my dad says I should offer to work for free to prove myself, hiding my dating life as a teacher, and more

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

1. My dad says I should offer to work for free to prove myself

I was wondering about a piece of interview advice my father and I recently disagreed about (for context, I am a college student who most recently interviewed for internships, and my dad is a small business owner who regularly hires for office positions). He said that during an interview, candidates should offer to work the first two months for free, as this shows a strong interest in the position and sets you apart from the other people interviewing. He compared it to a probationary period, where the company can decide if they like the quality of your work before they start paying you. For what it’s worth, he also said that a good company wouldn’t take a candidate up on this offer, but would look at it as a strong positive in an interview. Is this advice worth regarding? Is it good practice or even legal for a company to consider this kind of offer? Do I just not understand what a probationary period usually entails?

Nooooo, do not do this. And unfortunately, this means that all job search advice from your dad probably needs to be ignored because this is the mark of very weird judgment.

Working for free is illegal (unless it’s for a nonprofit or for a bona fide internship program that meets the legal requirements for unpaid work). Suggesting it will make you look naive, not only because it’s illegal but also because it’ll sound like you don’t realize that employers want to hire the best candidate, not the cheapest one, and have budgeted to pay them. It’ll also sound like you don’t realize that it can take much longer than two months to get up to speed and demonstrate your value. This is classic parental “gumption” advice, and it’s bad. Ignore ignore ignore.

2. How much do I need to hide my dating life if I want to teach?

I’ve worked with children and teenagers in various capacities all through college and during my first year in the workforce, at a nonprofit in a large city. In a couple of months, I will be moving to a small town to start my first classroom position (high school). I’ve always been fairly promiscuous and identify as queer. I use dating apps a lot and date a lot of couples (all above-board); I have used my own photos and my middle name for my profiles, and am pretty clear on those profiles about the sort of arrangements that I am open to.

Recognizing that I could have done more to conceal my identity and leave less of a digital trail thus far, I am wondering what to do when I get back to small-town life and take up a more codified position in my future students’ lives and in the community. I’m already a little worried about being out as bisexual at work (it’s not something I either particularly bring up or hide from coworkers but is evident from my social media and other clues). My friend who grew up and still lives in the town says that people are generally very gossipy and she goes to great lengths to conceal her open relationship from coworkers and in general. Do I need to delete all the apps and my profiles on them ASAP? Do I need to stop dating couples, in case it comes to light somehow and scandalizes colleagues/administrators/parents/students? Can I continue but just be extra discreet? Are there further things I should be doing to scrub my Internet presence and limit what the public can learn about my personal life? What are my responsibilities here? I’m only a year out of college and am adjusting to the thought that I may not be able to behave however I want in my personal life any more, even if I’m not directly harming anyone involved.

More than any other field I can think of, teaching is still a field where employers exercise an enormous amount of control over your private life. Teachers have been fired for posting photos of themselves drinking a beer, for having slightly racy photos online, or because their students learned something about their sex lives beyond “I am in a monogamous relationship.” This is wrong, and it’s also the reality teachers face.

So yes, unfortunately, I’d recommend that you scrub your online presence if you want to teach. I don’t think you need to stop dating couples, but I do think you’ll need to be discreet about it if you want to safely work as a teacher in most parts of the U.S. I’m sorry that’s the case. Your dating/sex life is no one’s business, and this is BS.

You shouldn’t need to hide your bisexuality or queerness any more than another teacher would need to hide their heterosexuality, but you also want to know what your risks are, so check to see if you live in a state that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. My coworker pounds on the door while I’m in the bathroom

My coworker, Jane, and I have jobs that are very interdependent. She is more or less a salesperson, and sees clients first to sell them things. Then the clients come over to me, and I do paperwork and such with them.

I have, for lack of a better term, bathroom problems. I have never been diagnosed with anything, but when I have to go, I have to go. Right then. And it usually takes me a while. I can be in the bathroom for up to 30 minutes sometimes. Needless to say, I find this issue to be kind of embarrassing.

If I happen to be in the bathroom when Jane is finishing up with a client who needs to see me, she has this habit of coming into the bathroom and pounding on the door. I’ll say “occupied” or something like that (because I don’t know for sure who it is) and then she’ll then announce to me that I have a client waiting whenever I’m done, and sometimes she’ll ask me how long I think I will be.

I do not like to be talked to while I’m trying to use the bathroom, especially about work. Nor do I like being asked how long I think I will be. It really upsets me, probably because I am embarrassed about my problem. A few times, I have chosen to just not respond to the pounding on the door, and she just continues to pound until I say something. Am I crazy? Do I need to just get over it? Or is she as out of line as I think she is?

No, you’re not crazy, and you don’t need to get over it — Jane is being really rude! And ineffective — I can’t imagine how she thinks you’re suddenly going to finish up more quickly just because she’s pounding on the door.

You should say this to her: “Please don’t knock on the door to tell me I have a client when I’m in the bathroom. I can’t speed things up in there — I’ll be out when I’m able to be out, and it’s weird to have someone pounding on the door and asking me for a time estimate. I don’t want to talk while I’m in the bathroom. Instead, please tell the client I’m not available yet but will be with them as soon as I can.”

In fairness to Jane, it’s true that 30-minute bathroom visits are long, and so if that’s regularly delaying clients, the two of you should decide how to best handle that — is there another piece of the process that can happen while you’re indisposed, is there better messaging to use with them, etc.? But the solution shouldn’t be that she just bangs on the door and demands answers from you while you’re on the toilet.

4. Recruiter approached me, now wants a resume

I was approached by a recruiter for a position for which I am well qualified. I am not actively looking, but I was interested enough in having a phone interview with the employer after hearing about the position. Now, two days before the interview, the recruiter is saying that the employer needs a resume. I started with my current employer out of grad school almost nine years ago, so needless to say, I don’t have anything even remotely usable and, honestly, I don’t want to invest the time. My bio online is quite detailed already, so I’d really like to leave it at that. But, I’m not sure if I’m totally off-base here. What do you think?

Eh. It’s not ridiculous that the employer wants a resume, but it’s also true that if they approached you and you’re not actively job hunting, they should be willing to use your online bio for now (assuming it covers the basics of your work history). I’d feel more strongly about that if the recruiter is an internal recruiter at the company. If they’re an outside recruiter, then I don’t blame the employer for wanting some standard info on you in the form of a resume.

Anyway, one option is to say to the recruiter, “I’m not job searching so didn’t have a resume prepared when you contacted me and don’t think I could put one together in two days. Will my online bio do for now? It has my full work history.” But I wouldn’t say this just for the principle of it; if you have time to pull a resume together, you should. (And if your online bio is something like LinkedIn, you can probably turn that into a resume pretty quickly.)

5. Are certifications in softer skills useful on a resume?

How do you know if non-degree certifications from reputable universities are worth the (sometimes significant) cost? I’m not talking about the certifications that come through national professional organizations like PMI, but about the custom certificates I have seen where a university will offer a Project Management certification. They often seem to be tied to softer skills or intangibles, like communication, negotiation, or project management.

Are these kinds of programs worth doing beyond just for personal satisfaction and development? Do companies place any value on these when hiring, or would they be something to justify a higher salary? Just looking to get a sense of how hiring managers view these kinds of programs.

A project management certification can be useful, depending on exactly what it is (and especially if it’s a PMP), but certificates in soft skills like communication and negotiation are not going to be given any weight by hiring managers and won’t help to include on your resume. (In fact, depending how soft the skills we’re talking about are, listing them can even hurt you because it can come across as if you’re giving them undue weight.) You might find the classes themselves useful, but don’t look at them as resume boosters.

{ 512 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Oh no, OP#1—this advice comes from “the fourth level of hell is parental career advice.” As Alison noted, in addition to the offer being illegal, it doesn’t really do anything to demonstrate your interest in that employer. Instead, it makes the candidate look desperate. Generally, desperation does not translate well for hireability if this is a decent employer.

    It’s also strange that he described this as being like a probationary period. Folks under probation are still employed and paid, so I’m not sure why he thinks a nominal, paid probation period is like an illegal, unpaid work period. Even apprentices are partially paid for their probationary period.

    1. lyonite*

      Yeah, that’s some grade A gumption nonsense. Which you will probably never be able to convince him of, so the only suggestion I have is to keep an eye out for any other young relatives he might try to advise, and take everything else he tells you about the professional world with a whole bucket of salt.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          How old is dad? My father was born in 1936, and talked about the working for free as a trial period “way back when”. But he never told me to do it in 1982 when I was job hunting.

          OP never give your work away for free. As an artist, people told me “this will give you exposure”. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills. I’m sure there are some sketchy small businesses that would let you work 8 weeks for free, then dump you. The one I know of pays the employees cash, and those employees would have no clue how to fight to get back wages etc.

          I know in the US, people do not work for free as a probationary period. If your dad is from another country, who knows?

          Just smile and say, “Thanks! I’ll take that into consideration.” You considered, then promptly ignored it.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            Since OP1 describes themselves as a college student, I would put them somewhere in the 18-25 range, meaning Dad is probably 40-70.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              I’d think 70 would be pretty old. Possible of course, but that sounds more like grandparent age.

              Frame of reference: I’m 56, my parents would be 75 and my son … old enough to have his own teenager(s) would be 32…so, I’m betting…50-ish. ::nodnod::

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                ***Caveat my parents were a couple months shy if 19 when I was born.

                That was not unusual in the early 60s.

              2. Working Mom Having It All*

                Eh, I’m 38 and my husband is 44. We have a toddler age child. We are old-ish for first time parents, but not outliers among our peers. When he is 22, we will be 58 and 64. If we were planning more children, my husband could easily be 70 with a child entering the workforce. And again, we’re on the older end but not freakishly old parents.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  Yeah things changed over the years. For my parents and their peers having kids right out of high school was pretty much the norm. I was 24 and that was deliberate because by the time I wanted him in college and me in Tahiti by the time I was 42. YMMMV of course. :-)

              3. Eukomos*

                It very much depends on what social group you’re in, these days a pretty low proportion of 32 year olds have teenagers. In my circles only about half of them even have infants.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            My patents, both born in 1944 and my step-dad…born in 1925 each said to me, separately “never work for free.” …paraphrased…

            And… disclaimer…volunteering somewhere like at a food bank or shelter, national emergency situation, etc., whatever … excepted. They weren’t complete ogres.*

            But for an actual employer, “I worked, pay me.” <—my mom, actual quote.

            *No offense to actual ogres.

            1. Working Mom Having It All*

              Yeah, the only way I could justify “offer to work a couple months for free to prove yourself” as anything in the same ballpark as reasonable work advice might be if it were something like “since you’re hoping to go into the nonprofit sector, and specifically an area where volunteerism is an important aspect of the field, it will probably look better on your resume if you can show that you have actually been in the trenches as a volunteer.” Or even that volunteering can be a good networking opportunity, advice to consider something like Teach For America or the Peace Corps (both of which are paid on at least some level, I believe?), etc.

              Actually suggesting that someone actually work literally for free, in a for-profit context, while everyone else at the company does indeed get paid, is ridiculous.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                I know Teach for America us. I did a mentoring thing with them a few years back and the volunteers were actually paid a prevailing wage.

          3. LadyL*

            I once had a boss who was a relatively recent immigrant from the Sudan explain to me that when he first arrived in America he worked for free to prove his value and *that’s* why his boss respected him, and he finds it really ridiculous that American teenagers just walk into his restaurant and expect him to pay them well when he has no idea if they’re any good or not. I tried to tell him that working for free in America is illegal and it sounded like his former boss didn’t value him so much as exploit him and his immigrant status, but he wasn’t interested in my interpretation (he was definitely trying to get me to agree to work for less money to “impress” him, and I declined the offer, as I was already being paid less than minimum wage as a waitress at a restaurant no one tipped at).

            1. AKchic*

              Yeah… I worked at a place where they tried to insist that I work Sundays for free because they wanted everyone to donate their Sunday pay to *their* church as the “[insert religious denomination here] thing to do”. They hired me because I had the skills they’d needed, and I looked good on paper, plus they knew I’d report them to the state for their BS questions in the interview (“how do I know you’re a moral person? What church do you attend? What religion did you grow up with?”) and I shut it down with “those are not questions you are legally allowed to ask me” and didn’t answer them. I did, however, write them down.
              The store manager did have a lot of gossip to tell me about. I was desperate for a job. The owners never did let me touch the work I was hired to do, and I was “let go” before my probationary period was over. Apparently I didn’t learn my job quickly enough (funny how that works when you aren’t even allowed into the office you’re supposed to be working in and instead left to dust furniture all day).

    2. Zombeyonce*

      I’ve definitely heard this terrible advice before, but never for such a long period of time! 2 months is beyond ridiculous. I’ve heard a day (which a friend of mine actually did to get a construction job in the 90s) and a week before and they’re all terrible plans. But 2 months? 2 months?!

      OP’s dad said he doesn’t expect employers to take OP up on this, but what if they did? Does he think OP should do it since they offered? (I have a feeling he would think it would be rude not to do it if agreed.) How does he expect them to pay rent, buy food, and afford transportation for 2 months plus the 2-4 more weeks it would take to receive a paycheck?

      1. fhqwhgads*

        The type of employer who would respond positively to this offer, whether they actually intended to take one up on it or not, is not somewhere anyone should want to work. If the employer thinks this is OK it’s a red flag about them.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          It’s also from the “You should be grovelingly grateful to be hired” school of thought, not the “This is a mutually beneficial business arrangement” one. Anyone doing this would look off-puttingly insecure.

          1. matcha123*

            That or the assumption that if you *really* wanted a job, you’d do whatever it takes (because you are obviously from an upper middle class family that can afford to give you money while you chase your *~DreAm* ~jOb*~).

          2. Mari M*

            // It’s also from the “You should be grovelingly grateful to be hired” school of thought //

            Suddenly I know what is so offputting about my Career Dev class. It is coming from this mindset.

        2. Zombeyonce*

          The problem is that you don’t know which type of company it is until you offer. How awkward it would be to be partway through an interview that seems to be going well so you make this offer to them. But oh no! They think it’s a great idea! Then you have to say “never mind” and basically leave the interview because this shows to don’t want to work for them? It not only outs you in an incredibly awkward position, it makes you look bad and may look like a big bait and switch to the interviewer that they’ll now never forget you. Even though you don’t want that job, you’ve just turned an interview into a big, drama-filled mess. I don’t think OP’s father has thought this through at all.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I gave people an on-site trial, but I paid them as if they were a freelancer.

          And **I** brought it up. After I’d already decided they were my top candidate.

          Having an untrained, might-not-be-here-in-2-months person around is a HUGE amount of work. If the employer thinks it would actually be helpful, they’ll bring it up.

          (This is apparently a thing in restaurants)

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            Yeah, I just did a freelance “trial basis” gig and got paid for the trial.

      2. sacados*

        I can sort of see this sort of thing working for a construction job — for example as a chance to prove that you know how to properly frame a window or … I dunno something specific and construction-y.
        That doesn’t address the legality of it though, and definitely would be incredibly silly when it comes to most office jobs, etc.

        1. Jasnah*

          I think that’s more in line with a test before hiring, which his something we see in office jobs as well.

          I wouldn’t expect a construction worker to work for free to “prove themselves” either, especially since that work is often dangerous, and often comes with certifications and specific skills that serve as an objective measure of skill, so the employer shouldn’t need to see “gumption” on top of that.

          1. TootsNYC*

            For insurance reasons I’d think they’d want you entered legal on the books.

            But paying someone for a short trial was often done for newspapers, and I’ve done it for final copy editing candidates. But I was always the one who brought it up

            1. church lady*

              I did a day and a half “tryout” as a reporter for a daily newspaper in central Pennsylvania in the late 1980’s. No pay but they put me up in a motel for two nights and reimbursed meals. Journalism jobs were scarce even back then and I didn’t balk at working for free for a day.

        2. Rez123*

          In my experience it is quite common still in construction work. But it is a week max, usually less. Some do pay minimun wage for that time. Then they mutually decide if it’sa good match and get the salary higher. It’s an industry where a lot of people chnage companies through connections and it’s hard to break in if you don’t have connections in the area. This way you can prove your work. I guess it’s comparable for office workkers having an excel test or having to prepare a portfolio as a designer.

          Not sure about legality, but 2 months is over the top. Better to apply for internship as a free labourer than say “i’ll work for free”.

          1. katelyn*

            If it’s a bonded and insured construction company they will need to pay at least minimum wage during any period like that to properly qualify the person under their insurance and worker’s compensation plans. The thought of someone volunteering their time at a jobsite gives me hives as someone who has had to deal with the paperwork due to injury (you can do everything right and something out of your control can still go very wrong!).

        3. Magenta*

          I’m in the UK and my brother is a chef, there is a really high turnover of staff in that industry and it is very common for an interview to involve a “cook off” (make something out of these ingredients) and a couple of hours working in the kitchen to see how they fit in with the rest of the team.

          1. Asenath*

            That sounds more like a test of skills (including “fit” with the team) than a whole two months working for free! I think working for free for any time longer than required to demonstrate your skills is ridiculous – and apparently, in the US at least, illegal.

            And having been not very well-off at certain points in my life, my instinctive reaction is “How are you expected to live while working for free?? You don’t get housing and food for free – well, not unless you have a family member paying for them, and even then you’d want to contribute as soon as possible.”

          2. Clisby*

            Yes, at a couple of restaurants my son applied to, he spent a couple of hours doing something. Not cooking, but prepping food (Yay, he can cut up a pile of onions without chopping his finger off) – that sort of thing.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              re: “Yay he can cut up a pile of onions without chopping his finger off”
              Here’s hoping you’re joking and do realize there’s more to it than that. I married into a restaurant family. There’s a world of difference between prepping food for a family meal (or even a family holiday feast) and prepping the same thing for hours at a time. If it’s a high-end place, the very shape of the carrot slices will be judged. And it has to be done fast too — I can properly restaurant-slice carrots but in the time it takes me to do four, my husband will have done the rest of the bag.

              Coming back in from my tangent though – a long interview can include doing some work to demonstrate your skills. That makes sense when you’re hiring people for their physical skills not for their communications skills! But two months!? Good grief Dad!

              1. Anax*

                Even when you’re hiring for desk jobs, practical tests during an interview can make a lot of sense – something like “here’s a problem we had last week; what would you have done to solve it?” is pretty common in IT.

                There’s a world of difference between “answering vocabulary questions” and “problem-solving with the right mindset on the fly”, too!

                (But yes, clearly that’s an interview thing; if it’s more than a couple hours, it’s VERY weird.)

            2. Michaela Westen*

              So I was watching the first season of MasterChef, and one of the trials was to cut up a bunch of onions. Then the three judges looked at each bowl of onions and judged on the size of the pieces, consistency, and neatness – that is, neat pieces with no straggly bits of onion hanging around.

          3. ThatGirl*

            In the US there’s a thing called staging (pronounced with a French accent) that is basically an unpaid internship in a kitchen, but it’s supposed to be brief and it’s very much a restaurant-specific thing.

            1. Media Monkey*

              Stage (in a french accent – like staajjzzzzhh) is a french word for internship

        4. Heidi*

          I think I saw this happen on “Bonanza” when they were trying out a new ranch hand at the Ponderosa. The guy had to show how good he was with horses before they took him on. Then he turned out to be a criminal or something. Maybe that’s where Dad got the idea.

          1. Zennish*

            I know I always take my career advice from Bonanza. I considered using Hogan’s Heroes instead, but that would just be silly.

              1. Zennish*

                I tried to approach it that way, but I could never convince my boss that it was really General Burkhalter on the phone.

              2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

                There are so many female role models on both Bonanza and Hogan’s Heroes, it’s just a no-brainer for us ladies.

        5. MatKnifeNinja*

          I thought of construction and automotive repair shops. I did know a mechanic who worked 3 days for free as an test run. Small shop. 5 employees top.

          Never for college degree job, though.

        6. Working Mom Having It All*

          I think this flies in construction because so much of it is under the table and quasi legal.

          In a normal job where you have, like, checks that come from payroll, sick days, a 401K, had to submit a resume and interview to get the job, etc. this is not a thing.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m so utterly not shocked that a construction supervisor allowed this to happen. That made a dang good extra profit on that project having a free days labor. Yuck yuck yuck.

        Reminds me of the crews that hear OSHA roll up and they suddenly close shop for the project until the inspector leaves.

        1. sacados*

          Before she retired, my mom worked for the state AG’s office prosecuting mainly OSHA cases.
          She had some interesting stories!

        2. Mary*

          I’m absolutely shocked that it happens in construction! How is it health and safety compliant to have someone on site who isn’t employed and covered by insurance?

          1. Antilles*

            The answer is that it isn’t health and safety compliant. The bet they’re making is that nothing is going to go seriously wrong so you’re never caught and it’s like nothing ever happened. If you do get caught, you’re stunned, stunned, stunned that someone was violating the rules because we never do that sort of thing, no sir, not us.
            Of course, this ploy only really works for small projects. If you’re working on any sort of government-funded job, a corporation, etc, this gamble is dumb and counterproductive because contracts explicitly include a safety provision and right to kick you entirely off the job if your company is screwing around with safety…which also means that you’re never getting any more work from that client ever again.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I’ve read stories lately about companies who have got caught dodging prevailing wages on their government jobs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They are then no longer eligible to bid on contracts and they of course have to pay the wages, plus penalties, plus fines.

              1. TardyTardis*

                Oh, we had that happen in 1978! We had a contractor playing little reindeer games with his Davis-Bacon wages, reported by a subcontractor who hadn’t been paid for his work. (As we see also in WAR DOGS, the moral is *always* pay your subcontractors). Needless to say the Air Force was no longer interested in their work.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Oh…dear. There are so many short cutting, nasty things that go under the “Construction” label.

            They’re not building to code. They’re not getting all the right permits. They’re simply not compliant for safety or otherwise.

            This is how we get such horribly constructed structures that are sadly regularly in the housing market. They practically just use toothpicks and gum to build the place.

