cake drama, getting a job recommendation from a Twitter contact, and more

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

1. Could a guy I’ve talked to a bit on Twitter recommend me for a job?

I just graduated from college and have been applying to a lot of jobs, including one recently with a research group. I searched my school’s alumni and professors for connections (didn’t find any), wrote (I think) a good cover letter, and sent my application to the listed email.

I do have one possible connection! I’m on Twitter, and so is one of the group’s star researchers. I follow him, he doesn’t follow me. He tweets very frequently about the topic area this group focuses on, I reply when I have something to say, and sometimes we have a mini Twitter conversation. It’s always positive!

Since I don’t have other connections to this group, I’m thinking of emailing him along the lines of “Hi, sorry to bother you, we tweet back and forth sometimes (link to my page) and I wanted to let you know I applied for a job with one of the groups you work with, would be thrilled if you mentioned to [the person listed on the website as in charge of applications] that I seem thoughtful/knowledgeable online and might be worth interviewing but understand that’s a lot to ask. Thanks for all your work, I’ve learned a lot!”

Is that crazy out of line? Is that a case of going around HR and causing more work for everyone, or more like using my network?

Eh, I wouldn’t. It’s not about going around HR or causing more work, but just about the fact that this guy doesn’t have any real basis for recommending you. If you had had long, substantive discussions, then possibly — but Twitter conversations probably don’t rise to the level that would start getting you into recommendation territory. So it’s likely to put him in an awkward position and not really get you anywhere.

2. Cake drama

I work for a technical company, and my location, we have around 150 employees that sit in this office. All of the employees are comprised of different teams, and there are two teams that sit near each other. I sit on one of these teams, and a tradition we have started is buying a cake for an employee when it’s their birthday. There is really no rhyme or reason to this — if it’s someone’s birthday, a few of us will pool our money together and get a cake, and everyone in the area sort of joins in on the celebration. We’ve been doing this for about a year now, and I particularly am a big fan of this tradition.

In February, a new employee was hired that has made the workplace less than enjoyable for some workers. I keep her at arm’s length, and don’t have much interaction with her other than the occasional “hello” or “how are things at work” small talk. Last week, a coworker and I decided to buy a birthday cake for a fellow employee. When I went into the kitchen to get a knife, the new employee looked at me and said, “It was MY TURN to buy that cake” in a very rude manner. I brushed it off and I told her it was no big deal and to grab a slice if she wanted one. Later that day, I realized she had de-friended me on Facebook and updated her status to “feeling left out.” My assumption is she probably will not be speaking to me anymore.

A lot of coworkers have told me that she did me a favor by de-friending me, but this particular employee has been notorious for making people miserable at their jobs if she doesn’t like them. I don’t think I have anything to worry about since I have been here longer than her and don’t even work on her team, but should I be worried about how she will talk about me to others in the workplace? Is my reputation ruined?

You will now be known as the Cake Interloper and will be shunned.

No, I do not in fact think that your reputation will be ruined because you stepped up to buy someone a birthday cake. And it doesn’t sound like she’s likely to be someone with high credibility with others in your office.

I don’t know what made her think it was “her turn” since it sounds like there’s no formal system, but if there’s any chance that you did step on her toes after she already put time or money into arranging a cake, you should apologize for that and let her know you didn’t realize she was already planning on it and that generally there hasn’t been a formal system.

Beyond that, though, let her do what she’s going to do. If she doesn’t treat you professionally in the future, that’s a legit work issue that you’d need to address — but if she’s just pouting on Facebook, leave her to it.

3. I missed a call from HR and now can’t get back in touch

A few weeks ago, I missed a phone call from the HR department of a job that I interviewed for and felt confident that I got. I immediately called back and left a voicemail. During the first week, I started calling every day, but never left another voicemail because the mailbox became full. I called the main HR line and left a message, but still no return call. I assumed the call was a rejection, but was told by one of my interviewers that the call was an offer. She sent an email with my contact info, but I’ve heard nothing. I called the main line again and left another message because I was told she was in a meeting.

This is very frustrating and I’m afraid because this company is known to go on hiring freezes, and I feel like if I don’t get the official offer I’ll fall prey to one. I’ve called twice a day every day and heard nothing back yet. I can’t celebrate getting the job because I feel like I don’t have it. Also, I have a lot of applications out there and I don’t know what to do if one of them results in an interview.

I’m so angry and taken to carrying my phone everywhere for fear I’ll miss a return call. Is there anything else I can do?

Email back that interviewer who told you it was an offer and say this: “I haven’t been able to get in touch with Jane, although I’ve been trying. Is there any way for you to connect me with her?”

