do you have to wear heels to a job interview, are interviewers turned off by how much I’ve done while unemployed, and more

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

1. Do I need to wear heels to a job interview?

Do I need to wear heels to a job interview, if my suit is tailored in such a way that professional black flats look okay? I’m a bit concerned with looking silly trying to wear heels, and honestly, my only pair of pumps (my “interview pair” that I’ve worn only to job interviews) is pretty banged up.

Nope, you can wear flats. There are lots of professional-looking flats out there these days. (And really it’s better to wear flats if heels will make you wobble or look like you’re playing dress-up!)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Am I turning off interviewers with everything I’ve been doing while I’ve been unemployed?

I’ve been job searching on and off for 10 months now and I had a few in-person interviews. Although I’ve never been in line for 100% with the requirements in neither of the positions, I have a feeling that there is something else that prevents me to get a job. (I’m 31 years old and this wouldn’t be my first job, I’ve been working for 10 years.)

I’ve been unemployed since April 2016, and each time an interviewer asks about the things I’ve been doing since then, I talk about the book I translated (something I’m really proud of), the yoga teacher training I completed, the volunteer work I do. These are all things I enjoy and I’m pretty proud of, but I have a feeling that I come across as someone who enjoys “too much” not working in her field. While I firmly believe that we must make the most of every situation, and that’s precisely what I’m doing, I have the feeling that the interviewers see me as someone who doesn’t even want to return to the workforce. This is clearly not the case, since otherwise I wouldn’t be job searching. Would it be better not to talk about the activities I do and enjoy? But then what should I say? It’s been a year and I’ve been sitting at home, waiting for an opportunity? Do you think I make a mistake to be open about my situation or is there something else I should focus on?

Hmmm, I think you’re probably naming too many different things. They don’t really want a detailed account of how you’ve been spending this time — they just want a really quick sense of what’s been going on. So I’d pick just one of these activities (probably the book translation or the volunteer work, depending on what the volunteer work is and how time-consuming it’s been), and then say, “And I’ve been in a position where I can take my time to find my next role, so I’ve been being selective, but I’m excited about this one because ___.”

3. Responding to someone else’s networking fail

I am faced with a networking fail, and I’m not sure how to respond. I am a consultant in a specialized field. There is a consultant company, Company X, in the same field, and we are in a position to refer each other business as our specialties differ. I met people from Company X several years ago, and we set up a telephone conversation and discussed our fields of expertise and potential referral opportunities. I have referred them business, but they have never referred anyone to me. Every now and then we get on the phone again – always at their urging – and we go through the same exercise of discussing our fields of expertise and potential referral opportunities. We often see each other at trade conferences and have the same discussion.

I was at a conference a week or so ago and saw them again, although one woman didn’t remember who I was (which is fine, I have a terrible memory for names too), but I reminded her who I am and remarked that we had spoken on the phone several times. She had an “aha” moment and agreed that she remembered who I was and remembered speaking to me. Fast forward to today – I just received an email from her phrased as if she didn’t know me, asking to set up a phone call between me and Company X so that we can discuss our fields of expertise and potential referral opportunities.

I don’t want to blow Company X off completely, but I also am really annoyed that although I clearly know them and who they are, they aren’t paying any attention to the fact that they ALREADY KNOW ME. While I agree that networking and keeping in touch is important, I just saw them; they should know who I am, and I am tired of spending time on these phone calls where they get benefit but I do not. I also note that between me and Company X, I am better known and respected in this field while they are something of a start-up. Any suggestions on how to respond?

Yeah, that’s annoying — particularly that they seem to be trying to get something from you.

You don’t have to keep having these conversations with them if you don’t want to! You can respond to this latest email by just saying, “We’ve actually spoken before — we talked at the teapots conference a week ago, and have spoken on the phone several times before that.” If she replies with another aha moment and then repeats her request for a call, it’s perfectly okay for you to say, “Was there something specific you were hoping to discuss? We’ve talked about potential referrals previously, and I wasn’t sure if there was something additional you wanted to touch base about.”

And if you end up wanting to turn down the request, you can do that politely by saying something like, “My schedule is really crunched right now, but hopefully we’ll run into each again soon.”

4. Vetting job postings for students

I am a college professor, and I occasionally get cold-emails or phone calls from employers looking for interns or entry-level employees. I consider it part of my job to share any information about employment I have with my students and advisees, but I’m never sure what to do when the information comes out of the blue. If I have a relationship with the company or if the person who contacted me is a friend or alum, it’s easy for me to pass on the information. If it’s random, my initial reaction is often skeptical and I wonder if I have a responsibility to make sure everything is on the up and up before forwarding the information to students who might trust it merely because it comes from me.

Are there a few basic steps I could take to check out these postings before I pass them along, or should I just mention how the information came to me and that I can’t vouch for it? Am I overestimating the likelihood of scams or bad employers using this method to recruit naive college students?

You’re probably overestimating the risk, yes, and the type of research you’d have to do to be able to vouch for multiple companies would be really time-consuming. If it’s a job you’d otherwise think worth passing along to your students, I’d just send it on with the caveat that you aren’t familiar with the company and can’t vouch for it, and maybe a reminder that people should do due diligence on any employer before accepting a job.

5. Do I get to keep this company cell phone or not?

I left my job two months ago at the urging of my manager. He told me he wouldn’t be able to renew my contract due to company issues, not my performance. As part of my negotiations for my severance package, I asked if I could keep my company cell phone, since my personal one was dying. My manager said he wasn’t sure if I could keep my exact phone since the company was low on Android models, but that if I couldn’t keep that one, I could definitely have another phone. On my last day, we discussed the possibility of me working freelance for the company, and my boss told me to just keep my company phone until I cam back to the office to discuss that work.

Flash forward two months. I have started a new job, and I’ve managed to get my former manager on the phone once, about a week after I left. We talked about freelance work (but he never followed up with a contract like he said he would), and at the time, he still didn’t have an answer about the phone and told me to hold onto it. Since then, I’ve reached out to him by text, phone, and email many times, with zero response. Two weeks ago, I called my former colleagues (who report directly to my former manager). They said they’d try to relay the message for me, but they’ve been having trouble making any contact too, and they literally work in the office next to his. My former colleagues have confirmed he is definitely working, and is not dealing with some sort of crisis, personal or professional.

I’ve given up on the freelance work, but my personal phone is in bad shape. I still have the company phone. It’s still works on the company plan. I’m not using it for anything but calling my former boss and coworkers, taking photos and internet (but only when connected to WIFI, so that I don’t use data from the company plan). Given that my former boss promised a phone as part of my severance package and I can’t get in touch with him after all this time, is it ok for me to assume this phone now belongs to me, remove the company SIM card, and use my own SIM?

To play it safe, I’d send him an email that says something like “I’ve been trying to reach you about the company cell phone I still have. When we negotiated my severance, you said I could keep a phone, but you weren’t sure if it would be this exact one. Since it’s been a couple of months now and I haven’t heard back in response to my calls and emails, my plan is to move forward with removing the company SIM card from the phone I have, replace it with a new one, and use it as my personal phone going forward. If you do not want me to do this, please let me know no later than (date two weeks from now). Otherwise, I’ll assume this is fine!”

It’s still possible that the company could try to reclaim the phone in the future, but the more time that passes, the more unlikely that is to happen, and you’ll have made a good-faith effort to resolve it.

{ 347 comments… read them below }

  1. Come Along Ponds*

    #3 The only reason to keep referring people to them is if it’s helpful to you i.e. you give someone what they need and they feel they got a positive result from you. Otherwise I wouldn’t.

    #5 Do you have the promise of a phone in writing?

    You’re not going to like this answer, but I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with AAM and say you unfortunately need to return it to the company, by hand or by some form of recorded, signed-for delivery so you can prove you returned it.

    The company owns the phone and the data on that phone. IANAL but that means keeping the phone is theft or – depending on the value of the phone and the specific threshold amounts in your state – it could be grand theft or petty or grand larceny. Especially if you live in Virginia which has the lowest petty v grand larceny threshold in the country.

    I’m surprised AAM is recommending you risk prosecution – potentially at a federal level – on the basis of something someone said, that doesn’t appear to have been formalised in a written severance package. Sure, your boss is ignoring you now. But what happens when someone else notices and realises you still have the phone which – if it’s on a rolling contract – will continue to be charged to the company account whether you put in a SIM and use it or not? Your boss is not the only person you should have talked to – what about whoever pays the company plan and does the accounts?

    It would be nice if you could keep it. But I wouldn’t risk it.

    I’m sure people will scoff at me for suggesting you could be prosecuted but when someone notices they’re paying for a phone they don’t have that’s exactly what may happen.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It would be insane to prosecute someone at the federal level for something like this (seriously, if the U.S. Attorney for OP’s district has time to pursue something like this, then they need to seriously question their priorities). I’d be surprised if a company tried to press charges at the state level against someone who has made a good faith effort to clarify the phone transfer since it was part of his severance package—oral contracts do exist, even if they’re difficult to enforce.

      It’s certainly preferable if OP can get OldBoss to put in writing that it’s now OP’s phone, but I’m not sure it’s responsible/helpful to throw around the threat of criminal prosecution when the odds are extremely thin.

      1. Come Along Ponds*

        I’m not ‘throwing around’ any threat. I’m giving OP the facts on which their decisions should be based.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          You’re not providing facts; you’re providing speculation, and it’s irresponsible.

          1. Please don't play lawyer*

            Don’t you just love it when people play lawyer on this site?

            As someone who is a lawyer and used to work in IT, the chances of there being a prosecution for this, even at the state level, are virtually zero. Heck, the cases I’ve seen where there’s been private theft of someone else’s cell phone, almost never resulted in prosecution unless there were multiple thefts.

            I known several people who have had their iPhones flat out stone and then tried to get law-enforcement at a local level where the FBI to help them. Guess what the result was!

            The most it’s going to happen is the company’s going to send a letter demanding return or potential he take the poster to small claims court for the value. For most companies, the value of the phone isn’t worth the effort.

            And iPhone is worth no more than $500 to the company and probably a lot less. It’s highly likely that absolutely nothing is going to happen because the company has it really track the phone and it’s not really worth anything to them anymore.

            When I used to be in IT, it was not uncommon to let employees who were laid off he pulled equipment so long as any company data was wiped off of it

            1. Zombii*

              Not a lawyer but I’ve worked in customer service for 3 different cell phone companies. The worst that’s going to happen (from the LW’s perspective) is that the company may call their service provider, report the phone as lost or stolen and have it bricked. We did this all the time, especially for company phones. As long as the company has an invoice showing they bought the phone, they can brick it anytime they want. (Removing the SIM doesn’t help; we’re disabling the IMEI.)

              Undeniably a dick move, but it’s a potential outcome.

          2. Bonky*

            Thank you for calling that out – the tendency towards amateur (and worthless) lawyering in the comments here recently is really irksome.

          3. MsCHX*

            Agreed. I did think of the possibility of the value of the phone being added as taxable income to the OP but I don’t think it would be theft.

        2. BI developer*

          It seems so far fetched that this situation would ever result in charges being filed

          There are hopefully some lawyers around that can correct me if I am wrong but there are two halves to criminal responsibility, a guilty mind and a guilty action. It could be argued that the OP shouldn’t be in possession of the phone, but they have not acted dishonestly to get the phone or keep it and they did come to a verbal agreement about keeping a phone with their boss who I assume was acting as an agent of the company. Also the OP hasn’t racked up a massive bill at the company’s expense so they’re acting reasonably so far.

          I think that Alison’s advice is spot on, make one more attempted to contact the boss about the phone and then feel free to use it as your own.

          1. Please don't play lawyer*

            First off, this is not theft. OP has permission to have the phone. If that changes, and they keep the phone, then they would be committing a crime. Hence, it’s best to get this in writing.

            Second, even if there were theft, prosecutions had a federal level are basically nonexistent. I can’t find any prosecutions looking at Nexus just based on theft of a phone alone. The only things I can find in which the phone is mentioned involved potential data breaches

            Third, as a practical matter, OP needs to have ownership transferred to him or her. At some point they shouldn’t be on their former employers data plan. They won’t be able to switch it to their own without ownership being transferred properly

            My real concern is not the physical phone. My concern would be the data plan. The company could come back and say the data plan wasn’t part of keeping the phone after the freelance work terminated. People are focusing on the phone and they should be focusing on the data plan

            1. Natalie*

              “They won’t be able to switch it to their own without ownership being transferred properly”

              Functionally, this is incorrect – anyone can remove a SIM card from a phone and thus sever it from their service. The OP doesn’t need to involve anyone from their prior company to get off their data plan.

            2. Whats In A Name*

              I am not sure how Android’s work but with the iPhone you don’t need to have the company’s involvement to change the data plan to one in their own name. We’ve done this in the past when phones have transferred hands and not had an issue or a need to get original owner involved.

              1. BI developer*

                Or you can just by your own plan and get a new sim and put that in the phone and use it, and leave the company to cancel the plan or send them back the sim they can use in another phone.

            3. Observer*

              Natalie is correct – all you need to do is to switch the SIM out.

              What stuns me, to be honest, is that the current SIM apparently is still working. How in heavens name did the company not turn the plan off? I’m in IT, and one of the first things I do when someone leaves is to suspend the account unless I have the physical phone with the SIM in my hand.

              1. MoinMoin*

                My husband just took over managing several branches of his nationwide company in 2016. Prior to him, the position had been vacant for awhile and prior to that the person in that position wasn’t really fulfilling the duties. When Mr. Moinmoin was cleaning out old offices trying to get thing in order, he found 3 separate company phones that were all still working and active on the company plan. One was a flip phone that hadn’t been assigned to anyone in over 5 years. So it’s not good practice, but it’s definitely possible. (Now you get to go into work tomorrow being grateful that your department is being run pretty well, yay!)

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Let me reframe, because I want to be really clear.

          We measure risks by their likelihood and severity. On average, the severity of being successfully prosecuted for misdemeanor theft is a low to medium harm. Although some jurisdictions may have a low value level for triggering felony theft liability, the value of the phone itself will fall below the threshold that many (if not most) states use when distinguishing felony and misdemeanor thefts.

          The likelihood of having someone press state theft charges could be great or minimal depending on the state in which you reside. Nonetheless the likelihood of being prosecuted for theft, in the specific context of OP’s letter, is slim for most state jurisdictions and almost nonexistent at the federal level. It’s additionally unlikely given that OP had explicit conversations with Old Employer about the phone, OP hasn’t used the phone for personal gain, and OP has attempted, repeatedly, to clarify and memorialize the transfer.

          So both the severity and likelihood of OP having to deal with criminal liability are low. Does it mean prosecution is impossible? No, of course not. But if the risk is sufficiently low, it should not be the central focus of our advice, let alone the deciding factor. This is the same principle that animates our norms around informed consent, product warnings, etc., and it applies to legal advice as well.

