a happy ending

A reader writes:

I’ve been reading your blog for many years, starting when I was miserable and stuck in a role with an awful manager, and your advice has made a big impact on how I approach work and applying for jobs.

Most recently, I was laid off last fall from my job at a small nonprofit. (My experience there is its own insanity – the executive director and founder is also president of the board, and she just started a new “sister” for-profit business that’s actually being funded in part by the nonprofit (how’s that for backwards?); a business manager that “forgot” to file paperwork to keep the org tax exempt; my ED was 20 minutes late to the meeting she scheduled to tell me they were eliminating my position, so a board member had to tell me, etc etc etc. Fun.)

Anyways, here’s what happened in the past 6 months:

• Right before the holidays when I got laid off, I reached out to a small retail shop I’ve been shopping at forever and asked if they needed seasonal help. They hired me part-time so I could focus on job hunting. It was great fun to talk about something I was passionate about all day and gave me a productive (and money-making) break from job hunting. I also tried to pitch myself for a corporate job there as they’re in the process of expanding. I reached out and had a good meeting with their marketing person, but it didn’t pan out. I’m glad I tried though!

• I started a new community group around a topic I love (cooking). Another thing to keep myself busy, but I also figured it was good networking (in the not awful, awkward sense).

• Through that community group, I met a woman who used to work as a recruiter in my industry and she offered to look at my resume. She said it was already really strong (thanks to your advice of focusing on accomplishments rather than duties), but gave some fantastic suggestions that made it even better. I also got an interview through another person in the group, and another networking connection through a third person.

• I applied for 28 jobs and was interviewed by 8 companies (about half of those I made it to second round or later). This may not sound like a lot of applications for 6 months, but I was trying to be strategic in what I applied for and almost all of those included customized resume and cover letter.

• In almost all of my interviews, I felt confident and well-prepared thanks to your interview guide, researching the positions, understanding what I felt I could bring to the role, and really approaching each conversation as a two-way interview – not just pitching myself, but trying to figure out if I wanted to work there.

• A few weeks ago, I had a final interview for a position that I felt would be a great fit (a newly created role at a well-established nonprofit). They made an offer (yay!), I negotiated (my first time! I asked for more pay and more vacation – I got about half of the extra pay, and no extra vacation).

I started last week and despite some craziness (my new boss unexpectedly went on maternity leave the day before I started), this is the least nervous I’ve ever felt starting a new job. There’s a lot to learn, and I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, but I feel confident that I can make good decisions, that I can produce good work (I actually did a ton in my first two weeks! and I got great feedback), and I’m not scared to ask for what I need to do my job or to say I don’t know how to do something.

THANK YOU for your awesome site and your advice!

{ 83 comments… read them below }

      1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool

        Pure speculation, but perhaps an adoption or surrogate situation that had unpredictable timing.

          1. Prof. Kat

            Oh, how exciting for your manager! A bit hectic for you, I’m sure, but at least it’s for a happy reason and not a sad one.

            1. Southern Ladybug

              Yes! I feared early labor or pregnancy complications. How wonderful for your manger.

          2. Observer

            I was also thinking early L&D. This is SOOO much better, because once she’s back, she won’t be derailed by the issues that tend to come along with preemies. And also, a healthy birth is always just better for everyone than early L&D.

            Congratulations!

      2. Dolphin

        I assume the baby came early – not the maternity leave itself was unexpected, rather the timing of it.

        1. Antilles

          That was my thought too – the boss was expecting another few weeks before the due date, but the baby was several weeks early.

          1. LSP

            Or the manager was put on bed rest for an unseen medical issue.

            There’s actually lots of reasons maternity leave could come much earlier than expected, because due dates are really just guesses.

            1. Observer

              No, the dates are not just guesses. Absent unforeseen complications, you’re usually looking at 2 weeks on either side of the date – so it’s NOT exact, and it’s important to realize this, but mostly a decent planning guide.

              1. JSPA

                Q: “guess what day in February my birthday is.”
                A: “The 15th, ± 2 weeks.”
                That’s not a guess, I guess…but it’s also not an answer.

                You may hear ±2 weeks folded into the term “due date,” and automatically think of it as including standard deviation. But as a single day “date,” it’s a guess. According to several sources, <5% of babies are born on their nominal due date.

                We continue to base due date on first day of last menstrual period. That's actually very 19th century (or equally, 9th century) and includes all sorts of assumptions about cycle length / ovulation time within the cycle which are demonstrably untrue (often in very predictable ways) for many individual women. It's a little crazy that if a woman says, "my cycle is always 34 days" or "always 21 days," or "I know when I ovulated," that isn't figured in. Because…phases of the moon, I guess? Or numbers are confusing to women? Or we don't recognize when our bodies do things, because it's all so very dark down there?