But after that, assume you didn’t get it and move on mentally (which also means to continue to job search just as actively as you would have if this job never existed). That’s really all you can do. Calling twice a day is way too much. Even though you’re not leaving messages, there’s a good chance that the HR person can see all of your calls on her Caller ID and that’s going to seem pretty aggressive — to the point that it could make them question making you the offer, if indeed there is an offer. (That’s especially true if the original caller didn’t even leave you a message. I can’t tell from your email if she did or if it was just a missed call with no message left.)

Maybe there’s an offer forthcoming but they’re working out last-minute details or have more pressing priorities, or maybe there isn’t (maybe your interviewer had bad information or things have changed). Either way, if you’re they’re going to make you an offer, they’ll eventually make it. I get that the specter of a hiring freeze is making you antsy, but it’s really out of your control.

So assume this isn’t going to happen, move on, and let it be a pleasant surprise if they do get back to you with an offer.

4. What are the logistics of resigning?

Is submitting resignation letters still best to do on paper and in-person? The HR department and organization director are at one location and my supervisor is at another. I think it would be best for all three to know at the same time, but not sure if submitting resignation via email is best protocol.

Do it in person or with a phone call — you never want them to hear it for the first time in an official written letter. Start with your direct manager and then tell the others.

You might not need a written letter at all; if you do, they’ll tell you. But there’s no need to start out with one. Start with a conversation.

5. Applying for a skilled volunteer position

My current job does not in any way make use of the skills I gained in school. Since those skills are quite technical (map making, programming, surveying…), I’m concerned that my skills will become outdated fast. In hopes of avoiding this possibility, I’m looking to volunteer with conservation authorities in the area. These organization usually take on a number of volunteers, but usually the volunteer opportunities posted on their websites are geared towards tasks that don’t require particular skills sets, like tree planting or park clean-up operations. Can I present myself to the volunteer coordinator as someone who is not looking to explicitly volunteer for one of the positions posted, but rather list my skills and ask if I might be able to help them?

If that is something I can do, with what level of professionalism should I approach them? Should I write a formal cover letter and include my resume, or can I be slightly more informal and explain my skills in an email and ask if I can offer my services should they have an opportunity that arises?

You absolutely can. They might not be set up to use volunteers in that way (it can take significant time to manage volunteers, set them up well with projects, review their work, give feedback, etc.) but it’s definitely a thing you can ask about. You don’t have to do a formal cover letter, but you should write an email that explains your background and the types of work you’re hoping you could volunteer for, and then attach your resume.

{ 79 comments… read them below }

  1. Engineer Girl

    #5 – Many parks use other volunteer groups when it comes to technical skills. I’ve worked as a Volunteer in Park (VIP) doing survey and GIS but it was through a scientific organization, not the park itself.
    I’d suggest finding a science oriented 501c(3) and joining through them. If you don’t know where to look then call around to the resource management folks in the parks. They know who provides them with the field work volunteers. Could you maybe ask around in some ESRI user groups too?

    1. Mookie

      Exactly this. Public parks, botanic gardens, and non-profit educational demonstration gardens are usually in need of precisely these skills but lack the financial support to hire for a permanent, full-time employee. Local ag colleges with horticulture programs are another good bet, particularly if you have time to enroll in a surveying course as the on-campus farms and gardens love to support students working on practical skills in exchange for their expertise and unpaid labor. Same with local cooperative extensions and state or city preserves.

    2. Art_ticulate

      Yup yup! I manage volunteers, and can almost always use someone with specialized skills at some point. The thing is, I don’t need them frequently enough to justify hiring a person, but for volunteers? Absolutely! And it’s often hard to find people with specialized skills because they’re often already employed somewhere. So you should definitely reach out to the volunteer coordinator, and if they can’t use you, they probably know someone who can.

    3. Kaitlyn

      OP of question #5 here.
      Thanks so much for the great tips — I’ll keep those in mind!
      I’m in Canada, so the 501c(3) aspect doesn’t quite apply here, but I’m going to look and see if we have an equivalent here.

  2. Steve

    #4 start with your direct manager and work your way up. Your direct manager spends the most time with you, knows you the best, and will be the most impacted by your departure. The HR person will have some paperwork to do but otherwise won’t be affected much by your departure.

  3. Wehaf

    #1 – in the future, this is the kind of thing that could go in a cover letter, I think. You can note that you’ve been actively following the group’s research via the PI’s twitter account, including have brief twitter conversations with him. If you get an interview for this particular position, that could also be a good opportunity to mention it.

