what you do with your degree. I have a BA and MA in English and I’m making six figures writing and editing documents for a Fortune 500 company and about $30K/year on the side freelancing for various clients.

      Most of the people in my literature classes wanted to be the next Pulitzer winner or only wanted to work as a fiction editor. Those are great dreams, albeit unrealistic. A lot of my friends who have creative or liberal arts degrees ended up doing just as well or better than the friends who had business or science degrees. Liberal arts degrees can be very versatile.

      Also, I would have been miserable studying business, science, or computer science. Sure, those degrees often lead to high paying fields, but if you’re going to be miserable studying a subject, you’re going to have a hard time passing a class. I didn’t want to study something and then pursue a career in it if I knew it would drive me out of my mind.

      People often like to focus on the negative aspects of liberal arts degrees, but they ignore all the people who have become wildly successful with them. The thing is, they’re usually not working in creative fields and a lot of successful creative people either come from money or never went to school for it.

      1. English degree*

        I should mention that I’m 29, and I graduated in 2008 when the economy exploded. I received a lot of advice to choose a major that would land me a good career, but I wanted to study literature because it was my passion and I knew I had excellent writing skills. I went in knowing I’d never write an award winning novel, edit a bestselling book, or make a lot of money in a traditional creative field.

    49. Clever Name*

      I know this doesn’t answer the question, but if you are a historian and have section 106 experience (not just historic preservation stuff), come to Colorado! We have a shortage of historians with this qualification. Really.

      1. ScarletInTheLibrary*

        Now that I think about it, my classmates that did the historic preservation tract in the public history degree have done better (with fewer hiccups desire graduating in 2008-2011) than the museum, archives, and cultural resource management folks. I think there are other things at play such as the archives profession has shifted toward preferring a MLIS instead of a public history degree for better or worse and the museum professor burned a lot of professional bridges. At one point in time, I considered either doing the MLIS or volunteering the hell out of myself and getting more section 106 experience (at that point it was two classes and a short-term records management contract at the SHPO).

    50. Mordecai*

      As for myself

      1. Didn’t really have any sense of having a Career rather than just a Job
      2. General cluelessness
      3. Went to university when the economy was still strong
      4. Planned to continue to a Masters in an applied subject (i.e., Social Work) – I didn’t do that in the end, but was thinking ahead to the world of work in that sense
      5. If I was spending all that money (and going to be working for the rest of my life), I might as well do something that I was passionate about and that I could learn a lot.

    51. Nethwen*

      I went to school to learn. For the BA, I figured if I was going to spend all that time on something, it might as well be something I enjoyed and I’d figure out the job later. Growing up, I was under the impression that few people had jobs in the field of their college degree, so college = job was never a connection for me like it seems to be for most people.

      For the graduate degree, it was because I wanted a masters and enjoyed working in a library, so there ya go… I headed to MLIS school.

      In retrospect, I can’t think of anything I could stand to do for 40+ hours a week that would be lucrative, so it all worked out.

    52. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      When most people think a MA in history, they think teaching. I hated the idea of teaching in a school setting but loved history. My undergrad was in broadcasting, so my plan was to get a MA in public history with an emphasis on museum studies so I could create documentaries for museums, etc. Almost every professional museum job requires a masters in a liberal arts degree (history, art history, archeology), which is why I went that route. A history undergrad is very useful, but it may be better to have another major and have history as the minor as an undergrad. The market is flooded because museums, archives, and historic preservation are “cool.” Having a non-history degree separates one from the pack.

      After the economy collapsed and being inflexible to move after graduation (met someone and long-distance was not an option), my path changed slightly. I ended up in archives, which is another branch of the public history tree (but the branch is small compared to the similar branch on the library science tree). Luckily the archives profession has been more proactive than the museum field on balancing the needs of new professionals and finding ways to make sure graduates have realistic expections.

    53. Seren*

      I graduated with a music performance degree, did some graduate work right after, and now I work at a hospital.

      I was passionate about music in high school, and it was my best subject. That was all I knew when I decided it as a major. I didn’t realize until junior year of college that the music path meant 7-8 total years in school, and then starting to audition for an open seat anywhere in the country/world. Looking back, I wish I would have done business or English. I am glad I did music performance as a major, but it would have been so helpful if a professor in my freshman year would have sat me down and asked me if the musician life was really what I wanted my life to look like.

      At the hospital, I’ve done pretty well considering lack of working knowledge. I’d held an internship and jobs of varying industries over the years so I’d proven I could make it work. The work ethic of practicing an instrument actually does translate well into other industries, just like my teachers tried to reassure me. When I come home I can ‘practice’ building my working knowledge. I come across well-disciplined, I can take criticism and apply it pretty immediately, and I can manage my nerves well. All in all it ended up working out. I don’t really make that much, but I’m happy with it because it is a huge improvement from previous years.

  10. Caledonia*

    I’m sure this has been discussed before but I saw a job opening for a “keyboard warrior”. WTF. You also need to “Assist the Equity Punk Ranger with Equity Punk projects and events when required.” There is also no salary range listed.

    This is ridiculous….anyone got any other ones? I know Subway has “sandwich artists”. *eyeroll*

    1. lulu*

      Keyboard Warrior… that sounds like a really bad superhero movie.
      (OT: I thought AntMan with Paul Rudd was a parody until it actually came out)

    2. Seal*

      “Search ninja” for a librarian position. I’ll be that looks ridiculous on a business card.

      1. Not Karen*

        I knew of a reference librarian whose official title was Director of Knowledge and Learning.

        I have to admit I really like the title Solution Architect though I have no idea what one actually does!

        1. Susan*

          I’ve been a Solution Architect. It was something similar to a technical architect – having the ability to describe and design a functional multipart system, end to end; in my case I worked on data systems. It was a step above a position like Senior Engineer/Developer, but less heavily embedded into the technical details than a Technical Architect would be.

      1. Jules the First*

        I was the ‘Resident Genius’ for a while at one job. Translation: the ‘person who does everything we didn’t know we needed to do’. My job description was basically ‘duties as required’. Man that job was fun…

      2. Caledonia*

        It’s for a local craft brewery – it fits in with their image but I’m just eyerolling so hard I can’t take it seriously.

    3. K.*

      What does that even mean? Like, what will that person be doing all day? It sounds like a data entry job, but it could be anything!

    4. Wendy Darling*

      I’m in tech so I see job listings wanting “rockstars” and “ninjas” and “unicorns” all damn day. Also job descriptions calling for “data wizardry” a lot. It’s obnoxious.

      Although my funny true story about this: When I was looking for jobs I kept seeing job ads for “Epic Coder” and “Epic Developer” and I was like, jeez, is epic the new rockstar/ninja or what? People really need to cool it. Then after actually MONTHS of eyerolling I realized that Epic is the name of an electronic medical records system and they were all hiring people specifically to work with that system. Sorry, job ads I rolled my eyes at!

      1. SL #2*

        HAHAHA we work with lots of medical clinics and some of them have adopted Epic and I giggle to myself every time.

      2. Manders*

        Hah! I see lots of “gurus” and “ninjas” around here. Something about it feels racist in a way that’s hard to put my finger on. Why is it always something from a non-European culture in companies that are almost all young, white people?

      3. Gillian*

        The hospital I work at went through an Epic implementation and it was getting a bit crazy by the end – Epic plans, Epic emails, Epic tshirts. I wanted something to be plain or boring or ordinary by the end of it all.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      Ugh, I’ve seen this more than once: A receptionist with the title: Director of First Impressions. So stupid.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        Yep, my last workplace’s receptionist had that on her nameplate! Then again, they were big on titles. A few years back the people who worked there went from being “employees” to “associates” because I guess that changes something.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        I worked at a place like this. Our receptionist/PR person/etc (it was a small place) was pulling very hard for an intern so that their title would be “Director of Second Impressions”. I laughed

  11. Revolver Rani*

    Hey, I have the same birthday as Alison! :D Let’s both have an awesome day. I’ll have a drink for you tonight.

    1. Lillie Lane*

      I’ll have a drink for both of you tonight. But it’s not my birthday — it’s just been that kind of week!

      1. Revolver Rani*

        I understand completely, and I’m very pleased to give you an excuse to have a drink. ;)

    2. the gold digger*

      And it’s Primo’s birthday, too! I baked a cake last night and started to frost it this morning (working from home), but The Engineer took over because I was not being precise enough.

      Who cares about precision when chocolate frosting is involved? :)

      Happy birthday, all you Friday the 13th-ers!

    3. SophieChotek*

      Happy Birthday! I’ll go to Starbucks later today and claim I was getting expensive drink to celebrate your birthday and Allisons and JMegan’s daughter…

  12. Tiffany*

    I received an intern application this morning. The cover letter is as follows:

    “I think you should give me this job because I really want it.”

    That’s it. Nothing else. I really really want to reply back saying “Did you really think that would work”?

      1. esra*

        Have I mentioned how much my job should give me 20 weeks vacation, because I really, really want it?

        1. SophieChotek*

          +1

          And I would like to get a paid 4-year vacation…because I don’t just want it, I need it….

    1. Mockingjay*

      Since this is an intern, would you be willing to reach back and gently instruct them as to why the cover ‘sentence’ didn’t work?

      I have the feeling that they got some awful advice from some online blog (NOT Alison’s!), thinking that would set them above the rest of the crowd.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t accept this person, but I’d definitely give some advice. This definitely sounds like the result of awful / outdated advice.

      2. Tiffany*

        Once I stop laughing, maybe. I mean, I get that there’s some really bad advice out there, I’ve gotten it myself. However, I can’t imagine that anyone would ever think this is a good idea….I feel like this is just someone who didn’t even try or who applied as a joke. Either that, or they have parents that gave them whatever they wanted just because they wanted it. I’ll most likely respond with something similar to Pineapple Incident’s suggestion down below.

        1. Kelly L.*

          My guess is someone trying to meet the letter but not the spirit of something.

          Like their internship prep class says “You must apply to 10 places” and they don’t really want to work at this place, it’s just to check the box. Or they promised their mom they’d apply there, but don’t really want to work there.

          Or, long shot, they thought it would land in the hands of someone else, someone who knows them personally. I once dated a guy who wrote a cover letter in crayon and about this length. It was for a seasonal job he’d worked several years running, and the hiring manager was a close friend of his, but there was a rule from higher up that he had to reapply each time, so it got to be a joke and a formality.

          1. Tiffany*

            I could see it being the former….but this wasn’t an intern for my day job but for a side project/website I run, so chances of it being the latter are slim. We’re only a few months old and have tripled in size since launch (though, seeing as we started with just me, tripled just means now there’s 3 of us). I haven’t even gotten the other 2 on the website yet, so I’m really the only public face.

          2. MsChanandlerBong*

            I totally read that as “in crayon and about his length.” I was wondering what kind of hiring manager would be worried about an applicant’s length!

          3. Snazzy Hat*

            there was a rule from higher up that he had to reapply each time, so it got to be a joke and a formality.

            Years ago my s.o. was given a job offer before he completed his application. His supervisor (who was the interviewer, btw) knew me professionally as a stellar former employee, and I knew the supervisor had a sense of humor.

            One of the application questions was, “how will you get to work?” Not sure why it was there, and it wasn’t important anyway. I convinced my s.o. to put down “sharkapult”, a fictitious weapon seen in a museum on the show Futurama.

      3. Florida*

        I would not “gently instruct” them as to why their cover letter was problematic.
        If you are so inclined, ASK the person if they would like advice. If they say No, resist the urge to give it. Wait until you have a definite Yes before you give any advice.
        Unsolicited advice is like junk mail. No one wants it. No one pays attention to it.
        It doesn’t matter how young or old you are or how much or little experience you have – no one should have to listen to someone else’s judgment (advice, by definition requires the advisor’s judgement) because you don’t like their cover letter. If someone gives you permission (Yes, I would love your advice!), that’s a different story.

    2. K.*

      I’m going to give this person the benefit of the doubt and guess that she got some bad advice somewhere about making cover letters stand out, and this is the route she chose. But still … yikes.

    3. Pineapple Incident*

      That’s a really unprofessional, incomplete letter. If you email them back, I’d remain perfectly professional so maybe this person will understand how stupid that was. Something to the effect of “Since the cover letter included with your application materials failed to speak to your qualifications or accomplishments and did not address why you are interested in an intern position with our organization, we will not be moving forward with your candidacy for this role.”

      1. JaneB*

        Hmmm, it’s VERY like the approach of most undergraduates to marks: “I want an A so you should give me one”

      2. Not Shannon*

        I think this is the best option. This actually sounds like something I might have done as a teenager– I’m imagining asking an adult what a cover letter was, the adult explaining simply that “it’s a letter that explains why you want the job”, and me not asking for more information because I didn’t know I needed any more, then taking that extremely literally because I didn’t know any better.

        Getting a letter like this would definitely sting, but it would also spell out exactly what I needed to do for the next one.

    4. themmases*

      Ha! I love that.

      My school holds student elections by having each person write a little essay on their qualifications and what they would do in the job. It goes up on the ballot which is basically just a Qualtrics survey.

      Which is how I know that this approach, just with more words, is apparently incredibly common. The shortest I’ve ever seen was more like three sentences, but still following the format of “this job would be such a great opportunity *for me*”. Well it would look great on everyone’s resume so maybe we should let everyone call themselves class president! It is a huge pet peeve of mine and I will always vote against it or, if they’re unopposed, not vote for that position.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      “I think I gave this job to someone who showed they were qualified because that’s what I really want.”

    6. Nethwen*

      I absolutely believe that happened and the person thought it wasn’t a problem. Working in a public library, I see people do things like that all the time. My guess is that somehow they believe that if the box is checked (application- check, cover letter- check), they have a chance at the job, the quality of the submission is irrelevant.

      There are so many times that I suggest someone might want to fix the misspelling in their attachment title or that they need to include something in the body of the e-mail, not just send a blank e-mail with an attachment, and the response is, “Nah, it’s fine.” And then they sit and loudly discuss with their friends how they would have a job if someone would just give them a chance.

    7. Julie Noted*

      I once received am application for a public service job in which the cover letter explained that the applicant had formerly been in the public service, and if she rejoined now would quality for early retirement and a large pension in 18 months’ time. And that’s the sole reason given for wanting the job. Points for honesty, points off for commitment and nous.

  13. Dawn*

    Any tips for how to deal with feeling lonely in a management position? I’m functioning like a management consultant/ operations manager at my company and my role has me working directly with the President, the CEO, and the #3 in command (in a 35 person company). When I started my role hadn’t fleshed out into what it is now and I was friendly with everyone, got invited to walk to lunch, that kinda thing. I have *definitely* noticed that is no longer happening and I’m being treated as “management” now- which is fine, and a good thing within the parameters of my job, I am just kinda… well a little lonely, and I don’t quite know how friendly to be with everyone. I still am totally chipper and say good morning and ask about their weekend and stuff, I just don’t know how much further to take it than that.

    It’s been a bit of a head trip for me to realize that I’m seen as knowing a bunch of stuff and being in a position of power because I don’t feel any different, I just feel like the same ole me as I was when I started.

    1. LCL*

      Get used to it. The distancing is inevitable when you get into a quasi-management role. Continue to be chipper and social. Go to the occasional after hours function if invited, and tell them when you will be there. Being able to professionally keep your distance will help you in your dealings with upper management when you have to advocate for your group. And if you are doing an operations manager job you will have to advocate for your group against upper management sometimes.

    2. TCO*

      Would it help to build connections with similar-role colleagues at other companies? That won’t help with the day-to-day hallway greetings and lunch invites, but it will give you a support network of “equals” with whom you can talk through the loneliness issue and others.

      I know that when I’ve been in roles that are somewhat isolating (like I’m the only person in my role/department) I’ve found a lot of professional support from having a network of peers that I meet through professional groups, etc.

      1. Dawn*

        Oh man that’s a really good idea! I’m in DC too so I imagine I can find some good groups to join. I kinda feel like I’m “learning how to adult” in this role because it’s the first time in a job I’ve had complete freedom plus the ear of the company owners.

      2. Silver Radicand*

        Yeah, I agree. I am the sole manager at the location I work with, so I try to build connections with colleagues who work for my client (but outside my chain of command).

    3. wonkette*

      I think about this issue sometimes because I’ve had bosses in the past who were either too friendly with their staff or too distant. I wonder if it’s helpful to set regular lunch or coffee dates with the staff just as a “I want to get to know you” gesture. Also, it’s good to talk with people outside of your organization who’re at the same career level as you to discuss issues that you may have (ex. managing, budgeting, etc). This may be useful in reducing the sense of loneliness that you feel as well as recognizing that there’re topics you can’t freely talk to your staff anymore.

    4. Mike C.*

      Get some budget to take teams out to lunch (or bring lunch in) for doing well or times when you need to get feedback, that sort of thing. Not only does this solve your problem, but it also has great business justifications.

    5. memyselfandi*

      I have a similar problem compounded by that fact that I am a bit socially isolated outside of work as well due to friends moving, family changes, etc. It makes me over-share with my staff. Time to make more of an effort!

    6. Rocky*

      This was one of the hardest things for me when I moved into management, and I wasn’t anticipating it at all. Building a network of peers outside my organization has helped a lot, and I occasionally socialize with one peer manager here so we can both, uh, vent about stuff. But those relationships took a couple years to cultivate. Be patient. I go to pretty much every work function I’m invited to, and take people to lunch/coffee every so often, but it’s not the same kind of interaction.

      1. Girasol*

        It’s the venting I miss. When I’m managing I hate the mean sniping and backbiting I see on the team and discourage it when I can. But I also know that’s what I used to do – vent about stupid coworker and stupid manager and stupid company. Now I see how ugly and counterproductive that is, and as a manager I don’t indulge anymore. But I still miss it. Rather a lot. And I miss the work friendships that arise from that sort of joint kvetching. TCO’s comment above – friends from outside the company – rings true for me. The monthly meeting of the professional society occasionally falls into war stories and it’s a relief.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Shift your expectations of what a good interaction looks like.
      Deliberately decide that you now enjoy exchanging pleasantries a bit more.
      If you share a laugh with someone that is a good thing, not something to skate by unnoticed.
      Take deeper satisfaction in knowing your people to the extent of what they want to share. You remember Sam has a dog named Trevor; Holly’s neighbor plays his stereo too loud and so on.
      Think of part of your job as being “taking care” of your people so that they in turn can take care of you. That does not sound so lonely, right? It sounds more like a reciprocal relationship with everyone taking care of everyone, but in different ways.

      So, while no one invites you for walks, you have other things now that you did not have before. Here’s the key, if we start to try to convince ourselves that we are alone, we probably will be successful. Not a great road to start down, right? I’d encourage you to look closer at the good stuff that is happening around you.

  14. Yes I am Type A But This is a MESS!*

    Help! My boss is a hoarder! I work in a nonprofit that is bursting at the seams (5 people in my office, 8 in another). My boss is the only person with his own office. It’s FILLED with papers, trash, boxes, stuff related and un-related to work. The problem? My job is to cultivate major donors and they like to come see our work in action. Since the other offices have so many staff, we like to meet in the boss’s office. It’s filled with so many things though that we can’t even sit in there. So we end up kicking everyone else out of my shared office every time I hold a meeting. I’ve tried to suggest that tidying up would make us look more credible to potential donors, but so far it seems to be getting worse rather than better. Even if we meet somewhere else, his office is very visible to visitors. Others are also becoming increasingly sloppy (why bother cleaning my stuff up when there’s that tornado over there?).

    Is a messy office maybe not as big of an issue as I’m making it? Do you think potential donors (clients) really care? Is it worth standing my ground and telling people to grow up and clean up their mess?

    1. E*

      It’s worth asking your boss if you can assist in straightening up the office and creating guidelines for the office to create & maintain a cleaner space. Trash definitely should not be kept, paper and boxes are harder to reduce just because it takes time and effort. If your boss is amenable to the cleanup, even in small increments, perhaps they just are overwhelmed at the project and your volunteering will be accepted. If not, at least you tried.

    2. Manders*

      Ick, that would bother me too, and I’m not exactly type A. Do you think your boss is actually hoarding, or just too busy and overwhelmed to clean?

    3. Master Bean Counter*

      I’ve cleaned up a bosses office that was like that before. Somebody will have to do it, and it won’t be him. Talk with him and see if there is some reason to the mess. Then you can address the appearance issue, again, and offer solutions.

    4. KR*

      Our office is extremely messy. We don’t have the public drop in often, but they do from time to time and I’m with you in the fact that we don’t really have a clear space for them to sit (several different office chairs usually cluttered up). It’s a bit different for me because I’m his admin, so I count it as part of my job description to pick up the office. What I do is have clean up days probably twice/thrice a year where I take everything out of the office, clean everything, and then put back the essentials. Everything that we might be able to get rid of or that I’m not sure if it’s trash goes in a pile. At that point I call my boss to have him come over, and he sits down and does the basic “keep/toss/surplus” through the pile.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I spoke with a boss who had tendencies to keep too much. Fortunately, we got along well most of the time. So I could draw on that good relationship to have a chat. Initially, he was quite upset, so I talked about my own issues of keeping too much. I saved everything my parents had and then realized my house was a museum, not a home… I went on talking about my own foibles. This helped him to catch himself and calm down. We had a nice chat about how stuff accumulates because we. just. can’t. toss. it. and he agreed to clean up some stuff.

      BUT. here’s the catch. I started the conversation because I thought he would listen and actually do something. With what you describe here, I might say, “You know. Donors see this and it makes them wonder if their check is somewhere, uncashed, in one of these piles. If you would like me to help you fix this, I would be glad to. Just let me know.”

