open thread – March 29-30, 2019

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

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

{ 1,971 comments… read them below }

  1. starsaphire*

    Contractor question:

    A friend of mine was told recently that California has changed its contracting laws, and that a contract employee being laid off cannot be rehired into the same position after their 30- (or 90- or whatever) day hiatus.

    I’m finding a lot of info online about the law changes, but nowhere have I seen the no-rehire part stated.

    Does anyone have verifiable info or an actual resource on this? Again, I have Googled the new laws exhaustively and read tons of articles about the ruling, etc., but haven’t yet found mention of a no-rehire clause, and that’s what I’m specifically interested in.

    Thanks all!

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      I’m not in California and not familiar with hiring laws…. I wonder if it is specific to an industry, like maybe only in public government or something?

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is often found in CBA…is your friend union? Often people get things blurred about laws vs their companies SOP or regulations.

      1. starsaphire*

        Nope, not government or union. I’m not sure if it’s just a policy of her specific (now former) employer, and it could possibly be — but she was told it was specifically because of the law change, not a change in company policy.

        I’m a rehired contractor myself, and I’m wondering if this is going to affect me when my number comes up again.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          When there’s a change like that, most states make it wildly known on their website. If it’s not on the California employment site, I would assume she’s gotten something wrong somewhere along the line. Laws don’t usually just get added into the works and you have to dig for them!

    3. Just a gal*

      I’ve temped many times and had many great experiences – only 1 negative. One job They made it clear during the interview that it was only 6 mos, I said great, I wanted to focus on my mba full time after that. I thought it was a perfect match. But nope – they were super offended that I didn’t want to convert to permanent despite both sides being clear of our needs in the beginnning (and I reminded them of my future plans when asked). They acted personally hurt and rejected which I thought was confusing since I told them my plans before I was hired.

      1. Chaordic One*

        This is kind of typical. Often an employer doesn’t really know what they want at the time of hiring. They just know they need someone to do something. After they hire someone and see what that person is capable of doing, and how it affects their bottom line, then things change. This wasn’t a terrible problem to have, (especially compared to some of the other ones that have turned up on this website) but it sounds like you stood your ground. The employers’ acting hurt and rejected was a bit unprofessional, but easily dismissed.

      2. Malthusian Optimist*

        Just a Gal: you might find the movie “Haiku Tunnel” amusing, that’s a major plot point for the main character.

    4. fposte*

      PCBH might know, but the big legal change was the CA Supreme Court ruling about 1099 contractors–when you say “contract employees” I’m wondering if you mean W2 contractors, which are a different thing (the whole point of being a 1099 contractor is that you’re *not* an employee).

      If it’s the court ruling, I don’t think the ruling laid out explicitly the policy that you’re describing, but I suspect that employers who’d been inappropriately treating people as 1099 contractors might be tightening up that kind of catch-and-release approach to employment–that you can’t avoid making somebody an employee just by withholding work from them for 30 days.

      1. designbot*

        That’s exactly what I was wondering—it may not be a new law, but rather a new interpretation/ruling on an old law about what makes someone a contractor vs. an employee.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Agreed. I don’t believe the law actually stipulates, but their HR and/or legal department has probably advised that they institute an internal policy against that kind of boomerang thing, in order to avoid the appearance of deliberate misclassification of non-employees. What they would otherwise do may be strictly legal, but it’s never fun to have to defend your employment practices on a technicality in front of a judge, so to avoid having to do so many companies will voluntarily do stuff like this to distance themselves from the issue.

      2. John Thurman*

        This is it. It’s supposed to force companies to hire w2 employees rather than having a bunch of misclassified 1099 contractors. But then the company turns it around like ‘Sorry the government says we can’t extend your contract”

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I’m not in California anymore, but I had a independent (meaning I billed them) contract job (not through a temp agency, which is different as the temp agencies are considered the employer) that was like this in my state. You could work 90 days per contract, but then had to be separated for 30 days before coming back for a second 90 day contract. It was weird. I did two contracts at that company, but it sucked being off for a month.

      It made for unstable work because you were essentially “freelance” but without the ability to have other clients during your contract periods. I guess if the contract work is paid highly enough you might not care about the forced hiatus, but it didn’t work out for me and I moved on to a full time job into the second contract, and they let me out of it. I think this setup benefits companies more than the contract employees, personally.

    6. Savannah*

      How can I get over feeling resentful or irritated when a coworker gets assigned a cool project?

      I have a coworker who is three months into the job and hasn’t done much aside from sit on his phone for the duration. Meanwhile, I’ve worked hard and received challenging, fun projects as a reward. Some new projects came down the pike and my manager assigned them to the new coworker in an effort to get him to do SOMETHING. However, these are exciting projects that require skill and experience.

      How can I get over my resentment toward this coworker? How can I move on from my disappointment in my manager’s decision to give prime projects to the newest/least competent among us?

      1. JokersandRogues*

        Re-frame maybe?
        If he’s no good at them, then, if you’re good humored and supportive, you may get the projects when he fails.
        If he is good at them, then great person for back-up when you go on vacation!

      2. CM*

        First, you don’t have a monopoly on cool projects — you said you have gotten challenging, fun projects but now your coworker has some too. So remind yourself that this is bound to happen, regardless of how well you perform.

        Second, talk to your manager! Don’t make it about the coworker, but say, “I noticed that Coworker is working on some projects that sound really interesting. If there are other opportunities to [whatever specifically you find interesting about them — work with a certain group, use a certain skill, produce a certain thing], I’d be very interested in working on projects like that too.”

      3. Jerm*

        Offer to help and guide, then step back. You’re running your own race and focus on that, not your coworker or the boss’s assignments. If, after awhile, you feel you are being overlooked, either ask for more opportunities or look for a new job. You don’t have to stay at a place where you don’t enjoy working.

      4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        I agreed w/ CM for the most part. HOWEVER, I empathize. It really burns when someone who sits on their butt gets a plum project just to get them into production at all, when you’ve paid your dues and shown your worth.

        Maybe it would help to remind yourself that the resentment hurts only you.

    7. Dragoning*

      I have a 30-day hiatus coming up in June and my contracting firm is in California and I work in Illinois…I sure hope this isn’t the case for me!

    8. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I don’t know that this is a new law (if you’re searching only new laws). Almost 20 years ago, after a class action lawsuit against Microsoft (“permatemp” lawsuit) and the dot-com burst there were many laws enacted on both federal and state levels that protected tech workers and probably have now been applied to non-tech jobs as well. I remember working a graphic design job as an independent contractor (I billed them directly for my time, not through an agency, and I received a 1099) and after a certain period they either had to hire me or end the contract — that was I want to say 2004-ish.

      1. Natalie*

        There have been a handful of court cases and IRS rulings related to the issue, but I’m not aware of any federal laws enacted about permatemps.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, and the Microsoft result was a settlement, not a ruling. Interestingly, it seems to have been contingent on the inequity of stock purchases, not, like, health care benefits.

          1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

            It was a long-running mess. I think Microsoft continued, after the settlement, to treat contractors like employees, except they had them sign an agreement that they were an IC and to keep working as they had been under a new temp “agency” that Microsoft created. Workers sued again for full employee benefits, and there were two Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rulings in their favor in 1996 and 1999 — an “agreement” doesn’t trump the law.

        2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          I thought the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was amended due to some of the shenanigans.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think so. Wikipedia actually has a good list of amendments to the FLSA in their article on the act; I’ll post a link in followup.

              1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

                It’s not right on the heels of the Microsoft case or dot-com bust but government works slowly. I think the amendment in 2004 is what I’m thinking of “FLSA now requires that an exemption must be predicated upon actual job function and not job title. Employees with job titles that previously allowed exemption but whose job descriptions did not include managerial functions were now reclassified from exempt to non-exempt.” A lot of low level workers during the dot-com boom and bust, like web designers and graphic designers like me, had previously been classified as exempt and then expected to work 60+ hr/wk.

    9. aett*

      If you haven’t yet, contact the Contractors State Licensing Board (cslb.ca.gov). They may at least be able to point you in the right direction.

      1. CAA*

        CSLB is for licensed contractors who are in the construction trades. OP is talking about contract employees, so CSLB is probably not applicable.

  2. Boats Against the Current*

    Would anyone be willing to share their experiences with/advice about temping?

    Some background: I finished my Bachelor’s degree in history nearly two years ago, then taught English in Europe for 10 months on an international fellowship. I’ve been working in retail since I’ve been back in the U.S. because I feel really uncertain about what to pursue in terms of a career path (I focused a lot on doing academic research in my field of study during college, and not very much on what I wanted to do after I graduated). I feel temping would allow me to explore different types of jobs and office cultures without making a long-term commitment. I also think that doing well at temp assignments could demonstrate my ability to perform in a professional environment, which would be useful to have on my resume when looking for a full-time job versus just the fellowship and retail experience. I’m interested in hearing from others who may have approached temping in the same way I am, but any experiences/advice offered would be greatly appreciated.

    1. starsaphire*

      I absolutely recommend temping as a good way to get immersed in workplace norms and experience different work environments!

      It has been a few years (okay, decades) since I did so, but temp work was a great experience for me — and I got more than one permanent job out of a temp assignment, too.

      You’ll also get to have the restful experience of being largely immune to office drama and politics when you’re on shorter assignments. :)

      Definitely give it a try!

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        Thanks for the encouragement! My retail job can often be full of drama, so the idea of being more removed from that just increases the appeal of temping :)

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        I, too, got two permanent positions out of the two temp jobs I had straight out of college. The one job ended maybe two months after I was hired on (into another role that I had no business being in), but the other place, I ended up leaving almost two years after being hired on permanently. Temping was good in the sense that it paid the bills, but for me, it didn’t really give me any clarity about what I wanted to do with my life. Hell, I still don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I write full-time now, and that’s cool.

        The downside to temping is the lack of benefits. It was very hard not be able to take a sick day or go on vacation because you only get paid for hours you work. That’s fine if you have savings or a spouse who can float you if you miss a check, but I didn’t, so I was always working – burnout happened very quickly at my second temp job (in law). Then I got sick and had no insurance. Thankfully, the ACA allowed me to go back on my mom’s insurance until I was 26, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to get treatment.

        If you’re young and relatively healthy, though, temping for a while until you figure yourself out should be okay. Good luck.

        1. Boats Against the Current*

          Thanks for sharing some of the downsides of temping. I think it’s important for me to remember that it’s not necessarily the perfect solution for figuring out what I want to do, and the lack of benefits is also something to consider.

        2. Liz*

          I also got two permanent jobs out of temping, and some other experience from other temp positions. Granted this was 25+ years ago, when I was younger, and much healthier, so basic insurance was affordable, as was COBRA, and I was also lucky enough to get COBRA paid for a year when downsized from one job. I liked it; although I did miss paid time off and so on. But I think it was good for me, at the time, as I too didn’t quite know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and also going back to school, and tempting was flexible enough for my needs.

      3. cactus lady*

        I second this! I temped as a new grad and it really helped to make all my newbie office mistakes in an environment where I didn’t have a lot at stake. It’s a really good way to get into working in an office!

        1. Boats Against the Current*

          I worry a bit about the “newbie” mistakes I’ll make once I start working in an office environment. I think making those as a temp rather than as a permanent employee would be a lot less stressful!

      4. CatMintCat*

        It’s a good few years/decades since I did any temping, but I loved it. I did it for a couple of months when I was planning a long distance move and needed work but didn’t want to take on anything permanent for such a short time. I loved seeing how different places operated and meeting different people.

    2. LaDeeDa*

      Absolutely! I am a big fan of temping for people who are in the exact situation you are on– not sure field, not sure industry, etc. I think it is a great way to get a lot of exposure to a lot of different kinds of work. If you enjoy research you may check out prospect research for non-profits and universities. I did that at the university where I was getting my master’s, and it was really interesting. You put together data/info sheets on potential donors. If you have good research skills and can put together a document, you might like it! Good luck!

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        I haven’t heard of prospect research before, and it sounds really interesting! Higher education and non-profits also jump out as fields I’d like to explore career-wise. Thanks so much for the advice!

    3. CatCat*

      Yep, A+, highly recommend. I did this after college and also after a graduate fellowship (I decided not to pursue a career in the fellowship area and was sort of at loose ends so temping got me income, experience, and time to sort things out).

    4. Super Dee Duper Anon*

      Totally recommend temping!!! I went to school for psychology. Intended to go to grad school and then work in something social services related. Was doing some temp work to keep myself afloat while I was preparing to apply to grad school. Temped at a bank (it was a longish term gig – like 6 weeks or so) and it all of a sudden clicked for me that “these are my people”.

      5 years later – I didn’t go to grad school and now work in finance. Which I NEVER ever considered until that temp gig.

      So I definitely recommend temping!

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        This is another reason I’m interested in temping—I focused mostly on careers directly related to history in college, and I’m wondering if there are other fields out there that would be a good fit for me that I don’t even know about yet! Thanks for sharing your experience!

        1. Vincaminor*

          I know a lot of my cohort in history (2003 grad) went on to law or finance — if you did research you know we’re super-good at the important details!

    5. CTT*

      I tenped for 6 months after I graduated. I think it is a good way to get office experience and show that you’re familiar with professional environments, but I will caveat that it’s not necessarily an everyday job. I think I was working maybe 60% of the time (with one 2-month long temp job, and others either a day to a week). This was the recession, so that may be different now, but if you are someone who really likes structure, it can be hard to adjust to the “today I am working somewhere that’s a 40 minute drive away, yesterday was a mile away, and then I have nothing for a week” schedule.

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        For me that type of schedule will probably take some getting used to, but I think I can handle it. I’m glad to know now rather than later!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          There are also longer term temp jobs – I had one for a little over a year at a law firm. You don’t necessarily have to take shorter contracts.

    6. knork*

      Some agencies are better than others, but temping can be a good way to build skills and relationships. You’ll be able to learn about particular jobs and organizations by observation, but don’t have high expectations of only doing interesting work–it can be a lot of data entry. When you’re first getting started with a temp agency, it’s unwise to turn assignments down just because you won’t find the work interesting.

      I haven’t temped in years, but I can still cite how it’s benefited me professionally. (I can share with prospective employers just how quickly I pick up new software programs, and when an interview panel was delicately alluding to parts of the job being sort of tedious, I could cheerfully tell them “I was a temp for a long time, I have a very high tolerance for repetitive work!”)

      1. anonagain*

        Do you have any advice about finding a good agency? Or avoiding a terrible one, at least?

        Boats Against the Current, I hope it’s okay to ask this in your thread! Thank you for asking your question; the responses have been helpful for me too.

        1. Boats Against the Current*

          It’s no problem at all! If the advice in this thread is useful to others as well, that would be great!

        2. knork*

          I’ve mostly gone by word of mouth. You can look online, with the caveat that people can be really salty when a temp job turns sour or a temp-to-hire falls through, so take those complaints with a grain of salt.

          I don’t know what the protocol is for signing up with more than one agency at a time–maybe someone else knows if that’s generally kosher or not.

          1. just a random teacher*

            I also generally signed up with multiple agencies when I temped, although that was a while ago so I have no idea what the current standards are.

      2. Boats Against the Current*

        That’s good to know. I did an internship in college that required a lot of data entry. It was tedious at times, but also definitely doable, so I should be okay with more of it.

    7. KEG*

      My only caution would be not to temp for too long. Most people temp with the hope of getting hired somewhere full time and can be seen as a red flag on your resume if you temped for an extended period of time. You can explain in a cover letter or interview that you were doing it for the reason you mention in your question of course.

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        That’s a good point. I’m trying not to get stuck in a rut of working in retail for too long so I’m hoping to temp, but at the same time I don’t want to temp forever either. It’s a nice reminder that full-time work is the ultimate goal.

        1. Boats Against the Current*

          But with that in mind, what do you think would be an acceptable amount of time to temp?

    8. The Tin Man*

      I got a temp-to-hire job through a temp agency when I was changing careers. After six months I was hired on full-time and it’s now been two years as full-time! I never would have found this job without temping and I am doing well and bringing my skill set to a company/industry where it is less common. I am highly biased by this experience but I recommend it.

      The main caveat is to work with a good company. I talked to one staffing group that was pretty crappy but then signed on with one that was good for my now-fiancee and ended up being good for me (Robert Half).

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        I’m glad to hear that temping worked out so well for you!

        Echoing the comment of anonagain above, do you have any specific tips related to choosing a good temp agency?

        1. ZuZu*

          Former temp recruiter here! Pick a few agencies in your area and go in and meet with the recruiters. You’ll definitely get a feel for who you like and who you don’t. Definitely ask people you know for suggestions and look at online reviews (keeping in mind that reviews for temp agencies are notoriously awful). Work with a couple of agencies at a time – they will have different roles and will help keep your options open. I’d recommend at least one big agency and maybe a smaller local boutique one. When you meet with the recruiters, be professional, but be honest about what works for you. Sometimes it’s helpful to do a couple of really short/easy/probably bad paying assignments (think one day reception gigs) because once you have some good reviews, the agencies can “sell” you to their other clients who maybe have some better roles. Good luck!!

      2. The Tin Man*

        What worked for me was going with one that my fiancee had a good experience with. So, I’d recommend asking people you know if they’ve worked with any.

        And Googling can help some, as long as you keep in mind that upset people are more likely to post reviews than happy people.

    9. No Longer Indefinite Contract Attorney*

      I’ve also gotten two full time positions by starting as a temp. Highly, highly recommend–if you’re pleasant, work hard, and decently capable, people will love you and your agency will love you and will call you back for additional placements.

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Temping is how I got my career rolling in the beginning after a starter job. I enjoyed it, it really gives you a feeling for things and if you will like it or not in the end. Case and point, I learned I’d rather eat nails than work in a healthcare records or accounting office ;)

      Just be aware that to get started you have to really push at the agency to give you your first shot, sometimes it takes awhile for them to find a placement and they’re interested in placing their established temps first {since they feel most confident in them for good reason} but it’s worth it. I say this because often people fill out the temp agency paperwork and never hear back, it’s not a job interview, you do have to check in with the agency and let them know you’re really excited to get a placement and into their rotation!

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        Good to know! Sounds like while showing “gumption” isn’t generally good for people who want a job interview, it can be for people who want to get temp placements.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Try to remember that the temp agency is “your employer” but it’s very much a vague employer/employee relationship. You’re a commodity to them more than an employee and they work for you more than you work for them in the end, which is totally weird to look at things, I know! It’s very much it’s own animal.

      2. Former poofreader*

        Absolutely. My experience is old, but a few decades ago, if you wanted a temp placement, after you signed on, you had to call the agency every day to remind them that you wanted one.

        (I think, on the agency’s end, plenty of the registered temps are flakey or have other gigs, or are busy with a few days from another agency, and the agency isn’t going to waste time calling the temps — you call them.)

        Also, the first placement is key to getting the next. So you have to say yes to the placement that’s hard to get to, or sounds boring, or makes you wear a tie, so you’re at the top of the agency’s list for the next placement.

        Finally, a good temp agency is a big deal. I had one really good agency — they did only creatives, which may have been a difference. But after a certain amount of time with them you started getting health insurance and a little bit of 401K, and so on. And when there was an issue with an employer, they went to bat for me.

        *Finally* finally, AAM should really do a thread on best temp stories, from both sides of the aisle.

        1. just a random teacher*

          I agree with both the regular check-ins and the first assignment opening doors. When you go in to do the initial interview and paperwork with the agency, ask them how often they’d like you to check in, and then make a point of doing that. (I think I used to call in once a week, but it’s been years since I temped. Early in the morning early in the week is a good way to show that you’ll also reliably show up to a job under those circumstances, so I’d do it first thing in the morning.)

          One other piece of advice: they will probably pay you whatever you said your minimum hourly wage is. When I had a long-term temp job at a place that had a lot of long-term temps, we all compared wages once (during one of those awkward team-building meetings where all of the “real” employees disappear to go get food and prizes, and the temps are left at their desks wondering where everybody went) and figured out that we’d all said we’d work for $x and were all being paid $x, except for one person who’d said his minimum was $x+2, who was making that instead. It’s a tricky balance, because they’ll send the cheaper people when they can since it saves them money, but don’t expect any kind of raise after you start so make sure you’ve named a number you can live with.

          Also, your first position might well be a “roll out of bed when the agency calls you and go to the site right now” situation – I’ve had several of those. If you’re temping, not placed in a position yet, and want to make a good impression, you should basically prepare each night like you’re going to need to leave for work in a hurry in the morning. Make sure you have suitable clothes ready to go and something in the fridge that you can quickly grab as a sack lunch. (I always packed something that could live in a lunchbox and not need to be refrigerated or heated up for the first day of a new temp job, since I didn’t know the fridge/microwave/break room/nearby restaurant situation in advance.) I personally did not set an alarm and get up early “just in case”, but I did make sure everything was pre-staged so I could leave the house as soon as I’d showered, dressed, and grabbed my sack lunch.

    11. Nanc*

      Full disclosure: it’s been 30 years since I temped.

      That said–I loved temping (at that time!). If it had offered benefits I would have done it for the rest of my career. If you have good transportation, go for the short-term assignments and be a rock star. Most folks who are temping are looking for long-term or temp-to-perm and agencies scramble to fill those one week (or even one day!) contracts. After a month of doing all short-term stuff my agency started sending me out to picky/demanding clients or giving me the plumb, long-term jobs. I eventually went full-time with one of the places I temped and had an amazing 12 years there in a variety of positions.

      I worked everywhere from dentists offices to retail (new store set up) to higher ed to the local sewage treatment plant (which was actually a lot of fun!). It was a great way to try a lot of industries and also discover what dentist I would never consider as I was looking for a new dentist after a move and this was before the days of online reviews.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes.

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        Thanks for sharing your experience! It’s good to know that starting with, and succeeding at, the short-term assignments helps lead to the long-term ones. And you certainly can get to explore lots of different industries!

      2. Steggy Saurus*

        Nanc, yes, the short-term assignment rock star role is a great one to take on. First off, do it well and your temp agency will love giving you jobs. Secondly, you rarely have a chance to get bored in a job (which can certainly be an issue in office work).

      3. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

        I did this, too! I wasn’t interested in a temp-to-perm role (I temped for a year in between college and grad school), but had everything from 2-month assignments to planned vacation coverage to 7 AM calls to cover a sick receptionist. Overall, I loved it. It was fun to try different workplaces, and because I wasn’t there for long periods of time, it was really the kind of work that I could leave behind when I went home.

        I temped over school breaks while in grad school, and would just call the agency when I was in town or had a few weeks or a month that I needed to fill. A couple of years later, I was working on building up my career in theatre, but it wasn’t quite enough for full time, and my temp agency was able to give me some nice 2-day-per-week placements, mostly where workplaces were bringing someone in to work on a specific project for a limited time. I had a good reputation by that time, and could get the kind of placements that allowed me to keep working on my own projects.

        This ranged from 2006-2011, so YMMV as to the current state of things, but it really worked for me for that period of my life!

    12. Amber T*

      I was a temp-to-hire at my current job. I majored in Business, knew I wanted to go into the “business” world, but had no idea what. Thought about HR, thought about a couple of other things, but just wasn’t sure. I had also quit my previous (first job out of college) job without a back up due to how toxic and plain awful it was, and I figured temp work would at least get my foot in the door at places.

      I became a hybrid admin/receptionist at a specific type of finance firm that I didn’t know anything about (the industry or the firm) and was hired full time after 60 days (after discussing both with my temp rep and my supervisor that yes, I wanted to). I got to see a little bit of everything. A few years later, when I was feeling antsy, there was a specific department that needed help, and I found the work pretty interesting, and I ultimately got promoted into that department.

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        Thanks for sharing your experience! It’s good to know that temp-to-hire may be an option.

    13. Ruth (UK)*

      I highly recommend temping – I graduated in 2012 and could only get retail/kitchen jobs at first. Stuck in a cycle of only being able to get that type of work, I tried temping. A temp call-centre-style job booking hospital appts for people turned permanent and I’m now in an admin in a uni.

      I have other friends who successfully temped for a while in part of their career.

    14. 867-5309*

      Temp! Temp! Temp!

      I’m working in the field in which I graduated – and have for nearly 20 years – and I still prefer temporary and contract work so I can try new things. It’s a great way to figure out what interests you most.

    15. MissDisplaced*

      I’m not a fan of temping on the whole, but it does serve a purpose sometimes, and in your case temping is definitely the purpose it serves! A good temp agency should be able to place you in more professional office settings. Sure, you might start off filing or at reception, but if you’re really not sure what you want in a career, that’s a fine place to start. Ideally, you may get to see several different types of offices (finance, law, corporate, ad agency, etc.) and get to see what different types of companies do on a daily basis.

      Some of the larger temp agencies also have skills development and even benefits for their temp employees, and it’s something to consider when signing with one. You might want to check out or interview with several before you commit to one, and not just, you know, apply for anything they post. Some are really good, and some are nasty and horrible (as with any employer).

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        I really appreciate your advice about things to look out for when choosing a temp agency. It sounds like you should evaluate temp agencies for fit in the same way you would a traditional employer.

    16. Not A Manager*

      Boats Against the Current – Sorry to interject my own question, but could you please share the source/name of your international teaching fellowship? Thank you so much.

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        It’s no problem at all! I completed a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

    17. Aphrodite*

      While I did not use temp agencies this way, I can tell you that in my city in central coastal California both the city and the local University of California often use one temp agency they have contracted with for much of their help. It seems like a good situation for all because the employers get the temps they need for as long as they need then and they get to work with them without a commitment. The employees get to try out these jobs without committing a career to them.

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        Sounds like it benefits all parties involved! I’m interested in exploring whether there are similar opportunities in my area.

        1. Aphrodite*

          There might be. I’d suggest calling each agency and asking them if they have contracts with local government and/or educational institutions for temporary help. I think ours (at the time I was looking) was Apple One.

    18. Elizabeth West*

      I temped successfully for about a year before I was hired at OldExjob. It was with one company, and they liked me enough to ask me to work in their actual office when the receptionist was out. Unfortunately, the last time I went to them, I got nothing. It’s not working out for me now because the nature of the jobs in this area have changed since the recession. I have never gotten a permanent job offer from temping.

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        I think your experience is a good reminder that temping will not necessarily lead to a permanent position. I think I am interested in it mostly for the opportunity to explore different fields rather than the possibility of a temp-to-hire situation, so maybe that’s for the best.

    19. Steggy Saurus*

      I loved temping. I did it in college and grad school just for the money (not for career exploration), but it really served to help me avoid some of the standard complaints about low-level office work. If you show that you’re responsible and can learn quickly, I found that agencies were very happy to send you out to the better clients. For a while, I served as my temp agency’s receptionist and they’d send me out to new clients to put on a good show for them.

      Practice your basic Excel and Word skills, and maybe ten-key and regular typing (depending on what kind of temp jobs the agencies around you hire for).

      Having been a manager for a while now, I can say that if an early-career person came to me with a resume that listed steady employment with a temp agency, and that agency gave me a good recommendation, I’d be very interested in hiring that person. I learned so much about flexibility, quick thinking, reliability, and collegiality working as a temp.

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        It’s really encouraging to hear that you would be interested in hiring someone new to the workforce who performed well while doing temp work! I think that temping would help me develop skills to succeed in the workplace, and I’m happy to know that a manager sees it that way as well.

    20. Lucy*

      It worked for me – I took a few short assignments in general admin positions before landing a maternity cover. It was another fairly general position but it led to a permanent post and then I moved up within the company adding expertise and qualifications and gaining a strong professional relationship. Here I am fifteen years later as a specialist.

      It’s a job – indeed a field – that I would never have known existed. It’s a great for for me.

      Temping can be weird. At one job I got a call from the agency on Friday afternoon asking if I’d be interested in some interviews on Monday because my boss only a few metres away in the same building had told the agency but not me that I wasn’t wanted any more
      That stung. But guess what job I interviewed for on the Monday …?

        1. Boats Against the Current*

          That is a strange experience—what an odd lack of communication. But it sounds like it worked out in the end, which is great to hear!

    21. DouDou Paille*

      Yes definitely consider temping. I have gotten several permanent jobs via that route, including when I was a new grad. It definitely helps to see the insides of different companies and industries.

    22. Mr. Shark*

      I highly recommend it. I was in a long-time job and wanted moved to a different city. I wanted to try out some new opportunities, so I hired on at a temp placement service. Some of the jobs weren’t great, but a few of them I really enjoyed and gave me a look into different industries which I never would have thought of being interested in.

      I was offered a chance to interview for a permanent job in one of the locations, but turned it down, because I knew it was not what I wanted to do. Not long after that, I was placed in a completely new industry. A year later after surviving layoffs, I was hired on full-time, and still am working at it 10 years later. It became a career I never knew I would be interested in!

      1. Boats Against the Current*

        It’s great hearing several stories from people who discovered fields they had no idea they would enjoy via temping. I’m excited about the possibilities. Thanks for sharing!

    23. Jadelyn*

      Do it! That’s how I made the jump from retail to white-collar career. The uncertainty of it can be difficult to handle sometimes – not knowing if your assignment will be extended, being told they want to hire you on permanent and then it not happening – but it was really valuable in helping me understand what kinds of places I DON’T want to work.

    24. Chaordic One*

      I found temping to be a mixture of ups and downs. Most places were happy to have me help out with a temporary problem or fill in for someone out on leave, and they treated me royally. Even though I might only be in the job for a short while I was treated as part of the team while there.

      OTOH, there were a few clinkers too. On one job where I thought everything was fine and that I was doing a good job, while on my lunch break I received a phone call from the temp agency that the employer didn’t need my services any longer and that I should consider the job over and go home. It was weird that no one at the employer’s office said anything to me. I never found out if they felt I was doing a lousy job, or if the job was over, or just what the deal was.

      Also, and I know this sounds like an unfair generalization, in my experience, the worst temp jobs were those where the employer was too cheap to hire a full-time permanent employee and where they would hire a series of temps, one after the other to fill a given position. These employers didn’t seem to respect their workers.

    25. Amethystmoon*

      I temped for approximately a decade before I was finally hired on somewhere. It is a good way to get experience, but I found (at least during the 90’s-00’s) that companies didn’t want to hire temps permanently because that meant giving us health benefits. They’d lead you on with the “sure, we’ll hire you after 6 months” thing, but never actually hire you permanently. Before the ACA passed, we temps had to often buy high deductible insurance, which meant that you didn’t dare go to the doctor for anything less than an actual emergency because you’d have to pay out of pocket. And you had to have a ROTH because few companies let temps have 401K(s). I don’t know if that’s still a thing, but I’d look for a permanent job until I got one, even if it paid slightly less, rather than temp if I got laid off now.

    26. voluptuousfire*

      It’s worth a shot! Definitely sign up with a bunch of agencies.

      I had two temp gigs actually come through. One was a horror show who let me go after a month because they couldn’t figure out what they were looking for in that role. They had 2 or 3 people before me, all were let go for “not being the right fit.” The second ended up being pretty good and I learned a lot. I worked with the director of payroll and she adored me and wanted me to apply for an opening in her department but in the end, I had no experience for it. It was good to know my work was good, especially considering how many roles I interviewed for and didn’t get at the time.

    27. Rachel*

      I work for 2 temporary agencies doing bookkeeping and think they are the way to go if you need, 1. to get hired somewhere quickly and 2. looking for something short term.
      Most of the clerical clients are looking for short term employees during busy seasons or for maternity / sick leave coverage. They don’t often turn into permanent placements at that company. Maybe 90% of the time this is the case.
      Our industrial clients are looking to temporary workers to try out the employee and then usually after a certain time, want to take the employee on permanently if everything is working out.

    28. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      I would recommend it highly. I did a lot of temping through various temp agencies when I first graduated from college. It can also be useful when you’re older and you move to a new city. When I was doing it there was no such thing as Glassdoor or anything else like that, so if you’re not sure what a particular workplace might be like, Glassdoor might be helpful. I do remember one recruiter at a temp agency telling me that there was an opening at the Miss Universe Pageant (I think this was before our Tweeter-in-Chief owned it). I responded, “Beauty contests really offend me.” That was the end of that discussion.

    29. Nana*

      I temp’ed after being out of the job market for several years, and moving cross-country. Taking short-term temp jobs was an excellent way to (a) check out the job market without a commitment, (b) raise my awareness of what I would/wouldn’t like in an employer, (c) realize some benefits I had to have [paid parking…not an issue when I lived/worked in NYC…big deal in LA]

    30. Jiya*

      I temped because I had to – I graduated law school right when the economy went into its downturn, and there weren’t exactly a lot of opportunities on the ground in any industry, let alone law. That said, the temping helped me in a couple of ways:

      1. One company I temped for was a big, well-known corporation, which apparently made my resume look better to other employers. I only worked there for three months, but the difference in employer response before and after I had that resume item was really notable. (My previous work experience was at legal nonprofits and nonprofit theater.)

      2. That temp job also taught me that I don’t do well in unstructured, “find your own work” environments. I like to know what I’m doing and why and then to be left to figure out how to do it – being kind of let loose with no actual place in the organizational structure was really stressful for me. So when you’re working, be aware of yourself and what’s working and what’s not; it can save you a whole lot of stress later.

    31. Boats Against the Current*

      I don’t have time to respond to everyone, but I just want to thank you all for the wonderful comments! Your advice and accounts of your experiences have been so helpful!

  3. Theory of Eeveelution*

    What’s your attitude toward LinkedIn networking requests from complete strangers?

    I work for a very trendy startup, and often get requests from friends and acquaintances for information about it/passing on their names to hiring managers. I help out when I can, because that’s basically how I got this job and I want to pay it forward.

    However, I just got a LinkedIn message from a complete stranger wanting to “buy me coffee” to talk about the company. I’m obviously not going to meet up with a stranger, but should I offer to answer questions? I don’t really want to, but I feel guilty just not responding.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I deny all those requests. I don’t actually have to have met you in person, but I have to have “met” you in some capacity, even if it’s just on a professional mailing list or Slack. Requests to connect out of the blue are weird.

      That said, if someone is reaching out to you to buy you coffee to talk about a position (i.e., a potential job offer) at her company, that’s different, assuming you’re actually interested in the position.

      1. Theory of Eeveelution*

        I actually don’t find requests themselves to be weird. I like knowing about other people that are in the field, especially since it’s so small and niche. But this isn’t your second scenario – this person wants a job at my company, and I looked at their resume and I don’t see how they’re even qualified.

        (And I have to say: I’m a woman, and this field is often unkind to women. If the message had been from a qualified woman, I’d be a lot more open to helping them, but this is just some unqualified dude!)

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Oh, they’re asking if you’re hiring, and you don’t know them? Definitely deny. If you have a job available, they can just apply to it through the proper channels (email a cover letter and résumé or fill out an online application or whatever your process is).

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        +1 You do not owe anyone your time.

        Also – I made my kid a great Lickitung costume. He has to ask before he licks anyone though.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          You are the absolute best parent ever, Jules the 3rd!! :D

          (And, Hedgehog, it’s because the OP’s username is about Eevees, another Pokemon)

    2. LaDeeDa*

      I ignore them. Most are sales people wanting to sell me something I don’t need or want. If I am in the need for something I approach vendors I have researched.