  4. The twitter network

    #1 I actually don’t agree with AAM’S advice on this one. Most of the researchers I know are genuinely excited to speak to other people who are interested in their research, particularly new grads. While I wouldn’t ask him directly for a recommendation based only on twitter I would say something along the lines of the beginning of your note but instead of asking for the recommendation tell him you have applied to a position with a group he works in and you’d really appreciate if he could talk to you about the research he did there and what you could do to make yourself a better candidate. The worst thing that can happen is that you lose someone on twitter.

    Also side note: One of my PIs in undergrad was a heavy twitter user and she used it to maintain a scientific network. Networking in academia and the sciences can be a bit different than other jobs!

    1. Daisy

      Yeah, my PhD supervisor recommended I get Twitter to make contact with people working on the same texts as me and get my name out there. I don’t think it’s that weird in academia, knowing of someone’s research is almost as good as having met them.

    2. Sarahnova

      I think that’s a good compromise. I agree with not asking him directly for a rec, but if you’ve had enough conversations to be Twitter acquaintances, asking for an informational coffee may or may not work but isn’t so much of a reach – and it’s much easier for him to politely decline.

    3. TootsNYC

      OP#1, I agree that you don’t want to ask him to give you a recommendation, in the way you’ve said. For one thing, it’s too familiar.
      But also, most of the time, in many, many situations, you don’t want to be the one to chart someone else’s next course of action. You want to leave it to HIM to think, “Hmm, she’s reasonable on Twitter, has some good comments, I might go look at the stack of resumes and maybe if I like her resume, I’ll suggest we get her in for an interview.”
      It will be MUCH more powerful if HE is the one to think of his next step.

      This applies in so many places (your teenager leaves the milk out on the breakfast table? say “milk spoils if it’s left at room temp too long” and let HER do the mental “Oh, I left the milk out, I should put it away.” SO much more powerful than “you should put it away.”)

      It might still be a little weird to say, “I just applied at Institution; can I buy you a coffee to ask about the research?”

      And if that seems too much, I do think you could say something MUCH shorter, and in a more organic way.

      So, make a comment you normally would, and then say “(just applied for a research job at Institution)” at the end. Add a “wish me luck,” maybe.

    4. neverjaunty

      Well, no, the worst that can happen is that the guy feels you’ve been sending him tweets in order to use him as a professional connection, and now he not only isn’t going to give you the recommendation, you’ve made yourself look bad in front of an important person in your field.

      Asking someone to recommend you is asking someone to use their personal capital and reputation to help you get a job. Basing that on “I follow you on twitter and we exchange tweets once in a while” is not only pretty thin, but it looks very entitled to try and turn that into a recommendation.

      1. One of the Sarahs

        What I can’t understand is how the researcher can even recommend them. They’ve basically got “Hey, this person is applying, I don’t follow them on twitter, but I’ve talked to them a a few times and they seem OK”, which is thin too.

        1. Sam

          You understand that you’re just repeating AAM’s answer in a less helpful tone, right?

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Hey now. No user name shenanigans, please. (I can see IP addresses so I can see when sock puppetry is happening.)

            People are allowed to post here even if it’s just to agree.

  5. Twitter guy OP

    Glad to see the consensus is that this isn’t an egregious idea, albeit not a good one either. I don’t think it matters, but the tweets go back about six months. I did mention my particular admiration for his work in my cover letter but didn’t include anything about twitter, which in retrospect would have made sense. I was thinking that including a clause in the putative email about “that’s a lot to ask/this is just from twitter, I know, which is a thin rapport” would give him an escape, but I see what Alison means that it’s not an enviable position to end up in; my main, personal hesitation sending it is it would be unimaginable amount of work for the dude if everyone he replied to on twitter started asking for favors.

    1. Quilter

      I think mentioning Twitter something that would be more beneficial in the interview stage where you can exhibit interest, knowledge, and thoughtfulness regarding your field. You’re staying up-to-date, you’re engaging others in the field, and you’re showing passion for the work. That’s all good stuff!

    2. Mean Something

      Is putting your Twitter handle on your resume a thing that’s done? I do Google job applicants and read their blogs or tweets or whatever (someone I hired last year had written fairly prolifically online although that’s not part of the job). It sounds as though your Twitter would help complete the picture of a person who’s active and collegial in your field.

    3. TootsNYC

      including a clause in the putative email about “that’s a lot to ask/this is just from twitter, I know, which is a thin rapport” would give him an escape,

      Actually, this is exactly like saying, “no offense, but…”
      “I don’t mean to be rude, but…”

      You have explicitly acknowledged that you DO think there’s something wrong with it. So wrong with it that you hve to apologize before you even get started. And sometimes you’re bringing that concept into the request when the other person wouldn’t think of it at all.

