coworker keeps making gross bathroom joke, manager took pay cut to protect our bonuses, and more

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

1. Coworker keeps making gross bathroom joke

I’m recently out of college and still newish at my job, and I sit directly across from a mid-level man in (I think) his late 40s. Relevant background about him is that he’s an encyclopedia of groan-worthy dad jokes, and he believes that if a joke was funny once, it’ll stay funny forever, and he’ll repeat it whenever an opportunity even remotely presents itself. The problem is when this extends to jokes that weren’t ever funny, and especially when they’re about me.

The office bathrooms are located such that it’s obvious where we’re going if we’re headed in that direction, and whenever I return to my desk, he asks, “Everything come out alright??” in a not-so-quiet tone, often without even looking up from what he’s doing. It almost seems like a tic, or even a Pavlovian response, and he ONLY asks me that. This is of course very embarrassing, as I’d prefer to minimize the amount of attention drawn to my bathroom trips.

Is there a way I can ask him to stop that is (a) discreet, and (b) on record? I’d feel very uncomfortable asking him to never say that again in the moment, as the office can be fairly quiet, and I don’t want to make an awkward situation even more awkward. But, I also want it known (to him and higher-ups, at least) that I hate the comment and want it to stop.

What?! Who … why … I don’t even know how to comment on this.

But I do know what you should say to him: “That’s really gross. Can you stop asking me that?” Don’t smile or say it in a jokey tone. Say it seriously, and it’s okay to sound irked; this is a thing you get to be audibly irked about.

And I wouldn’t worrying at all about people overhearing you say it. If they can overhear you, then they can overhear him too and they’ll fully understand why you’re shutting it down. They’ve probably been cringing every time they hear it and will be silently cheering you for telling him to cut it out.

I don’t think you need to get this on any kind of official record or get higher-ups involved. It’s something you can handle yourself by telling him directly to stop. If it continues after that, tell him to stop more firmly (“Bob, I told you to stop saying that to me, and I need you to cut it out”). If he’s so committed to this gross line that he continues even after that, then you could ask his boss to deal with him — but you’ll want to be able to say you told him directly first.

2. Manager took pay cut to protect our benefits and bonuses

I know you have said that gifts should go down and not up. I (and my colleagues) have a question about whether or not there are exceptions to this. Last fall, the owner of the company I worked for announced that our benefits were going to be cut and there would be no annual (Christmas) bonuses either, even though he had bought a new vacation home and a new car a month before. He had always been cheap but naturally everyone was upset, angry, and worried. Two weeks later, he announced that things would stay the same with the benefits and bonuses. We figured he had a change of heart.

He didn’t. The office manager and second-in-command from him took a 50% pay cut and gave up her own benefits so that there would be money for our benefits and bonuses. She never said a word to any of us, and we only found out because the new owner (who is much better) let it slip in a meeting that there would be no more pay cuts for benefits and then elaborated when he realized no one knew what he was talking about. The office manager doesn’t know that we know and no one has said anything to her. We want to do something to thank her, but I and my colleagues who read your blog know what you say about gifts going up. This feels like an exception to the rule. She isn’t wealthy and had to move to a smaller apartment to be able to afford what she did. We are wondering if this is a case where a gift going up is appropriate or not?

Wow. Yes, I think it’s an exception. She did something that wasn’t just merely generous and kind, but came at real sacrifice to herself in order to help the rest of you (and without anyone even knowing). If you all wanted to band together to get her something thoughtful, I say go for it.

3. I thought my time off for my wedding was approved — but maybe not

I work in the entertainment industry and was hired on a movie for the next 18 months. Before I even interviewed for the job, I told the line producer, who I’ve worked with before, through text that I was getting married in September 2017 and I needed three weeks off. No exceptions. Wasn’t interested in job if they wouldn’t give me the time off. She said it would be no problem.

I started the new job two weeks ago and was told that she didn’t tell the producer, who I now realize is the one in charge. She said she didn’t want to jeopardize her hiring me and told me to wait till January to tell her. My wedding is a over a year away now and I’m not sure how to handle it. Should I tell the producer now? And how do I tell the producer without throwing the line producer under the bus or making myself look really bad? It’s a very small team and don’t want the producer to doubt her team. I’m feeling very stressed. Not a good way to start a new project. Any thoughts?

What the hell? If she thinks it could have been an issue to tell the producer earlier, that’s all the more reason for her to have checked — since you don’t want the job if it does turn out to be an issue. Ideally, you’d say this to her now: “I appreciate your trying to look out for me, but this actually may have put me in a bad situation. I wouldn’t have accepted the job if I didn’t think that the time off had already been approved. Now I’m in a situation where I have to worry that it may not be, which is exactly what I was trying to avoid. Can you please clear this with her now, so that I can be confident that our original agreement is in effect?”

Alternately, you could go to the producer and say, “I had talked with Jane about this before accepting the job and thought it had been approved, but it sounds now like that may not be the case.” That’s not going to make you look bad, and it’s not quite throwing Jane under the bus (although, frankly, that wouldn’t be undeserved — she did something crappy to both you and the producer by creating the situation).

4. Will staying in retail for a year or two after graduating hurt my job search later?

Do long stays in low-level retail positions look strange on a resume? I’m still working at my first job (in a large national grocery chain), and I’m officially a cashier, though I alternate among four or five different departments. Nobody raised an eyebrow at it while I was still in college, but now I’m done with school for the foreseeable future (I got an associate’s degree and a professional certification in the healthcare field), and everybody’s starting to ask when I’ll be moving on.

I don’t mind their asking, but it’s made me start to wonder if future potential employers will think it’s odd if I stay at my current job for a while — say, a year or two more? — before trying to find a position in healthcare. I actually really LIKE this job: my coworkers are mostly wonderful, the schedule suits me well, the work is stressful but satisfying, and I feel very appreciated. Plus, I have a probable promotion to department manager coming up. (Not a huge deal in retail, I know, but I’m excited!) I don’t want to leave this job right now, but if staying might affect my chances of getting a different job in the future, I think I need to factor that in. Do you have any thoughts on it?

Well, yeah, you might be impacting your future job search if you wait. It’s less about having a long stay in your retail job and more about the fact that waiting to move into your new field after graduating will put you at a disadvantage.

Right now, you’re a fresh new grad, and there are a bunch of positions looking for people with your profile. But if you let a couple of years go by before you start looking in your field, you won’t be a freshly minted grad anymore, and you’re going to be competing with people who are. You’ll raise questions about why you didn’t seek work in the field you went to school for, and you risk employers thinking your education is a little stale without relevant work experience to keep your knowledge sharp.

5. When should I alert my references that they might be contacted?

I’m a recent college graduate and have been job-hunting for entry level positions. I’ve lately been looking into applying at local government and nonprofit jobs. Sometimes they’ll ask for a list of references as part of my application. I have past supervisors who I’ve asked permission from before and am sure they’d put a good word in for me if I gave them a heads-up. But if employers ask for references in the initial application, when is the appropriate time to alert my contacts? Once I apply? After I’m guaranteed that I’ll be interviewed?

Even when employers ask for references up-front, they typically don’t contact them until later stages of the process (since checking references is time-consuming and it doesn’t make sense to spend time on it until you’ve interviewed someone and determined they’re a finalist). So in general, you should be fine waiting until after you’ve interviewed and appear to still be in the running.

That said, if your job hunting activity is likely to be condensed into one overall time period (say, a few months), it’s usually fine to just give your references one general heads-up at the start of the process, rather than alerting them every single time an individual job might contact them. (Although there can be reasons to do it anyway, like if you want to prep them to focus specifically on skill X for job Y or something like that.)

{ 204 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Educator*

    #2 should be thanked in gifted to in any way humanly possible. That manager went above and beyond even above and beyond. That is real sacrifice.

    1. Accidental Analyst*

      One option could be, if you’re in a position to do it and the owner hasn’t already done something, is to give up part of your next raise/bonus and have it go to the office manager

      1. esra (also a Canadian)*

        I don’t think this is a great precedent. It was lovely of their manager to do that for them, but going forward, the new owner should really be giving whatever raise/bonuses are possible. But the staff shouldn’t constantly be sacrificing compensation for each other.

        1. addlady*

          I also doubt the office manager would appreciate it. It seems more like giving back a gift than reciprocating.

    2. Jeanne*

      She’s amazing for having that much kindness and compassion. Along with the gift, have someone write a sincere thank you note and you can all sign. Or individual thank you notes. This is a case where it’s important.

    3. Garrett*

      I agree that this was an amazing thing to do, but I have to question if they should do anything in return. She obviously did this discreetly and maybe there is a reason for that. She may not want acknowledgement or would be embarrassed to know that the information came out. Not saying that’s the case, and if not, totally go for it because that was so cool of her. But, make sure it’s something she’d want.

