my parents are shocked that interviewers can see my social media, can I help my nice but incompetent boss, and more

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

1. My parents are shocked that interviewers can see my Twitter persona

I’m in my mid-20s and work in an industry that’s dominated by people about my age. At every job I’ve had, I’ve been encouraged by upper management to tweet about my work, and to maintain a robust and authentic presence on Twitter (and to a lesser extent other social media). As a result, my Twitter persona is heavily tied to my professional life — I follow most of the people I’m aware of who work in my industry and many follow me back, even if we’ve never actually met each other. I usually tweet a pretty even mix of “on-message” work-related stuff (think a picture of me at a work event complete with approved language and hashtags), funny or sarcastic tweets that relate to my job but aren’t critical of it (think tweeting about a funny conversation with my coworkers), and tweets about media I like, news, or just anecdotes from day-to-day life that aren’t related to my job. I never tweet about drug or alcohol use or sexual content and I usually get pretty clear guidelines about what is and is not okay to tweet from my bosses, which I follow. At every job I’ve held, my direct supervisors have had alerts turned on for my tweets so they can immediately see if anything I’ve said could possibly be problematic and immediately ask me to delete it. I’ve only had such a request once and complied immediately.

Anyway, I guess over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at social media, because my work-related tweets tend to get a decent amount of engagement from others in my niche industry. I’ve never gone “viral” or anything, but several of my tweets have gotten a few hundred likes or retweets. I’m currently unemployed and looking for jobs, and I’ve now had two interviews where the interviewer has commented on my online presence, and one even said she feels like she already knows me from my tweets. I took this as a compliment, but my parents were absolutely shocked when I told them. They think social media should be extremely private and that potential supervisors seeing my opinions and thoughts on such a public platform could only hurt me.

Obviously, I disagree — and my *general* sense of professional norms in my industry seems to support this. But I’m really curious; if someone applied for a job with you who you followed on Twitter and whose tweets you had enjoyed in the past, would it help or hurt them? If you felt like you got a sense of their personality from their online presence, would that help to humanize them outside of the interview process or would you feel too familiar with them to judge them professionally?

Your parents are way off-base on this. This has become incredibly normal in a lot of fields. There’s nothing wrong with it, and in some cases it can help you (as long as your content isn’t problematic, obviously).

On the hiring side of things, if I had a candidate who I “knew” a bit through Twitter, and who had a warm/smart/engaging presence there, that would be a positive. I mean, that’s not getting anyone the job unless the job is social media, but it’s similar to knowing someone a bit from industry events and have a generally positive impression of them. In fact, that’s how you might frame it for your parents, if it ever comes up with them again — this is just another form of networking and having contacts who you know slightly from industry events, things they’ve written in industry publications, etc. And I bet they think that scenario is a good one, because it is; they’re just having trouble with understanding Twitter isn’t that different. (Or they don’t realize that having a professional persona on Twitter isn’t the same thing as having your social posts on Facebook be public to the world.)

2. My boss is nice but people think he’s incompetent — can I help him?

I’ve been in a new job that I adore for a couple months. I’m an admin who supports two different departments. One of my directors is incredibly supportive, encourages workplace development, and is a highly respected individual in her field.

My other director started around the same time I did (a few months ago) and is nice, goofy, and fun, but feels more like my coworker than my manager. Our 1:1s are spent with no agenda, and mostly consist of me reminding him of things he needs to be doing.

I can’t help but compare him with my other manager. I’ve been chalking it up to it just being his personality and the fact that he’s new, but he’s done some things that just make me cringe. One time when there were very few people in the office, he got pizza for one team and didn’t invite the two members of a different team that were sitting right there to partake. I recently heard that another of his colleagues (who is at the same seniority level) said point-blank to other people that he does not know what he’s doing.

I feel bad for him, and also would love for him to improve as a manager for my own personal benefit. I don’t think he has any idea people feel that he’s kind of incompetent. Do I somehow broach the subject with him? I’m only the admin, but we have a very collaborative office environment and I have a lot of opportunities to have 1:1s with him.

You don’t really have the standing to tell him that people think he’s incompetent and he needs to improve, but you have some room to nudge him toward some specific improvements. For example, with your 1:1s, you could say something like, “For my 1:1s with Jane, we’ve been setting aside each week to debrief recent work, talk about progress toward our goals, and troubleshoot things like X and Y. I’ve found it really makes the time valuable — would you be up for structuring ours that way too? I could start us off by creating agendas for the next few and see how that goes.”

With the pizza situation, if you have pretty good rapport with him, in theory you could say something in private like, “Can I mention something I noticed earlier this week? I think Cecil and Cordelia might have felt a little excluded when you ordered pizza for us but didn’t offer them any, since hardly anyone else was around and they were right there. I wonder if in the future with stuff like that, we could offer them some.”

But you’ll need to pick your battles on this stuff. Making suggestions about things that directly involve your work (like your meeting agendas) is a pretty normal thing to do in the course of your work. But feedback on stuff like the pizza situation is more of a very occasional thing; you can’t do it every week without overstepping. So I’m offering that language as an illustration of the way you can tackle situations of that type — but not necessarily suggesting the pizza battle be the one you pick. In general, start out assuming you have room for maybe five pizza-type suggestions a year … which means you’ve got to be pretty choosy about what will warrant addressing.

Also, don’t get sucked into feeling like it’s your job to fix this situation. It’s not, and you can’t. He may need to figure this stuff out on his own … or he won’t, but it’s still not your job to address that.

3. My friend says you shouldn’t interview with more than one company, ever

I am a young woman and I have a question concerning something that a friend, “Cathy,” has said about job searching and interviews.

Cathy has claimed that you should never interview with more than one company at a time. She added that companies “know” when you do so (as if they have mystical powers of detection), that they think interviewing with other companies “looks bad” for you (because apparently, it’s bad to have options?), and makes them not want to hire you (with an implied “end of story, now don’t question me”). I think that what Cathy says just isn’t true at all. It just doesn’t make any sense to me to restrict your job options and sit around waiting for an offer (which might take a while) that might not ever materialize. Companies don’t feel bad for interviewing more than one candidate, why should a job-seeker feel bad for having more than one interview? Frankly, from reading your blog, I think that Cathy’s been given some sort of gimmicky advice by a career center at school, but I don’t know for sure.

Is this one-interview idea even close to true? (I’ll add here that I find it difficult to believe that any sane human being will sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting for a job offer for the sake of a company’s feelings.)

Nooooo, it’s 100% not true. If you ever do find an employer who has a problem with you interviewing with other companies, run — because that would be so wildly out of sync with how this works that they’re guaranteed to be an employer with other ridiculous/abusive expectations.

Employers assume you’re applying to multiple places. It would be pretty awful judgment, in fact, not to be doing that if you’re trying to actively job search, since (a) there’s no guarantee you’ll get an interview anywhere you apply, let alone get a job offer, (b) there’s no guarantee you’ll even want the job once you learn more about it, (c) it’s smart to have multiple options to compare and choose from, and (d) applying to only one job at a time would make most job searches take years.

School career centers give some awful advice, but this is so bizarre that I’m skeptical that’s where this came from! I suspect Cathy misunderstood something somewhere along the line.

4. My two jobs have very different cultures

I am currently working two entry-level part-time jobs with wildly different cultures. I’m both a fresh foods associate at a big-box store and a service desk attendant at a library. I’ve worked at the store for almost four years (and similar jobs with similar cultures for eight) and the library for one.

At the store, unfortunately it is commonplace and expected that we work through our breaks and off-the-clock. (I realize that this is illegal and a bad situation, but I also can’t quit the job for various reasons at the moment.) At the library, this is regarded by my coworkers and boss (correctly!) with horror.

I try to put myself in a different head space when I’m at the library and the store. There have been times, though, that I’ve slipped and done something that is silently required at the store and absolutely not good at the library, like forgetting to take a legally mandated break. I’ve apologized to my boss and immediately corrected the error once I caught myself each time, but it’s extremely embarrassing! It doesn’t happen more than once every two months or so, and usually only on days when I have both jobs (one is a day job and the other is in the evenings) but I don’t know what else I can do to keep it from happening. Part of the problem is my autopilot, I think; I’m not naturally a clock watcher and my job history so far would have trained it out of me pretty efficiently if I was.

My main strategy is to dress and do my hair differently for the two jobs, but on the days I work both this isn’t feasible. Do you have any suggestions? I love my library job and I want to be the absolute best employee I can be, and I’m really worried about this.

It’s good that you’re taking this seriously and trying to correct it, but it’s not something that you need to be this worried about or embarrassed by! Even people without your two-jobs situation sometimes mess this up. You’re spotting it and correcting it, and I don’t think you need to flog yourself over it.

But because you’re so bothered by it, why not just be very straightforward with your boss at the library job at the situation, especially since she already knows and is rightly horrified by how your other job handles breaks and hours worked? You could say something like, “I’ve noticed that every couple of months, I catch myself forgetting to take a required break here, I think it’s because that part of my brain is still in the ’no real breaks’ mode of my other job. I always correct the mistake once I realize it, but I wanted to give you context for why it has happened. I wouldn’t want you to think I was unclear on the break rules here or cavalier about following them! It’s just my brain mixing up the two very different approaches.”

That’s a reasonable thing to say, and you’ll look responsible for addressing it proactively.

5. I’m embarrassed about the year I got my degree

I was hired at my current company nine years ago. At the time, I was very close to completing my degree, so I was hired on the understanding that I had finished classes and was just waiting for grades, but would be a new graduate in a couple of weeks.

I failed a class, so I didn’t graduate. I continued working full-time and built myself up in the company. I procrastinated on finishing school, but four years ago, I retook the class in question, passed, and got my degree.

I’ve had a lot of success in my current company, but I’m looking to try something new. I’m having trouble figuring out what to put on my resume. I feel embarrassed about placing my actual year of graduation on my resume and having to explain nine years of work experience — I feel like I’d be rejected on that timeline alone. I also would feel awkward if anyone at my current job ever found out, since I never told anyone at work about this, and no one ever followed up to make sure I graduated after I was hired.

What should I do? Would it be acceptable to place the grad year and explain to new employers I was a part-time student (technically true)? Should I leave it off entirely and hope no one notices?

It’s very, very normal to leave off your graduation year altogether, especially for people who have been out of school for a while. Just leave the date off — it won’t look odd.

Also, if this ever does come up for some reason, it’s unlikely to be a big deal! You’re feeling embarrassed about it, but most employers who care about checking the box on a college degree just care that you have one and aren’t terribly interested in when you obtained it.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 313 comments… read them below }

  1. Pam*

    I’m a university advisor,, and work with lots of (former) students in your shoes. Getting the degree generally seems to fix the issue.

    1. Annette*

      Yes Pam. I don’t understand the problem LW perceives. Many people work while in school. Employers will assume this was your situation if you include graduation year. (Issue with current employer = another matter)

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Agreed! LW’s embarrassment is mostly in her head, not the result of anyone else thinking anything of the date on her resume.

        People finish up their degrees long after they start them for many reasons, including, but not limited to: illness, military service, running out of money, needing / choosing to work for a few years**, pregnancy / having a family, needing to help a family member, needing to change schools or start over in a new field of study, needing to go to school part-time, and on and on. You finished the degree; that’s what matters.

        **Example: I sometimes watch Making the Team, the show about choosing each year’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders squad (don’t judge me! it’s perfect for watching while on the treadmill), which is (…according to the show…) a sought-after and competitive role for a dancer / cheerleader. The ladies in consideration for the squad, who are professional-level dancers usually in their late teens to mid-20s, very often quit their full-time jobs or take time off from school to audition for DCC, partly because DCC is a lot of effort and time, and also largely because your window of time to be a DCC is WAY smaller than your window to go to college or work.

        1. MsM*

          Personally, I’d be impressed by someone who was doing well without a degree, and still cared enough and found the time to finish up. It might be easier to explain in an interview or cover letter than to hope someone could read between the lines on the resume, but I wouldn’t shy away from it.

          1. Busy*

            I STILL haven’t finished my bachelors degree. Ya know, life happened. I’m a single mom with two kids that are not neurotypical. The juggling act between work, mental health appts, stress of suicide attempts, doctor’s appt etc is real.

            Yet, I make much more than the averaged combined household income in my area and work as an analyst. The entire time I have been working I have been going to school. If this ever came up for the OP, I would just say, “I needed to start working at that time and finished it up when I had the opportunity later”. No one is going to hold that against anyone.

          2. Ama*

            My SO received his degree when he was nearly 40 — he initially started college during the tech bubble in the late 90s but soon discovered that college computer science departments at the time were way behind industry (and industry didn’t much care if you had a degree if you could do the work). After almost 20 years of work experience he decided to finish it when he worked for an employer that started requiring college degrees (he was grandfathered in but realized if he ever wanted to get a new job he’d probably need one). He’s literally never had anyone in his job hunts since comment on it — if they have a requirement for a degree, they just look to see that he really has one and move on.

        2. Wake up!*

          But here’s what I don’t get–nobody would know when OP started the degree if she just used the graduation date, right?

          1. TootsNYC*

            But they may realize that she’s not 22 or 23, so she won’t have had a stereotypical college path (in terms of timing).

            Though, yes, she may look as though she just started 4 years ago as an adult student. Or whatever, because adult students often don’t finish in the strict 4 years, because they can’t go full time.

        3. CanuckCat*

          It’s a joke (in a funny, loving way) that my dad’s second degree was as old as I was – he started it the year I was born, and finished it when I was 19.

        4. Anonymeece*

          Yup! I was a great college student, 4.0, whole nine yards. My last semester I had a series of awful things hit that messed me up pretty bad. I ended up having all but one class to my degree. I moved away from my college town, started working, life got busy and… I was still one degree short of graduating. I did, several years later, take an online course and got my degree.