            If you get hurt on the job, you’ll maybe be dumped off in front of a hospital and good luck if you try saying it was “on the job”, since things are often off the books in the shadiest of places. Case and point, this friend working for free. Or they’ll kick back cash to someone instead of running a payroll.

      4. Jasnah*

        Exactly. OP, what would your dad say if you did that, and the company said yes? What are you supposed to do about expenses while you work for free? What if it doesn’t work out, what would the company put on their taxes for number of workers during that period? What if it does, could you ask for backpay? Why should an outstanding employee sell their labor for less money, does he think this is like a “sale” on OP’s labor like they’re a TV at Walmart??

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          And what stops a less than decent place from taking her up to her word, and then by the two period mark letting her go because she’s “not working out” or something?

          1. Jasnah*

            I’m going to start a business and exclusively hire people who offer to work for free. What a sweet deal!

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              “Wow, you have really high turnover here… no one’s worked here longer than a couple of months.”

              “Um. Yeah. Weird.”

      5. Dragoning*

        Two months, and OP is looking at internships! That’s most of the internship in many cases!

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          Even internships nowadays at least pay a small stipend. And if they’re not paid hourly, you typically have to be an enrolled student getting college credit for the internship.

          Internships usually don’t have you coming in full time every day, tasking you with the same work a paid employee would do, etc. My company currently has a summer intern and he does stuff like “make a duplicate copy of this binder” or “accounting needs help with filing today”.

          1. SenatorMeathooks*

            Yeah, and as a college intern, you’re still paying for the tuition in order to earn credit hours by…working for free.

            Additionally, interns need to be tasked with substantive work that exposes them to the industry, so they can get something of value from their time (that they’re paying for) with your company. Making duplicate binders or filing is rarely educational for college interns, I hope they’re being shown the ropes.

      6. wittyrepartee*

        I think bakers typically interview by working a day for free (a friend of mine described the process to me). I found this very exotic, because one should absolutely not do this under any other circumstances.

      7. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        A friend gave me a week of working construction at his job site to see if I was interested in learning a trade. I lasted 2 days, that is hard work. I would lay down and cry if I had committed to 2 months of it.

    3. Mary*

      An nth reason why this is bad advice: it’s incredibly demoralising for the candidate. I have had students and graduates who have tried writing to companies offering to “work for free”, and been turned down or not heard back.

      What they don’t realise, of course, is that someone offering to “work for free” still costs the organisation time and money in supervision and training, and any decent employer would prefer someone they have hired properly and budgeted for. But for the candidate, it feels like, “not only can I not get someone to pay for my labour, I can’t even GIVE it away”, and it’s super demoralising and depressing. This kind of advice really harms new graduates and jobseekers without giving them any useful information about how hiring really works.

      (There *are* industries where this advice works–mostly “glamorous” sectors like the arts, media and fashion which operate on narrow profit margins and depend on poorly paid and unpaid labour. They are operating illegally in the UK.)

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Oh yeah. I mentioned this below. Artists are always expected to work for low or no pay. Employers take advantage in every way possible – as do the art supply companies.

      2. Working Mom Having It All*

        No, I work in the entertainment industry, and we pay people.

        There are a lot of awful, thankless aspects of working in this field, and some of that can sometimes be due to the perceived “glam factor” and how hard it is to break in.

        But again even so, you do get paid.

        I did a 6-week internship in my field, while I was still a full time student. I got a $10/day lunch stipend and a free Metrocard. Which isn’t really pay, but at least I wasn’t out money getting there and staying alive. And it was for less than 2 months and limited hours compared to the actually employed folks. And I was still a student.

        1. Mary*

          I’m a university careers adviser in the UK. Unpaid internships are only legal here if they are a credit-bearing part of a course of study. But post-graduation unpaid internships are a thing in certain oversubscribed areas, like media, the arts and fashion. It’s really hard to get a picture of how big a problem they are because most of the research doesn’t use a consistent definition of internship (eg. their total figures will include paid internships, work experience/shadowing of 1-2 weeks, proper legal volunteering, work experience undertaken as part of a degree course, and so on, and then they’ll said “half of these were unpaid”, but they might be legitimately unpaid!) Sutton Trust does good research on this.

    4. Lemmy Caution*

      Back when I was in college, we had what was basically a course module, ”internship” which you had to do to graduate. Now the employers knew this and especially in the 1990’s during the recession they very gladly rotated through interns, the 3 or 6 months they were obliged to work without pay. If you were on an ”unpaid internship” you got some handout and your bus pass compensated. I got a job and when I was saying that I can take unpaid, the owner said ”no, if I don’t pay you, you won’t have any respect for me and just diddle around…” I think I was one of two out of a class of 30 who got paid.

      Where I come from the companies tend to exploit these internships and long-time unemployeds where the county and government subsidise the employer contributions so badly, that these days it is very hard to get a ”summer job” or even part-time when you are studying, let alone your first job when you graduate. As why hire someone as you can get a grafter free? The long-time unemployeds will take any job as otherwise they drop off their dole and that causes all kinds of trouble.

      So yeah ”working for free” happens, but doesn’t impress anyone to hire you permanent.

    5. theelephantintheroom*

      It’s absolutely terrible advice, but I see it A LOT from parents above A Certain Age. That and, “Just go door-to-door” and “Call every day until they agree to hire you.”

      Ignore ALL job-hunting advice from anyone who suggests these things.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, you may have to avoid dating in the community where you’ll be teaching, including avoiding couples. This isn’t right, and it’s none of anyone’s business what your dating life entails. But the combination of your friend’s approach and the inherent scrutiny applied to teacher’s personal lives is going to make it hard to fish in this very small pond. I’m sorry—this sucks and is not fair.

    1. T3k*

      Agreed. I grew up in a very small community with other, slightly larger communities around it and so many people were in each other’s business in that area you couldn’t even make a grocery trip without someone asking if X relative really did Y or other such things. LW will likely have to search for dates in the nearest city for better chances it won’t get back to the small community.

      1. Anony*

        Also, realize high school students have the potential do very effective background checks. As a teacher at the high school level I have seen them pull up all sorts of information on teachers off
        the Internet. Definitely worth scrubbing your profile.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          And I hate to add… check the Internet WayBack Machine before the kids do. I dont’ know how searchable it is if you don’t have a specific URL…but I also don’t know that sites there CAN be scrubbed. At least you could be prepared if you find yourself there.

          1. league.*

            I have successfully emailed the Internet Archive people to remove an old, embarrassing blog of mine, so it is possible! There’s a link on their page, and if I recall correctly, it took a few weeks and they didn’t notify me when it happened, but it’s gone from their archive now.

            1. OP #2*

              I would be so curious about how to do this! In addition to the newer possibly scandalous things mentioned in my message (which I have mostly scrubbed since this question was answered this morning), I also have a sixth-grade blog that is utterly cringeworthy (but cannot remember the password). Who did you email to have yours removed? Thanks!

              1. Librarianne*

                OP #2, here’s the contact page for the Internet Archive ( As far as the old blog goes, have you tried the “forgot my password” function? If you no longer have access to the email you registered the blog with, you’ll probably have to email the platform directly.

                You don’t necessarily have to delete all your social media accounts, but definitely set them on private, and don’t friend any of your coworkers.

                My partner is a teacher, and his students were able to find our current address, my phone number, and our previous cities of residence on one of those free online background check websites. (We realized this when a student sent a gift to our home–unsettling to say the least!) Unfortunately, it’s highly likely that sensitive information about you is already online. The best way we’ve found to deal with it is by 1) not denying or showing embarrassment about obviously confirmable information, and 2) calling out inappropriate behavior where we see it. Good luck!

        2. blackcat*

          When I was teaching, I made some offhand comment about how my online presence was hard to find. I have an extraordinarily common name. My professional internet presence is under my full name including middle. But social media is under first last. A quick search on Facebook indicates a few hundred people with the same combo. And I’m hidden from search.

          A student took it as a challenge.

          He knew my husbands (then boyfriend) first name and that he was a grad student at a local university. That was enough!!! It took him a while, but he found my Facebook. Then he was so deeply disturbed by what he had done, he told no one for years. He admitted this to me after his *college* graduation, so about six years after the fact (after we became actual friends. I was a young teacher, so he’s only six years younger than me).

          Never underestimate the Internet skills of teens.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            Never underestimate the Internet skills of teens.

            Or of parents who are absolutely, 100% convinced that they have the moral high ground, even when exposing someone’s private life that should remain private.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I feel concerned about the fundamentalist mentality prevalent in America. If it was something else OP was doing – say, singing in a punk band – and they found out, there would be drama, but it would probably be recoverable.
              But sex, OMG, fundamentalists are all twisted up, and they are often dominant in small towns. If they get the slightest inkling of anyone doing other than waiting till hetero marriage and staying monogamous, all hell will break loose. And even more so when that person is in a position to influence their young people!
              OP, are you sure you want to do this? Wouldn’t it be better to teach in a big city where people are more open and sophisticated, and it’s easier to keep your sex life private?
              If you still teach in the small town, I think you’re best bet is to have no dating or sex life while you’re there… unless you date only one person of the opposite sex and no PDAs.

              1. seejay*

                Honestly it has little to do with fundamentalist mentality and just plain ol’ nosiness and gossipyness. You hear more about it with the puritanical attitudes throwing it out into the news regarding sex, but I just read the riot act to a relative yesterday when she said she couldn’t wait to tell everyone in the neighborhood about another relative’s husband leaving and letting them all know how much of an asshole he is for lying to them all for pretending to still be at home and being a part of his wife’s and children’s lives. I told her unless these neighbors were actually being actively hurt by what was going on, it was *no one’s business* what was going on in their marriage and it wasn’t her business to inform neighbors, nor should the wife even be involving all the neighbors in the sordid business unless necessary.

                None of this has anything to do with sex scandals or fundamentalists or anything… it’s just literally people being nosy busybodies and spreading gossip and garbage among small town talk. It was… disheartening to hear. :/

                1. AKchic*

                  It is all gossip and nosiness… until you add in the LGBTQIAA2+ aspect and the polyamory aspect. Those two things make small town conservative America rush to the nearest fainting couch with pearls so tightly clutched they risk losing fingers due to lack of circulation. Someone bring the smelling salts, because Karen, Sharon and blessed Stacy have all taken the vapors! Someone call the pastor immediately, and make sure he has the widow Johnson with him, because we don’t trust that hussy to be alone with him! She might *try* something, y’know.
                  How can she teach our children good moral values with such moral turpitude? It’s an outrage!

                  Yes, this is exactly how some of them will think, act, and talk. Some will be more vocal, and less intelligent.

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  Going by my experience in a fundamentalist city, I think this comes from having no organic excitement in their lives. People need excitement and if they don’t have constructive excitement, they’ll create it by doing destructive things like this.
                  Where I grew up there were three social activities: eating, movies, and church. There was nothing for young people to do and no way to get there since there was no transit. I honestly think one of the reasons young people do things like sex and drugs is just to have some excitement. And this applies to adults too, and to gossip like this.

                3. Michaela Westen*

                  Yes, AKChic, exactly! You described it beautifully. And even more: Pastor John and his peers will denounce OP as an evil influence and ban her from ever coming near the precious children, and run her out of town. And she will live in infamy around there for decades. And the pearl-clutching will go on for a few years, wondering if she made any of the children gay.
                  I’m not joking, I’ve seen this level of arrogance and ignorance.

                4. Working Mom Having It All*

                  I grew up in a small town in the bible belt. I’m in a few facebook groups with old high school friends, people from the surrounding area, etc. and frequently have to step in to remind people that x, y, or z controversy is none of their business, and not to share information about it on social media. Including stuff like “it’s not polite to post on FB about an acquaintance’s death before their immediate family has informed people who were close to that person”, “please don’t post photos of people’s cars and license plates with information about where the car was at the time, tagging the person to ask how they liked x restaurant/how the 2016 Camry is holding up”, etc. Small communities have a totally different concept of privacy than more densely settled places do. To the point that it can sometimes be baffling even if you grew up in that environment.

              2. Anonymous for Reasons*

                I regret to say that teachers and nontraditional sex lives are a problem for parents even in the largest metropolis on the US East Coast at a very ‘liberal’ independent school. A colleague of mine was ‘retired’ for confirming his marriage to another man. It apparently violated our policy of faculty not discussing their sex lives with students.

                1. Ron McDon*

                  Huh, so that school would like us to believe that if a woman on staff had confirmed she was married to a man she would also have been ‘retired’? Yeah, right!

                  This kind of nonsense makes my blood boil!

              3. Working Mom Having It All*

                Yeah, I think the poly thing will especially not go over well. For a lot of people polyamory is very closely connected in their mind with kinky sex. Moreso than if the OP just dated around a lot (nobody will care, even in a small town) or if they were LGBT but monogamous (people might care, but they will get bored with it quickly, also ENDA laws may protect them). But anything with a whiff of kink to it falls into a special category that small town busybodies LOVE to have a field day with.

              4. Chinookwind*

                It is the nosey nature of humans and has been around since Og was wondering how Ur was able to bring down that mammoth with only last year’s rock hammer and was sure that he must have been lying about the whole story. Humans will human and I can guarantee this happens in larger cities less often only because your social contacts rarely overlap as often as they do in small towns.

                Michaela Westen is right about understanding what you are getting yourself into. It is not whether or not a community is open, but whether or not you are willing to accept that your private life won’t be private. You are entering another culture and you will have to expect, as an outsider, that you will have to adapt the cultural norms and expectations (which will include having parents stop you for a parent/teacher meeting in the middle of shopping at the drug store).

                Just be glad that video rental stores no longer exist. My choices became a lot less interesting once one of my students was the cashier. Ditto for my clothing choices when I worked out the local gym where another student worked.

          2. Librarianne*

            My husband’s student recently sent a gift to our house. She looked up our address on one of those free background check websites. It was incredibly creepy and inappropriate. We ended up repackaging the gift and sending it back as “undeliverable.” None of our social media accounts are public, but as public school and university employees, our information is all over the web. Nowadays, the kids don’t even need to be particularly skilled!

          3. CC*

            There is a website that has my (and pretty much everyone I know’s) phone number and every address I have ever lived at. My last name is Hispanic and not the common spelling, so I’m easy to find if you know any of the cities I’ve lived in. And even if I delete my name, you can still find me through my family members. It even has my uncle who died in the 80s information. It’s horrifying.

        3. MatKnifeNinja*

          I live in a decent size metro area, where it isn’t totally screaming red and conservative.

          OP scrub all that off and check what comes up on Google.

          My niece’s middle school teacher got engaged and posted pictures to IG. A parent whose kid had graduated two years before posted the info on Snap Chat. Which a kid saw and blasted it to all the kids at school.

          By Monday, the whole damn school knew about the engagement. The teacher wanted to keep it under wraps for a while. Only the principal didn’t know. Teachers knew because some friend students/parents on social media (DON’T DO THAT).

          All the high schoolers I know troll social media and Google on their teachers the first week of school.

          This year, my high school niece had a teacher who was forced on administrative leave. It wasn’t criminal, but could have started a sh*t storm if it was found out the reason why. The reason for leave wasn’t supposed to be public knowledge. It a student found the initial school board minutes were this situation was addressed (afterwards everything addressing the situation was behind closed doors session), and blasted it to 800 of her closest friends.

          I worked as support staff in a public school district. People trolled social media and Google on me. Mind blowing.

          Also check your district policy on school media. My district had that there had better be nothing that puts the district in a bad light. Image of me on a nude beach with an adult beverage in hand? Nope. Interactive adult porn site under an alias (which is legal)? NO. A teacher at my niece’s elementary school had one, and if she didn’t have tenure would have lost her job.

          My small town teacher friends say you are two people away from everyone knowing your business. Their FaceBook is on lock down or have a very vanilla one.

          Adults should be able to do legal adult things off the work clock with no scrutiny. People act like they own teachers, and feel the need to dictate what acceptable behavior is. It’s crap.

          Nuke everything, and you can always put it up later when you recon the situation better. There is no petty like teaching petty.

          1. Media Monkey*

            who are these parents who would complain about a pic of a teacher with a drink in their hand? I have a 10 year old and unless her teachers are drinking in the classroom i really don’t see it as any of my business!

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              My in-laws live in a very small, rural town, and many people are teetotalers, often for religious reasons, and some are very, very judgy about alcohol (and a smaller subset, dancing). From what I have observed in my nearly two decades of visits there, there seems to be less of a tolerance for things outside their own personal mainstream (or moral code) AND, because there is not a ton to do there, a lot more gossip/being up in everyone’s business than I tend to see in the “big city” – not that OP#2’s town is the same way, but I could see my husband’s hometown getting fairly het up over a teacher drinking on their own personal time even as I find it absurd.

              We had two major disagreements over our wedding, and one was about whether or not to have alcohol – I was pro-open bar; he didn’t want to upset his mom and wanted dry, even though both of us enjoy a nice mug of lager/glass of wine.

              1. Eillah*

                I really hope “getting fairly het up” wasn’t a typo because I lost my isht laughing at it!

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  It’s not – it’s the phrase most people in my family use to describe people who are upset or overexcited about something, usually in an mountain-out-of-molehill or handwring-y kind of way. (I just double-checked it to make sure that it’s not some weird family saying – we’ve got those, too, but the online dictionaries seem to indicate that it’s correct usage of the phrase.)

                2. Grace*

                  Getting het up about something, meaning getting agitated, is 100% a thing! “Het” meaning hot is in Scots and some northern dialects, so that’s where it’s most predominant. Het isn’t a word on its own here (Yorkshire) but saying someone is all het up is incredibly common. Much more common in the north than the south, as far as I know.

                  I’m not sure where NotAnotherManager is from, but if it’s not the UK, I’m fairly sure that their ancestors are from Scotland or the north of England…

                3. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I am mostly Southern (US), and my family is Italian on one side and a mix of English, Scottish, and, per my mom’s cousin who’s into genealogy, a little bit of everything else western European. :)

                  I’d always assumed it was a Southern thing as my MIL also uses it quite a bit, but her family is more closely tracked back to England/Scotland than mine is, so that may very well be the common thread!

                4. Junior Dev*

                  If I’m reading correctly I think the joke is that “het” is also short for/slang for “heterosexual.”

              2. Safetykats*

                I have a friend who is a teacher in a small town in Mew Mexico – that for various reasons one might think is reasonably progressive. She was told that if she wanted to have a drink with dinner in a restaurant she should drive to the next (larger) town. So yes, this is a real thing. Just because you wouldn’t be scandalized to see your kid’s teacher with a beer doesn’t mean that it’s not against school district policy, and that it wouldn’t hurt the teacher’s career for other parents to see and report it.

                And while the protections the law provides against discrimination might help in a morals clause situation, that’s most helpful if you don’t mind filing suit over it (generally after having been suspended or wrongfully dismissed). It’s really unlikely that it’s going to make things such that you want to continue working (or go back to work) in a place where you can’t live without restrictions on your personal life.

                That said, without having someone on the inside to talk with, I don’t know how you figure out how restrictive it could be. And of course, people learn best by exposure to new and different things. It is, however, up to you whether you want to be the learning experience this town might need.

                1. Chinookwind*

                  “And while the protections the law provides against discrimination might help in a morals clause situation, that’s most helpful if you don’t mind filing suit over it ”

                  And it will do nothing when it comes to classroom discipline. You want the students to look at you as an authority figure otherwise you are dead in the water. It doesn’t mean being strict or authoritarian, but they also can’t see you as having a weakness that they can exploit.

                  Basically, you better have response ready for when the students bring up your private life (either as a whisper or flat out) and be able to deal with it in such a way that the teenagers won’t be able to run the class off the rails.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              My mom is a teacher in a big urban district in the liberal Bay Area, although her school is in a more suburban part of the city. You would be amazed at the complaints she receives and the kind of internet investigating parents undertake when they’re convinced a teacher is a Bad Person.

            3. Hope*

              When I was teaching, a fellow high school teacher told me about how she had been written up and had a permanent letter in her personnel file because a couple of years ago, when she was going through a divorce, she went out with friends ONE time and got a bit tipsy, and a parent saw, recognized her, and complained.

              It’s ridiculous, but absolutely par for the course.

            4. DaffyDuck*

              I used to teach and one of my best friends is still a teacher at a charter school. Someone posted on FB a photo of my friend at a restaurant during a conference, a drink was sitting on the table in front of her. Her principal called at 7 am the next morning to chew her out as apparently a parent saw and called to complain. She wasn’t even touching the drink!
              Yeah, small towns can have pretty rigid standards for teachers.

            5. Seeking Second Childhood*

              It doesn’t even have to be beer, I’m afraid. I had people chastise me for “drinking at work” — and the picture showed a tired me in mid-blink with a company-supplied IBC Root Beer in its brown bottle. For me it was just a somewhat embarassingly bad photo — but now I’m glad I wasn’t a teacher.

            6. AKchic*

              Even in Alaska, it’s an issue. Maybe not the “hold a drink on your social media”, but commenting on social media in general.

              If you comment on something that shows support one way or another for a controversial topic, you will be doxxed and your employer will be contacted. Pro-choice? The anti-choice conservatives will 100% release as much personal information about you as possible, start a campaign to have your employer fire you, will send screenshots of your comment that didn’t 100% support their side, and depending on who it is, may add in a few faked things too. Some will vandalize your vehicle if your home address is released. We’re so small-town mentality that everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows you. We can’t play 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon properly because we can do it in 3-4 degrees at most. If you don’t support a candidate or political party they like – boom – same thing.

              Honestly, I wonder why teachers teach at all anymore up here. We don’t pay them well, they aren’t offered any job security, let alone security in the rural areas. And yeah, they need actual security in the rural areas.

        4. Chinookwind*

          High school students also may end up accidentally fishing in the same pond you are. Some will be of legal age/over 18 and some will be lying to those around to be involved. You also have to think about how you would react if you found out, through your activities, that you know one of your students is doing something illegal/unsafe but intervening would also out yourself.

          Plus, how would you react if the person you are involved with mentioned that the previous person they dated was one of your students. Or you hit on someone (successfully or unsuccessfully) only to run into them as a student the next Monday.