  15. matcha123*

    I don’t have much confidence in what I do and I feel that when I’ve gone on interviews it’s been something that’s pulled me off the short-list.
    I feel like unless I can confidently do something way better than another person, I have no right to give an authoritative answer. Moreover, I feel like there will always be someone better, faster and more qualified. Since I have no way of knowing whether or not I’m below average, average or “superstar” at my job (I’ve never been given a review in any job I’ve worked at), how should I approach these types of questions? When it comes to thinking about salary in particular, I feel like I have nothing to offer anyone, but at the same time I need to live, pay bills and have enough to save.

    1. Dawn*

      “I feel like unless I can confidently do something way better than another person, I have no right to give an authoritative answer. Moreover, I feel like there will always be someone better, faster and more qualified.”

      I struggle with this on an almost daily basis, and it is literally my JOB to tell my company what to do. Honestly, I’ve found that in pretty much any job other than medicine or law, “good enough” is perfectly fine and the vast, vast, vast majority of people that you work for just want stuff to get done on time and good enough that it passes muster.

      Also, most people are just looking for answers and aren’t going to care too much about where they come from. I’ve solved complex issues by following what came up in the first hit in a Google search, no lie. I propose what seems, to me, BLINDINGLY obvious solutions to issues and get treated like I’m some sort of Oracle. Stuff like “Oh my god what should we do about this underperforming employee?!?!” and my suggestion of “Put them on a PIP? Fire them if they fail the PIP?” is treated like it’s the best idea ever oh my god how amazing.

      Additionally, I’m continuously amused by how the majority of people at any job are just punching the clock and doing the bare minimum to get by and are completely and totally OK with that. I’ve had to realize that *those* are my peers that I should compare myself to, and not the one off superstar rockstar employee who has some sort of perpetual motion and works 80 hours a week.

      1. Pineapple Incident*

        Solid answer! I was going to say something similar; it’s hard to struggle with imposter syndrome when you’ve been trained to do what you like but feel like you haven’t done enough of it or aren’t enough of a star to deserve a position. I’ve been applying for higher level positions (I’m entry-level in a position only tangentially related to what I’d like to be doing) and am only just now realizing that I do have what it takes to do what I love! Compare yourself to those who aren’t doing enough and give yourself a pat on the back :) Hang in there!

    2. Snazzy Hat*

      I’ve sent out two-dozen applications since January 1st, so I’m with you, also lacking confidence. But a few things stand out in your comment and I shall address them.

      I feel like there will always be someone better, faster and more qualified.
      There will be, but think of how you can use that to your advantage.
      Better at the job you want? Maybe you develop a better rapport with the hiring manager in the interview. Faster? Maybe you’re more accurate and make fewer mistakes. More qualified? I direct you to Alison’s interviewee who, and I quote from How To Get A Job, had “no direct experience in the area she was applying in” but in a previous job “had juggled an enormous workload, stayed highly organized, and been generally indispensable”.

      I’ve never been given a review in any job I’ve worked at
      Neither have I. Supervisors and coworkers and customers have given me kudos, but I have never had a performance review, and for most of my work history my accomplishments were not even measured. Imagine these dialogues:
      Interviewer: “What did your employee reviews/evaluations say about you?”
      You: “Actually, I’ve never received one. They just weren’t done in my workplaces.”
      …or…
      Interviewer: “Matcha indicated that performance reviews were not conducted.”
      Old Boss: “That’s correct.”
      …or…
      Interviewer: “Can you summarize your employee evaluations?”
      You: “Well, we didn’t get evaluations, but [stuff you knew about your performance just from context].”

      When it comes to thinking about salary in particular, I feel like I have nothing to offer anyone, but at the same time I need to live…
      Oh my goodness, I am there. Check out averages for those jobs’ pay rates in your area. Thankfully some applications will ask for ranges. You deserve the kind of salary that will end your job search. That can be different from place to place and from person to person, but I didn’t bat an eye when I was working part-time at CocoaPots for $X/hr and got an offer for full-time at Leaf Juice Vessels for $1.5X/hr. If I was living whilst working at CocoaPots part-time, I knew I could live comfortably on a full-time salary at Leaf Juice Vessels. (Note: this also worked in reverse. When I went from a Leaf Juice Vessels income to no income at all, I already knew how to pinch pennies.)

      In short, I know it sounds cheesy, but you are the best at being yourself, and although it may take a while, you will come across an employer who will love that.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Let’s break this down.

      1)I feel like unless I can confidently do something way better than another person, I have no right to give an authoritative answer.

      Most people feel this way. You do not have to present things you say as gospel truth. You can say, “Well, in my experience, I have had good luck doing Y first THEN X. I think the reasons for that are A, B and C.” Notice all the qualifiers: in my experience, good luck, I think. You do not have to stand there and say “Well you gotta do Y before X, because that is the only way to do it.”
      It’s fine to agree that someone else might have a different idea. It’s fine to show reasons for why you do something a particular way. The problems only come in when people think they are know-it-alls. Give a nod that others may do it differently, then show how you do it.

      2) I feel like there will always be someone better, faster and more qualified.

      Well this is true. That is why I never say I am the best. Don’t proclaim yourself to be something you cannot prove.
      They may have hired the best before you and everyone hated her. But they all like you. There is more than one way we fit into a job and more than one way we are of value to the company.
      I do not know my job. I am probably mediocre at it. My boss LOVES me because I am willing to take on some crazy stuff and I actually get some results. And I can keep track of all 129 balls that are in the air all the time. Am I the best? heck no.

      3) Since I have no way of knowing whether or not I’m below average, average or “superstar” at my job (I’ve never been given a review in any job I’ve worked at), how should I approach these types of questions?

      Be honest and be sincere. Start there. Next, never underestimate the power of being honest and being sincere. My boss said to me the other day, “You always come tell me when you find your own mistakes. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
      As others have suggested simply say you have never had a review. Maybe you could say, “But I have gotten compliments on how I organized X or took charge of Y when no one else was available.” Or “People notice when I called in sick because they tell me that there are problems with A and B.” Give specific examples of times where others noticed and commented. These people could be anyone, they do not have to be your boss.

      4) When it comes to thinking about salary in particular, I feel like I have nothing to offer anyone, but at the same time I need to live, pay bills and have enough to save.

      This one is tough because I don’t know you and I cannot see what you might be overlooking. I tend not to believe this is as bad as you are saying, but let’s go with it. Is there some way you can invest in yourself so you DO feel like you have something to offer? Can you take a couple courses in something? Can you do some volunteer work adjacent to your own work?
      Do you have a compliments file? You can jot down compliments, put the date and who said it, then collect them up in a file. If you get a nice email then print it out and put it in the file.
      When talking about salary try to find the range for your area. What are people getting paid to do your type of work? You should be getting something that is in keeping with the range for people in your job.

      1. matcha123*

        Thank you, too!
        Along with the poster above, you’ve really given me some great ideas to ponder!

  16. TCO*

    Crying at work:

    I’m a pretty easy crier. In the past, I used to cry at work maybe once a year during a tough/stressful discussion (and always just one-on-one with my boss). It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t really disruptive. When I’m crying I’m still thinking and talking just fine.

    Something is different about my current job. There are some stressful conditions and some things that have led me to question whether I’m actually good at this work (I am, though, and my performance is viewed very positively), whether this job is the right fit for me, etc. The tears are happening a lot more often, partially because there are more tough conversations about how to make me and this job fit together well. My bosses are really compassionate and emphathetic people, but in a recent performance review it was made clear that the crying (or showing too much emotion in general) is starting to hold me back.

    The typical strategies, like biting my lip or looking at the ceiling or asking for a moment, aren’t working for me. I need a more psychological approach. Any tips to help work through the stress and have candid, vulnerable conversations without crying every time? I’ve explored it a bit with past therapists but never made any progress, but I’m thinking it might be time to have a few sessions specifically focused on this issue because there are definitely some underlying stressors. Other advice that could help?

    1. regina phalange*

      I used to have this problem. Some things that helped me:
      1) If you can, go to the bathroom to collect yourself. Obviously harder to do this during meetings, but if you feel yourself starting to get emotional in general, just step outside, go to the bathroom, take a few deep breaths. It is never as bad as you fear.

      2) Feed off others reactions – find coworkers who you think handle stress well, watch them in meetings, try to emulate them. I found that helped me tremendously – that person wasn’t getting emotional, so why should I?

      3) Time – I’m in the right job now, so that helped a lot. Previous toxic job was awful and hard for me to always do the above two, and it took time here to learn that not everything is the end of the world. But it’s not. If I make a mistake, no one dies, so it’s okay, and I suspect that is the case with you too.

      4) Practicing my poker face in meetings. Even if I was feeling upset/stressed/annoyed, etc, I practiced keeping it all internal and trying to keep my voice even and facial expressions neutral. Easier said than done at times but after a while it just came to me naturally.

      Good luck!!

    2. ANONtoday*

      I don’t usually post anonymously, but this is kinda so absurd I don’t really want anyone else to know I do it. I’m an easy crier too. Like will still cry during Lion King after seeing it a dozen times… If I get to that point at work, for some strange reason, I got into the habit of repeating, “Penis. Vagina.” over and over (obviously in my head). No clue why, but something about the absurdity and the immediate side-tracking my brain gets from this just kind of shuts off the emotion enough for me to get over it. Odd and weird, but so am I. : )

      On a deeper level, I agree with your assessment that it’s worth speaking with someone about the increase in emotion and seeing if there is something else going on. Some medications can also cause changes in mood and behavior. If you’re a woman, birth control is one that can cause drastic emotional differences – even if you just changed the type of birth control you used, they are all different. You’ve probably already eliminated that side of things if you are speaking with someone, but I just wanted to bring it up.

      1. TCO*

        You know, that’s great advice about checking my meds. I started taking a prescription headache medicine last year that’s actually a mild antidepressant, so there could definitely be some emotional side effects that I attributed entirely to the stress of my job. I’m not sure how likely it is but it’s definitely worth my exploring it with my doctor.

        1. blackcat*

          Yes, do!

          I thought I had mild anxiety for years and years. Turns out, BC pills had been given me anxiety.

          Lots of drugs affect mood in mild ways, and it’s a great idea to ask a doc about it.

      2. CM*

        ANONtoday, your technique sounds perfect. It is so ridiculous, and in this situation you need ridiculousness to distract you from emotion. I am totally going to try this. Thank you!

        Someone told me once that CBT worked for them on a similar issue rather than traditional therapy? I can’t vouch for it, but it may be worth looking into.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Someone once told me, “get mad, just don’t cry.”

      I found that trying to channel my anger into appropriate expression kept me from crying; the crying was coming because I was trying to completely supress the emotion (fear, frustration, anger, whatever).

      And I’ll also say, talking to a cognitive behavioral therapist, or some other behavioral / cognitive type therapist, for targeted help with this might be good, because some exercises on mental framing might really help.

    4. Argh!*

      Perhaps it’s time to consult with a psychiatrist rather than or addition to a therapist. You may need medication.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I have to say, this is the only thing that helped me. I was a terrible crier. Still am. When I was on meds, it was so much better for me. I didn’t go to a psychiatrist, though– my psychologist recommended the drugs (to me, nothing formal), my primary care physician prescribed. I think that’s pretty common, but I was very lucky– my PCP trusted the recommendation, asked me a few questions, and monitored my meds very closely. I was on a pretty low dose of Wellbutrin for several years. I continued to deal with the underlying issues in talk therapy, but the meds were a wonderful help.

        Now I’m off the meds, have been for about 4 years, and I really, really want to go back on something. I have new doctors now, though, so it’s not so easy!

    5. designbot*

      Similar to this, I distract myself with the most unemotional stuff I can imagine. I started with baseball (because I was inspired by the stereotype of a dude trying to put off the big O), but have found such gems as street sweeping, filing, and making a list of things I need to shop for at home work too. If I can get myself to think about the fact that we’re almost out of shampoo and cat food, that’s enough distraction to pull me out of it.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      You know, I had an odd thought. Why not teach yourself how to have a hard conversation with an employee? There’s all kinds of books out there on how to talk to people, how to have difficult conversations and how give feedback to an employee.
      Maybe if you read about this from a boss’ perspective you might gain some new insights. Just pretend you are the boss and you must explain to an employee that they should do A not B. How would you go about doing this? It might be a source of empowerment because you learn about the process of feedback.

      See, sometimes emotions kick in because we don’t know what to do/say/expect. Years ago, I got sick and it made driving tough. I became scared to drive. Before it was over, I ended making myself take a driver’s safety course. Going that first time was terrible. But I had to do it. I had to learn more about driving to work through my new problems with driving. That was about 20 years ago. You know what? I just took a driver’s safety course on line and I actually ENJOYED it. What a difference from where I was at.
      I’m not saying that you will enjoy feedback in the future- no, no. But I am saying that you can change the way you react to things by getting more knowledge about what the process is that is causing you upset. Knowledge is power.

      The other thing you can do is what I call, “planned cries”. We have thousands of reasons why we weep. I went through some losses in my life and found myself crying at the wrong times. So I did planned cries. Usually sad songs can get me started pretty reliably. I would put on some sad music and make myself cry. I did this at home, when it was convenient for me. The next day, I felt stronger, more resilient and I didn’t start crying over a box of cereal or any of a number of stupid triggers.

      FWIW, the boss is short-sighted. With many people the quickest way to get them to stop crying is to tell them it is okay to cry. If you tell a person to STOP crying, they usually cry longer, not shorter. Find times when you can tell yourself it is okay to cry and then let the tears flow.

  17. Queen of the Lab*

    I enjoyed the link to the article about socioeconomic “straddlers” at work a couple of weeks ago. I am a socioeconomic straddler and I feel like I don’t quite belong anywhere, more so because of my level of education than my salary. I come from a working class background: 2nd generation to live off the farm on both sides, I have one aunt and uncle that went to a local technical college in the 1970s, but I am the first generation college graduate in the direct line. I am now one year away from completing my masters degree. My particular career path (natural resource management) is pretty straddley since there is a lot of interaction with working class field and law enforcement types and with white collar academics and policy makers. I consider myself working class but the other working class people disagree (even though I still hunt, fish, camp,would rather eat a bbq place than someplace with multiple forks at the place setting, etc.). I am definitely not a middle class person. I once had a British professor compliment me on my sophisticated use of English. Only many years later did I realize it was because of my background that he was surprised. I think the best strategy is to keep my mouth shut and let the middle class people at work assume I am one of them. What do other straddlers do to cope with this weird status at work?

    1. Student*

      Fake it until we really are middle class.

      Try not to scare the middle-class folks too bad by not talking about the blue-collar background; stories I think are funny or topical are often terrifying to people who’ve lived a better life than I have. Try to dress “better” even though I hate doing so, and resolutely pretend I know what to do with all the forks. Smash through their dithering, but occasionally, when it makes an impact, instead of every time I want to. Try to understand their interests and respect their problems, even though some of them are difficult for me to grasp or sympathize with.

      1. AVP*

        all of us “born in the upper middle class” people are doing the same thing with the forks! I don’t think anyone really understands their usage.

        1. TootsNYC*

          People get this wrong.

          The person who gets all the responsibility for the forks, and al the blame, is the person who set the table, and the person who clears it between courses.

          The person who’s eating just picks up the fork that’s easiest to get ahold of (that’s the one on the outside) and eats. Bingo.

        2. Queen of the Lab*

          Hee hee. I have a fish knife that I have been using as a way to get the butter out of the tray for years. I only know what it is now from watching Rizzoli & Isles. I still use it for the butter.

        3. KiteFlier*

          I learned from “Titanic” – work from the outside in. Outer most fork the first course, etc. Although, dessert forks go at the top of the place setting.

    2. Emmie*

      I represented a client as a lawyer in a pro bono case. The person’s financial stuggles were personal to me. I remembered what that was like before getting my degrees. When I told the client a variation of that, s/he looked me up and down, and sighed in a way that let me know s/he thought I was really out of touch and knew nothing about his/her situation. I realized then that although I may remember those nightmare-ish struggles, my own people will never believe me. Caught between both worlds! Does anyone remember the book referenced in that thread?

      1. JJtheDoc*

        The book is Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams, by Alfred Lubrano. Really good and some very helpful insights, says this straddler!

          1. the gold digger*

            The Ruby Payne book that someone had recommended here – A Framework for Understanding Poverty – is also very interesting for understanding the cultural divides between classes.

    3. Guinness*

      Ooooh… I struggle with this too. I am solidly middle class now, but grew up lower class (or at least very low middle class), we always had a roof over our heads but paying basic bills were a challenge… there was some food insecurity, etc. My biggest frustration right now is dealing with co-workers who see people and say “they don’t look poor/like they need this assistance/etc.) and it makes me crazy, because there is just so much you don’t know. I’ve said something once or twice, and it’s largely been ignored and people still make their comments. I just wish some people had some more compassion and less judgement.
      I will say, though, that I camp and eat bbq way more now than I did growing up lower class (we can actually afford trips and eating out now!) :).

      1. the gold digger*

        I am not sure what we were when I was a kid – my dad was in the military so medical and dental care was never an issue, but there was not a lot of steak or eating out when I was a kid and there was a lot of oatmeal in the meatloaf.

        My question about eating out is has it always been a thing for the middle class to eat out a lot? and with their kids? and I never saw it because my family was not in the right class? or has life changed a lot in the past 40 years where now eating out is no longer a big deal for anyone?

    4. Queen of the Lab*

      I don’t want to be middle class. I have a working class spouse with a mostly-working class job and we live in a very nice rural area. I mostly just want an interesting job (done) and a middle class salary (mostly done) to pay off the ridiculous student loans I ended up with. Most of my classmates moved back home when we graduated and there weren’t many jobs. That was never an option for me and I am just now getting ahead financially. I guess I should get good at pretending then?

      1. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

        Part of my own negotiation of this was letting go of my contempt for the “middle class.” It was a solid, necessary defense mechanism growing up poor. It does not serve me now.

    5. Jules the First*

      Can I just say (without triggering any mournful miniature violins, please) that the same disconnet applies to the next rung up?

      I grew up very solidly upper middle class and now work for the very very wealthy and titled and while I still feel very much out of place in that world, I also don’t entirely fit with the middle class people I grew up around either. I guess my mom is right and exposure to the kind of people who wear $1,000 shoes really does change you…

      1. Laura*

        I’m glad you said this! I grew up upper-middle class but was raised to believe that we had less money than we did. It gave me a very skewed view of the world and I’m still struggling to find where I feel most comfortable.

        1. Lily Evans*

          My situation is kind of the opposite, but I understand where you’re coming from. My mom’s side of the family are WASP wannabes and I always thought we had way more money than we did. Turns out my mom and grandma are just terrible with spending and buy nice things that they can’t actually afford! It’s totally skewed my perception money. I’m also weirdly between the lines in my main friend group where half is solidly upper middle class and the other half lower middle class. I can’t drop $1k on a weekend vacation without notice, but I’ve also never had to worry about not having enough money to go out for the night. I’m so grateful to be comfortable financially, but at the same time it feels weird not to have a solid “place”.

    6. Argh!*

      Who cares what class you’re in? What will having a label do for you?

      You have the great advantage of being able to communicate effectively with a diverse workforce, which you should be proud of. Are you working while you complete your degree? You may be experiencing more of the “moving up” syndrome more than straddling, much like people who get promoted and then supervise people who used to be coworkers.

      Having the respect of the “regular” people will help you go far. I speak from experience here, having come from a distressed family situation, and having worked at “gruntwork” jobs during the summers in undergrad and grad school. It helps me get things done, see things from various perspectives, and makes it a joy to move from room to room or department to department or to meet new people. People who have never been around others who are not mirror images of themselves find those experiences stressful.

      1. Queen of the Lab*

        The label doesn’t interest me much, except that I sometimes get contempt from the other working class folks. Not because I’m being hoity-toity, but because they think I’m “over educated”. I actually had a job interview once where one of the interviewers went on about my lack of regional accent and the other told me she didn’t like educated people and that she had always worked in retail prior to ending up in a manager position in natural resource management. I now know wearing a suit to that interview was a mistake. I never heard back from them but then my spouse got a different position with them. The second manager (then my spouse’s boss) then proceeded to tell me to my face that I was over educated. I later found out that it was a sham interview, the guy who went in before me already had a job. I often get raised eyebrows in this very rural, economically depressed area, for having a bachelor’s degree.

        1. Observer*

          Every social level has its bigots. And its idiots. Of course, the two groups overlap, and so you get the idiot manager who won’t hire educated people because they are horrible and can’t do the job.

          But is that really your typical experience? Raised eyebrows are one thing. Ongoing disrespect is another.

          This is not a challenge. I’m really curious.

          1. Queen of the Lab*

            Ongoing condescension is pretty common in the community, so I now usually just keep to myself. It is generally not an issue at my current position but I hope to go elsewhere, eventually, after finishing my master’s degree. As it was pointed out above: I can effectively communicate with a diverse range of people, so I have work friends who are on the grounds crew and work friends who have Ph.Ds. Part of the hostility is because I’m not from this region of the country. I am from a different rural, economically depressed region. The only major difference that I can see between where I am from and here is that where I am from has a very good primary and secondary public education system. Education is not valued here. It’s not like I got an education to embarrass other working class people. I got an education because I thought it would be cool to be Queen of the Lab, and generally it is.

      2. Mike C.*

        Having the label means you can identify the situation you’re in and the differences between those in your group and those in others.

    7. breadrolls*

      I definitely have some of this, though not as much as plenty of others. I grew up in a rural area surrounded by my mom’s immediate family. Her parents were farmers (neither ever got more than an eigth grade education), and she grew up working on the farm. Her first paying job while she was in school was milking cows. But mom plowed through school with amazing grades, went to college for free, even got her MA in a science field. But then she moved back home, and when her parents retired the farm they gifted the land to their kids, so my mom and all of her siblings built houses there. When my mom had kids she left her science job, and when my parents divorced she started working as a teacher making $25k at a private school.

