open thread – October 28-29, 2016

It’s the Friday open thread — and DAY EIGHT of my complete laryngitis! I am rather demoralized.

Despite that, the comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

{ 1,412 comments… read them below }

    1. Jennifer*

      Argh, too bad I didn’t notice earlier it was laryngitis. Might be kinda late now, but I found out that a hippie remedy called “friar’s balsam” (you can order it off Amazon) actually works great for heading off laryngitis when it’s coming on.

      (The way I found this out was that I used to be a newspaper reporter and had to do a story on a hippie food store when I had laryngitis coming on.)

        1. Rincat*

          I got something like during college, when I had laryngitis, tonsilitis, and a sinus infection! Basically just everything connected to my sinuses were infected. Took me about 3 weeks to really recover with some heavy steroids. I hope you recover soon!

        2. Aurion*

          Oh wow, that’s terrible. Your husband is in similar straits, I’m guessing?

          Speedy recovery to the both of you!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes — not quite as bad as me, but he’s had it for three weeks. He brought it back from Scotland, so currently I am thinking baleful thoughts toward the Scots.

            1. Blue Anne*

              He brought the Dreaded Lurg back to America? I’m pretty sure that qualifies as biological warfare.

            2. Gaara*

              I was going to recommend umcka, which you can find at like Whole Foods or on Amazon. In my experience it really can help to ward off a cold or to shorten the duration. It’s like magic for the common cold. As I understand it there are actually studies demonstrating this, unlike most of the other things people think of as cold remedies. But I don’t know if it would do any good for laryngitis, bronchitis and pink eye. :(

        3. JuniperGreen*

          Now that’s what they call a triple threat!

          Something similar happened to me as I was graduating college – two nights before I was scheduled to walk for my diploma, my bronchitis and sinus infection got together, decided I wasn’t in enough pain, and dealt me a double ear infection.

          I hope your cats are good nursemaids (they make excellent furry hot water bottles). I recommend The Great British Bakeoff for a cheery series you can doze on and off to.

        4. SarahKay*

          Oh, that sounds truly miserable. Hope you’re better soon – and I second the recommendation for The Great British Bake Off as a cheery thing to watch when you’re feeling under the weather.

        5. Hlyssande*

          Multiple things at once is the WORST!

          When I had my wisdom teeth removed, I got dry sockets and strep throat at the same time and it was utterly miserable. I barely open my mouth enough to eat.

          I hope you feel better soon!

          1. Sophie Winston*

            That happened to me to – it was THE WORST. (Well, infected sockets, I’m not sure if that’s the same thing?) I ended up on powerful painkillers so I could drink enough to stave off dehydration.

        6. ginger ale for all*

          Oh, that is the worst hat trick of them all. I join in with everyone in wishing you well.

        7. Central Perk Regular*

          I’ve had laryngitis and bronchitis at the same time and it was awful – you have my sympathies.

        8. JMegan*

          Good grief, that sounds awful. Sending you virtual antibiotics, hand sanitizer, and warm fuzzy blankets. And I hope your husband and the cats are taking good care of you!

        9. Observer*


          Feel better. And, tea bags really do help with the pink eye.

          And, lots and lots of chicken soup

        10. Lily Rowan*

          Oh no! That is terrible! I hope you are taking care of yourself despite still apparently working all the time!

        11. Jennifer*

          EEEEE, that is a trifecta of pain. I hope they gave you the good drugs.

          I also feel badly for everyone your husband flew in with from Scotland. That’s probably an entire plane full of plague.

        12. Rahera*

          I’m really sorry to hear it. I hope you get better soon. Those are all the pits, especially the laryngitis…

        13. Bowserkitty*

          GROSSSSSSS. My best friend gets this combination frequently (teaching young children). Feel better!!! Lots of kitty snuggles.

    2. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      Me as well!

      I realized earlier this week it’s astounding the posting schedule you do normally! Also, still pretty impressive when sick!

      Take the time and I hope you feel better! Honey tea vibes your way. :) Maybe some Ricola lozenges…

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, no kidding! Unless you had a bunch of content prepared in advance, I’m thoroughly impressed that you didn’t just put up “I’m sick and miserable over here. Have an open thread until I feel like a human being again.”

        1. Chaordic One*

          Oh, yes. It is truly amazing how on top of things Alison is. And how it is so much more than an 8-hour workday. Extremely impressive!

  1. Frankie Seeks Job*

    I have this strange situation I got myself in, was wondering if I can get the communities’ wisdom in solving it. I’ve gotten a new job recently, but found it an ill fit. I want to get a new job before I quit though, but was wondering:

    Do I include this current bad job into my resume?

    I mean, I only been working here 2 months. It will look really weird on my resume. People generally say you should leave such jobs off from your resume.

    But at the same time, employed people are generally more desirable to hiring managers. If I don’t include it, it looks as if I am currently jobless at home.

    What should I do? Edit my resume to include my new job? Or leave it off?

      1. Frankie Seeks Job*

        I was rather desperate for a new job so was rather blinded by all the obvious red flags (had quit my previous one without a new job lined up).

      2. Mephyle*

        O Autocorrect, ‘I’ll fit’ and ‘ill fit’ are opposites for practical purposes. Humans know this but computer programs don’t!

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      If you stayed at your prior position for a few years and left on good terms, I don’t think a 2-month “vacation gap” would look bad. But are you sure you couldn’t make this new job last for a year?

    2. Moonsaults*

      Would you be willing to give a rundown of some of the flags and why it’s a bad fit? Are you looking for a job in the same field but at a better company or…? A little more background on why you’re leaving so we can see if it’s something you really want to pretend never happened or if it would be okay to say but perhaps you were hired to do X and now they have you doing Y and that’s not your agreed upon path, that would make sense to list and be able to explain away.

      1. Frankie Seeks Job*

        Well without revealing too much, I’ll say I’m currently in an industry where unpaid overtime is the norm. I had a lot of frustrations with my previous office, and firmly believed that my exhaustion was just due to the office politics and lack of variety in my work. After switching the office and once again feeling the dread and depression on hearing that the whole team could enjoy Christmas working in the office. I realised my problem couldn’t be solved by switching offices. It had to be solved by changing my entire industry.
        I just feel too old for this place. If I was straight out of school, I would have handled the work no problem. Now though…

        1. Moonsaults*

          So you are looking for something in a new industry is what it sounds like.

          Then listing the job isn’t too much of a big deal in my mind, since you’re saying “I’m looking for another adventure, I’ve been in Industry X for so long that I want to transform myself with Industry Z.”

          I wouldn’t put too much thought into it because in my experience it’s 50/50, some people will be all “two months, scrap it it’ll look bad.” others are going to say “2 months shows you’ve been working, people move on for different reasons, lots of hiring mangers know that.”

          There is a smaller applicant pool these days and it may very much work in your favor right now.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      I’d leave it off. 2 months and looking (unless you have a really good reason that you put in your cover letter) looks worse than unemployed on a resume.

      1. DreamQueen*

        What if they quote Spaceballs in the cover letter?
        “I’m surrounded by a$$holes!”

        Lol kidding. I just wanted to use that line today.

        1. MoinMoin*

          My coworker and I were having a little rant session about our department and he quoted Scent of a Woman: “Their spirit is dead; if they ever had one, it’s gone. You’re building a rat ship here, a vessel for sea-going snitches.”
          Man, we could probably have an entire thread of movie quotes that describe our jobs….

      2. Frankie Seeks Job*

        Thanks man. I think I better quietly delete that entry on linkedin too (I really should have paid attention to advice blogs saying to not update my linkedin till after your probation is finished)

    4. Jade*

      I’m in a similar position. I’ve decided to leave this job on for now, but will remove it in the future. One silver lining is that at least companies are unlikely to call your current employer for a reference, so at least they won’t get tipped off.

      1. Frankie Seeks Job*

        Man, thank you so much Jade. I was really down these few weeks, thinking I was the only person who did this, my mind a whirlwind of “It’s a job, you don’t NEED to like it” and “it’s the same everywhere”. Thanks for telling me that I’m not the only person who landed a bad job.

    5. Zee*

      Just like AAM says, your resume is a marketing document, not a comprehensive list of everything you have done with yourself at every minute of time. Just leave it off and say you were job searching during that time.

    6. Job Hopper Extraordinaire*

      I’ve been you, Frankie. I knew within 3 weeks of CurrentJob that it was a bad fit. But I was determined to stick it out for a year, because I didn’t want to look like too much of a job hopper. After about 6 months, I decided I really couldn’t stick it out, so I started looking. For me, the excuse was easy – it’s a terrible long commute, so that became my go-to reason for looking. No-one questioned it, or even gave me any side-eye. And the positive thing is that I start NewJob in just over a week’s time (but I’ll have made it to a year in CurrentJob – by two days!). But really, you don’t know how long it will take to find a new job, so I’d err on the side of leaving it on your resume (or leave it off for now, but if time starts to stretch out, consider putting it back on).

      1. Frankie Seeks Job*

        Aw thanks JHE. Yeah, that is probably better than my current approach. I’ll leave it off, but if job offers don’t come hopping in (when had they ever lol… CRIES), I’ll put it back in

    7. Gaara*

      I would think leave it on for now, but take it off the resume once you’re at your next job. I would rather explain why it’s become apparent that a new job is a bad fit than face unemployment stigma. Plus, you don’t want to lie, and if your resume doesn’t list a current position they’re going to ask “what are you doing now,” in which case you’re back to leaving a new job anyway.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        This would be my suggestion. I don’t agree with the above poster that jumping ship after 2 months looks worse than being unemployed, and depending on the type of role your looking for, it could be 3, 4, 6 months before you actually move on to something new.

  2. Jamey*

    I have good news, I just got accepted this week to give my first full talk at a professional conference! (I’ve done prepared lightning talks before but this is a full length talk and I will be attending the conference as a speaker.) It’s in December and I’m so excited! Any advice?

    1. JuniperGreen*

      Congrats! Are you looking for advice about public speaking or just professional conferences in general? Are you using slides? If so, my biggest pet peeve during conferences is when folks just read off of their slides.

      The thing that helps me most when speaking in public (presentations, speeches, even maid of honor toasts!) is to record myself and then listen to it. Then I re-record with my edits made, and re-listen (often in the car or while puttering around the house) to help me internalize my preferred phrasing. Writing it out makes this process sound a little insane but it is actually quite easy, I promise :)

      1. Jamey*

        About speaking! I’ve attended conferences before and I really enjoy them. I am using slides but I won’t just read off them, I like when slides are mainly just a couple of words and maybe some photos, I think it’ll be a good reminder to me about what I’m supposed to be talking about and I think people pay better attention when there’s slides even if the slides are simple. (That was advice I got from my boss, haha.)

        It doesn’t sound insane, it sounds like a really good idea! I’m definitely going to try it! Thanks!

        1. JuniperGreen*

          Awesome! If it’s in December and you’re already thinking about preparing, I bet your audience is in for a treat :)

        2. BRR*

          That was one thing I was going to suggest. I hate when I attend a meeting or presentation and somebody only recites their slides. Just email me the presentation then.

          1. Stephanie*

            I still remember the training presentation at FirstJob where someone just read from a 140-slide presentation. It was so bad. So, so bad.

          2. Aardvark*

            Thirding this! Slides work best when they support your speech by helping your audience focus on, think more deeply about, or make a personal connection to the information you’re sharing.

        3. Amy the Rev*

          I give speeches once a week for work, have consistently gotten very positive feedback on my speech-giving, and I’ve found the best general public-speaking advice to be:
          1. Speak slowly. Record yourself practicing and play it back so you can hear how quickly you actually talk.
          2. I find it helpful to write my speech out in a conversational way, with all the “you know”‘s, “so”‘s, elipses, all-caps, and other bits thrown in, and practice reading it out loud a few times to get the rhythm right. Write your speech to be heard, not seen (what folks in my field call, ‘writing for the ear’)
          3. I like to read from a manuscript (because I write my speeches in a conversational style), so when I type it up, I put an extra line between every couple of sentences, and print it in 16-18pt font, so that I don’t lose my place easily and don’t have to look down for too long. I also follow along with my finger sometimes so that I don’t have to search for where I was.

          1. Stephanie*

            YES on #1. Unfortunately, I speak like a high-school debater at times, so I’ve had to work on this one. I just have to speak in what sounds incredibly slow to my ears. If you do tend to speak quickly, almost over articulating helps with that as well.

            1. LQ*

              #1 here is a hard one for me (well I think I’m way better these days) a couple tricks: write in where you need to pause or remember to slow down, for me it is after I talk about a part I’m super excited about I’ll speed up, so after that I’ll take a longer pause (drink water/ask if anyone has questions) and this helps me return to a slower pace. Also? You can cheat this a little but pausing more frequently. If you speak quickly but pause frequently (for a couple beats, not just a single breath) you’ll be easier to understand and people can catch up better.

          2. Jamey*

            That’s great advice! In my lightning talks, I’ve been worried I would go over my 5 minute allotted time and the advice has been, “well just talk fast!” So now that I have more time I should definitely focus on slowing it down (especially since there is going to be a sign language interpreter)

            1. fposte*

              There might also be ESL speakers.

              I find it helpful to have the rhythm of somebody else’s speech in my head and try to match it rather than to just tell myself “slow down.” (I use a long-ago TV essayist, which is kind of random but seems to help me.)

        4. Stephanie*

          I find summaries in the title really helpful. Say your slide has a graph, it helps to see the title as “Chocolate Teapot Sales are Down 4% This Quarter” so if I zone out or am reading the slides later, I’m not just thinking “Huh? What did this chart mean again? Why did she want me to see it?”

          I think one of the commenters here gave me this tip and it’s been super helpful–think of three things you want your audience to take away and use that to structure your presentation.

          Also, if you can make it interactive, that helps A TON. Doesn’t have to be anything complicated–could just be asking people on how their division has improved teapot sales or asking for input occasionally. Anything to avoid reading from slides for an hour.

          1. Jamey*

            Awesome, I’ll definitely keep that in mind, especially the 3 things I want people to take away! It’s only a 15-20 minute talk so I’m not as worried about being boring as just being flustered (:

      2. Joseph*

        “If so, my biggest pet peeve during conferences is when folks just read off of their slides.”
        Relatedly, your audience will often get so focused on reading the text (it’s there! it’s important!) that they actually stop paying attention to the words from your mouth.

      3. INFJ*

        On the flip side to that, it really annoys me when I go to a conference and the slides are FILLED with text, and what the speaker is saying doesn’t follow at all with what’s on the slides. Do I listen or do I read? I can’t do both!

        1. HYDR*

          I was recently at a conference (small group discussion where we all prepped beforehand), and a few people mis-read the instructions. We were supposed to sign up for topics/things that we DO, and DO WELL. They read it as signing up for things they wanted to learn HOW TO DO. You can imagine the waste of time and red cheeks they had while trying to ‘present’.

          So, sounds like you are already way on top of the game ;)

    2. Joseph*

      Here’s my best tip: Do at least one “trial run” through your slides on something bigger than your monitor – conference room at your company, visit the library, even just connect your computer to output to your massive TV. Now stand in the room as far away as you can and run through your slides.
      Why? Because I can’t tell you how much text/graphics I’ve seen which were presumably fine when the author prepared them sitting 24″ from a PC monitor, but were borderline unreadable to the audience.

    3. Jersey's Mom*

      If they have you send the presentation in via email/download, whatever, bring an extra copy on a thumb drive – just in case it’s lost/misplaced on their end.

      Practice your speech out loud at least a few times and use a timer. What’s helped me stay on time is knowing that in a 30 minute talk, when I hit minute 15, I should be on slide 18.

    4. Pipes32*

      I actually partially majored in public speaking in college, and here’s what works for me:

      First, I write down what I want to say. Actually write it by hand, don’t type it. Writing tends to cement it into your brain better than simple typing. The key to good public speaking is having a good idea of what you’re wanting to say. Not necessarily memorized, but being able to talk to slides or a preso with not much prompting.

      Second, remember to pause and go slowly. These pauses and slowness will sound agonizing to you and very “fake”, but will do well with the audience.

      Try to vary your tone – monotone speakers are tough.

      Don’t forget body language. Simple hand gestures are good, wild gesticulating is not. If you’re not in front of a podium, slow walking (to address different parts of the audience) is natural, but be careful not to pace.

      PRACTICE. If I really want to knock it out of the park, run-throughs do wonders.

      I echo another suggestion in doing a few runthroughs with recording, video if possible, to see how it looks.

      You will do great!

      1. Sci-fi_worker_girl*

        Agree, I cannot emphasize enough the practice part. A few pearls I learned from past presentations:
        1. Practice in something like the room they will have if you can. Is t a group of 20 vs a conf room for 100? If you can at your job, reserve a room load up the presentation and pretend you are live. Projector, hook up your computer, play with the wireless mouse, etc. like a dress rehearsal (yes, old musician her) :-). A few run throughs will give you confidence and even if you do what you think is “average” it will still likely be waaaay better than you think because you prepared.

        2. Unexpected preparation. Have 2 presentations ready: one for a light room it’s windows (lighter ppt background) and one for a dark room. That way you are prepared for whatever funky lighting may be there. Have your stuff ready in various formats- jump drive, saved to your email, etc. bring your own mouse, pointer clicker – it’s amazing sometimes what conferences expect presenters to bring. Computer? Littl connector t vga, etc. Make sure they spell out what they will provide. Think of this collection like your presentation emergency kit (mine has a jump drive with copy, a few written notes, wireless mouse wth lasar pointer, star batteries, Mac cord for monitor connection, iPad connector just in case and chocolate (my drug of choice).

        3. Record. Your voice will sound different (we cannot really hear hear our own voice, that’s why we sound so different on answer machines). Listen for content, etc. are you adding in ums or speeding, etc. even when not videoing, audio is helpful. And the timer in ppt is helpful too – often we have too many slides. Build in some extra time, people ask/ comment.

        4. Sounds dorky, pick your outfit, shoes and practice in it (or stay with what you know – untested clothes, shoes can ride up, itch, hurt, etc. anything gets more pronounced if you are nervous).

        Congrats and you will do great!

    5. periwinkle*

      I’m at a conference right now! (FYI to any conference planners out there – leave room in the schedule for people to eat lunch, for cryin’ out loud)

      Keep your slides simple. Don’t make me read a lot of text and don’t give me something to read while you’re talking because I won’t be paying attention to what you’re saying. Images are good and can inject a little humor if you choose wisely (but don’t get overly cute – know your audience/topic and keep images appropriate)

      Make sure your contact info is available in the program and on your intro or final slide. A lot of people here are whipping out their smartphones and taking pictures of slides to grab that contact info where they won’t lose it – so make that email address really big and clear!

      Pace yourself in speaking. You don’t want to feel rushed. Practice so you can figure out what kind of speaker notes work best for you.

      And relax. We’re here because your topic sounded useful or cool. We’re a friendly audience! (note: this applies to professional conferences – academic conferences are different…)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        The conference I’m going to next weekend is providing lunch! :D

        Of course, it’s in the student center at the university where it’s being held, so it will probably just be their food…. errrghh. But hey, free lunch.

    6. Technical Editor & Resume Reviewer*

      The thing that helped me the most was reading the book “Presenting with Credibility” (you can get it on Amazon). It is chock-full of great presentation advice. In my first conference presentation, I used about 10 of his suggestions and it really calmed my nerves and helped me feel extra prepared.

    7. LQ*

      Awesome! Everyone else has good words of wisdom so I’ll follow with one I haven’t seen. (

      My number one tip is don’t apologize! Not for your voice or the sound system or the slides or things not working or your topic.

      This can feel like a good way to have people understand or pre-forgive, but it is very distracting and takes away from your own awesomeness.

    8. DragoCucina*

      Over prepare content, but don’t try and squeeze it all in. I tend to speed speak in the session–not too fast, just faster than I practiced. After my questions slide I will throw in my contact info slide, then one or two slides on side examples. The talk is on advocating for chocolate teapots. All the questions are done. I’ve reiterated my contact info. I’ll have a slide on white chocolate teapots. Who has worked with white chocolate teapots? Did you find it different than chocolate teapots? It fills the time with a connected topic (and someone always wants to talk about the connected topic), but it can be easily left out. You’ll do great.

    9. Snazzy Hat*

      Practice in front of the mirror. Both of my parents and I were lectors (readers at church) at times in our lives, and my father has given guest lectures in his field. It amazes me how much more dynamic I can be when I’m on the phone pacing around my house and I wander over to a mirror and talk at my reflection.

    10. vpc*

      So much YES to all the words about practice, practice, practice, in front of a mirror, in a conference room, with notes, with script, with recording. A couple of my own tricks —
      1. I use slide animations a lot so that things come up as I’m talking about them (i.e. “point the first” click to advance “point the second” click to advance “point the third”) — that keeps people from seeing the entire slide at the beginning and concentrating on reading it while I’m talking. When I’m scripting, I insert a reminder to myself every time I need to advance the animation, like etc (and never NEVER NEVER use animated gifs, dancing paperclips, or that kind of animation).
      2. How many times have you heard someone say, “I know you can’t read what’s on this slide, but…” Don’t be that person.
      3. There are some great books and resources about how to craft good slides. In a nutshell: not too much information per slide; make it big enough to see from the back of the room; don’t use distracting/annoying stuff like crazy fonts or unrelated pictures.
      4. Another trick I use is to prep my talk for 2/3 of the allotted time. You can easily fill the remaining third with questions – or with a related / bonus slide like I saw mentioned above – but that gives you space to extemporize while you’re speaking without running out of time. I always find myself adding a little more detail than I’d originally scripted when I am talking.
      5. If you read off a script – I used to prep presentations for someone who was terrified of public speaking, to the point he’d freeze up and absolutely HAD to have a script or he’d just walk off stage without saying anything – print it out in 24-pt font with a 4″ bottom margin on your page and a blank line after every sentence. The spacing helps you stay on track with where you’re reading from, and the bottom margin / large font size make it much easier for you to look up at your audience and seem like you’re not reading. Oh, and number the pages clearly, for when you drop them on your way to the podium and need to get them back in order quickly.

    11. Artemesia*

      Great news. I have done a lot of this and remember well how nervous I was the first time I gave a keynote; now I love doing it. I am sure you will do great, after all it is presumably about things you are a real expert in. FWIW. Think carefully about the first minute of the talk — something that engaged people right off the bat can make a big difference. An anecdote, a question, even polling the house on their experience with the topic (where that would make sense) — something to hook their attention. And think about the last minute as well, something punchy to leave them with. I usually open to questions and then close the questions with whatever key idea I want to leave them with so it comes off polished. I usually organize around 3 main points and use notes that are a bare outline i.e. remind me what comes next but don’t allow me to slog through reading, because the text isnt there. Build the scaffolding in visuals or notes that give you confidence but try to present as spontaneously as you can. Of course the norms of your profession and your conference shape what you do but within that the person who grabs their attention with a strong challenge, question, story etc and speaks without reading and focuses on a few key points will generally make a positive impression regardless of the overall framework.

      Good luck and have fun.

    12. Anion*

      Another tip I haven’t seen anyone else give: If you’re doing a slide presentation from a laptop, *clear personal pictures from it or make sure you’ve disabled any kind of photo-based screensaver.*

      A good friend of mine was doing a presentation at a junior high school–her kids’ school!–and closed her laptop when it was done, so she could answer questions. But the laptop didn’t shut down (because it was transmitting to the screen, I think) and, being in slideshow mode, it opened the next folder on her hard drive and started displaying her personal photos–the first of which was a picture, taken by her new husband, of her in the bathtub.

      She almost broke her laptop, she yanked the cord out so fast,

      Luckily it wasn’t explicit, and the school admin etc. were very understanding, but she was (obviously) horrified. It had never occurred to her that something like that could or might happen, so…just a tip. :-)

  3. Critter*

    I’m really sorry you’re not better yet :(

    I’m just waiting for this horrible payroll nonsense to be over. The day may come soon.

  4. JuniperGreen*

    Hang in there Alison, sending you get well vibes!!!

    So, last year I started a job in a non-profit industry to which I am relatively new. Given the institution’s limited resources, I have a dual role – think: Teapot Marketing & Teapot PR. My background lends itself much more to one piece than the other, let’s say I’ve done more Marketing than PR. My manager knew this when hiring me, and has supported me in getting trained up. I’ve spent a lot of time with free training resources since funds are tight, and a very overtaxed team has meant any internal training is catch as catch can. For the past year, I enjoyed the Marketing portion of my role, but often felt like I was just barely muddling through the other half.

    Now, a year later, my manager created a new role on our team and hired a full time Teapot PR person. There is more than enough work to share between us, and this new hire is already proving to be a great addition to the team. I can now actually get valuable training from an expert in the field! But… I can’t help but feel this new role wouldn’t have been created if I had been performing better. I know this is a great thing for our team (our goals do include growing the organization, after all), and am grateful to have this new team member as a valuable resource. But how can I shake this feeling that I’ve failed in my role?

    1. straws*

      If there’s enough work for both of you, then you had too much work for 1 person and they simply hired to the role that you were less suited for. So it’s not that the PR side is a weakness, but that Marketing is your strength and it made sense to keep you there and hire into PR.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        That’s a really good way to look at it. Your organization is trying to play to your strengths, JuniperGreen, and that’s a good thing. They could have let you keep both functions and ultimately drown under too much work.

    2. JLK in the ATX*

      Shake it off and move on to what you do best. Don’t waste time thinking of what you couldn’t do and focus on your strenghts to grow the team/mission/organization. A lot of people would love to have their weaknesss fulfilled by someone who can do it well, and teach them something along the way. You are lucky!

      I’ve worked in non-profit for 16 years and it’s a miracle they chose to invest in two full positions that address PR and marketing. Most often these roles fall to the fundraiser/development person because that’s all they can afford despite the roles are very much different from one another.

      1. JuniperGreen*

        Thanks – you make a very good point.

        Just to clarify these roles aren’t *actually* marketing and PR, but the best analogs I could think of that have overlap but are distinct. In truth, they are more fundraising functions… so you caught me :)

        1. JLK in the ATX*

          Welcome. Even better that they invested in fundraising. Enjoy your new team partners and learn as much as you can – and impart what you know to them, too. It’s more fun that way.

        2. HYDR*

          If they are say, major gifts and annual fund, both are VERY important, and I’m glad your company recognized and is expanding its resources and personnel! I would say this is a big win, and in a small office you will learn so much from each other!

    3. Dawn*

      Marketing and PR are related, but separate roles within an organization- you didn’t fail at anything! I would think it’d be very hard to juggle both, and it’s a testament to your skill that you juggled both for a year!

      Seriously, at a non-profit marketing and PR are both incredibly important to the long-term success of the org so it absolutely makes total sense to have TWO people doing one role each instead of one person only being able to give both roles, at max, 50% effort. That isn’t a reflection on your skill, that’s just good business sense.

    4. Pari*

      Talk to your boss about it. If there is more than enough volume for both of you I bet that was more of a reason than your skills. Sure you probably feel like she’s taking something that was yours, but that is always better than having more than you can handle.

    5. SAT*

      If you were failing in your role, you would have gotten feedback to that effect, a performance plan, coaching, and possibly been let go or moved out of the role completely. It’s not easy to get funding for a whole second full-time position. Another person was required and they still wanted to keep you. And that person probably can’t do what you do best either.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Watch out for that dual thinking pit, it’ll get ya.
      On on hand you had a job that was overwhelming you, part of it did not even match your skill set. So you fretted about this, who wouldn’t, pretty normal to be concerned at this point in the story.
      On the other hand, your story line changes, the company hires someone to take up the parts that are just not your gig. It’s the easiest thing in the world at this point to start saying, “I failed somehow.”

      This means either way you are worried, no matter what happens in this story you are STILL worrying. That dual thinking: I want x, whoops, I got x and something is still wrong.

      Breathe. Take a moment to really, look at this. We have all heard the stories right? “I was overwhelmed at my job, they finally hired someone else to take half of my huge workload and then they fired me.” This type of story is legendary, we hear so much of it.

      Look at your UNIQUE setting and use the finer points to refute the idea that they will fire you. Don’t answer here but do consider these factors:
      How have your evals been?
      How’s your relationship with your boss/cohorts?
      How’s it going with the newbie?
      Thinking about the work that is in your arena, how has that been going? If you are not totally happy with it you can use these nagging doubts to motivate you to ramp up what you are doing.
      Do you basically LIKE the job/boss/cohorts/place? Sometimes when we don’t actually like something that will come out as random nagging doubts about everything.

      Punchline: If you still cannot shake off the feeling of failure then go straight to beefing up the parts of the job you are now responsible for. Once you look things over thoroughly, you will have burned up some of that extra energy you are feeling now and you will have made yourself even more impressive to the boss(es). There is nothing wrong with doing a self-check, matter of fact it’s probably a good idea.

  5. Marie*

    I had a phone interview yesterday for an internal position. These are always the most nerve wrecking for me but I think it went okay overall.

    Anybody else have any interviews this week?

    1. Jamey*

      What’s the most nerve wracking, phone interviews or interviews for internal positions?

      My last few interviews have been phone/skype ONLY and I didn’t meet anybody face to face at my current job until well after I’d accepted the offer!

        1. Lynne*

          Ha, I feel that way about phone interviews. And I have one coming up in a few days!

          I like Skype interviews much better (as long as the connection stays decent…) because you can see their expressions and body language. Phone interviewing is so blind!

          It’s an interview with a place in the Middle East. Maybe that’s why it’s not Skype (never really used video Skype with people halfway around the world, but the connection’s probably more liable to be hinky under those circumstances). I’m pretty excited, because this could be a major life change for me, but trying not to get TOO worked up about it…Must. Stay. Relaxed!

          Good luck to everyone interviewing!

    2. MissMaple*

      Congrats, I’m sure it went better than you think :)
      I had a phone interview and actually find myself excited about the prospects for once!

    3. TheSkrink*

      I had a phone interview this week too, with a committee of four no less. Super nerve-wracking, especially when you have to talk in your car at your current job’s parking lot.

      1. Marie*

        That’s exactly what I ended up doing! I have no privacy at my office so my coworker offered to let me sit in her car to do my interview. I was so glad though because I was freaking out about where I was gonna do my interview all

    4. Anon Millennial*

      My company is flying everyone out to the West Coast for our annual holiday party in December. It will be a 48 hour trip but the party is the only “mandatory” event. I’m non-exempt and make less than 47k. Am I technically eligible for OT under the new law?

    5. orchidsandtea*

      Congrats! Hope you get good news soon.

      A handful of interviews for temp placements and a part-time role coming up next week. It’s exhausting. I just want to feel settled.

    6. meowth*

      I had an interview for an internal decision, and I think they should have an answer by next week or the week after. I’m trying to just put it out of my head so I won’t be disappointed if I don’t get it, but they did contact my references so I think that has to be a good sign?

    7. Cordelia Naismith*

      I did! I just got back from one, also for an internal position. I think it went pretty well.

    8. AshK434*

      Yea, I just got done with with an intervew. I met with really nice people but I’ve been doing case studies for four hours so I’m just mentally exhausted. Unfortunately I think my exhaustion came through because my answers became rambly and incoherent towards the end. Let’s just say I’d be surprised if they want to move forward with me.Glad to hear your interview went well though!!

      1. Artemesia*

        It is always a bit of a mystery. I have gotten called back when I thought I was flat and not when I thought I had hit it out of the park. Hope you get a surprise here.

    9. J*

      I just finished an in-person interview this morning. I feel pretty confident that I put my best foot forward. If they opt to pursue another candidate, I can be satisfied with my own performance.

    10. Snazzy Hat*

      I had a temp agency interview Monday that went very well. Wednesday I was given a progress update on the positions we discussed (A & B), with the addition of an awesome position close to home (C). Thursday my agent and I arranged for a phone interview with B, and we continued to wait for a response about C. C is ideal; I’m familiar with the client, and their pay rate and post-hire raise is exactly what I’m looking for. B sounds fun and has a higher pay rate, but the assignment will be only two months and the commute is far but not bad (I used to work in that area). A is a position I’d like but in an industry I’m not too keen on despite my knowledge of it.

      For added uncertainty, I’ve completed two rounds of assessments this week. Did I do well enough? Who knows?

    11. Annby*

      Congrats! I’m sure you did better than you think.

      I had an interview on Monday. I think I represented myself well. The position is a stretch for me, and they basically told me that they have to weigh my informal experience in X with other candidates’ formal experience in Y. I’m not super optimistic. I should hear back about the second round of interviews at the beginning of next week, so at least I’ll know soon.

    1. Lemon*

      That was kind of fascinating. I love that Louisiana is “Tigers” – referring, no doubt, to the LSU football team. Hawaii’s “Heroin” has me a little concerned. I’m hoping that people are writing about heroin addiction harm reduction – not recreational use – on their resumes.

    2. Cordelia Naismith*

      My state’s (Georgia) hobby is Coca-Cola — which makes sense in that Coke’s headquarters is in Atlanta, but it also confuses me. How is Coke a hobby? Do they mean collecting Coke bottles and/or memorabilia? Or do people actually drink Coke as a hobby? Are there Coke-drinking tournaments; can you drink it competitively? Inquiring minds want to know!

      1. Cordelia Naismith*

        I just realized that Rhode Island’s interest is Harry Potter. That’s awesome, Rhode Island!

    3. Panda Bandit*

      My home state has Superman. I love Superman but I don’t think I can classify that as a hobby.

  6. Anon Today*

    Get better soon!!

    I’m wondering if there are any librarians here who are willing to tell me about how you got into the field.
    Some background: I work in media, I’m in my late 20s. I’ve been in my current job for 3+ years and realized this isn’t for me (the hours, pressure to break news, competitiveness have led to a lot of stress-induced health problems).
    I like books, organizing, teaching people, learning new things, and want to give back to the community, so librarianship is something I’m considering. Some questions I have: 1) is a MLIS necessary to start in the field? I’m leery of going back to school (for a second MA no less) unless I’m sure this is something I want to do. But I’m not sure if there are ways to intern/volunteer around a job that takes up 50+ hrs/wk, not including commute 2) What’s your favorite part of your job? 3) What’s your least favorite part of your job? 4) What are job prospects like, realistically? (if relevant, I’m in NorCal)

    1. Not Today Satan*

      Not a librarian, but my husband is. It’s my understanding that the master’s is necessary and that the job market is very very tough for librarians. I think there’s significantly more library school grads than librarian jobs.

