update: I am the nepotism hire who no one likes

Remember the letter-writer last year who had a job she wasn’t qualified for because her dad was the CEO, and her coworkers disliked her as a result? Here’s the update.

Thanks for all the advice. I took it very much to heart, and it did make me feel better seeing that yes, this was an impossible situation. Plan was to pick up as much as I could while keeping an eye out for a job, ANY job, that I could leave my current position for.

I assembled several training programs, or at least managed to get enough for rough drafts. I put a candy / nuts / snacks dish on my desk. (Straight-up bribery worked way better than it should have on alleged adults.) I studied, trying to get as many broad-application office and tech-writing skills up as I could before I left.

It all worked for a while. I got better. Kept busy. At least people don’t low-key resent me anymore.

But I ran out of material to work on. And they ran out of material to give me. And then, I really COULDN’T leave:

In late summer, my long-distance, chronically ill partner suddenly lost their support. They were homeless, jobless, and sick. I was afraid for their life.

So they moved in with me. I blew all our savings on getting a new place for us. (Thanks, ex-roommate, for rescinding our agreement to share the house when my partner was already homeless and in transit.) I can’t afford a candy dish anymore, much less a job search, loss of healthcare, and a pay cut. So Operation: Job Hunt is temporarily shelved.

My partner’s health is still in recovery. They’re getting better, but for now it’s just me working. They will absolutely support me quitting when we can afford it. Right now, though, they need me. And work doesn’t feel half so terrible now, for two reasons:

1) My partner is wonderful, and having some unconditional love and support at home makes me feel worlds better. I don’t have any real friends in this area. Part of my problem before was simple loneliness. If I’d had the energy, I probably would have felt better just by volunteering or joining a club on the weekends.

2) I realized my value as an employee isn’t writing materials, it’s protecting uninterrupted work time. I do training about every other week, answer the doorbell a few times a day, and in doing so allow more employees to do their actual job. In between, if I can’t stay busy, I try to look busy. It’s boring, but at least I know I have a purpose.

{ 95 comments… read them below }

  1. always in email jail*

    I’m glad to hear you’ve found some personal solace in your current situation.

    Have you considered taking this time to finish University? You mentioned in your original letter that you had dropped out. Maybe your current job will offer you a flexible schedule or some other accommodation to help you accomplish that? Once you have a degree and the work experience from this job, it will be much easier to find yourself another situation.

    Good luck!

      1. k*

        Another comment brought up the idea of online classes that OP could do while at work; most accredited schools offer some kind of online or distance options. Obviously cost is going to be a big issue, but local community colleges can be a great option for lower cost education. You could get an associates degree completed there, or take classes that could be transferred to another school to complete a bachelors degree (dependent on how far OP got in university and what type of degree she’d like to complete).

        So many jobs won’t even look at an applicant without a degree, so having one or currently being enrolled in school could help open up doors.

        1. Kyrielle*

          And if cost is a barrier, it doesn’t help with the degree, but a lot of very good online options for free exist – no degree, but you could still be gaining skills.

          1. Parenthetically*

            A lot of good free options are available, absolutely, including some that might enable OP to test out of a few 100- and 200-level courses. I don’t know what’s out there now, but when I was in uni (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) I was able to test straight into some advanced courses in my degree track, which freed up a ton of time and money.

    1. Raddest (Letter Writer)*

      I do have an Associate’s in Liberal Arts from community college, but my major in university was Illustration, and virtually none of the credits even transfer.

      Maybe someday I’ll go back to school, but right now I just don’t have the money or energy to spare. By the time I get a paycheck I usually have between four and eight dollars in the bank. (To be fair, this winter has been exceptionally harsh and I got snowed in at home a lot. Hard to rack up extra cash from overtime when your two-week pay period is missing two days.)

      1. copy run start*

        I know you don’t have the time, but something to consider if that changes is that not having money = aid. Since you don’t have a bachelor’s yet the aid options are pretty open.

      2. Sam*

        So you did the AA, transferred, and then essentially had to start over because you were doing more of a professional program? It sounds like revisiting school isn’t an option right now, but if you decide to do so in the future, keep in mind that graduating quickly is the top priority for many “non-traditional” students returning to school – the degree is very much a means to an end. If that applies to you, it might be worth discussing it with academic advisors at your local uni. If it’s a public institution, they probably work with many people in your situation – I know I did when I was in that kind of role. (Side note: be sure to talk to advisors, not just admissions. A decent student affairs professional will care most about you making the right decision for you.)