      1. OhNo*

        I agree that she may have wanted to keep it quiet for a reason. Since she never mentioned it at all, it sounds like public recognition isn’t really her thing.

        That said, something subtle might still be appropriate. Flowers and a sincere thank-you note, for example. Something that the rest of the staff can give that honestly expresses their thanks, and then everyone can pretend never happened if that’s what she wishes to do.

      2. Sans*

        I think a gift — or even more importantly, individual thank you notes — could be given discreetly, without much fanfare. But this was such as amazing thing she did, and if I were one of the employees, I think I’d have to find a way to thank her.

        1. Marisol*

          In addition to a gift, note, etc., what about making a point of letting the new owner know how much the staff appreciates the sacrifice and what a great manager the OM is generally? It’s always great when your boss hears good feedback about you.

      3. anon o*

        It’s possible that she didn’t say anything because it’d be awkward. How do you tell people that without seeming to be asking for acknowledgement?

    4. Case of the Mondays*

      Sorry if this leads us a bit off topic but I’m always interested in the evolution of language and ask this sincerely and not snarky – when did gift become a verb? I see it everywhere now. No one says “I gave it to him as a gift” anymore. It’s “I gifted it to him.” I’ve really only noticed it over the last couple years and I’m wondering what caused that change.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        It’s been common in the UK for quite some time I believe. I hear it both ways here in the States

      2. LBK*

        Grammarist says it’s been cited in the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb as as early as the 17th century but that there is also a phenomenon lately of people thinking it’s a recent usage change (and complaining about it). So maybe it’s just risen in popularity as a verb recently, despite having always been valid to use that way?

        1. LBK*

          Oh, and as to thoughts on why it may have become more popular – I wonder if it’s an effect of digital media becoming more standard as a present, wherein “gifting” someone a movie on iTunes feels like a more natural use of the term (whereas”I gave it to you on iTunes” or “I sent it to you on iTunes” doesn’t track quite right).

        2. Ellie H.*

          Same, I am totally repulsed by this use. I am NOT a prescriptivist but this sounds horrible, horrible, horrible to me. It’s one of my few things.

      3. Kriss*

        I’ve heard it my entire life although it was more in the context of when people make donations to charity but you are correct that it has been enjoying wider usage these days.

        another expression I’ve been hearing a lot lately (I’d say for the last couple of years) is “and what not”. I even caught myself using it the other day.

    5. TheBeetsMotel*

      And really, the whole purpose of the “gifts flow down, not up” rule is because in general, managers are going to make more money and have better perks and benefits than those they manage. In this case, this person went out of their way to LOWER their pay to benefit others, so this is definitely an exception.

  2. Anlyn*

    Regarding #2; we’ve had so many stories and letters of bad bosses this year, that it’s really nice to hear about a great boss (even as it’s on the heels of yet another bad boss!). Kudos to your office manager and second-in-command. Glad the new owner isn’t a greedy asshole.

    1. AFRC*

      Agreed – I hope the new owner is also doing something REALLY nice for her too. This person is amazing.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      Glad the new owner isn’t a greedy asshole.

      Pro tip: if you own a company and have either laid off a bunch of people or are about to or close your doors putting all your employees out of work or some other thing to “save the company money”… don’t brag about whatever shit you’ve bought recently. Don’t “friend” your employees on Facebook or accept their requests so you can brag there. Brag to your family, personal friends, people at the country club whatever.

      If you’ve laid everyone off and only brought some people back on contract so you don’t have to pay taxes or benefits… don’t talk about the new vacation home you’ve purchased in a sun destination. While some of those people are sitting there.

      If you’ve run a company into the ground and it’s closing and/or you owe dozens of suppliers money… don’t open brand new offices the next day with a new name.

      If you’ve run a company into the ground and have decided to retire… don’t talk about the fantastic new house you’ve purchased in an expensive area and the antique car you’re going to use to drive to the golf course.

      I’m sure there’s more but those were the only ones I could think of off the top of my head.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Don’t have your wife in your office bitching about having to sell her horses after you just bounced payroll (I was rather unsympathetic for some reason…)

      2. animaniactoo*

        Oh yeah, there’s also:

        Don’t bring a longterm employee with you to a business meeting and talk about how your wife and daughters have the Apple store making a delivery to your house every week as part of your schmoozing when you didn’t give out year-end bonuses for the past 2 years. “Because of the economy.”

      3. BananaPants*

        A couple of years ago our manager told us that our annual merit plan was being delayed by several months and we might have to take furlough days – and then complained at length about the installation process of 5-figures’ worth of granite countertops he was having installed in his kitchen. See, he gets incentive compensation based on OUR hard work and his first managerial IC payout paid for the new countertops. Can you tell our hearts bled for him?

  3. Chriama*

    #2 – I don’t know why, but something about this is just not sitting right with me. It’s not that I doubt the OP, but it just feels like there are random holes in the story. How can someone earn enough to survive on a 50% pay cut, and how can just 50% of one employee’s salary be enough to pay for benefits and bonuses for multiple other people? The situation is so weird that I just feel like maybe you should leave well enough alone, because I feel like there’s something else going on that you might not understand. At the very least, I don’t know that I would include a physical gift with the thank you other than maybe a heartfelt card talking about the qualities that make her a good boss and not dwelling on the money thing.

    1. Emma*

      I could survive on half of what I make now. I’ve done it before. I’d be miserable, I’d be eating ramen for dinner and I’d probably have to move back in with my parents (or find really cheap rent), but I could do it.

      I’m not sure how that 50% pay cut actually pays for all those benefits and bonuses, though, unless we’re talking for a small group or the gesture shamed the boss into agreeing.

      1. LW #2*

        It’s a small business and there are 4 employees not including the office manager. So it was definitely feasible for her cutting back to cover it.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Kind of depends on how many people are in the company and how many benefits there are and how big these bonuses are. If the second-in-command is making $80,000 and takes a 50% pay cut and goes without her own benefits, she’s making $40,000 and saving the company probably an additional $5,000 in the benefits she isn’t getting. If bonuses are in the area of $500-$1000 and benefits are about $5,000, she could cover about seven other employees… maybe even eight.

    3. babblemouth*

      There was a story recently about Katie Couric taking a $1 million pay cut to prevent some lay offs at CBS a few years ago. If the office manager was similarly very well paid, I could see it happen.

    4. Blurgle*

      I’m wondering if the OP was lied to and the story was concocted to make her and her colleagues feel guilty over the bonuses – and to stop them from asking for bonuses next year.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I don’t think that adds up, IMO–CheapBoss never said a word about it, and NewBoss was the one who said something. CheapBoss was the one I’d expect to guilt trip about it, if anyone.

      2. LW #2*

        The company was sold to someone else and he’s the one who let it slip. When he took over he gave all 4 of us a small raise without us asking and switched our insurance company to a better one with way more coverage. The office manager also moved back into an apartment in her old complex which I take to mean he increased her pay again. If the old owner was still around I would say you were right, but the new owner is nothing like the old one.

        1. Umvue*

          I’m super relieved to hear that – on first read I missed that you had a new owner and I was wondering whether to suggest it might be time for a job search. Perhaps things will be more stable / look less like a barge fire under this person.

      1. twentymilehike*

        This. I have been in almost this same situation … our boss actually sacrificed paychecks altogether for probably a full year to help out. She didn’t really need the paychecks … she had other sources of income available to her.

    5. Murphy*

      So long as my husband’s salary stays the same, my family can live with moderate changes to our standard of living (i.e. we don’t have to sell our house, but we would want to get rid of our car payment and find alternatives for child care) if my salary was only 30% of what I make now (take home). I know this, because that’s what we went down to for the year I was on maternity leave.

    6. Golden Lioness*

      I have recently taken a job that pays slightly below half what I was making before. I am talking base salary, not “bonuses”, which i did not get many. I went from 155K to 70K. It was a calculated risk. Oil and gas is doing pretty badly right now and I was only being offered only temp contract work. I decided to take this very good full time job, basically doing the same type of work in a different industry. At least it will give me new skills and perspective, which is never a bad thing.

      My thinking was that I’d rather be employed while I figure out what the right next step is for me, and I’d rather have benefits and stability so I can take as long as I want to decide on my next steps.

      Yes I have better benefits, but it has been quite an adjustment. I had to refinance my house and take a roommate to be able to keep my current house. I also traded down my car for a more modest one. Still… I know a whole lot of people that would love to make what I make now, so I am positive and grateful, even if it has been a hard pill to swallow financially.

        1. Bibliovore*

          I believe because I have been there. In 2008 after Mr. Bibliovore had to layoff 20 percent of his reports for the corporate overlords then six months later was asked to do it again, put his own name on the layoff list and saved 2 jobs. (I was employed but we couldn’t survive on my salary) It was two years before finding a new position. And yes there was much “belt tightening.”