          It happens! OP, you should feel proud that you did overcome that inertia and finished the class on top of working. That’s a real accomplishment and you should not feel embarrassed at all.

        5. Goya de la Mancha*

          Yup, it’s in OP’s head…but speaking from the same experience, it’s a tough thing to shake.

        6. AnnaBananna*

          Precisely. I kinda want to ask #5 if I should also be embarassed because I worked my way through college to ensure I had work experience when I graduated. I did this by taking off a couple of semester here and there throughout my time in undergrad. No hiring manager has ever blinked an eye. Actually, nobody has even asked about it, even when the dates of my early professional work and my graduation date were totally different.

          Don’t trip, #5! Nobody else will be.

      2. snowglobe*

        I wonder if the concern is that OP’s job is one that typically would require a degree. They could be worried that a new employer would know that and would wonder how they were able to get that job 9 years ago if they only got the degree 5 years ago.

        If that’s the case, I’d agree with Alison to leave off the graduation year, and if asked simply say that you were hired because you were near degree completion, but then due to other things in your life, you put your last class off for a couple of years.

      3. Washi*

        Yeah, it sounds like the LW is feeling a lot of shame for having failed a class and taking longer to finish her degree, so that’s coloring the way she perceives the situation. LW, it might be worth thinking about reframing this situation in your mind from “I failed a class and procrastinated finishing school” to “I managed to get a college degree while working full time.” You have a degree, you have a solid career – it sounds like you like where you’ve ended up! It’s ok to stop beating yourself up about mistakes and struggles that were now many years ago.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Agreed. The idea that people finish a degree in four years after high school is, quite frankly, a fantasy for all but a privileged minority. There are so many reasons why finishing a degree might take much longer… health problems, finances, family situations, housing, disabilities, changing majors partway through, etc. I recently finished an AA after nine years in school, and I’m doing well in my career. My mom dropped out of college and went back after a four year break – now she has a masters and is one of the top people in her field for the whole state.

          The important thing is that you finished! Anyone who turns up their nose at someone who completed a degree while working is a petty snob that’s not worth your time.

          1. TheOperaGhost*

            I needed to read this. I have been putting off reapplying to go back after I got sick senior year and wasn’t able to finish. I have the application 90% completed, it’s just the damn “explain the gap” section that I can’t bring myself to fill in.

          2. Lepidoptera*

            Agreed. I’m in a field in which many people do a BS/MS combo degree in five years.

            Due to the stress and hectic-ness of multiple back-to-back downsizings (and thus running out of money), my masters’ degree alone took me over a decade.

        2. AnnaBananna*

          Well, to be honest, I STILL have nightmares of going to the advisor and finding out that I can’t graduate on time because I accidentally forgot about OOOOOOne more class. This means that I would have to stay at least another semester and take out another loan. Ugh. I just got the creepy chills. I effing HATE that dream.

          I don’t, however, have nightmares about how I mysteriously got a passing grade in Astronomy 101 when I’m pretty sure I never attended. Like I maybe went to three lectures and miraculously got a C. Some things you just don’t question about school.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            Sorry I forgot to mention my point: people have a lot of emotional investment with their degree process and I can understand her nerves getting the better of her. I too apparently have unresolved issues with my degree process.

            I just remembered that I never actually picked up my degree. I don’t even want the thing now (see dream above).

      4. AndersonDarling*

        As long as the OP isn’t a nurse, CPA, or attorney that requires a degree + certification exam, then I don’t see the problem. I’ve been working in my niche career for 10 years and only started getting the customary degree in the last few years. Some people get degrees first, and some get work experience first then get degrees. I actually think the latter is good from a student stand point because the real world experience makes the education more relevant.

        1. Quickbeam*

          +1. I came here to say that. I am a BSN (RN , degreed) in a niche field where that is specifically required upon hire. If they found out someone hand waved the actual degree until much later they would likely fire the person.

          Other than a licensed profession, EE should be fine.

      5. Tequila Mockingbird*

        There are a surprising number of high-ranking politicians – Senators, Congresspeople, governors – who completed their degrees later in life. It’s not taboo at all, and in fact, it’s usually a badge of honor to say you went back to complete your education in the middle of your busy career!

      6. Lucette Kensack*

        If her current employer feels weird about it, it’s a signal to them (and other employers) that perhaps the degree requirement wasn’t really a useful requirement. It appears the LW has done, at a minimum, an adequate job in her work even before she took that one class that gave her the official credential. Imagine that!

        I just applied for a job that had a bachelor’s degree + 5 years of experience requirement, or 8 years of experience if you didn’t have a bachelor’s. That’s a very common setup, but it seems so strange to me. What is supposed to happen at college that is equivalent to three years of work? Or vice versa — if they genuinely believe that a college degree is important, how is the extra three years of work experience accomplishing whatever they think is important about it? (For this role it’s all moot; I have 15+ years of experience and a graduate degree, and I’m very sure that they will end up hiring someone with at least my level of experience. I’m not sure why they bothered to list a low-but-detailed level of experience requirement.)

        1. AKchic*

          I feel you on the equivalencies issue.

          I am always seeing “degree or 5 years experience in similar position” for office jobs that really only need someone in it who want to move up from a receptionist position, and will only *pay* as if they are promoting the receptionist to take on the role (and expect the receptionist to only have a high school diploma/GED).
          These offices will talk the job up as if the position is the lifeblood of the office, the very glue that holds it together, but it is the second lowest paying job (the lowest-paying being the receptionist, of course, who doubles as the cleaning staff).

          Companies seem to want those “highly educated” people (on paper), but they aren’t willing to pay for them.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP, I have a friend who was one class shy of graduating, went on to become Exec Director of a nonprofit for nine years, and then was admitted to law school… all without his undergrad degree. He ended up taking the final class through a distance-learning course and getting the degree before matriculating in law school, but it has had no effect on his marketability.

      There are two ways around this. The first is to drop the year the degree was awarded because leaving off the year is a pretty common resume convention. The other option is to list the years you were on campus, and in a parenthetical, provide the year your degree was awarded. I’m not a huge fan of the latter option because the timing of your degree doesn’t matter—the fact that you have a degree usually matters more. But it’s a way to thread the needle if you feel compelled to disclose the timeframe.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        This is fairly common in Nursing, too. I know a lot of Nurse Managers who have been working for 20+ years and are just now getting BSNs, because it’s only been fairly recently that the BSN has been upheld as the educational threshold for nursing. Now hospitals which are seeking Magnet status are having to rush the Nurse Managers through BSN programs because Magnet status requires it. It’s an interesting use case of retrofitting the degree to the profession, and I do wonder what the data show.

        1. Half-Caf Latte*

          If I were going to do my PhD, this would be my study.

          It would be a political landmine, so probably no, but I’m glad to see that there are two of us who have had this thought. We might be the only ones.

        2. AnnaBananna*

          As someone who works in the health high ed field, I can second this. We’re adding the BSN-> PhD program next year and I’m quite excited to see what happens. We previously only had masters and PhDs. I will say that ALL of our students were mid career, so we’re talking 30-50 yrs of age. I love it. :)

      2. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        The first is to drop the year the degree was awarded because leaving off the year is a pretty common resume convention.

        This. I haven’t had the year I received my degree on my resume in….years. And no one has ever asked me the year I received my degree.

        (And now this thread has got me thinking about that…’s been 28 years since I received my BS. I refuse to believe I am that old. Feels like it was just a few years ago.)

    3. PB*

      Yes. When I’m reviewing resumes, I’m generally not comparing graduation dates to work dates to see if they overlap, especially since lots of people work while attending school part time! Or, like Alison said, in most fields, it would be completely fine to leave graduation date off.

    4. Long Time Lurker*

      My official degree date doesn’t match up with my class year because I took a summer class at another college the summer after I walked to complete a missing credit. There was a paperwork snafu where the school didn’t report that credit to my actual college. It was caught, believe it or not, by a prospective employer two years later, who was checking my educational credentials (he’d been burned in the past, so that was part of his general vetting of hires) who called me to let me know my school didn’t have me on their list of graduates. I called the school and they fixed it, but my official graduation date is now 2 years past the date most people would consider me to have graduated. This has never been an issue — I’ve even fixed it with the alumni association of my school so I’m considered the right year by them — and the longer I work, the less the year on my diploma actually matters.

      Also the prospective employer who flagged the discrepancy? I got the job, and he was the best boss I ever had. This kind of stuff happens all the time, and as long as you aren’t misrepresenting yourself, it shouldn’t be a problem for a reasonable company.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Oh my god this is literally the stuff of nightmares. I’m glad its fixed and behind you now, but I am feeling secondhand panic thinking about it.

    5. Marty*

      #5 – I think you’re forgetting how impressive it is to go back and earn a degree while working full-time! It indicates that you’re willing to put a lot of time and money into achieving a goal while balancing full-time life/home responsibilities as a “mature” adult (meaning long off into the adulting world and not still in the nest or recently flown). Unless your field degree year matters, leave it off. I don’t even know when my co-workers graduated, it doesn’t matter!

      1. DivineMissL*

        I started college right out of high school, in 1979. I ran out of money in 1981 and decided to “take off a year” to save up, but then life got in the way. I finally went back in 2008, taking one class per semester; and finally graduated summa cum laude in 2015. I added it to my resume without listing the year; so far, no interviewer has asked me what year I actually graduated.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree. I work in one of the most academically snotty industries there is, and we just check to see if you have a degree, if it’s required for the position. With nearly a decade of work experience and now also a completed degree? You’re in great shape!

      I lean towards leaving the dates of graduation off for everyone except recent graduates with no work experience, so I wouldn’t blink at not seeing a gradation year either.

    7. Klew*

      It took me 20 years to finish my degree. I’m not embarrassed by that: it just shows how damn stubborn I am.

    8. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      I verify job candidates’ degrees; it’s really common to see people who didn’t technically graduate ’til they’d been in the workforce for years. Often what happens is that people finish their studies, but don’t actually apply for graduation until a few years later. I doubt it’ll raise any eyebrows, unless they misrepresent their year of graduation (which does indeed look strange if the employer has the degree verified).

  2. Annette*

    Maybe a misunderstanding between LW and Cathy. Never in all my years have I encountered someone who believes this. Perhaps Cathy meant on the same day = a Mrs. Doubt fire scenario.

    If there is no misunderstanding and she really believes this – LW can tell her she’s wrong once and show her AaM but then let it go. People with wacky ideas don’t like being corrected. Focus on your own job search and don’t get bogged down with hers.

    1. LW 3*

      LW 3 here. I can testify that Cathy truly does believe interviews to be “one at all”, not just one per day (so no to Mrs. Doubtfire)

      1. sacados*

        I can only wonder if perhaps at some point, Cathy encountered one of those blazing-red-flag companies or had a manager who penalized/scolded her for interviewing with multiple companies at once.
        If something like that happened early in her career I can see how it could make a lasting impression and lead her to believe it’s the norm/accepted behavior.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          That’s what I’m thinking. Or someone she knew did, and she took their experience as gospel. (The way we seem to be programmed to adopt the first explanation we heard of how something works, which we initially defend against later information.)

        2. Blue*

          I could also imagine that she heard some advice against continuing to interview with other organizations while negotiating an offer and extrapolated it out to interviewing with multiple organizations at the same time. Regardless, I’d be concerned about what other ideas she has about job searching – OP should steer clear of letting her influence this process.

        3. Snarktini*

          Or, maybe this came from a parent? This sounds very out-of-touch-parent advice to me. Similar to “always wear a suit, you can’t be too dressed up for an interview” (mom’s advice that killed me early on in my creative field) or “never show social media” (LW 1). I could see a parent who worked for a scolding manager/company you describe passing on that message about loyalty being everything.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            Hey, maybe she learned it from the internet. We know career advisors can be absolute wackadoos! We’ve read letters from their victims here…

      2. Batgirl*

        Huh, how long is this fealty supposed to last after the interview? Not all interviewers are prompt at getting back and some never get back to you to all.

        I can sort of imagine Cathy waiting patiently by the phone for weeks before snapping and showing up at the interviewers with denunciations.

        I also wonder if that kinda fidelity translates to her dating ideas. Like you meet up with someone new and immediately you’re just by default exclusive until you hear otherwise…which will get very old, very fast.

        1. Jaybeetee*

          Off-topic, but I’ll admit I’m a “one person at a time” dater myself. It’s just the way I’ve always been, unless it’s literal first dates. As it happens, each time I’ve wound up in a relationship, the guy wasn’t seeing anyone else at the time either – but especially with online dating, “exclusivity from the first date” certainly isn’t something I’d hold the other person to, even if I’m personally wired a bit funny on the subject.

          1. Choux*

            Yeah, that’s me too, just because I find the idea of kissing one guy on a Tuesday, another guy on a Thursday and then the first guy again on Saturday to be icky. But this thought process does not apply to jobs because I’m not planning to kiss any interviewers.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            I was the same but it’s because I’m an extreme introvert and prefer not to have to deal with that many different people at one time. :) (Also why polyamory is not for me – too many different emotional needs to be considered and met, and I’m at capacity with one partner and the kids.)

          3. Observer*

            I actually think that dating one person at a time makes a lot of sense, even if you’re not formally exclusive. But the dating relationship is a lot different than the job interviewing relationship. Yes, there are some parallels, but they are NOT the same.

      3. Iconic Bloomingdale*

        Speaking as an HR director whose job is directly involved in the recruitment and hiring process, Cathy is wrong and out of touch with job seeking norms. Do not follow her “advice.”

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Same – we assume candidates looking for a job are looking places other than with us. We only ask about it if it impacts our offer timeline (need to get an offer out or want to beat a timeframe a strong candidate has to accept another offer).