        I’m going to second the note about financial aid. This very much depends on the uni, but they may have good aid packages and I’ve even encountered scholarships specifically available to returning students. Good luck, OP!

      3. Mb13*

        Hey op I have a ba in illustratortion and currently working as a freelance designer. As much as I loved art school I wouldn’t recommend you going back unless you have a scholarship. It can be incredibly expensive and unlike other degrees and job fields, in the art field people aren’t impressed that you have a dagree they only care about how good your portfolio is. If you have a plenty of downtime at work try and see if you can get free lance jobs, do sketches for finished work so you can buff up your portfolio, read art books etc.

  2. Lemon Zinger*

    OP, you need to use your downtime to apply for jobs. You can’t afford to NOT job-hunt at this point.

    1. Chriama*

      I suspect that the issue is, as a family hire, she’s getting paid a lot more at her dad’s company than she would get for the jobs she’s qualified for elsewhere. Unfortunately, I don’t think this job will really lead to a higher level job, so she’ll probably have to make a lateral move. If it takes 6 more months to save up enough to be able to do that I think that’s ok.
      But I would recommend she do everything she can right now to be a more desirable candidate when she leaves. Finishing university is a big one, another option would be to take some online classes (either paid or free) and look for tech writing internships, even if they’re unpaid.
      I’m not sure how similar tech writing is to stuff but I’m always hearing about people who get started in writing careers by writing for content mills. Building up a portfolio of paid, published work would hopefully be valuable if she wants to have a career in tech writing, even if it’s not totally related, right?

      1. beetrootqueen*

        The thing is an unpaid internship wouldn’t help in Ops current situation. They need the money at the moment hence them staying in the job

        1. Chriama*

          I meant an unpaid internship while she continues to work at her current company. The benefit OP’s current position affords her is flexibility and financial stability. It comes at the cost of relevant work experience. So I’m suggesting she take advantage of the former to somehow accumulate the latter.

          1. Overeducated*

            Unpaid internships for professional positions that you can do entirely outside of regular business hours aren’t common, are they?

      2. sunny-dee*

        Eh, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the content mills. I’ve done some very cheap writing through projects on Guru and it was great to build up my portfolio, but the mills want (for example) 100 800-word articles that you research yourself for $2 each. No freaking way that it’s worth the stress or time.

        1. K.*

          Agreed. Content mills are OK if you need to fill your portfolio with something, but not if you want to make an actual living writing.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Even the cheap stuff I did was waaaaaay better than the content mills. I’m talking $50 for an 800 word article. It’s not going to pay the rent (unless you do a lot), but it’s better than $2 per. You can find that kind of stuff, too; I’d just steer clear of the true sweatshops.

            I’m having freelancing flashbacks now….

  3. Chriama*

    I remember having *very* strong feelings about Alison’s recommendation in that letter. But looking back now, I agree with her. It was a safe landing place when you needed one, but you’re at risk of stagnating now. In 6 months you’ve not really gone forward in life or your career. I understand that you’ve had a series of crises and are still in recovery mode, but what’s the long-term plan? Finishing a university degree would be pretty valuable, especially if you can get any sort of internship or co-op program through the school. And considering you don’t have enough work to fill your day, taking classes online would probably be doable. I would look into that.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. Or even doing skills based coursework so you learn for example bookkeeping skills, grant writing skills, mastery of excel and other software. Now more than ever you need to be thinking about how to leverage the situation to prepare you to be a more valuable employee. And just doing something worthwhile in your downtime will give a boost to your self confidence.

    2. Sympathy*

      I don’t think it’s true that she hasn’t gone forward in her life. It’s possible to gain life experience without getting a promotion.

      1. Tiger Snake*

        Gone forward in her working life, then. At the moment, OP’s playing a sort of secretarial role for her co-workers; handling the little day-to-day annoying overheads where she can so that they can do the ‘real’ work.
        That isn’t going to develop her into a skilled employee of her industry, and so she needs to start on a game plan that will.

