I offended people at a staff meeting by saying my staff works the hardest, recruiter told me to wear jeans to an interview, and more

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

1. I offended people at a staff meeting by saying my staff works the hardest

At a recent staff meeting, I said in a light way, “My staff are the hardest working staff here!” Of course, the other managers could have immediately said the same thing about their staff, but a couple of managers were absent and the others, including the director, did not speak up or to join in with compliments. Instead of people making light of it, other staff were pissed, as if I was insinuating that they didn’t work hard. Of course, I did say that everybody works hard, but others were then trying to defend themselves on how they work hard, and the director was like “Well, you’re digging yourself into a hole.”

Obviously, I will never try and praise my staff in staff meetings anymore since people are highly sensitive. I tried to apologize to a couple of the staff who report to another manager, saying that they are valuable members of our department and are very much appreciated and that I appreciate them, but they are still upset at me. One won’t speak to me even after the apology. The more I think about it, the more this situation is like the “everybody needs to receive a trophy” sort of situation. What is your suggestion in smoothing this over?

I think everyone here is overreacting. Your original compliment to your staff was well-intentioned but not particularly thoughtful, given that it inherently meant that others in the room were not as hard-working. So that was a misfire. But the people who got upset about it are way overreacting — this should have been a “roll their eyes and move on” situation. It doesn’t warrant them not speaking to you; that’s ridiculous. And you’re overreacting by saying that you’ll never praise your staff in staff meetings anymore; that’s not the message to take away here. You can praise your staff in all kind of ways, without comparing them to other teams.

Ideally, you would have addressed it on the spot by saying something like, “That obviously didn’t come out right. Everyone here is hard-working. I’m especially proud of my team for doing X, Y, and Z.” That moment has passed, and apparently people are refusing to accept an apology now, so I’d look for an opportunity to give sincere public praise for their work in the near future. (And if they don’t drop this within a few days, you may need to go talk with their manager and ask what’s needed on your side to put this to rest, because it’s ridiculous for your office to allow this to become a thing that interferes with work.)

2. Recruiter told me to wear jeans to an interview

I just received an email from a recruiter who connected me with a job I’m really excited about. It’s a manager-level position at a tech startup, and the interview is with the co-founder. The recruiter (who is quite young; I’m 34) told me to “ditch the suit jacket” and to just wear flats, a blouse, and jeans.

Now, I’m not a jeans person normally, although I do have a cute pair I can wear, and while I’ve had plenty of experience with startups, my understanding is that jeans should never be worn to an interview. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m too corporate if I show up in interview attire (a valid concern in this situation), but I’m afraid I’ll show up in jeans and they’ll wonder what on earth I was thinking. Any thoughts on what I should do?

There are indeed offices — often start-ups — that will judge you if you don’t know to show up in jeans. They’re the exception, not the norm, but it sounds like your recruiter is telling you because you need to know.

If she’s an internal recruiter (on staff at the company), I’d take her word for it. If she’s an external recruiter, she’s still probably right but to be sure, you could say to her, “I feel really weird about showing up an interview in jeans. Are you absolutely sure that’s what they expect, and that it would be misfire for me to just wear business casual, like khakis?”

3. Can I ward off salespeople in my outgoing voicemail message?

I’m wondering if it would be unprofessional to put a one-sentence thing in my voicemail message at my office (at the end of the whole “You have reached Agamemnon Flanagan” regular stuff) to let cold-calling salespeople not to waste my time. Because of signing up for conferences and white papers, I get flooded with inquires like “We’d like to tell you a bit about our data center consolidation tools!” Emails I can take care of by identifying them as spam, but calls are a bit more problematic. Our office phones convert all our voicemails to audio clips that are emailed to us (useful for those of us who frequently work from home!), but that means that every call requires that I open the email, open the .wav file, make sure my headphones are plugged, etc. After going through this and then discovering that it’s a salesperson’s spiel, I get really annoyed.

I’d like to say something along the lines of “For any third party vendor inquiries, please note that purchasing decisions are not part of my role” but with better wordsmithing. Bonus points if I can figure out how to professionally word “…so please put me on your do not contact list.” I don’t think I have an option of setting different messages for internal/external callers, but even if I did, my boss often calls from her cell phone so that doesn’t seem like it’d be a choice in my case.

You could say “please note that this number doesn’t accept vendor inquiries” or “if you’re a vendor, please press 0 for the operator” — but I bet that won’t stop all of them. I don’t think you can get into “please put me on your do-not-contact list” without it starting to get weird for non-sales callers.

Your best bet might just be to see this as an annoying part of the job. (Although you might also rethink what number you’re putting down for white papers — maybe you can list an obviously invalid number like 555-555-5555, which is a clear “do not call me” signal.)

4. Covering the phones when my coworkers are away

I work in a small office (about 15 of us) and I’m one of three admins, supporting a dozen or so brokers. One of our admin duties is to answer the phone. Semi-frequently, my two admin colleagues will go out to lunch together, leaving me the only one to answer the phone for an hour so. I have no issue with this.

However, there are times where I want to get up to use the restroom, and there isn’t anyone else to pick up the phone if I were to do so! I’d feel funny/disrespectful asking a broker to answer the phone while I step out. At the same time, waiting for my colleagues to return from lunch means I could be sitting very uncomfortably for some time. There is always an option to put our phones on “night,” which would put up an automatic message when someone calls and calls would go into a general mailbox, but I feel like that is unprofessional in the middle of a work day. Any thoughts?

This is totally a question to ask your boss. Your boss might be absolutely fine with the phones being “on night” for a few minutes, or there might be a junior broker who she wants you to have cover the phones, or something else entirely. But this is the kind of thing that you should check with her about. (That said, if there’s a chance that her answer will be “the other two admins shouldn’t go to lunch at the same time anymore,” you’ll need to decide if that will cause more angst than you want to deal with.)

5. Listing a skill on my resume that I don’t have yet but will have by the time I start work

I am currently a student in graduate school, and I am trying to get a job during the fall semester before I graduate in May. I will be learning SQL in my graduate program, a valuable tool in my chosen profession. However, I will not be learning how to use SQL or other software until the spring semester. When I apply for jobs in the fall, I will not yet have that skill, but I will by the time I graduate and am able to start working full-time.

Would it be okay to put future skills you are guaranteed to learn on a resume when applying for a job, if you specify that you do not yet possess them yet but will be the time you start working? E.g., “Skills: Will have learned SQL by the time I graduate and am able to start working.” Everyone in my graduate program learns SQL, so unless I drop out I am guaranteed to have this skill in a few months.

Ooooh, good question. In general, you shouldn’t put skills on a resume that you don’t actually have yet. But I think you can include this if and only if you’re clear about the fact that you don’t actually have the skill yet. So that would mean listing it like this:

SQL (learning as part of grad school program; will be a focus in spring semester of 2017)

That wording actually isn’t ideal but I’m struggling with figuring out how to say it, so maybe someone can suggest something better in the comment. But the main take-away is that yes, you can list it as long as you don’t misrepresent the situation.

{ 342 comments… read them below }

  1. Thomas E*

    Personally, I’d put the skill in the education section of my CV:

    Bsc Teapot making 2014-2018(Expected)
    The course focuses on Teapot spout engineering, SQL, and Teapot painting.

    1. mander*

      I was wondering if it would be better to explain it in a cover letter, actually. But then I suppose not every job wants a cover letter, especially not if you are looking for something with a temp agency, etc.

      1. Thomas E*

        I guess you could put it in a cover letter but as a rule personally I highlight the most important skills or experience for the specific job there. Which may be SQL or maybe not (job dependant).

        1. Josh S*

          Also, learning SQL in an academic environment gives you the basics of foundation for “learning the skill”. You don’t really LEARN the skill til you USE it in some kind of real world context where the data sets are big, the field headers are horribly named, and field validation rules don’t make sense.

          I’d personally put it as
          SQL (Learning fundamentals – Spring 2017)

          And while it’s fine to have that on your resume, remember that it’s not the real world experience that many places may be looking for. Talk to your local DB administrator at your university to see if there is a way you can assist them so you can APPLY your new found skills. Because that goes miles further than “I took a class once” (even in Grad School).

          1. addlady*

            Josh is dead on. Learning a programming language in an academic environment is nothing like doing it in real life. Get real world practice as soon as you can.

          2. Cleopatra Jones*

            I agree with most of your answer but not the talking to your DB administrator at your University part. As someone who is a DB admin at a University, we don’t give random students access to any the database containing other student or course info.

            My DB contains all kinds of sensitive student and course info that I can’t just give random students access too (FERPA is the academic equivalent of HIPAA). The handling of academic/student data is treated very seriously and I wouldn’t recommend it as a job to get experience. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone at my institution given access to any database with student/course data without some kind of prior work experience.

            1. Josh S*

              @Cleopatra Jones: True–I kind of meant, “Seek out opportunities where you can volunteer/do grunt work/gain experience in applying the knowledge you learn. Since you’re in an academic environment, you may be able to assist in some capacity there.” I clearly didn’t think through specific privacy issues.

            2. OP*

              I think my email has mislead you. I will not be using SQL to support my other coursework, or taking a class called “Intro to SQL”. I will be taking a series of 8 hour bootcamps to obtain a thorough understanding of how to use SQL for finance and marketing purposes. I will also be completing a capstone project over the course of 6 months, where my team and I will be using SQL and SAS. The project teams have not yet been assigned, so the specifics of the project will depend on the need of the company (all of which are major corporations) I am assigned to. Does this change your feelings about adding a beginner’s proficiency to a resume?

              1. AnotherAnon*

                That’s better than purely academic courses, but it’s still not Real Experience. You won’t have to deal with existing systems that have been around long enough to get crufty, or customers with bizarre requirements; you’ll have a nice little designed project with few surprises that doesn’t have to be maintained past the end of the course.

                Like other people have said, get something installed on your computer, set up a database and start breaking things. :) it’s not Real Experience either, but it’ll give you a head-start before that course so you have more time to think about higher-level concepts instead of wondering why your query keeps failing. :)

                PS: Real Experience has its drawbacks too; learning the dirty tricks before knowing how things Should Be In Theory can lead to continuing bad habits when a simpler solution would do.

          3. M-C*

            I’d also like to point out that calling SQL “software” is not helping you in any job search, as it shows glaringly how you haven’t even bothered to find out that it’s a programming language, or the difference between them. Let’s not even get into the fact that which software you use controls which flavor of SQL you’re learning. I don’t think a semester is going to be making much of a dent in that impression if you have so little curiosity about the entire field.

            1. SQL Dev*

              Throwing my two cents in – I absolutely have to agree with the above. And I have to ask why you are waiting for the course? If you want to learn SQL: setup a database on your computer, hit the Internet for some tutorials and have at it! Frankly, from my perspective having “took a class on SQL at school” on a resume is almost a negative as it highlights your lack of understanding of just how complex SQL development is.

              1. ReanaZ*

                Yeah, one semester of SQL too! “Will have learned SQL” … more like “Will have learned the bare fundamentals of SQL but probably won’t be able to do anything but basic queries without more support and practice”.

                I agree that you don’t seem to have a great grasp on what SQL is or how it’s used or whether you will even like working with it. I would definitely leave it off until you actually take this class or practice more independently.

            2. Wow.Ok.*

              This is incredibly rude and one of the reasons people shy away from programming.

              There is a way to say “get curious” without insulting the OP.

            3. Yikes*

              Who are you to judge OP’s level of curiosity? The fact that he or she wrote in shows curiosity. Rude and inconsiderate comments like this keep young people from asking questions and improving themselves.

          4. penny*

            Agree that I don’t look at using something in an academic seeing as understanding how to use it. Doesn’t hurt that you’re familiar with it, but unlikely you’ll be proficient enough to immediately use it in a work setting.

            1. Electron Wisperer*

              My rule of thumb is to never list something that I am not 100% sure I can be up to at least a very competent level with in two weeks (This really means things that I have more then a little experience with, even if it is old).
              I also never list something I have only taken a course in, I would rather spend the space showing you the things I have done with the knowledge.
              Particularly for programming, the barriers to entry are so low tools wise that you have no excuse not to have a Postgres or similar install on your PC and to actually be playing with it.

              1. Let's not get ahead of ourselves*

                If OP is a student, where else would he or she get any experience? Most interns have to do grunt work and are not provided the opportunity to do the kind of work you are talking about. You have to think about it from the perspective of someone without your level of expertise.

          5. OP*

            Josh S, would you have any other recommendations, besides the DB administrator, on where I would be able to gain relevant experience? Most of the jobs public offered to students at my university involve working in the cafeteria, refereeing intramural sports, etc.

            1. AnotherAnon*

              Volunteering for a FOSS project? There’s probably *some* free software you use that involves databases (seems like everything does these days), and if they’re serious about being newbie-friendly they’ll have some trivial jobs to get you started. (in KDE they were called “Junior Jobs”, often abbreviated “JJ”)

      2. Total Rando*

        I would think you’d want to save the cover letter space for highlighting why you’d be great at the job, not just explaining something complicated on your resume. But to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve had to write a cover letter just yet…

      3. TootsNYC*

        You could mention it in a cover letter, but if you want to be sure it doesn’t get lost, it needs to go on the cover letter.

        Even great cover letters often get left in the file, while the resume gets pulled out and passed around and annotated.

        I bring the resume w/ me to the interview, but not the cover letter.

        If the cover letter has interesting stuff that’s relevant, I’ll write a short note on the resume.

        Maybe I’m assuming too hard that people are like me, but I think your resume needs the important stuff, and the cover letter is merely the framing.

    2. NYCer*

      #5 I’d keep it simple; you can always explain further in a phone interview. On my resume, I list technical skills in a separate section. To indicate a skill that I’m just starting to learn or will have learned by the time I would start working there, I add (beg.) or (beginner) or something to that effect next to that particular skill.

