new hire wants to print everything, how can I make myself look less qualified, and more

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

1. New hire wants to print everything and not use screens

I work for a digital creative agency, and we recently hired a contractor, Ann, who says she is unable to read anything on screens. She has to print everything — schedules, deliverable matrices, design outputs, emails — before she can review or give feedback. This is particularly challenging because half our internal team and our client are all located across several cities. We have to review all content, both internally and with our clients, via teleconference.

Ann has derailed pretty much every review meeting we’ve had, including with clients, because she has to check the screen against the materials she’s printed or because she has not had an opportunity to print the materials to be reviewed. She complains constantly about the fact that we’re creating and tracking all of our work digitally (five or six times in every meeting, plus another eight to 10 times throughout the rest of the day). And she has asked if she can schedule multiple trips across the country to work in person with people, because she has trouble doing the work via her laptop. While we have some budget for travel, it was not intended to be used as a prerequisite to complete our daily work, and I have concerns about her ability to be seen as trustworthy by the client if she shows up every other week complaining about having to work on a laptop, expecting them to work with her on a stack of disorganized papers instead.

This is not the only issue with her, but this is one I’ve never encountered before and am struggling to address. I want to make sure I’m being sensitive to any physical reasons she might not be able to the work and offer what accommodations I can (although from her comments to date, I think this is a preference, not a physical limitation), while also making it clear that part of the ability to succeed at this job is the ability to effectively telework with remote teams.

Be direct about what you expect and ask if there are any obstacles to her doing that. For example: “We do most of our work electronically here, especially since so many team members and the client are spread out across different cities. We don’t typically work with many print-outs. I know you’ve mentioned that you prefer printing things out, but that isn’t always practical or efficient with the way we work. While I know it’s not your preference, is working mainly digitally something you’re able to do?” The idea there is to spell out how you’d like her to operate and to give her a chance to tell you if there’s a medical issue behind this.

If there is a medical issue in play, at that point you could brainstorm with her about how to accommodate that while minimizing the impact on the work and the client. Be clear about what you can’t do (like flying her around the country to meet in person), and what she can’t do (like complaining to the client or complaining throughout the day about your office’s digital tracking systems).

But if it’s just a preference, it’s reasonable to say, “To succeed in this role, you need to get comfortable with working on screens. Is that something you can do?” … and then hold her to that.

2. How can I make myself look less qualified?

I’m guessing you don’t get this question very often: how do I make myself look less qualified? I am a freelancer still working on building my client base. Until I get sufficient workflow to keep my bank account happy, I’d like to find part-time work, just for a regular paycheck. There are zero jobs in my field where I live—I held the one available job I could find, until I was laid off and the company closed—and I’m not in a position (nor do I want) to change fields into something more marketable around here (medical support, welding, industrial). So I’m hoping to find a simple, part-time office assistant position. I honestly want to just go to work, do my job, and go home.

My problem: I am seriously over-qualified. I have a master’s degree in my field (publishing) and worked for almost a decade at a prestigious publisher in another city. I don’t want employers in this small-city adjacent rural area (think small towns with lots of cows and corn in between them) to see my resume and roll their eyes or feel intimidated by my “big-city experience.” I just want to show that I have office experience and can do the work. Is there a way to adjust my resume to deemphasize my positions as Managing Editor and Associate Editor for Prestigious Publisher, and demonstrate my experience with the mundane tasks of an office environment? Do I leave my master’s degree off my resume? I don’t want to leave the job off, because eight years is a big gap; I left there about four years ago, though, so well within the time period normally covered by a resume.

You could leave your master’s off, but I don’t think you need to. The key here is going to be your cover letter, where you’ll need to make a compelling case for why you want an assistant position and why you’d be great at it. Otherwise employers will see your resume, be confused about why you’re applying (and figure that you’re either resume-bombing and applying for everything you see, or that you’ll leave as soon as something in your field comes along). So your challenge here is to address head-on, very explicitly, why you’re applying despite your background and what’s in it for them — i.e., why you’ll be awesome at the job.

And remember that you’re not necessarily overqualified … you’re differently qualified! Someone with your background could be a kind of crappy assistant, after all, just like anyone could be — so you need to demonstrate that that’s not the case with you, and in fact that you’d be great at it.

This is the kind of situation cover letters are made for!

Read updates to this letter here and here.

3. Interviewing post-pregnancy when I still look pregnant

I have seven-month-old twins. I returned to my full-time job after maternity leave, and while it’s going ok, I’ve started to look for a new position with a shorter commute and more growth opportunities. I had a phone interview with a company I’m interested in and it seemed to go well.

Assuming I get called in for an in-person interview, there’s something I’m not sure how to handle. See, I still look a bit pregnant. Growing two human beings tends to really stretch you out and I also have some muscle separation that gives me a belly pooch that looks like a pregnant woman who’s recently started showing. I’m most certainly not pregnant and have no plans to become pregnant again any time soon, if at all. But I worry they’ll see me and assume I am, and not ask about it either out of politeness or because it’s illegal for them to ask about those things.

I feel like it would be a really weird thing to bring up. And I don’t usually bring up personal stuff in job interviews so trying to casually mention my twins so they can connect the dots seems inappropriate. But I don’t want to miss out on a job because they’d rather not hire someone they think is going to then go on leave in a few months. Which I know is actually illegal, but let’s be real, that 100% happens all the time.

Yep, I hate that you have to worry about it, but you’re right that could be a thing in interviewers’ minds. Which sucks and is illegal and is still a thing anyway.

I think the easiest way to mention it would be to mention your maternity leave in past tense and drop it in organically when talking about your current job — something like, “Before I went on maternity leave last year, I did X — and blah blah blah project X.”

4. Email signatures when you’re changing your name

I’m just starting a FTM/gender queer transition and have been changing my name, but won’t be doing so legally, at least for now. I understand that there are situations where I will have to go by my old name, Cecilia: doing stuff with the government, HR, etc. However, I want to go by Clive in daily situations and with my peers. When I talk to people it is easy (albeit an anxiety type of easy) to say, “I go by Clive now.”

My question is about work email signatures, though. I’ve seen a lot of examples on how to use nicknames (haven’t been able to find advice related to preferred names) in signatures, and there are so many options.

Cecilia (Clive) LastName – Linkedin
Cecilia “Clive” LastName – random online articles
Cecilia LastName (Clive) – Facebook
Clive (Cecilia) LastName – random online articles

Any advice on using my preferred name in my work email signature would be so great.

You could do any of those! I think you’re finding conflicting answers because there really isn’t any one “right” way to do it, so I’d just go with the one you like best. That said, I think you’re better off going with one that has Clive first, since people are more likely to assume that whichever name you put first is the one you’re going by.

Think of it sort of like how married women who changed their name will sometimes present their old last name at the end, like “Jane Warbleworth, née Bumbridge.” You’re not using “née,” but the idea is the same in that you’re presenting the name you now go by first.

5. How to explain an incomplete master’s degree

So I have a bachelor’s in Computer Science. I decided to do grad school and go for a masters at the same school as my bachelors. I have a part-time retail job and live with my parents. During the second year of my master’s, my dad got sick, really sick. Hospitalized for several months. After he got out, I was basically the live-in caretaker for him for quite a while. So this threw a major monkey wrench into school. After he recovered enough to not need me as much, I did go back to my thesis, but my momentum and focus were destroyed and I burned out. The project also ended up being this beast of a thing that I think everyone underestimated the size of.

So now I’m probably looking at not being able to finish. I’m in the middle of year six after already having gotten an extension for two semesters. Let’s say the worst happens and I don’t complete my master’s. What do I put on my resume and what do I tell prospective employers?

On your resume: “Coursework toward master’s in X, (year) to (year)”

To interviewers: “I had intended to get my master’s, but my plans were disrupted by a family health crisis, which ended up taking priority. I got a lot out of my program, but at this point, I’m itching to focus on full-time work.”

That’s it! You’ll be fine.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 605 comments… read them below }

  1. Lara*

    A person working at a digital agency who refuses to look at screens. You couldn’t work a regular office job with that preference, let alone a digital role. There’s no feasible workaround or accommodation for this.

    1. Hosta*

      Yeah, this is like someone joining a peanut butter factory while being sensitive to peanuts. I just….what? What? This is ridiculous.

      1. Specialk9*

        It does seem especially ludicrous to me too. I just don’t see how someone with a job evaluating digital content can refuse to evaluate content, digitally.

        I don’t even think this would be an ADA thing, bc it’s so inherent to the work (a reasonable accommodation is not ever “so don’t do this work but we’ll pay you” – though not a lawyer).

        1. Specialk9*

          I also think the constant complaints are a big deal. (5 times per meeting, plus another 8-10 times per day)

          That’s a LOT of complaining! Especially for a contractor.

          I defended the gluten sick contractor for complaining because he was literally dealing with food poisoning, and I’ve yet to meet a person who wouldn’t complain about food poisoning. But complaining 10 times a day, on the low estimate, about anything short of something that serious is really unprofessional and negative.

          Seriously, I can’t think of 10 complaints I’ve heard at work in a month (not counting layoffs).

        2. MJ*

          I seem to recall a case about a woman who was pro-life suing an abortion provider because they wouldn’t hire her to…. not perform her job, I guess? I don’t recall how that panned out but it seems like there’s got to be some precedence for this type of thing.

          1. MJ*

            ETA: I found it, she was specifically refusing to work with birth control. and she would have been a nurse-midwife.

    2. Wehaf*

      Well, if it is a medical issue (some people have migraines or eye strain triggered by the light from computer screens) an e-ink monitor could work. They have low refresh rates, though, so they’re not good for everything.

      1. designbot*

        But if you’re at a digital agency, seeing how digital content performs for clients on typical monitors is a crucial part of the job. “It looked fine on my special e-ink screen, don’t know why you’re having trouble!” won’t really cut it.

        1. Wehaf*

          From the letter, it seems like she doesn’t have to deal with the content much at all, but rather things like schedules and spec sheets and emails; the problems the letter writer mentions aren’t related to evaluating digital content.

          1. Lara*

            Eh, I read Digital Creative as dealing with graphic design, or at least project management of such.

            Your solution would be perfect for a regular office worker though!

            1. designbot*

              So in that case, I’d address it like, as a digital agency this is really confounding me and I think will confound our clients too. They expect their customers to view this on digital screens, and us not doing so ourselves could signal either a lack of fluency in the medium, or a lack of trust in what we’ve produced. We need this to work across platforms—mac, pc, chrome, explorer, tablet, smartphone—but paper is not one of those platforms it needs to work on. So if this is something that’s say, helping you spot typos more easily, then continue to do it but that’s your own secret trick not something to do in front of clients. If on the other hand you are actually having trouble with the content on digital devices, then that’s a really valid point of view that we should discuss further, because this work needs to communicate, and if it’s not then that’s a failure of the work. Then see what she has to say, how she explains what role this plays in her process and what that might mean.

      2. Linkster*

        But if this was a medical issue, shouldn’t the new hire have mentioned it during the interview process? She obviously knew what position and job description she was applying for, right?

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m having a really hard time with this, too, and I hope OP or someone from the same industry can comment. This just sounds so unusual… I can’t even do my work on paper, and I’m in a profession that slaughters trees for giggles.

      1. MyBossSaidWhat*

        Hi. Same industry here. To this degree, it’s really strange. (Ie, editing a 30-Page deliverable, I’ve printed that out just because I’m “old” – in my late 30s – and that works for me). I can’t imagine any post-1990 office working her way though.

        1. ad agency lady*

          I’m a similar type of role a digital creative agency. The employee is client facing and based on the items that she has to work with, she’s most likely an account manager, project manager, a strategist, or maybe an art director of some sort.
          Since she’s in the digital agency, her work is typically related to email marketing, social ads, building websites, handling a large amount of data and analytics…all of which are produced on a computer and meant to be consumed NOT on paper. Her work output has to be all digital. It would be pretty much impossible to perform her job. It’s understandable to print certain pieces of creative on large paper to review due to limited screen sizes… but that would only be a very small part of her job and it cannot replace work on the computer.

          If the employee is new to the industry, then the OP should have a conversation with her on how realistic the job fit is and help her work out something else… if she’s a veteran in the industry, then it would seem as if she applied for the job in bad faith knowing it would be difficult…

            1. irritable vowel*

              If she’s not new to the industry, and this isn’t a new behavior, then it’s weird that it didn’t come up with her references, since it seems like a major departure from normal behavior in this industry. If it didn’t come up, that makes me think that there might be a medical reason behind it (and the references felt it was inappropriate to mention). Or, something has changed with her and it’s not something she did at her previous jobs.

              1. irritable vowel*

                Replying to myself to say that I missed that she’s a contractor – so, maybe references were not checked in the same way they would have been for a full-time employee position.

                1. The Original K.*

                  If Ann is a contractor through an agency, usually what happens is that the agency checks references before they place the person but not for every individual job. The on-site person doesn’t deal with references at all; the agency has ostensibly done that due diligence for them.

                2. Plague of frogs*

                  Or maybe she had a great reference because the last place wanted to be rid of her.

                1. a1*

                  @serenity – just because OP didn’t hire her doesn’t mean she doesn’t manager her now. There could have been team switches on either end, or she could have had no say for various reasons, or she could be one of many people that Ann reports to/works for, and so on.

                2. OP*

                  serenity, I managed her day-to-day performance, but she was not my direct report. This is a pretty common scenario for project managers.

        2. Annie Moose*

          I can definitely understand a desire to edit on paper–seeing something in physical form can trigger your brain differently than reading it on a screen, or at least it does for me–but this is so far beyond that!

          1. myswtghst*

            Agreed! In my last job, part of our process for reviewingPowerPoint presentations and the like involved printing things out for a round of edits, because sometimes your brain fills in the gaps when looking at something on the screen. But that was one step, not the whole process, and it came after the content was created and reviewed on a screen.

      2. Lara*

        I’m in a related industry and I just can’t see it working. These agencies tend to be fast paced, high speed and reliant on digital to get stuff done. The whole point of having digital project management and videoconferencing is to make things more efficient.

        The difference between Ann ticking something off on a PM program and emailing a graphic spec to Wakeen, vs Ann printing off a tasklist, getting someone else to mark it as done, then flying to see Wakeen in person… it’s just unworkable.

            1. Snark*

              Agreed. She is a contractor. The role is fundamentally different from that of an employee; you contract with a contractor to get things done and deliverables delivered. If that’s not happening – for whatever reason – then that’s a reason to get a new contractor.

    4. Documenter*

      I would be concerned about the person getting reclassified as an employee with all of these accommodations. Fortunately this person is a contractor, so there better be something compelling about her skills to be worth this amount of pain.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        There’s actually a circuit split on whether the ADA applies to contractors. But granting accommodation, by itself, is unlikely to result in reclassification.

        1. Lara*

          Surely this would still come under ‘reasonable accommodation’ though? If it’s about brightness, then special glasses or Wehaf’s solution could work. If it’s literally a case of not being able to look at a screen then printing everything + multiple flights a year is not a workable solution.

          1. fposte*

            Princess’s point is that some court decisions have ruled that employers don’t have to accommodate contractors the way they would employees, so Ann may not be entitled to reasonable accommodation.

          2. OP*

            While I am not sure what the specific rules are around contractors, we would give reasonable accommodation whether she was full time or contract. Beyond legality, it’s just doing the right thing.

            1. Nita*

              If I’m not mistaken, an employer cannot (and has no obligation to) make ADA accommodations unless they know what the problem is. She needs to talk to someone about what’s stopping her from using screens, if an accommodation is to be made. It may turn out she’s OK with desktops but can’t handle laptops for some reason, or needs a special anti-glare screen, or something else that can be relatively easily handled. It may also help do discuss how she functioned in her old job and what was done to help her function. It’s possible of course that back then this was a non-issue – maybe she’s recently developed migraines, or some condition that’s triggered by eye strain.

              It’s also possible that there just isn’t a reasonable accommodation and Ann needs to switch into a profession that doesn’t involve a lot of screen time, or look into being recognized as disabled. This is unfortunate, but there’s only so much the company can do if she has problems with the core parts of her job, and it’s causing problems working with others on top of that.

              1. sap*

                There’s an obligation that gets triggered if the employer suspects or really absolutely should have suspected that that there’s an ADA-covered reason for an issue performing a job function, but that covers stuff like “Jane is in a leg brace and works on floor 1. Jane is disciplined for being late to meetings on floor 5, but was expected to leave at the same time as everyone else on floor 1, and the building has a spotty elevator.” Not “Jane seems perfectly fine but refuses to use a computer for her work. Conceivably, there are medic conditions that could be causing the computer issue that could be easily accommodated by the employer, but there’s a list of 10 widly different options as to what they are and the employer has no evidence that Jane suffers from any of them.”

    5. Beth*

      I’m kind of baffled that someone who refuses to interact with screens even applied for a job at a digital agency. Digital things basically always have screens; looking at screens is a basic job function for working with digital anything.

      And at a creative agency in particular…if their ‘creative’ has anything to do with display or visual arts, then seeing the work displayed on a screen would be key to knowing if it’s done right and recognizing where it needs tweaking. Looking at it printed out, or even on an e-ink screen, would be a different display that wouldn’t line up with what the client would be looking at; it would be easy to miss a problem that shows up on a normal screen, or waste time fixing ‘problems’ that are actually just a problem with the adjusted format. You can’t accommodate someone to the point of no longer fulfilling basic job requirements, even if they have a very good reason for seeking accommodations.

    6. Indoor Cat*

      Yeah, my first thought was, maybe an e-ink monitor or text-to-speech software program? But then I realized one of the things she’s responsible for is design outputs, and it’s like…that’s just not possible.

    7. MammaRia*

      Oh lordy, we had an Ann on our team last year! She printed EVERYTHING. She’d print emails, then, she’d print her response to the email, still including the original email trail, then, when she got another reply, she’d once again print off the email trail, but, still keep all the original documentation. Some could go on for over 20 pages if it was a complex question. We were not doing earth shattering, save the world work. It would be about meeting room bookings, someone taking a day off, that sort of thing. Something where if an electronic copy of the email went missing, it really wouldn’t matter. It would take ages for her to do a simple task, as she needed to print everything off and file it in the folder before she would move to a new task.

      She had completely filled 2 huge folders and was on a 3rd folder by the time she left after 3 months. We would repeatedly tell her that it was not necessary, that the electronic copy was all that was needed, however, she would continue to argue that it was essential, and that we should all be doing it (she did at one stage try and convince me that the rest of my teammates were doing it that way too, and that I was wrong – at which point I gave up completely). She would bring the folders to meetings, and make us wait until she found the relevant items we were discussing. Short term contract, was not renewed despite the work being there (there were other issues too – mainly around workload prioritising – she’d focus on tasks as they came in, not in order of priority, even if marked urgent, and, I think the final straw was she had a challenging workplace communication style, including to those higher up the food chain, which meant many many many complaints to management).

      After she left, we went through the folders, and 99% was put in the shredding bins.

      1. MLB*

        That’s insane. I would have told her that the paper budget was going to start coming out of her paycheck if she didn’t knock it off :-)

        1. Chalupa Batman*

          We had an Ann who needed to put everything in files, too. It was insane-things like stacks of files specifically created to house multiple copies from the same mundane e-mail thread. But what really burned us all up when she left and we were going through the files was that she printed it all in COLOR! My department isn’t particularly hung up on the little stuff in general, but I was told within my first week that our department budget was charged extra for color printing, so not to use it on the shared printer unless absolutely necessary. Of all the crazy things that lady did, one of the things that someone always brings up when we’re joking about her insistence on printing everything is that “it was all in color, too!”

      2. Deus Cee*

        Anns are rare in our line of work (typically job descriptions in our area demand at least halfway decent computer skills), but I came up against one recently. Every enquiry required printing out, every search result, and every communique with every customer was printed out to keep in her file. One time she needed to pull together a list of vendors from their individual records, and literally (with scissors and sellotape) cut and pasted them onto a printed-out copy of the list, xeroxed the list, then put it through a scanner to turn back into pdf in order to email it…

        1. Kheldarson*

          “One time she needed to pull together a list of vendors from their individual records, and literally (with scissors and sellotape) cut and pasted them onto a printed-out copy of the list, xeroxed the list, then put it through a scanner to turn back into pdf in order to email it…”

          *gives a mighty shudder*

          I am cringing so much just reading this. I just… why would you *do* all of that? Is c&p on a computer just that scary to some folks?

      3. Ellen*

        I have been in a -one, singular- situation where printing a document chain of evidence was needed. I saw it ahead of time, and printed out 15 pages of documentation regarding an employees habit of sexual harassing his coworkers. My boss deleted all of her copies and swore, in a meeting, that she never got them. So when, in the same meeting, I took out my documentation, complete with her replies to other aspects of the emails that I sent… the whole tone of the “shall we rehire him” conversation changed. Parenthetically, I also left that job and will never go back.

        1. Jess*

          You have amazing foresight to anticipate that she would do something like that! I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in that meeting when you pulled out the documents.

        2. Former Employee*

          As far as I am aware, anything with legal ramifications should have a hard copy.

          I am pretty sure that a lot of day to day type things were not kept after awhile in my old industry (an area of financial services), but if it was a question of interpreting language in a contract or agreeing or declining to alter a contract, that type of thing should be in a physical file, just as the actual paperwork involving the original contract should be in writing and in a physical file. Periodically, files are subpoenaed and the last thing you want is to discover that all of the documentation that would help you in a lawsuit was lost in the system crash of ’07.

          Note: I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV.

      4. Will!*

        I inherited a job from one of them. The very best was that there was a spreadsheet she referred to as a tracking database that she would print out every time there was a change. She would… print out… a database.

        (She also didn’t understand how to print more than one label on a sheet of Avery labels, so I had a desk drawer that was just full of stacks with the top left label missing. To her credit, at some point she realized that she could turn it upside-down in the print tray and still use the bottom right. Hundreds of these, I had.)

          1. Cute Li'l UFO*

            Good lord. At my first job (small real estate office with some odd legacy practices in place) I gave up on the printer and used a typewriter as the printer loved to mangle the labels and create a mess to un-stick from inside the machine. I spent more time picking adhesive label bits out of our printer than I did rolling them into a typewriter and finishing them that way. I’m both laughing and shaking my head at sheet after sheet of Avery labels with only two labels missing, though.

            I am also in the design space and this is just beyond odd. I have applied to some jobs that included wording along the lines of “this job requires using a computer for long hours blah blah would that cause any problems” but in a more CYA kind of way in the initial application. Some have it, some don’t–my guess is that it’s an assumed part of the job working at a digital agency. The inability to work digitally and requesting to fly out is beyond ridiculous. The derailing and complaining is beyond Not OK.

        1. rldk*

          reading all these comments is reminding me just how happy I am to be gone from ExJob – ExManager was an Ann who wanted a tracking document printed with every change, even though a) the tracker was not designed for or intended for her use, but others who used it digitally and b) it has over 25 tabs of information

      5. Elizabeth West*

        Holy crap.
        At OldExjob, BossWife wanted me to print a copy of every single packing list and file it. We used an Access database for those; it enabled me to look up any particular packing list for anyone and print that off IF we needed it. Plus, the IT guy backed everything up on tape regularly. But no, she wanted a hard copy. We were, in effect, printing each one twice–once for inclusion in the box, and again to put in a drawer and never refer to again.

        When she and Boss left the company after the takeover, I immediately got rid of every single hard copy and never printed another backup ever again.

      6. One of the Sarahs*

        I temped in a place where I was involved in some work for different doctors. They handled everything themselves, but I needed to keep track of appointments to prepare things for them and help pass patients to them. Dr A (very frustratingly) only used a paper diary, so I would decant it onto Outlook a couple of times a week, in order to know what was going on. Dr B was purely electronic, as they should have been, and changed up their schedules a lot.

        But when I was handed the system over by a different temp, they described the job as writing everything from Dr B’s online diary into a paper diary, and then twice a week have to try to work out which was right, the paper or Outlook version. Other temp told me how confusing this all was.

        I was bemused – was there a reason for this? She was all “no, it was handed over to me this way”. Dr B was adamantly electronic-only, the only person who put things in the paper diary was Other Temp, and yet she was confused why it never matched the online version. I ditched that diary as soon as I could.

    8. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      LW1, This reminds me of the person who was allergic to dogs and yet applied to work at a vet clinic. At some point it’s necessary to make your own self-exclusion policy. A visually impaired person can be an excellent swimmer but it’s doesn’t mean that they are an excellent lifeguard. My point is that sometimes you just can’t do the job.

      1. Snickelfritz*

        Or who work at a veterinary ophthalmology practice, like the aide who started wrapping my cat up in a towel like a burrito without a word of introduction. When I told her to take her towel and leave my cat alone, she said she did it because she didn’t want to get scratched. I explained that (a) I always held him myself, because he got stressed enough without being treated like that, and (b) she should have gone into a different field, because getting scratched was a given, and the way she acted was guaranteed to make that happen. (Yes, I complained, both to the vet and to the practice manager.)