  4. MoinMoin*

    I know this isn’t a “great” update, but there are some good things here. It’s nice to know your coworkers are at least a little susceptible to your overtures of friendliness- would it be possible to reach out to some of the busier ones and ask if there are tasks with which you can help? Really, I thought the only option for a happy ending was for you to get a new job. So I’m seriously impressed that you managed to make any social/professional headway at all.
    And I’m sorry about your partner and butthead roommate, but I’m glad you have someone supportive at home and I hope they recover soon.

    1. JennyFair*

      Oh, I really like this advice to offer help to busy colleagues. Skill-learning and buddy-making all at once.

      1. OhNo*

        Me too, this is a great idea. OP might have to pick their targets carefully (since pricklier coworkers might take this badly, especially if they already have a low opinion of OP), but it could be done.

        Definitely keep your ears open to see if you hear anyone complaining about a task you think you can help with. You’ll usually have better luck with this if you offer to help with a specific task, that you are reasonably sure they won’t mind giving up.

  5. Venus Supreme*

    I hope your partner recovers fully and they continue to keep you in good spirits. I think their illness/your financial situation shouldn’t make your progress come to a full-stop. I’d still devote at least minimal time per week for job hunting or returning to school. Keep going!

    1. Raddest (Letter Writer)*

      I’m just on pause for now. My partner’s getting through a pretty difficult stage of recovering their health, and knowing I won’t be fired if I leave work half an hour early to pick up Immodium is worth some slow hours at work. I absolutely can’t job hunt at work, but I could work harder at educating myself again.

      I’ll be all right. Winter’s always pretty hard on me. I get cold easily but I like gardening and getting outside, and this was my first winter where that just wasn’t possible. I couldn’t take walks or get any real daylight because my only available shoes are canvas sneakers with holes in them.

  6. k*

    Since you have downtime at work, that is really a good time to job hunt. You can “look busy” at work by being busy researching the companies you’re applying to and the average salary for the positions you’re looking at. You are in a position where you are not desperate to take any job that comes along, and can take the time to only apply to jobs that you really want, and offer the pay and benefits that you need.

    1. An Account Executive*

      Yes! What are they going to do, fire you? As long as you’re not bothering anyone, and putting actual work first, this would be a great solution.

  7. sunny-dee*

    Re the candy dish — it is a lot less about bribing people and a lot more about showing that you are open and giving and creating a space for people to connect with you. My friend has a nepotism hire at her job (and she said this chick is legit awful) but one of the things that people gripe about the most is that she doesn’t participate in team lunches or come and chat with everyone when someone brings in donuts or baked goods. It’s not about the eating; it’s the camaraderie.

    1. B*

      Exactly what I was coming here to say. It’s not bribery, it’s showing that you are open and wanting to talk to others, you want to be a part of the organization and talk to your fellow employees. The candy dish helps to drop a layer of what people think and try to see you in a slightly different way.

      1. Raddest (Letter Writer)*

        Work actually has an excellent food culture. People don’t feel pressured to share, but they often do anyway, and I have never heard of food theft issues. Even people who didn’t like candy or nuts seemed to appreciate that I wanted to be helpful in any capacity.

      2. LawCat*

        Agreed. OP, please try to adjust your thinking about the people you work with and do not think of them as “alleged adults” when they respond positively to an overture that they are probably reasonably seeing as positive and kind , but that you have characterized as bribery.

          1. Mario*

            Especially since it’s your dad who got you your job. The rest of those “alleged adults” didn’t do that.

        1. Killing Time in a Food Court*

          I feel like ascribing a bad/condescending attitude based on that is a little harsh, especially because OP’s general attitude has been “I don’t belong here and these people do.” I just read it as a commentary on how people, in general, often aren’t as dignified/mature as a lot of us pretend.

          As an example, I have a friend who works in an elementary school and regularly calls the teachers “alleged adults,” and it’s got nothing to do with contempt and everything to do with walking in on mock-swordfights in the breakroom. (Using, I think, toys confiscated from the students to prevent student swordfights.) So I didn’t read that as a dig at OP’s coworkers, just amusement.