      For example: HTML, CSS, JavaScript (beginner)

      1. OP*

        Thank you NYCer. Your comment has been the most helpful, and I appriciate the fact that you answered this comment kindly and respectfully.

  2. Expected to pay more than my fair share*

    #4 – the immediate solution might be to always use the restroom right before your coworkers go to lunch.

      1. auntie_cipation*

        No, but it would at least reduce the number of instances where a different solution is needed.

        1. Rob Lowe can't read*

          I agree. I have a job where I don’t have the freedom to go to the bathroom whenever I need to (elementary school teacher), and while going to the restroom before my students arrive (or return from lunch or PE or whatever) doesn’t always do the trick, it’s an important part of my gameplan!

          1. Daisy*

            Yeah, I’m a teacher and you can’t just leg it out the room for a piss. Unless you’re 5, pregnant or have a serious bladder condition, you can go before and wait an hour.

      2. Vancouver Reader*

        Same here. I would either put the phone on night mode or let it go to regular voice mail, but then again, I’ve never worked in a brokerage office before.

        These days, my bladder waits for no one.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I would go to the bathroom before the other two leave. Then, on any occasion when that didn’t do the trick, I’d put the phones on night mode and check the general mailbox for any messages upon my return.

        2. AnotherAnon*

          My bladder used to be so bad I’d get up 6-7 times in the night. I had no idea this was not normal, and it turned out it was an easily fixed medical condition. :) So it may be worth checking with a doctor.

      3. TootsNYC*

        Most people’s do, most of the time.

        Bowels might not, but bladders almost always do.

        I can’t hold it anymore (thanks, age & childbearing), but a pre-emptive reduction in volume means I can delay the crisis.

    1. Marzipan*

      That was also my first thought – it might help, even if it doesn’t totally resolve the problem (depending on how much the OP’s bladder likes to troll them in this situation).

      I think you’re overthinking* this a bit, though, #4. There are presumably times in the day when calls do go to voicemail, however many of you are in the office. Like, if someone calls in when all three of you are on the phone, does the system automatically redirect them to voicemail? Or else put then in a queue or sound an engaged tone? And if any combination of the three of you are not simultaneously available to answer three phones, there must surely be times when you physically can’t answer every call. I know when I’m in the office on my own, sod’s law dictates that as soon as I pick up one call, another phone will start ringing and I obviously can’t pick up that call – and yes, this could happen when your two colleagues go to lunch, but it could equally happen to them when you’re in a meeting or speaking with your boss or whatever. Whichever way, I don’t think it’s horribly unprofessional; it’s just how things work. (If you were working in a call centre, obviously this would be different – but it doesn’t sound like that’s your role).

      So, if I were you, I’d nip to the loo quickly before my colleagues went to lunch in hopes of avoiding the problem, but otherwise not worry about it too much – just see it as part of a normal professional environment where you don’t deliberately leave calls unanswered but recognise that circumstances may occasionally lead to it being impossible to pick up every call, and where you have the tools (voicemail) to ensure callers aren’t ignored when this happens.

      (*Autocorrect was determined to say ‘overdrinking’. I don’t recommend that in these circumstances!)

      1. Sunshine*

        #4 – is either of the other admins more senior than you? Maybe the three of you could come up with a solution together.

      2. Kelly L.*

        I agree with the overthinking. I don’t think it’s inherently unprofessional for a phone to go to voicemail during the work day–as you mentioned, sometimes everybody’s already on the phone or physically too far away. If I were the caller, I wouldn’t think less of the business as long as my call was returned promptly.

      3. Case of the Mondays*

        I agree that it is perfectly reasonable for some calls to go to VM but some bosses do not think it is reasonable. My boss has our receptionist put the first call on hold to answer the second, then put the second on hold to go back to the first if the back up assistants don’t pick up. Always fun when 5 calls come in at once!

        I hate even suggesting it because it is totally ridiculous but at my last firm, we had one single stall bathroom and our receptionist used a headset that she would just continue to wear into the bathroom. If a call came in, she paused her business and took it. Since it was single stall, there was no risk of anyone else flushing or washing hands. But, I don’t think that should be the solution. Though a headset would at least let you get up to grab files, etc.

        We have the big phones battle frequently at my current office. None of the admins like getting stuck with them when the receptionist is out even though they all share the duties.

        Also, on troll bodies, I totally have one too. I worked in a jail and anytime I was in a position that I couldn’t use the bathroom without calling for coverage, I would immediately have to go to the bathroom. I’d eventually have a panic attack if I couldn’t easily get coverage.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I worked in a jail and anytime I was in a position that I couldn’t use the bathroom without calling for coverage, I would immediately have to go to the bathroom.

          This totally happens to me. I always go even if I don’t have to right before I cover the front desk. Fortunately, I usually have someone I can forward the phone to if needed.

      4. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Right, I can think of several instances of when I call a business and I either have to wait (“All customer service representatives are currently busy…”) or I leave a voice mail and they call me back. It’s really fine, I understand that sometimes there aren’t enough phone-answerers to go around.

      5. Chinook*

        As someone who has worked a busy reception desk, I can say that some offices never want the phone to go to voicemail during business hours. I learned to politely put someone on hold and stop in person conversations in mid-sentence. The one time my coverage was late and in had to use the washroom NOW, I was reprimanded for leaving the phone (and my coverage for being late).

        OP, are the other admins giving you notice that they are leaving together so you can use the washroom first or even reduce your liquids for the morning? Are there times when they cover for you? And what is the plan in the office if there is only one of in that day?

    2. TheCupcakeCounter*

      That was going to be my suggestion. Go right before they leave and then even if you have to go while they are gone it should be less urgent (and therefore less uncomfortable).

      1. OP#4*

        Op#4 here! Thank you for the helpful feedback – I’ve lately been up-ing my water intake (around 100 oz during the day) and that means extra restroom trips – so this issue has been on my mind lately! I do try to run out and use the restroom right before my colleagues leave – but sometimes within a half hour, it’s getting uncomfortable. :/ I probably am over-thinking it – I’ll check w/my manager to see their preference – I don’t think anyone would expect me to sit uncomfortably for X amount of time for the sake of answering a phone. But glad to hear I’m not the only one who has this issue (i.e. not being able to go use a restroom whenever you want to while on the job).

        FWIW, one of the (more junior) brokers has pitched in & helped answer the phone on such an occasion (akin to Andy on “The Office” when he covered the phones while Erin was away in Florida). So on occasion I have asked him to listen for the phone.

    3. Jennifer*

      Or alternately, lay off the drinking for an hour or two beforehand. I do that whenever I have to be serving the public because god knows someone will need help the second I have to pee. I can hold it for at least 2 hours, but now I’m doing 3 hour shifts and that’s the threshold, unfortunately.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can’t take credit for it; a commenter suggested it the other day. (I was complaining about how people keep appropriating my fake names.)

      1. Kate, short for Bob*

        Would you like Artexerxes Ramsbottom? My grandfather used that in the 20s to send off for pamphlets and I’m sure he’d appreciate it going to a good home :o)

        1. Rat Racer*

          My dad’s favorite biblical name was Habacook – a little known old testament prophet. He claimed it would have been my name, if I’d been a boy, and that they would have called me Cookie for short. Thankfully, he had 3 daughters.

          1. Artemesia*

            The JP who married us was named Barzilla Dyke; turns out Barzilla is one of those little known Biblical names as well. We have always told our son he came so close to being named Barzilla.

              1. Cleopatra Jones*

                Um, I really like that. I love the way the letters look together, and how I imagine it pronounced.
                Something like..Kay-ju?

                1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

                  Kai, rhymes with eye, – joo. It basically means Giant Monsters (Godzilla and Mothra and that gang are all Kaiju). It’s an old term for that whole genre, and that’s why they used it in Pacific Rim for the, well, the giant monsters. It’s totally what we *would* call them when they appeared. I loved that movie.

          2. Camellia*

            My mother had two great-aunts. One was named Hepsibah and one was Arthusa, both biblical names (not sure of the spelling on either).

              1. BettyD*

                It always makes me think of Anne of Green Gables- there was an orphan in the asylum called Hepzibah Jenkins, much to Anne’s dismay.

              2. catsAreCool*

                Makes me think of the Mrs. Jeffries Mysteries by Emily Brightwell – her main character is named Hepsibah.

      2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        Maybe you should get a list of all the names mentioned in the Harry Potter books ;) They’d fit right in with the rest.

          1. dragonzflame*

            My mother once worked on the census and had to call a guy to verify that Harry Potter was actually his name. It was.

            1. Dangerfield*

              I misread that as more unusual. Not my full name, but part of my name is one of the more… interesting Harry Potter names. I love it.

            1. HeeHaw*

              My husband’s last name is Riddle. He had an Uncle Tom Riddle (long gone now) in VA.

              Not wanting to be out-uncled, I have an Uncle Albert in TX.

      3. Hacky Poet*

        Your fake names are really great and must be appropriated! One used in my family is Penelope Kaplutle. Consider it open source. My sister’s fave is Ardelia Luckett.

        1. Al Lo*

          My family’s is Aloysius Algernon. It’s what my grandma called my dad and then me while we were in utero, and it’s stuck as a family joke name ever since. Come to think of it, that could probably even be my handle!

          1. Artemesia*

            I once had an international classmate whose name was ‘Fleederbahn Barootzitootzi and an elementary school classmate named Billy Ballszarinni.

        2. Busytrap*

          My soccer coach always used Susie McGuillicuddy, and my dad always used “Joe Shablotnik*.” Can you tell I grew up in an industrial town? :)

          *though i just googled Shablotnik because I curious how to spell it, and apparently it was Charlie Brown’s favorite baseball player in the Peanuts comic strip. Which my dad was a huge fan of. So maybe it’s less Polish/Irish roots and more “Snoopy fan.” The world may never know. Either way, all yours Alison!

      4. Cube Ninja*

        You could always go down the Eddie Izzard route of naming, with various iterations of Engelbert Humperdinck.

        I’ve always been a fan of Wingelbert Fishtybuns. :)

      5. Lady Blerd*

        I thought it was an AAMism that the readers have adopted, I didn’t know you assigned the fake names. Is it the same for the different Teapot workman titles?

      6. S. Ninja*

        How about George P. Burdell? He’s one of the better-known fake people out there, and is on record as having attended Georgia Tech, flown a bomber during WWII, served on the editorial board of Mad Magazine…

    2. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Said commenter here, back when I was Valentina Warbleworth but then gave Allison a break along with eight names to use. But, really, you need to thank my father (through the ether). He would make up silly names and give them to me as gifts for my birthday or Christmas. Agamemnon Flanagan was for my fifteenth birthday, so treat it well.

      1. Anonicat*

        He must have an awesome bookshelf.

        Let me see…I think the best combo I can see from where I’m sitting is…maybe Lysistrata le Carre?

  3. A fly on the wall*

    OP5, this is really going to depend on the screener. SQL is so fundamental that if you’re graduating from a program where they’re teaching it, most hiring managers are going to assume that you are or will be somewhere between a basic and intermediate SQL user. (This would probably be different for an undergrad program, though).

    If I saw SQL called out as a skill, I’d assume an unusually high level of fluency, and I’d look sideways pretty hard at this language. I probably wouldn’t hold it against you, but it wouldn’t be a plus.

    If focus on the skills you are gaining and demonstrating through your thesis. If they think you can do the rest of the job, learning their data access language (which is not guaranteed to be SQL and particularly not the dialect of SQL that you learned in school) might even be something they’re willing to train on.

    1. mazzy*

      I don’t think it’s that “fundamental” unless you’re in certain professions. I work in finance with loads of big data and almost all of my staff works around not knowing or being good at SQL. We just have certain folks dedicated to running queries for others, which is actually a great approach IMO, as bad queries can cause problems, especially when the problems and analysis get complicated.

      However, I do think we agree to leave it off the resume. I don’t think lower level SQL is enough to get my attention. And I’m jaded from too many applicants lying about computer skills to give much weight to someone claiming expertise without work experience with it.

      On the upside, I definitely would still hire someone without stellar computer skills as long as they were generally smart and willing to learn!

      1. CMT*

        Yeah, this for sure depends on the industry. I wouldn’t at all assume it’s fundamental universally.

      2. A fly on the wall*

        You’re right mazzy, fundamental is much to strong a word. The programs I’m thinking of wouldn’t be able to have SQL in the last semester. I just couldn’t think of any reason for programs outside that area to teach it at all, precisely because of your point about being able to get by without it.

        I definitely agree with you on having dedicated people for running queries. My organization separates that group from the operational (related to organization’s purpose) group, though, which I don’t feel is ideal, but does allow for more cross training among that group. I’m kind of off to one side and sometimes act as the bridge between the two.

        1. Amy G. Golly*

          I’m wondering if the LW is talking about an Information Science program. There are plenty of professions under the umbrella where a basic working knowledge of SQL would be desirable-but-not-mandatory. My Masters is in Library and Information Science (I’m a librarian), and I took a general “scripting languages” class during one of my last semesters. We covered SQL along with PHP, javascript, Python and…I can’t remember?

          Which is the point I’d like to make: be cautious of conflating skills you’ve gained through coursework vs. other, more applied/practical means! Especially before you’ve even been exposed to the class. Do you have experience with other coding/scripting languages? If you do and you’ve got a good grasp then you can be reasonably confident you’ll pick up and be able to master SQL without any problems. If you don’t have much experience with coding/scripting, you might get to the class and find yourself struggling; you don’t know what level of confidence you’ll have with it at the end. And while I felt pretty good with it during the class, six months after graduation, I doubt I’d be able to construct a simple query without looking everything up. Which is fine! Because I’ve learned it once, if I had to learn it again I could do it in a quarter of the time. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable selling an employer on my abilities if SQL were a major part of the job. (And as others have mentioned, if it is a major part of the job, employers are likely to interpret your listing SQL on your resume as you possessing skills above and beyond the basic.)