      1. Hibiscus*

        I am a librarian. I have actually been in the field since high school with a few stops outside and many odd stops within the profession. I’m currently a medical librarian in a hospital.

        I have a lot of thoughts but not time, so I’ll get into this later today/this weekend, or you can drop me a line–atomiclibrarian at yahoo.

    2. NewLibrarian*

      Hi there! I’m a freshly-minted MLIS-holder, though I’ve known I wanted to be a librarian since I was sixteen (I’m now 24).

      1. No, but. Getting a job as a page or in circulation without an MLIS isn’t too bad (especially if you make it clear that you’re working toward a career in libraries and have a background in customer service and are tech savvy — that combination is pretty solid). Depending on your location, though, getting beyond that without an MLIS is going to be tough. Where I am, you’re likely to be hired without an MLIS for page/circulation jobs, but if you want to be a Library Assistant, a Library Associate, or a Librarian (or some variation of a Librarian), then you’ll have to be at least already working toward your MLIS if you don’t already have it. I have seen exceptions in very small town job posts wherein the only requirement to be a director of a branch/system is a high school diploma. Those also pay pretty minimally.

      2. I like the challenge of reader’s advisory best. There are so many fun tools to use like Novelist and Goodreads that make it so easy now, but it’s also fun to get to know the person you’re advising in the moment through what they do and do not enjoy reading. I also love showing people how to use the catalog/internet as a “power user” (ridiculous phrase, but I think that’s what a lot of people would describe it as) — things like how to effectively limit the search, using subject headings vs. keywords, etc. Almost always the person I’m helping acts like it’s some kind of wizardry which is pretty affirming.

      3. Depends — I have a few different jobs in different libraries. In the public library, people often come across as feeling entitled because they “pay taxes.” It doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen. Sexual harassment isn’t terribly uncommon. I have a guy who comes to my library every week, sits at the same table in front of where I am, and stares for almost three hours. It’s not fun or nice. In the special library, I personally don’t get excited about the specific kind of information we provide (so that’s something to consider — what kind of library you want to work in; sounds like public, but you may find museum work really rewarding!).

      4. Not good. There are certainly those out there who get lucky, but in my experience, it’s pretty bad. The Bureau of Labor Stats is reporting an outlook of 2% job growth between 2014 and 2024. If you do decide to take the plunge, volunteer, get a part time job, do SOMETHING to get yourself into a library. I have never heard of a single person being hired into a full time librarian position from never having worked in a library before.

      Good luck!

    3. Bootbrarian*

      An MLS is not necessary UNLESS you want a professional librarian job/management position. That said, there are a lot of part-time employees and hourly-paid library assistants with degrees. But you do not need one to get into the field.

      I recommend volunteering your time at a library. Depending where you are, the work is pretty basic and not involved, but you will get an overall sense of library operations and get to know staff. It also helps build your resume. Competition is fierce for full-time jobs (even library assistant positions), and you may have to start on a part-time basis or juggle two part-time positions.

    4. AnotherAnony*

      It’s tough, but if you can figure out a way that your media background fits in with the position that might be something to think about. If you had to do a lot of research for your job, you might look into prospect research. If you did a lot of social media things, there are a lot of those jobs. The library/librarian field is extremely tough. Not all places require an MLIS, but it does help. You’d probably have to intern/volunteer. Can you volunteer at your public library or a library nearby? Even if it’s for an hour or so a week.

      1. Anon Today*

        Thanks to you all! Really appreciate the feedback. To clarify, I am definitely willing to get an MLIS eventually but I don’t want to do that right off the bat — so was wondering more if there are entry level jobs that one can get without an MLIS.
        As for volunteering, I’d love to do that, just tricky to do around my current work schedule. My local library only needs adult volunteers on weekdays and I can’t do those. I’ll keep looking for opportunities though.

        1. Academic Director*

          My public library actually pays pretty decently for full-time library assistants. The competition is heavy, but it is definitely a plus if you want to get your MLIS.

    5. Rhie*

      Archivist here, but archivists and librarians generally get the same degree with different specializations–the short version is that I would echo Not Today Satan. For a decent job in the field now, you need the master’s, period. Segueing from that into your question 4, job prospects are not awesome, at least for your traditional library school fields of librarianship and archives. Library school/information school are getting pretty popular and I think the field is definitely turning out more graduates than it really needs. You could end up in the position of stringing along grant funded stuff until you can find something full time, which is never fun. You could get something right away! It’s hard to predict and unless you’re really sold on being a librarian, I would think long and hard about it. That being said, if you’re willing consider one of the less immediately obvious fields that are part of the information field more generally–user experience (UX) or human computer interaction, both of which are definitely about helping people, just in a less direct way–you could have a very rewarding experience and also be employed for way more money than being a librarian will ever get you. If you think this might be for you, you want to look for programs advertised as information school or awarding a master’s of information science/studies as these programs will have that broader information technology component. Alternately, you can do pretty well in records management because most people who go to school for archives are all about sexy old records and not all that interested in dealing with unsexy contemporary records. To answer questions 2 and 3, my favorite part of my job is when you find interesting nuggets in the most boring of archival collections; my least favorite part…? Now that I’m a digital archivist I work mostly with born digital and digitized records and I do kind of miss hauling boxes around and processing records I can actually touch.

      1. Loopy*

        +1 to this! I’m a former archivist and while I had some great grant funded jobs for a while I had to be willing to move and accept temp jobs and eventually I ended up leaving the field due to lack of jobs in my area (wasn’t willing to move again).

        I know the field is very competitive and if you’re looking for a professional position/salaried career you definitely need an MLIS.

        I loved my time as an archivist working in libraries immensely and was sad to leave the field but the job market is something that can be very very tough. If you’re flexible about pay requirements and potentially moving it’ll make it a whole lot easier though!!!

      2. GigglyPuff*

        Ugh, that’s totally what I’m trying to decide right now. I’m currently in analog digitization and I love it, it’s exactly what I wanted to do and it’s really rare to find a permanent full-time job. Problem: it’s a government job and I just can’t sustain myself long-term on the pay. It’s super demoralizing and I really don’t want to leave my job because the only things I’m finding are the unsexy records management or digital electronic records positions (which I’m certified for but I’m pretty sure I’ll hate not dealing with physical records).

        My anxiety is starting to kick in because I also live in a growing city and can’t afford what my rent will be bumped up to with my next lease renewal. :/

    6. Weekday Warrior*

      From a library manager’s point of view, it seems like all we do is hire, often for year long temp mat leave coverage (Canada) but also for permanent positions (academic library). I know it doesn’t feel that way to new grads and the market is competitive. People with specialized skills (data management, GIS, preservation, curriculum mapping, project management, assessment, etc) are in demand but in tandem with the traditional librarian skills of understanding and matching user needs with resources and services, including creating those resources/services as necessary. It’s a very dynamic field and the ALA accredited Masters degree allows you to work anywhere in the world.

    7. Matilda*

      I’m a newish librarian (I finished my MLIS just over 3 years ago) and was lucky enough to get a public librarian position pretty quickly; caveat being it started out part time (28 hours a week) and I got extremely lucky that the position was made full time within a couple months of starting (the librarian who previously held my position was here for a couple years at part time). Job prospects do vary by location, our state has two MLIS programs and pretty much one major metropolitan area so it’s a bit saturated and I know fellow graduates who struggled when trying to find full time work and others who chose to move out of state to get it.

      An MLIS is not always necessary to get started in the field, but (at least in my area) for full time positions it’s definitely becoming more necessary and the pay is usually better (not fabulous or anything) for the MLIS required positions.

      I would definitely recommend trying to get some work in a library – it will also help your job prospects once you are done with your MLIS if you decide to go that route. I worked full time while earning my MLIS and got a part time job at my local library for like 12 hours a week (1 evening a week and weekends) – granted I didn’t work quite as many hours as you full time and I had a very understanding boss (only part of my old job that I miss).

      Honestly (and maybe this is eye roll inducing), I really love most aspects of my job. I enjoying purchasing books, creating programs, and learning new technologies; I even enjoy working with the public most of the time. I think my favorite part (at least currently) is teaching technology classes to adult patrons. I like helping them learn something new, whether it’s helping them send pictures of their grandkids or teaching them how to set up a website for a small side business.

      Least favorite part, always having to prove to people why libraries are still vital to a community.

      Good luck!

    8. Pen and Pencil*

      You should really look into becoming a Prospect Researcher (see conversation below you). Many people with librarian skill sets like being a prospect researcher. You don’t need an advanced degree, you will earn more than a librarian (at least in my area 20k+ more than an entry level librarian), and it checks a lot of the same boxes as far as fulfillment. A lot of people in my field go into librarianship and a lot of librarians become prospect researchers.

    9. Seal*

      Academic librarian here. I started working in libraries in HS, which lead to working in libraries in college, which lead to a library staff position, where I stayed for years. What ultimately lead me to get my MLIS was the realization that there are far, FAR more opportunities for even mediocre librarians than there are for the best library staff members (NB: I am definitely NOT a mediocre librarian – far from it!). I got my MLIS 10 years ago and have been very fortunate to have been afforded opportunities to advance my career very quickly, something I NEVER would have been able to do as a staff member.

      My advice for anyone considering an MLIS is to make sure you have a specialty or unique focus that will set you apart from other applicants. Take advantage of as many internships, volunteer opportunities, and special projects as possible. Find ways to attend conferences, particularly national conferences, and make the most of those opportunities to learn and network. Above all else, find your passion within the profession and focus on that. There are jobs out there, particularly if you’re willing to move around, but you have to make sure you demonstrate that you’re not just another face in the crowd.

      As far as what my favorite part of my job is, I’d have to say that I very much enjoy the intellectual stimulation that comes from working in academia. I work in a large research library at a public university and there’s always something interesting going on here. Our collections are endlessly fascinating and helping students, staff and faculty find resources to support their research is very rewarding. My least favorite part of my job is dealing with the bureaucracy that is unfortunately inherent to large academic institutions, but finding ways around that can be rewarding in and of itself.

      1. Anon Today*

        Thank you for the advice! Quick follow up question, does it matter *where* you get your MLIS from? Would getting one from a part time program matter in job searching?

        1. Weekday Warrior*

          Make sure the degree is from a ALA accredited program and you’re good to go. Online/in-person, full/part time don’t matter. Accredited is the important part.

          1. Seal*

            Agreed. You can do it in a year (including summer session) but many people choose to go part-time, particularly if they’re already working. I did the latter, working full-time will going to library school part-time through distance education; that wound up being 2 classes per semester. For those 2 years pretty much all I did was work and go to school, but I loved my classes and getting my MLIS definitely paid off.

          2. MaskedLibrarian*

            And if you have any freedom to move around and leave the country for a couple years, consider a Canadian ALA-accredited program. There are several, and some of them are vastly cheaper than American library programs. That’s what I did, and I had a very good experience, and saved a boatload of money compared to my state’s MLIS program.

    10. Turtlewings*

      I’ve been working as a library assistant (mostly full-time) for about a decade. I don’t have a Master’s; I would need one to go much (if any) further up the ladder, but I am supporting myself in the library field without it. The bad news is that the pay is dismal field-wide, and the major reason I don’t have MLIS is because I don’t make enough to afford school and I’ve had others tell me the degree isn’t worth the debt.

      Favorite part of my job: organizing materials. That’s just how my brain works. It gives me great pleasure to know there’s a place for everything and everything in its place. Everything is consistent and clear and well-organized.

      Least favorite: Dealing with people. I worked in the children’s section at OldJob. NEVER AGAIN. Adults can be plenty awful, too, but they were less likely to poop in the aisles.

      Job prospects: I don’t know about California, but south of the Mason-Dixon line, they’re not great. Libraries everywhere are underfunded, hiring freezes are rampant, and people don’t retire until they absolutely keel over and die.

      Sorry if this all sounds pretty sad… I actually love my job and my field! But I don’t want you to be taken by surprise by the downsides.

      1. Anon Today*

        Ha, it’s okay, I want to know all the downsides (also I work in traditional media now and that’s also doing pretty horribly — I seem to be attracted to dying industries). Thank you for your advice!

    11. An Archivist*

      Archivist in an academic library here, but one who also worked as a librarian in a public library for a couple of years. It took 4 unpaid internships to get the two part-time jobs that led to the one full-time job as a librarian. I strongly suspect it was an advanced degree in another discipline that got me my first full-time archivist position. The market is brutal, but not quite as bad as it was during the recession. I agree with most of the other folks here that you need the MLIS to get a decent-paying job with opportunities. Most of the paraprofessional positions we hire for in my library are filled by MLIS holders hoping for a way to transition to a professional position.

    12. cataloger*

      I’m a librarian! I also completely switched fields (from math/cs/tech support, where I wasn’t happy) to go into librarianship and have never regretted it. I also recognize that I’ve been very lucky.

      1) This depends somewhat on the type of library (school libraries have a special certification, archivists may have different qualifications, etc), the type of work you want to do (do you want to be a librarian? or is library manager or technician interesting? especially while in school?), and on the library itself (different libraries have different requirements). It really helps though. If you do get an MLIS, choose a program that’s ALA-accredited.
      2) It sounds cheesy, but: learning new things, and teaching them, or otherwise making them accessible to other people. Also working with really great people who take our work seriously, but not so seriously we’re always stressed out about it.
      3) Office politics. Same as any job I’ve had, I guess.
      4) Job prospects are weird. I know they’re not great (that thing they told us in library school ten years ago about how “all the old librarians are retiring so there will be plenty of jobs” is still not really happening), but it seems like we’re always hiring (I think we’ve got two or three search committees running now for librarian positions), and my graduate assistants from the past several years have all gotten jobs in libraries. You’ll have better luck if you’re willing to move, and having a second masters helps if you are looking at being an academic librarian (you could more easily do selection for that subject, be a liaison to that department, etc.)

      I’m happy to answer any other questions.

      1. Anon Today*

        Thanks so much for sharing your experience! If you have time, can you tell me more about how you made the switch? Did you volunteer/intern first? Did you go straight into the MLIS? Did you transition while working full time? Thank you!

        1. cataloger*

          I went straight into the MLIS program as soon as I could. I was visiting a friend in another state, and happened to go on a tour of their campus library, which included a tour of acquisitions/tech services, and I was hooked! I enrolled for the program that next semester. I tried to volunteer first in preparation, but the libraries I talked to were not accepting volunteers.

          My work at the time was made up of part time jobs (research assistant in math, also working tech support) so I switched to a different set of part time jobs (graduate assistant in libraries to pay tuition, another job working with an online course, maybe one other one) while taking classes in the evening. Many of my classmates were going into libraries as a second career, and many were still working full time. Specifically, many were working schoolteachers who needed a masters in *something* to get their next promotion, and MLIS seemed like a popular one for that. The program I went to (like many others) has now moved to being entirely online, so I’m sure many people are enrolled while working full-time.

          I think getting some work in libraries while in library school is pretty critical though; there are so many graduates that don’t, and having that experience really sets you ahead. I was a graduate assistant in libraries for two years while in school, which helped me get my first full time job in libraries (two years in a grant-funded library project manager position), which led to my (current) professional librarian position.

    13. Mimmy*

      I”m not in the library field but have explored it in the past. Plus, I have a friend who got an MLIS. I’d say it’s a mixed bag.

      One area I was specifically interested in was academic libraries with a focus on social work or similar, since I already have the MSW. However, the social work librarian at my school discouraged me from considering it. I don’t remember her reasons since it was several years ago, but I think it was because academic library jobs seems to be a small niche, and you’d have to be willing to relocate.

      So figure out what type(s) of libraries you want to work in and carefully research the job prospects. Even then, it seems to be hard to quickly find employment. My friend got an MLIS a few years ago, but never found a professional-level job. She worked for several years as (I think) a library assistant until she had her second child.

      The suggestion from others to volunteer and/or look for part-time work is a good one.

      As a side note: I’ve also considered special libraries, particularly in a nonprofit. A previous employer has a small resource library (not sure of it’s size since I worked there in 2008). I’m curious if an MLIS is required for that?

    14. DragoCucina*

      I’m one of those people who always wanted to be a librarian. When I enlisted in the Army decades and decades ago it was to be a film library specialist (it didn’t work for Army reasons). I’ve been in the profession over 20 years and still love it. I get frustrated with the lack of respect, lack of financial support, etc. But, when we connect with people it’s amazing. The woman who left an abusive marriage that we worked with on her computer skills, resume, and interview skills. She has a good job and is self-sufficient. Sometimes we’re the only place that people encounter that doesn’t start with a “No”.

      Are you interested in using your media skills in a library setting. There are many people who work in marketing in libraries that don’t have a MLIS. There is a library marketing conference next month ( and the related Facebook page often has announcements for positions. I went last year and most attendees did not have a library degree.

    15. Damn it Hardison!*

      Records management/information governance professional here! I got my MSLIS after working in libraries/archives during my first graduate school program. I worked part time in libraries for my first two semesters then luckily found a full time job in a library (because of an archives internship). I intended to be an archivist but took a records management class and never looked back. I love analyzing business processes and systems, finding and interpreting record keeping requirements, setting information management policies and implementing record keeping systems. Contemporary records are totally sexy, and seriously challenging! And, the money can be really, really good. Not usually in an academic setting or local government, but in a corporate or even federal government setting you can make a very respectable salary.

    16. Marmalade*

      Another archivist here. I’ve also worked in libraries …

      1. A MLIS is necessary, IMO, and I’m very surprised to see some people say that it’s not.
      2. I’m on the tech-y side of things, I love metadata and open-source projects and following what’s going on in that sphere.
      3. Pay isn’t high for the skillset/level of education required.
      4. Not great. Without an MLIS, I don’t really think you would have a chance of getting a professional position. Even so, it’s pretty tough. It seems like nowadays it’s common to have to do several internships, too, which are usually unpaid.
      Sorry to be a downer, but realistically it’s not an easy path.

      1. Artemesia*

        This is my impression from many friends in this field. Often professional positions are cut so they just have low level employees. It is a bit like journalism — positions for well trained professionals are evaporating. And the cost of training and the time sink doesn’t pay off in compensation. Salaries are terrible when there are jobs.

    17. Library Manager*

      1) Depends. There are non-MLIS jobs, but to do the creative work that you likely want to do, you will need the degree. The non-MLIS jobs won’t necessarily give you a full idea of what MLIS work can be like.
      2) I’m now a fairly senior manager in my organization, so I don’t get nearly as much direct customer contact as I once did. My favorite part of my job is making connections in the community and hiring and working with awesome people. We’ve done A LOT of hiring this year, and I’m super excited to work with the new people who have joined us. They are amazing!
      3) My work-life balance has not been great this year, since we’ve been doing all that hiring because we had a gazillion vacancies. Things are getting better, though.
      4) Really depends on what type of job you’re looking for and where you’re looking for it. Having geographic flexibility and being willing to move is huge.

      Librarianship is my second career–I went back to school for my MLIS at 27. When I decided that I wanted to change careers, the grad school application cycle was just about to close, which put me an extra year out. I used that time to volunteer at my public library one night a week after work. If I had hated it, I would have pulled the plug on the applications. I didn’t hate it. After I got into grad school, I quit my job, moved to another state, did grad school full-time, and held a part-time internship. That was two years of living off loans, scholarships, and savings and of calendering every minute of my day so I knew where I was supposed to be. I had three full-time job offers within a month of graduation, and that was during the recession.

      I think it was a huge advantage for me that I had a career before librarianship. My non-library work experience and professional skills helped me get scholarships to grad school and competitive internships; later, they helped me standout from the crowds of newly minted MLIS grads. It gave me a story to tell about myself as an employee. Skills in communication, marketing, and project management are in huge demand. I do a lot of hiring, both of managers and of professional librarian positions. The MLIS just gets you through the first level of filtering in our hiring software. It’s the meaningful work experience, the interesting cover letters and short answers, the connections between non-library experience and library work that make the strong candidates stand out.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Late to the game but here it goes-
        Career changer- spent my twenties in bookstores, then in Publishing in NYC, decided to become a public librarian and get my MLIS in my early thirties.

        1) is a MLIS necessary to start in the field? Yes, from an accredited school. Otherwise you will be trapped in repetitive clerical work with little opportunity to move or be creative. Try to find some kind of related library work. Academic archives often have short term projects and are willing to train. Even a part time job evenings and weekends staffing a circulation desk will give you the taste of public library service. As a hiring manager, I can tell that the competition is stiff but…do well in school so that you have good references from professors, do project that can show your writing and communication skills. Internships- they often are where we pull new staff from as they come with high recommendations.
        2) What’s your favorite part of your job? For me- helping people, the joy of discovery, being the smartest person (when I find stuff that no one else can) lover readers reference, mentoring new librarians and staff, teaching, reviewing (I love to be the first person who has read a book) collection development. Meeting authors. When I was at the public library- preschool programming, after school clubs. When I was at the school library- classes, curriculum planning, author visits, being the one person who touched the lives of everyone in the school. Working with parents, teachers, and community.

        3) What’s your least favorite part of your job? Fund raising. Budget meetings. Money worries. Special event planning.
        When I was at the public library- the night shift, demanding entitled people who thought I all I did was read all day. Puking kids. Summer reading clubs. When I was at the school library- book challenges- parents who wanted books removed from the shelves
        4) What are job prospects like, realistically? (if relevant, I’m in NorCal)
        It is tough but….have a focus, a specialty. Create a portfolio of work. Get exceptional references. Get some actual library experience.

    1. former prospect researcher*

      I used to, and I still have a lot of connections in the field.

      I read a lot (well, I still do). Usually at least 3 newspapers a day, plus the aggregated Google News alerts for prospect information, plus obituaries. I did a lot of data scraping from class updates and notes and event attendance lists (I worked in higher ed fundraising). Lots of internet searching and learning how to wrangle various search engines for the best results (VPN, no cookies, etc so they don’t try and predict what they think I want to see).

      Public records searching: property/company ownership, political donations, gifts to other orgs, and searching for the various trappings of wealth.

      Generally, I would run queries on the database to identify people who were likely to make major gifts and then research them, or we would outsource that and then I’d verify results. Gift officers also will suggest prospects, and people pop up in news stories and the like (see my first paragraph for the amount of reading I did).

      The downsides: there is no pathway for advancement in development if you start out in prospect research. None. Maybe you can be the director of research and oversee other researchers, but at every non-profit I am aware of, research is usually kind of off to the side and hidden from the frontlines and the glory. It doesn’t tend to pay very well. Your research will often go unused, as gift officers want to trust their guts (“she LOOKS rich!” — uh….she filed for bankruptcy last year! “he says he has no money!” his company did 80M in sales…). Or, you’ll get blamed if your research ID’s a great prospect who wants nothing to do with your org.

      Look up APRA (association of professional researchers for advancement) for lots more information.

      1. CagedBirdSinging*

        Thanks for the info! I’m curious to know more about the lack of advancement potential in development for this type of role. That’s a little bit discouraging since I just had an interview for a research analyst position at the university I work at. When you were a prospect researcher, what other areas were you interested in? What made it difficult about your background to transition? And what are you doing now?

        1. former prospect researcher*

          To advance in the fundraising field, you basically have to ask for money. In a prospect research role, you will have no contact with donors, as you’ll be supporting the fundraising efforts in other ways. Thus, no chance to ask for it. To become a VP of development, almost all candidates start out as major gift officers, annual fund directors, or in sales positions outside of development.

          I do know a few prospect researchers who went into IT or advancement services, because you can often pick up pretty strong computer skills in those positions, particularly if you get into data analysis — which is what I did (I work in data science now and I am making a significant amount more than I did in prospect research — I had a strong IT background before I came into prospect research, but I’d also done various research jobs along the way).

          I did enjoy the work, don’t get me wrong. I like doing research and I did get to see the fruits of my labors — I found some very wealthy unknown prospects, several of whom gave very large gifts that will benefit many students.

          I was at an APRA conference a couple of years ago and heard a presentation given about career pathways for prospect researchers, and what I found interesting was that the average tenure in the field was only about 3 years, because so many leave it after a short time., possibly due to the lack of advancement, but also because a lot of people kind of happen into the field, and use it as a temporary landing point while they try to break into what they were actually after.

          1. CagedBirdSinging*

            Okay that’s interesting because I’m actually really interested in IT (I’m getting my master’s in data science) but my BA is in sociology (hence my affinity for research) so that’s what attracted me to this position. Also, I’m currently working as an admin and not using any of my research or tech skills so I’m open to anything that will get me out the line of work I’m currently stuck in. For a minute there I was like “OMG what did I just get myself into?!” but I feel much less discouraged after your comment. Prospect research (if I actually land the job) would not be a final stop for me by any means, but I do think it would be a great transition role for me until I get more experience and develop my technical skills. Then I’m going to move on.

            Thank you for your comments!

      2. JuniperGreen*

        I second all of the above. It’s a nice way to work in development without being public-facing… but you might have to be very vocal internally and your own advocate if you want recognition and/or resources.

        The interesting thing about prospect research is that it’s a blend of data manipulation and story telling. If you enjoy digging into a database and crafting complex reports and queries it can be really enjoyable. But you’ll also have to craft your data into a story or format that your organization will actually use. A finely detailed biographical brief might be what everyone is asking for… only to get buried on a desk. Collaborating on a table of prospects prioritized by historical giving or personal interest will better suit a busy development officer.

        1. CagedBirdSinging*

          Thanks for your comment!

          In the past I’ve done some fundraising and outreach activities and I actually hated those. I am definitely more suited to behind-the-scenes activities and am satisfied with contributing to the big picture without having to be on the front lines, at least when it comes to asking for money. I find databases and storytelling much more appealing :-)

      3. Mongoose*

        In my experience pathways for advancement depends on your industry and how large of an organization it is; I’ve found that there is a lot of of room for advancement, especially larger universities/national organizations, and not just to a directorship. I know organizational cultures and structures vary, but I’m currently at a large college and prospect research is highly respected and depended on by gift officers. Pay range for an entry level researcher is between $50-$70k, but we’re in a major metropolitan area.

    2. Pen and Pencil*

      I do! I do a lot of date analysis/data mining. Prospect Research varies A LOT by organization, and unfortunately you don’t really know what you are getting into usually. My first organization was a prospect profile mill, where all I did pretty much (despite being the sole researcher) was create 4-7 page reports on individuals. All day, everyday. It was really rather thankless, especially because like someone mentioned before no one would bother to call the people that I said had money and were worth talking too. I have since moved institutions and I love it here. It is significantly more data mining and data management focused. I would agree to some extent about lack of advancement opportunities. You really have to be at a large institution to be able to move up into a Prospect Research Manager position or a role that is managing the back-end (so you would oversee database and prospect research). It is definitely not a job where you will get a new title/”move up” every five years. I plan on going further into data mining/analytics as a round about way to move up. I would say that most prospect researchers that love their jobs tend to be at larger institutions where they can specialize a bit more, but smaller institutions give you a broader overview. Universities (especially large ones) tend to have a really solid research program, but with rampant issues with fundraiser retention rates.

      Everything that JuniperGreen said reflects my experience. I happen to love it, and probably will stay in the field or field adjacent.

    3. BRR*

      I am. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have. The field has three areas: prospect research, analytics, and relationship management.

      Responsibilities will differ depending on the size of organization and the fundraising program. I’m the first researcher at a mid-size nonprofit and I do aspects of all three areas on individuals and foundation. My last job was at a large university with a well established research program and there was a focus on producing full profiles on individuals. Analytics and relationship management were separate teams.

      I spend my time looking at what information I can find to establish an estimated giving capacity. Right now it’s mostly about getting enough people rated. I also do a lot of information management as a whole. I like what I do a lot.

      Touching on advancement, it really depends. I’ve seen some people move up multiple tiers in an organization. No, you likely won’t be able to go from being a researcher to a major gift officer or director of development and there aren’t tons of levels in the field. Employers usually require donor interaction. In my last job hunt I got a lot of interviews for roles like individual giving manager and doing work on mid-level programs.

    4. NP Admin*

      I worked in higher ed prospect research for several years before leaving the job for another position within academia. My background was in library science, as was that of most of my other colleagues.

      The kind of work that you do will obviously depend in part on the culture of your organization, but the things that I generally liked about prospect research was getting to work with data, discover new tools, and serve as a sort of subject matter expert. It’s a good position for someone who is organized, detail oriented, curious, and prefers to work independently (although is capable of developing good relationships with internal clients). The pay was good, in my experience. The downside to the job was that it was really repetitive and pretty isolating. My department was known for being full of introverts. And as others have said, there is also little room for advancement. I worked with people who had been doing the same work for the same organization for 15+ years and the thought of that was really unappealing to me. I often felt like, outside of the times we were understaffed, the work was formulaic and unchallenging. Although being able to come into an office and sit down, put your headphones in, and do easy work from 8-5 is the perfect job for a lot of people, so it just depends on what kind of work you like to do.

  7. straws*

    I’m looking for some advice on starting to freelance as a proofreader & copy editor. I’ve been working in editing for the past 8 years at my company, but I haven’t done it “out on my own” at this point.

    I signed up for Upwork, but I was curious if there are particular types of jobs or things I should look for that are good for someone starting out without a freelance history.

    I also don’t have work samples, since most of my work is proprietary. Is there an easy way to create some sample pieces, and what is the best format?

    1. Lady Dedlock*

      I also work full-time as an editor, but I’ve gotten a fair amount of freelance work just via word of mouth. You might try putting the word out to your network, to see if you can get an in that way.

      I’ve never had to provide work samples; having 8 years of editing work on your resume should be enough to vouch for your skills. If someone offers you a very long project (like a book or a dissertation), you could offer to do one chapter (at your usual hourly rate) and send it to them before they commit to doing the full project with you.

      1. straws*

        I definitely need to work on my network. This is a good opportunity to get my butt in gear. Thank you for the advice!

    2. Becca*

      I actually signed up for Upwork this week too! I’m trying to get experience doing copy editing and proofreading as a start to a career in it while I’m waiting to go back to school.

      Good luck, and I hope you get a ton of awesome leads :D

    3. KimmieSue*

      I’m not in your industry, but have been self-employed for five years. The best advice I can give you is to speak to an accountant in your community about taxes. I have city, state & federal taxes. The usual B&O and unemployment stuff. I had no idea what the tax implications were in my case, and its extreme.

      I also did not do anything to look for a self-funded retirement account (helping to reduce taxes) until my third year.

      While I love being self-employed, I wish I had known more in the beginning.

      1. straws*

        This is SUCH good advice. The taxes were what took me so long to decide to do it. I have some education in tax accounting, so I know enough to be concerned but not enough to know all the details! I decided that starting at the end of the year should give me a smaller time period to work with, and I plan to set aside everything until tax time, so I can make sure to deal with the tax implications. You might say I’m a little bit careful. Self-employment is frequently glorified and the possible downsides are definitely downplayed.

    4. OwnedByTheCat*

      Upwork can be great but there are also a LOT of terrible jobs and it can be hard to land good clients. Don’t undersell yourself!

      1. straws*

        I will make sure to consider this. I do think there could be some value in taking a couple of less-great jobs, to build experience and get a feel for how I work in my free time. I certainly don’t want to undersell myself (and thank you for the extra encouragement!), so I suppose I’m looking at it almost as interning — it may not pay well or be great, but I can leverage the experience. Maybe that’s naive though?

    5. Lore*

      I hire a lot of freelancers for a trade publisher. We never request samples–we want a resume that shows some experience with either long form work or fiction, and ideally some references. And unless your references are people I know, we’re probably going to send you proofreading and copy editing tests. If people at your current job can vouch for your editing skills, that’s a good start. And definitely try to get a few projects through networking. Then put together a resume and start sending it to managing editors.

  8. Temporary Name*

    Hoo boy, I have a weird story this week.

    So this morning I received a request to provide a reference for an applicant for a job. The request came in the form of an email with twenty-seven questions to answer some of which I think would be better answered by the applicant in an interview (“How would the applicant follow company rules or directions, even if they don’t agree with them?” or “Give me an example of a time when the applicant was honest”). It also had some language about “if you don’t complete this, you may jeopardize the applicant’s chances at employment.”

    The kicker? The applicant in this situation is my ex-SO. I have not spoken to said ex-SO in SEVEN YEARS. SEVEN. YEARS. They were in a whole different stage of life when last I knew them, and I don’t feel qualified to answer basically any of these questions about them because I really can’t say I know them that this point.

    So that’s been my day. How are y’all?

    1. straws*

      Holy wow! Did you even work with ex-SO? I can’t imagine trying to list anyone from 7 years ago as a reference, let alone an ex!

      1. Temporary Name*

        I never worked with them. Ex-SO asked me over the weekend if they could have my current contact info, but they said it was for a background check (the position is a somewhat sensitive one), so I assumed I’d be answering questions like “Did this person really go to the high school they say they did?” I can happily do that, but I can’t tell you anything about who this person is now!

        I think my favorite question is “How was the last disagreement you had with the applicant resolved?” Well, I told them that they were an asshole for trying to make me the bad guy in the breakup, then I left for college and pretended they didn’t exist except for some occasional Facebook stalking and tearful memories. Definitely hire them!

        1. neverjaunty*

          I am the kind of person who might fill out that entire survey just to give the employer that information.

          1. Temporary Name*

            I don’t dislike ex-SO quite that much, but it was certainly tempting.

            (“Name something you would change about this person.” I would go back in time to give them the lesson on female anatomy and the virtues of foreplay that I was too insecure to give at the time. Oh, is that not the answer you were looking for?)

            1. Jadelyn*

              I am struggling to suppress literal shrieks of laughter here. So glad my office-mate has gone home for the day!!!

    2. Hellanon*

      “Dear Hiring Manager, while I can speak with some authority on ex-SO’s prowess in the sack, I am not nearly as familiar with his/her ability to function behind a desk, and thus will have to decline this opportunity. Regards, Temp.”

    3. BackintheSunshine*

      If you’re inclined to answer some of questions, go ahead and answer the ones you want or can. Ignore the others.
      You can also respond to the email and say you’ve never worked with the ex-SO and aren’t able to answer the questions.

      1. Temporary Name*

        I think I’m going to take the second route. It’s tricky, because I don’t want to be the thing that prevents ex-SO from getting this job… but I can’t say with confidence that they would be good at it, because I just don’t know enough about them now. I can’t say with confidence that they would be bad at it, either! I can’t say anything definitive.