    3. The Tin Man*

      I would ignore the connection request, and if I was feeling nice (I probably would) I’d send them to the company “About” or “Careers” page.

      No time to find it now but there was a question posted here about a similar situation but people were VERY persistent to the point of going to the LW’s spouse’s store to ask the spouse to talk to the LW on their behalf.

      1. Theory of Eeveelution*

        Yeah, I remember that one! Something similar happened at my office: A coworker took an Uber to work, and the driver followed her inside to ask for a job for his brother. This is why I never tell anyone where I work, especially Uber/Lyft drivers, ugh.

    4. ten ton trucks*

      I ignore everything that isn’t from someone I actually know. You don’t need to feel guilty not responding, you don’t have any social contract with this person just because you’re on the same social networking website.

    5. Environmental Compliance*

      I generally ignore anyone that I haven’t met and I don’t share at least one connection with. Every so often I get one of my connection’s connections that works in the the same field requesting to connect (how many more times can connect be in this sentence??), and that’s totally fine with me – but I also get randoms somewhat often that aren’t even close to my field or anything related. Those go straight in the nope, no thanks pile.

      1. Juniper*

        I’m in the same field as you, and I have the same LinkedIn policy too. It can be useful as an introduction to others with very specific niches, but I generally deny the randoms.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Yes! I like being able to expand my *work* network, but ya gotta be relevant to my work, Mr. I’ve-Requested-A-Connection-With-A-Creepy-Hey-Cutie-Message. Ick.

    6. epi*

      No, this is weird behavior and there’s no reason to reward it.

      I sometimes accept connection requests from strangers if there is relevance to me. Recruiters, people with similar research interests, people senior to me, people in my old role at an old job. If you start giving help to randoms on LinkedIn, there is pretty much no bottom.

      It’s great to help people, I try to respond to legitimate requests for advice or assistance in my field whenever I possibly can. But it is really hard, without an in person connection or a referral from someone you trust, to know that someone is a good recipient of your time and help. The fact that this person is out there being weird and making odd requests of strangers is the only evidence you have one way or the other, and it suggests this isn’t someone who will benefit much from your effort. I’d also be wary of getting similar inappropriate follow-up requests, or getting sucked into a friendship or mentorship I don’t actually want, with someone who would do this. Speaking from experience.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Unless it’s a recruiter or some kind of vendor/client thing, I don’t engage with that kind of thing. Especially if they are getting way too familiar so fast, buying you a coffee? Is this a date? I don’t like that, I don’t do chummy right out of the gate and I’m really really friendly.

    8. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I train job seekers on how to use LinkedIn, and have a very open policy of connections.

      However, I do insist that they’ve personalized their note enough to indicate that they actually looked at my profile and processed any of the information, and preferably stated why they would like to connect.

      If a request gives me red flags and/or is too vague, I message them back without accepting the connection saying “what prompted you to want to connect with me?” 7/10 don’t even respond, making my decision easy.

      In this case, I’d probably ask an additional probing question first — “what is it that you’d like to know?” would be a good one. I might not even be the right connection for the person. And certainly don’t need to disrupt my day and travel to a place to get a cup of coffee because someone else didn’t do their research.
      So, if they respond and say, “are you guys hiring?” then the answer is – umm, check our website. If the response is more substantive, perhaps a useful enough answer can be provided via message.

      And if in our messages, I start to think that this is an interesting person, then I can build that relationship in the regular way.

      1. Amber T*

        On the opposite end of that – my LinkedIn page is largely blank (where I worked/have worked and my education, but no job descriptions). I always laugh when I get requests from recruiters that say “based on your LinkedIn page, you’d be a great fit in this role we’re hiring for!” I mean, really? My LinkedIn is blank. Does that mean the job you’re hiring for doesn’t do anything? Cuz I’d be happy to sit around and do nothing if it paid well enough.

        1. Theory of Eeveelution*

          Weird, my page is pretty well filled out and I’ve never gotten a message from a recruiter!

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            My page is very filled out and I get a mishmash of recruiters that actually have read my profile, and have something legitimate to offer, and recruiters that apparently think they don’t need to read anything about you to offer you this job! It’s awesome! You’ll need to relocate 3000 miles, it only pays $12/hr, totally only 3 months long, no benefits, and it’s something science related, so you’ll interview right???!

            1. Theory of Eeveelution*

              Ugh, I was once on an industry mailing list that would send out crap like this. This was associated with my graduate program, so it was especially insulting!

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                Same here! I roll my eyes especially hard at the “you’e a perfect fit based on your LinkedIn profile !” Eh, no… not when the position specifically is looking for someone who has just graduated or is about to graduate with a Microbio degree, and I’m several years out from my Master’s in environmental policy…

                At first I felt bad for ignoring them, but definitely don’t now.

    9. MissDisplaced*

      If they’re in a somewhat related field, or a potential vendor/supplier, I usually will accept the connection (turning down the meeting). But if it’s some totally random person or seems weirdly suspicious, I ignore. Some of the sales tactics I’ve seen upon connecting are so over the top. I’ll first try the “Thanks, but I’m not interested,” but if they get too annoying or aggressive, I’ll disconnect. I guess I have more tolerance because I also work in marketing.

      They get ONE free pass on this. Hey, I understand they ‘gotta try working their leads, but too much is too much.

    10. Peaches*

      Following! I get such a large volume of random requests. Oddly enough, most of the requests are from people who work if a totally different field than I do, in a totally different area of the country. I always wonder how they even came across my profile.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      Nope. If I don’t know you at all, or we haven’t had any kind of professional contact, I won’t add you.

    12. cmcinnyc*

      I think you can treat out-of-the-blue LinkedIn networking requests the same way I treat random men asking for date on Twitter: ignore and block. If it’s someone in your industry you might conceivably run into, you can stop short of blocking. As someone who has made inappropriate, clueless requests from time to time (hey, live and learn) I can tell you that getting no response can be useful. It made me think “Oh, was that inappropriate? Perhaps clueless?” That was not a bad question to ask myself!

    13. Lepidoptera*

      Context matters, so I take it case by case.

      The guy 20 years younger than me who randomly wants to meet for coffee to “chat about our experiences at [same college]” and he works for a financial services firm? That’s a no, he was obviously chasing leads and planned to try to sell me annuities.

      The woman a few years out of college who seems to be trying to break into my field, has a few jobs that are sort of diagonally-related, and has work samples on a well-done personal website? Her I made time to have a Skype conversation with.

    14. square toes*

      I’m in a bit the same position – I work for a trendy startup. I deny all Linked-in requests that are not personalized to me/my company. However, I sometimes get requests from people (so far, all have been students) that are more personalized – it’s clear they’ve read my linked in profile, and somehow tie their studies to what my company does. I usually meet with those people – it won’t help them get a job, but it may help them understand the working world/time frame better. “yes, we have an open job for a llama wrangler, and while your master’s in shoeing alpacas puts in you the ball-park, we’ve had 50 applications from llama wranglers with PhD’s. You think you’re qualified, but the competition is much tougher than you imagine”

    15. theletter*

      I have met up for coffee with complete strangers from linkedin, but my company has a generous referral bonus so it is worth it try to recruit. I would not meet with someone who was trying to sell me something. Sometimes they want to recruit me. I can usually tell from their job title what they are looking for, but if not, I’ll ask what they’re looking to get out of meeting up.

    16. TheAssistant*

      I recently was the coffee-offerer – I wanted to talk to folks in my technical field with non-technical backgrounds to start to lay the groundwork for the next 3-5 years of my career. However, I did limit it to alumni of my undergrad and was not expecting any responses. I was shocked that I got 3 people to meet me (and it was way more helpful than even I expected, so that was nice).

      I’ve also helped out recent grads of my school looking to dive into my general field, but only did so when they seemed to relatively have their sh*t together.

      I wouldn’t feel guilty no matter what you choose, and you should feel free to opt out completely or only do email questions/Skype or whatever.

      1. TheAssistant*

        I will say I made it VERY clear that I was not looking for a job, but rather to hear their experience in getting to where they were in their career. I work in a hot field right now and there’s tons of options for *breaking in* and paying buttloads of money to become marketable to employers, and I was really trying to suss out actual experience from the noise. I think that’s why it went over better.

    17. Galloping Gargoyles*

      I actually deleted Linked In about two years ago because I kept getting requests from people that I didn’t know at all. Some were 2nd or 3rd contacts (or whatever the LI term is) but others I think searched “teapot stenciler” and connected with me because my title is “Chief Teapot Stenciler”. There has been a few times (like count on one hand) that I’ve been trying to find someone and the only connection was LI so I couldn’t but really, overall, I’m totally happy with my decision to walk away from it. I just didn’t find it very useful for networking or well really anything.

    18. Cindy Featherbottom*

      I dont mind requests like these most of the time. The couple that I’ve gotten are usually people asking advice on how to get into my industry (it can be super hard when you dont have experience). I tend to get that since I’ve been doing this a while (10+ years). I typically dont mind them since its usually just advice, not meeting them somewhere. If its not a huge inconvenience, I’ll help where I can. I fell into my industry purely by chance and I realize not all people have such an easy time getting their foot in the door, so I try to help where I can. But if its coming off as odd/weird, feel free to ignore it.

    19. TGOTAL*

      Unless we’ve met in person or at least exchanged emails, I don’t even respond to link requests from people with whom I do have connections in common. I work for a prominent organization that has very specific hiring practices that I cannot affect in any way. Painfully detailed advice on navigating those processes is readily available on the internet, and the procedures have changed enough since I went through them that I really don’t have anything to add anyway.

      I use a very generic job title – think hiring category rather than specific role – so anyone who randomly asks to connect with me has no basis on which to assume what I do is at all relevant to their own field. I assume most of these people are really just looking to pad their own profiles and make themselves look more legitimate by connecting with as many people as possible from my organization.

      That being said, I’ll totally link with you even if we only chatted at a conference or exchanged emails to organize a meeting. People in my field tend to be highly mobile, so I really use LinkedIn as “professional Facebook” to keep track of the comings and goings of colleagues and contacts. I’ve also connected with my family members, actual friends, and real-life and virtual non-work acquaintances.

  4. Not American*

    Two coworkers are going a business trip so where they’ll need to take a flight. One of them (CW1) is obese, and while she can usually fit into one plane seat there’s a lot of spilling over to adjacent seats and really, two seats would be better but the budget doesn’t allow for that (it’s a charity).

    CW2 has said (in private, not in from of CW1) that she’s doesn’t want to be booked in a seat next to CW1 because she’d feel terribly uncomfortable, but doesn’t know how to bring this up without it being awkward. It’s a pretty long flight (6+hours) so not really something you can just grin and bear for a bit.

    Any advice on how to approach this issue? It’s likely to be an issue that will come up again since travel usually happens in pairs, and they can’t exactly tell CW1 she can’t go on business trips if her job calls for it. And from reading past posts here, asking her to address her weight won’t end well either. (Even if they could be convinced to pay for an extra seat or an upgrade there’d probably be a lot of talk about how one coworker is getting special treatment purely for being fat. It’s not exactly the most forgiving of cultures in that respect.)

    1. No Tribble At All*

      –“asking her to address her weight won’t end well either”

      Besides being a jerk thing to do, it’s likely impossible (and unhealthy) to lose that much weight that quickly, so this wouldn’t even solve your problem. All it would do is make CW1 feel bad. Just book CW2 a seat that isn’t next to CW1? And maybe ask if CW1 has a preferred airline. I know we’ve had posts here before about plus-size people on flights.

      1. Observer*

        If CW1 is that obese, there is no way they are losing enough weight in time for any trip.

        But the simple fact that this is even mentioned as a serious possibility shows how deeply and rooted toxic stupidity around weight is.

        1. ten ton trucks*

          +1 It is absolutely horrible how airlines and social expectations have put the burden on the person. Instead of saying “how dare the airlines do this”, the burden is placed on the person, and they are told they are literally a burden for having the body they do.

          1. PJM*

            Thank you for saying this. I frequently think this myself. The greedy greedy airlines keep making the seats smaller and smaller, packing people in like sardines. While Americans keep getting bigger, the airlines do the opposite and make the seat smaller. Yet the anger is directed at the overweight? It doesn’t make any sense. And I have seen plenty of tall people and men with broad shoulders who can barely fit in these seats as well. The lack of outrage at the airlines is terrible.

            1. Queen_of_Comms*

              I’m a 5’9″, 130-pound woman and the seats are even cramped for me. Every time I fly, my heart goes out to those taller or heavier, as I have no idea how they are able to fly with any remote notion of comfort. The introduction of these ridiculous basic economy flights is only exacerbating the issue.

              1. Kat in VA*

                I’m 5’8 and around 130 with broad shoulders and a narrow butt and I’m almost touching the armrests every time. Anyone bigger than that is going to be in misery. I don’t fly all that often but every time I do, I’m surprised at how SMALL the seats are.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I am tall, and they’ve also reduced the pitch (distance between seats) so I now have practically no legroom. Whenever I get on a commuter jet out of our airport (a necessity, since we are serviced by legacy carriers but you have to fly to their hubs to actually get anywhere), I wonder if I’ll actually fit. And then I get on the regular plane and the seat isn’t much better. :\

              1. ten ton trucks*

                I’m average height. There are seats I can barely get into and airlines I won’t fly in because I can’t move my legs at all. I don’t know how my 6’4 relative manages.

              2. Artemesia*

                I”m a tallish woman 5’8″ but certainly on the small side for a man — the seats are miserable for me; I really feel for 6 foot plus guys or very tall women. Today you have to buy economy plus at a huge premium to get the pitch that was normal 15 years ago.

              3. Nessun*

                I’m tall and heavy (female), so I don’t fit well in most seats. Air travel is something I tolerate because it gets me to my work events or holidays, but it’s never fun. I try to always book with WestJet in their Premium Encore seats (used to be called Plus), because they offer more leg room and more hip room. I’ve found if I book far enough in advance, the price difference is $80 or so per flight, which my company is fine with paying.

        2. Ceiswyn*

          I’d like to amplify this point. People often have unrealistic expectations about weight loss, so let’s be absolutely clear here; the absolute maximum rate at which a very obese person can lose weight, under medical supervision and for 8 weeks max, is 4lb/week. The maximum maintainable rate at which an obese person can lose weight is 2lb/week.

          Say CW1 would have to lose 100lb in order to fit into a seat without overspilling. If they started right now, under medical supervision, and did absolutely everything right, they could fit into an aeroplane seat by… Christmas.

          In reality, weight loss is not that simple nor that easy. I used to be morbidly obese, and lost 245 lb to get into the normal/healthy weight range for the first time in my life. It took me TWO YEARS. And that was with a highly unwise rate of loss and total commitment to the point of obsession.

          So even if it were in any way acceptable to ask someone to lose weight, on a practical level it just wouldn’t work anyway.

          1. Amethystmoon*

            That’s also presuming they don’t have any issues like thyroid disorders, which exacerbate weight problems and can make it very difficult to lose weight. I found I have to exercise for a minimum of 120 minutes daily for at least 4 days a week in order to lose 10 pounds in about 6 months. That’s during the time in my upper-Midwest state where it’s not covered in snow and ice, and also being extremely anal about what I eat. Someone who doesn’t have the time or ability to exercise that much is probably going to find it very difficult. I only did it because I could walk to work.

            1. Sarah*

              Thyroid problems push down your bmr. You can solve this by either increasing your calories out (what you did) or by reducing your calorie intake. Reducing your calorie intake saves you money as well.

              1. Anu*

                It’s really not that simple, once hormonal issues are at play. Maybe you reduce your caloric consumption, but your hormonal makeup causes all you do consume to be deposited as fat. You don’t lose much weight, but you’re still fatigued and have no energy. It’s not as simple as just reduce calories.

                1. Sarah*

                  Actually, it is that simple. Hormones affect appetite, not metabolism. You can look up Google scholar if you’d like.

                2. Observer*

                  Google scholar is not the be all and end all of medical research. Hormone issue most definitely CAN affect metabolism. The ways in which that happens are varied, with different types of effects.

              2. Cindy Featherbottom*

                Its really not that simple. Thyroids can be over or under active, which can result in people not being able to gain weight who are under weight or the exact opposite. Its really NOT that easy. Getting thyroid hormones back to normal when your thyroid is out of whack takes a lot of work. I’ve had patients who have struggled for over a year just to find the right medication/strength that properly gets their T3/T4 back to normal. Its requires a lot of doctors visits and blood work to get a thyroid issue under control. It is most definitely not an easy fix.

                1. Cindy Featherbottom*

                  And Sarah, T3 and T4 affect the basic metabolic rate of your cells, which does in turn affect your appetite. They are very much connected

                2. Sarah*

                  True but CICO (calories in calories out) still applies. There are many people with thyroid problems who successfully lose weight.

                  And of course, most obese and overweight people don’t have thyroid issues.

                3. Ethyl*

                  People aren’t Bunsen burners and the amount of calories in/calories out doesn’t work the same way as one. It’s not that simple, you don’t know what you’re talking about, and thyroid disorders are incredibly common.

              3. Observer*

                Reducing your calorie intake saves you money as well.

                Not necessarily so. Nutrient dense, low calorie foods can be EXPENSIVE. And in general, good quality food that is not high calorie tends to be a lot more expensive than that the higher calorie equivalents.

                And reducing your calories to the point that you can work around issues like thyroid is not all that simple, either. You sometimes have to go low enough that you can’t actually get your nutritional needs met from food – and that’s aside from the fact that a lot of people don’t actually function well on such a low calorie diet.

        3. Not Me*

          Regardless of whether or not they can lose the weight in time it is not ok to ask an employee to lose weight.

          Obesity is not covered under the ADA so they do not “need” to pay for the second seat. It is 100% possible to book the two co-workers in seats that aren’t next to each other though.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            “Obesity is not covered under the ADA”

            But I do believe that if there is an underlying medical cause, that CAN be covered under the ADA

    2. Observer*

      So, it doesn’t matter that it’s a charity – if CW actually needs 2 sears then that’s what the employer needs to provide. That’s true regardless of the charity status of the employer.

      That needs to be your starting point in dealing with this.

      1. valentine*

        Yes, you need to buy her two seats. You absolutely, positively, in no way, shape, or form, can ask her to “address her weight”. The weight issue has an obvious solution, and that is getting her two seats. Reframe this from “How can we save money/how can we tell CW1 she is literally a waste of space/money?” to “What does CW1 need for work travel?” And shut down the bigotry.

        CW1 can ask for seats that aren’t together for privacy/downtime/so they don’t get sick of each other. At the gate, she can say she’s okay with being moved so others can sit together.

    3. Amber Rose*

      It shouldn’t cost any more to just not book them seats side by side.

      And yeah, aside from being a horrendously dick move to ask CW1 to lose weight, losing enough weight to not spill over into other seats safely takes months or years, which would not help you at all.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah but not booking them side-by-side doesn’t solve CW1’s problem – that she needs two seats. Booking her one seat risks her being told to buy a second one or removed from the flight.

    4. EMW*

      I hate sitting next to coworkers on airplanes. We all book travel separately, and then we often compare seats to ensure we’re not too close together. I’ll change my seat in the app. I book all my own travel. Are they being booked on the same reservation?

      1. Joanne’s Daughter*

        When I had to travel for work I would never book seats next to coworkers, I figured we would ave plenty of ime together and I wanted to travel without feeling I had to entertain someone during flights.

      2. Djuna*

        Same.
        Last trip we had there were 4 of us, and none of us so much as shared a flight. We all had different preferences around layover times and airports so it worked out nicely.

    5. The Tin Man*

      That’s interesting because I wouldn’t think that it would be an issue because in my experience even if employees are booked on the same flight it would be random chance for them to be seated together. Is that a typical thing in your company? Are you asking because you are booking the flight or just asking for advice on how to advise CW2 to approach things?

      And I just can’t let it go at how gross it is that people would consider it “special treatment” for CW1 to get an extra seat. Maybe if they were getting upgraded to business/first class for that reason and CW2 doesn’t also get the upgrade but not simply an extra seat.

    6. Observer*

      On another note, if I’m reading your post correctly, your culture is more that “not the most forgiving”, it’s actively toxic. If someone actually pays for an upgrade people are going to complain that they got special treatment?! What kind of lunacy is this?

      1. DolphinFeels*

        An accommodation is not special treatment. And yes, two seats could be considered a reasonable accommodation.

        1. Not Me*

          Obesity isn’t covered by the ADA, unless she has some other ADA covered disability reasonable accommodations wouldn’t come into play here.

          1. Holly*

            That perspective is troubling since obesity is in a bit of a grey area re: ADA, and sure, the company could win in a lawsuit over it, but why take the risk? Also, some states may have more stringent protections.

      2. INeedANap*

        The OP’s username is ‘Not American’, and I have heard anecdotally that there are other countries whose culture is much harsher on overweight people than would be expected in America.

    7. Bagpuss*

      Could she suggest that they book 2 aisle seats? that way, they could be next to each other but with the aisle in betweemn so the issue wouldn’t arise.
      Or alternatively, ask that they book an aisle and a window seat (which I understand a lot of couples do, as if the flight isn’t full, it may mean you get an emty middle seat between you.

      I think longer term, they can also speak to their employers about a policy to book premium seats or 2 seats where appropriate, for the benefit of their staff and of any fellow travellers

      1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

        I came here to say exactly this. My wife and I have done this a number of times. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it is worth a try. If it works then CW1 has the room that they need. The two aisle seats is also a good idea.

      2. LittleMy*

        My spouse and I usually do aisle seats across from one another since we both prefer not to have a middle or window seat. Works very well if the expectation is to sit together. I’ll add that sitting with co-workers on flights is something that I actively avoid – I’d rather be able to use that time on a flight to catch up on work or relax or sleep – none of which I’d be very comfortable with sitting with a colleague!

    8. Ashley*

      Just book them in separate seats or make sure CW2 when boarding makes it about alone time and nothing about weight. No way I want to sit on a plane next to a co-worker if I can help it.

      1. Ms.Vader*

        If you are large enough to need two seats, that second seat isn’t a perk. I can guarantee that person will probably feel embarrassed and maybe shame because it’s such an upfront declaration that they are fat. I’m not saying that is what they should feel – I just know as a chubby person that’s what I get scared of most when I book flights – whether I’m obese enough to need two seats. I think some compassion is in order here. So yes ensure CW2 isn’t seated close to CW1 but also…advocate for that second seat and do it without putting shame on CW1.

    9. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      If booked in a seat next to my coworker, I would just quietly change my seat once my reservation is made, and not say anything to anyone about it. You can do that on the airline app, their website, or even call the airline from home. If your coworker or anyone else at work calls you out on it once you are on the plane and not sitting next to them, you can just matter-of-factly say that was the seat you were assigned.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        BTW, my comment above goes for sitting next to any cowowker, regardless of their weight. :)

        1. TechWorker*

          Yep definitely regardless of anything else, who *wants* to sit next to a colleague for a long flight?! No thanks.

          1. Kat in VA*

            On the flip side, the last business trip I took with a colleague, we opted to share a plate of truffle fries at the airport before we flew home. About three bites in, both of us realized they were GARLIC truffle fries, *heavy* on the garlic. Both of us laughed it off – noting it was a good thing we were seated next to each other! (commuter flight, 2×2 configuration) She was also a fantastic seatmate – she turned on her iPad and watched her downloaded TV shows and I read my magazines silently and listened to music…and I don’t think we exchanged more than ten words during the whole five hour flight.

            1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

              You’re lucky- it sounds like you and your colleague are excellent seat mates! I have colleagues who would give side-eye to anyone who does anything but work on a flight (or whenever, really). LOL about the garlic fries!

    10. A Cataloger*

      If you can book them on Southwest. They have a great passenger of size policy, including that you don’t need to book two seats in advance, you can ask the agent when you get to the airport (before going through security). In addition to that Southwest doesn’t have assigned seating so each person can choose where they want to sit.

      1. formerDoDscientist*

        Also, if you buy 2 seats in advance because you need two based on size, they will refund the second seat after the flight. That way you don’t have to worry about what happens if the flight is full.

      2. Rectilinea Propagation*

        The commentor isn’t American and Southwest only files in the United States and Central America.

        However, finding an airline with a passenger of size policy or at least similar practices is still good advice.

    11. Llellayena*

      Book an aisle and window seat on a three seat row? It’s not a guarantee, but if the flight isn’t full that seat might stay empty. And I get the “charity budget” thing, but it’s not “special treatment”, it’s “accommodation of a medical issue.” It’s similar to needing to book an extra seat for an oxygen tank (maybe a bit less critical, but same idea of a medical necessity that cannot be separated from the passenger). I’m really hoping our culture improves on this attitude.

      1. Camellia*

        “…accommodation of a medical issue.” I wonder if she could get a note from her doctor that would force them to book two seats or upgrade to business class or whatever is needed. Would that possibly work?

        1. Liane*

          It might work, but I’d hate for it to take a doctor’s note to get CW1 the needed second seat. If CW used an O2 tank would the company insist she get a doctor’s note to buy her a second seat for the tank?

          1. Camellia*

            Well, I would hope they would not require a doctor’s note for an oxygen tank, but for a condition that most people think of as ‘how you look’ instead of ‘a condition that needs to be accommodated’, a doctor’s note would switch that context.

            My husband has an invisible disability which has caused him to gain weight due to the fact that he can no longer stand or walk for any length of time, much less exercise. People can’t see the reason, they just see the weight gain and blame him for it. He would definitely get himself a doctor’s note, if needed.

        2. Grumpy*

          A lot of doctors would try to push her into weight-loss surgery if given this kind of opening. The medical field is appallingly hostile to fat folks. If she has an awesome doctor (there are a few), great, but unless she knows the doc well and feels comfortable and safe with them, I would NEVER ask her to do this. Ever.

          1. Camellia*

            Interesting thought. We move rather frequently for my job, which means finding new doctors. We are quite adept at saying Nope, that one’s not gonna work out, and moving on to the next. No one meets everyone’s needs, just like no one likes every song or poem or work of art or therapist or doctor or surgeon.

            This person may not know to do that. Or perhaps, like my husband, there is a reason for her weight and her doctor knows it and could easily and willingly provide a note.

        3. Kat in VA*

          This is exactly what my company does – if you need two seats, you get a doctor’s note stating such and they will either book two seats or a business seat. It’s not ideal (because the stigma/shame of a doctor’s note is still there) but at least they’re nont leaving a person nont twist in the wind not knowing if they’ll have to purchase another seat right before a flight.

          1. Kat in VA*

            Side note – the newer Macbook keyboards really suck and I should take advantage of their free replacement for this sticking N key.

    12. Super Dee Duper Anon*

      I used to book a lot of travel, 9xs out of 10 if two people were traveling together they specifically (though discretely – like each would reach out to me separately) requested NOT to be seated together.

      Book them separate seats (or recommend to CW2 to select a separate seat) and don’t bring it up. If CW1 does bring it up, mention that CW2 likes to use travel time to decompress or get some reading done or whatever.

      Sure, some people would prefer to sit with co-workers, and that’s totally fine, but it’s a common enough sentiment to not want to sit with a co-worker that this shouldn’t raise any eyebrows

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed. My co-worker and I often get booked in the same row when we travel together, and we have both said that we are the ONLY people we would do that with because we have complete respect for each other’s space (literally and figuratively). I once sat next to my boss and hated it.

      2. CM*

        That’s really funny! I never would have expected that people would ask that, but I totally get it.

    13. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Book 2 aisle seats across from each other? Likely have to pay a bit extra to choose seats but less than an extra seat.

    14. Jilly*

      Just because two people from the same company are flying somewhere together there is no need for them to sit next to each other. I sometimes have to take 15 hour flights for work. The only thing that could make that worse would be to sit next to a coworker.

    15. KR*

      I’m not sure about how it’s normally done at your work but I have been on the same plane with various coworkers and managers before and the only time I sat with them was when a coworker who I am friendly with asked me to as they are a nervous flyer and don’t like to travel alone. Otherwise I intentionally chose seats AWAY from coworkers. Planes are smelly and your hands are always full and I get sweaty and it is not a situation I want to be close to a coworker for. I don’t think it would be weird to seat them apart. But OP should really just buy the extra ticket.

    16. Safetykats*

      If you’re in the US, the ADA covers this. My dad has two artificial hips, and requires a wider aisle AND and aisle seat as he can’t maneuver to a window seat through the coach aisles. Therefore he has a medical dispensation to fly business or first class. I have no patience with people who view this as undeserved special treatment – he has impaired movement.

      However, accommodations generally need to be requested. So if the employee who needs an extra seat or a larger seat won’t request one, and you’re not in a position to request one for them (e.g., you’re not their manager) there isn’t much you can do.

      I would note that a lot of US airlines offer a business class upgrade that can be added after purchase. When I have a long business flight I often add that and cover the cost myself – I don’t have any medical reason to do so, but I’m happier (and less tired) at he end of the day if I have a little more room. So maybe if the larger employee won’t request a second seat, they could at least request this kind of upgrade. Last time I did this it was about $50 each way – far less than an extra seat. And possible enough extra room to be adequate – hard to tell without more information.

    17. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Not what you’re asking – but Southwest allows you to book the extra seat and pay for it up front and then be reimbursed after the flight. Persons of size are also permitted to board first to ensure they have both seats adjacent to each other. (My mother who is smaller than I am did this on a vacation she took with me and it worked out just fine.)

    18. Delphine*

      If CW2 has the privilege of flying in a seat that fits her body, making sure CW1 has that same privilege is not giving her special treatment.

    19. Parenthetically*

      CW2 needs to ask to be booked into a different part of the aircraft so she can have some alone time. Separate it from the weight issue. Your company should also call various airlines to ask about their policies for larger-bodied passengers. There are some out there with humane policies that allow folks with larger bodies to fly comfortably without having to spend double on a ticket.

      Also, your company culture is genuinely terrible (accommodating people’s physical requirements is not “special treatment”), and I’d urge you to look at how you may have absorbed some of it, given that your only apparent qualm about not asking a coworker to change the size of her body for the convenience of her employer is that it “won’t end well,” rather than that it’s a grossly discriminatory and insulting thing to do.

    20. MissDisplaced*

      >No reason for them to sit together: Seats can be changed post-reservation.
      >Buy the 2 seats if it’s needed!
      >If you can’t buy 2 seats for the overweight employee, pay a little more for an upgraded seat in a preferred location that has more room (usually behind the bulkhead or where there are only 2 seats in the row). This may provide enough room for them depending on how big they are.
      >Put them in business class where the seats are larger.

      And I must say it’s terrible nowadays for those LARGER ‘folks of all types to fly. The airplane seats keep getting smaller and more densely packed, making it bad for anyone over 6 feet tall or more than about 200 pounds.
      My husband is a big guy. He’s not obese, but he’s well over 6 feet tall and just an overall beefier (big feet, big head, gig hands & legs) kind of guy who takes up man-space LOL! He hadn’t flown in a few years, and on our recent flight to Europe he was so cramped and uncomfortable he kept spilling over his seat and elbowing into me. That did not used to be the case and he hasn’t changed in size in 15 years.
      Honestly, I don’t think even The Rock or Jason Momoa would fit in a modern coach class seat.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Not even just for larger folks, but for anyone above petite. I’m 5’4 and 105lbs and I find airline seats on the snug size. If I’m who airlines design their seats for, there’s a serious problem! I think this company should ask themselves what they would do for an employee who was say 6’6 and can’t fit in a regular airline seat. If the answer is ‘upgrade them,’ then that should apply for anyone whose body can’t fit in absurdly small airline seats for any reason.

    21. AnonyNurse*

      Coworkers should not be expected to sit next to each other on flights. They should pick their own seats and be done with it. Irrespective of any other concerns, it’s ridiculous to think that not only do you have to spend all day together every day at work, you also must spend a six hour flight trapped next to each other, privy to every moment.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Agreed. It seems to be super important to some people to sit with your coworkers on a flight. And they try to make you feel like you’re doing something wrong if you don’t want to. It’s ridiculous.

    22. Cat Fan*

      She might say she’d like to sit elsewhere so she feels like she has some downtime from working. When I traveled with by boss, we both agreed that sitting apart would be a welcome break from work since we’d be spending so much time together at the destination. And it was.

    23. Kotow*

      Charity or not, if she needs two seats to fly comfortably, that’s what they need to provide. I imagine she’s just as uncomfortable knowing that she’s taking up two seats and bothering her coworker as a result, not to mention the physical discomfort of being in a seat that’s too small (and those seats are getting much smaller now). Getting two seats isn’t special treatment, it’s what she needs to fly comfortably and safely; and I say this as someone who is 5 ft tall and 100 pounds, so people think it’s completely okay to take up half of my space because I’m not using all of it. I can see the “special treatment because of weight” issue if you’re talking about an upgrade rather than an additional seat. But really I’d rather have to pay for my own upgrade and get the same “perk” than be uncomfortable and resentful next to a coworker because an employer won’t pay for a reasonable accommodation.

      If there truly is no other option, then can’t they just not book the coworkers next to each other? I guess I’m not sure how they end up sitting next to each other anyway but may be misunderstanding how the flight booking process works.

    24. Peggy*

      Seems like, all other issues aside, you might as well just book an aisle seat and a awindow seat so everyone is more comfortable.

    25. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      Ask the airlines that you are considering what is their policy on customers of size. The U.S. airlines tend to have one–in other countries I am not sure. If you can’t find an official policy, call the airlines’ sales offices or ticket offices and ask. As you said, this could come up again, so it’s as well to know how to address it.
      Also, don’t seat them next to each other. That’s easy.
      And, OMG, DO NOT tell CW1 to address her weight. That is unkind and singularly unhelpful.

    26. Rectilinea Propagation*

      …there’d probably be a lot of talk about how one coworker is getting special treatment purely for being fat.

      1) Apparently this organization isn’t willing to buy 2 seats for CW1’s comfort so the person who would be getting special treatment in this situation is CW2. The extra seat is actually for her.

      2) This is only a problem if it would bother CW1 to deal with their bad attitude. That’s likely but it’s also likely that they’d rather be physically comfortable on flights than cater to their co-worker’s feelings on this.

      If the latter is the case then just let them be mad.

    27. Policy wonk*

      When traveling with co-workers I make a point of NOT sitting with them, partcularly if it is a long flight. The last thing you need is a co-worker telling others what movie you watched or that you snored, or chewed loudly or something similar. Not wanting to sit next to a co-worker has nothing to do with that person and everything to do with needing personal space.

    28. Samwise*

      Book two seats next to each other, but put CW 2 in the aisle seat so that they have room to put their feet. Or even better, book TWO aisle seats (could be across from each other if they have to talk business while on the plane).

  5. Partly Cloudy*

    Hello AAM community!

    I need some advice on how to introduce internal customers to a new team member who will be handling their day to day needs.

    A bit of background: I’m still new to my company (about 3 months) and I only overlapped with my predecessor for literally a few days before her last day. The transition wasn’t communicated well to the field and some of them were quite upset to learn that she had left and they didn’t quite know who I was.