          Two years later, in the midst of economic downturn my department was asked to eliminate 1.5 clerical positions basically forcing someone to retire (who wasn’t quite ready) and cutting someone else’s hours (causing them to lose their health insurance)
          The three managers chose to cut their salaries for a two year period effectively taking home 4 day week pay to cover the positions.

          The best thank you is a note saying thank you. And doing a good job.

  4. KP*

    As to #4, I can say PLEASE PLEASE try to move on from the retail job if you can — it’s fine to keep working there obviously while you look, it’s a good safety net to pay the bills and give you the time to find something that fits you well.

    I’m having the absolute worst time finding professional work in my field (library, I know, I know…). I graduated in 2009 right after the economy tanked, and I was competing for jobs with the people who had been laid off. I found similar work (records management) that helped me get a really really great job (2 year contract) doing exactly what I wanted, which I thought would help me get into a permanent job somewhere. However, the search process for libraries is so slow that I had a pretty long unemployment gap before I took a job in a bookstore. (Which I love, love love love, but it pays beans… and I absolutely get frowned upon for it.)

    It’s very frustrating to be passed by for fellowships because I’m not a student or not a recent graduate, I’m disqualified from low level work experience that I -need- to work my way back in because I have my master’s degree, and I’m not as competitive for the professional jobs at my level because there are people with more recent experience.

    I had an amazing interview at a university a few weeks ago, but they hired someone who already worked there. Some people are willing to overlook my retail experience, but I’ve gotten tut-tut’ed by one library manager because I had a string of short (contract!) jobs rather than permanent positions…regardless of the fact that everyone is in a budget pinch and they hardly hire any permanent staff anymore.

    I just don’t know what to do anymore. Don’t do what I did!

    1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      I danced this dance about ten years before you did. Right after I graduated I worked in bookstores. Customers would regularly be impressed with how intelligent and knowledgeable I was and would tell me I should go to college.

      “I did go to college.”
      “Oh well honey you should go back and finish!”
      “I did finish. I have a BA.”
      “then why are you working HERE?!”

      It never occurred to these people that they were literally saying they would rather be waited on by someone who *didn’t* know what they were doing. These were also many of the same types of businesspeople I would interview for an entry-level corporate job and they’d reject me out of hand because the BA meant I was overqualified and would get bored and leave, not realizing that their pay rate was nearly double what I was then making and that was plenty on its own to hold my attention for several years. They just didn’t *believe* it in the interviews.

      If you really like the retail job, though, you can seek promotion and back-office opportunities in the same company. That looks good and I’ve seen many people transition to other industries. Plus after awhile, people do stop asking why you’re not working “in your field”.

      1. HoVertical*

        LW4: Don’t wait. Start applying now in your chosen field. It will look much better for you in the long term if you can begin work, even at entry level, in a job related to your field of study.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          I 2nd this notion. Start applying now.

          If you love your retail job you can always stay on part-time if they will allow you. I was a bartender/server 1-2 nights a week for about 10 years along side my full-time positions. Enough to keep it fun and make some extra money, but not enough that it was stressful.

        2. ZuKeeper*

          Plus, retail is a deep, dark, black hole that will suck you in forever if you stay, haha. At some point it becomes easier to stay and deal with the crap instead of venturing out in to the unknown. I started part time in retail as a way to make some extra money in the evenings when my daughter was a year old. 13 years later I finally had enough and quit. Still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up, but conveniently my husband is willing and able to give me time to decide.

          1. Petronella*

            +1 to ZuKeeper. Retail is a trap, and retail “management” is not a career and will waste years of your life with nothing to show for it, if you let it. Ask me how I know. Please, please, start looking for work in the field you trained for, while you still are a fresh grad and can use your instructors as references.

          2. Lissa*

            Yesss I agree with this. I got into an easy stress-free food service job because I needed to move out in a hurry…10 years later….I had no idea where I wanted to go, and would probably still be there if I hadn’t got really lucky with an opportunity that fell into my lap.

          3. Stitch*

            This!!! My SO’s father got into retail over a decade ago. Started at Walmart as a low-level employee just to make money. He’s bobbed up and down the ranks as he tried to balance how shitty it was to have abusive managers and years of night shifts with the money. (Which he doesn’t even need… he could retire if he really wanted to. But for all his complaining, he never did.) Just now he’s starting a job at a new company – a much smaller retail store with better perks – but he’s still not out of retail.

            BTW, this is a guy who worked in tech before. So he had experience and training for something better, but he’s lost in through years of retail work.

      2. Milton Waddams*

        #4: The depressing truth is that many people involved in hiring haven’t got the slightest clue how to independently assess a candidate. They hire entirely based on cargo cult practices, like a person who has learned to hire by memorizing the shapes on a sample resume rather than understanding the words. Different shapes might mean different words, but with no way to determine, it’s best to play it safe; in cargo-cult hiring, anything unexpected is a source of fear. This includes unexpected time in retail.

        1. Umvue*

          “like a person who has learned to hire by memorizing the shapes… rather than understanding the words” <– this is gorgeous and perfect.

        2. Petronella*

          This is very true as well. When I finally had the confidence and time to rewrite my resume and pursue professional work again, after years in retail, which included years spent managing two profitable stores, not one interviewer wanted to hear about my experience in hiring, training, firing, scheduling, merchandising, meeting sales targets – none of it. Because it had all happened in a retail environment, it did not compute. It was shapes on paper, as Milton Waddams describes. My 10+ year old degree carried more weight. A cargo cult, indeed.

      3. Anxa*

        Sometimes I wish I could level with employers and be like, “So, yes I have a degree. I worked hard for it and there’s a reason why I studied it and I’d like to someday apply that education. But I need a job now and I can’t just sit back and wait for a better opportunity. In fact, I’m even less likely to get there if I’m unemployed than if I work here with you. Eventually I’d like to leave, but the average turnover for this position is 2 years. So long as I have full-time hours I will stay here for 2 years before I consider looking. If an opportunity falls into my lap I can’t turn it down. Believe me, I am not just able to find a job for more money than this just because I have a degree. Also, there’s a reason I’m applying to this job in particular and it’s because X.”

        Sometimes these jobs would pay over 25K and they’d still think that you’d walk away at the first chance.

        There was a semi-viral Tumblr post once about how a BB&B customer asked her fiance why he was working there with a degree in cytogenetics. As a bio major this doesn’t surprise me in the least, but I have so many friends with BS and MS degrees in biomedical and biology sciences working retail and so many of our parents’ friends don’t seem to understand how this happening.

    2. Alter_ego*

      Yeah, on of my best friends is having a similar issue. Graduated with a business degree, and has been an assistant manager at a retail store for 6 years now, because no one will consider her for anything. And she had other work experience after graduating. But she lost her first post college job when the economy tanked, and now I think she just gets eliminated because she’s “retail”

    3. shep*

      Seconding all of this. I had a non-retail position throughout graduate school (tutoring upper-level subjects/lots of office-admin). It was part-time, did not pay well, and had no benefits (aside from being flexible enough for me to work on my master’s simultaneously). It took me nearly a year of active looking to find a decent job, and by then my school loans had gone into repayment, I had to liquidate savings, and go into a bit of credit card debt just to stay afloat. My BA is in English and my MFA is in writing, so YMMV since you’re in a different field, but I found myself in a common position: overqualified for everything education-wise; underqualified experience-wise.

      That is a deep and frustrating hole out of which to dig oneself.

      Start looking now; by dint of the nature of the beast, you may very well be there for a year or more anyway.

    4. themmases*

      OP 4 should definitely start looking. The thing, as an entry level worker your retail job can be an asset– but as a safety net. It definitely doesn’t mean you should stay.

      A good retail worker who leaves on good terms (and people will definitely understand why if you just graduated) and works out their notice can come back! Need extra cash to save in your entry level job? Call your old store. Lose your no-apron desk job? Call your old store. Both my sister and I have been able to go back to old retail jobs with a couple days’ notice, no questions asked.

      On the flip side, retail managing is really not all it’s cracked up to be. My good friend’s boyfriend is in this place right now… Econ degree from a top school but graduated in 2009 and shooting up the ladder at a big box store instead. For the amount of stress, work, and literal back pain, he could be making way more elsewhere– but is so paralyzed by worrying about retail stigma, and exhausted all the time, that he’s barely mounting a real effort to look. Many people need to take a pay cut to first get out of retail, too– it’s better to do it early when that’s less likely to happen and you have less going on to make it unaffordable if it does.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep. Honestly, I think retail and food service are a young wo/man’s game–not in the sense that “Those Jobs are for Teenagers” like people say when they want to keep wages low, but in the sense that they wreck your body and eventually there’s nothing left. My last retail job, when I was about 30, was physical agony, and I really don’t think I could do it at all now, even if I had to.

        And a lot of times stores will promote people to manager to make them salaried, and thus not eligible for overtime, without actually increasing their authority much at all. I’ve been on shifts where all but one person was some kind of manager.