          Most people already have a healthy fear of being sued or prosecuted. It does not help them if we stoke those fears, particularly when the odds are slim—it takes the entire conversation to a really unproductive place occupied by legal bogeymen. It’s more helpful to offer advice that addresses the other, more likely, consequences (e.g., Optimizer’s point, below, that transfer takes more than abandonment on the part of the employer).

          1. Colette*

            Having something in your possession isn’t theft unless it’s something you’re not supposed to have. The company hasn’t asked for the phone back – in fact, they’ve specifically said she can keep it.

            If they ask for it back and she says no, theft might apply, but I don’t see how it could possibly apply now. By that logic, they could have her charged with theft while she was working for them.

            1. Please don't play lawyer*

              That’s true with respect to the phone. I wonder, however, with the deal with the data plan was supposed to be. That’s my greater concern here. If OP were my client I would tell her to get this in writing and to ask for clarification about the data plan.

              1. Persephone Mulberry*

                It sounds like the OP is aware that continued use of the company data plan is not part of the severance agreement around the phone, since they’ve been conscientious about not using the data plan and said this: is it ok for me to assume this phone now belongs to me, remove the company SIM card, and use my own SIM?

        4. Please don't play lawyer*

          If you aren’t an attorney and you don’t have any experience prosecuting, you shouldn’t be commenting on this. We’ve had this discussion on and off over the past few weeks on this site. If you aren’t a lawyer, do not comment on legal liability as if it is fact.

          The best you can do is ask if there is a risk of prosecution and leave it to the lawyers on the site to speculate.

          What you were doing is as irresponsible as me, as a lawyer, telling you that you don’t need surgery when you’re showing symptoms that may or may not be a burst appendix.

          For the record, there is no chance of a federal prosecution for retention of a phone. The only potential wild ass exception would be if the original poster was working for a federal agency and they were secure documents on the phone

          1. anon attorney*

            What really irritates me is the assumption of jurisdiction. People posting here could be in any country but inevitably the amateur lawyers start hypothesising based on US federal law… Ascertaining jurisdiction is somewhat fundamental to giving legal advice, whether amateur or professional!

            Signed, a non-US lawyer in good standing with the appropriate bar ;)

          2. Triangle Pose*

            +1. As a lawyer and commenter, add me to the list of those who hate the recent tendency towards amateur and worthless lawyering in the comments.

          3. Marisol*

            Dude, it’s a cell phone. It’s nowhere near as serious as an emergency appendectomy. And although I dislike fear mongering and uninformed opinions, I have a problem with a fellow commenter telling the commentariat “you shouldn’t be commenting on this.” You may have a point, but Alison is the one who issues commenting guidelines, not you. Please calm down, and share your knowledge and insight without being supercilious.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Normally I’d agree, but I think patience is wearing thin for regular lawyer-commenters.

              I have no data to back this up, but I think I’ve seen really outlandish and erroneous assertions about the law given by non-lawyers at least 3x/week since mid-December (I’m not counting run-of-the-mill confusion re: anti-discrimination laws, FMLA, or the FLSA in that estimate). That’s a significant increase over the prior 7 months, and it’s been accompanied by non-lawyer commenters doubling down on their wrong assertions when lawyer-commenters try to correct the misstatement. And then the commentariat ends up going way off track in a way that doesn’t help the OP because we’re all arguing over whether or not the original suggestion was right or whether lawyer-commenters are being bullying by shutting it down, etc.

              So I think frustration levels are higher than usual among the law folk who are regular readers/commenters, and the way some of us are channeling that frustration is by being extremely blunt to try to head off derailing.

              1. Zombii*

                I really appreciate that there are actual lawyers who comment here. It’s far more helpful than “Now IANAL, but my third cousin’s roommate’s dog walker knew a guy this happened to ten years ago and this is how it went down …”

                Actual lawyers: I thank you for commenting, and I completely understand the frustration behind the bluntness when you say That is not how any of this works.

              2. CM*

                This could actually be pretty effective as trolling to get legal advice: go to a site with lots of regular lawyer commenters, and post something blatantly wrong about liability. The lawyers won’t be able to resist doing the research for you.

        5. neverjaunty*

          No, you’re not.

          Feeling the urge to say “IANAL, but” is the brain’s way of signaling is not to give uninformed legal advice.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            People can have experience through exposure or having been clients or counter-parties, though. And those anecdotes can be helpful. A bailiff, for example, could be really helpful at putting someone’s mind at ease for how a court proceeding might go.

            But, I agree that the fearmongering is irresponsible and counterproductive.

            1. Candi*


              I can tell you a good deal about DV laws in this state.

              I can tell you that my county has an ordinance that imposes stricter penalties then the state law on someone who tries to prevent a crime being reported.

              I can rattle off transit-related law for my county’s (fantastic) transit system.

              This cell issue? Nope.

              Although I recommend that OP at the least send the SIM back return receipt requested.

              Trying to contact grandboss might be useful.

              Would contacting their former company’s IT Dept be useful?

        6. Triangle Pose*

          This isn’t really helpful advice for #5. That is not how theft, prosecution, or larceny work.

    2. Sarah G*

      I disagree. It was a negotiated part of his severance, and even if it was only verbal, sending one last email to his manager creates an e-trail showing due diligence. He isn’t using the company’s data plan, and will be putting in his own SIM card and paying for his own plan. What’s the problem here? His company is not going to press charges over a phone that loses its value every day and is probably worth a couple hundred bucks used at best, not when there’s clear evidence he attempted to return it.
      I agree with AAM here.

      1. Come Along Ponds*

        Unless mobile phone contracts in America work via some telepathic magic I’m unaware of, the company will still be paying for the plan whether OP happens to put the SIM in and use it or not.

        1. Natalie*

          Last I knew, corporate phone contracts are generally for a block of data and phone numbers (that is, 1-10 phone, 11-49 phones, etc). They aren’t really paying a specific fee for LW’s phone.

          And, as mentioned, it’s on them to remove it from their plan anyway. That would be their responsibility to matter what, whether the LW had clearly transferred ownership through a contract or if someone had stolen the phone.

          1. Observer*

            No, generally it’s a combination of blocks of data and per phone access charges. So, the line would be a (small) monthly charge, as long as the OP isn’t using any data.

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          The SIM card is how you get the data plan, and how it is tracked and charged.

          They will still be paying for a data plan for the unused SIM card, but the OP won’t be using the data- and some companies are still paying per amount of data used, instead of a flat fee, so her not using the data now, with the company’s SIM card still in, is good. She isn’t going to be held responsible for the company neglecting to cancel the plan she’s not using, if she swaps the SIM.

        3. KR*

          My previous company had me do yearly audits of all company device contracts (since it was a huge cluster f*** of different plans and services and phones) to ensure we didn’t have phones that weren’t being used. It was a pain calling around and getting people to just! Forward! Me! Their! Bill! but it was helpful to avoid lost phones and ensure we weren’t wasting money on extra phone plans and devices.

    3. Grrr... Argh!*

      I agree. I say just give the phone back and move on. You dont work for the company anymore so you don’t get to keep the phone. I think it’s a bit weird that anyone thinks it’s okay for you to keep it.

        1. Please don't play lawyer*

          Can we have another reminder that if you aren’t a lawyer you really shouldn’t make definitive statements about legal liability?

          I know people are naturally inclined to do that but it’s no more prudent and people diagnosing illnesses as if they were a doctor. It’s fine to ask questions and to raise potential issues.

          As a lawyer, my concern isn’t the phone but the data plan. It doesn’t seem that that was thoroughly discussed by anyone involved. My guess is that the boss and whoever else spoke for the company didn’t really think about it. That doesn’t mean that OP is doing anything wrong or illegal.

          They could still however come back and ask her to reimburse them for the data plan

          That’s not a criminal matter, it’s a civil one. In all likelihood it to small claims matter given the value of the data plan.

          The company is not likely to involve lawyers and less the use of the data plan continues for quite a while.

          At this point, OP just needs to send an email asking about whether they can keep the phone. If so, they need to offer to move the phone over to their data plan and ask them they can call it the company to facilitate that.

          1. Please don't play lawyer*

            Sorry for the typos. I’m talking instead of typing and Siri doesn’t always get it right!

          2. Jessesgirl72*

            She isn’t using their Data Plan. As in, she’s literally not making use of it. If they have neglected to turn it off, they would be paying regardless of if the phone is in OP”s possession (and the data unused) or if the phone is locked in the Manager’s desk. If she switches out the SIM, she will be on her own data plan- and again, if the company is then continuing to pay for a data plan that’s unused, wouldn’t that be their fault, not hers?

          3. Observer*

            Actually, if this is a typical corporate plan – which it sounds like – the company could almost certainly NOT even have recourse in small claims court. The reason is that the company could have cancelled the account the day the OP was laid off, and could still do that without any action on the part of the OP.

            The OP doesn’t need to transfer the phone – all she needs to do is to put a different sim in and the phone will start using the account attached to the SIM. This is true on all phones that run GMS or 4gLTE. It also happens to be true in Canada and Europe, so even if the OP is not in the US, this would still be true.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, there’s been a weird increase in confident but wrong assertions from non-lawyers lately. I suppose I could add a rule about it, but I also have no way to verify who is and isn’t a lawyer so I’ve avoided doing it. (Plus I’m not a lawyer and I opine on legal stuff all the time as a matter of course here … but I look up and read the actual law and base much of what I write on talking to real lawyers.)

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I’m loath to ban non-lawyers from weighing in on legal ideas, because as Trout noted above, sometimes people have valuable personal experience, and many non-lawyer managers in the commentariat have a pretty good grasp on important employment-related legal issues.

              But the weird part is the rise in speculation that isn’t related to any non-lawyer’s personal experience, and what’s made it doubly weird is doubling down when a lawyer-commenter (or 4) points out that there’s been an incorrect assertion made regarding legal issues or liability. Non-law folks have been literally googling stories and then using them as if they provide a factual basis for their argument, when in most cases they really don’t. There must be something in the water.

              1. Zombii*

                It isn’t just here, this has been going around for a while: why bother checking with an expert (or reading more than a headline) when you could just argue that you’re right anytime someone disagrees. To hell with facts and accuracy.

                1. Candi*

                  I can understand being misinformed -I still get mildly annoyed that my second employer told us the break/lunch policy was federal law when it was actually state law (there was a lot wrong at that place).

                  But doubling down when four different people say X is what it is? Nope. I know law is complicated, and lawyers have their specialties, but that sort of insistence tap dances on the line of ridiculous.

                  Especially when you can search to check it for yourself.

    4. Hannah*

      I’m sure OP 5 is not going to end up in jail for this, but I agree completely that he should just give the phone back. The fact is, OP was never officially told he could keep that phone. At some point the company could do a reconciliation and realize inventory is missing. If his boss is no longer there to vouch for him, the situation could look more like he just took the phone without permission. It could hurt OPs reputation or standing with the company.

      OP, you said you’re working again. You can get an Android phone for a few hundred bucks on eBay. This will probably never come back to haunt you, but it doesn’t seem worth it to risk it over a couple hundred dollars. Why not just buy your own phone?

      1. misspiggy*

        In the UK, a verbal agreement such as the one between OP and the boss would quite likely be seen as a contract. But even if not, there’s no risk to the OP from what I can see. If someone at the company decides the phone should come back, the OP simply has to return it on request. As long as OP uses a month to month contract for phone service they won’t have any loss.

    5. Jessie the First (or second)*

      It is not theft, even though the company is currently paying for the phone plan. There’s more to theft than having something that someone else paid for. Speaking as a lawyer, this isn’t about risk of prosecution. It’s that nothing in the set of facts we have in the letter indicates this is theft.

    6. No theft here*

      Attorney here (former prosecutor) . Anyone who was going to prosecute for theft would have to prove that Op intended to steal the phone, i.e. knew she was not supposed to keep it and intentionally did not return. Given that Op has proof of multiple attempts to connect with the boss about returning the phone or verifying ownership, it would be almost impossible to prove that there was bad intent here. I would say chance of prosecution would be extremely slim. AAM advice to reach out one more time is probably good enough to seal the deal.

      1. Please don't play lawyer*

        Also, even if it were theft, what’s the likelihood of this ever actually being prosecuted? In my experience it’s very nearly 0. I’ve practiced in several states but never seen cell phone prosecuted and less there were some other circumstance such as robbery, multiple therapists, sensitive data….

        People think just because a petty crime has been committed the prosecutors are going to come in guns blazing and save the day. They don’t realize that if it matter can be resolved outside of courtroom, that’s going to be likely where it is resolved. Most prosecutors have bigger fish to fry than to go after a single petty theft case.

        Several commoners had said that this is a Phone and it’s expensive, but my experience, once the iPhone is no longer new, it’s not actually worth that much.

        1. Please don't play lawyer*

          That’s supposed to be multiple thefts. Siri doesn’t always understand accents when one is trying to talk instead of type

          1. Notorious MCG*

            Actually I think we all might be missing a big, compelling, non-legal reason why she has very low risk to be prosecuted: the path of least resistance for the company is to simply contact her (they have all of her information and she has been instigating contact on the matter) and she has proven to be willing to resolve it. It’s a lot cheaper than looking at her email, thinking ‘Oh! She knows she has this phone, and is wondering if she should return it. Let’s hire a lawyer and press charges to get it back as our response.’

            1. Zombii*

              Not quite. The path of least resistance for the company is to call their service provider and brick the phone. I assume there’s something the manager was supposed to have done to finalize this and they didn’t/haven’t yet.

            2. Sofie*

              I was coming here to say this exact thing — the possibility that the company is going to go straight from no communications to pressing charges seems vanishingly small to my non-lawyer self. Lawsuits cost money and effort, after all, and a simple e-mail (or even, like, a registered letter from a lawyer) telling her to return the phone is much cheaper and easier as a first resort.

      2. OP 5*

        OP #5 here. I actually don’t work in the US anyway, but in a country with much stronger labor protections (so US law is not relevant) and which is far less litigious than the US in any case. Thanks for your concern though! I’m less worried about legal repercussions than I am about damaging a good relationship with a former boss. Btw, over here, replacing a smart phone here costs significantly more than it does in the US, which is part of why keeping my phone was a reasonable thing to negotiate.

        1. Josie Prescott*

          The only thing I would add to Alison’s response, would be to copy the email to the person who manages the phones, if you know who that is. Either someone in IT that coordinates the company phones, or someone in accounts payable who pays the bills. That would resolve the issue of them possibly continuing to pay for a plan that’s not being used.

          Congrats on the new job!

          1. Fabulous*

            I was going to say the same thing – if you can’t get a hold of your former boss, reach out to the IT department directly.

          2. Persephone Mulberry*

            Oh, this is a really good point. Reaching out to that person directly, if there is one, would also be a good way to get a definitive answer on whether you can keep the phone, because THAT person is going to have the best knowledge of how bad they need the phone back to give to a different employee. If you contacted me (I was the phone inventory keeper at my last job), I would reach out to your boss to verify the severance agreement but the decision on which phone you get would come from me.