          This isn’t that unusual for a teacher and something they even covered in my Bachelor of Education program. I have led a sheltered, monogamous life and have had all of the above situations happen to me (plus had a high school classmate hit on the new teacher on the first day of school, while we were waiting for the bell, thinking she was a transferred student).

          Basically, small towns can be the fish bowl you have heard them to be. On the plus side, your students become more than just a face in the crowd.

        5. Anoncorporate*

          My friends and I definitely dug up dirt on our teachers in HS – so I concur on this!

    2. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      In my very small town (pop. about 8k), we recently had a principal fired because of some “inappropriate” texts that she received from her monogamous, hetero boyfriend. I don’t know the exact content of the texts, but she had been at a dinner with coworkers and someone managed to see a text and she was let go. It was ridiculous. I’m fairly certain our teachers still have a “morality” clause in their contracts, so we’re horrifically old fashioned and outdated here. I’d be very, very cautious unless you find out you happen to be in a more progressive area. Which sucks and I’m sorry you have to worry about this.

      1. Anne (with an “e”)*

        I believe that it is common in most states for there to be a morality clause, a code of ethics, or both for teachers. In GA, where I teach, in order to maintain one’s teaching certification a teacher must follow a code of ethics. The thing is, the definition of “morality” can be determined by the local school board, the state board, or The Standards Commission.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I want to just note that districts can be bizarrely conservative (including morality clause wielding) even in liberal metro areas. Everyone is progressive until they decide a teacher is [incompetent / out to get their child/ old fashioned]. Then they go all Nathaniel Hawthorne on you.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          I love you.

          There was a retirement party for a Kindie teacher. Off the clock. On summer vacation.

          A image of the teachers sitting at a restaurant with adult beverages on the table (think wine spritzers) was posted on a semi open FaceBook page.


          You would have thought they were eating BBQ infants and small toddlers. The sh*t storm on FB continued until district sent an email out with a slap back “on the teachers’ poor judgement”. Wine spritzer. Like one drink per person. Not a table littered with empty shot glasses and beer mugs.


          Never underestimate the level of crazy people can reach.

          1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            A student found a racy picture of his teacher on HER phone, he was snooping and downloaded it. She ended up being fired/suspended I think. Nowhere did anyone question why this kid wasn’t punished for snooping and doing such a heinous thing. (My recall may be a little fuzzy, this was several years ago).
            In my school days, the coolest teacher was the draft dodger who openly admitted to smoking pot when it was super illegal everywhere.

          2. Teach*

            I’m a teacher…
            We were “encouraged” to attend the major fundraiser, which I hated because it was a drunk parent fest. I hung out awkwardly with a Sprite and laughed a lot at a funny friend and went home. On Monday morning, the 8th graders regaled me with the stories their parents told about me being SO drunk.
            On another occasion I ran into a convenience store because I was headed to a dinner party and this store sold local wine that was a nice hostess gift. A few days later a colleague asked me why the students thought I “drank gas station likker.”

    3. Lyra Silvertongue*

      Yeah, I don’t know what kind of apps the OP is using to hook up, but I’d be worried about students finding them and running wild with it. I’m a boring monogamous person who hasn’t used Tinder etc in quite some time, but as I understand it from friends, being in close proximity to people might put you on their Tinder radar or whatever. Honestly, I don’t think high school kids even really have the capacity to be able to understand just how much it could mess up a (young, queer woman) teacher’s life to have that stuff publicized, they’ll just find it funny to do so. I hate to advise OP to go dark with her sexuality when there’s no real reason that she should have to but Allison’s totally right that education is still so conservative in this regard.

      1. Anax*

        Not just funny – when I was in high school, kids seemed to think that any hint that teachers were “real people” (drinking, dating, being too ‘buddy-buddy’) was a sign that they were totally dating students. ESPECIALLY if the teachers were young women.

        Once that reputation is established, it’s really hard to shake; I’m still not sure WHY some of my teachers had that reputation, and I’m pretty sure it was completely unfounded, but the rumors were everywhere.

      2. OP #2*

        Some of them are standard like Tinder and Bumble, and some are more niche ones that (I hope!!) high schoolers wouldn’t even think to download and search on. After reading all the advice and the horror stories in these comments, I have since deleted all my profiles and apps. I don’t think it’s worth the risk, at least not at the moment. Thank you for your comment!

        1. Rosalind Montague*

          This is smart to have done, if unfortunate. (School communications person here and 20 year veteran teacher.) Also check the Code of Professional Conduct for your state; I’m in a state that still prohibits marijuana use for teachers, even though it’s been recreationally legal for a number of years. I live in a liberal community and so a lot of the stories above re: teachers drinking in public, etc, are not an issue here (we have one brewery where parents pre-buy and leave credit for their kids’ teachers on a big board!) but anything relationship or sexual is still very taboo. Like it or not, teachers are public figures and are held to moral standards (sometimes moving targets) because people trust us with their children.

          And, if this is your jam for dating, you definitely will want to move to a larger pool soon in order to keep your boundaries very clear. You can be a great teacher and maintain a private life, but it is ridiculously difficult and, in some communities, impossible. I wish you the best as you begin your career!

    4. Booksalot*

      My parents had to quit attending their private social club because some of my mom’s students started bussing/serving there. She couldn’t take the chance of them seeing her consume alcohol. She’s 68 years old.

      Being a teacher creates Orwellian levels of intrusiveness in your private life.

      1. NotTheSameAaron*

        It was only a generation or so ago that teachers (of either gender) weren’t allowed to be married, and the stigma still hasn’t gone away entirely.

    5. Mrs. Krabappel*

      High school teacher here— I echo what the others are saying. Teenagers are naturally curious about their teachers and they actively look for them online. Scrub your online presence and lock down all of the privacy settings. As a general rule, teachers shouldn’t talk about their dating life when students are around no matter what your dating life looks like (including talking to friends when students can hear you). You would be shocked at what students hear or think they hear when they overhear teachers talking in the hallway. As far as your personal conversations with colleagues go, be discreet. My LGBTQ teacher friends are out to adults in the school, but are still discreet to not open up that part of their personal lives to their students. Sadly, in a small town, you might have to look elsewhere for a dating pool to avoid rumors.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        A friend of mine had a decoy facebook page for her students to find. She also had a locked down facebook page where she posted picture from her real life. She enjoyed using facebook to tell her students to study.

        1. Librarianne*

          Same–I have have a public Twitter account where I only discuss work-related topics, and I never post photos of myself there. My other social media accounts are private, and I have a policy not to friend coworkers or students.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Yup! I teach grade 7 so my kids don’t really care about my dating life but my age and, oddly, type of housing have made them very inquisitive. A mentor of mine once told me that being a teacher is like being an E-list celebrity with none of the perks and that’s magnified in a small community.

    6. TrixM*

      If OP2 is using her real name on dating apps, that’s a problem.
      Create a new email address for dating/social/etc if you don’t have one already. Change your social/dating stuff to use that email. Get rid of anything with a real name on dating sites. On other social media, lock the profile down, except a dummy page on FB with some pics of food and pets or something.
      No pics including face unless they can be made private too.
      I don’t live in the US, nor do I have such a delicate job, but it is in govt, and it’s all basic stuff.
      Once everything is locked down, as others have said, do some name-googling to see what pops up.
      Don’t discuss anything to do with romance in the classroom. Just say, “No, I’m not married” and at *most* “sometimes I date a bit” to nosy students. The end.

  3. Orange You Glad*

    OP #3 – People trying to talk to me when I’m in the restroom is awful. It can make me take longer because I have to re-relax to finish. Sorry you’re dealing with this!

    1. Drew*

      Jane is one short step from sliding paperwork under the door and asking her to fill it out “since you’re not doing anything right now.” Definitely squelch this!

      1. valentine*

        I loathe banging on doors and being spoken to from behind a door/wall.

        I hope the clients aren’t witnessing Jane’s infuriating actions. While a number may have Jane setting an alarm, the client needs (even) a (wide) window so they can plan and aren’t wondering if Jane was mistaken and you’ve left for the day. Perhaps you could ask Jane to tell them whatever you suggest to clients when you have to leave mid-session.

        1. Stitch*

          I understand Jane’s urgency, though. 30 minutes is too long to have a client wait and could cause the work she did to walk out the door. OP needs to work with Jane to find a solution here.

            1. Allypopx*

              Same thing Alison suggests – see if the process can be juggled to use that downtime for something else or if there’s a way to maybe have things pre-prepped so the process can at least be started without OP.

            2. boop the first*

              Cross training.
              If the process involves a lot of paperwork, Jane could learn just enough to get the client set up, let them read over terms, get them a coffee, whatever.

              (EVERYBODY should have an understudy at work. I get so tired working for employers who create these situations where everyone is simultaneously “expendable” yet irreplaceable the moment that employee has needs of their own. They do this on purpose, you know.)

            3. Stitch*

              Also, going to a doctor (if possible, I know healthcare is tricky)? My friend had a similar issue and it was an undiagnosed food intolerance and a simple diet change helped her. Something like celiac can make you worse the longer it goes uncontrolled. Op should not be living like this for her own sake.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            Yup. Jane probably thinks OP is hiding in there doing Candy Crush or scrolling Facebook or something.

            1. Rosalind Franklin*

              Which, to be fair, is a reasonable assumption, especially if Jane only needs op once or twice a day. I’m not sure of the frequency here, but I could picture this happening infrequently enough that Jane would assume she just gets unlucky and knocks during “bathroom time” (singular). And I’ve known people who take miraculously shorter bathroom breaks without their phones (guilty!).

              Still rude of Jane, of course! Also possible this is happening multiple times a day. Either way, Allison’s advice seems spot on.

            2. TardyTardis*

              Admittedly, when I was in the can I would read a little bit if it was going to take a while anyway.

          2. Dontlikeunfairrules*

            Jane needs to let the client leave and have OP schedule a convenient time for her/him to meet with clients.

            I used to despise when I would be working on something in my office and then *knock knock knock* “Guess who’s here to sign her contract! Can you stop what you’re doing and generate 3 sets of original agreements for her to sign this very minute that is so inconvenient to you but convenient to me (interrupting associate from Hell)? Great thankssssss” then I’m stuck with a client sitting in my office waiting for me to draw up her agreements while she stares at me and I’m sweating and annoyed at life.

      2. Life is Good*

        This reminds me of my old grand boss. He followed his assistant to the bathroom door and when she closed and locked it behind her, he knocked on it and said “Barbara?” He had a handful of papers that, I guess, he needed her assistance on. I don’t remember if she even responded. We were too mortified for her to pay attention after that. What the hell?

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP3, I have had digestive issues* myself. As reluctant as I was to disclose it, I found that I had to because the symptoms and my methods of dealing with them did get noticed. I let my manager know I was under doctor’s treatment and would work late when I had unavoidable physical problems during the day. For me at least, it turns out to have been a good thing I did — because at one point a nasty anonymous printout* was dropped off at my desk complaining about things that were directly related to my ongoing doctor’s treatment. HR&my manager didn’t figure out who it was, or at least didn’t tell me.
      (It hurts when someone writes “adults learn to control these things” just _two weeks_ after you’ve gone through a full round of invasive tests only to be told “well that’s not the reason, let’s keep looking”…but that’s my story not OP3’s.)

      1. Jaybeetee*

        I’m sorry someone around you had the nerve to leave a nastygram on your desk for such a thing. You don’t specify what exactly was going on, but pretty well anything “digestive”-related I can think of, my first thought would likely be “must be a medical problem”. I figured the more “usual” suspects such as Crohn’s, colitis, and IBS were common enough that most people understood that some people had medical needs around bathroom usage, need to go more often or might stay in there longer, etc. Who jumps to “SSC must have never bothered to… learn bladder/bowel control?? Because I guess she never felt like it??”

        1. Anax*

          An unfortunate number of people think that most non-obvious medical conditions are fake. I’m pretty sure this is an outgrowth of that – especially because there ARE stereotypes about hiding in the bathroom to avoid work.

          And that’s not even getting into the particularly nasty folks, since it only takes one to leave a nastygram. My mom doesn’t believe in fevers, heatstroke, or dislocated joints; she’s been known to say some really nasty things about people she thinks are ‘faking’. Some people are very insensitive about this stuff!

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It gets worse: The note was on a photocopy out of some ancient “etiquette for foreign born employees” pamphlet with phrases like “hide bodily noises” highlighted. (Especially when I was already doing so….there’s just soo much TMI in gastric issues.)
          I was such a wreck that day that my manager sent me home early. It’s an improvement that by now I’m just angry that someone wasted time paying attention to my bathroom visits.

      2. Veryanon*

        Yep, digestive issues are no joke. I have mild ones myself and I get the urgency of “I have to go RIGHT NOW.” My sister was diagnosed with Crohn’s after suffering for a long time. I hope the OP will get themselves checked out.

    3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      When I was very young for it (early 20’s) I started having digestive issues, and tried to ignore it for a long long time. I didn’t want to face up to the embarrassment of having issues there, of talking to a doctor about it, and doing any kind of treatment around it. I was highly socialized to think girls weren’t supposed to have issues of that kind and didn’t talk about that stuff. I did a lot of damage to myself by ignoring it for so long, and by the time I did end up going to a doctor, the problem was much, much worse and I got a lot more sick before I got better. I pretty much lost a year to being sick and exhausted and anemic all the time before I got on top of it. So, OP, I really really understand why you haven’t seen a doctor, and I also understand why you really should. I have so much compassion for what you’re going through, but if you are in the bathroom for a half an hour at a time most days, you are probably hurting yourself more and more. I really, really recommend you go see someone. If you keep putting it off eventually it can get so much worse.

      1. PretzelGirl*

        I totally get it too. I too have had issues since my early 20s. In fact in my early 20s I did go see a doctor and was so mortified by the experience, I practically ran out of the office and didn’t go back. Several years later I got up the courage to go again. I did get some help and my issues still flare up but it helped a lot. Best of luck to you OP.

      2. A tester, not a developer*

        I have IBD (Crohn’s). I was undiagnosed way longer than I should have been, in large part due to my doctor telling teen me that ‘nice girls don’t want to have *that kind* of test done (meaning a scope).

        1. Crivens!*

          Holy hell. I’ve been really frustrated with my GI doc not really listening to me lately, to the point where I’m finally done with him, but that’s a whole ‘nother level of bad. I’m sorry your doctor was so disrespectful to you!

        2. your favorite person*

          WHAT?! That’s not how this works… that’s not how any of this works! I’m sorry your doctor was awful.

        3. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Wow, that seems like malpractice. And also a terrible thing to say to an embarrassed teen who needs medical care.

        4. Holly*

          That is disgusting. The last thing a doctor should do is sexualize a medical procedure they would be performing. I’m sorry that happened!

        5. Evan Þ.*

          Wow. There’re a lot of tests that, even if you don’t want to have them done, you have them done anyway because you really want to have the issues diagnosed and fixed. Doctors especially should understand that.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        Problems like these can be caused by a certain type of food allergy – non-IgE. The medical establishment is very slow to accept this and doctors usually aren’t trained in it. Some have learned on their own though.
        They can also be caused by reactions to the non-food ingredients like artificial sweeteners and chemicals in most ready-made foods.
        So, one thing that can help is keeping a food and symptom diary and looking for patterns, then trying dietary change as indicated. If you suspect something is causing your symptoms, stop eating it for a month. It can take more than a week for the digestive system to settle down after the offending item is removed.
        If this doesn’t work, and you think it might be food-related, an elimination diet under the supervision of a doctor or dietitian can help.
        Good luck everyone, I’ve had similar problems all my life. I didn’t even ask for help when I was young because I didn’t know it wasn’t normal.

        1. Rainy*

          Seconding this–I have several food allergies of this type, and I discovered them by food-logging and then elimination and re-introduction.

    4. Stuck in a Cube*

      Totally agree. I have medically diagnosed IBS and I am taking medication for it. I’ts mostly under control but I do occasionally have “flares” where I can be in the restroom for up to 30 minutes because it takes as long as takes. If I try to delay it, I’m going to end up throwing up or soiling my clothes.

  4. OG Karyn*

    OP1’s dad’s advice makes me wonder if dad is actually “hiring” people this way himself.

    1. Old Cynic*

      This thought crossed my mind as well, but he said a good company wouldn’t accept this offer. Nevertheless, I wonder if he judges candidates as to whether they offer this or not.

      1. OG Karyn*

        That was what I meant – like, is he doing his “hiring” based on whether they offer to work free? IMO that’s not hiring, that’s playing games.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      He says he doesn’t think the company should take people up in the offer which makes it all that much weirder to me. Why would you want someone to offer something you would definitely not want them to actually do?

      It reminds me of the letters from people angry they don’t get invited to a co-worker happy hour but then say they didn’t actually want to go, just be invited and then turn it down.

      Just like the co-workers know it’s an empty request, employers also know people don’t really want to prove themselves this way.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Considering that it’s so rare anyone ever goes with this old crusty turd of advice, he’d be waiting a long time to fill his positions if he is.

      I’ve seen gumption work a couple times with old timer small business owners but never has anyone offered up two hours let alone two days unpaid for a chance to “prove” they want it. They need that money, that’s why they’re looking for a job!

      1. Naomi*

        Yeah, the dad noted that it would “set you apart”… because nobody else is doing this!

        So much of the “gumption!” job advice fixates on “standing out” as a candidate, as if that were an end in itself without considering whether you’ll stand out in a positive way. So people who take this advice often “stand out” as someone who’s wildly out of line with professional norms.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          I can see wanting to set yourself apart if you work in a field that is competitive, and where there are hundreds of people applying for every job, most people are going to have the same basic qualifications and experience, etc. I’ve definitely applied for jobs and realized that, without any way of standing out from the pack, there is little to no reason for them to even call me in for an interview.

          That said, usually in my field the way to stand out is to have a personal connection of some kind, whether you come recommended by someone, or the person reviewing resumes seeing yours and recognizes a company, supervisor name, or project they’re familiar with and think highly of. I’m pretty sure offering to work for free, showing up in person to hand in your resume, making a silly video to submit in lieu of a cover letter, or any other “gumption!” advice is meaningless and would definitely make you look bad.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      My dad is a retired small business owner and a font of bad job search advice but as far as I know he never actually acted on any of his crappy advice — I worked for his company for a bit and also let him bounce thoughts off me and from everything I can tell he hired like a normal person. He just had a lot of totally dumb ideas about what *I* should do.

      This seems to be a pretty common dad trait, especially in dads who have not job searched since the 80s.

      1. JSPA*

        Patents sometimes have a hard time shaking their memories of college grad kids as scrawny 12-year-olds looking for pocket change, mowing the neighbors lawn.

      2. Nicelutherangirl*

        My former husband and I first job searched in the late 80s. We got our crappy advice about resumes and gumption-fueled, in-person visits to offices from both of our dads, who had last job searched in the 60s, and ex-husband’s clinic administrator mom, who got her last job in the 70s.

        If I’m remembering correctly, Ann Landers and/or Dear Abby helped spread the advice to work for free for awhile, though the length of time was limited to no more than a week.

    5. Nanani*

      I thought the same.
      It’s not necessarily the conclusion that follows from this advice. Maybe the dad has never had someone volunteer two months free work (as I dearly hope) but imagines it’s a good idea?
      Or maybe he just Gumptioned this up without thinking it through.

      But yeah OP1 don’t work for your dad either.

    6. Camille McKenzie*

      Or worse yet, is NOT hiring people who don’t offer to do this because he thinks it’s a sign of someone who really wants the job.

    7. Working Mom Having It All*

      I definitely wonder if OP’s dad realizes that his employees are entering into a business relationship with him for the purposes of making money.

  5. Sami*

    To OP 2– Is it possible to move to a nearby town to live? Meaning NOT in the same community as your school. I live about 20 minutes from my school and it’s a whole different world. Good luck!

    1. mrs whosit*

      When I taught in a small town, I left my dating profile info as the city I moved from. It did slow the timeline to go on dates, which was okay with me, since it also made me less likely to match with a student’s parent. (Tangent: then, because of the students’ rampant speculation about my dating life, I dated another teacher *in secret* for a full semester before we both moved away. Reader, I married him.)

      1. Myrin*

        because of the students’ rampant speculation about my dating life
        I’m always so blown away when I read stuff like this. I’m pretty sure this is a cultural issue but I can’t remember a single instance where we as pupils were in any way interested in our teachers’ personal lives, dating or otherwise – teachers just seemed like the most boring people to us who didn’t exist outside of the school anyway.

        1. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

          When I was in high school (in a fairly small town; grade 10-12 school of about 500 students), we had two new teachers start in the same year. Probably in their late 20s. Had classrooms across the hall from each other. The rampant speculation and teasing from students was endless. My drama class even wrote a series of vignettes for a class project that were centred around a “kindergarten playground romance” with the names very, very slightly changed from the teachers’ names.

          In May of their first year at the school, they came back from the long weekend married, and despite our joking about it, none of the students saw it coming. But we did type up a fresh copy of the script and give it to them as a wedding gift.

          1. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

            (20 years later, as far as I know, they’re still married and both still teaching at the same high school.)

          2. jam*

            Ha! That’s amazing!

            We had two English teachers who were in charge of the drama society; they were both alumni of the school and had been in productions together as students, so there was plenty of banter between them. Being drama students we were always gossiping in a knowing, cynical kind of way about how they were totally sleeping together. But we were all taken aback when the female teacher announced she was pregnant, and the male teacher was the father, and they were getting married — I don’t think any of us had actually believed any of our speculation!

            (They’re still together, with several kids, the last I heard.)

          3. Oryx*

            When I was in high school there were two teachers in totally different departments who both were hired around the same time and got married after about a year or two.

            What came out later was they had been together when they both applied, but the school wouldn’t hire couples. They didn’t care if you started dating after employment, just not before. So the two teachers just pretended to not know each other and “began” dating after the school year started.