      We (mom+sib+me) didn’t really struggle financially because my dad paid child support and mom rented the tiny apartment above our garage, but we were lower middle class, and steeped in a family culture of truck drivers and carpenters and admins in an area of dying industry. Mom would have Pépère come over to shoot the woodchucks that loved her garden too much. My aunt next door had horses and cows and chickens. Tractors bailed the hay from the fields every summer. And how things were for my family was really the norm. Almost everyone I went to school with knew getting out was basically the only way to do better than (or even as well as) our parents.

      I’m now working in an office in a major metro area, and I love being here, but I don’t always know how to connect to people who’ve never had anything like that. But similarly I’m disconnected from the parts of my family that have known nothing else. I struggle to understand how networking is somehow so normalized, and I don’t get brands, or food etiquette, or business attire conventions. But I also don’t know what it’s like to have your home foreclosed on, or be laid off and have to take a 30% pay cut to get any work, or to be prevented from going to the college you want because you’re denied a loan. I honestly don’t feel I have a right to complain about how my life has gone, but it is a little uncomfortable sometimes. It’s odd to be aware of both how much you have and how much you don’t depending on who you share a room with.

      1. Queen of the Lab*

        Very succinct description of how I feel a lot, although this thread has definitely made me more aware that I am more concerned with how other working class folks react to me, as opposed to my middle class colleagues. The middle class colleagues *mostly* think my venison hunting/ butchering is interesting and that my spouse’s chicken flock is adorable. I like them but I have no idea why they want to go on cruises or live in a subdivision.

    8. AnonAcademic*

      My husband is a straddler who grew up rural poor as a young child, and then lower middle class in the suburbs as an adolescent. We are now middle class (for our high COL area) or upper middle class (compared to national median household income). It has been an uncomfortable journey for him but he copes a bit by seeing himself as almost like a spy – someone sent in to infiltrate a group, learn and master their ways, etc. He also is trying to let go of survivor guilt when he sees his friends who didn’t get out of the economically depressed area he’s from and they are stuck in the same kinds of jobs as they had 10 years ago whereas he’s climbed several career rungs. A lot of them are very bitter and angry and he understands that, but realizes he needs some distance from all that anger especially when it translates into xenophobia a la “XYZ group is STEALING OUR JOBS” and that kind of thing.

    9. Ad Astra*

      I felt this way in school, too, because my parents were both very bright people who had started college degrees but never finished. They talked like white collar people, or really more like academics, but my dad worked a series of blue collar jobs, my mom was disabled, and we lived in blue collar neighborhoods (or sometimes government housing). So, all my blue collar classmates thought I talked funny. All of my white collar classmates thought I dressed funny and didn’t have any manners.

      Mostly I just fake it, and I’ve learned to live with the fact that I sometimes make white collar people feel uncomfortable. It’s not my fault that middle class people are so weird when it comes to talking about money.

    10. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We sort of did an open thread on this a long time ago (ending up in a white collar job when you grew up in a blue collar family) — let me know if y’all would like another one.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think it would be a good idea. When I was going up the working class WAS the middle class. They worked as opposed to living off trust funds. I guess now working class is lower middle class or poor? I’m ot clear on this point, as I read down through. And I am wondering about farmers and others who do physical labor. I knew someone who welds that made $50 per hour. I doubt I will ever see that. Right now, I am surrounded by farmers whose tractors cost MORE than my HOUSE and they have a few of these machines. Are class lines going by income or by the type of work?

    11. Lady Bug*

      I don’t get why I have to fit in with any group at all, based on my education or financial situation. I’m me. Like me, awesome. Hate me, awesome. I do a good job at work, that’s all that matters. If you don’t think I’m a good employee because I don’t fit it your box, I don’t want to work with you anyway.

      I grew up with some struggles, we had a house but were periodically on food stamps. Now I’m a middle class lawyer. I have friends that range all income levels and all types of jobs. None of that shit matters. What matters is you are good people that I have fun with and care about.

    12. Jessica (tc)*

      I’m a first-generation college graduate for both sides of my family, including extended family members. I am graduating with my master’s degree this month, and I’m feeling it more and more. One side of my family basically disowned me while I was obtaining the B.A. (because why the heck did I need to go and get all uppity for?) and now only my parents and one niece know that I’m getting a master’s degree (because “if you say you’re getting it, they’ll think you’re only telling them to rub it in their faces,” which is a direct quote from the parent whose side of the family I’m still in contact with). My husband’s family is upper-middle class, and I was blue-collar, working class all the way. I most recently worked with a customer-base of upper class people, which was amazingly different and unusual for me, and I luckily did not have to schmooze most of the time, or I would have been well out of my depth and comfort level for that.

      All that to say that I feel you very much, and I’m still working through my own discomfort as a straddler in limbo in both my personal and professional relationships. I know that I’ve not really reached for jobs that I was qualified for because of how my family might view it — plus imposter syndrome, because how could anyone from my background be qualified for a truly professional job? I’m struggling with that right now, because of my master’s degree: I need to go for jobs I’m qualified for, but I’m scared and worried that I won’t find one and that will prove my family members right about reaching above my “level.” :(

  18. Evie*

    Can someone direct me to the discussion on payroll companies? I tried looking through the old open threads but couldn’t find it.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Search function is a bit quirky sometimes…You’re right we just had that discussion about 2-3 weeks ago…I remember ADP, Paychex and a few other companies were mentioned…

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Another big one is Ceridian. The last 2 projects I’ve been involved with have had Ceridian as the payroll processor.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            I didn’t deal with anyone there directly; we just had to write some interfaces to get employee information into our ERP system. But we were able to get everything we needed mapped to the correct place, and I don’t recall there being any huge issues.

  19. Random Lurker*

    Sorry for the long backstory on this one, but need help dodging office gossip when you are the target. I’m very much a mind your own business type, but since this involves me, I’m having a hard time avoiding the bullshit.

    Backstory: My boss has resigned. He was a very divisive figure. Some loved him, some hated him. I was able to see both the good and the bad, and am very mixed on him leaving. Because of his mixed perception around the office, I’ve been getting all sorts of gossip thrown my way about why he’s leaving, etc. I can easily ignore this because 1) I know the truth; and 2) even if I didn’t, I don’t care, because it doesn’t change the fact that he’s gone, and that impacts me greatly (both good and bad). Where the problem lies is that he isn’t going to be backfilled, and they haven’t decided what they are going to do with the role. This week, I’ve heard no fewer than a dozen rumors about what this means for me (promotion, demotion, having to report to a peer whom I do not like, breaking up my team, absorbing other teams, realignments, etc). It’s driving me insane, because I know that nobody who is spreading these rumors know anymore than me. It’s really crazy how many people are pretending that they are in “the know”, and trying to lord that over me. I haven’t decided if I am interested in the vacated position or not, but while I’m figuring that out, I feel like I have to listen to this crap so I don’t offend any potential allies if I decide to make a play for the role.

    What advice can anyone give me to shutting this behavior down, while not alienating anyone?

    1. lulu*

      Maybe you can casually mention something like this: “You know, I heard 5 different theories about what was going to happen in the last 2 days, so by now I take these things with a grain of salt.” If you don’t sound interested, but sound cheerful about it, they will stop sharing gossip with you.

      1. Pineapple Incident*

        That’s probably the best advice to shut that down. Something that suggests you don’t know anything about what will happen and guessing won’t really help.

    2. LCL*

      The most professional way is to smile and change the subject. ‘Wow, it’s hot outside, etc’.
      The most entertaining and not totally unprofessional way is to tell anyone who talks to you about this is to tell them all of the theories you have heard, and name sources.

    3. Sami*

      What about phrases along the line of: “Hmm… That’s a possibility. I suppose we’ll all just have to wait and see.”
      “Sure, that might happen.”
      “I think it might be ___, but ___ could happen too.”

      Good luck!

    4. OhNo*

      If they seem to be doing it with the intention of lording their questionable knowledge over you (which I totally believe, because some people are weird like that), you can either puncture their self-importance or flatter them to get them to stop.

      The easiest way is to mention that you heard the same thing from someone else. If you’re looking to flatter, say it was someone higher up to imply that they are ‘in’ with someone in management. If you’re looking to deflate, make it someone at or below your level to imply that it is common knowledge and they were among the last to know.

      E.g.: “Oh, yes, Fergus mentioned that possibility to me earlier. Did you hear it from him, too?”

      1. TootsNYC*

        Oh, I wouldn’t do that–that just makes the gossip keep going. I like the “You know, I’ve heard so many people say so many things, and I don’t think any of us know that much, actually. Can we talk about something else? I’m getting gossip fatigue.”

        Flat-out say that you want to shut the topic down. Just be straightforward, but keep the tone friendly: “I’m hoping to not be in any of these conversations anymore; it’s not actually getting any of us anywhere, and I’m finding all the speculation sort of stressful.”

    5. Argh!*

      I use trite phrases like “It’s too soon to tell,” or “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” There’s something about pithy folk wisdom that cuts the gossips off at the knees. Or perhaps I remind them of their grandparents. Either way, it seems to work for me.

      Not knowing what will happen next at the higher levels is extremely stressful. I have been through it (and lost a job due to changes at the top) and I’m going through it now. I fully expect the new boss to make changes just to show the higher-ups that he’s proactive, smart, etc. whatever being a “change agent” means. Having been through it before, I just don’t want to talk about it at work. I was blind-sided at my last job and I would rather just focus on the present since there’s no way to predict these things anyway.

    6. Girasol*

      Ex-company used to hold rumor control meetings that started as boring uninformative manager announcements (“don’t believe what you hear, no decisions have actually been made…”) and wandered into the humorous. Specific rumors were aired and people tried to top one another with increasingly ridiculous ones. Surfacing the rumors for a good round of laughs was probably the best rumor control ever. Your mention of contradictory stories reminded me of that.

  20. Nobody*

    I am so frustrated with companies that make work boots. I need composite-toe shoes for work, and it is freaking impossible to find them in women’s sizes. I don’t even care if they are marked as “women’s” shoes, but I wear a 7.5 women’s, which I think is 5.5-6 in men’s sizes, and men’s shoes are rarely available in sizes smaller than 7 or 8. My company periodically brings in a safety shoe truck (a mobile shoe store specializing in safety shoes); I checked it out once, and they had ONE pair of shoes available in my size.

    I hate the work boots I wear now, but every time someone recommends a brand that is really comfortable, guess what? They don’t make composite-toe shoes in women’s sizes (or small men’s sizes). I’m looking at you, Keen and Timberland. It’s the 21st century! Women work in industrial jobs now! It’s not even necessary to make a special women’s model — just take the men’s shoes and make them available in slightly smaller sizes.

    1. Jubilance*

      I’m so unfamiliar with composite toe – are they less common than steel toes? Do the safety shoe trucks have more sizing available in steel toe options and could any of those work for you? Is it possible to find something on Amazon and then get reimbursed?

      1. Nobody*

        Yes, composite toes are less common than steel toes. I’m not sure why — I much prefer composite toes because they are lighter (steel toes make me feel like I’m wearing bricks on my feet), and I have to go through a metal detector to get into work. There is more of a selection available in steel toes, but it is still pretty limited in women’s sizes. Reimbursement isn’t even an issue; I just get an extra $150 in my paycheck for shoes once a year. I just have a lot of trouble finding anything anywhere that meets my needs, and I haven’t been satisfied with any of the shoes I’ve bought. I work mostly with men, and I’ve heard great things from them about Keen and Timberland shoes, so I’d really like to try them, but they don’t make composite-toe shoes in my size.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Yes! I really like shoes for crews and IIRC they have a bunch of kinds of work shoes, maybe they have the composite toe.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      That’s weird, because I live in a fairly small metropolitan area, and we have a store with a variety of safety boots in men’s and women’s sizes, including women’s boots with purple or pink highlights. But the store is back in a corner of a shopping area, so unless you knew about it, you wouldn’t realize it was there.

      1. Nobody*

        Well, part of the problem is that I am specifically looking for composite-toe shoes, which are harder to find than regular work boots (with no safety toe) or even steel-toe shoes. I also have a lot of foot pain from working on my feet a lot, so I am pretty picky about comfort. Keen and Timberland composite-toe shoes are pretty popular among the men at work, but I can’t get the same ones in my size.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Is it at all possible to retrofit composite toe covers in a pair of regular work boots? Would a cobbler /shoe repair place e able to help you answer that?

          1. TootsNYC*

            oh, maybe not:

            from the Gemplers site

            6. Are add-on protective devices sufficient?
            According to both ANSI and ASTM standards, protective toe caps must be an integral and permanent part of the footwear, so add-on devices do not meet those requirements. While those two standards exclude add-ons, however, it does not mean that such devices are not acceptable to OSHA. Those standards state that if the device has independent testing data to show that it provides protection equivalent to the ANSI requirements, the add-on protective devices are acceptable to OSHA.

            1. Nobody*

              Yeah, good idea, but company policy requires me to have shoes that comply with a specific ANSI standard.

      2. Student*

        The purple or pink thing is also, quite bluntly, terrible for work environments where women need these. The last thing I want to do when I’m the only woman surrounded by a bunch of guys is give them something easy to make fun of, tease about, or significantly gender-differentiate me by. I just want to do my job and be taken seriously, not try out for the my-little-pony fan club.

        1. Nobody*

          Haha, I’m glad I’m not the only one who is annoyed by the fact that shoe companies think women’s shoes need to be pink and purple. I’m a grown woman — I don’t need my work shoes to match a Disney princess outfit.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        It was nearly 40 years ago that I needed steel toed boots for a summer job and Red Wing was the only brand I could find in women’s 6. They were expensive! I still have them.

      2. Nobody*

        Thanks for the suggestion, but the boots I wear now are Red Wings and I can’t stand them. I’m really disappointed because I thought Red Wings were supposed to be comfortable, but they kill my feet. I had a pair of Worx (Red Wing’s budget brand) that were ok, except they started falling apart in less than a year, and I figured Red Wings would be better, but no. Red Wing doesn’t allow retailers to sell them online, so I had to special order them from a local store (because of course they don’t keep the women’s styles in stock) and wait 6 weeks for them to come in.

        1. Clever Name*

          That’s frustrating. I wear a women’s 7.5 and I adore my red wing safety toe shoes. We have stores here and I walked in and said what I’d be doing, the guy measured my feet, told me I have high arches and a high instep and fitted me with the boots that are going strong 7 years later. And insoles. I love my red wing insoles they’re speedy, but I don’t get foot, knee or back pain when I wear them.

    3. LCL*

      Five seconds of googling showed me several sources for women’s timberland work boots. Look for the Pro line. Some had composite toes. You have to be willing to mail order, and even order from Zappo’s/Amazon.
      The one pair of women’s Timberlands I ordered ran small, which was kinda disappointing because I paid a lot extra to get them customized. They are still sitting in my locker, I haven’t the heart to thrift store ’em yet.
      If you decide to go with men’s boots, start by sizing down 1 whole size.
      I wear a women’s 11, generally I buy men’s 10 work boots.

      1. Nobody*

        Really? Can you tell me the model name for the women’s Timberland composite-toe shoes? I checked the Timberland web site, and they do not list any women’s shoes with composite toes. They have 28 models of men’s shoes with composite toes, but the smallest size available is men’s 7.

        1. fposte*

          I just found one composite-toe shoe for women on Amazon (Original S.W.A.T.) and several men’s composite-toe shoes that have size 5.5. The brands were mainly Original S.W.A.T., Maelstrom, Reebok, Bass, and Timberland. Zappo’s has women’s composite toe shoes from Ariat, Carhartt, Caterpillar, and Reebok; they have men’s Timberlands that go down to 5.5.

          Basically, you gotta let go of brick and mortar.

    4. Jules the First*

      Check out Ariat’s stuff. (Google for safety or work boots specifically, or you’ll get their equestrian line which isn’t always suitable, depending on why you need workboots).

      Not only do they do most of their styles in steel or composite toes in ladies sizes, they do half sizes! They also do a line of safety clogs and shoes which are an attractive and comfortable alternative if you need to be both smart and steel-toed.

      They’re the only brand I buy (I wear a 5.5 – if I have to borrow site boots inexpectedly, I wear three pairs of ski socks and shuffle around, so I feel your pain!)

      1. Nobody*

        Thanks for the suggestion! I’m not familiar with Ariat but I will definitely consider them. I don’t want tall boots, but it looks like they have some 5″ and 6″ styles that would work.

      2. justsomeone*

        I love Ariat! I have a super comfy pair of “cowboy” boots that I wear around. They were comfy right out of the box.

    5. Mockingjay*

      Ariat and other equestrian boot makes have all kinds of women’s work boots, with composite and steel toes. I bought a pair of composite for my last job.

      Locally, try Tractor Supply. That’s where I got mine. Online, equestrian catalogs. I recommend Dover or Schneider’s. Links follow:
      http://www.doversaddlery.com/

      http://www.sstack.com/

    6. First time for everything*

      Check farming gear for children’s sizes. My friend had the same issue and she is a women’s size six.

    7. Anon Moose*

      I also highly recommend looking into different insoles if your shoes are killing your feet. I used superfeet insoles in work boots I had (I think they were timberland titanium toe? They were much lighter than steel toe) and it made a world of difference.

    8. Student*

      These are the best I’ve found: http://www.carolinashoe.com. Took me a while to dig them up when I had the same problem. My feet are smaller than yours, and I found some that fit pretty well – I use the waterproof 4×4 hiker’s carbon composite toes (woman’s size 6 for me). I love these ones though, they fit me well and I don’t have problems with them getting sweaty or hurting my feet anywhere after a day on the move.

      It was so infuriating that I could find toddler’s sized safety toe shoes in the brick and mortar stores more easily than I could find safety toe shoes that would fit an adult woman! Took a dozen web sites before I dug up this one. I was so relieved when they fit.

      1. Nobody*

        Oh, nice — they even have an Oxford style. I think I found my next pair of shoes. Thanks!

    9. Short geologist*

      Depends on what your feet are like. I hate red wings too, and I need a wide toe box. I only wear doc martins – they do have composites, but I admit that I wear steel toes. I end up hiking mountains, snowshoeing, and standing on concrete for days on end and they work well.

      1. Lindsay J*

        This. I have a pair of Doc Martins work boots (steel toe) and they are amazing. And I wear women’s 6.5 and they have a size to fit me.

    10. Mander*

      In a way I’m fortunate to be a bigger woman because I can wear men’s sizes, but man, I hear this complaint all the time. I am seriously thinking about starting a company that sells safety gear in smaller women’s sizes, because so.dang.many of my colleagues find it ridiculously difficult if not impossible to find work stuff that fits them properly. Some of them aren’t even particularly small! It baffles me that retailers haven’t grabbed the opportunity to make such things more widely available.

      1. Clever Name*

        I had to special order a pair of work coveralls when I did groundwater sampling. Don’t even get me started on how ridiculous I look in the men’s medium high visibility vest

        1. Clever Name*

          Or hip waders. There are a thousand options for men’s waders, but to find some In women’s sizes, you’re down to 3 options.

  21. Wrench Turner*

    Welcome to another 584,000,000 miles around our parent star! You’ve come a long way!

  22. Christian Troy*

    I posted last week about people talking about my age during the interview process. I just wanted to update that somehow things got significantly weirder and worse during the second interview so I doubt I’ll ever hear anything again. Basically, they flat out asked me how old I was and if there was anything about my personal life I wanted to tell them. When I didn’t answer the question, they circled back to the line of questioning by saying things like, “I like spending time with my kids and living in the suburbs. Do you have similar activities? If you were to move here, would you get an apartment by yourself or maybe a house in the suburbs?”. It was so transparent it wasn’t even funny.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Uh, nope.

      At that point, I would have written them off and been tempted to give them an answer like, “Well, on my last birthday–I’ve really forgotten when that was–I think I was 585 years old. I like late nights, but I never drink….wine.”

    2. designbot*

      I probably would have said “I’m old enough to know that you’re not legally allowed to consider that in the hiring process, if that’s what you’re asking.”

    3. Snazzy Hat*

      “I like spending time with my kids and living in the suburbs. Do you have similar activities? If you were to move here, would you get an apartment by yourself or maybe a house in the suburbs?”.

      Two things in this quote make me laugh: Parsing the first sentence as “I like spending time with my kids and I like spending time living in the suburbs,” as though “living in the suburbs” is an activity s/he does for fun, and the thought that “I would get an apartment in the suburbs” would be a great confusing response. Kudos for showing them you saw through the questions.

    4. Girasol*

      It probably doesn’t help to know you’re not alone, does it? I got a flat out “Why aren’t you retired??” in an interview when I was 50. I told them I had fifteen more years in my career at least. It worked and I was hired but it is an ageist workplace. If I make a point of making myself heard some people respond as though a houseplant weighed in on a business decision and they’re alarmed that someone might think its input more credible than theirs. Some very strange comments only make sense if I imagine the speaker thinking, “If an aging woman can do this job, my whole self worth is threatened!” One deals with it but the daily grind is like being nibbled to death by mosquitoes. So you might be quite right if you just said “Sour grapes, I didn’t want to work there anyway.”

  23. Anon for Open Thread*

    Question for the group:

    If you have an alternative lifestyle, do you come out to your employer/coworkers about it? A little about my situation: I’m polyamorous and in two committed relationships, but only really talk about one at work…but the one I don’t talk about actually has social connections that overlap with people in my office, so I’m concerned about being accidentally outed.

    So, 1) Are you out about it at work? How has that worked for you (or not)?
    2) Were you outed intentionally or accidentally?
    3) Has there been any fallout? How did you handle it if there was?
    4) What signs do you look for in a potential employer to see if their culture would be accepting of your lifestyle/the way you are?