            1. Collarbone High*

              Agreed. When I left my last job, I asked my boss if there was a chance I could buy my iPad from the company, since it was several years old. He was 100% in favor of getting rid of it and buying a new one for my replacement, but told me to check with IT.

              IT said absolutely not, because it was an accounting and inventory nightmare, and there was no procedure set up for selling individual assets like that.

          3. C Average*

            Yes, definitely copy in or contact directly the department that manages devices. Be sure to include the details of the device (brand, model, serial number) and note the type of data plan you were on and that as of [date] you are transitioning to your own data plan under your own name.

            I did something like this when I left my old company (kept my device, transitioned to my own plan). There was no written agreement–it was all verbal. I sent a confirmation email like the one I’ve just described to the department admin, who had always been in charge of record-keeping for devices. I never heard back from her, but it was a good move for my own peace of mind.

        2. Observer*

          While it’s true that phones are more expensive in Europe than in the US, very often, they don’t have to be outrageously expensive, if you are willing to go with a lower end phone.

          gsmarena is a good place to look for decent phones and find out what real world prices are in your neck of the woods. And, for a change, the ads are actually useful.

      3. Candi*

        I’ve read prosecutors like cases they know they can win. (That may well be an overly inclusive statement.)

        But I’m pretty sure prosecutors don’t like cases that make them look like Ebenezer or sticking up for Big Company over something that can come across as petty.

        Since this would hit a negative on both counts, LW should be fine on the court score.

  2. MillersSpring*

    OP4: You could come up with a list of standard questions to respond to these random emails, such as asking for the job description, the hourly pay, address/location, deadline to apply, contact information, etc.

    Getting the answers will help to assure you that the job is legit, plus you’ll be receiving consistent details.

    1. Rachel in Minneapolis*

      Great idea! When I have worked at educational institutions, we have asked all employers to fill out a simple web form which went to a job posting board for students only to view. We then had the opportunity to feature or star job listings that the professor’s could personally recommend.

  3. jb*

    #3: Perhaps you should stop referring people to them, if this level of organization and respect for your time is indicative of how they do business? I’m assuming you refer people in order to encourage them to refer business to you, but since (a) they haven’t done that, and (b) they don’t seem able to recall who you are, it may not be worth your continuing to do so.

    1. Chrissie*

      +1. I am actually surprised that Alison is so neutral on this. (I guess she has more training in always assuming good intentions). But while you are trying to network, company X is mooching off your business success without making an effort to help you in return. And that’s been going for years, so is that really just ignorance?

      I guess there is no way to directly address that you’re sending business their way while getting nothing back. It’s frustrating, but I can’t think of a script that addresses that which doesn’t sound overly demanding and out of touch with reality.
      In an ideal world, there would be a company Y with a similar specialization, and you could work our a similar partnership with them, that has the chance of actually being reciprocal.

      If you decide to keep going with the current arrangement, “Is there a particular aspect you want to change about how we’ve discussed potential referrals in the past? Otherwise, let’s stick to that arrangement.” Or what Alison said.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        How about:
        “We’ve actually spoken before — we talked at the teapots conference a week ago, and have spoken on the phone several times before that. Was there something specific you were hoping to discuss? We’ve talked about potential referrals previously, and I wasn’t sure if there was something additional you wanted to touch base about.
        … and I have referred several clients, including XX and YY, to you in the past.”

        It’s not exactly communicating the full message, but at least it spells out how much you’ve actually helped them (with the implication that you’ve gotten nothing but misdirected networking emails from them). I think it’s hard to say “I won’t refer any more clients to you” without sounding unnecessarily… vindictive (for lack of a better word). At the very least though you can hope they feel embarrassed because it is embarrassing. I would also be tempted to stop referring clients to them after this. The fact they can’t even remember someone that’s driving business to them says a lot about their ability to manage relationships.

        1. Mookie*

          I like the dry specificity of this script (especially noting the identities of the clients referred) because it sort of forces the issue: make this relationship mutually beneficial or stop hounding me with copypasta (which these e-mails likely are). And I agree that, if they keep this up, the best strategy is no communication going forward unless they fulfill their side of your agreement.

        2. CDM*

          I feel that, as OP has the relative greater power of name and establishment in this relationship, that it would be fine for her to respond with something along the lines of:

          “We’ve spoken before — we talked at the teapots conference a week ago, and have spoken on the phone several times before that. I have referred several clients, including XX and YY, to you in the past. To the best of my knowledge, you have not referred any clients to me. At this point, I will continue to refer clients to you as appropriate, but I don’t see the need for further conversation unless you have something new to discuss.”

          It doesn’t burn bridges, it doesn’t punish the start-up for their disorganization and forgetfulness, but it draws the line at wasting OP’s time further. It leaves the door open for the start-up to come back with new information or names of referrals that would merit further discussion.

          There’s a possibility that it will also be the “jerk on the leash” needed to get the attention of the start-up. They are the ones in danger of burning this bridge that has thus far only benefited them with their disorganization and forgetfulness.

          1. Whats In A Name*

            I was thinking something similar in regards to specifially mentioning referrals. I think this is a great point that is being overlooked. Message above gets the point across without any fluff but without any flames either.

          2. EddieSherbert*

            I also really like this phrasing – simply because being extra-polite, or sugar-coating things, or leaving things unsaid…. often leads to misinterpretation. I think getting right the point without getting riled up is perfect.

          3. Statler von Waldorf*

            I like this, but I would skip the sentence that I would continue referring new clients. Given the history given, why should I send clients to this company? Unless they have a rock star reputation that the LW didn’t mention, I’d assume that they where as disorganized and forgetful in other areas as well, and that referral could end up biting me in the ass down the road.

            In short, if there’s no quid, there’s no pro quo.

            1. JHunz*

              I think that’s the beauty of the qualifier “as appropriate” – it would be perfectly appropriate for the OP to stop referring them clients

        3. neverjaunty*

          This is fantastic.

          OP, this company is not networking with you; they are mooching off you. It’s true that a more established company will likely have more referrals than a start-up, but they are not acting like “we’ll be happy to send you business when we have some!” – they’re not bothering to actually remember you, much less to thank you for the business you’ve sent their way.

          Stop sending them business.

        4. Tequila Mockingbird*

          Yes! I like this.

          It is super-annoying when people forget who I am (whether professionally or socially) after we’ve met and spoken MANY times. And I don’t buy the tired “I’m bad with names” excuse – this isn’t a memory problem, the other person simply isn’t making an effort to take notes and stay organized. It’s lazy at best, and downright rude at worst.

          So the best way to respond to that snub is as described above – dryly remind them that “we met last week AND spoke many times before that AND I’ve done you favors in the past.” Then, as Allison suggested, dryly tell them that you’re too busy to engage with them further right now.

        5. Stranger than fiction*

          This is good. And don’t these people have some sort of crm or database where there’d be record of who Op is, previous communications and such? They sound extremely unorganized.

    2. Raine*

      Yes, this. What went through my mind is that the company isn’t really interested in a mutual referral arrangement. They want OP to just send them business.

    3. Jessesgirl72*

      Referring people to them doesn’t just benefit them, though- it presumably benefits the people who are referred.

      OP certainly doesn’t have to keep up the referrals if she doesn’t want to, but I don’t think this is a definite reason to stop the referrals. If the people being referred come back and complain about the company, then stop immediately. That there is no benefit to her from them leaves it more fluid. I’d say that keeping a good relationship with the referred people is reason enough to keep on, if she wants to.

      1. neverjaunty*

        That’s a good reason for OP, as part of her networking, to build relationships with other companies to whom she can refer people.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Yes, that would be good too. If for no other reason than flighty start up may not stay afloat with their flighty ways!

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, if she genuinely thinks they’re good at what they do, there’s value to her in being helpful to others by referring them. She doesn’t have to, of course, and stopping wouldn’t be an unreasonable response, but there’s value in being a helpful resource to the people she’s referring.

      3. Anna*

        But it is. If the goal is to provide options for your clients and you’re not receiving those options as part of what is supposed to be a partnership, then you’re benefitting fewer clients than if you built up a partnership elsewhere.

      4. Feeling Used*

        #3 Letter writer here, I will continue to refer clients to Company X — I refer clients because I truly believe that they are a good option. Company X and I offer Toyota services (practical, reliable, reasonably priced) in fields that are full of Mazerati service providers (expensive, out-of-touch, impractical). I just wish that they would do me the courtesy of remembering who I am!

      5. Teclatrans*

        Yes, exactly. This is why I like CDM’s script (above), which says “I will keep sending you appropriate referrals, but talking further is a waste of valuable time” (paraphrased).

    4. Chickaletta*

      If I had a hundred bucks, I’d bet these people are in sales. I’ve been to plenty of networking events, and the type of person who is constantly introducing themselves to you (which probably means they don’t care who you are, they just wants names and numbers), and asking for references, is simply trying to find people to sell to. I bet you’re on their email blast too. This can be really annoying. I’d stop referring people to them at the risk of damaging your own reputation. And the next time you spot them at an event, consider it a good use of time to talk with other people instead.

      1. Feeling Used*

        #3 Letter writer — nope, not sales! Just hyper-aggressive networkers. I tend to be more laid back in my networking, I get to know people and let them get to know me through reputation. I’ll admit I am not that great in getting to the “ask” — something I need to improve upon, but there comes a point where too much is too much!


          Well I am irked on your behalf that they/and the specific contact who keeps forgetting you, can’t get her act together and at least acknowledge your existing relationship when she reaches out.

          I would very dryly say, “Yes, hello Jane, I know who you are we have spoken in May 2016, and 2 months ago and other time and we met in person for the second time at the conference two weeks ago.

          I feel like I need to give you feedback that if you can’t make a better effort at remembering me and our association I won’t refer anyone else to you. If this is how you treat me how are you treating my referrals?”

          I’m just really aggrieved on your behalf :)

          I used to be in a referral networking group and we reached out to other groups, etc.

          There was a 2 person business I had sent 4 referrals to in 1 year. I followed each with a note to ask how it went and followed up with feedback from my referrals.

          I gave them a lot of effort and support and they couldn’t be bothered to remember me.

          I sent the owner a final email saying no more referrals here and then they wanted to get proactive. Nope, both of our time and our clients are valuable, mine brought you revenue and I got poor professional follow up and no value in return.

          Maybe because I am dealing with smaller business entities, that direct personal relationship is prized by me.

          I can’t get past feeling that these people have wasted your time and your business goodwill. And you should say something about it.

  4. The Optimizer*

    OP5 – I work I the wireless industry and more than likely, you won’t be able to just remove the SIM and have it work on another account without the permission of your former employer. the phone will either need to be unlocked or they will need to release liability for it if you intend to keep the number.

            1. fposte*

              I think this is a Why Commas Matter situation. AD read the statement as if “where there is” were a nonrestrictive clause and it was a statement about everywhere outside the U.S. But aha! There was no comma, so it was a restrictive clause that specifically defined this “outside of the U.S.” location.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Good catch! This is indeed a Why Commas Matter situation! :) I will continue to assume that the OP meant the statement as written, but I’ll admit that it’s possible she just didn’t put in a comma and meant the statement as AD read it.

                1. fposte*

                  Or she may not be completely up to date with the national phone-locking patterns of her country. I would be unlikely to hold that against somebody :-).

                2. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Me, either. Keeping up to date on that kind of thing is certainly not how I spend my time!

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                And thanks so much for pointing out the comma thing. I was so confused about why it was relevant that they have them in the UK!

              3. Crafty Linguist*

                As a linguist, this whole thread is making me happy. But is that the clause is modifying two separate things? It’s kinda hard for me to depict what I’m trying to say, but the clause “where…” would modify the parts in brackets:

                [I work] outside of the US where there is no such thing as a “locked” phone (i.e., where I work does not have locked phones, but the may be other countries outside the US that have locked phones)


                I work [outside of the US] where there is no such thing as a “locked” phone. (i.e., in all countries outside of the US, there are no locked phones)

                1. fposte*

                  Technically, without the comma, you can’t get the meaning you ascribe to the second because it’s a restrictive clause, which inherently suggests that there are places outside of the US where there *are* locked phones.

                  “I work in the closet where there are bats”=there are other closets with no bats, because the “where there are” clause is restricting.
                  “I work in the closet, where there are bats”=this is the only closet. (The bats may, however, exist in other places.)

                  This is why “her husband Bob” without the comma is funny to some of us; it requires her to have a husband not Bob as well.

            2. AD*

              I was just responding to OP’s comment that there are no such things as locked phones outside of the US

            3. Gaia*

              No, but OP said there was “no such thing” as locked phones outside the US. This isn’t true. Several other countries have services with locked phones.

              For what it is worth, more and more carriers in the US are beginning to sell phones as automatically unlocked now if you pay full cost upfront.

              1. fposte*

                No–she said she lives where there is no such thing as a locked phone–she used a restrictive clause.

              2. Cordelia Naismith*

                I thought OP meant that where they live, which happens to be outside the US, there is no such thing as a locked phone — not that there aren’t any locked phones outside the US, just that there aren’t in OP’s country, which happens to be outside the US.

              3. Grr*

                This is a case of having to decide whether the OP has made a slight grammatical mistake (omitting a comma that would alleviate ambiguity) or has made a willfully ignorant statement.

                It would be kinder to apply Hanlon’s Razor in this instance: “Don’t assume bad intentions over neglect and misunderstanding”, where “neglect and misunderstanding” should be read as “minor ambiguity of language”.

                1. fposte*

                  Even if she’s wrong about phone-locking, that doesn’t make it “willfully ignorant” either, though. It’s a small mistake of fact on an insignificant aspect of existence that doesn’t require will in order to miss, and since “ignorant” has taken on a pejorative flavor I would reserve it for something people have some obligation to know and don’t.

    1. Kerry*

      In the UK you can unlock phones without having to get the original buyer’s permission – I’m not sure if that’s true everywhere though!

    2. Natalie*

      This hasn’t been my experience with SIM phones – I’ve brought my own device to my carrier multiple times and I’ve never been asked to prove ownership. Are corporate phones set up differently?

      1. The Optimizer*

        If the device was purchased while on a business account, the company owns it and the number. If that device is under contract, the company would have to pay the termination fee if the device is cancelled or ported to another. If the device is under an installment plan, they would have to pay off the installment balance owed before it can be cancelled or ported. The balance could be transferred if staying with the same carrier but would still require permission from both accounts. To change the SIM, you would need update the info with the carrier to make sure the IMEI (device ID) syncs with the SIM but you would need to be an admin on the account or have permission from one. At least that’s my experience in the 10K lines I manage for multiple businesses ;-)

        1. Natalie*

          That makes sense. Would it work differently if the company had, say, bought a gross of phones directly from Samsung or whatever?

          1. The Optimizer*

            It would mean that there would be no installment balance to pay off or an ETF to end the contract but the company would still own the device and like need to give permission to transfer that device to another account or carrier or make any updates to it. This is done to protect consumers and businesses from having a device they own either stolen or found and used by someone else.