          Given how the hiring process can work at various organizations, I’d find it odd if someone was only focusing on one employer at a time. I tend to get tons of applications for open entry-level positions, and we typically are hiring 1-5% of the applicant pool – doesn’t seem like a good idea to put your eggs in one basket.

      4. MommyMD*

        Who really cares what Cathy thinks? Just go about your business on your job interviews and don’t bring it up with her. If she brings it up say you agree to disagree. She’s a non-factor.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          LW cares what Cathy thinks in part because there seemed to be a chance (however remote) that she was right. When 2 people disagree in a scenario like this, it’s not uncommon for the more insistent person to interject a little doubt into the more reasonable person’s mind.

          1. LW 3*

            In a nutshell, this *is* what happened. I’ll admit Cathy had me scared for a little while, but AAM reassured that I am in fact the sane one here

        2. Rumbakalao*

          I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be concerned that a friend (or acquaintance, really) is sabotaging themselves with terrible job searching advice.

      5. Works in IT*

        It is true, though, that a lot of recruiting agencies masquerade as companies when what they mean is apply to us and we will submit your resume to a bunch of other places. Maybe she got burned once when she applied to two positions, and both were recruiting agencies that then submitted her application for the same job? That is something I know companies don’t like, and it is a situation where applying to two different “jobs” could hurt you. But then again, does it really matter if recruiting agencies that don’t bother to say they’re recruiting agencies doj’t want to work with you?

      6. BenAdminGeek*

        It really does seem like she absorbed something weird and morphed it into this advice. I mean, I can see if you’re in the running to be CEO of a Fortune 100 company, maybe you shouldn’t be interviewing at 10 of the 100 at the same time. But short of a bigwig c-suite making a major career move, Cathy seems way off base.

        LW 3- if you are applying to be CEO of a Fortune 100 company, please remember us proles at AAM when you ascend to the heights.

      7. theletter*

        I think ‘Cathy’ might have actually learned the wrong lesson at some point.

        One of the hard lessons I learned when interviewing is that, for the most part, the left hand doesn’t have to know what the right hand is doing. Your job leads don’t need to know all of the details of your job search. More Mystery, less History. If they ask about your other job leads. you can tell them you have applied at some other places but at this moment, you’re primarily interested in the opportunity under discussion.

      8. Elizabeth West*

        Nobody does this. I don’t even query one agent/publisher at a time, let alone apply for one job. If I did, I’d be waiting forever, since employers often don’t get back to you. How long does she think you’re supposed to sit there?!?!

      9. Yvette*

        Has she given you any other advice? Please post it so we can let you know if it is valid or not.

      10. Chatterby*

        I wonder if Cathy heard “only apply with one recruiter company at a time” and misunderstood it as “only apply to one company at a time”.
        Because the first one is true. If you apply to the same job through multiple recruiters at once, your resume gets kicked out and you aren’t considered. Likely because the hiring company doesn’t want to deal with the squabble the bevy of recruiters will have over your hiring fee.
        Which sucks, because a combination of recruiter reluctance to ever tell you what the name of the hiring company is and each recruiter offering a different description of the same exact job posting, sometimes means you do this on accident and wind up disqualified.

    2. Kimmybear*

      I actually have a family member like this. Reality is that she doesn’t want a job but as long as it looks like she’s trying to get one then it’s not her fault she’s unemployed.

    3. Old European*

      I have met people that behave exactly like that or even more, though do not teach others. I do not know whether they really believe that applying for two jobs would be considered a traison or if their mindset is so fixed that they cannot concentrate on another application before receiving a rejection.

      I have also found some recruiters too curious to ask what other jobs I have applied. I may have lost points but as I think that is not of their business to know it. They neither tell me who has applied and who they interview (unless some government jobs where all information must be made public.)

      1. Jaybeetee*

        It strikes me as an extension of “values of a bygone era” when company loyalty and a single employer for life were still big things. Interviewing for another job when you already have the job you have could be considered a “betrayal”, and you applied to a job at Company Inc. because you’re just so passionate and fired up about what they do, and you’d never be so crass or mercenary as to ask about salary or suggest that perhaps you work for money (old-timey job etiquette seems to generally mean adopting an attitude that of course you don’t work for *money*, you apply/work for love of the game. So no asking about salary, no “having other options”, because that’s also mercenary). Even back in those days though, I imagine if you were unemployed, everyone understood you were applying to multiple places. When I read what Cathy says, it reads to me like something her Very Wise Grandfather would say to her about job-hunting.

        Or y’know, as someone else suggested, she actually had some awful interviewer/employer give her a hard time about interviewing somewhere else, and she’s internalized that as she actually did something wrong, as opposed to that person being awful.

        1. emmelemm*

          Yeah, this definitely seems like something in the realm of “bad parent advice” rather than “bad career center advice”. Parents often have some very strange ideas about things, and the ideas have the ring of authority about them when they come from your parents’ mouths.

      2. Ra94*

        I think the ‘where else have you applied’ question can depend on context. When I was searching for a graduate lawyer traineeship, nearly every interviewer asked me that question- and the motivation had nothing to do with loyalty. It was the firm’s way of checking whether applicants were sending scattershot applications to 50 random law firms, or whether they knew that firm’s niche in the market and were being selective. An HR employee once admitted to me that they don’t care where you’ve actually applied, and it’s just a sneakier way of phrasing, ‘who do you think our biggest competitors are?’ (Which I’ve also been asked.)

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wonder if it’s a holdover from “early decision” college applications.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        I wonder if a career center told her once “Hey, you shouldn’t accept a job offer and then keep interviewing elsewhere because it’s unethical,” and Cathy has extrapolated that to mean “One job prospect at a time, ALWAYS.”

        1. kittymommy*

          Hmm, this could be it. I can’t imagine a career center, even a bad one, telling a candidate this it is just so far from any norm. And most unemployment offices I know of/worked with require multiple examples of active job searching in order to continue to qualify for assistance.

        2. Not a Real Giraffe*

          This is what I was thinking. Or she was told “do not accept more than one job offer at a time” and misunderstood that to mean not to accept more than one interview at a time.

        3. Blue*

          I just said this elsewhere – I work in higher ed, and I could absolutely imagine a student misinterpreting that advice in this way.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            I’ve worked with teens that age and the general public, and I agree with you. People mishear things all the time, this follows the general pattern of misunderstanding I’ve encountered.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, how many post-college jobs has Cathy had? Because her advice sounds incredibly self-sabotaging in a deeply naive/unaware way. Not only is it bad strategy to limit your employment odds based on her “one company at a time” rule, but it also limits your bargaining power (to the extent you have that power) if you only have one offer that you have to take or leave.

    Please apply as broadly as you want to, and go with your gut—she’s out of her gourd on this one.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I figure she’s likely very young and inexperienced, probably in her first job out of school. Otherwise she’d have come up on the logistical difficulties of this – it can be months from the time you apply to when the job is filled, and it’s not at all uncommon for employers to not actually reject you. So she’ll apply for one job and wait, and wait, and wait….

      I’m try to think of what sort of advice she could have misinterpreted this from, and am having trouble. You can apply for multiple jobs, even at competing business, you can interview for multiple jobs in the same period, you can be negotiating with multiple offers at the same time, but until you’ve accepted an offer and have a start date, there’s no no-compete clause. All I can think is that she’s got a relative who owns a business and is totally irrational when it comes to hiring.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agreed. The advice is so bizarre (and so wrong) that I can’t even imagine where it’s coming from.

      2. Another Emma*

        I’m thinking she misconstrued the general practice to not continue interviewing once you’ve accepted an offer. Because that’s actually bad form.

    2. LW 3*

      LW 3 here. We are just at the age where we’re finding our first jobs, so Cathy hasn’t had any “real” non-summer jobs before.
      I think the reality just hasn’t hit her yet that this one-interview thing just won’t work (we are in college at the moment – this is why I think it was a career center that told her, or at least someone who got the bad advice from a career center told her).

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I wonder if she’s heard that places will often ask if you’re currently interviewing elsewhere and took that as a sign they were looking to flush out people who weren’t only pursuing their firm? That’s my best guess. Or an elderly relative with classic elderly relative bad job searching advice.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          What IS the point of places that ask you if you’re interviewing somewhere else? I think Alison’s said in the past that it has to do about them trying to know if they need to hurry their timeline if they want to move forward with you. But I’ve had one particular interview where they’ve asked me what were the other places I’ve interviewed at, and what were the roles that I was targeting, and I got a sense they were trying to rule out candidates who weren’t “I 100% want to work at this specific company for this specific role, or anything that comes as possibly close to it”. They weren’t happy when I was honest and told them I was casting a wide net. Is this a thing?

          1. Clorinda*

            It may well be a thing, and it tells you that you don’t want to work there, because it’s a “work is your family now” warning flag. Interviews work both ways and they just told you something important.

          2. Magenta*

            I have asked candidates this, mostly because our HR processes can be glacial and I am trying to work out if I need to start pushing them ASAP and whether or not I need to call in favours and use political capital to ensure we act fast(er).

          3. JHunz*

            I have been asked this a few times, and I always got the sense that they were mostly trying to figure out how much competition they had in the hiring process. When asked by the actual hiring managers, it usually came near the end of the interview when they had probably made up their mind as to whether they wanted to hire me. Recruiters, on the other hand, loved to ask that right up front since for them their actual bottom line depends on them being the one to place you.

            Speaking as someone who has done a fair bit of interviewing from the other side of the table now, I’d say unhappiness at the “wide net” answer is probably due to them looking for someone who would be excited by the specific role they are offering and not just be happy to be employed.

            1. Karen from Finance*

              Well I mean the answer was a bit more specific than that, it wasn’t about just wanting to be employed. I told them what I was looking for in a role, which is somewhere where I can do tasks that relate to my skills X Y and Z which are very varied and compliment each other in a way that’s not specific necessarily to that one job. I told them what it was that I was looking for in specific. But the interview was at a big bank for a project manager role and it was clear they wanted me to say “it’s my dream to be a project manager for a big bank” which just ain’t true. I think I’d be a good one, but I’m good at different things. *Shrug*

      2. AcademiaNut*

        Okay, then I think you’re going to have to file this under “things Cathy is going to have to learn the hard way”. Hopefully, watching her classmates get interviews and jobs while she gets nothing will drive the point home, otherwise at some point she’s going to have to decide if she wants to stick to the advice or actually get a job.

      3. Perpal*

        haha ok; NGL it sounds nice I am lazy and sometimes in the past have only applied to one thing at a time. Sometimes places will ask where else you are looking and maybe might take it as a sign of Great Interest if you say nowhere; although also maybe having at least one other place makes you look competitive. Sort of depends on the landscape. But no rule that you shouldn’t apply to multiple places at once, and it’s not the norm

      4. AussieEngineer*

        LW3 – I agree with Alison, and have had the experience to back it up.

        I recently interviewed at three different companies for very different roles. When I began getting indications from each one that I was either a finalist or the preferred candidate, I made sure to let the recruiting manager know. I ended up getting offers from each company (which I hadn’t expected), but each suggested they appreciated the openness I had in relation the other companies.

        Interestly, me being open about my job hunt meant the hiring managers were more open about what I’d be getting into if I accepted the role with them – very different to only interviewing for one job at a time.

        1. VlookupsAreMyLife*

          I had exactly the same experience just this week, @AussieEngineer. Three interviews (all in one day), received offers from all 3 within 1 day. I’ve been very candid with all the recruiters about my other options and it’s helped me get a better feel for the jobs & managers, and negotiate a better offer from my top choice.

          Maybe gently nudge Cathy to start reading AAM?

          1. LW 3*

            LW 3 here. Trust me, you have NO. IDEA. how much I want to show Cathy this site and enlighten her and show her the error of her ways. However, I know that she will just dig in her heels and take what I’m saying and translate it into “LW 3 thinks I’m stupid and don’t know anything about jobs. Well, her opinion doesn’t matter – she’s not a company, so she doesn’t know anything about hiring.”
            It will (99% certain) be a total waste of my time to try to enlighten Cathy. I’m aware enough to know this is not my hill to die on.

      5. Jaydee*

        This is baffling me. Did Cathy apply to one college and wait for a response before applying to the next one? I doubt it, since most schools are on similar application schedules. If Cathy were correct, on-campus interviewing programs would be a colossal waste of time. During OCI in law school, people had multiple interviews *a day* let alone just generally at the same time. You might literally go from one interview to the next – in adjacent rooms! Cathy’s idea might work fine for someone who is employed and content. They can apply to things that they’re interested in and not apply to things if they’re not interested or just hit a busy patch in their schedule. But if Cathy is about to be unemployed after graduation, she’s going to want to go from a courting model of job searching to a speed dating model, ASAP.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, for the first time ever I had two offers at the same time with my last job search and it only strengthened my position – plus I was thrilled to have options!

      Possibly if you’re casually job searching I can see pursuing one job at a time, but if you’re unemployed or otherwise desperate, you want to keep your options open.

    4. NotTheSameAaron*

      The “One company” advice sounds like something from the 1950s or 60s, when jobs (and companies) were for life.

    5. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      The biggest problem with this advice is that Cathy actually thinks that hiring managers have nothing better to do that track applicants — like her. What she’s saying is that, if she applies for a job, then the hiring manager is going to follow her online presence, call around to other companies, do all this detective work to find out where else she’s applying, then …. snark to HR that they can’t hire her because she’s looking elsewhere? Okay, sure. Then HR is going to go on a whispering campaign that Cathy does more than one job interview at a time (wink wink), and then everyone will give her the stink-eye in the hallways, and then at the Big Game they’ll humiliate her by showing a video of her kissing herself in the mirror in front of the WHOLE SCHOOL, and she’ll see Cute Jimmy laughing at her when he SAID her liked her and…..