                Which, actually, may all still be in play, if OP's boss is doing a newborn adoption. With more open adoptions, and birth moms choosing the adoptive parent(s), often from national lists, there can be sudden long distance travel whenever labor starts.

                1. Happy OP

                  Your last comment is what happened! Boss had to leave the Friday before I was going to start because she just found out the mother was going to give birth that weekend 4 states away!

                2. Lady Kelvin

                  That’s not actually true. Initially my due date was based upon the date of my last period, but my cycles were 5-6 weeks at the time so I thought my due date was ~2 weeks early. At my first ultrasound they measured the size of the baby+uterus and were able to calculate a much more accurate due date, which was 10 days later than the first. The estimate of due date based on embryonic size prior to 12 weeks is actually very accurate. When the baby arrives is still uncertain, but the estimation of the due date is no longer strictly based upon the date of your last period.

                3. Mary

                  It’s not on LMP in the UK. I had IVF so I knew precisely what day the embryo was fertilised and when it was returned to the uterus, but both pregnancies the EDD was based on the size in my 12wk ultrasound.

                4. Observer

                  We continue to base due date on first day of last menstrual period. That’s actually very 19th century (or equally, 9th century) and includes all sorts of assumptions about cycle length / ovulation time within the cycle which are demonstrably untrue (often in very predictable ways) for many individual women.

                  Fortunately, it’s becoming a bit less true, for a number of reasons. But, I agree, there are LOTS of situations where the due date would be a whole lot more accurate if medical professionals would actually pay attention to women AND the science.


                  It’s a little crazy that if a woman says, “my cycle is always 34 days” or “always 21 days,” or “I know when I ovulated,” that isn’t figured in. Because…phases of the moon, I guess? Or numbers are confusing to women? Or we don’t recognize when our bodies do things, because it’s all so very dark down there?

                  It’s more than a little crazy – it’s stupid and leads to a lot of bad medical decision making. ESPECIALLY with the current trend by many doctors to treat the due date as an EXACT date and pushing women into interventions based on that date.

                  I’d say that the reason is the institutionalized misogyny of medical practice. It’s not just that women aren’t believed when they say anything because they of course have no clue and just “being emotional”. It’s also the entire approach to any female specific medical issue.

                  Having said that, most of the differences you see make it unlikely that the due date is significantly later than what the doctors are calculating – If you have a 24 day cycle rather than a 28 day cycle (which is what is generally used for these calculations), you’re date should only be 4 days before the “official” due date. So, still very much in range.

                  Where it gets hairy is when your cycle is substantially longer – and that’s mostly only a problem because too many doctor insist on “enforcing” the date.

        2. Becky

          Or it could be one of those stories I see pop up in the news every so often where a woman, even one who has had previous pregnancies, doesn’t realize she’s pregnant because the symptoms were non existent and she even continued light menstruation.

          1. Grace

            There was one of those on the BBC the other day.

            She’d only had some light spotting but hadn’t thought anything of it because she’d been back-to-backing the pill for several months (had got pregnant while on the pill and continued taking it for several months into the unknown pregnancy) and it’s pretty normal for menstruation to not go back to normal for a while after ending hormonal birth control. She had an anterior pregnancy and said any baby movement felt like nothing more than a bit of gas, and honestly, in her eight-months-pregnant photo, you couldn’t tell.

            She didn’t realise that she was giving birth until about five seconds before the baby crowned. Bit of a shock, but not as much as the woman who didn’t know she was pregnant, had pregnancy complications (I want to say sepsis?) that meant she was put into an induced coma, then was woken up from her coma and given a baby. That’s honestly kind of terrifying.

            1. RUKiddingMe

              Stuff happens.

              My periods had been erratic for a couple years after coming off the pill. I wasn’t trying to get pregnant but wasn’t trying not to either (it was 1986…we did getting pregnant differently in the dark ages…less “planning”).

              I got pregnant in September but kept having normal periods all of Oct., Nov., and Dec. They were never super heavy or light so nothing seemed amiss.

              Until the morning sickness hit. I wanted…to…die. I had what Kate Midland gets (cant remember what it’s called).

              I went to the doctor and said “either I’m dying (it was a serious thought) or I’m pregnant.” Lucky for me it was the latter.

              1. JSPA

                Hyperemesis gravidarum

                Hyper = excessive
                emesis (think of “emit”) = puking
                Gravid = pregnant
                arum = “belonging to, of”

                so, “excessive puking of pregnancy.”

                As so often the case ; ) the latin doesn’t actually say more than the english does, but it sounds impressive.

                1. RUKiddingMe

                  Thanks! Yup that’s what I had. Honestly the only thing worse was the labor.