          4. Mimi Me*

            When I was in middle school there were two teachers who were both in their 20’s. The female teacher had awful boundaries and liked to “dish” with a very specific set of 7th and 8th grade girls during her classes. The girls loved it and upon hearing the female teacher thought male teacher was cute, they decided to get them together. The teachers did eventually date, but it soured quickly. The male teacher ended up feeling the wrath of a bunch of 7th and 8th grade girls for over a year. I always felt bad for him.

        2. it's-a-me*

          In my elementary school, we students were convinced two of our favorite teachers were secretly married. There was all sorts of ‘proof’ offered, like the male teacher wore a ring because the female teacher couldn’t (she lost her ring finger in an accident), and they often spoke to each other in the classroom after work (they shared a lesson plan swapping students between classes) and other things which were easily justified by work. (we never saw them with anyone else! … we never saw them outside of the classroom.)

          I honestly think it was just because they were the two nicest teachers and we wanted them to be happily ever after together.

          In highschool no one gave a damn.

          1. Dragoning*

            In elementary school, one of our teachers married the “Officer Friendly” who always came in to give us safety presentations.

            The only reason any of us knew or cared was because the proposal happened during the school day.

          2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            Yea – in elementary school kids are way more emotionally invested in their teachers than in high school. In High School kids are way less likely to go looking. Of course if they do hear something negative (or gossip worthy) about a teacher they will eat that up, because the idea of getting one over on someone with authority over you is super appealing.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Yeah, even the most uninteresting teacher will suddenly become fascinating to a high schooler if there is the potential for juicy gossip.

              1. Anne of Green Gables*

                I didn’t care about my teacher’s personal lives and only knew about it when they shared something. At my high school, a history teacher and an English teacher were divorced but still had the same last name. The English teacher (ET) was dating another English teacher (AET). This was fairly well known around the school. I didn’t care, but it did become clear that they talked about their students–I had both of them and they knew things about me that they pretty much had to have learned from each other. Nothing super personal, but AET taught the creative writing classes which I took, and at one point in ET’s class she asked me to tell another student about poetry writing options or something. Stuff like that. The daughter of ET and the history teacher also went the school, she was in my brother’s year. There may have been a bit more gossip when she was there, but I don’t remember anything particularly juicy.

                After my first year of college, I was home for the summer and went to the movies. I had an interior seat and was the last of my friends in the row. Right before the movie started, a couple sat down next to me. They were pretty cuddly but not obnoxious. When the movie was over and the lights came up, I realized it was ET and ATE on a date! That was awkward.

        3. Tiny Soprano*

          I think the only time my friends and I did was when our (extremely short) history teacher announced he was taking leave for his wedding and we speculated about how funny it would be if his fiancee were a basketball player or a netball player. But I’ve noticed with my friends who are teachers now that kids are much more intrusive and curious, and I agree it’s a cultural shift.

          1. Panda*

            And teachers are way more willing share info now. I was shocked at some of the stuff the middle and high school teachers told my kids about their personal life. When I was a kid, I ran into a teacher at a dog training class (her mother ran the class). She told me not to tell the other students that she wore jeans (this was the ’80s). They just didn’t share anything about their personal life.

            1. Mimi Me*

              I’ve noticed this too. I don’t like it. I knew that my 7th grade math teacher Mrs. Helphelstein had a life outside of the school, but she made my life miserable in that classroom and I prefer to think of her living in a cave somewhere like the troll she resembled. ;)

        4. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

          As any fule kno, teachers don’t exist outside school, they live behind the blackboard.

        5. Snake in the grass*

          I’m a high school teacher and so is my partner. We met at school while teaching. Our relationship is still an enduring item of fascination, and we’ve been together nearly nine years. I have a theory, though, that in our case some of that is because we’re not a very conventional couple, and, for some students, the only example of less-than-conventional relationships they can easily see. We work at a small school, in a pretty rural area, though not in the US.

        6. Enid Blyton*

          Don’t know where you went to school, but I’m pretty sure the size of the community makes a big difference. I attended a boarding school, which was like a whole little self-contained world of its own. Because of the need to have staff living on site, and the intensity of the working hours (offset by looooong holidays) it was common for the school to hire couples, and we knew a lot more about their lives than we normally would.

          On top of that, single teachers seemed to date each other quite routinely. Off the top of my head, I can think of eight teachers who were single when they first taught me and had turned into four married couples by the time I left the school…. it was pretty fertile ground for gossip!

        7. Harper the Other One*

          My school was the same, even my high school. Which made one situation very funny when my sister was trying to hitch-hike into the nearby city and she got picked up by two of the grade 12 English teachers who gave her a drive (with a bonus lecture about why she should NOT hitch a ride.) She and her friends were all like “huh, I guess they were going to a meeting together or something.”

          Nope, they were married by the fall!

        8. Asenath*

          I’m pretty sure we were convinced our teachers didn’t really exist outside of school – in spite of the fact that my best friend’s mother taught in the same school, and my mother was also a teacher for a while, although not when I was in school. Rationality doesn’t come into play with this.

          But people in small towns did gossip – some years later, and in another small town, I knew a teacher who was advised to marry her partner – I think because it didn’t look good for them to be living together. They married, happily as far as I ever knew. They were going to marry anyway, but maybe they moved the date up or something. I can’t see myself that they set a bad example; adolescent sexual relationships among the students were not, umm, unknown even before one of their teachers moved in with her boyfriend.

          As a general rule, it’s extremely difficult to have any kind of a private life in any small town I have ever encountered, so if you value your privacy, you have to take stringent precautions to guard it. And then people will probably invent stories anyway.

          1. Creed Bratton*

            This last paragraph screams the truth, and OP2, please realize your first year is going to be challenging anyway. Plan now by “cleaning up” your online presence. By clean I mean be ready to live with the consequences of literally anything you post online. I guarantee kids will search you out (they do to all their teachers – it’s more fun than their homework) and while they may be cool with your lifestyle it’s the parents you have to watch out for.
            Building up your reputation in the first year is crucial so if you can keep it focused on what’s happening in the classroom you can relax once you’re known as an established teacher. And this isn’t even about sexuality – I once had a HS class all in a flutter because they THOUGHT I had an ankle tattoo. When kids ask me most anything personal I usually deadpan something like I don’t go on dates, I get plugged back into the closet where all teachers get stored after hours. If they know they can’t rattle you or get juicy details it will let you focus on what your job (which can include lessons on tolerance and respect for all). I really hate typing this but the reality is that all first year teachers are under a microscope and, especially in small towns, parent perception runs the school.

            1. Smithy*

              Sigh – I hate to second this. Not as a teacher but as a former high school sophomore who complained excessively about two of my teachers who were new to the school that year. Whether they were objectively bad teachers or just new to our district – I certainly don’t know now – but I do know that my parents did end up complaining to school administration about one. Strictly on his teaching mind you – but I can easily see how you couple some “in the classroom” complaints with private life pieces – it does sound like an unfortunately harder year 1.

        9. I hate coming up with usernames*

          I definitely think it depends on the culture of the school! I’ve taught at two different high schools in the same area, and the students’ level of gossip (and having no filter!) were vastly different. At one the students almost never showed any curiosity in my personal life. At the other I’ve been asked things as out of line as, “Have you or your husband ever cheated on each other?” (To be fair, we were reading the part of The Odyssey where he cheats on his wife….but still! Completely not okay.)

        10. curly sue*

          Oh, we definitely did, and this as before having access to things like Facebook and Google (1990s). It didn’t help that there was at least one ~major scandal~ to spice things up.

          One of the younger teachers used to just fill his board with notes for us to copy down during the period, and leave to go flirt with the cute young French teacher. He was married, she was not, at the end of the school year she was his date to the prom (non-chaperoning teachers usually came as well), and then they ran off to the Cote d’Azure together. The buzz throughout the school was amazing.

          The next year the Cute Young French Teacher was still in France, Mr. Married was back at school, and Mrs. Married Teacher was his date for all the school dances. And we, faithful gossip hounds that we were, kept track of every nuance.

          (There was also All The Gossip about which teacher got handsy in his office, so don’t ever go in there alone, and about the drama teacher who had favourites and didn’t touch but would have if he could, which were much less fun. But whisper networks did have their purposes.)

          1. Penny Parker*

            That went down slightly different in my small rural school. The science teacher and the social studies teacher were both married when school started for my 8th grade class, to different people. No-fault divorce hit the state (this was a long time ago) and the next year the social studies teacher came back as Mrs. Science Teacher, and the science teacher (first year teaching) was denied tenure. Later I got to know both of them quite well as they, along with my mom and I, worked to build the first food co-op in the nearest small city. This is decades ago and still firm in my mind; students don’t forget this stuff.

          2. Rainy*

            When my first husband was in high school, two teachers were having an affair and then when it came out, the husband of one of them shot himself in the high school parking lot. This was in the late 60s or early 70s.

        11. Kimmybear*

          I grew up in a small town. Yes, students speculate about teachers dating and it gets even juicier when “scandals” start. A small town teacher I know was recently saying she grocery shops in the next town over, to avoid bumping into parents and students.

          1. Myrin*

            That’s precisely why I’m always blown away by this topic – I, too, am from a small town (still live here, actually) and I share basically zero of those experiences. But: I’m not in the US, which is what I meant by “cultural issue”. Everything is much more spread out here (geographically) and our small towns don’t really look like American small towns.

            I attended primary school in my hometown and there was literally zero interest in teachers’ lives among the students; the parents were somewhat interested, but always in a way that had to do with a specific teachers’ teaching methods or behaviour towards the class, not with their actual personal life. (I remembered it that way but my mum also confirmed it just now; one of my sister’s teachers was actually driven away by a group of parents who couldn’t deal with how she challenged their kids but that still didn’t have anything to do with her private life).

            Secondary school, I had to drive to a school in Slightly Bigger Town where people from all the small towns around gathered and there was even less interest in teachers as people, both by students and parents. Thinking back, I still have no earthly idea which of the small towns many of my teachers even lived in, nevermind whether they were dating or not (I knew somewhat generally who was married and who wasn’t and I actually knew some specific teachers’ houses exactly but that’s about the extent of it).

          2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            And thankfully, nowadays, you can order lots of personal items online. I can’t imagine being a small town teacher and needing to drive 30 miles out of your way to buy tampons, or pregnancy tests, or condoms and lube.

        12. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

          I worked at a university where the students spread fairly nasty rumors about a professor’s dating life involving students up to including it in and of year banquet presentation. The university was not well run and admin refused to shut it down.

        13. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Mid 80s, suburban Long Island, rampant rumors that two of the female teachers were dating each other. I got fed up with such hissing gossip that I blurted out a NO SHE’S NOT because they were using ‘lesbian’ like it was a bad word and I just wanted to defend a wonderful teacher from being mocked. By the next year I was kicking myself for not saying “Why do you care? She’s a wonderful teacher.” because I really didn’t care who the teacher was dating. (And they didn’t care about the male/female married couples teaching there either.)

          1. KayEss*

            When I was in junior high in the early 00s, there were rampant rumors among the student body that one of the male teachers was gay… for such low-grade homophobia “reasons” as “he wore a pink shirt one time,” or “he has a silver ring.” I was baffled and disgusted by the bigoted speculation at the time, and felt no small measure of smug when I heard years later that he had married a female teacher from the same school. I didn’t care then (or now) whether he was gay or not—and he could, of course, still be bisexual or any number of non-het sexualities—but it felt good to have confirmation that all my fellow 12-year-olds were, in fact, being idiots at the time.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            That’s how it was where I grew up. “Homo”, “Fag” and “lesbian” were bad words. I’m not actually sure if we knew the word lesbian, I think maybe I heard it once or twice… People were so, so uptight about non-hetero sexuality it can’t be exaggerated.
            These words were used as insults to hurt people, not used literally.

        14. MatKnifeNinja*

          My niece and her friends will spend the first week of school trolling through social media and Google on the new teachers they get.

          I worked in a support roll at an elementary school. I had parents and students hunt through social media and Google on me.

          If I got $10 for every parent/student who said, “Wow, you really aren’t on social media.”, I could have retired. This is in a district that is big enough for 3 high schools. It’s worse at a small town level, according to my teacher friends.

        15. CupcakeCounter*

          Most of my teachers were older but when we did have a younger one who was single, oooh boy did we gossip and speculate. It got real fun when one of the teachers started dating the oldest sister of one of my classmates (she was about 10 years older than us so never had him as a teacher). They got married.

        16. Tigger*

          Until you run into them at a pirate theme bar at karaoke night…. then they are the coolest

        17. CheeryO*

          I can only remember one instance of it when I was in high school – we had a young history teacher, and she had a student teacher for a while who we thought was cute. She dressed up extra nicely on his last day and straightened her hair, and we absolutely DIED speculating over whether they were going to go on a date after school, if they were already dating, etc. We were obsessed. Looking back, they definitely had chemistry, and I think kids pick up on that kind of thing.

        18. NotAnotherManager!*

          I think that this is generally right, but I also think that, if you have a kid (or parent) who decides they have an ax to grind with a teacher, that can trigger an internet search for ammo. At one of my coworker’s kid’s school, a teacher graded a kid vying for valedictorian as doing B+ work on a major project, which took them out of the running – kid went poking around in social media and their parents went to the head of the school with the “unseemly” things the kid found. (My coworker was on the board and got dragged involuntarily into the drama. It got ugly.)

          1. Anon for this*

            Something very similar happened at my high school and the teacher was outed. It was so ugly and upsetting

          2. noname*

            Yeah. My wife is extremely private and taught at a Catholic school. For 4 years, that job and our relationship overlapped and she didn’t tell a soul. I commented below about how kids stalked her to find out more about her personal life – there was one girl who was so scary with the amount of information she found and her determination to ruin my wife’s life, that my wife went to the administration and confessed that she was married to a woman, she had been for years, she’d kept it private, and she wanted to keep her job. And she was fired. She confessed so she couldn’t be outed by a stupid little delinquent pathetic 17 year old girl with an attitude problem who was stalking my wife (and who had created a fake instagram profile to follow my private account!) because she didn’t like the subject matter of the class and didn’t want to do her work, and ruining my wife’s life was more fun to her.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I don’t think anything progressive can be expected from the Catholic hierarchy.

              1. Chinookwind*

                That’s what you took from that? She was ruined by the vindictiveness of a 17 year old. If that teacher hadn’t been married to a woman, that girl would have found something else use against her. Teenagers are very capable of being psychopaths who will make the lives of someone they don’t like unbearable.

        19. joriley*

          After my father got divorced, his high school students apparently started a minor campaign to get him to go out with one of the other single teachers his age. (As far as I know, they were unsuccessful.)

        20. noname*

          My wife – a deeply private person who is friendly but never gives anyone an iota of detail about her life – was stalked by a number of her students who desperately wanted to know if she was gay. Like, they dug deep online to find out our address (she has almost no online presence but a determined person can find anything they want online). For the 5 years she taught, random kids would do drive-bys and one even knocked on the door – to catch a glimpse of me so they could raise their hand the next day in class and say, “who’s that woman you live with, the one with the glasses and blonde hair?”

        21. ScienceTeacherHS*

          This is really two sides of the same coin I think — students are sometimes mega-interested in your life BECAUSE they think you are supposed to be super boring and only exist at school. So you get kids who aren’t interested in you at all and kids who see you walking your dog at the park and follow you home and then tell you your address in class the next day (true story). And sometimes you discover that the students have a shipping name for you and your friend the other young teacher down the hallway.

          Also, as a high school teacher at least, you’re kind of a minor celebrity in a weird way. Lots of kids know you, you might not know all of them, and you give several performances a day. I think sometimes they want to know about your life in the same way people like to hear about celebrities’ lives.

        22. Chinookwind*

          It wasn’t even their romantic lives we small town schoolkids cared about. Two male teachers were roommates and we learned how one of them was such a bad cook that he exploded an egg when trying to boil it (we also learned not to put a cold egg into boiling water). We knew all about their roommate antics (which probably put us off the scent of the women they were dating).

          Basically, when you are from a small town, their is limited entertainment and “fresh meat,” so we are easily amused. One teacher picked up on this by telling us he lived in a caboose at a local museum, which meant we spent time (even as older teenagers) trying to figure out if he was lying and, if so, whether or not he lived in town. Maybe OP could lay down her own false trail as a distraction?

      2. Rez123*

        I recall this only happening when the teacher introduced us to their relationship. They had made a film about the book we were reading so we went to see it as a class and our teacher brought her bf. Once our teacher brought his bf as a chaperone to a thing. When I went to an interntational school all the teachers were married to each other. The few odd single ones started dating and they thought they were discrete. On valnetine’s day there was a flower sending thing and they would send flowers to each other on valentine’s day and wonder why poeple were speculating. And then the classic case of a married teacher having an affair with younger teacher and using her “consulting” as an excuse to meet up. If they didn’t do any of this, none of us would have given a crap. I find it baffling why in some places they do. And I find it baffling why people have so high standards for teachers. Maybe it’s because most of my family are teachers I feel like I know that they are just people with jobs.

        1. Anonymous 5*

          People don’t have “high standards” for teachers. People have contempt for teachers and will criticize just about anything.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      Living in a different but close by small town would really make a difference. You wouldn’t run into students and their parents (since they’d be in a different district) and wouldn’t have to worry much about a neighbor seeing a couple leaving your house in the morning after arriving the night before and then spread it all over the school. You could get unlucky and end up next to other people that work at the school, but it’s unlikely.

      1. valentine*

        Unless they’re going to lie about their job, there are still nasty neighbors who want to make trouble and the fact anyone they meet could be a few degrees from the parents/colleagues/school.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      I have a friend who’s a children’s librarian, and her policy is to not live in the town she works. She only lives one town over, but says it minimizes the chances of her being out and running into patrons in the “real” world.

      1. Chinookwind*

        Ditto for cops. DH hates neighbours knowing what he does because they either try to leverage knowing him to get out of something, run to him about petty annoyances (which are usually civil anyway) or feel righteous and will go to his boss to complain because they don’t like how he tells them to get off our lawn.

        I thought he was being paranoid until he helped me move out of a room I was renting and the landlady wouldn’t return my security deposit or give me a list of claimed damages. DH said nothing, letting me do all the talking (he was literally my muscle for the boxes). She then called his boss to complain that he was intimidating the poor, little old landlady into giving up her hard earned money. It is impossible to prove a negative, so she got her $500 just so she would drop the complaint.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      I’m thinking that physically separating work life and dating life would be the simplest thing that doesn’t involve giving up her personal life. Either living in a nearby town and commuting for work, or putting the dating profile in a neighbouring town or city and commuting for dates. I’d also lock down all social media pretty hard (no public profile unless it’s totally sanitized) and not use identifying photos on dating sites. An advantage of keeping your dating profile (or residence) in a nearby larger town would be having a larger pool of potential dates.

      Being openly bisexual is probably okay, but might not be – it will depend a lot on the administration. But honestly, anything other than monogamous dating is probably best kept secret, at least at first, to avoid the risk of being fired. Once you’ve been there a while and get to know people, and they get to know you, you can always be more open.

    5. Clementine*

      These suggestions about using the next large city are great, but isn’t it quite likely that people from the same small town might try the same thing? In my relatively infrequent forays into dating sites, I find that people are often 100 miles away and show up in the list.

      1. Chinookwind*

        Yes – but they if they are also using the 100 mile rule, then they probably also want to keep things discreet.

    6. Cynthia*

      That is good advice. I fear if OP2 doesn’t make some huge change in her life, we’ll be reading headlines about her in the near future.

      1. OP #2*

        “I fear if OP2 doesn’t make some huge change in her life, we’ll be reading headlines about her in the near future.” Yeah, absolutely trying to avoid this! It’s a big fear of mine that something will pop up, if not now then in the future. I wish I had been a little more careful in the past with my use of apps and social media.

    7. Likethecity*

      I second this advice! I teach in another town about 20-25 minutes from where I live and I never cross paths with anyone from the school. We have no mutual friends on social media, etc. It’s great because every week when all the teachers who live near the school are talking about how many students/parents/other teachers they ran into that weekend, I haven’t had to worry about that at all!

    8. OP #2*

      Unfortunately I have already signed a lease in town, so living any further away isn’t an option at the moment. But thank you for your well wishes, and to everyone who shared adorable teacher dating stories in this thread!!

      1. HL Holdings*

        Hi OP!

        Good luck on your first year teaching! I have been teaching for almost a decade at the middle and high school level. A few things I’ve learned is the younger you are, the more personal questions you will be asked. Kids are curious as to what their future could look like! Also, the more you try to hide, the more kids will go looking for info. Responses like, “ I spend most of my time grading papers,” or “ It takes a lot of time so come up with these lessons,” or info about your dogs can deflect some of those questions. Also, telling the kids some personal things about you such as if you have siblings, nieces, nephews, favorite cartoon characters, etc. will also go a long way in making your students feel like they know you without giving away real information.

        1. CanuckCat*

          Seconding this. Thinking back, I realized a lot of my teachers were close lipped about their personal lives but it never seemed that way because they were always willing to share with us more innocuous details, like what they did on their summer vacation, or if they’d also seen a movie we were all currently obsessing over.

      2. Rachel Greep*

        Read your contract carefully. When I was a small town teacher about 15 years ago, there was a morality clause in my contract. It was very vague, so basically I could have been fired for anything the school board deemed a moral violation. I am certain the types of relationships you’re describing would not have been okay with them. I hope that it not the case for you, but be cautious.

        1. Clisby*

          Yes, here in SC the state law says teachers can be fired for “conduct such as, but not limited to, the following: persistent neglect of duty, willful violation of rules and regulations of district board of trustees, drunkenness, conviction of a violation of the law of this State or the United States, gross immorality, dishonesty, illegal use, sale or possession of drugs or narcotics.”

          I don’t know whether this is explicitly stated in contracts, but it’s the law.