          1. Julia*

            Yeah. Sometimes, it’s weird to realise that even though we’re all adults now, we still occasionally act like kids. Distracted by the candy or the shiny, hangry like a toddler etc. It’s normal, but when you think you were the only one like that, it’s surprising.


    First, Sorry I didn’t comment the first time around.

    Second, that you found a purpose in your role is great!!

    Third, Life throws us some pretty big curves and not at our choosing. Glad your partner is recovering.

    Fourth, I’ve come to expect when CEOs own companies, their relatives will occasionally work there. At Best Buy, when Dick Schultz was running the company, his daughter was VP in HR and his son worked in Merchandising. His wife owned the land on which most Best Buy stores sit. I think his other daughter or else her husband(his son-in-law) worked at the company too.

    At Carlson Companies, Curt Carlson’s namesake grandson by his daughter Marilyn Carlson Nelson worked at the company. His self-destruction of his career there when Marilyn was CEO is well documented. Her husband, Dr. Nelson, founded Medtronic. Curt’s other daughter, Barbarba Carlson Gage, her husband worked at Carlson Companies until he got fed up and started his own marketing firm, Gage Marketing.

    Even at my own company, which is publicly traded, several higher-ups have to list in the annual reports which of their relatives work here or do business with us. I could go on, but I’ve come to expect it.

    Consider this – Marilyn Carlson Nelson had no business experience yet she was tapped to replace Curt Carlson when he retired and you know what? She did very well by the company. Why? Because she had developed a network and social skills doing community & arts organizing. She may not have worked at a business, but when your father and your husband are CEOs of nation-wide companies, you learn to hobnob and deal.

      1. NACSACJACK*

        :) lets leave it at “presumed” *wink, wink*, shall we? But then how could I have first hand knowledge of the first company and either second or third hand of the third company. Hmmmm

  9. beetrootqueen*

    get back on your feet before going job hunting again. Start looking a bit but don’t feel you have to move until your good and ready.
    Life stuff happens and it’s far more important to get on track there than move right now

    1. Bwmn*

      Completely agree. As someone who’s been through a few very protracted job hunts, periods of time where I’m job hunting “a little” have ultimately made the process feel like it’s unending and more exhausting. Acknowledging that a month or season will need to be focused on something else and isn’t job hunting time has helped me renew my searches when a period passes. If I feel like “I’ve been job hunting since June – when in reality from September to November I really wasn’t doing much – I’ve never found that helpful.

      However, I do think that things around finishing a university degree if that’s possible or something smaller like taking an Excel class could be very productive.

  10. LittleLove*

    It is a amazing the good will a candy dish can provide. The one on the photographer’s desk in the newsroom is sometimes the only thing providing sanity and allowing us to actually get the paper out every day. Check out clearance sales after candy holidays like Valentine’s Day. Sometimes just a trickle of cheap chocolate can win a lot of friends.

    1. (Another) B*

      I hear you about getting the paper out. I used to work at a newspaper and it was the little things that got us through it! It’s a job that you gotta love.

    2. Kyrielle*

      If you do this, also see if you can find candy people like but don’t love. Chocolate is going to vanish like you were dropping it into a hot fire, any place I’ve ever worked. Butterscotch hard candies will get resentful looks, at least in the last office I worked in, and hang around until they fossilize. But a mix of “okay, but not excellent” candies can be enough of an overture, without being so attractive (and so expensive) that they cost too much.

      And even if you do this, don’t be afraid to let it go empty. Having it start out full at the beginning of the week or month, and slowly empty, and then stay that way to the next budget cycle, will still serve as an overture – and also a gentle message that perhaps the candy is not limitless or free-to-you. :)

      1. Camellia*

        Also, don’t refill it at night, it’s too easy for someone/anyone to come by and empty it. Refill it in the morning.

        1. NPO Queen*

          I am the most popular lady in the office because of my candy dish. Sometimes people remember what I had in there months ago, and I get recommendations too (which I don’t take unless people are willing to contribute).

          I don’t always have candy out; as you said, it can be an expensive habit. But I do always have my candy bowl out, and whenever someone stops by, I try to be friendly and make small talk. A few times, I’d come to work in the morning to see that someone filled up my dish when I was gone! That’s always a nice treat. I agree that chocolate is gonna go fast. Things like Jolly Ranchers and Worther’s caramels don’t go nearly as quickly. Also, I only buy candy on sale, which is why my jar sometimes has dry spells. Amazon is a great source for candy sales, and you get huge amounts as well. I tend to only put out a handful of candy at one time; that way, I control my supply.