                  Long, boring story that no one wants to read, but measurably (they did) contractions ~2Xs the intensity of normal ones and an epidural wouldn’t “take” properly.

                  Did I mention he was an only child?

  1. I'll say it

    that’s excellent! though I hate networking, it really REALLY can help when you’re looking for work.

  2. MuseumChick

    Alison, why are you making me tear up while I’m at work?

    Congrats OP! I hope you new role brings nothing but good things.

  3. ThatGirl

    Yay for AAM and yay for you!

    I have to say, when I was job searching two spring/summers ago, I was definitely a lot more confident thanks to this site. It really did help me in feeling more polished about what to say about myself, my job change, and figure out what I could and couldn’t push back on.

  4. CR

    Good for you for negotiating pay and standing up for yourself – it’s SO important for every woman to ask for what we are worth!

  5. RJ the Newbie

    OP, that is terrific. I’m so glad you were able to get a great job and forge a new path ahead for yourself. It’s never easy, that I know from experience.

    On a personal note, while I may not post every day, I do read AAM almost daily. Alison’s advice and that of the commenters has helped me out on more than one occasion from reacting emotionally to acting with nuance and balance. Thanks to all of you. Though you may not know it, you’ve helped me so many times.

    1. Happy OP

      Same! I almost never comment, but I am I daily dedicated reader, and have turned several friends into this site. Shout out to all the other watchers on this site!

    2. wheezy weasel

      “Alison’s advice and that of the commenters has helped me out on more than one occasion from reacting emotionally to acting with nuance and balance” Oh goodness yes! I just changed jobs after the first year in a new position went horribly sideways after a new boss came onboard. Had I not been reading AAM for the last 5 years, I would have rage-quit and very likely damaged my reputation. As it was, I was able to keep it professional, give 6 weeks notice, line up a ton of interviews and have an offer come in within the last 2 weeks of my notice period..and topped it off with a very calm and rational exit interview. The horrible boss will probably not last the year, but my relationship with my previous company is intact. Many thanks to all!

  6. Dasein9

    Huzzah! Congratulations.
    This is the kind of letter I sometimes daydream about writing.

  7. viva

    Wow, fantastic! That must feel SO GOOD. Best wishes going forward.

    Thank you very very much for sharing with us the step-by-step process you went through. Alison’s advice is perfect but it also really helps to read everyone’s comments and updates because it really helps to see it all ‘in action’, so to speak. Thank you and good luck!

    1. Happy OP

      It was hard to see some of these things as I was in the midst of them over the past few years (and there were definitely times it felt like nothing would come of any of it), but it was pretty cool to see how it all came together in hindsight!

  8. Lily Rowan

    That is such an excellent post!

    But was I the only one to have a momentary panic that Alison was shutting the site down?

      1. RUKiddingMe

        LOL I actually prepped a bunch of ceggies for the week today. It included like six onions.*

        *We do use a lot of onions, but it was that many because I’m making onion rings tomorrow.

  9. Taming the Shrew

    So happy for you, OP! And thank you for publishing this letter, Alison. I really feel trapped at my job/career and I have a hard time visualizing how I could transition to something else. This sounds doable.

    1. Happy OP

      I’ll add some context that I hope can help you too. I took the nonprofit job I mentioned despite major warning signs that it was going to be really poorly managed. But it was worth it in the long run – I loved the work and will likely never get that unique of a job again, and I got some huge accomplishments to add to my resume after getting stuck in my previous job for way (WAY) too long without much to show for it.

      The crazy nonprofit job was also a huge confidence boost – I went into it feeling completely out of my depth, but each success showed me I really was smart and capable and had a lot of offer, all of which came in handy as I was interviewing over the past 6 months.

      That’s all to say sometimes a new job with red flags can be worth it just to get you some forward momentum.

      Good luck!!!

  10. BadWolf

    Congratulations, OP! You worked really hard, used tools and resources and it paid off!!

  11. sassypants

    I LOVE these types of updates! Congratulations and wishing you the best with your new job!!

  12. JSPA

    OP, the planned half time seasonal job doing something that makes one feel competent and engaged and sociable and creates the necessary minimum income stream while job hunting is brilliant. I think most of us visualize picking up something a bit soul-crushing, in desperation; you turned it into a source of enjoyment and self confidence.

    1. Happy OP

      I will say, I had forgotten how exhausting retail work was, especially retail during the holidays, OMG! But it definitely helped that I loved the product and the customers were all super nice and excited to shop at the store.

  13. Thank god it’s Friday

    Yaaaaaaay! I am having a WEEK and it was so nice to read good news like this.