          My advice, if you really want to be able to rely on this as a marketable skill, is to start studying on your own now. You can access free online courses at sites like Codecademy, and look into getting started with MySQL. Beyond that, I wouldn’t know: like I said, the one course I took did not make me even close to an expert!

          1. Liz*

            As an analyst I’ve taken courses in many programming languages, but I’m very aware that I couldn’t perform any business applications with them in a realistic timeframe.

            You could list it as “familiarity with SQL” or similar within an intro paragraph if SQL is listed as a preferred skill, but if it’s required I’d be very careful about applying. You don’t want to be in the situation where they expect you to write complex queries every day if you’re still struggling with aggregate functions.

      3. Government Worker*

        My office is generally similar to yours, in that we have IT people who deal with the query work and configuring the reporting tools in ways that the people with the business knowledge request. And for the most part it works pretty well. But I recently came in as someone with business knowledge who also knows SQL, and there’s a whole lot of “wait, we could do that? I didn’t realize we could get the data in that way!” from the business side and “we never thought doing X would be useful to anyone!” from the IT side. My code is a huge mess, but I have a solid grasp on what’s possible, and that’s been invaluable. When there’s a project that’s more than a one-off, I pass it on to the IT folks to put it into production, but it’s easier for everyone when I’ve worked out exactly what I’m trying to do beforehand by messing around with SQL myself.

    2. mander*

      This is admittedly outside my field of expertise, but wouldn’t having some demonstrable familiarity with SQL at least suggest that your candidate isn’t going to freak out when presented with a bunch of code? I guess it’s unlikely in the kinds of jobs that this person is going to apply for but I am thinking of people who see a command line or an Excel function and panic.

    3. Brett*

      Listing SQL on your resume is like listing Microsoft Office.

      It is pretty much assumed you have that skill in a lot of industries, and if you are specifically listing it you better have specialized skills well above what people typically learn in your industry.

      For SQL, you know how to build efficient optimized queries, use SQL to construct all sorts of database objects (not just its typical usage of selecting information out of a database), how to profile queries, and database specific variants of SQL. And have years of experience doing this.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        Ha. You would be amazed how many people DON’T actually know how to use MS office.

        1. Artemesia*

          I used to advise undergrads on their job searches (not my main job but happened a lot) and they would say ‘oh everyone knows excel and office’ and I would say — well not everyone really does and especially for an entry level job including these kinds of skills in the resume may be helpful. Now this was 15-20 years ago but at that time most students in other programs in our university didn’t have those skills; we required people to use excel in the program and they also used powerpoint and basic statistical programs. I wouldn’t make a big deal of such skills, but a brief skills line on a resume that includes foreign languages spoken at an advanced level (if you have them) and computer skills (especially if it is not basic and mandatory in the field you are entering) may be useful.

          1. Patrick*

            Honestly even among young, computer-literate people a lot of people think they know Excel but only have a basic grasp. I had to take a computer skills class in college (as part of the teaching cert I didn’t end up completing) and the Excel instruction was just basic formulas, no pivot tables, vlookup, etc. Not even mail merge.

            I’ve definitely talked to people who claimed to know Excel/Access really well but really just knew how to enter stuff into a spreadsheet (like if you were organizing a list of addresses) – Excel can be a useful tool for that but I think it might also give people the impression that that’s all there is to it.

            1. TychaBrahe*

              Meh. Excel mail merge is lacking. Why does a Microsoft spreadsheet hook up to a Microsoft mail app and not have the ability to use basic functionality like cc:.

              I have just had to write a macro to do what mail merge could not, which really pisses me off, because I am not a programmer in any way, shape, or form, and if I could do it in VBA, why can’t Microsoft’s six-figure programmers do it in C++?

        2. LQ*

          I used to be dismissive of my MS Office skills until I realized how many people really don’t have them. Or worse, think they have them, but really they can send an email in outlook and type a document in word. But that’s it, and then they say they know it. (My favorite was the person who told me that excel couldn’t do math….oh…ok then.)

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            My favorite on Excel is the people who tell me they don’t know how to use Excel because they are bad at math. The whole point of Excel is that it does the math (or other calculation) for you. I have four degrees, none of theme requiring more than the core class equivalent of “Math for You and Your Pet Rock”. I am the resident expert in Excel here because I learned to use it to compensate for math skills I do not naturally possess.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Seriously. I ask pointed questions in interviews about how they would approach particular tasks in the MS Office apps to make sure they know what I’m talking about, particularly the features we use a lot. They are going to have to learn our add-ons to them as well, so they have to already know the programs well.

          This also not as highly correlated to digital-nativeness as one might imagine.

      2. addlady*

        I know someone (a brilliant programmer, btw) who thought that programming in SQL was no big deal–and then she actually had to do it! She learned that set theory wasn’t really up her ally; SQL actually does take a particular kind of thinking and abilities that not everyone has.

        1. A fly on the wall*

          Yeah, that’s another reason to avoid it. Unless you’re interviewing with the public sector, you’re just daring them to ask you an advanced set theory question with this.

    4. Government Worker*

      In my industry it’s far from fundamental, and it would be a real plus on a resume to a lot of people. I’m the only one of my group of 4 analysts in my department who’s really comfortable with it, and it’s a huge advantage for me. As mazzy suggests, everyone else finds ways to work around it.

      But I recently graduated from a masters program where I “learned SQL” as part of two different courses and also used it on some pretty large real-world data sets in my thesis. If I saw it listed on a resume I wouldn’t count the coursework part of it very heavily unless there was a good-size project with it that used actual data, not some clean sample data provided by the professor. The thesis work (which spanned a couple of years) is where I actually learned the skills I use every day – mostly how to Google my way out of problems. My course work was really just the basics, and I couldn’t do much out in the real world without things like case statements and partitions and practice nesting subqueries a few layers deep. Plus working with real data gives you a lot more understanding of converting data types, dealing with null values and bad data, etc.

    5. Kiki*

      Yeah I’ve been studying PL/SQL and other iterations for 20+ years and I don’t see myself as unusually expert! I must be a slow learner.

    6. OP*

      Thank you, A fly on the wall. We will be completing a capstone project during the program where I will be working with SQL. Do you think it would be better to address this briefly in my cover letter, rather than add SQL to my resume without explanation of the type and amount of experience, and then go into further detail on how I used SQL (as a beginner) if asked in an interview? I have not been assigned a project yet, so how I use SQL will really depend on what project I am assigned to.

  4. i forgot my name*

    #1: The thing that sticks out to me is that your comment caused others to feel the need to defend themselves and their work ethic which maybe suggest there are other issues going on. I have been in situations where I know I’m working my hardest and hearing someone say, “you work hard, but X works harder” is a real morale killer. So yeah, it would make me defensive and probably a bit annoyed, though I wouldn’t resort to not talking to someone over it.

    And this may just be me, but I found OP1’s comment of “Of course, the other managers could have immediately said the same thing about their staff” to be a bit….off-putting? Not gonna lie, it’d be a little weird if I was sitting in a room and it turned into a contest of which manager said their team works the hardest. I’d rather be praised genuinely, not because managers feel like one-upping each other or because they felt forced to because someone else complimented first.

    1. Chrissi*

      I agree. Something about the whole letter was a little off-putting to me. Maybe just try to be extra gracious in the near future and keep the bragging (as opposed to compliments) to a minimum.

    2. MK*

      Frankly, if I heard someone who manages one team of many say that their staff works hardest (assuming it wasn’t obviously a joke), I wouldn’t be offended, I would just think they were clueless. The OP probably has no way of making such an assessment; they know that their team works hard, but they aren’t really in position to know who works the hardest, and what metric are you using anyway? It strikes me as a sort of immature bragging than anything else, considering that one is hardly unbiased.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I would just see it as harmless puffery. It’s about like giving your dad a #1 Dad mug. You aren’t really rating all of the dads in the world and giving him the highest score, you’re just using a little hyperbole to praise the one you’re closest to. Same with OP’s team.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Eh, it’s not really the same. If the OP had just told her staff “you all are the hardest working team here” – like giving your dad the mug – that would be different. And you expect people to say that their dad/spouse/kid is The Best, because we know they’re not making an objective statement or putting others down; they’re just expressing their love for someone close to them. It’s more like going to Parent-Teacher Night and telling the other parents “My Fergus studies harder than anyone else in his class”.

        2. Artemesia*

          This. If my nephew gave his Dad a ‘Best Dad in the World’ T-shirt at a family Christmas event, I would not feel he had insulted my husband who is also ‘the best Dad in the world.’ Someone who says ‘my team is the best’ or ‘my team works hardest’ should usually just be considered in this way. Of course the coach things his or her own team is ‘the best.’ The fact that this is a giant kerfuffle suggests either that the OP has already PO’ed many people and they are using this as an excuse to express their dislike or that he works with ninnies. The OP should be considering the former — what has gone on that people react to him this way? Can he fix that? Because there is no cure for ninnies.

          1. Rachael*

            You are right. I think it depends on the person saying it. If I had a friendly relationship with the person I would joke back and say “MY team is the best!” and maybe challenge them to an arm wrestling contest. However, if it was someone who was already jerky I would be the one to roll my eyes so that they say it and then make fun of them later. Who knows if the OP was already jerky to people or that the coworkers are just sensitive and crybabies. There are too many variables for me to tell the OP who is in the wrong here.

        3. LQ*

          It might be more like giving your dad the #1 Dad mug while your step dad is in the room and your dad is the parent that does the discipline and says no to things that you really want to do, but your step dad is the one who takes you to disney land (or world, whichever is the good one).

          (Also I feel like I’ve see the word dad so many times it has lost all meaning.)

          1. LQ*

            ACK see dad too many times, **giving your step dad the #1 Dad mug while your dad is in the room.
            Words no longer have meaning. Dadadadadadadad.

        4. Lissa*

          Haha, this was exactly the comparison I thought of, too. But, I think it depends on whether it’s obvious you know/don’t know about the other team’s work. If you don’t, I think it’s more innocent. But really, I’d read it, as you said, as “harmless puffery”. I think it’s a bit different because it’s work, but kind of a stretch to be offended unless it’s something that comes up a lot.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, and, rather uncharitably, the clueless people I know who make these sorts of assertions are the ones that are either (a) NOT working the hardest by measure of productivity or even hours or (b) working the most hours to make up for lack of skill or efficient procedures.

    3. Sunshine*

      I am in a team that has an upper level manager who is always trying to talk people’s ear off about how hard we work. It’s now at the point where the team members are embarrassed because it’s a talking point and other teams are getting sick of hearing it. It’s not unusual for other people in the office to make snide comments to us or to give us the cold shoulder (not personally, but on professional matters such as delegation of tasks). I know this is a more extreme case, but praise at the expense of suggesting someone else isn’t as good, is really below the belt.

      1. i forgot my name*

        Exactly. People like praise, but not when it comes at the expense of someone else. I have a manager who says things like, “you’re so great at X and Y unlike Joe who is awful” and it’s embarrassing to hear. It’s super awkward to be told you’re great but someone else isn’t, and it’s really not a comparison a manager should make in front of someone they manage. It also makes me wonder what he says about me when he’s talking to other people.

        1. Petronella*

          “not at the expense of someone else” is so true! My former manager would rave to me about each of her other reports, but rarely complimented me on my own work. Maybe that was her style, and she was actually talking me up to the others … but I doubt it.

    4. Stellaaaaa*

      I view it as a manner of jokey sarcasm that I don’t expect to see in adults. I can tell that OP was just making a joke that she thought good-natured but if she speaks out of turn enough with these one-off half-jokes that don’t contribute to the conversation (I know it sounds overly specific, but it’s definitely common in younger adults) I can see that people might find her difficult to interact with. Especially since her follow-up thought was, “Well they could have made the same joke back at me!” No, they shouldn’t have, and OP needs to start being a little less quippy on the job.

      1. Elfie*

        You know, I really didn’t get this impression at all. To me, it sounded like ‘You’re the best, guys!”, which (to me) is so innocuous as to go unnoticed. It’s the type of things that managers say all the time (and is therefore pretty meaningless). And I do think that there’s a level of culture at play here. I’m in the UK, and if someone wasn’t quippy on the job, then they would definitely stick out. Humour (especially sarcasm) is part and parcel of my daily life (and everyone else’s that I know), and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

        1. Liane*

          To me, it sounded like ‘You’re the best, guys!”
          That may have been what she meant. However, that’s the kind of thing managers say to their own team, in their department meetings, NOT in a *meeting with other managers/departments.*

          I agree with Alison that OP and everyone else is taking this too far. All of them should forget about it and get back to work.

        2. Rachael*

          I’ve been in the situation where our department all joked that we were “the best looking team” at the bank in front of others. I didn’t see anyone moping around after we said it. Everyone laughed and went on with their lives. Why? Because it was funny.

    5. Jen*

      I agree with you about the off-putting comment; that rang oddly to me.

      I’ve also worked in a department where the two managers/directors tended to be competitive with one another, and there was a lot of grandstanding about “how busy everyone is”… it’s just uncomfortable for everyone under them. (Especially when your manager talks about how busy 3/4ths of her team is, but neglects to realize that the remaining 1/4 is just as busy! Urgh.)

    6. Ama*

      Yup. My first thought was back to a job where I was extremely overworked and the big bosses were in extreme denial about my workload being more than one person could handle (tellingly, when I left, they split the duties for my position into 2 FT and 1 half time position). To make sure I didn’t lose track of anything, I had a filing system that meant I instantly moved any papers in my inbox to an “in process” file that was in a drawer. Coworkers would wander up to my desk, see my clear inbox, and make comments about how nice it must be to have nothing to do. Every time, it really upset me, far more than an innocuous comment should have (although I never would have actually gotten sulky with any of the people who said it) — but when you are already feeling overworked and underappreciated, a comment that implies other people haven’t noticed how hard you’ve been working feels a lot more pointed and malicious even when it’s just clumsy and/or misinformed.