        1. neverjaunty*

          “Poor judgment in selecting references” is what would prevent ex-SO from getting that job.

        2. Chriama*

          I think it’s really disrespectful of your time to send you such a long questionnaire and then imply that it’s your fault if they don’t get the job because you’re not willing to spend 2 hours filling it out. I’d be more inclined to email them back with some politely worded statement saying that you haven’t worked with them and don’t have time to fill out such an extensive survey but you’d be ok with a half hour phone call (I think the time limit is important because these guys don’t sound like they understand boundaries). Filling it out partially is tolerating this behaviour, and it’s harmful to the company and its job candidates. If it’s a clueless hiring manager then they should change, if it’s crappy HR then they should know people aren’t going to put up with this.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I wouldn’t even do a phone call. If you never worked with them, then how can you be a job reference? Even just asking an ex-SO for this is ridiculous, especially if you didn’t work with them.

            I’m guessing Ex didn’t see that disclaimer on the form. Anyone who did see and understand it probably wouldn’t ask someone they didn’t work with to fill it out.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      Ugh. Laying aside your ex’s stupidity in using you as a reference…why does this employer not realize that providing a reference is a courtesy, and therefore the company should make it as easy on the reference as possible?

      In my line of work nearly everyone calls for references. There is one agency that likes to send out a questionnaire, but a) it has 10 questions, not 27 and b) the questionnaire says at the bottom that they’re happy to call if you’d prefer the phone.

      I don’t know whether I’d even bother responding to this request.

    5. James*

      This a job that requires security clearance or something? I know those background checks can be very thorough. Otherwise, this seems completely insane–even ignoring the ex-SO part, there’s no way I’m going to spend the time drafting 27 essays better suited for a poorly-thought-out exam in high school just so someone I know can get a job as a plumber or something!

      Can you respond with “I’m sorry, but as we were romantically involved at one time but have not spoken in nearly a decade, I do not feel comfortable providing such information”? The most in-depth background check I’ve had done only went back five years, after all; anything that ended 7 years ago isn’t really relevant, and people can change to the point where your information may not be relevant. If they keep pushing, you know you’re dealing with either someone doing something shady, or someone who has no clue what they’re doing!

      1. Temporary Name*

        Yeah, it requires a pretty extensive background check, and for good reasons… but I really have nothing to say that can be helpful. I sent a response similar to your suggestion, since that’s really the only reasonable thing I can think of to do.

    6. Moonsaults*

      This makes me wonder if this ex is applying for some kind of place that requires you to list so many references, you really do need to scrape the bottom of the bucket including exes from high school O.o

      That sounds like when I had fill out a reference check for a friend who was applying to work in law enforcement only thankfully it was more like “Have you know this person to be aggressive?” “How does this person react to stressful situations?” or asking for many examples.

      I’d answer it honestly with a letter stating that you knew them X amount of years ago and at that time you were both kids, so you aren’t in a place to give any information about who they are today. If that means Ex can’t have the job, that’s beyond your control and they are not a fit for that position anyways.

      1. Manders*

        Yeah, this does sound a bit like the character reference I gave for my friend who was applying to be a police officer, with lots of questions about things like conflict resolution and whether I’d ever caught her in a lie. But even then, they gave me a call instead of emailing a questionnaire, and no one was interested in what a high school ex had to say about her.

        It’s weird all around! I’ve had friends who’ve gone through very serious background checks, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone investigating an ex from that long ago.

        1. Temporary Name*

          You’ve correctly guessed the industry – the position is related to law enforcement. And while it makes perfect sense to me to do extensive background and reference checks on people applying for positions in that industry… I still don’t have any useful information for them after seven years of no contact!

          1. Manders*

            In that case, I think you can probably leave most of the questions unanswered and just explain the situation up top. I think what they’re digging for here is any history of abusive behavior, anger problems, or physical violence–I got asked a lot of questions about that when I was my friend’s reference.

            It’s still weird to email rather than call, though. I think this reference checker may just be lazily blasting out a form survey instead of taking the time to do a thorough check. This really is the kind of situation where the reference checker needs to be asking followup questions and listening for any hesitation or ambivalence while someone’s answering a question.

    7. Snargulfuss*

      Maybe it’s a company requesting 10 references – 3 former supervisors, 2 former co-workers, 1 elementary teacher, 2 ex-SOs, and 2 former roommates…or whatever the stipulations were for the LW that wrote in a little while ago about a really intense reference check process.

    8. Jaydee*

      I would just respond back with something like “When I agreed that Fergus could provide my contact information for a background check, I thought it would involve more verifying of background information rather than specific, employment related questions. Fergus and I were friends in high school but drifted apart when we went to college. Although we keep in touch occasionally now, I have never worked with him and therefore am really not in a position to answer most of these questions. I’m sorry for this misunderstanding and hope my inability to answer your questions won’t have a negative impact on Fergus’s chances at employment with your company.”

      I don’t think you have to get into the details of the nature of your relationship with him or anything like that. And if you’re feeling charitable to him, you might want to give him a heads-up that the questions they asked were all very detailed and employment-related so he should probably be providing former supervisors and coworkers who can talk about those things as references to this employer.

    9. TG*

      I got a similar reference request once. It felt like I was taking an exam. I liked the person I was giving a reference for and knew a lot about her working habits and potentials so I was happy to do it, but geez.

    10. Artemesia*

      Yikes. Given that you really can’t give a sensible rec for this person it may be time to say ‘SO is a great person and I think a strong candidate for your organization but I find it outrageous and unreasonable that you would expect a reference to devote this much time to answering 27 questions in such detail. ‘ I often had to answer 5 or 6 questions for students — 27 is absurd. No one but their mother is going to do that.

  9. Dawn*

    So when I first started my current job I was all “I go to work to get work done, not to make friends!” but today I’m getting Lasik this afternoon and am in my office, all alone, really missing the camaraderie of my old office where I could have gone over to the graphic design section of my division and said “I’m nervous about getting Lasik” and been bombarded with hugs and candy and people making their stuffed animals talk in silly voices and I would have had a ton of people giving me hugs on the way out the door to my appointment.

    Normally I’m fine being a hermit in my office but today I’m missing the warm fuzzies that my old group had. However, most of the time I’m really thankful for the professional distance that everyone at this office keeps because it makes it a ton easier to go home at the end of the day and not think about work!

    What do y’all say: workplace camaraderie where people are friends in and outside of work or an office where everyone gets along just fine but maintains a professional distance?

    1. Frankie Seeks Job*

      I’d say workplace camaraderie where people are friends in work… but don’t really ask each other out for fun after hours. Like I will talk about the latest Marvel movie during our spare time, but no, I don’t want to meet you out on Saturday to actually watch the movie.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        That’s pretty much where I am. I do see some of my coworkers outside of work very occasionally (maybe once a year), but we talk about all kinds of non-work stuff together, both at work and on social media, so I feel like they’re friends, but not nearly as close as my friends from high school or college.

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        Definitely this. I enjoyed the one happy hour my work team had, but it was only a few of us. We all get along exceptionally well at work, so I’m not surprised that HH was a good time. Beyond that… I don’t want to be BFFs outside of work.

      3. Ruffingit*

        This. My co-workers and I are super close, some of us worked at a previous job together so there’s that. We exchange funny texts, we vent, we help each other, there’s lots of hugs and genuine expressions of sympathy for difficulties in and out of work. But we don’t hang out outside of work because we all have lives to attend to there.

    2. Murphy*

      I definitely enjoy some camaraderie. My current job is better than my last one in every way except that. (We were friendly at work, but most of us were not friends outside of work, though some were.) I have a very alone-at-my-desk-all-day kind of position now, and I miss being able to chat about normal life things with people.

    3. all aboard the anon train*

      I like a middle ground between the two. I like having friends to eat lunch with/go on coffee walks or just chat about our weekends or get drinks with after work, but I generally don’t like to hang out with people from work on the weekends. I like the type of work relationships where I can be like, “oh yeah, I agree dating sucks!” but I don’t need to go into detail about my personal relationships. I tend to be more solitary, but I found that having lunch with some people I’m friendly with once a week is great because I can maintain that friendly camaraderie without being their best friend and sharing personal details.

      That said, I met one of my best friends and probably my platonic soulmate through work years ago, but that’s a rare case for me of making friends at work who are also my out of work friends.

    4. Lillian Styx*

      My work buddy left earlier this year so now when I have something funny or dumb that I’m pumped about there is no one to go share it with. We could get each other laughing until we were both crying. No one else even comes close! I miss him so much. :( I still like my job but nowhere near as much as when he was around. It really sucks!

      Good luck with your Lasik! (internet hugs)

    5. JMegan*

      I prefer friendly with a professional distance, but I think it’s a really personal thing, with a whole range of options. And even the most “professionally distant” of us feel lonely at work sometimes, I think.

      So, here are some virtual hugs and candy from an internet stranger. Good luck this afternoon!

    6. Jennifer*

      I preferred camaraderie–my old job used to be one where we’d go out drinking across the street afterwards. Here, most people have families and live out of town and are out the door at 5, and due to public service shifts we can’t even do lunches. Kinda dull.

    7. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Good luck with your Lasik! I got it done two years ago and was nervous too — but the procedure itself is over before you know it (seriously, like 3 minutes per eye), and my surgeon gave me a Valium beforehand to calm my nerves. You’ll do great, and you’ll be so glad you did it!

      1. JuniperGreen*

        Also came to wish you luck on the Lasik and say I’d totally be on the candy and nerve-calming train! My coworkers at Old Job were super social and I miss that close camaraderie.

        (Btw come back to tell us how the Lasik goes! I’m considering it, as my dry eyes prevent me from wearing contacts any more. But, I’m nervous that the dry eyes will make my Lasik recovery awful!)

        1. Dawn*

          I am actually getting Lasik finally because my eyes can no longer deal with contacts (even the daily disposables!) When they did the dry eye test at my screening, however, they said that my eyes weren’t even that terribly dry and I was still a great candidate for Lasik. If your eyes are too dry for Lasik then you can look into PRK, which has a longer recovery time but is great for people who have dry eyes. From all of the beforehand research I did while gathering info about Lasik, there’s pretty much an option out there for just about everyone as long as you have healthy eyes/are healthy in general.

          I’m really curious how my Lasik recovery will be considering my job is staring at a computer all day, but I figure millions of people have gotten it before me and are doing just fine!

          1. JuniperGreen*

            Good to know… thanks Dawn! My eyes hate contacts now, which is so crazy after wearing them (safely and cleanly!) for years.

            Definitely will ask my doc about PRK vs Lasik now!

          2. Not a Real Giraffe*

            (I know this is derailing the thread a bit but…) It took me almost a full year and a half to recover on the dry-eye front, and I still have some days that are a little irritating. Good luck!

          3. Hillary*

            You’ll love it. I got Lasik five years ago, and it’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Just follow the instructions for all the eyedrops. ;-)

            I spend all day at the computer, it was fine from a recovery perspective. I had mine on Friday afternoon, I could drive Saturday afternoon, and I was back at work fine on Monday.

    8. James*

      Depends on the individual. You’re likely to make friends at the office, because you spend so much time there and share interests with people (due to the similar jobs, at least in my experience). Other people you want to keep at arm’s length, and the only reason you associate with them is because you’re at work. It’ll all depend on your personal interactions with the folks around you.

    9. Red*

      I think my department does it right – we’re all BFFs when we are at work and it makes the day fly by, but then we all just go home, separately. I’ve only spent non-work time with these people twice, and once was at a party for a co-worker who was moving away after 8 years in the department. Of course, it probably helps that we’re scattered all over the county and surrounding areas, which makes spending non-work time together difficult.

    10. Not my normal alias*

      I used to have a lot of camaraderie in my office, but then we had some shake ups where people retired and/or were physically moved to a different building and another division was moved into my building and I don’t really click with any of them and I’ll go multiple days without having a conversation. And it’s fine, I’m an introvert, it works, but sometimes I really miss the old days. I missing having someone to share good news with. I miss having a group to sit with at functions. I guess one good thing is that my manager seems to feel the same way, because I’m one of the few people left that he really talks to, so we’re getting closer. But it makes me sad sometimes.

      1. SJ*

        Okay, I was reading this quickly and first thought you said “I don’t really dick with any of them” and I was like “??????” but then I read it again.

    11. INFJ*

      The verdict is still out with me. LastJob of 8 years was the warm fuzzy place, but it was also HR nightmare place. I’m preferring the “professional distance” of my current position, but do miss the old way sometimes…

    12. Jen RO*

      For me, definitely no. 1. It’s one of the things I like best about my job. I don’t actually see my coworkers a lot outside of work, but I like knowing that we would have fun if we did see each other.

    13. AshK434*

      I’m all for workplace camaraderie! Having work friends made the worst aspects about my previous job (bad management) bearable! I really actually liked my last job because I had an excellent group of coworkers who made the day go by quickly because we always had fun. I mean, we weren’t best buddies and we still had boundaries, but it was just nice to have that relationship with them. I actually started a new job a few months ago and I’m SO lonely here. The people keep that professional distance which is fine but when I first started, it came across as cold and unwelcoming. I actually really dislike this job (which actually has great management), because I just feel so alone here.

    14. New Bee*

      I was all for camaraderie at my old job (and am still close friends with a select crew), but in my current role I appreciate the professional distance (and sometimes feel like an outlier in that regard). I think the difference is that OldJob involved being with kids all day, so we adults sought out common spaces to de-stress, namely happy hours. CurrentJob has a very workaholic/competitive culture, so opportunities to socialize are really just covers for doing more work.

      Interestingly, at both jobs most people were single and childfree, but it’s only in CurrentJob where I feel judged for being the opposite (because, I think, anything that could be an obstacle for working all the time/self-martyrdom is looked down upon).

  10. contract or salaried?*

    I know people have asked similar questions before, but for the life of me I can’t find any of those threads now that I need them!

    I’ve been interviewing with a recruiting firm for a company that’s offering me a W2 contract (fed/state/etc. taxes, health/dental/vision, and 401K through the recruiting firm). The hourly rate we agreed on was $55, which for 40 hours a week is about $105K a year. This is for a large healthcare company in an digital PM role. I currently make $60K in a non-IT digital PM salaried position where I’m pretty much paid to do nothing most of the year (we have a four month busy period and the other 8 months are dead). I’m happy in my current position for the most part, but more money would be nice.

    I live in Boston, a very high COL area. I have about 3 months worth of rent/expenses saved up in case I ever lose my job, but most of each month’s paycheck goes to rent/loans/credit cards/bills/etc. If I did my calculations correctly, after taxes and healthcare (through the firm for PPO/best dental and vision it’d be about $525 per month), I’d be bringing home about $5K a month. That’s a $2K monthly increase for me.

    I have no one else to rely on for healthcare or finances. It’s just me and after some awful financial situations in the past and growing up without a lot of money and with some health problems, I tend to panic about money and health insurance or having a contract be cut after a month or two. I know salaried jobs aren’t “stable”, but mentally it feels more stable than a W2 contract. I’m also nervous about taking a contract job because of no paid vacation or sick-time. I know if I have no paid time off, I won’t take time off.

    To anyone out there who is single or not on someone else’s health insurance, have you done W2 contract work and do you think it’s worth it over a salaried position? Do you think I’m worrying too much about the health insurance/stability aspect? Or the paid time off aspect? I told the recruiter upfront these were all of my worries and she said I should interview anyway to see if I liked the company and team (I do), so while I’m waiting for an offer (or rejection), I’d love to hear anyone else’s fears/surprises/experiences about W2 contract work over salaried positions.

    1. michelenyc*

      I live in NYC so I completely understand the high COL. While I enjoyed my contract work immensely and the company/people I worked with; I found that after 2 years that I missed the stability of a salaried position more than I thought I would. I also had great benefits and did have sick time that I never really got to use because well I really don’t ever get sick. To me your benefits sound really expensive I only paid about $300 per month. Not having PTO really sucked especially when the company closed between Christmas and New Year’s I didn’t get paid for that time or any other holidays when the company was closed. The other thing to also consider is that sometimes you will not be working 40 hours a week. It happens more often then you would think. There was one week where I didn’t work for 3 days because a crane collapsed outside the office and there was no heat or water again not paid. A lot of company’s do not allow contractors to work from home so that is the other thing to keep in mind.

      1. contract or salaried?*

        Yeah, these were all part of my concerns. I like the company and people, but it’s everything else that makes me wary because I like my salaried stability.

        I think the healthcare seems more expensive because I did it for all the best options the recruiting firm offered. If I choose the middle of the road or low options, it’d be around $300-$400, but I’m panicky about health so I always pay for the best plan options.

        My biggest issue is that I have a great vacation and sick-time and WFH policy now, but the money could be better. I rarely get sick and my current company lets me use sick-time as vacation days since it’s use them or lose them, so I’m at about 5 weeks of paid time off overall. I mean, that extra $2K would help a lot, but I don’t know if it’s worth it for no paid time off or, as you mention, the possibility of not being able to work for some unforeseen event and not getting paid.

        1. michelenyc*

          As far as the health care part really make sure the most expensive option really is the best option for you sometimes they aren’t and you end up paying for something you don’t need or really use. Great pay is a bonus. Just so you know all companies tell you that you can bill for overtime but I can almost 100% guarantee that they will make sure that it never happens. The other thing to keep in mind is they could potentially lose the budget for your position and let you go with zero notice. It happened to me a couple of times. My director and myself were pissed because it was HR that made the call not my director. The one time I didn’t care I hated the company and the 2nd time stung a bit because I had been told that at a minimum the position would be a minimum of a year. On the upside this last one resulted me finding a great permanent salaried position where I got a 25% salary increase! Even if the last company had brought me on permanently I never would have made the kind of money with them that I am making now.

    2. Slippy*

      Some important things to think about:
      1. When you say the taxes through the recruiting firm do they pay them or just take them out for you? If they just take them out you are going to pay a lot more in taxes.
      2. You may get paid time off but likely not. You don’t bill you don’t get paid.
      3. Healthcare is likely going to be more expensive than a salaried employee or otherwise worse (smaller more transient risk pool).
      4. Is the project just starting and if not how far in are they? If they are past halfway and they don’t have something for you to roll onto after the current project is done forget it, they are just trying to plug a sucker into a hole they made.
      5. Are you going to consistently go over 40 hours/week and if so do you get paid for it? Some contracts the client only allows you to bill for up to 40 hours so if you need to go over you are either working for free or not meeting your objective, choose your poison.

      Honestly 105K sounds pretty low for PM contract work in Boston but I’ve never worked there YMMV.

      1. contract or salaried?*

        Honestly, I’ve never even considered PM contract work or known anyone who has done it, so I’m not entirely sure what the average is. $105K is a lot of money for me, so maybe that’s why I thought it was okay?

        They said taxes would be like a normal job, just through the recruiting firm. So I would have taxes taken out of my pay and they would pay their share, and I wouldn’t have to do an independent contractor tax form come tax season.

        The project i just starting out and the company manager said it’s long-term with potential for full-time employment. They want someone to come in and see this project through from the beginning to the end and it’s estimated about 2-3 years at the moment.

        I did ask about the 40 hours and was told that they expected 40 hours a week and that I would be able to bill for overtime if it was necessary, so I’m not as worried about that.

        1. Product person*

          W2 means you’re an employee of the company that is hiring you (looks like it’s the recruiting firm).

          So you’ll have a regular job with the firm (as opposed to an independent contract agreement), so the firm will be responsible for paying employer taxes and retaining the employee’s portion of it. Calling it “contract work” is misleading in your situation.

          You’re right to be concerned about job security, because your full time job is dependent on the project in the client you’ll be working for not being canceled, and the client not having any issue with your firm that could cause the contract to be canceled either.

          I worked for many years in the same situation as yours (as a senior business analyst as opposed to project manager), but I had my husband covering my health care, so I did have a safety net. Typically the firm hiring me would find another project quickly when the one I was working on was completed or canceled, but the risk is there. I’d ask them about healthcare coverage: how long would you get go keep it if something happened (beyond your control) that caused the client contract to be terminated? Hopefully you can negotiate something that will give you more security in case something happens and the contract is canceled in a couple of months.

        2. Slippy*

          The taxes response sounds a little hokey to me and perhaps a more legal minded person could throw in some advice. If you are W2 your taxes will be quite a bit higher than a normal salaried employee. You may want to get clarification if you are going to be an employee of the recruiting firm or a W2 to them. I believe that if you are a W2 to the recruiting firm then you pay both employee and employer taxes but standard “I’m not a lawyer,” disclaimer applies.

          Does this sound a bit weird to anyone else?

          1. michelenyc*

            Not at all. Most of the companies I have contracted for use an outside firm that manages all of their contractors it is very common especially in the fashion/sportswear industry and quite a few other industries. Technically you are an employee of the contracting/recruiting company and your paycheck stub will reflect that company name not where you actually go to work everyday. You pay taxes and the contracting/recruiting company pays taxes. There are many companies that is all they do is manage the contractors for larger companies. What does sound weird to me is referring to it as W2 employment I have never heard it referred to in that way.

          2. Natalie*

            I think you are confusing W2 and 1099. A “w2 employee” is a regular employee of a company who has payroll taxes deducted from their paycheck and matched by the employer. A “1099 employee” is an independent contractor, who is responsible for all of their own taxes including FICA.

            What contract or salaried? is describing is totally legal and very common. It’s basically long term temping, but they are calling it a “contract” likely because it is for a defined project.

          3. Hillary*

            W2 means the firm running payroll pays the employer portion, 1099 means the employee pays both pieces (my partner is a W2 contractor, his firm offers their employees a choice). W2 is easier for the employee, but 1099 is better for some tax scenarios or if you’re on multiple contracts at once. In my head a W2 contractor is basically a temp that they call a consultant/contractor because they’re expensive.

            OP, if you’re in an in-demand field and you’re comfortable with the risk, I’d say go for it. My partner compensates for the risk by saving like crazy, basically he would put that extra $2k in savings every month to build up a cushion. The questions I’d ask of the recruiting company are: 1) what does their nonsolicit agreement look like? 2) how long does the client expect the contract to last, and how accurate are their usual estimates? 3) what do the prospects look like for the contract after that?

            1. Slippy*

              Ah right, I have been getting W2 and 1099 backwards.
              *Sigh* been dealing with vendors all day >_<

              1. Hillary*

                No worries. The only way I can keep it straight is reminding myself that I get paid on a W2 as a regular salaried employee. I have the stable job in my relationship, he does high paid but high risk. If we ever get married taxes are going to be fun.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’m also nervous about taking a contract job because of no paid vacation or sick-time. I know if I have no paid time off, I won’t take time off.

      Specifically addressing this, would you be OK with taking $100K for the same position, same benefits, but with 4 weeks pooled PTO (vacation/sick)? If so, why not just consider yourself getting that, and allow yourself up to 20 days off as work allows? And unlike many of us, if you don’t use them, you will get them “paid out” by getting extra hours instead!

      1. Gaia*

        Specifically around this, you may want to look into Massachusetts mandatory sick time laws. If you are an employee, I think they need to provide sick time, at least.

    4. Sophie Winston*

      I’m confused too. A W-2 is what you get when you’re an employee, a 1099 is what you get when you are a self employed contractor.

      Working for the agency means you have the same risk of job loss as working as a 1099 contractor – it’s easier for the ultimate client to fire you than to fire a regular employee, generally speaking. The tax impact will be the same as if you were a regular employee. The benefits impact depends on how good the agency benefits are to what you get now, same as any time you change to a new employer.

      1. contract or salaried?*

        AS other people better explained above, it’d be W2 with me as an employee of the recruiting firm, but the work I’d be doing is for the company. The recruiting firm is that go-between who manages my paycheck and benefits if I choose to take them.

    5. Danae*

      I’ve done this kind of W2 contract work for most of my career. You are indeed correct that the contract will be less stable (and if the job ends, it’s likely to go away without much if any warning), but the dealbreaker is likely to be the health insurance–you should investigate what your cost for buying your own health insurance would be, because it may be cheaper and better than some of the genuinely terrible insurance options I’ve been offered through contracting agencies. (The job before this one, the only offered health insurance that covered even the basics was $600 a month for just me–with a $3000 deductible.)

      When I don’t have paid vacation, I only take time off when I’m deathly ill or when I’ve been guilted into traveling by family members. There’s a real disincentive to ever take time off if it means a smaller paycheck, and if you’re thinking the whole time you’re away “I’m not working, so I’m not getting paid.”

      Also keep in mind that expensive contractors are generally the first to go when a company tightens its belt, and no matter how many promises your agency makes about finding you something new if your current contract ends, I’ve never seen any agency actually -do- that.

      I mean, it can be nice–contractors are generally outside of office politics, you’re expected to come very quickly up to speed, you’re unlikely to be subjected to performance reviews (if they think you’re not doing a good job, they just cut you loose) and the money can be good. I was quite happy working contracts for a number of years.

      1. Meg Murry*

        +1 to pricing out your own health insurance. Ask if the contracting company pays for any of the premium, or if you are paying 100%. If they aren’t paying at least 50% of the premium, you would be eligible to buy insurance through the marketplace, where the open enrollment period starts next month. In fact, I’d suggest that even if it’s a little bit more expensive but still comparable, because that way if this contract doesn’t work out you can still keep your health insurance (reducing one of your anxieties).

        My concern would be that since it’s hourly and contract, you really can’t count on it being an annual salary of $105k – there may be times when you don’t have 40 hours of billable work to do. Or like others have mentioned, if you can’t work on the days the office is closed, you wouldn’t be paid for those days (for instance, do they close at Christmastime? Do you get any paid holidays?) Do you know anyone that’s currently contracting through this company? Could you talk to them about it before accepting?

        If your job is really so dead for 8 months a year, could you get a part time job during the dead periods as a way to make more money but keep the stability of your current position?

        I hear you in that I’m the same way about bird in the hand – in the past I haven’t moved on from crummy situations when the only option I had was to go to a temp job that didn’t offer benefits – I wasn’t willing to take the leap from bad but stable to possibly good but far more uncertain.

        If you do take the job, I’d suggest continuing to live as if you were still making the same $60k, and saving the rest in your emergency fund so you could build it up to more like a 6 month fund. Or perhaps split the extra between savings and debt repayment. If you can afford to do that, I think taking this position doesn’t seem so risky, and would allow you more of a buffer between when this contract ends and the time when you can find another position.

        And as far as the “no PTO” goes, you could also do some math and money juggling to get around the psychological aspect of that as well. For instance, you could open up a savings account just for offsetting PTO. You could deposit $X every week/paycheck into that “virtual PTO” account, and then once you’ve saved enough, you can take a vacation day (or week) and use that money to “pay yourself” for those PTO days.

  11. Sally Stitches*

    How do I get people (professors ) to actually read my emails. I make them informative and succinct, and I even bold important information like dates, but I often get people a) asking me questions that were in the email, b) ignoring instructions and often doing the exact opposite, a) calling me by the wrong name (my name is not uncommon). (That last is admittedly just a pet peeve.)

    1. Frankie Seeks Job*

      LOL oh I know that feeling. You spend an hour drafting and editing the paragraph long e-mail, stating your point, bolding your query to avoid confusion, sending it… and getting a one word OKAY in response.

      I’d say maybe the next time you meet them, you can ask, Have you seen my letter, Professor Teapot?

    2. Hellanon*

      You can’t. We’ve pretty much given up on finding a way to get information to faculty or getting them to respond when needed. So far email, posted notices, paper mailbox notices, portal postings and a weekly email newsletter are only vaguely helpful, and they still complain about not getting the info they need.

    3. TL -*

      The only way I’ve found to get professors to respond is to put the amount of their money you want to spend in the email.

      :) professors are notoriously bad at email. Send the email and follow up in person. If they ask for info you’ve emailed them, give them the email but politely remind them that you sent that information in an email.

      1. Sally Stitches*

        I can’t follow up in person, unfortunately. I never see these people and many of them are on a different campus.

        1. HeyNonnyNonny*

          Crud, my advice was going to be to follow up in person too…can you call? I have a lot of people where I will send an email and then have to see them or call after a certain amount of time to remind them of my deadline for the request.

    4. Sally Stitches*

      For reference, I need some information from people, and they were expecting to have to provide it. I sent out an email requesting it and said please deliver it in this way. Of the 4 responses I’ve received so far, only one of them has done it correctly, and one person went far out of their way to do it incorrectly.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Can you make it a Google Form or similar?

        Is there any incentive (or negative consequence) for them to do it? For instance, does doing it wrong (or not doing it at all) jeopardize their ability to get grant money, get a reimbursement, etc?

        Unfortunately, if you don’t have any carrots or sticks, you’ll probably get ignored or wrong information. Can you talk to your boss about what kind of incentive or privilege withdrawal you can offer?

        Is this the kind of task they are going to turn over to the departmental admin? If so, could you email the admins about it as well so they can assist in nagging the professors about it, so they aren’t stuck doing it at the last minute?

    5. NW Mossy*

      I see this sort of thing from a group in my org that spends most of their time in the field. Part of coping is recognizing that the professors you work with were not hired for their gifts with administrative tasks, and when you consider the role in full, it makes sense that they wouldn’t be because the majority of being a good professor is about other tasks. Instead, they’re hired for things like research, teaching, and grants; those that are good at those things are often not the same folks that are good at working through an administrative process, even if the process is laid out very clearly.

      If it’s possible, one solution might be to funnel some of what you need to deliver/receive to administrative folks who are closer to the professors than you are, to the extent that such people exist. You can even ask professors, “Hey, I know that dealing with [XYZ] is a hassle for you. Is there someone else you’d like me to work with on this?” Sometimes, half the battle is making it clear that it’s OK for them to use an intermediary if it means that you get what you need faster.

    6. KL*

      If you find out, will you let me know?

      Unfortunately, I don’t think there is. There are some professors that are great at responding to emails (and calling you the right name – why did my parents give me a name that has so many different spellings and derivations?) and there are some that just don’t. Sorry I can’t help, but I can commiserate.

    7. my two cents*

      I’m sure it’s different in academia, but maybe some of this will be helpful…
      I often have to provide engineering support via email. When it’s a mixed response of ‘process’ and also just technical answers, I do my best to bold/underline headings like I would in a user’s guide. It makes it much harder to ignore. Also, try putting any action items at the top of your emails. Alternatively, if there’s little text in the email I will keep the email short, and then include any images after my signature – the idea being that they don’t have to scroll to read the message, but will definitely be compelled to scroll to see all of the pictures.


      We’re in the process of changing systems, and we need everyone to re-enter their whatevers into the blahdiblah system.

      U/B To Make A New Thing

      And below is a chart detailing the impact this change will make.

      -Default signature
      (big colorful scroll-compelling chart)

      Alternatively, sometimes I keep the email as short as possible, and then just include any images at the bottom.


      Here are some screenshots of the whatsits. Also, be sure to double check the supply requirements alongside the acceptable range of blah.
      -Default sig

    8. Master Bean Counter*

      I don’t know. But if you figure that out I’d love to know. My name, which is spelled out in my signature, is apparently too difficult for people to spell right when replying.

      1. martinij*

        Or, people will choose to give you a nickname if they deem your name too long! My name is not Jen…

    9. Dr. Doll*

      First making sure that your boss has your back, AND that your emails are crystal clear, no chance for misunderstanding, AND that you give plenty of lead time, AND that you give reasonable reminders:

      Don’t solve the problems that their lack of reading causes. If they miss important dates that cause them to miss opportunities such as grant proposals or awards, it’s on them. If they miss things that cause their *students* to suffer? I know it’s painful, but that is on them too. When they ask questions that were in the email, forward the original email with the information highlighted, with a cheery, “Here you go, see below!” (because you can’t be rude, sadly). When they do the exact opposite that was instructed, depending upon what it is and if it makes your job easier or harder, send the work back and ask for it to be corrected.

      Calling you by the wrong name…sorry. It’s rude AF but not worth a moment of your time.

    10. fposte*

      Staffing in academia is a lot of herding of the cats. I find it most useful to embrace it rather than resent it–corralling is one of the things I’m getting paid to do, and, as somebody once said here, the cats are never going to learn to herd themselves.

    11. Stellaaaaa*

      If it’s a time-sensitive issue and you don’t mind coming out swinging, sometimes the only solution is to get in touch with the department chair. These days it’s not uncommon for timely email communication with students to be part of professors’ contracted job duties. Same for keeping scheduled office hours. When I’ve reached points of desperation, I’ve had good results with emailing the chair something like, “I realize this is forward, but Prof X isn’t answering my emails and he’s never in his office during the times given on the syllabus. Can you tell me when I can expect him to be in his office?” Department heads don’t like to hear that their employees are actively making it difficult for students to succeed and eventually give large endowments to the school.

      1. dear liza dear liza*

        Be *very* careful here and know your campus culture. If there’s a strong sense of shared governance at your university, the chairs are not viewed as the professors “bosses.” The chairs’ role is more of coordinator for the department. How that plays out can be a million different ways, but if you sic a chair on a professor without understanding the departmental relationship, you can poison your relationship with that professor FOREVER.

    12. Ultraviolet*

      The answer to your question varies a lot depending on your position. For some roles, the answer would be that it just is part of your job to answer the redundant questions and fix things when instructions aren’t followed, just because the overall goal of the organization requires that professors spend very little time on these things. For these roles, success is largely evaluated based on how easy you can make these things for professors. In that case, you could take steps to reduce actual confusion (like maybe have someone read a few of your emails and let you know whether they could be made more clear), but it wouldn’t really be appropriate to try to get the professors to put more effort into something.

      If your role isn’t really a supportive one, I think you just have to figure out to what kind of consequences for following or not following instructions you can impose. If you have the ability to say, “forms submitted according to these instructions will be processed faster than ones that aren’t,” for instance, that might help. Or maybe you could wait 24 hours before responding to emails that are requesting info that’s obvious from your original emails.

      It’s definitely rude that they call you by the wrong name.

    13. SirTechSpec*

      Count me under “let me know if you find out”. For our current big initiative, we’re trying to rely less on e-mail (though we’re still sending it, of course) and more on posters and 1-on-1 sessions with people they already talk to about curricular stuff. So, I guess that’s a vote for “find someone whose emails they DO read, and get them to help you.”

    14. Allison Mary*

      Would Boomerang be helpful here? It can be used with either Gmail or MS Outlook.