          You are the one who has ultimate control over this candy dish. If you want to fill it, then do. If you can’t afford it, then don’t, or only fill it when you have a bit of extra. It’s a great way to soften your image and get people to warm up to you, but you can’t make yourself suffer for it. Good luck OP, your situation isn’t great, but you have many good things going for you.

        2. Artemesia*

          I had a candy dish and found that over time, the people who sucked up the goodies tended to pitch in with a bag of candy from time to time. And the after holiday sales are great. Valentine’s day is coming up and the day after there will be half off Valentines candy.

      2. Lady Julian*

        I love butterscotch hard candies and would probably eat them even if they were fossilized. :) A few weeks ago, I tried Jolly Ranchers as the “like but don’t love” candy for my jar, but it turned out that somebody down the hall LOVED them, and would help themselves regularly. They went pretty quickly!

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      The candy dish totally backfired on me at my current job. Coworkers basically just came into my office to take candy without saying anything, not even small talk. They’d empty the bowl when I wasn’t in the office. And some even started raiding my drawers and taking my granola bars when there wasn’t candy on the desk! Instead of growing real relationships, some people just saw me as a food source and I grew to resent them for it.

      1. AnitaJ*

        That sucks! I get mad when someone takes my Lean Cuisine from the freezer, and that’s usually an accident. I would be furious if someone rifled through my stuff.

    4. NewsPup*

      Hi fellow reporters! Agreed that newsroom candy is literally a job requirement. Also just tickled to see it’s a pretty much universal thing. To OP: I know sometimes when the candy bowl runs dry, other people will fill it. Leave it up, see if anyone feels guilty about their candy consumption (i.e. me. I do this all the time). And do job search, you’ll find something new if you keep looking just a little bit each day.

    5. Raddest (Letter Writer)*

      Pistachios were everyone’s favorite by far, but a lot of people loved it when I brought in Mary Janes. They’re a molasses and peanut butter candy I only ever find at the dollar store. Not everyone likes it, but the sketchy-looking wrapper made people laugh.

  11. Employment Lawyer*

    One possibility (depending on your ability and future) is to become expert–and I mean EXPERT–in programs which are very frequently underused.

    Microsoft Office comes to mind. So does Windows. Both are very amenable to study; are useful to almost all organizations; and are great to have.

    1. k*

      Wonderful idea! There are lots of free tutorials and resources online to help learn these types of things. Not only will OP learn a useful skill, but it will help from being driven crazy from boredom when there’s nothing to do at work.

      I would suggest OP look at job listings for things you think you’d like, and see if there are programs or skills that are mentioned frequently.

    2. peachie*

      This is a great idea! Excel in particular can do so, SO much more than most people think (and familiarizing yourself with it can be an entryway into more technical data work).

    3. Bwmn*

      I mentioned Excel in my initial post – but everything around Microsoft Office can be very helpful. It may also be far easier to start classes like that rather than return to university course work.

    4. Ya Heard With Perd*

      With technical writing I’d say spend some time mastering Adobe Acrobat and InDesign. And JavaScript.

      1. Raddest (Letter Writer)*

        My partner wants to teach me programming and is also very, very good with higher-level Excel functions. Once they’re feeling better more often, that’s where I’ll start. (It’s also one of the only things I can practice at work. Because I’m not supposed to do anything but Work Things on the work computer, even though I have zero work to even DO.)

        The technical writing is largely about mechanical engineering, not software, but they’re both useful fields to be familiar with.

        1. Borgette*

          Hey, this is my area! Most of my work is focused on numbers, spreadsheets, and graphs; and I’m slooooowly getting more and more into programming. I also have a lot of downtime to fill at work, and do a lot of skill building in that time. I’ve spent a lot of downtime on codecademy, Edx, and the Excel subreddit, which count as Work Things for me, because they teach me skills that make me more valuable to my employer.

          (I think most managers would say yes to a request like this: “Hey manager, when I have downtime I would like to use [learning website with a safe track record] to learn [valuable skill]. Learning [valuable skill] would let me handle [real task] for you and [safe website] has a good reputation for safety.”)