    7. AndersonDarling*

      I thought the same thing. If the other managers/staff took the comment personally, then there must be some other issues. The first thing that came to mind was that this team may be dropping the ball when they work with other departments and everyone knows they can’t be depended on.
      Or…the other managers need to defend their staff by being resentful. We have departments that would have jumped their manager as soon as the staff meeting was over and complained that it was an unfair thing to say.
      Or…it is a company with layoffs or threats of layoffs. Making comments about being the hardest working is poison in those tumultuous situations.

      1. i forgot my name*

        Yes. If one or two people made a big deal about it, I’d just assume they were overreacting, but it sounds like a whole bunch of people took issue, which imo points to a bigger problem.

        I have a problem now where my manager likes to do the “my team is the best!” in front of people on other teams and it doesn’t lead to great morale for anyone. We’ve been going through a few rounds of layoffs, too, so I know it puts everyone even more on edge (and I suspect part of the reason he does it is to be all, “look at what a great manager I am!!”

      2. Ihmmy*

        My thought also. If everyone is in a snit about it, is the OP absolutely certain their team is indeed one of the hardest working? Because probably not based on the reaction they’ve gotten

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Maybe, but I’ve worked in places where people took things the wrong way as a matter of course. At Nonprofit Job, they had that kind of culture. You really had to be careful what you said because there was always someone who would take the most innocuous things completely out of context.

      4. INTP*

        My thought was that maybe the teams have to compete for resources, attention, priority, or whatever else, so directly saying “My team is harder working than these other teams” was a pretty low blow if everyone else was playing nice and trying to compete on their own merits alone.

        I do think that if everyone felt 100% well-supported and not threatened by each other in any way it would have led to eye-rolling maybe but not conflict – but for how many companies is that even true? It did stand out to me as an inappropriate comment for a meeting setting regardless.

      5. Marty Gentillon*

        Yep, it sounds to me like there is some sort of political knife fight going on, and you just stepped in it. It’s probably worth your time to figure out what has everyone so salty, if nothing else, so you can avoid similar land mines in the future.

        1. Steve*

          Given how clueless the OP#1 is about how this might possibly be taken as offensive, it seems quite possible to me that s/he has been engaged in an ongoing knife fight of one.

    8. INTP*

      I think the context was important here. Since OP was at a meeting with other managers (and possibly their staff – I don’t see it specified) and their director, it could come across a bit like she’s jostling for position and trying to impress the director at the expense of the other teams – especially if they already have to compete for resources or attention. It would be entirely different if it were a one-on-one with the director or even in a more casual setting where it might have been interpreted more lightly.

      Of course, how much everyone is overreacting depends on a thousand factors that we can’t know here, like at what moment in the conversation the OP said it and in what precise tone. But it did stand out to me as an inappropriate thing to say in the particular context of a meeting with the other managers and a higher up, especially if the subordinates were there. The fact that the OP doesn’t seem to recognize the difference between praising subordinates and praising subordinates at the expense of other managers’ subordinates also makes me worry that maybe the tone/phrasing/timing were not well executed.

    9. Jaguar*

      If I thought the manager saying her team was the “hardest working,” I wouldn’t be offended or have my moral hit, but I’d stop taking her and her team seriously.

    10. stevenz*

      I’m way late to this one but I feel pretty strongly about it, so I will write this just for my own satisfaction.

      If the OP who said her staff is the hardest working said it in a light sort of way, then it’s just basic, good-natured gamesmanship. But we live in a world – especially the US part of the world – where everyone seems to be looking for reasons to be offended. The proper reaction should have been “sure, Janie, you’re always going on about your team. Well I’ll have you know blah blah.” But no. The reflex is to interpret it as negatively as possible, as most commenters here have done.

      There’s an old saying that goes ” —- — if they can’t take a joke.”

  5. Bee Eye LL*

    #4 – I work with a group of 8 people with various titles and duties and it’s not rare for all of us to be gone for a brief time during lunch. But then again so is most of the rest of the other offices. Make sure you have good working voicemail and don’t worry about it.

    1. Thomas E*

      I disagree, purely because as a brokerage firm calls can be time critical: if you want to buy or sell shares there can be large movements in price in a matter of minutes.

      I’d ask your boss how you should deal with it.

      1. Government Worker*

        This. I worked at a brokerage firm in the early 2000’s that refused to get voicemail for the financial consultants or their assistants for exactly this reason. A live person should always answer the phone.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it varies by office, though; some offices want to ensure a live person will always answer. Which is why the OP should just ask her boss!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        From my own experience, either the boss will make a lunchtime phone rota, or another assistant has to be called, and then you have to wait for them to arrive, before a dash in the direction of the ladies!

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          From my experience, the boss won’t make a rota; he’ll make the assistants make a rota, and then he’ll look at them like they’re crazy for not figuring that out without his input.

          1. Karo*

            That’s why you go in with a number of possible solutions outlined and ask which one (or unknown other) boss wants, rather than just going in and asking the boss to fix it for you.

          2. Case of the Mondays*

            Frankly, while I think bosses should manage, I also cannot comprehend why people can’t work out their on rotation. As I mentioned above, my office has the phone battles too. Why can’t 5 reasonable people sit down and say, okay, we each need to pick a day to cover the phones, what day do you want. When something comes up and Jane has a doctor’s appointment on her day, why can’t they work out between them who can cover that hour. They don’t all eat at the same hour so it shouldn’t be rocket science. Luckily, I am not the manager that has to deal with the stale mates but it is the number one battle around my office and drives everyone nuts. The score keeping is intense. Sue, you were out sick last week and Mary had to answer the phone for three hours more than normal so you are going to take all of her extra phone hours this week.

            1. Chinook*

              This only works when everyone is professional. All it takes is one admin who isn’t willing and suddenly it becomes part of a power play, but that is usually a symptom of a toxic work environment.

        2. Bee Eye LL*

          We’ve tried the lunch schedule thing and as soon as you make one, you’ll get a phone call at 11:58 when you’re supposed to go to lunch at noon, and the whole thing gets thrown out of whack.

  6. Just Another Techie*

    For #5, I’d list it under relevant coursework. Something like
    Relevant Courses: Statistical Analysis, Intro to Programming (taught in Python), Advanced Algorithm Design (taught in C++), Database Management (MySQL, SQL Server, and PostGres, expected Spring ’17)

    This makes it clear you will study the skill formally as part of your coursework. Generally I’m not a fan of mixing languages/tools/skills you learned in class with things you have real-world experience in, though, and this way of doing it neatly separates class work from on the job skills.

    1. Dan*

      If op has no paid work, a really good “plan b” is strong project related skills. When you have legit looking project related skills, that tells me a lot more than “took a class and copy/pasted the professors code”.

      After grad school, my resume had a fairly substantial “course related projects” section. I got throug many interviews and had a few offers with that approach.

      1. just another techie*

        Oh yeah definitely. When I was fresh out of grad school I listed very single term project I did.

      2. OP*

        Thank you Dan! This comment was really helpful, since I am going to school full time in a rural area where I am unlikely to find a company who would hire me to use SQL and get professional experience outside of school before I graduate. The surrounding area is mostly farms; there are very few businesses nearby where I could work during school other than family owned restaurants or on campus jobs (I have looked into these options, but none are looking to hire entry level employees to use SQL)

    2. OP*

      I’m not taking SQL a course for credit, but as a separate series of bootcamps whose focus will solely be on SQL . SQL will be used in coursework as well, but the bulk of my learning will take places during the SQL sessions. It seems that my message was misleading; I am not simply using SQL to support my understanding of other subject matters. I am actually learning different applications for SQL in various areas of business, such as for finance or marketing purposes, and most of this learning will take place through non-credit related classes and through my capstone projects. Would this make a difference in where I would place SQL on a resume?

  7. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, you seem to be saying that praise has to be competitive to be meaningful – that isn’t true. Why not just say “my staff is incredibly hard-working”? When you talk about this disparagingly as everyone getting trophies, you come across as very, very invested in believing that achievement and success can only be expressed in relation to other people.

    And if you are that competitive, I urge you to think very hard about how “lightly” that comment really came across. When a person really and deeply believes in a thing, saying it out loud isn’t going to sound “light” or non-serious.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Yes. The competitive note in the compliment that was the problem, and essentially the same brag could have been made without disparaging others.

      That said the fact that this is now a “situation” highlights office dysfunction or possibly the fact that the LW has a history of being a bit of a jerk so this isn’t a one-off thing.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Well, it isn’t necessarily that LW is a jerk. Someone with a strong competitive streak may very well have trouble understanding why “my team is the best” comes across as insulting, and struggle with the idea that praise can be both meaningful and non-competitive. That doesn’t make them a jerk, just in need of learning about different communication styles.

    2. LBK*

      I love the insight that praise doesn’t have to be competitive. Personally I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have thought twice about the OP’s comment unless there were additional context at play (like OP’s department actually being notorious slackers, so the idea that they were the hardest workers would be fairly insulting) but I agree that the implication of you being against other departments instead of with them isn’t one you should normally want to instill internally, unless you actually are on competing teams (eg different sales teams, but even then competition should be friendly).

    3. Murphy*

      I like this notion that some people see praise as a zero-sum game, where there are limited amounts of it to go around so you have claim yours. That’s an interesting mindset to me and one I hadn’t thought about before. Well done!

  8. Dan*


    The corollary to a fly on the wall’s answer is to leave it off. A little SQL can take you a seriously long way, and you can learn basic data pulls in a day.

    The other thing is, in the tech sector, “knows X” is a fairy meaningless statement – many languages and what not are so broad that no one person truly knows everything.

    The type of job you are applying for very much determines how or even if you list SQL at all. If you are applying for some sort of DBA job, you’re going to need serious SQL chops. I don’t hire or work directly with those guys, so I can’t tell you if one course that isn’t 100% SQL learning would be enough. But if strong SQL skills are a prerequisite for the job, I certainly would be phone screening to make sure the person knows their stuff. So you’d be signaling that you wouldn’t be ready to interview until April or May. That’s kind of a long way off.

    Now, if you’re applying for a job where SQL is not a central part of what you do, and you have other tech/programming skills, then how much SQL you know just isn’t going to matter. Lack of it wont break you, and expertise won’t make you. (Again, limited to roles where SQL knowledge is not a central part of the job.) Because in that situation, you’re likely doing straightforward data pulls and putting that data into something else and analyzing it. Whether you’re doing that manipulation more through SQL queries or more through the tool you’re using, I generally wouldn’t care.

    So why do I suggest you don’t need to even list SQL on your resume? Because everything I know about SQL I put into a 5 page cheat sheet(s) for a 70 year old guy I work with who never learned SQL. Aka, I don’t know that much, and what you need to know to work on my team, I can teach you FAST. Once you know the basics, you can google the rest of it.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that if basic data access skills are what’s needed, any reference to SQL is a waste of space. If you need enough to the point I need to screen for it, your entry is telling me to put your resume at the bottom of the pile – you won’t be experienced enough for an interview for almost 9 months!

    (Pro tip: when asked how you analyze data, don’t say that you write select * and then open it in excel. That is not the right answer at an interview, even if it is true.)

    1. CMT*

      I wouldn’t leave it off the resume, at least not once OP has taken the class. A lot of jobs ask specifically for experience in SQL (or whatever), so how are hiring managers going to know you have that if you don’t mention it somewhere?

      1. Dan*

        Op won’t take the class for several months, his question was how to frame it on a resume before obtaining said skill.

        If he’s going to claim it, he needs to be able to get through an interview. Those that care will or should screen for it, which is just something he cannot be ready for within the next 8 months.

        After he takes the class? I’d give different advice. Then you list it like any other thing worth putting on a resume. Is (presumably) basic knowledge a resume skill? Depends on the job. Hell, I do data analytics for a living, and I don’t put excel on my resume. Why? My skills are basic, for heavy data stuff I use other tools. In my line of work, basic excel is the equivalent of tying your shoes.

        I’m not disparaging power excel users – again, it comes down to knowing your field. There are places where strong excel skills matter, and need to be demonstrated on a resume.

        1. Artemesia*

          One approach might be to ‘explain the degree program’. I worked with a quirky program and one of the things we did was to help students market their program when they job searched. A sentence summarizing the particular skills focus of this program might belong on the resume or in the cover letter. Ours was an applied liberal arts program where academic study was coupled with lots of community based projects. They found jobs a lot more easily than their liberal arts fellows in other programs. If SQL is critical to a job then a quickly grad class is not enough. If it is not but nice to have then introductory knowledge may be an advantage, particularly if it was applied in a real world project of some sort.

    2. themmases*

      Dan, I always agree with your responses about skills even though I think we are from quite different fields. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that there is a field somewhere that one semester of SQL is a meaningful job skill… But I’ve never seen one myself and I cast a wide net. It’s hard for me to imagine a field where a skill like that is an important qualification yet 3/4 of the work of a good grad program can be done before learning it.

      My partner and I had a big laugh at your last point. (Him: DBA, me: epid who loves ArcGIS and proc SQL in SAS… Even I know that’s not OK!)

      1. Brett*

        As a side note… if you love ArcGIS and proc SQL, try a trial of FME from Safe.
        My day to day is lots of trying to melt my laptop QGIS, Python, and R, and FME saves me a ton of time.

        1. themmases*

          Ooooh this looks neat, thanks for the tip! Sometimes I feel like half my life is just data management switching between SAS and ArcMap.

  9. Elspeth*

    #2, if you’re female, wear the jeans with a nice top and blazer. If the blazer turns out to be too much, treat it like a jacket and casually remove it.