      If I were in your shoes, and I was waiting on information from someone, first, I would have Boomerang delay the email so that it is sent at the most ideal hour when it’s most likely to be responded to, according to their own research (first thing in the morning, if I recall correctly – 6 or 7 AM?). And then, I would use Boomerang’s feature to continue emailing the same request for information, at whatever frequency I want, until the email was responded to. I believe Boomerang even has a feature where you can specify, only continue sending this repeat email as long as there has been no reply.

    15. Rob Lowe can't read*

      I have no idea, but I sympathize. I think one of my coworkers is legitimately proud that she never reads emails; I am legitimately annoyed at how many times just today this inconvenienced me.

    16. Sophia in the DMV (DC-MD-VA)*

      As a professor I think it’s important that you know we receive lots and lots of emails each day. From students, it’s often questions that can be found on the syllabus. We have a reputation of being absent minded bc of the amount of things we’re juggling with regard to research, teaching and service (let alone life) and the various things that come with each rank (e.g. Assistant prof worrying about tenure and how to balance everything)

      That being said:
      – Make sure your subject line is clear
      – If it’s overtly long, a convo over skype or phone may be better if you can’t make office hours
      – Be explicitly clear about what you are asking and if there’s a deadline wrt a needed response

  12. Anon for this*

    I have a coworker who has a chronic heart condition. Twice this year (most recently last month), he has been taken to the hospital by ambulance from work. The company made him get a note from his doctor before they would allow him to return to work. He got a note from his doctor saying he was cleared for full duty with no restrictions.

    Our manager, however, has decided to adjust his schedule. Most of us work rotating shifts, but now my coworker has been placed on a Monday-Friday dayshift schedule. Rotating shifts take a toll on the body and mind, but at this job, rotating shifts come with built-in overtime, shift premiums, and holiday pay, which results in roughly 25-35% more pay over the course of the year than a dayshift-only schedule. My coworker wants to continue working rotating shifts for the extra pay, and also because of some of the other benefits like the ability to make doctor’s appointments on weekdays without having to use PTO.

    I think our manager believes the dayshift-only schedule is for my coworker’s own good, and probably views it as some kind of accommodation (there are actually other people in the department who are working this schedule because they requested it as an accommodation to their disabilities). I’m also guessing that they have some concerns about liability, if he has a heart attack at work or something. Since my coworker does not want his schedule to be changed, though, it seems to me that this is discrimination on the basis of a disability, because he is getting paid less because of his heart condition. Is this legal?

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Is there more coverage during the daytime shifts? If this employee’s condition is going to keep progressing and if future hospitalizations are likely, it’s reasonable to schedule him during times when other people are already there to keep things running. It could also be that there are accommodations available during the day that are not possible to instate at night. There are a lot of liability issues lurking around the fringes of situations like this. At face value, an employee has no right to the schedule he likes best. Accommodations go both ways: if this is the best legal way that the business can continue to employ someone who has disrupted the workplace twice with medical scares, those accommodations have to stand.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yes, there is more coverage during the daytime, and that’s probably part of the thought process. Not everyone likes the schedule they have, but it seems a little different in this case because his schedule was changed specifically because of his medical condition. He is a top performer and his attendance is average (he doesn’t call in sick excessively). I can see it from the company’s perspective, too, but I hate to see a great employee getting screwed over just because he has some health problems.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          Two hospitalizations during work probably means that there are more that you don’t know about. Being fair isn’t just about accommodating this one person and assuming that everyone else is perfectly able to do what this one person needs. This person needs to be scheduled at the same time as other adults who are capable of keeping a level head during a medical crisis and who can be trusted to recognize warning signs and call an ambulance on time. This stuff could be triggering for other people or cause difficult shutdowns during crucial points in the workday. I don’t know the legalities of it, but I feel that two ambulance calls inside of one year might enable an employer to impose safety regulations.

          I would also caution you against assuming you know everything about what’s going on. It’s not uncommon for someone with an illness to resist what’s good for them, especially when the changes are new. You didn’t read the doctor’s note. Your employer might be cleared to go back to work and even to work overnights, but there’s no telling if the doctor recommended a shorter and more consistent schedule. You can’t fall back on, “John was managing just fine before!” because he wasn’t. His heart condition isn’t going away.

          1. Natalie*

            That’s not really how ADA works, though. You can’t restrict a disabled employee’s work because it might trigger other employees or because it’s “what’s best for them”. He’s an adult and he, frankly, has the right to risk his health if he wants.

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              The “reasonable” part of “reasonable accommodation” comes into play. It could be argued that an employee with extreme medical needs can only work when management is on premises. And if someone else has an accommodation or issue that makes it difficult to task her with being responsible for calling an ambulance, whose issue takes precedence? I also don’t feel comfortable with the accommodation being, “Hey, all you other employees, you know how John almost died twice in front of you? Now we’re tasking you with making sure he doesn’t die on future shifts.”

              1. Natalie*

                You’re describing a “reasonable accommodation” that the employee would be making for the benefit of the company, but that’s not what the ADA addresses or requires. Employees don’t make accommodations, employers do.

                And employers are not generally allowed to restrict the work of a disabled employee unless they have a strong *business reason* to do so, such as the employee not being able to perform core job tasks with or without accommodation. The law isn’t really concerned with whether other employees feel uncomfortable. IIRC this is often specifically addressed in compliance documents as an invalid reason for discrimination.

                1. Stellaaaaa*

                  It all depends on whether a chronic heart condition qualifies as a disability, and I’m not sure it does.

                  There can be a legit business reason to not put someone with a major health issue on the skeleton night crew.

                2. Ultraviolet*

                  @Stellaaaaa – Even if the heart condition doesn’t qualify (in the sense of being found not to substantially limit major life activities), there’s still the “regarded as disabled” clause of the ADA. I am not a lawyer and am not happy with any of the arguments I’ve just typed and deleted, but I think basically if the employer said, “This guy is so sick that it’s dangerous to have him work nights,” and the court ruled that the employer had exaggerated that danger (willfully or no), the employee is protected by some parts of the ADA regardless of whether the heart condition itself met the “substantially limits major life activities” bar.

                  Based on that understanding, I’d argue that it doesn’t depend on whether the condition qualifies as a disability, but on whether the impact (and probability) of the guy having another episode is so big that the schedule restriction is justified for business reasons.

          2. Anon for this*

            It’s true that I didn’t see the doctor’s note, but I have to believe him when he says the doctor signed him off with no restrictions (I’m pretty sure there is a form for the doctor to fill out, so it’s not just a free-form letter from the doctor). And I know that his heart problem is ongoing and this could very well happen again, and he can be a bit stubborn when it comes to letting people help him, but it just seems wrong that even though the doctor says he can work with no restrictions, the manager feels that he knows the guy’s medical needs better than the doctor and is going to impose restrictions anyway — restrictions that take money out of my coworker’s pocket.

            I was working with him during the last incident. I was the one who called 911. It was a terrifying experience to watch him almost die in front of me, but really, something like that could happen any time, to anyone. There was a letter here a couple of weeks ago from someone who got taken away from work in an ambulance because of an allergic reaction, and a lot of people in the comments shared their own experiences with having or witnessing medical crises at work for a variety of reasons. It happens, even to people who have no chronic medical problems. We were actually on dayshift when this happened, and our manager had taken the day off and wasn’t around anyway.

      2. michelenyc*

        That was my thought too! As a manager I would be really uncomfortable scheduling someone that clearly has a heart condition at a time of day that is safest for them and the company.

    2. DCGirl*

      Is this a permanent change of schedule or temporary while your coworker recovers from the most recent event? Does your job involve safety issues? Safety issues give the employer greater latitude to make changes.

      Ultimately, your coworker needs to discuss all the specifics of his situation with an attorney. You haven’t posted enough for anyone here to make a judgement. It’s not inherently illegal to change his schedule — the issue is all the underlying facts and reasons.

      1. Anon for this*

        It’s a permanent change of schedule. According to the guy’s doctor, he is recovered from the latest incident and has no need for a schedule change. There are some potential safety issues with the job, but I’m not sure if it would make any different with respect to safety to have him working dayshift vs. rotating shifts. I’m not sure if he would be willing to talk to an attorney about this; I was hoping it would be clear-cut enough that he could go to HR and point out that this is discriminatory and they could get his regular schedule reinstated.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is where it gets murky for me. He has had two events now and I am thinking the company can do what they think is best here. Not quite a parallel situation and definitely less concerning, I had a machine that I was supposed to use. Twice I lost my grip and the machine hit the wall. I admitted I just was not strong enough to run it. I got banned from using it. (Which was actually okay with me and did not impact my ability to do my job in any manner.) But it was considered a problem because I had two incidents with the machine. Which is what I am picking up on here, your coworker had two incidents and they were pretty serious incidents. I can see a company wanting to change something because of safety after the second incident.

          I know it can feel like punishment, “I got sick so you cut my pay.” I understand that part. But I have also seen companies keep people employed long after they should have been home on rest, so sometimes the story goes that way also. Companies can strive to keep people working as long as possible, perhaps this is also part of their thinking. “Let’s get this guy on a set schedule, so he can get rest and get other parts of the story settled somewhat and then consider changing him back to his old routine.”
          I am thinking this because it sounds like they did not change anything after his first heart event.

          Again, I understand, no one wants their pay cut. Perhaps he can talk to the boss and something can be done to get him some extra hours. Maybe the boss would agree to a nine hour shift or maybe the boss would agree to let him come in on a Saturday when there are plenty of people around. I am guessing at how your company is set up, though. The main idea is to talk to the boss and ask for more hours, the solution may not have to be just the options of a) old rotating schedule or b) new limited schedule. There might be a middle ground somewhere.

    3. LCL*

      Hm, this is interesting. Coworker really should be on dayshift for their health, but doesn’t want to. We have contract language here that wouldn’t allow me to move a shift person to permanent days without their consent, unless they prove themselves unable to do the job for some reason.
      FWIW, when we have had nightshift people develop health issues, I have offered to move them to dayshift and every one has refused. They use more and more leave time and eventually retire.
      How are shifts assigned? Do you have a written procedure, or is it solely managements’ choice? Or, management tries to give people the shift they want, but can reassign people?

      1. Anon for this*

        There’s not a written procedure, but it is supposed to be “fair and equitable.” Until just recently, the policy has been that everyone is required to work rotating shifts unless they can’t for medical reasons (with a doctor’s note saying so) or they have specific, voluntary job duties that require a dayshift schedule. Right now, management has reduced the number of people on rotating shift to augment dayshift, but the assigned dayshift workers are changed quarterly (except those with medical excuses and special job duties). The new plan is to keep this guy on dayshift only and not change him back to rotating shifts after 3 months.

        It makes me sad to think of him retiring. Despite his health problems, he is still a great worker, and he wants to keep working. I wish there were a position for him with more flexible hours, but I think he really likes what he is doing and he’s really good at it, and I don’t think he’d want to move to a cushy desk job if it were offered to him.

    4. Anon Responder*

      The company should probably talk to an employment law attorney about this because it sounds like the employee is being treated differently because of the heart condition. (Does it meet the definition of disability? Is he being “regarded as” having a disability and being treated differently because of that? Are there state laws that may cover this?) I would have Concerns from a legal perspective.

    5. Observer*

      It’s hard to say definitively, but this is definitely in the grey area, at least. It’s highly possible that this steps on the ADA.

  13. SI Anon*

    I’m relatively new to working in a professional office setting (as opposed to retail, waitressing, etc.) so I’m curious: What sort of personal items do you keep at work?

    I just have a phone charger, a mug and a box of tea, and headphones. (I’m taking my cues from coworkers- none of them have a lot of “stuff” either.) I know my mom has a TON of personal stuff in her office- candy dishes, funny signs on the walls, a couple of plants in her window, novelty pens (like the ones with big feathers on the ends), etc.- but I suspect that that’s probably not the norm.

    So. What do you have? And is there anything that you’ve found particularly useful to keep around?

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I think it depends on your storage– I have my own cube with lots of lockable drawers, so I have a charger, a water cup, 2 mugs, novelty glasses to hold pens, a heat pad, a tiny Christmas tree, headphones, a bunch of art/comic/printouts on my walls…the list goes on. But then again, I also made a conscious decision to have more stuff since I figure if I’m stuck in a cube I can make it as nice for me as possible.

      Having at least one nice/novelty/distinctive pen is the best thing you can have, in my opinion. Keeps your writing implements from walking off.

    2. Temperance*

      I have a decent sized office, and I have some kid artwork, my Funkos (Clark Griswold and Cousin Eddiw FTW), and a tiny Commander Riker.

      I keep them around because they bring me joy. I turn around and see them, and it makes me feel good.

    3. Dawn*

      Well I have the standard drawer full of emergency snacks, ibuprofen, hand lotion, etc. I have a few knick-knacks under my monitors on my desk, just small ones that make me smile, and I have a couple of postcards put up that remind me of fun vacations I’ve taken. I also have a shawl and a blanket because sometimes the heat doesn’t work in our building.

      At my last job I had a fully decorated desk with plants and pictures and stuff- and I’ve been meaning to bring in pictures for the walls of my office but I’ve just not bothered to yet!

    4. Fiona the Lurker*

      One thing I found absolutely vital was a picture of my son; it reminded me why I was working every day! Otherwise I’d say the only absolute essential is your own mug – and maybe some bottled water and a pack of tissues!

    5. Frankie Seeks Job*

      I have a small closet unit, where I keep my tea, snacks, hygene items. On my desk I keep a funko toy so that the desk actually feels somewhat like mine.

    6. CherryScary*

      Looking around my desk right now, I have phone charger, headphones, mug, and handcream (my hands get super dry in the colder months). I know i have a stash of snacks in a drawer with plastic silverware for days I work out at lunch, which I will also offer to nearby coworkers if needed. Reminds me that I need to get more of those…

      1. CherryScary*

        Oh! Also have a few figurines that “guard” my PC tower, and a whiteboard I hung on the outside of my cube. Good for noting out of office days, and I put work-friendly inspirational quotes daily.

    7. Spills*

      I have the items you have, plus a little plant for some color/life and a little embroidered decoration that a friend made for me. I already struggle with having too much clutter with all my papers/staying organized, so I don’t like to have any more “stuff” than I need on my desk! :)

    8. Emilia Bedelia*

      On my desk I currently have a few mugs,a water bottle, a phone charger,a little desk knickknack that I made a while ago that’s sentimental and a mini-pumpkin (tis the season). I have a flipper cabinet where I keep tea, some snacks, personal health stuff like ibuprofen and Chapstick, an extra cardigan, gym clothes, my purse, and whatever other personal stuff I have that day. Under my desk I have my umbrella and a yoga mat (for lunchtime yoga class). On my cube walls I have a few birthday/event cards that I received. Other people in my office have personal photos or other knickknacks- one of my coworkers has a ton of travel pictures hanging that always starts a conversation with people. I think there’s a reasonable amount of leeway in terms of what’s professional to keep at your desk, but following office norms is a good way to start. If you have a cabinet or drawer where you can hide stuff away (or even just a box under your desk), that’s really helpful. I tend to think that personal items on your desk should be pretty carefully curated.
      In terms of usefulness, my mugs, cardigan, and umbrella are my top picks.

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        Here’s another that I forgot: a pile of napkins/paper towels is a lifesaver, if you eat/drink at your desk.
        (inspired by the fact that I’m eating lunch right now, and will absolutely need a napkin or two when I’m done…)

    9. Lia*

      Phone charger, water bottle, pen holder, hand sanitizer/lotion, my own coffee mug plus a a travel mug, a small drawer with emergency supplies (band-aids, ibuprofen, toothbrush, floss, comb, lip balm, safety pins, breath mints,mirror, nail file and clippers), and a shelf of emergency food rations: tea/coffee, dried fruit, crackers, cliff bars, and the like.

      1. Pwyll*

        Basically the same for me. I’d add to your list: a tide pen, an emergency suit jacket, a framed copy of my professional license, and a family photo.

      2. SI Anon*

        You know I hadn’t even thought of emergency supplies, but that’s a really good list of things to have on hand! I think I’m going to have to bring some of my own emergency supplies in now. Thanks!

    10. SquirrelGirl*

      It’s funny in our office it ranges from some people having nothing to other people having their desks cluttered with personal items. I think I fall somewhere in the middle, with a candle, hand sanitizer, my water bottle, a funko pop my coworker gave me and a little succulent plant (yay window desk!)

    11. T3k*

      I… didn’t have anything set up at my past 2 jobs… yeah, boring me. My first job out of college, everyone was supposed to choose a poster and it’d get hung in your little area (open floor, but it was only 4-5 of us all along the walls). I did choose a poster, but they never got around to hanging it before I was laid off *sigh* Second job, admittedly I was of the mindset that I wasn’t going to stay there long term, but the other reasons were 1) one of the coworkers was nosy as hell. He’d just randomly start rifling through the drawers of my desk and 2) people walk off with stuff ALL. THE. TIME. I had to actually label the ruler so I’d have at least one laying around. And pens? I found a bunch of them in the desk so I put them in a large mug. By the time I left, there were maybe 5 left.

    12. all aboard the anon train*

      Phone charger, headphones, water bottle and coffee mug, tissues, hand lotion, and a blanket (it gets cold with the AC in the summer).

      I usually keep a few spare tampons or pads in my locked drawers (we have tiny locked cabinets for each person), along with a bottle of ibuprofen and a spare set of contacts and solution. A little makeup bag full of travel sized toiletries like a hair brush, deodorant, a toothbrush. That’s usually where I keep my gym clothes.

      I’m not big on personal items, but I do have a calendar I got from papersource to give some personality to my area. We’re in an open space environment, so there’s not much room to decorate.

      Some people in offices I’ve been in have gone crazy with personal items, so I do think it’s a know your environment type of thing.

      1. SI Anon*

        A calendar! I’ve been meaning to bring one in and keep forgetting so thank you for the reminder! (I suppose it’s a bit late for a 2016 calendar, but I’ll definitely have to remember to pick up one for 2017.)

    13. JMegan*

      I face a blank wall when I’m sitting at my desk, so I got some generic artwork from Bed, Bath, and Beyond – nothing fancy, just something to break up the sightline a bit.

      Personal stuff – a drawer of hand lotion, ibuprofen, tampons, and so on. On my bulletin board, I have pictures of my partner and my kids (one of each, not a huge display), and one small piece of each of their artwork. On my desk, a coffee mug and a water bottle, and a couple of small fidget toys to play with.

      And a Simpsons Kid Rock, just because it makes me laugh!

    14. Eddie Turr*

      I have a phone charger, headphones, a few knick-knacks (mostly because they’d just take up space if I kept them at home), a couple of framed photos, and a water bottle. In my drawers, I keep antihistamines, ibuprofen, bobby pins, and spray-on deodorant. Oh, and a fleece jacket in case I get cold.

      Some of my coworkers have TONS of personal photos or other mementos, inspiring/funny signs, a few have plants, and I bet a couple have maybe a blazer or some key pieces of clothing in case they have a surprise meeting. A few have pint glass collections, fancy bottles of beer or liquor, one guy used to have an enormous CD collection, it’s kinda anything goes here. We’re all in cubicles, but they’re pretty spacious as far as cubicles go.

    15. Mary Dempster*

      I have an office now, but about the same amount of stuff I used to keep in a cube/open setting. A picture from my wedding (not even framed, just tacked up), couple of snacks in my drawers, running shoes in case I ever feel like working out (we have a small gym), and a phone charger. Once you have your own office you have a little more leeway, I don’t think my manager would bat an eye if I put up funny signs or added a candy dish, but I don’t like the clutter.

    16. Laura*

      It depends on the office. Most of the places I’ve worked it’s whatever you want, but one place only wanted you to decorate with two or less photos of the family. I have a bulletin board portion of my wall which I pin up postcards of wherever I travel. People always seem to find it a great conversation starter. When I had an internal transfer, I started over and the guys around me were disappointed.

    17. Collie*

      My coworkers’ spaces are pretty stark, so I don’t have a ton, but what I do have is more colorful/bulkier than what the others have. I keep two pictures above my monitor (frames painted myself), a cat picture frame (it’s a bit out there and tacky, but I love it), a photocube with more pictures, a POP figure, a rock with a phrase engraved on it, hand lotion, hand sanitizer, a water bottle, a woven coaster, and personal business cards. I also keep plastic grocery bags, gum, straws, and painkillers in my desk drawer (and I’ve been meaning to bring in some feminine hygiene materials…).

    18. Aurion*

      My mug, hand lotion, a Mickey Mouse stress ball (about fist-sized, it’s big), a fountain pen, an inkwell (tucked in the corner and no one ever sees it–I’ve a big cube), two kinds of loose tea leaves in the cabinet with my purse. I tote my phone charger to work and back every day so that doesn’t count.

      Everything but the inkwell gets daily use. (Hey, my enjoying Mickey’s cuteness counts as use, right?)

    19. Alton*

      I have a small plant, a box of Kleenex, and in my desk I have a little bottle of hand lotion, a box of tea, and a spare phone charger. I also have a few pens that are mine.

      So not much, and nothing exciting. But my “office” is more of a reception area, which limits my self-expression. I don’t see myself ever having a ton of personal stuff, because I’m pretty reserved and private. But if I had an office that felt more like my space, I could see myself putting up some art, having some pictures, or a few knick-knacks.

    20. Annie Moose*

      My silly putty is non-negotiable. I have to be doing something with my hands at all times, so I have this little tub of it that I play with while I’m talking or waiting for something to load. It’s the best “toy” because you can do a bunch of different things with it, it occupies my hands nicely.

    21. Matilda*

      Personally, I don’t have much. I never got into bringing pictures of people in (it felt too weird right out of college and then I never developed the habit), but now I tend to have a picture of my kid as my computer background. At my first job I printed out a bunch of pictures for places I wanted to go and tapped them up (motivation to keep working), now I have a few library type relevant things I’ve gotten along the way (a book postcard, magnet, etc.), but that’s pretty much it. I have a rather large bag/purse so most of my must haves I just keep with me (lotion, chapstick, excedrin, etc.).

    22. Jaydee*

      It really varies from what I’ve seen. I tend to try to keep my desk itself relatively uncluttered (because it fills up with work-related paper and supplies so easily as it is). But I usually have brightly colored post-its or a fun notepad of some sort, and a candle or a picture of my kid or something like that. Since I have a full office rather than a cubical, I tend to focus my decorating on the walls and bookshelves. I’ll put up some art work or fun prints on the walls and put some pictures, Funko figures, or other small objects on the shelves. And I’ll usually have kid art on my bulletin board and a few plants if I have a window. My drawers are another matter entirely and have random stuff from staples and paperclips to bandaids and chewing gum to a small Batman figure and earbuds to emergency snacks.

    23. DevAssist*

      I have about tree small sticky notes with motivational quotes (because I NEED to keep myself positive), a box of tea, a folder of “personal” work paperwork (salary agreement, journal-style notes, etc.), and a lip balm. I’ve been in my position for about 9 months and I could pack up in a minute and it would look like I was never here. I keep it that way because finding a better fitting job is my top priority, and I don’t want to do anything that creates “attachment” to my workplace.

      If I was in a job I loved, I would likely have a personal mug, pictures, fun colored pens, maybe a Funko, etc.

    24. LizB*

      We do a lot of hot desking at my workplace, so the only personal things I keep at work are my water bottle (since it can easily be moved to whatever desk I’m working at) and my space heater (which I’m happy for anyone to use). I kind of wish I could keep things like headphones, gum, chapstick, etc., but there really isn’t anywhere to put them.

    25. Puffle*

      Hmm, I have a desk in an open-plan office, so my personal stuff is more or less limited to what I can fit in my drawer, which already has a lot of stationery and notepads in there. I have a box of tissues, painkillers, throat lozenges, hand-cream, lip-balm, chewing gum and a cereal bar for snack emergencies

    26. periwinkle*

      Hidden in drawers: A bottle of naproxen sodium (aka Aleve); hand lotion and lip balm; a few scarves/blanket scarves in different weights because the office temp is variable; plastic forks/spoons; a spare nice long-sleeve t-shirt in case of coffee spills; several cans of soup and a microwave-suitable soup mug for those days I don’t pack a lunch; salt/pepper/red pepper flakes; assorted teas and sweeteners; assorted nuts and candies; Aeropress and ground coffee
      On the desk: Two mugs; pen holder; two desk toys for those duller conference calls; three little decorative sculptures
      On the wall: Calendar and a mini movie poster

      Most of my co-workers have family photos and other decorative items. This is the Pacific Northwest so a lot of people have light therapy boxes. A few people have nothing visible but a mousepad and calendar. Others decorate more extensively. I won’t keep anything irreplaceable or even valuable at work – in case of fire I’d grab my backpack and run. Okay, I might grab the Aeropress too…

    27. AdminMeow*

      My current job I got a desk and that was it so I had to stock everything else – plus my boss is never around and has no desk but I do share the office with another admin. Since I had free reign to do what I wanted I had a decent amount which I realized when I started packing before putting in my two week notice. Two trips to the car to get it all done. One was for desk lamp, desktop organizer/file holder, and floor heater/fan. The second was a Rubbermaid tote with any docs that were mine, sweater, spare shoes, napkins/cups, couple Halloween decorations, little bin of snacks & personal items (brush, nail file and clippers, mini hairspray, headphones, floss, mints, glasses cleaner etc.), couple desk photos, wrist pad, and misc desk crap that I had brought in at some point. We are an office with self-employed folks and their teams so obviously people tend to have a fair amount more. Many times when people leave it involves furniture, signs, etc too. I personally like to have a workspace decorated & with anything I may need otherwise I’ll be endlessly distracted by a hangnail or something.

    28. Gene*

      Looking around, I see:

      Watercolor of a hawk done by FirstWife
      Checkered flag from my first racing win
      Bib numbers from multiple bike rides/walks
      Some Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park figurines
      Assorted hats and a couple of bicycle helmets
      Cycling shoes and a spare pair of work boots
      Full Harry Potter series hardcovers
      About 30 other books – not work related
      A stack of spherical magnets
      Multiple water bottles
      (counting) 35 coffee cups/mugs/tumblers – including a Chocolate Teapots, LTD one
      Service award plaques
      Conference name badges hanging alongside 10k medals
      There’s more, but you get the idea

    29. Bad Candidate*

      I think it depends on your office. At my old job I had a ton of decorative “stuff” like your mom has. At this one the only thing I keep at my desk is my fan and a rear-view mirror. I haven’t really found I needed anything else.

    30. TheLazyB*

      God I’m so jealous of you guys. I miss having a desk that was mine. No one has allocated desks any more in our organisation :( I have a locker but it’s not the same

    31. Q*

      Don’t take anything that is too important to you or not replaceable. Things sometimes have a habit of disappearing and you don’t want to lose anything if value (monetary or emotional).

    32. Jen RO*

      I have a ton of crap. The company gave me the computer, headphones, a notebook and some pens… I brought a pencil holder + assorted pens and highlighters, a couple of makeup items, hair clips and hairbands, assorted food items (candy, nuts, tea), a plush seal (the animal) I got as a present, a plush moose (left by a former coworker), a plastic owl I got as a present, a hairband with bat antennas from last Halloween, sanitary pads, hand cream, medicine. This stuff fills 3 drawers and covers 70% of my desk. I am lucky to not work with clean freaks.

      1. Jen RO*

        Oh, and I think the most useful one I have is my pair of nail scissors. I have crap nails and hate hate hate it when they get broken, so when it happens I wait until I am alone in my corner and cut the offending nail. Yes, I know this makes me a monster, but I don’t do it when people can see and I use the trash can.

        1. Formica Dinette*

          LOL! If you wait until you’re alone to quietly deal with a broken nail, you’re considerate–not a monster.

    33. Formica Dinette*

      I know some people who bring in things to personalize their desk on the first day, which includes mugs, action figures, photos, etc.

      I prefer to bring in the basics and find the rest accumulates over time. I’ve been at my current desk for a year and currently have: a mug, a water glass, hand lotion, hand sanitizer, vitamins, lint roller, mints, toothbrush, toothpaste, phone charger, books related to my work, and a spare cardigan.

      IMO, you’re doing the right thing by taking cues from your coworkers.

      1. SI Anon*

        I didn’t want to bring anything in on my first day because I wasn’t sure what was allowed or not! I keep finding myself thinking halfway through the day “Oh, I should bring xyz in tomorrow so I have it on hand” …and then I forget and so nothing ends up accumulating. So seeing everyone’s lists has been very helpful in reminding me of all the things I said I wanted to bring in. (Like hand lotion! I keep forgetting to bring in hand lotion, so thank you for that!)

    34. Elizabeth West*

      In my cube, besides computer equipment and a phone, I have the following.

      On my desk:
      –A plant named Horace (soon he will be getting a friend who needs more light than I have at home)
      –My AAM mug on a mug warmer :)
      –A tiny beach chair holder for my phone
      –Hand sanitizer
      –A small calendar of London landmarks I get from Amazon
      Everything else on the cube walls is work-related. I did have some nerd posters, but I took them home since I never looked at them (they were behind me) and I’m trying to redecorate there.

      Other stuff:
      –Some random cute stuff coworkers gave me
      –A cardigan for cold days or AC overload
      –A footrest that contains a tiny blanket for same
      –A t-shirt to change into for stair climbs (I take it home each week)
      –A fan under my desk to cool off after stair climbs
      –Food in my cubby (crackers, cookies, tea, cups of instant soup from the hippie store, straws, etc.)
      –In the other cubby, baby wipes for after stair climbs and a duster and Clorox wipes for keeping tidy
      –A few office supplies in my drawer; sticky notes, legal pads, pushpins, markers, and computer screen cleaning pads I got from the mailroom. My stapler, paper clips, and tape never get used. I don’t need them most of the time because everything we do is digital.

      My headphones, chargers, and any personal electronic stuff comes in and goes home with me each day in my tote bag. Oh, we also each have a company-issued backpack for our computers. I only use mine when I’m going to work from home.

      It seems like a lot, but I’ve been in this cube for three years. I’d start with just the essentials, based on your space, and you’ll no doubt add to it in time.

    35. Kittymommy*

      I have a smaller desk than my last job but I have a little photo of my parents/grandparents when they were younger (they’re deceased), a Bluetooth speaker for my phone, phone charger, coffee mug, pen/paper clip holder, chapstick. I have literally a drawer of food, creamer, sugar, make up bag (I can work dinner late nights), toothbrush and toothpaste. Another drawer has dine protein bars for my boss and otc meds that I use and others beg for !

    36. Red Reader*

      When I had a cube, I generally kept
      a stash of napkins
      a bottle of yellow mustard (for when I packed sandwiches for lunch – putting it on “fresh” kept the bread from getting soggy!)
      a cup or water bottle
      packets of crystal light for flavoring water on days when I wanted something sweet
      a fork and spoon
      a phone charger
      a small plant (I’m pretty sure that money tree went eight years without ever encountering natural light)
      a sweater, scarf, and fingerless gloves (I work in healthcare admin, 90% of my coworkers were women of menopausal age who flat out wrote “heat flash” on the thermostat)
      a couple bucks in quarters for the vending machine
      a couple of little figurines

    37. zora*

      I used to keep several personal items on my desk, including souvenirs coworkers had brought back from travelling, as well as keeping my own coffee press/coffee and having the designated “Drawer of Chocolate Treats” for the office.

      But I don’t really like my current job and hope not to be here long, plus, our desks are very small, so I only have a phone charger, a large glass bottle for water, and three tiny personal tchotckes, one being a small polaroid of me and my bf at a fancy event. Oh, and I keep a set of silverware, so that I don’t have to constantly throw away plastic utensils. And the company provides snacks, so I don’t have to stock my own chocolate.

      In the past I’ve really loved having a pretty plant on my desk, though, I would do that if I had more room. And it’s super necessary to keep chocolate treats nearby! And I always make sure I have some snacks and back up lunches.

    38. Fortitude Jones*

      I bought my own office supplies from See Jane Work because I really wanted an acrylic and gold stapler. I also have an acrylic and gold tape dispenser, a silver mint julep pencil cup, a silver card tray for my business cards, a silver note pad for phone messages, a lighted mirror, and an acrylic vase full of fake white lilies tied with silver ribbon. I also have some framed diplomas and textbooks I purchased for designation exams in my field on what’s affectionately known as The Diva Desk.

    39. Fish Microwaver*

      Tissues, toothpaste and brush, hand lotion, nail file, non perishable food items (tins of soup , tuna etc), painkillers.

  14. Overly Educated*

    How do you feel about people listing their degree after their name in email signatures/on business cards? I work in higher ed, but not in a traditional academic department, and I have a Ph.D. I was recently told that the my department doesn’t recommend listing degrees after your name because it can “get messy.” That explanation doesn’t make much sense to me, which makes me wonder if there’s a different reason behind the suggestion (like they think it seems pretentious to list your degree). I’m of the mind that I’m working in an academic setting, so it makes sense to say “[Name], Ph.D.” in my email signature. It’s silly but I worked hard for those letters! I don’t see a reason not to include them (and it’s not like I’m asking people to refer to me as Dr. [Name] or anything like that, it’s just an email signature).

    I’m curious what others think about this? What do others with grad degrees do?

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I think it depends very much on your industry. In mine, a PhD definitely looks good to clients, so if you have one, it’s pasted all over your email signature, your business cards, everything.

    2. Kate*

      In academia I think it is reasonable to list the letters. But I have to admit I personally find it a little silly. The difference between a master’s and doctorate can be pretty small depending on the program. And not all master’s or doctorates are created equal!

      1. Overly Educated*

        Agreed! But to that point I’d say that my colleagues with master’s should be comfortable listing their degree after their name as well.

    3. Not Today Satan*

      I think that it’s pretentious and annoying unless the degree is required or very closely related to your job (e.g. PhD for professors, Esq for attorneys working as attorneys, etc.).

      1. Overly Educated*

        So working in a university leading research/data collection projects…. but not a prof, is that closely related enough? I’d also add that a PhD is not always required to be a professor (some have master’s).

        I can see how it’d be annoying/pretentious to bring it up all the time, but in an email signature? Really? It seems so minor to me.

        1. Lotso*

          If it is THAT minor, why are you so worried about it?

          That isn’t meant to be rude or snarky. It just struck me that you do think it’s a bigger deal than you are letting on.

          In reality, if it’s minor and no big deal, you wouldn’t have written in asking about it. You would’ve just done what you wanted to do.

          And as an answer, I tend to roll my eyes at the people that insist on being called Dr just because they have a Phd.
          You are not your degree.