    The plan all along was for me to hire another person into the department (I was brought in as the manager) and transition the day to day stuff so I can focus on bigger projects and generally, management. We’ve been training our new hire for the past three weeks and I’d like to introduce her to the field while reassuring them that I’m still here and can still help them with special situations, will be here to support the new hire, etc.

    Given the fact that some of them complained about poor communication in the past, can I please get some suggestions for wording that is informative and reassuring?

    Thanks!

    1. The Rain In Spain*

      In the past I’ve handled by copying the new hire in on existing communications with the relevant people. I just add an intro at the end of an email- “I also wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to Amelia, our new team member. She has joined as a (insert role) and will ultimately be taking over most of the day to day communication with you. Having Amelia on our team allows me to shift my focus to larger projects and management. I will be working with Amelia during her transition, so please feel free to start reaching out to her directly as well (or add info about an official ‘transition date’ when she’ll be fully taking over the duties).” Something like that!

      Alternatively you could send it out as a special ‘welcome email’ and copy in all the relevant parties. I would still copy her in on relevant emails. It helps her see some history, etc. Also might not be a bad idea for her to set up brief 15 min meetings to introduce herself to people.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        Yes, I work with internal clients and I’ve moved projects a lot in the past, and I’ve seen this pretty much as the standard.

    2. Zephy*

      A general “welcome email” with instructions to reach out to Amelia with questions about X going forward is a good idea. I get the sense that you might feel like you need to explain that you aren’t leaving, given the way the transition was handled when you started. You don’t, and in fact doing so could very well undermine Amelia’s ability to do her job. The same people that grumbled about it last time are the people who will go around her to you with questions that she should be handling, because they don’t like change.

          1. Zephy*

            Oh yeah, that was another thing I had meant to include – ask them to go to the new girl, rather than you turning around and making the request on their behalf. I was in a similar position and it was always awkward when people went around me to my boss because that’s what they’d always done, because then it felt like anything coming from her on someone’s behalf had to have higher priority, even if it really didn’t. My boss did not make much of an effort to redirect people when this happened, and it really served to undermine the whole system that she and I had set up.

    3. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      Just send out a general company wide welcome email which says something like:

      “Please welcome aboard Susan Ivanova. Susan will be assisting me with the day to day activities and you can contact her about docking schedules, resource allocation, and similar things. You can reach her at XXX-XXXX or email her at susan@babylon5.gov. “

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Hooray for Babylon 5 references! Thank you for this; it made my evening. Ivonova is God. :)

    4. Mrs_helm*

      If you can frame it as being better for THEM, it will help with some people. But some will complain no matter what you do.

  6. Anon anony*

    How would you say that the reason that you want to leave a work place is that it’s too social without sounding like you’re antisocial? I’m reserved and quiet and it’s a horrible fit for me. I’m not sure if this should be mentioned in a conversation with a prospective employer or not, so any advice is greatly appreciated!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think instead of “too social,” maybe you could mention something more specific like… is it an open office setting, where you have a lot of noise around you? Can you just say it required a lot of extroverted time, and you are an introvert and do your best work when you have some time alone, even though you’re good at being social?

      1. Dr. Anonymous*

        Maybe some tactful variant of, “There’s so much chatting that it’s kind of hard to get the work done.”

    2. Amber Rose*

      “It’s not a good fit.”

      Be vague. You don’t need to go into details. Jobs sometimes just don’t work out, reasonable employers understand this.

      1. The JMP*

        I think most (good) interviewers aren’t going to accept that, though. I need to know why it wasn’t a good fit to help make sure that this job is a good fit.

        I’d go with something more specific as suggested above.

    3. Sloan Kittering*

      I wouldn’t say it like that, but you can say that you want to work at a place that is really work-centered or that you’ve found that a quieter office environment helps you concentrate, maybe? If you’ve been there over two years you probably don’t need to get into why you’re leaving, other than “looking for something new” but if it’s less than that, I think there’s a better way to express this sentiment.

    4. Way to the Dawn*

      Maybe something about the culture there not being a good fit? I am actually in the opposite problem – I am super social and only have 2 coworkers in my current job and it is driving me crazy! I am sure employers will understand.

    5. knork*

      I’ve been in the same boat. I wouldn’t tell an interviewer my coworkers were too social. But maybe explain that a lot of an employee’s reputation and opportunities at your current workplace comes from socializing, and you’re looking for something where your work spoke for itself more.

      1. Midlife Tattoos*

        As a manager, I would read that as you don’t get along with people, and I probably wouldn’t hire you. I don’t think LW has to be super social like her workmates, but having an aversion to being social at all is problematic. Whether we like it or not, we have to work with other people (generally speaking) and it’s critical for a healthy team that people can work collaboratively.

        1. knork*

          How about amend that to “socializing outside of work”? If I heard that, I would think that an employee couldn’t get ahead without doing a lot of happy-hour schmoozing, and it wouldn’t make me think they were antisocial.

          1. Amethystmoon*

            That and not everyone has the budge to do happy hours, nor wants to drink alcohol or sugary beverages.

    6. Camellia*

      What exactly do you mean by “too social”? Is there a lot of after-hour social activities? Or is it stuff happening in the office? Your explanation in interviews may vary.

      For example, I consider my company to be very “social” – monthly potluck lunches, going out for a team lunch on each person’s birthday, having scheduled ‘coffee chats’, and so forth. And my supervisor has monthly ‘not required but actually required by her boss’ after-hours social stuff like meet for drinks or go bowling. So I would not hesitate to mention these activities and say that it is slightly more ‘social’ than I am comfortable with, and if the interviewer’s company is like that, it may not be a good fit for you.

      However, if your definition of ‘very social’ for your office is that people talk too much about what they did that weekend, their kids, etc., then you might want to find another reason for why you want to change jobs, since many people would consider that ‘normally social’.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Can it be boiled down to too many distractions in your work environment? This would only work if you’re say in an open plan and you’re trying to find a place with private offices or more of a structure because I’m assuming you work somewhere you can hear your coworkers all the time, which is what you mean by too social?

      Unless you mean they make you do too many social activities and are pulling you around to required happy hours and such?

    8. Triumphant Fox*

      What is it about the social nature of this office that bothers you? Are people chatting all day long? Are they interrupting you constantly? Do they ask you about your life and you just really, really don’t want to share? Is it noisy?

      Social doesn’t tell me much and does come across as a bit misanthropic. I’d want to know how my office would be a good fit for you. Do you need a quiet space? Uninterrupted time? Are you just a really private person? The social parts may be hard to signal – but focusing on your work and needing a professional environment would be signs that you wouldn’t fit in a really laid back, chatty, constantly social group.

      Incidentally my last job was open office, constant chatter and everything moved quickly. We had one person who worked there who was incredibly organized, very hardworking and also utterly at odds with the overall culture. You could tell that everything that made it fun/high stakes/thrilling for me was just so anxiety-inducing and infuriating for her. All of our loose deadlines and last minute fixes that came with client work were basically moral failings in her view. Our lunches and after work drinks were just not how she wanted to spend her time. She ended up taking a remote position and absolutely adores it. She really looked at what she wanted out of a new work environment and is thriving there. I admire her both for how good she was at her job despite it not fitting her personality and how she moved on to something better. Best of luck!

    9. blackcat*

      Can you break down specifics that bother you? Would something like this work?

      “I found my working style was not a great fit for their environment. I thrive when I can have dedicated blocks of time to focus without interruption, but the open office plan/layout/workflow of my employer leads to lots of folks popping in and out of my workspace to talk. I’m looking for an environment where I’ll be able to do my best, which means more formal times to work collaboratively and fewer drop in sessions. Does that sound like a good fit for your organization?”

      If you say something like that, be prepared for them to say no! But you might find a place that says yes.

      1. Safetykats*

        I would really try to avoid anything that sounds like complaining about your current job in interviewing for your new job. I’ve interviewed people who have nothing good to say about their current job, and get pretty energetic about telling me all the bad stuff. It doesn’t make you come across as someone I want to hire – it makes me suspect that you will simply find something to complain about in my org too. It’s much better to answer a question about why you want to leave with a reason the job you’re interviewing for would be awesome – always wanted to do x or work with y or something like that. If you’re not leaving your current job after a very short time (there’s no appearance that you’re leaving just to be leaving) that should be acceptable.

        1. blackcat*

          I do think there’s some space to say, “I work better in Y environment, current company is Z” And I actually think it’s a good screening tool. If the new company also has Z environment, they’ll probably go “Oh, not a good fit” and that will be that. And that’s to everyone’s benefit. I think the key thing is not to say “Z is bad” but rather “Y is best *for me* and Z is just got a good fit.”

        2. Samwise*

          If I ask specifically about why an interviewee wants to leave their current job, and they instead tell me why they want the job they’re interviewing for — I’m going to be annoyed that they didn’t answer my question, wonder why they’re not answering it, and I’m going to ask it *again*. If I still don’t get an answer, that’s a strike against the interviewee and for sure with references, especially their current manager, we’re going to press on this issue.

          I’d advise having a really good way to answer that question — and it doesn’t have to be “my co-workers are too social”.

          Whatever you mean by “social” — have some good questions of your own to ask about that, whether it be open-plan layout, after hours socializing, need for focus, etc. Phrase those in a positive way — what kinds of office layout work best for you/enable you to work efficiently and effectively? ask if they have those. That sort of thing. So that the “socializing” is completely separate from “why are you leaving”.

      2. LJay*

        Yeah, this is one of the few posts in the thread that wouldn’t make me actively concerned about whether I should hire you.

        It outlines the actual work impact, talks about what you do want to see, and doesn’t seem overly negative.

        “It’s too social,” isn’t great in that A. I don’t really know what you mean by that. B. Is that really the only reason you’re going to leave an otherwise good job? C. Why don’t you just set boundaries with your coworkers who are too social?

        Another good answer for me would be something like, “After I accepted the job, I found out that there are expectations for a lot of after-hours socialization with my coworkers. Something like that just doesn’t fit into my current lifestyle. When I say that I’m not available, they tell me that it’s not mandatory, but I’ve still gotten pushback that I’m not a team player. I am a team player! I just like to be able to leave work at work. I’m worried that this is impacting my potential for growth at that company, and so I’m looking for somewhere that’s a better cultural fit – where we all get along and work well as a team during the workday, but aren’t expected to spend all night together at happy hours as well.”

    10. Phy*

      I would say something along the lines of, my introverted nature/desire to focus on work with few distractions made it not a good fit with the company culture.

    11. CM*

      Is there some reason that’s more obviously related to the work? I wouldn’t mention this as a reason you’re leaving at all, even if it’s the primary reason.. Instead I’d say something like, “I’m looking for work more related to [New Role] than my work at [Old Company].” Leave the stuff about being social to questions about what kind of work environment you’re looking for and what the culture is like.

    12. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I think I know what you’re talking about, because I’ve been in that situation. It’s not that the workplace is “too social” or that I can’t socialize (I get along with most people, and most people like me!) but that there’s a culture of policing other people’s social interactions. Ex: if you’re distracted when you pass someone in the hallway and don’t say hi enthusiastically enough, you’re unfriendly and cold; or if you can’t stay for Friday happy hour because you’ll miss your train, you’re being antisocial and undedicated; or you don’t like doing karaoke and skits as icebreakers to open monthly trainings, you’re not a team player.

      I think you should really, really think about how and what you don’t like about the workplace culture, not so much so you can tell the new job what you’re looking for, but so YOU know what YOU’RE looking for in a company culture. No one is going to tell you that their company is cliquish, or cult-like, or full of malicious gossips, and you’ll need to be able to ask open ended questions and then read between the lines of their answers.

    13. Alex in Marketing*

      In my opinion, the best way to say that a company was a poor fit is to say something along the lines of: “The culture at [Company] was not a good fit for me. While I was able to achieve [example], [example, [example] there, ultimately, I would prefer working in an environment that doesn’t have open office settings and more quiet work spaces as that is how I produce my best-quality work.”

    14. Indie*

      Be specific so you don’t end up with another mismatch. “It’s a work hard, play hard office; I’m a work hard, go home to cats type’ or “A lot of socialising during the day is kind of distracting to me. I prefer X” It might be worth saying what kind of social interaction you do value as that will help both sides determine fit such as “I like working with coworkers who are passionate about the work (or whatever)”.

  7. embarrassed strawberry without seeds*

    What’s everyone’s thoughts on people CC-ing boss on everything? company is 100+ people and Boss is VP.

    I personally am not a fan of it and only do it when necessary. I feel like always CC-ing boss/manager/supervisor etc when unnecessary is basically saying “hey you’re messing up and boss needs to know.” Would like to hear others’ thoughts on this.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Drives me crazy. It’s blatantly obvious that they only do it when they don’t trust my word, and that sucks.

      I copy my boss on emails I think she needs to know about, and that’s about it.

    2. Murphy*

      There is someone here that CCs her boss and my boss on all emails to me and it is really weird.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      It’s not good. People shouldn’t do it unless absolutely necessary, because it does signal “you are messing up and boss needs to know,” but also because it clutters up the boss’s email.

      1. Trisha*

        Don’t do it.
        I’ve been on the other side (another manager would always copy the director on everything she sent to me, unless it was to admit she messed up, was late, was doing something sketchy) and it really peeved me. She’d tell people that I intimidated her so she copied the director (never said anything to me or specific reasons just that I was intimidating). It just made me not want to deal with her. And the director and I have worked together for oh…14 years now which she didn’t realize. He also asks for help on planning out some of his vacation stuff (I am a cruise guru) so he regularly chit chats with me and we have a great relationship. She has also backstabbed me a few times to my boss (who is not the director).

        I guess I associate copying managers/directors on everything with being a negative employee. I would watch my back.

    4. beagle mama*

      At my current workplace, that’s the norm, essentially so everyone is up to date and so someone can jump in quickly and escalate if needed without having to be brought up to speed. This was frowned upon at my prior employer, where the attitude was “just get it done, I don’t need to know how”.

      I’m coming around to the benefits of my current situation, as I am not asked for status updates as frequently, but I still have the mindset of “tattling”, especially when it’s a follow up.

      1. Lucy*

        This is where I’m at. Everyone relevant is copied on everything (except very boring technical “was the titrate 1% or 7%? I can’t read my writing”) so everyone knows the status of everything they’re involved in. The grandboss reads almost nothing when it first lands, but his PA is excellent at filtering for him.

        I think when you’re used to it you lose the feeling that it’s tattling, and get irritated when someone is left out of the loop.

        That said, I’m dealing with much smaller organisations/teams. There are rarely more than a dozen recipients in total, so each individual’s inbox is definitely manageable. And as I say the grandboss has an excellent PA …

    5. LCL*

      Usually it’s done for the wrong reasons. If the boss doesn’t need to be involved in that level of decision, either the person CCing is playing gotcha games, or they don’t quite understand when to CC people and when not to.

    6. Miss Muffet*

      It’s definitely a culture thing. I struggled getting my team to do it when I was newer to an organization, and my team didn’t have super-defined work they were doing (administrative assistants, so they mostly did whatever came up each day). I kept telling them it wasn’t a punishment thing but a way for me to get a feel for what they had on their plates, but it was nearly impossible to enforce (you don’t know what you don’t know) and I could never really change the culture that made them feel it was punitive.

      1. Ruby Thursday*

        I’m not surprised they struggled! This isn’t the right way to get a feel for this, the way to do that is to talk to them!

    7. OtterB*

      My rules of thumb are to CC boss if (1) (most important) it falls into the realm of “do not let your boss be surprised,” usually non-routine problems, (2) it’s a non-routine communication with one of our board members (we’re a nonprofit, I have an information/data role and it’s perfectly normal for people to email me with questions. I don’t cc my boss on quick routine answers, but I do on anything more substantive just so he knows what his bosses, the board, are interested in), (3) it’s information or an opportunity that might be of interest to other parts of my organization though not to me.

      As I drafted this I realized that “non-routine” was the operative term for me. So boss may get cc’d if I’ve asked you repeatedly for something and I’m not getting it, or if it’s a major problem boss should know about, or if it’s a significant contact outside the organization. If I were boss, I would not want to be cc’d on lower-level stuff.

    8. The Tin Man*

      CCing boss on everything is a waste of boss’ time. I am with others posting here that I only cc my boss when it is something he is working on directly or needs to be in the loop on in case his boss asks about it.

    9. Ashley*

      I hate it but sadly I have several co-workers that it is the only way to get them to acknowledge an email without repeated phone calls and text messages.

      1. Safetykats*

        If this is the case, you should take that directly to the boss – because what you’re doing by cc-ing the boss isn’t addressing the root of the problem, and I assure you it’s annoying the boss. When I have emails in my inbox that I don’t need to see, it’s not the recipients that look bad – it and the sender.

        I think a lot of people don’t have any idea how many emails a typical manager gets in a day. As a very busy individual contributor I got maybe 30-40; as a manager I easily get over 100. Every day. When you email me to tell me my employee isn’t doing their job, that’s reasonable. When you add to my email load by copying me just to make sure they will do their job, that’s showing me you don’t understand how to effectively deal with the problem.

        1. Ashley*

          I no doubt can not effectively deal with the problem and my boss knows it. I work in a place with no real consequences for not doing your job other then I get fix the mess created by co-worker not doing their job.

    10. Nervous Accountant*

      When I first started a few years ago, a reviewer would cc my boss with any corrections on the tax return. I had a quite emosh response to it. A few years later I was promoted to reviewing and when I was “training” I would CC (or rather BCC) my mgr. but it was only to show them that I was trying my best and if they could critique me. But I didn’t want to get the preparer in trouble so that’s why I BCC. I figured that’s why the first person did it to me but that’s my own conjecture.

    11. CM*

      Ugh, I was just the victim of this yesterday when someone CCed our (also VP-level) boss in an email asking me when something would be done. She could have just asked me! It’s not as if she had already asked and I ignored her and now she had to escalate. I didn’t even know there was a deadline until I saw this email.

      1. embarrassed strawberry without seeds*

        Someone on our team missed a small detail about something. Supervisor of another team emailed everyone on that team and CC’d the VP in admonishing us for missing it. The manager of my team was quite upset that VP was CC’d b/c it wasn’t necessary at all.

        VP also happens to be a micromanager. She doesn’t demand that we CC her but every mistake is an indication of a bigger pattern and anything she doesn’t need to be involved in just opens everyone up to scrutiny and criticism.

    12. Jenny*

      I had a boss who required that and it was awful. Like working under a microscope. I actually transferred to get away from her.

    13. American Ninja Worrier*

      Yeah, most of the time I’d consider this an office version of snitch tagging. It tends to imply that you don’t trust the recipient to handle your request on their own, or even that you’re trying to get them in trouble. It also, I would think, annoy the heck out of the VP if they’re not a micromanager and don’t really need to be on the email.

      I’m sure office culture will affect what people think is and isn’t something to loop a supervisor in on, but in general I think it’s best to keep it to a minimum. If I ever do CC someone’s boss, I like to throw in a sentence that clarifies why I’m doing that like “Claire, this is just FYI” or “CCing Lauren so she’ll have a record of this,” or whatever the case may be. In fact, a lot of times if I’m on the fence about CCing I’ll IM someone and ask what they’d prefer.

    14. Mayor of Munchkinland*

      My boss mandates it because she has severe control issues (a whole different issue).

      I’m sure to people on other teams in the company I look like a spineless sycophant but it’s not worth the hell I get when I don’t CC her.
      Not that I don’t get hell when I do.

    15. embarrassed strawberry without seeds*

      Thank you everyone for the gut check. I know from reading here that “tattling”isn’t really a thing but this was bugging me and wanted to bounce it off the people here.

    16. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My practice is to do as my manager requests. I worked for many years for micromanagers who wanted to be copied on *EVERYTHING*. I now work for someone who has requested she only be copied on emails where she needs to make a decision, or cover for me if there’s a vacation scheduled…and it’s taken me a year to remember to leave her off!
      By the way, I made a conscious decision to let it slide when someone else is copying MY boss on everything…after all, they may have been working for micromanagers for years. If they sound annoyed I’ll ask my manager if she has background that I need to address. If SHE sounds annoyed, I’ll ask if she wants me to ask them to leave her off.

    17. Amethystmoon*

      I dislike it but in some companies, it is the norm. It to me seems like a form of tattling. If you can’t work things out with your coworker, then you may have to eventually tell your boss, but you should first try to work things out with the coworker.

    18. LGC*

      I’ve become much less of a fan of it as I matured. When I started in my current position, it was like, “Oh, Jane should know that x is a problem because if I were the boss, I’d want to know any problems!”

      Then I got promoted and Jane got promoted (she’s the operations manager for our entire division, meaning she’s in charge of production for four job sites) and then I realized a bunch of things:

      1) Jane deals with a ton of things – essentially, she has a division with 200 employees to deal with. She manages a lot of stuff, and she tends to be hands on (at times, to my chagrin). I feel like I get a fair amount of email a lot of days (about 40-50 messages per day, although not all of them are things I personally have to respond to). She probably gets many times that.
      2) If I include Jane in something, just that action signals that it’s something major (despite whatever I say). Basically, I’d CC my boss (or one of my coworkers would), it’d become this huge kerfuffle, and I’d be more mad about the resulting #drama than the original problem.
      3) My boss is more addicted to her email than I am, which I didn’t think was possible. So I’d be in the office on a Saturday, email her something, and then she would immediately respond from her daughter’s softball game.

      (And if she’s reading this: on that last note, please stop doing that. Whatever BS I’m dealing with can wait until Monday. And if it can’t, that’s what I have your cell phone for.)

      That said, there are some bosses that do want to be CCed on a lot of things. I think that is terrible and they should go to therapy and unpack why they have this compulsion to have their inboxes become a warzone, but as an employee I’d go along with it.

    19. WalkedInYourShoes*

      I have someone who is a C-level big boss and he cc’s my Big Big Boss with every little thing even he knows when he is wrong. I do not feel that this is appropriate. I started calling him out on it. I totally agree that “hey you;re messing up and boss needs to know”. The Big Big Boss doesn’t stop it and let’s it perpetuate. So, I am looking for new opportunities. Remember, it will continue unless your Boss stops it and tells them to manage it directly.

  8. Transfer Salary*

    I’m in talks to transfer within the same company from a very high COL city (Emerald City) to a moderate COL city (Kansas). Here’s all the info I’ve gathered to come up with a salary number:
    (-) According to online cost of living comparisons, Kansas’ COL is 30% less than Emerald City. (I am not willing to take a 30% pay cut, as I know my pay would not get raised 30% if I ever move back to Emerald City)
    (=) Online research says that salaries for jobs like mine (including at my company) in Kansas are within $2000 of what I make in Emerald City
    (-) Taxes are lower in Kansas than in Emerald City
    (+) I currently get paid overtime in Emerald City ($2500 last year); I don’t anticipate nearly as much (if any) OT in Kansas
    (+) My company typically adjusts everyone’s salary in the summer; I would start in April/May so would not get a raise this year and would be locking in my pay for the next year and a half

    I’ve crunched numbers and factored in all that info: I’d like to ask for my Emerald City (or even 1-2% more).

    Has anyone negotiated salary when transferring? Any tips?

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      If your company’s salaries in Kansas are within $2,000 of your current salary, I think you can ask to stay at your current salary. A raise to move to a much lower COL location feels like a stretch, even given the timing that would delay your next raise for a year.

      1. CM*

        I think 1-2% is reasonable to ask for. That’s not much and if you ask for a raise, they’re more likely to at least keep you at your current salary. (This is a negotiation technique called anchoring — the first person to name a number sets expectations that the other person feels pressure to meet. So if they’re thinking of giving you a pay cut and you ask for a raise, then a pay cut may seem insulting so they’ll keep you at status quo.)

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Sure. Anchoring is a useful technique. But, tbh, if an employee asked for a raise while moving from (for example) San Francisco to Minneapolis I would be pretty taken aback.

    2. Bibliovore*

      I negotiated for my Emerald City salary in my transfer to Midwest lower cost of living location.
      Yes it was more than most of the people that level were making but I made a case for my expertise in the content area, my unique work background and my managerial experience as well as ability to work in “challenging” environments.
      Salary compression is a non-issue given those attributes.
      I received most of what I asked for and a six month review and increase then.
      Good luck.

    3. blackcat*

      No advice but I was really puzzled why you gave one Fake Place and one Real Place and then I was like “Ohhhhhh.” On point analogy.

      1. Liz*

        As a Kansan, I got this reference IMMEDIATELY, and was like “well, we have emerald cities, too!!!!” lol

    4. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I did this when I moved from San Jose, CA to Alabama. I did take a COL decrease but I also cut base hours by the same percentage. I took about a 12% decrease in pay but I also only worked about 35 hours per week. I was salaried (I am in a different job now). Yes, there were weeks when I worked more than the 35 hours but my normal work week was only 35 hours.

    5. Ree*

      So, as someone who lives in Kansas and moved here from Southern California, it is not as cheap as people think it is – income taxes are lower than some states, but if you’re coming from Seattle(Emerald City?) then your taxes are going to go UP and depending on the county/city, sales taxes can be 8-10%+. Also, Kansas is a “no fault” state so car insurance can be higher and vehicle registration is high, IMO. I spent less on car registration in California than I have in Kansas(also, every county is different, Wyandotte County is supposed to have the highest vehicle registrations in the state and it’s a tiny county located north of “the most expensive county in Kansas,” Johnson County)
      Property taxes can be high too, depending on your county.
      Food costs are comparable to pretty much anywhere else – meat is less but fruit/vegetables are higher
      What’s cheaper? Generally housing costs but that is subjective to the area you live in! Some parts of Kansas(Johnson County, Riley County) can be pricey and inventory is limited, both in rentals and in buying inventory.
      Basically, don’t take TOO much of a pay cut – it’s not THAT cheap in this flyover state!

      1. Madame Secretary*

        The OP was not using Emerald City and Kansas in the literal sense, I’m pretty sure, but I could be wrong. I take it he/she’s referencing Wizard of Oz places. I think they meant moving from Big Fancy City with high COL to a Modest Midwest Town with lower COL. But fwiw, i agree with everything you say!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, the post is still fairly accurate. The Midwest has a reputation for being cheaper, and it is compared to Seattle or San Francisco. But that is not necessarily true of everything, as wages are also lower and have not caught up with increases in cost of living that apply everywhere.

      2. edj3*

        All of this. I live in the Kansas City metro area on the Kansas side. Our property taxes are higher than what I paid in Boston, I need more gas because everything is far away (we have land for days here) and public transportation is non-existent.

        If you are buying a house, Ree is correct–you will pay a lot more for the homes in good school districts, and have a much harder time selling if you bought in a not-good school district.

        If you’re moving to the KC metro area and have questions, post them here if you like.

      3. KR*

        Yes! My friends spouse is a Kansas resident and I was shocked at how high his taxes were. There are a lot of them too.

      4. Me*

        As of when I rented a car 2 years ago in San Diego, CA is a no fault car insurance state. Unless Enterprise lied to me. No worries for me as I’m in MD and it’s already that so I didn’t need additional coverage.

        That said, car insurance costs are really complicated beyond just the no fault issue. Definitely check on the difference in rates, but its really unfortunately not as easy (transparent would be a better word) as no fault states are higher.

    6. Transfer Salary*

      The places aren’t literally Emerald City (Seattle) and Kansas, and the COL difference isn’t quite as stark, but the point stands.
      Thanks for all the advice!

    7. Liz*

      Haven’t negotiated salary, but as a Kansan myself, just know “Kansas” is not all the same and COL / taxes vary pretty widely.

      If you’re comfortable, can you tell me the town/city? I might be able to give you more info on COL in terms of rent / buying a house, sales tax rates. (The city I’m in has higher sales tax than the OC and Beverly Hills. Literally.) Depending on where you’re going, I’d be happy to give you info on cool stuff to do and get used to the area!

      1. Transfer Salary*

        That’s such a nice offer (midwestern charm, I guess?) but I was using Kansas as a metaphor.

    8. just a random teacher*

      I have no advice on salary negotiation, but on taxes make sure you’ve looked into differing tax structures in the two locations and not just overall tax burdens for some kind of “average person” who may not be you.

      For example, if moving from someplace that gets most of its taxes from sales taxes to one that gets most of its taxes from income tax, it will matter a lot where your income fits in the tax brackets and you may not be used to factoring that in. (My cousin moved from a no income tax state to a high income tax state, and didn’t really think about how much of a difference that would make for someone making as much as she was in her high-level job versus the “average person” that a comparison site might use.)

      1. Lilith*

        Oh gosh I really thought you were talking about Kansas so I was going to warn you that IS taxes groceries (all food items) too. But nevermind!

    9. Det. Charles Boyle*

      Do you know for sure that they’d ask you to reduce your salary if you moved? Employees at the company I work for move around the country all the time and keep their same salary (if the job title stays the same).

  9. how to make the jump out of detail-oriented roles*

    I am a mid 30’s woman and it seems like I can’t quite get myself out of the types of roles where I’m responsible for tracking things on spreadsheets or checking small things off of other people’s lists. My ADHD and dyslexia makes me ill suited to this type of task; I am prone to careless typos and number inversions, but I understood that the beginning of my career would probably involve this type of work with titles like “assistant” or “coordinator” and that I would need to work hard to push through. I thought if I could be promoted after a few years, I could get up into people management or project planning, which I’m better at.

    However, here I am still getting a fair amount of this type of work in my newest role. Of course I understand that every type of job has details involved, but I really need to get a job where this isn’t how the main thrust of how I’m evaluated. I’ve had many bosses who were bad at this kind of thing and still successful – they just hired young admin women to handle it for them. Did anybody find that this happened naturally as they got into leadership? Or did you have to consciously steer your career in this direction, and if so, how did you go about that? Did you eventually get out of the all little details type jobs?

    1. epi*

      Honestly, the way I got out for good was by going to grad school and becoming qualified in something quite technical that was related to my old jobs. I was a research coordinator, now I’m an epidemiologist. While it can definitely still happen as a woman or someone from another group that is underrepresented in more rewarding roles, people are less inclined to waste your time (and their money) on administrative stuff if you are a technical expert. The weirder your thing is, the better, so that people truly have nowhere else to turn for skill X if they eat up half your week on organizing someone’s calendar.

      For the jobs I have had along the way, I was able to reduce the amount of administrative work by hiding or deemphasizing my experience in it. Emphasize the parts of your job that were more related to what you want to be doing. Remove tasks you never want to do again or that scream “assistant” from your resume, or condense them into a single bullet point. Use the rest of the space for accomplishments related to what you actually want to be doing.

      Talk to your boss about this too. Make sure they know what your goals are, and keep track of how much of your time is spent on the administrative tasks you are trying to shed. In the future, as you hopefully start to gain responsibilities that are more in line with your goals, you’ll know from the start if these low level tasks are becoming a distraction.

      1. Lora*

        “people are less inclined to waste your time (and their money) on administrative stuff if you are a technical expert”

        +1. I’m finally getting taken off the most-despised part of my job when the very last project is wrapped up in a few months, because I am the Weird Technical Expert and they need me to be a nerd, not be a secretary.

    2. Ptarmigan*

      Every industry is different, but here in mortgages, I can’t think of anyone at any level whose job doesn’t involve this. “Young admin women” seem to have gone the way of the dodo bird, at least around here.

      1. OP*

        I totally acknowledge that there are some fields, like law or finance stuff, that would always have a lot of this right up to the top level. Fortunately I’m not in one of those fields (for obvious reasons) or I would really be doomed.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Usually people who can get away from those tasks are moved up despite their pitfalls only due to the luck of knowing someone who will overlook it or who isn’t necessarily aware of the errors/issues. Also charisma and luck goes a long way in careers I’ve seen over the years.

      Yikes yikes yikes @ “just hired young admin women” please rethink that if you are managing people in the future, as HR I just hot-potato’ed at that line.

      My entire career has been driven by luck and greasing the right wheels in the end, find the right people who want to help you excel and not just see you as a number or cog in the machine.

      1. Super Dee Duper Anon*

        I was in a very similar position as the OP until my current job, and I honestly, it did take a lot of luck to get out/move up.

        First stroke of luck – a manager (that I was to support as an admin) got hired who really paid attention. He saw that while yes, as an admin, I occasionally forgot to include someone on an invite or missed a typo or inverted a number, I did actually excel at any responsibilities that used skills that the higher level/more substantive/more big picture rather than tiny detail work did or that required a thorough understanding of the concepts/principles that guide our industry (things like designing user-friendly processes or being able to take a big picture idea and break it into down into the individual steps). So he started giving me more substantive work, which I used pad my resume (he couldn’t promote me because of internal political “reasons”, but he was upfront about it and told me he’d do whatever he could to help me get that sort of role outside of the company).

        On my resume I heavily emphasized the bigger picture work and de-emphasized the admin work. I basically tried to make it look like I was only an admin in title and was already doing that big picture work (which I was – just not exactly 100% of the time). That started getting me traction with big picture work roles, but the second stroke of luck was applying for a role that would report to someone with a pretty non-traditional background/career path himself. He was willing to look past my title and really questioned me about the big-picture responsibilities. He realized that I really did understand that type of work and took a chance on me.

        So yeah, I very much cosign on finding the right people who will look more deeply or who will actually pay attention to the types of things you’re good at (instead of writing you off as an airhead after the first very basic mistake). Its hard, but they’re out there.

        1. OP*

          Thank you for this! Yes, I think finding the right people to help you is probably right, and that may just take patience.

    4. Work the Issue*

      Nearly every position in an office environment (even the higher up mucky-mucks) are spending at least some of their time tracking their activities and checking off lists. I’ve been in many different roles and every single one had me opening a spreadsheet at least once a day. Even my art heavy, graphic design work required me to track client payments and maintain a publishing schedule. It is part of being in an organized office at any level.

      It may be a matter of developing systems and strategies that DO work for you. If you know that this is going to be a part of your work, figure out which tools and systems work best for you. Maybe you work better on a program that graphically illustrates tasks like Trello or Wunderlist?

      What about pursuing a career that lets you work with your hands? Or a role where your time is already managed for you?

    5. 867-5309*

      Epi’s point of going back to school is a good one – or you could earn a certification, which would be far less expensive. However, I’m not sure project planning is a fit if attention to detail isn’t your strong suit. Even if you move into people management, there’s an expectation that you’re still doing work related to the area of expertise.

      As an example: I’m in marketing. Even when I run a team, I’m still expected to write, etc. Depending on your field, it just might not be feasible to get away from the work that isn’t your strong suit. Can you share what kind of work/function/field you do?

    6. Drk*

      I’m in a job that doesn’t quite parallel what you’re talking about here, but I consciously steer my career to avoid the tracking / spreadsheets / checking off things work. It is possible for me because I am in a highly specialized role that requires extensive education rather than on-the-job promotions, but I still have to consciously avoid the detail-oriented work, and there are career advancement opportunities that I won’t even consider as a result.

      That said, there are “assistants” and “coordinators” that I work with who have to do detailed tracking work. From what I’ve seen, they get beyond (or partially beyond) it by being good at it, and / or demonstrating vision, and / or figuring out a way to split their roles so that you have the big picture parts and someone else is hired to do the tracking. Another way someone I know in a different industry achieved this is by moving to a company with a much small team, where she is essentially the person doing her role, so there is no one to track or check off things for.