    This doesn’t just need to be a question for polyamorous people – I feel like this question applies to people on the LGBTQ spectrum or with non-traditional lifestyles. I realize this is also dependent on company culture.

    1. Ihmmy*

      I’m also poly and I talk pretty openly about my partners. I don’t shove it in peoples faces but I’ll sometimes say things like “my out of town partner”, “my local partner”, “I just started seeing X…”. I mentioned a little while ago that I was seeing a few people and the responses I got were mostly “oh keep your options open good idea!” which isn’t quite what this is, but I’m not really worried about explaining my relationship structures at this point to them either.

      basically, I don’t hide it, I don’t shove it in their face, I’m happy to answer questions but I don’t feel the need to polysplain at them either. It’s worked well so far, no one’s been weird about it.

      1. Anon for Open Thread*

        I think that sounds like a decent situation. I’ve struggled with people asking how I’m doing and what exciting thing I did this past weekend, and I really just want to talk about the really cool thing I did with the SO I’m not out about, and I just have to talk about a cool thing I did with a “friend”. It sucks not being able to share my life when people are all, “Oh yeah, my husband/kid/boyfriend and I did x, y, and z.”

        It’s actually kind of hurting my standing here because my boss notices that I’m not very social with the office, but I haven’t really told him it’s because I don’t want to out myself about having two committed relationships.

        1. Ihmmy*

          oh I just realized I totally ignored the rest of the queries there.

          When I started here I read up on a bunch of their stuff, including things like Values. In my interview they asked me a bit about their values/mission etc and I mentioned that their Value of “unconditional positive regard” was something I really liked. That was a good sign to me about being able to not have to hide too much. Plus it’s a union job, so security is pretty good as long as you don’t screw up horribly. And it’s a fairly liberal city I’m in, being a college town we have lots of young people running about.

          I also decided about a year ago that I wasn’t going to hide my poly side. There are things relating to my sex life that others don’t need to know, but my relationships matter to me and I don’t want to leave them unacknowledged. I’d been through a big breakup around then, decided to sidle into solo poly instead of a hierarchy structure, and just didn’t feel like tiptoeing around it.

      2. Marvel*

        I’m also polyamorous (not… really as a distinct lifestyle choice; it’s just kinda happened at a couple of different times in my life). I struggle with this all the time–I have a partner who I’ve been with for 6.5 years, who I talk about all the time, and then we both have a new-ish boyfriend we’ve been with for the past few months. I refer to them as “my partner” and “my boyfriend,” but I think people generally assume I’m talking about the same person, since they’re both male, which bugs me a little. I might steal the “local partner” and “long-distance partner” wording.

    2. Dawn*

      I have a good friend and former co-worker who was poly and very open about it in his life. He would just talk about his life with his wife and his girlfriend like it was the most normal thing in the world, and his attitude about it is what set the tone for everyone else in the office. I’m sure there might have been some behind the scenes pearl clutching from a couple of people but for the most part, once people had the initial “Wait did you say your girlfriend? I thought you were married?” conversation things were fine.

    3. also anon for this*

      It’s no one’s business if I’m dating a man or a woman. I don’t really talk about my love life at work and I luckily work at a company where I don’t know about most people’s love life/marital status/family. I like keeping my private life private.

      I was outed intentionally at my last company by a gay man who was horribly biphobic and misogynistic, so that was fun. HR was really uncomfortable dealing with my complaints because apparently they didn’t realize the LGBTQA+ community has their own in-fighting and isn’t one happy rainbow parade of sunshine and love.

      But my last company had a lot of LGBTQA+ allies who were “allies” in the traditional mainstream sense – quoting Dan Savage as if he’s the only person who gives LGBTQA+ “advice”, wanting a gay friend to gossip with about boys and go shopping, thinking gay marriage was the only concern for the gay community, not realizing that queer meant more than cis white middle class gay men – so it was one of those places that looked like it was accepting, but was kind of….not? Sometimes I find allies unintentionally do more harm than good and companies may have a genuine wish to be inclusive, but if there aren’t any LGBTQA+ individuals on their diversity board, they don’t always understand how to be inclusive without being insulting.

      Honestly, when I look at new employers, I make sure they’re not a company that’s spoken out against LGBTQA+ rights. It’s nice if I know they’ve supported women or the the LGBTQA+ community in some way, but as long as people won’t bother me about my business and I’m free to do my work and go home, I’m cool. I’m over the “so how did you know you were bi?/how many men or women have you dated” questions and I’m really, really over being someone’s token bi coworker.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        I’ve so often had the experience that clueless allies drown out the voices of the people they want to help…

        1. RVA Cat*

          Kind of like guys mansplaining feminism? Even worse when it’s obvious they’re trolling for dates….

        2. also anon for this*

          Definitely. I’ve found a lot of allies like making themselves feel good for supporting a cause and latch onto the mainstream idea behind the cause without really listening to the people who are affected by the issue.

        3. Lily Evans*

          I had a facebook friend who is one of those allies. On the day that marriage equality was legalized in the US, she made a really angry post about how other “allies” were posting about that, but not twelve other lesser known LGBT+ issues. It made me angry because how dare she call herself an ally and in the same post assume that everyone she’s fb friends with is straight unless they’ve specifically told her otherwise.

      2. NarrowDoorways*

        I basically never address orientation. If someone asks me what I’m doing for the evening and I mention a date, I don’t hide pronouns but don’t explain. I have yet to have someone ask about why I sometimes say he and sometimes she.

        I stay casual and matter-of-fact and I think everyone else follows my lead.

        1. Anon for Open Thread*

          I really like this approach, and if I end up coming out at work I think this is what I would use. With friends I very casually say, “Oh yeah, my other significant other, [name], did x, y, and z this weekend, so that’s cool.” Most of the time I get a double take and a question about it, but I feel like at work there would likely be less inquiry.

      3. Mander*

        That must be very irksome, and I have to admit that there’s a whole spectrum of LGBTQA+ that I haven’t thought about much. But while I don’t think I’ve ever called myself an “ally”, I’ve always been very accepting of other peoples’ sexuality and gender identities. Unless I am in a relationship with you, your preferences are none of my concern (and vice versa). If you consider yourself a particular gender, then from my perspective that’s what you are. I don’t make a big deal out of being an advocate or an ally or whatever (because that’s more about me than it is about the people who are being discriminated against) but I do speak up in appropriate situations.

    4. 3D Queen*

      I think there’s a pretty big difference between coming out as LGBT* at work (not a lifestyle) and telling folks you’re polyamorous (much more arguably a lifestyle, a very small section of the poly community considers it hardwired into their identity, but most don’t). As someone who’s both queer and poly, I’ve never shielded my personal life from conversation at work when it comes up — but to be honest I’ve also always lived in large liberal cities and worked in industries where being unusual is the norm (restaurant and creative). It was probably actually easier for me because I have a very alternative look (think large tattoos, etc) so when I mention it, people are just like “duh” and even usually follow it up with a “wow I wish I could do that but I get too jealous” (worst case is people will ask questions because they don’t quite get it, but I’m never offended because I put my life out there in part so people will see how normal and boring “alternative lifestyles” can be). I’ve been super lucky to never once have received any pushback, but I have purposefully looked for LGBT* friendliness in every position I’ve considered before I took the gig. As a bonus, if a company is super LGBT* friendly, they probably won’t give a fig about your two partners (totally a generalization, but I’ve found it to be pretty true). Good luck!

      1. Anon for Open Thread*

        My company is international, so we have adopted some of the more European (EU/UK area) type values into our handbook even though we’re in the US – think legal protections for people based on gender identity, etc – but the company still has a very heteronormative culture.

    5. Cambridge Comma*

      I’m not straight (but not poly). I work in a very conservative organization (but not in North America, so it’s a different flavour of conservative).
      I am out to everyone, all the time, from the first relevant conversation. I have a poster about tolerance on my door etc. The earlier the easier, I find. Slip it into the conversation and move on to something else. Treat it like the small deal it should be and others will follow.
      (Having said that, we have a kind of universal basic income in the country I live in, so I can risk losing my job.)

    6. Anon for this*

      I was poly for some time, and was not out about it at work. This led to a couple of problems:

      -Once in a while, a co-worker would see me out with someone else, or my then-primary out with someone else, and try to nose out whether we were cheating, which could get awkward.

      -I had a horrific breakup with a secondary at one point. Just wrecked me. I was in a miserable mood for several months, distracted at work, really just wished I could briefly confide in someone there, and never did, so it all stayed bottled up, and I’m sure they must have wondered what was wrong with me. If I’d broken up with my primary, the one they knew I was dating, I could have just said “Ugh, Wakeen and I broke up,” and they’d all have been sympathetic and probably cut me a little extra slack for a bit.

      So, it was kind of a problem to be closeted, but with at least one of the jobs I had during that time, it probably would have been worse to come out as poly. I was already a Bad Culture Fit and it wouldn’t have helped. The other place I worked during that time, I probably could and should have told; they probably would have been fine. I think one of them even kind of worked it out, since he ran into me at the gay bar with a girlfriend, but I never confirmed it.

      1. Anon for Open Thread*

        I’ve been in a similar breakup scenario myself while not being out at work, and I can agree – it really sucks. I would have loved to just say, “Sorry I’m in a bad mood – I just dealt with some relationship problems, I need a little while and I’ll be back on point.”

    7. Allison Mary*

      I agree pretty wholeheartedly with Ihmmy’s approach and Dawn’s coworker’s approach.

      In response to your questions:
      1) Well, I’m waiting for my new job to start in October. Once it starts, and as soon as there’s an opportunity to come out “organically” (i.e., the exact same way hetero monogamous people come out at work), I will take the earliest opportunity possible to come out about being poly. In my last full-time position, I made a point of bringing it up to co-workers I was very friendly with, when I was fluttering with NRE about someone new, or when I was excited about a poly event. I talked about it like it was completely normal, and as if I would expect others to react like it was completely normal. I do think that this helped set the tone.

      2) Intentionally. See above.

      3) In the last full-time position, no. One of my more conservative co-workers clearly thought it was “very weird”and she didn’t understand how I could do it. But that was about it. There tended to be more opportunities for me to talk about it organically with co-workers – I don’t think it ever came up with anyone in any kind of a management or supervisory role. I think my conversations with management tended to be more “all-business” where my conversations with co-workers on the same level as me tended to cover more topics about our personal lives.

      4) I would consider my geographical location to be a huge part of it. I might be a little more hesitant to be so open about being poly if I was in a very conservative area of the South. Personally, I live and work in a fairly liberal city in the Pacific Northwest (in fact, within the past year, we outranked San Francisco as the “kinkiest” city in the US), so the odds of my employer being unfazed by polyamory or other untraditional relationship structures, are petty high – even though the industry I’m heading into is known for being very conservative (accounting).

      I agree with Dan Savage that within the minds of the average American, being poly today is probably where being gay/lesbian was, about 30 years ago. But the way that we change that is by coming out, whenever and wherever possible.

      1. Anon for Open Thread*

        Thanks for such a thorough response! I really appreciated reading it and hearing what has worked and what your plans are moving forward.

        I’m in a relatively liberal city, but there’s a solid undercurrent of conservative values that our community battles with on a regular basis.

        1. Allison Mary*

          I think that the undercurrent of conservative values is around in most places – that’s why they’re social norms. If you’re reasonably confident that your co-workers won’t be jerks about it, I’d encourage you to come out about it just like a hetero monogamous person would: matter-of-factly, and in casual conversation, like it’s not even a thing.

          For example:
          You: “Sounds like you had fun this weekend! I got a little activity in, too – my husband and my boyfriend and I all went on this great hike together on Sunday. The trails were a little wet/muddy, but it was so great to get out into the woods again.”
          Colleague: “Wait, what?”
          You: “Oh yeah, my husband and I are non-monogamous. We hang out frequently with his other girlfriend and my other boyfriend. So, about that project for Fergus we started working on, did he say he needed it by Wednesday?”

    8. Just A Girl*

      Queer and poly here, in a permanent relationship with two cis opposite-sex partners. We have a kid, and I’m legal-married to one of then.

      I talk about them like they’re family, when family comes up. Because my company is a little bit conservative, I watch my language. People who know what poly is pick up on it; people who don’t get it seem to think my partner is some kind of child-care provider, and I don’t correct them because I don’t talk about my sex life at work. I list both partners as equal beneficiaries and emergency contacts.

      I’ve only ever experienced biphobia, and that from a gay straight alliance in college. Feeling pretty lucky in that regard. We’ve even nearly convinced hold-out grandparent #6, who was worried for his child, that this is good, permanent stuff.

      The queer thing never comes up because I’m not in any relationships that are visibly queer. No one asks, and I don’t volunteer the information.

      Passing privilege is half blessing and half curse.

    9. Jennifer*

      I think this one depends entirely on culture and location of where you live. If you’re in an urban hippie enclave where everyone else is also an urban hippie (especially if anyone else is super obviously alternative), you can get away with it. If you’re anything else, I’d probably recommend to keep your mouth shut unless you get any indicators it may be safe to be out.

    10. AnonAcademic*

      I live near San Francisco and either there are more people in poly relationships here, people are way more open about it, or both. I’ve seen it handled both well and poorly. One friend, who I knew as having only Partner A, said something casually like “Oh by the way I should mention, Partner A and I also have a Partner B who we live with” and then carried on telling their story (which involved B so the explanation was topical). Another time during my first introduction to someone they introduced the fact that they have multiple partners by saying something like “Partner A would LOVE to be here tonight but had to work, so this is Partner B who came with me instead.” It wasn’t really necessary to explain her relationship structure at that point, and there was a tone of dismissiveness and entitledness about it – a bit of “oh my preferred boyfriend was busy so I brought the back up boyfriend, good thing I’m so desirable.” It made me feel bad and uncomfortable for Partner B who was acting like a fish out of water.

    11. MM*

      I would check out your company’s hr policies- some of them may have some sort of “morality” clause that would allow them to fire someone for bs reasons. I’d also talk to your partners about this if you aren’t already, so that they know where you are open about being poly and where you are not. Also ask around in the poly community where you are for places that they have found accepting of their relationships. Good luck

  24. Carmen Sandiego*

    I suffer from seasonal allergies, and very occasionally, they’re so bad (even with medication) that I feel drained and exhausted by midday. On days like this when I absolutely need to be at work and a sick day isn’t feasible, I have sometimes shut my office door, rested my head on my desk for 10 minutes and then resumed plugging along, which helps a little. I always set an alarm on my phone in case I doze off. Is this unprofessional? I don’t know how else to cope with it.

    1. TCO*

      I think it’s totally fine, though that could depend a bit on your office culture. Most likely no one is noticing, and if they are, how is a 10-minute nap break any different from a 10-minute break to smoke, call your kids, make a coffee run, or do any of the other things we rely on to survive the workday?

    2. Guinness*

      I would follow similar advice that Alison gave for the person that wanted to have their boyfriend stay in her hotel on a work trip…. you can’t do it until you establish yourself as reliable and a quality worker.

    3. Laura*

      Depends on what your workplace environment is like. Can you guarantee privacy for those 10 minutes? I don’t think it’s professional to be SEEN to sleep at work, but as a fellow allergy-sufferer, I 100% relate to and support you here!

    4. KR*

      My boss is asleep in his chair right now, so at least in my office it wouldn’t be unprofessional.

  25. anon for this*

    Help me brainstorm for a career transition!

    I’m five years into my career as a mid-level health care professional (not nursing, but OT/PT/SLP) and am quickly burning out. It’s a challenging time, as insurance companies are limiting visits and patients are dealing with high co-pays. I am tired of our leadership team pressing for more patient visits and more billable units. I feel undervalued given my education, motivation, and additional projects I’ve completed (coordinating continuing education programs, for example). If I continue in this role, the next step would likely be managing a clinic, which I am not confident I would enjoy (I’m not sure I would make a great manager). Additionally, the opportunities for promotion are few and far between.

    I do enjoy problem-solving and working with people. I enjoy math and editing and I’m a strong writer. I’m proficient at our electronic medical record (Epic).

    It is important to me to find a career with potential for growth through skill development and promotions. Job availability is a major consideration because I’m unable to relocate at this time (I live in a mid-sized Midwestern city). Starting salary would hopefully be at least $60k due to my remaining student loans. Some flexibility (being able to flex hours or work from home) is less important, but would be a bonus.

    Any thoughts or ideas? Anyone working in a place where I might be a good fit? What does your average day look like? What skills should I work on developing? Thanks all :)

    1. Revolver Rani*

      “I enjoy math and editing and I’m a strong writer.” You might look into technical writing. I made a career change into technical writing about seven years ago and it’s been so much fun. Technical writing jobs might also be advertised as “content developer” or “technical communications” or phrases like that. As for career development, there’s obviously a lot of variation in the industry, but at my company there have been opportunities to move into both management roles and content design sort of roles – one of the things I do is develop standards and guidelines for different kinds of content that we write.

      I’m trying to write around things that might out myself, but – I’ll be happy to tell you more of what I know about tech writing and answer questions about it. And maybe there are other tech writers reading AAM who want to chime in.

        1. Jen RO*

          Actually there are a few more technical writers around here! I’m late to the show, obviously, and I can’t advise on the US market (it’s a completely new field here in Romania so it was very easy to get my first job)… but it’s super fun and I love it.

      1. designbot*

        Could you leverage your experience into working for a company that develops or maintains EMRs?

    2. Kate*

      Public health! It’s such a broad field, I’m sure there are jobs relevant to your clinical work. Having an MPH is helpful but not always necessary, especially if you have a clinical degree. You could look at state and local departments of health as well as nonprofits and academia. The day to day work depends on the position, but in my experience there is a lot of critical thinking to try to solve problems, writing, and working with people.

    3. NASA*

      I second exploring an MPH or public health careers. Maybe an emphasis in epidemiology or a degree in health informatics (lots of growth potential!). Check out HIMSS dot org.

      I have an MPH and have moved my way over to health informatics and I love both! I do a lot (and I mean A LOT) of problem solving in my current role and work with all the EMRs. I still get to work with lots of people but have the option of hiding behind email only. I have flexible hours and can easily work from home. My office is wherever I take my laptop. And I only have to know a minimal amount of coding, which was taught on the job.

      If you like Epic, you could also look into being an implementation specialist or trainer. Lots of travel might be required though.

    4. Windchime*

      Have you considered becoming an Epic analyst? You may already know this, but they are the people who configure and maintain the system. They don’t do a lot of writing, but I would imagine there is some documentation that goes on. I have worked on an Epic team in the past as a Claims analyst and it was technical, challenging, and fun work. I now work in a different place but they still have Epic and some of the analysts include a pharmacist and several RNs. It’s really important for Epic build teams to have professionals who have worked in the trenches because they bring a totally different perspective.

      When I was a claims analyst, I worked in the middle of nowhere and was making 70-80k and that was five years ago, so I think that you should easily be able to make your desired salary.

  26. Anon for this one*

    So excited! I’m enrolled in a graduate degree program in my field which requires a practical experience be completed at some point. I was getting really desperate because I’ve been applying for narrow appropriate postings for the past several months, but with AAM’s help I’ve just landed an internship that lines up perfectly with my summer semester. IT’S PAID!! I was starting to think I’d have to sink tons of money into commuting for an unpaid internship if I didn’t find something in the next few months.

    My boss at my current job is being super flexible because they want to keep me on after I’m done with the internship, so I’m working out with her how to go part-time here for the 3 months I’m doing it. Working 2 jobs will be hard on top of the other class I’ll be taking, but I always knew I’d have to do this or something similar at some point during the degree.

    I’ll have to email Alison my cover letter, because I have really been working hard to incorporate the strategies from her How to Get a Job ebook in my letters- it totally helped and I really recommend it to other struggling and downtrodden jobseekers. THANKS GUYS :D and Happy Birthday Alison!

    1. Temperance*

      Please do – I love seeing successful cover letters because I suck SO HARD at writing them. Congrats!

  27. Lillian McGee*

    How long into one’s career can one reasonably expect to get a director title? And what other kinds of credentials does a director typically have? Must a director manage and supervise people or can there be a director of a one-person department (or program)?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Speaking as someone who was a director for a short time in my mid-30s, you can definitely have a director title and have no one who reports to you, particularly if you’re in a smaller organization.

      1. K.*

        Yep – I interviewed for a position with a director title and no direct reports. Director really meant “the only person who does this thing.”

    2. SL #2*

      We’re a small org, and our director is in her early 30s and has 1 direct report, but she’s also been with us for 6 years.

    3. EmilyG*

      This seems like it could be very field-specific. I have a friend who’s my age but in a different field and I think has some kind of title like Senior Executive Director, and no direct reports. She had a director title fresh out of a master’s program. I’ve only just gotten a director title 8 years after a master’s, with about ten direct reports. I previously worked at an institution that I found annoyingly out of step with our profession. My title was “manager” but I thought the job was more analogous to “assistant director.” It was that way because their top person had a different title than most institutions like ours, so they were a little creative with titles all down the line.

    4. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      I’m 33 and I report to a director who has one other direct report. The person in my position before me was promoted to director and doesn’t have anyone reporting to her. I think she’s about my age. I’ve only been in my position a few months but my plan is to work in this role for a year or so and then start applying for director-level roles. I’m at a Fortune 500, but this is my first corporate job, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to. All of my other positions were at smaller companies or public service. Most directors here have several years of experience and at least a masters degree. (I have a Ph.D., but in an indirectly related field)

  28. Audiophile*

    So glad it’s Friday. It’s been a short and long, for some reason. I had Monday off because of last Friday’s event and then packed a lot into my weekend ( a hike for suicide prevention with friends, Mother’s Day brunch – which left me with a mild bout of food poisoning).

    Then the rest of the week was spent on the post event thank you email. Now it’s onto planning the next event in July.

