the person who reviews our work gossips about it, did I mishandle this travel reimbursement, and more

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

1. The person charged with reviewing our work is gossiping about it

I work as a claims adjuster, so my job is predominately on a phone queue. A big part of our performance is measured through monthly call reviews. It’s the job of our “call quality analyst,” Mary, to pull four phone calls a month and score them using a complex template. Mary has the same manager as all of the claims adjusters do, but she sits in a slightly different area than we do. I have never found her overly friendly, but figured this makes sense as she would have to keep some boundary between us, since she is marking us and our scores affect our annual performance review and bonus. I have never had a really bad call review, but the idea of listening to my calls always gives me extreme anxiety, to the point I dread it the night before. One of my coworkers, Beth, is very close friends with Mary. Beth is always scoring a lot of 100% on her call reviews and she gets praised for it by our manager.

At a recent after-work networking event, Beth had a bit too much to drink and disclosed to me that Mary tells her things about other people’s call reviews. Mary has told Beth about a coworker who always cries in her call reviews, and another person who often has bad call reviews and that our manager isn’t impressed in that person’s reviews. Mary told Beth private details about the call reviews, using names of our coworkers, and now a drunken Beth told me.

I’m not sure how to proceed. I really don’t feel comfortable having phone reviews with someone who is in a role where the info is supposed to be confidential, yet she is sharing it with her friend (my coworker). I can’t help but think it’s not professional and she could lose her job over it or at least get reprimanded. I also question if she shows favoritism in marking her friend’s calls.

I want to bring this up to my manager (who is also Mary’s manager), but I don’t know how to without Mary finding out her friend Beth spilled the beans to someone. I don’t want anyone to know I told on her either. My manager is a very no-nonsense type of manager and I find her hard to read and talk to about things. Any advice?

Ideally you’d tell Beth that you’re really alarmed by what she shared with you because Mary’s role requires discretion and fairness, and that you feel like you’re ethically obligated to share it with your manager. And then you’d talk to your manager and frame it this way: “I feel awkward about this, but I learned something recently that seems like a serious concern and I think I need to pass it on to you.” You can also tell your manager that you’re concerned about causing tension with Beth or others if they realize that you talked with her … but it’s also true that there may be no way for her to address that without that becoming clear, so you may have to decide if you’re okay with that being the price of alerting your boss.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Did I mishandle this travel reimbursement?

I am attending a conference in August for work, so obviously work needed to purchase a roundtrip flight for me to attend. So I purchased a flight for myself to go to the conference.

My partner is going to fly out (at his own expense) near the end of the conference and we are going to stay a few extra days in this location. My partner flies a lot for his job and has a lot of miles. Because of this, we have a “companion pass” through this airline. Anytime he flies, I can accompany for free. So for my return flight after the conference, I booked one ticket in his name and added me to the reservation as a free companion.

I submitted my initial outgoing flight (in my name) and this return flight (in his name, with me as a free companion) for reimbursement. I didn’t submit the flight he purchased for himself to come out and join me.

It’s the same exact cost to my company, and I don’t really see why this should be a big deal. However, my manager was very bristly about this and told me not to do this in the future. I know it’s not because we’re staying late or that he’s coming out to join me (my manager is also staying late and her boyfriend is also flying out to join her). So it’s really just the fact that one of my reimbursement requests has my partner’s name on the reservation.

I get that at first glance the optics are bad — it looks like I was paying for his flight. But, in reality it’s the same cost as just paying for mine own flight and this flight with his name is in fact my return flight. Am I being dense? Should I think this is a bigger deal?

Your logic makes sense … but I’m not surprised that your manager doesn’t want you to do it in the future. Even though she understands that it was on the up-and-up, someone else looking at it won’t have that context — and it will raise red flags for auditors and others. And yes, you could include an explanation with the receipt, but it’s introducing a complication that could cause a mess for them at some point in order to facilitate the vacation you’re taking at the end of the business trip. It’s simpler — and not unreasonable — for them to say “it’s fine this time, but don’t do this again.”

3. Job searching after quitting a PhD program

I’m about two-thirds of the way through completing my PhD in humanities, and considering getting out. I’m not in the US, so the academic job situation is not quite as dire, but it’s still not great, which I knew going into this, but more relevant is the growing feeling that what I’m doing isn’t meaningful or making any kind of difference, and that a life in academia doesn’t seem fulfilling the way that it used to.

I’m worried though about how an incomplete PhD is going to look when applying for jobs – that it looks like I’m directionless, unable to commit, can’t see a thing through, etc. I know that I want to work in the nonprofit, social justice space, which was my interest in the PhD anyway, but I already feel at such a disadvantage from having foregone the years of work experience that I’m tempted to skirt around the whole thing by appealing to a change in personal circumstances. But that makes me seem like I’m not committed to this new direction instead! What would you say is the best way to approach this?

Nah, I think you can leave it on your resume and frame it as “I realized partway into the program that ____ (describe what realization changed your mind) and after a lot of thought, realized that while my program was giving me ____ (describe some things you benefitted from in the program), I really want to invest my time in ____.”

People drop out of PhD programs! It’s a normal thing. Reasonable employers aren’t going to judge it negatively as long as you can convincingly fill in the blanks above.

4. Emailing a hiring manager when I was previously rejected by the same people

I should preface this by saying that I completely agree that generally speaking one should not follow up on an application if it did not result in an interview.

But about two years ago I applied for a mid-level nonprofit position. To my surprise (competitive field and org), I got to the final round, but they went with another candidate.

A related role in the same department was recently posted and I applied right away. It’s been less than two weeks but the deadline is in a few days. The hiring manager for role #1 had been unusually kind in her rejection: she highlighted a few skills she thought were particularly strong and encouraged me to apply for other positions. I’ve already let her know I applied to role #2 and she wrote back immediately that she remembered me well and would mention me to the hiring manager for role #2.

What makes this a bit tricky is that the hiring manager for role #2 was a panelist on that final round interview two years ago. Would it be overkill to write her to VERY briefly highlight the relevant experience I’ve gained over the last few years? I’m concerned she remembers me as having a very niche background, which is less true now. I outlined this in my cover letter and resume but am itching to reach out directly, since we’ve corresponded briefly in the past.

I’m guessing you’ll tell me not to scratch that itch… but any chance this is one of the rare exceptions where this may not be an annoyance?

I think you can do that! Just keep it more “since we talked in the past, I wanted to let you know I applied for this position now that I have more X experience” and less “sales pitch.”

5. I’m participating in a reverse job fair — where my job fair booth will advertise me

A few months ago, I graduated from a capstone course from an institute that helps career professionals with disabilities hone their job/career skills to find employment. It is a wonderful six-week program in which participants meet with HR representatives, employees, and board members of large corporations to learn and practice a wide variety of skills.

I was invited to participate in a reverse job fair in a few weeks … and by “reverse,” they mean it is totally reversed. I come up with my own booth/table, decor, and promotional items to advertise, well, ME. The HR representatives and hiring managers from companies will be walking around the fair and I need to have ideas how to create a captivating space to draw them in. I know I get a table, chairs, and internet access. Have you or any readers had any experience in this?

I haven’t, but I’m throwing this out to readers to see what suggestions people might have.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 528 comments… read them below }

  1. Imaginary Number*

    #5: My first thought was that a reverse job fair sounds like a gimmick. But then I though got about it, being that I’m recruiting at a job fair today, and it doesn’t sound like a terrible idea. The companies probably like it … instead of them paying, the candidate does. Instead of having to man a table all day, the candidate does. And the company gets to decide who to approach. It sounds like a bad deal for the job-seeker but the employers might like it.

      1. Al Lo*

        My grad school held one of these every year, (still does, and lots of alumni go as the professionals now). No cost to us as students, but it was a beneficial way to display our work. Graduating students got preferential table placement, but all students in specific programs participated each year.

        Given the OP’s description of this as a cap to a program, I doubt there’s a cost to the individuals.

        1. Jenny*

          You are correct! There is not. It is being sponsored by I believe Voc Rehab and participating companies!

      2. Wrench Turner*

        I couldn’t imagine paying for a table in addition to whatever decorations, etc. If it was an actual invitation with a free table, it’s something to think about.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My previous academic unit switched to the reverse job fair structure after input from professional advisory board members (who also were members of the design firms who attended the job fair). The students were not charged for their booths; the companies were still charged to come to the fair and meet the students. But the feedback we received from the firms was that students were coming to their booths under-prepared, and that when they went to other colleges’ job fairs where the students had booths instead, the students were more prepared.

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I thought the same but then thought about the program. If it is for people with disabilities to enter full time employment, setting it up so that it is the whole that have to walk around probably levels the playing field for people with mobility issues. I don’t have any mobility problems, but wandering around job fairs for hours in business formal attire kicked my butt back in the day. If I had difficulty walking or standing for long periods, I would not have been able to see as many employers or seen them when feeling a high level of discomfort, which isn’t helpful in a high stress situation.

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        Ooo, good point. That is kind of neat, actually, considering mobility issues.

      2. Jadelyn*

        To be fair, you can’t assume all recruiters/HR staff of an organization are able-bodied and don’t have mobility issues of their own. Disabled people work in HR sometimes, too. Speaking purely for myself, even traditional job fairs do a number on me, between carrying our booth stuff in/out, setting up/breaking down, sitting on those little folding chairs all day, etc. I don’t know that I could do a reverse job fair that required me to be on my feet walking around for that long.

        It would be ideal if there was a way to structure a job fair-type environment that eases the mobility burden on both parties, but I don’t know how you’d go about doing that.

    2. Machiamellie*

      I have Aspergers and there’s no way on God’s green Earth that I’d be able to do something like this. It just strikes me as demeaning.

      1. Machiamellie*

        Further: it makes me feel like the disabled candidates are set up like carnival sideshows for the professionals to gawk at.

        1. Anna*

          I think that’s a bit weird. It’s not their disabilities that are on display; it’s their skills and training. It’s not like employers are pointing “Look at that one! Get my picture with it!” I do a LOT of job fairs, tabling and attending, and while I’m not sure it’s the best idea (there’s definitely going to be a certain level of feeling crappy about yourself if nobody stops to talk to you), it’s certainly not on par with a carnival sideshow by any stretch of the imagination.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            +1, and the kinds of businesses they’ll be inviting are going to be the ones that actively want to increase the diversity of the workforce. This doesn’t sound like some cowboy set-up wanting to profit from/exploit people with disabilities, but the exact opposite, trying to think about what would benefit some of their client group. From OP’s description, I very much doubt it’s the only thing they do, too.

          2. Sylvia*


            Also, y’know, some disabled people can’t easily move from booth to booth for the duration of an event. This way, they participate in the job fair in the exact same way as participants who are able to move more.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think this is a totally normal reaction if you haven’t seen one of these fairs before—I had the same reaction the first time I heard of the idea. However, having now seen several “reverse job fairs” for populations that face structural barriers to employment (including disabled persons), they’re not at all gawking or carnival-esque or demeaning. They’re more accessible for people with mobility challenges, they’re often less anxiety-inducing for folks with behavior-affecting mental health challenges, and they also allow for more in-depth one-on-one coaching in the lead-up to the event.

          When done thoughtfully, they’re not demeaning at all—they can be surprisingly humanizing and empowering.

          1. Jenny*

            I am the writer for #5 and I can assure you that we are treated with respect. The founder of the organization was disabled as is the majority of staff. I have been treated great by all involved!

            1. Liz2*


              I’d say a plain nice tablecloth, a small bowl with fresh flowers, some pens and a stack of resumes should be good? Maybe a letter sized flier in a plastic stand that has your name/job scope in front?

              1. Newby*

                Definitely a stack of resumes. Depending on what your field is, you might be able to have an example of your work. Papers you wrote that were published, a portfolio if you are in a design field, any visual props that will make it easier to explain your work.

            2. msroboto*

              A small bag of Hershey’s kisses or other tiny treat like that might get people to stroll in.

        3. Jenny*

          Original OP here. I will be very honest. Every company we visited during the course were wonderful as they are a partner or sponsoring company. It was a very eye opening experience and a blessing to see “the other side” so to say of the hiring process. All companies (and they are recognized nationwide) and their employees were gracious and accommodating. One company had us all day and we had catered breakfast and lunch as well as many employees talking one on one with us and presentations.

          I would hope any further companies (or any adult human being for that matter) would know how to act in a circumstance like this. They are either companies with government contracts or ones that have an inclusive hiring process. Believe me in no way would this organization set candidates up to be gawked at. Many of the employees, including the founder (who has passed) have disabilities. I am very lucky as in I have a serious illness that has not impacted me in the 21 years I have had it. My only issue is fatigue but I am interested in these companies as they are ADA friendly. I could get hired or go to interviews and no one would know I have a disability, but I am doing long term planning in case it gets worse

    3. mskyle*

      I got my job partly through a sort of job-speed-dating event, where I met with several employers, showed them my work, worked through some exercises, etc. It worked out well for me, and for the employers too, I think (my company hired me and another guy from the program, and we’re both still here three-plus years later, and I know other people ended up at jobs they stayed at for a while).

      I wouldn’t have wanted to have to attract people over to my station, though. I guess the “speed dating” aspect worked out in our instance because all the job-seekers were finishing the same training program and had similar skills. (We didn’t have to pay for the job day specifically, although it was part of a larger paid program.)

      Anyway, for the OP, I would recommend knowing as much as you can about the companies that are going to be coming, and basically putting up large keywords about your skills and job interests on your booth, so that you can attract people who are interested in what you’re selling. You don’t want to waste time chit-chatting with people who aren’t hiring people with your skills.

      1. Jenny*

        Great idea! We will have a list of the companies. When I go to job fairs I usually research ahead for the ones listed and the ones not listed do a quick search on my phone and then methodically “X” out booths on the map that aren’t applicable. Some people have noticed I am a little methodical lol.

        The keywords will help or give me a head start that I couldn’t do if it was a regular job fair (unless I went with a sandwich board lol)!

    4. Jaguar*

      It sounds a lot like what happens at the end of coding bootcamps (Hack Reactor and Dev Bootcamp are the biggest ones, I think, but cities tend to have their own regional ones as well). I haven’t been involved in any of that, but my understand is that they do work. It sounds a bit like a demeaning freakshow exhibit, but look at it from the employer’s side: they get to come in and find a bunch of potential employees all in one place instead of having to set up interviews and advertise to them directly.

    5. JessaB*

      I don’t like the optics of the concept too much, it’s too easy for employers to decide not to talk to the Person of Colour (Black, Asian, South East Asian, First Nations, Latin@, etc.), not to talk to the fat person, not to talk to the Hijabi Muslimah, nor the Orthodox Jew, not to talk to the obviously disabled person. Oh, and the old person.

      With a regular job fair, those people get to talk to them by going over and talking, they can still reject people, but they only get to do it AFTER the person gets to make the pitch. The other way leaves it really open to tonnes of biases preventing people from even getting to hand them a resume.

      1. snuck*

        I’d lean towards assuming that recruiters who come to something as specific as this know they are meeting with a diverse group… and are more open to diverse employment.

        That and… even if you scrub a resume clean of any gender, name (and cultural assumptions attached to same) and age information… it’s all on the table in the interviews anyway – at least this way the people you Don’t Want To Work For are self selecting out before you waste time on interview prep.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          Two things. One, there some new research showing that some employers who think of themselves as most diverse/open to diverse applicants can sometimes be the worst when it comes to unconscious bias. No guesses why, but apparently, job ads that say “equal opportunity employer” were actually less likely to call back resumes from clearly minority applicants than job ads that didn’t have that tagline.

          Second, I’ve often heard people say something like “well, if they were going to discriminate against you because of [identity] you don’t want to work for them anyway.” But…that’s not true. There are lots of great companies that engage in unconscious bias – or great companies/teams that have one or two terrible people hiring for them – that many people WOULD want to work for.

    6. MillersSpring*

      If your work is at all visual, you could get it printed as a poster board with rigid/foam core backing and place it on an easel. Most venues have easels that can be borrowed or rented.

      If your work isn’t visual, you could put your resume on poster board and to the same.

      I agree with the suggestions for fresh flowers, candy and pens. Try to get them all in one color, such as red pens, red flowers, candy in red wrappers, and maybe red elements on your resume and visual display. Then also wear a red scarf or red bracelet or earrings. It’s eye catching and memorable. Good luck!

    7. Sarah W*

      This sounds like a great opportunity. You may have to put in more effort than the typical job fair, but the benefit is that the preparation for this event will make you really well-versed in selling yourself and your skills.

      I used to work at a university, and we put on career fairs all the time. Your table could be anything from a simple tablecloth (which you may be able to borrow from the program, venue, or buy at a party or dollar store), pens, and a stack of resumes to a full display. If you have a portfolio you could print out examples, or bring a computer or tablet to pull them up on. A poster or tri-fold display board could be a good way to highlight your name, skills, and key-words or projects so that employers can see it from a distance. Another easy trick is to print out your name (or title, qualifications, etc) on a large piece of paper, fold it in half and prop it up like a tent on the table so that people can also see that from a distance. Make sure to bring plenty of copies of your resume, and business cards if you have them!

      1. snuck*

        This is similar to what I was going to suggest :)

        If you want to go for some kind of ‘flair’ then a classy but discrete quality cream table cloth or heavier weight (slightly – 90gsm!) are about the extent I’d go to.

        If you are in a field that has visual arts (Architecture, Design, Graphic Design, Fashion etc etc etc) then set up some form of slide show of work on a screen (buy a handy dandy lock for it!) and/or a flip book.

        If you are in a field that has lots of hands on field experiences (Archeology, Allied Health Therapies, Teaching etc) then maybe a flip book of those with photos and sample lesson/project/therapy plans etc.

        Flip books are a display book with some catchy images, and simple samples of your work – the idea is that people can flip through them quickly so choose what you put in there wisely – simple, eye catching, high quality. They are not samples people take away with them.

        Resumes, business cards (don’t print hundreds if you don’t have them – just hand over a copy of your resume if needbe). Maybe a candy bowl if you want to show you are community minded. Maybe a bunch of flowers if you want to show you like beautiful things and care about appearances. Many of these things have subtle messages in them – so think about one or two main messages you are trying to share, and have something at your ‘booth’ that demonstrates that in the workplace. Don’t over do this! It’s not a party in your booth (unless your degree is in sound engineering – in which case go all out and set up a sound booth and strobe lights!). Personally I like the idea of a smaller table, and a stool … and having people step into your booth space if you can (instead of setting the table up as a barrier to entry) – it sends an message of being approachable, creates a moment away from the floor noise, and makes you less a spruiker, more a conversationalist.

        Dress professionally of course. And if you can, if your disability allows for it, consider a bar stool (with a low back) over a low office chair/plastic chair. It brings you up to approaching person height, but be careful in a skirt on these!

    8. Ami*

      M question is how would this seem like a fair and equitable thing? I mean you basically allow yourself to be discriminated against by looks alone. You allow people to judge you without knowing your skills and abilities. By the way it sounds, the look at you first and then make a decision on wether or not they want to approach you.
      This seems cute in theory but I bet it would muddy in practice.

      1. Jenny*

        I will be very honest….you would never know I have a disability. I literally was on a stairclimber for over an hour yesterday. I can see, hear, walk and speak normally. They will probably know I Have a disability but they wouldn’t know what it would be. It could be from ADD to AIDS (which neither is applicable to me). My disability for now is invisible and thanks to new medicines it may stay that way. In fact I have had it for 21 years. Sometimes it is progressive, sometimes not.

        I want to do this because I know the companies there will be amiable to those with disabilities.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I’m sorry if this is just me being dense, but does OP#2 have to submit reimbursements for both legs of the trip? When I use my miles or take a side trip, I usually only request reimbursement for the one-way flight. (But maybe OP’s company has a policy about capturing the full scope of travel?) If so, then that seems like a simple way to avoid this in the future.

    OP#2, your logic is totally reasonable, but I agree with Alison that it’s also normal for a manager to bristle because of the difficulty of reconciling and tracking all of this information if audited. My current employer wouldn’t even allow submission of a reimbursement request like the one you’ve described, and my previous employer (a much smaller nonprofit) would have warned me :(

    1. Jenny*

      Maybe the company doesn’t require a reimbursement submission, but I think the motivation was that she wanted her/her boyfriend’s return flight paid for?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ohhhhhh, I misread her explanation of the return flight. Yeah, I’ve never worked any place where they would be ok paying for a partner’s travel, even if it was the equivalent to me traveling. I can see why that would be eyebrow-raising for folks responsible for internal controls.

        1. Bryce*

          Pedant powers to the rescue! They comp her travel, and her return flight was free. If he’d been an attached free passenger to a flight in her name, I bet it wouldn’t be an issue (depending on the org’s regulations on use of travel miles and similar). It’s a fiddly thing this time since the charge is equivalent, but I can definitely see them sticking to the letter of the reimbursement regs. If you wiggle now, that makes it easier for someone to expect wiggling later in a situation where it’s NOT equivalent.

          1. Otogpphphlgkkfj*

            This is a situation where it looks really unusual on accounting’s books and if they’re going to do it they need to be able to attach a detailed note to the reimbursement for any auditors.

            This is the sort of thing that you should run by and OK with manager/accounting ahead of time. It looks better that way and makes them more receptive (usually) to these unusual, yet valid reimbursements.

        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Our finance person would laugh at me if I tried to submit a claim for a ticket that wasn’t mine even if it cost less than any return flight I could find.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yes, I can just hear the call from the lovely person who processes our expense reports. I’m sure she’s had more difficult conversations with people way more important than me, but, for record-keeping and audit purposes, travel has to be booked in the name of the employee and is straight reimbursement, not market price for a freebie flight. I’m sure other places are more flexible, but we have to provide receipts to clients upon request, and they’re not going to want to see someone’s partner’s name.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              My workplace is the same. The flight has to be in the employee’s name, and if the employee received the flight for free, they are not getting reimbursed for it. Well, maybe once, with an extreme amount of documentation for the auditors to explain what happened, but they wouldn’t let it happen again.

            1. Specialk9*

              Mine too. I talk a lot with internal fraud investigations, and this is the exact kind of thing to set off a quiet, thorough review of every expense, every email, and every website visited. Just not wise.

        3. Sal*

          I actually have several friends who can book travel for their partner and have it reimbursed. They are in jobs where they travel every week though, and the companies have policies that they will fly out your boyfriend/wife/whoever to where you are currently working instead of flying you home for the weekend if you want.

          1. baseballfan*

            My previous accounting firm had the same policy – but this is a different situation. Among other things, the former is an established policy with established documentation – and this is an employee going off grid.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It definitely exists! But it sounds like this is not the policy for OP’s employer. I’d also be a little surprised if there were a lot of employers that allowed you to reimburse and collect payment for partner if you didn’t pay for the travel.

        4. Sal*

          Oh and I also have friends who travel business class internationally, and if they want to bring someone along they are allowed to get two economy tickets and be reimbursed for what the cost of the business ticket would have been.

      2. Jen A.*

        Yeah, I work for a government contractor. If I had tried to do this, they would have had a fit. But since you have to use the company travel agent for all reimbursable travel, it would have been nipped in the bud.

        1. CAA*

          We’re a small contractor and don’t have a corporate travel agent, but I would not be able to get a spouse ticket reimbursed in lieu of mine. Any travel that’s billable to the client (which includes some conferences) has to have crystal clear documentation for the DCAA auditors, and our finance team is very strict about making sure even non-billable travel reimbursement conforms to the same rules because they can look at anything when they come in for an audit.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            Yeah, we’re subject to DCAA audit at my company as well, and there’s no way I’d be able to bill the cost of this flight to a contract. Even putting it on overhead could cause a headache if an auditor shows up because part of that cost is added onto certain contracts. To OP it doesn’t look like a big deal, but even if you’re not subject to DCAA audit requirements it’s just…messy as far as the files go. Plus you often end up jumping through the same hoop several times–first your manager asks you about it when you turn it in, and then Accounts Payable asks you about it when processing the report, and then the controller questions it when she’s approving the payment–and then maybe ask you about it one more time for good measure when everything is getting reviewed for year-end and nobody remembers what the story was. I agree with Alison–it’s not like you did something dishonest or anything like that, but it’s understandable that your manager doesn’t want you to do it again.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Same. When I have done this, I either booked the trip with my return a few days after the end of the work duties or only submitted for the outgoing or return flight. Companies do not like having reimbursement for non-employees on their accounts because it looks shady.