      So, if it’s iffy, don’t do it at all, even with a disclaimer.
      And it if’s OK, then don’t hint that it might not be.

      If you do bring it up, make it be:
      -news (i.e., tell him you applied, and leave it at that. He can decide what to do about it. If he would be willing to put in a good word, believe me, it will occur to him to do so)

      -background info (could I buy you coffee to pick your brain before the interview)

      1. alex

        “And if it’s OK, then don’t hint that it might not be.” This statement is among the most important things I learned in my 20s.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      Glad to see the consensus is that this isn’t an egregious idea

      I’m not sure this is the consensus at all! Most people are saying don’t do it. And I strongly agree with TootsNYC above that the disclaimer doesn’t make it okay. I think you might be so invested in doing this that you’re not really hearing the answer here!

      1. Twitter guy OP

        Really? I agree everyone says no, but from “eh, I wouldn’t” to “tweak the request”, I think you’d have to stretch “egregious” awfully far to describe the responses. Neverjaunty, to my mind, put their finger on the worst case scenario. TootsNYC’s thinking on disclaimers is good!

        1. AcademiaNut

          It’s not egregious in the “don’t send naked selfies to work contacts” sense, but it’s also something that’s not really within professional norms. In research, generally you don’t recommend someone unless you know something about their work and capabilities, not just interest, or being polite and reasonably articulate on Twitter. It could backfire, in which case it would be an anti-recommendation (“Oh yeah, that guy – he’s kind of pushy and presumptuous”)

          I think the farthest you could push it would be to use the contact for information – say you’re interested in the job posting, and asking that if they’d be willing to chat about the institute and the work there. Then let them take it from there.

    5. TootsNYC

      I also think that you should wait a bit before you decide there IS a consensus. You posted this before there were very many answers at all!

    6. AW

      You should wait until Monday afternoon before declaring a consensus. The 5 answer posts usually get 100+ comments.

  6. Sparkly Librarian

    I was so sure #2 was going to wind up as “We didn’t get the new hire a cake when her birthday came around because, frankly, no one much likes her, and now she’s feeling left out and hurt” — and she’s actually upset because she wanted to BUY the cake for someone else? Huh. (Also, if you work with her but/and you don’t even like her, why was she your Facebook friend?)

    1. Afiendishthingy

      Also… DID she buy a cake? I mean, I’m assuming she didn’t, soooo if OP hadn’t gotten one there wouldn’t have been a cake on the coworker’s birthday. So bizarre!

      1. Mookie

        Yeah, that’s confusing and the timing of the co-worker’s complaint is weird. If she really thought it was her turn, why hadn’t she collected any money? If she did, where was the cake? If she’d found out much earlier and prior to the Day of Cake that the OP was volunteering to organize said cake, why didn’t she object then and there and “remind” everyone it was her turn?

        1. Elysian

          This all seems to be like a cry to formalize the system a little – how do people know when someone is buying a cake? It seems super likely that they could end up with two or more cakes or no cakes (if everyone assumes someone else is getting the cake!), neither of which is ideal.

          1. TootsNYC

            It doesn’t sound like that kind of cry to me–to me it sounds like an “I want to be the one people think of as special” cry.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              Yep, that’s what it sounds like to me. We had similar cake drama from a person who always wanted to be the special center of attention at all times. She would buy a cake, make a huge deal to everyone about how thoughtful and generous she was, to the point that attention for herself overshadowed attention for the person whose event it ostensibly was, and then later she would come around whining to everyone about how she spent her own money and nobody else chipped in, and could we [ungrateful losers, users, and slackers] please pitch in to reimburse her.

    2. Ruffingit

      Yeah that situation takes the cake. (I’m here all week).

      I agree about the Facebook thing. I guess it’s possible that the OP received a request from her in the beginning of their work relationship, before the OP knew that she was problematic. This is just another reason not to friend people until you get to know them well.

    3. Vicki

      Same here! I was expecting “It’s _my_ birthday too!” or that she’s in a different team and didn’t get any cake.

      Also, OP #2 – why _were_ you FB friends with someone you `keep at arm’s length, and don’t have much interaction with other than the occasional “hello” or “how are things at work” small talk’?

  7. Aloot

    #2: Did she ever announce that she was going to buy the cake this time round?

    Because if there isn’t a roster and she never actually announced it *somewhere all of her coworkers could easily see it* (because announcing it in a private post on FB that not everyone might see does not announcing make) then I wouldn’t apologize at all, since it lends credibility to her being in the right for being upset with you for buying a cake yourself.

    It might sound petty as heck, but I would not want to give a person like this any form of credibility to her ridiculous reaction.