    7. wafflesfriendswork*

      I have nothing but solidarity to offer–I could have easily written this. Currently in admin hell and working on getting my ADHD treated, but also trying to figure out how on earth I can move into something else when people seem to love me as an assistant (I’m easy enough to work with that I must seem more capable than I am, but it’s absolute misery trying to keep all of the plates spinning).

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah as always I’m able to skate by being personable and having good social skills (and of course I really do try to concentrate and not make these errors).

        1. Kat in VA*

          Holy cow, I thought I was the only one who did this. I’m in an EA role for four execs and the amount of balls I drop, mistakes I make, and screwups I do…I’d probably fire me. But I have a reputation for being a good ear (“People tell me things” is my mantra), I will drop everything and do everything if someone needs it, and I have a huge work ethic (reliable, dependable, cheerful, yada, yada). I’m getting better at slowing down and double checking, but I honestly think if I didn’t have the stellar soft skills, I would have been out on my butt a long time ago.

      2. TheOtherLiz*

        Same same. Some things that have worked for me: 1, Letting my manager know that some mundane regular admin tasks are NOT my strength and asking what I can offload or skip, and if necessary starting to talk about it as an accommodation; 2, actually listing these tasks in my timesheet and not just saying “Oh and of course the expense report” but saying “next week I NEED to file my expense report because if I don’t, it’ll be too late to be reimbursed for what I spent – other things have gotten in the way and I haven’t successfully made this happen yet.” It becomes invisible work to our bosses and if we don’t name it to them, it can become invisible to US, and while it might take little motivation and brainpower for neurotypical folks, for those of us with ADD it can be the WORST and it sits there on my to do list week after week like a growing shame monster. 3, someone in my department started weekly “Data Parties” for us to hop on video chat together while we catch up with our data entry, the worst part of the job. they started it because NOBODY was doing it, on time or otherwise, and I love creating a designated time and space for it, making it more bearable with some company, having the person there who I might need to ask questions abut it, and then GETTING. IT. DONE.

    8. JR*

      A few thoughts: 1) In my experience (strategy and general management roles), yes, the work gets less detailed-oriented over time, as more junior people are expected to be the ones deep in the weeds on data analysis, etc. 2) The said, super importantly, I absolutely still need to have high attention to detail to make sure that the analysis is right. But as I get more senior, I do more big picture strategy and relationship management and less Excel, desk research, etc. 3) Of course, I’m still doing some of the latter at times, plus annoying things like billing and expense tracking and so on. 4) I’ve been surprised at the fact that it’s somewhat hard for me to pass that work on to the more junior people, even though I don’t enjoy it. That’s partly a control thing about wanting it done right, but mostly, I feel bad because I don’t like the work, so I assume they don’t either! And in my context, everyone is busy. But a former direct report had a great way of thinking about it – I should enthusiastically pass on the stuff that is easy/rote for me but a development opportunity for more junior staff, so that I can concentrate on the stuff that’s a growth opportunity for me. Another way of thinking about it is that I need to give them the stuff they’re able to do so I can focus on the stuff that only I can do. I say all this so that you’re aware of the possibility, so when you get to the point where there’s someone to pass that work along to, you actually do it!

  10. Amber Rose*

    OK, help me out here: salary VS not salary in Canada. Did I get screwed when they switched me to salary? I feel like I lost all the benefits of being hourly and got none of the ones from salary, since I’ll still get docked pay if I leave early or whatever, but now the rules for overtime mean I get less. The only benefit is always knowing what my pay will be, but even that’s kind of meh since it was nice to have the occasional giant, 96 hour paycheck. Now when I work a 96 hour pay period I actually get paid less than I would have.

    Also if anyone knows a good exorcist, I think we’ve determined that our computers, phones and excessive ceiling failures are probably caused by demons or ghosts or something. This week has been a shitshow.

    1. Ms.Vader*

      I’m in Canada too. What do you mean you get less? Do you get the same benefits, time off, etc?

      Unfortunately the loss of OT is something a lot of people do use to decide against going into salaried roles. It’s defi a hard decision.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Same benefits, but the way over time works is that hourly folk get overtime for anything over 8 hours in a day, while salary folk have to hit more than 44 hours in a week. Basically, you have to work longer to qualify. And I don’t get the random huge paychecks anymore, since we’re paid semi-monthly rather than bi-weekly.

        1. Ms.Vader*

          Sorry I think I misread your original post – I assumed with a new salaried position it meant you would have also had an increase in benefits but that doesnt’ sound like the case. In that case, it doesn’t sound like being salaried is any benefit to you. I’m sorry that is how it has worked out. Is there a chance of getting back to hourly?

    2. Camellia*

      I thought that if you are salaried and work any part of a week, they can’t dock you if you leave early (assuming less than a half-day), and no pay for overtime.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ll be honest [not in Canada but can weigh in on salary vs hourly part], it’s never worth it unless you’re an executive or high ranking highly compensated.

      If you want to pay me 100k+ and then toss crazy hours at me, okay let’s go. I had that happen at 50k awhile back and doing the math, I was making less than $20 an hour given all the work I had to put into it.

      I want to crawl under my desk and hide with snacks over the fact people can be salaried at so little and accept it because “well I don’t have to punch a clock tho, I’m in such a great luxurious place now!” Noooooo, I want all the overtime compensation for those longer weeks if I’m making working class wages.

    4. Middle School Teacher*

      I believe you’re in AB so your first stop needs to be the AB Labour website. I’ve also had to call them in the past and they’ve been very helpful.

    5. scattol*

      Labour laws are provincial jurisdiction (unless you are a federal gvt employee) so you need to go your province’s website and see what applies to you. They vary from one province to the next.

      1. mkt*

        Yes, most likely provincial jurisdiction.

        But note that federal jurisdiction is not just for fed gov’t, but can also apply for companies in specific industries – banks, telecom, rail/air/x-province transport, etc.

    6. quirkypants*

      Did you have benefits while you were hourly? Then, yes, I suppose there’s very little financial benefit to change to salaried.

      Depending on the industry (or an individual company), though, it can be difficult to progress past a certain point as an hourly worker. I think your best bet is to talk to your boss. I typically work more than 35/40 hours but working 96 hours while on salary is just ridiculous. In my industry 60+ hour work weeks can be normal when it’s crunch time but (a) it shouldn’t be on-going and (b) it should never approach 96.

    7. Anne*

      Being salaried in Canada is different than being salaried in the US, in that it’s not tied so closely with being exempt/not exempt from overtime. Typically if you’re salaried but overtime eligible, then in my experience your employer still expects you to track your time – and if they have to pay you more than 40 hours for working more than 40 hours, they’ll also want to pay you less if you work less.

      44 hours suggests you’re either in Alberta or Ontario. Whether paying you overtime after 44 hours/week only is correct will vary depending on which province you’re in, and whether you meet your province’s actual overtime exemption (unless you’re in a federally regulated industry). Check your province’s Employment Standards FAQ sheet to verify what rules apply to you – Google “Province employment standards”, they’re all online, and you can call them up anonymously to ask a ‘hypothetical’ question if the website doesn’t provide the info you’re looking for.

  11. The Tin Man*

    I wanted to share a win and a thank you from the post about succeeding at work when not neurotypical! I am not diagnosed but definitely have some thing in common with ADD-diagnosed folks and making the matrix of Important/Less Important and Urgent/Not Urgent has helped me keep my head on straight at work and fewer things have been falling through the cracks. I still need to be vigilant and maybe it won’t be my method forever but I am liking it right now. Picture of my board: https://i.imgur.com/kAVQHvF.jpg

    I also made a digital version on Google Sheets for my personal life and that has been good too. I long have had Evernote but never used it. I made a shortcut to the Sheet on my phone and I have actually been using it!

    1. LaDeeDa*

      That’s awesome! I missed that discussion I think, I love this! I teach this method, and a couple of others to my new grads– to help them get started off right. I am so glad you found something that is helping.

      1. The Tin Man*

        You! I had read about it before but your post reminded me of it and that led me to realize it would be perfect for my situation! Thank you specifically, Zephy!

    2. ElspethGC*

      Ooh! Thank you for this visual.

      I’m about to start the process of attempting to get an ADHD (inattentive type) diagnosis as a twenty-year-old, and I’m already running into the good ol’ assumptions that as a student I’m just trying to get a diagnosis for the stimulant prescription. I don’t want meds! I want coping mechanisms! Even if I don’t get a diagnosis, though, I suspect a lot of the inattentive ADD coping mechanisms will mesh well with my brain, so I’m definitely going to mock up something like this when I get home tonight.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        It’s good you’re looking for the coping mechanisms! Those meds are not the magic pills I want them to be. Fix me, meds! (“No,” say the meds, barely looking up from their newspaper.)

    3. What the What*

      This is genius! Thanks for sharing the visual, too. I have a lot of focus/sensory issues that make managing my home and work lives extra challenging. I have a weekly chart system that I use but I like your sticky note whiteboard method much better. Thanks.

  12. AnonymousJobSeeker*

    Hi, I saw a marketing job that looks like a really good fit for me. In the long list of job duties/qualifications, one line says “Adobe Design and Microsoft Suite” and “write and design materials”, but then it asks for a portfolio in addition to Cover letter and resume. I am really torn because I feel like I am a good fit for the job, except I do not have enough Graphic Design experience to create a Portfolio. (I’ve used Adobe Design/Advanced Photoshop in the past, but not for quite a few years, I’d need a refresher.) A “Bachelor’s Degree” (no field specified) is also listed as requirement.

    Should I self-select out and not spend time or submit anyway, as has been suggested, when you are a strong (but not perfect fit)?

    1. Anonysand*

      Submit it anyway. If you have the time, create a few pieces with the skills you do have and combine those with any other materials (including written pieces). Those design requirements might be a minimal need- I work in marketing and while I know the basics of Adobe design suite, I really only ever need it to crop/color correct/add text because we have dedicated graphic designers that do the heavy lifting. It doesn’t hurt to throw your hat into the ring if you feel like you are a good fit otherwise. Good luck!

      1. AnonymousJobSeeker*

        Thanks – that is what I am wondering also, if it’s more like what you say-basic cropping, editing, layering I can do and would certainly put the time in on Adobe to re-learn the program. But if it’s more like a “core requirement” as Ali G says below – then I don’t want to waste their time (or make myself look like I cannot read a job description.)

        1. Anonysand*

          I think that’s really going to come down to and depend on the specific job itself. While my job is in marketing and it listed Adobe Creative Suite as a requirement, my job doesn’t utilize it all that often aside from what I mentioned above. Is the position design-based, like a web or graphic designer/art director/creative director or the like? Or is it something more like a Social Media Manager/content creator/web writer/etc that will utilize designs but not necessarily create them? I think that’s where you’ll find the answer.

    2. Ali G*

      If the application requires a portfolio and you don’t have one, that’s not really the same thing as not being a “perfect” fit. That’s you not having a core requirement to apply. Sorry.

    3. Small but Fierce*

      Would you be able to provide more context? I’m in marketing and while I’m competent with Adobe Creative Suite, I do not necessarily have a portfolio readily available for these types of job listings. Given the large range of marketing roles, it is difficult to give you specific advice based on this post.

      Are they looking for a graphic designer who can create customized logos and graphics from scratch? That’s probably not going to be a great fit.

      Are they looking for a communications person who can put together attractive documents and slide decks? If you’re a whiz at Microsoft Office, you should be able to get by without touching Adobe products. I’ve successfully created and submitted portfolios of design work made purely in Microsoft products before, but the roles weren’t graphics heavy.

      It’s also worth repeating that people receive roles they aren’t 100% qualified for every day. I actually learned InDesign in my first job, even though it was a requirement.

      1. AnonymousJobSeeker*

        My impression is that they probably want someone who can do some program layouts (performing arts, so think theater programs/concert programs). (Maybe there are even templates? Where you drop the appropriate photos, etc.?), but it sounds like there is an equal amount of social media management, emailing customers (“our next show is…”) and even working in the ticket office (as needed). Of course I don’t know, but my guess would be they do not need customized logos from scratch; I can see them wanting to use production photos in the program/media online (but I also know that the head of marketing is a professional photographer, so maybe that person does the in-house photography?) (Would love to pick up some skills like InDesign, etc. on a job!)

        But honestly I don’t know. Unfortunately i do not know anyone (or as far as I can tell, know anyone who knows anyone) to ask “hey, do you know how design heavy this really is?”.

        Thanks for your input/questions.

        1. Small but Fierce*

          Without more information, it sounds like they need someone that can do attractive layout work and write well. For similar roles, I provided past proposals and flyers I created at my jobs. Do you have any work samples that would showcase your writing and document layout work (in Word or whatever program you’re comfortable with)?

          Also, if you have any samples of their current programs or flyers, that would help you determine the degree of graphic ability they’re looking for. Creating document layouts with pictures in Word is pretty common – just a bit more tedious than if you were using InDesign or Illustrator.

          And good luck! I’d love a role like that at a theater, but I’ve only managed to be in boring industries so far.

        2. Alex in Marketing*

          This is possibly something you can ask about should you get a first-round phone screen/interview. I have found that at the very least designing an attractive resume (you can even use Canva) will get you pretty far. Sometimes with marketing jobs, what they really want is a good eye for design who they are willing to help build skills or send to training. Other times, they want solid skills in InDesign, PhotoShop, and Illustrator, especially if they are bringing in a marketer with a rebrand in mind.

          Putting together programs can be quite technical work in Adobe programs, especially if themes/colors/graphics requirements vary from show to show, as I assume they would for this type of job.

          If you are looking for marketing jobs that typically fall on the creative side of marketing, especially specialist/coordinator positions in small companies that do not have a graphic designer or a full-on branding/design department, it is pretty important to have at the very least basics of InDesign and PhotoShop down.

          Local colleges (at least in my city) offer design courses even over the summer. I would suggest looking into taking one as design skills in Adobe products are highly sought after for marketing jobs and many jobs do require you to at least know the basics.

          1. Alex in Marketing*

            I should add: If they are looking for a portfolio, they are definitely looking for someone with really solid skills in Adobe.

        3. Samwise*

          Well, take a look at their website and see what sorts of marketing they have been doing. Can you do that? Can you do better? Put together a portfolio of the kinds of things you think they need [event programs and so on], plus perhaps some plans for managing social media, customer outreach, with say some templates for those [for instance, I make template messages for communication with students, faculty, parents and have a timeline and follow-up process for all of those]. I’m not in marketing, so take all of this with a cup or two or salt…

    4. esra*

      As someone who is involved in a lot of hiring for marketing positions: if we ask for a portfolio and you don’t provide one, that’s basically the end of your application. I’d follow the suggestions to put a few pieces together if you want to apply.

  13. Anonysand*

    So I just got word that I’m approved to go to my first-ever industry conference in July, and I’m really excited. However, it is across the country and it looks like I will be traveling alone. For information: I’m a 27 y/0 female, and the thought of traveling to an unfamiliar city by myself is more than a little intimidating, especially as an introvert and someone with anxiety. I’ve been to at least a dozen of other conferences with previous jobs, but a lot is riding on this one since it’s my first specialized conference in my chosen field. Does anyone have any tips or tricks on how to best manage the travel-anxiety and how to maximize the experience at the conference as an introvert?

    1. Janet Snakehole*

      I’m a list maker, so I will make lists of everything. What to pack, my schedule, my goals or objectives for the conference, places to eat within walking distance, whatever.
      Bring any chargers with you, especially your phone so you can look up directions if you get turned around. Also, scout out plug locations.
      If you will be doing any walking outside, bring sunscreen!
      Take time to step away from activities and breathe for a minute if you need to.

      And this one isn’t really specific to business travel, but I find it eases my mind quite a bit. If you are checking luggage, pack extra socks, underwear, a toothbrush and maybe a cardigan or something professional-ish in your carry on just in case your luggage gets lost.

    2. BadWolf*

      Airline travel doesn’t stress me much alone — traveling around a different place is what causes me stress.

      Can you prebook almost everything (traveling to the airport, to the hotel, to the conference, etc)? There is a risk if you flight is delayed and schedules get messed up, but with online booking options, some transfers are pretty flexible.

      Can you get your hotel at the conference site or in easy (safe) walking distance? Or are you driving? If driving, can you reserve parking spots ahead of time? If you’ll be using taxis or rideshares for the first time, maybe take a practice trip or two in your hometown?

      Is this a conference where you are supposed to meet with certain people? Or can you just give yourself permission to pick up some to-go dinner food and hunker down in your hotel to recharge every night?

      As far as personal safety, pack light so you can carry your luggage without a lot of hassle. Backpack, small luggage. If your job will allow, I would say have your arrival/departure times be not super late — arriving the night before at 8PM (or earlier) vs 11PM or midnight.

    3. La Framboise*

      As an introvert, although older than you and I just don’t give a d*mn anymore, I like to pretend that I am an extrovert, and that helps me to do what I need to do- talk to strangers and network mainly. Also, walk like you know where you’re going, don’t stare into a device too much and ignore your surroundings, and take time to make notes. And eat well and take time for yourself. Hth!

      1. LKW*

        I’m an introvert. I get anxiety. This should not be something that stops you from doing this.
        1. Give yourself time to get there early and orient. Structure your travel so that you’re not rushed to be at the hotel/conference immediately. Go the afternoon or night before.
        2. You’re going cross country not to a remote village. You’ll be able to get almost anything you forget.
        3. Ask for help if you need it. Most people want to be helpful.

    4. Daphne*

      I find it helps to look at maps and floor plans of stations/conference centres so you get an idea of how to get around! I think this will be a great experience for you. Research some of the panels and speakers so if you can catch a word with fellow conference-goers, you can talk confidently about the day!

      1. Annie Moose*

        In addition, if you’re flying, airport floorplans are generally available! Even if you don’t know your gate numbers ahead of time, it could ease your mind to know the rough layout before you get there (and then once you get your gate number, you’ll have a good idea where it is).

        1. Cog in the Machine*

          Also if you’re flying, the airlines will generally have the layouts with gate groupings of US hub airpots hiding in the various booklets/magazines in the seat backs.

    5. JR*

      Print out all of your travel and conference booking information. If your company books through a travel agent, also print out their contact info. Keep this all in a folder in your carry on bag or purse. It makes it easy to reference things if you have terrible cell signal or can’t connect to wifi or don’t want to spend too much time scrolling through your inbox trying to find the right email.

      I do well with maps, so I like to spend some time on google maps before I travel to get a sense of where the airport is in relation to the hotel and conference space, estimate travel times, scope out food options, etc.

      Ask if any of your coworkers have traveled to this conference or city before. They might have helpful recommendations.

      1. Anonysand*

        Luckily I’ve traveled to the city in question before for other conferences and conventions (four times, if my count is correct), but I’ve never been to this specific area of the city or the hotel/conference center in question, let alone by myself. I’ve already been scoping out maps to figure out how to get from the airport to the hotel, but I like your idea to take printed copies of the maps and confirmation documents just in case.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The hotel probably can tell you how to get there from the airport. If it’s close, they likely have a shuttle. If farther, they likely can give you some guidance on what most people do.

    6. Maya Elena*

      I love traveling alone, getting to the airport with time to spare, eating and people-watching, doing small good deeds – being nice to the security people, letting that poor frazzled mom with kids go in front of you in line – reading, watching take-off and landing from the window.

      If possible, I wouldn’t bank on using travel time for conference prep (unless it’s a very long flight) because you don’t know how well the little table will accommodate your laptop or if some turbulence ruins your handwriting.

      For the strange city, prep some in advance. Find out whether Ubers can pick up at the airport, and where (a special location?) or where you’d pick up the rental car. If you find yourself worrying about where the taxi/Uber is taking you, and GPS doesn’t suffice, look up the major routes in the area in advance and make sure you’re going in the correct general direction. Once there, either you’ll be stuck in a podunk area with nothing around but highway, hotel, and the local restaurant – in which case, no problems except boredom – or in a nice downtown. There you can do advance prep on what to do in the evenings or afternoons off (when it’s talks you don’t need to go to, for instance), and you can probably get a free downtown map from the hotel, plus suggestions on where to eat, get drinks, go dancing, etc.
      Good luck on your trip!

      1. BadWolf*

        Oh yes, it’s much easier to feel relaxed when you’re only wrangling yourself through the airport. You can be the island of chill between angry couple and sleep deprived parents trying to get their kids to the plane in one piece.

        Since you don’t leave until July — if you’re in the US, having TSA Precheck is pretty handy. There is a cost and paperwork and time, but it saved my bacon at least once in getting through security quickly. It also (usually) reduces the number of things you have to juggle going through security (taking out liquids, taking off shoes, etc) which can be handy when traveling alone.

    7. Llellayena*

      Become familiar with the google map of the area around the conference center (street names, nearby lunch locations), street view can help so the area doesn’t seem completely “unfamiliar” when you arrive. See if there is an airport shuttle service to and from your hotel, arranged door-to-door transport is SO much better than “which bus am I taking?” for relieving anxiety about a new location. If you’re not right at the conference hotel, check again for arranged transport to and from the conference. At the conference, push yourself to talk with the people who sit down next to you at the sessions or lunch tables (talking about the sessions you attended is a good opener), but don’t try to go out of your way to approach anyone unless you really want to (maybe wait for day 2). Vendors are great people to talk to because their job is to engage with people and there’s a built in topic of conversation. If the conference has tours or more interactive sessions (Q&A or hands-on type) those are good ways to feel like you are participating and not just listening. Have fun!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Talking to the people next to you is a good point. View it as part of your job as an attendee–it helps things run smoothly and you never know what unexpected information they might have that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. You can build in time in the evening, or perhaps between sessions, to decompress from the people-on aspect.

    8. Blue*

      I’m a highly introverted woman in my early 30s who does a lot of solo traveling. For me, the best way to deal with nerves about traveling to an unfamiliar place is to be as prepared as possible. On the plus side, traveling for a conference takes a lot of the variables out of the picture – most of your time is already accounted for, you probably don’t have to do a lot of research on places to stay, etc. Regardless, I always type up a cheat sheet with my flight information, hotel address, rental car information if needed, etc. and confirmation numbers for each, print it out, and keep that close at hand at all times. For work travel, I’ll include the contact info for the admin in our office who handles financial stuff if there are questions about hotel payment or whatever.

      If I’m going to need a rental car or take public transportation from the airport, I look up that information ahead of time and figure out where I need to go and/or what I need to do so I feel prepared when I arrive. If I have to drive, I probably have the route printed out, just in case. I avoid checking a bag whenever possible, and I make sure everything I could conceivably need on the flight itself is tucked into my “personal item.” Essentially, I try to control for everything I can – it makes me feel more prepared, which puts me in a calmer state of mind to deal with any hiccups that might arise.

      Attending a conference solo when you’re an introvert is EXHAUSTING, imo. I found myself in this position just last week. I made the most of it by making some conference buddies – people I sat around during the early sessions and chatted with a bit. When we crossed paths again, I tended to gravitate back toward them, since having some semi-familiar faces was better than nothing. I also strategically chose to skip some things to save my energy for those that seemed more important and ended my nights fairly early so I could retreat for some quiet time. I’m not going to pretend like I wasn’t run down by the end, because I was – I even took a couple of days off to recover from pretending to be an extrovert for five days (and to make up for missing my weekend). But it wasn’t as painful as it might’ve been because I tried to be conscious of my limits.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Seconding the advice to type up a one page document with all the information (addresses, phone numbers, confirmation numbers). Ideally print it out and stick it in your carryon so you don’t have to get out the laptop to check things. I’ve been known to put this info on the back of a google map printout of whatever would be useful to have if I am out of cell range or battery, like the route from the hotel to the conference if they’re not in the same building.

      2. Caterpie*

        100% agree about conference exhaustion as an introvert! I allowed myself one meal a day where I would take a plate out to a little-used floor/corner/outside area and eat by myself. The other meal(s) I forced myself to try and network, but that one meal alone was a lifesaver for me! Skipping less-relevant sessions and ending early are great suggestions too. I sat in the very very back with my computer when I felt like I was running out of steam and I actually found a woman who is a leader of my field back there doing the same with her Kindle!

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m not sure what about the prospect of traveling to a new city is fazing you.

      Having a hotel room to yourself, and traveling alone to the conference and back, should help a lot on the introversion front–you may have to be actively engaging during meet and greet or information sessions, but you have the image “I’ll go back to the hotel room and have a bath and read my book” to power you through the high interaction segments.

      1. Anonysand*

        It’s not that the city is new (I’ve been there many times before, just not this particular area or the airport), it’s that I’ll be traveling by myself for several days in a place that I’m unfamiliar with, without anyone I know around. As I mentioned above, I’m in my twenties and a female, but more so, I’m 5 feet tall and pretty petite. I’ve always had traveling companions, which gives you some sense of security in terms of safety or even just the acknowledgment that someone is with you and knows where you are if something goes wrong. My only option from the airport is to take a cab or an uber to the hotel (12 miles, I’ve already checked), and I’ve never done that solo- I don’t live in an area with cabs or much need for ridesharing, so I’m used to driving myself around and being in control. I’m well aware of the kinds of danger out there for women, and I’m already an anxious person by nature, so all these things added up is making me want to be as prepared as possible.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’m 50, but a petite blond female introvert and probably something of a head-turner in my 20s, and none of this is registering to me. I’d suggest it’s your anxiety rather than the known risks of being female, or young, or short, or alone. My daughter is tall but otherwise hits all these marks and solo travels to other continents.

          To get a cab, get in line for a cab at the airport. To get an uber, know that the estimated times the app gives are to your destination, not to picking you up (this threw me at first–why at a major airport is the closest uber 50 minutes away?). The app should give you directions to the pickup area for ubers and the skycap-type people will tell you as well. I live in a suburb with no public transit and drive or walk everywhere, so I only take cabs or ubers when I travel, but it’s not that hard to figure out–thousands of other newbies are also figuring it out each day and doing okay.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Re the anxiety–I think the things you are worried about are unlikely, but also more likely if you are projecting “Oh no I am doing it wrong I am lost I must have messed up.” And so you look less likely to push back against someone who strides up trying to project authority at you. It’s body language far more than height, at least until you look like you might be a lost bouncer. A common tactic is to stride off purposefully at random until you are at a good spot to stop and dig out your phone/map/etc and check. Also all the advice about using google maps to figure out the route, if there are restaurants near the hotel, etc.

        2. BadWolf*

          I short and female and I get where you are coming from. I live in an area where most people drive everywhere so taking transportation (taxis, trains, etc) is not something I need to do often. Heck, only a month ago was the first time I used a ride share app.

          If you plan to do Uber or Lyft, download the app now, add your payment info so it’s all set up. Sometimes they have sign up deals, so you could even do a reduced price fair around town just to try it out. You can also go to the Uber or Lyft website and do a fare estimate so you can see how much it will cost to do airport/hotel.

          I recently used SuperShuttle do a hotel/airport transportation when a taxi/ride share seemed a lot more expensive. It often takes long because you’re probably picked up and dropping off other people, but you’d be more in a group situation (and I was able to rebook via their app a couple times when my flights went awry).

        3. Maya Elena*

          Cabs vs. Uber/Lyft from airports have pluses and minuses for each. I’d argue that the likelihood of you being harassed in the latter, at least in any harmful way (other than the driver making small talk with you and asking you if you have children, hehe) is small. Beyond that, it’s really a matter of preference. Here are the main pros and cons I can think of:

          Cabs – PRO: well-integrated into the airport ecosystem, with signs where to go, an established “pecking order” for assigning you to a cab, everyone knows what to do. There’s often a flat fee to go to popular destination (e.g. downtown), which is ideal because then the driver has no incentive to take detours. If the flat fee exists (you can probably look it up), bring along $100 in twenties and pay the cab in cash with tip, esp. if work pays for it. (Cabbies prefer cash in general is my experience.) Sometimes they also know the area better than random Uber driver.
          CONS: If there’s no flat fee, they might take you some weird way to get more money; they sometimes dislike credit cards and make a fuss when you pay with one, especially for smaller charges; they may be more expensive than Uber. No end-to-end location tracking, except through your own phone. No recourse really if driver is unsavory in some way.

          Uber/Lyft PRO: You know your driver’s face, plate, car make and model in advance; your location is tracked end-to-end; no cash is exchanged, including tips. If the driver harasses you or deviates in any way, you can complain and the company is more likely to take your side (at least, the drivers like to complain about this!). The drivers mostly know to just use the GPS, no questions asked. Often, but not always, cheaper than a cab and/or better service (varies by locale).

          Uber/Lyft CON: Many airports don’t allow Ubers to pick up there, or make it really inconvenient. Major exception: Seattle-Tacoma, where they have a dedicated and easy-to-find location for ride-share pickup. If your destination is pretty close (don’t think this applies for 12 miles, but yes for <5), drivers try to weasel ways of finding that out and then canceling on you because the short trips aren't great, especially given the extra costs and overhead of airport pickups (which I don't know all the details of and varies by city). Also, the newer drivers might be unfamiliar with the local geography and are dependent on the GPS.

          1. JR*

            The fact that Uber/Lyft are tracking my and the cab’s location makes me feel extra safe using those two, but I’ve also never had a negative experience in many solo cab trips in cities around the country. It’s completely appropriate in either case to exchange pleasantries when you get in, then bury yourself in the phone and not talk further. If it makes you feel better, text someone the cab’s medallion number and let them know you’ll text them when you get to the hotel. Or put the hotel into your GPS and watch yourself moving along the path, so you know if the car is going in a substantially different direction (allowing, of course, for alternate paths and such) – just mute your phone if you do this!

        4. PennyLane*

          I remember feeling like this the first time I traveled alone! I’m an introvert w/some anxiety too and a short woman. I’m also a planner and researcher, so I always want to know everything about what I’m getting into. When I had to go on my first solo trip, I realized I’d never flown by myself- always with my parents and I just followed along even as an adult because they knew what to do. So I was nervous I’d do something wrong. First, I asked my mom what to make sure to do and have for the airport . I also did some research on the arrival airport so I knew where to park, check bags, go for security and where the gates were. It’s nerve wracking the first few times, but 10 years later, I feel much more comfortable traveling solo for work even though I only do it a few times a year. I realized it’s always pretty easy to find your way around an airport (domestic ones, can’t vouch for international)- just look for the signage and ask if in doubt.

          I do a little research in terms of check in/out times and find out if the hotel checks baggage (since I’m usually working before/after those times). I also download any apps I need and save the places I’ll need to know addresses to in Google maps (like hotel, airport, conference location), so I can easily pull them up. I always print off my hotel confirmation and flight info and then have a list of addresses or important info on 1 page that I just keep easily accessible in my carry on. When I fly, I use a backpack for my carryon- I put a purse inside so I can switch it out if I need to check the backpack when I arrive. I keep anything I need for the flight in there- it’s so much easier than fumbling around with 2 different bags and it fits under my seat so I don’t have to worry about finding that elusive overhead bin space (of course, that only works if you check a bag or are an impressive packer).

          I was a late Uber adopter, but I decided to try it out since not all cities have easy access to cabs or public transit. I only use it when I travel and then I’ll uninstall it til my next trip (I never use it where I live), but it keeps your account info, so that’s easy. The first time I think I had to just kinda figure it out and ask people standing around if I’m in the right place. Now, I can help those confused newbies at the airport! But when getting to/from the airport, there are often other options like shuttles you can pay for- the airport websites are usually good resources for that.

          As for security in a city, you can always google places to avoid or if you have colleagues there, ask where you should stay and avoid. I don’t have tons of money to travel, so when I travel for work, I love to get out and explore at night or if I have some free time when I arrive. You can be attacked anywhere, I don’t necessarily think one place is much safer than others. You just have to be hyper aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Don’t walk around with headphones on or your face in your phone- look around you and if someone tries to stop you, just say no and keep walking. Don’t feel like you need to engage to be polite. If you don’t feel safe using public transit or walking, take cabs and ubers. Or see if others want to join you. You can also ask a friend or family member to do checkins or do one of those find my friends apps.
          I also have this cat knuckle keychain that I sometimes take that you could easily wear on your hand while walking around- but don’t put it in your carry on-it’s considered a weapon.

          The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll feel. It helps you gain confidence realizing you can figure it out even if you didn’t plan something.

    10. DAMitsDevon*

      I’m an introvert with anxiety too, so conferences can definitely burn me out a bit. One thing I like to do is plan out what I’m doing during break times and the end of the day so that I know have some time planned just for myself to recharge. The last conference I went to was within walking distance of a bookstore that I hung out in one night.

      I also like looking at nearby restaurants on Yelp ahead of time so I have an idea of where I can get food near the conference in case they’re not providing every meal (and so I can have an excuse to get out of the hotel!).

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The news is being alone lessens stress induced by having no control over your companions. No waiting carpool to the center or to/from other sites.

      Be early. Explore. Use maps. It’s the era of tech, you get lost less in my experience.

      I’m anxious and introverted and love traveling alone.

      1. MayLou*

        I definitely find travelling to large cities (London usually, in my case) much easier when I’m alone. I’m an introvert with anxiety, and I find planning very helpful. If it’s just me I have a far better chance of sticking to the plan, and fewer people’s needs to factor into altering the plan. My wife’s a wheelchair user and prefers to wheel across the city than try and figure out an accessible public transport route. I have a fatigue disorder and find London exhausting without spending 30-120 minutes walking round the streets, so far prefer the Tube – so predictable! So structured! So antisocial! When we travel to London together, we have reached a compromise that is accessible to us both: taxis.

    12. Steggy Saurus*

      I’m an introvert and go to conferences alone. I don’t have travel anxiety, so I can’t help there, but here are some conference survival tips I’ve used with success.

      Find one or two people you might know in passing and try to develop a business relationship. The first time I went to my professional conference I did force myself to attend the “new attendees” mixer: consider giving this a try if your conference has one. Either way, finding just one or two people gives you someone to sit next to and potentially a dinner partner one night. I admit that I was a shameless clinger in my first few years: I found those few people and definitely made sure to seek them out every year at my conference, setting up lunch or dinner plans early on. Just having a couple faces to seek out when you walk into a session helps: it’s such a relief to find someone to sit next to that you “know.”

      Scope out a mini mart or supermarket near your hotel and hopefully get a room with a small fridge. Buy breakfast foods and snacks and stash them in your room so that not every meal needs to be had with other people around. You ground yourself in the morning with coffee and breakfast, then you can maximize your “on” time while the conference is happening.

      If you like to unwind with a beer or something at night, keep a bottle opener in your toiletries bag. This way you can unwind at night in the privacy of your hotel room without the annoyance of not being able to get into your beer (ahem, yes, this has happened to me)!

      If there are small sessions or poster sessions, use this as the opportunity to talk to someone rather than asking a question in a heavily-attended session. Have a question written down to ask the presenter. Poster sessions (if this is a thing in your field) are great because they’re crowded and you probably be forced to talk to any one new person for an extended time.

      1. Steggy Saurus*

        One more thing: if you can possibly swing it, give yourself a recovery day off from work when you get back. I almost always take a vacation day post-travel. That day of solitude makes a huge difference for me.