    3. CityMouse*

      Yeah my spouse had a companion pass for a while and I would never even think of doing this. Technically LW didn’t accrue a cost for herself so she can’t charge the company for it. The fact that the cost would be the same doesn’t really matter. For instance if you choose to stay with a friend for a conference, you can’t charge the cost of the hotel anyway.

      1. The IT Manager*

        So this! LW’s ticket was free. She is asking for her boyfriend’s ticket to be compensated. That is shady.

        I understand the “it’s the same price” attitude, but when you say the company is paying for a non-employee to travel you see the problem. I don’t think it’s just optics.

        1. Fiennes*

          I don’t think it’s “shady.” The optics are bad and it complicates things for her company, but OP was forthright with her employers about what she did and didn’t profit from it. To me “shady” implies dishonesty.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Shady or not, the OP is not getting reimbursed; she is pocketing the cost of a ticket she got for free. That’s the problem, and I don’t understand why she doesn’t understand the issue here.

            1. LBK*

              Right, what’s really happening here is that her boyfriend is getting a free trip on the company’s dime, and I think it should be apparent that that’s not okay. Travel reimbursement isn’t a per diem; the point isn’t that they have a certain budget for the trip and you get to use it no matter how the specifics of the travel occur. It’s to pay for employee expenses incurred due to work needs. If you’ve arranged your travel in such a way that your cost is zero dollars, then that’s what you’re owed by the company.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, that’s the part that really stuck for me–I was surprised they even allowed that once. It’s a reimbursement for money paid, and money was only paid on the outgoing leg.

                I think OP is considering this on the “this is what they would have had to pay anyway” basis, but that’s not how reimbursements work.

              2. baseballfan*

                “Right, what’s really happening here is that her boyfriend is getting a free trip on the company’s dime”


              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Yes! So much this + neverjaunty. I think this is why I misread the letter—the idea that you could accept money for a third-party, non-employee’s trip (where you didn’t incur the cost) was so foreign to me that I couldn’t even conceive that that was OP’s suggestion.

              4. Retail HR Guy*

                But the cost wasn’t zero dollars. By purchasing a single ticket in her boyfriend’s name, she received a ticket for herself also. She arranged her travel and paid for her travel, and should therefore be reimbursed. She just did it in such a way that she received two tickets for the price of one.

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t think LBK is saying she’s not entitled to any reimbursement; just that she’s not entitled to be reimbursed for money she didn’t spend. So she should get reimbursement for the trip there, because she spent money on it, but not for the trip back.

                2. LBK*

                  The company doesn’t care about travel arrangements for the boyfriend, though. Again, cutting out the reimbursement piece makes this more clear. If the OP had gone to the company and said “Hey, if I charge my boyfriend’s ticket on the corporate card so he can come on this trip with me, it will make my trip free, so it all works out the same plus my boyfriend gets a free vacation. Is that cool?” I really doubt management would’ve said okay, or if they did it would be a perk they had voluntarily opted to cover the cost of to do something nice for the OP. They would’ve been perfectly within their rights to say no, because it’s not just about the cost, it’s about what that cost is for.

                3. Retail HR Guy*


                  Yes, I was talking about the return trip.

                  She did spend money, by buying the boyfriend’s ticket in order to get two tickets out of it. She would never have bought the boyfriend’s ticket if her own ticket wasn’t included in the deal. She wasn’t glomming onto his trip; he was glomming on to hers. She spent money. For business. It should be reimbursed.

                4. LBK*

                  She did spend money, by buying the boyfriend’s ticket

                  And the company doesn’t owe her reimbursement for that expense, because they’re not paying for her boyfriend’s ticket.

                  I can see the argument that this is semantics, and that in the grand scheme of things she made a purchase that ultimately ended up resulting in her having a plane ticket for this trip, so whatever she paid in order to orchestrate that ticket making it into her hands should be considered the “price” of her trip and should be reimbursed, but I just plain don’t agree with that.

                5. Trout 'Waver*

                  Work travel can be draining. If one of my employees found a way to have their SO along at no cost to the company, I applaud them for it.

                  What about the hotel room, LBK? Would you only let the employee expense half of it if her SO stayed there? Hotel for 2 costs the same as hotel for 1.

                6. LBK*

                  The hotel is slightly different for me because there’s still a direct exchange of money from employee to business; they’re still spending the same amount *on you* to pay you back the money you gave to the person you made the purchase from. And there’s also more of an established norm of letting employees have their SO stay with them for free as a perk, but I don’t think employer are obligated to do that or would be wrong to say no, because their imperative is only to their employee.

                7. fposte*

                  @ Retail HR–money she spends on her boyfriend is between her and her boyfriend, though. The company doesn’t owe her money that she spends on him even if it saves them money.

                  I totally get why she could have thought this might be okay; I don’t think she was horrible for not realizing it. But there aren’t many employers where it would be okay to give yourself this money from company coffers, and at mine and some others it would be illegal.

                8. neverjaunty*

                  “Work travel can be training” – it’s for work. I don’t bring my SO on work trips because I have work to do. I’m not there to take a vacation. And if I wanted my company to reimburse me for my SO’s ticket, I’d ask ahead of time. Brightly announcing it after the fact smacks of asking for forgiveness rather than permission.

                9. Esme*

                  Exactly; I don’t understand why anyone is up in arms. She isn’t trying to pull one over on anyone. Why should the company benefit from her SO’s companion fare program? If he hadn’t attended, they’d certainly pick up the price of her fare. The companion fare premium has value; since she used it, he is now unable to have someone else take advantage of it. There needs to be reimbursement. I can understand the company’s bitching about it from an audit standpoint, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find a way around it.

              5. Salamander*

                “Right, what’s really happening here is that her boyfriend is getting a free trip on the company’s dime”

                Yep. The cost of the boyfriend’s travel is just being shifted to the employer. Not cool.

            2. Oryx*

              Agreed. On a smaller scale, we are reimbursed for food and drink. If I’m traveling for work and go to Starbucks and use one of my free drink credits, I don’t then get to submit an expense report for the $4 I *didn’t* spend on my latte.

              1. the gold digger*

                If I’m traveling for work and go to Starbucks and use one of my free drink credits, I don’t then get to submit an expense report for the $4 I *didn’t* spend on my latte.

                Which is exactly why I would never use a credit for something during business travel. I would save it for a time when I cannot be reimbursed.

              2. Retail HR Guy*

                But a better analogy is if you are on business travel and your friend is part of the “Buy one get one” Starbucks club. If the friend (and only the friend) buys a latte, he gets a second latte for free.

                So your friend wasn’t really in the mood for a latte, but when he learned you were going to buy one anyway he said, “Eh, I might as well get a free one.” So you hand him the four bucks and he gets both of you a latte.

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t think friend situations really work here, though, because the relationship between a company and an employee is very different than the relationship between a pair of friends. A company has a lot of rules and sometimes laws about what it’s supposed to do with its funds, so the test isn’t simply “Are they out any more money?” For instance, you can’t take the company budget for paper, buy the same product from a cheaper source, and keep the difference for yourself, even if it means the company wouldn’t be out any more money. What the OP is doing is essentially that–treating any difference between company budget and actual expenditure as hers to keep. It’s not.

                2. LBK*

                  Yes, and she’s effectively skimming the difference by abusing the fact that the reimbursement process causes a disconnect between what the company is buying and who they pay for it. This wouldn’t even be a question if she’d been charging the ticket directly to the company (in which case she probably wouldn’t have even thought about using the free ticket and the boyfriend would’ve had to pay his own way, which is what should’ve happened).

                3. Retail HR Guy*


                  My point is that she did pay for the latte. Just indirectly. She paid four bucks, she got a latte. She just found a way to help a friend along the way. It’s a much closer analogy than Oryx’s.

                4. LBK*

                  A third party gifting you the free credit at their own expense doesn’t change the situation because your employer doesn’t have any obligation to cover expenses for people that don’t work for them.

                  I suppose it comes down to whether you consider a private sale to be a valid business expense – I suppose you could argue that you bought the credit off your friend for $4, but I’m not sure interpersonal transactions like that count as reimbursable expenses.

                5. LBK*

                  And also in your situation, why can’t you just buy your own latte? The argument that the price is the same goes both ways, but in your scenario you’re using the company’s money to benefit someone who’s not an employee, which I think is sketchy and kind of unethical.

                6. Retail HR Guy*

                  LBK –

                  There is a big difference between spending your company’s money on a third party and arranging your company’s spending in such a way that a third party gets a free benefit out of it (without any additional cost to the company).

                  You’re on a business trip. You want a regular-sized sandwich. The restaurant is running a special on the super jumbo sandwiches such that they are the same price as the regular. So you order the jumbo, eat half, and give the other half to the homeless guy outside. Is that unethical and sketchy? If so, I’m not seeing why.

                7. LBK*

                  There is a big difference between spending your company’s money on a third party and arranging your company’s spending in such a way that a third party gets a free benefit out of it (without any additional cost to the company).

                  But the latter isn’t what’s happening in this situation. The OP is purchasing something for her boyfriend – that is “spending your company’s money on a third party”.

                8. Trout 'Waver*

                  LBK, you’re really into the semantics on this. Why? Who cares if the boyfriend gets a free trip or not? It doesn’t negatively affect anyone.

                9. LBK*

                  And, as I mull it over, I do actually think it would be kind of sketchy to be intentionally buying things with company money because they give some sort of bonus, even if it is something you would buy anyway and you’re purchasing it directly for yourself. A latte or a sandwich is small enough that I’m not that miffed by it, but for a purchase as big as a plane ticket? Yeah, it feels off to me to effectively reap a sizable personal benefit at the company’s expense unless the company’s authorized it. The fact that the company is willing to incur that expense because they have a business need doesn’t make it more acceptable to piggyback off of work obligations in that way.

                  I think that’s ultimately what this all comes down to – the company is paying for this because it’s part of your job, so it’s not your place to try to exploit that as much as you can. It’s not intended to be for your own personal benefit.

                10. LBK*

                  I’m not saying it negatively affects anyone, but it’s not the employee’s decision to make of how to spend their employer’s money. If the employer wants to give their employee a perk and let them make the purchase that way, go for it, but I don’t think they’d be wrong to decline the expense.

                11. Trout 'Waver*

                  You’re using words like skimming, abusing, taking advantage, shady, sketchy, and exploit. That’s hardly fair to the OP who did everything openly and without subterfuge.

                12. LBK*

                  I don’t think she did it intentionally, but that doesn’t prevent the actions from being sketchy or shady on reflection. And FWIW, she did do this without prior authorization – out of ignorance, not malice, but I wouldn’t say it was completely transparent.

      2. Corporate Traveler*

        Exactly! An expense reimbursement is to reimburse you for an expense you have incurred. It is not to get payment out of your employer for the amount that something would have cost you when you didn’t pay for it.

        Unless this is something I got OK’d by my manager, I would never dream of doing it. And if I was to ask my manager about it ahead of time, I would be throwing it out there as a “wild idea, but what do you think?” kind of a thing.

      3. Marillenbaum*

        That’s quite an apt comparison. At my old job, for instance, we had a policy that if you stayed with a friend of family member in lieu of a hotel, you could submit reimbursement up to X amount for the purchase of a hostess gift/treating them to dinner.

        1. the gold digger*

          I know someone who was fired for this. He went to Nicaragua for work. Stayed with friends but made up a fake hotel receipt. T&E had a question so called the alleged hotel and discovered it didn’t exist.

          Guy was fired.

          Sad thing was, if he had just told our boss that he was staying with friends and could he take them out to dinner and expense it, our boss would have said yes.

        2. Agile Phalanges*

          And at my last company, they expressly did NOT reimburse for anything if you saved hotel money by staying with someone. They figured if you didn’t incur an expense, you didn’t get reimbursed for one, and they didn’t want it getting out of hand with people lavishing their friends with hostess thank-yous. If you stayed in a hotel, it got reimbursed. If you didn’t, you got the benefit of hanging out with a friend and all that entails, and the company got to save some money.

          On the other hand, I’m not sure this particular arrangement would’ve been allowed, but they were very generous with allowing employees to extend travel or bring a SO along. You would print off two pieces of documentation in the former case–what it WOULD have cost if you’d done an itinerary that just got you to the work-related piece and back, and what you actually spent for your longer stay. They would reimburse for whichever was less (occasionally staying the weekend would make airfare cheaper than flying M-F, for example). For hotels, you didn’t have to check out and check back in or ask for separate bills, they’d let you just write on the invoice that M-Th nights were work travel and F & S nights were personal, for example, and expense only the work-related nights. Rental car would be pro-rated accordingly (or if week-long was cheaper than 5 days, they’d reimburse the whole thing). And for SOs coming along, of course only the employee’s airfare was paid, but if the hotel was the same either way, no creative financing was needed.

          It was a nice perk–I got to play tourist in Chicago, Milwaukee, and New York City (twice) by extending my stay through the weekend(s) before/after the business trip. Maybe a couple other cities, too.

          1. spd*

            I think that company policies on host gifts are reasonable either way–and that nobody should assume a host-gift will be reimbursed without checking first.

            That said, I think that companies that won’t reimburse any host-gifts are kindof shooting themselves in the foot and wasting money in an attempt to cap lavish expenses that could be accomplished easily by capping the value of the host gift. With friends that I’m super close with who I wouldn’t get a gift for if the company weren’t buying, I would probably stay either way–but if I’m not super close, I won’t stay with a friend with no host gift because it makes me feel rude not to bring a gift so I would bring one whether or not it was reimbursed when staying with them. So I stay at a hotel instead! I don’t want to pay money when I could stay somewhere for free. But a lot of companies just cap the host gift lower than a hotel–something like $50 for just one overnight or like $100 over a certain length. That saves them a ton of money when an employee opts for the host-gift, and it certainly doesn’t give employees a loophole to use company money as a way to buy lavish gifts all the time.

            But it’s the company’s call, of course–I just think no host gifts at all is a stupid money-wasting policy.

      4. The Other Dawn*

        Yes! This is what I was coming here to say. She didn’t incur the cost herself, so it’s not reimbursable in my mind. (Not in my employer’s mind either.)

      5. em2mb*

        Actually, I’ve worked for a company that *would* pay a hotel per diem if you stayed with a friend or a relative while traveling! For a while, my work kept taking me to the city where my best friend lived. I didn’t get as much as I would’ve if I’d stayed in a hotel, but I’d get something like $70 per night (I’d always treat my friend to dinner). I think it helped reconcile their books so it didn’t look like they still had lodging outstanding on employee travel.

      6. Bostonian*

        That’s an interesting way of putting it, and it perfectly describes why I am leaning towards the company’s assessment here. Like Alison says, the OP’s logic makes sense, but…

    4. Antilles*

      It’s not just an audit issue. In some industries, your company can include direct costs in their invoice to the client…who will then (quite reasonably!) refuse to pay for an airline ticket for someone who has no relation to the project and no clear business purpose to travel.
      So then your company now needs to explain the situation and likely provide proof that it didn’t actually cost the client extra money (can be difficult given how airlines price flights). And if your client themselves has to submit invoices to a higher power (e.g., your company is a subcontractor to a prime contractor whose contract is with the government), your client will very likely flat out refuse to repay the travel cost for a non-employee, because this is strange enough that it might run the risk of *their* entire invoice getting red-flagged.

      1. Natalie*

        Taxes, as well. Employee travel is generally a deductible expense. Employee spouse travel is generally not, regardless of the logic.

      2. Rainy, PI*

        Yes, and not just in industry–we have run into some problems recently on my grant with travelers who want us to pay for things that aren’t allowable expenses under UG. We can reimburse the traveler but then cannot put that cost on the grant, and if we agreed to reimburse for one person’s unallowable expenses from our department budget, we’d have to do it for everyone, which is just not going to happen.

    5. MommyMD*

      I don’t think the logic is reasonable. OP expensed her partner’s travel to her employer because she can fly free as a tag along. I don’t think too many businesses would cover this. And if he paid for this flight, whether or not she came along, it’s not her travel expense.

      1. LBK*

        Agreed. It’s not about the company having to pay the same amount either way – the OP and her boyfriend don’t pay the same amount either way. When framed like that it seems apparent to me that they’re taking advantage of the company here.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          How would they be taking advantage of the company if the company pays the same either way?

          1. Rainy, PI*

            The traveler they’re being asked to pay for isn’t an employee. In these things it’s not about “paying the same either way”, it’s about proving that the expenses have a business purpose, and paying for the flight of someone who doesn’t work for you doesn’t have a business purpose.

            1. Retail HR Guy*

              The business purpose is to get her own ticket that comes along with her boyfriend’s. If she doesn’t pay for her boyfriend’s ticket she doesn’t get the “free” ticket either. She needed that ticket to get home from business travel.

              1. LBK*

                But the only reason she has to pay for the boyfriend’s ticket to get hers is because she wants him to come on the trip, which isn’t the business’s problem.

                The reimbursement isn’t for any expenses incurred in the process of obtaining her ticket. It’s for the individual, direct cost of her own ticket, irrespective of any other costs that might have been associated with getting that ticket.

                If you’re buying two $10 items that are BOGO 50% off, you don’t say the second item cost you $15 because you had to spend the first $10 to get the discount. You say it cost you $5. Same thing here: the OP’s ticket didn’t cost her the price of her boyfriend’s ticket. Her boyfriend’s ticket cost its price, and her ticket cost nothing.

                1. Retail HR Guy*

                  You’re the kind of guy that advertisers using the “FREE GIFT!!!” gimmick love.

                  It’s all semantics. You insist on framing things as the boyfriend’s ticket is the only one that costs money but hers is free. However, you can easily look at it the other way around (since her ticket was a set expense but they found a way to get a second ticket “free”). You can also look at it as two tickets for the price of one. Or two tickets at half price. It’s all the same thing. There is nothing about your particular framing that is objectively true.

                  But if you look at the big picture of what is going on, I think it is inarguable that the company is not out any extra expense that it wasn’t already committed to.

                2. LBK*

                  Let’s please keep this civil and not attack me personally, thanks.

                  I’m framing it that way because it’s business travel and the only person whose expenses matter are the employee’s. The semantics matter because the company has an obligation to pay one person’s expenses and not the other’s, so who the expense technically belongs to is relevant in this case. It’s not just me being pedantic or fussy.

                3. Rainy, PI*

                  I don’t pay travel expenses for people who aren’t my employees. Their expenses do not matter to me, because they are not my employees.

                  That is not how business purpose is calculated. At all.

                4. Corey*

                  If you buy two items for $15 total, and those items only cost that price at that quantity, then no you don’t say the second one cost you $5. They each cost you $7.50.

                  If you buy an $80,000 sports car that comes with extra floor mats, you don’t say the floor mats cost you $0.

                  Let’s make it easy to keep it civil, thanks.

                5. Retail HR Guy*

                  I think you are right about me straying into personal attack territory with my last comment above. My apologies.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        If it were me, and I were feeling daring, I’d see if I could get half of the boyfriend’s flight paid back, max, but I’d still expect to be told no.

      3. Thinking Outside the Boss*

        Exactly! Let’s assume the one-way return leg costs $200. For the OP’s ticket, she pays nothing out of pocket, the employer pays $200 for OP, and the partner pays $200 to accompany OP.

        But the way OP has it structured, OP still pays nothing out of pocket, employer still pays $200, but the partner pays zero. That’s the rub.

    6. Amber T*

      Travel & expenses is one our biggest headaches in compliance. Depending on your firm/industry, it could have nothing to do with the cost of the ticket itself, but how it’s coded and reimbursed. This would absolutely not fly in my company – you’d probably be pulled in with head of compliance and have a strict talking to. Messed up expenses like this could get my company fined at best, audited to hell and back, or even blocked from participating in core aspects of our business. One ticket for a couple hundred bucks *may* not seem like a big deal, but it could be (and probably is) a big enough red flag that everything would be scrutinized. (That’s not to say our employees don’t do similar things – fly out somewhere for business and stay for pleasure. But there are very specific ways those types of expenses have to be coded, and reimbursing a ticket that was in the partner’s name is a big ol’ no.)

    7. Arjay*

      I can understand the OP’s thought process, but I disagree with it. Her return flight is free. The partner has a round-trip flight he’s responsible for. Why should he only have to pay to fly out and her company pay to fly him home? At the most, I could see her asking for half of the return flight costs. Two people flew back for $500 out of pocket, so the company might pay her portion of that, but not the whole thing.

    8. Retail HR Guy*

      Speaking as someone who used to handle the entire company’s travel expenses, I can completely understand why this raised red flags and OP’s manager would rather OP not do it.

      But… the company should really go along with OP on this one. This is one of those things that is only a little bit of hassle for the company (with no monetary expense) but is a huge benefit for the OP. The company being a little bit flexible on this stuff can yield high returns in employee morale and retention. Yes, it will raise red flags to auditors, but typing up a quick explanation to include in the documentation will take care of it.

      1. Jesmlet*

        No, sorry but this is not okay. OP is requesting reimbursement for something that was free to her. The end result is OP gets money, not that it nets out even. I can’t imagine this being okay anywhere. It’s not just the difference in name, it’s the fact that she never paid for a return flight so why should she get reimbursed for the hypothetical cost of her ticket?

        1. Retail HR Guy*

          I don’t think you are reading that correctly. OP is not making money from this. It does, in fact, net out even.

          1. LBK*

            She’s not making money she didn’t have before but she is saving money she (or her boyfriend) would otherwise have to spend for the cost of the boyfriend’s flight.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          It’s not free to her, though. Someone still had to pay for a plane ticket either way. It’s not like she can walk up and just get the free ticket without paying for the expensive ticket.

          1. LBK*

            But only because she wants her boyfriend to come on the trip, which is not a required expense.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              It’s not an expense, period. There’s no scenario in which the company pays $0.01 more because the boyfriend traveled.

              1. LBK*

                In total, no, but they’re paying more than the cost of the OP’s individual ticket, which is the only ticket they have any responsibility to pay for.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Hey, please don’t make this stuff personal. I’m going to suggest that you two agree to disagree and move on from this (because I saw you had a really long back and forth on it below as well).

    9. Specialk9*

      I don’t understand why you use your personal miles for work travel. The deal is they get you from home to travel site to home; meals and hotel and incidentals during the official. If you stay longer to sightsee, you pay for the extra days’ hotels, meals, and incidentals. But the company still has to get you home. If you have a side trip and fly home from a different city, I’d ask – beforehand – if they would cover the ticket home if the price is comparable. I would only expect you to use your personal miles for the actual side trip.

  3. Bend & Snap*

    #2 this would be a huge deal in my company. The liability of booking travel for a non employee is something they take seriously and we have a long and restrictive travel policy for these types of situations.

    It doesn’t matter that the financial outcome is the same; there are other factors that companies worry about. Now you know it’s not cool and can follow their guidelines next time.

    1. Voice from the wilderness*

      If the financial outcome is the same, why complicate things?

      Make it easy for your company. Get a round trip ticket for yourself, and let your partner book a flight “alone” on the same flight as you.

      The flight logistics will be the same, but the accounting for your company will be simpler.

      1. MK*

        The financial outcome is the same for the company, but not the OP, whose partner would then have to pay for their return ticket.

        OP, I think you need to realise that it not only “look likes” your company paid for your partner’s ticket, that is what actually happened.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          So basically, OP wants the company to pay for their partner’s flight? That’s not cool to do, without checking first.

          1. Blue Stapler*

            Indeed. Although effectively the cost to the company is no different, the optics are pretty poor and it may contravene company policy on reimbursements. It will almost definitely be questioned during an audit. I know this would not be an acceptable thing to do at my current company, which is much stricter about reimbursements than my last job was. But even at my last place, I would have been expected to ask and get permission before booking.

            1. Bolt*

              My accounting roots were just screaming AUDIT RED FLAG!!!