    Any advice on how to keep an open mind when your work is “revised” without you being looped in? This just happened to me. Clearly there was a conversation I wasn’t a part of and was only included after the fact because I’m the one distributing the work. I don’t mind minor or major edits, but it’s the afterthought of “Oh we should tell her, because we need her to post it.”

      1. Audiophile*

        The design was changed significantly, but my writing was kept. My issue was not being looped, just being told “to wait” and then being presented with a new design and told to distribute it. The previous version was already approved, so it struck me as odd to see such a drastic change.

    1. designbot*

      Could you ask about it from the direction of genuinely wanting to learn what your supervisor was looking for that they didn’t feel you provided? I’ve done this with the work of junior designers before semi-regularly, and it’s usually been an issue of some factor that it would take significantly more time to convey to them than to just handle myself, or they flat out misunderstood something about the situation we were designing for and I didn’t have time to send it back to them for a redo. The latter can be their fault, my fault, doesn’t matter, it’s just how things go sometimes, but the former is something that I would have appreciated them taking the time to follow up on when we’re not on a deadline so that they could do better in the future.

  29. annoyed*

    One of my coworkers like to print out colorful “motivational” posters each day to hang on the outside of her cube. They’re things like “if you’re sad, go talk a walk until you feel happy” or “life is too short to be worried about anything”. So, you know, the condescending types of motivational posters.

    Sometimes she posts personal views, things like Christian phrases or causes she supports. Today’s is a poster about how everyone should always adopt pets instead of buy them. While I think adopting pets is great, she villainizes anyone who buys from a breeder, which I don’t think is that awful (puppy mills are awful, but a good breeder isn’t) considering how intense some rescues and shelters are with prospective owners.

    But worst of all, she’s said multiple times that she’s very much against people adopting children because you don’t know what could be wrong with them/they’re not really you’re kids because you’re not biologically linked/giving birth is the most magical and precious thing in this world/etc. I know pet adoption and child adoption are two very, very different things, but it enrages and upsets me because it seems so hypocritical….and I could only ever adopt kids so it feels like a slap in the face.

    1. Kat M2*

      Oh dear………that would be very annoying. Especially because it seems more like she’s trying to proselytize to the office (if they were just for her, she could put on the inside of her cube). And why would she need to bring her politics or religious views into the workplace?

      Management should step in on at least a couple of these things. Religious quotes displayed for everyone could become a problem and her views on child adoption have no place in the workplace, not to mention she’s being horribly insensitive (jedi hugs if wanted!).

    2. Anna*

      I don’t know if you ‘d like to speak up and tell her she’s being incredibly insensitive about adopting children (two of my cousins are adopted and they started out in rough situations and I could go on and on about it, so…screw her), but she’s an ass about both things and should probably keep her opinions to herself.

    3. Anon for personal family info*

      (On my soapbox) Her opinions about adoption are incredibly misinformed! Perhaps she would prefer that these adopted children had been killed in utero. My husband has two adopted daughters (he and his late wife could not have children), and there is also an adopted niece and nephew in the family. The niece is a world-renown cardio-thoracic surgeon who has donated thousands of hours to an international organization performing heart operations in impoverished regions around the world. My sister gave birth to a daughter while a teenager and gave the child up for adoption. The daughter was raised by a loving family and now has two children of her own. It takes a very special person to open their heart and life to a complete stranger, especially when that stranger is a child, and I greatly admire those who do it. As for the child having health or other problems; you don’t get a guarantee that biological children won’t have problems, either. Your coworker has no idea what they are talking about! (Off soapbox)

      Moving to a business perspective, these posters can be inappropriate in a business setting. I had to remove some politically charged posters from an area of our building where they could have been seen by clients. These had been put up in defiance of our bulletin board policy, which is clearly stated in the employee handbook. Companies need to be careful that things that are posted are inclusive and not offensive to both employees and customers.

        1. fposte*

          Yup. I’m an adoptee and I’m pro-choice. And people who adopt kids vary from assholes to wonderful, just like the rest of the world.

        2. Observer*

          In most contexts, I would agree with you. But, it sure makes sense when you are dealing with someone who is being superior about her religious beliefs.

          But maybe “Perhaps she would prefer that these children get dumped in the landfill” would work better.

    4. LCL*

      Sounds like because she is so annoying you have reached BEC stage with her. I would, too. The first paragraph of posters you describe aren’t condescending.

      1. anonanonanon*

        I don’t know, I find those advice posters condescending. It’s like telling someone who’s depressed that reading a book will make them better or telling someone who’s sad to smile. Condescending might not be the right word, but they can be annoying.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I would not be inspired by those types of sayings. It’s like telling a person who is down to SMILE. It’s simplistic thinking that totally ignores the complexities of life.

    5. 3D Queen*

      Woah. I actually agree with her that there’s no ethical way to buy a dog (it’s very contentious issue, no need to debate it out here), but I wouldn’t post something about that at work! It’s not appropriate and also not a good way to reach out to people or change any minds. And then to have such cognitive dissonance ringing around your brain that you can’t extend the same philosophy to actual humans…wow.

      1. anon for this*

        I don’t think people are unethical when they buy a dog. Sometimes they resort to buying a dog because shelters or rescues deny them, sometimes for very stupid reasons. OP says their coworker villainizes people who buy dogs, and I don’t think it’s okay to say they’re unethical or bad people, regardless of whether or not you (general you used here) agree with the practice.

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      As a Christian, that’s especially bad, since part of our theology is that we’re adopted into God’s family, and he does know what’s wrong with us.

      There is a lot of adoption in our family, and I can’t imagine what it would be like without my little sister. Love is big enough to make someone family, and it’s sad when someone’s love is so constrained.

      If you do end up adopting kids, it’s not just because it’s all you can do, it’s because you have enough love to make them family. And if you don’t adopt kids, you probably have friends or even a pet that gets that love. Family is who we choose, and should never be limited by biology.

    7. Guinness*

      I might be a little too passive aggressive for my own good, but I would probably put up some motivational poster about not judging other people’s life choices.

      1. Florida*

        A religious one would make it even better! How about “Let he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.”

    8. Laura*

      At first, I thought your coworker was just being silly, but it’s genuinely offensive to MANY people to imply that adoption is bad. I would talk to your boss about this– maybe he/she can communicate to Jane that she needs to keep her personal beliefs to herself.

      1. Grumpy*

        Agreed, I was going to suggest “Go eat your crackers… ” or similar. But this woman sounds legitimately offensive and possibly hopeless.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      Someone needs to tell her to knock it off.

      At Nonprofit Job, we were passing someone’s baby around and talking about kids and the topic turned to dealing with a child’s first day of school. I didn’t have any kids, but the most recent ex did (a child I helped raise for five years, thank you very much). So I chimed in with a comment about how I had been nervous her first day of kindergarten, hoping she would like it, etc. Someone said, “Oh well that was not even a stepkid; you couldn’t possibly get what we were talking about because it’s not your child.” I just completely shut down and stopped talking and left the conversation as soon as it was graceful to do so. That really hurt me, and it still chaps my ass to this day.

      She needs to stop it. I would say, “Cordelia, I don’t know if you realize it, but there are plenty of people who adopt / are adopted and have very loving families who would be very offended by your remarks. I think you need to find another topic of conversation.”

    10. SAHM*

      This would legitimately infuriate me. I think in the moment I would be too thrown by her absolutely awful values/thought process but I would definitely come back to her and ask her never to bring up the adoption stuff again. That I find it personally offensive because of X. Then if she ever said anything to me again about it, I would definitely go straight to her boss because it’s so offensive. I don’t know if that’s appropriate but, Hell, that is just so offensive I can’t even….

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe it is the bad in me, but I would have to ask her if no one adopts what do we do with all the parentless kids? And if couples cannot have children, do we tell them that giving birth is magical and they should do their own birthing anyway, in spite of not being able to?
      Does she understand that she can never take in a child of a family member because she would be adopting and by her definition this is not acceptable?
      Does she know that people reading her sign could be adopted people themselves or have adopted children at home?
      If we cannot adopt children because there might be something wrong with them, then maybe we should not birth children, either, there might be something wrong with them too.

      grrrr. She needs to get out more and experience the world more.
      If it were me I might have to say something to her.

      1. God is dog spelled backward*

        All that I could think about was wow . This person thinks all pets should be adopted but not children. I can’t even wrap my head around this.

  30. ThatGirl*

    Just random musings, but I recently moved to a new desk at work, and I’m around the cubicle corner from my immediate co-workers with another department. Judging by the conversations they have, this department is either paid hourly or their manager really, really micromanages their time. Which is odd, because I didn’t think we had many hourly workers here, I thought everyone except contractors and like, janitorial staff were salaried. (At least under the old rules.) But they talk about clocking in and staying a few minutes later because they were late back from lunch and leaving early to avoid overtime … which is just a foreign thing for me, here. I kind of want to ask them about it, but I probably shouldn’t, right? :)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I do this type of adjustment when I’m late or something interferes with my time tracking (I’m hourly). For example, if I get in at 8:35, I stay until 4:35 (I don’t take a lunch break unless I’m going out with a coworker or need to run an errand–if so, I would clock out for the hour and stay until 5:35). If I leave a little early for an appointment, I either stay later the next day or so to make up the time or use PTO. It’s a juggling act sometimes.

    2. dont-wanna-manage*

      If it didn’t apply to me, I’d leave it alone. They are either hourly, or as you said, exempt but with a seriously anal manager who micromanages their time. Be grateful that you don’t have to account for your every 1/100th second.

  31. Gene*

    Working on hiring a replacement for the coworker who died and we are looking at interview questions. I work for a municipality with all the (IMO) stupid rules and procedures that go along with that.

    One person is strongly advocating for this question, but can’t clearly say what a “correct” answer should be. I personally don’t like the question, I think it’s too squishy for a technical field.

    The basic question is, “What are the reasons to have a diverse workforce?”

    Her suggested correct answer is something along the lines of, “Diverse workforces are more resilient and flexible.” Umm, not necessarily, resilient and flexible workforces are more resilient and flexible, I don’t give a rat’s patootie about their race/gender/religion/creed/etc.

    Your thoughts?

    1. Guinness*

      I would flip the question and ask about how they promote or value diversity, resilience, and/or flexibility through work experience or personal characteristics, but overall I kind of agree with you that the question isn’t a great one.

    2. Temperance*

      I actually had a related conversation with our Chief Diversity Officer last week. I dislike the word “resilient”. What he said is that workplaces who make diversity a priority do better. The biggest and most successful firms and companies in our country make diversity a priority. Why wouldn’t you want to emulate their success?

    3. cjb1*

      Why does she want to ask this question and what is she expecting to get out of it?
      Is this interview hiring for someone who would be in a hiring or HR position?

      I’m with you though, it doesn’t matter what race/gender/creed you are – just do a good job.

      And honestly, if someone were to ask me that question when I wasn’t interviewing for an HR job, I would really want to assume they mean “diverse” as in “many different skillsets and career backgrounds that round out a company” NOT “hire some blacks and some women and some LGBT etc”. So answering, I would focus on what the people are doing, not what they look like or what religion they practice.

    4. Jubilance*

      A diverse workforce often brings with it diversity of thought, which is better for an organization in the long run. You’ll have different people who will approach and solve problems differently as well as bring to light different issues that may go unnoticed if most of the workforce is similar in background.

      1. Liza*

        What Jubilance said! (Thanks for wording it so well.) For my favorite example of non-diversity in action, Google “racist soap dispenser” (without the quote marks). The sensor that was supposed to detect when a hand moved in front of it… only detected when a white hand moved in front of it. Not because it was designed that way on purpose, but because the development team apparently wasn’t diverse and didn’t think to take other skin tones into account.

      2. Florida*

        Being that I’m in Central Florida, Disney has a lot of radio commercials for jobs. At the end of every commercial, they say, “Disney is a equal opportunity employee drawing creativity from diversity.” I love that statement. They have to say the EOE part. But the “Drawing creativity…” part explains why they WANT to be diverse. It’s more than a requirement to try to be diverse.
        I’ve worked at places where everyone is basically the same and it’s just so bland.

        1. Old teabag*

          Anon for this because I’m already in a precarious situation at work.

          Your comment about blandness really got me thinking. We used to have people from India, Viet Nam, China, Russia and Turkey on our team. At one time, half our team was comprised of non-native English speakers. Now our team consists solely of white, native English-speaking people from this region of the country (plus one guy from the midwest, also white). I’m thunderstruck that I didn’t notice that the people of different origins have been slowly being let go or being forced out. It makes my blood run cold to realize this, and it makes me ashamed that I’m just now seeing it.

    5. JMegan*

      I also work for a municipality, and previously the provincial government, and I share your dislike of the hiring process! But yeah, given that you have to follow the rules, I don’t think that’s a great question. It’s too open-ended, especially for a tech field. Diverse workforces CAN be more resilient and flexible, of course, but you’re right that they aren’t always.

      I would push it back to your colleague by asking her to articulate what this shows about a candidate? If you’re interviewing someone who can produce the “resilient and flexible” response, does that necessarily make them a better candidate than one who doesn’t? Do you learn anything about the person’s skill set, interests, suitability for the job, by asking that question? Alternatively, ask her to specify what she is hoping to learn from that question, and see if you can help her formulate a better one. But make her do most of the work on that – if she wants the question that badly, she should be able to articulate why. Good luck!

    6. R Adkins*

      I had this question once in an interview (I hated it). I just said that diversity can bring different perspectives to a project and hopefully create a stronger end product.

      This was for an HR job — but personally I am not a fan without more context of these types of questions.

    7. Cambridge Comma*

      There are a lot of quantifiable advantages to having a diverse workforce. Resilience and flexibility might be tangentially part of the benefits, but I don’t think that has been the main finding of studies or the answer that most people would give. She might need to read up and expand that ideal answer. I don’t think it’s a bad question for weeding out people who react negatively to diversity.

    8. misspiggy*

      I think diverse workforces are more likely to generate products or services relevant for a large and diverse market. Take international development. Having a bunch of white, middle class people from the North run programmes for people in the South leads to terrible inefficiencies due to incorrect assumptions about what clients want and need. At the same time, if a programme was run only by the people for whom it was designed, they wouldn’t be able to tell the mostly white, middle class donors what they need to generate more funding.

    9. enough*

      I want a definition of diversity first. It seems that it usually means ethnicity. But no one ethnic group is homogeneous. So what are you looking for in diversity? And what is the purpose of the question? To weed out obvious bigots? To find people who work well with others in general or someone specifically?

    10. Joshua*

      My preferred answer to that question would be something along the lines of “having a diverse workforce can result in more views on a situation and more (hopefully better) solutions to problems.” However, why are you asking the question? If it’s to see how well the applicant would work well with others how about something more like:

      “Often times you need to work with people who have different opinions on how to get things done. Tell me of a time when you and a colleague had different solutions to a problem and how you worked together to decide on the best solution.”

      I think your original question is more of a culture fit question and you’re looking to screen for (i assume?) those who give an answer like “Wakeen and I disagreed on doing X, but we talked about the pros and cons of each option and decided that Y was the best way to do it” and screen out “Wakeen and I disagreed on doing X, but I always did what I wanted anyways because I knew it was best.”

    11. AvonLady Barksdale*

      If someone asked me that question, I would immediately wonder what kind of diversity they’re talking about. I’m not being obtuse– in a work context, I would hope there would be diversity of thought, education, life stage…. all kinds of things. Hiring people with diverse SKILLS would indeed create a more flexible workplace. Bottom line, I just think it’s a dumb question.

  32. anonanonanon*

    What are people’s recommendations for trying to find a job in a new city?

    I’m looking to move to New York, but I know it’s practically impossible to find a job without living there. I have enough money to move there on my own dime and pay first/last/security on an apartment (and I live in Boston now, so sticker shock isn’t an issue), but I’m wary of moving without a job lined up.

    I love Boston, but I’m born and bred Massachusetts and at 30 I really feel like I need to live in a new state. I’ve visited NY enough to know I’d love living there and my industry is much larger in NY, so I think it’d be better for my career.

    1. Journal Entries*

      My advice is to just keep trying. Apply and make sure to mention in your cover letter that you are looking to relocate. If you’re a strong candidate and are willing to travel to interview in person your chances could be good.
      It worked for me; I live in Michigan and have an interview in Maryland next week.

      1. anonanonanon*

        Traveling isn’t a problem. It’s a 3 and half to 4 hours train or bus ride, which is easy enough. Did you take your Michigan info out of your resume or cover letter? I’ve taken Boston off my resume, but a lot of online applications ask for an address and I feel like writing my current address immediately disqualifies me.

        1. AVP*

          Do you know anyone at all who lives in NYC and would lend you their address? I do get a little suspicious when someone with no address or an out-of-area address applies for a job with my company and don’t reference moving in their cover letter. So many people want to live in NYC but haven’t fully thought through how much it will cost, how stressful it can be to live here, how much you need to make in a new job to make it work.

          You sound like you have, though, so I would either try to get your hands on a local address or make a good case in your cover letter if you have that opportunity.

    2. Sunflower*

      I don’t know your industry so my advice would be to talk to some people in your industry in NY and ask what gives you the best chance. My advice would be different if you were looking anywhere but NY but IME, it’s really really really hard to get hired in NY from the outside and you’re better off moving there first. You might need to get a job for a few months to pay the bills(waitress) but I think its easier to get hired living in NY with no job as opposed to living outside NY with on. At 30, I think you might be at a point where if you knew someone, you could probably get them to bring you on from out of state but you’re still not far enough along that many employers are willing to take a chance on hiring an unknown out of state. My friend got a job in NY when she was living on the West Coast but it was basically entry-level and they told her ‘this is the job, this is when it starts. show up or don’t’

      From what I’ve seen, everyone I know who has moved to NY with no job has had one within a month or two.

      1. Sunflower*

        FWIW good luck! I’m in the same boat as you and I ended up taking my current job because I knew there was a strong possibility they would let me move to NY at some point. If you’re nervous about moving without something lined up, it might be worth it to search for jobs where that is a possibility. Of course, you’d probably have to stick it out in MA for another year at least but it might be worth it for you.

        1. anonanonanon*

          Thanks! My backup plan is to stick it out in my current job and save more money so I could move to NY without a job lined up and not freak out over money running out.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve done several out-of-state (cross-country) job searches, and I think there are a couple things to consider:

      1. It helps to have a story that’s convincing. For you, “I’d love living there” is enough to want to move there. That doesn’t sound as convincing to an employer. I think you can either make the case that the company you’re applying to appeals to you in some specific ways or that you have some life circumstances that compel you to move there (being closer to family, spouse got a job or is going to grad school).

      2. If you don’t have a convincing story, you should be in demand. If you have a highly marketable and underrepresented skill, then you should have no problem getting a job, and you won’t even have to explain why you’re interested in the company/New York. If, however, you’re a strong candidates, but there are equally strong candidates already in New York, just keep in mind that employers will have good reason to consider local candidates over you.

      I live in Boston now, so sticker shock isn’t an issue

      Boston proper is certainly expensive (compared to Salem, Quincy, or Waltham), but just keep in mind that New York is more expensive (Manhattan is pricier than Boston proper even), and the boroughs aren’t cheap either.

      1. anonanonanon*

        I have no family there and don’t have a partner. I want to move there because there are better career opportunities and it’s a bonus that I already love the city. I thought that was a convincing enough story. I don’t really think I need another life circumstance besides my career to want to move?

        I have double the amount saved to move to New York that I would need to move to Boston, so price really isn’t something I’m worried about. I know what I’m getting into.

        It really just is the issue of local candidacy that I’m worried about. I’m a strong candidate, but I’m pretty sure I’d rank equally strong as other people who are local.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          You don’t need a convincing story, but I think the gist of what I was getting at addresses two concerns of hiring managers when considering out-of-town applicants:
          1. Are you really going to move here?
          2. Why should I consider you over local candidates?

    4. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Do you have anyone in your network that can refer you to a job? Employee referrals go a long way!

      I caution against moving without a job lined up. I moved to NYC without anything lined up and lived at a relative for free, but still found myself burning through my savings and going into debt in the 3 months it took me to find a job. NYC is expensive and it would suck to move here and not be able to actually experience anything because of lack of money.

      FWIW, I’m happy to connect you with any leads I may know of — what kinds of jobs are you looking for?

    5. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Do you have anyone in your network that can refer you to a job? Employee referrals go a long way!

      I highly recommend not moving without a job lined up. I moved to NYC without anything lined up and lived at my brother’s for free, but still found myself burning through savings and going into debt before I landed a job (took 3 months after I moved here). NYC is expensive, and it would suck to move here and not be able to experience the city because of lack of funds.

      FWIW, I’m happy to connect you with any leads I may know of — what industry are you in?

    6. LC*

      I don’t have experience on the hiring side of things, but I think Boston to New York is close enough that you wouldn’t need to relocate first, particularly since a period of unemployment may be more unattractive to an employer than being out of town.

      What you do want to do is establish that you’re serious about moving to New York. I’m currently job searching in New York from abroad and just mention that I’ve enjoyed my summers interning there and am relocating when I return this summer. Admittedly, this would be my first job out of school, so there’s less skepticism about my willingness to relocate, but I think it helps that I approach moving as a question of [i]when[/i], not [i]if[/i].

    7. Hubba*

      It’s not that difficult to find a job in NYC while living in another city. Like you, I live in Boston and found a job in NYC relatively quickly(I’m from that area though). I know many other Bostonians who have done the same. Just use Alison’s advice regarding long-distance job searching and you should be fine. The bright side about NYC is that long-distance job searching there is pretty common and not so weird.

    8. Anon Moose*

      I’ve used a family member or friend’s local address when I was looking for jobs from afar. Otherwise, your cover letter has to make it clear that you are moving to the city (not just plans to).