          1. Overly Educated*

            Oh for sure, I’m definitely over analyzing it (that’s just my personality). I wrote in because I wanted to get others’ perspectives and see what other people do.

            And again, I’m not insisting on being called Dr., I’m listing Ph.D. after my name. I’m not asking people to call me Dr. in conversation (and I roll my eyes at those people as well). Idk, I feel like there’s a distinction between the two, though maybe people would disagree.

            1. the_scientist*

              Before I was born (so like, 30 years ago) at this point, my mom worked with a guy who worked in a technical specialist type role, and who happened to have a PhD in ancient sanskrit or something (basically, a field entirely unrelated to the job he was doing) and he referred to himself and basically insisted that his coworkers refer to him as “Dr. So-and-So.” (So, he was basically “the maestro” from Seinfeld.) My mom tells this story nearly 3 decades later because it’s a funny example of a pretentious guy with an over-inflated ego. Don’t be this guy, and you’ll probably be fine.

        2. Pwyll*

          I could see it being an issue if your department thought it confused people into thinking you were a member of the faculty or something. Or if you worked in a medical research location (I knew someone with a Ph.D. in a medical setting who was specifically told she could not use it so that test subjects wouldn’t accidentally think she was a physician.) But I’d really just follow the lead of the other people in the department.

      2. Jennifer*

        …Yeah, I think it’s more likely to come off as pretentious, and “messy” might be code for “you’re coming off as a snob.” Plus there’s a certain weird disconnect about people calling themselves a doctor when they are not a medical doctor. (I really, really wish they’d used another word for that.)

        My new boss actually does this and I think some people are kinda eye-rolling a bit about it, or at least that’s my impression from certain commentary I’ve heard. We don’t go around calling him Dr. Lastname (I’ve known him for at least a decade, I’m not doing it at this point!) and he’s not that kind of dude IRL, but he does have it on business cards, his e-mail sig, etc. if he’s being formal about stuff. More on paperwork than anywhere else.

        1. Overly Educated*

          But is he going by “Dr. Lastname?” or “Full Name, Ph.D?” Idk I feel like there’s a difference, though others might disagree. I pretty much never refer to myself as Dr., and I can definitely see how that can come off as pretentious or misleading (agreed they should’ve come up with a different word for that!)

          1. Bob Barker*

            I am in academia, where a lot of non-tenure-track people have PhDs anyway. And it’s a sad statement on academia that staff members who do have PhDs (and let you know it) are taken way, WAY more seriously than staff members who don’t. So most of those who do find a way of working that fact into their email signatures, or their office profiles, or something. None of them go by Dr. Staff, but several include — or selectively include — Anna Staff, PhD.

            (It’s ridiculous and tedious, but I don’t hold it against my fellow staff members. What’s funniest/most puzzling is that PhD is the only credential staff do this with: I have a master’s, and nobody except HR cares. The Provost has an MD! And… nobody cares. You would think that the idea of getting CPR — or a rectal exam — from the Provost of your university would be an interesting and worthwhile fact to know! But they care a ton more about his PhD in genetics engineering than they do about his ability to save your life.)

        2. Anion*

          Ph.Ds aren’t “supposed” to use the title socially (or in a fashion unrelated to work/their subject). So if he has a Ph.D in History and works at a historical museum, he’d be Dr. Lastname at work/work-related events, but Mr. Lastname elsewhere. If he has that same History Ph.D and works for an insurance company, he’d be Mr. Lastname at work.

          Just a fun FYI, not lecturing or correcting you. :-)

            1. Not So NewReader*

              A lot of attorneys have something that they are pointing at and snickering over. It’s almost like part of the biz. For a friend of mine, it was her car.

              1. neverjaunty*

                That’s pretty sad, but doesn’t surprise me.

                I mean that 99% of the time, putting “Esq.” or “J.D.” after your name is silly and showing off; we know you’re a lawyer, you don’t need to shout it out with “Esq.”, and pretty much all of us have J.D.’s so it’s not especially impressive.

    4. Murphy*

      That’s weird. I work in a nonacademic unit in a university, and I think everyone with PhDs puts that in their signature. People with MS degrees don’t, and so I don’t.

      1. Overly Educated*

        Yeah I was surprised by it as well. I only know ~4 people with Ph.D.s in my department. Two include it in their signature and two don’t (though they don’t have signatures at all).

    5. Stephanie*

      FirstCompany, they told us explicitly not to, saying that it could get unwieldy in correspondence. SecondCompany, people did because we did a specialized type of technical consulting, so I think it was somewhat of a marketing thing. LastCompany, no one did.

      I’m in grad school now, and professors don’t (I guess because it’s assumed that they all have PhDs). Staff in non-academic departments with PhDs will. I sometimes see classmates put “PhD candidate” in their email signature.

    6. self employed*

      Your responses within the thread make it seem like you’re determined to do it, but I think you need to be aware that some people are going to see you as pretentious. If you’re okay with that, go for it. If you prefer not to be seen that way by some, don’t. But you can’t convince all ppl not to see it as snooty. Sorry.

      1. Overly Educated*

        Fair point! I think you’re right that I need to be okay with others’ perceiving it in that way.

        1. fposte*

          From my POV, I’d assume you had a PhD, because most people here do. If you included it, I’d think you didn’t realize that everybody else had one too.

          But again, academia is kind of like the EU–despite some commonalities, localities have very individual practices.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Definitely a know your campus thing. I went to one college where you addressed people as doctor where applicable. If you got it wrong it was a huge mistake on your part.
            Years later I went to a different college and I was told, do NOT call the profs doctor, they will be insulted.
            I had no clue either way and I just tried to follow the bouncing dot.

    7. Boris*

      Where I work, people are much more likely to put Dr Ignatius Flufflelumps than Ignatious Flufflelumps, PhD. Is that an option for you?

      1. Not my normal alias*

        However, this implies that you want to be called Dr. Flufflelumps more strongly than listing it at the end, which isn’t what the OP was going for.

        1. Dangerfield*

          Unless you’re in a very hierarchical institution, I don’t think it makes a difference: you would still address Dr Ignatius Flufflelumps as Ignatius.

    8. Mongoose*

      I also work in higher-ed, non-academic capacity. I listed my degree at first because I worked in a field that was tangentially related to my grad degree (think art degree working in a university museum) and I had just graduated. Ten years and multiple jobs later, I still work in higher-ed, non-academic capacity but no longer in a field that is related to my grad degree. I don’t list it in my email signature anymore–my general sense is that people are looking at my email signature to figure out my current role and how to contact me. My advanced degree in a non-related field? Not really relevant to them at that point in time.

      1. Overly Educated*

        Makes sense. Your comment makes me realize that the fact that I’m a new grad may be driving my desire to include it -_-

    9. the_scientist*

      I think this is extremely company and industry dependent. My company (not academia, but still in research) has a email signature template that includes degrees so basically everyone here lists their degree in their signature. It actually looks more out of place to not have your degree, but that’s very specific to this environment.

      Also, as long as you’re only listing the highest degree obtained, it doesn’t have to be messy. Having fifteen different designations after your name….okay, save it for formal publications, but your highest degree earned? Meh. I don’t think it’s messy or pretentious.

      1. Academic Director*

        My university does the same thing. And credentials are specifically requested for nameplates, nametags, etc. It is specified that you can only put one in, so don’t know if that was a problem or not ;)
        I’m still getting used to having MLIS after my name everywhere here, but that’s how it’s done, so whatever.

      1. HYDR*

        I debated HBIC on my nameplate (where my academic unit practically has the alphabet behind their names….on their nameplates!)

    10. Not my normal alias*

      Personally, I find it pretentious (and saying “I worked hard for those letters” is something I find equally pretentious, as if other people didn’t work as hard or harder for other things that don’t happen to award you some letters that you can stick onto your name). Normally, in academia, everybody seems to give it a lot of importance, so I would include it. But since your department explicitly recommends against it, I would not do it. However, since it looks like you’re going to do it anyway I’d make it part of a signature block, not part of your name.


      Overly Educated, PhD
      Department of Departmental Goodness

    11. fposte*

      This is very field and region dependent, but around here it would look naïve and, as you suggest, somewhat pretentious. Granted, I’m from the school (literally and figuratively) where you don’t use “doctor” either, but I would almost rather see Dr. whatever than PhD in somebody’s email .sig or business cards.

    12. De Minimis*

      I work in a non-profit serving the educational field. We’re also an affiliate of a major university. I think we have maybe 4-5 people with doctorates. They tend to put “Ph.D” on their e-mail signatures, but no one uses “Dr.”

      I have a CPA but don’t use it on my business cards/e-mail signatures…mainly because the license is inactive and my state requires you to state “Inactive” if you use the designation. I don’t offer professional opinions or use anything other than basic accounting [my job is more bookkeeping/general office work] so I don’t feel the need to announce it.

    13. periwinkle*

      We have an internal version of LinkedIn (for lack of a better description) and are encouraged to include our educational information there, and most employees do. It’s relatively rare to include your degree in your .sig because we have an exceptionally generous tuition benefit – I’d guess that at least a third of our professional employees have at least one MS/M.Ed/MA/MBA. However, Ph.D.s are much less common and holders usually do include it in their signatures (but not on business cards).

      It’s an org culture thing. The culture here is yes to doctorates and neutral to any other degree. I would not bat an eye at seeing “Tyrion Lannister, Ph.D.” but on the other hand I would bat a lot of eyes if he insisted people call him Dr. Lannister in a company where everyone goes by first names. If your org culture recommends no degree listing, then don’t do it.

    14. RedBlueGreenYellow*

      I made the decision not to include my Ph.D. in my signature when I started at this company, because my degree didn’t seem particularly relevant to my current field. Someone who started shortly after I did made the opposite decision, and received some ribbing for it.

      Now, several years later, there seem to be lots of people with grad degrees who include them in their email signature, but I feel weird making a change at this point.

    15. BRR*

      Like others have said, if you are in a field where it might matter more than it’s alright. I work at a humanitarian nonprofit and a lot of people of MPHs. I find it so pretentious when they list it in their name (and this is pretty universal for everybody who lists a masters in their email signature or on linkedin.

    16. Overly Educated*

      Thanks for the advice everyone. After thinking about it more I’ve decided to leave the Ph.D. out of my default signature. I think the reason I made such a big deal out of this is that I’ve done a lot of work on myself with not devaluing myself and my accomplishments, since that’s something I really struggle with. Not included it felt counter to that work I’ve done, so I think that’s why I was so resistant to it.

      I still don’t think it’s pretentious to include it, but I came to the conclusion that it’s just not really that important for my colleagues to know that I have a Ph.D. (and the ones who need to know already do because they were on my hiring committee). I also figure if there ever is a situation where I feel the need to communicate that (like if I’m emailing someone at another institution to possibly collaborate), I can always add it if needed. My business cards will have it on there since those were already ordered a few weeks ago, but at least the signature I can change now.

      1. Mander*

        I put PhD after my name sometimes, usually when I’m explicitly trying to use the tiny status boost that gives me. At my most recent company, for instance, it would make sense for certain positions because the department was applying for research funding or something like that. So if I had gotten a consultant post I applied for I probably would have added “PhD” to my signature. But in the day-to-day field work it makes absolutely no difference, because although I studied this field my actual research had nothing to do with anything I am going to encounter on a London building site so I try not to mention the PhD too much.

        Funny story about being pretentious, though: I finally decided that finishing the damn PhD was a thing to be proud of, rather than seeing it as a mark of failure because I didn’t end up pursuing the academic job I thought I wanted (and had no realistic hope of getting such a job anyway). So I called up the bank and asked if they could change my title to Dr instead of Miss so that when my next credit card came, it would say Dr.

        Well, they changed it so that my bank statements now say Dr, but when the card arrived it still said Miss. Which isn’t accurate anyway but still… I think the universe was telling me not to be so snobby!

        1. Overly Educated*

          Haha, funny. I find one of the small pleasures of earning the Ph.D. is checking “Dr.” while filling out meaningless forms asking for your salutation, like for a newsletter or credit card sign up.

          Thanks for this perspective, which is similar to where I’ve landed with my thinking. In cases where it could benefit to point out the Ph.D., like making connections to new colleagues at other schools, applying for a grant or IRB, etc., then I’ll go ahead and include it. But for everyday emails with my coworkers, it just doesn’t make as much sense to include it.

    17. Rob Lowe can't read*

      In my field, in my geographic area, a Master’s is pretty much required for my job – the only people who get hired without them are temps. Most people don’t list their degrees in their signatures because of this, so it always strikes me as really odd when people deviate from that norm. Like, yeah, I know you have an M.A., otherwise you probably wouldn’t work here.

    18. Lemon Zinger*

      I work in higher ed too, and almost everyone I know lists their graduate degrees in their signatures. It’s a sign of further education, which is obviously valued in this profession! ESPECIALLY if you get a M.Ed or Ph.D in higher education or student affairs.

    19. DragoCucina*

      I list my MLIS because of the belief that you don’t have to have college degree to be a librarian. I add my administrative certificate initials.

      I ended up adding my officer position in our state association as well. I didn’t plan to, but there was a newspaper article about the state association and I had people email, “Did you know that there is a state library association? You should get involved.” So, I ended up adding President of State Library Association. Not everyone noted it, but it helped some.

    20. vpc*

      And I read “messy” as “some people have several, and it’s kinda alphabet soup all up in here when you do that”.

      I think the number of degrees where I work averages – AVERAGES – two per person, and about eight years of post-secondary schooling. It’s not unheard of to see someone with a clinical license, two master’s degrees, a PhD or medical degree, and a prestigious title after their name in their email signature.

    21. Overeducated*

      Hi name twin! I feel your ambivalence, oh how I do.

      I just put “Ph.D.” in my email signature block for the first time, a year and a half after graduating. I always thought it seemed arrogant and unnecessary, but it actually seems to be the norm in my new organization. (I recently started a new job outside of academia, doing communication related to my subject matter field.) I have noticed that the people in my division all include their PhDs, professional certifications, and licenses as applicable. I added mine because I have noticed that since I look young and my title is weird and new, people sometimes are not sure whether to interact with me as a subject matter expert, college intern, or support person. I don’t have the nerve to say in person “yeah I know how this works, I have a PhD in it” when someone clearly thinks I am a 21 year old with a communications degree instead but it really does change the way people talk and interact with me. And how seriously people take me, or how technical they get with me, actually does affect how I can do my job.

    22. Anion*

      The reason not to include them is that you’ve been told your department prefers that you not do so.

  15. Kate*

    I have been job hunting for almost a year at this point. Just last week I was offered a nice, part-time (30 hrs/wk for 9 months of the year) job that is a step in the direction I want to be going in. It isn’t the perfect job, but it wouldn’t be a bad start. Then just this week I was invited to interview for an excellent permanent, full-time position at a much higher level! Of course I know an interview isn’t a job offer but I am not sure how to proceed. I haven’t signed anything for the part-time job yet, but probably will have to soon. But the great permanent, full-time position will not be decided for two weeks or so. What should I do? I would be moderately happy with the part-time job but the full-time spot would be a great beginning to my career. How should I handle this situation?

    1. JLK in the ATX*

      Sometimes the hiring timeline quotes goes awry and you might not hear anything in the quoted two weeks. Then what? You can’t keep the current offer on the table until something better comes along. It’s acceptable that an offer can be considered for a week, but you should consult the offering party as to when they would ideally like to have a response. Odds are they want it sooner rather than later.

      If you can do the 9-mos gig and get the most out of it, then do it and use that as a stepping stone to your next opportunity. If you’re willing to give up the 9-mos gig to wait out the better possible opportunity then do that.

    2. Fawn*

      I was in a very similar situation a couple of months ago – offered an OK job that sort of fit my needs, but invited to interview for a much better job in every way that would exactly fit my needs. I asked myself two questions:

      1. Would I be okay in exactly the same position if I don’t get offered Job 2? Yes – I want to move on, but it’s not urgent.

      2. Am I okay with burning the bridge at Job 1 (i.e., accepting the offer for Job 1 and recinding my acceptance if offered Job 2)? No – I’ll likely be applying at this org in the future, so I need my rep to be in good shape.

      I took a gamble, turned down Job 1 (and was transparent with them about the reason, which left that professional relationship in great shape), and was not offered Job 2. And I’m fine with that – the offer was the ego boost I needed to stay motivated in my job search, and I feel like I handled the situation in a way that was true to my values.

  16. HeyNonnyNonny*

    So back when I started my new job, it was a time of chaos and I had a really rough onboarding. Part of that was my hire was never acknowledged in a company-wide email, which is the norm here. Since then, every time I see a new welcome email, I still feel a little left out. So I’m writing my own, right here.

    I’d like to welcome our new hire, HeyNonnyNonny, to The Department of Teapots as our new Technical Potter. Nonny has been working with us for years already as a contractor, and we are excited to welcome her as a regular employee. Nonny earned her Master’s in Spout Style in Funtown, and a bachelor’s in Teapots and Teacups in Chillaxburg. She currently lives in Crabbypants, and enjoys hanging out with her dog and traveling. Let’s welcome Nonny to the team!

    There. I feel better.

    1. Girasol*

      Congratulations and welcome to wherever you are! I was always hired or promoted in the month that work was so crazy that niceties like welcomes (and cakes!) were skipped just this once. Even when you understand it’s disappointing. So I’m sending virtual cake with sprinkles.

    2. Same Here*

      I hear ya. For one reason or another, this has happened to me with both my promotions/title bumps in the last five years. Oh well.


    3. Snazzy Hat*

      1) Congratulations! I must add, that is a lovely welcoming e-mail.
      2) OldJob made a big deal of Associate Appreciation Day. Full-time employees had a half-day of work followed by festivities. Temps had a half-day of work followed by “see you monday!”
      3) Woo! Go Chillaxburg Couches! :-D

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Aw, thanks.

        So my husband went to a certain university that was known for burning couches on game days, and literally has a college T with a couch on it! I feel compelled to dig it up now…

        1. Sami*

          You mean the the university that will probably burn couches tomorrow after the khaki coach leaves town? My sister lives there and attended that U.

    4. AnotherAdmin*

      That would totally bother me too. I would tell myself that it was unintentional and no one meant anything bad by it, but it would still bug.

      So congratulations to you on your new position, and that is a very nice announcement email! :)

  17. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    I haven’t been around much lately, but for a good reason! I’m enjoying my new job, it has a great mix of challenge and familiarity, the commute is 4 minutes, and there’s a lot of opportunity for me to move into other areas after my contract is up.

    The difficult part for me is navigating the office relationship structures. Some of my coworkers find others really distasteful, and some are inveterate complainers, so mostly I’ve been trying to keep my head down and stay out of anything. Which means that some of the complainers tell me “you’re so quiet!” Or “you’re always in your office!” Yes…working….!

    I’ve also had multiple coworkers tell me “God, you look exhausted!” when I actually thought I looked pretty good, so that was demoralizing. But other than that, it’s great!

    1. Camellia*

      Looking exhausted- do you wear makeup? Different lighting affects your appearance, and ‘standard office lighting’ can vary based on the age of the bulbs. Just check in a small discrete mirror and tweak as needed.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        I do wear makeup and check in a few different mirrors before I leave home, as well as when I get to work. I just have genetic dark circles under my eyes that no concealer short of Hollywood can defeat, but most people are kind enough not to comment on them. :(

        1. neverjaunty*

          Assuming you’ve already ruled out stuff like iron or Vitamin D deficiencies, maybe try something like Touche Eclat, which doesn’t really conceal dark circles but offsets them a little with different tones? As a pasty person who can look like a raccoon if I miss sleep, I feel your pain.

        2. Tris Prior*

          I have the same issue and I HATE it when people tell me how tired I look! No one should EVER say that to another person, unless they are going to follow it with “so why don’t you put your feet up while I take care of X” or “so why don’t you take off the rest of the day with pay.”

          Honestly, I think it’s worse when people mistake my very dark circles for black eyes and very carefully ask me if there are problems at home. :/

    2. Product person*

      Congratulations, and it’s great that you got a good commute and lots of opportunities in your new job, Former Diet Coke Addict!

      As an introvert who’d prefer to keep my head down and just work, I’m going to offer you some advice: try to invite small groups for lunch or coffee from time to time (keeping the coworkers who don’t get along very well separated, of course). You can try to be friendly with everyone, and focus on change the subject with the inveterate complainers. I promise you that trying to build relationships with everybody, without taking sides (which I know you wouldn’t do) will become very useful throughout your tenure with the company.

      It took me a long time to accept that my theory that “doing a great job is what matters, and being task-oriented (as opposed to people-oriented) is no big deal” is actually wrong. It turns out that people are never 100% rational, and we need to take care of the emotional side as well. You don’t need to become BFFs with anyone, but learning the names of the kids of the coworker who loves to talk about them, the hobby another colleague is passionate about, etc., will help you have more meaningful “small talk” with people and develop relationships that will help you down the road when you need their support for an idea, or their help with information required to do your job, etc.

      I learned that it doesn’t take me a lot of time to nurture those relationship– just a few minutes a couple of times a week will do. I’ll make a point to ask about the topic of interest of a colleague when we’re both getting coffee in the kitchen, and once a month invite a small group to go to a restaurant nearby I know they like, or accept an invitation to join another group for lunch (even though I’d much prefer to eat alone with a book).

      Interacting with colleagues in a more personal way helps us build relationships that actually end up improving the quality of our work, so I suggest you give it a try !

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Pure gold advice right there, FDCA.

        I blew it at one job, I kept my head down. Ugh. It was the best paying job I had ever had at that point in my life. People were nice, etc. There were a couple of bullies. Looking back on it, if I had hung out with others more the bullies probably would have left me alone. But that was not my main problem. I was temp. And when it came time to let me go, they never called me back.
        Never underestimate the power of being liked. I am not even saying WELL liked, just get to know them and get to know what they are good at. Give everyone a similar level of interest.

  18. AdAgencyChick*

    Speedy recovery Alison!

    Have any of you been in a situation where your boss is on a leave of absence with no replacement, and you’re the primary coverage? I’m in this situation right now, and although it’s not the worst thing ever — at least my boss specifically chose her leave to be in a not-super-busy period — it is causing a bit of a headache for me. There are a couple of high-profile projects that either I or she might work on if we were both here; since she’s not here, they’re mine, and if *I* need some time off, I have to arrange coverage with one of my direct reports, none of whom is experienced enough that it’s really fair to them to ask them to do anything substantive on the project.

    I’m trying to arrange my days off so that my direct reports don’t have very much to do when I’m out, but this is advertising — inevitably schedules change, and I’ve just been asked by a colleague whether I can be available on certain days that I had planned to take off. (I said no, and am trying to work with him so that most of the substantive questions come in on days I’m here.)

    I don’t want to just delay taking any time off until my boss returns (and she fully supports me on that). I guess I could just be more flexible and not plan days off in advance, but there *are* some specific days I really want to take (including the one mentioned above), and honestly I’m a person who just likes to plan ahead.

    WWYD? (Or, what *have* you done in this situation?) And I know it could be a lot worse — like I said, my boss could have taken leave during an even busier period, and at least it’s only a few weeks, not months on end.

    1. EEK! The Manager*

      I was in this situation last year when my boss went on maternity leave and I was covering for her. I had also planned my wedding and honeymoon for the time she was out on leave! Not ideal but life happens like that!

      In this case, I was able to shift some of the responsibilities to my boss’ boss, who I was temporarily reporting to and has a vastly different role than I. Other things just had to be placed on hold. I took 11 days off and nothing fell apart while I was gone. Not sure if that is something you are able to do, but that’s where I’d start, especially considering you are just trying to take a few days off here and there.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I wish I could! Unfortunately the next level up from my boss is a senior exec who doesn’t actually have the departmental expertise to cover for me, so I’m juggling as best I can.

    2. Jules the First*

      Welcome to my life!

      Remember that planned absences are much less stressful than unplanned ones (so, for example, it’s important that you take your planned time off so that you relax and recharge and don’t end up taking unplanned sick time); try and coordinate with colleagues who may have overlapping skills (so while no one overlaps me exactly, Lucy can pitch in if you need something reviewed for coherence; Kate’s a good choice if you need to talk an issue through; Tom is your guy if you need to decode a client brief; Solomon can make x, y, and z kinds of decisions on our behalf); and then if you do all of that and they still need you, sometimes its better to take the day off and spend 30 minutes knocking out answers or calling into a conference call, especially if the alternative is not taking time off.

    3. Product person*

      I was in a similar situation once, and what I did was to avoid taking days off during the period I was covering for my boss, especially when I knew that would create problems for my employer (such as lower quality work delivered to an important client, delays in delivery that would cause client dissatisfaction, etc.). But I also made sure to (respectfully and in a non-demanding way) make it clear to the company owner the sacrifice I was making, and that I expected this to be a temporary thing, because I very much value my earned vacation time and would not be willing to keep inconveniencing my personal life for very long.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Can you stuff the pipeline?
      Project requires A, B, C and D. You are the only person who can do C. Can you prep C so that someone else can just finish it off? Can you do C in advance and let them do A, B and D while you are out?

      Can a person be trained to do C? There were times where I paired people up, I trained two people so that they would be able to bounce stuff off each other in my absence. This worked very well.

      Take a look at your work week. Maybe the busyness levels seem random but you might notice patterns. One place I worked, Fridays fell apart. Everyone was too tired to push on Fridays. A different place had the worst Fridays imaginable but Mondays ran at a snail’s pace.

    5. lfi*

      yes, this happened to me earlier this year. since i technically didn’t have anyone under me (almost more of a coaching situation since they were new and i was already in the position), i went to boss’s boss and asked about the time off. she looked at me like i had two heads and said as long as i had the time i should (and could) go.

      that being said… i did get messaged 3 out of the 5 workdays that i was gone. i left behind notes, concise instructions, and tried to lay out a good foundation, but sometimes stuff just happens.

      i say document as much as you can, do what you need to do prior to your time off, and have a backup for them to go to.

    6. Cap Hiller*

      If it’s only a few weeks, I would delay time off unless it’s really necessary but set clear expectations about what you’re able to accomplish being down a person. I’ve been on both sides of the maternity leave position, which is months, and the biggest challenge was setting up the expectation that you cannot literally accomplish the same as before being doing a person. But, I think it would be a good team player if you to avoid unnecessary time off so you can more easily set this expectation

  19. Audiophile*

    I want to know if anyone else encountered this before.

    I was submitting an application for a very large finance company and on the self-identification form it asked for my sexual orientation and whether I identified as transgender.

    I can’t remember ever seeing this before and as someone with many LGBTQ friends, it definitely caught my attention and made me a little uncomfortable.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      I’m assuming they’re trying to demonstrate to someone that they’re inclusive and actively recruiting members of traditionally underrepresented communities. I also assume that this is the voluntary self-report, and you’re not obligated to include that information at all.

    2. JMegan*

      This is pretty common in government. Usually the goal is to measure diversity in their applicant pool, not to identify you as an individual. So the responses *should* be reported in aggregate, and should *not* be associated with anyone’s name, and there should DEFINITELY be some language on the form saying all that. If there isn’t, you can call their HR department and ask why they’re collecting the info and how it will be used.

      That said, if you’re uncomfortable filling out that field, then just leave it blank. It’s not a hiring qualification in any way, especially for a large finance company – you can bet they’re pretty big on following rules and procedures, especially around personal privacy!

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      That sounds like a lot of legal trouble waiting to happen. I’m hoping it’s actually well-intentioned (we’re accepting of all orientations and identifications!) but misguided.

      1. Bob Barker*

        Yeah, this came up in the NFL, of all places — before the draft in I think 2013, the NFL sat down with various college students and started “confidentially” asking them if they were gay, in a nice way, because I guess the execs wanted to have a media strategy in place if anyone volunteered to be poster boy. Well, somebody gossipped about the fact they were doing this, even with the best of intentions, and the Attorney General of the state of New York wrote them a stiff “don’t you bleeping dare” letter.

        It was funny, because, yeah, for once I do think the NFL had good intentions! But it’s still a big no-no, in New York anyway.

    4. Pwyll*

      Was it added to the usual EEO disclosure? (That asks about your race, gender and disability status?) It should have indicated that responses are anonymous and only used in aggregate to track their compliance with minority outreach programs.

    5. Aurion*

      Given the spectrum of orientations, even if this was done with the best of intentions as other commentors have suggested, I would be extremely skeptical that they’ve covered the breadth of orientations. And if they didn’t, well, that’s worse than if they never brought it up in the first place.

    6. Blue Anne*

      This is very standard in the UK. Almost all jobs have equality monitoring and this is one of the areas on the questionnaire. Most of my straight dude friends have had my “you need to fill that in too otherwise it looks to them like they’re only interviewing minorities and if there’s actually a problem they won’t know” rant.

      Coming back the the USA and not being asked this question on applications has been weird.

    7. Jordan*

      I would not feel comfortable filling that out, as someone working through their own gender identity. Waaay too personal, even if it is an attempt at ensuring diverse hires.

  20. T3k*

    How does one ask about weather related absences in an interview or on acceptance of a job? I applied to a job in my alma mater’s town, and remembered that every winter, there’s at least a week if not more that caused transportation in the area to shut down (one year they actually had to cancel the last few days of the exam period because they had such a bad snowstorm, everyone still there was stuck for a week). To make matters worse, I don’t have a vehicle that can go up and down steep mountain roads when covered in ice. So, if by some strange luck I get an interview with them, or another place that has bad winter weather, how do I address the weather policy and when?

    1. Dawn*

      Every place I’ve ever lived that has predictable bad weather in the winter has had a good weather policy in place, so first of all don’t worry too much about it! I would bring it up at the offer stage, as an “aside” kind of question- “Oh, by the way, I know that y’all get terrible winter weather, what’s the office’s winter weather policy?” Most of the time it’s going to be something like they’ll close if the University is closed, or if the county government is closed. My last job had a *great* system of saying they were closed if the county government was closed, so it was super easy to wake up and see if you had to go to work or not. Of course they also had a clause in there that if the government was open but you didn’t feel safe coming to work it was fine to work from home with prior manager approval.

      1. CheeryO*

        Hopefully my office is the exception, but I live in a very snowy city, and we don’t have any guidance or policies relating to winter weather. If the office is closed (which only happens during incredibly bad blizzards, maybe once per decade or so), you better hope the phone tree gets to you, because they don’t announce it anywhere.

        I imagine it’s different in areas where wintry weather is rare or limited to a couple weeks per year, but the bar for “I didn’t feel safe driving this morning” is pretty darn high here. If that means you have to buy snow tires or a car with 4WD, that’s just what you have to do, and if someone asked about weather-related absences, they’d probably get a bit of side-eye. (We also don’t have very good public transportation, so that’s probably a factor – most people have pretty good winter weather driving skills.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Same here. Exjob was only shut for one day after the 2007 epic ice storm (and we all got paid for that day). But we didn’t even close the office after we got hit by a tornado!

    2. Not my normal alias*

      Since you’ve lived there before, it would be natural to say “I remember back when I was here, how the roads get in bad weather. How does that impact your organization?”

  21. Jo Riley*

    I had a first-round interview yesterday that went really well, though it was a bit odd in that it was with the rest of the admin team rather than the hiring manager. Today they want me to come back in to meet with two of the directors of the department, one of whom would be my direct supervisor.

    The admin team answered most of my questions about the position itself and gave me a fairly good idea of what the office culture is like. What questions do you all like to ask your potential supervisors? What should I be on the lookout for? This is my first “real” round of interviews, since it was just a formality at my current job (I had worked here as a college student) and the management structure where I am now is pretty informal.

    1. Frankie Seeks Job*

      Maybe you can ask if you have an assigned buddy / mentor in your new company – not just to train you in the work, but to show you where the printer is, how to book the meeting rooms or how to submit medical claims… stuff like that.

    2. Newish Reader*

      Don’t hesitate to ask some of the same questions you asked the admin team. It could be helpful to see if the directors have the same perspective as the admin team on key issues you wondered about.

  22. Lucie in the Sky*

    How to you balance a job you hate and a boss you actually like? My boss is super chill with rules / no problems leaving for the doctor or other appointment like other jobs I’ve been at — or even just to beat traffic on a Friday – or not worried about a sick day or working from home if needed (This is not the norm in my industry) I love my team at my location — but I am always getting yelled at and talked down to — by men with less experience then me (who are 15-20 years older then me) at our other locations. I’m growing extremely frustrated and getting yelled at 2-3 times a day. Last time we had a meeting with these people in person — by boss was supposed to speak but he didn’t (he’s an expat and recent to the US and not a great English speaker) so I had to do all the defending and pushing for my department. He apologized afterwords for not being helpful in the meeting but I feel so frustrated….

    1. Raine*

      Well I suppose my question is in two parts:

      – How often do you have to go to the other locations to do business and
      – Are these visits scheduled well in advance so that you know when they’re coming or do they tend to be something of a surprise

      Because if the visits are infrequent (say maybe 30% of a working year) and you have advanced warning then what I would do is try and schedule something you enjoy before, after, or during. Go to a favorite restaurant, book a massage, get a manicure, schedule a hair appointment, or whatever self care ritual helps you unwind after a stressful day. This works on two levels. The obvious one is that the enjoyable thing helps cancel out the stress of dealing with a bunch of children in suits. The other side of it is that having something to look forward to that you know will make you feel better helps you get through the stressful thing. “If I can make it two more hours I’m going to go home and enjoy that new bath bomb” was incredibly helpful when I was trying to survive holiday retail working hell.

      However if dealing with screaming children in suits is closer to 70% of your job, or you can’t plan things around them easily, then it might be worth bringing up to your boss just how demoralizing it can be to wrestle with these people and ask if they have any suggestions about minimizing the impact they have on your ability to do your job effectively.

    2. Becca*

      You have some very hostile coworkers! (Perhaps not legally hostile, but colloquially for sure.) I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Depending on what level these men are at, could you or your manager (presumably your manager) tell them to stop yelling at you? Or get in touch with their manager(s) about their behavior?

      Your manager sounds like a very good person in terms of benefits and flexibility, but part of managing is supporting your staff! I’m sorry he’s not stepping up to the plate for you and the rest of your team :/ I hope he exerts himself more in the future. You sound like a really dedicated employee— and even if you weren’t, you deserve respect from every level. Good luck.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Your boss may be super chill about the day to day, but he is not a good boss. He should not be allowing you to get yelled at 2-3 times a day (!!!!!!) and leaving you to advocate for the department. Lots of jobs have super-chill bosses but aren’t horrible in all other respects.