              The government can come down hard if this is used as a tax deduction and the ticket is not in the name of the employee or company representative. There is a real chance it would be denied with penalties and interest for the taxes saved.

              I’d only recommend a 50% reimbursement as the ticket covered travel for an unrelated party. But even then it would be a stretch on the spirit of the policy.

              I know some companies would flat out deny this and claim she is trying to defraud the company by having his ticket home completely free when individual bookings would have made him pay for it.

        2. Temperance*

          I totally get where LW is coming from, because logically, it is true that the costs are the same. However, the company is paying for her boyfriend’s flight rather than hers, and the optics are not ideal.

        3. BananaPants*

          Our travel audit department would flip out. Honestly, OP2 would be lucky to not have her travel privileges suspended for a stunt like that.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think “Voice from the wilderness” is agreeing with you! They’re recommending OP buy her own roundtrip ticket and leave her boyfriend’s flight costs (and reimbursement requests) out of her expenditures entirely.

      2. LS*

        I think you misread the post, because the OP submitted only her SO’s flight for reimbursement for the return leg. Because he gets the companion benefit. Essentially asking the company to pay for his flight instead of hers. The cost is the same but there are other factors to consider.

        1. CityMouse*

          Actually it give a the employee an additional benefit too – paying for his flight.

        2. MK*

          No, I didn’t misread it. The OP and her partner paid for one ticket (the partner’s) and the OP traveled free; then the OP asked the company to reimburse the partner’s ticket. If the OP and her partner had booked two tickets, the partner would have to pay for his, which would be an added expense for them, and the company would have to pay for the OP’s, so there is no added expense for the company, but this doesn’t change the fact that the ticket they are being asked to pay now is not the OP’s but the partner’s. Which might have been fine, but it’s not a given that the company would be alright with that and the OP should have asked first. Basically what the OP did was find a way for her partner to travel at half the cost, taking advantage of her reimbursements. It’s not unlike when a company books a hotel room for a business trip and the employee wants to bring a plus-one stay in the room with them; some companies are ok with it, some not.

          1. Not in US*

            Actually it’s completely different than having someone stay in your hotel room unless the hotel charges occupancy per person (and normally that’s only when its more than 2 people in a room). My company would not reimburse this flight expense. We don’t even reimburse meals if you use a gift card. Our policy states you must be out of pocket for the expense to be reimbursed and with this flight or a meal paid using a gift certificate it’s deemed a non-expense. I completely agree with the policy on the flights – I honestly don’t on the meals but it is what it is. (We otherwise treat gift certificates as equivalent to cash so I have an issue with the inconsistency of the policies).

    2. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      This! my company is the same way. They wouldn’t even allow you to book an airfare in anyone else’s name. They would even give a side-eye to staying at the location for the extra time (outside of business). The auditors will have a field day with this. Next time, keep business and personal separate.

      1. Mike C.*

        Staying for extra time just isn’t a big deal though. It’s pretty easy to split the costs of a hotel room between the business and personal days.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yeah, my bf has travelled for work his whole career for several companies and has often stayed over for a few days on his own dime and it’s never been a problem. The return flight even costs less sometimes because he’s then traveling back on a cheaper day of the week.
          But that’s a lot more straight forward than what the op is doing.

      2. oldbiddy*

        I work at a university, so they’re pretty flexible about letting us extend trips or adding an extra leg on if it results in a cheaper flight, but we do have to include a screen shot of what the flight would’ve cost if we didn’t extend it. No way would they let me get a reimbusement for something not booked in my own name.

      3. Sunflower*

        Extending trips is a very, very common thing that people do- the OP even said its fine

      4. sunny-dee*

        Recognizing the companies are different … mine has absolutely no problem with us extending visits or having spouses (even families) stay with us — but everything is family-related is on our own dime. I have had my husband join me for long weekends after I’ve done a conference, and I always book his ticket separately, and on our personal credit card. I book my tickets through our corporate travel agent. I book the hotel for my conference stay through corporate on the corporate card, and then have a separate reservation for the additional days.

        I have had my husband join me when I was on a work trip and he just needed a break; he stayed in my (corporate booked) hotel room, but everything else (meals, car rental, airplane ticket) we paid for. We even got separate checks when we ate out together.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, that’s really the only reasonable way to mix work and personal trips – by keeping the money strictly separate. Which OP very much didn’t do.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The trip extension is actually probably ok for most companies—it’s much easier to break up and track those costs. Even when I worked for the feds, they were ok with you extending your stay as long as you accounted for it correctly when reimbursed (although I did check with the powers that be before doing it!). But paying for a third-party’s return ticket or related costs for non-business travel/purposes would be a huge, waving red flag.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I don’t think liability would play into it here. The OP can claim to have booked their partner’s return trip as their partner, not as an employee. It sounds like their company handles it the same way we do, which is that the person makes their own arrangements and merely submits receipts for reimbursement.

      I think the OP objects to not getting reimbursed for using the companion pass, which I can understand since while it is no cost to the OP it obviously has value. I think one solution here is for the OP to buy their ticket and not use the companion pass, since the company will not reimburse the OP if their travel is comped. If the travel pass cannot be saved, they could try to sell it, if that’s permitted by the airline, or give it away to a close friend or family member.

      1. CityMouse*

        FWIW, if OP’s companion pads works like my spouse’s did, it is unlimited for a certain amount of time, not a limited number of trips. We had it for a while year and there was not a restriction on the number of flights. I feel in that situation you can really see the problem because it isn’t a do it resource used by OP.

      2. Bend & Snap*

        I work for a fortune 150 and they specifically use the term “liability” in their travel and expense policies.

        We have flexibility to extend trips to do personal travel, etc, but we are not allowed to combine expenses with anyone else. Everything booked has to be in our name only.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Sorry, wasn’t trying to quibble about word choice, just focusing on the difference between reimbursing per expense and per diem type reimbursements. Since this is a reimbursement for a specific expense, the employee (OP) needs to incur an expense in order to be reimbursed.

        2. Natalie*

          “Liability” can have a lot of meanings outside of “legal liability”, especially in business where it may refer to “tax liability” or a liability account in their financials.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I was going to say this! But because when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail, I read the issue as legal liability (I don’t know enough about accounting to know if it’s a tax/financial liability—I suspect it’s, at a minimum, a tax liability as well).

  4. nnn*

    What I really dislike about the reverse job fair idea in #5 is that they’re making the applicants bear the cost of setting up booths, even though the applicants are presumably unemployed and likely have no particular expertise in this area. (Unless, like, their training is designing booths and they’re looking for jobs as booth designers.)

    Companies have more resources than unemployed new graduates, and can hire professionals to design and set up a booth and swag and business cards and everything else that entails. Companies are also more likely to have a reason or opportunity to reuse the booth set-up and decorations and swag, and room to store it.

    This seems to be part of the general societal trend towards making the person with the least power and expertise and resources bear the risk, and I don’t like it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s an organization that helps people with disabilities find jobs, so it’s pretty likely that the basic costs are covered. And employers aren’t going to be expecting the sort of professional booth design you’d see in corporate booths.

      1. t*

        I also wonder if they do that because some people with disabilities may be less mobile and this set up would actually be easier on those folks. All the able bodied HR folks have to wander around instead.

        1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

          I’ve heard about reverse job fairs before and it had nothing to do with disabilities. So I don’t think it’s specifically designed for job seekers with disabilities, but of course it can be helpful in this situation. (Though all the HR folks aren’t necessarily able bodied either!)

          I could be interested in a reverse job fair if it was somehow targeted for my field. If it was open for any job seeker, the benefit would be too small compared to how much work it is to be involved. In my experience, events where you meet potential employers in person tend to be quite helpful in job seeking.

          1. Jen A.*

            In this specific case, the OP said it is part of a program to help job seekers with disabilities.

            1. Anna*

              Yeah, I think in this particular case it is with that particular thing in mind.

              Also, again, having worked around a lot of programs that work with people with disabilities, they aren’t making them pay for the booth. Maybe the decorations, and I’m willing to bet the program will have things available their clients can use, but it’s not going to be at a cost to the participants.

      2. Jenny*

        Allison you are correct. This is free to potential employees and the organization is also helping out with ideas. In fact, one of their interns who is a photography major has offered to do free headshots to use on social media and any other job related platforms (resumes etc). The problem being I can be a perfectionist and I want it to look as corporate as possible.

    2. HR Recruiter*

      I have not attended one but have been invited to several (as employer) and have seen pictures. Typically the candidate has one of those three panel boards you get for a few dollars at the grocery store. You know the ones you used in grade school for science fair, etc. They post their resume and skills on it. I’m assuming the agencies pay for those supplies since typically nonprofits and government agencies are the ones doing these type of job fairs. Those agencies usually have free computers, printers, paper, and ink to use as well. These job fairs are always free for the candidates. Its very simple. Absolutely no need to spend money on table skirts, business, cards, decorations, or anything!
      It can be very intimidating for a candidate to approach a booth to talk to an employer. Often times I see candidates struggle because they don’t know what to say. Or they want to talk to us (employer) but there’s a big crowd. With the reverse job fair the employers go up to each candidate and introduce themselves and start the conversation (taking the pressure off the candidate).

      1. Queen of the File*

        I can see this side of it. If I were in that position (especially at the start of my career) I think I would really enjoy creating a display and letting my work attract people to me rather than having to start with an awkward conversation with company after company to introduce myself.

      2. Jenny*

        Thank your for your response. I had “researched” on Google and found YouTube videos and slideshare presentations but all of them were for recent or soon to be college graduates. Since I am in my mid 40s I thought maybe it should be more polished. I don’t know if I will make use of the wifi capabilities-I do not know what projection capabilities would be and if I made a slide show or something on my computer that might be awkward having someone mill around just clicking. I would probably have to explain each one etc. I feel like it would make a potential employer feel stuck longer than they wanted out of politeness.

  5. Brett*

    When I worked public sector, this would have been a very bad thing to do, the kind that can (and has) landed people on the evening news. There had to be a very bright line in spending when taking a companion on a trip. Interestingly, often the biggest issue with companion travel was frequent flyer miles (in our state, the frequent flyer miles from the outbound leg and the return leg of the trip were required by law to go to the employer if any part of the trip was paid by tax money or grants).

    1. Brett*

      There’s actually a really good recent example in our area of why this is a problem. A local elected official (I think not subject to the same law because she is elected) budgeted over $25k worth of travel and took another $5k in trips reimbursed to her office by vendors. Rather than booking on a companion’s pass, she had her own pass to fly her companion on. So her partner went with her (trips included NYC, Atlanta, Vegas, San Diego, and Paris) and she booked everything on her credit card. So her companion flew free, they picked up all the frequent flyer miles, and kept ~30k in credit card points on tax payer (and vendor) money without paying a cent out of pocket.

      1. Aphrael*

        I had to write my credit card company and get them to deduct about $30 worth of points last time I traveled on state business…

        1. CheeryO*

          Wait, really? I work for state government and typically use my personal credit card instead of my travel card because of the rewards. My agency allows it… maybe because we don’t do a ton of traveling, so it’s pretty small potatoes.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Mine does the same thing as Aphrael. I think it depends on each agency, or on the State’s overall purchasing policies.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, I’ve seen people get PIP’d or fired over this (but all in the context of public sector and nonprofit employment, which is often much stricter than the for-profit private sector). It would be such a red flag for an auditor, and it raises both ethical and legal liability concerns. I’m sure there are workplaces where it would not be a big deal, but I think OP should take the manager’s reaction to heart and be mindful going foward.

        1. Shay*

          My company would deny the claim and I’m not in government or at a nonprofit. I completely understand the OP’s reasoning, but the company literally is being asked to pay for the flight of someone not employed by them and who wasn’t on business for them. Never mind the additional insurance and liability issues.

        2. BananaPants*

          Private sector employee here, at a F50 company, and this would be a serious matter for OP2 – likely disciplinary action would be suspension of business travel, and if her job required travel it would be no bueno.

  6. Al Lo*

    #5 sounds like the “portfolio review” we had at the end of grad school (theatre school; specifically designers/managers/etc). We set up a fair with a booth for each person, and then industry reps would come around and view our work and chat with us.

    Obviously, someone like a costume designer or props designer can have lots of visual aids of their work, and in-person samples that someone perusing their portfolio website wouldn’t get to see in person. Designers in disciplines like sound, lights, or sets would usually have a slide show playing, multiple video screens or large printed photos showing largescale work, or headphones to listen to sound designs.

    For those of us who were in disciplines like producing, production management, and stage management, we had to think a little bit differently, since our work wasn’t as tangible (and I suspect this is more similar to what you’re dealing with). We would have photos or videos of the shows, since it’s helpful to show the scale and kind of work that we did, even if we didn’t specifically design or act in them. Stage managers would have a SM book or two available if anyone wanted to look at it. I would have a TV or computer scrolling through production photos, along with a binder of significant work, programs from shows, etc.

    Can you highlight projects that you’ve been involved with, either in previous jobs, through your course, or as a volunteer? Are there visuals — photos of projects or events? Do you have samples of merchandise or other physical items that you’ve worked with, built, or sold? Can you include multi-media in some way — can you have a video looping with headphones for people to put on? Are there pieces of documentation that you’ve developed that show skill and aptitude? They’re not the most interesting thing to display, but it never hurts to have a portfolio of sorts in a binder to pull out if it comes up.

    And never underestimate a well-designed table. A vase of flowers or a bowl of candy, a tablecloth if the table is bare (or a table runner if the conference centre has standard tablecloths), neatly printed signs (cheap black picture frames go a long way in displaying signage), a business card holder (instead of a stack on the table), etc. go a long way to make your space inviting. Use levels to make it more interesting. I’ve seen great personal booths that use things like old suitcases to create levels and set the stage of a specific aesthetic. Those wire mesh shelving things that clip together are great for giving your space dimension and giving you surfaces to clip or attach things to. Pick a color scheme, and try to fit your major pieces into that. Can you incorporate softer lighting — does a lamp fit into your aesthetic choices and make your space look and feel cozier? Does that fit with the image you want to portray?

    1. Annie*

      I think the levels are a great idea (as are the rest of your ideas!) and I can add that I’ve used a table cloth to cover boxes or other plinths, so that might be another affordable option. I’d also make sure to have a chair for the visitor if the candidate is someone who’s more comfortable sitting, and to practice various introductions and summaries of your work history/skills etc. I’d also practice body language that is welcoming and if welcoming the public is not an existing skill (from retail or other public facing positions), practice how to greet and summon “customers” and possibly practicing body language as well since for some people (me!) this would be a very new and awkward situation and I would want to make sure that I don’t show that to prospective employers

      1. Al Lo*

        Also, scarves. I’ve used large scarves already in my closet to cover boxes or to use as a table runner.

      2. Al Lo*

        And definitely — body language is huge. Don’t sit at the back of the booth with your arms crossed waiting for people to come to you.

        If you have any say over the way your booth is set up, put the table at the back, and the chairs in front. Eliminate the barrier between you and your guest, rather than sitting behind a table and talking to them over it.

        1. Genny*

          Definitely second the recommendation to be as engaging as possible.

          LW, have you’ve ever been to a major metropolitan city and seen people handing out flyers or soliciting donations? Be like those people. Be proactive. Smile and say hi to people. Pull them into your space (but not literally). If you have something to hand out, don’t wait for people to come take it off your table. Go give it to them. The more you can initiate the conversation, the better luck you’ll have.

      3. Al Lo*

        I’ll just keep replying to myself since I keep thinking of things that I’ve done in the past…

        If you’re looking for booth decor or props (and maybe even A/V equipment or screens), but don’t want to purchase any, see if you can connect with someone like a local drama teacher or a small theatre company. Especially if you’re doing this over the summer, they may have items they can loan you while they’re not in session. You could also try finding a Facebook group to post to — some buy/sell or garage sale groups are open to this kind of request, or there may be an industry-specific group in your city that you could reach out to.

        If you know any artists or people in direct sales companies who set up booths at craft fairs and markets, they may be willing to lend you some items. For actual setup ideas, check out the Facebook events or photo albums of those kinds of events, too, to see how different smaller, independent booths are set up. A lot of the people who sell at those aren’t doing a full-out corporate setup, so you can get some achievable, good ideas for what looks good to you, how people use levels, props, and signage, what looks professional vs. hokey, and so on.

        1. Startup HR*

          I don’t have any setup ideas to add, but don’t forget to bring things to help with your personal comfort throughout the day. Layers to put on or take off depending on air conditioning levels, snacks and drinks, a hand mirror to check your teeth after eating a snack, and, most importantly, a ‘back in 15 minutes’ sign for when you need a break. Ask if you’ll have access to an outlet for power and adjust accordingly. (You don’t always get put near one.)

          1. Al Lo*

            Yeah, an extension cord and a power bar are a must. And if you don’t end up needing it, you can save someone’s day if you share it. Making friends with the person beside you (which may not be an issue if it’s all your classmates) is handy — it’s good to have someone who can keep an eye on your table when you leave for that quick bathroom break.

        2. Annie*

          I also always find it helpful to pack extension cords, gaffers tape, duct tape, water bottles, waste bags, sand bags (probably not needed here, assuming indoors with no banners?), kleenex, baby wipes, hand-sani, and make sure to reserve two or three chairs if given a choice

          1. Annie*

            And, Zip ties, utility knife, a rubber mat for standing, and a scarf or change of clothes for when I spill coffee. Plus the resumes and business cards etc you’d need for your meetings

            1. Annie*

              And a way to take notes or collect HR people’s cards neatly without getting them confused with your materials

          1. Annie*

            Thank you! It’s fun to finally feel like I have something to add, and that those hour and hours at trade shows are helpful :) this is such a great community for this and more reasons

    2. Oh Fiddlesticks*

      I just attended a conference and by far the most popular booth was the one that gave out doughnuts.

      Treats go a long way in attracting people.

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Memories of when I was trying to get my catering business going. The first job fair I attended I brought all kinds of baked goodies as samples of my work. The other attendees hoovered most of them up before visitors had a chance. Next one, I hid the goods and only brought them out when potential clients stopped by my table.

      2. Jenny*

        I have worked big local trade show as a manager for a niche bakery! You are so right! Everyone wants a freebie.

    3. over educated*

      Wow. I’ve had to set up booths for work at various events and realize reading this post that I have not brought the A-game! (We thought we did well in the past just being the only people at the event who brought a tablecloth with our org’s name and some free pencils.) I feel like this should be its own post on some professional advice website.

    4. kitryan*

      I thought it sounded a lot like URTAs (basically a massive version of the above, for theater grad school interviews), which I attended back in 2000, back when pretty much no one had monitors or anything like that.
      I agree with all of the above.

    5. LibbyG*

      I haven’t been to a job fair like this (on either end), but I do go to a lot of conferences with poster presentations.

      My thought to share is that, ultimately, its about the conversation. You don’t have to put your whole professional self on display; just enough so that the right HR know to come talk to you (“Ah! There’s someone interested in QA!”). I can imagine a set up with one or two large images to convey the general area in which you seek to work, medium sized things that help display your skills, and small things that might come up in the course of a conversation. Is this what “visual hierarchy” refers to? Anyway, the idea it to avoid that awkwardness where someone needs to either come close and read or else start a conversation without any frame (in which case the display wouldn’t be doing anything useful at all). Good luck! Please tell us how it goes!

      1. Jenny*

        I will! I knew people on this site would come up with great ideas. I was honored Allison chose my question. Thanks again to all those that replied.

    6. Jenny*

      Wow thank you! And yes we all are from a diverse backgrounds. I have a very eclectic background-majored in Business Admin/Marketing and have been a manager, trainer and teacher as well as a proof coordinator for a large print company. I have a diploma from this organization, certifications in Word, certifications from a pontifical institute, I think a certificate that I am a member of Kiwanis. I could maybe find some print materials from my job as a proof coordinator. Graphics from the store I managed (a cute niche bakery), perhaps also some other materials.

      My best friend suggested taking newspaper want ads and use it as a table cloth with a large sign saying something like “Your search ends here” but that seems to be over the top for me. I do like the simple and more classic look. Sorry it took me so long to reach this down thread-I worked today and it was a long week!

      1. Elspeth*

        It sounds like you already have a ton of great ideas, but here’s a few more, just in case. ;)

        If you’re on a budget, look at the stuff you already have and try to pull it together with some kind of scheme: matching colours (Reds? Earth tones? Pastels?), similar materials (Silver metal or chrome? Brass or copper or plastic or wood?), or neutrals (black, grey, white, cream, etc) Consider buying a roll of wrapping paper and covering some items, if that helps. Also consider pooling resources with other people in your group, Someone else might love to borrow that black/floral pattern/neon item that you can’t use, and you would have more choices you don’t have to pay for.

        A couple of clipboards, one for other people to write notes on, and one for you to write notes on, and a multi-pocket folder, so you can drop each co’s deets/cards/fliers/wev into separate pockets.

        If there are likely to be more recruiters with disabilities at this event, consider their needs. A bowl of water for assistance dogs. Chairs with higher, harder seats, and arms, to make it easier for people to sit & stand. Clipboards, as I said. Small snacks that allow for common allergies, diabetes, etc. Avoid common visual or sound triggers for migraines or fits (NO strobe lights or strobing effects, and avoid fast video cuts or sudden volume changes, for example). Maybe set up a low coffee table in front of the main table, so it’s visible and reachable from small person or wheelchair height.

        You could make up four or five USB stick resumes with your resume in a range of accessible formats: Your Name’s Large Print Resume in 72 pt font.txt; Your Name’s Spoken Word Resume in an avi file.avi; Your Name’s Video Resume, etc

  7. So Very Anonymous*

    OP #3, Alison’s advice is really good — those are good blanks to think about how to fill. You can also think about how any skills you’ve developed as part of your PhD program are transferable to the kinds of jobs you’re applying for. I just did a Google search on “phd transferable skills” and am seeing a number of major university career centers offering strategies for this, along with resources from the Chronicle of Higher Education etc. etc. Versatile PhD (link to follow) can also be a resource. It’s been awhile since I was looking for this kind of information, but my sense is that there’s more career advice out there these days for people in your position than there was when I was finishing grad school. I think more universities seem aware of the need to offer information about alternative careers, which can be relevant both for people who finish their PhDs and for those who don’t.

    1. Blue*

      Your recommendations are good ones! I work on the admin side of higher ed, and we get lots of applications from new PhDs and advanced grad students. I’m always surprised at how few of them make any effort to articulate why they’re changing direction and how their academic background gives them experience and perspective valuable to our work. I can draw some of those conclusions since I was once an advanced graduate student bailing on academia myself, but it should really be on them to connect those dots.

      And have non-academic people review your application materials! Many do not adjust the CV, etc. they created with academic jobs in mind, and they’re not doing themselves any favors.

      Good luck, OP! It once helped me to hear that you can quit grad school and the world won’t end, so know that I bailed on a PhD program after 5 years, and 6 years later, I have no regrets.

      1. over educated*

        I’m curious – do they talk about other work experience and how it is relevant to your work? I have a PhD as well as experience in non-profits in the field I was trying to get into (most of which was funded either directly or indirectly through the PhD, so “quit for a full time salary” was not a simple choice). I’ve always focused my applications much more heavily on that experience than on the subject matter I studied, trying to present the job I’m applying for as a “natural next step” rather than “changing direction.” Is that what you look for in terms of tailoring applications, or do you actually want to see a more direct explanation of why someone’s subject matter is relevant to the job?

        1. Blue*

          I think you definitely have the right approach. Emphasis on related experience is most valuable, no question. It just gets sticky with academics who went from undergrad to grad school and have little practical experience other than teaching undergrads. In those cases, I’m looking for them to emphasize the transferable skills they’ve developed (and there are plenty!) What they were studying while developing those skills isn’t all that critical.

      2. SJ*

        This! I only got as far as completing an MA in a highly specific area of literature and then decided not to go on for a PhD because of the dire job situation. I felt like a failure/quitter at first, especially because my brother finished a PhD and then went on for a postdoc. I decided to go into higher ed admin instead — it sounds very weird when I first tell people what my MA is in, but when I go on to explain “I bailed after the MA because there are zero jobs in this field,” people get it, including prospective employers (and it helps my MA is from a really good school). I’ve actually worked with a number of people who come from very different backgrounds, including PhD programs/other grad programs, who made the switch into admin. Students in grad programs come out with a lot of vital skills – writing, communication, research, etc.