    1. ZenJen

      I agree with you, esp because keeping this issue in conversation with the dramababy is was they want. Letting it die on OP’s end stops the interaction (letting a fire die without oxygen?).

    2. Colette

      Well, something like “I’m sorry, I’d didn’t realize you wanted to take care of the cake” acknowledges her feelings without making the OP responsible. On the other hand, digging her heels in and refusing to apologize because it’s not her fault is likely to fan the drama. I wouldn’t go back to apologize unless the coworker continues to bring it up, but in the moment, an apology could have perhaps avoided some of the drama.

    3. TootsNYC

      I wouldn’t apologize at all, since it lends credibility to her being in the right for being upset with you

      Yeah, I’ve been realizing that I’m doing this w/ my teenage boy. I apologize to him that the bathroom is on the far side of the store, for example. I have to stop! Because it’s making him think (1) that other people are in the wrong when he’s bored; and (2) that HE has to apologize when it’s just that life has worked out suboptimally.

      1. Ralph S. Mouse

        I got into this habit with my earlier customer service jobs, because of course everything’s your fault when you’re a minimum wage cashier, from long lines due to corporate cutbacks or the ice storm that lost us power. I carried it even after I started teaching until I realized…I’m not doing them any favors by letting them believe school or work is going to kiss their ass like a Kohl’s manager.

        1. TootsNYC

          and don’t miss the concept that they think they have to apologize, or that THEY are wrong when the bus is late. That’s an unfair burden, and it can come from the same place.

  8. Sarahnova

    Cake Interloper, that Facebook bull crap sounds like the tactics of the practiced Drama Creator, who mostly relies on sucking you in to try and defend yourself/placate her. If she doesn’t escalate to making actual work difficult to do, roll your eyes, congratulate yourself on not having to live inside her head, and ignore her, even if she seems huffy in person; if she actually starts, e.g. withholding stuff you need to work, you can address that. But seriously, not actually giving a shit that a person like this is sulking can be positively magical. They’re so used to using this to win compliance that it can turn their world upside down.

  9. Pudding

    #4 – I find the advice to not provide a letter shocking, this is one of those things where a letter should be in your hand as you go to talk to your supervisor or at least created after the news is broken. Even if they don’t need one, it is good to have. If they need to provide you with a reference 5 years from now and no one remembers you (or confuses you with fired Fred), that letter is proof to them that you at least quit and were not fired. It can also serve as protection for the date you gave notice and the final date you indicated… and also proof you gave joticenif it ever came back on you!

    1. ZenJen

      When resigning my last job, I met with my boss, discussed it, and followed up an hour later with a memo outlining my resignation and what my transition plan was. Didn’t do a letter, but it was documented.

    2. CAA

      The usual practice in places I’ve worked has been to meet with your manager in person, then follow up with an email to HR and the manager. The email should just be 3 sentences — I’ll be leaving, here’s the date we agreed on, thanks for everything.

      (One of the first things I learned the hard way back when I was a new manager was to never forward these emails to my own manager without changing the subject line from “My Resignation”.)

      1. Noah

        So much yes to your last line. One of my best managers once forwarded me an email with that subject line. I saw it on my phone at home that night and refused to open it,. Turned out it was one of her worst employees that was on the path to being termed anyways.

      2. Ralph S. Mouse

        Haha, this is why I got in the habit of always putting my name in subject lines whenever there’s something specific to me in there (like “Mouse – Completed benefits survey” or “Mouse’s offsite class on Thursday”). I’m actually as descriptive as I can get in subject lines without being annoying about it, just from years of 25 emails in my inbox that all say “Question.”

        I’ll never forget the time I was trying to check email at home on my primitive old phone and saw the subject “Your replacement” but couldn’t open the damn email. I sweated bullets until I got to work the next morning and found out it was a replacement computer. I could have seriously slapped that guy. (In my company “replacement” literally means “being placed somewhere else” because when they cut one department they’ll get you something else if it’s available.)

    3. TootsNYC

      I haven’t resigned that much, but in general, everything I’ve seen has worked like this:

      First, in-person talk with your direct manager, nothing in writing yet. At the end, the manager says, “you’ll send me an official email, yes? and then we’ll loop in HR.”

      (for one thing, sometimes there might be an element of negotiation: you say, “2 weeks’ notice,” and your manager says, “oh, that’s such bad timing, would your new place be willing to wait another week?” and you say, “well, I was actually taking a week off between, but I’d give that up if you make it worth my while.” and “worth my while” doesn’t often mean more money, though it can–you resign on the 10, and the week of the 13th-17th, you file at contractor’s rates, which is higher, or something. But usually “worth my while” is the unspoken “I’ll always be a reference for you and speak highly of your professionalism.”)