  14. B'elanna Torres

    Nicely done! I recently started an amazing new job, after 11 months of interviews and “rejection”. This site helped remind me that I’m not the only one, and you just got to keep going. It’s true!

  15. Game of Drones

    OP, you did all the right things. Kudos to you!

    I think this is the best update I’ve ever read here. It really made me happy!

    Best of luck to you in the future.

  16. Scout Finch

    ALL the warm feels! Great way to start a weekend!

    I LOVE this Christmas in May thing!

  17. Pennalynn Lott

    Yaaaay!!!

    I, too, have greatly benefited from Alison’s advice. I negotiated salary for the first time ever (and got $15K more than their initial offer). I spoke plainly in each interview (with 11 companies) about exactly what I was looking for in a position (instead of groveling or trying to suck up or attempting to be someone I’m not so I could just Get The Job).

    In the position I just accepted, I laid out to the Sr VP what I’m expecting, what my assumptions are for the position, and what kinds of resources I anticipate needing. The Sr VP was ecstatic to have someone who is forthright and who has already given a lot of thought on what they plan to do in the role. And I’m already starting to draw boundaries and manage expectations with the rest of the team instead of just smiling and nodding and thinking internally, “I suppose if I only get 5 hours of sleep every night and work through the weekends, I can tackle everything they want me to do.”

    Also, at each turn of my I’m-graduating-and-searching-for-a-job process, so many people have marveled at how tactfully I’ve handled various things that have come up. They think I’m some of kind of job-hunting superhero but, really, I’m just channeling Alison and all the thoughtful commenters here. :-)

    This site is the best mentoring / coaching resource out there!!

  18. 653-CXK

    Great to hear about this, OP!

    I had a ten month gap between being let go after 21 years (from a toxic job and an increasingly toxic company) to being hired again. I applied to almost 140 jobs, got 16 interviews, and after many rejections, ghostings, etc. I finally got hired.

    Congratulations!

  19. AppleStan

    Congratulations, Happy OP for a wonderful outcome to your hard work.

    Congratulations to your new manager for her arrived-earlier-than-expected bundle of joy!

    And thank you, AAM for yet another of a gazillion examples as to why I promote your website/blog to everyone I know (my bosses, my colleagues, my direct reports, just everyone). It’s about getting people in the right place for them! Kudos!!!

  20. Ann

    I would love to hear more about how LW started the community cooking group! My partner and I love cooking and it would be great to be part of some community group.

      1. Tetra

        Wait you *started* the group? I thought you meant you started attending them. I’d love some detail on how you got those started, I’ve been low-key wanting to start a group in my community for a while, but have no idea how to start or even if I’m a decent candidate to do something like that.

        Please share your secrets! And congratulations!’

        1. Happy OP

          I started the food swap with two friends, but yep!

          I put my email in my name, happy to answer any questions or help anyone else get a group started! It’s so fun, can be a low key or as involved as you want.

          1. Happy OP

            Actually I don’t know if my email shows up in my last comment. My email is myhomespunhome at gmail

  21. Rosamond

    Congratulations!

    No lie – since I started reading this blog three years ago. I’ve moved from middle manager to executive level, and my salary increased by over $80k along the way. I attribute much of this to improving my communication skills and self-confidence by reading this blog every day.

  22. Ricky

    Congratulations, OP!! That is so wonderful. Alison’s advice is awesome and so is this community. I have been in my career for longer than dirt, but I still pick up great tips here. I used them recently when I was in a tough position at a good company which was just a really poor fit for me. I used my network, got my dream job for a 30% salary increase and no more commuting!

  23. Nines

    I have a different storyline and details but feel very similar! I felt like I did GOOD when I did my dream job interview (which I got) and it was totally based on advice here. And I’m still making adjustments in how I navigate work all the time based on continuing to read here. I just love AAM!

  24. Quinalla

    Congratulations and this story is great all around! Good for you for keeping busy, but not too busy, while looking for work and also thinking up creative and fun ways to network, most everyone hates awkward networking, the best is when you suddenly realize the group you formed or joined is also networking, hooray!

  25. Rumpled Writer

    That is a really fabulous update. Congratulations!

    Also very heartening for me at this moment in time. Like someone above, I’ve had a terrible year after a new director arrived and am resigning at the end of May, at this point without another job. (I have marketable freelance skills, so I’m gambling that I can make things work while I’m doing a very selective job search.) Without AAM, I too would have rage-quit last summer (and then again in January), and most likely burned bridges in my relatively small community. But I’ve held on, stayed professional, and am going out on my own terms. It’s really been awful, but I think I would have made it worse for myself if I hadn’t taken lessons from here that have helped steer me through. It’s really nice to see how OP was able to navigate out of a bad situation and into a much better one. It gives me hope I can do the same.

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