        1. Bigglesworth*

          This. I am a young person, but my last food service job eventually caused me to have arthritis in my hips, lower back, and hands. It’s no fun explaining to people that working 45 or more hours a week in food service is what caused me to have arthritis.

          Although my old manager has told me I’m always welcome to come back, I won’t unless I find myself out of this job for whatever reason (even though this a toxic place with a higher turnover rate than any retail or food service job I’ve had in the past).

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Oh god yes. I worked food service for a very long time and it DESTROYED my wrists. I have shoulder issues. My last job aggravated them years after the fact because constantly handling heavy samples, literature, and shipping boxes was similar to the physical stuff you do in a restaurant/cafeteria job. I left there with tennis elbow and impingement syndrome.

            Of course, now I have office worker spread, but at least I can do something about that. I can’t imagine going back to work in that industry.

              1. Aurion*

                They do (at least in my part of the woods), but the problem is that it’s very hard to conclusively prove that it was the job that did not, and not other factors. I’ve claimed worker’s comp for an RSI, but I know several others in similar situations who got rejected.

      2. Al Lo*

        Need extra cash to save in your entry level job? Call your old store. Lose your no-apron desk job? Call your old store.

        Yes. I’ve worked for Starbucks at least 6 different times during and since grad school. Some of those were planned “separation/re-hire” (like leaving for the summer during school and coming back in the fall, but others were not.

        In fact, I start next week for a couple short shifts/week on top of my regular (career, not entry-level) job. Our budget needed a bit of a boost, and the 30% off is almost as valuable as the little bit of extra cash. I don’t know how long I’ll stay this time, but I’ve always left on good terms and been able to come back (even to a different store) any time.

    5. LPBB*

      That library manager must be massively out of touch, I know highly qualified librarians with decades of experience who have been working short term contracts since the economy tanked. That’s the way the economy in general and the library economy specifically is heading. It’s really dispiriting that there are still hiring managers out there who haven’t gotten that memo.

      1. DragoCucina (formerly Library Director)*

        Yes! Plus retail experience is much more valuable in most libraries than most back of the house work (putting together an annotated bibliography of butter tea pots). Academic, public, school libraries all have to have good customer service.

        1. LibraryChick*

          I was on the hiring committee tasked with screening resumes for an academic librarian position. I picked out one candidate based on having had a fairly long tenure in retail. Having the degree helped, but that retail experience told me they could probably handle talking to and assisting cranky, sometimes difficult students.

          1. Bibliovore*

            And I always pull out the resumes with retail experience with bookstore experience being a big plus.
            Merchandising, customer service, subject knowledge, and dependability are all retail and librarianship skills.

            1. Sparkly Librarian*

              I feel vindicated for leaving my bookstore job from college vacations on my library resume. :) (They did SAY “all applicable experience”!)

    6. Overbooked*

      It reflects badly on hiring practices in librarianship that working in a bookstore would be held against an applicant. Current awareness of new titles, readers’ advisory (or “handselling”), and great customer service skills are critical in public library work, and retail bookselling is an ideal way to acquire and maintain those skills.

      Another professional bias that’s always annoyed and mystified me is that librarians can move from academic to public library work, but not vice-versa – when the latter is often much more challenging. I’ve benefitted from this, but it’s bogus.

      Keep up your tech skills and professional memberships, go to conferences, look at INALJ. I wish you the best.

      1. DragoCucina (formerly Library Director)*

        This, this, this in regards to going from public to academic. I’m currently shut out of an opportunity at a small university because of this bias. Yet, the public library is the go-to location for all education majors and other degree programs. One of the librarians on the search committee shared that the academics from other parts of the university were “really rude” to the librarians on the search committee and the candidates. It came from not really knowing what a librarian does.

      2. LibraryChick*

        I experienced the opposite. The public library system wouldn’t give me a second glance, but I was immediately hired in academic librarianship.

      3. LPBB*

        I worked for a bookstore for 10 years and went to library school largely because I thought it would be a relatively easy professional field to transition into because of my customer service background. I thought it would be the one field that would not penalize me for working retail for so long since I had so many transferrable skills. Was I ever mistaken!

    7. Mallory of Song*

      Are you in Virginia or willing to relocate on your own dime? I’ve spoken to the library director of this job ( and she has a similar experience to yours (not working in libraries until years after earning the MLIS), so I don’t think she’ll tut-tut you for having a string of short contract jobs.

    8. Anxa*


      Yes, I echo this completely!

      I’m a 2008 grad (walked and left school in May, got my degree in December) and after what felt like an eternity (but was only one year), I started a serving job because my local economy was based on tourism and it was the start of summer and I felt like I needed to.

      I wonder what would have happened if I had tried to do summer internships I still qualified for?

      I’m 30 and I can’t do retail because I don’t have enough retail experience and I have a degree and a bad personality (based on those tests). Food service isn’t really my strong suit and I love bussing, but am always pushed into serving positions and while the money is better, I am not great at it.

      I have all of the work experience of a semi-recent grad but I am not as shiny and new. I can’t do any fellowships or internship programs, and have struggled with finding any employment programs for people in my age group (I live in the US and the government hasn’t seemed to adjust it’s workforce development programs to match the new economic realities for many college grads).

      Please try to avoid losing your shiny new grad status.

  5. SRMJ*

    #1) My favorite response is “yeah, it didn’t burn that time!” Can’t top that.

    That said, yeah, you shouldn’t have to deal with that, especially at work.

    1. Jeanne*

      I think in this case, OP doesn’t want to use any response that makes it seem like she is joking too. It will encourage him.

      1. UK Jo*

        I agree with you.
        Nonetheless, tempting to get snarky with something like “why, do you have issues in that area? Maybe an age thing”
        That’s more in the happy fantasy zone though, it would nuke the working relationship! ;)

    2. Laura*

      I’m wondering if the coworker sees OP#1 as her “work dad” so that he’s not seeing it as crossing the line.
      I would hate to deal with it, and it would bother me a lot. However, I’ve had older relatives that if I ask them as seriously as I can to stop on a topic, they would tease me all the more. Clearly, it was hysterical and they were on the right track and should continue on that track. I’m sure your boss wants you to handle it yourself, so you should ask 1-2 times, but if it doesn’t get better I’d go to her and ask what you should do.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      “Yes, it did and if you need proof, I could go back and get the tampon out of the container for you.”

      Seriously, there’s a huge difference between the goofy/stupid Dad jokes and the icky/border-crossing ones. This is one of those icky ones that if he had the good sense God gave geese, he wouldn’t be using on anyone in an office setting.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Considering she’s the ONLY one he says that too, I’m falling on the side of ick. I’m sure OP doesn’t need Bob thinking about her in the bathroom. Ew. Ew ew ew ew.

    4. Phoebe*

      #1 – I think you’re making this harder than it needs to be. Next time he says it, just be straight and to the point, “Not funny, Fergus. Cut it out.”

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah. Any simple answer you feel comfortable tossing over your shoulder can work. Of course, you can stop by and ask to talk to him and have a longer conversation if you want to, but personally I’d feel more comfortable with shorter, more casual replies said flatly while not stopping on my way back.
        “Gross, Jim. Stop asking me that.”
        “Jim, enough. That’s not funny.”
        “Jim, we’re at work. That’s not appropriate.”
        “Ugh, quit monitoring my body. It’s really weird.”
        Also? Be prepared for “but I’m kidding arouuuuuunnnd” “don’t be so sensitiiiiiiiive.” Ignore it or roll your eyes and get back to work.

  6. Fafaflunkie*

    To OP#3: Hopefully you’ve saved those texts between you and the person who promised that time off upon hiring. If it should come to you not getting the time off for your wedding from the producer, and you should tell them it’s either time off or I quit, at least you have something to stand on should said producer wants to persue your sudden resignation (or better yet, should you decide to sue the production company for breach of contract.)

    Alas, I also have heard how this industry works–word goes around if there’s a “bad apple” in the bunch, no matter how the apple got rotten.

    1. Filmgal*

      It’s tough…I’m in the industry, and a lot of times if you quit a production at any time, you are basically blacklisted. So you have to have a DAMN GOOD reason to quit because you quite literally may never work again because of it. The poster needs to talk to the producer as soon as possible because there is a good chance the line producer could cost her her livelihood with this stunt. :(

  7. Dot Warner*

    #4: Start looking NOW. It’s fine to keep the retail job while you look, but depending on where you live and what you went to school for, it may take you several months to find a job anyway. I’m afraid the healthcare job market isn’t what it used to be – new grads in my specialty often have to work part-time or PRN because full-time jobs just aren’t available.

    It might also be a good idea to ask yourself why you want to stay in retail another “year or two or more” when you’ve just invested a couple of years and a good deal of money in getting this certificate. You say you like your job, but I can’t help wondering if something else is holding you back.