    9. Mkb*

      Can you go remote with your current company to move then look for a new job once your living situation is settled? Or does your current job have an NY office you can transfer to?

    10. designbot*

      In my experience the best way to do this is to schedule a trip on my own dime and email companies that I’m interested in or especially have ongoing conversations with and say something like “I’m planning to be in the city June 7-10 to make plans for my move there. I would love to stop by while I’m in town and talk about any opportunities that may be available at your firm.” This pins them down into a specific date range and communicates to them your level of seriousness. They get out of town applicants all the time, 90% of which ultimately will not move to their city. Interviewing out of towners takes extra coordination, patience, and often $$, so the more you can help overcome those hurdles the better.

    11. skyline*

      Earlier in my career I worked in the Boston area in an industry that was much larger in NYC than Boston (publishing) and saw multiple Boston friends successfully get jobs in NYC before moving there. Could you be overestimating how hard it is to apply from that distance? I’m not clear from your post whether you’ve actually tried applying for NYC jobs yet.

  33. Guinness*

    I think one of the people on my team is a hoarder. Her things are starting to pile up outside of her workspace and it’s just below the level of being a problem. I’m trying to keep it from becoming a problem, but I also know that this is an uphill battle (my husband and I both come from families with hoarding lineage).
    We have shared personal storage space for staff (a closet with a coat rack and separate lockers), and her stuff is taking over the floor of the closet. It’s mostly work related items (or items that she feels she needs to do her work), and I think this is a result of us trying to limit her work related storage space (the stuff just magically appeared one day). I’m concerned that if we’re dealing with mental illness, addressing it in the wrong way is just going to cause her to hide or cover things in another way, and in that case, I’d rather just leave things the way they are as long as they don’t get worse. But I feel like I’m in a mine field… has anyone navigated this issue successfully?

    1. Temperance*

      It’s not your responsibility to address the hoarding/mental issue part of this, but it is becoming a problem for you. Tell her to clean up and ask if she needs help determining what to throw away and what to keep.

      Our office manager is a neat freak and her wanting a totally empty workspace is part of the reason that I now have my own (large) office, to hide the things I actually need to do my job.

    2. the_scientist*

      I think you might be over-personalizing this a little bit…..it’s equally possible that she’s just mildly inconsiderate and scatterbrained. I had a roommate in undergrad, for example, who did not understand why, in a shared house of 5 with one fridge, it would be problematic that her groceries took up the *entire* freezer and 90% of the fridge. “But I only go grocery shopping once a month,” she said, “I need to buy this much stuff at one time!”

      Similarly, when we moved offices at my old job, my boss was reluctant to throw out printed articles….from when she wrote her PhD thesis……14 years ago. I’m talking filing cabinets FULL of old papers. We waited until she left for the day and then tossed it all, not that I recommend that approach.

      Having things pile up on the floor outside cubicles can be an occupational health issue- if they are blocking routes of escape during a fire, or they create tripping hazards. That is a possible way to approach it. The other way is just to tell her that she only has so much storage space and needs to make her stuff fit there- the closet is not for work items.

    3. Amtelope*

      I think just start with “Your work materials need to fit in your workspace, and you can only use X amount of shared personal storage space (one coat on the coat rack, one locker, one pair of boots/shoes on the floor.)” Get her boss to tell her that if you’re not her boss, and to ask her whether she needs help prioritizing which work materials to keep in the office and which ones to throw away or take home. See how that goes before deciding this will turn into a huge problem.

    4. TCO*

      Tough stuff. Do you have an EAP? I wonder if that could provide some advice to you and/or could be suggested to her as a resource. I also wonder if there’s some kind of hoarding helpline that you could call for expert advice. It’s entirely appropriate to set boundaries and hold her to a standard appropriate for the workplace–but going about that enforcement in the “wrong” way (such as moving or throwing away her things without notice) could traumatize her, damage your relationship, and make the problem worse instead of better.

      Hoarding is tough. Good luck!

    5. Lily Evans*

      If you have no proof that there’s a mental illness involved, I don’t understand why you can’t just talk to her about it. You can play the “what-if” armchair diagnosis game all day, or you could say “Hey, your stuff is taking over the shared storage space. Could you [move it/consolidate it/get rid of it], please?”

      Maybe she’s a hoarder. Maybe she’s just a cluttered person who doesn’t realize the boundaries for the shared space (especially since it doesn’t seem like anyone’s told her it’s a problem). It’s not your responsibility to distinguish between the two.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed. Academics is full of hoarders, and I’m one of them, albeit on a low level. If we were to avoid telling people to keep their stuff within bounds we wouldn’t have room for students. It’s not a big deal to ask her to keep her stuff to its allotted space.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Agreed, and also the safety thing. We had two people at Exjob whose cubicles looked like an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive. They would get a barrel and purge occasionally.

  34. RG*

    Why is this template so brittle that making one change breaks everything? Why did Amazon half ass the documentation so much that it’s almost impossible to figure out what changes you can make without having to set up and tear down an environment again and again? Ughhhhhhhhh

  35. Ihmmy*

    I’m contemplating applying to a job in my department that is… well, I don’t meet some of the qualifications and their ideal candidate has a master’s degree (which I do not) but the job itself would be really interesting (playing with data, analyzing trends, looking at big picture stuff to help make decisions) and a good stretch for me. But I feel like.. I’m not competent enough for it yet, but how else can I grow into something like that without just applying? Short of going for a whole other degree, and I don’t have that kind of time and money lately.

    1. Random Lurker*

      Go for it! Even if you don’t get the position, it lets management know that you want to move up in the org (trust me, so many people don’t say anything then get upset when opportunities are not presented to them, when in reality, we don’t read their minds!).

      Also, if you don’t get it, this is a perfect opportunity for you to discuss a development plan with your manager. In lieu of a masters degree, what areas can you focus on to be better suited for the role? Are there special projects that your manager can give you to help prepare you for this type of role in the future?

    2. Sparkly Librarian*

      You’re a known quantity. Can you sit down with your manager or perhaps the hiring manager for that position and say something like, “I saw this job listing and I’m really intrigued by [aspect]. I don’t have the preferred master’s, though, so I’m not sure I should apply just yet. Based on my work here, do you think I would be a good fit for this kind of job? If I wanted to head in this direction, what kinds of things would you recommend that I work on?”?

  36. CA Civil Service Employee*

    I work for California state government and have started working on getting out. (There are so many things about the state’s civil service system that I would love Alison’s take on!). I have received consistent high praise for the quality of my work over the years and have done research on the value of my skills, but I can’t get a raise to bring my pay more in line with what my research supports (even though other workers in my office with the same level of skill are making it) unless I get an offer from somewhere else and maaaaaybe the state will match to a certain point. I cannot wrap my mind around this. It seems like an extremely risky way to try and retain people. I have a solid case for the value I bring to the state and the data supporting a higher level of pay, but I’m only actually worth more to the state if I can show someone else is about to bring me on board. It’s pretty demoralizing.

    Other interesting things: if my replacement were hired from the private sector, the state would be highly likely to pay them at the level I am asking to be paid at. In terms of annual raises that are a part of the system, an average/competent employee and an excellent employee earn exactly the same annual raise. The whole scheme incentivizes the best employees to leave or stop working so hard.

    1. Creag an Tuire*

      That sounds incredibly bone-headed — the worst part is I suspect your management knows how badly it disincentives good employees but is constrained by state policymakers because MUH TAXES.

  37. Anon For This*

    I love my job and where I work, but I can’t really continue to make the amount of money I’m being paid (if it’s market rate, it’s at the low, LOW end of market rate and frankly I’m not sure it is market rate). I applied for a job on Linked-In at the end of March and in true AAM fashion, put it out of my head. Well, they contacted me for an interview next week and it’s scheduled and I’m so excited! It’s also in a completely different part of the industry work I do. (Right now I work for the company I represent; this would be for an agency that represents many companies.)

    The upside to putting it out of your head is that you don’t fret and if they get in touch with you it’s a pleasant surprise. The downside is having no recollection of the job description and of course on Linked-In once the job closes the link is no longer active. So I can’t go back and look at specifics, I can only look at general duties that people with this title work on and look at who the agency reps. ARGH! Despite that, I think I’ll be well-prepped for the interview. I’ve been reading up on the company.

    That’s it! Just had to share!

    1. Guinness*

      Good luck! I know I’ve learned the hard way to e-mail myself the job description so I have it just in case :)

    2. Megs*

      Good luck! I’ve gotten into the habit of emailing the text of job postings to myself because I’ve gotten stuck in exactly the pickle you’re in before – oops. Have you read Alison’s free interview guide? It’s short and sweet and awesome.

    3. Pineapple Incident*

      Good luck! I had the same thing happen to me recently so I’m going to start emailing job descriptions to myself and saving them to my laptop at home. Try reading through Glassdoor descriptions or reviews for the company- might give you an idea of what to ask or look for!

    4. KiteFlier*

      Google it! They may have it posted to Indeed, Glassdoor, etc. that is still up or in the internet archives somewhere :)

  38. Sunflower*

    My department does bi-monthly meetings for all the non-management staff. It’s basically a way for us non-managers to build presentation and leadership skills. So I’m leading and I can do my presentation on basically anything I want that would be interesting or of value to the group. I’ve been searching around Inc for some ideas but I’m super curious to hear what you guys would like to hear about. I’d like to encourage a lot of discussion as opposed to me telling the group things they probably already know (ie communication is good, teamwork=better results, etc)

    Past topics included email etiquette, stress management/meditation in the office, best practices for my area, etc. What topic do you think would be interesting to discuss?

    1. Random Lurker*

      When giving a presentation, you have to think about the desired outcome. Is it to educate? Drive to action to accomplish something? Attempt to change behavior? I would think about what you want to accomplish and then back into a topic that way. If you want to educate, maybe a topic that is around your daily work that you’d like others to understand better.

    2. TCO*

      Our team loves presentations about personality-profile type stuff, such as an overview of StrengthsFinder, communication styles, appreciation languages, etc. If you want to encourage discussion this topic might be a little personal for some teams, but it’s interesting and applicable info.

  39. Lady Kelvin*

    So I have a job interview this afternoon, which is both a relief and a huge stressor. Its for a position that is in my field but is significantly below my qualifications and I would be being paid about 1/2 of what I should be making if I got a job at my level. However, I am graduating in about 2 months and absolutely have to have an income once I’m done, because my research stipend won’t be paying me past July. Would it be terrible for me to accept the job, work for a year or so, but know that I am planning on moving on because there is no way this organization can pay me enough or use my skills long term? For what it is worth, I would be getting something useful out of the job, because I would be learning about the domestic side of my field and all my experience is in the international side, which would make me a stronger candidate for jobs down the road where I want to be. I’m trying to get a gov’t job, and I know they typically take a long time to come through, so I can’t wait around hoping for something to happen. If I don’t have a job before I’m done, I’ll have to work in retail or wait-tables until I find one, and I’d rather have a job in my field even if I am overqualified for it, because at least I will be learning something new and I won’t have weird gap in my resume.

    1. Lady Kelvin*

      Oh yeah, I should mention I’ve been job searching for 6 months and this is my first interview. The job market in my field is weird, my skills are in demand, but there is no funding/private industry jobs available, so you either work in academics or government or in a non-profit where you are doing things slightly related to your field but they really don’t want or need (or pay) PhDs.

      1. Jules the First*

        Really try not to overthink this – if this is just a first interview, you’re nowhere near the point of having to decide. Go meet them, see how you get on, and then listen to your gut.

    2. Pineapple Incident*

      I think if you’re planning to stay for a year, it’s not deceptive if you take this job (assuming they offer it to you- they might not, if they think you’re overqualified). If that timeline shifts in your head to only being with the company for around six months or so, rethink it.

    3. LC*

      It sounds like you’ve answered your own question. You need a job when you graduate, and your options are unlikely to include your dream job. So your options are waiting tables or taking something in your field. I’d say take the option that will allow you build relevant skills every time.

  40. PaperbackFighter*

    I have a question for the librarians of AAM: have any of you ever been to ALA Annual? If so, do you have any recommendations for someone attending for the first time?

    I’ve decided to go for the after spending the last few years in a non-library field and I’m feeling a teeny bit overwhelmed by the whole thing.

    Thank you :)

    1. OhNo*

      I have not gone myself, but I’ve had several friends go. The best piece of advice that I head from them was to try and meet new people AND connect with people you already know while you’re there. One of my friends started a killer network when she went – she reconnected with old colleagues and friends, made new acquaintances, and got introduced to a bunch of new people by both groups. She now has contacts all over the place, it’s fantastic.

      Also, try to go to at least one or two “fun” sessions that might not be related to your work or goals. I try to do this at other conferences and meetings – it’s a great way to give yourself a brain break and learn something new.

    2. fposte*

      Yup. It’s good fun! Pace yourself, because it can be tiring; if you’re already overwhelmed at the thought, put some rest time for yourself into the schedule so you’re not worried about it. IIRC Orlando’s spread out, so you’re not likely to have a hotel that you can pop into whenever you want, but you can build in rest time before dinner and downtime during the day. Convention centers at ALA are *full* of people quietly sitting on the floor in corners of the building. (We are also good at finding secret sitting areas.)

      Figure out some goals–are you looking to expand particular knowledge by attending panels? Check in with vendors in the exhibit hall? Find some people to network with at events and panels (people are pretty ready to talk to strangers)? That can help guide you through a day with too many choices–I find it more satisfying to know what I got tired for :-).

    3. EmilyG*

      In addition to the part about resting (crucial!) I would suggest scrutinizing the schedule carefully in advance. Based on my experience with smaller conferences, I assumed I could flit between sessions easily my first time at ALA Annual in Chicago, only to find that some sessions were in hotels far away from the convention center. For me it works better to plan ahead exactly what sessions I want to attend where and the travel time between them. Sometimes it’s not physically possible to get to them all, so I end up taking a time slot to decompress at Starbucks.

    4. Librarian*

      Definitely keep locations in mind as you’re planning your schedule. Orlando will be my 2nd ALA and hopefully less spread-out, but I ran into some travel issues in Vegas. It’s also not a bad idea to at least explore transit options other than the ALA shuttles. The shuttles are a great fall back, but it’s freeing to know you have options other than packing into those buses!

      Particularly because of spacing I’ve found it helpful to have backup choices for each time slot. That way if I can’t find the session, can’t get there in time, change my mind, etc., I have options.

      Do NOT feel bad about giving yourself a break. By day 2 or 3 I’m usually fried and those last few sessions on my list sometimes don’t happen. Unless there’s some boss/job-related expectation for specific sessions, forgive yourself for taking breaks.

      Remember to build in food times! Snacks and a water bottle are good to carry on you in case you can’t stomach another convention center hotdog.

      Portable device chargers (like Jackery, but there are other plans) have been a godsend for times when I can’t find an outlet.

      Finally, I would say definitely make sure to hit at least one of the poster sessions. I skipped them my first ACRL and ALA and wish I hadn’t. They’re kind of chaotic, but you can pick up SO many ideas/info in a short period of time, and a lot of people have awesome handouts. And you don’t have to talk to the poster presenters if you don’t feel up to it.

      Good luck and have fun!!

      1. Librarian*

        *brands, not plans. I should know better than to type a post this long on my phone!

    5. skyline*

      I’ve been a bunch of them, though I’m skipping this year. Some general tips:
      – Don’t feel like you have to attend a session during every time slot. Take time to rest and relax and process what you’re learning. Also, it’s better to ditch a session that isn’t working for you than to suffer through it.
      – Wear comfy shoes, and take more than one pair, so you can alternate as needed.
      – Portable device chargers and/or travel-sized power strips are godsends.
      – Bring a water bottle. (I have one that is lightweight plastic and rolls up when it’s empty.)
      – Bring your business cards, and attend some networking events. You may not be getting lots of invites if you aren’t already well connected, but there are plenty of open happy hours, etc. In the long run, I’ve gotten much more value from my professional contacts than I have from the sessions that I’ve attended.

  41. Bowserkitty*

    Saturday night I started a muscle relaxant prescribed by my dentist for some bad TMJ. I was aware it could potentially interact with my antidepressant in a bad way but the pharmacist said if I took only one relaxant pill each night I should be fine. This whole week I just haven’t felt like myself, and finally yesterday I went home after being at work for an hour. I told my boss I had nausea and a headache – I had no idea if it would be appropriate to tell him I’ve been fighting a medication reaction this entire week that finally caught up to me.

    I don’t know if I’m looking for advice (though if you have some I welcome it) or commiseration, but I wish there wasn’t such a stigma against mental health treatment. I have no problem talking to my friends about this stuff but I don’t want my boss to think I’m on “crazy” pills, or that needing an AD makes me unstable to work.

    (I stopped the muscle relaxant last night; it hasn’t done jack for my jaw and the detractors outweighed whatever benefits I was waiting on!)

    1. Rebecca in Dallas*

      No advice, but I can relate/commiserate. I’m really, really lucky that my family (well, one side) has always been really open about mental health treatment. Several of the women on my mom’s side have dealt with major depressive or anxiety disorders, so I’ve seen them come through on the other side, plus had a great support network for my own issues.

      I always think of that cartoon, “What if we treated mental illness the way we treated physical illness?” I think of my antidepressant the way a diabetic would think of their insulin, it’s part of my daily routine and my health would suffer if I didn’t take it.

      I think society is starting to come around to being more open about mental health, but we certainly have a long way to go.

      So sorry about the medicine interacting! Hope you can get some relief from the TMJ soon. Make sure your doctor knows that they interacted for you, that may affect what kinds of medications they want to give you going forward.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Thank you!!! When I got prescribed three years ago it changed my entire life for the better and aside from some rando anxiety attacks that have decreased in number, life has been pretty good. I very much agree with that cartoon! I believe I’ve seen it before.

        I see my dentist again on Tuesday for the last time in a while (yay root canal follow-up) so I’ll bring it up and see if there’s something else that could work.

    2. Lily Evans*

      I think you could tell your boss it’s a medication reaction without having to specify what the medications are for.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        He hasn’t brought it up today but if he asks how I’m feeling (which he hasn’t) I might tell him that. That seems safe enough, thank you.,

      2. hermit crab*

        I’ve done this before (when both going on and going off meds), and nobody batted an eye about it.

    3. Ihmmy*

      You may also want to talk to your dentist about TMJ – mine made me a mouthguard for when I sleep to address my bruxism, which was aggravating my TMJ something awful. I’m still always tense there but at least I’m not hurting my teeth too.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        I’ve had the mouth guard for a few weeks – I was so excited to get it, which sounds weird LOL. I asked for a muscle relaxant after it didn’t seem to help. :/ However, and I agree with her on this – she suggested that having so many dental procedures within the span of a few weeks (root canals are so tedious) has not helped my case, so after my final procedure next Tuesday it should have more of a chance to start healing.

        1. h.cowl*

          I have really bad TMJ too, all my sympathies. Basically I’m just in some form of pain literally all the time. Sigh.

          The mouthguard is good for peace of mind as now I know I’m not destroying my teeth, but I think it’s actually made my jaw pain worse.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      You can say medication without saying what it’s for. I sometimes say prescription–most people assume it’s for a physical thing. *Not on AD now but was for a while*

      I totally agree, though; there should be no stigma. That there is in this day and age is just maddening. Sometimes I want to smack people for being so backward.

    5. Lady Bug*

      Not answering your question, but my husband had great success with acupuncture for TMJ. The pain was gone in 2 sessions and he only has occasional clicking now. Its been at least 8 years since he had the treatment.

    6. Old teabag*

      I wish there wasn’t a stigma, but there definitely is one and I would advise not saying anything. I said something to my then-boss about a bad medication reaction causing me to be depressed and unable to think. That’s what caused me to need to take off a couple of weeks for FMLA, and I could see the change coming over his face when I explained this. I never should have said a thing. Things have gone downhill drastically since then and it looks like they are starting documentation to fire me (of course they’re not using anything mental-health related as their reasons).

      You might be fine if you say medication reaction, but I wouldn’t mention anti-depressants at all. It’s sad, but I’ve learned my lesson and I won’t ever do that again. I have to think that some workplaces would be understanding, but it’s not worth the risk (to me).

    7. Seren*

      You should tell the pharmacist about the reaction, they’ll be able to suggest alternative muscle relaxants that won’t have a reaction to the antidepressant. Then you can bring up those alternatives when you talk to your dentist.

  42. Navy Vet*

    Happy Birthday Alison! I hope you get lots of good cake :)

    Great news here this week! I was told I am doing a great job and I got surprised yesterday, they gave me a fridge for under my desk. (Used, but new to me!) This is great for me due to my dietary restrictions and will make it easier for me to avoid cross-contamination at work.

    I’ve been at my new job for 8 months now, I also wanted to say thank you to Alison and the whole community. This blog helped me so much in finding this job and maintaining my sanity while trying to get out of a miserable work environment. It’s easier to work at your ridiculous job when you know there are people out there who are demanding employees livers. (At least mine didn’t want any of my internal organs) It doesn’t change how shitty it is, but it helps you cope!

    I feel so, so, so much better now. I almost feel like I should make one of those “It gets better” videos!

    For other physiological battlefield survivors…how did you get past your conditioned unhealthy responses?

    1. Laura*

      You get your own fridge?? YES! Your employer is awesome.

      I’m still trying to move on from working for a dysfunctional employer. I worked there for four months and quit six months ago. For me it just takes time, and being aware that I changed industries, so the pressure that was normal at bad workplace is not even remotely present at my new job.

      It doesn’t help that my boyfriend works at bad workplace… so when he talks about work, I can sometimes be “triggered” and start having bad/depressing thoughts or anxiety. But time heals all wounds. I’m working on trying to be a supportive partner to him while making a clear disconnect between his job and my past. :)

    2. Elizabeth West*

      OMG a fridge! That’s awesome.