        1. Blue*

          I totally feel you on all of this. It took me a while to stop feeling like I was failing to live up to my potential or whatever, but even then I didn’t regret walking away for a whole host of reasons, horrid job market included. And there really are a lot of good skills you can put to use, which is why it frustrates me when people transitioning out of academia don’t make efforts to address the transferability of the skills they’ve developed!

          Fortunately, I don’t have to explain myself often. A bunch of my coworkers have academic backgrounds, so they get it. Most of the faculty I work closely with are pretty great, and when I tell them about leaving grad school while ABD, I usually get a response like, “I don’t blame you,” or “You were smarter than me.” (I am occasionally asked if I’d ever finish my dissertation, and the answer to that is an emphatic no unless I somehow become independently wealthy and can do that as a full-time job…)

      3. Rainy, PI*

        I left my PhD ABD and not only has it not been the end of the world, I am embarking on a career that was made available to me mainly because of my experience in academia as a grad student. And it’s stable! And has benefits! :)

        1. Blue*

          Yes, same! And being able to actually stop working at 5 and not feel guilty about it is the BEST.

          1. Rainy, PI*

            Oh my god, right? It took me a year and a half to stop feeling guilty when I did nothing in the evenings.

    2. Anonicat*

      I dropped out of my PhD just past the 1 year mark in 2006. Partly it was because I’d had a close-up view of a lab head’s life, the “usual” aim of a biomed PhD, and I didn’t want that life for myself. Mostly it was that I had terrible undiagnosed PTSD and depression and continuing with the (low paid, high workload) PhD course felt like throwing myself into a black hole. So I bailed with no plans of what to do other than get medical help. Eventually I went back to working as a research assistant and lab heads were completely unfazed by the PhD drop out thing. They’ve done it themselves and overseen others doing it and know there is no point throwing another 2-3 years of your life into the bottomless pit of a PhD if you’re not aiming for something that needs it!

    3. misspiggy*

      That’s a really good point. A lot of nonprofits will be very happy to take someone two thirds of the way through a PhD. They won’t have to pay as much as a full PhD, and they’ll get lots of great research and analysis skills – if OP can show she’s got them. Work culture wise, the fairly practical mindset of many nonprofit people chimes with the mindset of someone who’s got frustrated in academia and wants to do more in the ‘real world’.

    4. Anonymous for this case*

      Going anon, since this would out me, but stopping a Ph.D. program is no big deal. I’m ABD in cultural anthropology, but I can honestly say that the training and experience has been applicable in every job I’ve had subsequently. I have advanced skills in answering “Why the heck is that happening?!” and the answer isn’t always the obvious one. It sounds like you will be able to relate your training and subject matter to the sector that you actually want to work in, so that’s even easier to understand for outsiders.

      In my experience, hiring managers who are most curious or concerned are in areas that attract a lot of would-be academics, like university libraries and higher education in general. Their concern usually focuses on whether you genuinely decided to stop because you realized that becoming a teaching/research academic wasn’t for you, or wasn’t practical, or your goals changed, versus someone who might be bitter about the academic job market or continuing to be unrealistic about chances of getting a “real” academic job or finishing their Ph.D. I’ve worked with a few who are convinced that the jobs they’ve held for many years are beneath them (and their coworkers are too).

      Work on being quite convincing in your explanation of why you are eager to get cracking in a chosen alternate career while valuing and using the training and experiences you received in your graduate program, and you should be fine.

    5. Anonymous #81,027,415*

      I dropped out of graduate school about 23 years ago (PhD in Math Education). The university that I attended kept on screwing up my financial aid and in turn affected my school work (to the point where I would have been on academic probation the day I got back), so I left.

      Do I regret what I did? Back then, dropping out of college would have been shameful, but today, I have no regrets at all, especially when you spend more time at the bursar’s office than a classroom, and one of your professors tells you, point blank, how bad you were in class. That was enough to make the walk to admissions and get my withdrawal papers.

  8. Bea*

    As a bookkeeper, #2 made me flinch.

    I understand that as an employee booking a trip, it makes sense to them and it’s not a big deal. However auditors do not care about any of that, they hear so many excuses and “reasons” why things are legit that they just think it’s a way of covering up something dicey.

    This could be fixed by not allowing employees to be booking their flights like that though so they aren’t making these decisions themselves.

    1. Shay*

      The OP’s manager is already “bristly” about it (she has to sign off on it at some point I’m sure). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the company’s finance department still refuses to reimburse it. They’re being asked to pay for a flight for a non-employee who wasn’t on business for the company.

      1. TravelAnon*

        This would be a big fat NOPE in our central travel office (big state university) even if the employee’s manager approved it.
        The bad guy who denies these expense reports

      2. Bea*

        That’s a great point, I didn’t even stop to think that just because the manager signs the report that the people in accounting weren’t like “Yeah…no.” My scope is super micro sized businesses and I forget that much larger places have multiple stops along the way for these things *face palm*

      3. Queen of the File*

        I totally understand OP’s reasoning and I am glad that it hasn’t resulted in disciplinary action–sometimes you just don’t yet have the corporate experience to see the points people are making here.

        To erase what might be a bit of a black mark next to OP’s name I think going back to the manager, offering to repay the return flight, and saying “I thought it over and I see now how this could be a reimbursement issue” might be the right course of action.

  9. Cautionary tail*

    Op #3, In my PhD program, there was an 80% drpout rate, or said differently a 20% completion rate, If you finish your classes but don’t finish (or even don’t start) your dissertation, you can state that you are ABD (all but dissertation). As for putting on your resume that you didn’t finish classes, I’m not sure how helpful that would be.

    BTW, it took me seven years to complete my PhD and if it wasn’t for the encouragement and admonitions of the dean I may not have fnished.

    I work in industry during the day and an adjunct at night so I really don’t get invoved with university politics.

    1. teclatrans*

      This would be a handy thing to put on my resume, but I am never sure how to word it. The format doesn’t match that of my other degree work.

    2. Don't use ABD on your resume*

      I dropped out of my PhD program and my school was willing to give a Master’s degree anyone who finished the coursework portion of the PhD. If you can get a Master’s degree out of the experience, that might be beneficial (although please see previous posts on the value of including a Master’s degree on your resume).

      I would be very careful saying ABD (all but dissertation). In a lot of graduate programs, the only real difference between a PhD and a Master’s degree is the dissertation. At least in the area I’m in (economics) saying PhD (ABD) makes you sound very out of touch/trying to claim a PhD without actually doing the work for it. Of course in economics, some companies (like the Federal government) you can be a PhD Economist, a Master’s degree Economist or a Bachelor’s degree Economist and they are pay differently and have different expectations. They hire PhDs specifically because they were able to complete a dissertation.

      1. Kate*

        At least in the area I’m in (economics) saying PhD (ABD) makes you sound very out of touch/trying to claim a PhD without actually doing the work for it.

        PhD in Chemistry here, and I had the same thought. Instead of putting ABD or PhC (which I’ve actually never heard of, so I’d be concern employers might think it’s a different degree all together), I’d focus on what you did accomplish. If you did course work or research that might be relevant to you career path, you could list that. I think saying, “Completed coursework in this and this” or “Researched such and such” has a lot more weight to it than “Completed 3 years in a PhD program”.

      2. Jeje*

        Doesn’t ABD include passing your quals, which wouldn’t be required for a master’s?

        1. teclatrans*

          Yes, this. Maybe this is more of a humanities thing, but in my field, [coursework] + [thesis on a narrow research question] = Masters, whereas being a PhD candidate/ABD requires [coursework] + [reading deeply & broadly in your fields and then passing qualifying exams demonstrating intellectual mastery of those fields]. If someone who is ABD then decides to write a thesis and take a terminal Masters degree (if the program will even grant one), their academic training is significantly more advanced than that of others holding a Masters degree in the same field, at least in the humanities fields I know of.

        2. Optimistic Prime*

          Usually, yes. At my graduate university, you got an MA after finishing the coursework requirements (and writing a short integrative paper); ABD was after you completed comprehensive exams and your dissertation proposal. We were granted an MPhil upon completing the ABD requirements, which was pretty handy.

    3. Chameleon*

      I have seen people who passed their general exam but did not finish their thesis list their credential as PhC (C for candidate). I feel like that’s a little gimmicky but it does seem a bit more formal than ABD.

        1. Ultraviolet*

          In case it’s not clear, “PhD candidate” is the common term used by graduate schools to describe someone who’s completed all their coursework and exams but not the dissertation. “Advancing to candidacy” is a big official milestone in the program. (I’ve never seen PhC though, and I do think that that abbreviation looks so much like a degree that it’s deceptive.)

  10. Landshark*

    OP5, I’d say ask the managers of the reverse job fair program whether there’s anything that’s prohibited so that you don’t overstep any bounds, but I second the idea of making it neat but eye catching. Perhaps something like a bowl of candy (nut-free, if you can manage… that way you don’t risk allergies! Or get something like Dum-Dums, since they’re major allergen free), an arrangement of relevant work samples as is relevant to your area of expertise, and absolutely don’t forget a basket or something similar. That way, if you’re busy talking and there’s someone who’s on a time crunch but wants to drop off business cards, pamphlets, etc., you have a designated place that you can put it (probably near the back of your table or behind a sign so that it’s not obtrusive) without interrupting your flow. It’s something I’ve seen plenty of employers do at standard job fairs, and it’s a nice tool.

  11. Annie*

    For what it’s worth, I quit a PhD and now work in the public sector and my experience is that the PhD time is only a small blip in my employers eyes – more of a curiosity, and less of a “failure” or “lack of…(whatever)” which were the reactions of academics and other PhD students. It can be a tough transition if you don’t luck out in terms of opportunities that make your skills, but the general public (and even professional worker) reaction is much less than I would have anticated when I announced to academics

    1. Blue*

      Yeah, I occasionally get asked if I plan to finish my dissertation, but otherwise it doesn’t really come up. And who knows, OP might be lucky enough to have rational academics in her corner! I was worried about telling my profs and classmates when I decided to quit, and they were actually all incredibly supportive.

    2. Nosy Nelly*

      Same! I dropped out in 2014 and have been employed all but 2 months since then. Makes almost zero difference in my life, and my current coworkers include ~50/50% people with and without PhDs.

    3. Jo*

      That might be true for PhD programs, but it is definitely NOT the case for MAs. I dropped out of my MA program one credit and a thesis project short of graduating, and it’s been haunting me ever since. I just lost an interview (an hour ago) for a position I was really excited about with an NGO doing excellent work in a place I’ve always wanted to live because it would be in a country (not my own) that requires foreigners to have an MA before they will issue a work permit.

      This is not the first time a similar issue has come up. Far from it. Maybe in a different field it matters less; I can’t speak to that, but in mine (international development/NGOs), I usually can’t even get an interview without those two obnoxious little letters behind my name.

      Okay, I’m sorry for the mini-rant. I thought I had put this behind me but apparently I’m still sensitive about it and losing that interview was a particularly bitter pill.

      1. Annie*

        Yeah, MA programs are much different especially if they are a sort of professional designation. In the Western European tradition (not sure about anywhere else) an MA is what you get when you don’t finish your humanities PhD, so not finishing the PhD is seen differently than not finishing a professional-type MA (for example MLiS and similar)

  12. Cambridge Comma*

    #3, this might not work in your country, but in many educational systems you wouldn’t have to withdraw from the PhD, you could just tell potential employers that you’re taking a break of several years and decide later whether to go back. It might be because uniseri s completely free where I live, but I’ve known many people who did their PhD over ten or twelve years while working full time.

    1. spd*

      I could see this backfiring on OP in some industries. If OP is looking for the type of job that most people see as the terminal career track in their field (perhaps a consultant as an example), I could see companies being spooked about hiring someone who is saying that they’re planning to leave the field again and go back to school to finish their PhD. I work in a field where the degree required is generally considered the terminal degree but that you can get a PhD in if you really want to and go into academia instead of practical applications. I would definitely hire someone who started their PhD in the field and then decided that they’d rather do practical work and stopped; I wouldn’t hire someone who said they were taking a break for their PhD, because people in this field generally don’t start earning much money until they’ve been working for a few years anyway and a new employee really is a long term, several year investment. It probably depends on the field, but I think OP should think really hard about using this explanation.

  13. Isben Takes Tea*

    OP 2, I get your logic, but you’re actually asking the company to pay for your boyfriend’s trip. Even though it’s the same cost as IF it were for your ticket, it . . . wasn’t. Next time, just have your company pay for your flight, and save your companion ticket for a personal vacation.

    1. irritable vowel*

      I agree with this. The boyfriend’s ticket was a separate purchase, and the fact that the OP got their return ticket comped because of that is a bonus to the employer, who now doesn’t need to pay for it. The OP’s logic is flawed, IMO.

      1. EleonoraUK*

        I’m not sure I agree with that summary. She’s asking the company to pay for her return flight – which is fair – except hers was free because her partner flew for the same amount. I can see how her company would find it difficult to explain from an auditing point of view, but the OP clearly had nothing malicious in mind and figured it wouldn’t matter because the cost to the business was the same.

        If my employer wasn’t interested in letting my boyfriend’s free ticket work in my favour, I wouldn’t be interested in letting my company benefit from that arrangement either.

        1. Jen A.*

          But the free ticket isn’t working out in the OP’s favor, it’s working out in the boyfriend’s favor – in no scenario was the OP going to have to pay for a ticket but in the scenario created by the OP, the boyfriend only has to pay for half his ticket. It’s not in the company’s purview to make it cheaper for the boyfriend.

          Plus the costs might not be as “even” as it may seem. The company is being asked to pay for a 1-way ticket and half of a round trip ticket. A one-way ticket is typically not half the cost of a round trip ticket on a major carrier. It’s a little bit different on the discount carriers, but we don’t know what

          1. EleonoraUK*

            I’d argue it is in the OP’s favour – she’s away on business travel, which can be lonely, and as an upside has found a way her boyfriend can come along for a few days without it costing their household, through a perk the boyfriend brings to the table that the company have no claim on. The business travel was going to happen, there and back, so it was a sunk cost for the company. In theory, it wouldn’t harm the company one bit (apart from if a round trip ticket would have been cheaper).

            Agreed if two singles don’t cost the same as the return, then the OP did in fact leave the company out of pocket and that’s not on. I don’t live in the US but most flights I’ve been on in Europe, two singles have cost the same as a return, which is what I’ve based my comment on.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              I take issue with the first part of your response. Business travel may be lonely for some, but that’s not a reason to pay for a companion’s flight. If the OP were traveling for months, then maybe she could negotiate a visit, but this wasn’t a particularly long trip. She’s not entitled to his companionship on this trip. She got a free ticket because of her boyfriend’s status, but it doesn’t follow that he should get a free trip on the company, even if the additional costs are negligible.

              I have some generous friends who have upgraded me on flights with their points. It doesn’t mean I get to charge my company for that upgrade. If I want to take my boyfriend with me on a business trip, then we understand that he is entirely responsible for paying his own way, and that even includes paying for his own portion of our meals. He gets a “free” hotel room because I’m paying for it anyway, and that’s a perk he gets because he’s with me, just as a free companion fare would be a perk the OP gets because she’s traveling with her boyfriend.

              1. Jessesgirl72*

                Yes, I’ve traveled with my husband on business trips. For one company, we had to ask for separate checks at restaurants. At the other, it could be the same check, but he highlighted his portion of the meal on the receipt- which alcohol was not reimbursed, so they were used to highlighted receipts. The companies were fine with me getting the free hotel room (and my share of his appetizers and desserts) but they’d have rejected this scheme outright and he likely would have gotten reprimanded for trying to submit it.

            2. Jessesgirl72*

              The fact that now the company can’t use it as a tax deduction makes the company out money.

              I don’t care that business travel is lonely- that is part of her job, and she’s not entitled to having her boyfriend come along on the company’s dime because of it. The company may be roughly out the same cost (minus the tax deduction) but the OP and her boyfriend are benefiting from something they are no way entitled to.

              Honestly, they are very lucky it didn’t get rejected entirely, and it might still be yet. If they couldn’t afford for his ticket entirely on their own, he should stay home.

            3. EleonoraUK*

              I’m not saying she’s entitled, I’m just saying this is a situation in which everyone potentially wins, apart from the bit where it falls down in a horrible fashion because this stuff just doesn’t fly from a tax point of view.

              If you’re unaware of the tax implications, I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to have thought that, because the boyfriend brought the free ticket perk, it was all OK and he effectively paid for his own travel.

              The only reason that doesn’t work is because of how it is billed. Boyfriend: $$$ / Girlfriend: free. If the bill was the other way around no one would bat an eyelid, so I can see why the OP didn’t think it was a big deal. Unfortunately, in accounting, details like that do matter.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                I know absolutely nothing about accounting or taxes, and I still wouldn’t have assumed this. I’m not saying the OP was malicious in her thinking, not at all. But I don’t think it’s simply a matter of taxes. I travel for work, and the company reimburses me for the expenses I occur. If there’s an opportunity for my boyfriend to join me, I want it to be entirely above board with no question that I know what’s appropriate to bill back to the company (and, presumably, to clients).

                Let’s say the client buys me dinner after my meeting but the boyfriend has to eat on his own. I don’t get to expense it simply because I would have paid for a dinner if the clients hadn’t taken me out. I didn’t pay for dinner, I don’t expense it.

                1. Not in US*

                  I think this is a good point to make – I don’t think OP had malicious intent. In fact when I worked in internal audit we took great pains to point out that we weren’t questioning someone’s integrity in these kinds of situations but the fact of the matter is that this is not ok, it would not be reimbursed and if it wasn’t caught before it was paid out, at my company it could get you fired (not likely on a first offence but if it was more than once – yah). This would be front page news if the wrong people found out.

            4. neverjaunty*

              I am also not following the argument that the situation is a win-win or should be Ok because business travel “can be lonely”. It’s a work function, not a vacation; the company isn’t obligated to pay to make it more like one. And OP finding a way to get the company to pay for her boyfriend’s trip is not a win for the company.

              I’m sure the OP had good intentions, but “they’re out the same amount” doesn’t hold up when you look at it carefully.

              1. Jessesgirl72*

                I won’t say she had good intentions. She didn’t have bad intentions, but her intentions were definitely geared toward getting her company to pay for half of her boyfriend’s ticket for their vacation. It wasn’t malice and she didn’t think it made a difference, but she was clearly intending something that was only a benefit to herself.

              2. EleonoraUK*

                I think everyone’s getting very hung up on the ‘can be lonely’ – it was just shorthand for, happier employee at no extra cost is surely a benefit for the company as well.

                I completely agree that it doesn’t go, but it really is down the accounting at the end of the day, not because it’s morally reprehensible, in my view.

                If her boyfriend’s perks listed their names the other way around on the invoice (boyfriend free, girlfriend paid up ticket), the charges would be the exact same, she could expense for the plane ticket, and no one would bat an eyelid and it would all fly from an accounting point of view.

                To my mind, that’s effectively what they thought they were doing – boyfriend used his perk for a free flight, girlfriend used the money the company would spend on her return flight if the boyfriend hadn’t come. Note – what they thought they were doing, not what it amounts to from an accounting point of view.

                Mind you, we might just view it differently at the end of the day, and that’s fine. If I booked a table for a reimbursable dinner (work purposes), and my boyfriend joined me, intending to pay for his own food, but the restaurant said “oh, actually, we’re doing second diner free today!” you better believe my boyfriend’s meal is free and mine is getting expensed 100%. I’d have spent that money regardless of any deals or anyone joining me. If my boyfriend had a membership card that got us second diner free, I’d do the same, especially if it was his discount card in the first place.

                Now, if the deal was “get 50% off your food”, I would only put in 50% of my food up for reimbursement. I guess I view the OP’s flights situation as ‘second flight free’ rather than ‘get 50% off’.

                I’m going to stop myself here because I think I’ve turned right into Semantics Hair Splitting Lane and I hear it’s miles long :)

          2. Just Another Techie*

            But the company is out the cost of one round-trip fare no matter what. Let’s say boyfriend didn’t go at all. Company pays for one outbound flight and one return flight. Boyfriend goes and they do this weird comp ticket thing. Company pays for one outbound flight and one return flight. I understand that from an auditing perspective it’s fiddly and maybe not worth it, but I really am boggled by all the people saying the company is being charged for the boyfriend going. That doesn’t make sense to me at all.

            1. Myrin*

              The company didn’t pay for the return flight. (Or rather, it’s not completely clear if it’s still peding but it sounds like they accepted the OP’s submissions anyway, but only this time and her manager told her not to do it again. So for all intents and purposes, had the OP not submitted the return flight or had the company been stricter, they wouldn’t have paid for it.) They only have to pay one way because OP didn’t incur any cost for her return flight.

              1. Jessesgirl72*

                No, the company is paying for her boyfriend’s return flight because hers is now “free” If she hadn’t been charging for the company for his flight, she wouldn’t have submitted it at all.

            2. neverjaunty*

              It’s not “fiddle”. The OP is having her company pay for her boyfriend’s flight after the fact. That she also got a free flight out of it doesn’t fix the issue.

            3. INTP*

              The OP found a way to discount her return flight, but still “charged” the company the full cost of her flight. Think of it like having a $25 groupon for dinner, yet you reimburse the $50 value of the dinner, so that the company isn’t covering the actual cost of your dinner, they’re paying you cash for the value of the coupon. It seems fair because they would have paid $50 if you hadn’t bothered, but it’s just one of those things that’s not considered okay. Discounts are expected to be passed on to the company, not paid out to the employee in cash.

              1. LBK*

                Discounts are expected to be passed on to the company, not paid out to the employee in cash.

                Yes, exactly this. When the purpose of your travel is work, these aren’t really your expenses, they’re the company’s, so the discounts are for them.

                I also think this becomes more apparent if you take out the reimbursement piece and just imagine the OP had a corporate card she could charge directly. If you’re buying something discounted, are you going to charge the full price onto the card? No, you’re going to pay what it costs at that moment. Reimbursement follows the same principle, it just adds a middle man.

            4. LBK*

              But that’s not how travel reimbursement works. The company doesn’t say “we’re willing to spend $X on a flight and any difference between that and what the flight costs you is yours to keep”. They reimburse what the employee pays, which in this case was $0.

              Think about if the boyfriend just had a 50% discount for a partner rather than a free ticket. If the OP’s ticket only cost $150 as a result of the discount instead of the usual $300, would you say that the company should still reimburse her the full $300 because that’s what they would’ve been willing to spend?

            5. fposte*

              You’re thinking of it as a travel allowance rather than a reimbursement. The OP wasn’t given $500 to spend on travel however she managed the travel; she was promised that her out-of-pocket travel costs would be reimbursed. She’s asking for considerably more than her out-of-pocket travel costs.

              1. Just Another Techie*

                I just am having a hard time understanding the moral difference between “My boyfriend has a companion pass, so we pay for one ticket and two of us get to fly” and “I have a companion pass, so we pay for one ticket and two of us fly.” Because in the second case, there’s no problem at all with the company reimbursing her, but in the first case, there’s seventy gajillion comments accusing her of doing something shady and stealing from the company.

                1. Jessesgirl72*

                  Because she is only eligible to get reimbursed for her actual work related expenses, not what they would have paid if it was an entirely different scenario.

                2. LBK*

                  Because the company is only responsible for their actual employee’s expenses, not her household’s total expenses as a result of this trip. The overall amount the company pays out being the same is irrelevant, because the company doesn’t have an obligation to buy one plane ticket no matter who ends up using it. They only have an obligation to pay back whatever it costs their own employee (the OP) to take the trip. Her deciding to use up a frequent flier perk isn’t the company’s problem.

                3. Myrin*

                  Well, first of all, I don’t know where the issue of morality is suddenly coming from. I can only speak for my own comments, but I wouldn’t have thought to view this through any kind of moral lens.