    1. Jeanne*

      Especially in healthcare, you are considered outdated so quickly. If you wait two years to search, no one will believe you are prepared for current work practices. But since you probably have to start part time, you can keep the other job with a few less hours. I don’t think working healthcare and retail together is as much of an issue.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        This is a great idea. I continued at my part-time college job while also working part time in the field I wanted to pursue long-term after I graduated. This worked really well for me, since I was only able to find part-time work in my field of choice and because I was saving up to move to an area with more varied and full-time job opportunities in my field.

    2. Sarah*

      Agreed- I’m a recruiter in the health/wellness industry and I’ve seen resumes similar to this come through. I always ask myself if the person applying maybe didn’t like their field of study and how committed would they be to the position I’m hiring for? Additionally, it makes me question their skill level if the candidate hasn’t used those skills for anything since school. I think if you would like to stay where you are that’s fine, but consider picking up a small part-time job on the side to keep those skills current. Just a thought!

      1. Joseph*

        The fact you stayed in retail for a couple years after graduating is going to give recruiters/companies a bunch of potential impressions…all negative:
        1.) You didn’t like your field of study and aren’t really committed to it, as Sarah suggests.
        2.) You have forgotten many of the skills you’ve learned – how well do you remember your freshmen English class? Same thing. This is especially relevant for your first job in the industry, since you never had to put them into practice for 40 hours/week.
        3.) Your skills are outdated. For a fast-changing industry like healthcare, the skills you learned in school this year will be different a few years down the line, so you’ll be clearly inferior to fresh new graduates.
        4.) There’s something wrong with you – after all, you haven’t been able to get a job in the field in two full years. It’s not 2008 any more – plenty of companies are actively looking for candidates, so good people aren’t being forced to take temp jobs just to make ends meet.
        Also, as a side note: The (potential, not guaranteed!) upcoming promotion to retail manager is ONLY relevant if you plan on being in retail long term. If you really want to stick with retail for life, then absolutely go for it. But if you actually want to do healthcare, then the promotion isn’t going to have the slightest relevance to future employers – they’ll greatly prefer you to use that couple years of time in the actual field of healthcare rather than in retail.

      2. Jesmlet*

        +1 for me too.
        I recruit ADNs, BSNs, HHAs and CNAs and there’s no way in hell I’d even consider someone who hadn’t worked in the healthcare field for the last year, especially if they were a new grad. Too many red flags and potential negative reasons why this happened to be worth the risk. Resume goes straight into the trash.

        Consider picking something up per diem just to keep your skills current and to demonstrate it’s still an area of interest.

  8. MissGirl*

    OP4 ask yourself what your longterm goals are. When you’ve been at a job a while, you earn promotions, pay increases, and more vacation time. It can be very hard to give these things up to go to another entry level position in another field and start over. It’s very common to make the same or even more money at the college job you got as a filler than the career position you’ve been working towards. (They don’t tell you this when you enroll, unfortunately.)

    You have to decide where your future is. Is it in healthcare? Is it at the store? In a year you can be more entrenched in the job you have or you can be a year into building your new career. Why wait? (That’s not a rhetorical question.) Are you having second thoughts about your career choice now that you know more about it? If you’re having second thoughts, address them. But if you really intend to move into healthcare, do it now.

    Side note: I actually quit my college job before I had a career job lined to force me to find a career job. If I hadn’t, I might still be selling plumbing parts in a warehouse instead of managing my own department at a publisher. But you have to decide where you want to go and what you want.

  9. Fafaflunkie*

    To OP #4: you state you recently graduated in the healthcare field. Have you perhaps thought about volunteering with an organization such as MSF? With the right credentials, you would surely add something to your resume that would get potential employers’ attention. One of my nieces went this route when she graduated from college as an RN, and is now working at a prestigious hospital making some rather nice money. Just a thought.

    1. SOMA*

      Seconding this! I wrote more below but volunteering while you’re in retail is great to look active on your resume and to make some connections. Definitely recommend volunteering!

  10. Myrin*

    #1, I totally agree with Alison. If you say something in the moment and your other coworkers hear that you stand up for yourself and are Not Pleased, I can well imagine them coming to your aid should Gross Gregory protest that you’re too sensitive or whatever. This really is not a situation you should have to deal with.

    (Out of pure curiosity, do you have any idea why he does this only to you? Are you “different” from the other workers, like the only young person, or the only woman, or the only person of another ethnicity? If so, eww, double gross.)

    1. Jeanne*

      The whole thing is creepy. He’s paying attention enough to be sure where she goes and when she gets back. And then he comments. Yuck. Shut him down completely. Be direct and don’t get drawn into “I was just joking.” If he says that, reply “Good. Then it will be easy to stop.”

    2. OP#1*

      I’ve been asking myself that a lot, and I think it’s just a mix of paternalism and proximity. There are other people my age there, but I’m the only one in the immediate area. He really doesn’t seem like a bully to me, and he’s never been creepy or leering towards me in other ways.
      Now that I think about it, that may be part of my reluctance to be confrontational: I don’t think he MEANS to be an ass.
      Anyway, I’ve been reading this site for about a year, so I knew better than to expect some painless way to meet both requirements. I’ll give confrontation a shot. Thanks for all the replies.

      1. Laura*

        Right out of college, I worked with a guy who’s oldest was two years younger than me. She and I also had some personality similarities, so I can see this guy doing it without meaning harm. I think it’s more a lack of tact than anything sinister, but OP#1 doesn’t need to put up with it for the next 5 years. Hopefully he gets the idea quickly.

  11. MeepMeep*

    OP3: I’m in the industry too and it’s going to be better to bring this up now rather than wait until January. I’m not sure what department you’re in, etc but because a three week departure may cause a major halt in production and jobs are so word of mouth it’ll be easier to bring it up now and keep your reputation solid. Even if you are lower on the totem pole it wouldn’t bode well to knowingly not sort it out earlier on. It’s really hard to give much better advice because it really depends more on if you’re camera, grip, PA, gaffer, sound, production, and if you’re a crucial component to finishing the film. It also really depends if your role is something you can refer a friend sub in for those three weeks or if you are integral to production staying on time. Good luck!

  12. Aca-Believe It*

    #2 I teared up reading this. Could you club together to get her a travel voucher to spend on a holiday?

  13. babblemouth*

    LW1: Ew ew ew. That coworker is GROSS.
    Alison is completely right: shut it down, and shut it down loudly. Make it super clear that this is 200% not ok.

  14. Exponential Vee*

    #1 He’s trying to bully you/ appear higher status by making you uncomfortable. If he’s saying “Everything come out alright??”, I’d be so tempted to reply ‘No, I got blood all over my hands while changing my tampax’. Or just ‘I was powdering my nose. Why, what do you do in there?’ Alison’s way is possibly better though.

    1. ChelseaNH*

      For any kind of vulgar innuendo: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. What do you mean?” It’s possible that he’s willing to become more explicit in his request for information, but unlikely.

      For any too-personal inquiry: “Why do you ask?” or “Why do you want to know?” It’s possible that he’s willing to confess an interest in people’s bathroom habits, but unlikely.

    2. BobcatBrah*

      I’m not so sure about that. I’m a male in a fairly diverse office that’s filled with banter, potty humor, and dark humor, and that sort of remark wouldn’t be out if place where I am. It’s a lame Dad-joke (right up there with the Mole-asses joke), not a bullying thing.

      I realize not everybody appreciates crass jokes, but it’s not like he’s asking her the details of her period or sex life.

  15. Boo*

    #1 Gah. Don’t worry about making things uncomfortable. He’s already done that. In fact, make things as uncomfortable for him as possible and the more people who are around to overhear the better. No need to be confrontational, just calmly and mildly respond. I’d go with something like “you seem strangely obsessed with my bathroom habits Bob and I got to be honest, me and everyone else here think it’s weird and creepy so can you knock it off please”. Whatever he responds “I was joking” just rinse and repeat. (I would respond to that “I know you weren’t joking because it wasn’t funny” but then I’m getting a bit bolshy in my old age).

  16. Kelly L.*

    OMG, #1, you work with my first college boyfriend?

    (He said that every time I went to the bathroom. Almost automatically, just like that. He had a few other scripts like that too, like a needle dropped into the record and he was just compelled to repeat the dumb joke.)

    1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

      I had a boyfriend like that too, in my teen years. He once spent something like ten minutes repeating the same bad joke to me on the phone over and over. And he was one of those people who, if told that I needed to get off the phone, would say “I can hold,” or ask when I could call back, or ask why I needed to go and try to argue me out of it.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I spent half my commute remembering random things this guy did that annoyed me, lol. There was a store in the mall whose name he would always crack a joke about when we walked by it–after I pointed out how often he said it, he incorporated my comment into the joke and kept doing it! He’d probably still be saying it, except the store’s out of business and we broke up 20 years ago.