      Second, delivery in writing, in some way–in my field, that’s an email to your boss, and cc’d to HR. I’ve really never seen it on paper, and I wouldn’t know what to do with that piece of paper. (in the meanwhile, your boss might be calling HR to say, “Jane resigned, so we’ll need to start a search.)(

      Third, HR reaches out to discuss anything they need you to do before you go.

      HR can find out later than your boss (remember: HR is not primary; they are support; the actual work that is getting done is where the emphasis should be), and you can always put it in writing later.

      I know that it would feel oddly hostile if one of my people handed me a letter during the first conversation in which they told me they were quitting. It wouldn’t affect their future reference a lot, but it would still be weird.

      And also, I have always been offered a job verbally, with the confirming letter arriving later.
      Same pattern.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah — I’ve literally never had anyone hand me the letter during the initial conversation and it would be odd if they did. Like a sudden bizarre introduction of formality in the relationship. It’s just a conversation.

        1. CAA

          I have had a few people hand me letters. It’s mostly the ones who are resigning from their first professional jobs who do that. At the end of the conversation, I’ve usually just said “would you please send me this as a soft-copy so I can forward it to other people who need it?” A couple of times I’ve recommended simplifying and shortening the message when the letter went into too much justification or apologizing for leaving.

          1. Cath in Canada

            I’ll admit to doing this the first time I had to actually resign from a professional job, rather than having a fixed-term contract end. I had the letter in my hand when I told my boss I’d accepted another job. I really didn’t know how it was supposed to work! I haven’t done it since, though :D

        2. snuck

          I’ve had the in hand letter a couple of times.

          They’ve come from archaically minded stuck in the wool (steel wool!) hard core bureaucracy lovers with many, many years of service in the one company in a niche industry (generally their entire working history has been in the one company in the technical side of it).

          I smiled, accepted it, and scanned it in and sent it on… Not one of the people handing me a letter was someone I was desperate to retain, every one of them was resistant to new technology (and we were a tech based company!) and this letter was just one more example of their recalcitrance …

          One time I got just the letter left on my keyboard (for all the world to see, in a cube farm) and the person went out for an extended coffee for most of the day, and then came back when I was in a meeting (they could see my calendar when blocked out), then went to lunch etc. Made it obvious they didn’t want to talk to me. I shot them an email at lunchtime saying “Please find me as soon as your return, we need to chat about your letter, and find an agreed end date that works for you and us.” and that got their attention… but it was VERY rude I felt.

          I’d suggest to the OP to get with the times, have a polite conversation, followed by email. That’s the norm in the vast majority of places.

        3. OldAdmin

          Oh!
          I’ve worked in Germany, and things are totally different there – you *must* quit in writing. ;-)

      2. TootsNYC

        Oh, negotiation:

        I’ve seen someone say, during the course of resigning to their boss (boss has said, “Oh, where are you going, when do you start, are you getting a week off in between?”), that they’re going straight to the new job w/ no time off between, adn the boss has said, “Can you afford to go a week without pay? Bcs we could let you go at the end of this week.”

        Or, a boss suggesting to a rookie, “call them back and ask if you can start a week later, tell them you’ve realized you’d like a week between, since you won’t qualify for vacation during your first year. If you feel weird about it, tell them your old boss suggested it,” and they do, and that’s how it works out.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      You don’t need to bring a letter with you. If they need it, they’ll let you know and then you can jot off the two sentences when you go back to your desk.

      Obviously, if the norms of your particular workplace are different, follow those. But in general, there’s no universal rule that you must come into the conversation bearing a formal letter, despite what always seems to happen in movies.

    5. Stephanie

      Yeah, I did a letter recently. Granted, my company is pretty old-school (we still use carbon copy paper for a couple of things), so I imagine they would have asked for a hard-copy record. It did feel a little weird and the letter probably is now buried in the dumpster fire that is my boss’ desk.

    6. Observer

      And you think that that piece of paper is going to help? And email they might look up, but going to find a piece of paper that they might even have any more? Seriously?

      1. Kalli

        Many places keep a file for each employee, either maintained by HR or just by management, and warnings/performance reviews/meeting notes/etc. go in there. That’s where the resignation letter goes, and how HR know what dates to confirm. In my experience, an email version would just be printed and filed, because the person it was emailed to might leave/the server might die/they might be required to have a hard copy back up/whatever. Maintaining a digital database of everything for tax (3-7 years) and reference (I do not know how long they would keep this for) would mean constantly upgrading a bunch of otherwise unused files every time there was a software update and storage space that might be needed.