            1. Natalie*

              See, it hasn’t been my experience that this is true as a consumer. If the phone has a SIM card and hasn’t specifically been reported stolen, there doesn’t seem to be a specific process whereby they check the owner and get their permission. But maybe it’s happening behind the scenes somewhere?

              1. AnonAnalyst*

                My experience as a consumer is that the carrier doesn’t really care who activates the phone if the contract has been paid off. So the burden is on the phone owner to report it as stolen; at that point, the carrier will blacklist the IMEI which will prevent it from being activated on most networks. Carriers will blacklist the IMEI if the customer, say, stops paying their bill before the contract is paid off, however.

        2. Observer*

          That’s just not correct. The company MIGHT have to pay a cancellation fee IF 1. they are on a contract with a specific term AND 2. they cancelled the number. It makes absolutely zero difference what happens with the phone.

          The ONLY possible issue is if there is a payment plan and are still payments owed on the phone.

          If you are asking permission from your carrier to move sim cards from one phone to another on 10K phones, you are wasting a huge amount of time. It simply is not necessary.

    3. Observer*

      That’s not necessarily true in the US. For one thing, it’s possible to get phones that are totally unlocked. Also, even a locked phone is not locked to an account but to a carrier. So, if I have a phone locked to AT&T, I can pop out SIM 1 and pop in SIM 2 and it will work just fine. I’ve done this more than once.

  5. HB*

    I will disagree about the job vetting! It might depend on the field and it’s true that the students probably aren’t going to have the savvy to spot something off the rails. I used to work for an academic department in computer science and hoo boy did we get some crazy people on the phone. A lot of people see the local university as their personal help hotline. (And many profs do work with the community on local projects.). But we would get everything from conspiracy theories about hacking to “I have this idea for an app…”

    Mostly I would insist upon a detailed job posting with business name, contact info and offered pay. Those who had 3am epiphanies or were working out of their living room with no capital might realize they are not quite ready to move forward.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d assumed they were sending her full job postings that included the business name and contact info, but if that’s not the case, it’s certainly reasonable to require that they send over something like that (for ease of distribution as well). And I like the idea of insisting they include the pay as well, since that’s in applicants’ interests and she’s in a position to apply a little pressure.

    2. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Ooooh, crank calls!

      I was a student at a very well known German university. I majored in physics.

      I did my thesis with a chair for nuclear physics.

      The crank calls we got were amazing!

      1. Nye*

        I’m in marine biology, my personal favorite was this one:

        “Where do you keep your dolphins?”

        “Um…in the ocean.”

    3. Kelly L.*

      Yeah, I’ll ask for a real posting if there isn’t one, and I also weed out the ones I know are MLM. When I worked in a design department I used to get some of those. Yes, of course, my fashion design students want to “intern” with you at your jewelry MLM, for a value of “intern” that really just means “downline.” Suuuure. But my secret superpower is a pretty good nose for MLM jargon.

    4. Mookie*

      “I have this idea for an app…”

      *Hans Gruber voice* You’re amazing, you figured this all out already? /HGv

    5. Overeducated*

      Huh. I send internship postings to local faculty and it’s never occurred to me that not personally knowing me would make them worry about the legitimacy. I work for a very large and well known organization though.

      1. Jaydee*

        I think if it’s a large and well known organization and they are able to pretty quickly and easily independently verify the legitimacy of the internship postings then not personally knowing you isn’t a big deal. The concern is with smaller organizations, start-ups, etc. where the faculty member doesn’t know the company/organization and doesn’t know the individual either.

    6. Cassandra*

      I will mildly disagree also, as an educator who navigates these waters often. The more you can suss out in the moment, the less likely you are to subject a student to any of the following disasters:

      * People who have no idea of the magnitude (much less market value) of what they’re actually asking. Definitely the commonest disaster scenario.

      * People who are too cheap to hire a real professional, so try to pay a student peanuts to do a professional’s job. (These people also do not equip properly: “here, fix all the teapots! glue? whaddaya need glue for? glue’s expensive!”)

      * People who don’t understand or value the work enough to supervise it properly. Students are students — even mature and self-directed ones (on the level of an entry-level professional) need good supervision, and those who aren’t quite on that level yet especially need it. (We’ve had places assume we educators would do the supervising. Um, no, you are not actually paying US and this is not an internship situation…)

      * People whose organizations are hideously understaffed and desperate. I understand the desperation, but it never leads to a decent experience for our students.

      All of the above are from repeated personal experience. I’ve gotten a lot of practice saying “I’m sorry, this does not sound like a job appropriate for our students.”

      1. Jessica*

        We also get messages from political organizations looking for people to go door-to-door, staff phone banks, etc. I guess if students want to devote their time to this cause, bully for them, but I’m never quite sure how much of an actual “job” it is.

        1. the gold digger*

          Speaking as the wife of a man who has been very politically active in the past six years and who has run for public office three times (has not won), I can tell you with almost complete certainty that doing doors and working a phone bank do not come with dental and a 401K. Or a wage.

          1. Anna*

            I think it depends on what level it’s for. Local campaigns or parties probably don’t pay. The national campaigns, I know I saw advertisements for minimum wage, part-time (VERY part-time) positions.

            1. Xay*

              My SO is a political consultant and even local campaigns will pay for canvassing, phone banking and sign waving in larger cities or state legislative races. It’s as much of a job as any other low skilled position and is a common entry level experience for aspiring campaign managers.

      2. Callie*

        mmhmm. I teach in the department of music for my university and we often get calls from people wanting students to play/sing for something. I won’t pass it along unless it’s a paying gig and they are willing to pay students at least minimum wage. We aren’t training people to go out and entertain for free. (for “exposure”. come on.) If you want someone to play for free don’t expect me to suggest that my students do it. They deserve better.

        1. no strings*

          from a NFP performing arts organization that often has students playing in lobby pre-show it’s disappointing to hear this. We don’t have a budget to pay anyone (heck, WE barely get paid!) but as an audience amenity we do have music in the lobby and yes, students do come play for free.
          They see the benefit of having their name known at a prominent arts org where they might eventually work and being able to say “I performed with *** company.

          Of course, this is different than accepting a free job singing at someone’s wedding or a pizza joint opening; those are events that should be paying.

          1. Candi*

            Volunteering for a not for profit has different resume connotations then performing or creating “for exposure”. Same goes for all creative fields.

            Volunteering looks good on a resume for all the reasons.

            “For exposure” in the stories I’ve read and heard means far too much pressure, false flattery, and sometimes borderline blackmail. It also means the writers and artists are working the equivalent of two jobs -one to pay the bills, the other to break into their field. Whether exposure gigs can help with that is hit or miss.

            So I can see why Callie wants to make sure the kids are focusing their efforts into channels most likely to get results. And from the sound of it, exposure far outstrips volunteer work.

    7. Career Coach*

      OP #4 Please refer these employers to your university’s career services department. They have policies in place for vetting employers that are attempting to hire students. They also likely collect data from employers regarding their hiring activities with students and alumni, so they will really want to know who is looking to hire from your student community. At my university we have a vetting process for all our employers and jobs that we advertise to students, so at minimum they may be able to tell you if the employer is legit.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        This depends on your university — I know many a career services department that will gleefully take anyone, scam or not, because having a large quantity of listings makes it easier to claim that a degree from that college is unusually desirable.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This, and, when we are looking for a specific skill set, going into the general career services pool has netted zero qualified candidates, while going to the department that houses the major(s) we want has brought in some great people. Career services takes and posts to a database; departments have listservs.

      2. Dorothy Mantooth*

        Seconded. My school’s career services department has a standard vetting process as well as a centralized website/job board. A random email with a job posting attached will get a response to register on the website and then their submission is vetted via the website.

    8. Meredith*

      The academic department I work for has a requirement for students to take a practicum/internship in order to graduate. We have two faculty who are practicum coordinators (among their other duties). We have a form on our department website for prospective practicum sites to fill out, and the coordinators vet. We also draw up agreements with practicum sites so that we know what the student is working on. We are a small department, but this works for us.

      1. Chaordic One*

        You really do want to see that interns actually get some valuable work experience and job skills from their internship, as opposed to doing busywork like filling in as a receptionist or file clerk (not that those aren’t valuable, but most interns have higher ambitions). And yes, they should receive fair compensation and be treated well.

        That said, where I used to work, they had our interns participate as volunteers in various one time community/charity events. It wasn’t always the most fun, but I’m not aware anyone ever being injured or anything. The interns did things like helping out by manning stations at a charity fun run, they filled sandbags during a flood, helped a different charity move their office from one building to another.

  6. JobSeeker017*

    Question #2

    Thank you for asking this, and thanks to Alison for posting!

    I currently find myself unemployed and looking for resume-building activities as I selectively job search. At this time, I am taking two online courses and gearing up to volunteer with at least one nonprofit.

    My concern is about having employers interpret my time looking for a compatible position as a vacation of sorts. It’s not in the least. I am reading, working to improve myself, give back to the community, and, of course, look for jobs nearly every day.

    Taking into account Alison’s advice, I will focus my answer about how I’m spending my time on either education or nonprofits.

    Thanks for sharing this advice. It’s so helpful to me right now.

    1. OP2*

      Every word of this. Ooooh, so you’re constantly on holiday! Even from people I know. It’s really not funny though.

      1. Mookie*

        Honestly, how can people be so tone-deaf? Nobody applying for a position you’re offering is basking in their unemployment. Having no income or relying on dole is, for most people, a harrowing and desperate experience. (And there’s nothing wrong or immoral with relaxing or trying to enjoy and occupy yourself during such stressful times, anyway.)

        1. OP2*

          When I got laid off for the first time 4 years ago, I got depressed to the point that I spent entire weeks in bed. It was a very educational experience so this time around I knew how to prevent it. I know I must keep myself occupied to keep myself sane, which apparently comes off as living between the gym and the hairdresser’s. No one cares that I would prefer to be in an actual office on a Tuesday morning, because the haircut was a gift from my mother, as spending 60$ is not an option in this moment.

      2. Whats In A Name*

        OP I feel your pain on this one & I understand being selective but also wanting to have things to keep you in a work mode or keep you time busy so you aren’t laying around the house or pool all day, which for some reason people envision you do with your free time when you are unemployed.

        I moved to a new city without a job lined up when my partner got a promotion. I was job searching for 4 months and the entire time my friends and family were like “must be nice to be taking the summer off.” … “are you thinking about making it a permanent vacation?”…”oh, so I’m probably distracting you from your pool time but…”….it went on and on and on.

        1. k*

          Uhg, I hate that. I left a soul crushing job without something else lined up for the sake of my health, and it took a few months to find something. I was being selective because I wanted something that could lead to a long term career, not just another “it pays the bills for now job”. And I actually did spend a lot of time laying around the house, but only because that didn’t cost any money! I felt like such a mooch relying on my spouse for income (spouse didn’t criticize, it was all in my head) that I beat myself up for even turning on lights during the day and increasing the electric bill. It was hardly relaxing.

          1. Pommette*

            It’s too bad that the stigma against being idle (let alone having fun!) while unemployed is so strong and so easily internalized.

            You were in a situation where relaxing around the house was probably necessary, both to rebuild your health after a difficult experience at work, and to keep your spirits up while figuring out how to move forward with your career.

            I totally get the guilt you are describing. I was unemployed for six months recently. I didn’t enjoy any of the time off I had, and didn’t regain the ability to enjoy relaxing at home until I had been employed for more than a month.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I lay around the house but I’m also:
            1. Constantly looking at job listings
            2. Writing and revising (okay I’ve been tweeting a lot the last couple of days!)
            3. Working on a portfolio and items for it
            4. Researching how the bloody hell I’m going to move states and have a roof over my head
            5. Trying to keep fit, which means walking in 25-35 F weather >_<
            6. I have a volunteer thing on Saturday

            I'm actually kind of busy!

            1. JobSeeker017*

              Elizabeth West, what a great list of activities!

              I share your frustration with perceptions of what job searching means to some people.

              Congrats on keeping yourself busy and continually working on your portfolio and writing.

              Fingers crossed you are able to find a job you enjoy relatively soon!

        2. the gold digger*

          Yeah, because there is no stress AT ALL in wondering how you will be paying the bills in six months if you haven’t found a job by then. It is totally a vacation to be laid off and be looking for work.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          Unless you’re my sister. She really does lie around the pool all day when she’s unemployed. Goes to the library a couple days a week and submits a couple apps. Sigh.

          1. Whats In A Name*

            Well, I certainly was not and didn’t appreciate the “oh, since you have nothing to do I need you to do this…” that so many have! I am 100% ok with how people choose to spend their unemployment hours – it’s really not any of my business. However, please do not project unemployed = lazy on to me if that is not the case.

            Reading the above I feel like I need to be clear: I do not in anyway think you were projecting that to me Stranger than fiction…I was really just reinforcing my experience when unemployed

      3. Pommette*

        Yes! Even from otherwise insightful and compassionate people.

        I was unemployed for six months earlier this year. It was a terrifying and dispiriting experience. I spent a lot of time looking for work and a lot of time working out how to keep paying for basic necessities. Family and friends (people who are normally really nice and thoughtful!) would regularly make comments along the lines of:
        “Since you have plenty of free time , why don’t you X/Y/Z?” (X/Y/Z usually being expensive projects, like renovations)
        “Oh, you must be really caught up on X television series/Y book series!”
        “I wish I had so much free time!”
        “You’re lucky that you get to enjoy the outdoors – it’s such a lovely time of the year”
        And so on.

      4. m00nstar*

        Hi OP2

        I regularly interview people, and often get students looking for their first real job out of university. When there is a gap in their resume, usually between jobs or after graduation, I’m looking for something specific: drive. I want to know that they have been maintaining their professional skillsets, and are interested and motivated enough in the field to have kept up with things. My industry is notorious for needing constant training and upgrading, so it might be worse than your industry, but that’s what I am looking for.

        Mind you, confession: my personal longest-running unemployment streak outside of university was only 2 months (knock wood!!), and I did NOTHING to “maintain” my skills, outside of interviewing and really trying be organized and methodical around my job search. I guess my feeling as an interviewer is that the longer that someone is unemployed, the more important that might be.

        As someone unemployed, even from my short period of joblessness, I can see how important keeping busy and keeping your spirits up is. The yoga teacher training and such is wonderful for your soul, but less good from an interview perspective. I’d wonder if you are trying to shift gears into a different career path (yoga) and where your real desires lay.

        Consider taking an online course in your field or the like via Coursera or similar? It would make for a great answer to that question. “I’ve been taking an online class in x, and translating a book about y.” Cool, I’d think. This person has drive and passion.

        Good luck and all the best!

        1. OP2*

          Thank you very much for the great advice, moonstar, I do appreciate it!

          Unfortunately, there aren’t any (online) courses in my country and in my field for free, so in this moment I can’t afford one, but I can see your point, especially about them thinking that I’m trying to shift gears. I will definitely not talk about that in the next interviews.