        And then there was the time he wouldn’t quit whistling the bridge to “Cuts Like a Knife” while I was trying to study, which is probably grounds for justifiable homicide in 17 states.

        1. Temperance*

          Okay, bad jokes are one thing …. but WHISTLING?! He’s a monster. I’m glad you did not marry that man.

          1. Kelly L.*

            LOL both of you! :D

            I’m also very glad. There were reasons I liked him, or we wouldn’t have dated in the first place, but we were so not compatible in the long haul.

          2. Amadeo*

            Yes, my response would have been along the lines of “If you don’t stop, I’m going to hit you, and I mean that.”

  17. KEM11088*

    #4 Take Alison’s advice to heart. I graduated in 2010 when there weren’t many jobs at all, let alone in my field. When I was still job searching two years later, companies blatantly told me that my education was too “out of date” and they were put off by my lack of experience in my field (despite the fact that, duh, no one was hiring).

    It’s been six years and while I now have a job and several year’s experience under my belt in said field, when interviewing people STILL ask why I didn’t have a job in my field after graduation.

    1. LabHeather*

      Yeah. This gets more and more difficult the longer you stay out of your field. I spent one and a half year after graduation working whatever temp contracts I could get before I landed *this* temp contract which is at least remotely relevant to my education.

      It was at the point where I just wanted to stare dumbly at them whenever I was lucky enough to land an interview, and the interviewer asked; “So, do you have many other interviews lined up?”. Uhm, no.

      I can see why they would start to consider my education outdated too. I can only change so many diapers and service so many retail customers before formulas and good research practice starts leaking out of my ears.

    2. SOMA*

      Was it common who companies to tell you why they didn’t want you, specifically about your education being out of date? I get no reasons, just generic ‘went with someone else’ responses.

  18. purple people eater*

    LW #4…to echo what other people have said about finding a job in your field rather than staying in retail…if you want a job in the field you studied, find one OR, if you don’t, commit to a retail career. My sister stayed in the retail job she’d had through college, intending for it to just be a year while she “figured out what she wanted to do”…literally 10 years later she was still there, having been promoted to management and more and more unhappy. I kept telling her that a lightening bolt of inspiration was not likely to hit her in the stockroom of the big box store she was managing. Luckily I was able to get her a job at my company (completely unrelated to her undergraduate degree) which led to her going to grad school and finding a new field she loves, so there is a happy ending. Basically, my point is, even if you stay in retail and can’t get back to the field you originally studied, you’re not doomed to stay on that road forever, but it IS a fork in the road, professionally. It’s better to decide which fork you want to take now.

    1. Natalie*

      Agreed. The same thing happened to a friend of mine – she stayed in retail after because the money was good instead of pursuing what she really wanted to do (teaching). 10 years later, the money wasn’t really that good anymore and it was a lot harder for her to accommodate the classes for her license. If she hadn’t met her now-husband she’s probably still be in retail, and I know she wishes she had started teaching earlier.

  19. Mona Lisa*

    #5, if you’re doing a general job search, definitely let your references know that you’re looking and ask whether they’d be willing to speak to X, Y, Z skills. I recently had a former co-worker come out of the woodwork (last time I’d heard from him was during his previous job search a year ago), and he wanted me to speak to a skill set about which I didn’t know much. It was more difficult to tell him that I couldn’t vouch for those skills after I’d been contacted by the reference checker (two hours after his initial e-mail) than it would have been if he’d touched base with me at the start of his job search.

    1. Joseph*

      It’s worth mentioning that even if Mona can’t speak to X, Y, Z skills, she may still be worth using as a reference, depending on what else she brings to the table as a reference. BUT you need to know that upfront so you can frame it appropriately with the interviewer.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        This. I told the guy that I’d be happy to serve as a character reference and confirm that he worked on specific projects, but I couldn’t speak to their success metrics like he wanted me to since I was not in a supervisory position. It put me in an awkward spot because I felt like he had already told the interviewer that I could talk about certain topics that I wasn’t qualified to address.

  20. echosparks*

    OP#4 – As a healthcare worker and someone who does a fair amount of hiring, I can assure you that you will likely never get a job in your new field if you don’t even look for one for a year or two. Healthcare jobs are heavily dependent on practical skills that take practice and experience. As a new grad you have precious little of either, in a few years you’ll be so out of practice that whatever clinical work you did in school will be meaningless. If a resume like that came to me, I’d be very unlikely to even interview, much less hire.

    BUT, as others have pointed out. Part-time and PRN work abounds in healthcare. If you really want to keep your current job, look for those listings. Before you do that though, really think about what you want. Healthcare is a rough industry, it can easily chew you up and spit you out if it’s not what you really want to do. People put up with long hours, working holidays, getting thrown up on, getting yelled at, etc. because they love their jobs and are passionate about helping people. If you don’t feel that way about what trained for, really think about whether or not it’s right for you. Better to figure out now then five years into a career that makes you crazy and miserable.

  21. Alton*

    I agree with the advice not to wait. When I was in college, I had a low-level sales job in retail. I kept the job after I graduated, while I looked for work. I didn’t even wait to start looking, but I ended up having trouble finding something full-time closer to my career goals for a couple years. I think I came up against a bad combination of a bad job market in my area, a degree that wasn’t closely tied to a particular job, and lack of relevant experience and resume-writing skills. As time went by, I really started to feel like my job was a liability because it wasn’t helping me develop experience that was relevant to my field. I had to try to sell myself based in transferable skills like working with the public. The longer you wait, the longer it will take for you to start building experience in your field, and you won’t have being a new grad as an excuse.

    Also, you never know what course your job search might take. I don’t know what the market is like for your intended job, and you might land something very quickly, especially in healthcare. But I think it’s easy to underestimate how long the job search process can take. Even if you’re a very strong candidate in a good job market, you might have to apply to several jobs before you get an offer. And waiting to hear back after interviews and waiting for offers to become official can take weeks sometimes. You may not be able to drop your retail job right now even if you wanted to.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I think this is a good point… waiting a year to start applying – because you want a different job in a year isn’t realistic. Definitely start looking in the (hopefully very) near future!

      My last job hunt took about 7 months, in a good market, with a couple years experience in the field under my belt. And that’s really only because my current job moved very quickly with their interview process (it easily could have taken another 1-2 months).

  22. Lily*

    @Alison: re #1, would it be unprofessional to just answer “why are you that interested in my excretions?” or something like this?

  23. Spooky*

    Gaahh. Re #1: I’m embarrassed to admit that my dad says this (I had a moment of terror thinking that this might be about him), but I certainly hope he knows not to say it in the office. But I’d bet this employee says this to family, and that the age dynamic is playing a factor here.

      1. BobcatBrah*

        If you don’t like honey, sweetie, or sugar, then definitely don’t ever move to the South. We also are partial to yes sir and yes ma’am.

    1. Tyrion*

      My dearly departed granddad said it to me on occasion when I was a wee boy, and still being very amused by poop humor, I thought it was hilarious. Of course in the LW’s setting it’s clueless, embarrassing, creepy, and I would even say harassing.

  24. Bad Candidate*

    #4 Please don’t wait. I went back to school as an adult and finished my degree in 2013. Here I am three years later still at my “Only while I’m going back to school” job. Granted I hate my job with every fiber of my soul and being, and you like yours, but still, if you want to use your degree, get out of retail while you still can.

  25. Sun*

    Heartily agree with advice for #4. I made this mistake–staying in my “working through school” job too long because I was emotionally attached–and when I started applying for “real” jobs, I repeatedly got asked the question, why aren’t you looking for jobs in your current field? That I had a degree in something else didn’t matter after a couple of years. Thankfully I eventually managed to dig myself out of that problem, but it took a long time and some lucky connections to do it.

  26. LQ*

    #4 I’m going to disagree a little (sort of). If you think you could make your retail position your life long (or maybe next 10 years, you’ll need to go back to school again to work in health care if you wait) then it is ok to stay. It is ok to say you want a career in retail. It is ok to decide that is what you want to do. If you can see yourself doing that for the next 7-10 years, stay, and enjoy it if you do.
    If you can’t see a long term career there, then you do need to start looking now. You may only be able to find part time so you may end up staying pt at the retail place anyway.

    1. LBK*

      I think the only hesitation with this is that if you become a retail lifer, it is sooooo hard to get out if 10 years down the line you decide you don’t want to do it anymore – mainly because you can make pretty good money as you move up the chain and you’ll almost definitely have to take a huge pay cut and demotion to change fields, and that will only get harder to swallow the longer you stay and the higher up you get.

    2. Bad Candidate*

      I would agree to this. If you want to stay in retail and make a career of it, I think you’re fine. Assuming you don’t work for a large blue box store that fires people on a whim, that is.