        2. Chinookwind*

          I hear a lot of people complaining about the vague morality clauses, and they are a pain in the butt that I have to had to live with at one point, but I also wonder what would happen if they weren’t there. Teachers are given complete, unsupervised access to children with the express goal to shape their minds and how they think. I can only imagine what type of creepy behaviour would have to be allowed if there wasn’t a way to get rid of a teacher who was, say, obsessed with star gazing but never pointed her telescope into the sky or spent a lot of time hanging out with the local drug dealer. There are activities that are legal but morally questionable that I wouldn’t want a fellow teacher to be doing.

          The problem isn’t in the clause but in how it is being implemented as well as in teachers who are not aware or accepting that they are role models 24/7 (or at least when they are within eyeline of their students) or that they are representatives of the school and what it teaches.

          1. ScienceTeacherHS*

            I’m not sure why you’d think it’d be the case that teachers would be creepy if not for the morality clauses.

            The people who would be sketch are sketch already, regardless. But the rest of us are just trying to live our lives. Yes, we’re role models, but we’re hopefully role models of healthy adult behavior, not a life of complete abstinence and deprivation.

    9. Media Monkey*

      agree – i don’t think any of my kids teachers live in the same town as the school.

  6. Poop Captain*

    I had a coworker who had undiagnosed IBS in actually a similar situation to #3. It wasn’t until he explained to me that sometimes it took him a little bit in the restroom that I knew I shouldn’t just put someone on hold for him, but instead have them call back. If your coworker is having to stall for you, I think some explanation that you need the time and aren’t just taking it for frivolous measures can be useful.

    1. Drew*

      I do not understand people who think that trying to hurry someone in the midst of a bathroom emergency is going to speed things along. I sometimes tense up and take LONGER when I know someone’s being impatient, so this is counterproductive as well as rude.

      If Jane needed to use the facilities herself, I could at least understand her concern. But OP is not having potty problems at Jane and she needs to recognize this is something OP can’t really control.

      1. Myrin*

        What I’m unsure about is whether Jane actually realises that OP has “potty problems”. Of course the fact that this seems to have happened pretty often by now could have clued her in but I honestly wouldn’t fault her if she hadn’t connected the dots or simply didn’t pay that much attention to it when she’s not immediately in a situation where she needs to get ahold of OP.
        She could also think that OP is just taking her time because she feels like it, not because she actually needs to, in which case her banging would actually be likely to be successful.

        Alison’s script should work in either situation, though!

        1. it's-a-me*

          Boss makes a dollar while I make a dime, that’s why I poop on company time! Also the IBS.

          Jane might think OP is slacking, because she slacks in the bathroom herself.

        2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Yeah, unfortunately “goes to the bathroom really often” can look like slacking sometimes – not least because there actually are people who choose to slack this way. I had a coworker who went to the bathroom often enough that she either was just goofing off or she seriously needed a doctor. I tend to think the former, because she had a lousy work ethic in lots of other ways – the type of worker who needed to be watched in order to work.

        3. Ethyl*

          This was my thought too. I used to work close to the “preferred” bathroom for an executive and every morning at 10 am he would wander in holding the newspaper and a cup of coffee (ew) and I wouldn’t see him for a half hour at least. My own husband also takes a half hour morning constitutional with coffee and a crossword. I can see if Jane has similar experiences that “IBS style emergency” wouldn’t be on the top of her mind. A short, non-detailed explanation might stop this. And OP, maybe see a doc! It’s embarrassing of course but there may be options for making your life a little more comfortable.

        4. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Huh, this didn’t occur to me, but you could be right. I’ve had co-workers who would just go into the bathroom to play around on their phone, or one who would go in several times a day to brush her teeth, floss, mouthwash and re-do her hair and makeup, which generally took about 40 minutes while taking up the only ladies bathroom on that side of the building. She really liked to do that once people showed up for meetings with her, so regularly left people waiting for her for a long time. If Jane thinks that is happening it could explain why her temper is so bad.

        5. saminrva*

          Yep, this was my thought too. My spouse takes their time in the bathroom at home and I don’t abuse it, but know I can text them if there’s some reason they need to move a little faster (and then they finish up). So if Jane thinks you’re doing it voluntarily, it will probably help a lot to let her know that’s not the case and work on some solutions for client interactions.

      2. Kiki*

        I think it should have been clear that when OP didn’t just “finish up” when Jane knocked the first few times, that OP is having legitimate bathroom issues. But some people do use bathroom breaks to be on their phones/watch videos/take care of hygiene needs that are more of a set time scale/etc. It could be possible that Jane just hasn’t put 2 and 2 together and would be immediately apologetic to realize she has been causing distress. Sometimes people are just oblivious, not malicious.

      3. JSPA*

        Some people read / relax on the pot. If the bathroom is a place of stress for you, you may find this unbelievable. For someone who’s never needed more than 30 seconds to eliminate, the idea that people actually ever need 30 minutes (barring food poisoning) is similarly not something they’d think of. Getting a diagnosis for physical problems that affect your availability at work is often a good idea. When the behavior happens behind closed doors and could be mistaken for laziness or malingering, and you don’t want to discuss the details, a diagnosis is extra helpful. Even if the answer is “idiopathic” (unexplained). As a bonus, you might even find out what’s going on, and be able to save yourself some distress (or even cumulative bowel damage). Or diagnose and remove a growth. (Saving your life = a good thing.) Also, in case it helps, the Squatty Potty people make a folding model now; could be useful at work.

    2. krysb*

      I have an undiagnosed, but doctor-controlled colon issue that was exacerbated by having my gallbladder removed. My doctor is cool with not going through the diagnostics to determine exactly what causes the underlying issue as long as my medication works. Seriously, cholestyramine is gross, but takes cafe of the issue.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup. It’s fair for you to be like “plz don’t bother me when i’m on the toilet” but if you’re taking regular 30 minute toilet breaks you do have to talk to Jane and work out some sort of plan for that.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Agreed. The banging and so on seems rude, especially if she does know about the OP’s issue. But from Jane’s perspective, she’s presumably putting in a lot of work to make the sale, then can’t close it because the person who does the paperwork has vanished for a 30-minute bathroom break. That’s a long time in sales! You can lose sales over much, much shorter delays than that and it’s incredibly frustrating when it happens, especially if it’s over something beyond your control. I can see why she might act like this if they haven’t worked out a proper plan so she can cover gracefully.

    4. Washi*

      Yeah, what Jane is doing is definitely neither ok nor effective. But I do think even for a reasonable person this could be a little stressful – having antsy clients and having no idea when your paperwork person will be back or what to tell them, and potentially losing sales.

      Maybe the OP could have a sheet of paper out on her desk at all times and scribble the time whenever she leaves for the bathroom? That way Jane would have some sort of ballpark for when she might be back.

      1. JSPA*

        If you really gotta, you don’t have time for notes, though.

        Sounds like the OP is in the “suddenly really gotta” situation a lot. And it’s legit not common to be commonly struck both by extreme urgency and extreme length of time needed, unless there’s a condition that could and (arguably, but compellingly arguably) should be diagnosed and managed. In part because, with celiac and even some of the more general FODMAPS disorders, you can get slow, long-term damage that’s not reversible. Getting some clarity or a treatment plan (if treatable) could make a lot of different aspects of life easier (travel, holidays) as well as work life. So, while coworker is being rude, there are not a whole lot of good “not rude” options, given that OP has not found out whether this is something that could be prevented / modified, or else gotten an explicit accommodation.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      I do not understand people who think that trying to hurry someone in the midst of a bathroom emergency is going to speed things along.

      I guess if I were the kind of person who hid in the bathroom playing Candy Crush, I would assume my coworkers were doing it too. Or maybe she’s had experience with someone else who does that.

  7. Drew*

    OP 2, one of the things I do not miss about my long-ago teaching days is having to deflect students’ questions, well-meaning and otherwise, about my personal life. (I learned that lesson the hard way with a few kids who weaponized innocent-sounding questions to try to sully my reputation at a new school. Jerks.)

    Unfortunately, you’re in a role where many parents and community members expect you to be a perfect role model and have a pretty narrow idea of what that means. Early in your career, especially, I think you have to err on the side of opacity and not giving the gossips’ tongues a chance to wag. That absolutely sucks but I feel it’s the safest course.

    That said, you’ll almost certainly be gossiped about regardless, and there’s a certain power in being your authentic self if people are just going to make up their stories otherwise. As I said, my teaching was a long time ago; maybe things have changed for the better.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      FWIW, I did have a teacher in my one-stoplight small town who was openly gay. He faced a fair amount of backlash, but I don’t think it ever risked him being fired – partly because he was also very popular with the students (who, for their part, started a rumor that he wasn’t ~really~ gay and was just pretending), and partly because he had advanced training in hard sciences, which made him a rare ‘get’ for a not-well-funded rural school board. I do think having an ‘out’ teacher helped a few of the students be marginally less closed-minded, and I’m sure it helped a few to be more comfortable with themselves, but there’s definitely downsides there.

  8. Betsy S*

    I wonder if the coworker thinks that you’re goofing off in there? If you never have, it might be worth mentioning, once, that you do have a medical issue and you’re not just hiding. Although, seriously, I’d hope an adult would figure that out for themselves.

    1. LilyP*

      That’s my assumption. She’s probably fuming to herself about you “neglecting clients to hide in the bathroom on your phone” or something. Nip it in the bud! You have nothing to be ashamed about.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Yeah, this behavior seems really weird if she’s aware that you are using the bathroom for its intended purpose. This isn’t something you should have to spell out for an adult, but it might help to do so.

        1. Stitch*

          If the.clients are sitting there annoyed by the wait, Jane may be a little desperate.

          While OP’s situation sucks, there needs to be a better solution here. You can’t have sales clients waiting 30 minutes after a sale. Some will leave.

          1. Rachel Greep*

            If Jane is losing a commission because a client gets annoyed waiting for the paperwork guy to get out of the bathroom, it makes perfect sense that she’s annoyed by the paperwork guy being in the bathroom.

          2. Sarah N*

            This. Is there anyone else in the office who can do the paperwork? What happens if OP is out sick for the entire day or on vacation for a week? There must be some backup plan so that sales don’t grind to a halt in those situations. OP needs to have an honest conversation with Jane so they can come up with a reasonable solution so sales can be made even during a bathroom emergency.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, this was my thought: Jane is being cornered by clients who are losing patience with the wait. Which isn’t really Jane’s fault. So there needs to be a workaround here.

    2. Oxford Comma*

      I worked with a woman who wanted someone to deal with whatever she needed dealt with no matter what. She didn’t care what the person was dealing with. We had a librarian, who was once teaching a class in the building to something like 25 students. She interrupted the class to make him fill out the form she needed (a non-essential form, mind you). She would totally be the type to pound on the bathroom door so she could get an answer to whatever was bothering her. She was one of those hyper focused people. She really didn’t know what we did and she didn’t care. All she cared about was getting whatever she needed done there and then.

      Hopefully the OP is not working with someone like that.

  9. Not a teacher anymore*

    OP 2 – I hate that this is the case, but I got dinged as a teacher because my (hetero monogamous) boyfriend and I lived together and my students knew. It was a small conservative town, and we got engaged that year, but it was still apparently big gossip that I lived with an SO before marriage.

    I thought (and still think) it was ridiculous for people to be scandalized by this. It was 2011, not 1951, but yeah, in a small town, having any kind of dating life is tricky if you’re a teacher. I wish you the best of luck and hope you navigate this with grace and discretion and avoid the rumor mill.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Hah – a family member of mine got pamphlets dropped on her door when she moved in with her (hetero monogamous) boyfriend in my hometown. Pamphlets about not ‘living in sin’ and such. This was in 2012.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      My husband grew up in a small town, and we have never acknowledged to his mother that we lived together for nearly a year before we got married. At one point, we were living in the same apartment building (two floors apart), and I think that she just thinks we kept his apartment for an extra year when he’d actually moved in with me. We do not speak of it.

    3. Michaela Westen*

      I think this happens because people are starved for excitement. If they had organic and healthy excitement in their lives, they wouldn’t need the rumor mill.

    4. AnnaBananna*

      I do remember in junior high being absolutely scandalized when my basketball coach/social studies teacher hosted a slumber party (pre season morale) and her boyfriend deliver our pizza and hang out for a while. They must have been post-undergrad I guess but it still didn’t matter. She was then the coolest person I knew (though it helps that I already fiercely respected her). ;)

  10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Small town schools are notorious for being beyond meddlesome. I’ve heard way too much stuff and I’m years upon years removed from my podunk dirt town and it’s gossiping population. It will be used against you and the parents may even try to have you removed if they decide you’re too much for their kids. It’s unfortunate and upsetting how much pull a group of “concerned parents” can be in a place with only a couple stop lights. They thrive on this stuff. Just the whiff of something outside their “norm” is a match to the flame of their intolerance.

    (Yep, I’m scarred from growing up in a small town. I saw the best teachers run out of the place and got stuck with burnt out, almost retired curmudgeons). Protect your privacy.

    1. Way anon for this*


      I hate to say this, but the other group you’re going to fear in this situation is your coworkers. Leaving aside social politics for a moment, a school is a VERY small – and intimate – place. You will be expected to share quite a bit of your personal lives with your coworkers, and they’ll share them with you. It will ALL become grist for the small town gossip mill.

      The best advice I can give is to sacrifice commute for distance from your students and parents and to do things like “lunch bunch,” homework club, or just having your classroom open for kids during normal “break” times to minimize socialization with the other teachers. As a young teacher, that wouldn’t seem unnatural anyway, at least in my experience, and those kind of things – along with the experiences, networking and reputation that go with them – can be a great way to move towards teaching in a larger community that simply won’t care as much.

      It sucks, but my experience is that having your private life too visible in any schools job is asking for problems, especially if you’re young, queer and new to the community.

      1. Laurel*

        I’d push back a little on the plan to always have students in your classroom—that would help with avoiding other staff, but it’s a really good recipe for burnout as a new teacher. Taking breaks is really important! For several years at my school I just had a store of really small talk—if someone asked about my weekend I’d mention gardening but not cosplay, things like that. I wasn’t out because I wasn’t dating and didn’t have a good reason to bring it up.

        If OP does want to avoid lunch with other staff, it might be useful to develop a habit of going for a walk, eating outside, or just being super introverted and needing lunch alone in the classroom to work on emails and recharge. I’ve had success with all of those at my school.

        1. JSPA*

          I sometimes intentionally over share on stuff that doesn’t bother me. Discourages people from asking probing questions, convinces them they know loads about you. Past surgeries, toilet repair, the time you slipped and fell in [something nasty] while wearing [something not suited to the situation] on your way to… [you get the idea]. And, pets. Past, present, future.

          1. That Gal*

            I came here to say this. I teach high school, and this strategy has been my go-to for years. It works!

          2. Chinookwind*

            Yup – pets are always a good go to. I even incorporated mine into writing assignments. Ditto for past travels. give them scents to follow and students will rarely start looking for other leads.

      2. MK*

        Except that the OP’s goal might not be a larger community; maybe she intends to stay in this small town. I really don’t think this is realistic advice.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Meh…. small towns and commuting far kind of go hand-in-hand. I had teachers in my small town as a kid who commuted from an hour away; my parents both commuted to a nearby city that was even further. Especially if OP isn’t ready to commit to staying in this small town forever quite yet, living in a larger nearby town isn’t an insane plan. (And really – the commute from ‘nearby city’ to small town is often not that much worse than the ‘being stuck in traffic’ commute in a large city. Just a greater distance, but not much worse time-wise. I live in a large city and live only 10-ish miles from work, yet it’s over an hour’s commute because of traffic.)

          1. MK*

            Sorry I wasn’t clear, by unreallistic advice I meant the “avoid being around the other teachers” part, not living in a nearby town.

  11. Thornus*

    OP3 reminds me of a paralegal at an old firm I worked at. When an attorney was in the bathroom and a client was on the phone, she would stand outside the door just waiting for the attorney to come out (and ambush him or her!) to say X Client is on the phone. Sometimes she would be there for 5+ minutes. It seemed to me it would have been easier to tell the client the attorney was indisposed and would call them back in the next few minutes.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve joked about putting a second label on the restrooms that says “DISPOSED” … so you’re “in disposed”.
      With lawyers would it be a good joke to say they’re “giving a deposition”?

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      On the other side of that, I have had multiple attorneys give me assignments while in the restroom. As recently as last month, actually. It’s a multi-stall restroom, so they’re not yelling through a completely closed door, but I get what I believe to be an unreasonable amount of, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to call you! Can you do X?” while I am trying to pee.

      1. Cat Fan*

        That’s when you commence multiple flushing until they realize you can’t hear them and they leave.

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      Clearly everyone in the entire world knows that “he’s away from his desk right now, can I have him return?” is assistantese for “HES POOPING”


  12. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – It’s always best to have a current resume. You never know when you’ll get a phone call asking for it. They are used for consideration for training programs, special assignments, proposals, etc.
    They are also great if you’re at a networking event and run into someone that is hiring for a great opportunity. If the deadline is only a day away you’ll be ready.
    I know some proposals I’ve been called to had an incredibly short turn around. Like they needed the resume that afternoon.
    In one case I found out a training program at the last minute. It turns out that my manager asked a coworker to tell me and he didn’t (he was applying himself). When manager forced him to hand my the application materials he smirked and said “So sorry, looks like it’s too late for you”. An hour later I turned in the paperwork because I already had all the resume, recommendations, and work examples.
    Guess who got in the program. ;)

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I agree, it’s good to have your resume ready, or at least close to current, at all times.

      OP4, the recruiter likely wants it so the hiring manager can have it in front of her when she meets you. Unfortunately, an online bio just won’t feel as professional, even if it contains enough info for the purposes of the interview.

      OP, in your shoes I’d get the resume ready in a hurry. Even if you don’t want this job, it will be good to have it the next time this happens (and you’ll need to make only small tweaks instead of having to write it from scratch).

      1. OP #4*

        I know you’re right – I absolutely should have a resume ready “just in case”. I think I’m more annoyed in this instance given that I wasn’t really looking.

        There is also the fact that in my field (law), resumes are less important as firms are generally more concerned with books of business than anything else.

        1. TL*

          If you’re not interested in the job then just tell the recruiter that. It is a very very common request to provide a resume at some point even if you’re the one being recruited. It’s just a common way the employer can see your full career in one easy place.

        2. Working Mom Having It All*

          I also work with lawyers (in house, not a firm) and we just hired a new attorney. We definitely looked at resumes, and we all had copies of each person’s resume in their interview. Questions were asked based on said resumes. After each interview, when discussions about each candidate happened, stuff from the resumes was definitely brought up. I have no idea how we would have managed any of this if each person on our team had needed to do personal research into each candidate’s work history and reputation, make a one-page cheat sheet of their own to bring into the interview, create and share hiring documents that we could all reference as we discussed each candidate, etc. That’s… literally what resumes are for. It’s a quick at a glance overview of your work history that makes it easy for the people hiring you to get a sense of your background and qualifications without having to do a ton of legwork of their own.

        3. Glomarization, Esq.*

          in my field (law), resumes are less important as firms are generally more concerned with books of business

          That is way outside my experience. I can’t say that I’ve ever been in a hiring situation — whether hiring a lawyer or applying for a lawyering job — where a resume wasn’t absolutely required.

        4. Blue Horizon*

          The minute you say yes to a recruiter asking you to consider a position, you are looking, even if only temporarily. Sorry, but that’s how it works.

          This is the point where you can decide it’s not worth it for you and give the recruiter a polite no, if you choose. If you do that, though, it’s worth thinking about what kind of position might motivate you to take on the burden of being ‘looking’ again, figure out how it differs from the current opportunity, and communicate that to the recruiter as feedback. If you just keep telling them no without explanation, they will eventually stop calling.

          I do sympathize – looking for jobs is a pain and a lot of work, and if you want to be open to opportunities it won’t always happen at a time convenient for you. Cutting yourself off from it completely is an option if you’re perfectly happy with your current role. If you don’t want to do that, though, then you still need to be prepared.

    2. londonedit*

      My current job wasn’t advertised externally – I was already doing the job in a different department, on a fixed-term contract that was coming to an end. Another department needed someone to do the job I was doing, and they already knew me since I’d been in the building for a year, so I was the only candidate. I had several informal ‘chats’ with my now-boss, but before they finalised everything, my boss’s boss wanted to meet me, and he asked for an up-to-date copy of my CV. It’s definitely always good to have a current CV on hand, just in case!

    3. Kimmybear*

      I just spent a couple hours updating my resume yesterday for a short term opportunity in another department. Deadlines on those are usually short so I was glad I got it in under the wire because my resume wasn’t that old.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      So the manager KNEW he hadn’t given you the materials until an hour before deadline? If I were the manager I’d have disqualified someone on general principle for backstabbing.
      And even if your manager had no input at that point, that coworker still stabbed himself: He made YOU look ultra-prepared and himself look nasty.
      He deserves the intentionally displaced hyphen: he’s a cow-orker. (Thanks to Dave Barry for that distinction.)

          1. Gumby*

            I used to see cow-irker somewhere, but don’t think it was Dave Barry even though that its a very him-like thing.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        The opportunity was at division level so the manager had no input. The wife of the coworker was highly placed so someone usually covered up what was going on. The manager did try to correct things but was limited by those higher up.
        It’s sad really, he was a super talented guy and his skill set directly complimented mine. The two of us could have been quite the powerhouse. Unfortunately for him, he thought that there was only room for one star in the sky.
        Others did notice that attitude. It did affect him later as he rose through the ranks and cooperation became more critical for success.

    5. Working Mom Having It All*

      Yeah, I kind of assume it’s standard that people have resumes. It’s just a sheet of paper that says where you’ve worked. It takes maximum one afternoon to craft one from scratch. And it will be even easier if you’ve been at the same job for 9 years. There are Microsoft Word and even Google Docs templates you can use. Just… have a resume.

      Or, if you feel like spending a couple hours with Microsoft Word is too much work, it’s also fine to tell a recruiter that you’re not looking for work right now and aren’t interested in the position.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        A good resume is far more than that.
        It’s not where you’ve worked – it’s an achievements list.

        To be fair though – one of my most brilliant reports had a terrible resume that was basically a list of where he worked. His reputation ensured that people would be fighting over him wherever he worked.