    13. cmcinnyc*

      I’ve been to some great conferences and I love them but the first ones I went to were nerve-wracking. I’m more extroverted and not particularly anxious–my point is that doing this can for the first time can be tough for anybody. My top suggestion is to stay at the conference hotel if at all possible or as close to it as possible. There were a couple times I just needed to go to my room and regroup, sort out all the paper I’d been handed at various panels, give myself a pep talk, and get back out there. Easy to do if you can zip to another floor for 20 or 30 minutes. Also, if the hotel has a pool or a fitness room, plan to use it. You might not have time, of course, but exercise, for me, makes everything better. Also, I drastically limited alcohol. It’s a bad crutch when nervous. I don’t have a high tolerance and the last thing I wanted to do was get accidentally drunk!

    14. Bostonian*

      As a fellow introvert who still wants to make the most out of conferences, my advice is to focus your socialization energy. For example, decide that you’re going to talk with people at your table at lunch, but skip the after-conference dinner/social hour, or whatever set amount/combination of activities you are most comfortable with. If you try to do it all in the first day or 2, you are going to be drained really fast!

      If it makes you feel any better, I’ve also traveled alone to unfamiliar cities as a young, 5’1″/130 lb female (NYC, Philly, etc.), and have never been in a position to feel unsafe. Common sense/street smarts go a long way. If you’re concerned about cabs, you can look up your rights as a cab passenger so you’ll know if you’re getting swindled. (I once got into a cab, and 5 minutes into the ride he realized his credit card machine was broken. I think there was something wrong with the fare box, too. I only had $7 cash. I felt bad, but I knew he still had to take me to my destination, even though he knew he wouldn’t get paid the full amount.)

    15. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Planning is your friend — which means maps are your best friend. Look at Google Maps to identify the airport, the conference center, and your route between the two. If you’re taking a bus or train, learn the name of the stops before & after your destination as well. Stop-before gives you time to gather your things & move to the door. Stop-after lets you quit worrying about missing your stop because you’ll recognize the name of when you might need to turn around and go back.
      Dig up the conference center’s building map and figure out where the important things are — auditorium, conference rooms, bathrooms, food court, vending machines, elevators or escalators, and a route to your hotel. Read the schedule ahead of time and figure out your preferred schedule along with second choices in case the schedule changes.
      Get these in hardcopy or print them because sometimes we want to talk on the phone while walking…and sometimes our batteries run out.
      Load a QR reader app onto your phone to take advantage of any “download here” info.
      Google the city itself to find out what they promote as interesting. If you can plan time to do one non-conference outing, you’ve got instant smalltalk conversation. “My flight was early enough I asked the Uber driver for a side trip to see the riverfront. Have you seen it?” or “The hotel brochure said Famous Dead Author grew up around the corner. Do you think it’s worth the walk?”
      Oh and plan to retreat to your hotel room when you need to recharge. Bring something small that soothes you, be it the socks you’re knitting or a zen coloring book.
      Remember to look for someone else who looks nervous – you may well have that in common at least. And it may sound silly, but remind yourself that everyone’s asking each other the basic questions and that’s okay. Where are you from, what’s your interest in this conference, does your company ahve a booth, etc. Enjoy!

    16. AliV*

      I think it’s good you are asking for strategies here. I had a teammate who clearly got nervous over travel and would ask lots of questions on conference calls about details she could have looked up herself. It really diminished her stature in the eyes of our teammates and managers, as she was seen as someone who needed hand-holding. So good for you for asking here and not at the office.

    17. Workerbee*

      Is there a Twitter account/hashtag associated with this conference, or any other social network forum around it?

      I’ve found that joining structured discussions around an event help people plan in advance, especially if it’s their first time to said conference and/or they are solo attendees. People make pacts to meet up so you know you’ve already got an acquaintance or two on the other side, conference veterans share tips, etc.

      I also agree with the others who say to try to nab a room in the conference hotel itself.

      And once you’re there, you’ll be surrounded by people who are ostensibly there for similar purposes, and that common ground helps smooth the way toward conversations.

      Other things that have served me well:
      –If you see someone sitting alone during lunch, sit down with them.
      –If you find yourself drawn into a group conversation, keep an eye out for passersby who look like they’d like to join in but don’t know how–and bring them in.
      –Set at least one goal for each day you’re there. “I will talk to 5 vendors.” “I will talk to X presenter after the session.” Whatever makes sense for the venue.

      And have a great time!

    18. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      Do some research on the city, the location of the conference (e.g., neighborhood and venue, like hotel or conference center), the dress code at the conference (probably business casual but I don’t know). If you cannot stay at the hotel where the conference is being held, stay nearby. Since you are female (and I am too), I hope you won’t be offended when I say please stay at a place with good security in a safe neighborhood. I once arrived at a hotel where it took 45 minutes to check in and I then found that my room was on the first floor all the way at the back. Uhhh, no.

    19. Samwise*

      At the conference: any time there is a meal or a meeting where there are round tables with unassigned seating, pick a table with a few people and introduce yourself. Everyone’s wearing a name tag, so you don’t have to worry about remembering names [= my weakness]. Have some open-ended questions prepared: Which sessions have you attended / which sessions did you like / were most useful?
      Have you heard Keynote Speaker before? Yes — what do you think of her message? No — me either! I’m really interested to hear what she says about X.
      I see [from the nametag, bless whoever first came up with them] that you work at EvilCorp / in FabulousCity — how did you end up there?
      I see you work as a HeadBeanCounter, that’s actually a job I’m aiming for at SmallCompany. What do you like about it? Or, I’d love to pick your brain about being a HeadBeanCounter! [see if they are receptive, if yes, ask a few questions and, if you want to know more and they seem receptive, say, I’d love to talk more about this, you’re so helpful! Could we get a cup of coffee later today/after this session?]

      Even if it’s just a casual conversation, I jot down the person’s name and something we chatted about to help myself remember, and if I see them again at the conference I’ll say hello and ask something from the conversation [Hi Sally BeanCounter! Did you get to session on Abacus Vs. Fingers?]

      If you exchange business cards [don’t forget to bring yours and remember to put them in your briefcase or jacket pocket etc so that you have them when needed], you can jot a note on the back of the card. Be sure to follow up after the conference, usually I send an email with a question or if they asked me a question, I send the answer.

      I am super introverted but I’ve learned to get over the shyness and anxiety by having these kinds of scripts ready, and also because I’ve been making myself do it for many years. I also try to pick tables with people who seem really different from me — so maybe people who are older or younger, people who are dressed up more or more casually, people who present as a different gender or race, and so on. I really love going to conferences in fact — often I will learn something interesting at least one session and if not, then I meet some interesting people.

      And, obviously, allow yourself down time in the hotel room. Get room service one night if your employer allows it!

    20. Ahead fish*

      I don’t know how much this will help, but at least for airports, it helps to remember that airport staff are 100% used to dealing with basically every airport-related crisis a person can have. Your sole duty is to arrive on the airport an hour or two before your flight leaves, with your identification. Very long security lines and you might miss your plane though you technically were an hour early? They’ll let passengers with very little time to get to their flight through first. Miss a connection because of weather? They’ll rebook you at no extra cost. Miss a connection because of delays? They’ll rebook you at no extra cost. Lose your boarding pass? They’ll print a new one for you. Phone dead? Talk to them at the desk to get a new boarding pass. Paper boarding pass not working? They’ll tell you where to get a new one then let you skip ahead. I even have boarded my domestic flight with only a perscription bottle and spare credit card, because my wallet was stolen during my trip. Not sure if it helps, but people really underestimate what airport staff are able to do, bless them. Just stay polite if you do have a crisis.

  14. Tiptoe Through the Tulips*

    I’m applying for an executive assistant position that requires a bachelor’s degree. I only have an associate’s degree. I hope my 15+ years of experience will make up for that and figure there’s no harm in trying. Should I address this directly in my cover letter? Or not explicitly mention it but instead focus on accentuating how I grew my knowledge and other positive things that do make me suited for the position?

    From the job description, it’s mostly stuff I’ve previously done and nothing so complex it requires a degree. I have no concerns about my ability to do the work so I don’t want to automatically be disqualified for not meeting that one requirement.

    1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

      I know all jobs vary and there may be a reason for needing it, but I HATE jobs that have strict requirements like that without allowing an equivalent number of years experience as a substitute for no reason. This question is also ironic because I just watched Second Act the other night!

      I’d only mention your lack of degree briefly, basically starting with “Though I do not have a Bachelor’s…” and really hammer them with your years of experience (which are a lot and very valuable) and all that you’ve learned from them.

      However, if they do mention anywhere at all that experience can substitute a degree, then I’d leave the caveat about the degree out.

      1. Kathenus*

        You could also phrase it a little differently to highlight the experience part first, versus the degree – “I believe the combination of my 15 years of experience and Associate’s degree make me a strong candidate for this role”, or something along those lines.

        While some employers can be very rigid with these types of arbitrary minimum qualifications, many to most seem to take a combination of education and experience into consideration.

        1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

          That’s definitely a good way to put it! I was originally worried because I wanted her to show that she’s fully aware of the stated requirement, but yours has a more positive focus that doesn’t detract from her accomplishments.

          1. Kathenus*

            I’m with you on showing she’s aware. It’s close to a dealbreaker for me when an applicant does not meet the stated requirements (not preferences) for a job and doesn’t acknowledge that fact and why they believe they would still be a good candidate.

      2. Tiptoe Through the Tulips*

        Thank you! Alas, the job posting explicitly states a bachelor’s degree is required AND 5-10 years of experience. I’ve seen some postings that indicate experience can be a substitute but that it not at suggested here. I’m not getting my hopes up about this job as a result but I at least want to try.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          If you’re applying through an ATS, you’ll likely get excluded by the sorting algorithm, unfortunately.

        2. Antilles*

          I wouldn’t parse their wording too much. Even if they don’t explicitly mention “substitute extra experience”, hiring managers usually still will do so mentally. This is extra-true since you’re way above their expectations in experience.

        3. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

          That’s seriously the worst, but I think your degree and years experience more than makes up for it! Good luck!

        4. Nessun*

          I was an EA for over 15 years, and I don’t have a degree of any type. I do have a designation through the IAAP, which I specifically got to counter the “lack of education” on my resume. I would absolutely apply regardless of the wording on the posting – if you’re not auto sorted out, your cover letter will allow you to explain why your experience matters more than the (sometimes) arbitrary degree requirements. Best of luck!

          1. Kat in VA*

            Same here – HS diploma only and I barely got that (long boring story, parents divorced in my senior year, was tired of eating rice because no one was home, got a job at 17 yada yada).

            Some places require it, some don’t – my current employer was smart enough to realize that 20+ years working my way up from receptionist – general admin – department admin – EA was more than enough to qualify me for my current role. He was less concerned about spending 4 years in college (that no one in my poor family could afford) and more concerned about whether I could do the job. (Bonus points – he didn’t consider my speech impediment, which can be really gnarly some days, to be a problem. They’re all a bunch of deaf ex-military so they’re used to saying WHAT on a regular basis anyway.)

      3. Narvo Flieboppen*

        I agree with the hate for set in stone degree requirements. Fresh out of college, never had a job, but you have a Bachelor’s degree? Come on in! Whoa, whoa, whoa, you have 12 years experience but only an Associate’s? We’re not even going to accept your application, ya bum!

        Had one recently which was even more fun during the application process. Requirement listed of Bachelor’s degree or 5+years industry experience. Start the online application, and the first question it asks: Do you have a Master’s degree? If you answer no, you get booted from the process and cannot reapply. I called the contact listed in the ad and she specified that is correct, they only want applicants with a Master’s degree or higher for an entry level position. But the ad is also correctly worded, according to her, because a Master’s degree isn’t required even though you must have one to apply.

        To quote the esteemed Inigo Montoya “You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it means.”

      4. Me*

        I can only tell you what my employer does. If it requires a degree and does not state anything about experience in lieu of, you wouldn’t get an interview regardless of years of experience.

        Especially for jobs like admins, where there tend to be A LOT of applicants (the last one we had had 236), it’s not fair but it’s an easy way to limit the pool.

        Apply but don’t be surprised if they do decide to use the degree as a pool limiter.

        1. Kat in VA*

          This may just be my own bias talking, but I’d rather the HS graduate with five years’ experience be interviewed than a college grad with no or little experience. A bachelor’s degree in no way makes you more qualified to be an assistant in a corporate environment.

    2. Miss Muffet*

      A lot of postings will say something like “degree or equivalent experience” so that can help and wouldn’t necc need to be called out specifically in your cover letter. I think you can probably just talk about what your experience brings without being specific about the degree.
      Having managed administrative assistants, who did not have degrees, I think the thing that the degree might have offered has more to do with the experience of college – the way that people learn to problem solve in collaborative environments. Which – obvs – isn’t the only place to learn it, but that was something I often thought was missing from people on this team. It was less about the degree and more about the soft skills.

    3. BeachMum*

      I have done a fair bit of hiring for administrative positions. I put ‘Bachelor’s Degree’ in the requirements to weed out those who have no education or experience (i.e. I’m not hiring an entry level position). However, I have hired those with a lot of experience and no degree. Given that a single administrative position ad will generate hundreds of resumes, I’ve tried to eliminate those who are totally unqualified from applying.

      (That said, it doesn’t work and I get totally unqualified candidates.)

      Apply for the job. Your lack of a degree should be more than covered by your years of experience.

    4. Moonbeam Malone*

      I don’t think you need to address it explicitly in your cover letter – focus on your experience and accomplishments and it should be self-evident why you applied despite having a different degree.

    5. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      A trick for this is to build that resume to really hammer home your experience and accomplishments doing the job so that a human reading it will believe that you’ve got them covered.

      AND … to help a computer actually pass you along after the ATS search terms are entered … write in one of your bullets in the top bit of your resume where you’re telling them your highlights, “Bachelor’s Level experience in Llama Management”. This places you into part of the right crowd without actually lying. Your associates degree and any additional professional development/training info can go in the Education section.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Unless it’s a government position or other place who must follow “requirements” to the death, don’t read too much into it. They’re trying to weed out the flood of resumes from resume spammers which still doesn’t work well for most.

      Don’t acknowledge the fact in your cover letter. It’s to sell your skills not point out things you’re missing from their listing. It’ll put a blinking sign over you saying “I know you said bachelor degree but let me prove you wrong.” Just catch their attention so they don’t focus on the degree as a sticking point.

      If they have leeway to opt for experience vs degree level, will flex it. If not, the screeners will toss your resume and the letter won’t be read anyways.

    7. Tiptoe Through the Tulips*

      Thanks for the advice, everyone! I just applied using wording similar to what Kathenus suggested and can only hope my resume isn’t already in the reject pile. I had to apply through zip recruiter and of course it asked two questions before submittal: one about a background check and one asking if I have a bachelor’s degree. Boo. I’m trying to temper my hopes about this job since it’s likely my resume went straight to the “doesn’t know how to read job requirements” pile.

    8. Nana*

      Did you attend college? I did, but didn’t graduate. I’ve always listed my education as
      Decent College – English major; Llama minor
      No dates, no degree. Never a problem. [At one job, after 2 years, someone casually asked if I had a BA or BS…and I casually said ‘neither.’ No issue

  15. Where to next?*

    To all Executive Assistants who are no longer Executive Assistants: Where did you go next? The CEO recently told me that he can’t promote me again after my recent promotion to EA because “it would look like favoritism”, so once I’ve lived out my time here as an EA, I’m going to have to look outside the company. I don’t want to be an EA forever–I’m thinking about getting my MBA and trying to be an executive myself someday! So I’m just looking for possible paths to take.

    1. The Rain In Spain*

      I know some EAs who have gone on to project management type roles, perhaps that could be a path worth exploring?

    2. The Tin Man*

      I like this question but am more than a little baffled at your CEO’s stance. You can’t be promoted EVER again? And favoritism is fine – unless he founded the company he became CEO because he was “favored” by the people in position to make him CEO. Is he worried that if you are a woman that it will look like he is favoring you for unseemly reasons? Favoritism is not bad. Unearned favoritism or favoritism to the point of being blind to criticism of someone would be the problem.

      I think EA to Project Management could work due to some overlapping themes – being highly organized, coordinating timelines, managing people’s work even if you don’t have hire/fire authority over them, etc.

      1. kbeers0su*

        Agreed. This stinks of some combination of sexism and…a lack of actual appreciation for an EA’s skills? Which is probably also sexism, because most EAs are women. Also, this is the crap that makes good people leave their jobs. So how’s the CEO going to feel when OP up and leaves and he gets upset because he “was so good to her by promoting her”?

        If I were you, I’d start looking now. This gives me bad vibes.

      2. Where to next?*

        Yeah, it’s definitely not a great stance. He’s the founder’s son, so I think he has a little bit of insecurity/impostor syndrome and it makes him want to follow what he thinks are “the rules” to the letter.

        I do like the PM aspects of my jobs–I do a lot of project tracking on his behalf–but it seems like a lot of those roles are IT-focused and that area is not a strength of mine. Do other companies have non-IT PMs?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          LMAO @ he’s tghe son of the founder and he’s talking about promoting his EA would be viewed as favoritism! That’s rich.

          The fact is that the people who you support directly know you best and therefore should be able to promote you if they see fit. It shouldn’t be routed in “Man, I like Where to Next, she’s so kind and a bright light to be around…let’s just forget that she’s forgetful and burns holes in my desk sometimes and gets us fined heavily for not meeting standards but she’s so pretty and nice, therefore we will promote her to CEO when I’m gone.”

          Our CEO is the former assistant to the owners, so just byeeeee to that nonsense. Their previous CEO was promoted from within, not a direct assistant but close enough to them that they knew her personally because hello, that’s a huge amount of trust and responsibility, that’s why you don’t just throw up a job ad on Craigslist for your next CEO.

        2. The Tin Man*

          Companies definitely have non-IT PMs! A good friend of mine is a PM with a sales background and works at a tech company! My company also has PMs without an IT background and we are a very much non-tech company.

    3. Kelly*

      I went from an EA to a Project Coordinator. It was a move to an exempt position, which in healthcare seems to be a big deal. I’m taking a LBBC (Lean Black Belt Certification) and the PMP (Project Management Professional) to move more into a Project Manager role.

    4. Schnoodle HR*

      I know a lot of people in HR who came from an EA background. You could easily slip into any department’s assistant. Marketing assistant, HR assistant, things like that and move up from within.

    5. SamIAm*

      Not knowing your industry, it’s hard to get specific, but I went from EA to running a specific program (or area). It required a lot of organizational skills which is what I used to talk my way into the position! Interestingly, after a few years I went back into the admin side because I realized that’s what I really enjoyed. It gave me some great experience though and I am no longer doing typical EA stuff (it’s complicated but basically I have my hand in a lot of stuff!)

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Your CEO is…weird.

      I went into department management and business administration, with the focus of CFO in mind for the future. So I did EA work for business owners focusing on their accounting.

      Being an EA often is like being apprenticed into the executive office. Your CEO should be trusting you and giving you more projects to boost you into department management or project management kind of roles not just saying that you’ve peaked as his assistant.

      The whole point is to show you the bottom up of the process that goes into running an entire business. Don’t let this one CEO taint your dreams or ambition, I’m glad that you know that you’ll have to leave some time and can look elsewhere.

      1. Where to next?*

        I would love it if this was the attitude. It’s been great and I’ve learned a lot, but he says after this if I want to stay here, I’ll have to start over from the very bottom at a lower salary in a specific department. Maybe I’ll go to another EA role after this and see if that opens any other doors, too. I never meant to stay in this position too long anyway. Thank you so much for your encouragement!

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I encourage you to remove yourself from anything he has any power over. He’s not a CEO you want to learn from.

          There are many different ‘kinds’ of executives out there and he sounds like a little pissant to be honest with you. The good ones want to build their empire by coaching you on how to take it over one day because of course they don’t live forever and don’t want to work forever.

          You have learned valuable skills and you can get a better EA job that will blossom faster the next time around. You just have to find the ‘right fit’ in this case.

          Most people ask you where you see yourself in five years and you need to be honest that you are working assistant roles in order to climb the ladder. Then they can either be the ones who are happy with that mindset or the ones who stink who think that once an assistant, always an assistant. Those people are classist fools and should not be tolerated for longer than it takes you to reap whatever rewards you can get out of the situation prior to bouncing on your merry way.

    7. LKW*

      I got a MS in information systems while I was an admin and then moved to business consulting. I only been working as an EA about 5 years after college so it wasn’t a huge step back (and it was a big step forward salary wise).

    8. cmcinnyc*

      In my company, some EAs have moved to Project Management, but usually they got some kind of additional training or certification first. However, our company does tuition reimbursement, so they did that while working full time and it was paid for. So if your company does tuition reimbursement, you could go for that MBA right now.

      1. Where to next?*

        I would love to find a company with tuition reimbursement. I requested it here and it was another “no, it’ll look like favoritism.” Also the reason I can’t go to industry conferences even though he’s said he’d like my help there. Sigh.

    9. Live & Learn*

      Our chief counsel has the most amazing EA and she’s helping her develop skills to move into project management since her position has a natural ceiling. Her organization, diplomacy, calm under pressure and familiarity with the business are all highly transferable skills.

    10. Nessun*

      I went to project management! My career went receptionist to admin assistant to executive assistant, and then my boss offered me this opportunity as a manager. He understood how my skills organizing the group we worked with (and my continuous learning) would be a benefit in the role, and suggested me for it. I completely understand the “can’t go higher” thing…sometimes the structure of the company doesn’t support it, and sometimes people don’t understand how admin/EA skills translate to other positions. However if you can show the correlation and continue to work on your degree/program, it IS possible to move out of the EA role. That visibility was key for me, as well as the skill set.

  16. Jonah*

    Finally, finally got a new job! I’ve posted here before about how I’m concerned that my current organization is going under any time now thanks to shady practices by the CEO, and I appreciate all the encouragement from the community. My new job will have a nice pay increase and a title bump, I’ll get to hone my creative skills, and it’s going to save me nearly $15k a year in miscellaneous costs associated with commuting, groceries (I get free lunch every day!), and healthcare premiums/copays. I couldn’t get them to go up at all on the salary, but thanks to all the great scripts on the blog and in the comments, I was able to negotiate an 80% increase in vacation days! Now I just have to make it over the hurdle of telling my current boss I’m leaving… Thanks, everybody–this is such a great community to be a part of!

    1. Anon for this*

      Holy crap! 80% increase in vacation days? I couldn’t get my current company (that I otherwise love) to match my third week of vacation I had JUST earned but not even gotten to use at my last job (the second time I earned three weeks of vacation I then had to give up…) despite trying to negotiate that. Very well-done!

  17. ATX Salary*

    I’ve tried the things Alison recommends to research the market rate salary for a position/city with little success; I either get flooded by quotes for “software architects,” or find a huge range without information about what experience level pairs to the quoted salary, or find job adds that say vague things like “aggressive compensation” or “excellent pay” or “competitive salary” which is NOT HELPFUL.

    So here goes: I am a midlevel (8+ years) registered architect, I have project experience from design phase through construction administration, and 3+ years Revit experience looking in Austin TX.
    Is anyone else in a similar position/location and mind sharing their salary?

      1. ATX Salary*

        I’ve done 3 to 4 things on your list – I started with online salary websites, but ran into the problems you mentioned (too wide a range). Then I tried job postings, with no luck. I’ve contacted recruiters in the area, and never heard back, I reached out to people at other companies and again got vague answers (lots of “X, but great benefits”, “$Y and ABC perks…”).
        So I’m just trying to cast as wide a net as I can :)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I reached out to people at other companies and again got vague answers (lots of “X, but great benefits”, “$Y and ABC perks…”).

          Those sound pretty specific to me, but maybe I’m not understanding.

    1. Ranon*

      The AIA does a salary survey every year, their online tool isn’t terribly fine grained but it does give a pretty solid range of data based on surveys of actual employers, and digs into the salary differences based on employer size. You can also pay for the report if you’re wanting very specific info. In my experience it’s pretty close, although Austin is a bit of a goofy market in the region due to UT producing grads that stick around and Austin being the “cool” city to live in, although I think it’s leveled out a bit as Dallas and Houston have grown.

      1. Llellayena*

        Oh this is awesome information! I’ve had similar uncertainties about what an architect’s salary is really supposed to be. My starting salary here ended up at $15,000 less than what the salary calculators generated for me (fresh out of grad school and without any contacts in the field, so no chance to research elsewhere).

    2. Sal*

      If you are googling information and getting the “software architects” results, try putting “-software” in your google search and that will eliminate results that include software. Might help, although if jobs list experience with specific software and use the word in the listing, those will get filtered out as well.

    3. Architect*

      Source: Am registered architect, practicing 12+ years, have worked all over the country and formerly for a company with a Texas HQ. Recently went through an intense job search.

      Salaries for experienced architects can be skyhigh currently depending on what you are looking for. If you practice on the restoration or forensic side of the industry (or if you are interested in exploring that), salaries are 30% than the design side. In Austin, with your years of experience, a license, caveat that I don’t know your particulars, in a PM/Senior Architect role, I would expect you to receive offers around $80K plus benefits. Take that with a grain of salt, but that’s my thought. If you are interested in going to a Terracon, Amtech, WJE, DeSimone-type firm, you should get very strong salary offers. I know a few people in the forensic and enclosure architecture world in Austin – if that’s your interest, I would be happy to pass a resume along. My email is fjthecham at gmail dot com.

  18. Tigger*

    I had my review this week (you may remember 2 weeks ago I was freaking out about giving myself a self-evaluation) and it went great!
    My boss is impressed with me and my growth in the role. The one criticism he had is that coworkers have complained about me being too confident and cocky and I should watch how I am perceived. This has been bugging me all week because I have a ton of self-esteem issues and no one has ever called me confident in my life and 95% of my coworkers are in another country so I only email them. I figure it must be my writing style that is offensive to them and not my personality.
    Is there a way to not come off cocky in email? Is this something that is not a big deal? I am a female so I wonder if it is a tone issue?

    1. Observer*

      It’s easy to misjudge tone in an email ESPECIALLY if you also communicating across cultures.

      Perhaps you can ask your boss for some specific examples so you can moderate your tone. Tell him that you certainly don’t mean to sound cocky or arrogant, so you’d like to have some samples – good and bad – to help you convey the right tone.

    2. sparkle phone*

      Ask your boss for more specific feedback and advice on what to do instead. I think you’ll be able to gauge from that whether he was just passing it along as an FYI, it’s a minor thing, it’s a major thing, etc. and hopefully get more concrete advice. (Maybe it would be beneficial to do some things as a phone or video conference rather than email? It would put less pressure on your word choice in emails if your coworkers have a sense of you as a person.)

    3. The Rain In Spain*

      Honestly I add exclamation points to emails sometimes and often thank people for their time/input/etc to help soften email communication (which I strongly prefer to phone calls). Little things like making sure you’re saying good morning/afternoon and wishing people good weekends can help too.

      1. LJay*

        Yeah I do exclamation points a lot.

        I also selectively use emoticons in certain cases.

        I figure my generally serious demeanor in person means I can get away with them without coming off as immature or too bubbly or informal or whatever.

        And they help a great deal with softening things.

        There’s a world of difference between “Thanks.” And, “Thanks!” or “Attached.” And “Attached. :)”

        And really usually it would it would be the difference between
        “Attached.”

        And
        “Hello,
        Please see attached for your requested signed Llama Form.
        Please let me know if you need anything else!
        Thanks,
        LJay”

    4. Middle Manager*

      I’ve definitely seen more criticism of tone when it comes to women in my office, so it’s possible that’s playing into it. Given that it’s email though, I’m thinking that your gender isn’t as big a factor. I think email is just rife with the ability to be misinterpreted. I second the suggestion above to ask for some specific examples. Also, if it’s possible, maybe try to communicate things by webinar or phone? Build the relationship a little more so it’s not as likely to be misinterpreted?

    5. 867-5309*

      I wonder if you are subconsciously over-compensating? Coming across as too informal or too casual… also, look at the country norms with which you’re communicating. I’m an American living in Norway and often get perceived as being “too confident” or “arrogant.” But Norwegian culture is one of suppressing individuality in favor of norms, and so forth, so that feedback makes sense and I need to adjust my style a bit accordingly.

      1. Tigger*

        Do you think that Canadians and Americans have huge cultural differences like that? I have never thought that it would be vastly different like your situation

        1. No Name Yet*

          Speaking as an American who lived in Canada for a few years, that kind of cultural difference absolutely can show up. In some ways even more, I think, because we expect to be more similar, so the differences stand out. Also, if you’re the American, some of their perceptions could be related to how they expect Americans to act.

        2. Live & Learn*

          I’ve noticed a pretty big difference. I’m a Canadian living in the US and notice small things regularly. Americans tend to come across as very confident and sure when they write/speak, even in some cases when they don’t mean this to be the case. Think of small things. Canadians tend towards more “we” or “us” terms, whereas Americans tend towards “I” statements. Canadians speak faster but their speech has a unique uptick at the end that tends to sound like a question which can seem less confident or more like they are gauging consensus. Sometimes it’s just perception of tiny details that matter to someone.

        3. only acting normal*

          I’m Welsh living in England and there socio-cultural differences between those two countries (ie next door in the UK). So US vs Canada – yes.

        4. Canadian Natasha*

          As a Canadian I’d say there is definitely a stereotype that Americans are more brash/loud/obnoxious which could colour any cross-cultural communications you have. It’s obviously not universally true, since we have plenty of our own like that, as anyone who works in a public facing job can testify. However, it is a fairly common stereotype. It can come across in writing style when there isn’t the same level of pleasantry or when requests are made more bluntly than we would make them.

          Actually, speaking as a western Canadian, we have that perception with certain other groups of Canadians too (Albertans and Torontonians come to mind).

          1. Canadian Natasha*

            I should clarify that I absolutely don’t agree with the stereotype (or with treating “Americans” like one giant monocultural unit).

            Practically speaking it might help to compare the style of writing in your emails with the style in your other country colleagues’ emails and see if you can identify any different phrasing that might be reading as cocky in yours.

            And of course, we are also not free of sexism in Canada so it very well could be a gender-based tone judgement and not a cultural difference. Here’s hoping that’s not it!

    6. Narvo Flieboppen*

      As a word of caution: We had an extremely toxic former coworker who would pitch her own personal complaints to the boss as ‘everyone else says this about Wakeen/Fergus/The Mountain’ even when no one else agreed with her at all.

      She tried it with me, and it came up in a review, where supposedly I let the power of my supervising one other person go to me head and I issuing orders to everyone in the office. I told the boss I couldn’t think of any orders I issued except giving instructions to my one direct report, and even most of those were ‘Do task X, then W, then V, today please’ when things were odd and we had to change the usual flow. I then asked for explicit examples of when this had happened, so we could discuss how things may have been misunderstood and how to prevent it in the future. The boss had to come back and apologize because after actually investigating the complaint, it was baseless and there were no examples available.

      I strongly recommend asking for concrete examples of the behavior in question – either you learn something about yourself and your communication skills to make positive changes or you may learn the problem isn’t you at all.

    7. SarahKay*

      Asking for concrete examples definitely seems like a good idea.
      Also, is it possible that your boss is expected to include an “Area for Improvement” in your review and this was the best he could come up with? I know that at my company our annual reviews are required to include an area for improvement, so if you’re really rocking your job sometimes the suggested improvement can end up a bit woolly.

  19. COS*

    Do you socialize with colleagues outside of work? I work in a small team of young, hip women (I’m female and the oldest by about 8 years) and they all frequently socialize together outside of work. I get invited but usually decline saying it clashes with plans because all of my previous roles after college were not into hanging out outside of work hours and this is kinda new to me. I also am a sideways upward step in seniority from them so don’t want them to feel weird by me being there. Am I being a fuddy duddy?

    1. AliP*

      I’ve worked at offices where people would do things together outside of work, but it’s not really something I’m super comfortable with. I did like all the coworkers at this particular job, so I would make an effort to signal friendliness when it felt more “work-friendly” to me. So, for instance, I would attend a happy hour after work when we were celebrating with work colleagues, or go out to lunch with this group every now and then during work hours. Again, I really liked all these people so it wasn’t a hardship and it helped me get to know folks, while still keeping comfortable colleague boundaries.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I don’t socialize with co-workers, I barely have enough time to keep up with my existing friends. I never left the metro area where my college was, so I have had several well-established social groups for decades.

    3. ten ton trucks*

      I don’t socialize with coworkers. This was actually handled really well at my last workplace: there were a bunch of coworkers who socialized a lot together after work. They invited me to a few things but were fine when I turned it down. Everyone was cool about it, I only heard about it in things like coworker A checking in briefly with coworker B about if plans needed to be changed or whatever. It’s totally fine for some people to be social and some not to be and works out just fine when no one is trying to make it into a Thing.

    4. ClumsyCharisma*

      I did before I got married and had kids.
      Work was a younger crowd, many who were not from the immediate area so it was natural friendships formed at work. Even though a few of us got promoted into management we were all in different departments by that time and never became an issue.
      I don’t really anymore because my outside of work priorities have changed but I did really enjoy those work friends at the time.

    5. Sloan Kittering*

      I can’t tell if you have any interest in actually hanging out with your coworkers, but it kind of sounds like you don’t. That’s fine. They are probably doing it because they expect it to be enjoyable and they want to blow off steam after work / build a personal network together. Especially in the lower ranks you build comradery this way and it’s nice for people who are new in town / trying to make friends – but I doubt it hurts anybody to pass – it’s not like good ole boy networking that pays off in power moves, if it’s what I’m picturing. I have been the instigator of such happy hours in my office. If somebody never takes me up on the invite, I stop inviting them after a few rejections unless they say something like, “oh I really wish I would like to, please keep inviting me.” (Just FYI, in case you later are like “why don’t they ever invite meeee? I want friends!”). If you can show up briefly one time that helps show that you’re not rejecting them socially, you’re just busy with other stuff.

    6. Doug Judy*

      Rarely. If it’s a work sponsored occasion I try to make it, but just to hang out? Basically never. I like most of the people I work with but I see them more than my spouse, kids, and friends. Outside of work they are the last people I want to spend time with. I engage with them and will eat lunch together at work, and I think that’s enough.

    7. LDP*

      I think you’re fine to socialize with them as long as it’s something you want to do! I don’t think they’d invite you if they didn’t want you there. I have a coworker who’s on my team but manages his own team and is technically higher than me in the office hierarchy that I socialize with frequently outside of work, and it all feels very normal! As long as you enjoy their company and actually want to do whatever activity their doing, I think you’re perfectly fine to accept invitations.

    8. The Tin Man*

      I never do but it is also not really the culture at my current job. One time I invited the colleague I work the closest with and her husband to my apartment for a big Thanksgiving party my fiancee and I throw – that’s about it.

      At my first ever post-college job I felt weird because a lot of the other younger employees hung out together. They invited me to lunch then…didn’t really talk to me. As in I would sit there in complete silence as they talked about things I wasn’t there for and people I didn’t know. It took a while to realize that even if I am shy that was more about them and less about me.