    3. Joseph*

      “If you can see yourself doing that for the next 7-10 years, stay, and enjoy it if you do.”
      I don’t think anybody here is disagreeing with that statement *if that’s really what OP wants to do*. The firm reaction by AAM and commenters is based on the fact that OP’s letter seems to indicate that she’s still planning on getting into healthcare in the future.
      If you really do enjoy retail and want to make it a career, then by all means, go for it. But do so with your eyes open about the fact that waiting a couple years in retail will seriously hurt your chances of ever starting a healthcare career.

      1. Dot Warner*

        Agreed. If retail is genuinely what OP wants, yes, she should stay there. But at the same time, she just graduated from school – isn’t she even a little excited about the field she got a certificate in? Does she have student loans to deal with? It would be much easier to pay them off with the salary for the career she trained in than a retail salary.

        I can’t help wondering if maybe OP is having some anxiety about starting a new career or suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Maybe that’s not the case; maybe she finished her program and decided this career just isn’t for her. However, if she has any interest at all in pursuing this career – and from her letter, it sounds like she’s at least considering it – she needs to do so now. In a year or two, her skills will have deteriorated and she won’t be hireable.

  27. Dust Bunny*

    1) What, do you work with my dad? OK, he wouldn’t have done this at work, and he’s not quite that bad at home, but he’s pretty close. If he survives retirement without my mother killing him because she has to listen to dad jokes all day, we’ll all be shocked.

    2) OMG. Yes, I think the gifts-shouldn’t-go-up can get a pass on this one.

    4) I don’t know what the current *reality* is on this. I went to a small college in a small town, far from home, and working in my field during school was not an option (no such jobs anywhere nearby). My first job out of college was cleaning kennels in a veterinary hospital (my coworker in this was a high-school dropout who likely had a double-digit IQ. Sincerely; I’m not saying that to be snarky. Decent guy, but barely functional) so to say that I was overeducated for the position is an understatement. On the other hand, I moved up to veterinary assistant and then assistant supervisor quickly. My B.A. is in history. My current job is in a medical-school library, so I use both the history degree and a rather surprising amount of what I learned as a veterinary assistant. I probably use the veterinary stuff more, truth be told. I hope all you employers out there don’t get too hung up on “menial” post-college jobs; some of them have more to contribute than it seems at first.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Those jobs show that you have a work ethic, you can literally get your hands dirty (and in this case deal with clients who literally bite!) and that you probably don’t look down on those who do.

      If I’m ever in a position to hire, I’d like to do lunch interviews so I can immediately screen out anybody who’s rude to the waitstaff….

  28. SOMA*

    #4 – There’s nothing wrong with staying in retail for a little while longer but I definitely recommend you start searching NOW. When I started my search, it took me a year to find a job outside of retail. So start the search now because it will probably take longer than you think.

    Also there are things you can do in the meantime while you’re still there. Seek out that promotion. I was promoted from cashier to working in the office of my store with payroll and products and the like. So I was still working retail but I was able to say that I did a lot more than just cashiering. That really saved me with my job search, I really don’t think I would have gotten hired if I’d spent all that time as just a cashier.

    And take the opportunity to volunteer. If they see on your resume that you were doing more in that timeframe than just working retail, that will look fantastic. I did some conservation volunteer work and some event planning volunteer work, both things that are great to talk up in an interview when they ask what you’ve been doing since you graduated school.

    If you just spend a year in your same position, I think that will hurt you. But promotions and outside volunteer work will make it obvious that you weren’t just taking it easy in a cashier job for a year.

  29. The Strand*

    Take per diem with a registry, volunteer with health-related organizations – or volunteer to work on a medical research project – do whatever you can to find a medical workplace that is just as nice as the one you work in currently. At the same time, go ahead and continue to work part time until you’re offered a full-time position in healthcare, maintain your friendships at work, and tell people what your plan is (which will be reassuring to people) and reiterate how much you like everyone and what a great place it is to work.
    I want to also reiterate how hard it was for people I know who stuck with retail positions, once they were tired of it, the money started to not be enough for their goals (e.g. expenses for their kids), or they were laid off and needed to switch fields. Your certification and degree open doors to a field that can be hard, depending on the position, but has many benefits and usually much better pay.

  30. Grey*

    #1: “Um, yes. Why do you ask?” Make him actually answer that question each and every time. Though, I’d bet it wouldn’t be any more than once or twice.

    But Alison’s advice is best if you’re not in the mood to play along with him.

  31. Ineloquent*

    Re: #4-

    My husband is in a similar position. He graduated last December, but, as we had recently discovered that we were expecting a baby, decided not to seek a job at all (he majored in Art Education with the intention of becoming an art teacher). Instead, he’s opted to stay at home full time to be the primary caretaker of our new daughter, and start his career when she starts school. Is Alison’s response still completely applicable? Should he take courses or do weekend volunteer work to stay active in his field? He will be pursuing personal art creation, so he won’t go completely rusty.

    1. Temperance*

      Is he seeking to teach art in schools, or community art classes? I don’t think it’s going to be very easy to start a teaching career in 5 years with no prior experience whatsoever. Creating art is vastly different than being a school art teacher.

      I actually think he might even be a little “worse off” than the LW, because he doesn’t have experience in his chosen field. Is he against picking up a part-time teaching job?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, this plan would worry me. He’s going to be competing against candidates whose degrees are more recent or who have been working that whole time, and he’s unfortunately going to be at a real disadvantage. Whatever he can do to work in his field in the interim will help.

        1. Ineloquent*

          Thanks guys. I agree that even volunteering to teach art classes at the boys and girls club or something would be better than stagnating and becoming unemployable.

          At the very least, he does have some classroom experience – it was a necessary part of getting his degree. So, that makes it a little better, I guess.

          1. Temperance*

            Just a note – student teaching isn’t quite the same thing as actual classroom management, since all teaching degree programs require it.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I would tend to think that keeping even a little bit active via courses or volunteer work is always a good idea if he can manage it. My stay-at-home parent friends also swear by getting out of the house and interacting with adults on a regular basis to stay sane.

  32. MegaMoose, Esq.*

    #1: I swear I remember someone in the thread about the “boy’s club” employer saying that s/he and her coworkers make that same exact joke. Was that just me?

  33. animaniactoo*

    For OP1 – First, I want to say ty ty ty you to Alison for reinforcing that it’s quite fine to be seen “dealing with this” and not “quietly and politely”. There are times it is far more empowering and appropriate to “make a fuss”. Draw boundaries without worrying about who hears you. The important thing is to get your message across.

    Secondly, the sarcastic brat in me would not be able to stop myself from replying to this question: “You know of some reason it shouldn’t have?”

    1. animaniactoo*

      btw, when I say “make a fuss”, I don’t mean “go overboard”. Just “don’t be concerned about trying to do it “silently” as far as everyone else can tell”.

  34. BananaPants*

    #4 – Yes, it will hurt you to have a stint in retail. We interviewed some job candidates for an entry level engineering role a few months ago and one of them had graduated 2.5 years earlier and had been working at a home improvement store ever since. Frankly, we wondered why no one else in our field had wanted to hire him, since there’s no shortage of job openings in the industry and his degree was from a reputable school. He did not get an offer – why take a risk when we had our pick of fresh grads with recent, relevant internships?

    My husband graduated at the start of the recession after working his way through college in retail, and at a time when businesses were starting mass layoffs, there were no entry-level marketing jobs to be found in our area. We had bought our home 2 years earlier and my job was stable and secure so relocation to let him find a job in his field wasn’t an option. So he kept working in retail to HAVE a job and then went to a call center, then back to retail and now to a specialized customer service role. His pay is still low especially for someone with a bachelor’s degree, and he seems pretty much typecast in these kinds of McJobs. He’s basically given up on ever working in the field where he worked so hard to earn a degree, and it SUCKS.

    If you like your job in retail, keep it for sure, but I would aggressively job hunt in your field as well.

  35. Feo Takahari*

    #2: Now I’m feeling a little more appreciative of my manager, the racist. We make $10/hour, but we’re just a few towns south of a town where the minimum wage is $15/hr, so people who apply here are often people who can’t get a job there for whatever reason. In the past, the pay for our position was even lower, but he turned down a raise in favor of raising the rank-and-file salary to try to get better applicants.

    #4: Just as a side note, retail experience can matter in a positive way. I have four years of office assistant experience in a department that was not customer-facing, but when I applied for office assistant jobs after graduation, most of the available jobs were customer-facing and expected experience interacting with customers. For some office assistant roles, customer service experience was considered more important than prior office assistant experience!