          Anyhow, if that is Not An Option, learning Excel is really great! I spend a lot of time using tables, conditional formatting, and formulas (IF and VLOOKUP are key!) in my work. For me, the two best ways to learn are to take a sad, ugly spreadsheet and spruce it up, or to build a spreadsheet for yourself! (Track your grades, or the Oscar winners, or build a budget, or a table of the things you would buy if you won the lottery! Then add formulas and conditional formatting and make it printable and just keep asking how it could be better!)

          Sorry about the wall of text, obviously I have a lot to say on this! I’ll check back, and would be happy to commiserate over boredom and/or answer any questions that would help!

        2. Lablizard*

          Access is a bit of a pain in the ass because they attempted to make a not-so-point-and-click thing point-and-click, but it is a handy program to know, especially the basic SQL queries and relational database basics

      2. Miles*

        Technical writing can involve a lot of tables that are often done in Excel (at least in my experience). At one job I worked we’d regularly have hundreds of pages of appendices that were done through Excel and Word’s mailmerge. Even support staff with no technical experience were worth their weight in gold if they had the time and the expertise to format appendices and reference lists.

  12. The Plaid Cow*

    Since you have realized your purposed, please continue to ask the other employees what you can do to serve them. A person who can make others lives easier is invaluable.

  13. L*

    I am a technical writer and am surprised the OP has run out of work at a company that does engineering/documentation and manufacturing/maintenance. There is always more work to be done in my office, and over the years, I have picked up a bunch of tasks beyond just writing documents.

    If you’re bored and looking for stuff to do that will both keep you occupied and expand your skill set, think of ways you could add value for your coworkers/company. It sounds like people are pressed for time and would probably value anything you could do to save time and effort on their end. Could you:
    – Create onboarding materials (beyond just training materials) for new employees that give an introduction to the workplace, products, etc.?
    – Create a glossary since in your previous post, you mentioned that your industry is very heavy on jargon?
    – Create a configuration management plan that documents the process to keep documentation (including training materials) up-to-date?
    – Assist with marketing documentation, presentations, etc.?
    – Suggest ways to improve processes, such as moving paper-based systems to software-based systems (if that makes sense for your company)?
    – Work on any related tasks like scheduling, requirements management, etc.?

    1. sunny-dee*

      Depending on what it is, I’m not. I am in technical marketing docs now, but I was in straight-up technical documentation for over a decade, and with software, once it’s out, there’s a lot of down time until the next release. I worked on multiple products simply because if one had an 18 month release cycle, I was only working about 6 months of it. For some of my older freelance clients, which only have a single product, I spend about one week every 2 years updating everything, and that’s it.

      But finding *other* projects is definitely an advantage. It’ll also help build her skills and find what she likes — there are a million different kinds of tech writing specialties.

    2. Karen D*

      Very good suggestions. I was alarmed at OP’s resignation to the fact that the most she has to offer is to stay in her office with the door closed and not bother anybody.

      The May letter presented someone who was under-educated and under-prepared for her role — but bright, motivated and possessed of a strong desire to make things better for her co-workers. I can understand the willingness to transfer that energy to her partner, who needs so much and is such an important source of support, but in the long run that’s not going to be sustainable – both partner and OP will benefit if OP keeps pushing to realize her very obvious (to me) potential.

      I very much hope she finds the strength to open that door again and keep pushing, because that last paragraph makes me so sad. OP, you have come to see yourself as something of a human doorstop, but just from your two posts I can tell there is so much more you can contribute, and you really deserve the wonderful feeling of knowing that you have a real contribution to make.

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        True, when OP finally finds a job that s/he thrives in – and I believe it will happen for OP sooner or later! – s/he will reread this last paragraph and see how little she was settling for. Kind of like when you break up with a loser ex and six months later after meeting decent people you are astonished at what you thought was acceptable. That doesn’t mean I think OP should quit right now – sometimes we all need a safe port in a storm – but that is a far cry from what is possible.

      2. fposte*

        Karen, thank you, and I totally agree; I want better for the OP than it sounds like she’s heading toward.