  10. NYC Weez

    #2 – I thought for sure, when you mentioned the size of your office, that the cake drama was going to be that someone’s birthday got overlooked. I’m really amazed that you’ve been able to keep what sounds to be an informal system up and running with essentially minimal drama beyond the current Cake Aggrievement. The offices I’ve worked at seem to fall apart once the group hits about 30-40 ppl, bc inevitably someone’s birthday gets missed or people start getting sick of cake when it’s showing up more than 2-3 times a month. They all switched from individual cakes to monthly birthday celebrations. You guys must be pretty on top of it to have the issue be multiple cake bringers rather than missed cakes!

    As a side note, if you remain committed to individual cakes, do you check in with the birthday person regarding their preferences? I know it’s hard to believe, but some of us are freaks who don’t like cake at all, lol. I try to tell coworkers before any cake-buying occasions may come up, but when your coworkers happily present you with a cake they just bought, it feels petty to say “Thanks, but I don’t want any!” I’ve found that the cookies or other treats that I request are actually really well received as the occasional change up from cake, and then everyone is happy. Except the cookie hating freaks, lol!

    1. hbc

      We let people choose what they get. That’s both in terms of food (fruit and cheese plates seem popular for the healthier types) and in terms of recognition. Some people want the whole birthday crown and song deal, and others would prefer to let the day go by unmarked except maybe by a box of anonymous bagels.

      The only people who lose out are the people who want the bells and whistles but don’t want to admit that they’re the type of people who like the attention. I’ve only got one “Are you sure you don’t want anything?” in me before I’m taking you at your word.

    2. ECH

      At our office, everyone brings their own goodies for their birthdays. That way they can get whatever they want, and there are no hurt feelings if they forget! :)

      1. Janice in Accounting

        This is actually a GREAT idea!! Each birthday person gets the cake/pie/cookie of their choice, there’s no drama over anyone being forgotten, no one pays more than they want to; this is genius.

      2. Cassie

        I like this tradition – it’s like the one we had when I was in elementary school where parents could bring a cake or treats for their child’s birthday. I was mentioning this practice to a coworker the other day and she didn’t like it because she thought it would be the rich(er) kids whose parents would do this. (Her kids’ school doesn’t allow it).

        I didn’t think of that as a kid – it was rare, only happening maybe once or twice a school year. And I had no idea which kids were rich kids and which were not. Maybe I was naive.

      3. snuck

        This is what we’ve generally done / I’ve encouraged. Sure it’s nice to be treated, but it’s also nice to be treated every other time by all the willing participants. I’d much rather shout myself a cake once a year than be hit up every week for a few dollars for the constant cake parade. And those who don’t want to participate don’t have to… and those who want to make it pizza and garlic bread can vs cake vs fruit vs a round of coffees from a cafe.

      4. Violet Fox

        It’s the same thing where I work, and it also means that it is really easy for a person who wants their birthday to be ignored to have it ignored.

      5. Gwen

        Same here! People who want to celebrate/call attention to their birthday do, and you don’t end up with any weird instances of the person ostensibly being celebrated not liking/being able to enjoy a treat “for” them because obviously you wouldn’t bring something for your own birthday that you don’t like. (Also, tip: I’ve had GREAT response to bringing savory treats for my birthday…after a parade of sweets, people go nuts for some taco dip and chips.)

    3. One of the Sarahs

      I was exactly the same! It feels like a real risk of ‘informal arrangements’ – so like ECH, most places I’ve worked have a “bring your own” so people can make as much fuss as they want, or nothing.

  11. Oryx

    For #5, go for it! I volunteered at a small, specialized library awhile back. I was employed full time as a librarian somewhere else but wanted to get involved with this organization. They loved having someone with an MLIS as a volunteer.

  12. Seal

    #2 – Does the person you bought the cake for work for the new employee or are they friends with them? If so, it may be that the new employee already had something planned and you stepped on her toes. Years ago I had a particularly nasty coworker who would plan birthday parties for members of my staff without telling me as a way to undermine my authority. I always came off as the bad guy who didn’t care enough to remember their birthdays. Asking the woman to stop only made the situation worse; she escalated the situation by spreading ugly rumors about me. Granted, this was a particularly toxic work environment involving an unhinged coworker early in my career; an old, wiser me would have shut this down immediately and set some very strict boundaries with the toxic coworker and my staff. Still, to this day that situation strongly influences how I deal with birthdays and related events in the office.

  13. Stephanie

    #1 – On a related note, shout out to this comments section. I got a couple of job referrals by connecting with other commenters from here. Nothing lead to a job, but I did get to a second-round interview with one commenter’s company.