    9. Mom MD*

      Ann needs to be shown the door. I’m wondering why this wasn’t picked up before the hire. She cannot perform this job. I hope she is in her probation period.

      1. Juli G.*

        I saw you say it should have been screened for at least twice in the comments. I have to admit that I’d never ask an employee “Are you willing to use a computer monitor and/or laptop?” Is that a typical interview question?

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          I have been asked to do a work exercise as part of my interviewing process – like here’s an email from a client who wants a cease-and-desist letter. Draft the letter and a response to the client answering his questions. You have three hours and this computer with unrestricted access to the internet and legal databases. So the exercise wasn’t aimed specifically at using a computer, but it would have certainly come up if I wasn’t willing to!

          But I guess not all jobs can be tested for as easily – if you’re going to be managing long term projects, that’s hard to set up in an interview, since you need to see what the person can do over several months. And yeah, it doesn’t seem reasonable to make candidates for non-IT positions prove they can use a screen, that would be incredibly condescending.

          1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

            I mean, you nailed it. The exercise you described is an attempt to see how a person does the job, within the confines of the equipment they’d have access to to do it. Something like that would hopefully have picked up the contractor’s discomfort with working on a screen?

          2. Triumphant Fox*

            I can see something like this working for an interview, though. I have thought a lot about how I’d want to interview in roles where I need someone to evaluate creative (because I will be hiring in the next few months and we’re a small team) and I think what I’d do is similar – send them an email on a company computer with instructions, attach a creative brief, copy deck and forward correspondence from a “client,” then give them the first creative draft. Ask them to evaluate the piece for whatever her role entails. Does she think the creative brief was followed? Any copy changes or typos? Does the headline convey the message of the piece? Were the client’s changes made? You can see how she gives feedback (especially if it’s digital) and how detail oriented she is.

            That being said, I don’t know how I’d evaluate someone who was supposed to coordinate and communicate with a client and follow a timeline. Would you give them a set of emails, a project timeline, and ask them to correspond with a “client” or outline next steps?

        2. PB*

          Honestly, in this day and age, it’s never occurred to me to ask that. Most work in most fields is done digitally. If you’re in a digital creative field, then that would be doubly true. I don’t think it’s a typical interview question at all. On the flip side, I’m trying to imagine receiving this question as a candidate. If I’m sitting in an interview room, talking about my job experience (which, by its nature, would have to be computer-based if done in the last 25 years), and the interviewer stops and says, “Yes, but have you ever used a PC?”, I would probably look at her like she has two heads.

          That said, maybe a way to screen for this would be to ask about what software she uses to achieve specific tasks, or about her experience with specific software used by the company. I think that would be a better way to suss out specific tech skills instead of a broad “Do you use screens”-type question.

          1. Proton Neutron Futon*

            We ask in interviews if candidate has preference for communicating by phone or email – in our line of work you really need both, and we’ve seen both extremes (phone-phobic who would get into long email threads over something that would be solved in 30 seconds over the phone, and email-phobic who spent hours on the phone instead of sending a group email). We actually have a scenario-interview question on how they would juggle several urgent tasks and this often pops up in there too.

        3. Lara*

          I was thinking that, but in a way, isn’t a CV a basic test of computer literacy / ability to use? Because of course no-one’s going to ask that.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            You mean that having a CV means you are at least somewhat computer literate? Nope, that just might mean you know someone who is computer literate and willing to help you in your job search… Same goes for online application forms, etc.

        4. Antilles*

          I have to admit that I’d never ask an employee “Are you willing to use a computer monitor and/or laptop?” Is that a typical interview question?
          I’ve legitimately never had anyone ask me about it, nor have I ever asked a candidate about it.
          It’s 2018. Being able to use a computer monitor or laptop is such a basic unstated requirement that it’s almost like asking if someone can read or is willing to wear clothes to work – unless the candidate says something that specifically makes me wonder about if it might be an issue, I wouldn’t even think to ask.

          1. PB*

            I agree, especially when the job you’re applying for has “digital” in the title.

          2. pleaset*

            I think it’s worth thinking a bit more broadly about technology. Blind people don’t use monitors but can use computers with screen readers, and we should not be trying to exclude them from all office jobs.

            And for people with poor vision in general, laptops in particular can be problematic due to the smaller size of the key board and monitor. But there can be people who perform very well on a big monitor and keyboard set up well for their needs, and that is a very reasonable accommodation in a lot of situations.

            I wouldn’t screen for these, but would try to accommodate them.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Okay, but that is clearly not what’s happening here, so it’s a moot point.

            2. Just Another Techie*

              Also that’s such an easy and even expected accommodation that it would be pointless to ask in the interview stage. I work in tech and there’s such a variety in computer equipment assigned to employees — some people need special monitors, or anti-glare screens, or particular keyboards or mouse. Laptop + external keyboard. Ergonomic keyboard. Special under-desk mouse tray. I’d be utterly shocked if a modern office environment wasn’t ready to provide that sort of workspace customization as part of new-hire onboarding.

              1. pleaset*

                There was a person where I worked who really needed that sort of help with eyesight and ergonomics but wasn’t aware it existed … she’d just suffered with bad setups for 30+ years.

                1. LCL*

                  This was the basic idea and approach I was going to suggest. People don’t realize that how your monitor and programs look is somewhat configurable. If she has been around computers since the early days, when they were less friendly, she probably decided not to bother because she couldn’t read the bloody screen. If you want to work with her instead of firing her, have someone give her an intense sit down tutorial including how to restore original settings. When people see my work station they ask ‘how can you work like that?’ I use big fonts, a lot of color coding, group icons by function, and moved the start button to the upper left corner. I ask ‘how can you not adjust your computer so you can read it better?’ My setup isn’t perfect, because Microsoft took away the ability to float the toolbars several revisions ago, but it’s as good as I can get it.

                  The first thing I do when I have to jump in on an unknown computer is start tweaking the font and adjusting the displays. Last Friday I helped test some new, complicated equipment-my first act was to ask the software guys how to enlarge the font (not remotely related to a windows program) and then I isolated the tech info on the 2nd monitor to one piece of equipment at a time. The (younger) techs were snickering because they grudgingly raised the font size a click or two, but that wasn’t enough so I raised it to my specs. So, have someone show her how to fix things so she can read them.

            3. AnonforThis*

              I worked a fully digital job and worked with someone who could not type due to a disability. We still made it work (person uses a text speech control).

              There can be accommodations, but fully refusing to engage with digital systems is not a reasonable work around. Heck my Dad has a friend who is a competely blind lawyer and he still uses a computer.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                My partner is a programmer at a big tech company and on one team he worked on he had a blind coworker. No vision whatsoever. He was a great programmer and also a great tester of accessibility features — he gave them a heads up when some change they made upset his screen reader or made it harder for him to navigate.

            1. Oxford Coma*

              If they’d stop holding job fairs at nudist colonies we wouldn’t have this problem.

          3. Triumphant Fox*

            My last job would evaluate people on this. I never took it because I was hired in an unconventional way, but you had to take a test on your ability to use excel, word, etc. (so more program-based, not “computer” based). A lot of people were cut because they just really didn’t know how to do basic formatting.

            I have been asked what type of computer setup I’m used to, but that was more in a late-stage “oh by the way we’re on Mac, are you familiar with them” kind of way. I think that was more of a preference thing – they would have converted things to PC if I had wanted that.

        5. The Original K.*

          I think the only way it would be a typical interview question is if it were for a job that did NOT involve looking at screens, but maybe you had to once in a while. Like “You’ll primarily be sorting mail, but occasionally you’ll need to enter data into an Excel sheet – will that be a problem?” (I made up that example so please cut me some slack if it’s not accurate.) But for a job in an office – for a job at a DIGITAL AGENCY – I can’t imagine asking that question.

          1. Juli G.*

            Yeah, I can see that. Or you’re a plumber or welder or other occupation that does more hands on tasks and the computer is needed for work orders or something.

          2. Lindsay J*

            Yeah, I ask that when hiring for my warehouse workers.

            Here, you have to work pretty extensively on a computer to receive in parts, issue out parts, read and respond to emails quickly, fill out online forms, etc.

            However, it seems like in other warehouse positions you don’t have to do that so much – they either get told to pick a part from a specific bin verbally, or from a print out, or maybe from a pda.

            So computer skills are something that I ask about and screen for in an interview for that reason.

            Now, if I were hiring someone to work at a digital agency? I don’t think it would occur to me because I would assume it was a given.

            Also, people have brought up resumes and digital applications, and I can say that they’re really not great at showing whether someone has any sort of computer skills. There’s really no way to tell how much the candidate did on their own vs how much they had help with (or how much they just outright had someone else do for them). Even if they figured it out eventually, you don’t have time for someone to spend 2 days every time trying to figure out how to attach something to an email, or to teach someone how to fill out an excel form and save it every single time. You don’t need “eventually”, you need “in a reasonable time frame and only has to be shown a couple times”.

        6. Kittymommy*

          I’ve seen a variation asked on applications/job requirements. Things like are you able (or must be able) to use electronic equipment, computers, tablets, etc. Usage of such equipment is mandatory to the job.

          1. SignalLost*

            I find that government jobs (outside of academia at least where I am) are REALLY explicit about a job involving X amount of sitting, standing, lifting, using this tool or that device, etc, but that’s just not present in private employers’ ads. And I wouldn’t dream of someone applying for a Digital Communications role (for example) having a problem with half of the actual title. At some point, it’s on us as job-seekers to select out of roles or industries or companies we can’t or won’t work in to the conventional standards of the role. One of my neighbours won’t work for Boeing because the have DoD contracts; he’s not demanding they change that so he can.

            1. irritable vowel*

              Yes, agreed – public library/state university library job descriptions are often very explicit about these things. I think there’s a certain amount of CYA that goes into those descriptions, so it’s easier to let people go if they cannot fulfill what might otherwise be unspoken expectations of a job (using a computer, etc.).

        7. OP*

          It is not the sort of thing I’d ever ask in this industry, because my assumption would be everyone could/would be able to do work digitally.

          1. Someone else*

            I can sort of see it both ways. It makes no sense someone would apply for a gig in your industry and not be comfortable with lots of screen time. So it’d be an odd question. At the same time, if you started asking “this role requires 7+ hours a day in front of a screen, are you comfortable with that?” might be A) slightly less off-putting than making about it use of specific obvious devices and B) would definitely screen out this sort of person, or allow them to self-select out. I think it might even read to candidates as “oh they must’ve had an issue with someone who wasn’t cool with that if they’re now screening for it” so it wouldn’t read so much as a bizarre question.

            1. Genny*

              I don’t know. If I was a highly qualified candidate (i.e. anything outside of entry level), I’d be put off by that kind of question no matter how vaguely worded. It makes it sound like they don’t know how to hire quality people, and I’d be worried about who my co-workers might be.

              1. Someone else*

                Really? I wasn’t advocating for vaguer wording. I was suggesting making it about the hours in front of a screen, instead of about using any specific programs, which yeah, is still probably obvious, but there are also other reasons someone might self-select out. It’s not just about people who might prefer to print everything; it might also be people who prefer/assume they’ll be in meetings frequently, the type of meetings that involve people just discussing or maybe whiteboarding but not necessarily projectors or monitors. If someone doesn’t realize they’ll literally need to be in front of a screen All Day Every Day, flipping it this way is not about the skills or tools of the job. It’s just about the screentime. There could be plenty of people who have more experience than entry level but also are used to getting up more and being in a room with people, which this role clearly doesn’t involve much of. So it seems like at least a less red flaggy question, although I don’t doubt some might be put off by it anyway.

            2. Emilia Bedelia*

              I would say something like “Let me describe an average day for you- you’ll be reading drafts and commenting on the computer, discussing the drafts with the larger team, and making edits based on their comments. Do you have any questions about what that would look like?” This could also serve to answer any questions about working remotely or working odd hours as well.

              1. Chalupa Batman*

                I like that. One of my standard questions that I ask when I’m being interviewed is, “If someone were to follow around the person in this job for a day, what would they be doing?” This type of framing would feel useful to me without being patronizing.

        8. Lindsay J*

          I do have it as part of my screening questions (but I’m hiring for blue collar positions where computer skills are not a given in the general applicant base. I can’t imagine thinking that I would need to ask it for hiring someone to work at a digital media agency.)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Same here; I’ve been asked about using basic programs, including MS Office programs, for admin jobs, because some of them are entry-level and people do transition into office jobs from retail, etc. But if I applied for a position like this one and the employer asked me that, I’d be really confused.

        9. yet another Kat*

          I routinely ask (and have been asked) something along the lines of “our team/clients/etc are distributed across xyz areas/time zones and we use abc tools to communicate/document/conference/etc … Are you comfortable using abc tools in this way? How have you worked with distributed teams/clients in the past?” I know this isn’t exactly the same, but it would screen for this kind of issue.

    10. Jen S. 2.0*

      Thank goodness Ann is a contractor and not an employee. This is unlikely to work out, and that goes double if this is just a strong preference and not a necessity. It’s one thing to prefer occasionally to print big text docs to review for edits (I agree that you do catch things on the page that you skim past on a screen), but she’s gumming up the works of the whole place.

      1. I@W*

        Yes!! I came here to say this as someone who has spent much of her career as a contractor/freelancer….that Ann is a contractor. As a contractor, I don’t believe that you need to accommodate her for any reason and you can easily let her go. In my career I’ve encountered contractors who like what that option offers (more flexibility, generally more money) and those that are there because it’s pretty much their only option because they’ve been pushed out of other org or full-time options–and Ann sounds like she’s in the latter category. To be a successful contractor, you need to follow the established processes of the organization (not work against them because it’s your need or preference). (You can, of course, act in a consultative way to offer improvements, but ultimately, as a contractor, the company is your client.) It sounds like she’s doing more harm than good.

    11. Artemesia*

      This. And don’t suggest a medical reason to this person or she will invent one. Time to fire her and make sure you have a hiring process that would weed anything like this out. (Most people with visual difficulties actually work better digitally as there are all sorts of features on computers for visual impairment)

      1. Mel*

        I’d tread with a bit of caution when firing her because visual impairments are not the only reason some people work better on paper copies than on computers.

        Three years ago, I was rear-ended by a pickup truck on the way home from work while wearing a seatbelt. I was fine immediately after the accident but within 12 hours I couldn’t complete a sentence. I’d developed post-concussion syndrome and one of the side effects was that computer screens caused me to get terrible headaches and nausea for months. Annoyingly, my intolerance to computer screens was one of the last symptoms to resolve.

        This lady might have a history of traumatic brain injury – or she might simply be an awful fit for the job. A prudent manager could set up an improvement plan (which would generally cause most people who need accommodations to speak up) that wouldn’t take terribly long to see if she could improve…or if she needs to find a different job.

        1. Artemesia*

          If this woman could not as opposed to will not use a computer, I imagine she would have made this case. Suggesting she night have a physical reason when she has not said that just encouraging letting this go on endlessly. She is a contractor. Drop her. She shouldn’t be doing work she can’t do and certainly not work she won’t do.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Agreed. When you’re working in a *digital* role, you need to do things digitally.

          2. SignalLost*

            Agreed. If we need accommodations for something, it’s always better to start with that and be up front about it.

          3. AnonforThis*

            I have dealt with accommodations and they should be raised immediately and clearly. It is not fair to make a supervisor play a guessing game.

          4. Wenche*

            “If this woman could not as opposed to will not use a computer, I imagine she would have made this case. ”

            As you ought to be well aware from reading AAM, not all employees (or contractors) are comfortable disclosing disabilities, for good reason.

            I went through a period of about two months where I had a severely inflamed cornea. I was extremely sensitive to light during that time and could not use a screen. During that time, I could easily have been another Ann, because I relied heavily on phones and printouts. I did not have a problem discussing this with my boss, but this was an excellent workplace that respected its employees.

            1. smoke tree*

              On the other hand, the employer can’t work with the employee to accommodate the issue if she won’t tell them what it is. I think she’d just be able to say something like “the glare from the monitor hurts my eyes” or “I can’t read small print on screen” and then they could see if the equipment could be adjusted.

        2. Breda*

          I think my biggest problem is not that she prefers to read things on paper – like, whatever, print out everything if you want, I don’t care – but that she’s holding everything up while complaining about how everyone else prefers digital. Regardless of whether it’s a necessary accommodation or a simple preference, she needs to stop that immediately and understand that she’s an outlier here. Like, even if you personally can’t read the schedule on the screen, you should at least understand why many employees spread across many geographic areas might want to coordinate their schedules online.

        3. Massmatt*

          I’ve never heard of a contractor being put on a PIP. If a contractor can’t do a job she loses the contract, this should be very straightforward.

          On top of her issues with printing everything, she is constantly complaining (about her digital employer being, um, digital?) and expecting to be flown around the country. No!

      2. Willow Sunstar*

        I wear bifocals and prefer to work digitally because you can always zoom in and/or enlarge the font.

    12. ..Kat..*

      I wonder if this person just doesn’t know how to use a laptop. Are all of her files on desktop? Does she not understand how to use folders on her computer? Does she need some basic computer classes? Does she know how to search her computer for a file?

      It’s possible that if she gets some training and then just forces herself to go digital for a while, she will adapt.

      Or maybe a tablet could help her transition?

      1. Scarlet*

        In this day and age, using a computer is a very basic skill which can and should be expected from anyone working in an office though. If you’re hired at a digital creative agency but need such a basic computer training, I don’t see how you could be a good fit for the job. I work for a translation agency, which most people might not spontaneously consider a “digital-oriented industry”, but we fully expect every new hire to have basic computer literacy. If you don’t, you just can’t do the job.

        1. Anon Today*

          I would agree. But, in the last few years I’ve worked with two people who have been able to use a computer in any sort of meaningful way. One was a person that my organization hired, and we assumed as she had previously worked for a very large regional employer (one that I had worked for myself) that she had basic computer skills. She did not. She didn’t even understand how emailed worked. I have no idea how she managed in her previous role for so long with her lack of computer skills.

          1. Narise*

            I think I worked with the same lady, LOL. She couldn’t set up rules on Outlook no matter how many times I showed her. She couldn’t use excel past the most basic. It was a loosing battle because any training provided didn’t last and she didn’t acknowledge that she wasn’t learning these things.

            1. Specialk9*

              I actually think that making rules in Outlook is fairly advanced.

              If you had said that they couldn’t figure out how to send an email, now… I had a client who couldn’t figure out how to sort his emails, so they all were displayed *alphabetically* by sender, and he had no idea that new emails had come in! I showed him several times, then learned to walk over and give him a heads up on important emails.

            2. Khlovia*

              I am telling the truth. I once worked with (I mean, I worked, she didn’t) a lady who had all sorts of computer-using jobs on her resume. She. Did. Not. Know. How. To. Click. A. Mouse. I am not kidding. I had to show her, repeatedly, daily for over a week, how to click a mouse.

              And somehow all of her skill-voids became my fault. She was an angry, angry, pouting woman.

              1. SignalLost*

                I used to teach in vocational retraining work. Every year or so we’d get a student who did not understand the mouse. The good news is, we could teach them! In the workplace, that would be fairly ridiculous, especially with a background in computer-intensive work.

        2. MLB*

          While I agree that in 2018, most people should know the basics for operating a computer, so many do not. I’ve been in the IT field and it’s ridiculous how many people I’ve come across who use a computer every single day for their job and can’t perform basic functions. And they get away with it all the time.

          1. Scarlet*

            I’m sure some people manage to go by with inadequate skills. Hell, a lot of people have had coworkers who managed to look like they are working while getting very little done (I’ve definitely come across people like that in my career). I’m just taking exception to Kat’s point which seems to imply it would be reasonable for a company to train someone in such basic skills (esp. since we’re talking about a contractor).

        3. Quoth the Raven*

          Translator here (hi!). I absolutely agree. Every single job I’ve had as a translator, whether freelance or in-house, has required basic computer literacy. I’ve printed out documents I need to work on because sometimes it’s easier for me to have a hard copy to refer to (when dealing with numbers, for example) but I need to deliver everything digitally and match the format as closely as possible.

          My dad, a photographer, also works exclusively with digital media now. What the OP is describing would be akin to him printing out his photos, doing any retouches, and then scanning them for delivery.

      2. Artemesia*

        She is a contractor. You hire contractors because they can do stuff; if they can’t do it get rid of them. Training is for employees you are invested in. I would still argue that this is so basic that unless she had come to them early saying she needed some help organizing her digital work, that even if she were an employee firing her during probation would be the smart move. She isn’t trying to get with the program, she is trying to break the workplace to fit her.

      3. Snark*

        As a contractor, though, the expectation is that she’s fully trained and job-ready at the start of her POP. The assumption is that no training, classes, or special accommodations are necessary.

      4. Genny*

        At some point, you have to decide if it’s worth it. Ann doesn’t sound particularly great at her job outside of this issue, so it probably doesn’t make sense for OP to go through all of these things to see if that corrects this particular problem. Plus, she’s a contractor, so I’m sure how much remedial training LW could even do for her.

    13. Samiratou*

      Yeah, pretty much. My first reaction was “Isn’t this why you hire contractors?”

      It sounds like she is very much not the right fit for this role.

      1. Chatterby*

        If she were a full employee, I’d say one possible accommodation would be getting her a touch-screen laptop that can fold flat into a pad and then showing her how to use the “Inking” functions on Word/Power Point etc. so she can doodle all over the documents with a digital pen like she’s used to.
        I have worked with reviewers who have no idea how to use “Comments” and instead leave text boxes on everything, complaining the entire time that the task is a pain, so I think this issue happens more than you’d think.
        If you have the authority, require her to go to training to learn how to use things like Inking, Review Comments, Track Changes, and Compare Documents, plus a session on how to use WebEx and the equipment in the conference rooms to screen share during work sessions. It may also be necessary to teach her how to give feedback; i.e. the acceptable and not acceptable formats.
        However, she’s not a full employee, and the above are expensive, time consuming, and some are outside the bounds of your company’s responsibilities to her (like the laptop).

  2. LouiseM*

    Love the answer to #2. OP, you may be thinking that your master’s is all employers will see when they look at your resume, and having graduated from the kind of university that makes people gasp a tiny bit when they hear the name, I totally get it. But I think you’re missing the point of why people worry about being “overqualified.” It isn’t because employers are “intimidated by big city experience”–it’s because they’re worried that the “overqualified” hire will jump ship the moment they find a job in their field. Show you’re in it for the long haul and they will not care about your master’s.

    1. Kate*

      I think she needs to be more worried about how she describes her other work. If she says ‘I need something else while I build up a client base’, it screams ‘I’m not planning to be here long’. The one thing people hiring for part-time office jobs are desperate for are people who won’t leave after 6 months.

      1. Defrockz*

        Not necessarily. Depending on the industry, it could take 3-5 years to build up a client base that you can solely rely on for steady income. It can also be the area, if there’s over oversaturation in the market, or very little demand.

        OP is in publishing, which sounds like one of those industries where it will take a while to build a substantial client base for various reasons. OP can explain why it will take a significant amount of time to establish her freelance work, and an intelligent hiring manager would understand that freelancing in general has a lengthy timeline for profitablity, let alone something as specific as publishing.

        1. Defrockz*

          And by her, I really mean OP. Apologies, it’s just my go-to pronoun for some reason, and somehow missed avoiding using it in that spot.

        2. Kate*

          Right, and she’s NOT applying for jobs in publishing, so she can’t assume they’ll know or assume any of that, so she has to explain it in a way that won’t worry them, which is what I was suggesting. I don’t think it has anything to do with the ‘intelligence’ of the hiring manager- how would they have any idea what state her business is in? I actually am working in a simple low-paying part-time office job while I pick up more clients, and I’m not planning on being there more than a year, so it’s hardly a crazy worry for a hiring manager to have if she words it like she did in this letter.

      2. Oxford Coma*

        Agreed. When I was freelancing, I explained that I wanted something PT for the human interaction because working from home all day was turning me into a cave person. (Except, you know, more eloquently.)

    2. Penny Lane*

      I think the OP is a little more impressed by her masters in publishing than other people are. I didn’t get the sense that it was from some jaw-dropping school (do naw-dropping schools even offer such a degree?). She’s sort of treating the small town people as hayseeds. They may be – or they may be educated people with masters themselves who just happen to prefer small town living.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        The OP has a very real concern about trying to find an office assistant that probably requires a high school diploma with an advanced degree.

        As a hiring manager, I want to know why and absent a cover letter explaining it, I’d move on to someone else for a number of reasons that have been articulated in the comments. None of them having to do with my being a hayseed or the OP being overly impressed with her degree.