      I still have a time with this–since I got a new boss, things are changing but it’s too early to tell how that’s going to go. It looks promising but I’ve been burned before. So I’m trying not to freak out and be cautiously optimistic (not succeeding very well, I’m afraid). I think a small PTO break around my birthday at the end of the month will help.

    3. periwinkle*

      “It’s easier to work at your ridiculous job when you know there are people out there who are demanding employees’ livers.”

      I am going to print that out and hang it on the cubicle wall. It’s a good reminder about keeping perspective *and* might attract some fellow AAM devotees.

  43. Librarian Ish*

    It’s a slow part of our year, which is discouraging/a little boring. Even in our busy times, I have a _lot_ of downtime. I just found out our dean is leaving for another job and we’re facing a budget shortfall, so they’re possibly halting hiring a replacement for one of my coworkers. I spent a good section of time panicking that they’d determine my position is excessive and lay me off.

    So imagine my surprise when in the budget meeting, they said they’re pushing to hire a second person to help me out with all my tasks. I was told to be adamant that I’m really swamped with work and that I need the help. But I don’t?

    I don’t even know what question to ask the group. I was speechless in the meeting – which was probably a good thing! Just…what to do if you need work and they tell you that you already have too much?

    1. Anna*

      They’re asking you to make a case for the other position because if they lose it, it’ll probably be scrubbed from the budget. You’re in a tough spot. If you tell them you’re having a hard time keeping yourself busy, they could determine they can use money for your position somewhere else, but then again in academics and government nobody wants to cut a position because if they do and need it later, they have to make a really hard case for more money. It’s easier to leave a position vacant. You could bring it up to your manager as a casual observation. “I know they’re looking to bring someone in to help me, but this is our slowest time and I’m handling the workload just fine. I worry it’ll be difficult to find enough work for two people.” See what they say and then let it go.

    2. OhNo*

      Does this give you an opening to work on some professional development or pick up any new tasks or responsibilities that could support other people in your department?

      Whenever I feel like I don’t have work to do, I run down this list in my head to see where I might be able to make work for myself:
      Are there any projects I can work ahead on, even if they’re not due yet?
      Are there any projects that I tabled for when I “have more time” that I can start on?
      Do any of my coworkers have tasks that I can help with temporarily?
      Is there any training I can do now so I can pick up new tasks or projects in the future?
      Does my boss have any “someday” projects that I can start on or help with?
      Can I do any professional development or reflection?

    3. Laura*

      Higher ed is indeed slow and boring right now. I would be candid with your manager about your workload. Being honest now will endear you to him/her and save everyone time, money, and headaches down the line.

    4. Librarian Ish*

      Thanks all for the advice, especially the point about keeping a spot vacant.

      I liked the list of things to do, and I have found some that way. I just have to keep the note of desperation out of my voice when I ask if I can help with anything :)

  44. Abigael*

    Here’s a question for any religious folks out there:

    I work at a Christian non-profit. My coworkers are great, and they have invited me to join in on a very intimate Bible study group they are starting–they describe it as a “missional community” and/or a “family.” Anyway, part of me is excited to get to know my coworkers more closely, especially since I live alone and have struggled to find good friends in the area since starting this job 2 years ago. And I do think it’s a nice idea to be investing in and supporting each other’s spiritual lives, especially since we work in a religious context and our faith is closely related to our organization’s mission. Also, I don’t want to be the only person in the office who is not joining in with “the family.” At the same time, I also feel wary about having my work life and my personal/spiritual life blending together so much, and I’m not sure how comfortable I would be about sharing really intimate details about my faith with my coworkers. But at the same time, I don’t want to “pretend” to be part of the family and go to the meetings but only share really superficial, not-genuine things about myself. Do you think I’m over-thinking this? What would you do in my situation?

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I think I would go, but perhaps keep the sharing to a minimum. Make the sharing genuine, but it doesn’t need to be deep. As you get to know these people, in a work and personal setting, you’ll have a better idea if this is a group where you can open up more, or a place to simply find other connections. Because you can also find other connections to external groups, and then try them instead.

      There are advantages to having close spiritual friends at work, and disadvantages too. One good reason to find external sources of friends is so if and when you leave this job, you don’t also have to leave your friends and support group.

    2. SophieChotek*

      I agree. I think a Bible-study group (or something similar) can be good but having that work/home or divide can be good — if you want that deeper spiritual/family sharing perhaps a different Bible study/small group via church or something? Though it can be hard to find time for 1, let alone 2.
      And I hear you about the not wanting to “pretend” either.

    3. Joanna*

      I wouldn’t freak out too hard in the absence of other red flags about the “missional community” language. That seems to be pretty common these days and doesn’t appear to always mean an overly intense group. Perhaps you could try to tease out more info about how how intense it is with some questions that sound like you’re curious? Perhaps something like:
      – What section of the bible/topic are you guys focusing on at the moment? How are you finding it helpful?
      – I’m curious about the name “missional community” as it’s not one I’ve heard used much before. What does that description mean to you?
      – Every bible study I’ve been in has had different things to like. What in particular do you really like about this one?

      Also, I wonder if there is options to be partially involved? Perhaps you could say something like “Thanks for inviting me. I’m a bit busy at the moment to take on another weekly bible study meeting, but if you need some extra help for service projects or special events, let me know.”

  45. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    The interview for well-paying gig was last week. Just got call yesterday I’d find out about progress today, and that they were finishing interviewing internal candidates, and that they really liked speaking to me. Is this code for give up now? On the bright side, I do have a different company calling about an on-site interview for next week.

    Tl;dr: Do external candidates ever win? Especially if they are 2-3 yrs experienced/excellent workers with a ton of masters-type degrees? Or do I just give up? :/

    1. ASJ*

      It is code for : they were finishing interviewing internal candidates, and that they really liked speaking to you.

      Don’t torture yourself with that “what did they really mean?” game. You’ll never win.

      Also, just because you’re an external candidate doesn’t mean you’re automatically out of the running. In my (admittedly not vast) experience it depends largely on the individual company, the job, and the strength of the candidates (internal and external).

      Good luck!

    2. External Candidate*

      Just to let you know, I was recently an external candidate with 2-3 years of experience with just one masters degree and I got a job offer. External candidates can win!

      Also, I have to give a lot of credit to the place you interviewed at that they called you to give you a heads up on the timeline. Most of the places I interviewed for only called after a decision was made (and I was left in the dark until then!). They were being extremely nice to keep you informed, but you shouldn’t read it as a sign of your status in the interview (but it’s a good sign that they’re a conscientious employer).

      Don’t give up!

    3. catsAreCool*

      “they really liked speaking to me” might be code for “we really liked speaking to you, so if you don’t get this job at our company, keep trying!”

  46. anon for reasons*

    I just wanted to share my excitement! This is my first “real” job, by which I mean my first job that hasn’t been a temp. I work at a university and raises are automated; last night I attended a union meeting to find out information about the new contract. If it goes through, I’ll be getting my first ever raise! $0.30 (an hour) for last year, $0.30 cents (an hour0 for this year (so more like $0.60 since we’ll be getting it at once) and $0.35 (an hour) for next year. I know it’s not a huge raise, and we can’t negotiate to change it, but it made me happy regardless… also if the contract goes through we are guaranteed the week off between Christmas and New Years Eve.

    I was always a bit disappointed with my starting pay (HR refused to negotiate at all) so I feel like this might help make a difference (provided it’s not all swallowed by taxes or higher union fees, of course).

  47. Anon for this post*

    I left my toxic job a few months ago. The advice I’ve read on here from Alison and others was invaluable in helping me through the process of getting a new job.

    (When I say that my last job was toxic; a pregnant employee started bleeding and collapsed. She was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and had a premature birth. They tried to fire her because she left work early. They also fired the person who called 911 for using the phone for non-work related purposes. There was other stuff as well.)

    Yesterday I made a mistake at my new job. Today I was sick in the bathroom and I could barely compose myself enough to go talk to my manager about it. He didn’t even care or get upset. He told me it no big deal and we fixed it together. He also sent me for lunch early to relax and was so concerned about me being upset because he didn’t want me to worry. He told me about times he made mistakes and he keeps telling me to calm down because he can see that I am still hyper.

    At my old job I would have been screamed at in front of everyone and possibly sent home without pay for the day and it would have been held over me forever. I know it wasn’t normal for them to do that but it was all I knew and I got used to it and accepted it as normal. My manager knows what my old company was like because he has hired others from there besides me. He is understanding and he told me he wants me to not stress.

    A big thank you to Alison and everyone here who gives help/tips/advice about how to get a job and leave a bad job. You helped me (and so many others as well I’m sure).

    1. ASJ*

      I have very little to add, but I just have to say my jaw dropped when I read about your former coworker. That is a new level of OMGWTF. I am so glad you’re out of there!

    2. Bowserkitty*

      Today I was sick in the bathroom and I could barely compose myself enough to go talk to my manager about it. He didn’t even care or get upset. He told me it no big deal and we fixed it together. … At my old job I would have been screamed at in front of everyone and possibly sent home without pay for the day and it would have been held over me forever.

      I’m dealing with the same thing, Anon!! It’s very hard to shake the feeling from the old, toxic job. I was even assured that a recent humongo mistake I made would not be held against me in the future, that most people would be likely to forget it. It’s nice when mistakes can be positively learned from.

    3. Argh!*

      This sounds like PTSD. If you don’t get over it soon, try therapy. I had PTSD from an old job (different kind of dynamic) and I had nightmares for years after leaving it.

      1. Lily Evans*

        I second the therapy suggestion. I used to overreact to making mistakes too (thanks to my mother, not a previous job) and therapy really helped to reframe my state of mind in those situations.

    4. Observer*

      Therapy sounds like a good idea. Just make sure you deal with a therapist who understands that this level of toxic really does exist.

      I mean, your former employer sounds like a real candidate for “Bad Boss of the Year.”

      And, by the way, I know that a LOT of stupid things are legal, but is it really legal to fire someone for using a work phone to call 911?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t know about that, but if they fired the pregnant employee for having an emergency, she could have sued them right into the next century.

      2. Not a Lawyer*

        I’m not a lawyer and not speaking to employment law, but in many states it would be illegal to prevent someone from calling 911 to report an emergency. Also in USA, while in most cases people do not have a “Duty to Rescue,” the employer-employee relationship is often considered an exception to this – meaning the employer has a duty to rescue employees in peril while at work.

        Now I don’t know what this means after the fact about firing the employee. But the employer would likely have been in a huge risk of a suit if the employee was prevented from calling 911 to save the pregnant coworker.

        However, this would be a great news story for the fired employee to leak.

      3. Nina*

        Are 911 calls even charged? I’m not in the US but here in Oz emergency numbers are free from all phones.

        1. Windchime*

          911 is free from all phones, I believe. It wouldn’t even make sense to have a system in place that people couldn’t afford to call. I think this was just a terrible, terrible employer.

    5. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      My old manager was so controlling I would have to tell her my whereabouts for anything longer than a trip to the bathroom. In my new job I have a ton of autonomy and flexibility, but it took months for me to stop telling my new manager and co-workers every time I had a meeting or was leaving the premises for lunch. It really does make you question what normal and acceptable are.

  48. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Sort of work, sort of not — but lord, could I use advice!

    Part 1: My lease is ending in six weeks, and my current roommates are moving on to their own next thing with no room for me. I’m at an age where most of my local friends are settling down, and I’m experiencing a keen longing to have a place of my own, instead of being a third wheel or a houseguest or what have you.

    Part 2: Layoffs! My company is closing the office I work at, and so I know my job will be going adios sometime this year, but I don’t know when. Probably not before I have to move, but really, I don’t know.

    So here’s the dilemma: I’m trying to look for an apartment and a new job at the same time, and trying to navigate what is the most sensible. I cannot houseguest with any of my local friends, as for the most part they either have leases that forbid houseguesting for more than a few days, very small places that won’t accommodate a third adult, or cat allergies. Apartments anywhere within reasonable driving distance of my current job are shockingly expensive; the ones that are affordable for me on my own are mostly far enough away that I can’t physically manage the drive, or the patchwork of unreliable public transit.

    What on earth do I do with all this? I don’t have the savings to leave my job without another one lined up and forego the severance they’re offering, and until I have a job offer in hand I don’t feel I can bank on getting one in any kind of particular timeframe, but managing this all is just exhausting.

      1. SophieChotek*

        +1 to sublet

        And I don’t know about where you live and I’ve never tried it myself, but some friends were building a new house and instead of renting an apartment for a year, they put their stuff in storage and moved into one of those long-term hotels that you paid by the week or by the month or something like that.

        I think they saved money, as it was cheaper than rent or committing to a long-term lease (1 year) when they knew their huse would be done i a few months but didn’t want to renew lease to their place either, etc; they really had to pare down on stuff, but it worked for them, and then when their house was done, they didn’t have to re-pack again, they just got it of storage and moved in — plus they had optin to extend stay in hotel a little at a time if issues arose with house/needed to get away from chaos of unpacking

        Not sure what they did about food…if this type of hotel had small kitchenette/microwave…

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I’ve looked into it, and the extended stay places where I am cost more a month than I take home by a factor of about 50%! Cause truth be told, that seemed like an attractive option until I saw the numbers.

          Though, most extended stay places do have a kitchenette. They’re pretty nice if you have to stay someplace.

          1. SophieChotek*

            That’s too bad. Must depend on the place or maybe my friends were lucky (or their rent was insanely high…)

            Sorry–hope you find some situation!

    1. ASJ*

      I sympathize. I sympathize so hard you don’t even know, because this was me just over three years ago when my parents decided to sell their house and my (temp) job was ending. All the hugs in the world.

      Can you ask your manager or supervisor if they have any clarification on when you’ll be laid off? Can you look for a new roommate? What about one of those places where you just rent a room? If the latter, could you negotiate a month-to-month lease? Or at least a one year lease, which means you know it would be temporary.

      I completely understand the desire to be on your own. But right now I think you’d be better off with a roommate or a rented room. Both provide slightly more stability and will give you the luxury of taking your time to search for a place you really like (HINT: Don’t be like me and end up miserable in a place with mold in the walls and the power company threatening to shut your power off because your landlord hasn’t paid the bill). It will also give you a chance to focus more on the job search.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        My manager has already committed to making sure we all know whatever she knows as soon as she knows it. The company made sure to make the announcement as soon as they knew it was going to happen, but that means that they are still working on the plans for just how the transition is going to run while we all panic and job-hunt.

        I’ve been digging into rooms for rent. It’s a bit tough, since I’ve got a cat and most places don’t want to take her — but she can’t be rehomed either. I’m pretty sure that going to a shelter would just straight-up kill her, since she’s old and not healthy and easily stressed out, and I really can’t rehome her to anyone. But getting a room would still be better than the ultimate “this or the streets” solution — move in with my parents in Nowheresville Michigan, minimum half an hour from any city, and try to job-hunt from there.

        1. ASJ*

          If worst came to worst, would your parents be willing to take in your cat for say, 6 months while you stay in the city and rent a room? It’s not ideal, but presumably if you were going there they would take your cat too… just a thought, as my parents also live an hour away in a very small town which would’ve made job hunting next to impossible.

          Either way, don’t stop looking! Also, don’t forget about yourself in all this. It will be really easy to burn yourself out with so much going on. Make sure you set aside some time to relax and enjoy your favorite activities, even if it feels like you really super don’t have the time to do so. You’ll come out much better in the long run if you do.

    2. SophieChotek*

      House sitting for someone away for a few months?
      Or I’ve read/heard online about people doing that with Airbnb, etc. for several weeks/months at time; (and the related concerns of NYC (?) tenancy laws)….

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        I did housesitting two Christmases ago for almost three weeks because we absolutely needed our own space over the holidays. I used trustedhousesitters.com – I think there may have been a very small subscription fee. Depending on where you are located, sometimes some much longer places to sit can come up. The cat does make it a little difficult. I would second subletting though, especially as its almost summer and there must be some sort of student type accomodation around.

        I definitely feel for you as I am in the same position (almost) – while our living situation is secure for the time being, it is too small and the noise too much to stay here much longer. Also, we parked our two cats with my partner’s parents two and a half YEARS ago and well, its time they moved home (no, seriously, they are driving his mother up the wall because its summer again, and these are cat loving people!). They need to move here (we are in different countries) but our current place is too small for everyone. Finally, my work contract is ending and I think I have a date in a few months, but who knows with that place. Finding a place to live in this city is a nightmare and I just can’t face dealing with both job and house hunting. Essentially I need to get everything sorted out by second week of August otherwise I am going to be stuck all day in a noisy apartment with two unhappy kitties who won’t want to be kept inside. Ugh. It makes planning anything else impossible!

  49. Newly pregnant at new job*

    I’m sure I’ve seen this on AAM, but it didn’t apply to me before so it didn’t stick…but I’m that position where, uh, I got pregnant within days of starting a new job. I’m thrilled, but very nervous about telling them.

    My workplace has a great work/life balance and offers a lot of flexibility, but definitely, absolutely only after a period of probation. Maybe probation isn’t the right word, but I’m sure you get what I mean. I’m not supposed to take any time off for the first few months, for instance. But now I’m probably going to have to for doctors appointments. I haven’t had time to prove myself yet and now I need to ask for time off and oh yeah, an entire maternity leave in the not so distant future.

    Any suggestions on how to navigate this would be appreciated. What to Expect When You’re Expecting says you should tell work before you start showing, and you shouldn’t be apologetic about getting pregnant, which makes sense. But when is a good time? Eight weeks? Ten weeks? Twelve? Longer? I’m torn between wanting to tell them as soon as possible, to get it over with and give them lots of notice, and waiting longer until a more appropriate time because That’s How Things Are Done.

    So, when’s the right time? Any suggested phrasing to use?

    Thank you!!

    1. ASJ*

      I think doctors appointments are one of those things that are excluded from the whole “don’t take time off” thing. For me, I went without insurance for years so you better believe I had some appointments when I had insurance again. I’m sure I’m not alone.

      Ignore how things are done, don’t worry about ample notice (telling them at twelve weeks, for example, is still at least 5 months of notice which is plenty IMO), when do YOU want to tell them? When do you feel comfortable letting the word out? That’s what I would focus on.

      Also, congrats!

      1. Anna*

        ASJ nailed it. They don’t mean doctor’s appointments and the like, they mean vacation, long weekends, etc. And absolutely tell them when you want to tell them.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yep! When I started at my new job, we were informed that for the first 7 weeks (intensive training) there would be no time off, none, not a bit. But when a coworker’s kid had to go to the hospital, she got the time off for that with no questions asked. Reasonable workplaces understand medical needs.

    2. Also pregnant*

      Congratulations!

      I’m sure any reasonable company would be fine with doctor’s appointments, but if you also try to get them scheduled for first thing in the morning, then you might not even have any issues. I usually go in to work by 9 am and if my appointment is at 7:30 or 8, I have no problem getting to the office on time. (Also, then your OB has less of a chance of being delayed!)

      If you have any sort of intranet, you might be able to find information about FMLA, short term disability, all that kind of stuff there, so you don’t have to ask right away and still feel like you have the information. Or if you have a separate HR department, you can call there.

      Don’t feel any rush to tell them, though! When you feel comfortable sharing that information is fine. :)

    3. just a thought*

      Whenever is right to you, is right. This kind of thing happens so don’t worry about it too much.

      There really aren’t many doctor’s appointments in the first trimester assuming you would fall under the low-risk category like most women. You might have 1-2 appointments, and that may or may not include an ultrasound.

      And congrats! Best wishes for a happy, healthy pregnancy.

    4. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      I have a very supportive work culture – so everyone including my managers know that I am trying to get pregnant. Really it depends on you. What makes you comfortable? What is your relationship with your boss like? It’s up to you.

      I also disagree that Dr.’s appt = must tell them now. I had several back-to-back Dr.s appointment two weeks into my job and I did not tell anyone what it was about. Good bosses let you make Dr.’s appointments.

    5. MM*

      Wait until at least 12 weeks to tell them, or in some cases anyone. Miscarriages are more likely to happen in the first trimester and that may not be someone you want to share with everyone in a new office if it unfortunately happens. Best of luck and health togo u and your family!

  50. RecentGrad*

    I am in some serious need of advice. Sorry for the long, tangled backstory–this entire situation is quite a mess.

    I am a days-old graduate who was recently hired by a startup run by a father and a son. The office space is shared by a few different startups in the area, and I am one of the few females in the entire space (and the only in this company). For a month, I was working as an intern under the son to learn the ropes, but now I am their first full-time employee. The money is great, the benefits are good, but there’s a bit of a problem. Upon accepting the full-time position, I was told by the father that the son was “very hot on (me)”–direct quote–and implied that this was the reason I was hired.
    The son has been asking plenty of uncomfortable questions (which, for me, is anything that doesn’t directly regard the job, given he’s my supervisor) and made me go on a walk outside the office with him while I was interning, to a less populous area. Having endured sexual assault before, I’m terrified of going back to work every day and my productivity is shot.

    I don’t know what to do or what there is that I can do. There’s no HR department, nobody unrelated to this man, my supervisor/boss, to talk to. Does anyone have any advice? This is my first ‘real job’ and I love the work that I’m doing, but am so terrified of the environment that I can’t focus. Thanks to everyone.

    1. Liana*

      Leave. Immediately. Honestly, if the father is comfortable saying something like that to you and doesn’t understand how wildly inappropriate that is, you’re not going to get anywhere by talking to them about it, and if you’re genuinely worried for your safety, that needs to take priority over everything else.

      I walked out of my first job out of college after being sexually assaulted by a coworker. It was an awful job to begin with, so I didn’t have any attachment to the work I was doing, but after talking it over with my parents, I made the decision to walk away without giving notice. I don’t regret it. If you’ve only been there for a couple months or so, you don’t even have to put it on your resume – I keep that job off mine and it’s like it never even happened.