    2. Joseph*

      Taking into account Alison’s advice, I will focus my answer about how I’m spending my time on either education or nonprofits.
      I’d focus your answer on whichever one is likely to be more important to each individual company you’re interviewing with. If you’re taking career-relevant courses, this is probably education, though if your volunteer role comes with significant responsibility, that might be worth highlighting over an online course.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Yes, this. Concentrate on the activities that can be spun to have built up skills that would benefit the company where you are interviewing.

    3. Barney Barnaby*

      I would love to say that there’s a good way to frame this, but the reality is that coupling boring temp work with all of your other activities can be helpful.

      Put the temp work on your resume (two or three lines, max); that sets up the frame of reference that (a) you need to work to keep a roof over your head, and (b) that you’re applying because you want something permanent. Then, in the interview, just bring up the fact that you’re doing other things to “keep your mind engaged,” “build skills,” and “stay involved.”

      Yes, a lot of people have this idea that there’s loads of fun, gratifying, sexy, well-paying jobs out there for people with the moxie to translate books. You can’t disillusion people, but you can make yourself look like someone who translates books in her spare time, rather than someone who can make a career translating books.

      1. JobSeeker017*

        Barney Barnaby:

        Actually, adding temp work may mean the candidate must give notice, which could delay his/her start date at new jobs.

        Many employers like to hire people who can start quickly without providing a notice period. In fact, I’ve spoken with two HR professionals who were very pleased that I was available immediately.

        However, as with most things in life, each situation is different. I can only speak from my limited experiences.

        1. Natalie*

          I’m not sure what kind of temp work you’re thinking of – the expectations are completely the opposite in my experience. Most temp jobs aren’t terribly long term, a few days or a week, and in those cases notice would be a completely moot point. In many long term temp positions it’s pretty much expected that you’ll leave immediately if you have a permanent offer.

        2. Jadelyn*

          It’s a bonus when someone can start right away, so yes we might be pleased (especially if it’s been a hard-to-fill role) but it’s not a strike against someone if they can’t. We understand that most people, if they’re currently employed, will have to give some kind of notice to their current employer, and in fact if someone is currently employed but tells us they can start tomorrow that kind of sends up some caution flags about their professionalism in general – after all, it’s pretty likely that if that’s their standard MO for leaving a job, they’ll do it to us when they’re ready to move on.

          So I definitely wouldn’t leave temp work off a resume specifically to give the impression that you’re available immediately. To save space or skip it when it’s not relevant to the jobs you’re applying for, sure, but not just to make the employer think you can start tomorrow.

          1. Barney Barnaby*

            That was my thought as well.

            Temp work isn’t relevant when it was a few years ago, but it is when it’s the most recent thing (and, hypothetically, if you job-hunt for the better part of a year) or if you’re just starting out in your career. Big thing is just to throw it all in one bucket, ex:

            Terry’s Temp Service, May 2016 – present
            *Performed a variety of tasks for multiple customers, including general accounting, data entry, answering phones, blah blah blah.

            The big thing is that the interviewer wants to know that you haven’t been sitting on your butt since you lost your job.

            1. Candi*

              Except don’t list it like that.

              Alison and commentators have multiple examples on this site on how to list temp jobs -and which jobs you should be pulling off your master resume to stick under the “Teapot Temp Service” heading.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          Many employers like to hire people who can start quickly without providing a notice period.

          And others prefer to hire people who currently have a job (like my father, who always said “I don’t advertise; I go find the people who are already doing what I want and hire them”) and are suspicious of anyone who is unemployed. So you’re always going to be potentially alienating someone, no matter which way you go.

  7. Hornswoggler*

    OP1 – I thought you might like to know that there has recently been quite a row in the UK with protests about women workers being required to wear high heels and women pushing back against it. There was a petition (you can do these on the UK Parliament website) called “Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work”, and it was all over the press. It also covered things like forcing women to wear makeup and being asked to re-apply makeup during the day.

    The House of Commons Petitions Committee “has published a joint report with the Women and Equalities Committee on high heels and workplace dress codes. The report concludes that the Equality Act 2010 is not yet fully effective in protecting workers from discrimination.” I’m quoting from an email in my inbox this morning which I received because I am signatory to the petition.

    I work for myself, largely alone, so I can wear what I dashed well like, but I’m very glad for those women in work environments where they’re forced to be a) uncomfortable and b) decorative for no good reason.

    1. Liane*

      I recall reading something about this. I’d be interested if you had the time tomorrow to write more about it in the open thread.

        1. Hornswoggler*

          I’ve just had an update – there will be a Parliamentary debate about this on 6th March 2017. The system that handles this will send all signatories to the petition a transcript and a video of the debate, which is pretty fine work in my view.

          However, the quality of the debate is not guaranteed – it depends who attends and whether they have anything worth saying. I really hope it will branch out into the way women are perceived and treated in the workplace, and look into gender equality, and maybe also touch on what what people who don’t identify as either male or female do in these circumstances. We’ll see.

    2. Bonky*

      I was here to mention this! About twenty years ago, when I was still at university, I worked at Harrods (the big posh department store in London) on a Wedgwood concession in the vacations. There was a rule that we had to wear a heel, and we were standing all day on a wooden floor. I ended up with bleeding feet and some pretty unpleasant back problems – I used to *so* envy the men in their comfortable flat shoes. I asked at the time if it’d be possible to wear smart flats, and got a…flat “no”.

      I’m one of the founders of a startup that’s been fortunate enough to scale. One of the policies that I put in place as soon as we started hiring was that people can wear whatever they damn well want on their feet. I was so glad to see the Women and Equalities Committee report on the news last night; it’s a total aberration that women can be expected to wear something that’s not even functional, but that can cause lasting physical harm. (And this lasting physical harm, which affects a not insignificant number of women – the attenuated tendons, the bunions, the nerve damage – are what makes the knee-jerk “But we make men wear ties and a suit!” so offensive.)

      1. DaisyGrrl*

        I worked in a shoe store when I was younger and it really brought home the long term effects of wearing heels. I saw so many bunions, hammer toes, deformities, etc. that were only present in our older female customers. It made me swear off regularly wearing heels forever.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Ugh, that sounds awful. I like wearing heels on occasion, but I have about a two day limit before it’s back to flats, and that’s with me sitting most of the day!

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Off topic, but do they really have a customer dress code? I’ve never been there–I usually go to Fortnum & Mason, who do not require me to dress up (though I do try to look smart) and are very nice even if all I buy is tea. <3

        I don't know how anyone can work in heels all day. That would kill me. You're a good boss.

      4. Lissa*

        This type of blatantly sexist dress code makes me really disproportionately angry. What possible non-creepy reason is there to require women to wear high heels, makeup Etc.? I am aware that many women feel they have to because they will be subconsciously judged differently than a man who doesn’t wear makeup and high heels and that makes me mad too, but when it’s mandated like this….argh, flames of rage!

    3. Can't Handle Heels (OP1)*

      OP1 here. What a great movement! I will have to keep an eye out for the results of this!

    4. StrikingFalcon*

      That’s really awesome. Aside from the well documented long term physical problems it causes in healthy women, it’s doubly difficult to navigate for someone like me who literally cannot wear heels for medical reasons. I couldn’t do it even for a short walk into a job interview – even if I managed it on the day of, I’d be out for two days afterwards from the pain. Anyone who thinks it’s unprofessional to not wear heels is imposing a judgement on something that could actually be a disability (which is a protected class in the US), but which you could never tell by looking at me.

      1. Candi*

        There was a comment somewhere on this site about a Vegas casino that put heels required into the dress code. They wanted to get the older, less attractive-by-this-decade’s standards women to quit so they could have a staff of younger, pretty-according-to-today women. But to just fire them risked discrimination issues, in PR even if law didn’t apply to every case.

        The older women got accommodation paperwork from their doctors.

        I was alternately laughing and cheering.

  8. Al who is that Al*

    #1 – Please wear high heels at all times and I will have a job for life ! Seriously, please don’t wear high heels at all. As a Deep Tissue Massage Therapist with over 10 years experience of dealing with this issue, the long-term damage you are doing to your back, legs and elsewhere by wearing high heels a lot is serious.
    I completely understand why people wear high heels, they make your legs look longer and thinner and your bottom smaller and raised up. But by that action it pushes your stomach and chest out and you then compensate by pulling your stomach in. This put enormous pressure on the small of the back. Also it shortens (over time) the achilles tendon which means when you wear flats then tendon pulls down your hamstrings and lower back muscles again.
    Please wear shoes that are raised not more that an inch or two and have a solid heel – no stiletto types. And as for the toe damage that occurs in that unnatural pose….
    Your feet and back will be much much happier in flats or slight raised heels, and I’m very happy to talk my way out of getting paid work on this.
    PS: I worked on an old lady in a nursing home, she had worn high heels all her life, her achilles tendons were so short that when barefoot she stood on tiptoe, her heels never touched the ground. She had to have surgical shoes specially made all the time for her.

    1. Gadafly*

      My grandmother is not quite that bad but does have to choose her shoes carefully because of shortened tendons

    2. Bonky*

      My mother-in-law has this problem – her achilles tendons are shortened, and she has to have a heel to walk at all. Even her slippers have a heel.

      1. blu*

        My grandmother is this way, I couldn’t even get her to stop wearing her heals when she fractured her ankle.

        1. Bonky*

          As my MIL gets older, I really worry about the implications of the damage that’s already been done. I hope your grandmother’s 100% better from her injury!

    3. FDCA In Canada*

      I don’t see where she’s saying she needs to wear heels all day, every day, for seventy years. I’d say most women are pretty familiar with the fact that heels are not great for your feet or your body. This isn’t a question about that–it’s about whether it’s OK to not wear heels–which, for better or worse, are generally considered to be part of “formalwear” for women– on job interviews for a few hours. Which of course it is, as long as the flats are suitably appropriate.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, I’ve sometimes encountered the opinion that heels are inherently more formal than flats, all other things being equal, and it simply makes no sense to me. It seems really arbitrary. To me, if the shoe looks the same otherwise (looks “serious” in construction–I don’t necessarily mean expensive, just vaguely adult-y), then the heel height is unimportant. It has so much to do with what each person’s own feet can physically handle.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Heel height tolerance in part is a function of geometry – which is why platforms are a way of getting the heel to be higher.

        2. Koko*

          Yes, there was a big stink in 2015 when the Cannes Film Festival was turning away women in flats for not meeting the dress code – which merely said black tie/evening dress and made no mention of footwear. Some of those they turned away were older women with medical problems that prevented them from wearing heels.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I remember that—ticked me off to no end. Not that I’d ever get to go (you never know), but I hurt my back a long time ago and heels kill me unless they’re really low.

          2. Candi*

            I remember one of the women was really important -I don’t remember if to a film or the whole thing. She was wearing very nice flats -and when she was turned away, ohhhhhh boy.

        3. many bells down*

          Most of my heels are weird and funky. Retro styles with thick heels, etc. A nice pair of flats is probably going to look more “formal” than my hot-pink-with-a-giant-flower-on-the-toes slingbacks. I certainly don’t wear the latter to interviews!

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        I disagree that anywhere close to “most women” know that heels aren’t good for their body, and they certainly don’t know the extent of it.

        1. Candi*

          I had that discussion with my daughter four years ago.

          She told her friends.

          A lot of them were shocked that high heels could be that bad if you wore them too often.

          Wonder how many remember?

      3. fposte*

        The other point I’d make is that the shortening of the soft tissue is counteractable and that also it’s hardly an isolated instance, but for some reason shortened pectoral muscles from long sitting and keyboarding, for instance, don’t elicit the same kind of concern.

        What we do is always changing our bodies.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Depends what circles you run in. Damage to your body from sitting is a big concern in my department right now. I bought my own standing desk modification that will be here Monday, after thinking about it for 2 years. I finally realized even spending $200 out of pocket wasn’t that much money compared with $40 chiro visits to get my neck realigned. Kelly Starrett wrote a whole book about it. . .Deskbound.

          1. fposte*

            Great, but none of that will lengthen your shortened pectoral muscles.

            And I’m not saying everybody must have longer pectoral muscles; just that that’s another aspect of frequent bodily change, and by and large we don’t worry about (except when problems develop), so I don’t think it flies to suggest that bodily change = tragedy.

            1. Anna*

              I wonder if that contributed to my frozen shoulder since one of the exercises I do is to stretch the pectoral muscle.

        2. Ktelzbeth*

          Shortened muscles and tendons can in fact be permanent in time, though early or milder cases can be counteracted.

    4. Lora*

      Awww…I dance Argentine tango and I love my 3 1/2″ stilettos…but I don’t wear them every day, I alternate with boots that have a 1/2″ heel. They’re fantastic self-defense on the subway, too.

      1. BS Staff*

        I have an image of you in boots on the subway, whipping out a holstered stiletto on the subway, with moves straight out of Kill Bill….

    5. eplawyer*

      I have to wear heels to court. Not a requirement but if there is a bench conference, I need the judge to be able to see me. I’m a bit on the short side and the bench is above my head. I don’t want this disembodied voice telling the judge the other side is totally wrong and I am totally right. But I am barefoot at home (I work from home) and wear sneakers when not in court.

      1. BS Staff*

        This is the sort of practical shoe-wearing that I work with. I wonder what accommodations a judge would make if counsel was in a wheelchair. Judge’s bench heights, or the process of approaching the bench may evolve.

        My feet were wide an large, and I work in law, but not as a lawyer. I have a bunion from poorly-fitting shoes, as wide heels 30 years ago, were rare and expensive, though I could fit a men’s shoe (with a trim heel, often a black loafer) just fine. These days, Barking Dog Shoes is one of the ways that I find shoes that fit an orthotic or otherwise provides support for professional or other occasions. Shoes have come a long way. I went to REI and was delighted that the sales person could talk about women’s hiking boots with a larger toe box and my feet were comfortable enough putting in 9 miles on an AT day hike.

    6. Marcela*

      “I completely understand why people wear high heels, they make your legs look longer and thinner and your bottom smaller and raised up. ”

      I do not wear heels to make my bottom smaller and perkier. I understand you have evidence of the damage that heels cause, but do not go around judging my reasons to wear heels.

      1. Koko*

        I think the poster was just throwing out some common reasons why people like heels and pointing out that the very posture that many people find desirable about heels is what is harmful about them. I don’t think she was trying to give an exhaustive accounting of all the reasons why women wear heels or pass judgment on anyone.

    7. starsaphire*

      That is one major benefit of working in tech. I’ve only had one job in the past 20 years of my career for which I was actually required to bring in the doctor’s note saying I could wear athletic shoes to work.

      My feet and legs took a serious beating from wearing high heels and standing/walking in them all day for the first few years I worked, and my body just won’t put up with it any more. I do own a couple of really nice pairs of heels now, but I don’t go out in them.

      1. Bonky*

        I only ever wear heels these days when I know it’s going to be a home>taxi>seated event>taxi>home evening – I just can’t stand in them for any length of time these days. Nothing’s worth the agony in my big toe joint.