                  Secondly, I don’t see “seventy gajillion comments” who are particularly negative towards the OP and none who outright say they think she’s stealing from the company. I see most comments going “Hm, yeah, I see where you’re coming from but IME that usually wouldn’t fly”, some being in favour of her, and some being very strongly against her reasoning.

                  And lastly, the OP and her partner are two separate people. If she had the companion pass, the money for the ticket wouldn’t only come from her bank account but the ticket would be in her name, too. As it stands, this return ticket is (presumably) both paid by and in the name of OP’s boyfriend, a person the company has zero relationship with.

              2. fposte*

                @Just Another–basically, because there’s more to morality (though I’d use the term “ethics” here instead) than how much something costs the company. It’s a pretty standard business ethical guideline that you can’t profit personally from a business expense, even if it doesn’t cost the employer more than it would have otherwise.

                1. Retail HR Guy*

                  Well that’s just flat out untrue. It’s very standard for companies to not care if employees get frequent flier miles for business flights, get cash back or other perks for use of a personal credit card for business expenses, get a mini vacation by extending a return flight home from a business trip, etc. Profiting from a business expense alone, without some other conflict of interest or shady practice, is not a violation of some standard business ethical guideline.

            6. oldbiddy*

              I agree it’s probably the same cost to the company to purchase the ticket, but if they get audited or even if it leads to a lot of extra paperwork, it does create extra expense for the company.

            7. JoJo*

              The company is out the amount of the tax deduction because they can’t claim the boyfriend’s ticket as a business expense.

              1. teclatrans*

                I think this is the heart of it, and what many folks (myself included) leave out of the equation through ignorance. Companies aren’t just taking profits and helping employers not be out of pocket. Reimbursements are business expenses, and business expenses are tax write-offs. By submitting an expense for a non-employee, you are asking the company to either forego the benefit of that offset (by earmarking it as *not* an operating expense) or take on the risk of an audit and fines.

            8. Sarah*

              Imagine the scenario where there’s no boyfriend but instead through some random promotion the airline offers the return flight completely for free. The company wouldn’t be obligated to pay the OP for that return flight at market rate since the money simply wasn’t spent. In this case, the OP literally did not pay any money for their return flight so I’m not sure why the employer would be obligated to reimburse anything. Airline tickets aren’t fungible like other things — they’re specific to the person on the ticket and typically cannot be transferred to another person’s name (at least not without paying a substantial fee).

              Let’s say the work trip got postponed for some reason, and rescheduled to a time when the boyfriend could not go. The employee tickets would be in the employee’s name and would be able to be moved (perhaps with a change fee). The boyfriend tickets would not be able to be transferred over to the employee at all.

              1. irritable vowel*

                The postponement possibility is a good one to bring up – the logistics of rebooking the return flight would be a hassle if the boyfriend wasn’t able to fly, and the company might decline to cover the added cost of booking a new return flight much closer to the time of travel since the OP did this special arrangement. So the OP would potentially be out a lot of money.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      Yes, this. It’s not even like you’re expecting your boyfriend to pay for half the trip himself – it looks like you’ve found a dodgy way to get the company to pay for the BF completely.

    3. INTP*

      I agree. To me it’s a similar to when people authorized to buy one business class ticket buy two in economy instead (I know a couple of people who have gotten in trouble for this long ago in the days of higher budgets). It’s a common mistake because it seems logical to people because if $X is allowed it seems they should be able to allocate it as they please, but reimbursement is meant to cover the cost of an employee traveling, not friends and family. If the employee wants to save the company some money by taking advantage of a companion pass or similar that’s great, but they don’t want to essentially pay out the savings to you in cash (which is what is happening if you use them to cover another person’s ticket). Again, common mistake, I am positive that the employee did not intend to rip anyone off, but not kosher – just learn from it and don’t do it again.

  14. consultant*

    “3. Job searching after quitting a PhD program”

    Before quitting you may consider taking up a job and trying to finish your PhD in your free time. Unless that’s not possible in your case for some reason. Also, plenty of people change the subjects of their PhDs halfway through so that’s nothing unusual. Plenty of people change their advisors too. (I wish someone had told me that when I was beginning – it would have saved me plenty of stress).

    You don’t write where you are from but finding a job with a degree in humanities may be very difficult, at least in Europe. Maybe you could use your PhD to help you to reach that by writing on a subject that’s relevant to the profession you want to work in? Again, not knowing where you are from it’s difficult to speculate, but I’ve been asked about the subject of my PhD a lot during job interviews.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Just be aware that if you finish your PhD in your off hours, you won’t have much free time left.

      Source: colleague is doing this now.

      1. consultant*

        Of course it’s not easy. Which doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

        I’ve done my PhD full-time (and just as Murphy writes, with no time left). Then I took an additional advanced degree having a job as a management consultant (=plenty of travels), which was worse than PhD in that it required my attending classes on the weekends (apart from plenty of preparations during the week, taking exams and writing a thesis). I’ve managed and looking back I can’t believe I lacked time when I “just” had a PhD to write.

        It’s a question of good organisation.

      2. BananaPants*

        I briefly considered trying to do a PhD while working full time (my employer pays for all educational expenses). The coursework alone would have taken something like 6 years, plus I would have needed to take a ~1 year unpaid leave of absence from work to do research and write a dissertation – which is a lot to cram into a year, especially in engineering. That timeline ran right up against when we wanted to start a family, so it didn’t happen.

  15. LadyCop*

    I think what Alison said is spot on… though as few academia jobs one might find… there’s less than zero for social justice.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are actually lots of jobs working in social justice! Tons of nonprofits and advocacy organizations doing social justice work, depending on what you’re interested in.

      1. Sarah*

        I interpreted this to mean “there are few academic jobs in general, but even fewer (or zero) academic jobs that focus on social justice.” I don’t think that’s entirely true, depending on how you define social justice — I think working in academia with a particular focus on minority/first gen college students, or designing courses that are particularly focused around teaching students about social justice, or even doing research with social justice-policy-related implications can all be ways to incorporate these values into an academic career, although it’s correct it’s not going to be as compatible with every single academic position.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of academic jobs that focus on social justice. I mean, even if you just include all of the various faculty jobs (all of the social sciences, much of the humanities, quite a bit of the natural and physical sciences) that could be focused on social justice based upon the research that the professors do – not even including all of the admin jobs you mentioned.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      What? How are you defining “social justice” jobs? I’ve seen many more jobs in that sector than in the academy!

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      There are plenty of non-profits. There are the big names: Southerner Poverty Law Center, Innocence Project, ACLU, NAACP, La Raza, Human Rights Watch, International Rescue Committee, etc. and hundreds of thousands of regional and local organizations in the US. Off the top of my head I can think of 12 organizations in my conservative, anti-social justice city, more if you add in worker’s and housing rights.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Plus there are also a huge ton of jobs that I’d count as Social Justice working for local/national governments and charities – eg working on issues like homelessness, domestic violence, deprivation of every kind, social inclusion, debt support and so on for ever and ever.

      2. Dr. Vanessa Poseidon*

        Not to mention that there are plenty of opportunities to have an impact on social justice issues even in places you wouldn’t expect. Lots of companies are trying to institute policies that make their operations more sustainable and better for their workers and communities, so it’s possible to do work that affects these issues outside the non-profit world as well.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          Yes, this. My current position is about 20-30% social justice and I work at a technology company in a role that you wouldn’t think of as related to social justice at all.

  16. consultant*

    “2. Did I mishandle this travel reimbursement?”

    In my company this expense wouldn’t get reimbursed – all expenses have to be done to the employee or the company. At least you should have asked your bosses if that was ok for you to do before buying the ticket.

    Not to mention that normally a roundtrip tends to be much cheaper than 2 one-way trips. So by buying basically 2 one-way trips (because the tickets were for 2 people), you may have caused additional costs. If this didn’t make any difference, you should have pointed that to your manager asking for permission to buy the tickets.

    1. Al Lo*

      I’ve typically found round-trip tickets to be the same as two one-way. When I was in a long distance relationship and booking flights regularly, I was always shopping around and trying different configurations, and occasionally two one-way tickets were cheaper if they were on different airlines, but I never found there to be much difference; it was always just the flight price plus the taxes, whether I was paying for 2 directions or one.

      1. consultant*

        I’ve flown at least 100 times in the last 12 months and my experience is roundtrips are on average cheaper. Not always, but as a rule. Might be different in the US though.

        1. MommyMD*

          I’ve flown west to east coast a few times in the last few months and don’t see much of a discount for round trip airfare.

    2. Viktoria*

      Not the case with southwest- each leg of the flight is always proced separately. (And the price is the same whether you select round trip or one way).

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        That’s my experience too – with Southwest, it doesn’t matter. But it often does with other carriers. I assume the OP knows this as well as we do, though.

  17. Edith*

    #2: Your employer bristled at the request because you asked them to pay for a third party’s ticket. Reimbursement is for your expenses. The fact that you’ve decided to use a pass to save your employer money doesn’t mean they now owe you that money.

    Let’s say you were supposed to fly on a peak travel day with high fares and it would have cost the company $1,000, but staying for a few extra days meant you flew for only $800. Would it be reasonable to ask for $1,000 reimbursement? I would say no. Or what if you decided to stay with friends in the destination city instead of in a hotel. Would it be reasonable to reasonable to ask for reimbursement for the money they would have spent on a hotel room for you? Again, I would say no. A personal decision that happens to save your employer money does not entitle you to that money.

    1. C*

      Actually, companies will often allow a reimbursement when staying with friends/family instead of a hotel so you can take the friends/family out to dinner or provide a hostess gift. The reimbursement is typically what you spent up to $50 or $75 (But duration of the trip can increase the amount).

      But I agree that you would not receive the full hotel savings. Or a difference in flight costs by choosing go stay.

      1. Marketing LadyPA*

        I don’t know about often – that sounds like something that may have happened to you at some point, but I’ve never heard of that. Maybe in the sense of covering meals, yes, but this is definitely not an often thing. And I travel a lot for work.

        1. doreen*

          I can claim a flat rate between $35-50 for lodging and meals without a receipt when I travel – and am allowed to do so if I am staying with a friend or relative or even at a house or apartment that I own. But it is not a a reimbursement, it’s a flat rate which is less than the per diem I would receive if I had a receipt for lodging and it will show up as income on my W2 in the same way that the meal allowances some employees get for working overtime do.

      2. LBK*

        That definitely sounds like one-off scenarios and not a common practice. I’ve never heard of a company footing the bill for you to take out friends and family as a thank you gift.

      3. One of the Sarahs*

        I used to get an allowance if I stayed with friends/family, in my Civil Service job, to recognise I’d likely have expenses, but it was capped at something like £25 a night.

    2. BRR*

      “The fact that you’ve decided to use a pass to save your employer money doesn’t mean they now owe you that money.” Something was familiar to me about this letter and at first I couldn’t figure out what it was. While I completely understand and agree with the LW’s logic, it’s very common to not be able to get reimbursed for saving the company money or being given flexibility as long as the costs are the same.

  18. Marzipan*

    #5, I’ve never done a stall advertising me, but from doing stalls advertising my service my main observation is that done sort of food tends to draw people in. Not, like, a three-course meal, but wrapped sweets in a bowl, or sometimes we’ve gone a bit further and had little cookies or whatever. (We once did a cooking demo stand and handed out the recipes along with samples, and people loved that). Nothing OTT but people get initially drawn in if there’s something they can nibble on.

    Also, you’ll presumably have some printed material to take away (your resume, or card or whatever, so laying that out nicely (fanning them out, or having a little stand to hold them) is helpful.

    Even if your area of work is not a very visual one, information can be translated into forms that have more visual impact, and this is helpful (especially if the space where you’ll be setting up has any backboards or similar blank space behind you). Or, alternatively, you could have stuff on your laptop screen/tablet, like a rolling presentation. My one caveat with this – if you aren’t confident with laying out visual designs then do a lot of googling and/or make use of templates (or design-y friends) to help ensure it looks good.

    1. Purplesaurus*

      I think a scrolling presentation on some kind of device would be eye catching to a lot of people (at least to me!).

  19. Tau*

    OP2, I think everyone’s covered why this wasn’t kosher pretty thoroughly.

    In the future, I’d strongly suggest that if you ever want to do something nonstandard reimbursement-wise, you ask your manager first. “Hey, I automatically get a companion’s pass when Boyfriend flies – can I just reimburse his flight instead of mine?” There are a lot of things about reimbursement, business financials and business travel that are pretty nonintuitive to the average employee, and you can get into hot water (/end up out of pocket) by assuming your common sense reasoning will hold.

    1. Nonprofit Chicago*

      Great point on non-intuitiveness of travel policies. I agree with many people’s points that the company has a responsibility to reimburse expenses incurred directly by the employee, not others. OP should have purchased their own ticket and submitted for reimbursement, and partner should have purchased separately. We couldn’t and wouldn’t reimburse this where I work – it would raise Audit flags (they inspect tons of expense reports during our annual audit because of fraud risk) and the income would technically be taxable (because on the books the expense was technically not incurred by the employee) a side note – as many have mentioned – expense reports are huge areas of risk for companies, and your professional reputation can be compromised with a wrong step – even if it was unintentional. It’s worth being extra, extra cautious and always asking and being conservative before incurring expense. I work at a nonprofit and when I travel, the org pays my international mobile roaming fees but I never charge them for personal calls while abroad. If partner joins me, and the hotel charges for double occupancy, I cover the cost of my +1, including the increase in tax. I never ask for reimbursement for booze, even tho it technically is permitted. It’s so important to be above reproach on these matters (of course while still getting fairly what expense was incurred by you to do your job). No dollar amount is worth risking your real or perceived
      professional integrity.

  20. Wakeen's Duck Club*

    We at Wakeen’s Duck Club might be interested in that reverse career fair. Please be sure to include Hanukkah balls in your display!

    And letter-writer #4: This sounds like you were rejected because you were one of many solid candidates. That’s as good a reason as any to re-apply!

    1. Marillenbaum*

      Agreed, LW4. It sounds as though this is a company/set of people that already think highly of you, but they went in another directions last time. I think you’re in the clear.

      1. OP#4*

        Thanks for the kind words, both. It was hard getting the “no” because that was as close to a dream job as I could imagine, but it was nice to be brought in at all. The person they selected appears to have been generated in a test tube to perfectly fill that role so I’d have picked him/her too!

  21. LN*

    My general rule is that you’re never entitled to “reimbursement” for costs that you never incurred in the first place. There’s a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too appeal to OP #2’s situation, but the fact is they’re asking for a reimbursement for their BF’s ticket, not theirs. It does make a big difference to the company. The BF isn’t going on company business, and he’s not even an employee. Without the BOGO ticket, he’d still have to pay his own way home. There’s no scenario where the company should be responsible for paying that fare.

    1. Myrin*

      I’m glad to read a comment like this because I seriously felt like I was missing something in that letter (which is still totally possible; I’m not a native speaker and sometimes there are letters where I misunterstand what’s going on because of language-related reasons).

      As I understand it, OP only paid for one ticket, the one going to the conference, right? The flight back was free for her because she travelled as her boyfriend’s companion. So I’m not quite understanding why she expected her company to reimburse her money that she never spent in the first place.

      I mean, I get that had she flown alone/not been able to fly as a companion, she would have used a ticket of the same cost as her boyfriend’s de-facto return ticket, but in that case, she also would have spent the money beforehand so of course it would have been reimbursed. So I can understand why the manager bristled at the situation and I’m not quite following why Alison and some other commenters are saying OP’s logic makes sense because I don’t think it does. Or am I misunderstanding/misreading something?

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Agreed. She flew for free. So had made no outlay to be reimbursed.

        I can see the thought process “it costs the company the same so we can save” – but it doesn’t work that way!

        1. Myrin*

          I think that is what I’m not getting – it doesn’t cost the company the same. In one scenario, it only has to pay for one flight because OP’s flight home was free. In another, it has to pay for two flights. I feel like I’m missing the key factor and I don’t understand how.

          (Put a different way: The way I understand it, the “it costs the company the same” would only be true if OP had also paid for her flight back but for whatever reason submitted her boyfriend’s ticket (maybe because her information got torn up or whatever and she figured it’s the exact same data just with different names, so why not submit his). This has been driving me bananas for the past three hours.)

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Company intended to pay for an airfare there and an airfare back when they first agreed.

            They paid for an airfare there and an airfare back – she’s seeing it as the same, but they got to save money by her going free.

            It’s like a company agreeing to pay for a taxi, and claiming what it would have cost when your friend gives you a lift – yes, the company had agreed to pay for a taxi, but not if you didn’t get one.

            1. Myrin*

              Ah, yes, that’s exactly how I’m understanding it! (And I did want to make it clear that I know that we took it the same way, what with you agreeing with my comment and everything, I just latched onto your reply because it expressed exactly what I was thinking.) Which is why I don’t get the “seeing it as the same” part – just because the company could have and was ready to pay the double fare doesn’t mean they aren’t glad about saving the cost of one flight.

          2. EleonoraUK*

            If the OP hadn’t flown back with her boyfriend, the cost of her return flight would have been the same as the money spent on the boyfriend’s flight that was attached to her free flight. Without the boyfriend, the OP’s return flight wouldn’t been free, which is presumably why she didn’t think anything of it. I can see the logic of thinking it wouldn’t be a problem because the company’s expense was the same, but I can also see the auditing nightmare waiting to happen.

      2. Rina P*

        The logic makes sense because the company does not lose money either way – they would have paid the same amount if the OP did not get the companion fare. The company is expecting pay one fare either way, and that’s what they were asked for. They have presumably budgeted for that and are happy to pay it for her to travel. The companion fare is simply a way to reverse their tickets as she is the one able to travel for free. So the OP’s reasoning for why they did it this way makes sense.

        It doesn’t mean the company is wrong to object, or that it was the right way to handle it. But it is understandable why the OP didn’t see any difference either way.

        1. Myrin*

          I’m gonna quote myself from above that “just because the company could have and was ready to pay the double fare doesn’t mean they aren’t glad about saving the cost of one flight”. Maybe reimbursement where I am works differently from in the US but here, that money for the flight not paid would then be put back into the budget and could be used for something else.

          Which is why I don’t understand how it makes sense (although I’m seeing what you’re saying). I’m actually in the middle of this right now – I have a loyalty card with the railway company that makes it so that whenever I take the train, I only have to pay a certain percentage of the full price. That means that I only paid 37€ for a train ticket to a conference in September which would cost me 52€ if I didn’t have my card. I’m gonna be reimbursed for this by the conference, but they’ll only be paying me the 37€ I actually paid. The OP’s logic would be the same as me saying that the oragnisers of my conference should pay me 52€ just because that’s what it would have cost if I didn’t have my loyalty card.

          1. EleonoraUK*

            I think the difference is that the OP used a perk that wasn’t hers to save the company money. I agree in your train ticket example that it doesn’t make sense to be reimbursed for €52 when you’ve spent €37, and I regularly do the same myself, but I think the OP’s thinking may have been that her boyfriend bought a perk the company wouldn’t otherwise have had access to, and therefore shouldn’t assume to benefit from.

            Again – I can see why it’s an auditing nightmare, but I can also see why the OP might have thought it was fine.

            1. Myrin*

              Hm, yeah, the way you’re explaining OP’s (likely) thinking makes sense; I just really can’t agree with it. I think the fact that it’s the boyfriend’s ticket is almost a red herring – if the OP for whatever reason had had one free flight (with the boyfriend completely out of the picture), she wouldn’t have been able to get that reimbursed, either (and it would also have been a perk that the company didn’t have anything to do with and wouldn’t have had if the OP hadn’t been in possession of a free ticket).

              I do think what gets me is that there is no place here for “could have been”. There is just facts, and the fact is that OP didn’t have to pay anything for her return flight.

              1. EleonoraUK*

                I see where you’re coming from, but to my mind the fact that the free ticket was something the boyfriend made available sorta feels like he paid his own way for me. Total cost: same. Free ticket: provided by the person not associated with the company.

                I’d completely agree if she just got a free ticket without anyone else being involved, but I think they thought it would be OK because he’d effectively introduced the perk. Murky waters tax and audit wise, but I can kind of see why he would have thought he’d effectively paid his own way.

                1. LBK*

                  Total cost to the company is the same. Total cost to the OP and her boyfriend is not. The company didn’t force her to use that perk – she did it solely so that she could pocket the money they were willing to spend and her boyfriend could get a free trip. There’s no other reason to use the perk for this trip.

                2. EleonoraUK*

                  Couldn’t agree more. There is no other reason to use their perk for a free flight on her business trip. Why on earth would they use one of his limited free trips so the company could save money, unless they were saints?

                  They thought they came up with something clever that would add a bit of joy to her trip and be cost neutral to the company, no harm no foul. Just cause she would benefit doesn’t make it a bad thing. They were wrong from an auditing point of view, but you’re making it out like it’s wrong to want to make that money stretch further, and I just don’t think it is.

                3. LBK*

                  I think it’s wrong when you’re stretching company money that doesn’t belong to you to stretch your own personal enjoyment without authorization from the company.

                4. EleonoraUK*

                  And I don’t, and would hate to work for any company that would begrudge me the extras if the total on the bill would be the same regardless.

                5. CityMouse*

                  If boyfriend’s companion pass worked like my spouse’s did, the number of trips weren’t limited, it was just only for a year.

            2. LBK*

              I think the OP’s thinking may have been that her boyfriend bought a perk the company wouldn’t otherwise have had access to, and therefore shouldn’t assume to benefit from.

              But by the same token, the OP shouldn’t presume to benefit by pocketing the money the company was willing to spend on her ticket. Think about it this way: if the company was willing to spend the money to pay for her ticket in the first place, what’s the disadvantage to the OP to just book her own full-price fare and get reimbursed for it?

              1. EleonoraUK*

                She didn’t pocket the money – I just don’t view it that way. She saw it as a sunk cost, and her boyfriend had a perk that could make that sunk cost stretch further, at no cost to anyone else. A benefit to them doesn’t automatically make it a slight against the company. There is nothing they could have done to make the company’s bill cheaper, they just got more for the money.

                You seem to fundamentally object to the OP getting a bit more for that set amount the company would spend no matter what than the company would otherwise get. I just don’t see how that’s a bad thing (apart from horrible accounting, which is why I still agree the OP was wrong, but not because it was a morally wrong thing to do).

                1. LBK*

                  Because the company isn’t giving this money to her as a present. It’s not hers to try to stretch or get more out of. The only reason they’re giving her any money in the first place is because it’s a business expense that the business has an obligation to pay.

                  I redirect you to my corporate card scenario. If the OP were able to charge this directly to the company rather than being reimbursed, would you think she should be able to bill the company for the savings if she decided to use the free ticket perk instead of charging it? I don’t see how that’s any different.

                2. EleonoraUK*

                  There are no savings, that is my point. Your company card scenario doesn’t work because there are zero savings to be had. If there were, I’d be completely with you, but there weren’t.

                  The second the OP went on this trip, the company would be spending this money on her return flight. The money was gone, unless you believe the OP somehow has an obligation to use the perks she has access to as a couple to benefit the company – and I emphatically don’t. The money did what it was meant to do, and then the OP managed to make it do some extra at no cost to anyone (apart from her boyfriend, who’s now used one of the free flights).

                  Usual caveat about accounting nightmare and therefore still wrong, but morally? Nah.

                3. Queen of the File*

                  “There is nothing they could have done to make the company’s bill cheaper, they just got more for the money.”

                  This is how I see the OP’s POV too. I think it would be easy to only see it from this “no harm done” perspective until someone explained the reimbursement accounting to you, especially if you are coming from a place of constantly trying to save money and use perks whenever humanly possible. I’ve been there!

                4. LBK*

                  There are no savings, that is my point. Your company card scenario doesn’t work because there are zero savings to be had. If there were, I’d be completely with you, but there weren’t.

                  How are there not savings to be had? She saved the company the cost of the flight. She certainly didn’t have to but she chose to. The company owes her the cost of that specific flight that she personally took for business reasons, because they only owe her the money for expenses she personally incurred in the course of her work. If she incurred no cost, they owe her no money. The boyfriend’s expenses are irrelevant.