      This is classic Special Snowflake behavior. She needs to get used to the idea that she is only one applicant in a pool of them. She might stand out, she might not; but Good Lord, no hiring manager is going to focus all of their energy on her.

  4. Annette*

    LW 2 needs to learn the phrase – not my bistro not my souffles. Focus on doing good work for both bosses but especially Jane. Keep your head down and don’t concern yourself with his rep. You can’t sail away on a sinking ship.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Could be fun to rewrite other common sayings with souffles! “You can’t make a [soufle] without breaking a few eggs.”

  5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Breaks are important and I’m glad you usually remember to take yours at the library but please don’t stress so much. I’ve been reminding people who has been in one job for years with a well known routine and known expectation to take breaks for well over a decade. A few times a year is nothing!

    You’ll learn another difference between retail and office cultures are less likely to dwell on time clock “issues”.

    Just like if you forgot to clock in once every few months, I’ll happily just adjust the punch for you. It’s not a punishable offense, it happens to everyone some times.

    1. Retail worker*

      It has nothing to do with retail or office work. Laws are laws. In NY you are entitled to a30 minute meal break if your shift is 6 hours or over. There are rules about the timing of the break. The business can be fined if their time records are audited. The retail stores I have worked for were scrupulous about breaks. Although it is not the law most places give a 15 minute paid break for every four hours. I have worked at several grocery stores on the FE and all had specific schedules.

      1. MommyMD*

        Agree. California is a stickler for breaks and employers can be fined if employees don’t go to lunch within six hours of start time.

        1. Lexica*

          This isn’t accurate. Employers must provide breaks, but employees are not required to take them. From a article on California Laws on Meal and Rest Breaks (

          “Must Employees Take Their Breaks? In 2012, the California Supreme Court decided a big case about meal and rest breaks. The Court found that employers have met their meal break obligation if they relieve employees of all duties for half an hour and allow employees to leave the worksite. Employers may not pressure employees to work during their meal break, but they are not required to police employees to make sure no one works during a break.”

      2. LQ*

        I disagree a bit here. I’m sure there are some retail stores that are scrupulous about breaks, but I definitely worked a place that was NOT and I don’t think I ever worked at a restaurant that did actual breaks. (People sneaking out back for a smoke when it was slow yes, actual break for nonsmoker? Not allowed!)

        Sure it’s the law, but if no one is enforcing it then it’s really rough, especially when you are a teen, in dire need of work, on work release from jail, or been doing it your whole life (which were the folks I worked with in those jobs). This OP says that this is the expectation from that job and they need that job. I don’t think it is fair to expect them to fix that.

        1. Dragoning*

          I worked for one retail store that was scrupulous about breaks–and one that required me to waive my legal right to a break after they hired me, in order to work there. It was sprung on me on my first day after training. They promised me I’d still get the breaks, but they needed to be able to be interrupted because they never had enough staff.

          (I don’t think that’s how waiving your rights is supposed to go, but what the hell).

          They then proceeded to not give me breaks, ever, even though I could only waive lunch, not my 15 minute paid breaks.

      3. OP4*

        Hey, OP here— I’m actually very familiar with the labor law in my state because I was a hiring manager at a previous job! Breaks and paying for your work are absolutely required by law and the business will be fined if they’re ever caught. This does not stop businesses from violating this, since the only enforcement mechanism would be for someone to scrupulously document and take it to the appropriate government agency, and part of the way businesses get away with this is by having quite a lot of documentation about what your legal responsibilities as an employee are (ie, follow labor law!) and that they’d NEVER EVER ask you to break it, and asking you to break it is done by verbally asking and by modeling the behavior. It’s been this way at every retail and food service job I’ve had, and I’m not optimistic about somewhere else being more ethical while also fulfilling the serious strings I have attached as an employee. I’m mostly content in this job, actually, and I’ve worked hard for years to get to fresh food and the higher wage and more responsibilities it entails.

        1. JM60*

          Out of curiosity, have you ever observed what happens when the authorities try to enforce these laws. These violations are rarely reported to the authorities, and I wonder how well these attempts to get away with breaking the law actuality work when they actually are reported.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I think you’d actually leave a worse impression if you were constantly checking the clock losing focus on your job.

      It’s not a bad thing to occasionally be caught up in work and forget your break. When you realize you need stop and take your required break but IMO you’re overly concerned about this.

      1. Psyche*

        It might work to set an alarm on her phone (on vibrate) to remind her to take a break. Then there is no checking the clock or losing track of time.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Or put up a little sticky note under the counter that says “TAKE YOUR BREAKS.”

    3. LGC*

      It’s actually funny you mentioned the punch clock thing – one of my employees called my work phone after hours this week because her time didn’t go through (our punch system has been janky).

      I’ve explained numerous times that it’s not a big deal (unless you forget to punch every day, which I’ve had happen), and that I can’t fix anything for at least 15 minutes after they punch anyway. I still occasionally get panicked employees when they put in the wrong code or something, and I have to tell them that I’ll do it when I can get to it.

  6. Willis*

    #1 – I agree that your parents are off base, but I could see how they get their conclusion if the social media they’re used to seeing is people’s personal Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. There’s a huge difference between something you’ve intentionally curated to be about your professional life and something like a FB page you’ve had for years that may has a bunch of personal, non-work-related pictures and posts by family and friends. That would be really weird to share with interviewers! Maybe show them your Twitter? (Or, alternatively, ignore their comments!).

    P.S. I’m kind of jealous of your social media prowess. I wish I was better at virtual networking!

    1. Annette*

      Don’t show them the Twitter. If they don’t ‘get’ it (probable) it will only prove they were right. Say the networking spiel and then remember I.G.N.O.R.E. (I’ll get no outcome re-litigating everything)

      1. top secret name*

        I’m stealing this mantra for so many topics, social media, work, and other. Thank you.

    2. Kiki*

      I’m both impressed by OP’s Twitter skills and profoundly glad that my industry doesn’t require similar performative social media use. I don’t use any social media platforms (apparently weird for a 20-something) and enjoy being an extremely private person.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah it makes me sad when this becomes de facto required. They’re basically asking you to do free PR for them on your own time using your own social capital. Sadly it seems quite common these days, with the expectation that this is “fun” so it’s okay.

        1. Maya Elena*

          Kudos to you! I don’t see it universally required, and if a critical mass of people opt out without large consequences, they demonstrate that it can be done, and it will remain optional.

    3. PB*

      I could see how they get their conclusion if the social media they’re used to seeing is people’s personal Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.

      Agreed. I’ve also seen lots of news stories about “kids these days” losing jobs because of posting about work on social media. Invariably, these stories are along the lines of servers publicly complaining about patrons in the restaurant, or someone publicly complaining about their boss, or publicly posting about showing up for work drunk. This is all very, very different from what OP is describing, but if her parents have just internalized the message of “Never post about work on social media!!!!”, that’s likely the source of their concern.

      1. Works in IT*

        Yeah, I take… completely the opposite route. I talk about politics, and life on my social media, but I also have my Facebook privacy settings locked down so only friends can see what I post, and don’t use my real name for other sites. And I have no association with my employer on my facebook page. Facebook is where I can share news with people and be ashamed that I’m related to my misogynistic cousin, not where I talk about work. And I don’t have a twitter account at all!

        1. Anna*

          Same! I actually just recently have double checked what comes up when I google my name and it’s a whole lot of not me. You might see that I have a Facebook page, but you can’t see what’s on my page and my Twitter is completely divorced from my actual name as well as locked down completely.

    4. Washi*

      Yeah, I think if the LW wants to try to explain, they could add that their Twitter is not a personal page, it’s a professional one like LinkedIn, curated specifically with employers in mind, not for tweeting about your most recent breakup.

      1. traffic_spiral*

        Yup. Just be like “it’s not a personal page, it’s a public page, and I don’t put anything on it that I wouldn’t want my boss to see.”

    5. BadWolf*

      I don’t blame the parents for their confusion– it’s a new thing to navigate. My job is pushing people to be “engaged” online with social media. I don’t want to start spamming my facebook friends with things essentially advertising my company. I have considered adding a special social media account that is a curated work account (but still “mine”) like OP1 describes.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same – many people my mom’s age are just familiar with Facebook and personal pages and don’t have jobs that encourage or require social media engagement (or they have someone that manages that for them at work). Fortunately, I work in an industry where curating a social media persona is not required (because I don’t use social media much), but, if that was required, I’d have a separate profile for it. It’s also pretty obvious perusing Twitter which profiles are professional personas and which are personal.

    6. ChimericalOne*

      Yeah, I think “It’s virtual networking” is pretty much all the LW needs to say. It’s 100% the kind of socializing you’d do IRL at a conference and 0% the kind of socializing you expect to see on the average person’s Facebook.

      It’s not enough to just say, “I don’t post anything I wouldn’t want my boss to see” — lots of people THINK they’re posting zero NSFW stuff but are still posting too-personal-for-work or too-edgy-for-work stuff on their Facebook page or whatever (and this phrasing will likely just make your parents think you’re naive or taking an unnecessary risk). This is something entirely different. It’s a deliberately professional persona cultivated for making work connections & building relationships.

      I don’t know if I’d show them the Twitter feed, though — their “work instincts” might not be calibrated for a more casual environment, and they might still think your “professional/casual” mix is off. Just tell them what the point is, and that should help a lot.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I have children OP’s age, and the way I understood her Twitter account to function was something similar to some people’s LinkedIn accounts (the ones that post a lot on their LinkedIn), or even a stackoverflow account or something of that nature – used strictly for professional purposes, in other words. What field are OP’s parents in? Maybe it would help explaining OP’s Twitter to them from that angle?

    1. Carrie Oakie*

      That’s what I was thinking, too! I used to use growl on my work computer to remind me to stand up every 25 minutes, get moving, take a brain break. (Super needed in my work.) I was lucky enough to get an apple watch for Christmas (not a new one, but still awesome) and getting a little buzz to stand up or to take some deep breaths has really been a game changer. It sounds dumb to need a watch to tell me “take a break!” but some days I’m so focused or busy I forget. It’s also been good at helping me recently my attention when I’m over multi tasking. Silent alarms are now my way of life!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s not dumb at all.

        That’s why factories had whistles and schools have bells to remind everyone when break/lunch/class change is happening. It’s just nice we have personal items to aid in time management. It’s easy for people to lose track of time!

        1. Professional Merchandiser*

          It surprises me that a big box store doesn’t encourage their employees to take their breaks. I do merchandising at seven different ones (same chain, different locations) and I am always hearing over the PA “Team…take your break. Team…go to lunch. Team…lunch break is over.” Maybe it’s just this particular chain that does this.

    2. many bells down*

      Or, if you have a Fitbit, most of those let you set a silent alarm that will buzz your wrist.

      1. Media Monkey*

        i was going to suggest this – i have a misfit ray (which is super cheap for a fitness tracker as it largely works through your phone) and it can do this.

    3. Gerta*

      Exactly what I came here to say. There are things I do every day but still have on my to-do list just so that I don’t get caught up in other things and forget about them. (Also, I get satisfaction out of ticking them off. ;-) ) Whatever works for you, but some kind of reminder built into your routine (if you don’t already have one) seems like the easiest solution.

    4. JudyInDisguise*

      What works for me is to have a buddy (or buddies) at work and agree to meet on breaks to take a little walk. So, when you’re mired down in the muck and unaware of the time, someone always pops by and asks “are you walking today?” Sometimes we walk outside, weather permitting. Sometimes we walk inside, through cubicle farms and the warehouse, even stairwells can kill a few minutes and drain a bit of stress. We’re not trying to break any records (or even a sweat) it’s just an opportunity to step away for a moment, stretch, regroup and get back to work.

      This is a good alternative if your company has a “no cell phone use” policy.

    5. Emily K*

      I was going to say the same! I was forever running late to meetings, because my calendar would remind me 5 minutes ahead of time for something I was joining from my desk or only took 30 seconds to get to, and I would dismiss the notification then immediately get distracted and end up being 10 minutes late to the meeting. Until my ADHD therapist gave me the brilliant idea to set up a bunch of recurring alarms in my phone for the :29s and :59s of every hour during the workday.

      At 8 AM I have an alarm that reminds me check my calendar and turn on all the alarms that correspond to my meeting start times that day (and disable all the unneeded ones from yesterday). Plus one on Friday at 6 PM reminding me to disable all of them for the weekend.

      I am pretty much never late anymore – alarms are 1,000% more effective than expecting my brain to keep track of the passage of time, and that’s probably true for a lot of people even without ADHD!

  7. Czhorat*

    OP1 – I’ve been very active on social media for years, including lots of professional stuff (weekly Twitter chats on industry topics, discussion of tech, etc) and politics, sports fandom, literature. It’s never hampered me, and has helped grow and maintain a strong network of both industry contacts and friends.

    It’s all really dependent on how you use it. I stay away from insulting or attacking people, especially in the industry. I also think your smart to not post drunken debauchery. As far as the rest – the assumption that social media is a closely guarded small circle is a very much outdated one. In some industries it might be stranger to lack a social media presence.

    1. Nikara*

      Agreed- I’m super active on social media professionally, and it has been very helpful. Some things to consider: I don’t get super specific about where I work on Twitter- I say my career field, and the general area, but not the specific location. This helps keep me from any appearance of poorly representing my employer.

      Also, thing carefully before adding work-related people to all of your platforms. I’m way more careful about who I friend on Facebook, since that is way more personal. I got great advice from a colleague on this- she only friends people on Facebook if she would feel comfortable having them babysit her kids. While I don’t have kids, the general sentiment is useful- Facebook is where we tend to talk about more family stuff, so be careful about work related friends- you can get into the TMI area quickly.