        1. Arjay*

          I call those my “valet parking” shoes. If I have to walk farther than the door to my seat, I’m wearing something more comfortable.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        At OldExjob, I started to have problems with my back and feet–the floor was concrete covered with indoor/outdoor carpet (I think there was a pad but it was minimal at best). My boss wouldn’t let me wear sneakers or anything–we had to be in business casual the whole time. I found a pair of Crocs Mary Janes. The shoes are black leather, and the insides are made of that CrocLite stuff. That solved the problem, but I was a little mad because they were expensive. Nobody ever saw us, either–we constantly advocated to wear polos and either jeans or khakis, but they wanted us in business clothes. :P

    8. Taylor Swift*

      Or, how about we don’t do *any* policing of women’s (or men’s, for that matter) footwear and let people choose what they want?

    9. Can't Handle Heels (OP1)*

      Thanks for this! My massotherapist stated something very similar. I would never consider wearing heels daily, but I had been told early on that interview is a “heels occasion” and had a moment this week of “wait but why”!

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        I’ve heard that advice too, and it’s especially problematic as some people can’t wear heels. I mentioned this upthread, but I have a disability that among other things precludes wearing heels, so I would imagine that judging me as less professional for doing so actually qualifies as discriminating against a protected class. Not that there’s much a job seeker can do about that, but it’s definitely a good reason to stop spreading such advice! But I think there are plenty of good, professional looking flats out there. And actually I’ve found some really nice ones this year that aren’t the “ballet slipper” style that’s been popular the past few years but which have no cushioning. So I’m hoping practical flats might actually be coming back into fashion.

      2. Candi*

        I remember that advice. >.<

        I thought about the 'business attire' lessons in total, and decided a inch would be fine.


        After that pair wore out, I've stuck to nice flats. Especially important when you can't drive -which also makes it problematic to switch shoes.

  9. Mookie*

    LW4, can you / is it routine in your department to pass along word about possible openings (and maybe get a copy of the job listing itself) to a departmental administrator, undergrad coordinator, acting head or chair? With the exception of those properly vetted by the faculty member themselves (as you say, someone they know and trust or an in-field organization with a good reputation) and normally passed along only to students they know personally and have mentored, that’s generally where I found out, as an undergrad, about people hiring seniors or graduated former students. I suspect this was so because it’s kind of a two-way street: the student(s) you refer may also be perceived by hiring managers to have your informal endorsement.

    Re LW1’s question, to anyone who learned how to walk in heels properly only after becoming an adult, is it worth the effort? Was it initially painful at all?

    1. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I think Wardrobe Oxygen has a post from a couple years ago that describes how she became accustomed to walking in heels. I’ll try and find it when I’m at my desk.

      I love heels and can walk pretty well in them but they still hurt if I’ve been on my feet for more than a couple hours. My day heels are block heeled boots about 2 inches high. Tired feet in heels hurt more and differently than tired feet in flats.

      1. commensally*

        Is this the Wardrobe Oxygen post? Ask Allie: Wearing Heels.

        I never exactly “learned to wear heels” but I have a couple for special occasions, mostly because it’s just so much harder to find cute shoes if you stick to only flats.

        Mookie, the strategy is different if you just want to be able to wear them to job interviews and weddings without fear, or if you want to be someone who chases murderers though swamps in 8″ pumps. I can give you advice for the first case!

        I mostly agree with Allie in the linked post- start with wedge/block heels that are relatively low, and move to platforms rather than higher heels if you just want the height. Wear them around the house/ the neighborhood first. And start with ones that would be comfortable even if they weren’t heels – they fit well, stay on without effort, don’t pinch your toes. Unless you have special mobility/balance issues, you should be able to get the hang of walking in those in just an afternoon or so.

        (Remember, high heels started as men’s work boots for riding horses and working in deep mud! It’s all the extra stuff done for style that makes them *desperately* uncomfortable. I have a pair of really comfortable boots with 5″ platform heels that I wear only for long walks, because it means I can match stride with tall people, and actually end up less sore than if I was in my usual flats. There is no way I could do that with pumps of the same height.)

        When I wear my special-occasion heels for a long day, I will get some muscle soreness all up my lower body, the same way I would with a day of any kind of exercise I’m not accustomed to, because I do move a little differently. My feet don’t hurt any more than in flats, but then my feet hurt in even comfortable flats after a day on them, so ymmv. Also I am a “tippy-toe” like Allie, although I don’t actually find that makes heels easier (I’m used to being able to choose how high up my feet are, not having a solid block under them!) but it probably changes the ways I get sore.

        If you want to move up to tall spindly heels without ankle straps, my best advice is to start slow and move up. And if your high heels make your feet/back hurt considerably more than spending the same amount of time on your feet in flats, get different heels. Having a toe box that actually fits your toes is 10x more important with heels.

        1. Mookie*

          Wow, thank you very, very much commensally! A lot of food for thought here. And thanks to you and Yetanotherjennifer for the Wardrobe Oxygen link.

    2. Natalie*

      I don’t know that I’d call it painful or even especially difficult, but I never tried to wear ridiculous heels or poorly designed shoes. Not all heels are created equal – thickness, height, and balance of the heel all make a difference, as well as your foot and how you walk.

      1. fposte*

        And the kind of shoe that has the heel, too–the better your foot is held in place on the last, the more stability, so something like slingbacks will be murder.

        1. Natalie*

          That makes sense. I can feel random muscles in my feet tensing if I am wearing a “slidey” shoe, to attempt to keep the shoe from flying off my foot. Always chalked it up to size, but design would certainly be a factor as well.

        2. Paige Turner*

          Yes, the main reason why I have trouble walking in heels is that I have high arches and narrowish feet, and the shoe just doesn’t stay on my foot when I step. I don’t have to wear heels regularly, but when I do, they are either “shooties” (terrible word but basically a half-boot type shoe that covers the whole top of my foot) or wedge sandals with straps over the top of my foot and around the back.

    3. Lora*

      Open toe heels are MUCH easier to wear in my experience – they don’t compress your toes at the same time that you’re trying to balance on them, you can spread your toes out to get good balance. However, open toe shoes are also not considered sufficiently formal for Business Dress in many places.

      Nota bene: in general, my opinion of anyone who thinks heels should be required business wear should be 1) kicked very hard with a 4″ stiletto 2) publicly shamed by the questions, “why, are we hiring strippers now?!?” “does this look like Hooters to you?” “what is WRONG with you?” 3) fired for outright stupidity. Preferably as an example to others, so that everyone can see you don’t tolerate such foolishness.

      But I still personally like to wear heels and lipstick and mascara. It’s basically camouflage .

      1. Koko*

        I only wear open toe shoes because I would rather have my toes exposed and the top of my foot covered than a closed toe shoe where the top barely covers my toes. I’ve never understood why you can get a closed-toe dress shoe that also covers the top of your foot.

    4. Maya Elena*

      Not really, unless I’m in them for more than four hours continuously or they’re very high.

      I don’t like anything with straps – combines all the worst aspects of heels and flip flops.

      My recommendation would always be shoes made for dancing, whether ballroom or “character” shoes. They’re not made for rough outside terrain, but are super comfy.

  10. Joie De Vivre*

    #5 – I would give the phone back. I don’t know if your previous employer had an employee handbook, or some sort of verbiage covering stuff like this as part of the application/onboarding process, or as part of the “you’re getting a company phone” process. But it if did, and you signed -somewhere – that you had to give the phone back when you left, you will look bad.

    At my multiple previous employers, managers did not have the authority to negotiate severance “perks” like this.

    1. Mookie*

      At my multiple previous employers, managers did not have the authority to negotiate severance “perks” like this.

      This one appears to, though (emphasis added):

      My manager said he wasn’t sure if I could keep my exact phone since the company was low on Android models, but that if I couldn’t keep that one, I could definitely have another phone.

      1. Joie De Vivre*

        Mookie, he may have the authority – or it could be that he doesn’t but believed he did.

        For example, a manager at a previous employer told one of his hourly employees that he couldn’t approve overtime but he could grant her comp time for any hours she worked over 40 in a week.
        Nope – not only did he not have the authority, but it was a violation of company policy (& US wage/pay laws too I believe).

        1. Natalie*

          The LW has no compelling reason to suss that out, though. If the company determines the manager didn’t have the authority to give her the phone, they’ll either decide to live with it or they’ll ask for it back. It’s really not a huge deal.

      1. Mike C.*

        In this case, I think it is that simple. Why should women have to wear high heels when men don’t?

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yep, and men once did, and at some point men were like “Nope, not anymore,” so I don’t see why women can’t do the same.

          1. neverjaunty*

            “Shouldn’t be expected to” and “aren’t expected to” are very different, and pretending they aren’t in the context of a job search is not really fair advice.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Because we’re not discussing how things should be, but rather how things are — and those are very often not the same, especially when it comes to expectations of women’s appearances.

    1. Woman in Washingtn*

      OP #1 – I stopped wearing heels when I went to work in the U.S. capitol several years ago – it was just too painful walking on all that marble for my feet, legs and back. I haven’t looked back since and now don’t wear them ever. It’s the best decision I’ve made. And if the very conservative halls of Congress – there are dress codes for women in parts of the building that require our shoulders be covered – can deal with me in flats, anyone can deal with you in flats.

      1. BS Staff*

        +1 The surface you walk on, as well as how much time you spend on your feet with those surfaces are key. I work on a large campus, and can log a mile on a workday, easily, and often don’t have time, or appropriate space to change up my shoes. Brands that incorporate athletic function with professional design, like Aravon, have won my vote.

      2. Another Speechwriter*

        Yes, Woman in Washington. Same here!

        After a painful visit to the doc with a spiral fracture in my big toe joint, I hung up my heels and never looked back. They were pretty and I liked how I looked in them, but I’m a much better employee with a much better work product when I’m not in pain all day.

      3. Can't Handle Heels (OP1)*

        Oh man, I learned that lesson too! I interned for my congressman in college. I wore heels my first day. The congressman was a very short man, but MAN, could he book it. I went out and bought flats that night.

    2. Milton Waddams*

      #4: Good on you! I think many people aren’t aware exactly how many scammers and schemers specifically target college students as a source of gullible skilled labor due to their relative innocence.

      One way is to look for signs that the email you received is part of a form letter. Even people long at out college seem to fall for this, such as when they submit their resume to a job board and a recruiter from an unrelated field immediately contacts them, with no thought of the phrase “automated response”.

      While not exhaustive, as bad reviews can be removed for pay, a quick glance at Glassdoor might tell if the company has a history of hiring college students and using them up.

  11. Yetanotherjennifer*

    OP5, the phone is like a car in that your former company has to release it before you can switch ownership to you. They have control and could turn that phone “off” on you at any time with no warning. A change in SIM cards isn’t going to change that. And I feel a trip to the phone company now would trigger an inquiry on how you got that phone that at best could be inconvenient and embarassing. Plus, even though you are doin your best to incur no costs to them in your current use, they company is probably paying a monthly fee on that phone.

    I think you’re going to have to give it back. Your boss made an unusual promise outside his department. If he managed the phone contracts it would be yours already. He either hasn’t looked into it or hasn’t heard back from the department that does manage the phones, and he’s got other things going on or he would be responding to you and your former coworkers. I think to someone outside your agreement it made sense for you to keep the phone for a couple months in anticipation of freelancing, but I think it’s pretty clear that isn’t going to happen and so now is the time to get this resolved. I fear it will reflect badly on you if you keep the phone any longer.

    Do you know who manages the phone contracts? I’d recommend one more attempt to reach your former boss and then reac out to that department and ask what to do. You could approach it from the promise made and ask how to get this phone or another one transferred to you. You can mention that there had been talk of your freelancing but you’ve taken a full time job and don’t know if freelancing is going to be possible and you don’t want to be costing the company money.

    Meanwhile, identify a phone and service you can afford on your own and move any personal information off the company phone so you aren’t stuck of the company does take back the phone. And make sure you give it to a person and get a signed receipt for it.

    1. Liane*

      The way some people are going on about the OP1’s ExJob’s phone, you’d think the letter mentioned it had all the company passwords saved on it. :) Even after Princess CBH’s explanation way above. (IANAL–but she is.)

      Companies do give things to current/departing employees. One small company I worked for 10 or 12 years ago had a bunch of still-good computers that had been “retired.” I asked about buying one and the owners told me, “We’ll give you one. I will have IT Guy make sure everything of ours is removed and that it works.”

      1. Please don't play lawyer*

        Gifting of old phones and computers happens all the time. The issue is the extended use of the data plan. That’s what has to change. OP doesn’t need to give the phone back, but they do need to contact company about getting the data plan switched over to their own credit card or they need to cancel and get a personal plan. That will require the help of the company.

        1. Anna*

          OP is not using the data plan, as was mentioned in the letter and repeated in the comments. It’s as simple as OP going to the store and handing over the phone and saying, “This is my phone. I would like to purchase X plan and I need a new number.” The end.

    2. Observer*

      No, the company cannot just turn the phone off. Sure, the imei could be blocked, but the company would have to go through a process to prove that the phone was stolen. And, it’s a whole lot easier to just reach out to the OP – who has left plenty of contact info with the company. It would also be a LOT cheaper to reach out to the O
      p – or possibly even write off the phone, unless it’s a really high end model like a Galaxy S8 or Pixel XL.

  12. Jwal*

    OP5 – Is there anyone else at your old job that you could contact, perhaps higher up? Your boss seems to be quite busy (from your ex-coworkers’ assessment) and it’s not clear whether he even has the authority to say what you can and can’t keep. Or if your old HR was involved in exit procedures, maybe them? At least then you’d be able to put your mind at ease.

  13. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    #1 – no, please don’t wear heels if you’re not comfortable in them! I sometimes interview for admin staff, and I see so many women, usually young and straight out of university, wobbling around looking like they’re in all the pain in the world, who can’t concentrate on anything other than ‘please don’t let me fall off these shoes’. That doesn’t look professional. A smart pair of flats DOES look professional.

    1. Graciosa*

      I have some fairly low heels that I wear if the occasion seems to call for it, but the heels have gotten lower over time and I can’t remember the last time I wore any to work.

      I am glad you mentioned the wobbling issue – I have the same reaction to seeing people tottering around. Wearing shoes you can’t manage makes you look incompetent, and distracts your audience from the content of whatever you’re saying. Shoes should not be the focus of your professional presence.

      I also confess that even with people who can manage outrageously high shoes – whether stillettos or platforms – I wonder about their judgment a bit. I don’t spend a lot of brain power on it (and please don’t anyone panic that this is unfairly affecting performance reviews – I promise it isn’t) but it’s more in the category of “silly things people do before they figure out a better alternative” that are noted and then dismissed.

      On the other hand, I do know some companies where the executive women bond over discussions of their fashionable (and expensive) shoes – generally purchased abroad. I have still managed to succeed in those cultures without heels.

      It is possible to be professionally *and* fashionably dressed (if the latter matters to you) without high heels.