      2. Breda*

        Even educated people with masters often balk at hiring someone with a masters for a part-time assistant job – especially because they know themselves that they spent a lot of money to get that advanced degree and couldn’t pay it back with part-time assistant wages.

        Incidentally, yes, both Columbia & NYU offer such a degree.

      3. Specialk9*

        I dunno, I’ve lived in towns with more cows than people, several times. Unless it’s a university town, it really was unusual to have a bachelors much less masters. Even in college towns, the “townies” were less likely to be educated above high school.

        Personally, I would balk at using the term “hayseed” to describe people just for not having masters degrees! But I would also be respectful of the local culture and not brag unnecessarily.

        I pretty much figure that the OP has the read of their town and culture. If they think people are going to think a masters degree is too high-falutin, I’m inclined to believe them. Especially since they are looking for an admin position, I would just leave it off.

      4. tusky*

        Eh, this (being discounted as “overqualified”) is a real thing I have experienced in multiple job searches, as have many of my friends. I have been explicitly told by interviewers they worried I would get bored, or wouldn’t stick around long. I have also been told it can be about concerns over salary expectations.

    3. I edit everythin*

      LW here. A lot of these PT office assistant jobs require only a high school diploma and some familiarity with Word, and little if any work experience. The office equivalent of a starter retail job. So even if I had 20 years of secretarial experience (rather than editorial) and no advanced degree, I’d be overqualified. And working as an editor, especially anything other than executive editor, is mostly general office work—spreadsheets, filing, schedule management, etc. So it seems like, from just reading job titles, that I’m differently qualified, but it’s many of the same skills.

      1. High Score*

        A long time ago, I used to be a consultant and sometimes I’d need a easy to get job in between. I’d just make a separate resume that didn’t list my degree and that misrepresented my previous jobs. If a job only requires a GED, they’re not wanting someone with a degree to fill it and leave later. I could do so this jobs amazingly well and employers were sorry to see me go but they NEVER did any background checking. Of the job was important to them, they’d have background checked. Do what you need to do survive and companies do what they need to do to make big profits. Don’t worry, it’s not about you.

      2. Yorick*

        I’d guess that people outside publishing don’t know that though, so they would think of it as 20 years experience and a degree in something else.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        This is me, and I suspect it’s a reason why I’m not getting calls back on lower-level jobs. Not only do I have more than ten years experience, my last gig was a step up in skills. Most of the admin jobs here only require high school (with commensurately low pay) and we’re in a mid-sized city. They must be wondering a) why I left the best-paying employer in the city and b) why I’d want to work for them, as well as c) how long it will be before I bail.

        So it really is a thing. I’ve made a dumbed-down version of my resume, though it’s not getting any better results. The mere presence of my last employer might be part of the issue.

        1. Chinook*

          “I’ve made a dumbed-down version of my resume, though it’s not getting any better results. The mere presence of my last employer might be part of the issue.”

          I don’t know if dumbing it down is the best way to go. It may be better to change the focus of the resume from accomplishments (which AAM usually recommends) to skills used. If they are looking for high school grads, they don’t care what you have done but what you can do for them and how little training and hand holding it will require. That was what I did when I did what you are trying to do and I found success when I stopped emphasizing my accomplishments and instead showed how I was flexible, a quick learner and willing to do more repetitive/boring work. It was eye opening to have someone try and convince me, during an interview, that I wouldn’t like a job because it would be boring (which I countered with “I know because, as you can see in my resume, I have done this type of work before.”)

    4. McWhadden*

      It’s also that “less qualified” people are very often more qualified for that job. If I’m interviewing for a receptionist or admin job and I have someone with a Masters and someone with a few years receptionist or admin experience I’ll pick the latter.

      1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

        Yeah, I think AAM hit it on the head that the cover letter needs to be really specific about *why* OP wants a part-time, entry level job despite their experience. A lot of the assumptions a hiring manager will make might not be fair or even totally legal, but they’ll be there. If it’s a role that you imagine some bright, ambitious but inexperienced new grad being perfect for, it’s hard to look at OP’s resume and also see them as “perfect” for the job as well. There’s gonna be ageism in play, questions about OP’s dedication to or longevity in the role, questions about if OP did something terrible that got them booted from the publishing industry forever, some hiring managers might imagine OP as someone who tried to make it in The Big City and failed, and has now returned to the hayseeds trying to find work… none of these have to be true for a hiring manager to half-imagine them. OP need to be as clear as possible in their cover letter/intro email exactly why this particular job is the best job for them.

        1. Competent Commenter*

          Yes, I also loved Alison’s answer. I recently hired for a writer position. I wanted someone who could write really well as their core ability, and also had some familiarity with university communications. I would have been okay with someone who was two years out of their BA but I had a ton of applicants so could pick people with 5-6 years of relevant experience. But I had people apply who had been high-level marketing executives apply for the job too. No indication of why they’d want to drop to a salary that was probably one-half or even one-third of what they would have been making before. And just as bad, they didn’t make the case that they were qualified! It is of no use to me that you supervised a bunch of writers/communicators. Can you yourself do the writing and social media posts, etc.? It was like they assumed I’d be so excited to hear from them that they didn’t need to bother demonstrating their qualifications for this particular job. Oddly, one even put that they were perfect for it. Reeealllly? Even though you used to run world-wide marketing for a household name, you’re perfect for a relatively backwater job writing Facebook posts all day? So strange. OP, make the case that you’re qualified for the specific role and that you have a good reason for taking it, and you’ll probably be fine.

      2. PM Punk*

        I have difficulty seeing people with advanced degrees as necessarily qualified, forget overqualified, for admin work. I would be concerned that they would probably be bored in the role and be unmotivated because of said boredom.

        1. lulu*

          That’s exactly what people mean by overqualified. Not that they would be a rockstar in the role, but that they would be unchallenged, bored, and likely to leave soon.

    5. Ceiswyn*

      That does not explain why, back in the day, I kept being rejected as ‘overqualified’ for… week-long temping gigs.

      I was well qualified for the actual roles, and it wasn’t like they were looking for someone who’d stay – so what was it, if it wasn’t managers feeling intimidated by my past experience or qualifications?

    6. Chinook*

      I was in OP’s position earlier this year and had a lot of people asking me why I wanted a “mere” receptionist job when I previously worked as an assistant to a manager in a head office, helped with computer database development (my biggest accomplishment there) and had a university degree. For my current job, I spent half my interview trying to convince the CFO that I wouldn’t be bored and I knew what I was getting into (ironically, the manager doing the hiring had decided 5 minutes into the interview to give it to me).

      I will admit that I didn’t get many interviews and I suspect it is because they never bothered to look at my cover letter where I explained that I was new in town because of DH’s job and that I was willing to do something more entry level if it meant not having a long commute to the nearby big city. I emphasized that I wanted to be involved in the local community (which is important locally) and the shorter commute meant I could spend more time around here. Lastly, I highlighted that the work I did in the past was mainly with blue collar types and that I enjoyed working in that type of atmosphere versus a corporate environment (and reiterated that I knew what that meant when asked point blank if I would have an issue with the type of language that could slip out of a welder’s mouth).

      Basically, you have to spin your background to show that you understand that you are looking at jobs that are “simple” but that is exactly what you are looking for and that the pay that goes without is perfectly fine.

  3. LouiseM*

    #3, I don’t love the idea of mentioning you don’t have plans for maternity leave again. What if you just mention the maternity leave and leave it at that? They can do a little mental math and figure you’re likely still just “showing” from that pregnancy. That said, I’ve known enough irish twins that maybe I shouldn’t assume that, LOL!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I apologize for this question, because I don’t have children or personal experience with pregnancy. But… isn’t it possible to wear attire that would “mask” OP’s post-partum “is she pregnant” body? Like with a longer top and slacks, or an artfully tailored dress?

      Again, sincere apologies if I’m being insensitive or clueless. I’m just so nervous about the idea of OP having to make representations re: future parental leave because it seems so unfair/wrong to me. Hiding your body is of course not a great “solution,” either. :(

      1. Indoor Cat*

        Kinda, but it just makes you look obese then. It’s frying pan to the fire, discrimination-wise. I think fat people might face more hiring discrimination than pregnant people, although I’m not 100% sure.

        1. MyBossSaidWhat*

          I am “fat” (or what passes for it where I live). I always mention I get insurance through my husband.
          Just last week I had an interviewer ask how old my kids were (I brought them up when explaining why I work “smarter not harder”). She wrote their ages at the top of my resume and circled it. I didn’t get a call back. Another time I interviewed and when asked explained, I have these obligations on the evenings and weekends. The recruiter told me they saw actual FEAR in the hiring manager’s eyes when my name was mentioned later. I was scolded never to mention my kids in an interview again.
          Icky as it is OP my concern is if you DO have another child while working there they’ll be dicks about it.

          1. Mallory*

            Wow, that first example (writing kids ages!) is awful!! I see the second one as less so. If it’s the kind of job with lots of out of the office work, commitments of any kind are tricky to mavigate around in an interview.

            My husband hired someone for a role that required rotating 24×7 weekend coverage, and had to be crystal clear what that meant: if you were at a soccer game, church, picnic, a boat, whatever, you must take the call.

            He had to do some accommodating for religion- his team was allowed to swap coverage around but nobody wanted to help the guy who couldn’t be on call Friday nights because of a religious commitmen, so DH had to intervene.

            But in any case, the right follow up to that commitments question is “are you capable of X hours of meetings per week that may run as late as 7pm” or “this role requires monthly travel of 2-3 nights. Is that something that will work for you?”

          2. Kate*

            WOW. I mean, this is what I assume when I interview anyhow, but to have them circle their ages at the top of the page is something. I can’t believe your recruiter was upset with you about it, but…then again, I completely can.

          3. AP*

            Wow the circling the ages thing is awful. Also says a lot about that company though if that’s their attitude around employees with families. Personally for me, that would be an indicator that that’s somewhere I don’t want to work. I do think it’s best to keep personal details out of interviews for all kinds of reasons, but in that case knowing they’re that unfriendly to families would be something I’d want to know. That’s a job where I’d follow up with an email saying thanks for the interview but I’ll be pursuing other opportunities. And while I understand that if it’s a situation where you’re unemployed, you have less of the luxury of walking away from job prospects, it doesn’t sound like they’re hiring anyone with kids anyway, wrong as that is.

            Good response to personal questions, “Why do you ask?” ;)

        2. Ellie*

          Parents face discrimination as well… unfair as it is, being the mother of young twins sounds like the OP is going to need a lot of time off in the future, and a lot of employers are going to want to steer clear of that. The exception would be if the OP was a truly exceptional candidate, but overall I really wouldn’t risk it.

          Is there a chance that you are more aware of your belly than a stranger would be? I know when I came back from maternity leave I was acutely aware of how much weight I’d put on, but nobody else seemed to notice, and I eventually got lots of comments about how quickly I’d ‘bounced back’, which felt a little weird. If the interviewer is a stranger then they’re not going to know what you looked like before. But as with the other suggestions, I’d try to hide it with clothes, control-top hose, or a girdle/brace if needed, rather than voluntarily bringing up kids or pregnancy in an interview.

          1. Mallory*

            Oh, one tip- I’ve got young kids. When I interviewed, DH happened to to be between jobs and home with them. I mentioned the kids and that they were home with DH ;). It was a non-issue. Another time I mentioned how great our nanny is, what a lifesaver. Is not that kids = problems, but people want to know that you are capable of making your kids a non-issue relative to work. You won’t come on board then immediately need time off for 100 snow days, or doctor visits or be asking for WFH accommodations that aren’t typical. Could be for any reason, but that reason often includes kids.

            Now…what annoys me is that I have to talk to this issue in interviews and DH is never asked!! Too bad for them DH is the “default parent” needing all the accommodations :-).

          2. sunshyne84*

            That’s what I’m thinking. I don’t know that anyone would jump to pregnancy versus having a few extra pounds especially if they didn’t know you at your previous weight.

            1. Specialk9*

              Exactly. Lots of us plus sized women out there!

              But some tips for hiding that pooch:
              *A good blazer (Talbots from eBay or ThredUp)
              *Dark base column (trousers, shell) and a light colored jacket
              *Lean more toward fit-and-flare dress than sheath, if you can.
              *Sheath dress with color blocking in high contrast (it’s seen as more authoritative than low contrast), that minimizes the pooch
              *A skinny patent belt high at the natural waist (opt)

          3. AP*

            OP here, I’d like to think I’m more aware of it but my next door neighbor asked me the other day if I’m pregnant with another. Sigh.

            I agree, I dont want to bring up my kids in the interview if I can avoid it. Which, isn’t it awful we have to think this way? That we have to pretend we have no life outside work when in reality more people than not have kids at some point in their lives? But I digress.

            Sure, I can try spanx and dark colors and hope it’s either not noticeable or they just think I’m chubby and hope for the best. But it’s a frustrating situation.

            As for time off in the future, I dont know if I’d call it “a lot of time off.” I always use 100% of my vacation time bc to me that’s part of your comp. And yes, there will be some sick days. So far in the four months I’ve been back at my current job, I haven’t had to take an unreasonable amount of days. It’s been a couple sick days, a few work from home days. But again, I agree it’s not ideal to bring up personal stuff in an interview. I’ve always made it a personal policy not to.

            1. Jules the Third*

              Sick days happens more when they start interacting with other kids more. Sez the mom who’s working from home because someone brought a massive cold home and shared. Ah-choo.

              I’d go with the spanx and minimizing clothes. ‘Slightly overweight’ doesn’t get the same stigma as obese or pregnant, and I don’t think people who don’t know you will jump to pregnant first.
              Avoid mentioning kids (especially twins under 1yo!), but if you have to, make sure the child care context is there.

            2. High Score*

              Go to a high end clothing store and ask for help selecting items that minimize the bump. You may have to go to several stores but there are a few that still have employees that can actually help. You’ll be shocked at what the right clothes can do. Costly, but well worth the investment. Compare the cost of the interviewing clothes against the annual salary for the job.

              1. Lindsay J*

                Macy’s has personal shoppers now. Might be a good balance between affordable and high end.

            3. Tuxedo Cat*

              Your neighbor saw you pre-pregnancy, correct? That’s where that comment might be coming from. You could an online forum about whether you look pregnant or just chubby in different outfits.

              It is indeed a frustrating situation.

              1. Friday*

                For what it’s worth, your neighbor sucks. That’s an appallingly rude thing to say, whether they meant to be rude or not.

                1. AP*

                  Thanks. Yeah I wasn’t thrilled. It’s part of what prompted me to write in to AAM, realizing it’s not just me who thinks I look a little pregnant.

                  I know she didn’t mean to be rude but anyone should know better than to say that. It didn’t make me feel great.


            4. Nita*

              I’m sorry you’re dealing with this! I agree with the suggestions to wear clothes that mask the bump. You can also try a light scarf that hangs down to your waist, they seem to work to “mask” one’s figure somewhat. In any case, it sounds like any discussion of “actually, I’m not pregnant” would be awkward, and it’s easier to avoid it by making the bump less obvious. Good luck!

              Barring that, you could work it into the conversation that you recently returned from maternity leave and are ready to hit the ground running, or something like that. But you never know how an interviewer might take that information, and unfortunately it may work against you.

              1. AP*

                Thanks. Yeah I’m worried it would backfire, unfair as that might be. I like the scarf idea. I was actually just thinking a long blazer might work. I happen to be wearing a long sweater today and a shirt wit ha dark pattern (with maternity jeans haha — current office allows jeans) and the bump is less noticeable. I wouldn’t wear a sweater to an interview but maybe a long blazer over a professional looking dress would work. -OP

                1. Specialk9*

                  Also check out Ralph Lauren – they sell a magical dress that I pick up on eBay whenever I see it. I search for “Ralph Lauren 3/4 sleeve jersey dress” and my size (though it’s so stretchy that I got 2 sizes down once and it’s fine). So long as it’s unpatterned, and you have polished shoes and jewelry, you can pull it off. I also wear a skinny patent belt at the natural waist and it looks good. (And from your description below, I suspect I’m a lot bigger than you.)

                2. Jennifer Thneed*

                  @SpecialK9 — my wife gets skirts and dresses from eShakti, and they are fab, just the best.

                  Recently, a couple of things have been shipped from inside the US, and they came quickly! so they’re clearly stepping up their distribution game.

            5. Specialk9*

              Check out the Inside Out Style blog. It’s a certified image consultant named Imogen (something). She has fabulous tips on how to dress.

              1. Specialk9*

                I also recommend peplum shaped shirts – they have a high defined waist (I put a skinny patent belt there) and flare out a bit. They don’t have the same preggers connotations as empire waist.

                For plus sized, I like Eloquii. I’ll post some links to my favorites.

            6. Former Employee*

              I always give a shout out to J Jill’s Wearever line. The clothes are stretchy, but not tight. Most items are black, but they now come in patterns, too, at least the tops and dresses do. I like the black pants with a matching jacket and any white top underneath – sleeveless, short sleeve or long sleeve. Make sure the top is long enough, but not too long. Don’t take off the jacket, if possible. If you will have to take it off, don’t wear a sleeveless top. The other reason is that you probably will wear a smaller size than in other clothing, which will make you feel better about yourself.

              They have petite and tall and larger sizes, too.

              Best of luck with the job hunt.

        3. JS*

          I think all she would need is a good pair of spanx to solve that. It’s better to look “fat” then look like you may leave and never come back after 3-6 months of working there.

          1. Specialk9*

            That’s not really how it works for lots of us. There’s only so much one can squish fat.

        4. Specialk9*

          Being fat isn’t the kiss of death, in America at least. There are too many of us for that to be workable. I do believe that there can be an impact, but in my experience it’s less than what you seem to have experienced. I’m not in any of the “pretty thin people” jobs though (modeling, acting, advertising) so YMMV. But I’m obese and am doing ok. (I’m a very careful dresser though.)

      2. Anancy*

        There are some good clothing styles that can hide, or de-emphasize a stomach pooch. I have a cousin who has never been pregnant and naturally looks about 3 months pregnant, and she found great success working with a personal shopper. (She literally had random strangers asking if she was pregnant.) So I think this is an excellent solution. (And I realize a personal shopper may not be in the financial or time budget.)

      3. Properlike*

        Yes to this and the personal shopper idea. Luckily, we’re entering a period in fashion where the clothes are far more forgiving in the midsection, so a tailored suit and float tank can hide a lot. Also, and you may have tried this, some elastic binder or spanx or something if it’s not too uncomfortable, just to keep things tucked? I’m sorry if this is a bigger deal than these suggestions. I’ve had a pooch my whole life (well, since puberty) and so nice suits have been my go-to. Good luck!

        1. MyBossSaidWhat*

          Personal shopper?! Just no. Come on. As a working mom with 2 infants in daycare the OP is already going to be slammed financially, maybe break even as it is. This whole idea that working moms should be grateful to go in the hole for the “privilege” of being stressed out and away from our kids for the majority of our waking hours, is… not good. We don’t all marry for money, and some of us work because we need income.

          1. Christy*

            Having a personal shopper doesn’t have to be expensive. Nordstrom, for example, has a complementary personal shopping service that could help with this. And Nordstrom isn’t cheap, to be sure, but it’s also possible to get an interview dress for under $100 there.

          2. Penny Lane*

            Personal shoppers are free at Nordstrom. And yes, I know the AAM commentariat loves to make a point of how poor they are but there are plenty of working mothers who can afford Nordstrom.

            1. Louise*

              Woah this feels really unfair! I don’t think it’s a matter of “making a point how poor they are” but instead acknowledging that with a predominantly-middle class/white collar reader base, it’s important to be mindful of the financial limitations of some suggestions, and that what might feel like a quick fix to some could be a significant burden to others.

              1. Louise*

                And while I think that MyBossSaidWhat is reacting pretty intensely to what is a not out-of-this-world suggestion, I totally get why, when you’re struggling to make ends meet, seeing “well just get a personal shopper” would seem, I dk, unreasonable? unfair? kinda classist? if you don’t know that places provide those services for free.

              2. Jamies*

                This reads as a ‘not everyone can have sandwiches’ situation to me. Yes not everyone can afford personal shopping services and/or stores that offer the service complimentary. However that doesn’t negate the fact it’s an extremely viable option for many average people (I think you can get personal shopping services for around $30 maybe less) so is a suggestion that’s plausibly useful to OP.

          3. Penny Lane*

            what’s with the married-for-money comment? Are those the only choices – poor as church mice or comfortable because married for money?

          4. Lara*

            You can get online personal shoppers for $30 a month. Fashion boxes like StitchFix can send you stuff designed to hide the areas you dislike. There are even online quizzes on places like John Lewis & M&S where they’ll give you tips on shapes and styles (then you can go buy the same style cheaper elsewhere).

          5. Lara*

            Also, maybe OP – as a successful working woman – hasn’t married for money, but indeed earns enough for a personal shopper because she’s well qualified and awesome at her job. Maybe her husband stays home with the kids so daycare isn’t a problem. It’s cool to point out that a Personal Shopper can be a luxury for some without making assumptions about OP’s lifestyle.

            1. Penny Lane*

              Great points, Lara. I’m sorry that MyBossSaidWhat is only working to pay the bills and would rather be home with the kids, but that doesn’t negate the presence of a whole lot of other women who work because they derive career satisfaction from what they do, even though they don’t technically “need” the money.

              1. AP*

                Or for many, it’s a combo of both. I’m the OP. I work full time because yes, we do need two salaries. That doesn’t mean we’re completely strapped and live paycheck to paycheck. One salary, we couldn’t afford to pay our bills. Two = pay bills plus money to spare. so yes, I could use a personal shopper. Personally I’m not sure it would save much time or find me things I couldn’t have picked out on my own but I appreciate the suggestion and certainly don’t think it was a ridiculous comment.

                And if I had the choice, I’d still choose to work some. I’d love to work part time. To me, that would be ideal. Except part time daycare costs almost as much as full time (x2 for us!) so it’s full time or nothing.

            2. Lissa*

              Yeah, “married for money” is pretty sexist…. nobody would say that to a working father!

          6. LouiseM*

            This seems like a HUGE overreaction to Properlike’s comment. I think you’re projecting.

          7. AP*

            OP– Not just breaking even. If we were, I’d have left my job to stay home ;)

            It’s not a terrible idea. I usually shop online because even before kids I didn’t enjoy spending weekend time at the mall. I have even less time now so spending an afternoon at Nordstrom isn’t exciting me. But I may have to. At least a personal shopper would maybe cut down on the time I’d have to be there?

            1. Lara*

              There are online ‘styling profiles’ etc where you can input your measurements, preferred colours and least / most favourite body areas and they can recommend clothing for you.

            2. Ophelia*

              It also might be worth it since you really only need an outfit or two for interviewing – and if you then find certain brands or styles that work, you could revert to online shopping when stuff is on sale. (I didn’t go the personal shopper route after having kids, but now I’m thinking it might be a great idea, particularly since I can’t button the pants of the suit I haven’t worn since 2013…)

            3. OperaArt*

              It saved me time when I used the free services of a personal shopper at a large department store. (I was trying to find slacks that fit.) She was very knowledgeable about all of the products in the store, their strengths and weaknesses. She had some items waiting when I arrived, and went out to collect new items as we started to sort out the issues. I left with 4 pairs of slacks, and discovered a new-to-me line of clothing that works for my figure.

            4. Lindsay J*

              I know with some of the services, you can tell them what you are looking for ahead of time, and at you appointment time they’ll have a bunch of options waiting for you to try on.
              So it sounds like it definitely could be faster, as long as the stylist is good.

              1. AP*

                That’s good to know. I love the idea that stuff would be pre-picked out and waiting for me to try on when I get there. Thanks! -OP3

          8. gbca*

            Um…I’m a working mom and make twice as much as my husband. A personal shopper is not out of the question for us, and we’re hardly rolling in dough, I just know how to find those services when I really need them and not pay a fortune. It might not work for OP, but it’s a useful suggestion.

            1. Specialk9*

              What, he married for money?! Cue the outrage.

              But seriously, I also outearn my husband. I’m pretty sure he married me because he likes my butt and corny jokes, but maybe it was the money. :)

          9. Seriously?*

            I don’t think anyone is saying that it is something that she should be obligated to do. This is something that is causing stress and concern for the OP so people are saying what they and others have done in a similar situation that worked for them.

            1. Penny Lane*

              There’s some MAJOR projection going on that a) this particular working mother couldn’t afford a personal shopper, b) she’s unhappy over leaving her twins in daycare and really wishes she could stay home, c) she works solely for the income as opposed to for the intellectual enjoyment of her career, and d) women who do have two nickels to rub together must have married for the money. It’s almost as though it came from a working mother who is dying to stay home but can’t afford to, and therefore projects that all other working mothers must be in the same situation.

              1. Specialk9*

                I read it all exactly the same as you. Like whoa, holy smokes lady, sorry you’re so unhappy, but that’s far from a universal scenario there!