        Most of us aren’t like that. We need good resumes.

  13. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Certificate programs listed on resumes tend to come across poorly in my experience hiring. They’re actually expensive but read as cheap to potential employers. They’re not degrees, with the same level of deduction required and often are misconstrued as “oh…so you took a class” or something you can get with an online quiz.

    I would use these as skill builders but certainly not resume worthy.

    1. The RO-Cat*

      That saddens me. I get it, but I’m still sad. “Soft” skills have nothing soft about them; people find it way more difficult to see where they have to restructure cognitive schemes than to apply algorithms. And, with few exceptions, a brilliant jerk will tear down a good team. I dream of the day businesses will see the value of empathy brings to the P&L, but I won’t hold my breath.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not that employers don’t value soft skills; they do (at least good ones do). It’s that a certificate in Soft Skill X is seen as lightweight, not that Soft Skill X itself is. (And part of that is that those particular certificates are often pretty remedial, or are seen that way.)

        1. Magenta*

          I hired someone who had a certificate in IT skills including MS Office and a few other things.

          He didn’t know how to check his emails or what the undo button was.

          1. Karen from Finance*


            More and more, I’m beginning to understand why employers are testing employees for things like basic computer literacy and problem-solving before they make a hire. It used to annoy me, still does, but now I also get it.

            1. Magenta*

              I know that everyone has different ideas of what constitutes “the basics” but used to just assume that everyone would know the real basics, like how to send an email or save a document, or at least they would if they were applying for a data entry job, but its really not true! I now realise that my expectations were far far too high.

              I knew that the example above was a bad hire when I gave him a post-it with his username and password and he couldn’t log on without help. His CV claimed that he had previously worked in a civil service job for about 12 years, goodness only knows what he did there!

        2. Zombeyonce*

          Is business analysis considered a soft skills? It’s a bit similar to project management in some ways so I’m not sure in which end of the spectrum a certificate for it would fall, good or useless-looking.

          1. LQ*

            You’re talking like IIBA stuff definitely on the looks good side. I’d say if it is an industry standard (like the PMP which you’ll have people fight about, but at the end of the day it’s on a LOT of job requirements) and if businesses are asking for it then you’re going to want to put it on the resume.

          2. RandomU...*

            I wouldn’t consider that a soft skill/certification, especially if it’s from a recognized industry organization. I’m currently in the supply chain world, so I will absolutely give weight to APICS certifications, but I probably would side eye one from The ACME supply chain school.

            I also look at a lot of leadership seminar certifications and the like as fluff or filler.

        3. Antilles*

          It also doesn’t help that in my experience, there’s rarely any firm criteria behind these certifications. If you want to be certified as a Professional Engineer or licensed as a Doctor or register as a CPA, there’s a specific, widely-accepted set of requirements you need to meet which the profession as a whole has agreed upon.
          However, “soft skills” certifications don’t have anything close to this, so from the outside, I have no way of knowing what that certificate actually means.

        4. Lil'*

          so is the certificate program you’re mentioning different or the same for certifications in a field from a college? For example, rather than get my bachelors degree with a major in x and minor in y, my college let me do a major in x and certification in y, which was a series of courses, not just a one off or an online course. shouldn’t that hold real value?

      2. Sleepytime Tea*

        It’s not that the skills aren’t valued. It’s that the “certifications” aren’t standardized or regulated in any way. I could put together an online “course” that consisted of a bunch of power point slides talking about kittens being the best selling tool out there and how kittens should be taken to every sales meeting, and then offer anyone who pays me $50 and goes through a course a “certification.”

        Additionally, how do you grade soft skills? How do you objectively gauge those skills in a way that you can then say that x person earned the cert and y person didn’t? And personally, I’d argue that some things simply can’t be taught. You can explain empathy to a person all day long, but you can’t really teach them how to be empathetic.

        All of that is why these types of certifications don’t carry much weight.

    2. LW 5*

      Maybe “soft skills” is too strong here, but I have been seeing ads recently for things like a certification in “Business Analytics and Data Viz” or “”Digital Experience” and have struggled to figure out if they are worth the several thousand dollars involved. Cheaper than a degree, but maybe still a lot?

      1. fhqwhgads*

        If the certificate in question is from a recognized body to do with the field or the thing the certificate is in, then it is more likely to have value from a hiring perspective. IE MS certifications, certainly have value. A PMP, for sure. Because in those contexts there are both known, set standards for what it takes to acquire the certification and those are respected within the industry. If the certification is from some random company that does trainings in various things, and the cert basically means “you’ve been trained” or “you completed course X” they’re less likely to be meaningful. Not that the training isn’t useful, it may well be, but if the employer has no way of knowing what was covered in that course, or what standard one were held to in order to “complete” the certificate then it’s no different than your resume saying you how to X. If it’s a certificate, but not a degree, from an accredited place of higher learning, it’s almost certainly useless because it’s basically just confirming you took a certain number of classes in X and didn’t fail – but not enough for a degree. That’s not to say you might not have valuable skills from doing so, but the problem is a very large number of people manage to complete these things but still NOT have the skills at all. There’s no consistent standard so it doesn’t tell the employer anything.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Sorry hit submit too soon. My real point is if you’re thinking of getting the certificate because you think the training will be valuable and you want to learn the things, great, it may be worth doing. But if you’re doing it because having the cert on your resume will affirm to potential employers that you know the things, unfortunately, that’s not necessarily so.

      2. Karen from Finance*

        Are you interested in these solely from the POV of a hiring manager, or do you think you could actually learn some valuable skills from them regardless of whether or not you can put them on your resume?

      3. nonymous*

        With the Data Science ones you should be able to walk away from the program with a portfolio that is public facing. What is annoying about the Coursera/Datacamp/Kaggle courses is that you really can’t tell the difference between people who found it really challenging and barely followed along the coursework and those who are running with it at a high level shortly after introduction.

        For example, I was chatting with one person who wanted to transition from a bank teller position to data science but had no idea of git. She was in a very different place than the recent fisheries PhD grad who is learning techniques to use git to distribute a shiny app which supports their published work (both at the same meetup and talked about their Datacamp experience positively).

    3. becca*

      I was recently hiring for a library position and one of the candidates had a bunch of trainings and webinars listed on her resume (things like library customer service, best practices with homeless patrons, how to deal with difficult patrons, mental illness and the library, etc). If you know where to find them, library training webinars are fairly plentiful but almost always optional (at least at this level of employment). I didn’t take the list as, “Oh, great, someone who can skillfully interface with our homeless patrons!”, but I did take it as evidence that the applicant cared about her position and about sharpening her skills, and wasn’t just clocking in hours at the desk. So I think depending on your field and on the person reading the application, they may help a little.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s a good point. If they are very much based on the position/industry it makes sense, especially for someone just starting out.

        If you’re not just starting out, it reads as filler though. You want them to incorporate that training/knowledge into their resume instead of just saying “I watched these webinars.”

        I’ve watched about 3060 webinars and gone to countless seminars, I wouldn’t use them as a selling point. Theyr’e learning tools for me, they show in my work, resume and references. They aren’t something to shine a light on most often because they are just so wishy-washy.

        I know people who watch these things and still couldn’t recap their course or what they learned from them. A lot of time it’s just a time sink and what they think will get them attention. Sometimes it works as you mentioned but my experience is much different.

    4. Lynca*

      I think it depends entirely on what the certification is meant to do. The PM certs at local universities around here are definitely for just building your skill sets. I agree that it’s not resume worthy and doesn’t demonstrate your own soft skill abilities.

      But if the certification is for a specific PM process (like the one my agency certifies people in) those can be resume worthy. Saying that I’m certified in Agency’s X PM process is much more resume worthy if that’s something the employer needs from their PM’s.

    5. kristine*

      Do you think it’s different if you put it on there as what it is – coursework – and not under a “CERTIFICATIONS” heading? I have a project management course listed on mine (although it’s clear that I am/was working towards PMP certification).

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        In your case, since it’s the foundation of getting your actual PMP certification, it makes sense. If you weren’t getting your certification, you don’t want to ever break down coursework like that. A class is even worse than a certification program.

        I’ll put it this way. We use a software for our company. People will put it down on their resume. Then struggle with it when we ask them to do a sample test. The reason we find out…”Oh yeah I mean I took a class but it was a few years ago and it didn’t go into any specifics but I know what it is!” =(

        1. kristine*

          Yeah, I can see why that would be an issue with listing software. My problem is more so that my title/position reflects only about 1/3 of what I actually do which is fine in itself (and not likely to change any time soon) but the way I’m treated sometimes (assumptions, dismissiveness, etc.) can be really discouraging. PM is not in my title at all but I do it daily with multiple projects at a time. Same with contract management, though I haven’t taken a class in that. I want to get a degree in something else and would definitely use these skills in the future but not to the point where I’d get official certifications any time soon since what I want to study is going to take a lot of time & money.

    6. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I worked for a nationally based company with tons of internal training courses. You could put those classes, or provide a copy of your internal training transcript, with your resume. If you accumulated enough of those, you could submit them to one of the company’s academic training partners, and receive a degree.

      I taught some of those training courses, which had to be retaken as a”refresher” every few years, to keep everyone’s skills up to date. I frequently ran into people who were also instructors, with 10-15 years’ experience, who could not pass the class without extensive help, remediation, and some creative finesse of the requirements.

      And I frequently ran into people who’d accumulated enough of these classes to earn a degree, who could not perform basic functions of their job: they couldn’t figure out how to do basic Outlook/Word/Excel functions, they couldn’t do any annual planning for budget/staffing/scheduling, and they were frequently in trouble with HR for discrimination and harassment.

      It got to the point that the more internal qualifications a person had, the more suspicious you had to be of their skill set.

      1. kristine*

        I was talking about regular undergrad college courses taken outside of a degree program, either on campus or online (not an online college, a regular public university that offers some online courses).

        What you’re talking about sounds awful, though. The concept has such great potential to be a valuable perk for the right employee.

  14. Swampy*

    OP4, I once had to provide a resume after I had already been recruited and gotten the job. It was a HR requirement, they needed one on file before I could get an offer letter. I think because it was a University, it was about hiring transparency -so they had some kind of documentation that I was a hire that made sense for the job and wasn’t just someone’s son or something. I wonder if that’s the case here.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      I’ve gotten jobs without a formal interview before (based on previous work with the person hiring me), but they still needed a copy of my resume to show the boss or grandboss, so that somebody somewhere knew that I was a real person who was actually qualified for the job.

  15. I haven’t had my coffee yet*

    #2 Lots of my friends are teachers and none of them uses their real name on social media, let alone dating sites. You cannot be too careful or too discrete here.

    1. Lucy*


      That’s even when they themselves lead unremarkable conventional lives. They very commonly use a maiden name or middle name for their profile, and the profile is always untaggable, etc. They don’t post about their visit to the gin festival, or about politics in general. Lots of gardening, sports team results, comments about the weather (we’re British), etc.

    2. Sleepy Spice*

      This. I have a friend who has taught a few grades between 4-8. She got in trouble at work for having a photo of her on her facebook page where she was holding an obviously empty martini glass. (it was part of a costume – at a family-friendly event with lots of people wearing costumes/holding props, and no alcohol served.) They made her delete the photo off her profile.

    3. TheRedCoat*

      For real. Honestly, these days, unless you are trying to build a following I don’t think anyone should use their real name in their social media.

      (I used to work in insurance claims, and I got a lot of threats, so my social media name is different than my work name)

    4. Brett*

      Same thing for police. When I worked as professional staff for a police department, we had routine warnings about never revealing any personal information on social media… and notices from the FBI about specific people who were hunting down employees of our department online for unpleasant things.
      This was normally identify theft (20%+ of our department each year would be hit with credit fraud, and over half had been hit with a five-figure fraud such as a mortgage taken out in their name), but also unfortunately planned violence against random employees.

    5. Swampy*

      Yeah I have a friend who isn’t even a teacher – she’s a chaperone for kids in professional level stage productions. She goes by a shortened version of her name with them that is a name on its own (similar to something like Annie for Marianne where she’s Marianne is otherwise online and with her friends) so they can’t google her and her social media is all locked down. She was advised to do that because the combo of her first name and surname is very googleable.

  16. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    OP2: A big part of my job is finding job candidate’s social media profiles. Usually these are higher-level job candidates, it’s doubtful anyone would hire a professional to look into a teacher this way, but nonetheless, a few tips that would make ~my job~ harder (and your profiles safer):
    -Do NOT use the same email account as a login for the accounts you’d prefer be hidden as you do for your professional accounts or otherwise are associated with your professional life; email accounts are one of the easiest ways to identify social media accounts
    -Similarly, do NOT associate any accounts you’d prefer be hidden with your real phone number (unless that phone number will never be given to anyone who might want to dig into your online presence)
    -For the popular online social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – it’s probably fine to have these accounts, and have racy content on there, as long as you are very very careful with your security settings. Many people seem to think that their Facebook timeline is the extent of the publicly viewable information about them; it is not! Using Facebook Graphs, I can search things like what posts a user has ‘liked’, what they’ve commented on, etc., etc., unless they have specifically made these things private (or restricted to very specific audiences, like using the specific-friends-list feature). Also be sure to check who your ‘friends’ are on Facebook, who you ‘follow’ on Twitter, etc. – sometimes these are very, um, illuminating. Twitter can be set to be completely private – only your username and description will appear – but you’d still need to be cautious about who you ‘follow’ or accept as a follower, and only associate on Twitter with people you can trust to be discreet.
    -For any accounts you’d prefer the mere existence of to be secret, make sure you have a burner email as your login, don’t show a clear face picture and don’t give your exact location or any obvious details. This is more important the more uncommon your name is; it might also be a good idea to use a pseudonym that isn’t obviously associated with you. Don’t use the same username you use on more innocuous accounts.

    And as a former small-town resident… yeah, be careful who you hook up with or even flirt with. Small towns LOVE gossip, and conservative small towns doubly so. A friend once had a rumor go around that she and her husband were divorcing because… they drove separate cars to work. (No, they don’t work together. It was literally just that they were both driving towards downtown in separate cars.) Teachers are expected to be paragons. One of my high school teachers was openly gay, and a) faced a lot of nasty backlash, “They shouldn’t let him teach” type comments from parents and b) since he was quite popular with students, the students had their own rumor that he was ‘just pretending’ to be gay. Small town folks are strange sometimes.

    1. I haven’t had my coffee yet*

      Also, it’s just not very sensible to use your full name with middle name alongside photos – identity theft is also a concern here.

      1. OP #2*

        Just to be clear, it was only my middle name, as a sort of alias – but point definitely taken!

    2. Zombeyonce*

      For Facebook, I would never putt anything there I wasn’t okay with the public seeing, no matter how locked down your profile is. They’re constantly changing security settings and are notorious for making a change where suddenly everything you post from the change on is viewable to the public unless you update your settings again. But since they don’t notify you that settings have changed, you’re always playing catch up. And since it’s the profile most likely associated with your real name, you’re in dangerous territory if a social media post can lead to termination.

    3. OP #2*

      This was incredibly helpful, and I’m already on the way to deleting and securing my accounts. I hadn’t really thought about the associated emails and phone numbers. Really appreciate it!

      And small-town life certainly sounds tricky, from this & other comments. Luckily, this is only a temporary position, and I plan to move back to a larger city with a larger queer scene after a year or so. The social media tips are helpful wherever you are though, so thank you again for those!

      1. Chinookwind*

        You need to go into small town life like you are entering Canada. They may speak the same language and have similar touchstones, but they are not the same place and they have their own norms and expectations. They are not being different AT you nor is it an insult when you don’t meet their standards, they just expect you to confirm to their culture because you moved to live there.

        Ironically, most small town people know the same to be true when they move to a big city and realize they have to adapt or leave and that the transition can be tough and lonely. But, the reverse is true and you have to adapt.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Also be sure to check who your ‘friends’ are on Facebook, who you ‘follow’ on Twitter, etc. – sometimes these are very, um, illuminating. Twitter can be set to be completely private – only your username and description will appear – but you’d still need to be cautious about who you ‘follow’ or accept as a follower, and only associate on Twitter with people you can trust to be discreet.

      Not just Twitter. I know of more than one “internet famous” person whose partner has been noticed liking or following Instagram posts that the “internet famous” person would probably object to. (I.e., a “mommy blogger” whose husband likes a lot of posts of women in bikinis.)

      It really isn’t fair that teachers are held to such a stupid standard, and if anyone complained to me that their kid’s teacher was something other than monogamously and chastely hetero, I’d ask how they felt about the “good Christian family man” teacher who was “dating” several of his female students. But this is the world we live in right now.

      (So many quotes. Sorry.)

  17. Janet*

    OP#2, I’m a recently retired SC high school teacher and I’ve seen several young teachers run off by student gossip and parental complaints. Live below the radar. Do absolutely everything you can to keep your private life private. Have a big smile and an innocuous stock answer ready for students’ and co-workers’ questions about your life. Please lie about your homosexuality. (Trust me on this.) Here’s the thing…you won’t get fired for being gay, you’ll get fired/not rehired for some other reason. Good luck with your new position, but have a back-up plan if you find it all too constricting. I hope you will update us!

    1. Janet*

      The young gay men I worked with (all of whom were in the closet, at least at work) always had a story about a girlfriend who lived out of town. Almost all of our gay students also were in the closet until they went to college. (Their FB profiles changed a lot once they graduated and they looked much happier.)

    2. OP #2*

      Yikes. I’m wondering whether my sexual orientation would be a problem if the promiscuous/non-monogamous behavior was all untraceable and undetectable. Does this depend on what part of the country I’m in? (I came to the USA for college five years ago, and still don’t feel that I have a clear sense of sexual politics/norms.) Is there any way I can feel out the situation before I head into school for my first day of teaching? I’ll definitely ask my friend who grew up there, and check up on the state laws, like Alison recommended, but are there other ways to get a sense of a school/community culture? Is it better just to play it safe? I’m not planning to mention anything to students/colleagues, and I don’t think I come out as bisexual anywhere on the internet, but I do retweet a lot of LGBTQ content etc on my (public) Twitter and I would like to teach LGBTQ texts as part of a diverse curriculum.

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        I think it depends on the area and the school. My (female) cousin is a teahcer, is married to a woman and just had a baby, and as far as I know had no problems. But she’s in a metropolitan liberal area, teaching at a progressive school.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        On the first day there is likely going to be a meeting where the teachers all sign up to coach/advise different student activities. Watch to see if there is some like of club for LGBTQ+ kids and how other teachers are reacting to it. If a) there is such a club and b) it’s an accepted part of the culture, that will probably tell you a lot about how open you can be about your orientation (non-monogamy is pretty much always going to be a no-go at school, I’m afraid).

  18. Impy*

    Emily Yoffe (Dear Prudence), in 2012, had a mother write in to complain that her child’s teacher was – gasp! – having a child out of wedlock, and whether she should complain to the school.
    In 2012.
    This person had the gall to ask the teacher if she was keeping the baby, and wrote in a second time to say she couldn’t just drop it because the teacher was ‘shaping young minds’.

    So yeah. Discretion might be key.

    1. AJ*

      I hope “Prudence” told her to get with the 20th century (yes I know it’s the 21st), or consider homeschooling where the LW can protect her snowflake from the world.

      1. Impy*

        Prudence did, and the person wrote back saying she “couldn’t just drop it” at which point the response was a sharper “get out of this teacher’s private life.”

        I didn’t think people in the 21st century still cared about such nonsense.

    2. irene adler*


      We had a high school teacher -unmarried-who had a child. Someone said something to her because after the baby was born, she made a point to always mention the father. This was in the 1980’s. You’d think by now folks would stop poking their noses into other people’s business. Nope!

    3. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      I somehow just recently read that Dear Prudence letter and was appalled, as was the response :)

    4. Camille McKenzie*

      I remember that letter and I found it infuriating. And to think, we are STILL in an era where a religious school will fire someone or expel a student because they disapprove of some aspect of their personal life that’s none of their business.

      1. Impy*

        Not just religious – in a more recent letter a little girl got written up by her school for kissing another little girl.

      2. nonymous*

        In the last city I lived in (pop 60+K) the two options for private school were: (1) Catholic or (2) the one that didn’t allow students from divorced households.

    5. Gumby*

      That’s pretty horrible. To balance that out: one of the teachers at my small religious elementary school in the 1980s also had a baby out of wedlock. She kept her job. It wasn’t the RCC but it also wasn’t a particularly liberal strain of Christianity.

  19. Batgirl*

    OP2; I have worked with openly gay teachers (that depends on school culture, really and it is still sadly pretty rare to find that culture) but I haven’t ever come across any teachers who were happy to be openly dating as single people (which is bizarre, yes) or to call themselves bisexual or polyamorous.
    Students seem to know this is taboo and therefore can’t help poking at it. Even in the most supportive cultures I’ve worked in, students have searched Tinder for teachers who are identified simply by being nearby. You will be asked questions; my advice is to be very boring about it and non defensive.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Yeah, to me being openly LGBT would not be too crazy depending on jurisdiction (and even in a lot of rural areas, if the state has employment non-discrimination laws, it doesn’t matter if it’s a “small conservative community” or not), but anything that tends to be paired in the public consciousness with sex or kink would not go over well.

    2. Humble Schoolmarm*

      As an opposite piece of anacdata, I’ve worked with several (4 at my current school) openly gay teachers (although many were out to the staff and more discrete with students) and at least one openly bi teacher. I agree that I’ve never worked with anyone who was openly polyamorous, though. I’m also not in the US, though, so that might play a role in different school cultures.

    3. Jasnah*

      I agree, I think it might be easier to be “settled” or married than openly dating, once you take away the LGBT+ stigma.

  20. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    LW 1–I’ve worked for a number of small businesses and unfortunately found that the owners are often ignorant of important labor laws. And, with all due respect to your father and even though he said a good company wouldn’t accept free labor, the fact that he as a business owner advised someone entering the workforce to offer to give away their work makes me wonder about his own employee relations. At best it sounds like a ridiculous head game–offer free labor to prove your value, but don’t worry, they won’t take you up on it? Reminds me of my grandfather. Once he told me how much more he appreciated an employee who came a little early, stayed a little late, and worked a little extra. I’m sure he did. Who doesn’t like freebies?