      1. Angelinha*

        You question the judgment of people who wear very high heels? How does that demonstrate someone’s judgment about anything other than…shoes?

      2. Jesmlet*

        Your questioning the judgment of people who wear high heeled shoes is just as bad as someone questioning the judgment of a woman who wears flats, or cuts their hair short, or doesn’t wear makeup, or waxes their legs, etc etc etc. It’s a choice someone makes about their appearance that has no bearing on their ability to do any job. Just because you think flats are better doesn’t automatically make them a “better alternative”. You can defend your choice and point of view without insulting someone else’s.

        1. Angelinha*

          Agreed. And if you’re thinking of your employees as “silly” and less than your employees who wear what you consider more conservative shoes, it may be affecting your assessment of their performance even if you don’t realize it.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Right, there are so many things that subconsciously affect our assessments of others. We should all work on judging people less for things they do or don’t choose.

        2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          Eh, I didn’t see it as a judgment that would be precisely hurtful. We all judge people; we all think things like, “I wouldn’t be wearing shorts in this weather” or “well, I guess red’s a color you could wear at this funeral” or “do people even still BUY pantyhose in this day and age?” — I didn’t read it as being judgmental from Graciosa, more like “well, I guess that’s a thing you do.” I know for example I have students come in all the time wearing leggings as pants, and while I don’t judge on body shape I do think, “really? in WINTER?”

          1. Jesmlet*

            I disagree. If you question someone’s judgment on one thing, it’s easy for that to cross over to questioning their judgment in general.

            But I might be a little touchy because I’m at work, currently wearing high heels and don’t think I’m silly at all for it.

          2. tigerStripes*

            I was thinking that the judgement was more about high heels not being so good for the feet, etc.

      3. Zoethor2*

        I’ve noticed that women wearing high heels during presentations often physically fidget a lot more than those in flats (or men, also in flats) – there’s this awkward leg crossing-and-uncrossing thing that I’ve never seen a woman wearing flats do. So another thing to be mindful of is how heels may change the way you physically present yourself, beyond even the obvious wobbling issue. Fidgeting while giving a presentation is distracting and comes across unprofessional and sometimes a bit immature.

        1. Annie Moose*

          I do this! I can’t help it. If I put my foot straight down, a high heel will make my leg be at a slightly uncomfortable angle, so I find myself switching how I have my legs crossed more. Eventually I’ll give up and put my legs out in front of me, so the weight is purely on the heel, but that’s awkward too, so I’ll switch back eventually.

          I have a pair of boots that I do this with, in particular… not sure why, as they aren’t my highest heels.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          I do it when I’m wearing flats because one my legs is just longer enough than the other that I just naturally start shifting my weight and fidgeting. So not wearing heels wouldn’t stop me from doing that. But it’s true that people should be mindful of that kind of thing while giving presentations, regardless of what footwear they are sporting.

          1. Rater Z*

            Watching someone generally fidgeting, shifting their weight and swaying back and forth affects me as I have a bad case at times of motion sickness and the movement gets it started. For me, it’s basically a queasy feeling in my stomach but I can start feeling dizzy and lightheaded also if I have to watch it for a long period of time.

    2. Ghostwriter*

      This is one subject that my college career center actually got right. I had ankle ligament surgery about 3 months before my first full-time job interview, and I thought I had to wear heels. Wobbling never looks professional. I think something like booties with a low block heel or plain leather ballet flats look best.

      1. Chaordic One*

        While not exactly the same thing, I live in a western state and lots of the men wear cowboy boots with their dress suits. I think that many of them wear them because, like when women wear high heels, they make the wearer look taller.

        I get a kick out of seeing men wobble in their high-heeled cowboy boots, and have a hard time trying not to smirk. Why can’t I have RBF when I need it?

  14. Joseph*

    OP #3: They are clearly not interested in a business referral relationship. Look, it often happens that one side benefits more from a referral relationship than the other – it’s really unlikely to be 50/50, especially with you being more established and known. In fact, since that they’re a smaller, new firm, it’s entirely possible that they truly haven’t had any clients who are a good fit for you.
    BUT if they were really interested in a two-way referral relationship, they would (a) remember you, (b) acknowledge that the relationship is unequal, and (c) tell you they’re still trying. Something like “OP, we really appreciate the referral for clients X and Y. We’ve had a great relationship with them and it’s all thanks to you. We’ve really been keeping our ears to the ground for you, but we haven’t heard anything yet that suits your specialty.”
    They can’t even be bothered to remember who you are or what you do. That’s your clue that they see this as a one-way street. You’re a source of free marketing, no more.

    1. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

      +100. OP #3, you’re doing all the giving in this relationship. And they can’t even be bothered to remember who you are?!

      I’d vote to let this one go.

    2. Feeling Used*

      Hi, I’m the writer of letter #3. You are exactly right, Joseph. It is entirely possible that they haven’t had an opportunity to refer work to me, but the least they could do is acknowledge that I’m clearly keeping them in mind and tell me that they are doing the same. It is disheartening to get an email that indicates that they are not doing the latter.

      1. BS Staff*

        If the relationship is unbalanced, it’s ok to wait for them to re-balance before you put more energy their way. Allison has great language on brushing them up on their professional engagement, and there isn’t much to indicate that setting limits on professional kindness is a bad thing. Ease into letting them being a solid support of a professional, collegial relationship.

  15. College Career Counselor*

    #4 Alison’s advice here is excellent. It’s too much work for you to do due diligence research/inquiry on every posting that comes your way. University Career Services offices don’t typically do this either (although if there is an alumni/parent connection, they will sometimes note this in the job posting). Most of the career services offices where I’ve worked over the last 20 years have something of a boilerplate caveat/disclaimer (because they get hundreds of listings annually and cannot possibly vet them all) that says something to the effect that they are “providing this listing as an informational service to students and alumni and does not constitute an endorsement of the opportunity. Prospective applicants are urged to consult with Career Services AND conduct their own research when applying to opportunities.”

    Clearly that came after consultation with university lawyers, so if you’re concerned about appearing to endorse/approve something, perhaps check with your department chair and/or university counsel. You could also decide to forward to career services those opportunities you don’t know anything about.

  16. caryatis*


    Yoga teacher training is typically something people do _when they want to be a yoga teacher_. Translation is also a potential career choice. So if you’re applying for jobs that are not in yoga or translation, you may indeed be sending the message that this career path is your second choice, and you’d really rather be in yoga/translation.

    I have no problem with someone who enjoys unemployment (if anything that would make me think you’re a generally cheery, optimistic person)–but make sure you’re framing it as spending more time with hobbies and interests and NOT pursuing alternate career paths.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      IDK that I agree with that. Almost every bootcamp/crossfit coach I’ve worked with had a traditional career, too. My favorite crossfit coach is an insurance adjuster! I think it’s fairly well known that a lot of fitness classes are taught before 8 am and after 5 pm. It may send a signal that you’re not the person who spends 12 hrs/day in the office and you’re not interested in being the road warrior type, but we don’t know that the OP’s career requires that anyway.

      1. caryatis*

        True, lots of yoga teachers have day jobs. But do you want to be talking about your plans for a second job at the interview for the first? (I also know that some people take teacher training just to improve, without planning to be a teacher–but I doubt the average interviewer knows that).

      2. Natalie*

        I doubt everyone is aware of that, though. I have heard the “how I got here” spiel from a lot of fitness instructors and while some mentioned their day jobs, and equal number mentioned how they left their day job to pursue their dream of teaching Underwater Kettlebell Meditation full time. If I heard a job applicant mention yoga teacher training it would be hard to determine which direction they were going.

        1. BS Staff*

          I’m now pondering Underwater Kettleball Meditation. My general thought is that fitness instruction matches up well with employers that have a strong wellness orientation, so, it depends. Generally gaps in employment are covered in a sentence or less in a cover letter, or have a brief mention during an interview, as people know gaps happen and are often beyond the applicant’s control. People generally want to -believe- that you’ve been taking care of yourself, but defer to focusing on information that is more strongly tied to work performance.

    2. Josie Prescott*

      Yes, this. The message is “I found a way to support myself and cope with the stress of unemployment, but I’m eager to get back to my regular career.”

    3. OP2*

      The yoga teacher training helps to deepen your knowledge of yoga and I’ve been practicing for 5 years. I have plenty of mates who will never teach because that’s not the reason why they signed up for it. However, it’s true that for an outsider it comes across differently.

      As for the translation, I speak a combination of languages that is not easy to find in the country I live in and not to accept the job would have meant also turning down the money that came with it. I wish it would, but this is not something that could become a career.

      I’ve been working in my field for 10 years and I wanted to keep myself busy in this period, grabbing every possibility to do something meaningful and/or earn some money.

      Your advice is really appreciated, thank you!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP, I’d still focus on the translation and volunteer work, and I’d mention yoga if they ask you about your personal interests/activities outside of work. (Congrats on completing training! It’s a fantastic accomplishment.)

  17. SJ*

    #1 – flats are totally okay, but I think the type of flat definitely matters, as Allison said. Flats with slightly pointier/elongated toe boxes always strike me as more professional than round-toe flats, which look a little more casual and ballet slipper-like. I also think matte leather or other matte materials look more professional than shiny patent leather types of shoes.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Eh, I think that’s all in the eye of the beholder. I can’t stand pointy-toed shoes, I think they look ridiculous, so that’s all I notice when I see a woman wearing a pair. Obviously I’m not going to knock someone down on my evaluation of them for liking a different type of shoe from me, but as someone who hates those shoes, I am not going to think someone with a round toe shoe looks less professional. I think it’s more about the overall design and fabric of the shoe. If it’s clearly supposed to be in the dressier/work-appropriate category, I’m not going to think they aren’t dressed up enough for the interview.

      But on the other hand there are people like you who have a very different idea of these things. So I guess my point is–wear something that isn’t definitely a casual shoe, and don’t worry about it otherwise. Whatever shoe you wear as a woman, there will be someone who doesn’t like it, but most people aren’t going to rate you lower as a potential employee over it.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I think you’re right – it’s the “dressier/work appropriate” category that matters. I generally don’t think the rounded toe, ballet flat type of shoe looks interview-worthy, but I do have one pair that looks fairly professional (contrasting materials with a toe cap and a buckle on the toe). My right big toe prevents me from wearing heels, and for the same reason makes pointy-toed shoes pretty uncomfortable. It’s hard to find a flat dress shoe that really looks as nice as a heel does, but as long as there isn’t a major faux pas (casual sandal, Sperrys, sneakers, going-out heels), I’m not going to nitpick shoes.

      2. SJ*

        Haha, I should have clarified I didn’t mean straight-up pointy toe shoes – they definitely hurt and can look ridiculous. I was just referring to shoes that narrow a bit at the toe box to a slightly pointier or squared off toe.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Ah, ok, I can agree with you there. Although I still think there are round toe shoes that look perfectly fine, like the kind AnotherAlison mentioned. There are a lot of casual ballet-flat type shoes that are definitely casual, I completely agree with you on that. But I still think it’s the overall presentation of the shoe, not the toe box alone. I am adopting Addie Bundren’s phrase below–it’s the overall shoe-ness of the shoe. :) However, thinking about all the different flats I’ve seen, I think that the more pointy or square toes tend to be on dressier flats. So my guess is that it isn’t so much that the round toe makes it seem less formal (for me, anyway) as it is that round toes tend to get put on more casual shoes.

          Y’all are just reminding me that I really need to buy some new comfortable shoes for work.

      3. Chaordic One*

        I agree with you. I have long narrow feet and think that the pointed toe styles further elongate my feet and make them appear bigger. They are just not flattering. I really prefer a rounded toe, which I think make my feet look a bit shorter . I also think shoes with rounded toes are more comfortable.

    2. Kelly L.*

      I like more of a squarish toe for work, but then I think my toe area is wider than most people’s. Pointy ones just look like ouch.

    3. Addie Bundren*

      Exactly this. And it’s not so much the actual roundedness of the toe (though I have noted that over the last two years in NYC it has shifted enough that I almost never see round-toe flats anymore–but certainly it’s different elsewhere) as the shoe-ness of the shoe. Flimsy slippers would not be acceptable in an interview the same way a thin dress really wouldn’t be.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        “the shoe-ness of the shoe”
        I am totally stealing this description. “That shoe will be fine, it’s very shoe-y.”

    4. WorkerBee*

      I’ll mention something else, here – you should definitely consider the cut of the pant leg when choosing a flat. A flared or bootcut leg looks best with a pointed-toe or almond-toe flat as you don’t want your foot to disappear underneath your pant leg! If the pant leg is straight or skinny, any toe shape looks good.

      Also worth mentioning – have you tried a wedge? I love a wedge – gives you a bit of height while maintaining stability. I have many pairs of almond-toe wedges (mine are 3″) that I wear to work, which are comfortable all day (I am on my feet a lot, too) & they look nothing but professional.

      Source: I am an admitted shoeaholic & Pinterest infographic addict. :)

      1. Can't Handle Heels (OP1)*

        I can do wedges but most of the ones I’ve found that work are either super casual or super dressy, and not super professional.

        And yes, I’m planning on making sure they look good with the suit pants I have, that does make a huge difference.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is going to out me as totally bougie, but I have a pair of Cole Haan wedges that have Nike Air soles, and I love them. They have a heel of about 2″, look totally professional, are ridiculously comfortable, and were super discounted (think over 50% off) because they were going out of season… but my experience is that the style will recirculate and go on sale, again.

          This is of course only if you’re looking for wedges going forward :) Otherwise, viva flats!

    5. Lady Bug*

      There are flat shoes that look professional with round toes. Like oxfords (my fave, though I usually go heeled), mary janes etc. work great with pants. I think the material is the most important factor. A solid flat with arch support made from a sturdy material, as opposed to the type of flats you can fold up in your purse.

  18. PK*

    #5. I’d give it back personally. You got a single manager’s ‘maybe’ response multiple times and they obviously had other things to check before feeling comfortable enough to say “Yes…it’s yours”. I don’t know about the legalities and I’m not a lawyer but it just doesn’t feel quite right to me. You don’t have anything in writing for it either and I think the email will largely be ignored much like your calls. I’d be waiting for the other shoe to drop and the company suddenly contacting me wanting it. I just don’t think it’s been cleared enough for me to be personally comfortable to keep it unless it was clearly in writing.

    I’ve witnessed a similar situation when someone was leaving and their laptop computer. Manager said they could keep it when it turned out they didn’t have the authority to do it. When IT came to employee to check their equipment back in at end of last day, employee was livid that she had to give it up (and no longer had any time to move files, etc). They were nice enough to pull some personal stuff off of it for her before they rebuilt it though but I know she walked away with a nasty taste in her mouth.