      Also, I avoid politically related social media stuff on anything associated with my name. I have those opinions, but I don’t want employers to be able to easily find them.

      1. Czhorat*

        I am very open with political opinions. I use my real name everywhere online, and having a strong point of view is very on-brand for me

        In this day and age with so many big civil rights issues (women’s rights, LGBT rights, treatment of immigrants) I find it very hard to remain silent and feel that those of us with voices and platforms need to use them.

        It hasn’t hurt me yet.

        1. Lance*

          On that general point, I think there’s a case to be made for political opinions that supports the rights of others. Not sure about pointing to specific electoral candidates — after all, there are goods and bads to all of them (and not saying you do that; it’s just a thought point for me at the moment) — but bills, general issues, things like that, could probably hurt in some cases… but those cases where it’ll hurt, well, it might’ve hurt anyway depending on the opinions those given hiring managers hold, right?

          As long as you’re conducting yourself civilly and not attacking people, I don’t think I’d see a huge problem with this, personally.

          1. Czhorat*

            I’ve gotten far more pushpach in-industry for defending bid-build as well as design build than I have for anything political.

            I’m also, to be fair, a cisgender white man in a white-male dominated field with years of experience and a solid enough reputation that I can probably afford to ruffle a handful of feathers.

        2. Nikara*

          I work in government, and not the political side of it, so not talking about politics is very important for my ability to be hired. Definitely a case of “know your industry”. If there are some people with high profiles in your industry who also use social media well, I’d recommend to someone new in the field that they ask them for advice on how to manage social media profiles.

    2. Old European*

      I have learned that social media should be kept strictly personal and not used in professional contexts at all.

      For professional contacts there are other channels, often domain-specific. There may be niches like marketing where you have to use social media for work, but then you would have a work ego separated from your private ego.

      Mixing private and professional lives in internet would violate boundaries, like opening your home to bosses, clients and suppliers.

      1. I teach therefore I am*

        Wow. That’s a pretty extreme view these days! Can I ask how you learned that? And what industry you work in?

        I’m in education in the UK and having a professional social media presence is both important (for keeping up with things) and extremely helpful (my subject is quite small, comparatively, so being able to network with other teachers is vital and social media is a great way to do it). I don’t know anyone who needs to keep their work life entirely off of social media, so this seems like a very odd way to work these days.

        1. Czhorat*

          I agree.

          In my induy (professional AV) we have weekly Twitter chats on Sunday mornings. The hashtag we use generates hundreds of thousands of impressions, and I’ve heard from fairly important people in the industry who have clearly read and lurked. It gains visibility if naught else.

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Same here in Canada. I like having a professional teaching twitter as a way to let parents know when we’re doing something particularly interesting in class. I also see it as a bit of a PR document. There’s a surprising number of people who think the inside of the classroom is like the scene from Ferris Bueller and I think showing, in a positive way, how much more we’re doing can strengthen conversations around 21st century education.

          I do curate very carefully, though. I stay away from politics unless it’s education-related or a retweet of something from my union or other professional association and try to follow fairly innocuous folks (mostly British historians. Lucy Worsley FTW!)

        3. Oh So Anon*

          Also, in some cases, being totally invisible on social media can make people wonder if you don’t know how to self-edit well enough to navigate inoffensive professional discussions, or that you can’t quite tell how to set good boundaries when it comes to talking about your non-work life with colleagues.

      2. Introvert girl*

        My linkedin profile is professional and open for everyone to see, so is my dog’s Instagram account.
        My facebook is totally private and I have no one from work added as a friend.
        It depends on where you want your boundaries to be set.

        1. Czhorat*

          Facebook is where I put pictures of my kids. That’s private for their sake rather than mine.

          At the risk of grandiosity, I’m like Long Lebbanen or Ged the Archmage, facing the world openly under my true name. Great power can come in refusal to hide.

      3. MommyMD*

        I would be fired if I was tweeting about my job. I think it’s profession oriented. I never mention work at all in social media.

        1. Czhorat*

          I’m sure it is.

          To not give the wrong impression, I rarely tweet about actual goings on at my actual place of employment; it’s more about industry trends and news.

          The move to IP-based systems for control center facilities? I’ll talk about that. The super-secret project with a TLA government agency in which they had us sit in on their meeting about which terror suspect they’re picking up when and whose message-app messages they’re intercepting? Those are details I really don’t need to share.

          1. Washi*

            Yeah, I think there are very few jobs where it’s impossible to tweet professionally. As a social worker, I would obviously never ever tweet about my clients, but I could certainly tweet about interesting trends in the field, fun facts about my agency, etc. (I mean, I don’t, but I could!)

        2. Judy (since 2010)*

          If you are a doctor, I’d expect that you could have a public twitter where you tweet articles about health. One of my doctors has a blog about new things coming in her field, and tweets the blog out plus retweets other interesting items. I’m pretty sure the OP is not posting things about her work, more about general topics about her industry. Anything about her work is already vetted and released by the company.

        3. Parenthetically*

          I’m sure you’d be up for some discipline if you tweeted in violation of HIPAA, or started posting stuff about work intermixed with pictures of your kids, but unless your practice has a particularly draconian social media policy, who’s going to fire you for tweeting an article about the flu vaccine with the comment “Proud of our office for increasing flu vaccinations by 35% this year over last!” or an article about preventative care with the comment “Our patients who do their annual checkups on average have fewer sick visits!” or whatever? The standards are obviously profession-specific, but having a *professional* Twitter presence is going to be fine for most professionals.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Sounds to me like OP actually DOESN’T mix social and professional on Twitter– it’s ALL professional.
        I have friends who do this, and they have 2 accounts to keep professional life separate from family&friends.

      5. Emily K*

        I would argue that Twitter *is* a channel oriented more towards the professional. I would argue that the primary point of being on Twitter is to join conversations (often with strangers) using hashtags and retweets. It’s one of the reasons I’m not very active on Twitter – I don’t have much to say publicly, and I feel like a private Twitter defeats the point of having Twitter and anything I would tweet on a private Twitter account can just go on my private Facebook without need to syndicate across a second platform.

        As an example, I work for a large nonprofit with a lot of scientists and economics. Their Twitter handles are linked from their staff bio pages on our website, and they do a mixture of messaging on our organization’s talking points and participating in conversations with other scientists and economists about topics du jour. It shows that our scientists and economists have prestige and a following, and are plugged in to what’s going on in their fields.

        While Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat are oriented towards personal sharing, Twitter is very much oriented towards public conversations and networking.

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I have a twitter account linked to my real name because, working in tech, I assume employers will be googling me. It’s all work stuff – conferences I’m going to, conferences colleagues are going to, interesting trends in industry. Nothing about my social/family/personal life, and very little on political topics (and only when they overlap with the professional stuff – which happens in tech). Meanwhile, my instagram account is fully pseudonymous, and if someone did happen to link it back to me, it’s just pictures of various textile crafts. But it’s not meant to be easily found if you’re searching for me by name. (I don’t have facebook, so that’s not a consideration for me.)

      But this might be a way OP1 could explain her social media to her parents: since she knows prospective employers will be looking for her social media, she’s giving them something to find that she is in control of and fits with the norms for her industry. This is very different than a “post anything” approach to social media, and also very different than a lack of social media in an industry that expects it.

      1. Czhorat*

        Agreed. Being invisible can be as problematic as being too visible.

        As an aside, I LOVE your chose of screen name here. Computer programming, I presume.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          Yep, full stack web development, with a bit of conference speaking on the side.

      2. Emily K*

        Conferences is another great illustration of the default public bias of Twitter! It has been many years since I attended any professional conference that didn’t at minimum have a conference hashtag, and often each individual session has their own hashtag using a standard naming convention, like #sessiontopicProCon19 or similar.

        At gatherings of professionals it’s expected and encouraged for you to be taking photos of slides and tweeting out interesting facts you’re learning, tagging the presenter(s) and using the conference or session hashtags, to foster community, generate buzz around the event, and help boost the profile of speakers you are enjoying.

      3. Jessen*

        Now I’m actually wondering if having one “public” twitter account under my full name might be a good idea, in addition to the semi-private one. There’s nothing super terrible on mine, but it has largely religious content and I don’t really feel like that’s what I’d want an employer to be getting as their first impression. It is a pretty big part of my life, but I also do observe professional boundaries in the workplace and I don’t want to give a prospective employer the idea that I might be causing issues.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          That might not be a bad idea. It may not be strictly necessary, but that doesn’t make it a bad idea.

          My twitter handle is the same as my github user name (for consistency), which ties back to my somewhat unique first name.

  8. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

    OP #5: I went to college for four years, left without a degree due to illness/burnout, took a five-year hiatus and worked full-time, then went back to school full-time for one more year and graduated – ten years after I started college. It’s been long enough that I leave the graduation year off my resume now, but no employer (or prospective employer) ever gave me a hard time about it. The only issue I have is when I come across an online application that requires me to enter the years I attended college.

    But really, it’s very common for people to finish degrees while working full-time!

    1. Great Late Graduate*

      It took me 11 yeas to get my bachelor’s degree. I would drop to part time classes or take a semester or year off so I could work full time and, you know, pay for things like rent and food. After I left one particular job I only had a handful of classes left before I needed to graduate but would need to do one more semester of full time classes. I cashed out my (relatively small) 401 k from previous job (paying the tax penalties for early withdrawal) to pay tuition and housing. Got a part-time on campus job for the semester to pay for food and my car. Finally graduated.

    2. MommyMD*

      I think the issue is he fudged when he stated he’d be receiving a degree within weeks of hire when in reality he was failing a class. His employer never found out. I agree in just leaving the date off. Also new employer would not know he represented himself as having a degree. I don’t think they would delve into it to that degree. Now if current employer found out, that could be a different matter.

      1. Parenthetically*

        “he fudged when he stated he’d be receiving a degree within weeks of hire when in reality he was failing a class”

        Huh, that was not my read AT ALL. I read it that OP5 had finished the class, gotten hired assuming he’d be receiving his degree in a few weeks, and later found out he’d failed the class. I didn’t get the impression that he’d LIED about it at all!

        1. MicroManagered*

          Or that it was ever a secret or problem for the employer? Even if so, it sounds like OP5 has beyond redeemed herself in the 9 years since!

        2. Sam.*

          Yeah, but he didn’t tell anyone he didn’t earn his degree, despite getting hired with the understanding that it was imminent. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with working while in school, but I don’t think it’s particularly ethical to let your employer assume you have a degree when you know that you don’t. Regardless, I don’t think it should present an issue moving forward – leaving the date off is perfectly fine. Even if the interviewing company finds out about the date, they’ll just (correctly) assume that he finished his degree while working full-time, which also isn’t an issue.

        3. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

          I agree with you. I don’t think OP5 lied about anything. He believed he would pass the class and then get his degree. There is nothing here to say that he knew he was failing.

  9. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – Why hasn’t someone (you) anonymously reported the store to the labor board? That’s a violation of many state laws.

    And in the meantime set vibrate alarms on the phone for your breaks at the library.

    1. Ms Cappuccino*

      Agree. I hope OP4 keeps a record of all the unpaid work she has done and claims it when she leaves.

    2. Rebecca*

      I thought that too. Working off the clock as a non-exempt worker is a huge no-no. And yet another situation where I wish I knew the name of the establishment, on the off chance I’d shop there, because I wouldn’t any longer if I knew for sure workers were forced to work free of charge.

    3. Lynca*

      I had this situation come up while I was working at a big box store- specifically that they made us clock out yet threatened to fire us if we left before the manager said so. I was young and really wanted a job. By about a year I was sick of it, tried to report them. Legally we aren’t required breaks in my state so there was no recourse for that.

      You’d be surprised the number of roadblocks state labor boards can put in your way to discourage people reporting illegal behavior. I did finally manage to file a complaint, but nothing changed in the years after I left.

        1. boop the first*

          Yes! At least you tried. When people tell stories of doing the right thing, that end with “and nothing came of it”, it does just as much to discourage people as (whatever these roadblocks are) tend to do.

          I get being afraid to mess with a serious career job, but entry-level retail jobs are a dime a dozen. I think it’s worth the risk. If anything DOES come of it, that’s a good chunk of back pay OP would be entitled to.

          Sometimes “bad” things happen, and the bad guys win, but the right things happen just as often.

    4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I have yet to have a job that allowed employees to take their legal breaks. This is wildly optimistic, that reporting them will do anything. You put up or leave.

    5. OP4*

      My state’s labor board requires scrupulous documentation and for the employee to prove it was official policy; it is incredibly easy for stores to cover themselves. I also have no desire to endanger this job. I’ve worked my way up and I make more in this position than I would starting over anywhere else, and I have some strings attached as an employee that make this job the most appealing option available currently.

      1. Preschool Teacher*

        Do you think this is something your could bring to corporate? When I had the same thing happen under a bad manager at a huge coffee chain I alerted corporate and I received back pay and the manager was fired. The state was never involved and I never had any problems there in the years following.

        1. Oaktree*

          If OP4 reports this to corporate, they most likely won’t be able to do so anonymously. The employer will then find a pretext to fire them, and they’ll be out of a job. This is how things often work, unfortunately. And companies count on that.

    6. Former Retail*

      Honestly it shocks me that any large retailer is still doing this.

      I worked at a big box store in my teenage years (left the job 15 years ago) and there was a class action suit against them for this exact behavior. This suit was specific to my state but there are probably tons. I personally was never asked to work off the clock but I automatically got a pretty large check (at least compared to my actual paychecks when I worked there) just for having been on their payroll records during the years involved in the lawsuit.

  10. nnn*

    If I were advising Cathy in #3 and I couldn’t convince her that there’s nothing wrong with interviewing with more than one company at once, I’d try to guide her towards preparing a plausible “cover story” for if a company ever “catches” her “cheating”.