              2. Jamies*

                Agreed. Somehow I doubt that if a working father wrote in for advice that MyBossSaidWhat would make a post complaining about how fathers have to spend time away from their kids and/or would assume the father working means the OP’s family could barely afford stale bread and lukewarm tap water.

          10. EBStarr*

            This is a weirdly gendered comment, isn’t it? There’s no indication that the OP would *want* to be with her kids for every waking hour anyway or that she would prefer to be with her kids over working. Not all women do or would. I certainly would not. (And as others have pointed out there’s also no indication that her margin of earnings over the cost of childcare is less than the cost of a personal shopper.)

            1. AP*

              I just think it was such an extreme comment. I adore my twins but I dont want to be a full time stay at home parent. On the other hand I’d love some extra time with them. I think ideal would be working 25-30 hours a week. But part time daycare is still expensive so full time it is. It’s fine. My boys are in a wonderful daycare and do great there. And yes we spend a small fortune on daycare but we’re not broke — because my husband and I both work. I can afford a personal shopper once or twice.

              So no, I’m not broke and miserable. But I do work partly because we need the money. Notice how my reasons for finding another job are shorter commute (aka more time with my family) and more advancement opportunities (aka I also care about the work I do). It’s a very difficult balancing act but so far I’m managing. Now if only I could cut down my 30 mile commute and find some pants that fit and flatter ;)


              1. Former Employee*

                As I mentioned above, try J Jill’s Wearever line. Very stretchy, comfortable, make you look thinner, etc. As someone with a medical problem so I can’t wear anything that is tight in the waist, the pants are great.

                1. Jennifer Thneed*

                  Ooh, thank you.

                  I’m a mostly-jeans kinda person (and in a field where I can do that) but I do need to dress up sometimes and I never like my options.

              2. Ellie*

                Pants are much more difficult to find in a style that flatters you, if you’re carrying a bit of extra weight! Dresses/skirts, boots and tights are your friends now. Before getting pregnant, I’d always been relatively slim. I then had to learn how to dress myself all over again with zero time to do it in, like you. But it is so worth getting someone to watch the kids while you spend a day or two trying on lots of different styles/brands that you might never have looked at before, and you’ll feel so much better about yourself too.

                Six months of maternity leave, twice over, has convinced me that I’d never be happy at home. It is such a joy to be able to eat lunch/do something productive without being constantly interrupted, having them physically attach themselves to you, etc. But the sick time for me happened when they hit their first winter at daycare. Sharing out the leave between me, my husband, and their grandparents still saw me taking at least a day or two off, every month, for months. But it gets a lot better after the first year. I was still as productive as ever, of course, you just make up the time as best you can, but some people don’t see that, they just notice the times you’re not there.

            2. Specialk9*

              I love my kiddo, and want sad that first week of daycare, but am SO HAPPY to drop him off with professionals who teach him how to human. I love daycare and I love my job, and I would feel very anxious and stressed as a SAHM.

              Whereas 3 of my BFFs are SAHM/SAHD parents and love it – more power to them for knowing what they want and making significant sacrifices to make it work.

          11. Specialk9*

            “Marry for money”? Dude.

            Otherwise good points become hard to hear with that judgmental dig.

          12. Clever Name*

            Yikes. I’m a single (divorced) mom and I can afford to shop at Nordstrom because I have a kick-ass job.

      4. Cambridge Comma*

        I’m currently pregnant and have been showing for two months now, but can still hide it completely in several of my work outfits. There might be an interview appropriate outfit out there that would solve OP’s problem, depending on her body shape, although it would take a fair amount of shopping and trying on and I can imagine there’s not a lot of time for that with twins.

      5. Close Bracket*

        I was thinking Spanx or girdle or something. Lots of women have protruding stomachs, even to the point of looking pregnant. Something with a control top will hold the separated muscle in place.

      6. JSPA*

        I hate to suggest it, but this is what spanx and girdles are made for–the interview where you want to not “pooch.” I say this as someone who (sometimes literally) chafes at most undergarments, so I understand any reluctance…but they do work.

      7. MLB*

        Personally I’ve never been pregnant, but my friend had twins who were both pretty big when they were born and 13 years later she still has a pooch that will never go away without surgery. She does wear spanx sometimes to smooth it out a bit but it will never go away. I can understand where the OP is coming from, but I’m not sure an interviewer’s mind would immediately go to “shit she’s pregnant, find a reason not to hire her since she’ll be on maternity leave in 6 months”.

      8. SignalLost*

        Well, I basically look pregnant because I have a big belly and thighs but not a lot of overall fat; I guess it’s never once occurred to me that people might think I am. I don’t know that masking it with your suggested items might help because thinking about them, they potentially code as maternity wear. I guess my overall take is that OP is overthinking it, but she might want to, for her peace of mind, go to a really top notch women’s apparel store and talk with a salesperson about flattering outfits for interviews. In my case, I’ve had good success with that at Nordstrom’s and Lane Bryant. But bodies is bodies, and I would be surprised if pregnant rather than fat is where interviewers go. (Not that size discrimination isn’t real; I just think that focusing on being not pregnant may have the side effect of making an interviewer think you’re fat and therefore unhealthy, and then being discriminated against that way.)

        1. AP*

          OP here, just to clarify, I don’t look “fat.” I like of average size with a little belly bump. Hopefully still it comes across as “chubby belly” than “5 months pregnant”, or hide it with new clothes I have little time to shop for, but I don’t look overall overweight and unheathy.

      9. CoveredInBees*

        Spanx or a “waist trainer” (aka girdle). It depends on how far she is post-partum and how severe (what sounds to be) diastasis recti is, this might not be an option but it is really about all that will deal with it. On the plus side, I found sliding into some “compression garments” to actually feel a bit empowering as being recently post-partum can leave one feeling blah about their body. It was nice to feel a bit like my pre-baby self.

    2. neverjaunty*

      I also don’t love it and am more than a little surprised that AAM suggested it. Reassuring a potential employer than you certainly won’t let any more babies get in the way of work is… not good.

    3. Clodagh*

      Wow, so the phrase ‘Irish twins’ is pretty offensive. Is that a common phrase in non-Irish countries?

      1. Grapey*

        Common in northeast USA. I’ve always heard it exclusively from Irish americans.

        1. Specialk9*

          We Irish-Americans do indeed say it.

          In the US, Irish are assumed to be Catholic (and Irish Catholic is the subset of Catholicism in which people actually follow the rules, unlike other subsets, according to my college course on the topic), and the Catholic Church’s official stance is that Catholics must be open to life and that the only acceptable birth control is rhythm method/NFP. (And most of us know of a bunch of couples with at least one kid born after rhythm/NFP failed, myself included.)

          I’d be included to laugh rather than be offended, unless someone was otherwise being offensive.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ditto. I hear it exclusively in the Northeast, but it seems like most folks (that I’ve met that are familiar with it) get that it’s not ok to say if you’re not Irish-American.

        3. doreen*

          I’ve heard it a lot in the NYC area. And while I don’t hear it exclusively from Irish-Americans, I do hear it exclusively from Catholics of a certain age. I’ve never known anyone to be offended- but I’m not sure they wouldn’t have been offended if a non-Catholic had used the term.

      2. ThatGirl*

        I don’t mean to be clueless – but I’ve heard it here and there in the US (I live near Chicago, lots of people of Irish descent), and while I can definitely understand why Irish people might take offense, I’m not sure that occurs to most Americans.

      3. JSPA*

        never heard it / had to look it up. Wictionary marks it, “(rare, slang, offensive).” Grew up West Coast, so any lingering stereotypes / cultural judgements / ethnic presumptions / Catholic-directed slurs about people having lots of kids were, um…not directed at the Irish. Agree that it’s not really a cute term, given what appears to be its history. That said, it’s been some generations since the Irish were a discriminated-against group, either politically or socioeconomically, in the US. So maybe there’s some statute of limitations on how long the slur stays potent, and whether it eventually becomes quaint.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, I feel like we’ve risen to the top, unlike when we started in the US. We’re now the ones discriminating against others, sadly. It just doesn’t have the sting it did.

      4. Turkletina*

        I grew up in a heavily Catholic area of the US and heard it fairly frequently.

      5. Penny Lane*

        I’ve heard it all my life (though it’s an old-fashioned expression), and never in an offensive context.

      6. Jessie the First (or second)*

        I’ve heard the phrase often and get asked if two of my kids are Irish twins just about weekly when we go out. So IME it is pretty common.

        (My great-grandmother was an immigrant from Northern Ireland, and was Catholic. I always chalked the phrase up to people’s ideas about Irish and Catholicism, as in “hey you Irish are all Catholic, right? And so none of you use birth control and you have kids constantly?” Which, yeah, if you think about it for even half a nanosecond, is quite obnoxious for *several* reasons. I grew up and live in the Boston area where there is a large Irish-ancestry population – no idea if the people who ask me this have a connection to Ireland or not.)

        1. Ophelia*

          Yes, this – my mom is one of 8, my dad one of 5, and I think they both heard it a lot growing up. I’ve definitely heard it enough to think it’s common (I remember even hearing the specific “definition” of the term as kids born less than one year apart).

      7. Old poster can’t remember her username*

        I live in a small city with a very large Irish Catholic population and am married into a large Irish Catholic family and it’s a very common usage here. I can see why it might be offensive, but I’ve never heard of anyone being offended by it.

        1. Fiennes*

          Also from an Irish family that uses the term freely with no sense of offense. I can see that in certain areas/cases, though, the term might come across as worse than it does from my aunts with the last name “O’Farrell.”

      8. Clodagh*

        Thanks for responding, everyone. I’m honestly shocked that it seems really common in some places (but I keep reading about bars which seem to think calling a drink an Irish Car Bomb is an acceptable thing to do, so I shouldn’t be quite so surprised, I suppose!). I do object to the idea that insults like this can become ‘quaint’ and therefore okay or that a phrase like ‘Irish twins’ can be used in a non-offensive context. From my point of view it’s an incredibly loaded, judgemental phrase that doesn’t need context to be offensive, it’s already bringing offensive context to the table. But then I currently live in Scotland (originally from Ireland) where sectarianism is alive and well and a phrase like that would be used to cause deliberate offense.

        1. AP*

          I’ve heard it a lot. I live in Florida. It’s always said as a matter of fact thing, not a negative. But as an Irish person of course you have every right to be bothered or offended by it.

          I guess for context (still no excuse), here in the US while 100 years ago Irish immigrants were a marginalized group, Irish Americans are now considered part of the American establishment so I think Americans don’t think of the Irish as being offended by terms like “Irish twins” or a sports team called The Fighting Irish. Not saying that’s ok.

        2. Specialk9*

          In the US, we Irish are now the bosses and senators, so why would we get mad? It’s like calling someone “cracker” – does anyone actually get upset? No, it’s silly, and besides crackers are delicious.

          And we also don’t have the same baggage that one has in the UK, of centuries of oppression along cultures but with Christian denomination as the apparent demarcation line. I think that makes it hard to disentangle religion from history and systemic oppression. We just don’t have that much emotional load tied up, in the US. (Though we have some.)

          It’s like when I tell Irish-Irish people that my family is Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish, and it’s no big deal — I practically see smoke and ‘does not compute’ coming out. It really is different here.

          Agreed about Irish Car Bombs though. WTF.

          That said, if it bothers you, you are welcome to ask people not to use the term around you. But just understand that in some places it’s pretty unusual to find it offensive.

          1. Chalupa Batman*

            *Raises hands for people offended by “cracker.”* I’m a POC, so I grudgingly concede that if white people think it’s cute and want to call themselves that they can, but aside from it having serious classist connotations in my part of the US (“cracker” is almost always used to refer to a lower class white person here, often as an insult), I’m opposed to all racial slurs on principle, whether the group in question is marginalized or not. They’re designed to harm, and they hit their mark often enough that I’d rather not hear them at all if I can help it.

        3. No Green No Haze*

          “I do object to the idea that insults like this can become ‘quaint’ and therefore okay”

          I don’t know that anyone outside of the group has any real standing to rate a slur’s OK-ness, but language does age, and antiquated slurs lose potency like any antiquated word — they pass out of usage and people just don’t know them anymore, or if they do, academically at best.

          I’m still irate that US ice cream chain Dairy Queen managed to roll out an iced coffee beverage called the “MooLatté” in 2004 and the country didn’t rise up whole in derision. But it’s hard for me to argue that forgetting about racial slurs is a bad thing. Let a group say what it wants about itself, and those of us outside it can hold our tongues.

        4. Teach*

          I have offspring that are 13 months apart, “almost Irish twins” in the Midwest, plus lots of Catholic jokes after 3 kids in 4 years. Once you hit three kids, there will be jokes about being Catholic or Mormon…

      9. Beatrice*

        I’ve heard it (and used it! I didn’t realize it was offensive) in the US. I’ve only ever heard it used as a neutral term here, usually when discussing problems or experiences that are unique to having close-in-age siblings or being the parent of children who are very close in age. I’ve spent a lot of time around very prolific families, so I’ve heard it used quite a bit.

      10. motherofdragons*

        The only times I’ve heard it used were by parents describing their own children. Never from someone else as a put-down. I think it’s become (at least in my circles/culture/location) the kind of thing one can say about themselves, but if it came from another person it would be slightly inappropriate.

      11. KimberlyR*

        I live in the US in a (non-Irish descent) area where most people are Catholics and I’ve heard it before. I don’t hear it as often these days but my mom was asked that question often in relation to my brother and me. We were 12 months and 2 weeks apart.

      12. Jennifer Thneed*

        I’ve heard it, but not until I was an adult, and it was someone who had moved to my west-coast state from the upper midwest. I’ve also heard “Catholic twins” used in the same way.

  4. YB*

    #4, is there some reason your e-mail signature needs to include your legal name? I see no reason you can’t just be Clive for those purposes, unless there’s some reason you want to include Cecilia. But you aren’t obligated to share every facet of your life with everyone you e-mail. As you say, there are a few limited circumstances in which you’ll still have to use your legal name, but “every single e-mail you send” need not be one of them.

    If, like some trans folks I know, you want to use both names in order to honour your past and increase trans visibility, I support that. But if you don’t want to, there’s no reason you have to.

    1. LouiseM*

      I think the concern is that people who have been emailing with the OP as “Cecilia” won’t know who Clive is.

      1. Penny Lane*

        Clive Smith (formerly Cecilia Smith). Simple and done.

        Btw Alison, I don’t see anyone use née or geb outside genealogy circles.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m definitely not suggesting the OP use née! It’s just that the principles of how to order it are the same. Like I wrote in the post: “You’re not using ‘née,’ but the idea is the same in that you’re presenting the name you now go by first.”

        2. WolfPack Inspirer*

          You should come hang with old-money southern women then. Neeses allllllll over the place. Connections are important, and indirect bragging is an art form.

    2. featherwitch*

      I would just use the name you prefer to go by in the signature. Depending on your comfort level and the workplace, it might be ok to send an email to lots of folks just saying that you are going by a new name now. I’ve seen this done with all kinds of name changes- first and last, for many reasons, including gender transitions. I think it’s more confusing to list the old name, unless you say Clive (formerly Cecilia) Lastname for a couple of months until people get the message.

      1. kristinyc*

        There’s also the “From” name in the inbox (which often requires someone from IT to change, depending on your company’s setup). I know this isn’t quite a nickname, but it could be treated as such.

        I have several co-workers who go by nicknames, and it goes:

        From Name: Kristin Lastname

        Signing at the end of an email:

        Email Signature:
        Kristin (Krissy) Lastname
        Contact Info

        1. Toastedcheese*

          Yes, you can really use whatever name you want professionally.

          My nickname starts with a different letter than my first name (imagine that my name is “Amanda” and I go by “Mandy.”) To make things simple, I use my nickname in all professional situations, including my work email address. I only use my full legal name to sign documents and receive paychecks.

          I know it’s not the same situation as the OP, but basically, don’t feel like you have to use your legal name in professional contexts.

    3. Cedrus Libani*

      I’ve seen people transition at work before – the usual protocol is, we get an email saying that Cecilia Doe is now going by Clive, and his new email is

      I assume this creates a minor nuisance at first – if you’re switching email addresses mid-conversation with a client or someone offsite, you’ve got to mention that this is still Cecilia, but you go by Clive now. But people figure it out.

      There are a lot of reasons why someone’s work email / signature might not line up with their legal name. Mine uses my nickname, simply because that’s what people know me as. Many of my colleagues use an English name, because their legal name gets mangled by everyone who doesn’t speak their native language.

      1. Mallory*

        I agree, this is not any more complicated than the woman I worked with that got married, then divorced, then remarried, over a span of 3 years. She changed her name 4 times (maiden/first married/maiden/second married) and it took a while for clients to realize it was all the same person!

        Similarly, when someone changes tonusing an Americanized name mid career, or goes from nickname to full name. I once had someone start out Meg Maidenname and when she got married not only did she take her new husbands name, she decided to switch to being called by her full name, Margaret. So she was now Margaret Marriedname.

        1. Seriously?*

          The only thing that could make it more complicated is the fact that the OP isn’t ready to legally change their name. So some things will have NewName and others OldName.

          1. Seriously?*

            Although I realize I misread the letter. I thought they were talking about resume/applications which could require their legal name on some things. E-mail is different.

  5. LouiseM*

    OP #4, I’d be a little confused by “Cecilia LastName (Clive)” and the other variations on it. It would make me assume that you currently go by Cecilia, not Clive. Putting the old name in parentheses is probably the way to go, and incidentally the way I’ve seen people do it on facebook when they get married and change their name.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Oh, I read it the other way. Anytime a name is in parentheses—absent a “neé”—I read it as the person’s nickname or name they prefer to be called by. For example, a colleague is Daenerys (“Dany”) Targaryen. Everyone calls her Dany.

      1. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

        That’s how I’ve always seen it done. The parentheses draws attention to the preferred name.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          Not the parenthesis as much as the quotations. I read a name in parenthesis as a clarification (which may or may not be the preferred one), and one in quotations as a nickname (for example, “I was talking to Cris (Cristina)…” as opposed to “I was talking to Gordon Sumner ‘Sting’ and he said..”). At least that’s the way I’ve seen it in printed media of all varieties.

          1. Seriously?*

            I agree. Quotes makes me think nickname/preferred name while parenthesis make me think former name.

      2. Penny Lane*

        PCBH, that doesn’t make sense.

        When Mary Smith gets married and she decides she wants to be known as Mary Jones from here on out, she doesn’t write Mary Smith (Jones) and assume that she’s telling people that she prefers to be called by Jones. She would write Mary Jones (previously Mary Smith), or she might potentially write Mary (Smith) Jones, in which case she’s showing that she USED TO be Smith and now she’s Jones.

        Similarly, in college reunions, women who have changed their names are referred to as Mary (Smith) Jones – so that people who went to school with them recognize that they used to be Mary Smith, but now they are Mary Jones. I don’t think your rule that parentheses dictate the preferred name makes sense, to be honest.

        1. Specialk9*

          People are a lot squishier on this practice than you believe. I’ve seen people do lots of things, because at what point in grade school did all of our teachers say, ok, here’s how to refer to make changes. They don’t, so people just kinda do what makes sense to them.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I mean, this is just the common usage where I’ve worked; it’s not my rule. But maybe one of the distinguishing factors is whether it’s a change to someone’s last name or to their first name. To use your example (Mary Jones, born Mary Smith), if folks have a previous name, they write (formerly Smith) or (neé Smith). So: Mary Jones (formerly Mary Smith) or Mary Jones (formerly Smith) or Mary Jones (neé Smith).

          But let’s say Mary likes to go by Mae. Then she’d be Mary (“Mae”) Jones.

          I understand that it may not make sense to folks or may not even be a preferred way to accomplish OP’s goal. But it makes sense to everyone I’ve worked with, so I don’t think it’s way far out there or completely insensible.

      3. Grapey*

        In your example though, Daenerys is still a correct name.

        Clive no longer wants to be called Cecelia and is just adding it in as a “this is the name I used to use.”

      1. Blue*

        My hair stylist recently started going by a new name, and this is how she handled it. No one ever said to me, “Jane is going by Erica now,” but seeing “Erica (formerly Jane)” on the schedule did the trick.

      2. BuffaLove*

        Yes, maybe I’m dense, but any of the other options would leave me slightly confused about what to call LW.

        1. mediumofballpoint*

          Yeah, I can see a number of workable solutions that would still leave people confused. At some companies I’ve seen people list their preferred pronoun in their email signatures and if that’s possible/desired for the OP, that might help give people a useful context clue.

      3. Lissa*

        Yes, I think regardless of the order it’s in, people are likely to be unsure which is former and which is current. I think with nicknames it is often easier to tell because one is a more nicknamey-sounding name. So Elizabeth (Liz) Andrews probably goes by Liz, since it’s less likely for someone birth-named Liz to decide to use Elizabeth.

        Anyway this is my vote for “formerly Cecilia”! Hm, Formerly Cecilia sounds like a YA novel…

    2. Becca*

      I liked Cecelia “Clive” LastName, as the one that most obviously indicates that Clive is the name LW prefers to go by. To me at least the format is the most familiar.
      I like (formerly Cecelia) suggested in the comments above even more, though.

      1. Penny Lane*

        But it’s the format for a nickname, which is completely different from a name change, which is what is going on here.

        Elizabeth “Bessie” Smith is indicating that we have a person whose full name is Elizabeth but prefers to go by Bessie. She’s not changing her identity, and it’s possible that her airport ticket or paycheck say Elizabeth Smith.

        That’s not the case for Cecilia to Clive. Clive is realizing his true identity as Clive, but it means that Cecilia “dies” (I don’t mean that literally, obviously, but that’s why they refer to it as a deadname).

      2. Yorick*

        That option looks to me like a nickname (Robert “Bob” Jones). Like somehow Cecilia started being called Clive but is still Cecilia. It might not occur to me that Cecilia was transitioning, and I might think “Clive is a strange nickname so maybe I’ll just keep using Cecilia.”

        1. jack*

          hmm that’s my same issue with it. Like, Alexandra ‘Alex’ Doe tells me that your name is Alexandra but you go by Alex. It’s up to you, OP, but in your shoes I would pick something that makes it clear that ‘Cecilia’ is no longer an appropriate name to use for you.

        2. Seriously?*

          But Clive is still Cecilia on the paperwork so I think it makes the most sense until he legally changes his name. However, this is about an e-mail signature, so in most cases it is probably ok to simply sign it as Clive and leave off Cecilia entirely, or at least to do that after the first exchange so that they know that Clive is Cecilia.

          1. Yorick*

            Sure, it’s the legal name, but when you transition it’s not still your name.

            An email signature isn’t really for telling people your legal name.

            1. Seriously?*

              I worded my comment poorly. I was trying to say that if it is a context where legal name would be needed sometimes, then indicating that they are the same person would be important to avoid confusion but once they have made it clear that some things will have OldName on them, they should not need to use OldName at all except where they need their legal signature. I have some e-mail correspondence with people who are sending me things that will require my legal signature and if I only use NewName without telling them LegalName, it would result in extra work and confusion.

        3. J.*

          It seems pretty rude to refuse to use the preferred name a person indicates they want used because you think “Clive is a strange nickname,” regardless of what the reason for the name variation is or even if it’s just a nickname. In this particular context, it would read like misgendering on purpose, and that’s pretty awful.

          1. Specialk9*

            I don’t think that’s what they meant, I read it as ‘I’m kind of confused here, so to be safe I’ll use the full name instead of the nickname’. Like if someone went by something like “Spud” but I wasn’t sure if everyone should call them Spud or just close friends, so I might stick with the full name.

    3. Lucky*

      The founder of The Toast and current Dear Prudence on Slate is transitioning FTM and has added his chosen name as first and shifted his former name to middle, i.e., Daniel Mallory Ortberg. Seems to be working for him, as his readers are able to recognize his byline and for the most part are using his chosen name. His bestie Nicole Cliffe is an AAM reader so maybe she can weigh in (and I will finally know her AAM commenting handle.) Oh, hai Nicole.

  6. Antti*

    OP4: I’m cisgender, but I currently go by a name that is not (yet) my legal first or middle name. My company directory shows both my legal name and the one I go by, so I just use what I go by in my signature. If I need to use my legal for any reason (talking to HR where it’s required, etc.) I just end my message with a “Thanks, [legal name]” but don’t change anything else.

    Annoyingly, because my legal name still shows up in the sender field/email directory alongside my chosen name, I frequently use no other name than my chosen name through the whole message, and the other person’s reply will still start with “Hi [legal name]”.

    1. Annie Moose*

      My old company had a “preferred name” field which was very convenient. People used it for preferred nicknames, if they went by their middle name, if they had an “English” name (the company had lots of employees in Asia that used “English” names at work), etc. and it’d show up before their “official” name did. If OP’s legal name is still Cecilia and he wants to leave it as Cecilia in the workplace directory, then I’d suggest looking into if there’s a similar “preferred” field to put Clive in.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Although now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know that my company had any stipulation that the “first name” field be your legal name anyway. So you could always just get the directory updated to have simply Clive in it, and if you ever needed to use Cecilia for anything, you could just spell out that it’s your legal name in emails or whatever.