      1. catsAreCool*

        Yeah, unless part of the job is getting yelled at (which sounds awful), he shouldn’t be allowing this.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Well you have to weigh out what is of the most value to you. It sounds like your boss has no plan on changing. I would ask myself, “Three years from now, am I happy I stayed or am I kicking myself?”

      I think I would keep an eye open to see what else is available. The take-away on this one is that your next boss has to be able to handle these verbal assaults as that seems to be part of the territory.

  23. Lady Blerd*

    Dear busybody:

    Yes I wear my earphones to listen to podcasts and music on my cell while I work, at my desk, in the corner cubicle that barely no one passes by other then the cleaning technician. At least I am not walking around the office with it on.

    Yours in Cthulhu,

    Lady Blerd

  24. Anon Today...*

    I am so super beyond bummed out. I was in the running for a great job at my current company (which would take me from part time to full time), and I found out today that I didn’t get it :-(

    Vent –
    I graduated college in 2008 (great right). In that time, I’ve only actually been employed full time for a little over a year. Other than that, I have cobbled together part time jobs (most of the time, multiple part time jobs at a time) in order to make a living. Everyone says I’m bright, capable, hard working. In the positions I’ve had, I’ve excelled for the most part, but I can never seem to make it over the hurdle into a “real” full-time benefits included job. When I got off the phone with the manager who told me I didn’t get it, I literally broke into sobs. I have given this company so much effort over the last 4 years as a part-timer. I have volunteered for extra projects, gone above and beyond, made myself available for extra assignments and in general have been a rock star (not my words, I have been told that by other members of management).

    Why is it that I cannot catch a break no matter what I do? /vent

    1. Central Perk Regular*

      I have been in your position and it is so difficult. I graduated a couple of years before you, so I’ve been dealing with a lot of the same things you have.

      It’s heartbreaking to give yourself to a job that doesn’t seem to “love” you back. I had a job that I was so passionate about and got laid off from a few years back. It devastated me. A few weeks later, I got an even better job – with a big pay raise! It didn’t take away the hurt from losing my passion job, but it sure did help. And you know what – I’m a better professional, coworker, and (in general) person since getting laid off.

      Someone really smart once told me that with every “no” you hear, you are one step closer to hearing “yes.” It’s so true. Keep beating the drum, especially on days you don’t feel like it, and I PROMISE YOU – you will hear that “yes.”

      1. Amadeo*

        This. I also graduated with my first bachelors in 2008 and finding a full time job was hell. I found one in May 2009, for 9.50 an hour asking for the degree I’d studied for. I think I must have stared at the hiring manager like he’d grown a second head for a moment because he asked me if I had a question, but I took the job. The benefits weren’t bad but they weren’t great either and I had managed to move up almost a dollar an hour before I left three years later. Then a two year stint at a local printing company that blessedly did give me plenty of raises, but no benefits. The third was at a local university, another minuscule step up salary-wise, but much better benefits.

        And finally. FINALLY this past June I accepted a job at another university and at 36 years old for the first time in my life broke the $30k a year ceiling I thought I’d never get through. I can now think about getting the hell out of my parents’ house again because I can pay my loans (student and vehicle) and I have enough left over for bills and rent or a house payment and savings. It took forever and my metaphorical nails are split and bloody from clawing my way there. I feel your pain Anon, I really do.

    2. Fabulous*

      That sucks. As a 2007 college graduate, I totally feel your pain. Of the two permanent full-time jobs I’ve lucked into in the meantime, they’ve come with no (or substandard) benefits, so you’re not missing out on a ton. Have you looked into temp agencies? That’s how I’ve stayed employed full-time through the years, and temp-to-hire jobs are a great starting place.

    3. Jennifer*

      Beats me, but I’ve been there and done that, and I’m sorry it’s happening to you. There’s nothing like the “Why wasn’t I perfect enough?” feeling.

      1. Anon Today...*

        Yeah, that feeling sucks, and also feeling like I’m wasting my time continuing to work for them, but I need a job, so I guess I have to take what they give me unless/until I find something better. :-(

    4. T3k*

      I graduated in 2013, but I can say, it has not gotten any better since then :( I’ve only held 2 jobs since graduating, only one was full time, both paid so little it was depressing, and no benefits. Oh, and the fun part? After struggling for a year to get the first job, got laid off 7 months in. Yep, I cried, a lot (not there, pretended I was ok with it, then cried when I got home).

    5. Lady Dedlock*

      As a fellow 2008 grad, I offer you my sympathies. Just remember that it’s not you, it’s the economy.

    6. Blue Swan*

      This sucks, I’m sorry. I know several people that have experienced the same situation. As an outside observer, you may want to look at your presentation and interpersonal skills.

      In each case, the “rockstar” part-timers/interns were repeatedly turned down for full-time jobs because while they did great work, they didn’t understand office norms and some basics of professional behavior and offended the wrong people.

      1. Jean*

        More sympathies from someone walking a similar path–not as a recent graduate, but as someone laid off early in the Recession Era. As a friend of mine reminds me, many well-qualified people are having a very hard time finding full-time employment.

        Hang in there! Despite the enormously frustration it’s grimly satisfying to be able to follow one’s (penny-pinching) path with dignity. You’re not alone in the struggle and your economic/professional situation does not define your worth as a human being.

        Grieve in private. Get enough sleep and exercise and as much good nutrition as possible. (It’s harder but not utterly impossible on a limited income.) Find and follow inexpensive or free ways to rejuvenate your spirit: go to the library, take walks in pleasant-looking public spaces, hang with good friends, volunteer to help others, stay connected with a cause or a congregation if that works for you. And keep going, because in the end, what other choice do all of us have?

    7. Not So NewReader*

      At one point, I had this job that I LOVED. It was the job of my life time. I spent eight years at that place waiting for my slice of the pie. Eight years. Am I scaring you? I hope so. It was a super huge mistake for me to wait that long. Finally I left. I had a 9 week long migraine, my grief over that job ran so deep.

      Lessons learned:
      Don’t do this.
      Don’t value the job so much that you can’t see what is going on.
      Too late I found out that other employers would hire me just because I worked for Joe. “If you worked for Joe, then I definitely want you to work here!”
      Don’t do projects and take on extra *for a company*, do it for your own professional growth, do it because it seems like the right thing to do, but do not do it for a company. Why. Because doing it for a company can cause us to expect something in return and if that something does not happen, it hurts oh-so-much. (9 week migraine, for example)

      Where ever you work you will continue to be bright, capable and hard working. Look around, where else can you take your skills? Ask a friend if you are having trouble with this question.

      You will catch a break. But my guess is not at this place. Think of this as your last year at this place and start looking around in all seriousness.

    8. Jean*

      Oops! I meant to reply directly to Anon Today… but nested my answer beneath the comments of Central Perk Regular.

  25. Central Perk Regular*

    Some good news to share on a Friday…

    Earlier this week, we had a team emergency – my coworker (Jane) had a special event planned that she had to be there for. Her child was sick and couldn’t go to day care. I ended up having to go and take care of her child – yes, I had to babysit. All of her back-up caregivers were either sick or out of town. (Note: my role has nothing to do with child care and I’m not in an entry-level position.) But needless to say, we got through it.

    I’ve had to help this coworker a lot in the past year (filling in for her at her special events) because of childcare issues or her vacation. What really makes me upset is that there is a complete disregard for my work and my deadlines on Jane’s end. Every month for the past four or five months, Jane gets in a jam and calls me to bail her out. I don’t mind helping out once in awhile, but it’s quickly becoming a pattern.

    I finally got the courage to talk to our manager about the situation. Our manager is not local, so he doesn’t realize the extent of how much it’s happening. I kept it very factual and told him about the pattern. He point blank asked if I wanted to continue to be Jane’s “backup” and I said no and that I would like to opt out of this responsibility. To my surprise, Manager said he understood and would find someone else to be Jane’s permanent backup.

    I can’t tell you all how relieved I am to be rid of this!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      You handled this so much more maturely than I did ages ago. I always got kids dumped on me during periods when school was out, and I got so sick of it that I started letting the kids run wild. They were little maniacs. One of the moms got pissed that her kid was pretending his finger was a gun and told me that I had to stop them from “play shooting” and to keep them calm. I replied “if you wanted this done your way then you should have gotten a babysitter” – she gave me a death stare but I didn’t budge. And I made sure to schedule a vacation day for the next time school was out. My boss called me at home begging me to come in and I never answered (this was before cell phones). She complained the next day and I told her that my babysitting days were over (I knew I was about to transfer to a different dept. so I wasn’t worried about her reaction). Telling her that I got promoted and was leaving her to go work for her arch-rival was one of my favorite days ever.

      1. michelenyc*

        That is awesome. Every job I have had I make it pretty clear from the get go I do not like kids so I have never had to experience the hell of watching a co-workers/bosses little piece of sunshine.

      2. Raven*

        I was an office manager in a previous life and occasionally would get asked by my GM to watch his daughter. Never was a problem. She would sit in his office and watch movies on his computer the entire time. Super well behaved little girl.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Perfect. No way in hell would I watch someone else’s kids. Put on your no-way-in-hell vibe and keep it on. There are lots of things I am willing to do, heck I will drive the boss to the grocery store and all kinds of little things like that. But I will not watch their kids for the reasons shown here. nope, nope.

  26. AnotherAnony*

    Any librarians out there? I was in a special library and am trying to get back into a public library in the Reference department, but it’s tough. They don’t like my special library experience. I know it’s a tough field, but it’s making me feel down.

    1. DragoCucina*

      May I ask what type of special library? I love niche knowledge that can round out the staff.

      1. AnotherAnony*

        Veterinary, then I was in a corporate library handling records. (The public libraries don’t seem to be happy with the records work. One interviewer who was the library director scoffed at it.)

        1. DragoCucina*

          Odd, but one of my issues is the number of theory X managers who are library directors. Mix in their OCD traits and sometimes they don’t think outside the box well. I would think record=attention to detail. That’s essential for me. With our farming community I would love someone who has worked connected with veterinary services. We work a lot with the Extension office. What I’m trying to say is there is a place and it’s how you market your experience.

          1. bibliovore*

            Public library is all about community and customer service. Crappy schedules- evenings, weekends. All kinds of people. Patience and thinking on your feet are important. Understanding public policy. Popular culture and wide knowledge are essential for a public librarian.

            1. DragoCucina*

              True. Policy, service, and attention to detail are intertwined. We have to be reliable. If we say we are reliable in checking materials in and out that means we have to pay attention. It’s good to have a pleasant conversation with the patron, but if it’s getting in the way of attention to detail then its interfering with service. Wide knowledge is good. But, having a wide representation of knowledge is also good. The reference people with the solid knowledge of music, genealogy, etc., all provide ssential service. Working in a library is like being on a sports team. Everyone should be playing to their strengths.

  27. Jules the First*

    Soooooo…an offer finally landed in my inbox this week, and (barring huge scaries in the contrct) I’m planning to say yes on Monday.

    My question is this – which is better: resigning by email to my official boss (who will be abroad setting up a new office – he won’t be available by phone but will be reading email) or resigning face to face to either my dotted-line boss or to HR, with a follow-up note to my boss?

    And would your advice be different knowing that Monday is going to be an emotionally fraught day for reasons entirely unrelated to my departure?

    (And Alison – you have my sincere sympathies! A few years ago, I had complete laryngitis for three weeks…it was hell!)

    1. Pwyll*

      Is dotted line boss a temporary supervisor while your boss is away, or just a senior-level person you coordinate with? If the former, draft your resignation letter to your actual boss, resign to dotted-line in person, then immediately go back and hit send. If the latter, I’d only resign to your boss.

      I’m pretty sure Alison had an article about this in the past, but I’d be sure to specifically mention in the e-mail that you would have preferred to do this in person or over the phone, but that you wanted to give him as much time as possible in advance and that meant not waiting until he returns.

      1. Jules the First*

        My official boss has very little to do with my day to day work – he signs off on hires for my team, and approves holiday etc, and will use his influence in other parts of the business at our request if they are ignoring us. My dotted line option has no official authority over me, but he is the one who oversees my professional development and is responsible for the overall quality of my team’s work (in the sense that he will be the one chewed out by the partners if one of our projects is a huge flop). Neither one of them assigns work – we are internal consultants to the rest of the business and I manage my own workload.

  28. AndersonDarling*

    A friend is applying at a store where she knows the manager. It’s a national retail chain. She did the application, and a “personality assessment” where the questions were very vague: Would you rather be known as compassionate or dependable? Is it more important to be on time or be honest?
    I didn’t think that anyone made hiring decisions from these assessments unless you answered that you like to fight with co-workers and steal from your employer. But the manager called and said she didn’t do well enough on the assessment and to try it again.
    What they heck could they be looking for? It’s just a customer service position, not store manager. It makes me wonder how many great candidates are thrown out of the running because they randomly answered a wishy-washy question incorrectly.

    1. Further Anon*

      So I know one of the leading Industrial Psychologists in the field, who works on some of these quizzes. Stores can tweak what they’re looking for– for example, wanting people to be more salesy vs less, so it could be that the friend didn’t fit the company’s ‘ideal’ candidate profile.

      And you’d be surprised at how many people do check blatantly ‘wrong’ things, like responding to a retail job by saying ‘It’s OK to give all my friends the employee discount’ or ‘It doesn’t matter what time I show up to work as long as I get clocked in on time’– though since the manager said to try again it doesn’t sound like your friend chose any answer that would instantly disqualify her like these.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        She said there were a few “I want to be the center of attention” questions that didn’t sounds like a good answer because everyone should be a team player. But we are thinking that they may be interpreting “center of attention” to mean a good leader.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I bet it wasn’t that question that got her negged- my guess is that they want a “no” answer on those types of questions. Those tests are ridiculous and leave no room for grey areas. You are supposed to answer like a robot who doesn’t understand nuance.

        2. Further Anon*

          Yeah, it can mean leader or maybe they want someone more outgoing for sales.

          Fun story: a while back, there were two national competing chains of Teapot Delivery Systems. They both did the same thing. They both acquired the same test for employee screening. But due to each company having different goals, the “right” answer was actually significantly different between the two!

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      My husband used to work for a retail chain that used this type of test, and he said it was ridiculous how many otherwise excellent candidates – for a basic store associate position – didn’t move forward because they “failed” the assessment. So dumb.

    3. Sunflower*

      I applied for a job at Chili’s in college and was not hired because I didn’t pass one of these. I also have a hospitality degree! I have no idea where I went wrong but I became a server at many other restaurants and did not have any issues and like to think I was pretty good at it.

    4. Bad Candidate*

      I think that’s the Predictive Index. And I don’t know what my answers are saying about me, but clearly it’s “Do not hire her” because if I have to do that thing, then game over.

    5. Cam*

      My husband had to do one of those recently but with a twist. He had to rank a bunch of “activities” from best to worst and they ranged from volunteering and helping a coworker to mass murder and slavery (no joke!) We debated for a while but decided that slavery was worse than mass murder, since mass murder was more of a one time event, but institutionalized slavery screwed over generations and generations of people and still impacts race relations today (in the US at least). He didn’t make it to the second stage.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        What on earth?!

        I had to take one of these that was ridiculously long. I still remember one of the questions was, “Do you find it amusing when someone is startled by a loud noise?”

    6. zora*

      There was a Planet Money podcast episode about these tests for large corporations like call centers. You might want to check it out, it was very interesting.

      Not that I like these or am defending them, but after extensive data collection, they have figured out what answers correlate with top-performers for the particular job they are hiring for. And the vague questions are actually the most important in their perspective, because they make it impossible to game the test by answering what you think they want you to say.

      I would commiserate with your friend, because it really sucks to be rejected for something so out of your control, but urge her to try to let it go. It’s not that there is anything wrong with her, and who knows what they are looking for, but if she had gotten the job, she might have found she hated it because they expect people to act a totally different way than she is comfortable with. She might want to focus on smaller retail businesses that don’t use these massive data systems to decide on hires.

    7. Chaordic One*

      I don’t know a whole lot about these tests or what answers are good ones (according to the people who designed them). But I do think a lot of these tests discriminate against introverts.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I took one of these when they were called honesty tests. I failed. Months later I learned that was a good thing. Several years later the company went belly up.

      But it asked things like do you trust police officers? Is taking a pencil from work stealing? etc.

      The honesty test had a huge flaw. The control group was a group of white males. The court had a field day with that one.

      If your friend knows the name of the test maker, she might be able to find some stuff out online.

      I took a personality test a while ago, evidently I not only lack honesty but I also lack personality because I think I failed. But they are not allowed to tell me if I failed.

      I will say those who commented that they were looking for certain personality traits are probably right. One place I worked for a while and they implemented these personality tests. I have no clue what was wrong with the tests but they started making the worst hiring decisions after they decided to rely on the tests. Yes, they do rely on them. If you do not pass you do not get the job. snark/ NICE/snark.

    9. Anion*

      I took one of those tests once. (I did really well, because my manager-to-be and a friend both told me, basically what they were looking for.) The only thing I really remember is being warned that they ask questions designed to catch you out; like, one question will be “Have you ever stolen anything from work,” and then later they’ll ask what the biggest thing you’ve ever stolen from work is. That’s an obvious one, but there were a few others that were sneakier. So be careful of that.

      It helps me with things like that to pretend I’m a different person when taking the test, lol. Like I’m Ideal Employee answering them. Ideal Employee is an enthusiastic team player who loves serving customers and always does what she’s told. :-)

  29. Lauren*

    I have been waiting for open thread all week! The new overtime law goes into effect Dec. 1 and naturally no one has said much to me. My understanding is that you can bump salary employees up to meet the 47,000 threshold, move them to hourly and hold them to only 40 hours or allow them to do overtime and pay for it. My department head insists that she cannot increase my salary because you have to manage a budget and be a manager to stay salary. Is this totally wrong, or am I crazy? She can move me up is she feels like it, right? There aren’t additional stipulations? Thanks for the help in advance. I’m really young and early in my career and you all are always so helpful.

    1. Lillian Styx*

      You can be salary and non-exempt. You can pay someone the same amount every pay period whether they work 30, 32, 35 or 40 hours but if they work more than 40 you have to pay them time and a half for that.

      We have two people on payroll under this scheme (soon to be 4!)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. The law has nothing in it that prevents them from keeping you salaried, as long as they pay you overtime when you work over 40 hours/week.

        I’m actually doing a column for U.S. News on the new law on Monday that in part addresses this (will link to it here when I do).

      2. Polabear*

        I’m salary, non exempt. However, there are two ways you can get paid over time, and they ate both legal. There is the standard, divide your salary by 40, then pay 1..5 times your salary fir hours over 40.

        But then there is the way I’m paid. If I when over 40, they take my weekly salary, and divide it by the total number of hours of worked. Then, I get ..5 that hourly rate for hours over 40. So, the more hours you work, the less your hourly rate is. It becomes much less lucrative.

        1. Lillian Styx*

          Oh! I did not know about that. In my payroll software the hourly rate and time and a half is already there, I supposed calculated from the annual salary. Seems a bit grubby to adjust the hourly rate every time…!

        2. Natalie*

          I’m not actually sure the way you are being paid is legal. It sounds like they are retroactively changing your pay rate to make sure that it always works out to the same amount, which doesn’t actually meet the requirements of the FLSA.

          1. fposte*

            What they might be doing, which the DOL does explicitly allow, is keeping her pay and hours the same and figuring her hourly rate based on 40 hours straight and 5 hours OT = old salary. As long as that doesn’t mean her hourly rate drops below minimum wage and she doesn’t have additional hours any weeks necessitating more pay that’s kosher.

            1. Natalie*

              Right, but that would mean they’re using a consistent rate. Polarbear’s description suggests they are *not* using a consistent rate, so they can jimmy it to stay the same every pay check regardless of hours worked. (“So, the more hours you work, the less your hourly rate is.”) Using a different “regular rate” every pay period is not going to fly, FLSA wise.

                1. Polabear*

                  I Explained it badly. so, I have a weekly salary of, say, 400 dollars. (It’s much more than that, but it’ll make the math easier. If i work 40 hours or less, I get the 400 dollars. If I work 80 hours, I get 400 dollars, plus (400 / 80 )* .5 * 40. In that case, my total pay check for the week would be 500 dollars.

                  This method follows the fluctuating hours role found here

                  My salary is actually far above the salaried exempt limit. But my employer only classifies employees who have direct reports as exempt, which is lovely.

        3. Jules*

          The way you are paid is called fluctuating work week. And that method only works if your work actually fluctuates up and down. According to legal advise shared my way, someone working consistently 40 or above 40 could get the company in legal trouble for it. And some states doesn’t allow fluctuating work week at all.

            1. Natalie*

              Yeah, so you’re not actually in a fluctuating work environment and they can’t legally pay you using those rules.

        4. ThursdaysGeek*

          I don’t think they’re allowed to change your pay for work you’ve already done. That sounds illegal. Alison?

        5. Allison Mary*

          But then there is the way I’m paid. If I when over 40, they take my weekly salary, and divide it by the total number of hours of worked. Then, I get ..5 that hourly rate for hours over 40. So, the more hours you work, the less your hourly rate is. It becomes much less lucrative.

          I’m assuming you (Polabear) meant “1.5” times that hourly rate for hours over 40, not “0.5” times that hourly rate. It was bugging me that I couldn’t follow the process you described (I’m so hung over today, ugh), so I made a spreadsheet formula using the calculations you laid out, assuming a standard base weekly salary of $1,000, and using “0.5” times the excess of hours over 40 seemed way too low. It would’ve resulted in an effective overtime rate that was way below the “standard” hourly rate of $25/hr ($1,000 weekly salary divided by 40 hours per week).

          But even with the “1.5” change – yeah, that’s pretty lame. At 45 hours, the effective OT rate I got was $33.33. At 50 hours, it was $30.00, and at 55, it was $27.27. So yeah, definitely a diminishing rate there, and I agree with everyone else that has said this is almost certainly illegal.

          1. Allison Mary*

            Ah, just saw your additional explanation, with the link to the FLSA’s fluctuating hours guidelines. Never mind!

    2. Anon for this*

      I was coming to talk about the law too – my director is trying to get me a bump to keep me exempt, but it’s a big bump so I don’t know how realistic that is.

      Weird thing has come up – so because our handbook defines our workweek as 35/wk (7 hour days with 1 hour unpaid lunch) HR is saying that they have to pay us straight time for every hour over 35 and time and a half for every hour over 40. Is that just a thing my company is talking about or is that actually A Thing.

      I’m really concerned because staying at 35 is not really possible for my department specifically and I’m already getting things down the pipeline about our time management being less than optimal (not true, fwiw – that’s coming from HR, not anyone who knows what our workload actually entails) so I’m worried about getting in consistent hot water for working “overtime” even if I can manage to keep it under 40.

      I know I shouldn’t stress about earning more money but the bigger implication is that working more used to reflect well on me (and IS part of my job as management) but now might be reflecting on me and the other managers on my level as an inconvenience or at worst a liability.

      1. Pwyll*

        So, unless your state law is different, they don’t need to pay you anything additional for your hours from 35-40. They can pay your straight salary to cover anything up to 40 hours, but have to pay overtime over 40. So it sounds like a company thing, or maybe a state-specific thing.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        We have a 35 hour workweek and handle overtime the same way. Straight pay until you hit 40 hours. And it’s entirely possible you will be given a hard time even for getting straight pay – it happens here all the time. It sucks – there’s no way I can manage only 35 hours a week and get my work done, but they have made it very clear they don’t care and I just need to find a way to do it and keep my mouth shut.

      3. BRR*

        Unless your state law says otherwise, that’s legal. As long as your director knows it shouldn’t reflect poorly on you. This is really the point of the law; so people with lower salaries aren’t being underpaid for their responsibilities.

    3. AMT*

      Does she mean that it’s a company policy, or that it’s the law? Lillian is correct that there’s no law that states this, but it’s possible that your company has some weird internal policy about it.

      Either way, you’re right that they do have to either keep you hourly and pay you for the hours you work (including overtime), pay you a sub-47k salary and give you overtime when you work over 40, or bump your salary up to 47k. However, they’re legally free to choose which one of those they do.

      1. Polabear*

        You can absolutely be salaried without being exempt. I currently am. The two are not related legally.

        1. TL -*

          Yes but she presumably doesn’t get overtime right now, so she’s salaried exempt (otherwise this wouldn’t be an issue.)

          1. Pwyll*

            I think you’re addressing Lauren’s comment that “you have to manage a budget and be a manager to stay salary,” which is one of the descriptions of the Administrative and Managerial duties. It sounds to me like a misunderstanding from the boss that to be salaried you have to meet the duties test of the FLSA (you don’t).

            1. Anon for this*

              I manage 25 employees I pass the duties test.

              I also manage 25 employees so the time I need to be at work can vary quite a bit.

              Transitions are tough and I’m in non profit so they’re very concerned about how this is going to shake out financially (so I don’t know why they’re doing straight time, frankly)

      2. Natalie*

        It may be that in the course of becoming compliant with the salary portion of the test, someone realized that an awful lot of people didn’t meet the duties portion. That’s one thing that’s happened at my workplace.

    4. Jules*

      There are multiple exemption test. If you pass any one of them, you can become exempt provided that your salary meet the threshold of $47,476. Your organization might have gotten legal advice and decided that your role doesn’t qualify under the administrative test. You can refer to the following link for further detail on exempt status test:

  30. Lady Dedlock*

    Anyone else have appallingly huge increases in health insurance premiums for next year? Mine are going up by about 75%, or $150/month for a single person. The cost of living increases we got this year don’t even cover it, which is pretty demoralizing. If I don’t want to be taking home less money next year, I basically have to look for a new job.

    1. Arielle*

      Wow, it’s going up by $150, or it’s $150 total? Either way that’s huge. Ours is going up by $20/month to stay on the current plan, which is now the “plus” plan, with an option to select a previously unavailable lower level of coverage at a much lower rate.

      1. Lady Dedlock*

        The plan I’m on now is about $200/month, and it’s going up to about $350. I could drop down to a lower tier with less coverage, but I don’t really want to do that because I have some ongoing health problems, so having a lower-premium plan would likely be more expensive in the long run due to the higher coinsurance rates.

          1. Lady Dedlock*

            Okay, so now I’m feeling dumb: I was looking at the wrong tier. The increase eats up my entire COLA, but not more than that. Hooray?

        1. AdminMeow*

          One gal at my office was just posting on Facebook about hers going up to $1100/month for her family for terrible coverage. Everyone else seems to have theirs going up too even if theirs was reasonable through their employer to begin with.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Mine is going up about $90, to almost $500/year. However, I no longer make nearly what I did a few months ago (I’m basically unemployed right now), so I’m going to change plans altogether and work on getting a much lower premium. If I still had my old job, it would have sucked but I still would have been able to afford it, just with less take-home. I didn’t get COL increases. Right now I’m looking for a job, won’t take one unless it offers benefits, and am willing to take a $20k pay cut if it pays for my insurance. My sympathies, and good luck!

    3. AndersonDarling*

      We have been warned that ours is going up 18-20%, but I am very lucky that our company is going to cover the increase. Very, very, lucky.

    4. GigglyPuff*

      I don’t have an enormous insurance increase, but can I just vent on what is? I live in a mid-size city that is starting to explode in growth and over the last year it’s just become completely unreasonable with the housing and rental market. To buy a house here, you basically have to make an offer the second the listing goes up, forget about actually going to see the house first…but anyway I live in apartment and it just got bought and they are starting to “upgrade” the grounds and everything. I was extremely lucky and turned in my lease renewal the day before the sale went through because I just found out how much my apartment would rent for, it’s a $240 increase a month. I would for the state, so there’s no way in hell I could ever afford that and pretty much all the complexes in the city are moving towards that cost.

      This was the last decent, in a nice neighborhood, easy commute, complex that I could afford, that I found. Now I’m already having to dread moving again next year because I don’t know where I’ll go because I really don’t want to move further away. (I’m from Atlanta, so I’ve already done killer commutes and just can’t go back to them).

      Sorry to hijack your post, it’s been bothering me all day.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        Actually I’ve been so focused on this the last day or two…that while my insurance costs didn’t rise, my company apparently switched pharmacy providers and moved from an open plan to a closed, and so none of my prescriptions are covered, at all, not even in an “it needs prior authorization” but in a “your doctor actually has to appeal this decision”. It’s three different medications. So for the first few months of next year I’ll probably be dealing with side effects and have to call out sick more. It’s BS.

      2. Lady Dedlock*

        Ugh, that sounds really frustrating. It sucks when cost of living goes up so much that salaries can’t possibly keep pace—and especially when the rising costs end up pushing you out of your home and your neighborhood! I had the same thing happen to me at my last apartment. My landlord was asking for huge rent increases ($200 one year, $300 the next) because the neighborhood was just starting to gentrify, so I had to move out. I got really lucky and found a rent stabilized place that’s nicer than my last place, but I’m still angry that that kind of thing happens to good tenants. Hopefully things will work out in your favor in the end.

    5. Overeducated*

      I am on the exchange, so yeah. Our family plan will go from $850/mo to over $1000. We may end up switching to a plan with less coverage just to keep the cost the same. It really sucks and I am not sure how we will afford it if my spouse doesn’t find a new job when his current contract ends.

      1. Anion*

        Call or email your Congress representative/Senator/etc. Seriously. This is a government initiative and the gov’t needs to know what’s working and what’s not so it can be changed.

  31. YouDontKnowME*

    I was tricked into accepting a part time position at my current job. It was supposed to be only a few months and the idea of a short work day was appealing as i was recovering from a surgery. its now been 7 months and all talks of working full time end the same way– with no progress. I began my job search at the end of summer and found out that i was pregnant with our first child. I continued to look however now that I’m very obviously pregnant I feel like I have no chance of getting a new job. My mother told me last night that she will gift us my full 12 week salary in the next few weeks so that we’re sure we have a cushion and no worry about spending time with my baby as i wont have a paid leave from work. that was a HUGE worry and one of my main driving forces behind looking for a new job.
    now here’s my dilemma do i continue to job search while im pregnant or enjoy my easy part time job until after i have the baby then consider looking for a new job or see if part time suits our family?
    have you ever been hired while obviously showing?

    1. Temperance*

      What do you mean by “tricked”? Were you demoted from full time, or were you hired with the carrot of potential full-time work?

      1. YouDontKnowMe*

        I know this is late but I was full time, they had a part time employee at another office quit and they asked me to fill in with the promise of that position becoming full time in a few months tops.

    2. self employed*

      If it were me, I’d stick w part time. Trying to start a new job w a new baby would be super-tough– you’ll be sleep deprived at best and it would be difficult to show your skills at 100% under those conditions. Part time may also really work for you and your family.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      My office doesn’t think twice about hiring a visibly pregnant woman. We’d rather get the right person (and a new hire doesn’t get maternity leave benefits so the only “cost” is that she’ll be out for a while after having the baby).

      1. nerfmobile*

        I got hired when very pregnant. I am overweight and wasn’t showing much even at 7.5 months, so I interviewed and did well. When the internal recruiter called to tell me they wanted to make an offer, I took a deep breath and said “I know this isn’t legally supposed to have an impact on your hiring decision, but there might be other logistics at play – I’m pregnant and due in about 7 weeks.” She took it in stride, asked some other questions, and then went to talk to the hiring manager. Well, there hadn’t been many other good candidates, so the hiring manager decided to take the risk and hire me. I worked for 2 weeks after my start date and then we had to induce the baby early – I ended up with a C section, so I came back 2 months later. I lucked out and got some health care benefits for that and some short-term disability, too!

        I’m still with that company 5 years later, so it obviously worked out. I talked to my manager later, and she said that it could potentially have taken almost that long to find another good candidate, as I am in a competitive job role and industry in a market that doesn’t have many people at this level. So it was worth the risk to her. But obviously those market conditions can vary a lot – if I’d been in a field with lots of people looking for those jobs, they might not have been so willing to wait.

    4. SarahKay*

      My company hired someone while she was obviously showing. Why not keep searching, even if you put less time into it? It sounds as though you can now afford to be pickier about what you take, since you have a cushion. If you see, and are offered, your ideal job – great! If not, you’ve got the cushion and can think again after your baby is born. Oh – and congratulations :)

    5. chickabiddy*

      Many years ago, my then-boss and I interviewed a woman for a web design/maintenance position. She was eight months pregnant. She was clearly the best candidate and my boss decided that he wanted to hire her. I asked if we should make contingency plans for the next few months. He looked at me like I was crazy. He hadn’t even noticed that she was pregnant (and this was not an instance of careful clothing camouflage or a larger woman with a bit of extra belly — she looked like she had a basketball under her shirt). So you never know! We hired her.

  32. Venus Supreme*

    My mom has a job interview on Monday! Send her good vibes, AAM Readers!

    She’s been out of the workforce for a while because my parents were in an excellent financial position where she could focus more on family, but since my dad’s been unemployed for 5 years now (due to a drug addiction… whole ‘nother story), I’ve been trying to get her to be self-sufficient and move along with her life.

    It’s a little part-time job in town that I think will do her a world of good. I’m just a little worried because she’s close to retirement age and she has only a high school education, which may not make her the prime job applicant. But I know she’s a quick learner, resourceful, and sharp as a tack so I gave her the AAM interview handbook to read so she can really knock the interview out of the park.

    1. Observer*

      For a lot of positions, these qualities are more important than college. Especially if she’s also easy to get a long with and reliable.

      1. Venus Supreme*

        Thank you- I’m hoping my mom can articulate that clearly in her interview and bam! She has a job.

    2. Elizabeth West*



    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am grinning I bet she will go do great.
      Good luck, Mom of Venus!
      Let us know how it goes for her!

  33. Doug Judy*

    I had a phone interview this morning. The recruiter said she’d be contacting the hiring manager to set up our in person interview and she’d be in touch with me by the end of next week.

    Since I know I am moving on to the next phase do I need to sent the HR recruiter a thank you email or should I just wait until she contacts me with the in person interview details?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I always send an email. After all, you want to thank her for her time and tell her you look forward to the next steps. My rule of thumb in all cases is that it never hurts to thank someone. Too much following up? Don’t do that, but do thank someone.

    2. BRR*

      It wouldn’t hurt anything. I might make it simpler than I would have otherwise but I’d still do it.

  34. SophieChotek*

    Tips for attending a Job Fair?