    For example, companies very rarely tell you that you’ve been eliminated from consideration, you often just don’t hear anything. So Cathy’s “cover story” could be “I didn’t hear back from you so I thought you’d gone with someone else!” (with a bright and enthusiastic “Of course I’m still interested in the job!” if she’s still interested in the job).

    Of course, in real life, Cathy doesn’t need a cover story to interview for more than one employer at once. But if she feels she can “get away with it”, she might be more willing to apply to multiple jobs at once and avoid missing out on opportunities.

    1. Not A Manager*

      But why would you even be advising Cathy? The LW makes it sound more like Cathy is giving wacky advice TO HER. LW’s best course is simply to ignore this terrible advice. Changing Cathy’s mind seems like a lost cause.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Really? OP is described a disagreement between two young people with little professional experience. It’s not surprising to me that OP wasn’t able to change Cathy’s mind, but I think the odds are good that as she gets more experience, she’ll come around.

        Most of us change a lot as we go through adulthood.

        1. LW 3*

          @ Mystery Bookworm and Not A Manager
          LW 3 here. You are both mostly correct. Cathy and I were having a disagreement about this terrible idea, BUT she did try to advise me/push the idea on me/trick me into admitting she was “right”. I’ve written out a loose version of the conversation where she told me this lunacy:
          CATHY: blah blah blah blah X is interviewing at Z company, but this job is *really* hard to get.
          ME: Why doesn’t X just apply to other places if it’s so unlikely they’ll get this entry-level/foot-in-the-door job?
          CATHY: You can’t do that. Companies don’t like it.
          ME: *really confused because I know that’s silly* That’s ridiculous. Why would you ever do that?
          CATHY: They know when you do that, they don’t want you then.
          THIRD PERSON: Yeah, Cathy’s right. You can’t do that.
          ME: *sits wide-eyed in silence, feeling the horror that Cathy has already infected another human being with her bad “advice”*

            1. LW 3*

              As a matter of fact, very little (and isn’t that just further incentive to read more AAM and ignore Cathy’s “advice”?)

          1. WellRed*

            How does Cathy think THEY know, I wonder? I guess, the interviewee should wear a tinfoil hat so in the future so THEY can’t find out.

            1. Ms. Jennifer Thneed*

              Because some people think that employers have access to overall records in the same way that schools do, I think.

    2. MagicUnicorn*

      Good companies often ask if you are interviewing elsewhere to see if they need to accelerate their decision timeframe and make a more aggressive offer, not to find out if you are “cheating” on them. Telling someone to concoct a “cover story” is ridiculous advice.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        I have gotten the sense from some interviewers that the question, “Who else have you applied with?” was intended to suss out how interested you really are in them (with the “right” answer being, “No one, I only want to work for you!”). I’m not surprised that Cathy (and Third Person) got a similar impression. You also hear “Word gets around!” (and, in smaller industries, I’d guess it does).

        However, that’s never stopped me from applying to & interviewing with as many places as I could at the same time. You just need to be prepared to have an answer to that question that doesn’t sound like, “everyone short of McDonald’s” (i.e., I’m desperate & you’re just one of many suitors I’m wooing).

      2. Czhorat*

        It also lets you signal to them that you have other options to consider, which can only strengthen your negotiating position.

        “I’m only interviewing with you” can indicate that you’re either early in your search, not serious about it, or consider yourself a fringe candidate. None of this makes you look better.

        1. Jessen*

          I suppose it would depend on why you’re only interviewing with them. I could see it being a strength if you were currently employed and in a position to be choosy about new opportunities.

    3. MommyMD*

      Why get so involved in it? Cathy can do what she sees fit as well as LW. Personally I’d listen to Cathy with a grain of salt and do what I’m gonna do.

        1. LW 3*

          The reason was to at least to protect my own brain from infection of bad job advice. But also, the seeds of doubt had been sown in my mind by Cathy’s insistence that she was right and *I* was the crazy one (AAM thankfully pulled those weeds out the garden and threw em’ in the trash).

          1. ChimericalOne*

            I had figured that was part of it! Lots of reasonable people will go, “Wait, am *I* the crazy one?” when people around them are spouting crazy ideas with firm conviction.

            1. LW 3*

              The “am *I* the crazy one?” happens so often with Cathy in particular (not just on job-related things, but anything needing a little bit of common sense) that I’ve taken to letting it all wash over me whenever she says something, but this interview thing really hit me because I read AAM daily and it’s something I knew just could not be true.

      1. Czhorat*

        I don’t think it’s always ageism; sometimes it’s an acknowledgement that the professional world has changed and that people whose participation in job searches happened decades ago are likely to have specific biases which do not fit today’s professional world.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          That said, there’s a lot of ageism on this board. Many mothers and fathers are still working and have no problem with technology (they invented a lot of it) or the way job searches go.
          The default assumption should never be that the person is clueless because of age.
          Just like the default assumption should never be that someone is assumed incompetent until proven otherwise (sexism).

  11. Penelope Garcia’s glasses*

    #2 All other things aside, is it not your job to come up with the agenda in any case? You know what you’re working on and what issues you want to discuss.

    1. LW 2*

      Yes, one would think, but I would also go into a 1:1 with the expectation that my boss would ask me how I’m doing with my work, or if there was anything I wanted to talk about, and that has not been the case. I actually talked with him the other day and told him it would be very helpful for me to have a more structured time to talk about what’s going well, what’s not going well, what kind of support I need from him, etc. I think he felt bad and admitted he had been using our weekly meetings as a time for me to remind him what’s going on this week, and he really appreciates and needs that support from me. We agreed that we would keep the 30 minute weekly check ins, but also add a monthly, more formal 1:1.

  12. LW #1*

    Thank you so much Alison for answering my question!

    In response to a couple of folks – “shocked” might be overstating my mom’s reaction a tad, but she was definitely concerned and it sparked an interesting discussion that I’m glad to get Alison’s take on. Probably more of a generational difference than anything. Glad to know it’s helping me at least somewhat! I’m definitely not a Twitter genius or anything, but it’s a tight-knit industry so there are tons of people I know mostly by their online reputation and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it goes both ways.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      It’s also really, really common advice to lock down your social media settings so that they aren’t publicly accessible to people like your employers. This is the kind of advice that we give to young adults so they don’t end up screwing up their job prospects when their employer Googles them and sees and open history of all the dumb things they’ve done and ill considered opinions they’ve had over the years.

      However, you’re specifically cultivating a public social media presence as part of your career, which is something very different than using Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends – the latter is probably what your parents were picturing, and they would be right that this would be a bad idea.

      1. Media Monkey*

        agreed. like the admin in a previous role who had an open fb profile mentioning her pole dancing side job (complete with scantily clad pictures) when she was looking for a executive PA type role. we’re not a conservative industry but it didn’t show the best judgement.

      2. Anonysand*

        As someone who works in social media, this is exactly what I came here to say. There’s a huge difference between cultivating a professional presence online and keeping your personal pages wide open for anyone to see. Whenever we get a potential new hire I always check to see what they have online, and we’ve found some interesting things. Case in point: one candidate had some very strong political views and posted regularly on twitter about it, including some graphic political cartoons and profane statements/articles/jokes. Even though I personally agree with the political stance she was tweeting about, it was still enough that I wondered about her professional judgment to leave that sort of thing wide open and if she realized what could have happened if we would have been on the other side of the political spectrum.

        1. Oaktree*

          Yes, this is what I’ve been told- the prospective employer will google you, so lock down your private stuff and be careful about what you make public. I’m a big proponent of public, professionally-focussed twitter, but my facebook isn’t discoverable to people I’m not friends with already. I’ve also been told that some employers find a total lack of social media presence suspicious (“what are they trying to hide??”), so maintaining a LinkedIn profile is usually a good idea (for that among other reasons).

        2. Elizabeth West*

          If someone chooses not to hire me solely because my politics differ from theirs, I probably don’t want to work for them anyway. That won’t stop me from pushing back against damaging policies on Twitter, sharing protest and voting information, etc. I try not to curse, but sometimes it’s so bad that I don’t care. Facebook is purely personal–my employer or potential employer would never see it. I don’t connect to workmates at all.
          If they’re worried about it, they can ask me.

      3. Anonny*

        I don’t have a professional twitter and my regular twitter isn’t connected to my name or anything but now I am concerned because my recent tweets include a rant about “medieval stasis” in fantasy literature, pokemon references, and a retweet of a joke about Mr Blobby. Obviously this is not what my worksona is going to be like but would I potentially lose a job offer because they found what is meant to be an “off-duty” twitter account?

        1. Oaktree*

          Consider how likely it is that a) they’ll find that account and b) they’ll connect it to you. If there are no pictures of you, and your name isn’t on it, it’s probably fine. Pseudonymous twitter accounts are super common.

    2. londonedit*

      Yeah, it sounds to me like your parents have heard the ‘lock down your social media, don’t let employers see everything you post there!’ advice and don’t realise that there’s a difference between not posting a ton of photos of yourself in a bikini downing massive cocktails every Saturday morning on Facebook unless you’ve got your privacy settings sorted so potential employers can’t see it, and what you’re doing, which is cultivating a thoughtful, professional and insightful social media presence.

    3. Justin*

      My parents feel the same way. They are simiarly incorrect. It’s all about how you use it and if you use it well it’s really helpful.

      I met a lot of people at an academic conference this past weekend because of the connections we had previously made on twitter.

    4. CR*

      Every time Alison gets a question like this I think the easy answer is to stop asking your parents’ opinion about your career or involving them in any way.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Doesn’t sound like LW was going to them with hat in hand. Sounds like it just came up in conversation. Lots of people have close relationships with their parents and want to be able to talk with them about a variety of subjects, including the thing they spend more hours doing than any other one activity besides sleep.

      2. Observer*

        And it would be a wrong answer. Plenty of parents give perfectly good advice – sometimes their advice is good some of the time and other times, it’s good for some situations and not others. But that’s really true for any group.

        Even in this case, the OP’s parents are wrong but not wildly so. For the way a lot of people use their social media, they are actually 100% correct. If you, like many people, use your social media for PERSONAL (like really personal rather that humanizing) stuff, you really should lock it down to keep it from prospective employers.

  13. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP4 – is there a smaller version of your clothes change you could do that might help? Maybe wear a watch at library, not at shop job? Or a quicker version of hairstyle (quick into tied back/not tied back change)?

    (Partly inspired by my first live action roleplay character – she had a paralysed left arm, and switching my watch from left to right wrist switched my brain into “you are character” mode – and it worked!)

    1. OP4*

      Thank you, I’ll definitely try that! I’ve been out of the habit of wearing jewelry at all since most kitchens (including mine) don’t allow them, so that will serve double duty with getting me used to the accessories needed for office-type jobs haha

  14. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – definitely industry specific for hiring I think! At my place, it is specifically forbidden for anyone involved in hiring to look someone up on social media (linkedin excepted) unless it’s actually a part of the job.

    I’m kind of towards the horrified end of spectrum unless it is specific to the job. Which yours sounds like it is. Maybe emphaising that part would help, and mentioning showing her that you’re keeping a public, self-promotion account separate from private accounts could help her be reassured?

  15. Dan*

    #5 – I agree with everyone that this shouldn’t really be a big deal when job searching now but I am a little surprised that no one is concerned about the current job. I get the impression that the LW was hired on the understanding that they had essentially graduated and were just waiting for the diploma but then the LW didn’t graduate and didn’t tell them about it. I think a lot of jobs would say after 9 years that her job performance is what matters and who cares but I do think there are companies out there that would regard this as something along the lines of lying about having a degree. Obviously she didn’t technically lie but I do think some people would have expected her to tell them about the failed class / not quite getting her degree.

    1. Megan*

      Completely agree, and that was my first thought. I wonder if OP’s employer ever knew OP didn’t actually graduate?

      I too was hired a semester out of finishing on that understanding and the second my transcripts and diploma were available I provided copies to HR and payroll (they planned on bumping my pay when I graduated).

      I do wonder if OP has been lying by omission to the current employer…

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      If there was dishonesty, that’s another issue – but I read it as waiting for grades – they said ok – and then when grades turned out not to be as expected (or needed) , employer knew about it but by that time was OK with OP still working there.

    3. MommyMD*

      Yes there is a dishonest element to it. Current employer is under the impression employee earned a degree shortly after being hired. Employee was sneaky in not correcting that assumption. Some employer’s finding out would terminate. However employer did not do due diligence in following up. Leave off date unless specifically asked. There is a very small chance this omission could come back to bite OP but it’s a small one.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        I mean, technically, it’s a lie by omission. But the degree requirement in a lot of fields is more of an unnecessary hoop we’ve constructed for people to jump through than a true requirement (i.e., a case where a person with the full, exact degree specified *could* do the job and a person with any number of variations from that *couldn’t* do the job). I doubt that lacking sufficient knowledge to pass that one class had any real impact on the LW’s performance.

        When someone’s nickel-and-diming you with artificially-constructed requirements — just because they’re a handy “shortcut” to figuring out your general knowledge/skills — I don’t think it’s any great sin to fail to disclose your lack of a precise match to their measurements WHEN, as in this case, they knew they were taking that risk up front by hiring you pending the degree and then chose not to follow up on its completion. 99.9% of a degree isn’t functionally different from 100% of a degree. I would imagine the folks who didn’t follow up on this felt the same way. This isn’t something the LW should bother to feel bad about.

        Also, it’s harder to describe something as even a lie by omission when the timeline is gray like this. LW was supposed to finish her degree. She didn’t do it on the expected timeline, but she still did it. Unless she was working in a field where her lack of a degree had some regulatory significance, this had zero impact on her workplace.