    9. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      I personally hang out with varying groups of coworkers outside of work, the typical group is only 4 or 5 people, with occasional larger outings (think everyone in our division is invited, maybe 1/3 attend). These outings with my smaller group of friends are maybe every two months, with the larger gatherings once or twice a year. I don’t think anyone in my office cares one bit if someone never participates or only participates rarely – there are absolutely people in these categories.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I find it helpful when I need to ask people for favors that are more personal, like covering my role while I’m on vacation or sending me a file while I’m offsite, if I’ve spent some human time with them. But also I genuinely enjoy making friends my with coworkers and finds that it improves my job experience. If other people don’t feel the same way, I think that’s fine too! It is unlikely to affect your office success in my experience.

    10. Zephy*

      It sounds like you’re in a more senior role, but not a supervisory one, right? It should be okay for you to come to a happy hour or lunch without it being weird, if none of them actually report to you/you don’t have any real authority over them. If you do have some level of real authority over them in your role, then you’re right to decline the social invitations for as long as that’s the case.

      1. Dave*

        I think you can still safely go to the occasional happy hour or lunch as a supervisor. Just don’t stay as long and maybe buy a round.
        I prefer not to hang out socially with co-workers but going out with the group on occasion does make some work situations a little easier.

    11. Jaid*

      Maybe once a month I go out to dinner with some of the ladies from work. Birthday person gets to choose the place, like a hibachi joint or Outback. Two of them are in my unit, the others are women I known over the years.
      One of us is vegan and others insist on going places where they can get cocktails, but we make it work. Usually, we chit chat about work and family.

    12. ATX Language Learner*

      I used to socialize with coworkers a lot when I was younger (26) and now I do not (32). It caused some drama and other people would want to join in which made it weird if we didn’t want them to. Cliquey? Likely yes.

      I don’t have an issue if others hang outside of work and I lean towards the side that it’s not my business nor do I care what they do as long as it doesn’t affect their work or their professional relationships.

      As some of the other commenters have said, I barely have time for my own friends so I don’t have any interest in developing good friendships at work.

    13. Amethystmoon*

      Only if they also happen to be in my Toastmasters club, or a Toastmasters club and we end up at the same event. I do online gaming a couple of nights a week as well, so the few nights I don’t have anything planned, I use for doing chores.

  20. Update question*

    Hi everyone. About a year ago 3 letters were published here.

    One was from someone who was worried because their new/incoming manager was going to be a nightmare to work with (We’ve heard rumors that our incoming new boss is a nightmare)

    One was from someone asking if a job candidate should be disqualified because they were a reality TV star (Should being on reality TV disqualify a job candidate?)

    And one was from someone whose friend had lied about a job candidate and what a good employee she was (Someone I’ve known for years lied to get me to hire someone terrible she wanted to get rid of)

    I was wondering if there are going to be updates from these letter writers? I’m really curious to know what happened and out of all the letters published here I think about these 3 the most. Alison, could you add these to the list of letter writers you want updates from please? :)

    (Links to the actual letters to follow in a reply.)

    1. Update question*

      We’ve heard rumors that our incoming new boss is a nightmare

      https://www.askamanager.org/2018/02/weve-heard-rumors-that-our-incoming-new-boss-is-a-nightmare.html

      Should being on reality TV disqualify a job candidate?

      https://www.askamanager.org/2018/03/should-being-on-reality-tv-disqualify-a-job-candidate.html

      Someone I’ve known for years lied to get me to hire someone terrible she wanted to get rid of

      https://www.askamanager.org/2018/03/someone-ive-known-for-years-lied-to-get-me-to-hire-someone-terrible-she-wanted-to-get-rid-of.html

    2. Amber Rose*

      The reality TV one got an update. If you search “reality TV” in the site search the update is the first return.

      1. Update question*

        Thanks! Don’t know how I missed that one, but I’m glad I got to find out what happened.

    3. Another Sarah*

      +1 Another person here who wants to see an update to the ‘New boss is a nightmare’ letter.

    4. Liane*

      I think I missed the reality TV update, must go searching. And I’d like to see updates to the other two.

      (In case people new to AAM are reading, Alison runs a lot of update letters during December/winter holidays period. We look forward to them and it lessens her workload.)

  21. Southern Belle who needs advice!*

    Hello, I need some advice about culture in the American workplace. I am early in my career, and very overweight for my height. I am a woman. I am trying to lose weight, but in the mean time, do you still think being overweight will hold me back from professional development and the opportunity to move up? I have read articles in the past that being fat holds you back, and wanted to see if that was still the case? Would anyone be willing to share their experiences with me? Thank you!

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Ignore the b*stards. Show up as your beautiful self and kick ass, and people will respect you for your work or you’ll keep looking until you find a place that will. If you look at the thinkpieces you’d just stay home all time because apparently women can’t get ahead, mothers can’t get ahead, people who didn’t go to Harvard can’t get ahead, people without personal connections can’t get ahead – and yet, I see leaders in my community showing up every day taking names and getting stuff done and carving out a space for themselves in spite of the cesspool.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        What Sloan said.

        I’m always a fan of people working to be healthier and happier – whether that’s physically, mentally, or emotionally (or other!). Good luck on your journey.

      2. sparkle phone*

        THIS. Look, something might be true on a macro level, when you zoom out and look at the workforce as a whole. But that doesn’t mean anything about YOUR career. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you frame things as, either I have to substantially change something about myself, or I have to accept limits on what I can achieve. Yes, sometimes you will run into someone who, consciously or not, openly or not, will hold your appearance against you. Guess what? You would run into those kinds of people no matter what you weighed, who will take issue with all sorts of random ish about you. You can’t win trying to please everyone.

        As someone who’s in the same boat, some advice: don’t put things off “until I lose weight.” Investing in work clothes that fit and look good, opportunities to meet others or present or whatever’s important in your field. Learn to project (and, ideally, actually feel!!) a confidence that is not rooted in your weight, or your appearance at all. I wonder how much this “fat holds you back” phenomenon is actually how we are taught to think of ourselves and present ourselves (or not) to the world.

      3. Garland not Andrews*

        I agree! What Sloan said!
        I am a woman of pretty serious size and I have not had issues. I prove that I am competent and a great employee and worker. I am respected for what I can accomplish.
        There are places where size may limit professional advancement, but those are places you don’t want to be anyway!

    2. Observer*

      Yes, it will. No one will admit it – you’ll hear all sorts of garbage. It’s not right and it shouldn’t be that way – it’s both immoral and STUPID. But, we know that people can be stupid, and that even mostly good people can be delusional about stuff like this.

      The good news is that weight is not destiny. Yes, it’s going to hold you back with SOME people and with SOME companies. But most people will not be hung up on this. If you’re good at what you do, easy to get along with and confident in yourself and you’re work, you’ll find your place. Confidence is the key, because that’s what keeps you looking till you find your match.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Plus you don’t want to succeed at those companies. They are probably awful in myriad ways. Places that expect women to look a certain way probably have other gender / hetero-normative issues IME.

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        I totally agree with Observer. At some places it will hold you back. I also think that those places tend to be places in which your role is customer facing and the company wants to project a certain image to clients. Positions that are about your quality of work, technical knowledge, or output, in which you may never be seen, tend to skew less that way. And confidence is totally key! (And in my opinion, a fantastic wardrobe that fits your body well and allows you to present yourself as a “pulled together” professional doesn’t hurt either)

    3. OtterB*

      I’m not sure you can speak broadly a single American workplace culture. In general, yes, there’s a bias against people who are overweight. My impression is that it’s stronger in industries and organizations where image matters. I think it matters to present yourself well – so, well-fitting, professional clothes, appropriate makeup, etc., but again, the expectations vary a lot by field and location. I am a woman who has been overweight throughout my 40+ year career and am not aware of having been held back by it, but I never wanted to work in a high-profile organization or role anyway.

    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Appearance in general can help or hurt a career: too tall, too short, too heavy, too skinny, too dark, too pale, big boobs, no boobs, too feminine, too masculine, too old, too young…It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. Be confident in yourself and others will follow (mostly — there’s always going to be trolls).

    5. Catleesi*

      There are always going to be people that are jerks about this, and as someone who is pretty overweight myself I can’t say I don’t worry about it (and my mom specifically told me to which doesn’t help). What I’ve found, and decided, is that I don’t want to work with a bunch of fat-phobic jerks anyway. Even if I wasn’t overweight, I figure do I really want to surround myself with those kinds of people? Focus on doing your job, and doing it well, and workplaces and people that are worth your time and effort won’t think twice about it.

      I’ve had a lot of different jobs and I feel like I’ve excelled at most of them. I can’t say it’s not in the back of my head, especially if I’m meeting new people, or talking to groups, or travelling – but when I’m working with good people I know they are concentrating on my work and not my body. As they should.

      And as someone who has tried, and failed, and tried again to lose weight so many times (and stiiilll hasn’t) – I hope you don’t let whatever happens with your own weight impact your professional goals. I’ve often put off things “until I lose weight”, including jobs/school/etc, and it’s led to me not yet doing things I really want to do in life. I’m not saying this is you – but I think it’s something common among those of us who are bigger because we’re made to feel like we need to look a certain way before we’re allowed to want or have things thinner people do.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I think there’s real fat shaming that goes on in our society, but it’s hardly limited to the workplace, so people who have to deal with this are already going to experience it going about their daily lives – at the grocery store, on vacation, at the doctor’s office, whatever. You might as well go ahead and pursue what you want in the meantime, because it’s not like you’ll be “safe” if you don’t. (Also see: being a woman generally).

        Having said that, my thinnest friends are often just as weight-obsessed and limited by appearances as my larger friends, although I acknowledge that they don’t experience the same societal consequences. But they are still terrified to eat, think obsessively about their weight, feel like their lives would be soo much better if they lost five / ten / twenty pounds, whatever, still limit their own options and choices because of this fear. It is super super sad to me. Especially when my heavier friends express that everything will be so much better when they’re thinner.

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      I am also very overweight, and I have never had any problems getting a job or advancing in my career. I’m in my 50’s, and working what for me is a dream job — all remote, with a little bit of travel, working with/supporting/implementing software that I’ve been using for years and am very familiar with. I’ve had this job for about a month and a half. I was considering 2 offers, and this company, well, to put it bluntly, upped their offer and threw a crapload of money at me. That, with the opportunity to be all remote, was just too good of a deal to walk away from. And honestly, I’m making more money now than I ever thought I would.

      So for me, it has never been an issue career wise. I also personally have never experienced any sexism or having my input dismissed because I’m a woman. But I do have some pretty specialized expertise, so most people aren’t normally in a position to challenge or dismiss what I say, because they don’t have the same skill set that I do, if that makes sense. I’ve also been told that I have a very “calming” and “competent” demeanor, which gives people confidence that I know what I’m talking about. This isn’t something I’ve deliberately tried to cultivate over the years, it’s a by-product of knowing my sh*t and being confident in my subject matter.

      So, my advice for you — which would be my advice for anyone, regardless or age, size, gender, or anything else –is to make an effort to always present yourself professionally (meaning don’t show up to work in yoga pants and flip-flops), and work hard to learn all aspects of your job so that you’ll be known as a SME or go-to person, or whatever you want to call it.

      And, most importantly, be open to any opportunities that might present themselves. I have an accounting degree, and started my career in Finance. After a few years, I ended up working at a company in the Accounting department, and became the resident expert on the ERP system. That allowed me to move into a more IT-focused career, and it’s what I’m doing now and will do until I retire. It’s not what I imagined for myself, at all. But had I had blinders on, and said, “No, I’m an accountant, not an IT person,” I would have missed out on what is, for the most part, a rewarding and fulfilling career.

    7. LKW*

      I’m overweight. I’m sure there are some people who don’t love working with me because they are judgmental fools.

      My experience, once I prove myself to be patient, smart and on top of my game, no one cares about my weight. I have a good career. I have a very nice salary. It is entirely possible that I’ve missed out on opportunities but maybe if I was slim I would have lost out on more. It’s not something that keeps me up at night.

    8. Fenchurch*

      One thing I would suggest in general as a fellow woman is to ASK for things. It’s not enough to perform well, you need to tell them how awesome you are. You need to ask for more challenging work or more responsibilities if you want them.

      I can’t speak to being overweight, but there are plenty of women in my company who are overweight and very successful. I don’t want to minimize or invalidate the issues that women (and overweight women in particular) face in the workplace, and I definitely could see either or both of those things impacting you. What I want to encourage is you sticking up for yourself. This blog has so many great suggestions for that.

      Good luck, you got this!

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m large stature in terms of height and build, I have never had it hold me back, if anything it gives me more of a presence.

      There will always be bigotry everywhere we go in life and you have to bulldoze through it one way or another.

      Most places I’ve been we’ve had people of all body sizes, it’s never pinged on any radars.

      Those articles are just another form of body shaming and fear mongering.

    10. Sleepytime Tea*

      To be totally honest, yes, it’s a possibility. That said, a couple things to keep in mind.

      1) Those people are asshats and you don’t want to work for them. The type of management that discriminates against people is crappy management.
      2) I do think this applies more when you get to higher levels. When you’re very first starting your career and in lower level positions, your looks don’t seem to matter quite as much. It seems to be more when you start getting into management levels and leadership positions that they become more of an issue. And this applies to things other than weight. As a woman, wearing makeup, dressing in a certain way, looking “put together” in whatever way that means. I am someone who rarely wears makeup/heels/expensive clothes, etc. Honestly that has hurt me in a few situations, but those weren’t good situations that I wanted to stay in.
      3) Be healthy! You don’t need to be a stick figure or something. You know what will help you move up more than losing weight? Confidence. Don’t ever sell yourself or your work short because you’re self conscious about the way you look. Trust me, it goes a very long way!

    11. Katie the Fed*

      If we told you “yes, it’s going to be hell out there” would that change anything for you? How does this information help you in your journey? Or are you just looking for reassurance (which is totally ok!)?

      I’ve been fat and thin in my professional life. Both come with baggage and complications, honestly. When I was a skinny young thing, I got a LOT of harassment and inappropriate comments and looks from male coworkers. Now I’m fatter and I’m more invisible – or at least I’m probably outside of the “f**kable” category for lack of a better term, which is kind of nice! I appreciate being known for my brain and my skills and knowing people aren’t talking to me for other reasons.

      I’m fat now. I don’t *think* it’s held me back professionally because I’m doing pretty well, but there’s no way to know for sure. Nobody has said anything to me ever about it though.

    12. SpringIsForPlanting!*

      A) Body size or other physical characteristics shouldn’t matter, but
      B) …society is messed up and so it does sometimes, but
      C) I second posters above that professional presentation and relentless competence lead to success– wear well-tailored clothes that fit and flatter, and consider dressing on the more formal side of your environment. And of course, kick a** at your actual job.

    13. Southern Belle who needs advice!*

      Thank you everyone for your kind and honest responses! I know I need to work on my confidence, I have been told I am amazing at my job, but I just wanted to get a perspective to see if my weight would hold me back from developing further.

    14. Mellow*

      I am also very overweight, but most people have been kind in that I can tell they are treating me the same as they would if I were thin. That said, I’m still trying to decide whether someone who walked by me yesterday called me an “elephant” under breath, without provocation. Sure sounded like it.

      Nevertheless, with rare exception, I don’t feel my weight has hurt me professionally. However, I do think being very overweight gives an impression that I might not be able to physically keep up with my job, or that I might call in sick a lot, or otherwise be unreliable somehow due to carrying excess weight. Also, I feel I send a very clear message that I am stressed beyond belief, which I’m not, although I was, and that’s how I became overweight; that I eat my stress or am self-medicating, and it can beg the question about whether I can handle everyday work pressures, or if there’s something going on in my personal life that eventually will bleed into my professional life.

      What’s unfair is that many of the people who would have those impressions seem to do so as they ground out their cigarettes and gulp both of their 9:00 am whiskey sours – coping mechanisms that can be fairly well suppressed, unlike obesity.

      I am trying to lose weight and it’s tough but it’s for my health and my health alone. I look forward to feeling better, and, frankly, looking better and more like my true self. If I may humble brag, I have unusally large eyes, blue, with long lashes, and when I was thin I’d get all kinds of sideways glances from complete strangers and delighted smiles from babies. I miss that, vain as it might sound, because now the reactions I get from children are either fear or disdain, and that cuts like the sharpest of knives. Fortuately, I don’t work around children, so it’s not something I’m around constantly, but I do look forward to the day when my weight isn’t an issue in any context.

      1. Mellow*

        To clarify, I feel my weight has given certain impressions about possibly unreliability at places where I’ve interviewed.

    15. Chaordic One*

      Yes, there are workplaces where you will be discriminated because of your weight, but there are also a lot of places where they will value you for the work you do and what you bring to the workplace. That said, women in general are judged much more harshly than men (especially for their appearance), and someone who is overweight is usually going to be judged more harshly than someone who is not. I hope this doesn’t sound harsh, or old-fashioned, but you can counteract this to a degree by dressing to project a professional image. Thin, attractive people can more easily get away with coming to work dressed like a slob.

      Be clean and well-groomed. Bathe regularly and wash your hair. Wear clean clothes that fit and are comfortable. Make sure that your clothes are ironed or at least not wrinkled. Business casual dress-codes are especially challenging. If you wear jeans, it is important that they fit. Also, pay attention to your footwear. Not everyone will agree with me, but even if they are permitted, I really don’t think flip flops are a good look, and personally, I think that leather or suede shoes project a better image than sneakers.

      Then, do good work and don’t be afraid to tell your bosses the great work you do. (Alison has some great advice about how to do that on this website.)

  22. Way to the Dawn*

    I had an interview for a position last summer with an organization that I love (I interned there before) where the recruiter heavily implied I was going to the next round but then proceeded to completely ghost me – didn’t answer my thank you email or follow up. I now have an interview for a different position in the same company today with the exact same recruiter! How should I handle this? Do I just pretend we haven’t talked before?

    1. 867-5309*

      I wouldn’t address the ghosting. Instead, I’d just say something like, “I’m glad to reconnect and still very excited about working for the company again.”

    2. Zephy*

      I think you’d be safe saying something lighthearted like “Hi, it’s good to see you again,” and then if they don’t remember you, you can mention that you interviewed with them last year for something. Play it off like “oh, isn’t it a small world? Fancy that!” Don’t bring up the ghosting, don’t take an accusatory tone or anything. That’s all if you decide you want to bring it up; if the recruiter remembers you, they’ll say something, but if they don’t you’re safe pretending that you’re strangers.

    3. CM*

      First, forget the ghosting. I doubt it was personal.
      Second, acknowledge that you interviewed last year, and remind the recruiter in a straightforward way. Something like, “After interning here last summer and interviewing for Position X last year, I’m still very interested in working for this organization again. I’m excited to be considered for Position Y.”

  23. Sparrow*

    How big of a deal is it if a candidate pre-scripts their interview responses? My team recently held a round of video interviews, and when we skyped one candidate, she said her camera didn’t work and wanted to move forward with audio only. She apparently hadn’t tested her equipment ahead of time and she wasn’t apologetic about not being able to follow through, both of which are red flags for this particular position, but at the time I figured, whatever, these things happen.

    Anyway, we moved forward with audio alone, and I quickly became suspicious that she’s reading her responses (very formal and scripted language, minimal inflection, slightly off-topic from the actual question asked, etc.) And then we very audibly heard her turning pages as she spoke, which pretty much confirmed for me and a couple of colleagues on the call that she wasn’t talking off the cuff.

    Our boss, who was predisposed toward this candidate going in, insists that we can’t possibly know whether she was trying to cheat the system, and even if she did pre-write her responses, who cares? Meanwhile, my colleagues and I all reacted negatively, since we now have no idea if she can think on her feet, and it just feels like a massive breach of interview etiquette. And, honestly, it made us a bit suspicious that the problems with her camera were staged. Overall, we’re pretty down on her as a candidate. Is my boss right – are we overreacting here?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      If it sounded as if she was reading the responses (very formal and scripted language, minimal inflection) and the answers themselves weren’t that great (slightly off-topic from the actual question asked), does it matter if she actually read them or not? The deliver was bad, and the answers weren’t on-topic. I think it’s less about breaching interview etiquette and more about just not having great answers (in delivery or content).

      Were you all unable to ask a question she hadn’t already anticipated with a written-down answer?

      1. Murphy*

        I kind of agree with this. Imagine it was a phone interview and you couldn’t her pages turning. Just focus on her answers and delivery. If they weren’t great, they weren’t great.

      2. Sparrow*

        Well, my boss doesn’t care about the delivery (she’s an academic, which means hearing people read directly from a paper is normal to her, even though this isn’t an academic job). And the answers would’ve been pretty good, had we been asking slightly different questions, and that’s what my boss has focused on. We didn’t have much time to probe further with follow up questions, which was my immediate instinct.

        Actually, now that I type this out, I think the core of the issue is that professional and academic staff are prioritizing different things. That insight may be useful as we go into in-person interviews…

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It matters because for one thing, maybe she didn’t write those responses. If someone else helped her, the whole interview is now useless. (Well, it’s useful for knowing you should reject her.)

        But also, you presumably are looking for someone who can think on their feet, and are comparing her to candidates who had to do that.

      1. Drax*

        and if you are very concerned about it being scripted, I’d also prepare a question or two that’s a situational one. Simple ones not elaborate but specific, just enough to see if she’s scripting or thinking.

        Usually the ones I see brought up are “how would you handle situation X” where X is directly related to the role that they would see a lot. I found in customer service/facing roles a random customer related situation like an unreasonably upset customer you had recently, or as I work in operations and a lot of them I see are “Sales person A need Product X rush for a big-dollar customer, Supplier is out of stock what would you do next to fill this order?”

        1. Drax*

          And I forgot to add, ask follow ups. Like they say “go to the alternate supplier” and you go “they’re out to, what’s the next step?” It’s excellent at seeing thinking without the stupid how many balls fit in this room.

          In my line of work this is pretty common in interviews to test how people think and how they would source things and make it happen as that is the majority of the job, but if that’s not relevant to the role it may not be the best way to do it.

    2. kbeers0su*

      I don’t think that I’d refer to this as “cheating the system” because it’s not like there were set answers to your questions and she someone got the answer manual.

      Also, there are legitimate reasons for (I’m guessing here) why she might have not tested her equipment/said there was an issue in order to not have to do a video chat but rather just an audio chat. Maybe she has anxiety? Or she hates being on TV? Or she’s new professionally? Or she got a really awful haircut? Or she’s concerned about looks being a factor in the decision? There are other reasons (besides “cheating the system”) that she might not have been truthful about what’s happening here.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yeah, it’s not “cheating the system”, per se, but it’s still an attempt to have an unfair advantage because the other candidates presumably did not write out and read scripted answers during the review, so you can’t really compare apples to apples.

          1. serenity*

            And if her answers were written by someone else (which Alison suggested above, and which may be a real possibility), then she very definitely cheated the system. You just cannot know after this one frustrating and not-ideal interview.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      I think you really can’t make the call without meeting her in person. Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with preparing, but you obviously don’t want to read from a script.

      Last time I was interviewing, I found a list of situational interview questions, and thought of answers for each one. Just to solidify it in my mind, I wrote each one down, and then made a few quick notes for each to jog my memory. That let me still have an answer, but not one that sounded rehearsed.

    4. Lily B*

      Possibly. A lot of people get very nervous on camera in general, and there could be a complicating factor like her speaking another first language or being more junior. It’s also possible she really *did* have camera issues, and was just referring to her notes throughout the interview. IMO, whether it’s worth continuing to push back really depends on two things:

      1. How important is it that the person in this role comfortable speaking off-the-cuff in high-pressure situations? For example, this would be a deal-breaker in sales or public relations, and you would be right to be concerned. But for a lot of functions, these situations are pretty rare.

      2. Do you have a reason to doubt her skill or credentials? If the (possibly scripted) answers were responses to typical interview stuff like “describe how you handled a challenge at work”, etc., that’s not all that concerning. But if this is a highly technical role that requires a deep level of knowledge, and you think she might have written a script because she *doesn’t actually know* what she’s talking about, that’s definitely worth pushing back on, or at least suggesting detailed reference checks or an in-person interview.

    5. Karen from Finance*

      I agree with both comments above. Given you can’t prove anything, all that you have at the moment is that her answers didn’t seem natural, and were slightly off-topic. But it’s also the fact that your boss seems convinced by the candidate. So I think an in-person interview would really put this to the test.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Even in-person can be a challenge though. I once attended a job talk by a candidate for assistant professor. While the candidate didn’t read directly off a paper, she had clearly memorized a script and it showed in the stilted way she presented. At one point she got off track and repeated the last line entirely, exactly as she had before, in order to find her place again. That by itself wasn’t a disqualifier, but she did not compare well to the other candidates.

        I think it depends on the role as to whether scripted answers are acceptable. But the OP mentions that not testing equipment and not being apologetic about the difficulties that created were red flags, and this likely added to the overall perception that the candidate was not a strong one. Having notes, even detailed ones, to help answer standard questions is probably pretty common. Not tailoring those written answers to the actual question asked isn’t good.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          Well, but scripting and practicing answers is actually the advice in Alison’s guide. I don’t see that as much of a problem on itself. The problem is that the candidate is being awkward and weird not that they practiced answers.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            You’re right and I should have specified that rehearsing an answer (or presentation) is not only fine, it’s good practice. The bad thing is sticking so close to a script that you’re either reading it straight off the page in the interview or reciting it from heart, and not modifying at all for the current situation.

    6. Spool of Lies*

      Your question is really interesting because I recently did a “one-way video interview” where I had to record my answers to questions in under one minute but had unlimited attempts and unlimited time between questions. After seeing the question, I quickly wrote the main points for my response and then read my response while recording. (I did this by putting the notepad I wrote the response in next to the laptop camera at the top of the screen so I would still be “looking” at the interviewer.) I didn’t read my responses monotonously or verbatim but it didn’t occur to me that interviewers might not want a prepared response like mine (in this case, it seems they did because I had a follow up interview in person last week).

      Is it possible that the person you interviewed was doing something similar, i.e., quickly prepping answers in between questions or referring to prepared notes about her experience while you were interviewing her? I can see how you might be skeptical about her ability to think on her feet but interviews are nerve wracking! I feel much less anxious if I can at least prepare a little, the same way I rehearse answers for common interview questions before an in-person interview.

      1. Sparrow*

        I think that’s a bit different because that system *assumes* you’re not speaking extemporaneously! In fact, I’d expect you to plan your answer carefully, given that you have the opportunity to do so. (A friend of mine once had an interview like the one you describe, and it sounded horrible – I do not envy you.)

        I’m not at ALL opposed to practicing responses ahead of time or jotting down a thought or two right before you start speaking. I actually practice quite a lot before an interview, but there’s a difference in having your thoughts ordered and feeling comfortable speaking on the subject and having a full-on script. I do think that, for some people, there’s a fine line between the two and it can take practice to find the right balance. I suspect that may be part of this.

    7. Sleepytime Tea*

      I wouldn’t love this in a candidate either… I wouldn’t classify this as “cheating” but yes, it removes your ability to determine how well a candidate can think on their feet, it blurs your evaluation of their communication skills, and overall leaves a weird impression since this is just not how interviews are supposed to go. But a lot of people also prepare and practice responses prior to interviews, so it’s not like most people are really truly answering off the cuff. I bring a notepad to interviews and will write down certain things ahead of time that I want to make sure I mention or ask (but I don’t read them verbatim).

      But that doesn’t mean they might not be a strong candidate still. They could be excessively nervous and this is a way for them to handle anxiety, and it might work extremely well for them. Depending on the job duties, it may never be an issue. An in person interview would be ideal in this situation, or at the very least a follow up video interview where you insist that she confirm her equipment is working. Also prepare some non-standard questions and see how that goes.

    8. LJay*

      I wouldn’t be concerned about cheating.

      But I would be concerned about fit for the overall role.

      It sounds like from your comments that not testing the equipment ahead of time and not being apologetic about follow through being a red flag for this position, that doing video calls or presentations with clients might be an actual part of the job.

      If that’s the case, I would say that this is enough to show that she is not a fit for the position.

      And also I would be a bit concerned that maybe she lied about her equipment not working so she could read off answers without being found out.

      Having notes for interviews to be able to refer to is normal and okay. Lying about it to hide it is not.

      Not being polished at doing video calls is normal and okay. If it’s going to be part of your job, then it’s not.

    9. Jerm*

      I interviewed a candidate with 2 other team members over the phone who appeared to be shuffling papers on the other end and not immediately answering questions. I thought she just over prepared by developing responses to possible questions. My coworkers focused more on her use of “I” and dismissed her as arrogant. I was surprised because I didn’t think her arrogant; she seemed to have absorbed much of the interview advice out there.

  24. Morning Glory*

    About a month ago, the head of my department asked me if I’d be interested in a new position that they were working with HR to create. I was non-committal and they told me it would be posted broadly but they really hoped I would apply. Now, the job has been posted. It requires a B.A. and 5+ years of experience and will have 3 direct reports, but it has an entry-level title. And I really mean, entry-level – the only other person in the department with this title was hired fresh from doing an undergrad internship with us when they graduated college.

    I’m qualified but was already leaning against applying before it posted because I don’t think it would be the right move for my career goals. But I also kind of want to point out that this title is really inappropriate for this role. Should I bring up the title if the head of department asks again me whether I’ll apply, or just stick to the vaguer ‘not the right move for me’?

    1. CatCat*

      If the title were different, would you be interested? If not, I’d just leave the title thing alone since that wouldn’t change your mind. “Thanks for thinking of me! I thought about it and I’d want to continue in my current role right now.”

    2. Dr. Anonymous*

      If you wouldn’t apply for it even with a title change, leave it alone. Use your capital for something that makes your own life better.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Another idea is to apply — provided you like the actual job — and IF you are offered the job, negotiate a title change before accepting the offer; applying does not mean you have to accept. If you aren’t interested even with a title change there’s no need to alert them; they may come to realize it once they start receiving resumes and find that they aren’t getting candidates that match what they are looking for.

  25. Anonymous Trans Guy*

    I came out to my supervisor who’s very sweet and very clueless. I asked her to check to see if our insurance providers cover costs related to medical transition (hormone replacement therapy, top surgery) and she just got back to me with “I looked at their website and they said they’re committed to diversity!”

    So it looks like I’ll be spending some time on the phone with the insurance company today!

      1. valentine*

        The benefits breakdown should be available online and via your HR. If not, get them to mail it to you. Don’t rely on anyone’s word, chat/email if possible, and note the names/times of phone contacts.

    1. ten ton trucks*

      Good luck! If you know your plan name and such, you can see about getting your plan brochure from their website (mine’s available, but I don’t know how widespread that is, if it’s a law or whatever), and that info should have it spread out what they cover and to what extent.

      1. TiffanyAching*

        If you can’t find the right answer on the website/by calling the insurance company (I know the call center for one of our insurance companies routinely gives out incorrect/incomplete information), your HR department might have a specific person at the insurance company you could contact to talk about individual scenarios.

    2. Anonny*

      If you’re in the US there’s specific legal requirements for transgender coverage under the ACA and there’s a good chance that your healthcare provider will have information online to specifically show that they’re meeting those requirements, which was the case with my new healthcare company when I switched jobs.

      (Also I know when I called my healthcare provider to ask about top surgery coverage the person I spoke with was able to answer my questions in a <10 minute conversation- I hope your phone call goes equally smoothly and you're able to get the information you need!)

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I think it’s normally the responsibility of the employee to investigate what benefits your insurance provides. Then if you find out it’s not a benefit, you could address with HR that they should add it.

      Usually there’s a phone number on the back of my card.

      I wouldn’t WANT my boss to be involved in my use of a medical benefit, and health insurance is so complicated I wouldn’t expect them to know or take it as a sign of insensitivity that they don’t.

      1. CM*

        Agreed, this is between you and your insurance provider. Your supervisor should not be involved.

        Make sure everything you get from your insurance provider is in writing and that you keep a record of it. I also agree with Valentine’s advice about of keeping records for each phone call listing the name of the person you talked to, the date and time, and what they told you. But regardless of what they tell you, make sure you have something officially in writing from the insurance company.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Yep. You’ll also, when you get to that stage, want your doctor/surgeon’s office to get a formal preauthorization from the insurance company before they schedule any surgeries, and they’ll probably do that on their own accord anyway.

          1. Shannon*

            I work with insurances for a hospital system. We always, always get pre-auths on our own. They require information the patient would not have access to.

      2. Anonymous Trans Guy*

        When I initially came out to my supervisor, she said something that was deeply but unintentionally transphobic, and when we spoke about it later, she apologized and offered to check with our insurance carrier on my behalf.

    4. Karen from Finance*

      Congrats on coming out, and on deciding to transition! How exciting. Let’s hope insurance does cover the costs. Good luck!

    5. Mediamaven*

      With respect, it’s not really your supervisors job to answer questions about that. Employers provide the insurance plan but the responsibility for helping you navigate your own coverage, plan and healthcare is your responsibility. Hope it works out.

      1. Anonymous Trans Guy*

        When I initially came out to my supervisor, she said something that was deeply but unintentionally transphobic, and when we spoke about it later, she apologized and offered to check with our insurance carrier on my behalf.

          1. Anonymous Trans Guy*

            I’m not sure why you’re nitpicking my word choice, here. My boss asked if she could provide assistance to me and offered to do a few things, including reaching out to the insurance company. Of the choices, I asked her to do that specific thing.

      2. PennyLane*

        Agree 100%.

        Anon Trans Guy, just because your supervisor offered to do it, doesn’t mean it’s their responsibility. Most managers know just as little as their employees about what specifically is covered by an insurance provider and it’s not part of their job to know that. Nor does it make sense for them to look into this because you are the one who can answer questions as they relate to your situation.

        1. Anonymous Trans Guy*

          I shared this anecdote because I was excited about having come out at work, and I thought it was very sweet that my boss offered to do this nice thing for me, and I thought the way she shared her research was funny and endearing. I’m in HR and my supervisor is typically the contact person for coverage questions because she works pretty closely with the insurance company.

          Next time, I’ll front load all the context to save everyone all the back-and-forth ;)

          1. ..Kat..*

            Well, ATG, it was kind of her to offer to check this out for you. And, given that she was trying to make up to you for a thoughtless comment, it was kind of you to allow her to try to atone.

            That said, this is a very good example of why people should do their checking with their insurance companies. Especially since other people won’t understand exactly what one truly needs.

            Good luck with surgeries. I hope you have great insurance coverage. I hope your surgeries go smoothly and your recovery is easy.

            As a nurse, I want to recommend that you look for a hospital that specializes in this surgery. These surgeries (and their recovery!) are managed better by a hospital that understands the specific needs of trans people and treats them with respect. I hope you have such a specialty place near you.

            1. ..Kat..*

              Oops, I completely missed that you are in HR and that this is part of your supervisor’s job! I apologize.

              I am glad that you were able to come out at work successfully. Being able to be your true self around people you work with (and therefore spend a significant amount of time with) is great.

  26. DC*

    Happy Friday!

    My org (in addition to its other issues which have me hunting) recently started a new junior employee. He’s two weeks new and already talking about feeling like they are bored in the work. I’m struggling not to say “I told you so” to the coworkers who pushed for him.