  14. AJAX*

    I really admire how well you’ve rolled with the punches while still maintaining a positive outlook (i.e.being helpful and finding value-add in other ways)! And like my mom says, “It all pays the same.” Even when you’re bored or doing other menial tasks, you’re still getting paid the same :-) And if your work isn’t satisfying, you could find ways to be fulfilled in your personal life such as volunteering, exercise, hobbies, etc. Keep plugging away!

    1. SansaStark*

      I totally agree with this. I learned during a very difficult part of my life that it’s best for me to “diversify” my happiness: it doesn’t all come from one person or one thing. When works sucks, that’s ok because I have my friends, family, community, hobbies, etc. to help me stay positive.

  15. Chickaletta*

    Life has a way of throwing curve balls, doesn’t it? Good for you for hanging in there. One thing you can count on is change, and your situation won’t stay this way forever.

  16. Ya Heard With Perd*

    Fellow bored worker here! If you’re interested in moving up in technical writing, I’d recommend spending your downtime learning basic coding (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) and some Adobe CC. Lynda is a great paid resource (mine is covered through my Alumni Association!) otherwise codecademy, Skillshare, Youtube tutorials. It’s endless. I also am taking an online class through a local technical college ($400/class/semester). Having nothing to do at work was making me really depressed, so I got really into self-guided education. Good luck to you and your partner!

    1. Raddest (Letter Writer)*

      My desk is really, really visible–just recently it was rearranged so my back and thus the computer screen is aimed at EVERYONE. (This has nothing to do with me, it’s a convenient way to rearrange the last row of cubicles for a new hire who needed extra space.) If Boss Dad saw me job hunting it’s not out of the question he’d fire me.

      He also does NOT approve of training that was made outside the company unless it can be adapted/stolen for our own use. I would be in deep trouble if caught using company resources and time for personal betterment.

      Writing stuff in Notepad and saving it to my (personal) email is currently my only pleasure. I could get away with Microsoft Office tutorials, but that’s about it.

      1. OhNo*

        Well, drat. That makes things a bit harder. Any chance you can talk your manager or your dad into a project that involves “adapting” some tutorials on things that people have mentioned here? Or maybe “evaluating” some of the software for use in your office?

        If nothing else, try writing your own tutorials on the things you learn about Office products and whatever else you can get away with. They will make good examples when you start interviewing for new jobs, in addition to giving you new skills.

      2. The Strand*

        My suggestion would be to adapt information into PDFs and HTML-based items rather than downloading something that would be viewed as outside company materials.

        Meanwhile, using the company’s internet and computer systems for professional development… is not for personal betterment, it’s for *company* betterment. Knowing how to use XML, HTML, CSS, Javascript is all very good for a technical writer and her company. Anything related to UX, UI, HCI, is good for the work you’re doing now – I would suggest you read through Techwhirl.com and similar sites for technical writers.

        Another thought – are you getting ready for the big Section 508 refresh? How will this impact the documentation you’re making? You can start researching changes you might have to make now, for accessibility. I would suggest starting with http://webaim.org/techniques/word/ and https://www.section508.gov/content/build/create-accessible-documents . The latter is a government website, e.g. free for you to adapt for your company.

      3. Brogrammer*

        Using company time to learn a new skill that could be valuable to the company is a no, but using company time to do nothing because you have nothing to do is a-OK? What an awkward situation to be in. I have no advice, but you have my sympathy.

      4. Lablizard*

        MS Office tutorials can get you pretty far in better than basic skills. Might as well do them if they are allowed

      5. Mb13*

        Hmm if you have a smartphone a pair of headphones and wifi at the office then maybe that’s a good way to try and learn something new. But I realize it might not be feasible for everyone

  17. Anna*

    Do not undersell the value of giving people uninterrupted work time – if I had someone doing that for me at my job, it would just make a huge difference! Best of luck to both you and your partner for a speedy recovery!

  18. StartupLifeLisa*

    I removed this comment because, while it’s a lovely sentiment, I ask that people not speculate about whether they might know letter-writers in real life, since most people want anonymity here. Thanks for understanding.

  19. Troutwaxer*

    What a bunch of great comments. Two other things I’d recommend. First, check in with everyone you worked with last time and suggest that an annual update of the training documents might be a good idea. You’ll be able to get some feedback on what you did right and wrong, and also what more needs to be done and you’ll look good to everyone.