        But yeah, check with how your company handles it.

      2. Specialk9*

        I love this idea, but have never worked in an org that did that. I wish they did though!

  7. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

    #1 is blowing my mind. I print out a lpt of things because it’s easier to do certain tasks. However the thought of printing out emails to be able to respond is so OTT.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, I’ll sometimes printout long documents for editing — I sometimes miss petty errors when I proofread on screen. But routine emails, nope, nope, nope.

      1. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

        Yes, I’m in accounting so large scale reconciliation is easiest when I can use a ruler to scan lines. Otherwise it takes me longer and causes eyestrain.

        Routine schedules and emails never require that much attention for me. I’m assuming that Ann has a very specific eye problem but then she just needs to approach it that way instead of seemingly making it seem like everyone else is the jerk for using screens.

    2. KHB*

      Me too. I do a lot of work with complex documents (think scientific papers), and I usually print them out because it’s easier to flip from page to page, scribble notes in the margin, and that sort of thing. When I saw the letter description, I thought it was going to be about someone like that, and I was prepared to get my righteous anger on against companies that (IMO) take the tree-saving mission way too far. But even I don’t print out every single email.

    3. Canarian*

      Yup. I was expecting to feel sympathetic to the new hire in that letter because I print more than most people in my office, but…. wow. That really is so excessive.

      I’ve often marveled at the auto-signatures I see sometimes that caution people to consider the environment before printing out the e-mail. I’ve finally found the intended audience, but unfortunately she won’t see the caution until it’s too late.

    4. MissDissplaced*

      The printing might be an accommodation if need be (self-confessed tree killer here!) but the other comments about seemingly not being able to handle/use a laptop for meetings are even more troubling.

      I don’t know what this person’s job is exactly, but for a digital agency this would be a must. Even if you have a vision impairment, there are aids for that, but it doesn’t seem to be the case?

  8. sb*

    OP #4, with whatever format you choose — even the parentheses suggestion isn’t making it clear, going by some comments here already — I’d also suggest including it in your sign-off above the signature, as in:


    I won’t promise everyone will pick up on it, but personally I make sure to address any subsequent emails with whatever name the person has used themselves. E.g. “Dear Alex” (sign-off name) instead of “Dear Alexander” (signature/email from: name).

    Though I also agree the old name should be the one in parentheses.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Or “Clive Lastname (né Cecilia)” for a very classic approach.

        I do think the more cumbersome but very clear approach is the best one, particularly if it’s in the signature, rather than in the middle of text.

        1. Anancy*

          I also like the “formerly Cecilia” approach. I would be confused by the parentheses, and think a very clear message that says “I go by Clive now, you used to know me as Cecilia” is the easiest to follow. (And if it is something like Clive that can be used as a last name, I would wonder if you had changed your last name and call you something completely wrong accidentally.)
          Dear Anacy,
          Can you check the teapots today?

          Clive Lastname (formerly Cecilia Lastname)

        2. Beth*

          ‘Née’ is rarely used for anything but last name changes (e.g. maiden name), though. It would leave me wondering if this person used to be ‘Clive Cecilia’.

          1. Bagpuss*

            so use ‘Clive Lastname (Né Cecilia Lastname)’

            OP, I think using Clive (formerly Cecelia) Lastname is clearer than just relying on parentheses etc. Alternatively, send out a one-off mail to let people know that moving forward you’ll be known as Clive, not Cecilia, then just use ‘Clive Lastname’ as your signature.

            1. LouiseM*

              I think formerly is the way to go. Né seems pretentious, even for a marriage-related name change.

        3. Penny Lane*

          Née is traditionally used for indicating a former LAST name. I too would read Clive Doe (né Cecilia) as a dude named Clive Cecilia changed his last name to Doe.

          It’s too roundabout. Just say Clive Doe (formerly Cecilia Doe). Everyone will understand. Trying to use genealogical terms or quotes typically used for nicknames is silly. Clear communication is best.

          1. Specialk9*

            I posted upthread about how Née is also used to indicate pen name (first and last name), adoption (usually last but also first), product and company name change. It’s bigger than just last name for marriage.

  9. nnn*

    If Ann or anyone else who struggles with screens is reading this, you might consider looking into vision therapy, which is like physiotherapy for your eyes.

    I’m just starting myself and it’s a multi-month process so I can’t yet vouch for its efficacity, but I didn’t even know it was a thing that existed, and I was so thrilled and relieved to learn that there even is something I can actually do that I just thought I’d put the notion out there in case it’s useful to anyone.

    1. Stacy*

      What? That sounds amazing. I must learn more! I’m so tired of wearing sunglasses as my default just to try to make it through the day

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I also have computer glasses: they are like sunglasses, but very lightly tinted to deal with some of the glare. Mine were only $8 on Amazon.

        1. nnn*

          Adding to that, there’s a filter they can put in prescription glasses that filters out some of the blue light that comes from screens, making it easier on the eyes.

          Again, I’m not yet able to vouch for its efficacity because I just got it (I’m very early into what I hope is a journey towards non-miserable eyes), but I hadn’t heard of it last time I was buying glasses, so I’m putting it out there.

        2. Genny*

          Wait, that’s a real thing?!?!? I’ve just been wearing my normal sunglasses whenever the glare from the computer (which is always at the lowest brightness setting) and the fluorescent lights starts to bother me. #MindBlown

          1. As Close As Breakfast*

            They are a thing and they are amazing! Probably the best decision I’ve made as far as things-that-make-work-easier go. My eyes are no longer tired/sore at the end of the day. I have pairs that I keep at home now too for when I’m looking at my phone or laptop or whatever for a long time. Seriously, everyone should get some!

    2. HS Teacher*

      I used to have perfect vision, but 20 years in front of a screen, and my eyesight has diminished to the point where I can’t see without glasses or contacts. I’m so glad I no longer sit in front of a screen all day. I miss my old vision, though.

  10. Skippy*

    #2: I’d be cautious about even thinking “overqualified.” Your letter might be read as showing a certain superiority in tone that is more likely to raise eyebrows than an advanced degree in an unrelated field. There are educated and sophisticated people in rural areas, and there are also small-town residents very sensitive to any whiff of condescension.

    1. Mom MD*

      I got that feeling as well. Though I’m sure it was not intentional, the letter came off as condescending to me. And if she is veering off into a different direction is she really overqualified to begin with?

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      Agree. It’s not a safe assumption that because you are educated and experienced, admin work will be easy. It requires a very specific skill set to be a good admin (… which I lack, ha, and I also have fancy job titles and plenty of grad school under my belt).

      1. Lilo*

        Can you by chance give examples of what that skill set is? I’ve been working in admin for about a year and am still struggling, but I can’t tell if it’s befause I’m not cut out for it or if it’s due to almost everything in my organization being disorganized (Lol)

        1. Lara*

          I would say being meticulous and patient, having a good memory, and being a methodical, well organised person.

        2. misspiggy*

          Helping people articulate what it is they really need from you, and when; getting to know the key people in the building for setting up meetings and dealing with visitors; getting people to only ask you for the type of help that is in your job description; working out whose request for help really is urgent; setting up the systems in your team so that they mesh with those in the rest of the organisation; getting people to use the systems they need to use. There’s a few that I needed when I was in admin (not that I could do them all!)

        3. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

          It varies depending on where you’re at. Your struggle may be due to your office specifically. I’m a bookkeeper by trade with administrative background and I’ve struggled a couple places because of humans with poor communication and have seen others who dump and run on projects. I thrive when I’m given vague instructions but others need to be taught and that’s okay too. I’m talking about not being told where files are even, I just started lurking in drawers to piece together

          1. Lilo*

            I think part of it may be the office. I’m the youngest and pretty much everyone else has been here 5+ years so a lot of it gets dumped on me because seniority/age is valued over pretty much anything here. My boss even said, word for word, “you’re kind of the bottom of the totem pole, so it’s your responsibility to take on x tasks”.

            Another thing I struggle with is the constant “emergencies”. Everyone who needs something done needs it RIGHT NOW (or my pet peeve, they need it “yesterday) and I am constantly interrupted during tasks, I’m talking like every 10 minutes. It’s to the point where I don’t feel like I can fully immerse myself into something because I know I’ll get interrupted for something else a maximum of 10 minutes later. The president says it’s because we have a “reactive” vs. “proactive” due to the nature of our work, which is just not true. SO many problems and “emergencies” could be prevented if my coworkers took the simple steps to plan ahead, but people prefer to do the least amount of work they can and just deal with the ramifications of not getting it done on time. Which most of the time becomes my inconvenice

            1. Kuododi*

              There’s an old expression I’ve used from time to time….”Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Feel free to use as needed!!! Best wishes!!!

              1. Lilo*

                I’ve used that expression when venting to friends and family, but unfortunatley i don’t have the political capital/standing to make such a comment :( i think the only way this will change is if i stay long enough for said coworkers to leave and be replaced (no thanks!) or find a new job. I’m really leaning towards the latter

            2. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

              Your office sucks and it sounds like you may be stretched thin covering so many people. You should also never be told you’re the bottom of the heap, that’s a terrible mindset towards a person tasked with staying on top of the paperwork and grunt work.

              All my bosses, even Voldemort, called me their right hand and knew without me their life sucks.

              I agree with the “rolling with the punches” mentioned below. My personality is “I give no efs and I’ll do whatever you need me to.” HOWEVER respect and acknowledgment that I’m not 9 people. At most I responded to 3 people and they knew not to pile on or things wouldn’t be done properly.

              Your office needs another admin if you’re interrupted every 10 minutes. That’s BS.

        4. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

          So, I actually disagree with *some* of the replies here. I do think that being organized, methodical, process-oriented, etc all are good skills that will tend to make you a better admin. I’m also not very ashamed to say that I’m a *very* good admin and wouldn’t describe myself using any of those words. To me, the differentiating factor is usually having a service mindset, combined with patience and an ability to roll with the punches. I have a reputation for being a good admin because people know that 1) they can come to me with an issue, even if they know they should be able to do it on their own, and 2) I will resolve that issue for them cheerfully.

          It sucks sometimes, but I think being a good admin (and, honestly, I would extend this to any other internal service position, whether it’s HR or Accounting or Legal or whatever) is understanding that your job exists in service to the mission, which usually means in service to the people that are doing the work that brings in the money or accomplishes the mission. My job was never to create an all-encompassing freelance payment workflow that was adopted by 100% of editors. My job was to get freelancers paid. Process is subservient to outcome. And admins are facilitators of outcomes.

        5. Jen S. 2.0*

          I actually put some of this in my original reply, but then my iPad ate it, grrrr.

          For me, the specific thing I struggled with as an admin was the ability to get fine details to someone else’s specifications, even when those specs fly in the face of what I would do. You have to do what someone else wants, not what you would want or think makes sense.

          I would make travel arrangements, and get chastised because the person wanted to fly in and out in one day, and I booked the night before, or vice versa (I’m not a morning person — taking a 6:30 am flight horrifies me. It would never occur to me to do that. And what if your flight is delayed or cancelled?). I would have a client tell me they didn’t need hard copies of documents sent after emails (which made sense to me), and my boss would be upset that I didn’t FedEx hard copies. I would step into a meeting, and the receptionist would go to the bathroom, and I’d get yelled for not being on the phones (they never wanted the phone to roll to voicemail during business hours). There were just a bunch of things that I didn’t feel were a big deal but my boss disagreed, or there were conflicting preferences, or I had to guess and I guessed wrong. A great admin gets the details right so smoothly that the boss thinks she did things herself the way she would want them.

          In addition, if you’re on reception, the admin must be unfailingly punctual, well-groomed, and a good gatekeeper. I’m okay on the last two, but I’m not a punctual person. I wasn’t even on reception and I got called out for being late all the time (I still struggle; I just have a job where it matters way less now). However, I separate these out because there’s no excuse for being late or looking sloppy; those are things where you just need to get it together if it’s a part of the job, and it’s a part of many jobs.

      2. tusky*

        But I think it is a safe assumption that OP could be *perceived* as overqualified, in that hirers might worry if she’ll really be engaged in the job, that she might leave very quickly, or that she’ll have salary requirements on the higher end of the scale. I have encountered these perceptions enough times that it is something I prepare to address when applying for jobs that don’t require my level of advanced degree and/or experience.

    3. Artemesia*

      If the masters followed the BA with no work experience in between then you are not ‘overqualified’. A masters can be a real anchor around your neck when it is achieved before there is considerable work experience (except where it is the required terminal degree for a profession). I might be inclined to leave it off completely when job searching.

      1. Mookie*

        Yeah, that MA does not ‘qualify’ her for the role at all, and it sounds like there’s no experience in admin work, so I’m confused by this letter, frankly.

        1. Mookie*

          Re-reading it, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Someone with “big city” experience thinks a hiring manager is going to be “intimidated” or baffled by an applicant whose done some editing or worked in publishing, many years ago? Why would that overwhelm or antagonize anyone? Many people employed for “simple,” “mundane” office work have similar backgrounds: some higher education and one or two full-time jobs, along with some side gigs and freelancing. You’ll fit right in! As Alison says, the cover letter’s the thing.

          1. Penny Lane*

            Honestly, the assumption that the folks in Smallville are going to be intimidated by “Big City” experience is, itself, a very Smallville way of thinking.

          2. Specialk9*

            People tend to leave Smallville to go to college, and most don’t return, because the jobs don’t tend to be there. (With some exceptions.) I definitely noticed a trend toward high school education in rural areas, and bachelors/masters/PhD in big cities.

            It sounds like they know their area and how people view higher education.

            And there really is a strong Thing happening now, to view higher education with suspicion and even hatred. It’s like universities are the embodiment of all evil. It is one of the worst things in politics today, and makes me concerned for the future of the US.

    4. I edit everything*

      LW here. I’ve been doing editorial work for 20 years, with a break in the middle for my master’s. Many people don’t realize that being an editor in a publisher, especially as you’re working your way up, is almost exclusively administrative stuff. So in terms of the type of work, I have scads of experience. Around here (we moved here from New York 3-4 years ago), the office jobs posted list minimal education (high school) and experience requirements.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        They may not be assuming you are overqualified – they may just not know your editing work uses admin skills, so they may be thinking you are *un*qualified.

        So explain that in your cover letter – that your work as an editor involves a lot of admin work, explain what things you did that are admin-related, and then also explain why you are looking for a part time admin job (in a way that doesn’t make it seem as if you will bail in 6 months when something better comes along).

    5. Yorick*

      Small towns are quite different from the city. In some aspects of the work, “big city experience” may not translate that well to a small town job, so it may actually not be as impressive as OP might think.

    6. High Score*

      I’ve done admin jobs and other min wage jobs after college and experience… And… They ARE easy, mind numbingly easy. I’d usually end up doing more than the job required. That’s just the way it is. If these jobs were rocket science, they’d pay better.

      1. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

        I saw someone with extensive schooling fail miserably at administrative work. It does still require more skills than you’re admitting to.

        I agree it’s basic enough though.

        The pay scale is debatable. I’ve never been paid minimum wage or even close to it, even just starting out.

        1. Erin*

          I’ve seen someone with extensive education fail at retail. A position that just required a warm body that showed up and was on time and to knew right from left.

  11. Dan*


    I can’t say that I was ever “taught” anything, but the convention I grew up with was that the parenthesis were used to indicate a name that was no longer used, and that quotes were used to indicate a preferred nickname that didn’t have legal status. The parenthesis indicate (to me) a name that you used to use legally but no longer do (in most cases, a maiden name that you changed after getting married.)

    So I’d go with option #2 until “Clive” becomes a legal name, at which point I’d go with option 4.

    Cecilia “Clive” LastName tells me that ‘Cecilia’ is your legal name and that “Clive” is a preferred name, but doesn’t show on your legal documents.

    The other options will confuse me, and without knowing you, I am unlikely to address you by the name in parenthesis.

    1. Taryn*

      The OP has indicated that they won’t be going through a legal name change for the foreseeable future, but that’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to put forth Clive as their name. Clive /isn’t/ a nickname or a “preferred” name, it’s their name. And we’re talking about email signatures, where it’s not really about informing someone about what your full legal name is, it’s about indicating your name and, in this case, indicating a previous name to alleviate confusion.

      I agree with Allison that #4 is the best option because it indicates Clive as being the OP’s name, which it is now. They don’t need to wait on being Clive in their day-to-day life with colleagues until they have a legal name change.

      1. Jessica*

        It literally is a preferred name inasmuch as Clive is a name and it’s the name the OP prefers to use.

        1. Penny Lane*

          The problem with the quotes is that it doesn’t accurately show the gender transition. To me, Cecilia “Clive” Lastname looks like – this is still a woman but for whatever reason she likes the nickname Clive, go figure, but her full name is still Cecilia. This has not alerted me that Cecilia IS now Clive, which is different from saying that Cecilia has a masculine nickname.

          The Stephanie “Stevie” Nicks is a perfect example. I would anticipate a female who simply has a masculine nickname and I would anticipate this female still having Stephanie on legal documents, passports, plane tickets. Quotes are for nicknames. Not name-changes.

          Think of it this way. Suppose Bob Smith married Mary Jones and they decided to go by Smith-Jones as a couple. Bob Smith “Smith-Jones” would look stupid. Bob Smith-Jones (formerly Bob Smith) would telegraph the story.

          This is a name change, not a nickname. Quotes are for nicknames.

        2. Oryx*

          Calling it a “preferred” name in this way is not correct. It’s not a nickname. Clive is the OP’s name. Saying it’s a preference or the preferred name indicates there is another option (Katherine v. Kate) and there isn’t in this situation. Clive is Clive. That’s his name.

          1. Czhorat*

            Yes, this.

            The more I think about it, the more I think OP should just drop the old name and go by Clive. Existing clients will catch on, and new ones will only know him under his new name.

        3. Jamey*

          There is a lot of baggage with the term “preferred name” in the trans community, because people who are anti-trans will use it as a way to undermine trans people and call them by their birth names or pronouns. It implies more than just the literal definition of those two words. It has been used so much to imply “well it’s not your real name, it’s only your preferred name” that unfortunately it’s not really a cool thing to say anymore. That’s what it’s implying even if you don’t mean to imply that!

          1. Artemesia*

            Agreed. And Clive (formerly Cecilia) Throckmorton makes it instantly clear what the deal is. I would think it would forestall awkward assumptions and questions and yet be clear that you are dealing with the same person you formerly dealt with as Cecilia.

          2. Johnny Tarr*

            Thank you very much for explaining this! I had no idea that “preferred name” was a loaded term for trans people; I was thinking of it in its typical “filling out work forms” sense and did not understand the objection to it. I will be sure to watch my use of it going forward.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        Yes, for me Cecilia “Clive” LastName would read as someone whom I should call Clive, but I might mistake as a woman with a masculine nickname (like Stephanie “Stevie” Nicks) and would probably use the wrong pronouns. Adding “formerly”/”previously” would alert me that Cecilia is not just the legal name/”only my parents call me that” name or whatever, but it’s the old name that has changed, and I would use masculine pronouns and only use Clive.

        Of course it’s best to ask about name and pronoun preference, but I think sending the right subtle signals can set social interactions on the smoothest course from the start.

        1. Jamey*

          Putting your pronouns in your email signature has also been becoming a lot more common lately which is great. I know a lot of cisgender people who even do it as a way to be an ally to the trans community.

          1. Alex the Alchemist*

            Yep, that’s what I do! I do it to be an ally, and also because my name is gender neutral and often end up getting replies of “Dear Mr. the Alchemist,” when I’m a Ms.

          2. Mad Baggins*

            That’s a good idea! Do people just write it after their name? I’ve seen indicating gender by title, which is already an international standard, but do people tend to specifically include pronouns as well? i.e.
            Mad Baggins (Ms.)
            Mad Baggins (she/her)
            Mad Baggins (Ms., she/her)

            1. Jamey*

              Yep! I work in tech and including pronouns in emails or in your twitter bio is definitely a trend. I feel like the ways I’ve seen it are most often like:

              Jamey Bash (they/them)
              Mx. Jamey Bash (they/them)

              That or on another line like:

              Jamey Bash
              Senior Engineer

    2. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

      As someone who goes by a non-legal name that’s kind of a hybrid of “nickname” and “English name”, I have to say that I wouldn’t like using the quotes. I use parentheses, because something about the quotes just feels less professional to me. Plus, you sometimes see quotes used elsewhere in English prose for nicknames that people don’t actually go by (in fact, maybe that’s why the quotes seem to read as less professional).

      That said, though, I don’t think the parentheses will work so well for the LW. In my case, Firstname (Shortname) Lastname is a lot less ambiguous — seeing the actual names, it’s vastly more likely that my legal name is Firstname and I go by Shortname than vice versa, while a pair like Clive/Cecilia has no such relation. My vote (for what it’s worth) would go to something like Clive Jones (formerly Cecilia Jones).

      1. WS*

        Yeah, everyone I see using English names uses Givenname (Englishname) Familyname, sometimes with the family name underlined, but it’s not a format I’ve seen used for people transitioning. There I usually see Currentname Surname (formerly Deadname Surname) for a set period of time then changing to the current name entirely.

      2. Annie Moose*

        This is my concern. With a nickname like “Jonathan (Jon) Smith”, it’s clear to see that “Jon” is a short form of “Jonathan” and is probably preferred. Or with “Vikash (Victor) Kumar”, it’s easy to assume that “Victor” is Vikash’s “English” name and probably the one he uses at work. And in both of these cases, I would assume that even though one name is preferred, the person wouldn’t be upset if I used their “full”/”real” name.

        But this case is different. The two names aren’t obviously related (“Clive” isn’t a nickname for “Cecilia”, it’s a completely separate name), and OP very likely would prefer nobody use “Cecilia” at all–it’s certainly not his “real” name! So I really think that sticking a “formerly Cecilia” in there is the clearest way to do it. It’s a straightforward way to acknowledge that you used to be known as “Cecilia” but no longer wish to be referred to with that name. No worries about people misinterpreting parentheses or quotation marks, or mixing up which one to use!

  12. Dan*


    Talk to your company’s legal counsel. This seems like an ADA thing, but accomodations have to be “reasonable” and you mentioned she’s a contractor. So I don’t know what applies and what doesn’t — talk to your lawyer.

    1. Lynca*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily an ADA thing. I’ve worked with some weird people that just have this aversion to working digitally. It’s important to figure out if this is some kind of odd quirk first and address it head on.

      We’re currently trying to transition from a paper to digital workload and it is like pulling teeth.

      1. Blue*

        One of my coworkers has to contribute to a big quarterly data project, and she insists on printing out the relevant spreadsheets because she’s not comfortable working digitally. You’ll not be surprised to know that it takes her AGES to complete her portion of the project, and she complains bitterly every time. Given that there’s a good chance that OP’s employee also falls in this category, I think it’s useful to give her the chance to say explicitly whether or not there’s a medical reason for it.

          1. Sara without an H*

            I usually include a printable summary sheet for large workbooks. The pages that feed into it are never printed, and probably couldn’t be.

          2. General Ginger*

            Same. Especially given how much I usually manipulate a spreadsheet to actually derive what I need from it for a report (at least basic sorting/filtering, but often lookups, quick pivot tables, etc). Removing that functionality from a spreadsheet basically defeats the point of the data being in a spreadsheet in the first place, to me. Plus then you have to fit all columns/rows on a single page, force headings, it’s the worst.

            1. Perse's Mom*

              YES. It’s bad enough that clients sometimes FAX US spreadsheets (or convert them to PDF and then email them), but sometimes clients send us the proper Excel file and then a -coworker- converts them to PDF! It happens less often now than it did a few years ago, but every. time. it happens, I die a little inside.

            2. Blue*

              The problem is she can’t handle basic filtering, so the idea of her doing pivot tables is actually kind of hilarious! Every time she complains about how difficult this part of her job is, I can’t help but thinking, “Your job wouldn’t be nearly so hard if you would learn the basics of excel…” A few years ago, I taught this woman how to open a new tab in her browser, so I’m not holding my breath.

      2. Lilo*

        This whole topic is so painful to me because I work in an organization almost exactly like that. Most of my coworkers (and clients) are in their 60s or older (I’m 25) and NOBODY wants to do anything digitally, which means ALL of their digital work is put onto me (on top of my own responsibilies). And nobody can understand why everything is so inefficient *eye roll*

        1. Artemesia*

          I once consulted with an organization that had built its own data tracking system (this was a while ago when that was not as insane as it would be today) and then they layered it on top of the existing paper system, so they had computer files and back ups and paper files and back ups, and tickler files and cross checkable note card type records and because people in two parts of the office had to deal with the data, there were multiple sets which had to be constantly updated as new information and clients were entered into the system — which was dozens a day. It was hilarious but totally ran like molasses. And then it turned out one guy was jealously hoarding all information about running the system and had everyone buffaloed and blocked cross training.