  21. SDJ*

    OP 2: Like others have said, live in a different town and/or set your location on the apps to a different city. A student’s parents (or even a student … I’ve seen high school students on apps, some who are 18 and some who are not) might be on those dating apps. Not to mention in such a small town, you might have a hard time finding matches anyways.

    I am queer and teach JHS in a small, culturally conservative community. Before I started, I thought I wouldn’t like being “closeted”, but I’ve found I *really* like to have as much privacy as possible. Especially if you live in the same small town!

  22. just a random teacher*

    For #2, I’d say the “small town” part is the biggest concern. I’ve taught in schools in several different sizes of communities, and small towns are definitely the most intrusive in terms of wanting to know all about your private life and having Strong Opinions on how it should be. I now teach in a reasonable-sized town where it’s totally normal for LGBTQ+ teachers to be out at work (there were two out teachers there when I was hired – I’m not so much closeted as not in a relationship, which in turn means the kids don’t tend to know due to the lack of couple pictures on my desk). Even in the next-size-down town where I used to sub, teachers would have same-sex wedding/family pictures on their desks now if that’s their family composition. I haven’t been back to the really small town I first taught in since I left a decade ago, though, and it would not surprise me at all if it’s still not a thing there. Note that I’m in a state with strong state-level LGBTQ+ rights protections, including recognizing non-binary as a gender option on state forms and letting trans students change their names in school records in advance of legal name changes, so that colors things a bit. There are still plenty of people out there who may not be pleased to learn that their child’s teacher is LGBTQ+, but in the larger towns they realize that complaining about it publicly won’t get them anywhere useful so it comes out in more subtle ways.

    That being said, I recommend not using any dating apps where you’re looking for couples or other “non vanilla” things with a location set where you teach. It’s awkward enough to run into your students when you happen to be hanging out with their parents as friends or neighbors in a non-sexy way, and I can only imagine the amount of additional awkward involved in matching with a parent on even a really vanilla dating site, let alone something at all out of the ordinary.

    You’ll have a better idea of all of this for your specific community after you’ve been there a few years. A lot of it can just depend on the local strong personalities and which things that community has already gotten used to.

  23. Kiki*

    LW 4: I guess I’m not entirely clear what’s making you not want to put together the resume because it doesn’t have to take much time at all. Unless your field is design or something where’d they’d expect a “done-up” resume, you could probably just copy and paste the bulk of it from your online bio, do some light formatting, and be done. Especially since you already have your foot in the door for an interview, you don’t have to spend a lot of time making your resume attention-grabbing or punchy or whatever.

    1. Moray*

      If you’re willing to ~consider~ other positions, even if you’re not actively job hunting, you should have a current resume.

  24. Rebecca*

    I’ve never taught in America, but I have taught in some pretty small and conservative communities (small enough to find all my 5th graders lined up at the bar doing homework when I stopped for a beer on the way home). Parents are the worst, THE WORST, part of the job, and they will get all up in your business.

    But it’s totally doable to put up a wall between Teacher You and You You, and with practice you get so good at it that you don’t even know you’re doing it. Right now I actually have a giant commute, partly because it is just so worth it to live in an entirely different place than my families – I have two entirely different lives in the two neighbourhoods. In previous places, I lived near the school, but commuted for my social life. I have an online presence, but I’ve worked pretty hard to make sure there are no intersections between my personal online presence and my professional one (it crossed over for the first time this year when my full name was used on my father’s obituary). It takes some effort, and a few years in the job before it’s comfortable, but you do not have to get rid of your own self to do this job, and keeping some of yourself for just you doesn’t mean that you can’t give of yourself meaningfully to your students and their families. There are huge swaths of my life and personality that my families know nothing about and never will, but I don’t think that means that the parts I DO give them are a lie or not enough.

  25. Trouble*

    OP3 – I’m sorry you’re not feeling well!

    That said, I’ve been on the other end of this. The colleague who’s always sat waiting for the other person to return to their desk and do their job. And it’s soul destroying. You say that she does pre-sales and you do the paperwork after and your roles are separate. But they’re not totally then are they? She does her part and then she has to hand the client over to you for the interaction to finish. So she’s stuck with this customer who is waiting for you and her and the customer are sat there looking at each other or whatever, with no idea how long you’re going to be. If they get impatient, she’s the one stuck right there in the line of fire.

    I can certainly appreciate you’re embarrassed and uncomfortable and don’t want to be bothered while you’re using the toilet. But if this is for up to 30 minutes a time, possibly multiple times a day, that might not be something that a customer service role can support.

    You say you’re not diagnosed with anything but that you need to go when you need to go. It might be time to get diagnosed with something or start thinking about jobs you can transition to where just getting your work all done in a day is the main thing, not work where a customer is ultimately being delayed and inconvenienced by your medical issue. For all you know these customers keep asking Jane what the delay is, when you’ll be back, when they can finish up the process and get on with their day. And if she can’t (and let me stress she shouldn’t have to either!) do your part of the job then she is stuck dealing with these possibly frustrated customers with nothing good to tell them. I wouldn’t want to say ‘colleague is in the toilet and I don’t know how long they will be’ to a customer. What is she supposed to tell them if the sales process can’t finish until you return and do your part?

    I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this and obviously you can’t help customers from the toilet but maybe you need to think about if this is the role for you if you don’t plan or don’t think you can get to the bottom of your urgency and issues around that part of your life.

    I appreciated my colleague had issues in that regards as well but when I was constantly trying to field enquiries from other staff and customers that he was dealing with and I couldn’t answer and they were getting frustrated and I was the one left to clean up the mess with no good explanation I lost sympathy for him pretty quickly. Your letter paints Jane like an unreasonable pain in the behind and to be honest depending on how long she’s been putting up with this I can see where she might be coming from. Your issues in the bathroom are becoming her very real issues at work with customers.

    I can’t tell you how POed I’d be as a customer to be told I just had to sit and wait for someone to come out of the toilet before I could finish the transaction and get on with my day!

    1. Not Alison*

      +1 (Trouble – you said exactly what I wanted to say but more eloquently than I would have)

    2. Roscoe*

      Totally agree here. I posted similar. I don’t think the OP is seeing this from Jane’s perspective. I would probably be annoyed by this too if I couldn’t get on with my day because I’m often waiting for someone in the bathroom. Maybe management needs to step in here, or OP needs to see if there is a medial treatment they can have. Because the status quo doesn’t seem to be working

    3. Peacock*

      Agreed – also I know armchair diagnosis is discouraged here but I honestly think that having to involuntarily spend 30 minutes in the bathroom is a sign that something is definitely not right and OP should definitely make a doctor appointment to investigate.

      1. Trouble*

        That’s why I said if they can’t or don’t want to. That’s up to them but that can’t be a problem for Jane and the customers to deal with either. OP would need a job where the hours at the desk didn’t matter so much as getting the day’s work done. Then they could work hard in their OK periods and pause for their toilet needs all day as required and no one would be inconvenienced as a result. As a customer who isn’t going to get the full background that OP has a bathroom issue they can’t control and must give in to, they’re just going to know that they’re still waiting for a colleague to return to the office to finish their transaction. I’d get annoyed pretty fast to just be told a different member of staff handles that but they’re not available. I suspect that Jane is catching the brunt of the fall out for this, is sick of acting as OP’s PA while they’re indisposed and trying to give updates to people with nothing good to update them on, and is coming into the bathroom as a last resort to let OP know that other staff and customers are backing up for them while they’re on a 30 minute bathroom break. I know OP can’t help this, but most if not all front line customer service positions couldn’t support multiple unscheduled 30 minutes breaks daily. OP needs a plan of action to tackle this or find a position where these breaks won’t impact anyone else.

        1. Peacock*

          I’m struggling to think of any jobs, customer facing or not, that would support unscheduled bathroom breaks of half an hour on a regular basis.

          1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

            Mine would, desk job where you just have to get your work done, and butts in seats isn’t a concern for good performers.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Mine too. Desk job, projects generally take quite a bit of time, if I’m gone for 30 minutes it’s assumed it’s for a good reason.

          2. Zillah*

            I’ve never had a job where that would have been an insurmountable issue. If your regular responsibilities aren’t really collaborative, I think it can probably often be done.

          3. Meh*

            Mine does. I have a coworker who, from day 1, spends up to an hour once or twice a day in the bathroom. That’s in addition to their hour lunch break, many 15 min. breaks during the day, and another whole hour or more of “personal time” they take during work day to just go do personal stuff. So we are paying this person a full time salary for (not even) part time work. Mgmt just ignores it, approves their time cards when they say they worked 8 hrs a day but never do, says for others not to worry about it. It’s demoralizing and degrading and frustrating to those of us working our butts off and doing legitimate work.

            1. DreamingInPurple*

              I get why it’s frustrating, but it sort of sounds like that may be an actual accommodation (especially the “personal time” part being allowed)…

          4. Rebecca1*

            You’re right— that’s why I was on Social Security for a couple of years. It’s easier nowadays when I can work from home with my laptop in the bathroom!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I think the OP recognizes that something isn’t right, but it just saying it hasn’t been diagnosed.

    4. Kiki*

      Yes, while I think the way the coworker has been handling it isn’t ideal and I have a huge amount of sympathy for the letter writer because their predicament seems awful, I also think the coworker is being put in a tight spot. If this were just coworker being impatient and wanting to discuss non-pressing issues it’d be beyond-the-pale rude, but keeping a client waiting a half hour for service is a BIG deal, made worse if you can’t give them an eta or reason for the delay.
      Is there any way you could leave some paperwork for clients to fill out on your desk so they’re doing something if you’re in the bathroom? Or maybe bring your phone with you on your way to the bathroom so you can text your coworker a heads up and ask if they could stretch their part of the process out as long as they can?
      I think this is definitely something you should bring up with your manager as well. Hopefully you and coworker can work something out amongst yourselves, but this is something where you’d want your manager to hear the situation from you first.

    5. ChachkisGalore*

      I think this was very well put. One point to add (having been in semi-similar situations as the Jane) – sometimes the client (or whoever is waiting) can get very irate when it appears that nothing is being done to speed the process along or to confirm/make sure they haven’t been forgetten overlooked. Think about it from the client’s prospective – they’re told someone will be right with them to carry out the next step of the process, 20min later they’re still sitting there with no update and no further action by Jane, they are most likely going to want reassurance that you are aware they’re waiting and the client might be asking for the time estimate because they might have other appointments or time limitations.

      That’s not to say that Jane’s approach (banging on the door) is at all acceptable, but I do think you really need to work with Jane to figure out a better system or plan of attack when a client is waiting. Not for Jane’s sake, but for the sake of the clients/the business.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah. This is certainly miserable to live with. And 30 minutes is especially long if OP has walk-in type customers who are waiting and really do need to see them to do some type of transaction or paperwork. I hope OP gets some help with this, and I have sympathy because if it’s IBS or something of the like, this can happen quite often.

      However, Jane should not be pounding on the bathroom door! Can she give customers a response:
      “Jill is with another client right now and will be contacting you shortly.”
      “Jill is out of the office just now, and will follow-up with you later today.”

      If this customer interaction can be handled with a follow-up call, this is the best way. But if not, then it’s really not fair to keep customers waiting more than 5 minutes or so, and I can see why Jane gets irritated and disturbed by that. Can you have things on hand for Jane to have them fill out and collect all the data, you can review later?

      If that’s not going to happen due to the nature of the work, then I think OP needs to get some other coping strategies in place via more regular breaks and/or scheduling by appointments or something.

    7. a1*

      Yes. And not only does Jane have to deal with the waiting customer (entertaining them, calming them, reassuring them, hoping to god they don’t just leave, etc), she is potentially losing more sales since she can’t focus on new customers fully either.

  26. NEWBIEMD19*

    Letter #3 writer: my former coworkers and I have been there! During one of my hospital rotations, there was an attending who would bang on the bathroom door whenever he couldn’t find one of us. Sometimes the person he was looking for was actually in the bathroom; sometimes it was an innocent bystander. We were afraid to talk to anyone about it as we were med students and thus seriously outranked (probably the wrong course of inaction) we learned to try to ignore it or to sneak up to another floor with quieter facilities.

    1. Trouble*

      As a ‘sometimes you gotta go’ issue that’s one thing and people should be left alone if the call of nature occasionally happens at work. If this person is taking multiple 30 min breaks daily for the toilet, their colleague/customers might be understandably fed up of dealing with the fall out. What it took to drive Jane to the toilet visits isn’t discussed.

      1. NEWBIEMD19*

        Sure, I get it. I just wanted to chip in with a “just let me poop in peace” story of my own :)

  27. LaWraa_with_a_W*

    OP3 – I don’t want to make you worry, but maybe you should see a doctor. It may well be that you have IBS or something like that which can be managed with diet, etc. But I have a friend who had a similar issue and it turned out to be a symptom of bowel cancer. She got treated and is completely fine now, even though she’d had the toilet trouble for a while before going to the doctor. So it’d be worth seeing a doctor, hopefully to rule out anything nasty and get some advice/treatment to help with the issue, as it can’t be very nice for you!

  28. Roscoe*

    #2 . Yeah, I used to teach, and the amount that teachers personal lives are scrutinized is ridiculous. It seems most jobs have moved past that, to a point. But for whatever reason, parents and administrators think they are entitled to control what you do in and out of work. I luckily worked in a major city, so it wasn’t a lot of overlap in my personal life. Also, my social media was pretty locked down, even though you could find me on a search. I guess I’d just say either move to a bigger place to teach where everyone doesn’t know your business, or be extra careful about your “extra curricular” activities

    #3 . I don’t necessarily agree with Jane, but depending on how the specifics of your jobs work, I kind of get it. Like, if Jane does her part to close, but the sale isn’t done until you do your part, and people have left due to having to wait 30 min, I would understand it, because at that point your bathroom issues are effecting her pay. Since I’m not clear on whether its the issue though, I’m not going to side with her yet. But I am curious what is expected at that point when Jane is done but you aren’t ready . Does the person just kind of hang out in Jane’s office and she has to babysit her until you are done? And how often is this problem coming up?

  29. Certificate question*

    Certificate LW: I’m going to nuance what Allison said. Whether the certificate helps depends on 1) what it’s in, 2) your field and 3) the kind of skills that are hot right now in your field. Certificates that demonstrate training in a specific , narrower part of your field (more specific than “communication”), especially when experience there is currently desirable, may work.

    So, I work in Llama Training, and I have a certificate in Llama Assessment and Accreditation. That’s currently a prized skill in my field and having the certificate (from a regionally accredited university) on my resume has helped get new opportunities. That said, because a certificate in IT skills or whatever is irrelevant to Llama Training, that wouldn’t help. It also helps that Llama Training as a field values certification and continuing education in a way that Llama Sales may not.

  30. nodramalama*

    OP3 what Jane is doing is invasive, but I agree with others that she likely thinks you’re goofing off, and that you also need a better system. 30 minutes is a really long time to leave clients waiting for

    1. Jennifer*

      She is afraid of losing a commission because someone is goofing around, I agree. It’s not fair to the OP but I see how she came to that conclusion.

      1. RandomU...*

        “She is afraid of losing a commission”

        Whether goofing off or legit, I would imagine most people would have a limited well of patience if their paycheck was potentially affected.

    2. Justme, The OG*

      And 30 minutes is a long time to be in the bathroom but it’s not like OP3 can just choose to not be.

  31. Knitting Cat Lady*

    LW3, I feel you pain. Literally.

    I have IBS and when I have to go, I have to go RIGHT NOW, or I will shit myself.

    And it can take quite some time until my insides have stopped acting up. The degasification process tends to be especially lengthy.

    Yes, when I am on the loo I read stuff on my phone. That makes things quicker, because it distracts me from the pain and thus helps me to relax. I’d take even longer without it.

    Why can’t people just let us shit in peace?

    1. Trouble*

      Because they’re covering for you and doing their own job and dealing with the customers you should be helping but are no where to be found?

      We’ve all had something disagree with us and needed to answer nature’s call at work at some point, that’s life. But if you’re in a customer service role and you’re leaving someone else to do your job and theirs while you disappear for hours a day? Yep, we’re going to get annoyed. And maybe there’s a customer giving us grief because they want to speak to you or you said you’d do something for them or you have to do some part of the transaction for them and no one knows where you are and you’re not available to help the customer or do your job. You have a medical issue and I’m sorry but that doesn’t actually mean that I should be doing your job and mine while taking agro from clients and sometimes other staff about where the heck you are and why stuff isn’t getting done/done on time. People who have these kind of issues that can’t be controlled maybe need to think about transitioning into roles where the time the work gets done doesn’t matter just that it does, then they can manage their own time around their toilet needs and no one ends up getting shit on by customers while they’re shitting on the toilet.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Good luck finding a job where that doesn’t happen. I don’t know of any even when you don’t work customer service.

        It’s not like the person is choosing to shit their guts out here.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          As others have said upthread, there are lots of jobs where this wouldn’t be an issue.

        2. Natalie*

          Every professional job I’ve had since escaping the reception desk would have allowed for this kind of long break without causing any kind of issue with co-workers. Lots of people work largely independently, and as long as they’re meeting whatever targets or deadlines they have, nobody would really be looking for them on a minute by minute basis.

      2. President Porpoise*

        You know, I’m an IBS sufferer, and I agree with Trouble. OP should work to get diagnosed and treated (they have some medications now for IBS that may assist with this sort of thing), and then they should see if they can get an ADA accommodation if applicable. BUT – they still have to be able to perform their job without causing undo hardship to the company – and not being able to face customers for a huge part of the day in a customer facing role might qualify as undue hardship. I have a job that allows me to take long and unplanned bio breaks when required – but a butt-in-the-seat job wouldn’t work for me with my condition, just as it wouldn’t work for me to do a job based primarily outside without immediate access to a restroom – which is something I literally changed my degree from three years into a course of study to avoid.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      Because in this case, they’ve just done a bunch of work which is now going to go down the toilet (as it were) if you don’t come out of the bathroom.

      Like, for commenters coming from a non-sales background, I cannot stress enough that a half-hour delay is a long, long time in sales. Most human beings have a extremely short attention span when it come to new purchases – how many times have you seen something you really liked in a store, thought “I’ll come back for that later” and never did? We forget, or lose enthusiasm or see something else we like better or realise how many cookies we could buy for that money. The longer people have to wait to make a purchase, the more likely that is to happen. And that goes double if it’s something big enough that they have to do a bunch of paperwork in order to buy it, like a car or something where they might be hesitant about the purchase anyway. It’s very likely that Jane is either worried that this will happen or has already lost sales.

      I have every sympathy for you and the OP’s situation, but surely you can see that in this type of role it can have a real knock-on effect on other people? At the very least, the OP needs to be clear with Jane and work out some kind of plan to deal with this, not just vanish for prolonged periods without warning.

  32. Sharikacat*

    #02 When I started college for education (a little over ten years ago), during orientation, the faculty advisor basically told us to get rid of our social media presence precisely because of the unfair double-standard placed on teachers. They basically have to live Puritanical lives in the public eye, and if that’s shown to be anything other than absolutely true, then parents raise heck with the school, which can easily end up with the teacher being fired. And small towns are the worst. Everybody knows everybody else and their business.

    I ended up changing career paths when I realized that I couldn’t maintain that facade even though I’m a fairly private person (I only signed up for Facebook but never used it or put in any information beyond the bare minimum to start the account). As much as I hate to say it, OP may have to make that same choice. Even if the OP deletes all of his online presence now, it may still surface later, so the choice might get made for him. The hypocrisy truly does suck- people place the highest of expectations on teachers, and so many of them still don’t even consider it a true profession because “they get summers off.”

    1. Allypopx*

      Yeah my husband is a teacher so I have *my* social media locked down so it doesn’t reflect poorly on him. It’s a rough, highly scrutinized profession.

      1. blackcat*

        Yep, I posted above that my husband’s not locked down (but totally innocuous!) social media is how a student found mine when I taught high school.

        I have mine locked down, but basically don’t post anything that could be disqualifying for the type of work I do. I don’t *intentionally* share cat pictures with everyone nor political posts. But if someone choses not to hire me because it’s obvious from my internet presence that I support LGBTQ+ or immigrants rights, I don’t want that job. But I’m also in academia now, and you can totally tell from my professional internet footprint that I’m left leaning. My professional website describes my work advocating for undocumented students and it includes a teaching statement that recounts how I dealt with transphobic remarks in my classroom.

        The only extra things you can glean from my social media that’s not part of the professional stuff is that I’m married, I travel, and I have a cat.

      2. It really is*

        My husband used to teach in a rough district with a significant amount of gang activity. New teacher orientation included info on social media (you and your spouse were not allowed to use it, full stop), where to park (you weren’t supposed to let kids see you getting into your car, because some of them had contacts in car theft who could cross-reference your plate number), and what colors to wear (you ALWAYS avoid standard-printed bandannas/kerchiefs). It was…a lot to throw at a fresh grad.

        1. Allypopx*

          Oh yikes. I didn’t even think of that. My husband’s contract is up and some of the jobs he’s is applying to for next year are definitely in rougher areas…I’ll have to keep that in mind.

  33. MissDisplaced*

    OP #1: I really, really hope your dad isn’t getting young workers to work for FREE under this terrible advice! The only time you should work for free is if you’re volunteering, or you get trade-in-kind, such as with internships that pay for your tuition and such. Honestly, how can people overlook this most basic tenant of capitalism?

    OP #3: I can fully sympathize! This kind of thing also happens for me, but usually not for a full 30 minutes (though it has done so on occasion so I feel your pain). You should really see your doctor for a physical to help you manage these flareups. However, that doesn’t solve your coworker pounding on the door! You must tell her to stop this immediately and agree upon a follow-up plan when that happens, such as “John’s with a another client and will give you a call back in a few minutes.” Jane is being a real jerk!