  36. Marisol*

    For #3 I would be a bit concerned that, if you only have the line producer speak on your behalf, she’ll throw YOU under the bus and tell the producer that you only just told her about the time off and that she didn’t know about it when she hired you. If her judgement/integrity is bad enough to hire you in the way she did, then I question her ability to resolve the problem with integrity–she’ll only make herself look bad to the producer by copping to her mistake, and she might not be willing to do that. I guess you have to evaluate how well you know her, how much you think you can trust her, etc. before deciding not to go directly to the producer. Personally, I wouldn’t be terribly concerned about throwing her under the bus by speaking directly to the producer because all you’d be doing is telling the truth in order to stave off a future problem. You’d be placing blame exactly where it belongs, which is fair. I guess ultimately the question might be, which relationship matters more, the one with the line producer or the exec producer? Which bridge is better to burn?

  37. teevee*

    #3: I work in entertainment, though rarely on movies. You don’t say how far up the chain you are but I actually don’t think your time off will be an issue if you give a YEAR of notice. Especially if you’re a PA, a day-player can fill in for you during that time. If you’re a little further up the chain and in a union, you might actually be entitled to some vacation then. If neither of these things is true, I still think people will be willing to work around it if you’re a good team member. This is not a business that is overly rigid the way other fields are because so many of us go gig to gig, short shows to long movies, have changes in living situations and health insurance and what not all the time. Planning for life events in this industry is infinitely harder than for people who go to an office 5 days a week – so the allowances for time off, though often unpaid, can be accommodated if you’re up front about it. We’ve all been there.

    I’d go back to the line producer and say you’d really like to clear this up now so everyone has the most amount of time to plan ahead for it. Then work your butt off to make it a smooth transition for everyone.

  38. anonymous1*

    Wow! My experience with retail and finding a full time better paying job right out of college was the complete opposite of the majority opinion here.

  39. TheBeetsMotel*

    #4 Although in this case, a deliberate long wait before applying to your “career job” may put you at a disadvantage, I’d like to note that retail/lower-level jobs in general should not be avoided because they’ll make you “look bad” in some way. I’ve known college grads who refused to take retail or non-career-related jobs after graduating because they believed it would make them less desirable to future employers to have a resume that showed they had been “just” a cashier, “just” a shelf-stocker, etc.

    I think quite the opposite is true; you’ll end up in your later twenties or older with no job history because you were too good to take anything less than your dream career job… or at least, that’s how it’s going to come across.

    1. Chriama*

      I think there’s a pretty big risk in that though. When you’re first out of school it makes sense to focus your energy on applying for relevant jobs rather than taking whatever you can get (as long as you can afford to). And quite frankly retail experience is not transferable to anything but the most entry level positions, while if you work your way up to management then your experience is better but your time and flexibility is quite limited and hampers your search efforts. It’s definitely better to do what you can to get *any* kind of work experience, but retail is very limiting — and it’s not retail per-se, it’s just the fact that it’s a type of work with very low barriers to entry (real or perceived) and therefore doesn’t require or develop the skills needed for higher-level work.

    2. JM in England*

      I had this mindset after graduating uni, thinking that experience not relevant to my chosen field would be worse than none at all. Other comments on this post seem to bear this out. However, this put me in the no job hence no experience cycle. But I did graduate during the last major recession of the early 90s, so even retail and other “stopgap” jobs were in extremely short supply.

      Moral of the story, it seems that whatever you do you’re damned (at least in an employer’s eyes)…………………..

    3. Anxa*

      I think young people are in such a tight spot with this, because (assuming you can even get the job) taking a retail job really could pigeon holing you. Maybe a year of retail won’t be so bad, but those who don’t feel comfortable leaving a job (even one with high turnover) they just started are stuck in a committment to that job. The risk isn’t limited to reducing your chances into getting started in your desired field, but retail may never fully accept you either if you have you a degree and internships (which you can leave off a resume, but not some applications).

      If you make a strategist decision to volunteer or do classes or internships, then you risk developing a reputation for being ‘above retail work’ and not ‘wanting to get your hands dirty.

      All of this when so many people have no issue with doing a dirty job, but just don’t want to be derailed by doing so.

  40. Moonsaults*

    My previous position included a boss/owner that stopped taking any salary at all instead of cutting jobs or worse, shutting the entire hole down. Even when I finally snapped and told everyone that the owning family didn’t profit and was keeping it open for their greedy asses, they were all “Oh well we don’t get enough, soooooo.”

    So this office manager makes my heart feel so much better after those jerkwads rotted it out over a decade. I hope the new owner is cut from that cloth instead of the one from the previous scrooge.

  41. OP #4*

    Thanks so much to Alison and all the commenters here for the advice! It’s good to know how it might affect me to stay with my current job for too long. I’d find it a lot less pleasant if I knew I was stuck there, and it sounds like staying might get me stuck good and hard.

    I do have some things to take into account that I didn’t mention in my original message–my family’s living situation would make it very difficult for me to commit to a full-time day job right now, and is the reason why my job schedule (night shifts!) works so well for me–but after reading everybody’s responses here, I’m thinking about turning down the full-time managerial position so I can apply for part-time or on-call positions at local healthcare facilities and, if I’m hired, work both jobs for a while. Or at least staying up-to-speed on the healthcare field through relevant courses or classes–things I can list on a resume. Still figuring it out, but regardless, at least I know that I need to be maintaining my hireability instead of thinking that it’ll be there whenever I want to use it.

    Thanks again to everybody!

    1. Chriama*

      The nice thing about healthcare is it’s a round-the-clock kind of business. Are you in a field where you could look for night shift work as your primary employment? And ‘maintaining hireability’ is such a crucial thing that a lot of people only realize too late, so good on you for having the sense to ask about it early.

    2. Temperance*

      Actually, if you’re in healthcare, there are many, many opportunities for people who work night shifts. Don’t get stuck in the mindset that the opportunities you want for whatever reason don’t exist. Hospitals are 24/7/365 operations.

      I would strongly, strongly encourage you to get out of retail. I am from a lower-income background, NOT saying that you are, and have many friends who kneecapped themselves, not applying for stretch positions or using their degrees because of family pressure. I still want to kick my college friend who has a chem engineering degree in the butt for not using it, and instead going back to our hometown to do odd jobs/construction work.

    3. OP #4*

      @ Chriama and Temperance,

      That’s possible! My degree is in health information management, which I don’t think lends itself to night shift work as well as most healthcare fields do–lots of communicating back and forth with other facilities, businesses, etc., which makes the most sense during normal business hours–but there are still job functions that could be done at night. Emergency rooms need receptionists at night, at the very least. Thanks for the thought–I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for night shift opportunities!

    4. BananaPants*

      There are plenty of part time, per diem, and 2nd/3rd shift jobs in healthcare. I’d very strongly encourage you to go for those if they work better with your family’s needs. Given your degree it may be just a related position to get your foot in the door at a hospital or something – maybe working in registration or as a unit clerk?

      My husband’s interested in moving into health information management in the long term. Good luck to you!

  42. Simms*

    #4, my husband has a similar problem. He was applying for electrical apprentices before he even finished his program but never got hired (super competitive in the area for electricians). % years later and a bunch of retail work that had to be taken because the rent won’t wait and he has had to give up on that career path. He is lucky right now to be working retail auto so he can transition into that field, he is hoping to go back to school for training on hybrids/electric cars but both of us are keenly aware of what happened the first time he finished school.

    Retail is fine to a point but it almost always hurts in the long run.

  43. Rhyth*

    #4 LOOK NOW!! In my experience, it gets harder and harder to find a job the longer you wait past graduation! Also, my company (and I’m sure other companies) have specific hiring slots that are reserved ONLY for new grads (in the last 6-12 months). You will be doing yourself a huge disservice to wait.

  44. AnonNurse*

    #4 – I don’t know exactly what healthcare field you studied in but I can say with some certainty that not finding a job within the first year of finishing your studies will most definitely hinder you further in the future. Employers will be concerned that you are not current in your field and that you will be “out of practice” in your skills.

    My sister-in-law went to school and received an Associate’s in Accounting. She was making great money as a waitress and decided to keep doing that for a while before looking for a bookkeeping or other accounting position. Over the course of the next few years her training almost became obsolete, as the industry moved on. She now works in a completely different type of job and never ended up using her training in accounting.

    While in nursing school I was employed part-time doing medical billing/coding (something I had worked in prior to going to school). I was able to find a position after graduating that was part-time in my field and still continued the billing position to supplement my income (which my employer loved and worked out great for everyone). Eventually when a full-time position opened I was able to train my replacement and transition things very smoothly. As other posters have stated, part-time and PRN work is extremely common in the healthcare industry. Finding something like this would be good for your resume and allow you to continue working retail part-time in the position you’re also enjoying. It would definitely give you so many more options in the future and I don’t think you would regret it. Good luck!

  45. DuckDuckMøøse*

    #1 : OMG, I was wondering what happened to my college boyfriend! Oh wait, he’d be in his mid 50s now. Nevermind. But that stupid “everything come out alright?” joke is one of the reasons I broke up with him ;) :p
    Sorry for the late response, I’m catching up after being on vacation :)

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