    I have no way to change his workload, the work they are given is what we needed someone to do and hired for. I’m mentally checked out due to everything else, but don’t want that to effect how I treat/manage this employee. Any thoughts on how to approach their boredom?

    1. ten ton trucks*

      Let it alone. His boredom isn’t your problem and it’s not something you can fix. You can direct him gently to trainings or other materials, but it’s not your problem to solve.

      1. valentine*

        If you really want, you can tell him acing the allegedly boring stuff is the first rung on the ladder.

    2. Lily B*

      “Sorry to hear you’re bored, Braydenn. If you’re looking for more to do, I have six TPS reports that need proofreading and printing, and I could use someone to get on the horn with IT about this computer issue I’m having. Think you have time for that?”

      Either he will actually appreciate having more to do and help you out in the process, or he will quickly learn to stop complaining about being “bored.”

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m a big fan of brutal honesty in this kind of situation — and it has the benefit of actually being helpful to the other person too! Say something like, “I want to be really up-front with you that this is the job and it’s not something that will change any time soon. If you’re bored, do you want to take a few days to think about whether this is the right role for you? If it’s not the right match for you, it’s better for both of to figure it out sooner rather than later.”

  27. SQL Coder Cat*

    Okay, I need to hear other people’s contractor horror stories so I can know I’m not alone.

    I have been working on a very complicated software integration for just over a year now. It will launch in nine phases over six to eight weeks, and the first launch is next Thursday. We have weekly check in meetings with the project team every Thursday. One of our standard agenda items is upcoming out of office times. We had a few days in April on the calendar for several team members (ours and the contractor’s) to attend our major industry event.

    And then yesterday, at our check in, the project manager on the contractor side announced that the lead developer there is attending four additional conferences and then taking a vacation, so he will be out of the office starting next Wednesday (the day before our first launch!) until the third week of May. They have assigned a ‘new lead developer’ to the project, who has not been involved up until this point (and wasn’t even at the check in meeting).

    I am just livid that they couldn’t be bothered to mention this earlier, plus stressed out about launching with a ‘lead developer’ who is not familiar with the project.

    So… what’s your worst contractor horror story?

    1. CDM*

      A last minute absence of eight weeks reads to me like a cover story for a medical leave of absence that the contractor wants to keep quiet. (sudden decision to attend four back to back conferences? and it got approved?)

      Not that helps in any way in dealing with your launch stress. Hope it goes well for you.

      1. SQL Coder Cat*

        Actually, it sort of does- that would be much more understandable, and this would be a legitimate reason for them not to tell us what is actually going on. I’m supposed to meet up with him at the conference we knew about, if he’s not there I think that’ll confirm it.

    2. Lora*

      Right now? Can I just tell you, (puts on Clerks) I’m not even supposed to BE here!

      Contractor is one we have worked with many many times successfully. Contractor had a crystal clear RFP and scope of work and the pilot study report and its associated raw data. I did the data hand-off, was supposed to be finished for a while, just watch the results. They did their midpoint presentation last week and it was horrible. Awful, not at all what we expected given their previous work: simple math doesn’t add up, layout doesn’t meet code, obvious shoddy work. After much wrangling, it turns out the site leads threw out all the pilot work we had done already and told Contractor, “we are building an empire, we need the Taj Mahal with bells on”. So Contractor did exactly that, but on a 2-week time scale instead of a normal time scale, and that’s why it sucked out loud. Instead of the Taj Mahal they got the Winchester Mystery House, basically.

      First site leads tried to blame me. Corporate shouted them down on that point, as did my boss and one of my colleagues: you had reports, you had presentations, you had all this explained to you and you slapped your OWN names all over it, you OWN this. Now they are trying to blame Contractor. Contractor says hey, we did what we were told and here is what we were told is the scope! It was a totally different scope than the one which we documented they did in fact bid on. Now site leads and Contractor are taking turns trying to not get fired and blame someone else instead of moving forward. Corporate and I are both ready to fire the whole boiling of them, sell the site real estate and relocate all their work to another site.

    3. Mbarr*

      My first experience of working with contractors was for a multinational rollout of Finance software across the globe. I had to document how to use the new software to do financial accruals. Fine. I ask the contractor how, I document it, I send it to him for approval and he approves it.

      Contractor goes on a 6 week vacation (out of the country)… And that’s when we learn that NOTHING I documented was correct. Dude was so overwhelmed trying to get work done before his vacation that he pretty much didn’t bother reading what I wrote.

      It took another 3 months of internal folks to get even close to having the process/steps documented (mainly because doing accruals was a new ask for the team, not to mention all the snafus that happened when we launched the new software).

    4. JokersandRogues*

      -The one who changed the password to the Production Reporting server so everything broke and no one knew what the old password was so we had to update everything with the new password

      -The one who transferred our entire Version Control system to an elderly laptop while he made changes on the server to “improve” things, then broke the server such that it couldn’t be transferred back

      -The one who deleted the Accounting jobs in a server that hadn’t been backed up (this led to the Tech director being fired for not backing things up properly.) (And the Accounting head who had no visible personality came down to IT and screamed at the IT VP for 20 minutes which we could all hear because you could hear everything)

      That was all the same guy in his first/last two weeks. The contracting company had to send another contractor for free to work on fixing on all the stuff that was broken which took two months.

    5. Windchime*

      Our company hired a contractor, “Chris”. Chris was supposed to do some C# coding that would provide some back-end functionality on our mission-critical software. I think the project was supposed to last 3 months or something. Periodically, there would be a touch-base to see how the project was progressing and Chris would show screenshots, etc, but would always have a reason why their code was not checked in. (Red flag — someone should have INSISTED on seeing the code). At the end of the project, the team finally made Chris check in their code and there was…….nothing. No real functionality at all, just a front end interface and a bunch of crappy, do-nothing code behind it. The local team had to work all weekend, around the clock, to try to get something functioning by the deadline.

      The funny thing about this was that, when it was known that Chris was the contractor that was going to be hired, one of the project managers on a different team spoke up and said that he had worked with Chris at a previous company and that Chris had a terrible reputation for not producing. The PM’s warning was ignored and Chris was brought on, with results that could have been totally avoided.

  28. Almost the last rat*

    Welp. The ship that is my workplace continues to sink. Someone else gave notice this week, which now means we’ve lost all but two of the people here a year ago, including me.

    If I thought leadership had any plan for bailing us out, I’d be able to deal with the sense that this is temporary, but I really don’t think they do. I think they are going to put off planning for a year until new leadership comes in, which means it will take two for anything to take effect. Which is a really long time to ask a small staff to hobble along like this. Also, it’s getting so sad and lonely!

    I set up a job alert when I heard the news. I’m not desperate to get out yet but I’ll grab any rope that comes in my direction.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      This totally happened to me in this job. Everyone on my hiring committee was gone within a month of my start date, lol. The only people left are the leadership roles that create the problem and they CLEARLY don’t see it. They’re always saying how hard it is to hire and retain staff but have zero self awareness. It comes out as “kids these days” hahaha.

    2. DataGirl*

      This happened in my last job, but it was within 3 months. Team of 6 went down to 2 (me and manager) because the place was so totally incompetent and there were some really nightmare people in the organization. I left at the 6 month mark.

  29. anonymoushiker*

    Any suggestions for how to keep motivation going when you’re in a slump in the job hunt? I haven’t had requests for interviews in a full month and I’d like to think my resume and cover letter aren’t *awful* (i list accomplishments and show skill sets/traits/etc in cover letters). I’m trying to transition out of office management and it is not going well.

    1. The Rain In Spain*

      Find something else that gives you joy and purpose. For me it was volunteering while I was searching for just the right fit.

      1. Doug Judy*

        I’ll second this. I accepted a job about two months after a very lengthy and emotionally draining job search. I’m an excellent baker so when I was feeling especially down I would make some fancy cupcakes for a friend. I always felt better because I felt I accomplished something. I did volunteer too. Another thing is if you can take a break from job searching, do it. I unfortunately did not have the luxury of stopping as the job I was in was ending.

        Also make sure you are using the same verbiage in your resume/cover letter as the job description. Applicant tracking systems often scan for key works, so if if the job description says “client” and your resume says “customer” that could be an issue.

        Finally, don’t give up. I had many months of interviews, then no interviews, then getting to the final round thinking “This is it!!” and then being rejected. It sucked. A lot. But I eventually did get an offer and I am confident this is where I was meant to be. I’m very happy with my new role, but more importantly the team I’m on and the company as a whole are exactly what I was looking for.

  30. Libby*

    Today is my last day at my job. It is also, coincidentally, my mom’s last day at her job! On Monday, I start my new full-time job in a career field I enjoy, while she flies out to somewhere to receive training before she starts a 3-month temporary research position. I’m really excited for my new job, but also nervous that my mom won’t find something permanent before her 3-month position ends. She’s applied to so many jobs and been to so many interviews, but nothing. She has health issues, no retirement, and no savings… So I’m anxious for her to find something that’s a good fit for her, quickly.

    Any advice on how I can support her over the next three months and help her use those three months to find a new 30-40 hour/week position?

    1. 867-5309*

      Of course it’s nice to help someone you love and you can do that by recommending sites like Ask A Manager, reviewing resumes, sharing job opportunities and so forth.

      But also, you are not responsible for your mom. I’m only saying that in case you need to hear it. She is an adult and is ultimately responsible for her choices. You should support and love and encourage, but don’t feel you have a responsibility in her finding a job, even if you’re in the same or similar field.

      1. Libby*

        Thank you. I appreciate hearing it, but I’m also anticipating needing to care for her in her impending retirement… so I’d like for her to be employed for as much of her remaining non-retirement years as she has left. She is interested in maybe moving into my field, though, so I have been suggesting entry level jobs in my field. I know it’s ultimately up to her, but it’s hard because I’ve had so much success and I’ve been watching her struggle for so long.

        1. valentine*

          The stake you have it in means its best you keep out. Are there no options for assisted living or her rooming with someone else? I see encroachment here: you into her employment status and her into your field, and that doesn’t bode well. She’s…not looking to work for your employer, is she? If so, warn her about eggs/baskets.

          1. Libby*

            No, she’s not trying to work for my employer– I have no interest in working with my mom! But I also do not want my mother to live in assisted living (nor does she want that), at least not yet– she’s quite young, but she’s got chronic illness, and that means… Life isn’t fun and she feels older than she is. So for a while at least, she needs to maintain a career so she can support herself until it’s time for her to actually retire.

        2. 867-5309*

          I wonder if one way of encouraging her is to remind her that she raised YOU. So while her career isn’t what she hoped, she clearly imparted upon you things she wished she had done differently – and what worked. We identify so much with our careers that sometimes being reminder there is more can make a difference.

          1. Libby*

            I should be clear that this is really coming from me… My mom hasn’t asked me for this help, but she’s my mom, and I want to help, and she needs it. And I want her to take care of herself for a while longer before she has to live with me.

            I’m just not sure how to share what I know about getting a job when I’m so close to the issue– I don’t know if I can? But I don’t know if there’s other resources I should be referring her to. If it were a friend, I’d be able to offer resume critique and role-play interviews and stuff like that, but I don’t think she’d be able to see it for what it’s worth coming from her daughter, if that makes sense.

    2. Koala dreams*

      You can support her by offering her a break from the job search worries. Go for a walk or have a coffee now and then, and talk about non-work topics. Good luck to both of you!

  31. I Work on a Hellmouth*

    Hello, friends, and happy Friday from the Hellmouth! I hope today finds you well.

    Some of you may have seen my very late post last week, and may have seen that McGruff was supposed to get a talking to from my boss that might have been anything from a verbal counseling to an actual write up. Well, that wound up not happening… because my boss learned of something else and put those plans on pause.

    So, apparently a Freshly box for former residents was delivered to an apartment where they no longer live. McGruff, who was moving a new resident into the apartment, saw the box, scooped it, (allegedly) made one token call to the former tenants and, when she did not get them, decided she was going to have a nice big box of meals and took the package home. I saw her leaving with the box and asked if she had something delivered to the office, and she quickly blew through the above explanation. When I indicated that she should not just be taking something/pressed to see if Boss knew about it, she got kind of crappy/aggressive with me and gave me a non-answer that led me to believe that Boss signed off on her taking it. Um. It turns out this was not the case. And when my boss found out, she went through this whole elaborate thing where she blocked her cell number so it wouldn’t come up on the office caller ID and pretended to be the company calling to ask about the package so she could then ask us if we knew anything about a Freshly box. McGruff said yes, and when my boss asked her if she RTSed it, McGruff got very aggro and crappy (with Boss! a tyrant who WILL DESTROY YOU) over how OF COURSE she took the box home with her and OF COURSE she is eating the meals because otherwise they would have been thrown out. My boss just nodded and excused herself… to go and secretly take pictures of the remaining meals that McGruff had stashed in the fridge (because she brought a few back to the office for lunches) and to call HR.

    Last night at close she told both me and The Good Leasing Consultant that HR was telling her what they had decided she should do with McGruff this morning. I don’t think this is going to go well for her. In all honesty, I feel kind of weird about it. McGruff is a terrible employee and coworker, and she stole someone’s fancy box of food, so… yeah, if she gets fired I guess it’s not like it would be unwarranted? But my boss never once addressed any of the performance issues with McGruff or set expectations with her. I tried to, but even though I’m a supposedly a supervisor I don’t have any power and McGruff views me as an equal or less than, so it didn’t have the same effect. And this week Boss kept telling The Good Leasing Consultant that she thinks McGruff ruins the office “vibe” and “look” and that seems kind of Mean Girls? But, on the other hand, McGruff repeatedly lies, actively dodges work, messes up the work she does do very badly, and STOLE SOMEONE’S MAIL. So ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Whatever is going to go down is supposed to happen within the hour, so I guess I can update in the comments. Right now Boss is most concerned with the maintenance supervisor being mad at her because he is the one who recommended McGruff and told my boss to hire her.

    The rest of the week was challenging because poor scheduling meant we were drastically understaffed for a big part of it (basically just me and McGruff Monday through most of Wednesday), which has put me behind for monthly close out activites. Boss took The Good Leasing Consultant to an “all day leasing seminar” on Wednesday with a “quick stop afterwards to buy some materials suggested in the seminar”, but a quick check of the class website revealed it was actually only 9:30am-12:30pm, so I was pretty peeved when they came back just after 5pm. But! The Good Leasing Consultant later told me that Boss talked to him extensively about the microphones in the office and about recorded conversations she has listened to while she dragged him out shopping. She also told him explicitly that he was not allowed to tell anyone else in the office about the existence of the microphones et al. If he is willing to go on the record with that we can probably go to HR about the surveillance crap and they might actually do something, so cross your fingers. He’s got a small kid and possibly a baby on the way, though, so he is taking time to think over whether or not he wants to risk it. I can’t exactly blame him for being cautious.

    Job hunting continues! I might have an in for an Office Coordinator position that I am applying for, and I think I’ve really nailed some good cover letters, so here’s hoping for the best!

    1. Amber Rose*

      I am amazed at your ability to have any sort of positive attitude through all this. :O

      Fingers and toes are still crossed for you getting out of there.

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        Well, if I’m being honest, I’m not always able to be positive. And sometimes, like yesterday, I need to go home and make two grilled cheeses for lunch and hug my dog in order to face the rest of the workday. But I *have* to get out sooner or later… it’s just a numbers game at some point.

        1. Amber Rose*

          I mean, I figured that. But if I were in your shoes I’m not sure I could be positive ever.

          I’m glad you have a dog to hug.

      1. ..Kat..*

        And, if it was mail (as in delivered by the United States Postal Service), that is a federal offense. And, it wasn’t “just mail”, it was an actual product worth money!

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Any news on the university positions? Hoping the best for you, always!

      You’re very kind about McGruff. I might feel a pang, but behavior that bad, it would be fleeting. You can’t save other people from themselves.

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        Still up for two (both positions I was really interested in!) and two more that I’m really qualified for (one of which I may have a contact with) just got posted! I’m hopeful.

        1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

          And you’re right. My boyfriend knew I felt kind of bad/weirdly-responsible-even-though-I’m-not-responsible and reminded me that you can’t teach people basic judgement.

          1. Bob Bob Bobbin*

            Because it is so dysfunctional and your boss irrational you are starting to have sympathetic views of your fellow prisoners facing the arbitrary punishment. It is like the boss spins a wheel to determine what is cause for punishment and then spins a 2nd wheel to determine what the punishment will be. In a normal workplace the boundary lines would be clearer, and you would not have survivors guilt. Because in a healthy office you have work (not trauma) and coworkers (not fellow prisoners). Good luck on the interviews / job opportunities!

    3. BadWolf*

      If Freshly is like other meal services — she effectively stole $60-75 from a resident (or more). Not cool, man.

      1. BadWolf*

        ETA: I see it was delivered to residents who moved…but maybe they were planning to swing by and get it? I know I get an email notice every week that I have a box shipped with a tracking number.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I am now having to wonder if the resident didn’t change their address…or maybe it was actually a misdelivery/mistake by the Freshly distribution center.

        If they had a hold on their order and they erroneously delivered it, Freshly eats their loss there, the client can fight the charges. If they simply hadn’t changed their address in time, yes the meal costs come out of the client’s pockets most times. Though it may be written off as a one-time courtesy deal which is how most services work to lean towards good customer service.

        My mind is going down a rabbit hole here, argh.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          I mean, whether it was Freshly’s or the client’s loss, whether the former residents could get the meal resent to their new residency or not… it was definitely in no way McGruff’s to take, so that’s where I’m leaving that in my mind.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Oh I agree, she’s terrible and stole no matter how you slice it.

            But there’s always a peculiar difference we place on stealing from “each other” as humans or from “the man”/”big corporate America”

            $65 from Citizen’s pocket hurts more than the already factored in shrink from Mega Corp mentality.

        2. BadWolf*

          I could be that they skipped several meals, forgot to change their address and now a new non-skipped week popped up and delivered to the old address. Blue Apron and Purple Carrot only have so many weeks planned and you have to skip each one.

          But still, I assume you’d get a “your order is shipped” and then they owners would be “Oh shoot, at the old place.” If it was several hours away, you probably wouldn’t run over to get it. But you could call up an old friend and nominate them.

          Anyway, not cool to just take it until you get a yay/nay from the owners, especially when she apparently had their phone number.

          1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

            And their email address, which she did not use. And they also have family that still lives here at the property.

              1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

                Did I mention that we have a full sized fridge that we could have put the box in?

      3. Youth*

        Coming from someone who’s tried Freshly (didn’t like it), the price can go up to over $100 depending on the number of meals. It’s several dollars more per serving than your average meal service.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Man…I see where the tyrant boss is coming from though drawing a thick line at stealing like that! Cruddy work aside and questionable everything is sometimes easier to just sigh hard at and look away from. Oh you don’t show up on time, whatever, argh. Oh you are generally just a piss-poor attitude, sigh…how obnoxious but you do /something/ I guess. But you just sticky-pawed someone’s $65 box of meals?! Your’e done, get out, done.

      1. Pilcrow*

        I’m thinking theft is an objective hard line that corp. management can’t ignore. I get the sense that boss blows enough smoke and corporate is indifferent enough that general bad employee behaviors can get glossed over and allows boss to do as she does. Outright theft is something that would make boss look bad to corporate if they found out, so now boss has to act to save face.

      2. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        Yeah, she DEFINITELY had to be fired for that. I think my feeling weird over it (which I’m only just starting to process and unpack) is probably mostly just the strong feeling that Boss wouldn’t have reported it to corporate if it if McGruff wasn’t on the Hate List (like, the right thing happened, but for the wrong reason?) and also probably because I have to wonder… if Boss had ever addressed the behavioral and performance issues with McGruff, would things have improved and would McGruff have maybe thought twice before taking home someone else’s package/at least asked me or Boss about procedure first so we could have told her no?

        1. pcake*

          I dunno… shouldn’t McGruff have known that taking someone else’s stuff is stealing, regardless of management involvement?

    5. Armchair Analyst*

      Um, I think it’s kind of unusual that the co-worker and Boss drama was the weirdest/most dramatic thing this past week, not the residents, squirrels, police, dogs, vehicles, etc.
      Good luck!!

    6. Anonforthis*

      I don’t wish for anyone to get fired, but if she stole someone else’s mail…that’s no bueno.

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        Apparently, the maintenance supervisor told her to take the mail. Sooooo… I am left wondering how people don’t know that taking someone else’s mail is bad?

    7. Batgirl*

      Mcgruff was the recommendation of the maintenance supervisor? Well this was all foretold then…

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        I took a risk and flat out asked my boss if we could please just never hire someone he recommends again.

    8. A CAD Monkey*

      Theft of mail is a FEDERAL offense, and can have severe penalties. She better hope no one reports her to the Postal Service.

    9. I Work on a Hellmouth*

      Well, McGruff got fired. It was FAST. She was in and out of my boss’ office in about 3 minutes, it took less time than it did for her to get her office keys off of her keychain. I don’t think she had even fully processed what had happened when she left. My office is basically the room that my boss’ office opens up to, so I heard Boss setting up HR on speaker phone ahead of time and… yeah, no other outcome was possible.

      After McGruff left, things got weird. Boss ordered all staff to assemble within 5 minutes for a meeting, then took us all outside and stood us in front of her office window, saying it was her new favorite spot for meetings because it is so pretty (real reason: she has discovered that the microphone on the camera in her window will pick up everything that happens right outside of it). Then she started going on and on about a butterfly “Look! Did you see that butterfly?! It was right over there!” “Can anyone see where the butterfly went?” No one saw this reported butterfly, but one maintenance worker DID jump about a foot when he realized that a tiny garter snake had climbed up the trash can right next to him and was close enough to crawl onto his hand. Boss then launched into a long, convoluted, “inspirational” speech about butterflies and the power of their wings and the excitement she hopes we all have excitement in our heart for [The Helllmouth] and, after about fifteen more minutes of rambling she said “And I just want everyone to remember the butterfly. The butterfly flies.” Lengthy pause. “Oh, and that brings me to my second item, McGruff has been terminated. You can talk to me in my office if you have any questions or concerns.” End of meeting.

      After that, she told the whole maintenance crew that they can leave at 5:00 today to go watch basketball. She bought pizza for the property for lunch (including one pie with pineapple and olives, which is how you know this really is a Hellmouth), and then went through McGruff’s desk (uncovering a true hoard of office supplies, including every good pen I ever had). The maintenance supervisor, meanwhile, has been telling anyone who will listen that he feels bad/responsible, because on the day that she brought the package home she apparently asked him what they did with packages like that at some old property previously worked for FIRST.
      Boss has now declared that she is going to hire someone with no experience so they can be trained from the ground up. I think maybe it would be better for her to hire someone with GOOD experience and actually verify her references, but what do I know?

      1. Karen from Finance*

        Yeah it was the most likely scenario. I’m not one to celebrate someone getting fired, but what she did really was a fireable offense if there ever is any. McGruff is… not smart. Your boss has had it in for you for a long time but she never could do anything about it because you’ve been smart, and a good worker. Not so McGruff. So… yeah. She kiiiind of had it coming.

      2. BadWolf*

        Hm. Does this mean her Hate List rotates back to you? Or will there be a new target? :(

        Also, did you get your good pens back?

        1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

          At some point, yes, it most likely will. Unless someone else presents themselves as a target… but the Wheel of Hate will always turn back to you at some point (unless you are a dude).

      3. Pebbles*

        Yippee! And now you can wear your awesome jacket to work again!

        (Also, fruit does not belong on pizza. Olives are the only exception.)

      4. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        UPDATE! Maintenance Supervisor confessed to Boss that he specifically told McGruff to take the box home. McGruff is still fired. Maintenance Supervisor is not in trouble.

          1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

            My brain. Is BROKEN.

            Additionally, we’ve uncovered a bunch of fun and terrible surprises, including a move in coming in less than an a hour that is so horribly messed up she might have been fired over it if she wasn’t terminated this morning.

          1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

            As a response I present you with a real conversation, verbatim, from earlier this week:
            Boss: Hey [Maintenance Supervisor], you’re a man, you might know the answer to this. What do you call what power lifters lift? It’s not a dumbbell…

            Maintenance Supervisor: I’m not sure.

            Me: It’s a barbell.

            Boss: Like, that they lift? Is it a power lifter bar?

            Maintenance Supervisor: I guess I can ask my buddy who lifts weights.

            Me: It’s a barbell.

            Boss: I guess I’ll just put “power lifter bar” in the letter…

            Me: It’s a barbell.

            Maintenance Supervisor: It might be a barbell.

            Boss: Oh, okay, I’ll put down barbell.

      5. ..Kat..*

        Well, if I were you, anytime she started in on me verbally in the future, I would reply, “you know, boss, I was just thinking about your inspirational speech on the butterfly flying. It was so moving.”

      6. Marthooh*

        OK, invisible butterflies and threatening mini-snakes, there they are. It’s not really a Hellmouth post if it doesn’t have aggressively weird wildlife.

    10. I Need Coffee*

      I am so sorry you have to go through this every day and so thankful for the weekly entertainment. It also makes me less shocked every time we have to fight another battle with my mom’s property manager.

  32. Rose Tyler*

    I sit in an office w/a door but no window. I’m the only manager at my level w/o a window. I have a chronic medical condition that the no window situation aggravates so I asked to move to one of the (many) open offices with a window. All the open offices with windows currently have two cubes installed – they’re a big room with a door, with two cubes along one wall. My boss interpreted it as a request for medical accommodation and took it seriously, but told me I have two options: switch offices with one other specific manager at my level who has an office w/a window – so he would lose his window and move into my cave. Or, I can sit in one of the cubes in one of the empty offices. For whatever reason they’re unwilling to take out the cubes and put in an actual desk.

    What would you pick/how would you handle?

    For me it’s not even an option to kick the other guy out of his office and I’m really disheartened that they’d even put that forward as it would inevitably affect our working relationship. My inclination is to take the cube, ask them to promise nobody else will ever move into the other cube, and ask that the next time the furniture people are in the building doing work elsewhere that they tack on converting the cube to a desk (since they’re not willing to do it for me right now as a one-off).

      1. valentine*

        I would switch with the guy. Maybe he’d be happy with a cube and maybe they really wouldn’t make him share, but if you’re a woman, even if they weren’t unreasonable about not simply moving the furniture, you shouldn’t trust them not to make you share a two-person office. If the guy has hard feelings, too bad. He can face the same raw deal you had, but a single-person, windowed office is what you asked for and there’s no good reason you shouldn’t accept it and redirect any complaints to your manager, who is actually responsible for the situation.

        If you’re not willing to possibly inconvenience a colleague (and you don’t know that and it’s not on you) now, there’s no way you’ll refuse a roomie or ask them to step out for private meetings or calls. It’ll snowball. But you can avoid all that. It’s okay to put yourself first, especially when anything you do against your interests will hurt only you and no one will thank you for the sacrifice. This is a “Go get your dog” sitch: Get your solo office and enjoy your privacy and your sunlight.

        1. knork*

          To clarify: you don’t think Rose Tyler can trust her boss–who seems quite dedicated to finding a satisfactory solution for her–to keep a promise not to fill the empty cube? Why?

        2. I Need Coffee*

          What does gender have to do with who should get an office? There is no good reason to displace the other worker if there are other offices available. Taking out unused cubes and replacing it with a desk is not an unreasonable accommodation.

    1. knork*

      I would definitely avoid downgrading someone else’s work space to improve yours. Moving is a PITA, and he would have to be a saint to not resent you at least a little.

      I’m confused about the two-cube situation and why it would be a problem. Is it that both cubes have smaller desks, and you want a big one?

      Is the two-cube office bigger than the single offices? Because I can understand why they wouldn’t want to offer you a bigger office than any of your peers and that’s why they don’t want to remove the cubes.

      I would focus–both internally and externally–on what you really need for your health vs. what you want so that you won’t have less than your peers.

    2. epi*

      Yeah I think you are right about this.

      Asking not to share the office regardless of the furniture is pretty reasonable. Not only do you probably need the privacy, as a manager, but it wouldn’t make sense to give you a worse office setup in response to a request for a medical accommodation.

      Sometimes weird furniture setups can be unexpectedly nice. Use the other space more as storage so you can have a hyper-clean desk you use every day. Or use it as a reading area when you need to get away from screens. If the setup still inconveniences you, document how it’s affecting your workflow for a while.

    3. Chief of Staff*

      I think taking the cube and asking for it to be converted is the best path forward.

  33. Anonny*

    Probably a bit of a ridiculous question, but what the heck am I supposed to do with an hour-long lunch break? This is my first job where my lunch is both that long and actually enforced, and it only takes me maybe 10-15 minutes to eat. I feel weird playing games on my phone for 45 minutes every day, even though I’m not getting paid for that time, and I’m wondering if there’s something better I should be doing with my break? I don’t live close enough to go home and I can’t imagine coming up with 5 hours worth of errands to run every week.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Go for walks, read a book, study some new thing, listen to podcasts, doodle, write, knit… whatever you want.

      During the summer I walk a lot, and when it’s crap weather or if I’m feeling lazy, I have this language learning app on my phone. I also read a lot of books.

      1. Anonny*

        Thanks for all the suggestions!

        There’s nowhere immediately near my office where I can walk (busy roads with no sidewalks), but I’ll look up and see if there are any parks within quick driving distance that I could check out. It would be nice to get out of the office in the middle of the day if I can find somewhere to go!

    2. Way to the Dawn*

      Would exercising be something of interest to you? I like to take a 30 minute walk outside when it is nice out. It helps me clear my head and refocus for the afternoon which is nice too.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, I would definitely echo going for a walk. I think for good health you’re supposed to walk at least 30 minutes a day. So you could eat for 15 minutes, and then go for a 45-minute walk, assuming that you live somewhere it’s not colder than Mars in the winter…

    4. KEG*

      Do you have to take a full hour? Can you take half an hour and start later or leave earlier? I would suggest finding internet related things that aren’t games to do, such as reading this site, or other professional related sites. If you have a friend you email with you could craft a longer personal email to them, plan your next vacation, research meals, etc.

      1. valentine*

        Places that enforce this are also likely to enforce it not being a bookend (and maybe there’s law about it because it’s based on hours worked before a break?) to avoid encroachment.

        Paint with Bob Ross. Sit in a park or cemetery. Visit fountains or area features. Read IMDb trivia. Sporcle. Word searches. Nap in your car. Write poetry.

      2. Anonny*

        It’s occasionally possible to shorten my lunch and leave earlier, but not as an everyday thing unfortunately. I wish I could, though!

        Thanks for the suggestions on things to do. Do you have any recommendations for other professional sites to check out? I’ve found a handful of industry-specific ones, but something else along the lines of AAM would be great too.

    5. Aurora Leigh*

      I mostly read, or scroll through pinterest on phone, or research various DIY projects for the weekend.

      Sometimes I use the time to call my mom or grandma.

    6. kittymommy*

      I read old AAM posts! Haha, I also, like others, read or run errands. Sometimes I’ll watch tv on my phone or tablet. My co-workers and I will go out to grab lunch together a couple times a month. At an old job I would nap in my office, but I don’t have that ability now.

    7. Karen from Finance*

      Sometimes I sit at my desk and watch youtube or read AAM. Catch up on social media. Find somewhere private and call my parents to catch up. That kind of thing.

      Also, hang out with my coworkers, but I’m assuming if you’re asking this question that’s not an option.

    8. Not A Manager*

      For some reason “exercise” is unpleasant to me, including walks that don’t have a destination or purpose. But “stretching” is great!! If I had to take a long lunch, and I didn’t want to wander around outside, I’d use at least 30 minutes for a bunch of stretching.

    9. KeepIt*

      man I would KILL for an hour at lunch- a FULL HOUR! Enforced! No need to worry about people interrupting me five minutes through!

      I’m lucky if I get ten minutes to wolf down a sandwich at my desk. Read, learn a new skill, catch up on TV, walk, run errands. And definitely embrace it!

    10. Pam*

      I have a set of online videos for chair yoga. Also, being a book worm, time to read is always appreciated.

  34. Office Mercenary*

    After a long period of un- and underemployment, I’m trying to transition into a new field, and I recently got a very exciting freelance project in this area. I really enjoy the work, the topic is extremely meaningful, I’m learning transferrable skills, and despite some initial imposter syndrome, I think I’ve done good work these past few weeks. I hope this is a sign of good things to come, and I look forward to referencing this experience in future job applications. However, while my team’s contribution to the project ends in a few weeks, the project is still confidential until the other relevant departments are done a few months later, at which point the final product will be published. There will be a period of time when I can’t talk about the work I’ve completed, but I will be back to job hunting. How does one list a job like this on a resume when one can’t give details? I’m not even sure I can say who my client is.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Unless you signed a confidentiality agreement, I would simply ask what details you can reveal.

      If you can’t name the specific project or client, can you name the type of work and industry? “Analyzed production metrics – annual yields and losses – for a client in the llama farming field.”

    2. 867-5309*

      You could list “independent consultant” as the job title/company and then provide general bullets under it,
      – Increased the email CTR by 5% after redesigning the emails for a defense contractor.
      – Led the redevelopment of the website for an aviation client that resulted in a 10% increase in time on site.

    3. Green Thumb*

      I’ve worked for a long time in positions that require confidentiality, and I usually find that being upfront about it is best. A quick line about “details are confidential” is usually sufficient. I agree with the other replies: you could put details about your work, i.e., X outcome, Y value, or what have you, just say nothing that would give away the client or any potentially sensitive information.

      If you contact the client/whoever asked you to maintain confidentiality to ask about it, you can say something like, “This work was really valuable, and I’d like to mention my involvement with this project on my resume. I understand that I’ve got to maintain confidentiality until [date], but until then, would I be able to mention the project in these vague terms?” and then copy/paste whatever you were planning to put on your resume. If you get to interviews where you’d have to be talking about the still-confidential project, follow-up and ask your client (or whoever it is) how much you can say.

      In interviews I usually say, “I’ll tell you as much as I’m able to about my duties in role A working on project B, but due to the nature of the work, there’s some details I’m not at liberty to discuss. If you’d like to ask follow-up questions about specifics, please do, and I’ll answer them as thoroughly as I’m able to. You are welcome to call [reference] as well, who can speak to my work on project B, and can make a judgment call about what else can be said about the nitty-gritty specifics.” People are usually understanding of this and tend see it as a sign of my good judgment.