          I recommended that we institute cross training, that the system be updated to require fewer paper files (There were naturally incoming paper materials for each client which needed to be kept). And that we train the director to know the system and to assist in upgrading to a standard system. And recommended that if the bottleneck information hoarder could not run with this new system that he be fired. The place ran a lot better a year later with new systems and no defensive complicator stirring up trouble and convincing everyone ‘it was sooo sooo complicated.’ No one wants to change and most resistance is not about complicated medical issues, just that none ofus really enjoys changing.

        2. soon 2 be former fed*

          Please, no ageism. I am 62 and cannot stand to even write an old-school check anymore. I do all my work digitally and it is rare that I print anything (I’m into respurce conservation too). I love efficiency. This may be your experience but is not typical across the board. Everybody I know is highly computer literate.

          1. Lilo*

            I apologize, I didn’t mean to come off ageist. I guess what prompted me to say that is the reasoning in my office for dumping all the computer work on me (you’re young, you young people understand these things better) which is frustrating in both increases workload and accountability, meaning if literally anything goes awry with the digital stuff, it falls completely on my shoulders. But I think the attitude really comes from a place of not wanting to do work rather than just not being capable of using technology, so I hope this attitude is

  13. bachelor’s party*

    #5, as someone with an incomplete degree I can totally relate. In my experience, I spent way more time worrying and wringing my hands about it than any interviewer ever did. Life happens. Reasonable people get it. Alison’s script is perfect—you shouldn’t need to explain any further than that!

    1. Julia*

      Same. I dropped out to do various reasons (okay, mostly a nervous breakdown) in 2013, but still put that one completed semester on my resumé because it was a really prestigious university in a country where getting in almost seems more impressive than actually graduating (Japan). I just said “withdrew due to family circumstances” and no one ever asked about it.

      And actually, last year I did go back and am not really close to graduating, if I can ever get off this site and finish my thesis. :D

    2. Emily K*

      I dropped out of graduate school as well when I realized it wasn’t for me. I put it on my resume thusly:

      Severus-Dumbledore University
      M.A. in Dark Arts; withdrawn in good standing (GPA: 3.9); 2007-2009

      Hogwarts University
      B.S. in Dark Arts; cum laude; 2003-2007

      1. Judy (since 2010)*

        The way that reads on first glance is that you’ve completed your masters. I’ve also only put the degree date once the degree was granted. I also lead with the degrees:

        Graduate coursework in Dark Arts; Severus-Dumbledore University; 2007-2009

        B.S. in Dark Arts (cum laude); Hogwarts University; 2007

    3. Nines*

      Same here! And thank you, OP, for asking and Alison for answering! I am Finishing my MSW this month (and applying for jobs) after walking away from a prestigious graduate program that is different but related enough that it would make me more qualified for certain areas of work. I’ve really been struggling to address it and Alison’s suggestion is perfect! And so much better than what I had been attempting

    4. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

      Hahaha yeah, honestly, when I’m doing hiring work I’m more concerned about interviewing people who JUST finished their masters and are looking for work outside the field than I am about an incomplete masters. I can think of a billion good reasons to drop out of grad school, but it’s harder for me to imagine why you would go to the trouble to actually finish it out, only to apply to something totally different. (in a recent round, I had 2 instances of the latter that I remember very specifically, whereas if I see a partial masters I just glaze over it and likely don’t even remember by the time we get to the phone screen. nbd.)

  14. designbot*

    #5, I might even just say “Graduate coursework in (field).” The only reason you’re seeing this as a negative is because of the expectation of a degree that didn’t/won’t happen. But the coursework in and by itself is a good thing! Highlight it as such.

    1. Blue*

      I bailed on a PhD program part-way through my dissertation. Under my Master’s degree, I’ve added a note that says something to the effect of, “Two subsequent years of research completed on X subject.” It contextualizes why I was working part time during those two years and makes clear that I have some of the academic background that’s beneficial in my current line of work. I have been asked about it in interviews, and I usually give a one-sentence explanation of why I left followed by a sentence about what I learned from that experience that’s informed my career path since then, and that’s always gone over well.

  15. Dan*


    So.. I work in tech, but on the government side (I’m not a fed, but all of my work has directly supported federal agencies). The best you can do now is right “anticipated graduation Month/Year.” If you can get an offer letter NOT contingent upon graduation, awesome. If you are required to finish, then proceed accordingly. At my former employer, I got hired “AB thesis” and wasn’t required to actually finish. People hired behind me actually had conditional offers, and I knew at last one person who got their pay docked when they didn’t graduate as expected.

    But you clearly asked about what you should do if you drop out and don’t finish. This is one of those things where you have to “know your industry”. On the government side of tech, school is an all-or-nothing thing; there is no partial credit.

    Partially finished school opens you up to questions you don’t *want* to answer. They’re uncomfortable, and the best answers you can come up with are neutral. IMHO, there’s nothing you can say about an unfinished degree that makes you look *good*.

    Where an unfished degree could help you is if you have coursework in specific areas that are beneficial to a particular employer. In that case, I’d go with “additional graduate course work in __ areas”. Here, I’m thinking if you did some work on machine learning algorithms or articifical intelligence or something like that, and it would be useful to an employer, highlight the *skills*. You do, IMHO, want to avoid the appearance of an unfinished graduate degree.

    1. Cordoba*

      I have know people who had incomplete technical Masters degrees who did exactly this and had good results.

      Rather than say on their resume that they completed half the coursework for the degree they simply said they had taken additional graduate-level courses at College X on subjects Y and Z.

      If it comes up in the interview at all the applicant is under no obligation to discuss their original plan of getting a graduate degree or the circumstances under which that changed.

      “I found metallurgy to be very interesting and thought a more complete knowledge of it would make me a more effective engineer, so I took several advanced courses on the subject when my schedule would allow for it while dealing with a family health crisis” sounds much better than any variation of “I completed half of a Master’s in Metallurgical Engineering and then stopped”.

    2. Emily K*

      I have never represented my unfinished Masters as anything other than that and don’t feel it’s held me back. It depends on your situation – my unfinished degree is completely unrelated to the field I chose to build a career in, which probably makes a difference.

      I’ve always explained that by the time I had completed all my masters coursework, I had learned more about academia than I had known going into the program, and had come to realize that I didn’t want an academic career. I wanted to do “applied work” with human behavior instead of researching it, and I’d been devouring marketing books tangential to my thesis and had realized that was what I wanted to do. At that point, the coursework was a sunk cost, and there was no reason to continue revising a thesis on the sociology of religion that wasn’t ever going to enhance my skills or employability as a marketer (the field I dropped out of grad school to enter), so I withdrew at the end of my second year.

      In my experience this not only allays any fears but tells them some positive things about me. Early on it indicated that I had given serious thought to what I wanted in a job and I was pursuing a career in marketing very intentionally and not because of any problems I was having with the schoolwork. I was 22 when I decided to go to grad school – it’s really not that crazy that by 24 I realized I wanted something different. That’s what happens in your early 20s. Now that I’ve worked in this field more than a decade, I also think it’s demonstrated that I made the right call: completing my degree would have indeed been a waste of my energy when I knew what I wanted to do and it didn’t relate to that degree. Knowing when to pull the plug on something that you’ve realized is not going to produce a worthwhile ROI is a valuable skill, especially in marketing.

  16. MyBossSaidWhat*

    For #1… and I’m not one to side with assy bosses… Ann is a temp. She doesn’t even (legally) have rights to OSHA safety measures, a harassment-free workplace, etc. Yet she’s being disruptive in making a pretty odd request without any explanation. I mean, give her the chance to explain herself. But at the end of the day not everyone is a fit for every company.

    1. Stephanie*

      And also behaving badly about it – being disruptive and complaining during meetings. If she doesn’t correct that behavior, especially in front of clients, she should be out regardless.

    2. MLB*

      Not to mention the OP stated that this isn’t the only issue with Ann, it’s just one she’s never dealt with before…me thinks Ann needs to go as she’s not the right fit for the role.

    3. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

      No. OSHA does cover temps and contractors. It’s ADA and FLMA she doesn’t have covering her. Unless they have a very particular contract requiring her to be doing her own occupational safety measures which OSHA would pick apart quickly if she’s not from an agency who could be held responsible.

  17. Lumen*

    Hi OP#4!

    What about doing something like this:

    Clive McAwesomesauce
    (fka Cecilia McAwesomesauce)

    It’s the email-signature version of “I go by Clive now, thanks!”

    1. Airy*

      I think “fka” is less clear than “formerly.” It’s not commonly used the way “aka” is and it’s too easy to confuse people with unfamiliar acronyms. Since the point of the message or signature is to try to prevent confusion about who Clive is and/or whether that’s the person they used to know as Cecelia, I think it’s better to use the full word.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        I agree with this.

        Also, my first thought when I deciphered it was “The Artist … Prince”, which makes it all a bit too much show business and not enough just business.

      2. Anononon*

        At my job, we use aka, fka, and nka all the time, and it’s super interesting to think that, except for aka, they’re not super common.

    2. Penny Lane*

      “FKA” is not a helpful acronym when one could just say “previously” or “formerly.”

    3. Nines*

      Yeah. I didn’t actually know what fka meant… I assumed it was a typo of aka until I read the follow up comments. Makes sense now! But might not translate as well as one would hope.

  18. Anancy*

    OP #3 I also had diastisis recti, and used a post pregnancy corset / girdle to basically hold my muscles together. It helped with looking pregnant and back aches. I also found some excellent exercises that helped me heal a bit quicker. Good luck on the search!

    1. Science!*

      I also had diastis recti. I didn’t use a girdle but did use MuTu for a bit. I like how she walks you through each exercise (although I still laugh at some of the exercise names: “dog peeing on a lamppost”) It’s been a year for me and it’s mostly healed but not completely yet.

    2. Traveling Teacher*

      And, just to add, even though this is a really simple thing: just consciously sitting up straight, shoulders back, can help a lot, in addition to these tips. (I had a C-section that absolutely demolished my abs for at least a year–now, even after lots of specialized exercise, I still find it hard to sit up straight these days without consciously thinking about it, unfortunately, and the difference is stark once I realize that I’m slouching mildly/really hunching…)

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Just chiming in to add to the chorus of commiseration with the OP. My twins are 4 now, but I waited a couple of years after they were born to get physical therapy for the diastasis recti so it was harder to address permanently, and I’m coming off a several month period where I neglected to do any sort of core workout and so I’m dealing with the posture issues again.

        My physical therapist helped me see that it wasn’t just the abs themselves that were making me look a bit pregnant, it was my posture – standing with more than the usual curve in my lower back so that my stomach stuck out more, which is how pregnant women carry themselves. It’s not as simple as trying not to do that, because the different muscle groups weren’t all working together the way they should and the ones needed to maintain normal posture weren’t up to the task. But being aware of it helps.

        1. Traveling Teacher*

          That’s really good to know, re: amount of time waiting to do PT/posture. I had no idea that that could be time sensitive…

    3. I am who I am*

      Different but similar – I had a hysterectomy a couple years ago, and after trying a few other products found the most comfortable thing to give me some belly support were the spanx style tanks. After 6 months or so I didn’t need the support for pain relief, but I still had the pooch belly and found continuing to wear them helped my clothes fit so much better. For slacks especially, the tanks smooth / spread the belly bulge enough that my waist and hips fit in the same size. Worth a try.

  19. Alianora*

    For #3, that’s a really good point Alison made about being differently qualified, not overqualified. Sometimes it feels like people think all jobs are on some kind of Great Chain of Being where if you’re qualified for a more prestigious job, you’re automatically going to be great at any job less prestigious, even if there’s no overlap in tasks. Which really isn’t the case — for a more blatant example, being a great surgeon won’t necessarily mean you’d be a good construction worker. Both jobs require specific skill sets.

    OP, I don’t know whether you’d have an aptitude for administrative work or not, but I would be wary of referring to the job you’re interested in as simple or mundane, even if that’s how you see it. I’d also try not to go in assuming that employers would be intimidated by your big-city experience. Like Skippy mentioned, it could come across as condescending.

    1. Thursday Next*

      Substitute “straightforward” for simple, and “everyday” for mundane—that’s how the letter read to me; I think people are reading a lot of snobbery into this letter that isn’t there. The LW is trying to explain *to AAM* why they’re looking for a position off their own career track, a job that doesn’t follow them home. I didn’t get the sense that this is the wording they’d use in a cover letter or interview.

      I like Alison’s reframing as “differently qualified” but TBH “overqualified” is a term I’ve heard from employers rejecting me and people I’ve known, so it makes sense that LW would use it here. We don’t have a lot of alternatives for discussing similar situations in common parlance.

      I just feel like the LW is being picked on a bit, when the specific concern of the letter is precisely, “how do I talk about the discrepancy between what I’ve done before and what I’m looking for now?” There’s self-awareness there, so I think we can assume good faith.

      1. Mookie*

        Good faith is not incomptible with ignorance. I don’t think the LW comes across as snobby so much as she seems naive about the problem she’s facing during this job search, and I base that on her non-sequiturs about cows and corn, which read to me as if they come from someone with very little life experience. Since that probably isn’t the case, I think she needs to sharpen up her writing skills, at least insofar as that cover letter is concerned.

      2. Alianora*

        Sure. I’m not saying the LW is necessarily actually a snob, but the wording she’s used here certainly wouldn’t do her any favors in an interview, and I don’t want to assume she wouldn’t give off the same impression in person. I think it’s helpful to know when your words could be interpreted negatively.

  20. Close Bracket*

    # 1

    Even if there is a medical issue at play, if she cannot read a screen or work off screen and it is a core job responsibility, you are not required to keep her on. That is one part of “reasonable” in a reasonable accommodations. The person still has to be able to perform core job functions. For example, if working with distributed teams is a core job function and she is unable to because she can’t work on screens, it is legal not to keep her on over it.
    Consult a lawyer, though.

    1. Mom MD*

      Absolutely. The company does not have to keep an employee that cannot function at its core. Nor should they. They do need to screen better though.

        1. SunshineOH*

          I agree. I hate to say it, but I think this is on the employee. They took a job they had to know they’re unqualified for.

        2. Annie Moose*

          Yeah, this is a bit like hiring someone only to discover they have a deep aversion to using desks and insist on doing all their work sitting on the floor. It’s sufficiently unusual that you’re never going to ask interviewees about it, because 99.9% of the time it wouldn’t come up.

        3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

          Yeah – I can imagine the letter to AAM – “My interviewer asked me if I was able to do basic function x, when basic function x is a core part of the job and really the foundation that the industry is based on. What does that mean/is that a red flag/did they waste my time/are they good employer even though they ask such stupid questions?”

          1. SunshineOH*

            Or the other side… “I was offered a job in digital marketing, and they’re making me use a computer. Is this legal?”

            I kid. Sort of.

    2. soon 2 be former fed*

      Why incure the expense of a legal consultation over a contractor? Just get another one!

      1. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

        To save a headache later and cover butts. Most places have a lawyer to consult and when it’s a disability the classification isn’t always enough to keep you safe from Ann flinging lawsuits.

    3. it_guy*

      I agree, it’s like hiring a very disabled (e.g. quadriplegic) person to be a ditch digger.

    4. smoke tree*

      It is possible that there is another, less onerous accommodation that would work, but of course that would require the employee to disclose what her issue with using computers is. This employee is being pretty ridiculous in her expectations for what the employer will be willing to allow, considering that she’s not new to the industry. If she does have a medical condition, she could research possible equipment adjustments, or discuss options with her manager, or consider whether such a digital-focused industry is the best place for her. At this point she’s just being disruptive.

  21. Mom MD*

    I don’t think in this day and age a Masters Degree makes anyone, except at the lowest level of an industry, overqualified.

    1. LouiseM*

      Agreed. If you have a masters in nursing and are applying to be a nurse’s assistant, you are overqualified. If you are applying for an office job and have a master’s in nursing or anything else, you’re just another applicant.

    2. Yorick*

      I agree. Many people think any MA makes them overqualified for any job that only requires a BA, but an unrelated MA doesn’t really – especially with little or no experience in that field.

      What it may do, like Alison said, is make the hiring manager feel that you aren’t really interested in the role.

    3. Just J*

      I think what Mom MD is saying is that so many industries expect or require a Masters Degree to be competitive, that they (Masters Degrees) are no longer as “special” as they were a generation ago.

      1. Bette*

        Nah, I think she’s just taking a jab at people with MAs. “Except at the lowest level of an industry”? That’s just bitchy.

        1. Yorick*

          I don’t think that’s a likely interpretation.

          Many industries expect one, or at least it’s common in many industries that people have them.

          People are increasingly going to college and graduate school, so many applicants may have one.

          I have many students and friends who get (or consider getting) a Masters as a way of extending their time as a student and putting off making real life plans. I try to convince them it’s a bad idea but they don’t always listen. These are also often the people who feel overqualified for many jobs, even though their Masters in whatever doesn’t really even qualify them for this particular office job.

        2. LouiseM*

          WOW. Calling someone “bitchy” is really not in line with commenting rules at all, whether you agree with their comment or not. Gendered slurs have no place here.

          1. Lara*

            And what MomMD said is completely against the ‘be kind’ rules. I wrote several responses before I settled on ‘Wow’ because I found it an *incredibly* rude thing to say.

            1. LBK*

              I don’t really see what’s rude about it – it’s true that having a master’s isn’t inherently valuable to a lot of hiring managers these days outside of specific industries where they’re still considered par for the course. Most hiring managers would rather see that time on your resume filled with work experience.

              1. Lara*

                I see a lot of you filling in polite caveats for her point – ones that she did not make. She made no comment about work experience, or related fields, or specific industries. She said:

                “I don’t think in this day and age a Masters Degree makes anyone, except at the lowest level of an industry, overqualified.”

                She is disparaging MAs and all qualifications below that. And I am interpreting her comment in the context of other posts she has made, and I don’t think my read is incorrect. I appreciate others may disagree.

                1. LBK*

                  She is disparaging MAs and all qualifications below that.

                  I don’t understand what you mean by this? I didn’t see her disparaging “all qualifications below that.” The note about “at the lowest level of an industry” means “it might give you a leg up for entry-level jobs but it won’t mean much above that.” I don’t know if you’re trying to read some sort of classism into it but I don’t see that at all.

                  I really do think you’re taking it very personally when all she’s saying is that a master’s really doesn’t mean much in most hiring situations. And I am well aware of the context of Mom MD’s other comments but I don’t see the problem in this one.

                2. Lara*

                  LBK; she is saying a Masters is worthless. If an MA is worthless, then all qualifications beneath it are worthless. I’m not ‘trying to read’ anything into it. I am correctly reading a classism that permeates all her posts. I have also said that “I appreciate others may disagree” – so let’s leave it there.

                3. LBK*

                  You’re reading it completely backwards – she’s saying that a bachelor’s (or less) is good enough for most jobs, and that having a master’s doesn’t inherently make you more qualified than someone who has a lower degree. It’s literally the opposite of what you’re inferring.

        3. LBK*

          I think the point is that they really don’t count for much outside of specific industries. Honestly, having a master’s degree does not usually pre-qualify you for a job that’s far beyond entry-level any moreso than a bachelor’s degree would. Relevant experience is much more highly valued in most fields. If that feels like a personal jab at you as someone who I assume has a master’s, maybe you’re projecting a little.

          1. Lara*

            No, I have less than a Masters. I don’t think it’s ‘projection’ to correctly read an obvious insult.

            1. LBK*

              Well I don’t see an “obvious insult” anywhere it that comment, so clearly someone is reading something incorrectly. There’s nothing insulting about saying that having a master’s doesn’t inherently make you overqualified for anything but an entry-level job and if you feel insulted by that, I think you’re either reading it wrong or taking something personal from it that’s not actually being said.

              1. Lara*

                It implies a masters is the minimum for an entry level job, and that expecting an advanced degree to help you in the workforce is stupid. That’s a pretty classist (your word) thing to say, and denotes a complete lack of understanding of how most regular work environments work.

                Quite apart from the fact that OP clarified that her publishing experience was mainly administrative, there has been a lot of nastiness directed at her for wondering if a masters would render her overqualified in the eyes of hiring managers – which it would.

                A regular admin job will usually ask that you have basic English and Maths qualifications, and a Masters could *absolutely* get you screened out. I’m not sure what industries y’all are working in, but seriously, if you are requiring your entry level part time admin clerks to have MAs – you’re doing it wrong.

                I am feeling pretty defensive, but not on my own behalf. It was an innocent and completely reasonable question and she got torn to shreds for no reason. I dislike that.

                1. Lara*

                  TLDR; It’s like saying “You think a Masters makes you overqualified? Dahling. Talk to me when you have a PHD.”

                2. LBK*

                  That’s…the exact opposite of what she’s saying. She’s saying that having a master’s doesn’t do much more to distinguish you from someone who just has a bachelor’s or even just a high school diploma depending on the job, because it’s an irrelevant qualification. It would be like putting that you had your CDL – it doesn’t really add anything to your application that wouldn’t have already been covered by having a lower degree.

              2. Lara*

                “I think you’re either reading it wrong”

                And I think you are reading it wrong, and I don’t think we will agree, which is why I’ve asked you to drop it twice now.

                1. LBK*

                  You know, you could make me drop it by just not replying to me if you really didn’t want to engage on the topic anymore. If you’re going to keep replying I don’t see why I should have to stop/let you have the last word.

            2. smoke tree*

              Eh, I don’t have a Masters either, and I didn’t read it as an insult. I thought she was just making the point that a Masters won’t automatically give you a leg up anywhere except in some entry-level positions. That seems pretty reasonable to me.

      2. Anon Today*

        I agree. We’ve just been on a hiring spree where I work, and about 75% of our applicants have a master’s degree now. During our last hiring spree 10-15 years ago, I’d say less than 10% of our applicant pool had a graduate degree of any type.

    4. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

      Considering the people who became “professional students” during the recession, I agree.

      However tbh an office assistant is typically low level work. So it’s on the border and falls in different directions depending on the boss and business.

    5. Anon Today*

      I don’t know if I agree with that. Although I do think a master’s degree is much more common now. Where I work probably 75% new hires over the last 2 years have a master’s degree (it’s not required or even desired, it’s just more common now), 10-15 years ago it was less than 10%.

      However, I still believe experience is worth more than a degree anyway. And so if I received two applications, one from a person with 20 years of progressively responsible key experience but no degree, and another from someone with a graduate degree but only a couple of years experience, I’d hire the person with the experience.

      1. shep*

        Tangential, but: This is the exact conundrum I found myself in when I was trying to find my first truly professional job. I had a master’s degree and very little experience, and I felt like no one would touch me with a ten-foot-pole on either end. Too much education, too little experience. (In retrospect, I should’ve just taken my master’s degree off my resume, at least at that point in my fledgling career.)

        1. Dee*

          This is the problem I’m experiencing as well. The problem is, my most recent work experience is a post-masters fellowship, so I guess I’m going to have to keep it on there for the next job search.

  22. Kella*

    #1 While I’m not experienced enough in the industry in question to say whether doing most of the work on paper would be possible (as many other commenters with more knowledge than me have said it wouldn’t be, due to the nature of the content) what strikes me here is that not only does she insist on this method but that she’s not very good at using it. If I needed an accommodation, I would most definitely work out a system that made using my paper substitutes as quick and easy as possible, so I could have at least a chance of keeping up with the digital version. That might require some corroboration with the rest of the team, such as making sure things have clear easily identifiable titles and a very efficient filing system or something, but that seems like a pretty easy adjustment. That she sometimes comes into meetings without her hard copies yet ready seems like a similar problem to going to a meeting and being unprepared, lacking the basic required information. If she needs more time in between receiving information and printing it, that’s something she could ask for, but she doesn’t, she just goes to meetings unprepared and makes people wait. Those two things point to not just an odd preference, or possibly a disability, but that she’s not handling her workflow well.

    But even worse I think is her regular complaints that everyone else uses a digital system. For her to have that preference is odd, for her to have a disability, it would be a challenging environment to work in. But either way, it seems indicative of a lack of understanding of professional norms for her to complain about everyone else using a digital system, which is the most common type of system used in the majority of industries now.

    1. mystery Bookworm*

      I had the same thought. This would be a totally different question if she was coming into meetings with organised sheafs of paper and handling long-distance meetings via phone.

      It sounds like the real problem here is Ann isn’t accomodating or realistic about other people’s workflows, she just expects people to adapt to hers.