    I’ve actually never been to one. (blushes)

    But here I am, post-grad school, not employed in what I went to grad school, looking for a job….I have a feeling I’ll be older than a lot of those going but don’t know. I have to admit I don’t really want to go, but I know if I want a new job, I need to put in (a lot of) effort.

    It is for state jobs. General description online.

    I looked up online to see what sort of jobs are posted – a lot are tech/medical I could never do
    I am sure I could do admin if given chance/training, but HR/admin/business it not my actual degree

    So I should bring my resume etc. Dress nicely. Attend some workshops.

    Not sure what else do you do at a job fair? How can I “maximize” my experience?

    Thanks for any tips from those attending or those representing their companies/agencies!

    1. Stephanie*

      Definitely hone your pitch so it’s short and focused. I was at my university’s job fair and was getting a bit annoyed that the girl in front of me was chatting for five minutes about nothing really when there was a line people waiting to talk to the recruiter.

    2. Murphy*

      Yes, bring your resume and dress nicely. Know which companies you want to talk to and why you might be interested in them. My husband just represented his company at one of these and his pet peeves were a) people who had their personal sales pitch ready to go and who were going to give it to you no matter what and b) (related) people whose education and skills were completely irrelevant to what his company did and even after he explained what the company did, these ill suited people still wanted to give their resume or deliver their sales pitch when it was in no way going to work out.

      1. Jen RO*

        I also attended a job fair on the employee side and I second what Murphy’s husband said.

        Also, don’t walk up to the company rep and have the following conversation:
        Me: Hello, can I help you? What kind of job are you looking for?
        Candidate: Oh I dunno, what do you have?
        Me: Well, we’re a software company, but we also have jobs in non-development departments… what would you be interested in?
        Candidate: Oh, anything.
        Me: *sigh* Ok, tell me what you graduated from and I’ll tell you where you may fit.
        (Most of them were recent grads, but still… at least make a small effort!)

    3. EP*

      As others said – dress nicely – have multiple copies of your resume (print double sided or staple pages together so they don’t get separated.
      Look at the companies that will be there – also get the business cards of people you talk to, often they are the ones contacting you later about the jobs. Also be prepared to explain your degree if its not related (I have a fine arts degree and explaining why you want an arts person among scientists/business minded people was a major part of my job hunt).

      Good Luck!

  35. query this*

    I have a question similar to Frankie Seeks Job’s post above. I took a part-time job at the end of the summer. I am still applying for full-time work and some professional part-time jobs. At what point should I start listing my current position on my resume if the job I am applying for is similar or involves relevant skills/experience? Should I wait until it has been six months and only mention it during the interview stage? I am looking into applying for a few temporary/seasonal/part-time gigs to generate extra income, and I know those will require only an application and know to list my current job on those.

    1. fposte*

      If it’s relevant, I’d slap it on there pretty fast–maybe after a month. No reason for your resume not to list a relevant job you’re currently doing, and since it’s a part-time job it won’t have the same stigma of looking too fast after getting a full-time job.

  36. Zoon*

    My company has self made digital motivational posters on their website. This months poster is self control. Complete with a picture of 3 red velvet cupcakes.

    I wonder if next time they’ll put liquor in the photo slot. Probably not. I mean alcoholism is a disease. Obesity is … oh wait.

    1. Dawn*

      Uh… as someone who had a binge eating disorder for a very, very, very long time I would be absolutely livid about that. What do you mean by self-made? Could you go to HR about how inappropriate the poster is?

    2. Formica Dinette*

      If I were you, I would edit in the liquor photo myself, print out a few (dozen) copies, and leave them around the office. But I’m an asshole like that.

  37. SJPufendork*

    So, it was announced this week that our company is being acquired by a much larger company (closing in Q1 2017). Apparently, per the sales agreement, no-one at our smaller company is to be laid off. This is good, right?
    Well, the thing is we’re in a back office function (IT) where usually after a transition period, we would be made redundant. So, my boss (c-level) has been prepping our folks (my direct reports and their reports) for the worst (trying to get us to stay for the transition period and then letting us go). However this is in direct contrast to what the other company is saying to us, which is leading to much confusion and angst.
    The upshot is I’ve spent so much time on the phone this week dealing with people freaking out and wanting comfort/support. And it sucks because I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know if my boss’s instincts are correct or if he’s really just seeing the writing on the wall for someone at my level and above.
    I’ve just been telling the ones who call that we don’t know what’s really going to happen, but I can understand if they want to look elsewhere and don’t want to go through the messiness of an acquisition. I just really wish my boss would tone down the doom & gloom!

    1. Sami*

      I wouldn’t push they “nobody is losing their job” story too hard and stick with we don’t know. I would be more worried that they made that promise (knowing it’s BS) than if they hadn’t said anything.

      1. Wheezy Weasel*

        Does this C-level person have good instincts usually? Have they been part of other mergers before? Perhaps this is my cynicism showing through after a similar experience, but ‘not letting anyone go’ doesn’t mean that the company culture won’t radically change that will, in effect, force people to leave anyway.

        If your IT team supports the product or service and the new company is thinking of continuing to offer it, you may have a little bit of time…bringing the larger company support team up to speed on the project, finding ways to gain efficiencies with the resources the newer company brings to the table. If they purpose of the merger was to kill the product because it was competing with the larger company’s product, I’d be really concerned about your job 3-6 months in. I don’t know of many companies that look to fill open IT positions by acquisition, even if they had space on the existing team.

  38. GOG11*

    In the past, I’d buy Halloween candy using my own money. I’ve moved into a new department and physical location but am still with the same organization. Because the office’s set up is different from my other one and gets less foot traffic, I ran it past my boss to see if it would be a hit/get eaten before shelling out the money for candy (due to being on a strict diet for medical reasons means I can’t just take it home).

    Boss gave me some of his own money. We don’t have petty cash or a credit card, and I had planned to buy it myself. I tried to give it back and say I have the funds to buy candy and if I used the partial amount to pay the reimbursement wouldn’t line up, but he insisted and said it was for gas and my trouble. I’m terrible at certain interpersonal things. Is this weird? What am I supposed to do now?

    1. YouDontKnowME*

      he wanted to kick in. I wouldnt think of it as gas & trouble but more of him wanting to play along with the holiday. when you say it wont line up for partial reimbursement what is it that you mean?

      1. GOG11*

        A bag of candy will probably be more than he gave me, so I will cover part of the cost and he will cover part of the cost. So, say the candy is $10 and he gave me $5. I pay $5, but my receipt says $10 and so I’d get reimbursed for $10, which is essentially me pocketing the $5 he gave me. That’s the part that makes me feel uneasy.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          If that part makes you uneasy, perhaps make 2 purchases- 1 for the $5 worth of candy that he gave you money for, 1 for the other $5, and just submit one for reimbursement.

          However, I do think you’re overthinking this. It would be very easy for your boss to say “Just give me the receipt so I can reimburse you” or “Just pay me back once you’ve gotten the reimbursement”- take him at his word that he wants you to use the money he gave you. Consider it an upgrade, and get some nicer candy than usual!

        2. Persephone Mulberry*

          Oh, your original post wasn’t clear that you’re spending your own money and then getting reimbursed by the company! I would just attach a note to the reimbursement request/receipt saying “Boss already gave me $5 toward this expense, please only reimburse $[$X-$5].”

    2. Princess Carolyn*

      Nope, not weird to me. I agree that he probably just wanted to contribute. All you have to do is say thanks and pick some good candy. Maybe even ask if he has any requests.

    3. Government Worker*

      Does your boss realize you’ll be getting the candy reimbursed? When you say that you used to buy it with your own money, I read that as saying that you paid for it out of pocket and did not get reimbursed. In which case your boss giving you some money would mean that he wanted to contribute.

      1. Kittymommy*

        Yeah that’s what confused me too. If you’re getting reimbursed he probably doesn’t know that and I’d give the money back to him. If you really are using your own money, keep his cash – it was a nice thing he did.

        FWIW, my last job I had to but candy for our patients but the company wouldn’t expense it, so I was truly buying it myself. When they found out some of the patients would give me money. They got special candy! :-)

      2. GOG11*

        Sorry for the confusion (and the super late response – not sure if anyone will see this). In the past, I did buy it out of pocket and did not get reimbursed. I had been planning to do this again this year, but when I asked about it in another area I work in (area A), boss in area A told me to purchase it with dept. funds, so I had asked boss in area B if I could get reimbursed for the candy I was going to buy, at which time he gave me some of his own money . There wasn’t enough lead time to use dept. funds in area B or I would have just done that. In an attempt to not ramble I left that out.

        In the end, I ended up getting a great deal on a huge bag of candy so I kicked in a couple of dollars and boss B’s contribution covered the rest. I don’t plan to ask for reimbursement unless he would like reimbursed since it’s only a couple of dollars.

  39. LawCat*

    I’ve been in my new position two months now. I am just now understanding a certain aspect of my job that is very different from work I have done before. It’s going to be a challenge, but I feel a lot more confident now that when I was puzzled about the work, uncertain of my role with it, and having a hard time getting any kind of clarification. This is thanks to the person who used to have this role who was very generous with her time last week and helped break it down for me. Whew, it’s been such a relief to not feel so lost.

    I’ve suggested to my new supervisor (who is also unfamiliar with this aspect of my job, but is work some of his staff do) that there be some systematic training in this area and he was very receptive to that idea.

  40. Lilly*

    So, I am in an industry with high turnover. It’s been 7 months and 3 people quick our team (2 in same month). There is something that makes me sad about seeing them gone even if we weren’t friends. They were good colleagues and I will miss seeing them everyday. Does anybody else in height turnover industry feel the same and how do you deal with it ?

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Oh gosh, I feel this way all the time! I hate learning that yet another friendly colleague has moved on; it’s both sad and makes my job a lot harder. I’ll be interested to see if anyone else has advice on how to deal with it.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      We have HUGE turnover where I work. The average tenure is under two years (lots of people leave to go back to school or to go make big bucks in the private sector). I handle it by no longer getting attached to new people. I’m friendly but that’s about it. The support departments (IT, marketing, EAs, etc) tend to stay alot longer because we are paid market rate (unlike the project managers) so I just bond with the other “lifers” instead.

    3. Cam*

      My team of 7 has had 5 people leave in the past couple of months. And I just went out on maternity leave, so that just leaves Dan as the only person on the team (including out manager) with more than 3 months experience. We’re in an industry with high turnover, but historically, our Dept has always been very stable until now. Unfortunately, I’m planning on dealing with it by getting a new job asap as well.

  41. Terrified*

    Yesterday I was handed a letter that was sent to my director, the mayor, the DPI, and the Lt. Governor. It accused me of being unethical in my handling of Teapots per a series of tweets I had made the night before.

    I discovered that a Teapot manufacturer was very anti-feminist. I made a poorly thought out comment about putting them in my book of Teapots. I don’t have a book. My profession is all about free access to Teapots. For making this statement I was harassed and called a Nazi and told that as a woman, all I should do all day is dust Teapots. The next morning I locked my account.

    However, someone sent a long and detailed email accusing me of three separate ethics breaches, saying that I promoted bias in the purchasing of teapots. My director was very angry. She said that even though I had complied with our social media policy in saying my opinions are my own, I should expect that everyone know where I work and so that doesn’t matter. She said she was mortified that she had to talk to the mayor about me and say that I do, in fact, purchase Teapots.

    I apologized profusely and set out steps I would take immediately, including deactivating my Twitter and offering not to buy Teapots any more. I was suspended until Tuesday without pay. On Tuesday, I must present my case in writing as to why they could try to trust me again after this grave breach of ethics and trust.

    I am terrified. I already have job-related anxiety and I haven’t been able to eat in the past 24 hours. I realize that what I said was in poor judgement and that they can fire me for anything. I am working on getting a new job, which I desperately need for my sanity, but the horror and pain of being fired feel like too much to bear. I am utterly ashamed and I don’t know what else to do. My friends, also in the Teapot profession, found nothing wrong with my comments and are urging me to contact a lawyer?

    Any tips? Also, any tips on not just sitting around shaking and being terrified all the time? I understand that social media is a pitfall and I made a dumb mistake.

    1. JMegan*

      Oh, no – I’m so sorry to hear it. No advice, but I hope cooler heads will prevail over the weekend, and you can all have a rational conversation on Tuesday. I’d love to hear an update next week if you’re comfortable doing that. Deep breaths, and good luck.

      1. Terrified*

        Thank you. My workplace is so toxic that I can barely function day to day, and I guess I should feel good about the possibility of getting out, but I don’t want it to be on bad terms. I’m already in therapy for what happens at work and now I can barely function.

        I can’t tell you how nice it is to just hear your good thoughts. Thank you so much.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          In that case, I guess the federal government is also biased:

          Just look up “Small And Disadvantaged Business Utilization” and you can find plenty of examples.

          And taxpayers often don’t like to think that their money is going to support businesses that wouldn’t support them…

    2. Temperance*

      I don’t totally understand, but it sounds like you got caught in the crosshairs from a Gamer Gater or some other misogynist dbag.

      So what I would do is screenshot everything that this man has said online and send to HIS employer. I mean, he’s wacked out enough to try and destroy your right to make a living, why not fight fire with fire? I would do so anonymously, FWIW.

      1. ZVA*

        Yeah, I was gonna bring up Gamergate too. I’m very suspicious of the motives of whoever sent that email. It’s hard to say without more info, but it sounds to me like what LW said was maybe ill-advised but pretty innocuous and that the email was a massive (and perhaps malicious) overreaction, to which her director overreacted in turn. (The director even admitted that the tweets complied with social media policy!)

        OP, it’s good to hear you’ve contacted a lawyer; that’s what I would have suggested. As for the anxiety, I totally empathize. When mine gets really bad, I exercise (hard) to try & clear my head. Eat well, try and get good sleep if you can. And good luck…

        1. Terrified*

          Thanks for the advice. I definitely feel that the letter was sent because I am a woman. I did not have an agenda to harm anyone but that is how they wanted to read it. It’s really hard to keep the anxiety down but it is a little better now.

      1. Terrified*

        I did that while I was writing this post. I’m worried that my employer will say I committed grave misconduct with a breach of ethics and then I’ll be left in the lurch anyway.

    3. LCL*

      What was the grave breach of ethics and trust? Posting something snarky on twitter?
      I’m not a social media person, I know there are resources available to help you with that. On your own device at home, not on the company network, try the Mary Sue webpage. Which deals with pop culture but there are a lot of discussions about e harassment of women. Your friends’ advice about a lawyer is good, if you want to fight.

      Draft your statement for the meeting now. At the meeting, try to steer the discussion to the accusations of bias and explain why they are false accusations. Emphasize your performance. In your statement somewhere throw in a paragraph about the hideous retaliation women have faced for daring to express an opinion on social media. Look up Gamergate if you need some ideas, again using your home computer not the company network.

      Good luck, and eat something. Take care of yourself.

      1. Terrified*

        Yes, it was the tweet and the implication read into it by some that I was biased. I am at home so I will check out those resources you mentioned.

        Thanks. I’m going to try and eat … nowish. :/

    4. fposte*

      Just to be clear, you’re a municipal or other government employee? Then odds are that there are specific ethics guidelines that you can check on this; you can also have a quick trawl to see if other municipal employees are blogging, tweeting, etc. anything as controversial as you were and are still happily employed. Bonus points if they’re men and you get to suggest that they’re applying their policies (or non-policies) selectively based on gender.

      1. Terrified*

        My male coworkers are very vocal about politics on social media. This doesn’t seem to be an issue for the director. Then again, she only promotes men.

    5. Venus Supreme*

      This sounds like an ugly, bizarre situation. I’m so sorry. It sounds to me like they’re punishing you for standing up for yourself..? I agree to get a lawyer.

      Also, regardless, look for a new job! This is not worth the stress! Sending you love and hugs.

      1. Terrified*

        Thank you. I understand that I am opinionated, and I can understand that some of the points, but I feel really shamed. I am actively looking for another position and have some options.

    6. Allison Mary*

      This sounds terrible and stressful, and I’m so sorry you’re going through it.

      I also don’t totally understand – your director straight-up acknowledged that you complied with their social media policy (you made the disclaimer that your opinions were your own), and yet you’re still in a heapload of trouble? If you complied with their policy, where exactly do they think the problem is? How would they have expected you to handle it differently? Simply by not having strong opinions about anything and not sharing them publicly at all? Then why isn’t THAT their social media policy?

      1. Damn it Hardison!*

        This was my thought as well. Good for you for contacting a lawyer, and I hope it turns out well for you.

      2. Terrified*

        I guess the implication was that my words “sounded like” I was biased, which is a huge no-no in my profession. I was accused of blacklisting authors, etc. Other people who responded to my tweets said that they didn’t want to buy so-and-so’s book anymore b/c of this, but I did not encourage or congratulate them on that.

        I really have no idea.

        1. Allison Mary*

          But, but… it wasn’t in the context of your profession, it was in the context of your personal life and your personal opinions. And you complied with their policy by disclaiming that your opinions were your own! MOST people have personal biases, and if it was really important to your employer that their employees not express personal biases in the manner that you did, then I say again that clearly their existing social media policy is insufficient to meet their actual needs.

          I’m not meaning to argue with you, specifically – just an uninvolved outsider trying to point out the apparent insanity of the way your employers have behaved. Hopefully this can come as encouragement to you that you’re not crazy, and it doesn’t sound like you made an egregious mistake. You were totally compliant with policies as they were written, and it sounds to me (based on the way you’ve described everything), that your employer is possibly the one who’s out of touch here. And if getting out of dodge is what you want to do, anyway, I fully applaud that decision.

        2. Anion*

          So was your tweet about a company, or were you specifically calling out/shaming individuals for their opinions? Did the people/person you were calling out make their statements publicly? Or was there some “threat” involved, because you mentioned that, too? I’m sorry, I’m confused. Does your work involve financially supporting (or not supporting) the work of the people you discussed, or does it have nothing at all to do with them/their work?

          It is very, very upsetting to learn that there are people who don’t think you should be allowed to earn money if your viewpoint doesn’t match theirs exactly. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I find it genuinely terrifying that some innocuous offhand comment can be used to justify backlashes or boycotts or terminations like that; the idea that in order to have the right to make a living we must all conform to one mindset or be shunned/fired, or that putting one foot out of line justifies public shaming and punishment, is terrifying.

          If the person/company you were pointing to made their comments on Twitter (or in some similar public online place), then it can certainly be argued that you were simply responding to what they put out there; I’ve seen that argument before. It’s also possible that by the time your meeting happens the whole thing will have blown over, online-wise–these things often do.

          Best of luck to you.

          1. Terrified*

            Their comments were all on their public Twitter–extremely anti-women, anti-feminism. I was browsing a hashtag and saw it and made a comment on my twitter. Some of my friends asked who it was, and b/c it was public, I said the name but without tagging him (I don’t tag ppl). Later, one of his followers tagged my tweet and @-ed the author, who then responded to me.

            The person is an author and I am a librarian. I buy people’s books no matter what they think, and I stated that latter on my Twitter. No one really cares b/c they are all upset about my original tweet calling out the author and saying I took notice of what he was saying. Other people said they wouldn’t buy his books but I said the opposite.

            My director doesn’t believe that my first tweet was meant in jest (it was)–she seems to think I am actively biased when I buy books. Although there is no evidence anyone ever looked at my history. Which would say otherwise. I got my official Reprimand Letter yesterday and she flat out states that she agrees with everything the letter-writing complainant said! I am officially in trouble for making my business look bad. ???

            I just am terrified of being fired–I am a huge people pleaser and I already suffer from anxiety and depression, and I don’t know what I would do.

            1. Anion*

              Ah, okay, I understand it better now. So this author was tweeting the hashtag, it wasn’t some offhand comment you saw or anything like that.

              I gotta say, this is a tough one. I also have to offer full disclosure here: I’m an author (NY multi-published) and I’ve been on the receiving end of the “I’m never buying her books again!” thing because of an offhand comment made in jest, or the total misinterpretation of a point I made. It’s not fun. It’s actually pretty horrible to feel like one misstep can turn into a huge deal, where suddenly you’re being talked about in a negative fashion on blogs you’ve barely even heard of, for something you didn’t actually say or do, or that was meant in a completely different way than it’s being portrayed. I think you probably have a sense right now of what it feels like.

              Please do not think that because of the above, or because of what I’m about to say, that I don’t side with you here. I do. The author in question was deliberately drawing attention to his statements and–going by what you’ve said, and I believe you–was deliberately trying to cause controversy. You have every right to feel the way you feel about that, and to say so. Every right. Again, please don’t think I’m against you here or that my comments are of the “Serves you right, now you know how it feels,” variety, because that’s not my intention.

              My intention is to give you ammunition, as it were, for your meeting today; some things you can say that might “prove” that you understand the issue and are willing to accept responsibility–that you’ve “learned your lesson,” so to speak.

              Tell your boss etc. that you understand that you are in a position of power over the author in question, in that your job is to decide whose books are in the library and whose aren’t. Tell them that you understand that viewed in that context, and because your tweet was not just about your personal feelings but related to your feelings about a person whose career you can to some extent materially damage by denying him access to shelf space and therefore the public, it was wrong of you to imply, even as a joke, that you were going to exercise that power because you disagreed with what he said. Tell them that as a librarian you are a staunch supporter of free speech, and you do not believe that the author’s personal opinions should have any effect on the availability of his work–that to remove his works from the library (or refuse to buy them in future) is equivalent to censorship, and that for a public library to carry only the works of authors with the “correct” opinions and refuse to carry those who disagree with them would be, basically, fascism. Tell them that you never, ever intended for your tweet(s), which were made in a moment of exasperation and intended only to be a joke for your friends, to be taken as any sort of endorsement of either thing, but that you understand that as someone who makes decisions about what books the library shelves, you cannot and should not make jokes like that. Tell them you forgot momentarily that Twitter is indeed a public place and that even though you thought you were just joking with friends, obviously other people can see that, and those people do not know you and so do not understand that you are completely objective in your purchasing decisions. Tell them you understand that given your job, your tweet must have been genuinely frightening for the author, who suddenly saw that he might suffer a financial loss simply because he has an opinion that one individual librarian does not like–and that you understand that it’s a bigger deal than one reader deciding not to buy his books, because librarians influence many readers and denial of availability is a serious hurdle for an author. Tell them you genuinely regret this, and that you regret the shadow it cast on X Library/the library system of X city/however you phrase it. Tell them that you understand that not everyone shares your opinions and that you never buy books based solely on how you feel about the author (if you have examples to back that up that would be good).

              Offer to make a public statement of the above on Twitter and Facebook. Offer to apologize to the author. Suggest that perhaps the library can have some sort of “Celebration of Free Speech” week or something (not where this author’s books are specifically highlighted, just in general), which you would organize. Suggest that you offer the author a book signing/reading or some other type of event at your library.

              I realize that some of this will be difficult to swallow, and that some of it seems like this author is being rewarded for saying lousy things, and that sucks. But the goal here is to demonstrate that you understand where and how you erred and that you’re willing to take full responsibility and to make it right however you can. The goal is to show them that you are worthy of trust, and IMO the only real way to prove that is to show that you fully understand how serious the issue is, how deeply you regret it, and how far you’re willing to go to correct the situation and make X Library look good again. (I don’t know how big or how far the issue has gotten/gone, so I don’t know if this is something that’s bringing negative publicity in some places or whatever, so that last may not be fully applicable.)

              Again, I don’t want you to think that I think you deserve any of this or that I’m glad this has happened to you. I don’t. I support you and I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I’m just trying to think of what you can say and do to make clear that you understand the issue, and the only way I can think of to do that is to explain it from the POV of an author.

              I really hope this helps, and I wish you the best of luck today. {{{hug}}}

    7. OhBehave*

      This sounds completely politically motivated. It’s all about the optics and not necessarily the truth. If Teapot Mfr is a major employer, they probably turned on the heat! Unfortunately with social media, we are not separated from our employers. People don’t stop to consider that we are people with personal opinions. Being a governmental employee (local, state or national), means that employees have to be careful in who they insult. Posting on social media takes what we may say to coworkers or friends in private and makes it available to everyone on earth!

      Hopefully you can control your anxiety and meet on Tuesday with confidence and proof that you won’t do such things again. It’s a rare thing that you post stuff such as this, etc. As someone else suggested, troll some other employees and find out what they are sharing. If this is a sexist thing, check out what the men are posting or sharing. We hate the term, Good Ole’ Boys Network, but that seems to be at play here in some ways. If the director only promotes men, she is a CYA director. She doesn’t want to rock the boat and wants to be a team player because she has higher aspirations. It could also be the fact that they need to seem like they are dealing with the issue (you) to make it look good.

      I wish you luck as you meet Tuesday. Double up your job search efforts NOW. If you are in therapy solely because of this job, it’s not worth it. Get out. Easy to say, but really?!

      Meanwhile, focus on other things in your life this weekend. Family, pets, hobbies, cleaning out a closet, helping someone else. It may help distract you a bit because this employer doesn’t deserve you!

      1. Terrified*

        Thank you so much (and to everyone!) commenting. I didn’t even think of the guys’ social media until you brought it up! I also believe that part of the reason for the supension was that she was able to go back to the mayor and say, “Aha, we punished her!”

        I’ve been applying like mad recently, and this just encourages me to keep applying. I even applied for some seasonal jobs in case things don’t line up.

        Yes, I’m pretty much in therapy b/c of the job. We are going to a book signing tomorrow so hopefully that will be nice.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I am not very impressed with your boss here. I am not even impressed with the others in this story either.

      This is a slight variation of what my wise friend might say, when we work with people who behave like idiots, this type of stuff can happen.
      May time be kind to you. May time show you that when you are working with sane people stuff like this does not go out of hand.

      Chin up. MANY, many people have done far, far worse than this and they landed on their feet and so will you.
      I assume you can’t sleep so here are a couple of things to think about.
      1) Check the news headlines and count, yes actually count, the number of headlines about people doing things far worse than this here.

      2) You are saying that your biggest worry is losing your job. Okay, let’s go with this. Make a plan. What will you do if you lose your job? Write down categories, such as job hunting and self-care. Then under each category write down actual activities that you will do. This does not have to be long, but keep it handy so you can add something as it occurs to you.

      3) Make a support group list. This does not have to be long, but the people have to be rock solid. So, let’s start with your therapist and your attorney (when you find her, yes, a woman). Think of one more person you can add.

      4) You should have something that talks about ethics guidelines for your job. It might be a booklet, some papers or something online. Try to find it. Then read it, make notes in the margins.

      Let us know how you are doing.

  42. Brett*

    Ran into a department head from old job at an event this past weekend.
    She did not realize I had a new job (for the past 8 months) and wondered why she had not seen me around…

  43. Mustache Cat*

    I have a question specifically about Alison’s book! I want to get it for my dad for Christmas, but I don’t think he’d be into trying to read a pdf version. Is there any chance of getting a physical copy of the book somehow? I would definitely pay a premium to have something to wrap.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Unfortunately, no — it’s only electronic. I’m sorry! However, it comes in an epub version so if he has a Kindle or another e-reader, it doesn’t need to just be a PDF.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      You can print it out and have it bound nicely by kinko’s or something. We sent my dad’s blog to a company who made into a hardcover book after he died (people with the same rare disease kept asking for it because it had helpful info). It wasn’t expensive (but I don’t know if you can do that with copyrighted material).

      1. Sami*

        Alison- is it ok if we (who’ve legally purchased your book) make a print copy? I’d love to do that. I use my kindle and iPad constantly but I like physical books for nonfiction.

  44. anonderella*

    So, I have been at my job for a year, shy a month and a day.
    I’m a front desk person, so I knew that my role would be fairly distant from the other departments, who spend a good, but appropriate, amount of time socializing and socially decompressing during the work day.
    I always felt so left out, not only with the socializing, but like I wasn’t being given anything important to do. I found AAM, and have posted a few times to try and use the responding comments to come to some sort of understanding about my situation.

    I found out last week that my boss, the office manager, has been telling my coworkers not to talk to me or give me assignments. I don’t know the entire extent of that command, but it was confirmed by two different people, in different departments, that this is what my boss has been telling the rest of the office. She also wants all tasks that I might be asked to help out on to go through her – *which could make sense*, but somehow none of it ever gets back to me; meaning, if a busy coworker wants my help with data-entry or something else mundane, and I have NOTHING to do, and have been politely telling my boss for a week or two that I have NOTHING to do, asking every now and then if there is anything I can do to help her out, and am given NOTHING, or what she promises takes weeks longer than it was supposed to, I sit on my hands for weeks. And she knows this, but it ends up being my “fault” that I didn’t come to her for something to do. Also, a lot of the tasks she gives me counter previous directives, and I am left trying to sort out a) what she wanted to begin with, b) what she said she wanted later, and c) what’s actually best for the company – which, I should be depending on her for that!
    She also has a terrible attitude (I also learned that everybody in the office HATES her, minus our co. president, of course), and harped on me for months about a ‘personality’ conflict we seemed to be having – which, she was very correct, but I *never* would let that bother me at work, unless it was something I truly could not work with. And if that’s the case, why am I still employed here? Why have I *never* been given anything to improve on? She actually told me that during my last review, that there was nothing I could be doing better.

    I am not used to having a problem in front of me that I can’t solve, or even actively work to alleviate – it sucks.

    TL,DR: Anyone else had a boss with whom the correct path of action was to stay out of their way, and try to secretly learn skills that will help with your future career? My boss has made it clear (not with words, but through her actions over the past year) that anything useful I’m going to be able to put on a resume will come at a trickle-down pace, over years.
    I’ve been here a year, and not only do I feel like I have gained nothing useful to put on my resume, but have learned that my boss is actively persuading people to not give me stuff to do! While herself not giving me the things to do that she promised me a week ago (let alone a year ago..)! Argh!

    1. anonderella*

      Adding one thing – I saw a post here a few days ago asking about the use of the phrase “looking for a new challenge” being acceptable terminology for why you left your last position. I was thrilled to hear Allison saying that it was, until she added that ‘if you’ve only been at your position for a year and are saying you’re looking for new challenges,’ that she wouldn’t think it was a good idea.
      I’m not looking to change my job right now, but my SO and I were hoping to move around the middle of next year, and I’m worried that I won’t have anything good to put on my resume. I’m also worried that even if I follow my boss’ directives to the T, she won’t be happy because she either doesn’t like me or I am insufficient for the role, but she won’t provide any good feedback on how I could get better. And I am worried about how I would describe the work I’ve done here.

      I want to be someone my boss can count on, but it seems like that ship has sailed for whatever reason. Another problem is that I’m so low on her radar, I don’t think any of my frustration even registers for her; even though she’s the one causing it, and is literally the only person at my company I have a problem with.

      1. Adam V*

        If you’re moving, you don’t need the “new challenge” explanation. In that case, you just explain “here’s what I was able to accomplish, but it wasn’t a ton because it was only a year”.

        1. anonderella*

          That’s the direction I’ve been leaning toward – and reading AAM helps so much with those anxieties you come up against while job searching! Even if I’m not in the position of the poster, myself, it’s almost therapeutic to see those stories play out, and to learn from them.
          But that’s good to hear, thanks.

          1. anonderella*

            good point! We are also doing a ton of research on where we’d like to go, so I will have an arsenal to answer ‘Why here?’ type questions. Hopefully enthusiasm for our new locale will take the focus off why I left my old job/area.

    2. Adam V*

      Do you email your boss when asking for additional work? If so, you’d have that to point to when she complains you didn’t ask her for work to do (“Oh, I’m sorry, I had sent an email yesterday at 7:42 asking for more work to do – maybe you missed it among all your other emails”).

      Does everyone report to the office manager? If not, perhaps their bosses could go to the office manager and say “hey, you keep telling my employees not to go straight to anonderella with additional work, but to take it to you instead – but then I hear that the work never gets to her and is left undone. Let’s work out a new system to ensure they don’t think the work is getting done when it’s sitting on your desk instead.”

      1. anonderella*

        re: 1st paragraph: She’s really weasley; even when I ask to communicate through email, so there are references for what was said/requested on both ends, she dismisses it, and usually with a chaser of tonal condescension. Like, I should know better than to request something so off-the-wall.

        re 2nd paragraph: Not everyone reports to her, but the department I work most closely with (like I do their filing, and create labels for folders, and sometimes set up a UPS shipment) is the Admins, and she is over them as well as me. The only other department I occasionally help is one person in accounting, and she was the one who finally broke down and complained to me that “I’m sorry, but your job is bullshit. You are given the most bullshit tasks – she has you doing crap like sweeping the parking lot, and nothing really useful.”
        Now, I took that as best I could, especially considering I 100% agree; but to learn that the rest of the company thinks my position is a joke – it was tough.
        The reason this individual can’t bypass my boss and give me work anyway, is that it would get back to my boss, and I would ‘get in trouble’. wtf.
        The people I support seem to be more or less based on the people who take over for me when I have lunch. I suggested at my performance review that one day a week, maybe aligning with who is covering my lunch that day, I could do one-on-one support for each admin/accountant, and that way be exposed to their processes but also be useful for the company. Alternatively, I offered to support only my boss, doing stuff like taking over travel reservations, being able to put in inventory orders without her approval, so she could focus on bigger projects.
        She did not think it would be useful.

    3. AnotherAnony*

      Omg, I’m having such flashbacks after reading this. “…has been telling my coworkers not to talk to me or give me assignments.” Can someone please explain what the point of this is? Why is isolating her the solution? Okay, vent over with. Anonderella, keep asking for feedback/input from your boss. Otherwise, I would start looking for a new job. Telling you that everything is fine, but then playing these little mind games like isolating you or saying you’re not doing enough, but not telling you what you should be doing is a battle you’ll never win. (Unless the boss leaves or you can transfer to another department.)

      1. anonderella*

        No vent with me!! kidding, I appreciate your input, though.

        The mindgames comment is spot-on for how I feel about her.
        It was relieving at first to hear that I was indeed the target of her games, but that relief gave way to a new insecurity, albeit one less terrifying, now that I know my correct course of action is to continue to try to improve where I can at this job, not give in and become a lump in a chair, and I guess count less on this job teaching me what I need to know for my next – I’ll have to start looking elsewhere.