    Second, reread your earlier work carefully. Now that you have some experience, you’ll doubtless want to make changes/improvements, and that will help you as a technical writer.

  20. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    I’m afraid I don’t have any advice, only good thoughts and support. I’m sorry things have been so rough and hope your partner and general situation improve soon. Wishing you all the best.

  21. Candi*

    Raddest (Letter Writer), I’m 100% serious here: Check out Cracked’s Writing Workshop for submitting articles.

    They have excellent rates (partially because of the amount of research they insist on), and pay on acceptance, not publication. Unless you have a weekly article like John Cheese, there’s no deadline pressure. And they’re always looking for new writers because they keep getting poached!

    With the amount of downtime at your work, and if you have any access to the net, it should work out.

    If nothing else, you could contact the guy who does interviews to see if they’re interested in doing an article on what it’s like being a nepotism hire. :)

  22. Yeah*

    LW has an exceptionally fraught life. Hopefully things will become less dire and life-threatening all the time to yourself and loved ones.
    As a technical writer myself, I will say make friends and put yourself out there. At one aerospace manufacturing job, I had little to nothing to do for the first 8 months. I was going a little insane with boredom. But, as the people on the floor and the R&D engineers in design became familiar with me and what I could do for them, all of a sudden they started trusting me with more and more work to do. You have to let them know what you’re able to do for them, and you have to know people well enough that they tell you about what they’re doing. Starting a new build/ project? Offer to write manufacturing instructions, with pictures. HR wanting to hire new people? Offer to interview the hiring manager and coworkers, then write the job description. Someone need some fliers? Say you can do it. Clunky forms in Word? Volunteer to create shiny new .pdf’s
    It’ll take a while, but it’ll happen if you don’t give up. In the meantime, you may be able to sneak self-improvement classes on your phone, since your monitor is so visible.
    You really won’t be able to get another technical writing job without a degree and only a year’s experience, so looking is a bit pointless. Transferring to a more appropriate position in your current company may be an option to look into, though.
    Get your life together, find some evening courses to complete your degree, and move on when you’re both able and ready.

  23. 2nd Grade Teacher*

    I’m wondering if your dad would be willing to help you out somewhat. You mentioned only having canvas shoes with holes in them-can CEO dad front $50 for a pair of new shoes?
    Maybe explain to him your situation and ask for his input on how you can best handle getting a degree, learning new skills, etc while you’re having slow time at work.

  24. Fay*

    No one likes the tech writer. They may like the person, but the tech writer interrupts a person’s workflow, takes away time the employee needs to work on other (required) projects to discuss projects that have already been completed by that employee or slows down the production in detailing the procedure for quality, but also so someone else can do the procedure and replace the employee.

    I was a tech writer for years, I found it wasn’t easy making friends. I was always pleasant and professional, but also persistent. People figured out that when they didn’t follow up with me (as they promised) I would trap them at the water cooler, interrupt their lunch, or wait for them outside the bathroom. I was always polite and brief, but just a little longer than they would be comfortable with. Eventually, they realized it was just easier (and faster) to just meet with me and answer my questions. I always had done my research ahead of time and had my list of questions, and never took more than 30 minutes of their time at any one sitting. I was always respectful of their time.
    In slow times, I made myself useful. I would let my supervisor know I had additional time and if there was no task my supervisor had for me, with permission, I would go onto the assembly floor and help out there, or I would go to the stockroom and help pull kits, or sweep up in the machine shop, or box stuff in shipping. I would ask whoever was in charge of the area how I could help them. Employees would see me sincerely and competently helping in all different areas of the business. It put me in a different light in their eyes, so when I needed their help, there less resistance. They could see me as part of the team, not just the boss’ favorite employees wife who came to work after graduating and looking for work in my field locally (boss was worried we might move), or coming back part-time after having a baby. I wound up working in just about every department. I also learned a lot of useful stuff and earned the respect of the rest of the employees. The knowledge I acquired allowed me insights into changes that could be made to improve interdepartmental communications, quality assurance, and production streamlining.
    Take your lemons, make lemonade and share it with your coworkers. Better than being bored.

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