    2. WS*

      I have migraines, which used to be quite frequent but are now under much better control. When I was in the post-migraine phase, looking at a screen for too long could set off another one. In those times, I printed out anything I needed to spend more time on and did the work on paper. But I tried very hard to stay organised (and generally succeeded) and made sure to get the updates back in the system as soon as possible to cause the least inconvenience to my co-workers. Ann could be doing this, but instead she’s wanting everyone else to change over to her way.

    3. Parenthetically*

      “But even worse I think is her regular complaints”

      Yes! I think this deserves a way bigger pushback than the subject itself, whether it’s an accessibility issue or a preference or somewhere in between. The constant complaining has to stop, no question about it — I cannot imagine trying to run a meeting where an unprepared employee had the nerve to interrupt multiple times to complain!

      1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        I’d say the complaining and the disorganization… I don’t care how you do your work as long as it gets done on, is correct, and doesn’t cause issues for other people.

        If she Ann can figure out a way to print out materials and keep up in meetings – then power to her. Print away. Her method is effecting others though and I definitely think push back can be based on that.

    4. LilyP*

      I agree with this. OP I think your duties to sensitivity are:
      – Consider that there might be a medical issue at play instead of jumping to the conclusion that she’s incompetent (check)
      – Keep your thoughts and conversations about this focused on the work impacts, don’t get caught up in “how normal people do it”
      – Be open-minded about any accommodations she does request (you don’t have to agree to anything that’s unreasonable, but think it through)
      – Try to accommodate her even if she doesn’t disclose a medical condition or have a doctor’s note (if the accomodations are reasonable).

      I’d suggest trying to imagine someone like Kella in her role — positive attitude, organized system, prepared for meetings and not derailing them, reasonable expectations about travel. Would the refusing to look at screens still be a problem? If so, make that clear to Ann. If not, focus on the other stuff more.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      I had to job-hunt while pregnant, in early 2009. Yeah. One thing you can do is draw attention *away* from your mid-section by drawing it *toward* one or more of your extremities. Big earrings, chunky necklace, etc.

  23. GovSysadmin*

    OP #5: Is there any way for you to possibly convert your existing course hours into a terminal degree without needing to do the thesis? I did a coursework-only terminal Masters degree in Computer Science when I was in grad school, and although I can’t use it as a stepping stone for a PhD, I’m fine with that since I don’t want to be a CS researcher. I’m pretty sure I would have burned out if I’d had to do a thesis while working full time, too.

    1. Kiwi*

      Yes, this. I’m nearly finished my thesis (phew!), but I could’ve backed out at any point of the thesis and been granted a different degree just from the coursework.

      Though if you’re applying for jobs while you’re still trying to do the thesis, I like the “anticipated graduation” date approach Dan suggested above.

      And another thought: if you haven’t yet asked about another extension, do! Universities like having people finish, so they’re prepared to be surprisingly flexible. It’s worth a try.

  24. SoloFemaleBackpacker*

    #2 – Are you in fact overqualified? If you are looking for jobs that are not AT ALL in your field, I suspect that though you may be qualified in some ways, you are very inexperienced in others. You seem to be conflating your success in your previous field with how you will do in another field. I know from experience that many employers will not look at it that way.

    Do not approach this as “I’m over qualified” but instead as “This is new for me and this is what I can bring to the table.”

    1. 2horseygirls*

      ^^ x 100.

      Being “just” an office assistant can require a level of tact and diplomacy that very few of the supervisors I have had over 20+ years would have been able to manage. It is a very different perspective from the other side of the desk, and while you do have this prior editorial experience, one thing that supervisors (and, if we are full tilt generalizing here, supervisors in rural adjacent companies who might not be up to speed on the latest EA/OM best practices) seem to not appreciate too terribly much is being told how they are doing things wrong, and that X, Y, or Z is much better based on how things were done at a previous employer.

      It is definitely beneficial to have a wide variety of experience at your fingertips to draw upon, but automatically assuming you are overqualified for an assistant position when you (from your letter) have zero experience in that position could come across as a bit condescending, or (to date myself) a little Doc Hollywood-ish.

    2. Erin*

      +1 saying you’re overqualified comes across as obnoxious. Especially when your experience and degree are in separate fields. It’s like saying I can be a better ferrier than this guy whose lived with horses and taken care of them for 20 years. Because I have a masters in biology.

  25. Caledonia*

    1 -if you are in any way able to or can suggest to those that hire, maybe a test of some sort can be added to the interview or a question to weed these people out. This is quite ridiculous.

  26. Lou*

    I wonder how Anne sends emails after reading them on print. Or does she email at all?

    1. Kipper*

      I had a client who would print documents out, edit them in pen, then scan them and send them back to us. I wonder if Ann prints out the emails, writes on the paper her response, and then scans them.

      1. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

        I have done that but only so I could break apart reports for people who are struggling with my explanation via attachment and written word. To do that with an email leaves me dumbfounded.

      2. General Ginger*

        I had a boss that used to do this. It was incredibly difficult to parse the scans.

        1. MissDissplaced*

          Was your client Donald Trump?
          His long time assistant said in an interview she handled ALL his email that way. But apparently he figured out the Tweet thing.

  27. Kir Royale*

    #2 I don’t think anyone will roll eyes at “big city” experience. Lots of people opt out of urban life to move to a rural location. As far as the degree goes, I did some work in a manufacturing environment, and there were people there who had advanced degrees who were working there for better pay and benefits, and there were those with no degrees. It didn’t matter as long as you did your job. Family and friend connections can help when looking for a job in a small community.

  28. Kir Royale*

    #1. I am in my 40s and am having more difficulty seeing some screens, but zooming in or changing screen settings to large font or increased legibility helps, and in fact can be an improvement over small print on a page.
    But let’s say that changing the screen settings works for her and she’s agreed to use screens. Does that solve the problem? Your letter suggests it doesn’t. Her overall performance issues need to be addressed.

    1. peachie*

      In case anyone else has similar issues, I found a Chrome plugin called Line Height Adjuster that makes a huge difference. Does exactly what it says. During a period when I was having vision problems that were so bad I could not work a full day, it gave me an extra hour or two of being able to look at a screen.

  29. Story Nurse*

    #4: It’s not clear to me why you need to put your deadname in your signature at all. Your new name isn’t a nickname; it’s your name. I’d just put “Clive Lastname” or “Mr. Clive Lastname (he/him)” in your signature and let your old name live in the past. Congratulations on your transition!

    BTW, I’ve seen an increasing number of people putting honorifics and pronouns in their work email signatures and I think it’s AWESOME. Cis folks, please jump on this bandwagon! I know not everyone can comfortably share gender signifiers—it can be rough for questioning folks and those who aren’t out—but if you can, please do.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      Are you sure the recipient of the email will realize that they know the sender, if there’s no reference to the previous name at all?

    2. Czhorat*

      I agree wholeheartedly that Clive needn’t dradname himself, but I also see the practical reason to let people know that he’s the same person they knew as Celia. I’d probably suggest either including once or sending a note that “Celia Lastname is now to be known as Clive Lastname”.

      I changed my last name to match my wife fairly early in my career; at this point very few professional contacts even know that I had a different name. There’s no real need to keep carrying it around with you.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yes, that’s a very good point: whatever solution you pick, it’s not for forever! A few months to MAYBE a year for your least-used contacts and then you will only be Clive

      2. General Ginger*

        Czhorat, this is off-topic, but would you mind sharing if you had any pushback from other family or anyone else when you changed your last name, and if so, how you dealt with it? A friend is strongly considering changing his name to his spouse’s after marriage, and his extended family is giving him a real rough time about it (some sexist reasoning with a dash of ‘you’re turning your back on us’)..

        1. Czhorat*

          Family responses aren’t something I want to get into here, but I will confess to getting a raised eyebrow or two when colleagues figured out that I had taken my wife’s name.

          Overall, though, any reaction is long since over. The name is just my name now.

          1. General Ginger*

            No problem, thank you so much for responding! My advice to him has been to do what he feels is right for him and future spouse, and nobody else ought to have a real say in it — so I’m glad to hear your colleagues etc stopped weighing in on the subject.

    3. Penny Lane*

      StoryNurse, the obvious reason for putting the deadname in the signature, at least temporarily, is so that people who have been conversing with Cecilia Smith now know that the person named Clive Smith who sent that email is the same person. It’s the same obvious reason that women who change their last names upon marriage (or perhaps resume use of a maiden name after a divorce) may temporarily still put both names on as they transition to a new name. You can’t just become someone else with no explanation.

      But luckily, Clive Smith (formerly Cecilia Smith) says absolutely everything there is to say. A few weeks or months of that, and then drop the Cecilia part.

      I see pronouns (She, her) a lot in academic settings, but not in the business world.

    4. WolfPack Inspirer*

      There was a conversation thread here a few… weeks? Maybe a month? ago about that.

      People discussed whether cis people adding honorifics and pronouns was going to be super helpful in cases where the vast majority of the participants (examples were an email list or in a lecture/conference setting) are listing honorifics or pronouns that (and forgive me for phrasing this horridly) “confirm” their own original assigned genders, and whether that was actually helpful for the relatively few people who would be listing pronouns or honorifics which represent a much more fraught and hard-fought journey for them.

      It was a very interesting set of comments, and there were a lot of differing opinions. I personally don’t mind offering mine up if an organizer or host asks everyone to participate, but it did make me think.

  30. kingderella*

    #1: Perhaps e-ink monitirs are a solution? I personally don’t have experience with large e-ink monitors, and they do seem very pricy. But I love my kindle. It really is like reading a printed paper.

  31. Sarahnova*

    OP#3, I’d probably do a belly binder or high waisted Spanx for the interview. Not the most comfortable thing ever, but they’ll certainly help compress/hide the postnatal pouch. I would personally not mention my previous mat leave, because I honestly think it’s safest/best as a woman not to discuss children at all in the context of interviewing. Congratulations on your twins :)

    Clive OP, I’d keep it really simple. You need to communicate a) your name is Clive now and b) you’re the person they formerly knew as Cecelia, yes? I’d go with “Clive Bumbridge (formerly Cecelia)” for a while. After a few months, you can drop the parenthesis.

    1. Carrie*

      That’s exactly what I would do with the name. It is clear and concise and also, I think, shows an amount of directness and simplicity that might even help prevent some of the I imagine frustrating responses that some people will have to finding out someone is trans. Anyone who is at least polite will see clearly that there is one correct name and one no longer correct name and will hopefully keep any transphobic thoughts to themselves. I think that being clear without doing any particular explaining may help people realize how to be polite and not ask as many rude questions. Hopefully.

  32. Cordoba*

    OP#4: If you haven’t already, check with IT at your employer to see if they can set up multiple email addresses for you that deliver to the same account so that no matter what name somebody knows you by they can still get in touch with you. It’s usually pretty straightforward; and you can select which one you want to be the primary that shows up in address books and such.

    Mt first name is one that has several common variations and shorter versions; whenever I start a new job I ensure that an email sent to any of them in the company format will reach me. I can see which version a sender is using, and even after a few years in the same position still occasionally receive emails sent to the alternate versions which would have otherwise been lost in the ether.

    Depending on your email system, this may also have the advantage of when somebody attempts to send an email to “Cecilia” it will automatically populate with “Clive” instead, thereby letting them know that you’re the same person and what your preferred name is.

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    For #1, yeah i don’t know how you can make that work long term, but I would give her a little more leeway than ususal because at least her name is just “Ann” and not Fergus or Sansa or Cersei or something

  34. Bay*

    OP #4: I would take the Facebook style with a grain of salt. The Facebook software makes that format happen; nobody’s typing it in that way, there’s just a box for “other names” that forces it into that format. So if you don’t see it elsewhere, I’d assume it’s a quirk of facebook.

    That said, I did get a really lovely email from a vendor once that explained how John is now Jane and she appreciates our support during this time. It was mostly formatted the same way you’d see a mass email for a promotion or something, with a side dish of “we support Jane in her transition and hope you do too”. So that’s an option too: sending out a bulk email and then just signing everything Clive from now on.

  35. EvilQueenRegina*

    I work with someone who has a visual impairment and I know that she uses a setting on her Word documents where she changes the page colour to grey while she’s working on them because she can see better with that, and then removes it before the reports are distributed to anyone else. Is there any way Ann can do anything like that?

    1. MLB*

      There are many solutions to using a laptop for someone with a visual impairment, but based on the fact that this is one of many issues with Ann, my guess is that it’s a personal preference for Ann and she’s just being difficult.

  36. Lara*

    I think some people are equating ‘overqualified’ with ‘too good for’. My take was that OP was concerned that including her masters would result in automatically being screened out – as an employer might assume she would leave quickly. That’s an issue that’s been addressed on this blog before.

    1. Kir Royale*

      That’s where having a personal contact can help, someone who knows that you are legitimately interested in the role and not just filling a gap

    2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      Thank you. There’s a lot of reverse snobbery going down today that, from what the OP wrote, is unmerited.

      1. Penny Lane*

        But she’s really not overqualified *for the jobs she’s looking for.* She would be overqualified for an entry level position in publishing.

        Being overqualified for an admin job would be – oh, I don’t know, having been the administrative assistant to the CEO of a major company, or the Vice President of the United States, or something like that.

        1. Lara*

          But again, I don’t think she means ‘overqualified’ in that context. Plenty of temp agencies will advise that you leave off advanced degrees when looking for entry level work because it makes you easier to place.

        2. Lara*

          To give an example; I suck at call centre work. I would be underqualified in terms of skills, aptitude and experience to the point that I would probably be fired in a week because I prefer computers to people.

          Despite that, a hiring manager could still look at my CV and think; oh a degree and x amount of work experience. Overqualified.

          1. LBK*

            And what people are saying is that that’s not generally the reality, at least for a good hiring manager. Most want *relevant* experience – having years of experience in another field is not going to make your overqualified. In other words, I don’t think your assumption that a hiring manager at a call center would consider you overqualified is necessarily accurate, unless we’re truly talking somewhere that will hire anyone with a pulse.

            1. SoloFemaleBackpacker*

              This was my point. I’ve been applying to jobs out of my field recently, and even for “entry level” for that is “easy” (I do not agree with this, but that is the judgement) people don’t consider your experience in another field, even if applicable, the same thing as being experienced in their field.

              A hiring manager could still *think* you’re overqualified, but frankly I think the notion of overqualified is less “oh no we don’t want someone who can do better than the work” and more “we want someone who will enjoy this job.” So if you can address the latter, that’s the key

              1. Lara*

                “want someone who will enjoy this job.”

                Exactly my point! They want someone who will appreciate the opportunity and make the most of it, not someone who’s going to leave in six months.

            2. Lara*

              You seem to be missing the point. I really thought that was a very clear example.

              My point was that I consider myself vastly *under-qualified* for call centre work. It’s a form of work that doesn’t align with my skillset and I have no experience in it. But a manager there may still decide that a degree + experience in another field means I’m not worth taking a chance on because I will a) think i’m above the work b) leave more quickly c) not appreciate the opportunity d) expect higher wages when someone less qualified can do the job.

              I can understand that you *personally* think that’s an inaccurate viewpoint; however those views are quoted verbatim from colleagues when hiring for their teams, at various workplaces. I mean come on – why would you hire a high level publishing admin (OP’s role) to shuffle papers? Wouldn’t you be concerned she’d get bored and leave? Wouldn’t you want some reassurance about that?

              1. LBK*

                So you believe that you’re underqualified but that hiring managers will all see you as overqualified?

        3. smoke tree*

          She has explained in comments that her experience is in line with the kind of work she’s looking for (I can attest that in-house publishing work is pretty heavy on administrative tasks)–but it’s a good point that she’d want to make that clear in her resume and cover letter, in addition to addressing why she’s looking for a part-time, entry-level position.

      2. LouiseM*

        I don’t agree. She says she is worried that employers will be intimidated by her big city experience–hard not to get the message there.

    3. Yorick*

      I think you’re absolutely right that “screened out” is what OP is worried about. But I think some of OP’s language makes it seem that she sort of thinks overqualified = too good for, and it’s possible that a cover letter or phone screen could give that impression too.

    4. MLB*

      I agree. I was laid off in 2003 and it took me a year and a half to find another job. I applied for an admin assistant position and was honest with them about it. I wasn’t planning on only staying for 6 months, but it was temporary for me to go back to school (I didn’t get the job, but I wouldn’t have felt right lying about it). I also worked several data entry jobs while I was out of work because at the time I made more doing that than collecting unemployment. I always took pride in any job I was doing and never acted like I was overqualified or too good for the job. As long as OP has the right attitude it shouldn’t be an issue.

    5. Jules the Third*

      +1 That’s how I took OP’s letter.

      Kinda stunned at the disdain being shown to OP here.

      1. Sylvan*

        +1. Me too. I’ve been wondering if I missed something? OP has a master’s degree and is applying to job openings that require a high school diploma. Wondering how it looks and asking for advice on making a good impression seems pretty reasonable.

        1. LBK*

          Where are you seeing that the jobs she’s applying for only require a high school diploma? Or are you just assuming that’s all that would be required of a part-time assistant?

    6. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

      I’ve seen people screened out because of more schooling than necessary for a job. “They will get bored and never stay, why did they even include this engineering degree???”

      Yet I worked with a guy with an engineering degree who did day labor because he struggled to find a job within his specialty. Whomp whomp whomp.

      So I read it like that.

      I also see the huge issue for the OP since she would have a huge gap.

    7. LBK*

      Huh? I’m not seeing that sentiment at all. The point people are making is that a master’s doesn’t actually make you overqualified for a lot of roles, especially a role that’s unrelated to the field your master’s is in, so the OP’s concern that people will look at her resume and immediately think “oh, she has a master’s? well then I’m not hiring her” might be a little unfounded.

      I think you’re casting some kind of anti-intellectual tone on these comments that’s not present. Many grad students would be the first ones to tell you that having a master’s doesn’t generally help your qualifications except in specific fields.

      1. Lara*

        “oh, she has a master’s? well then I’m not hiring her” might be a little unfounded.

        Except multiple people have experienced it and seen resumes screened out for that exact reason.

  37. Oxford Coma*

    LW #5 it took me over a decade to complete my master’s because I had multiple family members fall ill. Despite several different formatting attempts on my resume, I still experience interviewer confusion and outright accusations of lying about having the degree. Removing it altogether would have been the easiest/cleanest option, but I was leaving it on to weed out jobs that wouldn’t offer the work/life balance I needed to complete it.

    TLDR: If you won’t need the coursework in the job/don’t plan to return to school in the immediate future/don’t need to explain a time gap, I would leave everything off. If you do need to include it, expect questions no matter how carefully you word it.

  38. Lilo*

    #4, I’m not sure of the exact nature of your work, but is it possible to have Cecilia (Clive) LastName as your default signature, but delete the Cecilia with new contacts? So that your initial interaction is started of with Clive. It may be tedious, but might be worth it if it won’t cause confusion?

    Or with existing relationships, just mention you go by Clive now? And then having your signature saying Clive so it becomes ingrained. I work with so many different clients in any given week that I often have to look at their signature when replying to make sure I’m addressing then by the right name, because I talk with too many people to remember everyone perfectly.

    I hope your email has the standard so that part of the transition is seamless!

  39. MollyG*

    #2 I have much sympathy for you. I have a similar problem. I have a PhD and a large chunk of companies in my small industry will only hire BS or MS graduates (and rarely post PhD level jobs). If you have a degree that is higher then they want, they automatically reject your application. There is nothing you can write in your cover letter to change that. I get quickly rejected for jobs that my BS students easily get. I wish I knew about this before I went to grad school.

    1. I edit everything*

      #2 here. Thanks for the sympathy. My degree is extremely helpful in my field, but in our current location, publishers are few and far between (hence the freelancing). The nearest thing my skills translate to is general office admin, but one glance at my resume will be a big “won’t fit in!” red flag.

      1. SoloFemaleBackpacker*

        I think one thing to remember is that people don’t know your field *at all*. I read books, but if someone said “I worked for a prestigious publishing company” I would not be able to name a single one. I have no idea which ones are prestigious. I honestly didn’t even know that there *were* prestigious publishing companies, I figured they all just published books. People are very likely not looking at your resume the way you imagine. They’re looking at it and thinking “Huh, that’s a lot of experience that has nothing to do with being an assistant” because they don’t know what an editor really does. Even if your experience is applicable, they don’t know it, because they have no idea what an editor does.

        I think a well crafted cover letter explaining why you want the job is important, since people looking for part time work often have other considerations anyway. People are getting parttime jobs because they have other concerns – kids, taking care of elderly family, etc. By nature it attracts a different sort of person. I would also focus mainly on the parts of your previous work that are relevant in your resume, so they don’t say “oh well we do nothing like that here, they might not be interested.”

  40. TheDangerousSoup*

    Is it possible that she has a visual impairment? I have trouble seeing certain things that pertain to work on screens and I print many things out. I didn’t mention having a disability at my job when i was first hired. I was nervous in the beginning, but wound up telling them about it because of the ignorance of a couple of other co-workers in terms of my need for printing more items that they thought were unnecessary and taking a little longer to review drawings and other work. When a disability isn’t obvious, people tend to assume the worst. Not all resources for the visually impaired help everyone with a disability. I’m not blind, but i can also see a fair amount. I have no trouble getting around, but a computer screen isn’t the easiest to see. I don’t need a screen reader. Also, enlarging the text on the screen is pointless when you’re in a very visual profession. I had to ask for a second screen even though they’re usually reserved for project managers. There’s no way I would be able to work on a laptop screen for work. Unless it’s a visual impairment some form of dyslexia or another disability, I don’t understand the excessive printing or the issue with the laptop and meetings.

    1. OP*

      It is possible she has a visual impairment, which is why I haven’t ruled it out and am trying to be understanding. Alison’s advice was very helpful.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        If that’s the case, then it is her responsibility to explain that and request official accommodations.

  41. Boredatwork*

    OP #1 – You may be in a position where you have to cut your loses. I work in an office that is slowly transitioning to doing all of the work on the computer. I have some co-workers who basically refuse to do the work digitally and it’s very frustrating. So far they’ve taken to batting their eyelashes at me and “manipulating” me into just setting stuff up for them.

    My grand-boss has legitimate issues seeing the screen, I’m happy to print things for him on as large of paper as necessary, because he’s the head of the department. He’s also been extremely supportive of the initiative despite a personal preference for printed things.

    For the next hire – maybe add an interview question along the lines of “Our process requires we work entirely digitally, is that something you’re comfortable with?”

    1. MLB*

      You’re a much nicer person than I am – my response would be “I can show you how to set it up for yourself” and leave it at that. You shouldn’t be manipulate into doing everyone else’s job because they refuse to accept a change in process. The grandboss is another story – sometimes you have to suck it up for the higher ups – but the others need to do their own work.

      My last job I was essentially 2nd tier help desk. I would get people walking up to me or calling me with an issue. My response was always “Did you create a ticket/call the help desk”? Eventually they stopped asking me directly.

      1. Boredatwork*

        I tried that and I tried creating training videos with step by step instructions (narrated w/ screen capture in PPT).

        so now it’s Meh, it’s not the hill I want to die on and I only help when it’s convenient for me. It can/will take me several hours to respond to pleas for help and when originating content, I always change the properties so I’m the author, that way my boss knows they didn’t do the work. My company is also extremely people focused and refusing to help is NOT A THING.

  42. MamaGanoush*

    +1. I’m old enough to have worked before anyone used any screens of any sort, and also when even with screens, you still would print important material out because you could never be sure when things would vanish into the ether, never to be seen again. Or because half the folks in the office either feared computers or didn’t even have one. Or because the office did not have a good online system for retaining notes, emails, and the like (I work in higher ed and we didn’t have that in our office — at a school known for STEM! — until about four years ago. Seriously!) That is why they invented tabbed folders, colored folders, highlighters… “Ann” has no excuse to be disorganized, whatever her reason for not wanting to use screens.

  43. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    #1 – Have to ask this just to make sure we have the complete picture: how many monitors does Ann have, and what size? I have two large ones at work and one in my home office (would love to make that two as well, and a third for work would not hurt either), and I would be lost and unable to do my work if I had to make do with just my laptop screen. I’d probably kill a forest printing things then, too! I hope OP’s “she is unable to do her work via her laptop” does not mean that she only has literally the laptop and nothing else. Asking this, because at almost every company I’ve worked, new hires tended to get stuck with the minimal amount of the oldest, worst hardware.

    1. Rachel01*

      Totally agree with you. Many companies will not give a contractor an extra monitor and/or expect them to supply their own computer, etc. I have a 2nd monitor, but I work off desk top at work. At home I have a monitor to go with my laptop.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      I was thinking about this, too. My work is huge spreadsheets and lots of files open at once, and I rarely work from home because I’m stuck working on a laptop and it’s just much less efficient than my dual monitor setup at the office. My laptop doesn’t have a number pad on the keyboard, either.