    1. Anonophone*

      Good idea. If possible, also try and wear jeans that will read more like ‘dressy denim pants’ than ‘jeans’. With a blazer this would read quite formally, but with a casual top would read as nice casual.

    2. Mookie*

      Could chambray trousers work in this situation (that is, where there is some confusion about jeans versus business casual)? They’re jean-colored, but the cut, length, absence or existence of pockets, and manner of waist band (elastic, pleated, straight) is pretty variable. Something slightly slouchy or flared but cut high might toe the line, particularly if paired with a very pared-down, minimalist top and no belt.

    3. misspiggy*

      The OP could also go for black jeans, which with a black or navy blazer and a pale or bright top would look nicely put together.

      1. Jen*

        I was going to suggest dark wash jeans – they can still look professional, just a bit more relaxed. Black jeans didn’t even cross my mind for some reason!

    4. Purest Green*

      Yes, I second all the suggestions in the comments here (chambray trousers, black jeans, worn with a blazer).

    5. Anonhippopotamus*

      And for people who hate/don’t wear jeans? Why not other casual trousers, why does it always have to be jeans?

      1. fposte*

        Then you ask that of the recruiter who gave you the advice. But jeans signify “casual” in the way that a suit signifies “serious business,” so it’s possible choosing something else would miss the mark same as not wearing a suit would in suit-type interviews. “Casual” often means “We have a different uniform,” not “We don’t care what you wear.”

      2. Phoebe*

        I’ve wondered that, too! Or for that matter, why pants at all? It’s been over 90 degrees where I am for weeks and casual skirts are so much more comfortable in the summertime! I think is OP’s case though, I’d take the recruiter at their word and just wear the jeans.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          I was also wondering that since I don’t think I even own a pair of pants. They make me feel uncomfortable and I feel like they’re unflattering. Even in the winter I’ll wear three pairs of tights under a dress instead of pants.

          1. alter_ego*

            I’m the same way. I recently had to buy jeans to wear to a job site that we’re working on that OSHA was requiring jeans and boots for, and I have confirmed that they’re just as uncomfortable and unflattering as I remember them to be, and I’ve worn them exactly three times since purchase. Once for each site visit we’ve made.

          2. Gene*

            I’m a guy who doesn’t even own a pair of jeans. At work I’m wearing uniform trousers, and in normal life I wear a kilt. If I’m not at work and I’m in pants, it’s because it’s below freezing or there’s a reason – like the bride who said she preferred that I wear pants to her wedding/reception.

        2. Koko*

          Yep, I pretty much exclusively wear dresses to work in the summer, because you can’t wear shorts to work and it is not ankle-length pants weather here.

          1. Judy*

            I’m always amazed at those who work in offices who can wear skirts or sandals (or think of wearing shorts) to work in the summer. I’ve yet to have an office that consistently is warmer than 70 degrees. I generally layer my tops, wear pants and knee socks. For me, a temperature of 68 deg F while sitting and typing is too cold. I regularly put on my “office sweater” and at times even my fingerless gloves here, it’s usually around 70, but sometimes dips down to 68 or 67.

            I once had an office that didn’t get warmer than 65 all one summer. I was wearing long underwear, thermal socks and fingerless gloves.

            1. Alix*

              Ha, and see, for me, 65 is my dream temperature and I feel like I’m overheating when it gets above 72. I am totally the kind of person who wears skirts and open-toed shoes in the dead of winter (and when not working I don’t even bother with socks, either, unless it’s actively precipitating, there’s snow on the path, or it’s actually below freezing).

              Basically what I’m saying is, I wish it were considered professional to go stick my head in the freezer at work.

            2. Mona Lisa*

              I seem to have mostly worked in older buildings, and they had terrible AC regulation issues. My last office would be freezing on the ground floor and a barely tolerable level of heat on the second. Everyone on the first floor wore pants and sweaters/had blankets at their desks during the summer, whereas everyone upstairs wore dresses or skirts with lightweight tops. It was awful!

              My current office has such bad AC issues that we brought in maintenance to look into it, and it seems that we will never get this office below 75 in the summer because of duct work issues that no one will pay to fix.

              1. Mreasy*

                75 is my dream temperature! I’m freezing all summer and they swear up and down this place is kept at 72.

                1. Mona Lisa*

                  I can tolerate 75 (ideal would be 72), but that’s the minimum for our office! The temperature rises as the day goes on, and it frequently ends up around 80 by mid-day. To try and combat the heat, we turn off all the lights and close the blinds, which results in a cave-like appearance.

            3. Koko*

              There are several climate zones in my office….but only one outside! I’m equipped with a cardigan and travel blanket for when my office feels chilly or I need to go to a chilly conference room, but it’s a long walk to where I park my car on the street and I would not survive wearing pants.

      3. Pwyll*

        I also think it’d be possible to wear something that wasn’t jeans and just work it into the conversation, if possible. So, wear whatever nice, casual pants you’re most comfortable in, and when the interviewer mentions something about the environment being casual, you can say something like, “I’m really excited to move to a more casual workplace! I’m really not a jeans person but I’m looking forward to being able to ditch my business suits for more (x).”

        Or something.

      4. neverjaunty*

        Because it’s a tech startup. They tend to be heavily dominated by the kind of dudebros who think that anything other than jeans makes you, like, a suit, and are also baffled at the idea that women’s clothing can depart from t-shirt-and-jeans and yet be casual.

        I definitely second the suggestion to ask the recruiter how literal ‘jeans’ is. Because if in fact they do have that rigid a dress code, I’d be really, really wary about this job.

        1. zora.dee*

          I’d bet it was just the recruiter being slightly thoughtless about their word choice. Some people assume that everyone has tons of jeans, because they do.

          I would have definitely asked a followup in the moment: if I don’t really have jeans, would something else work ok? Like a dress with a cardigan? And I’m sure the recruiter would have clarified what they meant. I doubt it’s literally required to wear jeans every day, unless this is like a new “super chill” Best Buy chain that is opening or something.

        2. Busytrap*

          Eh — we are weird about our no-dresscode dresscode, and it’s truly not indicative of any other odd rigidity. So I’d say, yes, be wary, but you don’t have to nix them outright because of it.

        3. TrainerGirl*

          I had a training where the customer asked us to wear jeans. It was in TX, and I think they just wanted to stress that they were a very casual office and didn’t want us to arrive in suits, which would make them feel uncomfortable. I think wearing a casual outfit that you feel good in is the right call. If they have an issue that you didn’t show up in jeans…well, I wouldn’t want that job. I work for a tech company and there’s definitely a “dudebro” environment where folks try to out-casual each other, but I wear what I like, which is jeans, pants, etc. As long as you don’t show up in a suit, you should be fine.

      5. Busytrap*

        The info you were given reads like it was written by one of our internal recruiters … I actually jumped the whole way to the comments without reading the rest of the posts (which I never do!) to advise you to take what she’s saying at face value and skip the jacket.

        For folks that find themselves in this position that aren’t jeans people — cotton trousers/summery skirt would work fine, too, unless you’re in a manufacturing facility, in which case, wear the pants. What they’re trying to convey is that a jacket (or any outfit requiring a jacket) would be way out of place. and make you look too “corporate” and out of line with our start-up culture. People will think you’re the auditors, or an attorney. :)

    6. voluptuousfire*

      Agreed. I’ve interviewed quite a bit with start ups and usually wore a houndstooth blazer (looked like something Dr. Who would wear), a black tshirt, dark skinny jeans and chocolate brown riding boots. It looked put together, slightly above average looking for a start up and was comfortable.

      Having a fun blazer or two on hand is a good idea.

      1. M-C*

        That sounds perfect. Definitely anything hinting of a suit would be a big mistake for a tech company. But looking like your laundry is spinning somewhere else isn’t a good look for an interview. You want to aim somewhere like you’re making an effort from the usual t-shirt and jeans, but you don’t actually own a suit :-).

        If a recruiter makes the effort to tell you what to wear, you should believe them unless they’ve been way off the mark on something else (perhaps not so much if you’re getting an interview?). But you should also remember that they’re looking at what people are actually wearing -at- work, not at what they expect from a candidate. There’s usually a slight discrepancy in my experience.

        Note that there are differences between applying as a techie to a tech company, applying as a non-techie to the same company, or applying as a techie to a different sort of company. Sigh.

    7. Artemesia*

      I know someone interviewing in this world right now and who wore wonderful heels, nice jeans, a silk shell and a jacket and the first words out of the interviewer’s mouth were ‘Wow, you really nailed business casual.’ On the job she tends to wear dresses or jeans and tops — but for interviews right now, the jeans with nice shoes and jacket are her go to.

      1. M-C*

        Unfortunately, what many women define as “wonderful heels” can also send out the wrong message. If you hobble down the corridor trying to follow someone a foot taller walking fast, it won’t leave an impression of competence. Make sure the wonderfulness does not impair your mobility in any way, especially as your feet may well spend most of their interview time hidden below a desk.

        1. Petronella*

          When I was young back in the mists of time, wearing “wonderful heels” with jeans certainly left an impression, just not an impression of competence. Well, not competence at business anyway. Picture the women in a 1980s hair-metal music video.

    8. Chickaletta*

      I think the basic message is “don’t wear a suit” (or any version of a suit that implies that kind of formality). It’s not just tech startups. I live in a part of the country where the only people who wear suits to work are bankers and politicians. For everyone else, the only time we dust them off is for proms, weddings and funerals (and even that’s not a given). That’s it. So if you showed up to an interview to most any other job, you would look like you were playing dress up.

      In fact, I was once on an interview panel where someone showed up in a suit and part of the reason we disqualified him was because he was dressed like that – it was as if he had no clue or had never worked in his field before. It worried us that he may lack general awareness in other areas, or need a lot of hand holding, etc. if he was so far off base in how to present himself in an interview. He should have known that suits aren’t worn anymore, especially in his line of business.

      1. zora.dee*

        speaking of this, I am currently working in a cowork space with a lot of startups and small companies, and we’re all super casual. And there’s a guy sitting in the common area in a full black suit right now.. totally gave me a double take, because that is so out of place in this building, and I didn’t even realize how much until I saw it!

        That said, for some of the companies here, I’m sure it’s perfectly appropriate to wear a suit to interview, and it won’t necessarily disqualify him for whatever job he’s interviewing for. But it really is jarring when the workplace culture is sooooo casual to see someone in a very formal suit!

    9. CM*

      I would wear a dress with flats and casual jewelry. It looks put-together, but the accessories are more dressed down. I would also feel really uncomfortable wearing jeans even if encouraged to wear them.

  10. SusanIvanova*

    The first time I interviewed in Silicon Valley, I had a nice new suit/skirt that everyone in Texas insisted I had to buy. That was the one and only time I ever wore it in my life. The interviewers did comment on it, but in a casual “btw, you didn’t need to get that dressed up” way, and I did get the job.

    I would say that a company that expects jeans will be fine with khakis or other business casual. Jeans are actually getting less common in tech because cargo/khakis have side pockets to put your smartphone in and jeans don’t.

    1. Daisy Steiner*

      Yes, I would hazard a guess that “jeans” doesn’t literally mean “and nothing but jeans” – rather it’s a shorthand for the level of formality expected.

        1. just another techie*

          Only if she’s really comfortable with it. You can always spot the people who never wear skirts except on job interviews and it’s just as awkward as showing up in a suit for a jeans-and-ripped-tshirts kind of environment. OTOH if she’s comfortable with it and obviously wears similar things every day then yes, that’s a great idea.

          1. Anomanom*

            yes, this. For me it’s the opposite, I wear dresses almost every day, so put me in work pants and I feel like I must look as uncomfortable as I feel. I think the next suit I buy is going to include the matching sheath dress. Then I can forgo waistbands all together and life will be awesome!

            1. Anomanom*

              I feel similarly about heels vs flats for women. You can tell who is wearing flats because they have to/feel like they should for this instance and they look just as awkward as the women wearing heels for the same reasons. Back to my plan of keeping my interview clothing to similar shapes that I wear day to day so I feel less awkward in them.

            2. Person of Interest*

              I’m with you – my business casual uniform is pretty much a casual dress, cardigan, and flats, which is probably what I would wear for an interview like this. I’ve been searching for so long for a good sheath dress/blazer suit for my dressier days! They are surprisingly hard to find!

              1. all aboard the anon train*

                If you’re willing to spend a bit more, I like Theory’s collection. I found a gorgeous A-line suiting dress and already fitted blazer that is my new go-to for when I want to dress up – or have an interview.

                I like Theory’s dresses in general. They’re pricey, but they walk that like of looking dressy but not being too formal. Plus for someone who constantly needs a-line or fit-and-flare styles, they’re a nice way to get those styles without looking too informal.

          2. Jen RO*

            Well, yeah, obviously, that’s why I said “can”.

            I am one of those people who are uncomfortable in skirts and I could live in jeans, but as exemplified by the above thread, there are also people who are uncomfortable in jeans. I was just pointing out that the recruiter probably didn’t mean “jeans are mandatory”, just that OP should dress more casually.

          3. M-C*

            Excellent point, just another techie. I once got persuaded to wear a skirt for an interview and was so distracted by it that I couldn’t concentrate. And we won’t even mention how utterly frumpy I looked I’m sure :-).

        2. neverjaunty*

          I wouldn’t. There is a cultural myth here that women who “really” understand IT never wear skirts at work, because what if you have to crawl under a desk to look at a computer.

          1. M-C*

            Well, they do have a point. I’m strictly a software person, and there would have been plenty of very awkward moments in my life if I had to wiggle on the floor/upside down behind the bookcase in a skirt, in front of management/clients. Mama mia.. High necklines are usually a good idea for the same reason.