                5. LBK*

                  Let me try another example: I have to go to a client meeting on the other side of town. Normally it’s a $20 cab ride, but my boyfriend happens to be off work today so he agrees to drive me. Do I get to charge the company $20 and give it to my boyfriend because they would’ve been willing to pay that much amount anyway, so the cost is all the same and I just managed to stretch that money a little further?

                  I would think it’s clear that the answer is no, but if you disagree then I don’t know what else to say.

            3. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)*

              But I am not sure I see how she is saving the company money at all by using this perk. She is saving herself boyfriend money by using a companion pass that he earned due to travel paid for my his company.

              To me, comparing this to even the train card example is quite a stretch.

              1. LBK*

                She’s not saving the company money if they agree to reimburse her boyfriend’s ticket, no. But the company would be in the right to deny that reimbursement because they don’t owe her anything beyond the expenses of the person who’s actually their employee, which were $0. They should be saving money.

      3. Fafaflunkie*

        You didn’t misinterpret anything here. Sure OP thought this was a wash but never understood the optics behind asking for reimbursement this way. Even with this note explaining why someone who doesn’t work for them was reimbursed, I’m 100% sure this will not look good on the company at the end of the fiscal year when their books are audited, as any corporation has to be.

        Next time OP, save the companion pass for your partner’s business trip. Then there would be no scrutiny as the ticket would be in his name.

    2. CheeryO*

      That’s not always strictly true, though – you can make not-insignificant money off of per diem for meals if you eat cheap, and if you have an efficient and reliable car, the federal mileage rate is pretty generous. There is a certain element of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too to work travel, at least in my limited experience.

      I totally get OP’s logic – the company would pay X amount for me to do this, so if I can find a way to spend less or get more out of it, what’s the difference to them? I understand that this is a different situation, but I can’t say that the line would be immediately clear to me either, as someone with no experience with the accounting side of things.

      1. Myrin*

        I think that’s the big difference, though.

        A per diem, as I understand it, is a fixed sum of money you get beforehand and that you can then do with as you please. I feel like that is what some comments are talking about when they say “the company is out of the money anyway” – no, it isn’t. It would only be if it had given the money to OP before she even booked her flights.

        In this letter’s case, the OP bought the ticket from her own money. She will now get that money back after the fact. So the company will only be out of the money the OP actually paid, not some extra fixed sum where OP will get the rest.

        1. LBK*

          Right – there’s a reason per diem is its own thing, because it’s a separate concept with different rules and understandings about how it’s used than regular travel reimbursement. And even then, a lot of companies are getting rid of the old “you can keep the difference” benefit that used to be more commonly associated with per diem.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        I don’t get paid out the per diem. The Per diem is only the max amount I can expense. They only pay me what I actually spend, and only for myself.

    3. an infinite number of monkeys*

      For additional context, here’s a state government scenario (U.S.):
      Most of our overnight travel involves destinations within driving distance, and the agency has a fleet of vehicles to use for official business travel.
      Non-employees are not permitted as passengers in fleet vehicles without a business purpose. (And, on a side note, no non-employee can drive a fleet vehicle under any circumstances – valet parking is right out!)
      If you want to bring a significant other or family member along on a trip and cover any resulting additional expenses yourself, you can, but you have to use your personal vehicle.
      Mileage in that case is non-reimbursable, because you had the option of using a fleet vehicle, but chose to use your personal vehicle instead.
      I understand where the OP is coming from, but the employer is probably being as flexible as they can.

  22. Your definitely not boring or evil friendly resident tax inspector*

    Op2, I don’t know how the tax code works in the US but here in the UK paying for your boyfriends flight would create extra social security costs for your company as well as extra tax for you, as theyre providing a benefit not just business travel.

    Op5 , I like the ideas of a candy bowl, tablecloth and a business card holder, but I think the most important thing would just be to be really well prepared- plenty of copies of your resume and make sure you know everything in there like the back of your hand . If you have a job where you can bring any examples of your work then even better but if not being friendly and approachable should do the job

    1. Natalie*

      The tax implications would be similar here. It should also be taxable income to the LW instead of a business expense reimbursement.

  23. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I’m sorry to hear that the person scoring your calls is doing this. I’m also wondering if it’s normal in your industry for only one person to do that?

    I do call reviewing as part of my job, a number of us do it, and people get a mix of reviewers so it’s never just one person’s opinion – and we have processes in place to check we’re doing it consistently. That’s partly just curiosity on my part, but I’m also thinking in general about how this situation came about.

    It seems far from ideal to me that the one person doing these reviews is very close with Beth – and nobody is checking Mary’s work. But maybe that’s field-specific.

    1. Rebecca*

      I’m confused about the reason for listening to 4 random calls and scoring them. If the OP is doing claims adjustments, isn’t that the real end goal, as in, the number of claims adjusted? I could see if people were complaining about the phone rep, or that Jane handles many fewer claims than Fergus and Judy, and then calls would be monitored and checked, but other than that, I’m puzzled as to why this happens at all.

      I could be way off base, but let’s say the calls were 15 or 20 minutes in length, and you’re listening to 4 of them with the person who was on the inbound call, 1x per month…times X number of people in the call center. It seems like a lot of time spent reviewing calls.

      1. Doe-Eyed*

        It makes some sense – let’s say Wakeen was doing really great and finishing tons of claims with seemingly no problems. But when you review his calls, he’s actually fairly curt with the clients, doesn’t give them all the information they need, or is otherwise unhelpful. Maybe he’s blowing through all these claims because he’s cutting corners and the people on the receiving end don’t file enough claims to realize this?

        I think it’s a bit much if that’s the entirity of his metric, but I think reviewing a few calls a month is pretty standard practice in call-center type jobs.

      2. OP#1*

        Hi Rebecca, Four calls are reviewed a month. This is the full time job of the call reviewer, to listen and score calls. She’s responsible for doing this for every adjuster. In our actual call review session each month she goes through the scoring of all four calls, but we only have to listen to one of the calls back (the lowest scored call), then we have goals to work on for the following month. To be honest, I find it a very stressful experience. I actually score well on my calls but I hate listening to my own voice and I always feel like I am going into an interview before each one. That’s why finding out the call reviewer is sharing information with her friend about the reviews is really bothering me! I agree that the call reviews seem unnecessary for claims adjusting – they were only introduced two years ago and they got along fine before. They like to make sure we are mentioning certain things doing a call – for example mentioning benefits of x,y,z, asking if the person has any questions before we end the call… It’s a very inflexible scoring system.

        1. Observer*

          I’d guess that if they added the cost of these reviews, they weren’t “getting along just fine.”

          You wouldn’t know, for instance, if people are making sure that all questions that people have have answered – and the follow up calls might not go to your department, but to customer service. Or maybe they are having problems because people got angry when they found out about benefit x that they weren’t told about on their call – gain something that wouldn’t come through your department.

          1. OP#1*

            Good point! I’m sure they must have been having issues if they implemented this call review program in the first place. I do actually find the feedback helpful personally, just always get that nervous/interview feeling ahead of time, wish they could be a bit more relaxed (and hate listening to my voice! haha).

        2. Queen of the File*

          I have worked in call centres too and it’s hard to measure “quality” for either individual performance or program goals without doing call reviews. You don’t necessarily want to rely on metrics and complaints/compliments alone, since people can and do go to extreme lengths to make those two things appear to work in their favour.

          It’s super important that these reviews are objective and confidential, and OP is definitely right to bring this up with the manager.

          1. Queen of the File*

            Whoops–don’t remember who I intended to reply to here but I don’t think I chose correctly! Sorry!

          2. OP#1*

            Thanks; I have decided I will bring it up to my manager, just have to figure out how to word it with the least potential for backlash.

      3. Ramona Flowers*

        We do it to help figure out where the advisors are doing well and where they need coaching. It’s about quality rather than quantity. If you only learn about the quality of your service, and your staff training needs, when someone complains that is arguably too late.

      4. CAA*

        The reason for the reviews is because the company cares about customer service. When you hear “your call may be monitored for quality control”, this is what they’re talking about. A reviewer listens to a few recordings per agent per month and grades them on “pleasant tone of voice”, “said ‘thank you for calling company x'”, “asked if there was anything else they could help with”, “solved the customer’s problem on the first call”, “escalated to a supervisor appropriately”, etc.

        Back in the 90s, I actually worked on software that kept track of scoring for call center agents. In addition to allowing the company to fill out the evaluation forms online, it made sure that scored calls were randomly spread throughout the day and the month and across all the reviewers so that each agent was treated fairly. It’s not fair if the person who dislikes Jane scores her first call every Monday morning and John’s buddy does four calls in a row on the day he knows he’s being monitored. Fairness is a pretty big deal in call centers that are unionized, so we had all kinds of stats and reports to show the evenness of the call distribution.

        1. OP#1*

          Sorry, I am just seeing this now!
          You make some really good points! The software you are talking about seems a lot less biased than our system.. We don’t get stats about call distribution or anything, and they do not select calls evenly based on time of day; they simply pick two “short” and two “long” length calls. Our only call reviewer sees a list of all of our calls, and “randomly” picks four for that month. The calls are not assigned to her. So if she opens a call and it’s a personal call, she just closes that audio clip and opens another one. You can see how this has potential for her to pick and choose if she wanted to; not saying that she does pick and choose, but it really worries me about being the one to bring this issue (and the gossiping) up to my boss – I’m worried if it comes back to me that my call reviews in the future will be rated lower since she will dislike me.

      5. One of the Sarahs*

        As well as all the other reasons, it’s also important to check that people aren’t causing problems for the company. For example, I used to work in a bank call centre, and there was a requirement for lots of random reviewing. For sure, it’s a cost, but compared to eg finding out someone had mis-sold products or given wrong information through ignorance – or flat-out lied in order to sell things – it’s well worth it.

    2. OP#1*

      Hi Ramona, I’m not sure about the industry standard to be honest, but that’s a good point and I’m now curious what other companies are doing. I do know this whole call reviewing thing is somewhat new, I think it was implemented within the last two years (I only started a year ago). I agree that having calls reviewed by a variety of people seems like it would make for a better mix. It also seems weird to me that the one call reviewer we do have isn’t more removed from the team.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Your instinct that it is weird is correct. I have had many friends that have worked in call centers and the call quality reviewers are typically very far removed from the individuals they are reviewing and NEVER report to the same manager as the people they are reviewing. Some reviewers would work at one location (say in Ohio) and would only review calls in other states. And there is definitely more than one reviewer and the reviews are typically randomly assigned via some sort of software made for this purpose to ensure that one person isn’t reviewing all of their friend’s calls. If your company is large enough, this is a concern that I might bring up in a meeting with my manager to determine if there are plans to expand the number of reviewers, rotate new reviewers in, or perhaps have a remote reviewer in another location listen to calls for your location.

        As for the gossip, while unprofessional and understandably upsetting, I personally am not surprised. Everyone I’ve ever known that has worked in a review position has gossiped about the stuff they review, although most of them limit the gossip to their peers (other reviewers) and don’t name names. The entire system, as is, sounds like it was engineered to fail and is certainly rife for abuse.

        1. OP#1*

          Sorry I am just seeing your comment now. Someone above commented similarly, that they had worked on call review software that ensured randomness of calls. Our one call reviewer just has a list of all our calls and then randomly picks four calls, but if it’s a personal call she closes that audio clip and selects a different one. The calls are not assigned to her though, she selects them herself from the list of our calls. Potential is there for her to pick and choose (if she wanted to, not saying she does necessarily). The company is one of the largest in Canada so I don’t think size should be a problem. This phone program was rolled out less than two years ago so perhaps they will be opened to some feedback, as it’s not really working if the team doesn’t have faith in fairness and/or confidentiality. I like your suggestion of having reviewers in remote locations; we have offices across Canada so I wonder why branches don’t do the call reviews for other branches. Good ideas I can bring forward! thanks :)

    3. TootsNYC*

      I think this gossiping situation calls into question the integrity of the grade. Even more than that, however, is the 100% her friend is getting from her.

      That might be one of the things I mentioned to the boss if I brought this up:
      “I will say that having heard she is essentially gossiping about us, it makes me not trust the integrity of our grading system. Add to it that Beth always gets 100%, and they’re close friends, and I find myself not trusting that I’m being graded fairly.”

      1. OP#1*

        Thanks for your suggestion. I think I am going to have to compile everyone’s comments and ideas and come up with something to say in my next one-on-one with my manager.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      And the biggest red flag for me was that all of Beths calls are being scored as 100%…no there’s no biased here move along (rolling my eyes)

      1. OP#1*

        Yeah, I’m with you.. It’s pretty hard to get 100% (or even close!), so I think it’s pretty suspicious.. just worried about my own call reviews being affected if I’m the one to bring it up and potentially get the reviewer in hot water.

  24. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

    Re: #3. My husband and I met in a PhD program. Neither one of us has a PhD, because we both realized we didn’t want to be political science professors. We did both secure master’s degrees before leaving the program, but seriously, it’s so not a big deal.

    And I’ve seen lots of people that complete everything except the dissertation and they’ll put that on their resume–ABD–all but dissertation. No worries. Drop out if you don’t like it.

    Also, we both earn more money than our classmates who finished their degrees, so, there’s that. :)

    1. Mr McGregor's Gardener*

      Yes, ask your university if it’s possible to write up your work now as a different degree, like an M.Phil or an M.Sc. You’d still get a qualification out of the time and effort you’ve already spent without investing too much more.

  25. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I’m not sure I agree with Alison. You wrote to the hiring manager to highlight your updated experience, in your application. You already have someone drawing her attention to that application.

    She was a panellist for your interview, but not the hiring manager. She may not remember you very clearly at all – this was two years ago and you were one of multiple candidates so she is unlikely to remember the specifics as clearly as you do, or as well as the hiring manager for that other role.

    So you are making a fresh, as-if-new impression. And you already have someone recommending you. I am really not sure I would scratch this itch.

    1. WG*

      What stands out to me is that the LW does mention that she addressed the relevant skills gained since the earlier interview in her cover letter and resume. Then she reached out to that earlier hiring manager and that manager is reaching out to the current hiring manager. It would seem that taking a third step to personally reach out to the current hiring manager is overkill. Personally, I would think that reaching out to one or the other of the managers in a non-sales pitch way could be appropriate given this particular situation, but reaching out to both managers seems to be too much.

    2. BRR*

      Yeah this is a rare time where I don’t agree with Alison. I would find it a bit much to have a colleague let me know about a candidate and also have candidate reach out to me. And I agree with you Ramona that the current hiring manager might not remember the LW very well. Overall I think the LW shouldn’t reach out.

      1. OP#4*

        Thanks all for the advice! I completely get your perspectives and normally would agree with you. I added an update and a bit more color downthread in response to Emi. First time commenter so I’m probably DoingItWrong.

  26. MNS*

    When you’re in academia, dropping out of a PhD seems like a HUGE deal. You’re surrounded by people who devote themselves to their research, and who have a live to work mindset, and who see the PhD as part of their identity. Once you get into a ‘normal’ workplace, very few people will care that you dropped out. They are likely to view it as being the same as leaving a job. I dropped out of my PhD three years in (including a period of being part time and a leave of absence). I took a temp job and then was taken on permanently. I’m in the UK. No one at my current workplace thinks it’s a big deal.

    1. Optimistic Prime*

      YES. I finished my PhD but I work alongside many people that left their PhD programs without finishing…it’s so not a big deal.

  27. Tealeaves*

    OP5, I’m not sure what companies would be there and what field you’re in, but I would suggest on keeping the booth neat. Think tablecloth (any color you want but usually plain black), candy dish, a stack of your namecards and resumes, and a little bowl for people just passing by to drop off cards. Have a folder with pockets to organise namecards and brochures that are given to you in person (and maybe talked to), and a note pad to scribble personal thoughts about that company. So when you get home, you can easily remember what each person was offering. And after you talk to people, make sure they don’t leave without a copy of your card / resume, and you get their cards too!

    If you have space on the wall behind you or space for a poster stand, put a poster board with your name right at the top as a headline, and then list out (bullet points advised) your “Skills” and if you want, “Seeking”. I think this would help attract the right people and give them a conversation starter. As someone else mentioned, a portfolio of projects is important to show if you have one. Even if it’s just a few powerpoint slides playing on loop on a laptop. If you create products, you can put a few samples on display.

    1. LaLaLand*

      If the cost is free for the table (which it seems to be based on the OP’s comment below) I think this is all you’d need really. It’s not like they’re expecting “booth design.”
      Resumes, cards, note paper, and the like you should have stocked.
      The poster is a good idea if it can be made to look professional (not handwritten) and is affordable for the job seeker. Staples will make them for about $24 or so, but again that might be too much for some to bear.

    2. EA in Partly Cloudy Florida*

      I would maybe suggest stapling the business cards that you are given by employers into the notepad where you are taking notes … that way, you have a page of notes about a particular company, and their contact right in the same place, and then you can flip to the next page for the next person you talk to.

      1. Jenny*

        Good idea about the stapling! Thanks to all who responded! I’m so grateful for all the replies!!

  28. Wrench Turner*

    There’s a lot of problems with needing to make your own job booth. If you’re not the right kind of creative, right kind of outgoing or don’t have the resources to get/make flashy things, a lot of people could pass totally qualified you right on by.

    That said, depending on the industry, it’s a great opportunity to be lazy and show off at the same time. A slideshow with photos of you leading tasks/groups, copies of your certificates on the wall behind you, any awards trophies on your table, and the requisite candy bowl, would show off who you are and what you offer. If your job is physical, like mine, or has physical products, bring some examples in of things you have designed or actually made yourself.

    Good luck!

  29. Murphy*

    #3: I quit a PhD program as well and was worried about the same thing. (In my program, I got a master’s along the way, but my resume made it obvious that I had stayed in school beyond that.) I got asked about it twice. Once in a phone interview, where the interviewer had already made up her mind about me (negatively) before she called. (For a few reasons, not just that.) Obviously that didn’t go well.

    The second time was at the interview for my current job, which obviously did go well. They asked, I explained my reasons and they were fine with it. As long as you explain it well, it shouldn’t be too different from a “why did you leave your last job?” kind of question.

  30. Viktoria*

    For #2- I am curious if commenters think this would be unethical. Another advantage of southwest is their flexible change policies. You could have purchased the return ticket in your name and submitted for reimbursement, then cancelled and used the credit to buy your boyfriends ticket. Same result but without the bad optics to your company. However, perhaps this would be considered dishonest or unethical? I’m genuinely curious.

    Otherwise, I agree that I follow your logic but it does look bad and is probably not ok to do.

    1. Nerdgal*

      I am pretty sure that this strategy would be considered highly unethical at most US employers. In fact, at my employer, it would get you fired.

    2. Oryx*

      If it’s the same result — company paying for the boyfriend’s ticket — then it doesn’t matter if the company knows or not because the OP is not owned money for her boyfriend’s flight. In fact, I’d see this as even worse than the OP’s letter because in this instance, the OP didn’t know. But with what you’re presenting, the person would knowingly be booking and seeing reimbursement for a ticket they are going to cancel and give to someone else.

    3. EleonoraUK*

      It’s just one of those silly situations where what’s logical anywhere outside of business (the total spend overall was equal, but people managed to milk that spend for more benefit, good result) just doesn’t work in an employment situation for tax reasons, because people other than the employee are involved.

      I have no experience with free companion flights, but if they’re limited, you could argue that the company would otherwise benefit from the boyfriend paying for the OP’s for-business-reasons flight (through his points/accrued benefits), which doesn’t seem right from a fairness point of view, but is the correct way to go from a tax point of view because there’s no reimbursement and therefore no tax implications.

      1. LBK*

        I don’t think this is exclusive to business; I’d feel the same way if I gave a friend money for something specific and they spent it on something else. I really don’t think there’s positive connotations to any time you describe it as “milking” something – that generally implies taking advantage of something.

        1. EleonoraUK*

          Your friend gives you money for a ticket to New York. You are not liable for any accounting, this is purely a gift.

          Your friend finds out that if she gives the money to her boyfriend, his account with the airline has a perk that means he can get two tickets to New York for the same money, so they can both go. However, at no point will a single ticket cost less than the money you’ve given her.

          No matter what, the money goes on a trip for your friend to New York. She can go on her own, or take her partner, and it will cost the same – and you’d get upset if she took her partner, really?!

          1. LBK*

            It would depend a little on the specifics of why I’d given her the money but I’d probably at least feel weird about it, especially if she hadn’t mentioned it to me beforehand.

            1. LBK*

              And FWIW I’ve done similar stuff myself, like when travelling with friends on a bus line I use all the time that they don’t use often, I’ve booked our tickets together and had them pay me back so I can get the reward points for their ticket since I’ll end up using them and they won’t. But I’m always upfront about it.

            2. EleonoraUK*

              Then I guess we’ll probably have to agree to disagree on this one :)

              I’d be super excited for my friend that she got to have more fun with the gift I gave her, and glad my gift turned into something even better that I wouldn’t have been able to afford for her.

              This may be because I’m originally Dutch and tight as hell, so I get real joy from people getting more for less, even if that person isn’t me ;)

              1. LBK*

                Well, wait, I’m not talking about a gift, because that’s not analogous. The company paying for the OP’s ticket isn’t a gift, it’s a business expense, so she doesn’t really have a say in how it’s used. I’m talking about a situation where I’m covering a necessary cost like a family emergency where she can’t afford her own ticket, not a present.

                1. EleonoraUK*

                  Frankly, that makes me disagree more. You’d be upset if your friend managed to turn one ticket to visit family in an emergency into two?!

                  I’m going to switch off my computer and start my weekend. It’s been a pleasure debating with you, have a great weekend!

                2. LBK*

                  I can’t come up with a perfectly analogous situation because there’s no personal transaction that has the same kind of obligation as a work expense. But suffice to say this isn’t just some annoying bureaucratic “business thing”. It makes perfect sense that the company doesn’t owe any money to an employee when they haven’t incurred an expense.

                3. LBK*

                  I thought about it some more and the best I can come up with is if I’d given someone money for an emergency trip and then they worked out the perks so that they also got to go on a fun vacation not related to that necessary trip. I would certainly find that weird – not that I’d be mad necessarily, but…well, that’s not why I gave you the money.

                  A real life example of this I encountered was someone who had a GoFundMe for medical expenses, raised thousands of dollars and then went on a vacation for several weeks. It’s like…okay, you’re my friend so it’s not like I don’t want you to have fun, but that’s not the reason I was giving you money.

            3. anoniest*

              I think that’s the thing–your friend would have told you up-front, “Hey, my boyfriend has this deal where, if we buy the ticket in his name, we get two for the price of one. Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply to get just me a half-price ticket or to get a free ticket in his name when we buy one for me,” and you would (assuming you weren’t buying her this trip for a purpose that made his presence prohibitive, which I think is fair in the context of the OP) have said, “OK, great, do that!”

              It doesn’t work that way in business for a whole variety of reasons (and OP should have run it by her employer to start with), but I think OP saw it as, “We have this coupon that lets us get two flights for the price of one, but the one we buy has to be in Boyfriend’s name. It’s sort of a weird stipulation, but whatever. They’re two identical flights that were acquired for the price of cash and a coupon, what does it matter which one was which?” I also think that if the price of a round trip ticket for the boyfriend would have been prohibitive and he wouldn’t have gone but-for the use of the companion pass, I can see OP thinking that it would be a dumb outcome for him not to come when, for the exact same price to the company, he could be there.

        2. Dankar*

          Not wading in on the business aspect of it (I do our department’s reimbursement requests and would be very hesitant to submit something like this), but that would be like a friend using money you’d given them to purchase something BOGO. Would you be upset if they stretched the money and gave the free item to someone else?

          I agree with EleonoraUK, this is just one of those times when the benefit doesn’t equal a good result, mostly due to the optics of it.

    4. Jen A.*

      I work for a federal contractor and to avoid this issue, in order to get your travel reimbursed, you must submit your boarding pass with your expense report to avoid this exact type of thing. That’s why whenever I travel for business, I keep an envelope in my wallet and immediately after boarding the plane, I put the boarding pass in the envelope for safe keeping. (And no, I’m generally not out money – I request a travel advance to cover a large percentage of my initial outlays and then file an expense report at the end of the trip. If I don’t properly clear the advance via an approved expense report, they can deduct it from my final paycheck.)