      But it sounds like that’s not what’s going on with Ann. I imagine OP would be much more understanding if Ann was complaining that she needed a docking station and second monitor to go along with the laptop. Printing emails and wanting to fly across the country all the time are indicative of a much deeper problem.

      I feel for Ann a little – I just printed out a 75 page report I have to review (two pages per side, double-sided to save paper) because I dislike commenting on pdfs digitally instead of being able to handwrite my notes and edits, and flipping through dead tree pages on this kind of report feels more natural to me than scrolling around when I’m trying to make sense of how someone else has organized the content. Plus that much concentrated reading of a single document on a screen is hard for my eyes given the glare in my office space. But I do that kind of printing a few times a month for particular kinds of reading/editing, not daily, and if there were good reasons for doing it digitally I could (especially if I could do track changes in Word instead of comments on a pdf for this particular task).

    3. OP*

      Because she is a contractor, right now she does only have a laptop, but she has also had issues reviewing the work on a larger separate monitor. This is a good point, though, and I will see if she’d like us to provide a larger monitor.

  44. Rachel01*

    1. New hire wants to print everything and not use screens

    She might need an extra monitor, that is larger than her laptop screen. It could just be visual, she cannot use the laptop screen & conference call / skype at the same time.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      Good point, but as a contractor she should really have the materials she needs to do her job properly – no matter what company it is for. That being said, I have very little experience with contracted workers ;)

    2. motosubatsu*

      If that were the case though surely anyone with more than a microgram of common sense would just say “Hey could I have a $50 second monitor as it would really help me with viewing content and being on skype” NOT “let’s all fly to the the client and work in person instead” and if she’s the sort of employee who can’t see the simple obvious solution to a problem and instead goes for the complex, expensive and less efficient option then that in of itself is a pretty sad indictment of her suitability (or lack thereof) for the role.

  45. Environmental Compliance*

    RE: #1:

    -We have to review all content, both internally and with our clients, via teleconference…Ann has derailed pretty much every review meeting we’ve had, including with clients, because she has to check the screen against the materials she’s printed or because she has not had an opportunity to print the materials to be reviewed. She complains constantly …And she has asked if she can schedule multiple trips across the country to work in person with people, because she has trouble doing the work via her laptop. …expecting them to work with her on a stack of disorganized papers instead. This is not the only issue with her…

    She’s disruptive, complaining constantly, will interrupt meetings to *compare her printed materials against the screen* (??), wants you to schedule trips across the county because she won’t do the work on the laptop, is disorganized with her insisted-upon papers, and that’s not the only issue?

    I gotta ask what she does bring to the table that you’re keeping her on, honestly. I have no idea how she could be getting any substantial work done. Also, why is travelling to the client the first option and not just calling? Does she not like phones either? And why does she have to interrupt a meeting to check her printouts against the screen? That sounds incredibly odd if she can’t read off the screen, and needs to print it out, but then needs to compare against another screen? How does she email? How does she get to the point of printing things out? What does she actually expect to accomplish by complaining as much as she is (5-6 times *per meeting*???!)?

    I have so many questions about how she wants to be able to work and how she expects a *digital* company to turn around and go non-digital. Was teleconferencing discussed in the interview/contract?

    1. Snark*

      Yeah, she’s bonkers and she needs to go. There’s no reason to grind this out longer.

  46. Goya de la Mancha*

    #4 – JMO! but if I knew no other details from this post, I would see examples 2 and 4 your best bet. I personally read 1 and 3 as “I go by Cecilia”. #2 comes across as “my nickname is Clive” and #4 reads “Clive, but you might remember me as Cecilia”

  47. MCMonkeyBean*

    I don’t think there is really any need to include “Celia” in the email signature at all. It’s not the same situation, but I don’t know anyone at work who puts their legal name and nickname in their email signature–whatever you go by is how you sign off in the email. You may need to work with HR and IT though to see if you can make sure your email display name shows up as Clive.

    I think the only time you would need to identify yourself with both names is if you were applying for jobs and using a reference who only knew you as Celia.

    1. Carrie*

      I see your point and I think that certainly for people that haven’t met him before, this is the way to go, but for at least a short period of time it might be helpful to people who know him to have a little reminder that they do know him and he just goes by a different name now.

    2. SignalLost*

      On the other hand, it’s jarring to be emailing Cecelia and start getting replies from Clive without explanation, especially if the last name is very common. My assumption at that point is that Cecilia has left the company, probably abruptly since I wasn’t emailed about a transition, and I’m going to have to explain something to Clive that wasn’t handed off properly. It doesn’t work to communicate with existing contacts under a new name without contextualizing that, and that goes for all name changes.

  48. I edit everything*

    LW2 here. Because this has come up several times up thread, I’ll make a general comment: the in-house editorial jobs I’ve held, especially the 8 years at the academic press in NYC, have all been heavily administrative. Lots of schedule tracking, contract prepping, organizing, filing, and other paperwork. It was a two-person department—my boss was the executive editor, and I was his assistant, despite the evolving job titles. We exclusively produced edited volumes, sometimes with 60+ contributors, and my chief task was contributor wrangler. I was good at it. So I *do* have plenty of administrative experience. And yes, this is something I know I have to address in my cover letter. But in the area where I currently live, the job postings are looking for people who have a high school diploma.

    1. Fabulous*

      I just posted a link to one of the cover letter examples AAM has in her archives (once it gets through moderation) but it’s a great example of how to focus more on why you want to be an assistant versus your past experience and how it relates.

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      I think THIS is what you want to put in your cover letter. It explains the specifics for those of us (and hiring managers who are assuming things based on a cursory glance at the education/experience.

      1. Chinook*

        I agree. The blurb you put describing what you did needs to go in your cover letter. I would also explain why you want to work in that location and aren’t looking in NYC.

    3. Anne*

      Maybe the main challenge then is figuring out the difference between who actually works at these jobs vs the minimum requirements – perhaps most admin jobs are taken by experienced admins who “only” have high school but do have 20 years of admin experience like you – in which case you might be one a mor eeven playing field than you imagine?

    4. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      I’d also recommend (if you’re not already doing thing) REALLY playing up your admin responsibilities within your resume. Leave your title as is, but include the admin responsibilities/achievements and leave off anything too editorially focused. Your resume doesn’t have to include everything you did while in that role – Alison’s said before – it’s a marketing doc – so just include what is applicable to the specific jobs that you are applying for.

      I know Alison recommends highlighting achievements in your resume, but in the admin world you just don’t have a lot of traditional achievements (I know she’s done posts on this). In my experience (and hey, take it or leave it, I’m a single person – but I worked as an admin for 5+ years and have assisted in hiring/resume evaluations for quite a few admin positions ), when hiring an admin the biggest thing they want to know is – have you done what the role entails for an extended period of time. If the job description says it includes answering phones, calendars and greeting guests then make sure your resume and/or your cover letter includes/addresses those specific items. You might think that this stuff would be self-evident from some of the more “advanced”/different stuff you’ve done, but it’s not always.

  49. Alle*

    Related to #2’s cover letter, does anyone know how to phrase a “letter of intent”? I’ve seen 2 job postings lately ask for them along with a resume (for entry level professional jobs). Is this the new cover letter?

  50. Sayheydahler*

    Not sure if anyone’s said it yet but they do sell glasses that help filter out blue light. In addition I have a friend who works in the tech sector with the same issue (headaches from reading the computer) and she went to the optometrist who prescribed her with special glasses just for focusing on computer screens. Perhaps OP#1 can ask her to do that?

  51. Sara (a Lurker)*

    Cosigning the advice to LW #2. There are two mistaken assumptions at work in that letter. One is that having a Masters and previous experience makes you overqualified when, as Alison rightly says, it just makes you differently qualified. The other mistaken assumption is that employers will be bewildered or turned off by your background. Some will, possibly. Other employers will see it as a benefit, and some employers will be completely blasé about well-educated applicants because you’re not their first.

    Source: I took entry-level jobs with various employers while I was finishing my PhD (and had 4 years of professional experience in my field, not including the teaching experience that comes with the degree). I would not have been able to finish the doctorate if not for simultaenously working PT at a wine store and a small boutique (both allowed me to work on my laptop on shift as long as I was attentive to customers).

  52. Aeryn Sun*

    #4 – I have a coworker that puts their pronouns in their email signature as well. If you want to emphasize that you’d prefer people to use certain pronouns, that could be an option as well. They put something along the lines of “Pronouns: They/them” underneath their name. Best of luck!

    1. De Minimis*

      If I didn’t know better, I’d say they’d hired my current boss…..

      As part of our downsizing of our office space, we’re removing paper from most processes and he is dragging his feet as much as he can.

  53. SophieK*

    #2–I can relate. I got out of mortgages right before the recession and wanted to drop back into office work and have time for art classes. This is the ONE time in my life I had a slightly harder time finding a job. I had a couple of interviewers tell me that they were afraid I’d get bored and leave. But I was looking for boring!

    What I ended up doing was making my resume look worse, that is, taking off all major accomplishments, dropped the “objective” portion, etc. Very middle of the road and non threatening.

    I also started looking for word of mouth jobs where I could turn in a written application. I looked for help wanted signs on the hunch that small business owners weren’t going to heavily scrutinize a hand written application, and that they wouldn’t be putting me through a series of ridiculous interviews for a lower level job.

    I was right. It worked.

  54. Sara without an H*

    OP#1: You said: “Ann has derailed pretty much every review meeting we’ve had, including with clients, because she has to check the screen against the materials she’s printed or because she has not had an opportunity to print the materials to be reviewed. She complains constantly about the fact that we’re creating and tracking all of our work digitally (five or six times in every meeting, plus another eight to 10 times throughout the rest of the day).”

    You really have two issues here, Ann’s inability/refusal to work in a paperless environment AND her behavior in meetings. Are you really letting her get away with this kind of disruption in meetings that include clients? That needs to be shut down hard and fast, regardless of how you decide to address her issues with digital workflows.

    1. Penny Lane*

      “We are a digital agency. We create and track our work digitally.”

      How embarrassing in front of clients. She needs to go.

    2. OP*

      I mentioned there are other issues, and we are actively managing those. This is one issue I’ve specifically tread carefully on, because this could be a situation where we need to provide accommodation for legal reasons.

      1. Sara without an H*

        While I agree with your caution on need for a possible disability accommodation, complaining about how others in the office do their work — and in front of clients — isn’t a disability.

        1. serenity*

          I know I’ve asked before, but who is managing Ann?

          And your point about complaints is a big one – she complains 10 times a day, and additionally 5 or more times per meeting. That’s entirely unacceptable. And she also wants to eat up a big chunk of your budget with completely unnecessary travel?

          It’s nice that OP is aware of accommodation issues and wants to “do the right thing”. Great. But who cares. Why isn’t Ann being shown the door? Why tiptoe around these huge issues with a “contractor”. This makes no sense to me.

      2. CM*

        She’s a contractor, yes? Is she truly an independent contractor, or is she an employee disguised as a contractor? If the former, you don’t need to provide accommodation for legal reasons.

    3. smoke tree*

      Yeah, regardless of the reason why Ann has difficulty working digitally, she’s handling this badly. By clinging to a few really unreasonable and disruptive workarounds, she’s giving the impression that she has a poor understanding of how the industry works. Hopefully it will be possible to have some more direct communication about how to resolve the issue in a more workable way, but it does seem to me that there are larger personality/judgment concerns as well.

  55. Librarian Ish*

    Hi OP#4!

    I’m going through…pretty much exactly what you wrote. FTM/genderqueer transitioning, using a name change. I actually changed my first and last name. I haven’t had a chance to read through everything so I apologize if I’m duplicating anything, but here’s some stuff I’ve learned from the process:

    1) Email signature – Mine’s currently a little annoying because I can’t change my email address until I “legally” change my name, and since our emails are First Initial Last Name at Company, I need people to know my old name. So I have my signature as

    New Name
    (formerly Old Name)

    Occasionally people email back asking for clarification, but otherwise it’s been pretty easy.

    2) I put legally in quotes above on purpose :) You are actually changing your name legally. It’s a common law name change. You have the right to go by whatever name you want without having to inform the government, thanks to amendment rights regarding due process. If you google “due process amendment name change”, one of the first PDFs is from the UCLA Law Review that will give you plenty of legalese to give to people if they give you any trouble about it “not being legal”. I Am Not A Lawyer.

    3) Be confident! I was terrified because I thought my name change outed me as transitioning, which I wasn’t ready for at my job. But 99% of people were super cool with it. The only “questioning” I got from people was well-meaning, if a little eye-rolly (I had one person assume I had just gotten married? Because I changed my first and last name?) It got a lot easier with time.

    Best of luck!

    1. Like OP #4*

      This is what I’ve done at my job as well, however, I *did* time it to updating my name after marriage (I’m only recently coming out to friends and family as genderqueer and I’m still not 100% comfortable with doing so at work)

      So because of that, HR was able to update everything into the system as NewFirst NewLast is part way legal (NewLast clearly my last name after marriage, and NewFirst is actually a neutral nickname I’ve gone by for an eternity everywhere else and I’ve made it clear that I’m working on having it legally changed) and I currently deflect any nosy people with “I want my work name to match up with my regular life name finally.”

      Good luck with everything OP!! And y’all rock for doing this!

  56. Ex-publishing person*

    I don’t want to pile with people implying that OP2’s experience isn’t all that, but I think they’re looking at it in an unreasonably separated light.

    I worked in publishing for about 7 years after college and in my experience editorial work has two components: clerical/project management work that would actually translate great to being an office manager, and literary thoughts that don’t translate well to any other work. The former is: contracts, letters, making sure all the pieces were submitted, rights cleared, marketing/publicity/production teams have everything they need and turn in their stuff on time, author and agent are kept in the loop about various decisions, soliciting blurbs, etc.

    Rather than dismiss their experience as either too irrelevant *or* too high-level, I think OP should take an honest look at how much clerical/project management work their previous position actually entailed, and then write a great cover letter selling their existing skills.

    1. I edit everything*

      I’m the LW, and exactly this. I have oodles of direct administrative office experience, and my cover letter has to make that clear–I know that much. My fear is that employers will look at my resume, before reading the CL, and see “Editor” all the way down–including Prestigious English University Press, New York–and the master’s degree and just chuck it as not a good fit.

      1. CM*

        Maybe you could downplay the way the “Editor” title is displayed? For example, you could just list the company name, and the first bullet point underneath could be a bolded description like “Editor with administrative office duties.”

        Also, if you’re no longer in the publishing industry, I agree with the comment above that Prestigious English University Press probably won’t mean anything to your new employer except that it has something to do with publishing, even if it’s is a household name.

      2. Chinook*

        I always have the same fear of employers reading my resume before my cover letter and have had to learn to just accept that as uncontrollable. The good news is that not all employers do that and good ones will still check the cover letter if the resume is out of the norm.

        The other option is to go through a temp agency, which I know is not always an option in a smaller location. That was how I transitioned from teaching to admin assisting (because, like you, I knew I had admin skills form that job that are n’t obvious to outsiders). It may be worth it to see if there is anything like that in your area.

  57. Ally*


    I’d start by talking with HR.

    At my company, a lady gave HR and her manager a head’s up that she wanted to start transitioning. They sent out some emails. Managers of people she worked most closely with held meetings to tell their teams what was going on and how to address her. Overall, it was a pretty smooth process, and nobody at work gave her grief. As one director told his staff, “She’s going through enough. If you have any opinions on her situation, keep them to yourself and don’t share them at work.”

    My son is trans, and she saw us at Pride a few months before she came out at work. I liked her approach. “I’d like to reintroduce myself to you as Cecilia.” She told me later that she figured I was safe since I was at Pride. :)

    Everything at work changed over to her current name months before the legal name change happened. That was a non-event as far as the rest of us were concerned. We have another mutual friend at a different company in town that took a different approach. They wouldn’t let her introduce herself, and they forbid her doing anything until the legal name change was complete. They were definitely more assholery than they needed to be.

    There’s no need to associate your new name with your birth name, and there are definitely lots of safety reasons why you might want to keep them separate.

    1. robot*

      Yes. This is similar to what has happened at my work. After talking with HR, to get names changed in systems, etc, what people at my work have done is send out an email noting that they are changing their name (and pronouns) if applicable, and then simply using their new name going forward. Some people will miss it and be confused, but you are not in any way obligated to include your former name if you do not wish to.

  58. Specialk9*

    Née: it’s also used for other name changes (in addition to marriage), and not just last name:
    *Pen name (which can be both 1st & last)
    *Renamed product or company

    Or you can do like Daniel Mallory Ortberg (FTM transition, formerly published under Mallory Ortberg). He uses the former 1st name now as a kind of middle name.

  59. Lady By The Lake*

    #1 I used to have a very strong preference for printing items out, then I formed my own business and had to pay for my own toner. OMG! Turned out that it was pretty easy to switch to doing things digitally (monkeying with the monitor settings helped) once I found out how much toner costs.

  60. Bookworm*

    If it is a physical issue, there are plenty of tools now to make things easier: increasing the font size/changing the font, dimming/brightening the screen, using a screen blocker foldy thing (I don’t know what it’s called) to create a shade for light, using the tracking tools in Word/Google Docs to note changes, etc.

    I’ve never encountered this personally but do make use of some of these if I’m feeling tired or the office just seems too bright or whatever.

    Otherwise…it seems a bit much. Going paperless is now fairly standard and as someone who is in the job hunt again it’s really rare for me to be asked for copies of my resume during the interview. I noticed not long after I graduated that employers don’t really ask and most of the time they take their own notes or print out copies themselves. Being reliant on paper *really* doesn’t work for particular industries and yours might be one of them, unless she’s dealing with stuff like the bills (and even then that’s a tossup). Good luck!

  61. Manager-at-Large*

    #4 for Clive – I’d recommend the formerly in parens to include firstname and lastname – primarily because not all new names, old names and last names are as clear as our examples here. This goes for any name change, whether occasioned by personal choice, transition, marriage, divorce, or any other circumstance.
    While Clive Smith (formerly Cecilia) might be clear with those values, Sundance Dallas (formerly Madison) might not be clearly comminicating if Madison is being replaced by Sundance or by Dallas. Sundance Dallas (formerly Madison Dallas) to me is more clear on what the old value was and what the new value is.

    1. KHB*

      Does that really matter so much, though? The reason for including the “formerly” is to say “this is the same person that you might have used to know as Madison Dallas.” People who knew Madison Dallas will, of course, know that her name was Madison Dallas, not Sundance Madison or any other permutation. And for people who never knew Madison Dallas, it’s irrelevant, because the name to use now is Sundance Dallas.

      I suppose some people might be curious to know whether it was the first or last name that was changed, because it might indicate whether Sundance underwent a transition or a marriage/divorce. But that’s really none of their business unless Sundance wants to make it their business.

  62. Jady*

    OP #1

    I’m someone that has eye issues. Eye strain is a huge problem. And I’m in front of one or more monitors all waking hours.

    But there are a lot of reasonable accommodations that can be made (at least in my case). There may be things even Ann doesn’t know. Or things the IT department might be preventing (depending on company security polices etc).

    Things I’ve personally done:

    1. My current office unscrewed the light bulbs directly above my desk and the desk in front of me. This helped with eye strain.

    2. There’s a program on Windows called “Flux”, which adjusts the color hues on all the monitors. It’s a program typically for adjusting the light during night hours, but it’s customization and helped significantly. It can easily be disabled at any time.

    3. Dim the heck out of those monitors. There’s software that can control the brightness and contrast.

    4. Glasses that have anti-glare coating. Or sunglasses. Or hats.

    5. E-ink tablets. Obviously wouldn’t help with some of her job, but for things like responding to emails or reading long documents it could help a lot.

    6. Windows has options to increase the sizes of everything (font, icons, etc) under it’s Accessibility options.

    7. Inverting colors. Another option for Accessibility in Windows. But there are also addons or settings for most programs that will do dark backgrounds and light fonts. There’s file explorer programs (FreeCommander is one) to replace Window’s default explorer, which currently doesn’t have a dark theme option.

    These all helped me, and most of them are free and easy.

  63. derdus*

    #1 – it’s a contractor. this isn’t worth investing in. tell them it’s not working out and fire them.

    #4 – very few employers give a crap about a master’s in CS for general software development. i’ve had a couple with masters’…one was great the other was ok. unless you’re working at a university, you’ll get most of your “real” education on the job.

  64. AP*

    To Clive — I think if it’s someone who didn’t know you as Cecelia, there’s no reason you have to keep citing your former name. Make your signature Clive Lastname, and then if you’re writing an email or replying to someone who has known you as Cecelia, I’d add “Ceceila” to the middle of your name: Clive Ceceila Lastname (or do this across the board if it’s easier than different sigs for different ppl). Pick a general time frame that you’re going to do with for and then when it seems that most people would be aware of the change, you can quietly drop ‘Ceceila.’ This is what I did with my maiden name. My signature was Firstname Maidenname Marriedname for probably 6 months or so, and then I dropped the middle Maidenname.

    And to further emphasize how you’d like to be called, above the formal email signature you can simply sign off your emails with something like “Best, Clive”

  65. AliceBG*

    OP #3, I don’t think you need to pre-emptively say anything at all. I look perpetually 7 months pregnant, but it’s just fat and an unfortunate place my body has chosen to store it in. (I have PCOS, and this is typical of the disease.) I’ve had people ask me when I was due, and that is my standard response — “Oh, I’m not pregnant, it’s just fat,” said with a smile. That usually makes them react awkwardly, which is 100% fine with me since they shouldn’t make comments about other people’s bodies. I’d say the same thing in a job interview if anyone had the nerve to ask, too.

    1. Eira*

      OP3 is concerned that they will make the assumption and not ask, though. If she doesn’t say anything, she risks them assuming something and then – consciously or not – factoring that into their decision. By saying something she can hopefully assuage that risk.

  66. Louise*

    #4 I just want to send big ol’ Jedi hugs. I know deadnames can be rife with complicated emotions and that we don’t really have a widely accepted social script for these things yes so I just want to say that I think it’s really brave and amazing that you’re doing this. You’re going to be paving the way for so many others in the future.

  67. CMDRBNA*

    The new hire’s actions are so far outside the industry norm that I think she should become the former hire.

    1. Fieldpoppy*

      OP1, you’ve commented a few times and it sounds like you’re invested in trying to make this work — I’m curious about why, when she’s a contractor who doesn’t seem to be able to do the role, not an employee?

  68. J.B.*

    LW3 – I agree with JoAnna about spanx. I wouldn’t normally wear it but for a job interview sure. Also, I hope this is not too far astray – physical therapy to address diastasis and other chronic issues has made a huge difference for me and has really helped with back pain. If it doesn’t resolve on it’s own there are options out there.

  69. LMM*

    I used to work for an editor who fielded letters to the editor for a major newspaper who refused to read them on the screen. Upwards of 500 letters a day. I got called in one day after my department got rid of its temp employees in a budget-saving frenzy to help him – I had to sit at his computer, access the email account and print out 500 letters. Every morning. It took HOURS, some days 3-4 hours. More if the printer jammed, which it almost always did. Oh, and also, did I mention he’d been told to quit printing letters after burning through several printers so he got one that was hooked up only to that computer and not to the company network so that no one in the IT department knew he had it/was still printing letters. It was, bar none, the most frustrated I’ve ever been at work, and I ended up filing a union grievance to switch departments to get away from him. Had I known of Ask a Manager’s existence at the time (this was 6 years ago), I’d have written an essay about this job.

  70. Shawn*

    OP #4….I am FTM and went through the same thing several years ago! As far as work goes, I just cut the tie completely. I worked with the HR department at the time, told them what was going on and then just had them change my name. They should still be able to do so, even if it’s not yet legal because most companies allow people to use nicknames, etc. I don’t know about your job situation but if you continue to have any inkling of your previous name, some will assume that it’s okay to still address you as such. I found that it was a “due or die” at the job I transitioned at. Now, regarding the government or places that don’t really know you…I found that it wasn’t that big a deal until everything was legal. The only issue here is if/when you begin hormones and your voice begins to change. People have a hard time wrapping their minds around a baritone that says their name is “Tina”. All comes along with time though and ultimately, you must do what works best for you. Much luck and enjoy the journey!

    1. another FTM*

      I just went through this a few months ago too, and had it all changed at once at work. Everything was changed except for a few one-off program logins (that would’ve had to be totally recreated and aren’t really visible to anyone) and the official paperwork.

      With clients who I was mid-project with, I just told them I changed my name if they asked. No one has asked for more details. For the rest, I think they’ve just assumed I’m a different person, which amuses me a bit. I didn’t have a ton of very close relationships where it was necessary to explain or disclose, and it’s not really relevant to my work with them.

      I agree that you have to go 100% on the name thing if you want people to follow it. Once your old name isn’t available in the corporate directory they’ll be forced to figure it out! People were also really nice in letting me know things that had been missed, like my caller ID. I didn’t keep my old name anywhere in my signature.

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