  14. BeenThere

    OP#5 Here are a couple of volunteer mapping organizations:
    Open Street Maps: Open source maps produced by volunteers it is the most well regarded open source map
    Red Cross Missing Maps Project: Focus on contributing to open street maps in areas that are poorly mapped and subject to disasters.

    I know there are volunteers with these orgs that work in the mapping divisions of the major tech companies, we have a regular event as part of our volunteering program. I assume other major mapping companies also have reps there as well.

    1. Kaitlyn

      OP here!
      I love Open Street — I do often find myself milling around and editing maps there!
      As for the Red Cross, that’s a great suggestion! I’ve looked at GISCorps with URISA, but I think I might be lacking experience for the type of work they do. I’ve also looked at the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, but ultimately would like to opportunity to volunteer outdoors if I can, but any experience is good!

      1. Meg Murry

        OP, are you still in contact with any of your professors? Perhaps someone in your department could make a recommendation for a project/initiative/group that needs technical volunteers? Or possibly even a paid project/part time gig somewhere, if you got really lucky?

        1. Kaitlyn

          Unfortunately, no, I’m not really in contact with any of them. While in school, I had been given the opportunity to volunteer, and since graduating I have do some gigs with the same conservation authority. However, it’s a bit of a hike from where I am now living back to the area in which they operate. The last time I spoke with the volunteer coordinator I had worked with, he offered me tips, and said he’d ‘keep me in mind’ for any paid positions that might come up, which is flattering but I’m not holding my breath.

  15. Zillah

    #1 – Yeah, I really wouldn’t do this. My answer might be different if he followed you as well and sometimes initiated the contact and the contact was far more frequent and involved than “a mini Twitter conversation.” As it is, though, it doesn’t sound like your contact with him is substantive enough for him to have even formed much of an impression of you.

    I get that when you’ve just graduated from college, you tend not to have much of a network, and so it can be tempting to clutch at every possible connection, not matter how thin. However, it’s important to realize that sometimes doing something really is worse than doing nothing, if that something says to people that you don’t understand professional norms and/or are overly focused on what they can do for you.

    If you get an interview, mention it in the context of being interested in the research – but think about it as showing longterm interest in the research they’re doing, not a possible connection. This guy hasn’t had enough substantive encounters with you to be the latter.

    1. Lily Rowan

      Agreed — it’s good to have something specific to say in the interview when they ask why you want that job in particular, and “I follow [scientist] on Twitter, and we’ve even had some back-and-forth on [research]” would be a great one. You’re engaged in the field, and their work in particular.

      But that’s as far as your “relationship” with the scientist will get you.

  16. stevenz

    #1. When a prospective employer calls a reference they will ask pointed questions seeking detailed information about how the applicant handles themselves in specific work situations. Information like “she seems really bright” isn’t of any use to them, so any Twitter conversation no matter how extensive, is ever going to allow someone to do that for you. In addition, you’re only one of dozens, hundreds or thousands of people who follow him. Not to mention that online or social media personas are often not reflective of the actual person’s personality, coping skills, honesty, or technical abilities. “Following” you isn’t any better. (What exactly is there to follow at the moment, if you’re so new to the professional world?)

    Social media is cool but I’m not sure it’s all that powerful.

    #2. There is no end to how petty some people can be. Alison’s advice is good. Just continue to act professionally around her, and let her dig her own grave.

  17. AW

    I follow him, he doesn’t follow me… and sometimes we have a mini Twitter conversation.

    I would argue that this isn’t significant enough to be the basis for asking a favor like this. Twitter is designed to get complete strangers to talk to each other. It’d be like asking someone you’ve chatted with a few times at the bus stop for a job recommendation.

    In general, I don’t think it makes sense to ask anyone for a job recommendation unless they know your work/research/etc. in some way.

  18. coffeepowerrdd

    @OP1 – If you reach out at all, it could just be to mention your first and last to him and that you’re applying for a position and leave it at that. That is enough of a workplace queue to this person that, if they want to recommend you or help you in some way via word-of-mouth, they can do that. You’d be surprised at the amount of internal word-of-mouth and general hype that goes on during hiring. If you’re one of the candidates who they have even some slight chatter about, it’s bound to make them more excited about you going into your interview, which can very much win you the job.

    tldr; just mention your name and that you’re applying, don’t ask for a recommendation

  19. RMF

    #4 I’ve always referenced my employee handbook/manual for voluntary resignation procedures. My first resignation experience required I submit a formal letter to the Executive Director, whereas my second resignation had to be a conversation with my direct manager, who then in turn was supposed to inform the executives.

    Of course, not every company or organization is large enough (or HR-accessible enough) to have an employee handbook.

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