    5. Kage*

      My understanding is that SW requires you to use the credit to rebook tickets in the same person’s name and within a year of original purchase. I.e. OP could cancel her flight and book another flight for BF/companion pass, however, she wouldn’t be able to apply that SW credit to that trip (as that trip would then be in BF’s name and not hers). So she would still be out the cost of 2 tickets and only reimbursed by work for one. She would have a future credit which could prove hard to use – especially if she regularly flies with BF and would be taking advantage of their companion pass/wouldn’t be going somewhere alone in that 1-year credit period.

      1. Recruit-o-Rama*

        You are correct, SW credits can only be used for the person the original cancelled flight was for. I am A lost preferred with SE as a result of frequent work travel and since I change flights a lot, I am very familiar with their (totally awesome and fair) cancellation and exchange policies. I fly exclusively southwest for this reason. Plus I live in a city where they have a hub, so lucky me!

    6. LQ*

      Not a perfect test, but I always think what would you feel if a politician of a party you strongly disagree with was exposed as doing this thing with taxpayer money?

    7. Sarah*

      And this sort of shenanigans is why my workplace now makes everyone submit a copy of their boarding pass to prove they really took the flight….

  31. MicroManagered*

    OP#1: Did BETH share names and specifics with you? Because it seems fairly normal to me that two people (Mary and Beth) in the same role would discuss their work with each other. I think it’s normal/human to discuss or vent about work with peers (who have the same responsibilities/access to information). If Mary and Beth are peers, then the bigger problem seems to be that Beth is sharing their conversations with OP, not so much that the conversations happened between Mary and Beth.

    1. OP#1*

      Hi, yes Beth shared names and specifics of what happened in the call reviews. And Beth is not in the same role as Mary (does not have access to the same information); Mary is a call reviewer and Beth is a claims adjuster, as am I and the rest of the team. Mary is the only call reviewer. We all report to the same manager though. Hopefully that helps clarify things! Thanks for your feedback.

      1. MicroManagered*

        Ohhhhhhh! I misread this part: “Beth is always scoring a lot of 100% on her call reviews ” to mean that BETH also scores calls, and the scores she gives are often 100%. (As in, Mary and Beth are both call-reviewers, and Beth is more of an easy-grader.) Apologies! It’s early where I am! :)

          1. MicroManagered*

            But yeah, I’d definitely bring this up. It sounds like the call scores are a huge source of anxiety for LOTS of your coworkers, and maybe Mary needs some additional training on how to handle this sensitive information (especially if this is a new process for the company). Hopefully it’s a small-tweak to her behavior, rather than a pervasive character flaw, but who knows?

            1. OP#1*

              Thanks, it hasn’t been sitting right with me and I know I’ll have to bring it up. I just wish there was a way to bring it up without Mary finding out her friend Beth told someone… oh, office drama haha.

              1. RVA Cat*

                Honestly, it sounds to me like they didn’t really think things through with they set this up two years ago. Having so much of your performance judged subjectively by one person who is known to be biased in another employee’s favor is…messed up. There should be some kind of check and balance here, like maybe have your manager review the “worse” call to make sure they agree with the scoring before you meet with Mary?

                This may be more of a structural problem with your employer than a Mary problem. Either way, you may want to think about how long you can stay there if nothing changes.

                1. Stranger than fiction*

                  Yes and there’s lots of third party companies these days that do call analysis for companies and this is probably why, so it remains unbiased.

                2. OP#1*

                  After reading everyone’s comments I think there’s a BIG issue with the overall call review process, not just the gossiping. It’s nice to hear everyone else’s perspectives and you have given me some great recommendations on how to improve the system… whether they will listen or not is another thing!

              2. MadGrad*

                I mean, Mary is being a huge jerk and Beth has apparently been fine with that, so I don’t think you owe it to either of them to safeguard their relationship. Beth should have been able to empathize with the rest of you and put a stop to it herself a good while back and Mary shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place. Don’t feel bad for people feeling the logical consequences of their bad actions – especially not when those actions were harming you.

                1. OP#1*

                  Thank you! You make a good point. I didn’t really think about it from the perspective that this also falls back on Beth for not putting a stop to it herself. Now she’s forcing me to become involved (and I would much rather have not haha). I’m definitely the type of person who is always worrying about others and trying not to ruffle feathers, but this issue is one that is just sitting with me and not feeling right. I know I will have to say something, my concern at this point is just not angering Mary since she is the sole call reviewer – it’s a messed up system, so I’m concerned how it may impact my call reviews if she finds out it was me.

  32. Oryx*

    Oh OP #2.

    I *sort of* understand the logic of “Company is going to pay $400 for a ticket either way, I’ll just submit it under my boyfriend’s name” except reimbursement is for YOUR expenses, not your boyfriend’s. The fact that you’re flying for free doesn’t mean you are now entitled to be reimbursed for someone else’s ticket, even if it does cost the same.

    1. EleonoraUK*

      I think the thing that complicates that is that if it wasn’t for the $400 going towards the boyfriend’s flight, hers wouldn’t have been free in the first place. Boyfriend is using non-company owned perks to make girlfriend’s flight free, and the company benefits in her stead, if the company won’t accept her reimbursement claim.

      1. CityMouse*

        But if they pay, LW’s boyfriend gets a free flight he wasn’t entitled to ad an employee. That is problematic.

        1. EleonoraUK*

          See, from my point of view, I’m don’t think it harms the company one bit that the OP has managed to get an extra perk for the same expense to the company. Provided it doesn’t cause tax/audit issues, and that’s a pretty big ‘provided’ of course, the company gets a happier, less lonely travelling-for-work employee, at no extra cost. Everybody wins.

          I don’t know if the free companion tickets are limited, not familiar with the concept, but I imagine they are, in which case you might argue that the boyfriend did bring something to the table. His perk made it possible for two people to travel for the money instead of one. Where it gets tricky is how it gets billed in practice, with the boyfriend’s ticket being the ‘paid for’ one, and the OP’s the free one. If the OP somehow managed to fly her boyfriend out on a free ticket that she paid for with her own personal perks, no one would bat an eyelid. It just looks worse because of how it’s split out on the invoice.

          1. LBK*

            Perks aren’t about getting extra for the same cost to the company. A perk is something the company has pre-authorized and actively decided to give you, not something you get by bilking them out of money they don’t owe you. This is a really bad misunderstanding of the purpose of business travel.

            Take out the reimbursement piece and just say the OP had a corporate card she could directly charge the flight to. Would you say that if she used the companion pass in that case, she should send an invoice to the company for the money she saved them?

            If the OP somehow managed to fly her boyfriend out on a free ticket that she paid for with her own personal perks, no one would bat an eyelid.

            If she’d accrued those perks from work travel, I’d still say it might be a little sketchy. There are a companies that let you keep and use the frequent flier miles as a sort of compensation for how much work travel sucks, but that’s a pre-authorized decision made by the company on a policy basis. They’ve actively decided that they want to offer that perk to their employees.

            1. EleonoraUK*

              She didn’t bilk them out of money they didn’t owe her. That would only be true if they’d otherwise spent less. She doesn’t owe the company her boyfriend’s free flights.

              She spent what the company would have spent regardless. She applied a non-company owned perk to make that money go further. Your example only works if she’d have somehow spent less money if he hadn’t come along, and that isn’t the case. She just got more for that same money. If she’d got a free upgrade at the gate and dined like a king the whole way home, that would be fine. I don’t see how this is different.

              The ownership of points isn’t really relevant in this case – if we assume her boyfriend’s job is fine with them using the companion flights, then we’d have to assume this was also the case if we reversed things. The problem is it’s his name on the invoice, rather than hers, and that’s why it doesn’t work. I don’t think there’s anything else wrong with it.

              1. LBK*

                But you’re still looking at the expenses of the couple as one unit. The boyfriend’s expenses have nothing to do with the company because they’re only responsible for their own employee’s costs. So transferring the cost of the ticket over to her boyfriend means the company now owes her nothing, because her own personal cost is $0, and that’s the only cost they have any obligation to pay.

                1. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)*

                  I keep reading your comments and I can’t agree more especially with this point….there 2 columns of expenses when taking a non-employee on a work-sponsored trip – Work-related expenses and guest expenses. They don’t crossover. Company money is not applied to the guest’s column.

                  It’s like they “bought” companion pass, that you can’t even argue that they spent money to earn because his company travel made it a perk available to him.

                2. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)*

                  Clarify: It’s like the company bought the companion pass, that was no cost to the employee(s) because….

                  And I just realized that this wouldn’t be a legit business expense anyways, in case someone wanted to try that route.

          2. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)*

            But the perk in this case ISN’T for the company, it’s a perk for the OP, which is a big difference.

      2. Oryx*

        But taking advantage of that companion pass at this time was a choice that the OP and her boyfriend made. They didn’t have to use it, that was a decision they made. Just because Boyfriend used non-company owned perks to allow the OP’s flight to be free doesn’t mean he then gets to benefit from company owned perks in order to make HIS flight also free.

        1. EleonoraUK*

          A decision they made on the assumption the company would reimburse the value of one ticket they would have spent anyway. I don’t think there was anything malicious going on, they just thought they’d found a way to make the money that the company would have to spend regardless go further.

          If the OP had known it the company wouldn’t want to reimburse, they presumably wouldn’t toss the company a freebie by using their companion pass.

          The real issue, of course, is that the whole thing could have been avoided if the OP had checked beforehand. She could then have made an informed decision about whether to use the companion pass.

        2. EleonoraUK*

          Just to add – the boyfriend, not unreasonably from my point of view, assumed he was paying for his own flight with the companion pass he brought to the table. He did pay his own way, in my eyes, because it all breaks even for the company, and he brought a perk the company wouldn’t have access to without him.

          1. CityMouse*

            But the thing is, especially of you are a contractor or billing a client who gets charged for what is crucial. Ultimately the actual employee paid nothing for her flight and can’t Bill her company for it and LW and boyfriend ended up with an extra benefit of his free leg. Cost to company doesn’t really matter here, not from an accounting standpoint

            1. EleonoraUK*

              Oh I completely agree that accounting wise it is a complete nightmare and not possible, I was just trying to explain why I can see how the OP might have come to her conclusions, and how it may feel unfair to her that it can’t work that way. If it wasn’t for the accounting, I don’t think a reasonable company would have a problem with it, but the accounting is paramount, and so it doesn’t work.

              Not unless you can get the companion pass to formally apply to the boyfriend, and the paying ticket to be billed to the OP, anyway – in which case it wouldn’t be a problem at all, presumably.

              The invoice specifics seem a silly detail if you forget about the accounting, which is why I can see the OP’s reasoning, but unfortunately for her it makes a big difference when it comes to expenses and therefore doesn’t fly (…sorry).

          2. biobottt*

            Where is the perk for the company? It’s no perk to them to pay for his ticket. His companion fare saves the company money ONLY if the OP doesn’t try to get the company to pay for his ticket. Since she IS trying to get the company to pay for his ticket, the companion fare is not a perk for the company.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Since the company is the one paying for her expenses, they SHOULD benefit in her stead. And if she doesn’t want them to get that benefit, then she should have booked her own flight separately and submitted that for reimbursement.

  33. CityMouse*

    I find the fair in OP5’s situation difficult, because you have competing goals. In a fair situation you try to be cute and eye-catchy, but some of those same tactics may come across as unprofessional. So you want to keep neat and serious without looking drab. It is a bit of a terrible tension and is going to be tough for people who will go too far one way or the other. I suggest middle ground – color table cloth and resumes. I am not so into the candy idea (just seems off to me, hard to articulate why) but I may be weird about that. I wonder if there are pictures from previous fairs to get a feel for what is normal.

    1. Jenny*

      You completely understand my way of thinking! I usually prefer a classic style in my clothes, hair style and “personal brand” and I didn’t know if I went with my prefered style I would be considered drab. Well, not exactly drab but but not eye popping.

      I did research fairs and most seemed to be run by colleges for people getting ready to graduate or just graduated. They also were sometimes in groups or presenting a group project to prospective employers

  34. Man*

    OP#2 – I think you are coming at this from the wrong perspective. When you complete your expense report, you are supposed to list and document expenses that you have incurred in connection with your business trip. Not to list prices of things that you did not purchase. It would be a very slippery slope to look at it the other way: if your friend picked you up from the airport, would you “expense” a cab ride? If you stayed at a motel, could you “expense” a more expensive hotel room?

    There are real IRS implications for companies too. An expense reimbursement is treated differently by IRS than any other type of payment to you by your employer; that is why there are strict guidelines that companies adhere to. Payments that are not expense reimbursements might need to be treated differently for accounting and taxation purposes. It’s not just the total amount that your business trip would have cost your company that is a consideration here.

  35. Becca*

    Op #3- I’m a University Recruiter for a major company and I see PhD drop-outs all. the. time. It’s very normal and not something I will hold against anyone–these programs are intense and draining. Please don’t be too nervous, I don’t think a reasonable person will hold it against you.

  36. Emi.*

    I’m confused about #4–what are you trying to do that you couldn’t have done in a cover letter? Is it just that you didn’t mention your previous application in your cover letter and wish you had? Since the cover letter goes to the hiring manager, I don’t see why “reach out to the hiring manager” should be separate from “write a cover letter.”

    1. OP#4*

      #4 here. You got it, this was definitely a part of why I wanted to reach out directly. I ideally would have worked the repeat applicant piece into the cover letter but no amount of word acrobatics made it read un-awkwardly. I’m sure someone could have made it work beautifully; alas I am not that person.

      As an update, I took Alison’s advice and got a friendly reply saying that she had my resume and letting me know they were just beginning the process of reviewing applications. So it was nice to have the additional info and to know that at least my resume wasn’t in HR purgatory.

      I’d generally recommend against doing exactly what I did, partly since I tend to be overly anxious about annoying people. Hence my request for a reality check from Alison. I decided to listen to both her and my gut that in this case it would be ok since I had good rapport with both hiring managers in the interview. It’s also a small department with low turnover so I was fairly confident they’d remember me, only because hiring activity is infrequent (I’m not that arrogant, I swear to you anonymous AAM commenters!)

      1. Emi.*

        Ah, okay, thanks for the update and clarification! I agree thatthe fact that she knows/remembers you is what keeps it from being just “badgering the hiring manager.” It sounds like you did the right thing–good luck and let us know how it goes! :)

  37. hbc*

    OP2: I don’t usually use slippery slope arguments, but paying for expenses not actually incurred by the employee (made worse by being incurred by someone else) is really opening the door to a lot of shenanigans, intentional or un-. Maybe they’re fine to cover the extra fee of going to the hotel gym, but do you get paid for it even though you decided to go for a run outside instead? Were there hidden costs in your partner’s ticket to cover the fact that companion fares get tacked on? Would they have paid for wine and an entree but you only ordered water and an appetizer?

    I get that in this situation, it’s more obvious that they benefit, but a lot of headaches lie that direction. And that’s before you get into tax/audit complications.

    1. Emi.*

      I dunno though, this sounds like it’s going to lead to all kinds of slippery slope arguments. ;)

      But yeah, I actually agree. OP, think of it this way: There are three categories–Definitely Kosher, Kinda Iffy, and Total Shenanigans. Lots of things in the Kinda Iffy box are actually shenanigans; they’re just less obviously so, or easier to rationalize, or whatever. Because of that, the smart thing to do is to only sign off on things that are Definitely Kosher, and treat the Kind Iffy things the same as the Total Shenanigans, because they might be shenanigans and you can’t tell (although an auditor probably could). What you did is Kinda Iffy at best.

  38. Jenny*

    #5 here! For those asking about cost etc it is completely free. I think sponsor companies and Voc Rehab are running/sponsoring it. I think the whole concept is for companies with government contracts, mission statements promoting diversity and those that need to keep their quota for the 7% employees w/ disabilities and those with disabilities to meet. They also will help us with doing things for the booth. I just have no ideas!

    I have to work for a few hours today so I won’t be able to answer for awhile!!

  39. Anony Mouse*

    #3 First of all, kudos to you for considering leaving your PhD program. If it’s not ultimately fulfilling for you, don’t let your supervisor, fellow grad students, or anyone else try to convince you that leaving makes you a “quitter.” There’s no shame in moving on: life is too short, and PhDs are too damn labor intensive.

    I was in a similar situation 4 years ago. Even though I was fairly confident I wanted to quit, I ended up formally suspending my program of study for a year. I returned to the US and applied to a whole range of places–nonprofits, public schools, gov’t and corporate entities. After a few months, I was offered a university admin position at my undergraduate university. It wasn’t my first choice–in retrospect, I wish I could’ve gotten further away from higher ed, as I think it would’ve made the transition easier–but it was the job that was offered to me, and I had bills to pay. In my interviewing experience, I found higher ed admins to be more understanding of putting PhD study on hold than others. Now I’m looking to transition out of higher ed into nonprofit or public sector work, and I’m finding that my unfinished PhD is no longer particularly interesting to potential employers.

    I don’t know exactly what the job market is like in your country, but if you’re not having much luck applying to nonprofits right off the bat, you might try for something like a university admin job, and then volunteer in your spare time to build up your nonprofit experience.

    Wishing you the best of luck as you consider how to move forward. Whatever you decide, remember that you’re not alone!

  40. Professor Ronny*

    #3 Two points. Working in academia as a professor is nothing like being in academia as a graduate student. You get to make a real difference to students and you can do research in areas that interest you.

    Second, back when I was a department chair, I had a professor who worked for me. He had taken the Ph.D. courses and passed the field exam but never finished the dissertation. (Called ABD or all but dissertation.) He still had his degree as ABD on his vita 40 years later! (For the record, most schools have an up or out requirement of around 8-10 years.)

    1. Nosy Nelly*

      I’m a little shocked that someone can get hired as a professor without a competed PhD.

      1. Anony Mouse*

        Depends on the field, and depends on the school. Some fine arts, for example, just need a terminal degree, like an MFA. If it was a small liberal arts college with only undergraduates, a master’s degree might technically be sufficient. (That’s all that’s required for adjunct professors by the regional university where I teach.) Also, Professor Ronny said this was 40 years ago.

      2. Sarah*

        This definitely used to be more of a thing than it is now. My uncle is a professor was hired with an MA and ABD on his PhD, but that was maybe 30 years ago so he kinda got grandfathered in during a different job market situation. I do not think this could happen today in most fields (except maybe at a community college), simply because there’s such a glut of PhDs so why would any school bother to do it?

      3. Professor Ronny*

        As others have said, it depends on the field. In some fields, like accounting and engineering, it is extremely difficult and expensive to hire a Ph.D. It is not uncommon for a Ph.D. in accounting to start at $150,000+. It’s fields like history, English, and math where there are huge gluts of Ph.D.’s.

        Also, keep in mind that there is a big difference between tenure track and part-time, e.g. adjuncts. Tenure track will have a high percentage of Ph.D.’s while adjuncts often have a master’s degree.

      4. Optimistic Prime*

        40 years ago, sure. Nowadays? Nigh impossible in most fields, especially in the humanities and social sciences. There’s such a glut of people with PhDs and postdoctoral experience seeking jobs in those fields that it’s trivial for a department to select someone who is finished over someone who is not. And even on the off chance that an ABD is hired, they usually are given a time limit to finish the PhD, otherwise they are let go.

    2. namenamename*

      I would say that most graduate students understand the distinction between working as a student and working as a professor, but the increase in adjunct hiring and glut of phds means that few of us see ourselves getting hired (or staying on long-term) as professors.

      1. Anony Mouse*

        +1 Exactly. As much as I enjoyed research and teaching both, I knew the odds of getting a tenure-track job were next to impossible. Frankly, I felt it was time to get on with my life and find another path.

      2. Optimistic Prime*

        Yeah, this. I understood that being a professor was different from being a graduate student (although I wouldn’t agree that they were nothing like each other), but I could also see very clearly what being a professor was like and I knew it was not a lifestyle I wanted. I especially loved college teaching and working with bright undergraduate students, and I miss that part a lot. But for a number of complex reasons – I realized that my chances of finding a position that would allow the work-life balance and blend of research and teaching I wanted inside academia were slim, so I left.

  41. bopper*

    Re: Booth
    I would think you might want something that would catch the eye of the recruiters…like maybe a display with skills listed??

  42. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

    #2 said [ “My partner flies a lot for his job and has a lot of miles. Because of this, we have a “companion pass” through this airline. Anytime he flies, I can accompany for free. So for my return flight after the conference, I booked one ticket in his name and added me to the reservation as a free companion.” ] By getting reimbursed for this, She and her boyfriend “Fly for Free”–she gets the money back for the boyfriend’s ticket PLUS she flew for free using his companion pass. Unless I’m missing something.

  43. Elizabeth H.*

    OP#3 – I dropped out of a humanities PhD program 1/3 through for more or less the exact same reasons. I’m currently employed at my previous employer in a more senior role than the one I left to go to grad school, and I just got a second job offer and got others when I was applying – these jobs are in the field I wanted to work in. I still think about finishing some day – I’ve only been out for a year – but I think dropping out of a PhD is pretty normal. Sometimes I feel frustrated/jealous because a lot of people my age did a master’s degree right out of undergrad and now are making more money and/or are in more senior roles than I am, I did it the other way around so I missed the jump up you can get entering the work force for the first time with a master’s degree. But I don’t think I’d be making more in my current field anyway. Long story short, it’s pretty normal.

    1. Anony Mouse*

      Personally, I think you’re fortunate to have had work experience before starting your PhD. I expect that made it easier for you to find work when you left your program. I feel badly for the ABDs and PhDs looking for work outside academic when their only full-time experience is as a student. They have transferrable skills, definitely, but employers aren’t always willing to recognize them.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        Right, it’s a toss up. The work experience before going to a PhD program was a huge asset in so many ways – among other things, I actually worked at a grad school so I was incredibly familiar with all that was involved in it, I had money saved up, I had self-confidence, I was good at writing in a direct way, all else you can imagine -And it made it easier to leave for sure because I had something to go back to (literally – my old job hired me for a month to do temp project work, right after I left). The work experience ended up being a little bit less helpful than I had hoped for though, I thought I was going to be able to take my experience to plan my work day and schedule in a more “consistent” way but I was so incredibly overwhelmed by grad school that that totally fell apart and I kept a typical grad student schedule.

  44. Labguy*

    Huh, I’m amazed nobody made the connection between OP#5 and the old “hiring and mop” fairs they had in England in Ye Olden Days where applicants for agricultural jobs would gather in the town square with their trade implements, crooks, shears, scythes, mops, etc. and meet with the landowners who would hire them as farmhands for the next season.

  45. Gloucesterina*

    #3 Congrats on your decision to leave the PhD program! I’m in one right now, and I actually think that PhD programs in general can do a lot more to stage nonjudgmental reflection points to encourage students to think intentionally about their goals and what the work at each stage is what they need/want to reach those goals!

    1. Optimistic Prime*

      And a lot more to connect PhD students to non-academic jobs, as well as non-faculty jobs within higher education, given that relatively few will actually land tenure-track faculty positions at the end.

  46. INTP*

    #5: This probably goes without saying, but have a clear idea of the kind of job you are looking for and display that prominently. It’s okay if you’re indecisive and still applying for multiple types of jobs but for this, choose something. It doesn’t have to be super specific, but it should be fairly narrowed down – i.e. “An entry level position in marketing” if you’re entry level, “a position on the analytics side of your marketing team” if you’re midlevel.

    Again, this is probably obvious, I just wanted to point it out because sometimes it isn’t, and it’s especially natural for recent grads or people with varied experience to want to lead with their soft skills and not a specific category of job. It’s an understandable impulse but it requires the hire-er to do the work of checking your experience and figuring out what you can do, and seeing if it’s something you’d want to do, and they probably won’t go through that when there are plenty of candidates specifically advertising their hopeful job titles. When I was a recruiter and people found out what I did and asked about jobs, I’d ask their line of work, and a surprising number would say “Oh, I’ll do anything” – and I get it and have been there but I couldn’t really do anything with that as a recruiter. People will remember you as the person to call when a position for an accountant with 2-4 years experience comes up, but they won’t check your resume against everything just to see if you can do it.