          2. OP #2*

            Hi, OP #2 here. I had never thought of it that way! I’m a digital marketing manager so wouldn’t be crawling on the floor, but I guess I can see why some might view it that way. :)

      1. hayling*

        Totally agree with this. If the OP would be more comfortable in a casual dress or skirt, she should wear that.

  11. Tau*

    #1 – I agree with Alison here, but I think it is important to step back and realise that yes, you did in fact screw up, because none of your post seems to indicate you realised that.

    Praising your team is perfectly fine, but you can praise people without directly belittling other people in the process. “Instead of people making light of it, other staff were pissed, as if I was insinuating that they didn’t work hard.” – well… you did insinuate that, in that you outright stated they didn’t work as hard as your team. It surprises me that you don’t seem to see why a statement like this might make people defensive, or that you think the take-away is “don’t praise people” instead of “don’t accidentally put down the people I’m with when praising people.”

    Sure, the reaction definitely sounds overblown, but you threw the first punch here. And given that you don’t seem to realise that, I wonder if your apologies might not be coming off as insincere and worsening the problem.

    (But yeah, it should blow over. Just stay away from the comparatives in the future. If you say “my team has been working really hard!” or the like, it’s hard to see how any reasonable person should take offense.)

    1. MK*

      I actually think it’s not a bad idea for the OP to avoid praising her own team for a while. If this incident hadn’t happened, it would have been fine, but now anything she says may be taken as an unspoken dig at others.

    2. Jwal*

      I don’t know. Saying that someone works hardest doesn’t mean that nobody else works hard. It just means that on the scale of hardworking they are at the maximum. I could possibly see people being offended if OP’s team were a bunch of slackers, or another team was objectively more hardworking, but as comments go I genuinely can’t see why the comment would’ve caused the fuss it did.

      Another reason that it’s good I’m not a manager I guess…

      1. i forgot my name*

        If the OP has no way of knowing how hard the other teams are working, it comes off as a little tone deaf to assume her team works harder than others.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I think that’s splitting hairs. I think that comment would be viewed by most people as a slam on the “not hardest” workers.

      3. LQ*

        No, it means that they are the hardest working in the set. They could be total slackers, but everyone else could be slightly slackerier and they’d still be the “hardest working here”. It’s not actually that much of a compliment unless you’ve established everyone else is a 9 not a 1.

        I think this is part of why comparisons are bad. (I hate them for other reasons, but they just take longer because you have to go, this group is awesome so that you can say and this group is even MORE awesome. When you could just say, hey awesome!)

        1. Jwal*

          Yes that’s more what I meant – it doesn’t mean that everyone is a slacker or everyone pulls 60 hour weeks, but just that the team in question ‘does the most’. It’d be better, like you say, to just say “My team worked hard on Big Project X last week – we put in Y hours and got it to Z point” because then there’s no comparison involved.

      4. neverjaunty*

        It’s saying that on a scale of hardworking, other people don’t measure up like her team does.

      5. INTP*

        But she isn’t the other team’s manager. She doesn’t know if her team works harder than the others, so she can’t state it like it’s factual. And they were all in a meeting with their director – a context in which you really should not denigrate other teams to make yours look better unless you can be 100% certain it’s true (and even then, it’s probably unnecessary and a bad choice). If they were at lunch arguing with each other, it’s fine to be biased. But not in front of a director, where the other managers might feel that being silent would imply agreement and make their own employees look bad.

    3. B*

      Completely agree with this! You don’t seem to realiz the morale killer you placed on others and that you were in the wrong. If your apologies are coming out the same way you would be doing more harm than good. You have apologized, leave it be and then it should blow over.

    4. Gandalf the Nude*

      “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt.”

      Not assuming that was the apology, but, oh, boy, if it was, no wonder they’re still miffed.

      1. INFJ*

        Given OP’s tone in the letter, I wouldn’t be surprised if the “apology” was more like, “sorry you’re so sensitive,” and that’s part of the reason why people are still upset.

        1. i forgot my name*

          I had that thought, too. It’s pretty easy to spot a sorry-not-sorry “apology” and those sometimes come off as very condescending.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I also think that your apologies are coming across as a bit “protests too much.”

      You’re making your apologies be a referendum on how hard they work (“you work hard too”) and not an actual apology for your true error (“I didn’t think about how it might make other staffers feel”).

  12. Laurie*

    #4 OP should definitely discuss with boss to see if putting the phone on night mode is a possibility. But yeah, I’d also ask the two admins to tell you about 10 mins in advance of them leaving and OP can take a quick break, stretch your legs, go to the restroom if you need to, and that way at least the two admins know that occasionally their going to lunch together poses problems for the OP

    #5 How about “SQL (Expected Spring 2017)” or “SQL (scheduled for Spring 2017)”?. That said, it might be helpful if you’re able to sneak a peek at the curriculum so you know what they’re going to cover, how many lab hours you’ll get, what flavor of SQL you’ll be using (there’s a few kinds), what type of practice projects they will have you work on etc. Basically, something that you can tell the recruiters to assure them that your program does indeed cover it thoroughly.

      1. Mookie*

        Under education, is it ever appropriate to add a second line covering coursework for instances like these, where the straight degree from most departments might not guarantee knowledge or skills?

        2004-8 BS [thingy] [place-y]
        Coursework in [small number of things necessary to land job not listed elsewhere]

        1. Nerfmobile*

          When I finished my master’s degree, I did include something along the lines of ‘coursework in teapot failure analysis, teapot product management, and teapot cover design’. That was for several reasons. First, my academic department had a name that was specific to my university and rather ambiguous as to the topic. Second, even if you were familiar with my department, it had like 7 different possible specializations with very different skill sets, and this let me be specific about my track. And third, I was making a career change from a non-profit service industry to a for-profit product industry, and I thought it would be useful to show that I had had exposure to business (profit-and-loss) concepts and product design. It seemed to work when I was establishing myself in this new field, although after 10 years in my new career path I suspect those details aren’t needed any more.

        2. just another techie*

          When I finished my MS, and also in every resume I’ve ever seen from high-quality candidates (who are recent graduates!), there’s a section for “Relevant coursework” to highlight the 5-8 classes most relevant to the job they’re applying to. I would imagine this is highly field dependent, but in my field it’s possible for two candidates to have the same degree with close to no overlapping coursework or technical skills, so for us it’s super important.

          1. Judy*

            That is how my resume looked in the first 5 or so years after each degree. After that I let my job accomplishments take more space, and my degrees were only on one line.

        3. themmases*

          I give my thesis title and the keywords of the methods/skills used. If there was a specific software or language, I think that deserves its own section.

  13. Arya Parya*

    #2 I was told by a recruiter to wear jeans also, I listened and it turned out to be the right choice. This was a very casual workplace, so I would have felt overdressed in more regular interview attire. I actually got the job, though I’m pretty sure that wasn’t all because of the jeans. So I would take the advice to heart and wear jeans, or at least check with the recruiter.

  14. MK*

    Maybe I put too much stock in “it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed”, but would being dressed more formaly so bad? For myself, if a candidate showed up dressed too casually, I would question whether they understand how to dressed professionally and worry that they might not conform to the (pretty formal) dress code my field requires. But if someone dressed too formaly, I would just think they wanted to play it safe and all I had to do would be to tell them it’s not necessary and they would conform. After all, a lot of people object to too strict dress codes, but I doubt many would push back when told to dress less formaly.

    1. Colette*

      But she’s already been told to dress less formally. If the culture is jeans and she’s been warned, choosing to dress more formally could (and probably should) be taken as a signal that she isn’t interested in fitting in.

    2. Joseph*

      That rule doesn’t apply when you’re specifically told what level of dress is expected.
      Remember incentives here: The recruiter *wants* the company to find a stellar candidate and hire someone. Both for short-term finances and long-term reputation with the company. So if the recruiter is telling you something like this, you really, really should listen.

    3. hbc*

      A lot of people *do* push back on being told to dress less formally–for instance, you and the OP. Imagine someone coming to an interview in your company in white tie. That’s how out of step a blazer and dress pants/skirt will feel at those companies where the most “dressed up” people get is a collared shirt.

      And maybe you’d be fine dressing down later, but if you’re trying to weigh a couple of equally qualified people, you’re going to go with the one who already seems to fit into the culture.

    4. Anonhippopotamus*

      Personally, I would try to dress down, but not in jeans. There are better ways of dressing business casual such that you can easily blend in with people wearing jeans or people dressed more formally. Blue, beige or grey trousers (not dress pants), a semi-casual dress, a skirt and flats are good examples. Most of the time if you’re in jeans it sends the signal that you put zero effort into your look.

      1. Gaia*

        I disagree about jeans. If you are in illfitting, raggedy jeans you send the message that you put zero effort into your look. If you are in well fitted, nice jeans you can look just as nice as anything else. They are not formal, of course, but that doesn’t mean zero effort. That comment was very rude.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I don’t think it’s right that wearing jeans automatically and magically makes you look like you didn’t put any effort into your appearance.

    5. mander*

      I think that since the recruiter specifically said to wear jeans then erring on the side of formality would look out of place. Jeans is probably just a shorthand for casual, so the OP can adjust as needed, but I think they will feel awkward turning up in a suit if everyone else is in jeans and sneakers.

      I did this once when interviewing. My field is the sort where even at academic conferences most people only wear their “nice” hiking boots, but in the end I decided to go for the safe option and wear a suit. I felt really out of place waltzing into a dusty site office in a suit and heels, and although I’m not sure how much that had to do with anything I didn’t get the job.

    6. LQ*

      I think it might be a matter of degrees. If you were told to show up in jeans and you showed up in a full suit looking like you were on your way to court it might say something about your judgement. Especially if they know you were told to wear jeans. I think if you were told casual and you went on the casual side of business casual that would be totally fine.

    7. neverjaunty*

      “It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed” is a good general rule, but not in an industry culture where there is a rigid ‘casual’ dress code, and the purpose if the interview is to signal that you are a good fit for that culture.

      Imagine showing up for an interview at a law firm in a floor-length ball gown, jewelry and heels. That’s definitely dressier than a plain navy suit, and you could say you’re ‘overdressed’ which is better than underdressed – but you’d also be sending the signal that you don’t understand the norms or culture of the industry.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        In this discussion, I keep thinking of that episode of Mad Men where Betty Draper shows up at the modeling casting call in an evening dress and full face, and the rest of the models are in casual clothes. She so clearly stands out because of how overdressed she is for the situation.

      2. MK*

        I disagree that a ball gown is more formal than a suit; a ball gown is the most formal attire for social occasions, while a suit is the most formal attire for professional settings. They are not on the same scale; and I think it’s a disingenuous argument anyway. It’s like saying that because your underwear cover more than your swimsuit, it’s OK to go to the beach in your underwear. They are not comparable.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I’m not sure where “disingenuous” is coming from? The choice of interview clothes is a signal that you understand the professional norms of the industry and the cultural norms of the company. In most cases, that’s going to mean a suit, even in a casual office setting, and being overdressed signals ‘I take this interview very seriously’. In the sector where the OP is interviewing – and at this specific company, as confirmed by the recruiter – there’s not only an aggressively rigid casual dress code, but being overdressed signals ‘I don’t understand the norms of this industry, and I am aligned with the boring professional norms you reject.’

        2. Patrick*

          A ball gown is analogous to a tuxedo, at least in my mind. In that sense professional settings are almost never going to rise to a black/white tie level of formality.

    8. Mona Lisa*

      And here I thought the rule was “It’s better to be impeccably underdressed than overdressed” for reasons that other people have stated. To continue with the law example others have used, if the dress code was business attire, wouldn’t it be better to show up in really smart business casual that looks well put-together than a ballgown/cocktail wear?

    9. Angela*

      My husband seriously almost got ruled out for showing up overdressed. This was in a manufacturing environment so he already knew to forgo a full suit. It was a management position though, so he was still dressed nice, just not a suit. He was point blank asked if he was going to be prepared to work in an environment that required him to get dirty. The hiring manager expressed his great relief when my husband explained that much of his work wardrobe was stained jeans and tshirts. (It’s insane how nasty automotive parts are.)

    10. INTP*

      It’s better to err on the side of too formal than not formal enough, but if you’ve been given a specific direction like “wear jeans,” then completely disregarding that can come across like you don’t follow directions well. Plus, at some startups, there is a culture where people will think you’re too conformist/conservative/uptight to work there if you show up in a suit.

      I would still err on the side of formal by wearing dark wash, formal-ish jeans (no jeggings or rips or anything), a businessy blouse and nice flats. But if a recruiter is telling you to wear that specific outfit, there’s a reason. You aren’t going to get bonus points for showing up with a different level of attire.

    11. M-C*

      MK you put way too much stock in being overdressed. Demonstrating how you are tone-deaf to a work culture is not a good way to second-guess someone whose interest it is to give you good advice. I have seen people summarily dismissed from tech interviews for showing up in a suit. Not many, because not many were that clueless :-), but almost every one who did show up in a suit. As AAM keeps saying in other contexts, your mom’s interviewing advice doesn’t apply in the real world now.

      1. zora.dee*

        I think the unspoken words missing here is *a little bit* overdressed *relatively* is better than underdressed. They are meant to be assumed, but there is a limit, in both directions.

        If they say “no suit, wear jeans”, but you wear khakis with a nice blouse, that is fine and it would be better than showing up in worn out cargo shorts and flip flops.

        Fine, overdress a little bit if you are worried that you’ll end up too casual, but don’t completely disregard their specific direction.

  15. Fish Microwaer*

    I’m surprised at AAM”s answer to #1. I expected a variant of “you work with loons”. I find adults who take offence at a throw away line and sulk about it for days irrational and hard to interact with.

    1. WellRed*

      Exactly! How do people get away with not talking to someone at work because they are sulking? And over something like this?