    4. MommyMD*

      Also if you are expecting a degree in a few weeks, you are generally far enough along in the academic year to know you’re failing a class or know what you need to do to pass it.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Not necessarily. Some classes have lots of grades as you go; others are primarily graded via a midterm & a final and/or a final project. LW could’ve gotten a C on the midterm and then tanked the project and/or the final exam and thus failed the course entirely unexpectedly.

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        In the medical field, that’s probably true. But if things are less regimented, it can easily happen. I’m taking a graduate-level business school course right now that I have no idea how I’m doing in. 40% of our grade is based on a group project/presentation that we gave a month ago and haven’t gotten the grades from; a further 20% is participation, which we get no feedback on. The policies of the program say that if you get less than a certain grade (I believe B+ is the minimum), you can’t count the course toward the degree and you have to retake it. If the prof grades my group’s presentation super harshly, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that I could have to retake this class. And it’s already mid-April!

  16. cncx*

    re OP5, i live in a place where ageism in hiring is a Thing and me graduating from college five years later than i should have- also due to one class- has actually helped me, because people think i’m younger. so i leave the date on. I’m in my early forties.

  17. LGC*

    So on top of this: LW4, you’re doing this every couple of months. It’s not THAT big of a deal, honestly! Your boss at the library is probably horrified when you don’t take your break because she cares about you and just wants to see you get paid for your work.

    (Also I’m not sure if you’re in the US and how long your library shift is. But…I think it’s not a legal concern at the federal level if you work 5 or fewer hours.

    1. 1 legged stray cat*

      Depends where you are in the US. If she is from Oregon, Washington, California, Kentucky, Colorado, or Nevada, the rule is ten minutes for every four hours of work. If employees are found not taking breaks there, the company will be fined. If employees themselves are refusing to take breaks, the responsibility is for the company to discipline or fire the employee. Twenty states have rules requiring lunch breaks for hours that range from a required 5 to 8 hours depending on the state. If the employee is under 18, more states have rules protecting breaks and the companies will be (supposedly) in even more trouble if they do not facilitate breaks.

      Federally there is no requirements for rest or meal breaks, though it is definetly good habit to use them if companies offer them. Burn out can happen to anyone.

      1. LGC*

        I must have crossed the regs then! In my state (NJ), I think the cutoff is 5 1/2 hours, and I’ve just assumed that was based off of federal.

  18. Media Monkey*

    LW #3 – in my industry (advertising/ media in the UK) most jobs are handled by recruiters/ headhunters and it is known and expected that there will be multiple roles at a similar level. in fact most recruiters will tell places you are interviewing if you are at a later stage with another company to make them move faster!

  19. CountryLass*

    #3 I was interviewing with three companies, whilst negotiating with my current company and being headhunted by my previous company, all at the same time!

  20. Delta Delta*

    #3 – I interviewed with a consulting firm just out of college on a Thursday. They said they’d call me soon. Nineteen years later they still haven’t called. Under the Cathy scheme, I’d have close to 2 decades of unemployment. So, yeah, maybe just ignore her on this one.

    1. Nessun*

      That’s the part that struck me most (beyond the “wow how can she possibly think THAT’s how it should work?!) – how is she going to handle the lack of response from some companies after she’s applied? Does she have a specific period of time in mind to wait for them to reply? Does she give them two weeks then write them off? Or does she (and this would be SO problematic for her down the road) assume that every employer she interviews with is going to get back to her in good time to say yea or nay? …if it’s that last one, whoa nelly is she ever in for a shock!!

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      Reminds me of Cosmo Kramer waiting out the 12-year bagel strike without getting a new job. “I didn’t want people to know I was out of work!”

  21. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

    #5: Finishing a degree later on is totally normal! Everyone takes different paths in life and certain things line up differently depending on your circumstances. If anything, having the amount of work experience would offset the date you formally graduated to show you were accomplishing something in between!

    Something kind of similar happened to someone I used to work with. Not my boss, but a “team lead” of sorts that assigned projects to me and who I honestly saw and interacted with more than my actual boss and who was a fantastic supervisor to his actual reports (it’s a very specific industry that I’m keeping anon here). He had nearly graduated, but got screwed because a month before his graduation, an advisor told him that a class he was taking wouldn’t count towards his degree, despite being told the opposite at the beginning of the semester. He had just bought a house, so he couldn’t afford to enroll the next semester and just never went back.

    Now 22 years later, he’s gone as high as he can within the organization without having a degree and can’t get promoted higher until he graduates (which I think is total BS because it’s NOT a universal industry standard and it’s ridiculous that his 22 years of experience and good track record can’t override the requirement, but that’s not changing anytime soon). He’s now going back and on track to graduate this spring, which is awesome!

    Many people at this organization don’t get their degrees until later on. Sometimes timing isn’t right and you need to save money. Like I said, everyone’s circumstances are different and Alison’s totally right that the actual degree severely outweighs the actual timing you got it.

  22. Bazinga*

    OP4, please get out of the store when you can, and report them for illegally making you work off the clock.

  23. MicroManagered*

    OP5 Lots of people get degrees at different times for different reasons. I finished mine when I was 31. I now have several years of work history behind me and a progressing career, and I’ve only ever been asked about it once.

    I had an old manager say “I expected you to be younger based on when you graduated, what’s up with that?” on my first day on the job. But that was just a rude and stupid thing for her to say, and she turned out to be a sucky manager (and human, for that matter) in every sense. Other than that, I have never had it asked or commented upon.

    1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

      Wow, I’m sorry that happened to you, but that perfectly illustrates how caring about when someone graduates isn’t the norm and that it says much more about the person asking than about you.

      1. MicroManagered*

        Absolutely! That’s precisely what I was getting at. I’d be wary of anyone who does notice or care!!

    2. wittyrepartee*

      My boyfriend had 5 years of college and no degree under his belt when I met him. He graduated at age 38. Sometimes people get derailed.

  24. Rez123*

    OP5. No need to worry. It’s quite common for people to graduate different times. Some people take brakes that lasts year. Many never graduate and then decide to finish the thesis decades later etc. It’ the work experience that counts. It took my mom 11 years to graduate. It was a running joke in the fmaily when we wondered if any of the kids will beat that. Then finally my brother won since it took him 12 years to graduate from a 2 year degree.

  25. MommyMD*

    You are way too new to decide who is or is not incompetent and you have no idea what is going on behind the scenes with any of your superiors. This is presumptuous and the job of his own boss to direct him. Your role at two months in is to go to work and do your own job to the best of your ability.

    1. traffic_spiral*

      Yup. Just do your job and keep an eye out for anything your boss does that could harm you. Other than that, you’re not being paid to look after his reputation, so don’t bother.

  26. Boo Capitalism*

    #4 – Current full time librarian and former multiple job holder here. In fact, I’ve met very few librarians that wouldn’t describe, so trust me, you boss would probably get it. Please don’t be embarrassed, we just want you to be taking care of yourself (slash not opening us up to liability ;) )! Could you possibly set silent alarms (on a watch or phone in your pocket) to remind you to take breaks?

    #5 – My step father did the exact same thing, except it took him something like 20+ years to go back to school. He was already well-regarded and successful in his field in many ways when he did. We ended up graduating the same semester, and you had better believe we had a joint party!

    Also, as someone who has sat on hiring committees, as long as you have the required degree, I pay very little attention to those sorts of things.

    1. OP4*

      Thanks for the encouragement! And yeah— as far as the breaks thing is oncerned, I’m mostly concerned about the liability, which is why I focused on that aspect. There’s other things different that I mess up in too, acceptable language being another big one (at the store, swearing is par for the course and F-bombs not uncommon; at the library, “darn” is strong language). I focused overmuch on the breaks because it had happened earlier on the day I sent the letter in, but there’s other things that are wildly different that I mess up on differentiating sometimes.

      And you’re right, my boss is great! :D

      1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        As to the swearing, I think I can help you with that. If you have time, put your hair in a different style before you report to work at the library. Put on jewelry and lipstick. Now you’re a lady. Ladies do not swear. (You can also turn the F-bomb into “Phooey!” at the last moment. )

  27. LQ*

    This was a thing that was just sort of…in the air when I was growing up. I came from a very rural area with only 1 real industry and if you were applying to work in that industry you worked at one place or the other so a pox on you if someone found out you were going to the other place. But it sort of fed elsewhere too, jobs were really hard to come by so employers could NOPE anyone for any reason including you looked at another job. At least that was the impression tiny me got.

    Once I started looking for jobs, while it was still in the air, even then I applied to more than one at a time when I was looking for summer work.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      Yes, I can absolutely see how someone could get this impression (and how it could even be true, as far as expectations go, for some employers) in a small town or a small industry, and where the employers hold all the cards. Still, it’s pretty much impossible to conform to this expectation, so even if LW can’t convince Cathy that she’s wrong, she can & should still counter that the solution is caution/stealth/having a good cover story, not trying to contort yourself to conform to that expectation.

  28. 342g*

    4: it doesn’t matter if you need to stay at the job, if they’re doing illegal stuff like not paying for overtime or making you skip breaks, you need to report it. for the sake of others.

  29. Project Problem Solver*

    LW #5 I want to reassure you that I didn’t get my college degree until I was 38 and already in my field. Prospective employers are far more interested in my work accomplishments than my graduation year.

  30. Aubri*

    #3 drives me crazy. When I was looking for a new job last year, I put out a ton of applications for different jobs. A few of my friends didn’t understand because they honestly believe that when you apply somewhere, they will always get back to you. That if you’re “qualified” you will automatically get an interview. That is absolutely not the way the real world works.

    When I was interviewing at my current job, I received an offer from another company and emailed my now-boss asking if she could speed up the process at all. She couldn’t, and I ended up declining the other job in hopes that I would get my now-job, which I did. Good employers know that you’re applying elsewhere and understand if stuff like that happens.

    1. LW 3*

      LW 3 here. Part of your answer struck me. I think Cathy may be in the naive, “they’ll always get back to me” and “but I’m fully qualified” group.
      I think she simply doesn’t realize that companies (FYI the company we were discussing was a corporate office, not mom-and-pop) just don’t have that kind of consideration for job candidates feelings or time.

  31. Elaine*

    I have a similar experience to #5. I got an Incomplete on a class in the final semester of my Master’s degree, took the full year to complete it, found out that the class I got a D in didn’t count for credits, and had to take one additional class. So it took me 3 years, when I originally eould have finished in a year and a half. I try to think about it as life experience — how do you deal with set-backs and still move forward? I know as a student, my grades and academic record felt like they defined me. But as a working adult, it’s just my track record.

  32. Kelly L.*

    #4 is such a thing! The biggest culture shock to me when switching from customer service work to office work was being able to go use the restroom anytime I wanted. The second biggest culture shock was going from having to bend over backwards to not tell people no, to having a responsibility to say no in some circumstances. Took me a while to build up that backbone, and it was especially hard when I was doing both jobs in one day. Fist bump of solidarity!

  33. PizzaDog*

    Nothing to worry about whatsoever, LW5 – it took me 8 years to even start university after I was done with high school. I failed a couple of entry level classes, and worked myself back up to finishing. It’s totally normal. You have the resume and work experience to back you up.

    Think of it this way – Brian May started his phd studies in 1970. He “only” got his doctorate like 10 years ago.

  34. 4Sina*

    I’m not suprised by LW1’s parents – growing up with internet access in the late 90s, it was drilled into our heads – don’t reveal who we really are online, don’t give out information about yourself, nobody you haven’t met in real life should know your name, etc etc. Changing my social media profiles from my long-established online handle to my real name was actually a point of anxiety, even though I wouldn’t say I’m controversial in the slightest. My parents also talked to me in my early 20s (in the mid aughts) about deleting Myspace blog posts that potential employers could read – I think this mindset is still prevalent, and depending on your level of social media use and your position, it’s not necessarily bad to be wary of companies monitoring who you are outside of work. My place of business plays this very conservatively, and while they don’t monitor our personal social media profiles with alerts, we are encouraged not to include any information that may sound like we are in any way representing our workplace, including putting the name in our profile bios. Anyway, all this Old Millennial rambling about “back in my day!” – I follow plenty of people in my industry who do have the freedom to tweet about their work and their business and engaging with them has made me a better professional. Thank you for being so visible!

    1. Allison*

      I think my parents’ generation also believes that you have a “real” persona and a professional, buttoned up, squeaky clean persona, and most of the professional world (save for maybe a few work friends) should only be able to see the latter side of you. The idea that an employer can easily see the “real” side of you and be okay with that is a very modern, “millennial” concept, and it still doesn’t apply to all industries.

      That said, not that I look at the social profiles of people we might hire, but if I was considering someone to work with or under me and their social feed was full of rude, judgmental, super negative, “everyone is disrespecting me and I have no real friends” posts, I may not want to work with that person no matter how qualified they are. So a little snark, nerdy fandom, and some funny memes are okay, even getting a little political is no biggie, but if you sound like a nightmare to deal with on a daily basis, you may not be my top candidate.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That attitude is still very much out there with all the “true crime” coverage that we still have going strong. There’s a lot of “Murder on the Internets, NEVA go on the internets!!!” stories out there.

    3. LW #1*

      Yeah, I remember hearing that too, along with lots of scary middle school assemblies about how the Internet was full of secret pedophiles.

      My industry used to have a similar policy to your workplace – don’t mention where you work in your bio, never tweet about your day-to-day job, don’t engage in political discussions (I work in politics). That started changing about 4-6 years ago when people realized that was an impossible standard to hold staff too, and that people would find our social media no matter what, so it might as well be an asset instead of a liability.