    1. Jenny*

      Thank you! And what a difference even perhaps a “I can learn anything” or “With my diverse background/studies I am a fit for a fill in type of position”. Saying you will do anything is not saying you could do it well.

  47. Amber Rose*

    #5: Setting up a booth is pretty easy. You’re not going to be expected to be flash and flair for this kind of thing, so have your name somewhere visible in an easy to read font (So, no pink wingdings on yellow paper, black default font on white is fine), have some business cards available for people to take, maybe a bowl of hard wrapped candies, some copies of your resume. A nice professional looking tablecloth will make things look sharp. Stick to the pen rule for professional colors: dark blue or black. White is fine too, but a little dull. Put some pens on the table so if people want to give you information or vice versa, it’s convenient to write it down.

    If you have a laptop, feel free to set that up and run a little slide show of pictures. I don’t know what kind of job you want/have done, but if you have any work you can display or even pictures of you in professional settings, a video is usually attention grabbing.

    1. Not a Morning Person*

      I like the idea suggested for having your name visible. Maybe ask the organizers if they already have something in mind? Like tent cards that could be used and printed with your name?

    2. Jenny*

      I am waiting with bated breath to see if someone uses wingdings or something way out there.

  48. Bea W*

    #2 They way I would handle this is to submit only the one flight in my name that required reimbursement and not submit the other at all since it did not need to be reimbursed. If asked for an explanation of why I had no return booked, I’d explain the situation. I’ve had this situation before around accomodations and local transportation where there was no cost to me because I’d stayed with a friend or been taken where I need to go. I’d sometimes get asked, but really only in the context of someone wanting to make sure my expense report was complete and I hadn’t just forgotten something.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      The difference is that the OP does expect to be reimbursed- for her boyfriend’s return ticket, in a swap for her own being free.

  49. BananaPants*

    #2 – yes, how you handled this was bad. It would make my corporate travel audit department go apoplectic. Essentially, you’re asking your employer to subsidize your partner’s flight home. You should only be submitting for reimbursement of costs you actually incur on business travel.

    My employer’s travel policy allows for one’s spouse to accompany employees on business trips, but all costs for the spouse must be paid personally; you can charge spousal travel on the corporate card in order to use our online booking tool, but the system requires the employee to pay that portion of the credit card bill immediately. Likewise, you can use the corporate card to pay for meals, but have to split out spousal meal costs and pay that portion of the charges yourself. Spousal travel is rare because it’s a PITA to keep everything separate.

    1. BananaPants*

      Incidentally, the way something like this would be expected to be handled is that the employee would submit for reimbursement ONLY for the outbound flight because those were the actual expenses for the employee’s travel.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      It was pretty common at both my husband’s oldjobs with the same requirements. Corporate didn’t have a camera over our shoulders making sure he was the one who really ordered the steak- they just wanted you to submit expenses for one person per meal. Either by highlighting the receipt or one required that we get separate checks. Not really that big of a hassle, and spouses going with, when it was feasible, was even encouraged.

    3. Bex*

      Yes to all this. My company would have actually refused to reimburse the companion ticket. It doesn’t matter that the dollar figure is the same. They will only reimburse my direct expenses, full stop. If I use miles, or passes, or gift cards, then they do not reimburse.

      If I already have a hotel room, then it’s fine if my husband stays there. But I can’t submit any expenses that cover him directly.

  50. Lefty*

    OP1- I think Alison’s advice here is great. I’d also urge you to consider speaking to a manager because this situation can become toxic quickly. If Mary is telling others about this, it could cause tension and resentment among the call reps. A similar situation in our office meant that no one respected the quality reviews and they were laughed off as the reviewer just “playing favorites”; when they became weighted as part of our evaluations, there was an uproar. Management failed to act because everyone had been accepting the results for years without contest and had never questioned them.

    1. OP#1*

      Oh wow! That’s good to know.. Sorry to hear about your similar experience. Sounds like I definitely want to nip this in the bud then. I’ll have to bring it up and just hope it doesn’t affect me too much personally. I guess I will know if my call reviews start going down dramatically after Mary gets spoken to. After reading everyone’s comments, I think the call review system definitely needs some restructuring.

  51. Naomi*

    OP #3, adding my name to the chorus that this is going to be fine. I dropped out of a PhD program after getting my master’s and while I did get questions they were mainly about the field of study, since I wasn’t going directly into that field. I found “So What Are You Going to Do With That?: Finding Careers Outside Academia” to be really helpful for advice on approaching the job search and how to talk about my time in grad school as preparing me with critical thinking and research skills. For you, I think since it sounds like you want to go into a field more closely related to your studies, you should easily be able to say that you want to make more of a real-world impact and employers should be fine with it.

  52. OP#2*

    Hi Everyone! I’m OP #2.

    Alison — thanks for your direct and thoughtful advice. I can always count on you!

    Everyone — I won’t respond to everything that’s been posted because there is already quite a lot here. I’ll just provide a couple comments and clarifications.

    Firstly, thanks for your advice. I wrote in because I wanted to better understand the context of my company’s position. I didn’t write in with the expectation that I was necessarily “in the right.” So, I appreciate hearing more about the different facets of how this plays out.

    I will say that I didn’t do anything with malicious intent. I don’t travel very often (in fact, no one at my company travels very often). And, so I don’t have much frame of reference on this. We don’t have a travel company to assist with these issues, and the issue of reimbursements isn’t something that we’ve been thoroughly trained in. It’s usually handled on a case by case basis.

    If I knew going in that this was legally/financially problematic for my company, I 100% would have not gone this route. My boyfriend would have purchased his own return flight. I would not have used companion pass (because if I’m travelling for work, I’m not going to use this benefit on their behalf). And, I would have had my company reimburse my return flight expense. We are flying on Southwest so there are no true “round-trip” flights — they are all one ways. The net cost to the company would have been the same, but I understand now that there are other considerations.

    This was an honest mistake. Now I know and I will not ever do this moving forward.

    However, after reading all of these comments I’ve become very anxious and afraid about future ramifications for this mistake. Several people mentioned this being a problem in the year’s audit. My manager OK’d this and said never to do it again. However, is it possible this could come back up and result in my termination/punishment?

    I’m otherwise a great employee, I get my work done, I’m well liked and respected and I’ve never had any sort of disciplinary/judgement call issues. I don’t want this one mistake to come back in an audit and become a much bigger problem.

    Should I go to my boss proactively and tell her I’d like to return the reimbursement and book a new flight under my name to submit for reimbursement? Is there anything else that I can or should do to protect my reputation? If I knew this would be put me in a position like this, I wouldn’t have done it.

    I care about my job and my reputation. It just didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

    Thanks all!

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      In my personal opinion, the person most likely to see this come back to cause problems is your Manager, since she cleared it.

      It may be that she’s made a mistake that is going to cause a flag in an audit and doesn’t realize it, or it could mean that she simply is going to eat the cost in the department, and not submit it in a way that would flag it, in which case it is less of a problem.

      It certainly couldn’t hurt to go to her and explain you’ve since done more research and now understand it can be a tax problem, and since you don’t want anyone to get into trouble, would it be better if you returned the money and got your own ticket in your own name instead to be reimbursed.

    2. Dee*

      I am not an accountant or any other relevant profession, but I think if your manager said it was OK, you’re fine. Presumably she understands that you made an honest mistake, and now you know better.

      My guess is that an audit would be looking for a long-term pattern, rather than one instance of something.

    3. Jen A.*

      If you have documentation that your manager ultimately ok’d it, that would probably be good. But your manager may not have the standing to make a final decision on this because it would fall under your company’s finance and internal audit authority. Talking to someone in finance while there is still time to make change might be worthwhile (though from their perspective, I’m sure they are going to want the records to be as clean and simple as possible without lots of explanatory memos so they might advocate for canceling everything and starting over from scratch).

      Also, if you keep things as they are, I would confer with a CPA on the reimbursement of your boyfriend’s ticket. Reimbursements for costs that you incur are generally not taxable (there are some specific rules for things that are a little grey like cost of meals), but again, if the ticket is in his name, you didn’t incur the expense, he did, so the reimbursement could be taxable.

    4. Gloucesterina*

      Hi #2! I don’t think you should be concerned, since you had a conversation with your manager and she knows that you made an honest mistake, and she clearly trusts you not to make it again. I could imagine that seeing lots of comments speculating about your potential motives could be nervous-making, though! :)

    5. ZTwo*

      I think it might be good to have a fast conversation with your manager–I would worry less about listing all the options to change this and do more to convey that you know have a better understanding of the situation and understand your mistake before. Communicating that you’ve learned and won’t make the same mistake is more important than trying to fix the (already approved) flight now. I’d definitely offer to do something, if you can, but chances are that’ll be more hassle than it’s worth and they’ve figured it out internally. Something like this:

      “Hey, when I first asked for the reimbursement for my boyfriend’s ticket, I wasn’t aware that it could have accounting implications and didn’t realize I was putting you in an awkward place. After looking into it, I understand why it was a one time thing and definitely won’t do it on any future trips. I was also wondering if it’d be helpful for me to make any changes to my upcoming flights, to avoid any complications.”

      Basically I’d focus more on conveying you heard her, you learned, and it won’t happen going forward. Offering to fix the issue for the upcoming trip is a nice bonus (that I suspect they may not have you do, but I’m not an accountant), but conveying that you get it now is much more helpful.

      1. Specialk9*

        ZTwo’s recommendation is spot on.

        And if your company doesn’t have any travel people, there is a good chance your fraud investigation team is similarly staffed. Just remember that your emails, chats, files, and internet activity at work are NOT private, so be careful what you do, as a good rule of thumb. Going forward, clear novel ideas beforehand.

    6. EleonoraUK*

      I’d say it’s unlikely to get picked up on – auditors don’t tend to check every last expense, so you’d be particularly unlucky. In addition, your manager OK’ed it, so that means you yourself are probably in the clear even if it does come up. If you’re concerned for your boss, I’d just discuss it with her to see if there’s anything you can do to put the pair of you in a better position, but I doubt this will be a massive deal in an audit.

      (I’m speaking from the perspective of someone working in a commercial business, your mileage may vary if you work for an NGO or the government where spend generally has to be accounted for in more detail, to my understanding.)

    7. jhhj*

      Your mistake was in assuming that it would be ok — a fair mistake! you can’t know about the audit issues! and I think that ethically you did nothing wrong, you fell afoul of rules that are needed for other reasons — and not confirming first. Have a clear letter explaining what happened in case something comes up, tell your manager that you understand the issues now and you won’t do it again, this is unlikely to cause problems. The sense of “well, they said they’d pay for one flight, so now they pay for one flight” will make sense to most people.

      I don’t want to promise this won’t come back on you, because no one can promise that, but I would have faith in your manager here that you made a mistake out of ignorance and not malice and she will explain that. But have something ready, just in case.

        1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

          @#2 Do you have your manager’s ok in writing?? if not, I would get it in writing. Also, if possible, I would write the company a check and pay them back for that reimbursement of your boyfriend’s ticket. (I think you agree that technically, your boyfriend should have paid for his own return ticket)

      1. Gloucesterina*

        This advice makes a lot of sense–and taking a few minutes to prepare the document will assuage your own anxiety, which might be the most beneficial thing at this stage!

    8. Genny*

      You’re not likely to get in trouble, but that really depends on your company. Travel guidelines for the federal government are painstakingly clear that ultimately the traveler is responsible for any mistakes. It doesn’t matter if the travel company booked it wrong, if your supervisor approved something in error, or if your OMS did something wrong because s/he misunderstood the regulations. All of them will be considered the fault of the traveler and the traveler will be on the hook for reimbursing the government. You may want to check your company handbook or travel policies to be sure they don’t have similar policies.

      1. CityMouse*

        This is a good point. My spouse if a gov contractor and there is a similar rule. Make sure you have that money on hand to be able to pay it back if asked and if so, do so immediately.

        Instead of rebooking I would just offer the money back. I had the SW companion pass so I know it wouldn’t Cost you anything for this trip and it makes you look petty.

    9. CityMouse*

      I would make sure you have documentation of it bring okay buy then never try it again. I don’t think you are a bad person at all, I just know this wouldn’t fly at my or my spouse’s organization. The companion pass is awesome (I have had the SW one and unless they changed the rules it is pretty unlimited. It is an optics thing, you can’t have things not in your name. Just keep this for a further reimbursements. Your boss was not being ridiculous in the objection. I think rehashing now isn’t a good idea but keep it in mind for the future.

    10. NLMC*

      I really don’t think rebooking a ticket would work. A reimbursement for a flight you didn’t actually take could cause other problems in an audit as well. The dates wouldn’t match any approved company travel and that would be a very detailed explanation that you would have to bring up the previous mistake for anyway.

    11. Trout 'Waver*

      Anonymous people on the internet can be very judgmental and tend to exaggerate moral outrage. It’s clear by your openness that you didn’t intend to do anything wrong. If anything, it’ll hopefully prompt your company to provide better training in regards to expense reports.

    12. KarenT*

      Have you received reimbursement already? If so, it’s unlikely to come up again because if you have received the cash it means it’s gone through everyone it needs to for approval. Where I work, managers approve expenses, then someone from accounting, and if anything is flagged it is either rejected outright, sent back to the manager to confirm approval, or to the VP finance if accounting still disagrees with the approval. Once the cash is paid it’s a done deal. If something comes up in an audit at that point it’s really on the approvers.
      I manage a team who travels frequently and work reimbursements are not necessarily instinctive, even with proper training. There are some costs that are just not reimbursed–child care, personal products (I forgot a few toiletries last time I traveled. Paid for that out of pocket even though it’s an expense I’d never have otherwise incurred.), pet care. But meals and transportation and work items are always reimbursed for employees only (not spouses or other companions). It’s a good rule of thumb to understand you are not supposed to benefit from work travel but your (and yours alone) expenses should be fully repaid. An example that comes up a lot is food. We have a daily limit for dinners, so sometimes people think if they have a companion they can just eat at a cheaper place and expense the whole bill, since the cost to the company is the same. I get the logic, it just really doesn’t work that way!
      But your manager approved it, so I think you’re good here. I wouldn’t offer to return the reimbursement and resubmit. Just file it under lessons learned :)

    13. Non-Prophet*

      Hi OP #2! It sounds like this is recent enough that you could talk to your manager, and let her know that you realize, in hindsight, why reimbursing your partner’s ticket could have unintended implications, and you understand why you shouldn’t do something like this again. Given that you don’t travel frequently, I can understand why you thought this would be fine. But having that conversation with your manager will go a long way towards reassuring your manager that she can trust your professional judgment and that you now understand why this type of thing doesn’t make good business sense.

    14. Nonprofit Chicago*

      Hi OP – It’s clear that this was just an honest mistake and you didn’t have any malicious intent. These things happen! I think the potential for future ramifications depends on the size of your company and the strictness of their travel/reimbursement policies. Of course the most important thing is whether the auditors will find the issue, and the risk for that is low. Most of the time the auditors will randomly sample reports. But having been through audits that have expense report problems (and auditors in my experience focus on these because of the fraud risk) to me no amount of money is worth the reputational risk of being noted in a management letter (where they flag all your audit problems, and it gets sent to the higher ups, and if there is one, the Board of Directors). Have you travelled yet? If you have not, I would do as someone suggested and share with your manager that you didn’t understand fully the policy, and say you will book a flight in your own name and ask for reimbursement for that. If you have already travelled yet – if I were in your shoes – I’d write the company a check and not seek reimbursement. I don’t really see a way to book a ticket in retrospect. This protects the company, and protects you. The risk may be small, but this way you won’t worry about the ramifications!

      1. Nonprofit Chicago*

        Sorry OP! I re-read your letter. Great news – you haven’t travelled yet! In that case, I would offer to book your own ticket, and submit reimbursement for that expense and withdrawal the request for the partner’s ticket (if they’ve already paid you for the ticket, offer to pay them back and await approval of the new expense). n

  53. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

    I think the flight cost debate has been pretty well covered. I just want to put into perspective how big of an issue this can be. An investment firm was fairly recently hit with a $50 million fine from the SEC because an employee had their significant other’s travel expenses paid for as business expenses. This was not an ongoing thing. It happend twice.

    1. fposte*

      I think some people don’t realize that this often runs afoul of laws, not just arguable and argued-here lines of right and wrong. So it’s not even the employer not granting flexibility–it’s that they would be in breach of the law to do this.

  54. Anon 12*

    The flight thing isn’t just an audit or optics issue. It’s gaming the system. BF has lots of miles and presumably could have flown on his own miles. Instead they engineered a reimbursement scheme that meant he didn’t have to pay or use miles and I don’t buy “the company pays the same so it doesn’t matter”. There is a perq in play – being able to tag on personal time to a work event. Most companies are okay with this, but they tried to double down on it.

    1. CityMouse*

      I think this is especially true because the Southwest Companion Pass is unlimited so it’s not like they used a finite resource to get his flight.

    2. NLMC*

      Based on the OPs further explanation above, I don’t think it’s fair to treat is as malicious. It seemed to be very naive. She may not have even seen it as essentially getting her boyfriend a free flight as much as this is how we normally travel, but since it’s for work the ticket should be expensed.
      Wrong, yes, but trying to intentionally game the system. I’m not so sure.

  55. Noah*

    I don’t think what OP#2 did was “on the up-and-up.” Businesses generally reimburse employees for actual expenses incurred, not expenses that could be incurred but the employee was able to avoid. Her return ticket was free because she chose to fly as on companion ticket. The company shouldn’t be expected to pay for Husband’s ticket. This is barely different from an employee buying a ticket at a good price, then demanding reimbursement for the higher ticket price because he could have bought the ticket for that price.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      It’s completely different because your hypothetical would cost the company additional money, whereas the OP did not cost the company additional money.

      1. LBK*

        But the idea is still that you’re trying to charge the company money you theoretically could’ve spent, but didn’t. The OP theoretically could’ve spent this money on a ticket for herself, but she didn’t. She spent it on a ticket for her boyfriend for him to be able to take a personal trip, which isn’t a business expense. The fact that she then got a ticket that she used to take a business trip out of it doesn’t make that original purchase a business expense, especially because the business didn’t require her to make that decision.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          What are you talking about? The same amount of money is spent either. There’s no savings by going over one option over the other.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        It cost the company in additional money because they now can’t write off the cost of her ticket.

        Or if they do and are audited, a whole lot more money!

    2. Kyrielle*

      Yes, this. My last job, when I travelled, I could stay with friends or family – that didn’t mean I pocketed what the hotel would have cost! (But I could, explicitly, spend $X or less as a “host/ess gift” and expense that if I did so. A lot less than several nights at a hotel!)

  56. LizM*

    I can totally see why #3 thought this would be okay, but totally understand why it’s not.

    A few years ago, I had a 4-month assignment in another state, and my job allowed me to drive cross-country so I could have my car. My husband was unemployed at the time, so he and my cats came along.

    Because we had the cats, we were staying in motels well below per diem (think, Motel 6, Red Roof Inn, etc.). But the less expensive hotels charge an extra $10 for a 2nd adult, and $10 for the cats, and show it on the receipt. Even with the added $20, I was below what I could be reimbursed for, so I submitted everything with my voucher. It came back from the auditors with the $20 a night rejected – our policy is that they’ll pay for one adult, any additional charge for the room must be covered by the traveler. The actual cost didn’t matter, what mattered is that they aren’t allowed to pay for partners or pets and if those charges showed up in an audit, it would have been a problem.

    It’s one thing if you get a set amount to spend, and don’t have to show receipts. But if you’re being reimbursed for actual costs, it’s important that the receipts all line up, it gets too complicated otherwise.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      If it comes up again, pick La Quinta! No pet fee and no extra charge for additional adults. The no pet fee (and some charge per pet) usually makes them less expensive than the cheap hotels that allow pets!

  57. Not a Morning Person*

    for OP #2, yes, it can be a big deal. (I haven’t read all comments, to know if someone has already made the following points.) One of the issues is that you did it without checking to see if it was alright or even allowed under a travel policy. Just because your organization will pay for your expenses as an employee, does not mean they will be fine with paying for someone who is not an employee and you put them in the position of paying for a flight for someone who does not work for them and may not be covered by their policy. Even if the resulting expense is exactly the same expense as if they had paid exclusively for you, it looks bad. Your organization is paying for a flight for someone who is not an employee. They might have been willing to work out something to make it work and look appropriate, but you didn’t give them the option. In your place I would apologize and explain that because the end result of the expense amount was the same that you didn’t realize it would be a problem, but that now you understand (assuming you do understand the problems it creates for your employer) it won’t happen again. Once things are more back to normal, if you think this type of trip/opportunity for combining business and personal travel will come up again, you may want to ask your manager if there is a way to accomplish the same thing in a way that is appropriate and normal for your employer to accommodate.

  58. skeptic analyst*

    OP#1: you have to stop looking at it as “telling” on Beth. This is alarming enough that you should go to your manager right away, especially because the call reviews impact compensation. Mary should know better, especially in claims where everything is subject to privacy in one area or another.

    1. OP#1*

      Good point! I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective. Mary is a professional and should know better for sure.

  59. Alex*

    I’m super late to the comments about the flight, but I also wanted to add that travelling on a companion ticket to the boyfriend’s ticket could also cause issues versus traveling on your own ticket. If the ticket is on his account with the airline and you break up before the trip, can he cancel it and leave you without a return ticket? Someone else also brought up the possibility of the dates for the work trip changing and your boyfriend being unable to go – can you change the dates for a companion ticket? Do you have to change both tickets? Are they tied together or does the airline treat them as two separate tickets? Your work travel shouldn’t be dependent on your boyfriend – if he can join you on the trip, that’s fine, but things like tickets, hotel reservations, should be in your name, not his.

  60. Cassie*

    #2 – that would never fly at my (public) university. You are only reimbursed for expenses that you pay for yourself and you are not allowed to pay for other travelers. *Maybe* if you and another person traveled together to a conference and that person didn’t have a credit card – maybe you can plead for an exception after the fact, but it is highly frowned upon. They do seem to grant exceptions here and there but the accounting people will make sure you know that it is not allowed.

    If the cost of the ticket was already reimbursed, I’d write a check to reimburse the company. Yes, it might still raise some red flags in an audit, but it can be explained that steps were taken to remedy the mistake.

    Although the overall cost to the company is the same, it’s not considered the same from an accounting/auditing point of view. I get 4 free hours of Zipcar credits from my university that I can use for anything (doesn’t have to be work-related) – the way the Zipcar account is set up, the free credits are used first and then I’ll be billed for anything after that. If I use 2 hours credit for a work trip, I’m out those 2 hours – I can’t submit a reimbursement request to the university for those 2 hours (since I didn’t actually pay anything) and I also can’t submit a reimbursement request for a personal trip just because the cost would be identical.

  61. Dr. Vanessa Poseidon*

    You’re gonna be fine, OP#3! I felt a lot like you did mid-way through my Ph.D. program. I ended up deciding to finish, both for personal reasons and because I had generous funding to do so, but I knew by the end that I wouldn’t seek academic jobs. I’m a few months out and employed in the corporate world.

    I realize the decision to stay or go can be tough, and your first job hunt as a former academic will likely be hard. But whatever you choose will be right for you, and I trust that you’ll end up in a good place!

  62. AW*

    I’m worried though about how an incomplete PhD is going to look when applying for jobs – that it looks like I’m directionless, unable to commit, can’t see a thing through, etc.

    #3 – PhD programs are meat grinders. Anyone who thinks leaving a PhD programs implies a lack of commitment or direction doesn’t know what they’re talking about. They’re also really hard to get into and you have to at least have a Bachelor degree (or some kind of equivalent).

    Furthermore, these are well know characteristics of PhD programs. You’re not likely to run into someone who’d say, “Well, you have a lot of education, have at least a Bachelor degree, had grades good enough to get into a PhD program but you didn’t finish it, therefore none of that other stuff counts.” It’s like criticizing someone for only getting a silver medal at the Olympics when most of us don’t even qualify to compete in a sport regionally.

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