      Good luck in your search! :)

  35. Dorcas*

    I have been with a small, family-owned company for about 10 years, overseeing financial reporting and the customer database; I have one direct report. A new CEO started a few years ago and wanted us to do more advanced analytics, which I thought was a great idea. To make up for the extra time we now spend on reporting and more advanced data entry to make reporting possible, she said that the sales force would take on more responsibility for running simple lists and documenting contacts with clients, and we invested in an upgraded CRM and training courses so they could do that. Unfortunately it’s been almost impossible to change the culture here; old employees are still asking us to run even the most simple lookups and turnkey reports, and new hires quickly catch on to the culture and follow suit. The other day a person who has taken extensive courses and has been with us for about a year and a half walked in to my direct report’s cube and asked her to generate a basic list of clients in her territory, which she could have done herself in less time than it took to walk over and ask for it. My coworker started to run the report but then came and asked me about it since it didn’t seem like the best use of her time, and I told her to delete the query she had set up and go back to the person and offer to quickly show her (again) how to run the report. I sent a quick email to my supervisor telling her that I had done this and she did not respond. The requester kept putting my coworker off on the quick training and then two days later she demanded the report, saying she needed it immediately. I called my boss who immediately began screaming at me and berating me for having my coworker delete the query and export. I tried to calm her down; then today she called me in to her office and told me that telling someone to delete a query in the database is “destroying work property” and is a fireable offense. I told her I would leave immediately if she wanted to fire me but we could not keep letting people shirk their responsibilities for using the database. She told me she was trying NOT to fire me because I am a good employee but that I could not “destroy work property” in this way again. I am kind of baffled by how a very basic query and export list – the kinds we regularly clean out of the database after they have been used to save server space – are work property. By this definition it seems to me that we could never throw out notebooks with informal meeting notes, shred documents that are no longer needed, etc. Does this sound right to you guys? Could I really be fired for asking someone to delete partially completed work and show someone else how to do it instead?

    1. AliP*

      It sounds like maybe your boss doesn’t understand what it means to delete a query? Seems like a really overblown response, maybe she doesn’t know exactly what you’re deleting and thinks you’re actually removing records from the database. Especially if she’s otherwise a fairly reasonable person- she could say that running these queries is a responsibility of your team, but focusing on the “work property” part seems like a miscommunication.

      The larger issue of the legacy staff not wanting to use the CRM is, unfortunately, really really common. I think it’s almost a sad office trope at this point: get Salesforce, spend the rest of your life trying to convince sales to track their leads and close opportunities.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      You can be fired for any reason or no reason, so yes, she could fire you for this. But is it “destroying work property”? No.

      1. Dorcas*

        I am very sure I don’t want to work here but due to family responsibilities, I am probably stuck for the near future. Thanks to all who responded!!

        1. SOCK ME UP MONKEY*

          Salesforce is HOT. Any experience with it is great. TBH you might want to look around!!

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      Your boss obviously doesn’t understand what data is. You didn’t direct anyone to purge anything from the database, but based on her reaction it sounds like that’s what she thinks happened.

    4. CatCat*

      You could certainly be fired for it, but I doubt you will because it would be a stupid thing to fire someone over. Your boss sounds a bit loony though, so you never know.

      If she were my supervisor, I would give serious consideration about whether I should consider looking for new employment. First, because she is an overreacting screamer. Second, because the threat of being fired would make me feel insecure in my continued position.

      I think you should go back to boss for the immediate time to get some clarification. “Boss, I was really taken aback by your accusation that I had ‘destroyed work property’ by deleting a database query. We routinely delete queries as needed to keep the database cleaned up and save server space. Should we not be doing that?” (Don’t argue about whether this should or shouldn’t be done, let it be her call.)

      “Second, I understood that CEO wanted everyone trained up on using the database and to stop coming to me and Direct Report for simple tasks that they can do on their own. Is that incorrect? Do you want us to do something different going forward?” (Again, don’t argue it. It’s her call even if she make a counterintuitive and stupid call.)

      Then to CYA, email her a recap of the conversation and her decisions. “Just recapping our conversation today to ensure we’re on the same page…”

      Again, I’d be questioning my plans to stay at the organization versus looking elsewhere though.

    5. Amethystmoon*

      This sounds bizarre and more like an excuse than anything else. If your boss is not very computer literate, perhaps she misheard or misunderstood something in some document or verbal training that she received. But it may depend on what your company’s HR & legal depts. have defined as “work property.” I agree, I would also think that it would mean no one can ever destroy outdated notebooks or recycle papers that were printed off and are now no longer needed. Any building with such a definition would be buried in papers and trash as a result.

  36. Mockingjay*

    I am starting FMLA leave next week, to care for an ill family member. I never realized how wonderful this law is until I needed it.

    For the last two months, I have been in a tug-of-war between meeting the demands of my job and organizing care. I am stressed beyond belief, my work is suffering, and I am plain exhausted.

    FMLA can be a win/win for all. It’s a relief to turn over my work to trusted colleagues so projects that I am vested in keep on course, while I get the time I need to devote myself to family care, knowing that my job is waiting for me. I still have years of work left in me and I will be ready to pick up where I left off.

    1. The Rain In Spain*

      Glad that you’re able to take the time to focus on family care! Hope it goes well, family recovers, and your return to work is smooth.

    2. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      Sending you a hug of support. FMLA saved my sanity …. it is a great thing when you need it. And take care of you, too. (I know others have already said that… but put your oxygen mask on before you help others. You have to eat, sleep, and take care of your health!)

  37. FD*

    I’m really frustrated about a work matter and I just want to vent a bit.

    I work for a small (2-person) business. We share office space with another small (>10 person) business, which we’ll call [B]. Because we are too small to afford an admin of our own, we pay a small share of [B]’s admin’s salary. In exchange, that person answers the phones for us, schedules a few appointments, and greets people who come in.

    The other person in the business works outside the office almost all the time. My job means that I’m in the office 100% of the time. However, a lot of my work requires being able to focus. We share in the admin role to reduce the number of calls and interruptions I have to deal with.

    My frustration is that [B]’s admin is absent WAY too often. And it’s always, always on a Monday or a Friday. This person is also often late, probably 2-3 days per week, by a significant margin (10-30 minutes), always with a different elaborate story of why they just couldn’t be on time. This means that whenever this person is out, I have to cover the work they do for our business as well as my own work, and my primary job suffers.

    I know the owner of [B] well enough to know that they won’t discipline this person. I also do our budgeting so I know it’s not practical for us to get someone of our own.

    No advice, I’m just annoyed with the situation, particularly since it’s very hard for me, at this point, to believe that this person is really just being that unlucky in the timing of their absences, and this has all been going on for more than a year now.

    1. HQB*

      This is only a bandaid, but could you talk to B’s owner about reducing the amount you pay for the admin services? If you document how often she is absent or late you can make the case that you are paying for 40 hours of coverage per week and only getting, say, 35 on average. Alternatively could you ask B’s owner if any of their other employees could provide backup admin coverage when the admin is not there? They must have someone who provides backup coverage for their own company, and if you are paying for admin coverage, you should be able to use that as well.

      1. FD*

        On the first, I’ve considered it but at the percentages we’re talking it’s not that much of a financial difference, and I’m disinclined for us to burn political capital on that aspect of it, when there are other more important issues where we need to work together.

        On the second, [B] doesn’t have a backup. They just have their phones set up so that people can dial through an IVR to reach people if the admin is out.

        Actually that’s the other part that annoys me–since I’m the only one in the office full time out of our two offices, if the admin is out, I also have to listen for the door, get up, and go see who’s there every time someone comes in the door.

        1. FD*

          Also, we pay a percentage of the actual wages + taxes, so if the admin has unpaid time (which has happened), we actually DO pay less. That’s why fussing over that part isn’t worth it.

          FWIW, my boss is on the same page as me and is awesome, but we both feel that it’s in the ‘incurable, but endurable’ category. It just happens to be annoying the heck out of me right now because I have to do extra work in general for the end of the month so it’s irritating to have to also cover for someone for what feels like the millionth time.

          1. valentine*

            You’re doing unpaid admin work with no end in sight and your boss is lacking in imagination. If you didn’t pay this person, what could you do with that money? Add that money to the cost of your lost time via interruption, annoyance, and stress. Is it enough for a temp? Why must you endure? Are there really zero alternatives to this nonsense? Are the visitors for you? Can you get an intercom or disallow walk-ins? Do you have to be there all the time? What happens if you ignore the door or let all calls go to voicemail and reply at certain times? B and your boss are crap at managing this person. Your boss is giving this woman PTO for no good reason. He should sit down with B because admin’s not doing the stuff you pay her for. Her options should be to get in gear and take her work for you seriously or for your boss to end the payment scheme.

            People with wild stories are the worst.

            1. FD*

              If you didn’t pay this person, what could you do with that money? Add that money to the cost of your lost time via interruption, annoyance, and stress. Is it enough for a temp?

              It’s not enough for a temp, or even remotely close enough for a temp. Because the interruptions are spread across the work week, it makes more sense to pay a share of someone else’s full-timer vs. trying to hire our own.

              Are there really zero alternatives to this nonsense? Are the visitors for you? Can you get an intercom or disallow walk-ins?

              Some of the visitors are for me, plenty aren’t. And unfortunately, no–the nature of the business we’re in means I’m stuck with that part.

              Do you have to be there all the time?

              Yep. Most of my work relies on regularly accessing large, very not-mobile file cabinets.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          “Actually that’s the other part that annoys me–since I’m the only one in the office full time out of our two offices, if the admin is out, I also have to listen for the door, get up, and go see who’s there every time someone comes in the door.”

          Honestly, sounds like the other office should be paying a percentage of *your* wage. They use you as much as (more than??) you guys use B.

          1. Batgirl*

            Right? This is also the reason B aren’t disciplining the admin. They have no consequences! Someone else’ll do it!

            FD, in your shoes I’d be considering why a) We’re the only one paying for help that goes both ways and b) why are we the only ones worried about political capital.
            Maybe you genuinely are the poor relation and have to suck it up right now, but I bet if you moved out someday Boss B would say to admin ‘Ok I really need you to be more reliable now. I am now paying you full wage and have no helpful backups. I can’t even dock you because it’s not a time issue. It’s a firing one; while the time lost is small, the inconvenience is high’.

    2. Anono-me*

      Would have phone service be an option? I know it wouldn’t address the physical visitor situation, but the phone service could take all your calls and send you email summaries of people’s concerns

    3. Not A Manager*

      What does the admin actually do when she answers your phone? Obviously she doesn’t interrupt you for everyone; that would be worthless. Does she screen the calls and put some of them through to you?

      Unless people are really calling with fires that need to be put out instantly, couldn’t you let the calls go to voicemail and screen them as soon as you can break your concentration? Could you have a dedicated buzzer so that you only need admit your own customers and not answer for the other company?

      I’d try to see if there’s some way to either minimize the disruptions when the admin is AWOL, or, better, find a way to do without her.

      1. FD*

        I can’t get too much into the details without outing myself but what I can say is that she can answer certain basic questions and make appointments, which is about 50% of the calls we get. Reducing the calls I have to handle by 50% is genuinely valuable to me.

        The problem in general is that the nature of the business that I’m in is that there are a lot of calls that are fires that have to be dispatched out. That’s part of the nature of the beast and I knew that when I signed up. I’ve got to fit in the focus work around a job that’s prone to having loads of fires pop up all the time anyway. That’s why it’s sort of annoying to have to handle extra calls rather than just the ones that have been screened as needing my attention.

    4. ..Kat..*

      In my opinion, company B should have a backup for their admin.

      Have you told your boss what is going on and how it is affecting your work?

      1. FD*

        /shrug/ The business is really too small for it to make sense.

        He’s aware, but there truly isn’t anything he can do about it. Honestly, I’m just grouching at this point. It’s just going to be this way until we can afford an actual admin. I’m mostly grumpy right now because I’m trying to do reports and getting extra interruptions today was NOT helpful.

        It’ll be fine. I just wanted to vent a bit. :)

        1. Lilith*

          This is probably dumb but can a sign or arrow be placed on her desk directing foot traffic to your office for help so that at least you don’t have to get up to greet folks?

  38. Bait and switch!*

    Nightmare scenario! I just started a job two weeks ago and it is not what I interviewed for. Suddenly I’m in charge of llama presentation and teapot management when I interviewed for crock pot communications. My boss has taken two vacations since I started after telling me I’m in charge. No one is being a decision maker and I’ve been piecing together protocol in my boss’s abscence. Normally I’m a very optimistic person and am happy to jump in and help. But not for a job I didn’t interview for! I managed to talk to my boss between vacations and this is the role I’m stuck in. So awkward.

    1. 867-5309*

      Hang in there!

      And FWIW, if you happen to in fact be in communications/PR/marketing, then as long as you have a couple experiences around two years, you’d probably be fine to begin the job hunt.

  39. Lily*

    Do you consider it normal to write on a business card someone’s just given you (e.g. to make a note of when they should give you a call etc.)?

    I’m Asian and business cards are a big deal where I’m from, you absolutely do not write on them (it’s also considered rude if you don’t hand them over / receive them with both hands), but then I’m not in that Asian country anymore so maybe that’s the norm here?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      What’s “here”? In the U.S.? In the U.S., assuming someone actually still has a business card, it’s absolutely normal and acceptable to write on a business card to make a note of when they should give you a call.

      1. valentine*

        In the US, they are more convenient than a scrap of paper, but it’s fine to throw them out, write on them, use them as bookmarks, etc.

        Accepting something lightweight with both hands is excessively formal. I would only do that for babies or the Eucharist.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      East Coast USA here: business cards are not at all a Big Deal. It’s normal to write on someone else’s business cards.

    3. FD*

      It’s incredibly normal in the US. At one point, I was reading up on Asian business etiquette to prepare for a meeting with an important potential client, and the site discussed the differences you’re describing, and said that it’s common for American business people to accidentally come off as rude because of the different norms around business cards.

      The best way I can describe it is that in the US, people tend to see business cards as…well, mostly a stopgap until you can enter the relevant information into your phone/contacts management system/etc. rather than being something of value or a symbol of the connection between people. Because they’re mostly seen mostly in a pragmatic way, it makes sense to write on them if you need to note additional information that isn’t on the card.

      Definitely not a ‘it’s better this way than that way’, but FWIW, it definitely isn’t intended to be rude in this context.

    4. Environmental Compliance*

      I’m in the US, Midwestern area, and it’s very common to write on business cards in my experience. I do it all the time to put in little notes of where I met them, what we may have talked about, etc so that when I go back to contact them I remember what we were talking about or what I might have wanted to ask them about etc.

      Otherwise (at least in my job) I’d have 39248 business cards with almost the same company name that all do a variation of the same thing.

      1. epi*

        I’m also in the Midwest.

        Not only is it not a big deal to write on business cards here, in my experience, but usually the person giving me the card writes on it before giving it to me. They might want me to have other contact information in addition to what is on the card, or the name of their supervisor, or anything really. So I usually don’t have to write on the card in front of them, but I wouldn’t hesitate to do so if I wanted to remember something about our conversation.

        1. just a random teacher*

          My business cards have my name, subject area, which school I teach at, and assorted contact information, but I’m often trying to give out my contact information for reasons that aren’t particularly related to that subject area (I advise a club in a different, unrelated subject area and that’s often what I’m networking about since it’s much more likely to need, say, guest speakers than my actual classes are). I’ll usually write something on the card before handing it over in that situation to help cue the person’s memory later. Similarly, if I get a card and don’t think the person’s name, title, and contact info will be enough information for me to remember why I have that card later, I’ll write something on it to help me remember. I’ll particularly do this if I’m supposed to do some specific form of follow-up such as email them a document.

          Until recently, teachers at my school were all given generic business cards with a blank for you to fill in your name on, the pre-printed title of teacher, and the school’s contact info. Those definitely expected you to write in your name, and possibly your email address, before handing them off. (I am so glad to have proper cards now. It made for some awkward networking to have the business card equivalent of the temporary new account checks when I would be asked for my card when trying to make connections out somewhere.)

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      It is totally normal to write on business cards in the US, in fact, seeing someone writing down their follow ups on your card in my mind, shows that they are serious about doing the follow up.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yep. Writing on the business card indicates there’s something important enough to write, and that they intend to keep it.

    6. Disco Mama*

      I thought the ability to write on the back was one of the main reasons people still use business cards!

    7. Observer*

      SOO normal that sometimes that is the main reason people give them – and why many people are careful to design their cards to be blank on one side, or to have a decent amount of blank space on one of the sides.

    8. Amber Rose*

      Yep, it’s the exact opposite. In North America, we treat business cards as space to write info we don’t want to forget. They aren’t taken very seriously, and half the time when I get one it’s like, crumpled and creased from being jammed in a pocket.

      I do know that the disconnect there is why our business folk often come across as rude/insulting when they travel. My Japanese language teacher held a whole class about that, warning us to watch ourselves on a few key points.

      1. Artemesia*

        The first time I met the Big Cheese at an organization I worked at in Singapore, the person working with me took me aside and made sure I knew the business card dance. Big Cheese was visibly disappointed when I took his card with two hands and examined it before putting it in my card holder and then offered my own card in the same way. I gathered he got his jollies chiding rude foreigners about their business card etiquette and I appreciated that my minder clued me in.

    9. hermit crab*

      In my experience (all in the U.S., mostly on the east coast), writing on business cards is totally normal; if anything it’s a benefit, as it indicates that you’re genuinely interested in remembering the person and following up! I hate the current trend of over-designed business cards with colored backgrounds and stuff on the backs. There’s hardly any space to write things anymore.

    10. Moonbeam Malone*

      Normal in the U.S. FWIW, I’m a woman and don’t feel comfortable/safe putting my phone number on my cards, so I actually have had my two-sided cards printed with one side of the card un-coated, specifically so people can write on it if they do request a phone number.

    11. LKW*

      Very normal here. People won’t even hand them to you, they’ll leave them on your laptop or seat at a table. Writing on a business card is also very common.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I often find business cards lying in weird places as cheap advertising: there were some in the drink holder of my building’s treadmill last week (personal trainer), and I’m always finding them tucked into the structural supports at my local swimming pool or left on the counter by the hairdryers (mostly MLM consultants/odd jobs.)

    12. Zephy*

      US-based here. The last time I even had business cards, they had space on the back specifically for the purpose of writing on them.

    13. Artemesia*

      Business cards are not part of a sacred ritual or a symbol of the actual person in the US. (I have worked in the Middle East and Asia where the elaborate business card ballet is the norm so understand what you refer to). It would simply seem sensible to jot down a note about a future meeting or whatever on the card. A total non-issue in the US. (you wouldn’t of course toss the card into a waste basket in front of the giver, but using it to remind you of a future appointment with the person is just common sense)

  40. ten ton trucks*

    A little curious about this and interested to know other people’s experiences. I had a Skype interview this week and the night before had a sudden worry that it might be with the webcam, so I put on an interview top. It wasn’t webcam, just like I’d initially assumed. I wonder if this is because it’s internal and we’re all used to using Skype for all our meetings? None of the interviews my office does use webcams, although they all use Skype to do them.

    When I interviewed somewhere else 5 years ago that was a webcam interview, it was on some other site, not Skype.

    What’s people’s experiences with this? Is it assumed that “skype interview” = “will use a webcam”? Or is “skype interview” just replacing “phone interview” with the assumption that no one will see each other? Or is this just a norm of my current office that I’ve internalized? Do webcam interviews say it straight out or do they just assume you know because they say it’s on Skype?

    1. The Rain In Spain*

      If it comes up again, I would just clarify when the interview is being set up. I’ve had a few skype interviews with webcam, but the potential employer always asked if I had a webcam/was able to participate in an on-camera interview.

    2. VAP*

      Every time I’ve had a skype interview, it’s been with video, so personally I’d assume that.

    3. hermit crab*

      I would also assume it’s a video call and I think what happened to you was weird! That said, my organization does BlueJeans for all its conference calling, so for us saying “I will send a BlueJeans link” often just means “I will send a conference line.” I call into plenty of meetings – not interviews, but calls with external partners, collaborators, etc. – where the call-in number is a BlueJeans line but nobody ever turns on their cameras.

      1. ten ton trucks*

        Yeah, I think that’s just what happened here, we say “skype” all the time when what we mean is “we’re going to do a call through our computers so we can talk and share screens, but no one is ever on video for this, this is a work conference call” that it’s just seeped through.

        This interview didn’t even have screen sharing, it was just being used as a conference call line.

    4. 867-5309*

      I assume Skype = webcam and since reading this site, now clarify for candidates that when we’re doing their initial Skype interview, it’s voice only.

    5. Parenthetically*

      I would 100% assume that if someone said “Skype interview” they would mean a video call interview, and would be extremely surprised if they just used the voice call option! It wouldn’t even occur to me that someone would use Skype for a voice call only.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I’d assume video unless they say otherwise. I had a phone screen via a web app recently and it was audio-only, but that was indicated beforehand.

  41. Trying to Get Out of the Clown Car Biz*

    This has been gnawing at me a little and I missed yesterday’s “Is this normal?” thread, so apologies if this looks like a question that should have gone there.

    TL/DR Version: How normal is it to be employed by one business but wind up doing a fair amount of work for a different business, owned by the same person, but you are not on the payroll for?

    Context: I work for a teapot distributor as an Administrative Assistant. Overall it’s wound up crossing more into Personal Assistant territory than I was ready for or would have liked, but while that’s never happened to me before I know that’s A Thing, so we’ll call that part normal-ish, I guess? The owner also owns a few clown car rental businesses, completely separate from Teapots, LLC on paper. Pretty early into my tenure at Teapots, LLC I unceremoniously got saddled with running day-to-day operations for Jim’s Clown Cars, one of Owner’s clown car rental businesses. I don’t know anything about clown cars. It was a tiny company so it’s not like it was a huge workload, but it was super far from my area of expertise and a source of stress for me because I had no idea what I was doing. Imagine my relief when it was eventually taken off my plate by someone with a little actual clown car experience! (Who, um, works for Teapots, LLC, again, not for Jim’s Clown Cars.) But since then while I’m not stuck managing a clown car business at least, I still keep finding myself assigned tasks by Owner which turn out to be for his other clown car company.

    There’s an extent to which I think this might just be a personal assisting thing but…it all kinda rubs me the wrong way? It’s like Owner gets to turn a bigger profit from his side businesses by having practically “no overhead,” because Teapots, LLC is covering overhead for him, free of charge. More and more I feel a bit exploited. I dunno – is this normal?

    1. fposte*

      I can’t tell if he owns Teapots, LLC or not. If he does, I’d say this isn’t uncommon, but it’s not best practice. If he doesn’t own Teapots, LLC this is seriously shady.

      1. Trying to Get Out of the Clown Car Biz*

        He does! Sorry that was unclear. Thanks for your reply. I guess this really comes down to a fit issue for me.

    2. CatCat*

      I’ve seen these sort of lines get blurred before, but I don’t know how common it is. But how the money flows, tax implications, or issues that could arise from not keeping the businesses separate, those are going to be the owner’s problems if it blows up. Those could translate to your problems if he ends up having to lay people off, but that’s probably an unlikely scenario.

      1. Trying to Get Out of the Clown Car Biz*

        It does get a little weird sometimes. Like, if I need to buy something for Jim’s Clown Cars there’s no company credit card for that company and I have to use a Teapots, LLC card. I guess that gets reimbursed down the line but it seems like not a good idea? Also I wasn’t really briefed on any procedure for those reimbursements so, hm. That’s fine, I guess.

        1. valentine*

          I don’t know if this is embezzlement or tax fraud and the less you know, the worse it can be for you. Talk to a lawyer or ask the IRS and plan your exit.

    3. LKW*

      Not sure if there are any CPAs or tax attorneys here but I have to imagine that he’s essentially getting free labor from company A to give to company B and that may not be above board.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        Yeah, I know some guys who went to prison for tax fraud. They charged costs to one company they owned that should have been charged to another they owned – but that’s your boss’ problem.
        You should consider what this is doing to your resume and job description. Also, if he gets caught, will you be considered complicit through association by potential employers? You might want to start looking for another job. Sorry.

        1. Trying to Get Out of the Clown Car Biz*

          Hm, I don’t think this really moves beyond using the labor force from Company A for some free labor for Company B and I feel like that most likely falls into a legal loophole, but I have pretty limited knowledge of labor and tax law. There’s a possibility that smaller transactions, like stuff I’m handling, aren’t winding up paid by the correct company. On the one hand I think you generally have a lot of opportunity to correct those kinds of issues before they rise to the level of jailable offences, but on the other I do think it’s probably better to avoid that in the first place? Thankfully I don’t think this would wind up reflecting on me if it did turn out that way but I appreciate the warning.

      2. CJM*

        CPA here. One tax isssue would be if both companies are taxed as a corporations. If the car co loses money but he has no basis, he can’t offset his income from the teapot,company with the loss. By expensing all of the payroll and credit card orders (if not reimbursed) he is offsetting the teapot income with car co expenses he couldn’t deduct if car co paid them ( until his basis increases).

    4. Annon for this*

      I have met a couple people who have been in your shoes. Working for company A, but also doing work for companies B, C and sometimes D. All owned by same boss. I have no idea on legality of it, but I have seen it more than once. It generally is come kind of small clown business.
      I would also be resentful of the boss presenting it as AA, but it seems more like PA. I might put up for it for a while as I am looking for new jobs.

      1. Trying to Get Out of the Clown Car Biz*

        Yeah, I don’t think there was an intentional bait-and-switch, so much as it wasn’t a super well-defined role at the outset. (I do feel a liiittle salty because I’ve always avoided PA listings because I didn’t want the stress and sticky boundaries involved but they tend to pay more than what I make now.) At least I’ve been here long enough not to look like a job hopper. I do think I need to actually start applying for roles elsewhere. Thanks!

    5. Anon for this*

      This is potentially dodgy. I recently left a job where we (at Teapots, LLC) did a lot of work for a Clown Car company owned (at least partly) by one of the Teapots board members, and I’m pretty sure Teapots wasn’t paid for it. The relationship between these companies was extremely murky, but I suspect the board member owned a bigger share of Clown Cars than Teapots, LLC.

  42. Mellow cello*

    Is it normal to feel nervous about an early promotion?

    In my field, people usually in my currently level for at least 2-3 years taking on more responsibility before making the jump to the next level. I’m one year in and they’re short-staffed so I’m getting a *lot* of encouragement to apply to be promoted – my boss, grandboss, colleagues at the next level and colleagues on other teams have all spoken personally to the head of department about promoting me.

    It’s incredibly encouraging and flattering! But I’m also nervous – I want to make sure I’m ready and do a good job. I’m I just over-thinking things???

    1. The Rain In Spain*

      I think it’s normal to feel nervous about a promotion at any time! I would encourage you to ask questions about any additional training offered to people in the (new) role and certainly discuss with your boss/grandboss. It may be that there’s no formal training offered but they’d be willing to send you to a relevant conference or something like that!

      1. Mellow cello*

        I’m definitely keen to continue my professional development! My field usually expects us to self-fund our own conferences etc and I’m actively looking to keep doing that.

    2. Middle Manager*

      I think it’s definitely normal to be nervous. But also an honor that they see leadership potential in you!

      I would say:
      -Stay humble about your age and experience level
      -Be committed to developing yourself for the areas where you have less experience
      -Be prepared for at least a little resistance from peers

      1. Mellow cello*

        Thanks, Middle Manager! A lot of people in my field use the next level to leapfrog quickly to the level above that – if the promotion goes ahead, I’m planning to really develop my skills and knowledge where it’s currently lacking and not try to push forward too fast.

    3. ..Kat..*

      I would be a little leery. Are they just trying to conveniently fill an empty position? What are they going to do to train/support you in your move to this higher position? Or are you going to just be dumped in it and then criticized if you do not know what to do?

      Sorry. This sounds like I have no confidence in you (you sound fabulous). Actually, I have no confidence in your management giving you what you need to succeed. And then blaming you if you don’t succeed. This is based on some of my personal experiences.

      1. Mellow cello*

        Don’t worry, I understand because I’m having those doubts too. I’m great at my job (part of it is that some of peers aren’t very good) but am I ‘2 years ahead of everyone else’ great?

        Is there any way to suss out if this is a genuine opportunity or they’re just desperate for warm bodies and setting me up to fail?

  43. Alice*

    My profession’s culture is service-oriented and consultative, which is great; we aspire to center the user, rather than ourselves.
    Last week I was in a three-day training workshop, and almost everyone was performatively diffident about sharing their insights/experiences. I’m not expecting everyone to love speaking extemporaneously, but do we have to do a ten-second dance, you speak, no you speak, no, you speak better than I, with EVERY group, EVERY time the trainer asks groups to report on their small group discussions?

    1. fposte*

      Oh, yeah, it’s the peril of that kind of culture–the worst thing is for you to act like you have more right to speak than anyone else. I bet that these people will take forever to figure out who gets to eat the last piece of cake.

      1. Alice*

        You are not kidding. The last slice of pizza from day two went from 1 to 1/2 to 1/4 to 1/8….

        1. Iris Eyes*

          I have decided that I will be the last piece hero anytime there is a last piece I want. I will take the responsibility of having the last piece and also cleaning up after it. No, no, hold your applause, its the least I can do really.

          1. fposte*

            Ha. I am your partner; I am the person who goes first at the buffet when everybody’s standing around.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Were you the trainer? If so, you can assign roles to the group: you’re the reporter, you’re the note-taker, you’re the person who keeps the group on track w/ time… And then switch up the roles every so often so everyone gets a chance/has to speak.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, I’ve seen this be effective in classrooms. You don’t have to appoint the people as the trainer, but you can include assigning these roles as the first step in the activity or breakout time.

    3. Victoria, Please*

      As the trainer in that situation, I would have noticed this fast and given directions as to Who Speaks First so it didn’t keep wasting time.

  44. Daphne*

    I have about 10 weeks left in my role as a PT management assistant at an arts centre. I’ve posted before about how I didn’t feel it was a great fit for me and don’t feel like I’ve left my mark on any projects like my colleagues have (small team of 6, we’re all essentially our own departments). Somehow, after a year I’m still here but my contract will definitely end in the summer. Is there any point in checking in with my boss how he wants the remaining weeks to play out? He keeps kicking that conversation into the following week, them when that rolls around a hundred other things have come up that are more important than me! I’ve honestly just stuck my head down and done what I can, but feel it would be nice to leave on a positive note!

    1. 867-5309*

      If he won’t meet with you in person, then send an email.

      “Hi Joe, I’m entering the last 10 weeks in my role as PT management assistant and want to make sure my time is used in a way to best help you and the organization. Is there anything specific on which you’d like me to focus or something I can do with these remaining weeks?”

  45. No Tribble At All*

    Inspired by this morning’s question about meal reimbursement, stories about work expense drama! Either from the employee or employer point of view.

    I’ll start. At my first job, I was sent on a two-week long international trip for training. I was just out of undergrad, so I didn’t have a credit card yet, nor a whole lot of cash reserves. I had to get my boss to buy my transatlantic plane tickets, since we didn’t have a company card. He’s super chill, so he did, and the company arranged the rental car and hotel. I got my first credit card, which had no foreign transaction fees and a small credit limit, and I was all set!

    I was assured by the local site manager that the hotel was taken care of, but two weeks later, when I went to check out, they asked me for my credit card to pay. I couldn’t Not Pay, but I was almost at my credit limit after two weeks. I frantically called my credit card company to approve an increase to my limit so I could pay for this hotel (which they did). And that’s why, my first day back when my manager asked how the trip had been, I burst into tears, because I’d gone a thousand dollars over my credit limit and was afraid I’d ruined my credit score forever. My manager gave the local site manager a stern talking-to, and they revamped their travel system after that.

    1. Temperance*

      I worked in a shared office space organization, and I was strongly encouraged not to expense my mileage while running errands for one of those obnoxious BNI groups that used our space. My boss basically said that she would have to start doing that part of the job (in an annoyed, angry voice) if I insisted on it. Our grandboss was a member of the org, so she made a bunch of promises to the woman who ran it. The woman who ran the BNI group was a nitpicky nightmare to deal with, and she apparently was told that I would be her assistant for a bunch of things.

          1. valentine*

            Why couldn’t you not pay, have them call the local guy and your boss, and just insist they would have to take care of it and your (personal?!) card wasn’t an option?

    2. Teapot flowerer*

      My husband is actually on a per diem when he travels. They don’t submit receipts, they just say what days and times they were gone (because if they leave after 8 or get home before 6 fewer meals are covered) and if any meals were covered by the meeting/conference hosts. I don’t know the exact amounts, but it’s something like $70/day broken up as $10 for b’fast, $20 for lunch, $40 for dinner, so if they are gone from 9 am Monday to 8pm Tuesday they get $130 in per diem.

      This is very generous and a lot of people stay in hotels with continental breakfast and eat that rather than paying for a breakfast. For whatever reason, this isn’t included as part of the “meals provided by the host”. So far, the organization has ignored it, but people they don’t like get guff about “were you actually gone past 6pm? did you maybe drive slower than you had to or spend time talking that you didn’t need to?” and lots of grumbling about people making money off their per diem. But only about people they don’t like at the moment.

      I hear my husband talk about the drama and think “this should be the most drama-free way to handle this and still there’s drama.”

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        So far, the organization has ignored it, but people they don’t like get guff about “were you actually gone past 6pm? did you maybe drive slower than you had to or spend time talking that you didn’t need to?”

        I used to have a job where I prepared travel claims under very similar circumstances – you had to be on the road for a certain number of hours to get per diem. And it was pretty obvious who understood those rules and who did not. But as far as I know, no one ever said “Joe, it’s pretty amazing how you always manage to be on the road for EXACTLY 12 hours and 15 minutes.”

    3. Decima Dewey*

      When I worked for the accounting firm, somehow it became my job to check the timesheets for mistakes (wrong client number, faulty arithmetic on hours and expenses). One partner took the Tax Department out drinking on April 15th, and charged three of the department’s most troublesome clients for the bill. One Audit Senior Accountant liked to submit expenses for meals at pricey restaurants. It turned out that the rest of the team didn’t want to eat at Chez Expensive in Jersey Shore, PA, but wanted to order pizza or takeout while continuing to work, so they’d finish the audit faster.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      This didn’t happen to me, but to someone I used to work with. Her first out-of-college job was at an organization where you could either pay your travel expenses upfront and get reimbursed, or you could get a corporate card, which was an American Express She chose to get a corporate Amex. At the time, their big advertising focus was that there was no credit limit. When she tried to check into her hotel, she was surprised to find that for corporate cards, there WAS a limit, and it was based on your credit rating. And as a recent grad with almost no credit history, she had a fairly low rating, and the remaining limit on her card wasn’t enough to check into the hotel. Luckily, she was traveling with a coworker, who covered her room.

    5. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I travel a lot for work, but all my expenses have gone smoothly (other than times my crappy former travel policy would leave me with like $12 a day in Philadelphia).

      In my first job I observed a manager needing to rent a car to travel to a conference, but for whatever reason didn’t have a personal credit card and the rental car wouldn’t accept their debit card. No one in the organization had a company card, so they ended up having to express mail a check to the rental car company, or her boss put it on a personal card to be reimbursed – can’t remember the details, but it was kind of a hassle. I just remember the manager who paid talking all kinds of crap about the manager who didn’t have a personal card/the funds to front a multiple hundred dollar rental on short notice, and found it totally demoralizing in a job where I was barely making enough to pay rent.

      Another story about rental cars! This isn’t my story directly, but when I worked at a state university in a small, isolated college town we had a fleet of university-owned cars for business travel. Apparently someone had been checking out cars and pretending to travel for work, completely falsifying their itinerary, meetings, everything. They were only caught when the keys to the fleet car were found on the ground (ironically, at a church) in town when that person was supposed to be traveling out of state.