    2. Joseph*

      I thought so too initially, but after re-reading it, I think the clue here is the first paragraph: “Of course, I did say that everybody works hard, but others were then trying to defend themselves on how they work hard, and the director was like “Well, you’re digging yourself into a hole.”
      I’m betting that *this* is the real source of why it’s turned into a huge deal. The initial comment irritated the other managers, someone called OP on it, and her follow-up emphasized the initial comment rather than admitting fault. After all, depending on how you say it “well, yeah everybody works hard” can very easily come across as condescending or with a “…but I’m still right and we’re better than you” subtext.
      This would also explain the director’s comment about digging herself in deeper.

        1. Preux*

          My guess is that they are not sulking. There are clues in the letter that point to LW not giving us the full context (how were they ‘digging themselves into a hole’? They have obviously not shared the entire conversation with us; it was more than a throwaway line – especially if EVERYONE was upset by it, not one or two drama-seekers. And LW doesn’t seem upset by their unprofessional behavior, but rather that she feels like ‘everybody needs a trophy’, implying she genuinely doesn’t think the other teams work as hard).

          Everyone seems to have been interpreting it as a jokey one-off, but having worked with some very passive-aggressive managers who would 100% casually throw out in earnest that their team were the hardest workers as a way of trying to show off for the higher-ups or insult the other managers. They were all awful to their teams, too, but to them ‘my team works the hardest’ meant they were the best manager there and the others needed to shape up. And not talking to them after a comment like that was usually the best strategy because every conversation would become a condescending ‘apology’ that would really be an excuse to take another dig at the other managers.

          1. Phoebe*

            Yeah, I totally agree with you here. There’s definitely something else going on here. Because Alison is right, under normal circumstances this should be a roll-your-eyes-and-move-on moment, nothing more. Whether it’s the company’s culture or underlying dynamics between the teams I don’t know. But it suggests to me that this incident may not have been just a one-off, but more like a last straw.

            1. Newby*

              I agree that there has to be something more going on. It could have to do with the context in which the comment was made. If only one person took offense it would be easy to see that as an overreaction, but the fact that multiple people did means that there is something more going on.

          2. LQ*

            Yeah, this doesn’t sound like sulking to me. I also wonder if there isn’t a little perception bias here in the way the story is given to us. Which is natural and human, but might also make the story make a little more sense.

            The staff who was apologized to? I can imagine them being like…I don’t know how to respond to this so giving a polite nod and returning to work (because clearly they don’t work hard enough already) and it being interpreted as not talking to the op. If one of the other managers said their team worked the hardest (especially if I didn’t think it was true) I’d shift my judgement of that manager and then if they came to apologize to me later I wouldn’t be doing what I could to soothe their feelings, I’d just be like, ok, and get back to work. But from the OP’s perspective that might be that they were cold. Well they feel insulted, you can just stop digging at them. And they may have changed how they view you, that’s their prerogative. It might be that they don’t like that the manager makes casual comments like that, they don’t like how it was handled.

            Nothing says that those people need to talk to the OP to do their job or that they aren’t doing their job now.

          3. KF*

            If the response to ‘I’d like my/my department’s contributions to this workplace to be recognized, or at least not totally ignored’ is ‘Oh I guess ~~~everyone~~~ needs a trophy these days’ I could see why attitudes might be poor in this office. Agree with Allison that everyone is overreacting but I had questions about the culture/atmosphere after reading this too.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yeah, if the trophy comment has actually been said at work, that would not go over well at all. I didn’t even notice it in the letter at first, or else my hackles would have been up. I really think it’s a phrase that needs to just go.away.already. It’s insulting (usually aimed at millennials) and it’s not even a particularly accurate criticism–I think every kid ever born knows that a “participation” award doesn’t really mean they won anything. Kids aren’t dumb.

              Though, of course, LWs often use more vitriolic language here than they actually used at work, so hopefully this LW didn’t actually say that.

        2. neverjaunty*

          While I agree, and AAM pointed out people seem to be overreacting, the OP didn’t say this person is sulking. We don’t know how much the OP interacts with that person day to day. “Won’t talk to me” could be anything from sulking to ‘we used to chat when we ran into each other at the coffee pot, but now he just kind of smiles hello and then keeps on walking’.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Yes, I was a little confused who was “digging (themselves) into a hole” — was it the OP for trying to defend original statement or the other employees defending their teams?

        If in trying to defend their teams, the other employees were digging themselves into holes but exposing they really were not working as hard, I could see where that would lead to problems

        – but so far from reading other comments here, it looks like most people are interpreting that the OP was doing the digging…

      2. Judy*

        From the OP:

        Of course, the other managers could have immediately said the same thing about their staff, but a couple of managers were absent and the others, including the director, did not speak up or to join in with compliments. Instead of people making light of it, other staff were pissed, as if I was insinuating that they didn’t work hard.

        I take it to be a meeting with the director, several managers and their teams. This wasn’t a management meeting. I would be upset at a manager of another team praising their team not for their actions but in comparison to me.

    3. Anonhippopotamus*

      Agreed. In hindsight the comment was immature, but seriously, who cares? Move on!

      1. fposte*

        Same for the OP, though, who’s now going with the “Fine, I won’t say anything nice about my staff at all!” overreaction.

    4. Florida*

      In some letters, there is nothing that the OP could’ve done differently. It truly was a crazy boss.
      In this letter, I agree with you that sulking is not the most professional, mature way to handle conflict at work. But there is room for OP to improve as well. If someone writes to an advice column, Alison owes it to that person to advise them on how they could’ve done something differently. The “your boss is a loon” comments are frequently because there is truly nothing that OP could’ve done differently to prevent the issue. Calling the co-workers loons in this case, does not help OP improve.
      At least that’s my take on it.

    5. Purest Green*

      …which makes me suspect something else, other than this single comment, is going on. Maybe this should be a cue for OP to step back and evaluate what his/her workplace environment is like right now.

  16. Patrick*

    My company does the same thing as the company in#2 but is more “dress casually” than “wear jeans” which I think is a little vague. I was explicitly told by my recruiter not to wear a suit, which I really appreciated.

  17. NYC Weez*

    OP #2: I work for a company that has a very casual dress code. Even the Sr VPs regularly wear blue jeans. That said, we all recognize that job candidates will show up “dressed to impress” and really don’t judge people on whether or not they show up in a suit and tie or if they are more casual. We judge on the personality people demonstrate as we talk with them.

    If the recruiter thinks that it will be a big deal at this particular company, my takeaway is that the company is equating formal business wear with a certain personality type. My recommendation would be to inject some personality in what you are wearing–for example, on my second interview I still wore dressier slacks and a blazer, but I paired it with a really colorful casual top. The suggestion to pair jeans with a regular blazer is great too–a lot of my colleagues wear that when they want to “look professional” lol.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Very similar situation for my office. And I was told “not to dress up for the interview” too. I wore a pair of black jeans and a colored button up top with flats for my interview, and it was fine. I’ve also done the nice jeans with a blazer combo for more professional situations at this job :)

  18. Oryx*

    #4, your manager may just need to train at least one other person on the front desk system. I don’t know how feasible that is with such a small office, but I worked somewhere that had about five of us trained on the front desk so we could cover the receptionist’s lunch. Everyone was assigned a day but it was also helpful to know who to call when, like in your example, I had to step away for a minute or if the Tuesday person was out sick we had back-ups in place.

  19. LawLady*

    #1 – I know it’s hard to tell how this was said without actually hearing it, but I took “said in a light way” to mean playful ribbing. I’ve seen this happen at multiple jobs and it’s been all in good fun. Like, the manager of the spouts division will say “we’re the hardest working team here,” and the manager of the saucer division will turn to someone else and say “psshhh, those spouts people. they’re useless! not like us saucer people. We carry the company.” It’s all joking faux-competition.

    1. Ixnay Edfray*

      I agree. I read this as just sports-like ribbing. Like when people say their team is the best (even if they’re in third place). I guess it would come down to tone and context but I would have shot back with a similar hyperbolic phrase about my team.

      1. Koko*

        It definitely does come down to company culture whether sports-like trash-talking and bragging happens in meetings or not. Even at my company, there are certain combinations of people (who are more relaxed and informal in general) this might be OK with and certain combinations of people (who are very senior and more traditional in how they run meettings &etc) I would never joke that way around. It sounds like OP didn’t read the room correctly and spoke in a way that was out of step.

    2. LQ*

      It might be that the OP came from a company or environment like that and this current company is not like that at all. If you said that here I’d expect full on union grievances to be filed. It is a much more serious place in general. It is important to know your audience when you are making jokes. It seems clear that the boss is saying, that’s not the culture here. Doubling down and being upset that you don’t know the culture doesn’t make sense to me.

      And you can have sub cultures. I can think of a couple small groups I could say that with where it would soar and be 10 minutes of fun laughter and ribbing. And other small groups where I’d be in front of the director before I walked out the door. Know your audience. Clearly this is not the audience for it.

    3. neverjaunty*

      While that is true, ribbing and ‘good fun’ doesn’t work unless everyone is in on the joke, and unless it’s clear to everyone that it really is in good fun, and not “ha ha joking but not really joking”. Given that the OP’s comments about how praise without competition is like giving everybody a trophy, it may well be that she came across- rightly or wrongly – as dead serious despite a ‘light’ tone.

    4. Newby*

      The “everyone gets a trophy” comment implies that the OP actually meant what they said and feel that there team is the hardest working and deserves recognition for that. I can see how other teams could take that poorly. It is saying that they are not working hard when the OP has no way to actually know how hard the other teams are working.

    5. Lady Blerd*

      Agreed. LW1 is getting a lot of grief but I also think we are missing the tone in which it was said so I won’t get on the “she screwed up” bandwagon. But I agree that we also don’t know what the atmosphere at their office so it is possible that what was said in jest was taken the wrong way by some. We had a somewhat similar situation happen where I work. We were going through several rounds of layoffs and the man who made the joke had a reputation for being a jerk so he probably didn’t have any goodwill from those he had offended so that didn’t help at all.

  20. hbc*

    OP1: You’ve got some mixed messages here. If you were just making a joke, then it wasn’t really praise, so the whole “I’m never going to praise them again in this Everyone Gets a Trophy atmosphere” doesn’t fit at all. Your defense at the time would/should have been “Woah, guys, that was a joke! My team did great on X, but I’m not actually making comparisons.”

    If it was sincere praise, it was just not a good thing to say. You elevated your people above others, which of course is going to make those people you placed beneath them feel like you’ve denigrated them. And it sounds like your apology wasn’t addressing that aspect, leaving it at “I’m not saying you’re bad at your job, I’m just saying Jane and Wakeen are better than you.”

    You can praise your group without putting people down, and you can even draw comparisons in the proper place (i.e.: your manager’s office when discussing raises, promotions, and project assignments.) But it is never appropriate to make other managers choose between letting you rank their employees in front of them or getting in a childish “No, *my* team is better” argument.

    1. Anonhippopotamus*

      I don’t think that was her intention, she’s just not used to being in a position where accidentally making the wrong comment means that everybody is going to act like a bunch of children.

      1. LQ*

        Yeah, but if you unintentionally stepped on someone’s foot would you get pissy if they yelped and jumped away from you? They aren’t not doing their jobs, they just aren’t chatting with the OP. Maybe because the OP said they weren’t working hard enough, now the OP is complaining that they aren’t not working by talking to her. There is nothing in the letter to indicate that they are not giving information that is needed or not doing their jobs. That’s not acting like a bunch of children.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Everybody, in this case, including the OP.

        But you’re missing the point of hbc’s comment. OP is saying that it was a light-hearted, jokey comment, but acting as if it really was meant as she said it. When words and actions don’t match, people notice, and they’re not being childish if they choose to believe your words over your actions (or vice versa).

      3. hbc*

        That sounds an awful lot like “You should all grow up and get thicker skins because your reaction is making *me* feel bad.”

        Yes, if the coworkers were writing in about how wronged they were, I’d be telling them to move on, especially if this wasn’t part of a pattern. But the OP *did* screw up too, and she’s the one writing in, so she’s getting the feedback about why it wasn’t a good comment to make.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I understand it as hbc describes in the first paragraph – where a response might be: “Woah, guys, that was a joke! My team did great on X, but I’m not actually making comparisons.”

  21. Rusty Shackelford*

    The coworkers in #1 sound kind of crazy, which makes me think we might not be getting the whole story. Normal people don’t react that way to what OP says what happened, so maybe that’s not really how it happened. Maybe OP has a history of bragging, minimizing other teams’ work, etc. Maybe the comment wasn’t taken as being lighthearted because it wasn’t said that way. I mean, look at the guy a couple of days ago who wrote a “professional” email chastising his GF’s boss… obviously it’s pretty easy to be clueless as to how you’re really coming off.

    1. Anonhippopotamus*

      Oh, I’ve working in cultures where people react exactly like that to someone mis-speaking of not being extremely careful with their words even though they mean no harm.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’ve worked with individuals like that, but when so many people have such an allegedly over-the-top reaction to a seemingly innocuous statement, it just makes me wonder. Especially with the “digging your own hole” comment, which could have been a legitimate warning that the OP was just unable to read.

        1. Sunshine Brite*

          Agreed, it might have been a last straw sort of situation with those staff members. There’s one staff I work with who is always harping on how the team that she’s on works the hardest, there’s so much more nuance, etc. when it’s simply not true, just different. If she was in an authority position and brought up how her team was the hardest working it could cause these rifts, particularly if another team is coming off a big project or recently came through some sort of hardship/upheaval/tons of overtime/pretty much everything that doesn’t paint them as a slacker. Because that’s what those comments at least inadvertently did.