        I still do want to have respect for my boss; even when I’ve let past behavior/comments slip off my shoulders, it’s like she’s right back ready to take out some unseen frustration on me and the other admins. It was extremely relieving to hear the entire office (anyone non-executive team) feels the same way about how she treats them and talks to them.

        the only other time I’ve had a talk with a coworker here like that was almost 9 months ago – an admin and I stood outside for 45 minutes after we’d left the building, and just talked about how she treats us. There were lawn-care guys swirling around us on mowers for most of that time, and we were both so downtrodden that it was worth standing amidst the noise and dust to just feel alleviated from her tyrancy, for a moment.
        My coworker was complaining that she had been put on a PIP for saying to our office manager “you make me feel like a redheaded stepchild”. Now, my coworker was a bit ‘country’, and prone to hyperbole, and though I wouldn’t have said specifically that to my boss, I do think it was a joke made out of frustration, the point of which was ultimately to communicate to our boss that she was being made to feel dismissed, and that point was completely missed. My boss wrote her up for ‘insubordination’ – which, appropriate or not, has got to be one of the best PIP prompts ever.

        oy, vent over. Thanks, to you and everyone!

    4. Temperance*

      I would look to move on. It sounds like your boss wants you to stay at the reception desk, and she’s going to keep you in the pink ghetto.

      I would look for positions that have other stuff and reception, or no reception at all. Far too often women get stuck at the front desk because it’s hard to find good admin help. I had to leave my last job because they had no intention of promoting me.

      1. anonderella*

        That’s another conundrum with my current boss; her words sound like she wants to help, but they are so far apart from her actions.
        Oy, good to hear from other folks that my interpretation of the situation is that it’s pretty whack – and I can do better.

        1. Temperance*

          My guess is that you’re a skilled receptionist, and she wants to keep you there because it’s hard to find qualified people to do reception. So she leads you on and purposely keeps you from getting the skills to move up.

          My last job did this exact thing to me. I was a good admin, and my grandboss liked that I helped her with marketing and was a good writer, so she wouldn’t recommend me for better jobs. My great-grandboss gave me more interesting work, though, and we’re still close today.

    5. EA*

      That is horrible. She probably is too lazy to fire you (plus has zero cause), but doesn’t want to help you with more work and doesn’t like you for some reason (the personality conflict you mentioned).

      Honestly, leave. She sucks and is not changing. She is going to stand in your way. You don’t want to be worrying that if you get extra work, you have to hide it. I know AAM talks a lot about not being a job hopper, but like, I think reception/admin jobs are often the exception to this. People rarely stay in admin jobs more than 2 years unless they are in a high level position. Look into administrative assistant positions. I think you need to believe what you are seeing, not what she is saying.

      1. anonderella*

        “I think you need to believe what you are seeing, not what she is saying.”

        This was a huge part of the problem – she made herself my only resource (btw, she even admitted to me during my review that she hadn’t been as supportive as she should have been, but gave no indication of change in that aspect, and indeed, there has been no change.) and I didn’t have as full a grasp as I do now, before learning last week that she is actively being a roadbloack to my success.

        “Look into administrative assistant positions.”

        I will take that to heart! Nothing wrong with aiming a little higher than receptionist.
        (btw, I forgot to mention, my current job is the first out of college, and only one so far that doesn’t involve a pizza box.)

        1. EA*

          One year reception counts as admin experience. You have transferable skills, I am sure you greet people, maybe schedule?

          1. anonderella*

            Apologies for the leeeengthy reply – this issue has been giving me severe anxiety, and I truly felt paralyzed in my career until I heard from other people.

            The 1-year-is-experience thing is what I’m hoping for – so that’s great to hear validated! – but, while I do greet people and am the ‘front face’ of the office, the other more ‘routine’ tasks I handle are limited, and all take like 5 minutes. I do no scheduling of any kind, even though I specifically asked to help out with this in my performance review. When first hired, I was told we would be ‘hitting the ground running’. I figured it’d be a go-go-go type job, and I’d probably make some mistakes at first, but would eventually hit my groove. I like multitasking, a lot; I like being challenged with new tasks; I like doing a part to make a team work better; I’m decent with people, even angry people who want to get paid; I don’t mind having to look for resources in order to make a project successful.
            I have never been trained on any aspect of my job, other than the phone system. However, I was dinged in my review for not “knowing” some stuff already – all I could think was, you hired me! You know my skill level because you keep it where it is!
            I also assumed her sarcasm and ‘wit’ would stay somewhat benevolent, and above all, behind me, supportively. I really don’t think there was anything about her that I could have seen coming as a red flag. The problem here is that she keeps *telling* me she’s my resource, and to come to her, but isn’t *being* helpful or supportive.
            For example, on a recent project she had me doing, I had to collect information from our field guys as well as in-office people. She told me specifically at the start of the project she would send me a blanket email on how to request the info from the field guys. Fast forward two months, all in-office people are collected (some were working out of town or on PTO, so it took a while), and it has become apparent (won’t go into details, just comments she made, both verbally and in emails) that she expects me to get the info from the field guys. No problem, I start on an email, but fairly quickly run into some snags wording it (because she was supposed to be doing it in the first place and only she has some info I need). I politely asked for her advice on how to do so, and the entire project is taken away from me. It was supposed to all end up with her anyway, so having it taken wasn’t huge.
            BUT she was supposed to be getting me info I needed! As she took it, her words were “Ok, well I’m just going to take this because it’s taking a while.” (what?? I’ve been waiting on you! And telling you I’m waiting on you! The proof is in our emails, in our minutes for our bi-weekly meetings – you put it there!)

            I really think she doesn’t have the worst intentions, I think she’s just sidelined me, and has a terrible ego problem. And can’t talk respectfully to people she thinks are beneath her on the work-level hierarchy. I * do not* need her to butter me up. But until this recent get-together with the coworkers who let me in on exactly how little I matter at my job (while stressing how much I *could* be doing if not for my/our boss!), I used to go home and cry to my SO; sometimes about how awful she is, sometimes about how I had to be as low as she made me feel, in order for her to treat me like that. My poor SO, even though he tried to tell me that it’s just her, I’m ok and doing ok, and most importantly, I can and will do better, it took hearing it from people who work under her, too, for me to really listen.

            You guys are nailing it; I will continue to leave the door open for her to change and also open up to me, but I’m not banking on it to be successful here. And, I may not be able to be as successful as I could be with her as my boss, but that may just have to be the reality of this period of time in my life.
            It’s still a learning experience – just wish dealing with her was a transferable skill to my resume!

            Thanks, all!

            1. anonderella*

              btw, if this paints the picture any clearer, my boss is one of those people who show attitude through the height and angle of her eyebrows. So even when I present a logical argument, I glance up at her and see an angry-Joan-Crawford-nightmare, sneering down at me. Oy.

              So many times has she been giving me crap,
              (this deserves its own line – here’s some recent crap : my newest duty is to walk to every single associate’s desk in our office, and ask if they have any dishes I can take to the kitchen for them, at a certain point near endofday, every. single. day. Oh, then I *do* the dishes for the other associates, in the kitchen at the back of the office, while trying to keep an ear out for the front desk visitors and the ringing phone.)
              and I am just thinking to myself, “put your g_____m eyebrows back down on your head so I can take you seriously. Just lower them to a level appropriate for a human, and resume speaking.”

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Even if you have to get another front desk job, it has to be better than this crap. Plus, if you have a reasonable boss in a reasonable company, you might get more tasks you can pull additional skills from. It took me several receptionist positions to get an admin job, but they kept getting better in terms of what I did. Although I have to say, the first one was my favorite, mostly because my coworkers were AWESOME.

                Hahaha, the eyebrows thing cracked me up. :D

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Get away from this woman. I have no clue what her problem is but it’s severe whatever it is. She is an abusive boss.

  45. new poster with a dilemma*

    If you were given a promotion at your job (without applying) and found out months later after accidentally being cc’d in an email between managers that you only got the promotion due to your race/being a minority and that a co-worker and friend who is more qualified and was supposed to get it instead what would you do? No one knows you were cc’d and the friend has no idea and has only been supportive. Any advice would be appreciated, thank you.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Wow. WOW. How incredibly crappy. I don’t even know what I would do… But do your managers know you saw the email? My first instinct would be to go to one of them and quietly say, “I need you to know that I saw this email [and it is bullshit on so many levels]” or something like that, but I have a tendency to get very indignant about such things.

      I’m really sorry you’re in this position.

    2. new poster with a dilemma*

      *I feel really guilty and sick over this, I don’t want to to “hide” it or make it so that no one else knows or finds out.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        No, hiding it won’t make you feel any better, ever. AvonLady Barksdale has good advice. Start with the person who cc’d you, or with the manager in the list that you have the best rapport with. Since you were cc’d, it can’t really be completely hidden anyway, so make it clear you feel guilty and sick over it. I think if it were me, and all the managers wanted to keep it hidden, I’d go to the friend. Because if they really are a friend, it would be better to hear it from you than to think you were trying to also keep it hidden. I have no idea how things will go, and that’s a really terrible position to be put in!

      2. Caro in the UK*

        Please don’t feel guilty. This is absolutely not your fault, not at all. So try not to beat yourself up about it. (Harder said than done, I totally get how you feel.)

        I think AvonLady Barksdale’s approach might be best, a quiet word with someone you trust. But just know none of this is your fault.

    3. Talking out of my arse here, but...*

      I don’t know what you can do. Do you really want to go to the managers and say, I don’t want a pity promotion, please demote me and give it to her instead? I suppose you could, but that’s really their call and not yours. Calling them out will make them uncomfortable, and if I were your friend, I would really, really not want to know this had happened. (Again, what good does it do for friend to know?)

      Or you could think about it this way: unless they said you’re completely unqualified (I hope not), you’re not unqualified, she was more qualified. But are you doing terribly at the job? Probably not, right? There have been times where the super best person may not have gotten a job, but the “next best” or whatever who did it still did well, or even better than they figured. And well, to some degree it does help to have PoC getting more promotions in the world, or at least it encourages more of them to get some. Unless you are absolutely terrible at the job, it’s not hurting the job or the employers to have you in it. It only hurt your friend, which sucks, but…well, management can decide whatever they want.

      I think if it were me I’d just do the best I can in the job and not say anything. Heck, I’ve been the second choice and gotten hired when the first bailed and guess what, I did well anyway and they still kept me.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        And that’s also a good point — if you are doing the job and capable, you aren’t asking for the job to be taken away. Still, I personally wouldn’t want to keep it hidden.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I can’t speak for new poster, but I wouldn’t want to work for a place that gave me a promotion because I was a token. I’m not a PoC, but I’d be pretty pissed if I only got a promotion because I’m a woman/Jewish/have blue eyes. That would not sit will with me at all. Being the second choice for a job because someone else turned it down is a totally different scenario. new poster isn’t the second choice because her friend said no, she’s the choice because of something that has nothing to do with her abilities. Granted, I’m sure she has plenty of abilities, but it’s not about that.

      3. new poster with a dilemma*

        The only reason I was promoted was due to my race/being a minority. I was surprised when I was promoted because there are more qualified people than me here (including my friend) and I didn’t think I had the skills or experience. The management said they saw something in my and decided I was the one. Now I know they meant my skin color. If I were not a minority I would not have been considered at all. I am still in training mode but I have felt in over my head. I thought it was just imposter syndrome but now I know why. Someone already commented that I’m taking much longer to train than expected, but that person isn’t a manager or one of my subordinates so I didn’t think anything of it. After getting the email I know I was only promoted because of my skin color to make the company look better.

        1. animaniactoo*

          This is a really really tough position to be in.

          If I were you, I would ask to step back to the previous position. Tell them that your misgivings about the position have born out in how underwater you’ve been trying to train for this position, and how long it’s taking to train you.

          I would mention having seen the e-mail, and tell them that this move actually offends you because people have worked very hard to be seen EQUAL regardless of their skin color, and affirmative action has gotten such a bad name from people doing this very thing – promoting someone who was less qualified due to their skin color or gender. The point of affirmative action was to get people who were EQUALLY qualified into those roles. So what you would like from this debacle is for them to put the time and effort into training you in your current pre-promotion role so that you might some day be one of the most qualified candidates, but in the meantime, please put one of the better qualified candidates in the role and stop focusing on your “minority” aspect. If they have an imbalance perception problem, that would be better addressed by prioritizing (once again for the people in the back) EQUALLY QUALIFIED candidates when they hire or promote in the future.

          Now – this is what I would do if I were in your position. But what you do has to be based on what you feel comfortable pulling off – you might feel more comfortable jobhunting right now and giving your friend a copy of the e-mail as soon as you’ve secured something else. Or talking it over with your friend and asking them what they think you and they should do. But I would go for the above primarily because it calls them out on this crap that has so tainted and created such divide over affirmative action and the perception of what it is supposed to do for POC. Which really offends *me*. And I would be trying to keep a paycheck at the same time and be able to live with myself.

          Fwiw, I went through some of the same when I figured out that I had ended up in a super-secret pension plan at my company that others I expected to have access to didn’t. I ran it down with a co-worker and figured out that there were differences that made sense in terms of who had received prior assistance, responsibility of roles, etc. But if there weren’t, I was prepared to out the plan and make an issue out of it.

        2. fposte*

          Oh, bummer; I was hoping it wasn’t quite as bad as that.

          I think if you felt happy and confident in your job I would still encourage you to say inwardly “Suck it, losers, you hired somebody good for the wrong reasons” and not pursue it. But it sounds like you’re not happy. In that case I think asking to step back down is reasonable. I still don’t think you need to raise the issue of the email explicitly, but you might be able to address the issue obliquely by saying that at a workplace where you’re one of the visible faces of diversity it’s important that you be succeeding and not failing.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Right. As a black woman who works at a company with very few people of color, especially women and especially in higher-level or executive roles, I was going to say something similar – she should continue doing her job, kicking ass, and then once she gained enough experience to find something else, quit and go work for people who don’t do this tokenism/faux diversity bullshit. But you’re right – she’s not happy in the role and apparently not doing that well in it either, which just makes this situation worse. People will start to notice and will start speculating as to why she got the job in the first place, and you bet the affirmative action card will be played. And sadly, the detractors will be right in this instance.

            This is a lousy situation to be in, new poster. I’m angry on your behalf. Your employer set you up to fail (and I doubt very much that you were included on that email by accident).

      4. N.J.*

        It is Illegal to make hiring or promotional or work assignments based of race or other protected class status. My impression is that it would still be illegal to make a positive decision based on that, like giving the OP a promotion, just as much as making a negative decision. If the OP complies with this, if and/or when someone finds out she is as culpable as the managers. That doesn’t make it any easier to have that conversation, but I would suggest that it would be helpful to look at it from the framework of complying with the law.

        1. Gaara*

          The OP didn’t make the decision. She is not “as culpable” from a legal standpoint just because she later found out about it.

    4. ZVA*

      Wow, so sorry this happened to you. Can I ask what you want to do? Talk to the managers? Tell your friend? I’m not necessarily advocating either one—just wondering how you’re feeling and what your first instincts are.

      1. new poster with a dilemma*

        I’m not even sure. I never thought anything like this would happen and I have no idea. I feel sick thinking about it but I have no idea how to handle it.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      You could always keep a copy of the email, and if things go sour and you leave, you can give it to the other candidate. They can give it to their lawyer and have an instant lawsuit. And you will have sweat vengeance.

    6. fposte*

      Well, hang on a second–did the email say you were a totally unqualified disaster but they had to promote you? Or did they say something more like Friend is really qualified, but we really need to do better on our diversity?

      I mean, it sucks to get either email, but this isn’t a contest between your friend and you that you unfairly won. You are living in a country (I’m presuming you’re in the U.S.) where people have been promoted for race for years so long as they were white, and we’re only just now starting to undo the skew that has left higher level employment with. Without conscious attempts to promote for diversity, companies tend to get mired in unconscious biases. It’s quite possible it’s better for the employer overall to promote you even if your friend is a strongly qualified candidate too.

      Even if they said it ugly (and I hope they didn’t), this doesn’t have to mean you got unfairly handed something and you should repudiate it. There’s every chance that this was a reasonable decision for them to make and you’re doing a fine job.

      1. new poster with a dilemma*

        They said the only reason I was picked for promotion (there was no applying or competition) was because of my race/me being a visible minority. I was surprised when they told me because there are more qualified people (including my friend mentioned in the email). Ever since I started I have felt in over my head because I don’t have the skills or experience, but in thought maybe I had imposter syndrome. But between the email and someone mentioning that my training is a taking longer than expected I know I was right. If it wasn’t for my skin color I would not have been considered even.

    7. SophieChotek*

      I am so sorry new poster!

      (If it was CC, not blind BCC) surely someone else has noticed that you were cc’d also? – but no one has said anything? (Hoping you didn’t read it?)

      I thought what ZVA wrote: What do you want? What outcome to do you want? is key (to some degree) with how to proceed? Do you still want to work for this company? I know you wrote about imposter syndrome, but do you still want the job knowing what you do now? Do you want your (supportive?) friend to have it instead?

      I agree — you do not need to feel guilty at all. This is on them. You put your application in in good faith.

      1. ZVA*

        Yeah, I think what you want out of this situation is the key to what you’ll do next, LW. My followup questions were going to be: Do you want to stay at this company? Impostor syndrome aside, do you like the job you were promoted into? Can you see yourself succeeding in it and/or enjoying it down the road, even if it takes you a while to get there?

        Please don’t feel guilty, or like you’re taking something away from your friend, no matter what you decide. This is a sh*tty situation, but it’s in no way your fault. I would understand if you kept your head down and said nothing about the email. I’d understand if you felt you couldn’t stay silent. I’d understand if you wanted to leave the company… But please don’t feel that there’s a “wrong” option here or that you’ve wronged anyone. You haven’t.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think that part of the problem is that no matter what OP decides to do, she can’t “UNknow” this happened. The truth is out there and cannot be hidden any more.

          Maybe that is the part to think about, OP, this email throws the company in a whole different light. Now, knowing this, where do you want to be? I am saying this because I am not sure but that my impulse to leave might take over my thinking.

          When I was 46 I was working at a job where my toxic boss decided that I was OLD. She did not try to hide how she felt. My brain left the building and a while later so did the rest of me.

    8. BRR*

      If the email is explicitly clear it was due to race, I would save a copy as back up and go to HR. Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure this is illegal.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, it’s illegal. You can’t base hiring decisions on race, even in an attempt to correct previous inequities. (You can do other things to correct those inequities though, like putting special effort into building the number of non-white candidates in your applicant pool, setting up programs that you think will be attractive to POC candidates, etc.)

  46. Master Bean Counter*

    So I have a new grandboss on Monday. I’m going to believe he is a sane and reasonable person until proven otherwise. And in a move that’s still baffling me, my boss took a call from a recruiter. In his office at the time we were supposed to have a meeting 15 feet away in a conference room. So I got to sit in the conference room and even though he closed his door I overheard the entire conversation. He’s not happy that he didn’t get promoted and is now looking for new work.
    I now have more information about my boss than I ever wanted. I think the outgoing grandboss is grooming my coworker to eventually take my boss’s position. Which would make me very happy. Neither of us like staying in the office at night to “get things done.” We all have laptops and the ability to work from home. Coworker is with me on actually using that ability to our advantage.
    So here’s to hoping that all the changes coming are going to be positive!

    1. animaniactoo*

      “Trust but verify”.

      Benefit of the doubt, but proceed with caution until you have verification!

  47. BRR*

    There is an absurdly loud sneezer in my office. I work in a completely open office and someone on the other end has these ridiculously loud and long sneezes. I know we all sneeze differently but you can hear where it stops being natural and she seems to be elongating it. It’s incredibly distracting in general but then people talk about it every time it happens. Is there anything anybody can suggest? I know I can’t say stop sneezing. The only thing I could think of is I don’t believe she’s covering her nose/mouth because it’s not muffled at all. But I don’t work near her (or for that matter know who it is) so I feel awkward going someone I really don’t know at all and ask them to sneeze into their arm. Or am I just SOL?

    1. Annie Moose*

      Ahhhh now I’m paranoid it’s me! I’ve had this terrible cold this week and I’ve been sneezing like crazy, and it feels like it rattles the windows every time… okay, now I need to be extra careful I’m not being ridiculous about it!

      Seriously, though, I’m not sure there’s much you can do. If you sat near her, you could maybe say something like, “oh, do you have any kleenex? I have a box here…” or something more direct, but if she’s on the other side of the office and you don’t really know her, you probably will just have to wait it out… :/

    2. Lily in NYC*

      People with crazy loud sneezes do not do it on purpose and they truly cannot control it. If she’s not covering her nose, then yeah, that’s annoying but I don’t think it’s worth saying anything. I can’t imagine she sneezes so often that you can’t do your job well.

      1. fposte*

        Well, they can control it (I say as a loud sneezer by default myself) but they have to first realize that it’s possible; like laughing sounds, sneezing sounds are a deeply ingrained habit, but you can teach yourself not to vocalize. But I still wouldn’t raise it with a co-worker.

        1. fposte*

          (Actually, that’s not true–I can think of situations–like sharing an office with somebody with allergies–where I’d say “Hey, I know it’s automatic, but it really makes me jump when you sneeze because you let out a scream. I’ve heard that’s something that people can sometimes change if they try–would you be willing to try? I promise to fetch you Kleenex.”

      2. BRR*

        It’s not the loudness that I think she could adjust, it’s the length that is clearly exaggerated because you can hear a difference. It’s like ACHOOOOOOoooooo.

    3. LQ*

      I’m a super loud sneezer (so very loud) and if I could just stop with magic? I totally would? If I sneeze frequently it really sucks, it makes my head spin, it makes me feel a little tipy. When I hold the sneezes in? I often get a headache from it, so yeah, I “can” but I really prefer not to because headaches make my job much harder. And most of my coworkers would rather make a snarky comment from 4 aisles away than take twice as long to get back to them. Sorry, I don’t want to, and it hurts me more than it hurts you.

      1. fposte*

        You can learn not to vocalize when you sneeze, though, if that’s part of the problem (which it usually is). Unfortunately, all the links I can find about quiet sneezing (and there are a lot) generally talk about how to stop the sneeze entirely–though they do offer the tip that resisting the big inhale (the “ah” of the “ah-choo”) gives you less air and therefore a quieter sneeze.

        1. WellRed*

          I have a coworker who vocalizes when she sneezes (big emphasis on the CHOOOOO). But, we were on a flight recently and she managed to control that vocalization.

      2. BRR*

        I think I’ve recognized that it’s completely unreasonable t say stop sneezing or change your sneeze. But I’m wondering about asking her to try and muffle it and the length is clearly exaggerated.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You: “Oh goodness, do you need an ambulance?”
          Her: “Of course not, silly person!”
          You: “I have notice that your sneezes are really loud and long. I have never heard anyone sneeze like that, so I thought I better check to make sure things are alright.”

          Or make something up: “You know my cousin, Jane, had really loud and long sneezes like that. Turns out she had profound allergies and really needed help. You might want to get that checked. Most people don’t sneeze really long like that.”
          This one is a good foundation for later, “Oh, still having problems with those sneezes, eh? What did the doc say when you spoke to him??”

          Or tell her thanks to her you won the office pool. You bet her next sneeze would be 46.5 seconds and you were right so you got the money.

    4. Observer*

      You can hear where you THINK it stops being natural.

      And, it’s totally not her fault that people talk about it every time she sneezes. That’s just stupid. If I were going to say anything, it would be to ask all the gossips to stop chewing over the same old thing for the umpteeth time.

    5. Victoria, Please*

      I’m laughing my head off here because my husband sneezes SO LOUDLY! But he did himself one better: he used to live in a tropical city and one evening someone sneezed such a mighty sneeze that all the dogs in the neighborhood started barking. Then the dogs in the surrounding streets started barking! And then the *next* dogs! So the entire city had a wave of dogs barking due to this one sneeze.

  48. SquirrelGirl*

    My coworker and I became pretty close when we moved into the same office and he’s pretty much an open book. Lately he’s been talking about much he hates his manager (which I totally understand, she micromanages to the extreme and as a result it looks like he isn’t making any improvements when he is), my suggestion every time is to go to our department head, discuss his issues and talk about switching to a different manager. But he insists it will do nothing and that he just wants to quit and find a new job, except he can’t because he’s in the middle of moving and can’t lose his source of income.
    I find this super frustrating, partially because that’s the opposite reaction I’ve had talking to upper management (they’ve always been super receptive and willing to move people around for better results) and this manager has had complaints against her before so I think he would be believed. But mostly I’m frustrated because I don’t want to hear about it anymore! He won’t take my advice, but won’t quit, and I just can’t listen to the same complaints over and over again.
    Any advice on how to tell my coworker this?

    1. Dawn*

      “Fergus, I’ve reached my limit on you complaining about your situation with Sansa. Either go talk to upper management like I suggested, or stop complaining to me about it.” And then don’t let him complain about it to you any more by shutting him down if he gets wound up!

    2. justsomeone*

      Tell him you don’t want to hear it anymore! “Fergus, I’ve suggested to you that you talk to Upper Manager about this. Since you won’t actually go do anything about it, I’m tired of having the same conversation over and over. How about those Teapot Reports?”

    3. animaniactoo*

      “Okay, I get that you feel stuck and you don’t want to do anything to change the situation at this point. However, I need to let you know that you’ve filled your venting quota with me and *I* can’t take it anymore, so please find someone else to talk to about this. Fwiw, I do think it’s at least worth trying to talk to upper management. You might be right, it might not help. But I think you should at least try.”

      “But it won’t change anything! [reason][reason][reason]”

      “As I said – I think you’re wrong, but it’s your choice. Just please don’t bring it up with me again.”

    4. SquirrelGirl*

      Thanks for the responses! I’ll definitely try these out and put my foot down when he starts it up again

    5. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Good suggestions above.

      My grandfather used to answer those kinds of things with a deadpan, “Wow, you’re right. There is no solution. You’re in a situation that is impossible to resolve.” It usually got the point across. :)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        LOVE this.

        I worked with a guy like this and yeah, that is pretty much what you have to tell them.

  49. Good_Intentions*

    Cheerleading in a disorganized organization

    OK, I am in the crunch leading up to Election Day 2016.

    I received an email 20 minutes ago indicating that people in my position need to be more positive when dealing our student workers. I already respond to their queries within the hour, thank them for all their efforts every time we speak, and congratulate them on all their partnerships, events, outreach efforts, sign-ups, etc.

    Is there something else I should be doing?

    Are such emails just par for the course when so close to a major event such as an election?

    Please share your thoughts.

    Many Thanks!

    1. Dawn*

      Ignore the email. It’s one of those dumb management tactics where instead of talking directly to the people who aren’t doing what they should be doing they send out a blanket email to everyone in the hopes that it’ll sink in by osmosis. Which always goes right over the heads of the people who need to read it the most, and it always upsets people like you who *are* doing what you should be doing so then you get paranoid you need to be doing more.

      1. Good_Intentions*


        Thanks so much for your email and support.

        Honestly, it threw me for a loop, especially that my student workers bragged to one of the higher ups about how responsive and helpful I’ve been.

        Again, I genuinely appreciate your insight. I feel a lot less paranoid now.

        1. SarahKay*

          Yep, Dawn is spot on! It’s a horrible tactic because of course it only ever worries the conscientious person who is already doing a great job!

        2. SophieChotek*

          I agree. It’s one of those generic things — so annoying and frustrating to the conscentiuos though.

      2. Chaordic One*

        Yes, Dawn is on target with her advice.

        This tactic is closely related to the blanket email that thanks a whole department for the good job they’ve done. The people who haven’t done anything, think they’re great; and the ones who’ve carried the department feel kind of disappointed and often leave the organization.

    2. Murphy*

      At my old job we got emails like that to the whole department saying “everyone needs to do X” but everyone knew that the subtext was “somebody told us that somebody didn’t do x, so we’re just telling everybody to do it rather than talk to person who may or may not have done x”. Partially bad management on my old job’s part, but generally they said that if one person needed to hear something, probably everybody could benefit from it.

      1. Good_Intentions*

        Lily in NYC,

        The email was a template from the main office that went individually to each state coordinator. There are at least four other people with my title in different battleground states.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Oh, good. I bet it was really meant for one of the other coordinators but they didn’t want to single the person out so they sent it to all of you. Which they shouldn’t have done, in my opinion. Because of exactly what happened – the person taking it most to heart (you) is the person who didn’t need the reminder. I totally get why it’s bugging you – there’s nothing worse than feeling like you are being reprimanded unjustly.

  50. AvonLady Barksdale*

    This week I started a part-time retail job. It’s a little too part-time for my tastes– not a lot of hours– but it will get me out of the house and put a little cash in my pocket. The store is great, the people are really nice, the clientele is lovely and extremely understanding of my newbie ineptitude.

    In the corporate space… Two weeks ago I met with someone who later sent me an email telling me that he would be creating a position and I should apply. I responded to his email, but I haven’t had a response since then. I’m trying really, really hard not to get too concerned. He asked me to be patient for a couple of weeks while he ironed out details– should I follow up next week? Or just let it be? I don’t think he’s forgotten me (per Alison’s advice and previous columns, people don’t generally forget about top candidates), but of course I’m curious to know if they’re planning to move forward.

  51. self employed*

    My friend wants to start a small business to make a few hundred extra dollars a month. She will sell gluten-free baking mix for about $8-10 each. Any suggestions on marketing/packaging/advice? I suggested posting to Facebook friends and family to share; what else can she do?

    1. Stephanie*

      I know in some cities, there are basically time-share commercial kitchens where people like your friend can work. Perhaps she can look into working in one of those–she could get more suitable facilities for running her business.

    2. Adam V*

      This is sort of off-topic, since it’s not really workplace-related.

      That said, maybe she could try contacting gluten-free baking blogs and seeing if they’d like to try her mix and let her know what they think – she might get a blog post about it and raise awareness that way.

      1. self employed*

        I appreciate posters keeping stuff on topic, but I believe it is work-related. It’s not a hobby she is pursuing, but a small business. Not all work happens in workplaces. :)

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      If there’s a local independent cookware/bakeware store or a small local gourmet store, she can talk to them. They might be able to give her advice or she can work out a plan to give out samples at their stores. I do think she should try some packaging first, though!

    4. JLK in the ATX*

      First, learn the Cottage Laws in her state re: marketing and PR (ingredients list, laws re: stating something is gluten-free and packaging requirements and prep requirements: home ok/not ok? must be in a commercial kitchen?)

      Second, even with a side business, becoming smart on how to run a small business is important. Enroll in a small business non-profit or city program and learn how to market/sell beyond social media (incredibly hard and unreliable with daily changes). Small business – of any kind – requires face to face selling, networking, and good marketing that relies on several channels of communication. SCORE is a great, free, place for assistance.

      Packaging relies on a brand, logo, value proposition, and product characteristics. This comes from knowing who her ideal gluten-free customer is. Everyone is not her ideal customer, although some will buy from her because of their personal relationship with her. Pricing is an important part of this aspect, too.

      I’m a small business owner (not the same business I’ve discussed in previous posts/other days) but also work in non-profit.

      1. Manders*

        Oooh yeah, if she’s selling a product meant for consumption, she needs to make sure that she is 100% clear on any applicable laws about how food needs to be prepared, packaged, stored, and shipped. And if she’s shipping it out of state, or even out of the country, she’s got a whole lot of research ahead of her.

        For marketing, does she want to sell this product locally (at craft fairs, farmer’s markets, etc) or does she want an online storefront and the option of advertising and shipping items anywhere? Those variables are going to change the game quite a bit as a marketer.

        (Also: as a general rule, it’s a good idea to err on the side of expecting less than you’d like from family and friends on friends when it comes to social media marketing. Just because people love you as a person doesn’t mean they’re thrilled to shill your product, and you can damage relationships by being too pushy. There’s an art to marketing on social media, and it involves building up an audience for your brand that’s separate from your personal accounts.)

    5. Anonymoosetracks*

      Number one suggestion is some sort of insurance against product liability lawsuits. I feel like a lot of people don’t think about this, but especially if you’re marketing to an allergy-prone population (I would imagine there are a higher percentage of people with severe celiac in her customer base than in the general public!) it seems like there could be an awful lot of risk if there were ever any accidental cross-contamination issues- or, given our litigious society, if someone even just accused her of having cross-contamination issues. Or any issue, really.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup – she’ll need a CGL policy, a business owners policy, and possibly product recall insurance.

    6. Venus Supreme*

      She should check out any local farmers’ markets, or bazaars, or any place where she can have her own space in a marketplace! I think meeting face-to-face initially with the potential customers will help her in the long run. I’ve met independent shop owners at market-style places, then found them online, and then became a loyal customer. Also get a business name and claim that username on all social media platforms!

    7. Tuckerman*

      Good for her. If she’s advertising GF she’s going to want to be explicit about what that means. If she uses a shared commercial kitchen, there’s a risk of cross contamination and she’ll want to put that disclaimer on the packaging (she will probably want to consult a lawyer).
      She also might want to look at competitors’ pricing for GF baking mixes. If they are available at a lower cost, why would they want to buy her mix? She’ll want to think about why her product will stand out from the competition.

    8. Fortitude Jones*

      $8-10?! As a gluten-free celiac sufferer, unless she’s slipping winning Powerball tickets in the mix, I would never buy baking mix that expensive. You can get delicious store bought GF mixes anywhere from $2-5.

      1. Honeybee*

        I was wondering if I was the only one thinking this. $8-10 is a lot even for high-end gluten-free cake mix; I’ve never seen one in stores for over $6.

    9. ..Kat..*

      I recommend she contact the local celiac society. (Google celiac and her city or name of nearest bigger city.)

      Also, does she really know how to do GlutenFree? It is not just about ingredients, but also preparation. For example, if she uses a shared kitchen, she needs to clean the counter and wash dishes and utensils meticulously. There could be traces of gluten on these items that would contaminate her products. Not trying to be pedantic, but I can’t tell you how many times I have been “glutenized” by well meaning but misunderstanding people. As a small business, she will only get one chance in the GlutenFree world. If she accidentally contaminates someone, her business will crater.

      1. ..Kat..*

        With respect to the pricing comment above, I would pay $10 for a tasty, quality product. And that is what small business is about. A small business can’t compete with low-price, mass production. It’s the quality, boutique market that she is going for.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I eat at boutique gluten free bakeries – the price of their mixes are nowhere near that high. It may be regional too, but I’m side-eying that price.

  52. Stephanie*

    Hi everyone! School is still…going. Yeah. But exciting news–I have in internship interview on Tuesday! Wish me luck.