    2. Lillian McGee*

      Run! but not until you have another job lined up. Start looking yesterday and until you find something new do not be alone with the son EVER. Trust your gut.

      1. Liana*

        I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with this. If she’s “terrified” and worried about sexual assault, her safety is absolutely, 100% more important than finding another job. I get that it’s easier said than done, and RecentGrad may not be able to afford leaving without a job lined up, but if she can swing it at all, even a little bit, she should leave.

        1. nutella fitzgerald*

          Agreed. Plus I would argue that if you only graduated days ago, you could leave this off your resume without worrying at all about raising red flags about a gap in employment.

          1. Liana*

            Yep. At my AwfulJob, I was only there six months after college, and I also had a part-time job hostessing at a restaurant, so I just pretend like it never happened (the job, not the sexual assault. That’s taken some time to work through). I think most hiring managers are understanding about the current economy, and they get that most people are not going to graduate with a job immediately lined up.

            @RecentGrad – can you take a side job in retail or the restaurant industry to pay the bills while you look for something else? Or sign up with a staffing agency? I did both of those things while I was looking for full-time entry level work, and it saved my butt.

      2. blackcat*

        Given that she graduated VERY recently, I see no reason to not quit immediately. It won’t look like a gap and there’s no reason to ever put this job on a resume.

    3. Anna*

      Do not stay where you don’t feel safe. There’s no reason for you to dread going to work because you worry for your physical safety. Or your mental safety, because having to worry about it is unsafe.. Is the start-up in an incubator of some sort? You can probably approach the org that runs the incubator and ask for some guidance. Even start-ups have to answer to answer to someone and this is Not Okay.

    4. OhNo*

      Oh dear, I’m so sorry you have to put up with that.

      First question: what would make you feel safe here? I imagine quitting and never returning is on that list, but is there anything else? Would you feel safe if the son apologized and made an obvious effort not to be a creep? Would you feel safe if he didn’t say anything but just backed off?

      I’m asking because you do have a lot of options, from walking away to confronting him to putting up with it until you can find a new job. But the route you take is going to be dependent on what outcome you want.

    5. calonkat*

      RecentGrad, first of all, deep breath.
      You say you are terrified of the environment, but love the work. If you are terrified, then just quit. You have the right to leave any job, and don’t stay somewhere that you feel unsafe. You can find work that you love in an environment you feel safe in!

      If “terrified” was not the correct word, then I’d talk to the pair of them about your concerns. The only reason I suggest this as an option is that you worked there as an intern, and felt comfortable enough to keep the internship and accept a permanent position. But if you feel that you might be in danger, then please do not stay in that position.

    6. animaniactoo*

      First – evaluate whether you have the resources to take a risk on waiting this out while you job search. Can you talk to some of the employees from some of the other companies? Let them know that you need someone keeping an extra eye out for you and making it hard for son to go off to a less populous area with you? People who can frequently be “just dropping by” to make it harder for son to be alone with you in the office, who can walk out with you when you leave, etc.?

      If so, then set that up. And start job searching immediately. I would also pick up a small airhorn or pepperspray that you can keep on your keychain in your pocket, to protect yourself in case that’s not enough.

      In the meantime, I would also be as clear as I could that you’re not interested in the son, that you are very uncomfortable with his interest in you (and make that clear to both the father and the son), and be very careful about your replies to his questions. Answer the bare minimum of information. Nothing he literally does not absolutely need to know. If it begins to cross the line, the answer is “I’m sorry, that’s personal.” Firmly. Not with an apologetic tone, no further explanation, just wash and repeat if he tries to ask again.

    7. Laura*

      I was a recent grad myself just a year ago. You need to get out. Now. There are plenty of other jobs out there, and you will find one. But you need to distance yourself from these people ASAP, for your own well-being and for your professional health too.

    8. Joanna*

      As scary as this is going to be, you’re going to need to leave in the near future. Obviously the most important thing here is your physical safety and emotional wellbeing. However, there’s also the secondary issue of learning unhealthy habits here. The longer you stay the more likely you are to be learning survival mechanisms and ways of relating to others that you’ll unconsciously carry into future jobs, sabotaging your productivity and relationships there.

      In the meantime, there’s a few things that might be a good idea. One is to document in writing every example of harassment with times, dates and as much detail as you can. This will probably be an unpleasant task in the moment, but if he tries to screw you out of entitlements or otherwise violate your rights as you leave, you’ll have things more together if you have to get the authorities involved.

      If you can’t leave straight away, see if you can find some allies in the other companies using the space. If the guy is so wildly inappropriate, it’s likely that other women using the space have experienced his bad behaviour or at least have a hunch that something isn’t right. Perhaps see if you can privately have a chat to them so that they can be keeping a look out for you and perhaps if they are willing walk with you to your car or join you for lunch so you don’t have to be alone.

      While you’re working on what to do, I would also suggest setting things up so if there was an incident that meant you had to literally get out of the building that very moment and never come back, you could do that easily. For example, don’t leave any personal email/social media accounts logged in on their computers, make sure any payroll related documents you have to complete are always up to date and minimise the amount of personal possessions you have with you at work.

    9. Pineapple Incident*

      Late to this answer, but I have to echo with the others that say this is a job to leave ASAP. This is a situation where “wait until you have another job lined up” does not apply, as your safety is at risk. If the people you work with don’t realize that you can’t just be folded into the family and date their son without being asked (or at all interested, which clearly you’re not), these are not people who will listen to reason. Get out now, leave this off your resume, and if you have to cite it on a work history you can tell the truth about why you left so soon.

      And talk to someone about this- it’s okay to say out loud if someone is making you uncomfortable or scaring you. Make a scene if this person engages you inside your personal space, and always remember that HE is creating the awkward situation, not you. Good luck- we need an update soon from you to know you’re okay.

  51. Sideline*

    If I ask for a raise based on my current performance, am I committing myself to staying for a while? Is it a jerk move to ask for a raise and then leave within the year?

    Also, anyone have tips for asking for a raise in a tough budget climate? I don’t want to appear out of touch, but I’ve been here two years and I think I can make a strong case.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Is it a jerk move to ask for a raise and then leave within the year?

      No, it’s not, especially if you don’t know for sure that you’ll be leaving within the year.

    2. ThatGirl*

      No. You don’t know for sure if or when you’ll leave.

      Focus on your accomplishments and your case for getting a raise. The worst they can say is no, or throw out a smaller number than you wanted.

    3. ASJ*

      No. You don’t know for sure you’ll be leaving within the year. Continue acting at your current job as though you have no plans to leave for the foreseeable future.

  52. Nova Terra*

    This is tangentially work-related since it pertains to workplace advice and the site, but if it’s too off-topic I can repost on the weekend open thread.

    Alison, I think Bryan and Donna are your go-to people for general legal advice for your letters (with the IANYL caveat since they’re not actually taking on the letter writer as the client). How did you start collaborating with them? I’m really curious since at least one of them don’t even live in the same city as you; what started the trend of sending them bits from your letters? And how do you decide which letter to send to whom?

      1. Nova Terra*

        I’m picturing Bryan reading your blog, making “THEY DIDN’T” faces at some of the ridiculous posts, and immediately emailing you to offer to collaborate.

        How long have you been in contact with the two of them re: legal questions, if you don’t mind my asking?

    1. Hubba*

      Thanks for asking this question! I love learning “behind-the-scenes” tidbits about how AAM works.

  53. Liana*

    I believe I’ve mentioned in previous open threads that I’m interested in teaching English abroad, specifically in Thailand. Well, a few weeks ago, I applied with a US-based agency that places teachers abroad, and I had my interview on Wednesday! I think it went really well, even though it was over Skype and I’ve never done a Skype interview before. They said they usually get back to people within a week, so I’m trying not to be impatient, but I couldn’t stop myself from checking out flights from Boston to Thailand yesterday so I could get an idea of how much it would cost. I may have also googled “apartments in Thailand” for an hour or so.

    I’m still a bit conflicted about leaving my current job. If I do end up getting the teaching job, I’d leave in October, since Thai school semesters start in November and I’d need to do the four-week training course first. So that would mean I’d be at my current job for just a year and a half. Not the worst thing ever, but people tend to stay in this job for much longer than that, so I feel like a bit of a failure for not liking it.

    1. ASJ*

      Try not to feel like a failure. Not every job will be perfect (or even okay) for everyone. Frankly speaking, if this job isn’t one you like or enjoy for whatever reason, I would congratulate you for sticking it out for a year and a half… Don’t feel bad for moving onto brighter and better things.

    2. Liza*

      Liana, that’s so exciting! Good luck. I visited Thailand in 2010 and spent a while after that daydreaming about getting a job in the State Department or something so I could move there.

    3. misspiggy*

      Very exciting! Do read up about the more challenging aspects to life in Thailand – the better prepared you are, the better placed you’ll be to avoid them. I’d say political issues (never criticising the royal family you’ll know about, but be generally careful in the current political climate), road safety/accidents, and potential negative perceptions of you as a Westerner are some things to think about. It’s perfectly possible to have an amazingly wonderful time in Thailand, as long as you’re aware that it’s not all lovely.

      1. Liana*

        I’ve heard that the political climate is a bit tricky at the moment – I should definitely read up on that.

  54. Red*

    I am a team lead for a team of 20-ish teapot makers, along with a co-lead and a manager. Our entire team, including the three of us, work remotely and spread across the state. We’re brainstorming on how we can do team-building for those who want to participate, while still respecting that some people are doing this job BECAUSE strictly speaking they don’t require much interaction with their coworkers and can just get their work done and call it a day, and also trying to figure out a remote-and-widespread equivalent to bringing in donuts or something. Another team with a similar structure sent out electronic gift cards to everyone, $5 to starbucks or some such, and actually got in trouble with HR because we can’t give the team anything that could be considered “extra money” without jumping through some kind of hoops about taxation or something. I don’t know what the rules are about offering extra PTO, I suspect probably not allowed officially because of the size of our employer (some 40k employees statewide) and the fact that our team’s metric is production, so we can’t unofficially let them knock off early because it’ll hit them negatively in their number of teapots painted per hour. Any ideas?

    1. Px*

      Virtual happy hour or something like that? Virtual team lunch via Skype or something?

  55. Allison*

    I have a new pet peeve: loud, constant throat clearing. My coworker was sick sometime in the last month or so, and like many people she has a residual cough and – I guess – some post nasal drip. I know this because she clears her throat every 5 minutes. It’s very loud, and kind of sounds like that throat clear passive aggressive people do to get attention. It’s driving me nuts.

    I swear, I can remember a point in my life where I didn’t have any significant pet peeves. Now, in the past two years, I seem to have a few. In addition to the throat clearing, people who stomp when they walk (like, slender people manage to make the room shake) and people who open doors unnecessarily aggressively, like they just BURST through the door for no apparent reason.

    1. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Ugh, two of my coworkers are doing that right now! It totally drives me crazy. One of them is on vacation next week, hopefully she comes back completely well.

      I was in a focus group the other night with a guy who was super congested and kept doing that awful suck-up-all-the-snot noise. I can’t call it a sniff because it was sooo much worse than that. I kept looking around to see if there were tissues anywhere and there weren’t. If I’m sick, I try to keep a travel pack of tissues in my purse. I know blowing your nose is kind of gross, but that noise is so much worse!

      1. another IT manager*

        I’ve got that right now mostly because blowing my nose isn’t doing anything, and it’s at least as irritating for me as for you. :|

    2. Mander*

      I do this a lot and it’s totally unconscious. My throat is just always claggy, for lack of a better word, and nothing seems to make any difference. It’s been like that for years.

  56. LotusEclair1984*

    Happy Birthday to Alison! Happy National Bike Month to everyone!

    How do you approach riding in inclement weather? What is appropriate attire for cycling and work – and do you change in between? What kind of bicycle accessories and sundries enable you to bike to work successfully? Please share your cycling-to-work tips and tricks of the trade, and ask questions too!

    1. Gene*

      Fenders. Front fenders with mud flaps. A good wind-front jacket in an eye-searing color. Antifog glasses. Waterproof shoe covers. Helmet cover. All the lights. And some more lights. And lots of bright, flashing lights, if you look like a Disney Electric Parade float, you are there. Something besides your voice to make loud noises (I use a Freon boat horn in a stem-mounted water bottle cage). WaterPROOF panniers.

      Attire is proper cycling attire. But I have a shower and locker, so I change to work clothes at work.

      1. Lizketeer*

        As someone who watches the Main Street Electrical Parade at least once a week, the image of someone on the side of the road dressed like the snails (preferable with the Baroque Howdown playing) is very entertaining

    2. Liza*

      I like commuting by bike and I sometimes really enjoy riding in the rain, so I’m enjoying this thread! I’ve decided that I’m happy to bike in the rain OR after dark, but not in the rain after dark. (But I live in an area where there are lots of buses and they all have bike carriers on the front, so if I’m out late on my bike and it starts to rain, I can take the bus home.)

      I usually bike to work in my regular work clothes, but my commute is short enough that I don’t get overly sweaty. I do make sure to shower that morning before my ride, because sweat on top of old sweat is way stinkier than sweat on top of recently-washed skin. If I’m biking to work in the rain, usually I don’t try to avoid getting wet, I just take fresh clothes with me and change in the bathroom when I get to work. I have waterproof pants I can wear for biking, but since they’re not breathable, wearing them makes me sweaty-wet instead of rain-wet.

      Among the accessories etc that I like to use (some for inclement weather, some for all the time):
      * A very very bright chartreuse jacket or vest–I like to be seen when I’m biking!
      * A very very bright chartreuse helmet–ditto.
      * Good front AND rear AND wheel lights–ditto. The wheel lights are fun, they cycle through different colors (no pun intended on “cycle”) so it looks really cool when they do that while spinning around.
      * A pannier bag so I don’t have to wear a backpack (I like the Ortlieb Racktime Workit Classic, it has the right pockets for me and it has a waterproof cover in a side pocket).
      * A rack to put the pannier on.
      * A folding basket on the other side of the rack, opposite the pannier–so I can stop for groceries on the way home.
      * Fenders.
      * Utterly unnecessary but fun: a portable Bluetooth speaker so I can listen to music without blocking out the outside world with headphones–I have one that sits in my water bottle holder. I listen to a lot of 90s Europop (like Aqua) when I’m biking. :-)
      * A good lock. Last year I learned about folding locks–they’re strong like U-locks, but more convenient to carry. Abus makes them.
      * Glasses or sunglasses or goggles–something that keeps most of the rain out of my eyes and won’t fog up when I stop at a light.
      * I also carry a bike tool (a folding thing that has a couple of screwdrivers and several sizes of hex key) for minor repairs and adjustments.
      * My bus pass, in case of emergency.

      1. Liza*

        Oh, and those nifty reflective velcro straps to keep my pant legs pulled tight so they won’t catch in the chain. I knew I was forgetting something.

        1. LotusEclair1984*

          Awesome comprehensive checklist – thanks Liza! I usually abstain from biking in the rain, but after the 5 Boro Bike Tour this year (super wet, but fun!), I am considering it. Need to get more gear though and new brakepads.

    3. AnonAcademic*

      1. Appropriate attire – anything you can bike comfortably in! I bike in skirts/dresses every day and make it work by choosing knee length or longer hems, wearing bike shorts underneath or using a bike garter, and wearing lots of layers so I can regulate my temperature so I’m not super sweaty. I avoid synthetic fibers and prefer cotton or moisture wicking tops, and I also use a makeup setting spray so that nothing runs if I sweat. I take 5 minutes to adjust my hair and cool down in the bathroom when I arrive, I keep a little kit with me with a brush, hairspray, etc. in case the helmet hair is particularly bad. I am a master at helmet friendly styles (low side bun FTW). I work on a sprawling campus and it’s awesome to not have to spend 15 minutes parking after a 5 minute drive.

      2. Accessories – ride or die would be my bike basket, a good lock, and a bike that suits my needs (in my case a full size folding bike that can fit in a trunk if needed).

      3. Inclement weather: A helmet with a visor is key for keeping rain out of your face., ideally 2″ minimum but 3-5″ is better. I wear a rain poncho that goes to about my knees because I bike in skirts every day. This works well for light or moderate rain. I agree with others that heavy rain in the dark is a bad combo if only because of poor visibility + car traffic. I also have good tires that grip well so I don’t loose traction if the roads are wet.

      1. LotusEclair1984*

        Hadn’t thought about a visor to protect against the rain – thanks! I have an old Nutcase; not sure that a visor could fit into it, but definitely worth looking into.

    4. another IT manager*

      Ditto to everything said about lights. Ride defensively, aggressively*, and don’t be afraid to scream when someone’s about to merge with your hip. I have gotten louder since I started biking.

      My commute is about three miles each way, mostly flat, and work is business casual(ish) on the East Coast. I usually wear work pants, clothespinned out of the way, and a shirt that I change out of when I get to work, plus appropriate layers. I get in, hit the restroom, wipe down my face and the sweaty bits (neck, back, arms, pits), and change my shirt. In really hot weather, I change pants and shirt.

      Wool longjohns are the BEST in winter, and bar mitts are the second-best. Mine I picked up from Amazon for like $17; they were intended for ATVs. (And then someone pulled them off my handlebars, along with my headlight. Grrrr.) If your helmet has that adjustable strap in the back, you can fit a light hat underneath in the winter, which will reduce the layers you need overall. Winter biking is less about staying warm and more about controlling windchill–I prefer a lightish layer all over that I can vent to heavy anything.

      * Defensively because you are squishy and easier to damage. Aggressively because you belong there and it’s harder to hit you if you keep moving.

  57. Adele*

    I posted this as a comment on the short answers yesterday, but pretty late in the game. Basically, what is the function of a notice period? I’m heading to grad school in a different state in the fall, but haven’t given notice yet. I have a pre-planned, cannot-be-changed vacation week scheduled around the time I’d like to give notice. It would be very helpful to my budget to be able to take the week off, and then come back to work for a final week, but I’m not fully sure my boss will like that. I’m thinking I might give three weeks notice instead of two, eg, give notice, work a week, take my already scheduled vacation, and then come back for a final week. I’m not really sure what I “owe” my employer – does a notice period imply that you will be in the office for the whole time?

    1. Kassy*

      The idea behind a notice period is to wrap up projects that you were working on if possible, give status updates to your manager or whomever will be covering until they hire someone else for your position. In my job, two weeks would be plenty sufficient, as the people around me are pretty knowledgeable about what I do and probably we could hammer out the specifics in a couple of days. There are plenty of more specialized jobs, though, where two weeks may not do the trick. Presumably, it also gives them time to start working on providing your replacement.

      The polite thing here is to give as much notice as you safely can. Your plan of three weeks with one week of vacation is probably fine, unless you have reason to believe your employer might do something like let you go that day. Employers who act that way set themselves up for short notice periods.

    2. Laura*

      I think your plan of three weeks’ notice is perfect, and your employer will definitely appreciate it too. When you give notice, explain that your vacation is completely booked and cannot be changed. Reasonable management will understand.

    3. Anon Moose*

      I actually have a similar situation- I’m heading to grad school and moving in August. I gave my notice as soon as I decided I was leaving. However, my boss helped write my recommendation letters, so she knew it was coming for a while. It wasn’t as if I wanted to hide it or could- I’ve been open about applying for school since the beginning (actually, since my initial interview I told them it was my plan in a few years) and my boss and coworkers are all happy for me.
      I’ll also be taking some of my accrued vacation time a week before leaving. Because of the very long notice period, it will work out just fine (and they’d have to pay me out if I don’t take my vacation so they prefer it actually). More notice also allows me to be involved in hiring for my replacement and hopefully to overlap with them for a bit. And for the company to plan.
      I don’t know about your job and the culture there. If they would let you go immediately when you gave notice, then obviously you should wait. But grad school and an impending move aren’t necessarily seen as bad things at all by most people I don’t think. You’re not leaving because you hate the job (well, you might but that’s not relevant) but because you have an unavoidable conflict of school/a move. Telling them sooner rather than later may be a professional way to go and also give you more room to negotiate the vacation.

    4. Liza*

      Adele, I think your plan of three weeks’ notice (and being in the office for two of those weeks) sounds perfect. Because of the purposes Kassy outlined, it would be a problem to give notice and then be out of the office for your entire notice period, but you’re not planning to do that.

      1. TootsNYC*

        In a way, it might be great–you spend the first week doing some wrap-up and documentation, then you’re away and they try it without you, and then the week you’re back, you fill in any holes they discovered.

    5. Adele*

      Thanks everyone! I think part of me is a little anxious about how it’ll all play out, but this gives me more confidence.

  58. Preux*

    I’ve always worked in front line customer service (food service, bank teller work, etc.) but sometime in the next few months I’m going to be starting at my first office position. (Don’t know when yet – it’s an internal position and the offer was contingent on me staying in my current position until they hire someone to replace me.)

    Is there anything I should know about this kind of change? Any tips from other people who have made similar moves? I’m just not sure what to expect! I did ask them at the interview for a sort of overview of what I would be doing day-to-day, which they didn’t seem to think was an odd question and it did help a lot, but I feel like I’m going to be walking into a totally different work culture and I won’t know any of the norms.

    1. ASJ*

      For me, one of the biggest changes was being able to leave my desk whenever I wanted…. I could just get up and walk away?? Without asking permission??? What is this madness?

      Also, the ability to keep food and/or drinks with me. I’m an admin, but I can eat at my desk if I want to. Not so much with front line customer service positions like you mention.

      One thing I will mention… expect a slow transition period. IME, don’t expect your computer to be set up. And even if/when it is, you might be slow to start… I’ve heard some people say they were thrown into the fire, but I have pretty much always experienced a very slow beginning even when they knew someone was coming.