        2. eee*

          yeah, I do wonder sometimes whether the person’s paraphrasing is the source of the issue. Not that I’m doubting this person’s story, but to use an example, saying “My team is full of some of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen! They’re the best! They constantly impress me!” is very different from “Looking at this company, it’s clear that my team works the hardest, and their quality of work is way better than other teams! They put everybody else here to shame.” However, both could be summarized (by an unaware person) to be “I said my workers were the best in the company!” I think about that kind of thing a lot when people say “I said this innocuous thing and everybody flipped out!”

      2. i forgot my name*

        People often use “I meant no harm” to excuse otherwise insensitive or clueless remarks. That doesn’t make it okay. There’s a big difference between one or two people blowing the comment out of proportion and an entire group feeling like they were attacked.

    2. Mustache Cat*

      I have to agree. I’d usually read that comment as a lighthearted, overly proud joke similar to what a dad might make. And if it was just one coworker reacting this way I’d say they were loons. But the fact that there are multiple coworkers who are offended to this degree suggests that there is a whole lot of additional context that we (and the OP) are missing entirely.

  22. TheCupcakeCounter*

    #2 There is a lot of middle ground between a suit and jeans. A dark wash/black skinny or trouser cut jean will look a bit more polished but still fit the not-formal expectation. If you are anti-jean, NY & Company has several cropped and tailored pant styles that are a good halfway point (Audrey or Runway slim-fit) and look great with both flats and heels.
    I like the suggestion from above of dark or black jeans (my preference would be a skinny ankle cut that is very new and dark not the kind of washed out color you get after a while), a tailored shirt & blazer that can easily be removed, and flats or a simple pump. I love a pointy-toe pump with skinny jeans.
    Plus the shoes can be a little funky. I’m an accountant so always wore a suit to interviews but I always had a pop of color somewhere – usually coral or cobalt blue. I once had an interviewer call me about my shoes – I wore a black pinstripe suit with a white shell and cobalt blue shoes – and even though the job wasn’t a great fit on either side I stayed in contact with her which has been very beneficial in my career.

    I love fashion questions. And fashion. And shopping. Mostly shoes.

  23. LQ*

    From the perspective of another staff in the room, especially if I’d busted my butt to help your team do the thing they needed to do? I’d be annoyed. And I’d go, eh, maybe I won’t bust my butt quite so hard. Or maybe I will but I won’t think of you as a manager I’m friendly with anymore so I won’t chat with you.

    You didn’t say any of the work is being impacted, you are just mad that someone isn’t friendly anymore. So I think maybe you need to let it go.

    It would be different if they weren’t doing their jobs, but there is zero indication of that and it sounds far more like they just no longer are finding spare time to chat with you. Maybe they are busy. Maybe they don’t want to look like they are “wasting time” by talking with you because they think that’s why you say they don’t work as hard. Maybe they are actually trying to work harder. Maybe they were insulted because they think you are absolutely wrong. Maybe they think your judgement is bad because they know that they covered the butt for some of your team members.

    If other people aren’t doing their work because of this, that’s a problem. If they just don’t want to talk to you as much? Tough. You can say whatever you want, but sometimes there are consequences to your speech.

  24. Koko*

    #5 – you have likely already factored this in, but are you sure that your field will be hiring for May/summer jobs in the fall? There are certainly fields that start the application process that early (academia being one) but in a lot of other fields your question would be moot because the people hiring in the fall will want someone well before May. If you can wait to begin applying until spring it becomes a little easier to say something like, “SQL (currently enrolled in instructional course)” or “SQL (coursework in progress).”

    1. Lady Kelvin*

      It’s not actually that unusual to start applying for jobs in the fall before the end of you graduate program. I was told to start a year before I expected to finish and I’ve only had one position where they wanted someone before I could start. And it was good advice, I still don’t have a job.

      1. Koko*

        I’ve mostly only seen academic/post-doc type positions start hiring that early, but it’s definitely field-specific. In marketing, if a position is posted they probably needed someone in it yesterday.

        1. Judy*

          At least back in the day, engineering recruiters for large companies would come to campus in the fall for May/June postings. These are for the large companies that hire a “class” of new graduates each spring. When you have 2,000 to 3,000 engineers in a location, you know you want to get 200 to 300 new graduates in your pipeline.

          I’m not sure if they do that any more, but they certainly did in the ’80s.

  25. Not Karen*

    #3: How about “If you’ve got something to sell, you’re wasting your time. I’m not buying.”? :)

    (kidding; this is a song reference)

  26. SophieChotek*

    @OP3 regarding vendors always calling.
    I often download white papers, etc. also and am always getting calls from representatives, and like you, do not have the authority to make purchases. (In fact I just ended up talking to someone yesterday in this same situation…nope, can’t authorize Luxury Teapot Co. to use your SEO services.) As has been suggested here before, one option (in addition to AAM fake number of 555-555-5555) would be to set up a Google Voice Mail/Goggle Phone number. I only use it for accounts/information when I have to put in a phone number to download a white paper or sign up for some sort of free trial/demo package – so I maybe check it once a week or less, as I don’t expect it to be very relevant. Also Google VM is supposed to be able to transcribe your messages (so you wouldn’t have to go through the effort of getting connected/headset, etc., but so far I personally have not had much luck with the transcription services part.)

    1. LQ*

      I love google VM for this! I hadn’t considered for work, I do it in some personal spaces but I will totally start doing it for work stuff!

      The transcription is generally “good enough” for me so I know if they are selling something or if I really need to listen, which I figure is really the hurdle I want it to jump.

    2. AFT123*

      This is a great suggestion. Although if your corporate email address is a requirement for signing up, a sleuthy salesperson may still track you down by calling the central operator and asking to be transferred to you, but most won’t go through the effort TBH.

  27. Christian Troy*

    #5 – I don’t really follow why you’re putting it on your resume when you haven’t used it yet honestly. Maybe I’m not understanding the question? If a job for fall 2016 requires SQL and you don’t have experience using it, then you don’t have experience using it. I don’t see what’s the point in adding it right now.

    1. Pwyll*

      I’m guessing because in some industries post-graduation employment applications can be due 6-12 months in advance of graduation. So applying for post-graduate entry-level jobs in Fall of 2016 would have a spring 2017 start date, and not having SQL on your resume will put you at a disadvantage.

      1. Christian Troy*

        It sounded like from the question they were looking for fall 2016 employment because they said they were looking for a job the fall before graduation. Like I said, maybe I’m misunderstanding but I wouldn’t bother mentioning it since I had no experience with it.

  28. Beth*

    #2 If you still want to play it safe, wear a dark wash, it comes off as more polished and (somewhat) professional compared to light washes. Good luck!

  29. Thornus*

    I work in a small attorney’s office. This usually leaves only one support staff answering phones during their staggered lunch break. If one has to go to the restroom during the time they’re the only one available to answer phones, they typically ask one of us attorneys to cover the phone for a few minutes. No one here has any problem with it (and in fact one of the bosses would yell at the support staff if a call goes to voicemail during work hours).

  30. animaniactoo*

    OP1, I would like to suggest that it’s possible that at this point you are the person who is making this into such a big deal.

    When you have a disagreement with somebody – no matter how out of proportion *you* think it’s been blown, I cannot stress enough the value of giving them time and space to go deal with their aggravation, allow them to be legitimately upset, and get over it. Yes it can feel very uncomfortable living and breathing in the space where people actively don’t like/want to see you right now. But showing that you respect their right to be upset for a bit shows that you get it more than anything else. That you’re willing to pay the cost of having screwed up.

    If it takes longer than a few days to blow over or significantly decrease, then sure, it’s time to start taking bigger steps to try to address it on a “we need to have a better professional working relationship level”. But in the same way that not everybody is going to like you and you need to be able to deal with that, sometimes everybody’s going to be not happy with you and you need to be able to deal with that and weather it and keep going without making it into a bigger deal by trying to make them all happy with you again right away. The only caveat to this being if they’re not being at least civil to you and providing what you and your team need on a professional work basis – and then you should address that and only that immediately.

    In the next meeting, you can ask people if they have suggestions on ways to shove your foot further in your mouth, because you can’t figure out a way to get it further in than you did last meeting. And then laugh at yourself ruefully.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Btw – I would check yourself on that “everybody needs a trophy atmosphere” assumption. That sounds more like the attitude of somebody who is blind to how wrong they were, how badly they came off, trying to push the cause for the reaction off onto other people who as a group responded the same way. Even if it is true that’s the atmosphere you’ve got, you DID still screw up pretty hard by not recognizing it and understanding that the joke you made is not a joke that *can* be made with this group of people. Because they won’t receive it well. It’s on you to recognize that and not go there. Even more so if it was a joke-that-wasn’t-really-a-joke. When in Rome and all that. Which doesn’t mean you actually have to do all the things the Romans do, but it does mean that you should keep a sharp eye out for the things that are guaranteed to offend them and at least actively avoid doing those things.

  31. Purple Jello*

    2. I always have a pair of black jeans that I would use – they somehow feel dressier than blue denim but are still jeans. Plus, if they’re all wearing jeans, you’d feel uncomfortable if you’re overdress more than one or two levels.

    4. Is there any reason you cannot “go” before the other two admins go to lunch? That might eliminate at least some of the times you need to run. Just ask them to give you a heads up.

  32. boop*

    Here’s the thing about #1… you can do something thoughtless (yet relatively harmless), apologize and move on. If OP1 had done that, then I can understand why you’d call the response an overreaction.

    But that’s not what’s being described in the letter. In the letter, OP1 says something thoughtless (yet relatively harmless), and then accuses everyone of being “sensitive”, and telling coworkers how they should feel about it. OP1 offers a fake apology (fake, because OP announces he/she is a victim) and doesn’t understand why this (and further complaints) wouldn’t anger the coworkers in a completely new way.

  33. CM*

    For #3, I seem to be in the minority here, but I’d totally add a sentence to the end of my outgoing voicemail: “If this is a sales call, please do not leave a message.”

    1. CMT*

      That seems totally reasonable to me, and if I were calling somebody who said that in their message I wouldn’t be put off by it. But I also don’t think people making sales calls are going to follow that instruction.

  34. Photoshop Til I Drop*

    Posting a “not yet but soon” item on a resume bit me in the butt at an interview. I listed my grad degree, with the forthcoming graduation, and the interviewer hadn’t noticed that the date was the following year. He chewed me out for being ‘deceptive’.

    If you’re going to do it, be very obvious about the “pending” part.

  35. Noah*

    I suggest #3 just learn how to use her computer more efficiently.

    1. Read emails in the reading pane. Eliminates the “open the email” step.
    2. Stop thinking clicking on a wave file is a huge burden. It’s not.
    3. Leave your headphones plugged in all the time.
    4. Put headphone in ear.

    There. Now all she’s doing is clicking on an attachment and listening.

    1. LQ*

      I agree this isn’t that big of a deal but I have 2 computers, with multiple software to listen to sound files. If I’m slightly distracted I’ll just open the file. WHOOPS That’s going to be like taking a semi to the store to get groceries for dinner, and it will take forever (ok 3-7 minutes depending on which program I’ve got it defaulting to). So I have to wait through that (my other option is to save as then open with since you can’t open with directly from outlook (as least as far as I know…)) And I always have the headphones in the wrong computer, always.

      This all just means I’m really glad I don’t get a lot of voicemails, like 1/month. If I got more I’d find a better solution, but it can be kind of a pain.

  36. Noah*

    Re #4:

    How long do they go to lunch? Can’t you go to the bathroom right before they leave? Wouldn’t that solve the problem 99% of the time?

  37. YRH*

    #2, my sister got a new job a couple of months ago (not in the tech industry). Before the interview, she got an email from the hiring manager saying that their office was casual, that they wear jeans, and that she should dress accordingly. She decided the best way to approach this was to wear a more casual business dress and a denim jacket, so if you’re not comfortable wearing jeans to the interview, this could be a good work around.

  38. Rob aka Mediancat*

    I’d have trouble coming to an interview in jeans — I don’t own any. I actually find them uncomfortable and haven’t worn any in a couple of decades.

    1. Jaguar*

      I wear jeans and underwear when I’m laying around the house. I’m uncomfortable when I’m not wearing jeans.

  39. OP #2*

    Hi, everyone! Thanks for all of your ideas about what to wear. I was about to head out the door in jeans (nice, dark wash, professional looking) but at the last minute received a follow-up email from my recruiter (she’s external) telling me to just wear whatever I feel most comfortable in. I opted to go with a pretty blouse, a cute (not formal) skirt, cardigan, and flats. I looked pretty great, and I fit right in! Although some people in the office were wearing ripped jeans–it was definitely a no dress code kind of place–the co-founder was wearing a lovely summer dress and the same shoes as me (in a different color!).

    The format of the interview was one I hadn’t experienced before–held in the elevator and in line while the interviewer was ordering her lunch!–but as far as clothing, I’m glad I made the choice I did.

      1. OP #2*

        Thank you! Fingers crossed. At this point, it depends on the strength of the other candidates. :)

  40. Cassie*

    #1: I get that bosses want to praise people but it comes off as tone-deaf to me. Unless you also manage another group, how do you know that this group works the hardest? What’s your metric? Who are you comparing them to – other groups? Past groups you’ve supervised? And working “hard” does not equal productivity. You could work 80 hours weeks and accomplish the same (or less) than someone who works 40 hours a week.

    Of course, the other managers could have immediately said the same thing about their staff…

    If I was one of the other managers, even if I did think my group was the hardest working, I wouldn’t say the same thing right after the LW said it. It looks like I’m trying to one-up the LW.

    And judging from the LW’s perspective on the initial comment/situation, I wonder if the cold shoulder aftermath is an accurate assessment, or a perceived slight.

  41. Beck*

    OP3 – I’m a salesperson and I find “I do not respond to cold-calls” to be an effective voicemail deterrent.

  42. Aca-Believe It*

    #5: I think you should list the skill under future or upcoming training. I for one would not be pleased if you sent a resume saying you had x skill and it later transpired that you didn’t have it when you sent out said resume.

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