  19. Spooky*

    OP 2 – I don’t mean to be rude about this, but if you’re looking for things that could be standing in the way of getting a job, there’s another glaring one from your letter: grammar. This is the section that’s a huge red flag for me (I’m a professional copywriter): “Although I’ve never been in line for 100% with the requirements in neither of the positions…”

    Now, I know we all make typos all the time, but if this is the kind of grammar you use in interviews and cover letters, that’s a problem. There are too many prepositions, the ones that are there fight each other, “neither” refers to two items but your previous sentence you imply more, etc. I don’t want to break it all down here because I’m honestly not trying to attack you – we get lots of international commenters, so for all I know English might not even be your first language – but if the positions you’re applying for are English-speaking ones, it might be worth it to enroll in a grammar course. These are things that might get you thrown out of the candidate pool, and I’d hate to think you were being disqualified for something fixable. I’m sure you can find lots of quick courses online -it’s worth a try!

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        I don’t know, when it’s done in a snarky way, or just to correct them because it bugs you, that’s one thing. There is no purpose to that, except to make the OP feel badly, and makes sense to have it as a rule of the comment section.

        However, Spooky is pointing out something that is correctable that might honestly be preventing the OP from getting jobs. Spooky did it gently, and qualified it in different ways, but her basic point is very, very true. It’s one of the #1 rules of applying for jobs for a reason.

        1. Kelly L.*

          We generally accept that people are writing less formally for this blog than for their applications, though–less proofreading, more slang, etc.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yeah, I agree with Kelly L. It is a safe assumption that nobody is proofreading letters to Alison the way they would their cover letters and resumes. Most people write more casually online than they do in formal documents like resumes/cover letters and aren’t so worried about being technically correct.

        3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Alison has addressed this previously. She has asked us not to correct or nitpick the grammar or writing of the LWs (but appreciates it when readers catch typos/etc. in her own writing).

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          She has gotten 2 interviews in 10 months. You may be right, and I thought of that too, but I don’t think that’s a high enough ratio to be “proof” it’s not her writing.

      2. Jesmlet*

        I don’t think we can automatically assume that this is written the same way a cover letter or resume would be written by OP. It’s a casual email seeking advice. With that said, I think this was pointed out in the most polite way possible and is a potentially helpful thing to mention. These do seem like grammatical mistakes a non English-as-a-first-language speaker would make… if they’re in another country obviously it’s not relevant. If they are in a predominantly English speaking country, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to just be a little more careful when writing because it’s probably something that gets factored in at some point in the hiring process.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I think Spooky’s *wording* was perfectly polite, but I really don’t think we should be giving unsolicited writing advice to the letter writers. I don’t think the comment falls into the category of nitpicking people’s grammar (which would violate Alison’s commenting rules) because it’s trying to be helpful rather than just nitpicking. But if it were me, I would hesitate to write in for advice to a site where my writing would get publicly picked on as a reason I’m not getting jobs when that wasn’t what my question was about. Since several of you disagree with me, I’m thinking I may be in the minority on this one.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Eh, I agree in general with that, but OP is specifically asking for advice on something that might potentially be turning interviewers off. While she has her suspicions on what it could be, this is another alternative. I think it’s probably borderline as to how far off topic it is.

            As an aside, my mother has been in this country 25 years but still makes a lot of grammatical mistakes and gets super offended when we give unsolicited corrections. On the other hand, I have a coworker who’s been here for a shorter amount of time that openly welcomes corrections. Maybe you’re right that when you don’t know how it will be interpreted (helpful vs critical), it’s probably best to just not mention it.

            1. fposte*

              For me the deciding point here is that the host of the space has asked us not to do it, because it discourages people from writing in. And I want people to keep writing in.

              1. Jesmlet*

                You’re right, point taken.

                It’s a bad habit of mine to default to defending the minority point of view (which I think Spooky is in). I should really work on that…

    1. OP2*

      English is not my first language and is usually not required for my job. So no, it won’t be this, but thank you anyway for the advice.

  20. peachie*

    Agree on the shoes! I think a good-quality loafer can look even more polished than a heel. My Everlane loafers have held up well enough for me to use them for regular work days and for interviews–I definitely recommend them if you’re looking.

    With either, I think the material and shape are far more important than heel height. Ballet flats always read young to me, especially the ones that are have rounded toes and are very flat. I’d look for something suede or leather (not patent–I think that can also read younger than intended) with structure, an almond-shaped toe box, and a solid sole/heel.*

    Semi-related–I’m so glad low chunky heels are back! I often find them even more comfortable than flats and I’m all about not snapping my ankle in half. :)

    (also, btw, in my ideal world women would not have to try to figure out how to look:
    – professional but not too stuffy
    – not too young but definitely not too old
    – stylish, but not too out-there or trendy
    – feminine, but not too ‘girly’
    every time we seek employment, especially in roles where looks beyond “clean and groomed” are irrelevant, but unfortunately that’s how it is.)

    1. Addie Bundren*

      I’ve been thinking of Everlane for this! Their shoes make me feel way more businesslike (and stylish) than heels ever have.

  21. CBH*

    OP#3 I am annoyed for you! I loved Alison’s response. I also think commenters CDM and Joseph are on target with how to respond. I would consider calling out Company X; mention you speak to each other at Teapot Convention every year; you have had similar email/ phone conversations in January, March, May and June in this year alone; you have referred Persons A, B, C but to the best of your knowledge have yet to get a referral from them in all the years of communication. Then follow up with Alison’s suggestion in asking was there something specific they wanted to discuss, if not you have already said what you wanted to discuss in previous conversations. As professional as possible let them know you are open to a two-way-street professional relationship but that you are (rightfully so) frustrated. I would use their response to figure out how to proceed in the future.

    To me it sounds like they are trying to ride on the coat tails of your success but not do any of the work. You seem like you are someone who in part is successful because you pay attention to detail. If Company X wants to grow they need to pay attention to details as well. It almost seems when at your conference and Company X had the “a ha” moment, they were just playing along. My only caution is that I would phrase things in such a way to leave a door open/ be polite. You may not want to deal with Company X in the future, but you may one day deal with their future-former employees. Keeping a polite, professional, good attitude on you end (which it sounds like you are already doing) will go a long way.

    On a side note, In addition to my day job I run a small hobby business on a few websites; I had emailed someone I had bought supplies from a few times. I mentioned how we met, that I was impressed with their product and had recommended them to a few other people, just an FYI. From that one little email came numerous referrals between the two of us. Networking takes time and effort to build relationships but it should not be as difficult, absent minded and cold-attitude as Company X is making it. Please keep us updated on your progress!

  22. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, if you hate the heels, get rid of them! If you keep them, get them fixed up; shoe repair is pretty cheap and way more affordable than buying a new pair. But don’t do that thing where you never get them fixed because subconsciously you want a good reason not to wear them. That just means 1) a pair of shoes you don’t want and won’t wear is cluttering up your space and 2) if you DID need to wear them in a hurry, you’d be stuck with a beat-up pair.

    1. Can't Handle Heels (OP1)*

      I’m sure that I will purge at some point. The heels were relatively comfortable (still not great) and were incredibly cheap so I don’t think repair is the way to go, though I have found that shoe repair places can extend the life of shoes I love!

  23. Cold Emailer*

    OP#4 I was one of those people cold emailing professors once upon a time. Sorry, I know it was annoying. I think it’s probably fine to forward them, but I just want to encourage you to use the disclaimer AAM suggested. To be frank, the place I was recruiting with was predatory. It wasn’t a scam or an MLM, just a terrible terrible job that sold itself as something it wasn’t and a lot of students had bad experiences with my workplace. I had a lot of students file in and out who assumed that the place was totally on the up and up because they thought their professor was actually recommending them. They didn’t ask questions as a result.

    If you make it clear that you just received the job posting but you recommend they research the company first, I think that will take care of a lot of the issue. Maybe you could even link them to a couple of articles on how to research/screen jobs.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      On the flip side of this, some of us are totally legit and nice places to work. :) I recruit for a few positions that require a degree not normally found in our typical candidates, and my HR recruiter has contacted a number of college professors/departments when we have open positions for people of their majors. It has actually been our most successful form of recruiting.

      I would be totally fine with having a disclaimer added to our descriptions, but I am also grateful for the professors that have passed along our jobs and led us to some wonderful hires, particularly when we are off schedule for spring graduation (e.g., hiring in October rather than May).

  24. Natalie*

    For LW #2, I wonder if one issue is just how much time you’re spending talking about each activity. My impression was always that this question is essentially “demonstrate to me that you’re not super lazy,” in which case you don’t have to catalogue each activity in detail. And talking about them for too long could be giving the impression that the activity is your real interest.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Come to think of it: What IS the point of this question? Like, what useful information are employers hoping to gain from having asked it? It is mostly to capture any new or improved skills or experience that might not be captured on a resume?

      When I was unemployed in 2009, I didn’t do much that an employer would find productive. I trained for a half-marathon, worked a very part-time contract gig (which was on my resume), looked for jobs, carried more of the load of household responsibilities, worried about our finances and felt ashamed that I couldn’t get hired, and otherwise went about my life. I continued the civic activities that I’d always done, but I didn’t add anything. I don’t remember having to describe all of that when I was interviewing, thank goodness.

      1. Marisol*

        Well all that stuff sounds extremely productive to me. I’m not a hiring manager, but I would imagine that’s the kind of thing an interviewer would want to hear, at least as opposed to telling someone you sat on the couch and caught up with the soap operas.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The point of asking is mainly to get a sense of why there’s a gap in employment and if that gap is intentional. Sometimes folks who are fired are a little dodgy about disclosing that, but it can come up in a question about “what have you been up to.”

        For what it’s worth, I generally don’t look for proof that a person wasn’t being lazy, but rather, that they spent the time as they wanted to spend it. Sometimes people take time out for caretaking responsibilities, to travel, to decompress or get their Wild/Eat-Pray-Love on, to take on essential household management issues, etc., etc. I know other hiring managers prefer to see that a candidate was spending time in pursuit of **their career** (imagine that being said in a TV-style “God voice”). YMMV.

  25. BS Staff*

    For the professor – I work on a campus as staff, and if you are not sure about the out-of-the-blue request, forward the email to your career services/job placement office. They can vet the request and develop a more robust partnership between the employer and the campus – as well as sort out the junk so you don’t have to.

  26. Milton Waddams*

    #4: Good on you! I think many people aren’t aware exactly how many scammers and schemers specifically target college students as a source of gullible skilled labor due to their relative innocence.

    One way is to look for signs that the email you received is part of a form letter. Even people long at out college seem to fall for this, such as when they submit their resume to a job board and a recruiter from an unrelated field immediately contacts them, with no thought of the phrase “automated response”.

    While not exhaustive, as bad reviews can be removed for pay, a quick glance at Glassdoor might tell if the company has a history of hiring college students and using them up.

  27. Not a Lawyer or a Know-It-All*

    Man. The cattiness and know-it-all-ness today is insane!

    Why not just give back the phone? It can’t be important enough to you that you’re considering the risk of prosecution an acceptable risk, can it?

    1. Uzumaki Naruto*

      I’m a lawyer, and I disagree. They negotiated it as part of their severance, they are swapping in their own SIM card so as to avoid using company data, they followed up to confirm, and they acted in good faith. Finally, if the company wants it back, they just have to ask for it — at that point we could have a conversation about whether there’s a contractual or reliance, and whose contractual or equitable rights entitle them to the phone. But this does not look like criminal theft, and even if it did, a prosecutor would not bring charges on these facts. The “risk of prosecution” is vanishingly close to zero here.

    2. Statler von Waldorf*

      The irony of this username is almost killing me. We’ve had several lawyers in this thread state definitively that the legal risk here is almost non-existent. Why do you believe that your non-lawyer opinion is more valid? (Hint: It’s not.) It’s almost as if you think … you know it all.

    3. Observer*

      But why are you assuming the risk of prosecution? The reality is that in the US the risk of prosecution is essentially nil, and from what the OP says, it doesn’t sound any higher where she is.

    4. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Ditto the other posters – there isn’t a risk of prosecution. Theft is a crime with specific elements, and those elements do *not* include “my manager told me I could keep a phone, this one or a different one, and told me to hang on to this one for now, and now I am having trouble reaching him.”

  28. animaniactoo*

    LW2, I suspect the issue is not even too many things, but more that the interviewers are looking for an answer that strengthens your candidacy with them – particularly if you know you don’t “100%” meet their requirements.

    So an answer that would serve you better is probably something along the lines of “I’ve taken the time to pursue a couple of personal projects, and have been doing research into/taken a class for X relevant-to-the-position-thing while I’ve continued to look for a new position” and then the pivot that Alison advises back to what you’re excited about in this particular position that you’re applying for.

    What you’d be saying here essentially translates to “I wasn’t idle, I did life stuff, but I ALSO did this thing that makes me a better candidate/employee for you. Oh, and I didn’t just go off to pursue those other things. I’ve been looking for a new position the whole time yes I really do want to work, and here’s why I want to work for you I didn’t just apply because I’m hard up and desperate either”. If they want to know what your personal projects are, they’ll ask and you can give more specifics then.

  29. Marisol*

    OP #1, my only caveat on the flats is: do make sure they look professional. When I see flats on women in the office, what I usually see is rounded-toe, floppy ballet flats, and my personal opinion is that it looks sloppy. I would try to get something structured, stiff enough where you can’t see the outline of toes, something with a bit of shine or sheen to it, rather than say, suede, and something with more of a pointy toe. You can get a pointy toe that is comfortable and doesn’t squeeze your toes–they do exist. I would also forego the ones with big jewels or sequin decorations–that’s the other kind of flat I typically see where I work, and to me it is more of a shoe to wear with a party dress; although retailers are pushing all manner of rhinestone- and sequin-ornamented attire as work wear, it looks ridiculous to me.

      1. Observer*

        Lots of flats look unprofessional – but so do lots of heels. Fortunately, we’re at a point where a woman can be considered professional looking in flats. It’s HIGH time.

  30. Al who is that Al*

    As so many other people have been pointing out ( ta! ), my original post was about the damage you do to yourself when wearing heels. Like I said in the post, wearing them can improve the way you look if you want to look a certain way. The point I was making was why run the high ( sorry couldn’t resist it) risk of damage and injury when there are many alternatives out there. I don’t know of any other form of attire or footwear that actually damages you….except if we travel back in time to corsets.
    Us blokes are lucky – one form of attire virtually unchanged for a 100 years and no-one gives a monkeys if we wear the same outfit everyday. We don’t even have to wear ties anymore.

    1. Candi*

      You don’t read Cracked, do you? :p

      “6 Popular Fashion Trends That Killed People”

      Corsets are on there, heels aren’t.

  31. WerkingIt*

    OP3 – I am currently consulting. I worked with someone on a project a few years ago. I didn’t love her, but it was a niche project and I remembered her. When a peer discussion group I lead asked for potential people in a certain field,I mentioned that I had worked with her and she may be worth chatting with. I put her in contact with potentially dozens of clients. I told her to feel free to share my info as well, she said that ” with all due respect, I really do try to stay out of that. ”

    Whhaaaaaatt? Couldn’t even fake it. And I get referrals all the time. My clients are very happy with me. So she’s dead to me. That’s what networking is. So if these people are helping you, drop them.

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