      I do actually mix personal and professional stuff, I’m just careful to make sure “personal” means something closer to talking about, for example, how great a movie is or something funny I saw on the metro, not pictures of me raging at a bar. In my most recent job, we were specifically told NOT to have a separate, private, personal account, because you couldn’t guarantee that no one would see it, and I think the thinking was that it would lull you into a false sense of security about posting things that are better left off social media altogether. But I’m sure politics is much stricter about this than other industries. This also means that tweeting about political issues, even in pretty emotional language, is completely fine as long as I don’t disagree with the organization’s stance.

  35. Librarian Ish*

    Hey LW#5 – I didn’t read your school situation as bad or embarrassing at all! I’ve done some hiring at my library and I always prioritized work experience over a degree. The only time I gave side eye to a resume was when they had a recent degree and they used class experience to pad their resume (which I caught because I was in the same degree program as them lol). Your 9 years of experience without a degree (assuming I noticed the dates, which I probably wouldn’t) would actually speak pretty positively to me, that you’re someone who can thrive without formal training and who has real world experience outside of the classes you took.

    Congrats on the degree by the way! That’s awesome!

  36. DivineMissL*

    LW #2 – I wanted to ask AAM a similar question. My boss is very nice but is not well respected. His boss frequently confides in me that he is dissatisfied with my boss, and I have tried to make a few changes or suggestions where I can; but ultimately, it’s not my job to make sure he keeps his job. I just do what I can to be supportive, and then make sure I do what I can to keep my own job safe.

  37. not my normal handle*

    OP5: My masters took 2 extra years because I messed up how I used data and had to go through a process to review if it was an error in good faith. That’s umm… worse than failing a class. Then I got a job that wanted me to work until 730 pm every night. Eventually I got back on track. You don’t need to give people the nitty gritty, you took some time to finish because of work.

    It’s really normal for people to feel a lot of shame and have trouble finishing their classes if they fail during their last semester (or any semester, but it’s easier to finish if you’re still taking other classes). I was a TA in grad school, I’ve had to coach students through that kind of thing. You’re normal! Things happen!

  38. Amelia*

    For me, it makes sense to have a purely professional Twitter page. I don’t muse about what I ate for breakfast or my recent vacation. It’s 100% professional articles, thoughts on conferences, networking stuff etc. I follow colleagues, competitors and industry people.

    Once I posted a picture of my child “reading” a trade book we published but that’s the extent of my personal life that’s ever been a part of my feed. None of my friends outside the industry follow me.

    I’d be worried about things getting too messy otherwise.

  39. Evil HR Person*

    #5: Lots of people finish degrees while working. It’s called “continuing education,” and lots of people I know have gotten their degrees well into their careers so… I don’t know why you’re so embarrassed. Because you failed a class? Because you kept working? I’m having trouble understanding the embarrassment portion, particularly since you’re applying to new jobs. If anybody asks – doubtful – just say you finished your degree while working on your career. People do this all the time…

  40. ClumsyCharisma*

    I assume everyone I’m interviewing is also at least applying to other companies. I mean since my department doesn’t head hunt if they are applying they are looking and most people look multiple places. I have no issue with it and think it’s the smart way to handle job hunting.

  41. Flash Bristow*

    oP#4 – set alarms on your phone to remind you to take breaks. When you know your shifts for the week, maybe set them then? And adjust when you get into work if necessary?

    I have phone alarms for everything – medication, feed the cat, get up, friend here in ten, start planning dinner – the lot!

    1. Birch*

      Yes, this is exactly what I was going to say. LW4, do you use a computer at your library job? Or would you be allowed (especially after talking to your boss about this) to set an alarm on your phone? If you get into the habit of always taking your breaks at the same time, that will also help you get into the swing of it. I find scheduling things on Google calendar or something similar really helps me to offload that memory task which puts more cognitive resources available to actually do the job! And it’s useful for all sorts of task scheduling, even like Flash says, personal things. I like to use it to remind myself how much time I allocate to each work task to keep me focused and remind me to take a lunch break.

  42. Lola*

    Here to comment on #2 — nice but incompetent boss.

    From my experience, set clear boundaries not only with him but also with yourself. I have a very kind but very incompetent boss and I fell into managing up for a long time. Even his boss asks me to hand hold when it comes to basic tasks. It’s been great for my resume but horrible for my happiness at work. What was supposed to be a career-making position has left me resentful and burnt out. You can be kind and understanding without doing his job for him. You need to leave space for his superiors to see the quality of his work, not the work after you have coached him into doing it. Your energy is better spent elsewhere!

  43. Old Bitty Still Eking Out A Living*

    OP #1 – Take what your parents say to heart (not everything that older, more experienced human beings say is wrong). Twitter is really the armpit of the internet. People are accused, tried and convicted by (AND FIRED because of) the court of Twitter all the time. Something you might think is innocuous can be interpreted negatively by three people, and our media thinks that’s a social media firestorm. Caution is clearly indicated.

    1. Oaktree*

      I disagree. While obviously it’s necessary to be prudent with your public social media, there are many fields where it’s extremely common to have a public Twitter where you discuss issues specific to your field. (Law, librarianship, academia in general, and some STEM fields specifically, are just a few examples.) It’s a professional development and networking thing. It is important to ensure that your use of Twitter is consistent with your professional goals (like, talk more about neuroscience than about Marvel movies), but simply having a Twitter account is, for many of us, entirely normal.

  44. OP4*

    Hi, OP4 here!

    Thank you so much to everyone with suggestions on how to manage this! There’s actually several other things that are just wildly different about how I’m expected to behave at each job; I focused on the breaks thing a bit too much because I’d done it earlier on the day I wrote in, and because that one has potential legal consequences. For another example, at the library all my language is kid-friendly; at the store, we tend toward more… colorful language. The general pace of work is also different — at the store, if you’ve got time to lean you’ve got time to clean!!! while at the library, part of my job is to be at the desk not actively doing things waiting for a customer to need help. And on and on in a similar vein. Rather than my main problem being breaks like how my letter came across, it’s really about strategies to put myself in a different mental place so I don’t get antsy at the library or talk to my 19-year-old coworker at the store with phrases straight from a kindergarten.

    And as far as reporting the store to the labor board — in my area, I will not be able to collect a significant enough amount of documentation and proof to prove my case sufficiently. The burden of proof in reporters is very high, and the corporation’s official policies state that noncompliance with labor law is a fireable offense for the employee. I have no desire or ability to be fired from my otherwise-alright job and be dragged through a bureaucratic wringer for a result I already know will be null.

    1. a1*

      I think you were on the right track with different ways of dressing, but I understand why that doesn’t work on days you work both jobs. Is there something smaller you can change between? Like your shoes or earrings (if you wear jewelry) or glasses (if needed) to use as your signal. Like “library = flats and retail = loafers”?

      Or a mantra you repeat to yourself as you commute or enter each location – “This is the place I curse and clean, curse and clean, curse and clean! This is the place I curse and clean all shift long.” as you commute to retail, and “I’m talking kidspeak in the hour! Kidspeak all hour long!” Set them to different tunes or rhythms so as not to mix them up – so the first one is obviously to the tune of “This is the way we wash our face…” and in my mind the 2nd is to the tune of “I’m getting married in the morning”. Anyway, I digress.

      1. OP4*

        I now have “This is the way we…” in my head! Thanks ;P

        But seriously thank you for the suggestions! I’ll make a note to try incorporating them :)

        1. Shoes On My Cat*

          Maybe try wearing a different watchband? If you hair can be easily styled, maybe a ponytail for the store/adult interactions/movemovemove and a headband for the library where you can see your hair swing forward and feel it being down? I used to have an office job with proper speech & mannerz..and body language of ‘customer is always right’ (hair down & styled) and a horse job (ponytail (ha ha) ) with rather explicit language and body language of being in charge and would style my hair for my next shift before getting in the car. Only took a couple weeks to train my brain.

  45. Lindaroo*

    Since companies interview multiple candidates for one job; it only makes sense that candidates should be pursuing multiple jobs. Even if you know nothing about hiring works, it’s obvious. Cathy’s advice fails on so many levels, it should be completely ignored.

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

    #5 A long time ago before online classes were a thing, I finished my last 2 college classes via independent study at a university in one state, while I was working at a job in a separate state. The dates of my attending and graduating college therefore seem odd. Only one employer in the last 20+ years has ever noticed and asked me about it, and only because he attended the same university and was interested in a fellow alumnus. Alison is right, whether you leave it off or put it on, probably no one will notice or care.

  47. Oaktree*

    LW #5, this is a non-problem. No one cares how long it took you to get your degree; they care that you have (if it’s even necessary for the job), and they care about your previous experience, and how you’d fit socially with the organization. I’ve never even heard of a company caring how long it took someone to get a degree.

  48. c56*

    LW4, do you have to document that you’ve taken your breaks? If you don’t have to document it somewhere, have you considered not mentioning it if it slips your mind once in a while? One thing it took a while for me to realize was that you don’t have to call attention to every mistake you make.

    1. OP4*

      I don’t have to document, but my boss will notice if my lunch doesn’t get eaten, lol! The couple times I’ve forgotten about lunch, he came out halfway through my scheduled time and did a double-take like “why are you here and not reading in the break room”. There are worse problems to have, for sure. :)

  49. cmcinnyc*

    #3 Cathy’s advice sounds like very old, old, pre-Internet submission etiquette from the publishing and journalism industries, where the big publishers discouraged “multiple submissions.” They didn’t want to spend time reviewing your work only to find out you’d gone ahead and published it somewhere else. Of course, this gave them 100% of the power, and while *some* publishers are prompt with replies, others could hang you up for a year. Once email came in this nonsense stopped. Now the etiquette is drop a line and let people know the piece you submitted is being published/produced elsewhere and they can scream if they want to but you snooze you lose is now industry standard. Maybe Cathy’s been mentored by a bitter old editor who yearns for the good old days when he’d get to his (wooden, full of paper) inbox in his own sweet time thank you very much.

  50. Samwise*

    #4. Put your required breaks etc in your online calendar and set it to send you a reminder (text message buzz, your work email if your job has you in front of a computer with your email available) for five minutes in advance.

    If that’s not do-able, write a sticky for yourself that says: Take a break at 10:15 am. Stick it somewhere that you can’t miss it, but isn’t obtrusive for library patrons asking for your help. (Make it a different color every day, otherwise you will stop seeing it!)

  51. Samwise*

    #3. Cathy is either an idiot or sadly misinformed. I give you permission to roll your eyes at her. If you don’t want to do that, you can cheerfully say, Thanks! I’ll keep that in mind! and then ignore her.

  52. WoodswomanWrites*

    OP#5, another reason not to put the date of when you graduated is potential age discrimination. As an older applicant, I have left off my oldest work experience as well as the year I graduated to avoid waving any flags for those who unfortunately think about these things. Sending a resume to strangers, it’s better to play that one safe.

  53. Shoes On My Cat*

    OP#4: I have a similar problem keeping track of time when I’m rolling at work and most of my jobs have been ‘take a break during the lull, whenever that is.’ One thing that helped me was the basic Timex watch-I think it’s called ironman or something like that. Anyway, it has a programmable alarm that is not super loud and easy to shut off. Alternately, you could set a silent alarm on your phone that will vibrate, but I like the watch as the optics at work are better than checking a phone. -there are also options for alarms for people hard of hearing that you could wear-vibrate or light up alerts. Another option could be to simply write the time of your next break on your hand. Your supervisor is probably very kind and empathetic but that may wane if she’s getting pressure from the PTB to get your breaks settled. Good luck!

  54. Luna*

    OP #1: I am so glad that I do not do any of this social media stuff. But reading your input just made me rather uncomfortable. Most likely because I am the type of person who likes to keep her professional and personal life separate as much as possible, but I would never let my personal account be ingrained with my professional stuff.

    But you seem alright with it, and your (potential) employer seems alright with everything, so… if it works for you and them, keeping going. Your parents will just have to shrug their shoulders and write it off as just something ‘that is done today’.

    OP #3: That sounds silly. Most employers or hiring managers know, or at least assume, that any candidate applying to them is also most likely applying to many other places. I think I would be surprised to learn that a candidate only applied to this one place, and nowhere else. Unless they were certain that they will get a job or their skills are so well-fitting to this company that there’s little worry that it’ll fall through, there’s no reason to not apply to other places. Especially since some places take a long time to answer applications. Just think of the logistic of that: applying to one place, sitting around for up to two weeks (or even longer) and waiting, before they finally tell you something. In the meantime, you could’ve gotten faster answers and interviews with other places.

    OP #5: This sounds like a very minor issue. Chances are, your employer won’t really care by now. You’ve done a good job at the company all these years, why would the year you get the degree suddenly alter this?

  55. Lemmy Caution*

    #5 You’re in with a good crowd.

    I had several co-workers graduate as the Finnish university system changed so that ”eternity students” were told to get their degree or their old records would be purged after a certain date. Usually they had gone to work their 2nd or 3rd year and not bothered with the thesis. It was a bit funny 40-year olds having graduation parties in the office.

    I almost managed to get myself in a similar situation, granted I was a ”mature student” in my thirties, and I went to work my second year and did stuff pretty lazily. I was actually just taking courses as the stuff interested me and had way over the required credits, but my thesis was the obstacle. I made one that hardly passed, but I wasn’t interested in grades.

    Now the graduation date makes me look 10-20 years younger, which isn’t bad in the ageist jobmarket. Though if the employer reads my CV and looks at some dates, I’ve listed my National Service and the reserves promotions, which for the unitiated might appear as a full army career and subsequent college on a veteran bill, as I don’t list my pre-degree jobs as I already am on the third page in my CV with my current career.

  56. Struggle bus is real*

    I am concerned though if you are a minor. Again, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, but missing breaks could have serious legal ramifications for your boss and maybe you. If you are somewhere where you have to get a permit to work under 18, that could possibly get taken away and then you couldn’t have any job. This should be more of a concern for the employer, but they don’t seem to care at the store.

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