  34. Jennife*

    Re bathroom

    I know that this is beyond your control and that Jane’s behavior is outrageous, but 30 minutes is a longer bathroom break. She does need a bit of an explanation. Just tell her you have an illness that makes your breaks longer than average. She’s telling clients you’ll be right out and they are waiting 30 minutes. I’d be a bit annoyed as a client if I didn’t know the circumstances.

    Is there some paperwork she can get them started on while you are indisposed? Also, some sort of explanation as to why their wait may be longer than average would be helpful. Maybe she’s not feeling well but will be out as soon as she can? I don’t know how else to phrase it without it becoming TMI.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I think it’s best to completely leave out the bathroom aspect when talking to clients, if that’s possible (e.g. if they haven’t just seen her go into the bathroom or something). Maybe “she’s on a call/in a meeting/with another client” or something?

  35. AngryOwl*

    OP#2 — good luck! All the advice above is great. I also grew up in a small town and…yeah, this probably would have been A Thing (annoyingly and stupidly). It hurts everyone involved (including the kids who miss out on awesome teachers) and is enraging. I saw you have a plan for moving again in a bit, so I hope the year in Small Town is just a blip! And have a great first year teaching :)

    1. OP #2*

      Thank you so much for this kind comment, AngryOwl! I’m really excited about teaching next year and less exited about living in a small town. But maybe (actually, probably) I’ll be so busy as a first year teacher that I won’t have time to date or hook up! I think that staying off the apps for a while is a good idea, and I can always hit up my existing contacts in nearby Big City if I feel like it. Thanks again for commenting!

  36. Elenia*

    Who are these people that can afford to work for free for TWO MONTHS?! I moved out at age 20 and supported myself ever since then. I needed to pay rent, and eat. I know, I’m such a primadonna.

    1. Allypopx*

      “I expect pay in exchange for my labor so I can afford to live” UGH these entitled millennials.

  37. CupcakeCounter*

    I’m an accountant and while we don’t get nearly the level of scrutiny as a teacher its shocking the things I’ve heard about candidates from the “old fuddy duddies” in charge of hiring either after meeting the candidate or just from a quick Google search (which is why I have no social media except LinkedIn). Lock down everything to super private mode and delete any things that still show up you feel some discomfort about your students potentially knowing. I would also second a recommendation from another poster – if possible don’t live and date in the small town you teach in. If you can live town or two away from the school district or move to a point halfway between a largish city and small school town a lot of this will be easier to navigate.
    The other option is be as open as you want about your sexuality (without going into TMI territory of course) so that students who may be struggling with their own sexuality in a very small, gossipy town have someone they feel comfortable talking to. For the dating piece, if you meet a single someone in town and want to get to know them better great! It seems you prefer dating couples though and I would be very hesitant to openly date a couple in that town.

    1. OP #2*

      Thank you for this comment! I’ll be living in the small town, unfortunately, since I don’t have a car, but it’s only for a year and I think I would consider commuting to work in future jobs in order to keep my personal and professional lives separate.

      I would really, really like to be that role model and support system for students who aren’t cishet. I’m hoping to teach a lot of LGBTQ texts in my classroom and hopefully get involved with the school’s GSA (need to look to see if they have one already). Since I’m not trying to get rehired to teach there after this temporary job is up, maybe I should be open (within reason). Definitely food for thought; thank you.

      I pretty much date single women and hook up with (mainly heterosexual) couples! Through trial and error I have found that it’s what works best for me at the moment. I agree with you that dating couples in town sounds risky, and also agree with some other commenters that it might be good to put my dating adventures on pause for a bit while I adjust to my new job and to small-town life. Thanks for commenting!

  38. Jennifer*

    Just a note – not everyone can go to the doctor. We don’t know OP3’s financial or health insurance situation. She didn’t ask for medical advice and I assume she’s doing what is best for her at the moment. I think the best suggestions are to figure out how this can be worked out with Jane or transition to a non-customer-facing role, if possible.

    1. bdg*

      If her job performance is being questioned, though, then she likely can’t NOT afford to go to the doctor. Better an expensive doctor’s visit but working towards a treatment than no treatment and no job because she’s always on the toilet.

      1. Jennifer*

        You’re assuming she has decent health insurance money for that expensive office visit. That’s not something we know. She didn’t go into why her condition is undiagnosed, so I’d leave it at that. I think the best options are working out some sort of arrangement with Jane before it’s too late or finding a new role that’s not customer-facing.

        1. Jasnah*

          You’re assuming an American situation, which isn’t something we know.

          I agree that it’s better to focus on what she can do *at work* to improve this situation, but this is really getting into “not everyone can have sandwiches” and I don’t think it’s an irrational stretch to suggest OP also look into medical support because it’s causing most of the problem here.

    2. RandomU...*

      I think this is the not everyone can have sandwiches syndrome. If that’s the case for the OP it still does not make the suggestion a bad one. Maybe the OP has to prioritize other solutions first, but at the end of the day going to the doctor for something that is affecting their daily life is still sound advice.

    3. Natalie*

      Oh lord. Not everyone can find another job either, that doesn’t make those suggestions some kind of violation. If the OP can’t go to a doctor for some reason, they can ignore the advice along those lines.

      See also, the “not everybody can eat sandwiches” part of the commenting rules.

    4. Watry*

      Yeah, this. I’m in the middle of a three-year long attempt to get some similar stomach issues diagnosed, exacerbated by frequent insurance switching (not my choice). I feel for Jane, who like others have said is nervous about losing sales, but this is a good situation to practice problem solving and compromise.

  39. FE*

    OP#1, your dad wants to discriminate against any new hires who aren’t financially well enough off to gamble two months of unpaid work. I have a hard time not imagining his hires as all from an affluent background, while people jobbing for to make ends meet are filtered out.

  40. quirkypants*

    LW4, to some extent I do understand your frustration, but this is really typical. In my experience, most recruiters ask for a resume even before you secure an interview so in this case you are already kind of ahead.

    It is clearly your call but you might need to be willing to say good bye to the interview if you don’t want to spend the time. If so, that’s your prerogative! The worst part is that they may still decide to interview you but consider your unwillingness to create a resume a mark against you, possibly wasting your time. Even though you’ve been recruited, it’s likely you’re not the only one being interviewed so there is still competition here. What if after this interview you decide this is a job you really want? Will you kick yourself later? All your call, of course… and maybe the employer will not care at all! Or maybe you’ll hate the person interviewing you! But definitely all things to consider.

    1. Moray*

      If a recruiter sent me a candidate who didn’t have a resume, and wasn’t willing to create one, I would think “this candidate unquestionably does not want a new job.”

      Maybe they’re trying to get some leverage for a raise or promotion at their current job, maybe they’re just willing to let the recruiter/company stroke their ego, but I would have no faith that they would commit even to serious consideration of the position, and I wouldn’t waste my time.

    2. OP #4*

      That’s a fair point. Maybe this all goes to show that I’m really not up for looking for a new position… Thanks for the insight!

  41. Allypopx*

    I didn’t go to an overly conservative high school, but my openly gay teacher still had her lawn vandalized by parents. Her and her partner were both teachers at the school while gay marriage was a ballot issue in the state. Another teacher had rumors started that she was a porn star because she was like 40 and unmarried. These prejudices exist, kids are cruel and gossipy, and parents aren’t better. Both personally and professionally you’ll probably be better off keeping your private life as private as possible.

    I HATE that that’s true. But it is. Take care of yourself OP.

    1. nnn*

      Another teacher had rumors started that she was a porn star because she was like 40 and unmarried

      That’s an interesting leap…

      1. Allypopx*

        I know. I was never clear how that started exactly. She taught 9th grade so I assume just…overactive imaginations.

        1. AnonPi*

          Or he hit on her and she turned him down. Happened to me, so he started a rumor that I must be a lesbian cause after all I’m “old” (30s at the time), not married or talk about dating at work. Stirred up a little s*** at work since I worked around a lot of conservative stuck ups, but they dropped it since they knew he was the type to stir up crap and I didn’t “cooperate” in their gossip mongering.

    2. Close Bracket*

      Another teacher had rumors started that she was a porn star because she was like 40 and unmarried.

      lol, I’m 48, female, and unmarried. Where are my royalty checks?

  42. Teacher, 1st time commenter!*

    Responding to OP#2: I teach at a religious school in an affluent, tech-oriented community in the south, and I have been told in multiple PD sessions that having a limited online presence would be detrimental to my career. I have my personal Facebook and Instagram profiles on lockdown, but I have a Twitter account that I am encouraged to use professionally, and teachers without an online presence have been encouraged to publish online bios. The trick is to maintain a carefully curated online presence with an emphasis on my professional accomplishments and interests. I use my Twitter account to share articles related to my content area, post photos of things that are happening in my classroom, and participate in Twitter chats with other educators about tech or my content area. When I freely share some of the things I WANT parents to see, it makes it look like I’m not trying to hide anything. Parents (and teens to an even greater extent) get suspicious when they can’t find anything on a teacher.

  43. mark132*

    @LW3, putting myself in Jane’s shoes for a minute. If she’s losing sales(commissions) because you are in the bathroom that long, I see where she’s coming from. If it got to the point I was losing a few hundred dollars a week due to this. I would be furious. Jane is handling it poorly, but if it’s costing her money, she has every right to bring it up with management.

    1. Trouble*

      It wasn’t even costing me money when it happened to me. I was still pretty furious. I was making the same money, and splitting a commission evenly with a guy who literally spent hours a day in the bogs with his phone. Which meant I had customer after customer to deal with. Plus all the ones angry that ‘colleague said he’d call/arrange a quote/arrange a booking/email me something/post me something’ and he didn’t do it because he had IBS and spent hours a day on the toilet. He was told things he could and could not eat by the Dr, he didn’t listen, just left me to do all the work without a care. Its exhausting. If one person could do the work the average company wouldn’t have two on payroll but one isn’t doing the work or pulling their weight. In a job where time doesn’t matter, just getting your projects done does I’ll mind my own business. But when you’re constantly leaving me to deal with your work and frustrated customers you should be helping your medical issue is now my problem and your health likely makes you unsuitable for the role.

  44. PMP*

    #5 I took a non-degree project management course from a well-known state university before getting my PMP certification through PMI; you have to have a certain amount of hours of education in order to take the PMP exam, and I figured it would be better than one of those cram courses people take over a few weekends. I put it on my resume because the university is a credible one and so local PMPs may know my professors who are also well known in the industry, and I just value education in general. I don’t think it looks silly at all; I don’t know that it totally makes a difference, but I worked hard for that, and I believe the education I received is definitely valuable to my work (and was obviously valuable to passing the exam)

    1. Gumby*

      I did find getting a certificate in project management somewhat helpful when I was trying to change jobs (from SQA) mainly so it showed I was serious about the job change and not just going “eh, I could do that.” It also gave me the PM vocabulary which comes through in interviews.

      I haven’t gone full PMP yet because 1 – it’s not been necessary for my job and 2 – you need a certain number of hours of experience before you can apply and while I am sure I can spin what I have been doing somehow, I haven’t figured out how. (Apparently they live in a world in which you can only work on one project at a time. Like if I am working on a brownie project in January, I cannot also work on a cheesecake project in January. I generally have up to 20 projects going on at once! Granted, I am minimally involved in about half of them, but they still take up my time so getting 4,500 hours in 3 years – more than 2/3 of “normal” work hours over that time period – on one project at a time is going to be difficult. I’m told there are workarounds but haven’t looked into it seriously yet.)

    2. Clever username goes here*

      Agreed – I am taking a PM certificate from a local university. Same reasons as Gumby, PMP isn’t needed in my field but the basic skills, language and techniques are valuable. Because of that certificate (still in progress) I was able to transition to a better job in management. All knowledge has value, it just has different value to different people.

  45. Lemmy Caution*

    #2 These days you need to really watch out and no matter how well you hide, the internet forgets nothing and the kids will find out… and that cat won’t back into the bag.

    And it’s not only USA where stupid stuff happens… in Russia a teacher got sacked she posted a picture of herself in a swimsuit after competing in a ”polar bear challenge”, like swimming through the ice in winter…

    And don’t forget now there’s been at least three teachers, in USA, in UK and Italy that were ”outed” for doing gay porn before they changed professions. So if you think its stupid some tweet you made age 16 will come bite your ass when you are 26, imagine what biting someones ass when you are 26 will do to you when you are 46…

  46. Teacher Wife*

    OP #2 – I would recommend that you back off of pretty much everything when you first start. First of all, your first year teaching is going to be quite hard and you will likely be pretty exhausted. You may not be able to maintain a dating life for the first part of the school year anyway. Second of all, you don’t know yet what kind of interest in you your students/local community will have yet. You can see from the comments that students are a bit split about their interest in their teachers. I know my husband has had a variety of students that range from quite ambivalent to completely obsessive about him (there was an Instagram hashtag they started about taking selfies with him in the background). His students created fake profiles in order to friend me on Facebook. But in other places, students didn’t even say anything when I attended a events with him.

    To sum up: Cool it for a few months. Spend some time resting and adjusting to your new life. Pay attention to what people want to know about you. Slowly reintroduce it as you feel most comfortable.

    1. OP #2*

      I agree – I may be a bit optimistic thinking that I’ll have any time to date or hook up during my first year teaching! And dating can be exhausting, too. A rest doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Thank you for commenting!

  47. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    LW #3, please PLEASE go to your doctor and get a referral to a gastroenterologist (or go straight to a gastroenterologist if you have one of those rare and fabulous insurance plans that doesn’t require a referral, or if you don’t live in the dystopian hellscape that is USA 2019), because this is not normal, and you shouldn’t have to put up with it. Aside from the fact that you really need to rule out the (fairly low, don’t panic) possibility of bowel cancer, chronic gut issues can lead to malnutrition and always lead to reduced quality of life. Please get this solved, so that you can have the best possible life, and it may just solve your work problems, too!

  48. TootsNYC*

    I gave people an on-site trial, but I paid them as if they were a freelancer.

    And **I** brought it up. After I’d already decided they were my top candidate.

    Having an untrained, might-not-be-here-in-2-months person around is a HUGE amount of work. If the employer thinks it would actually be helpful, they’ll bring it up.

    (This is apparently a thing in restaurants)

  49. CanCan*

    #1 – This actually worked out well for a coworker of mine. She offered to work for a week free, as a no-risk, no obligation trial period. My boss took her on – for the trial period, although he did pay her (don’t know what rate). At the end of the trial period, he hired her. Obviously, it would have been illegal for him to not pay her at all, but there is the advantage of not having to negotiate pay, worry about letting a person go after a week. Yes, it may take longer than a week (or month) to demonstrate value, but one can tell a lot more about a person after having them work for a week than from a 1-hour interview.

    My advice: consider offering to work for a week, for minimum wage, as a trial period. But definitely don’t offer that to all companies!!! Only to small companies that appear to have the flexibility, and where you are being interviewed by the owner (not HR!), and the owner seems to be generally open-minded. And also if you don’t have many options and therefore not much to lose by wasting a week on a minimum-wage job if this doesn’t work out. You wouldn’t want to miss out on interviews during the trial period.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      I think even this is terrible advice.

      Anyone, at any company of any size, who is hiring, has a budgeted amount they intend to pay the new hire. Who they already plan to pay at their full rate from day one. (And if this isn’t the case, that would be a huge red flag TBH.)

      So offering to work for a “trial period” for minimum wage would be pointless. Even in a very small business, I’d be leery of anyone who chose me over another candidate because of an offer like that. Like… they hired me just because they stand to save a couple hundred bucks in the short term? What does that say about the kind of business they run, their priorities, or even how stable the company’s finances are?

      Also, I think just about every job I’ve ever had has either been fully at-will (I can be let go at any time, with any amount of notice, for any reason), or there has been a formal trial period. During that period, I have been paid the same as my typical rate; it’s really just a way out if things really don’t work, to prevent it taking years to ever replace anyone due to having to initiate a PIP, dot the i’s, cross the t’s, re-evaluate after another 90 days, etc.

  50. Rayna*

    As a 16 year teaching veteran in large friend group and family also filled with teachers…definitely keep your sex/dating life as private as you can. It just sets the professional tone you need to have a successful year. Kids WILL find your postings and gossip to EVERYONE . I am saying this for all new teachers and all sexual orientations. However..also keep living your and don’t change wbat makes you happy. Just be smart with ALL social media. Also…Google yourself and uswer names once in a while, just to make sure pictures/posts you don’t want seen aren’t popping up. Good luck..I LOVE being a teacher! And one last piece of advice…we never know what kids are going through. Treat every student every day like he/she is your favorite student ever. Even difficult kids are kids!

    1. RandomU...*

      I think keeping your sex/dating life as private as possible is good for any profession. But yes, I concede that in teaching this is more true.

      I always like to go with the ‘Went out with friends/tried a new restaurant/went to the movies’ for the weekend show and tell when I was a young professional. I saw no need to elaborate with whom I did these things with.

      1. just a random teacher*

        I highly recommend picking one reasonably boring hobby/interest that you actually have and playing it up at all times when asked about personal things at work. For example, I like dogs. “My dog and I had a great day on Saturday because she got to go to the park and smell lots of things. I’m glad we had such great weather!” is the kind of personal story that will be fine to share widely at work when asked about your weekend. Other good interests for this would be sports you watch (particularly if there is a local team you happen to be a fan of, or you root for your old college teams), sports you play, crafting, or gardening. Pick something you actually want to have conversations about! I get to see lots of pictures of other people’s dogs, which I am completely fine with as a side effect of having “dog person” be my Known Personal Thing at work.

        This gives students a window to see you as a “real person” with interests outside of school but in a really reputationally safe way. It also means that your personal life is not a blank slate (which makes you interesting and mysterious, a puzzle to be solved) but rather something that they get a pretty boring mental image of when they think of. If students feel like they already have a clear picture of what your life is like, they’ll spend less time speculating on it.

  51. Bunny Girl*

    #1 – That advice gets tossed around a lot in the creative community. “You need to work for free so you can get exposure!” Unfortunately, if you work for free once, you’ll work for free your entire career. I trained in a specific area of film-making and I wish someone had told me this at the start of my career. I started working in the film community in my area and I did stuff for free because I wanted my name out there. Unfortunately, my name was passed around as “someone who does this work for free.” So then when I started charging people for the massive amount of time these projects took, suddenly it went to the dirt. And I watched it happen to a lot of other people too.

    Never work for free. Literally never. Unless you are volunteering for a mission you are passionate about and you are only giving what you are able.

  52. Naomi*

    #5: This may be industry-dependent as well. I have considered getting a PMP, but when I asked around other people working in my industry, they all said it wouldn’t carry a lot of weight for them in hiring, so I decided it wasn’t worth the expense. Whereas in other industries it might be a requirement.

  53. PM*

    OP5, I’m a project manager who also helps to hire project managers. If you’re going for an actual project management job, I’m going to disagree with Alison and say that taking courses/getting certificates and listing them out actually does help, as long as they don’t only focus on soft skills. I work in the digital world so PMP is also not entirely relevant – in fact, sometimes that can be a detriment because PMP has been thought of as a little out of tune with digital projects. When I’m hiring, I look for actual PM skills, either demonstrated or at least (for a junior position) learned via some sort of reputable learning system, and preferably both. While Alison’s advice might be true for lots of careers, it’s not quite the same with PM jobs.

    1. PM*

      I should add – if you do want a recommendation for a certificate that does carry weight, I’d encourage you to look into Certified ScrumMaster courses (CSM) if you’re in the digital industry.

  54. starzzy*


    Huh. I actually did this. I worked for free for about 3 months, then got the job.

    The difference was that I was in grad school and my work was sitting in on a research group as they developed a project, and in my free time, I helped disperse fliers to recruit participants. After a semester, when one of the hired RAs had to drop out, I was immediately hired on (no more TAing for me!), helped finish out the project, developed data for my own dissertation, and ultimately got paid to get my Ph.D.

    I suspect this is different than OP for a few reasons. I was NOT working for free 40 hours a week, only 2 or 3 hours a week. Also, students are expected to do their research on their own time, and really, on their own dime. Therefore, doing a lot of work for little-to-no compensation until AFTER you you graduate is usual whereas getting in on someone else’s grant was a bit more rare in my program.

    1. DreamingInPurple*

      It’s also pretty different because recruiting is a different job than being a research assistant – it’s more like you were a volunteer recruiter and then became a paid RA.

  55. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP5’s question triggers a follow-on question: How would I list an *academic* study program that is named “certificate” ?
    The “city university near me offers “certificates” in academic subjects. These are the same programs that would earn an undergrad a minor in the subject, but set up for for people who already have their bachelors. My computer science certificate required calculus, data structures, and a minimum of three upper-level programming classes in multiple languages. I’d hate to have that overlooked as a “soft skills certificate”. Someone at the university once described it as a “post-graduate minor” — but I’m afraid that sounds like I’m claiming it’s grad school, which it isn’t.

    1. PM*

      Those aren’t soft skills. Listing out those on your resume would be a big help to you. I think we’re talking more about “how to resolve conflicts” and “how to be a better communicator” (which are both important) as soft skills.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        OK so it’s not just the word “certificate” — it’s the content of the certificate. Thanks!

  56. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: I’ve told this story before here, but I actually did hear “advice” like this second-hand. My ex’s dad swore this sort of tactic was how he got a job at a tech start-up in the early 80s, where he went on to become CEO before retiring as a millionaire in his 40s (the CEO/early retirement/millionaire stuff is all verifiably true, though I have questions whether the interview process really went the way he said it did…) He also said he applied to the same company multiple times, and that they finally essentially hired him “to shut him up” – but apparently there was an offer to work for free for a month or so in there, to “prove” to them that he was the right man for the job (AFAIK, the company did not take him up on that part).

    It always struck me as what I call “Baby Boomer advice”, like “getting out there and pound the pavement” or “Keep calling them ’til they give you a job just to get you to stop bugging them!” Like, maybe it worked in the ’50s, and maybe a couple of outliers like my ex’s Dad pulled it off in the ’80s… but it’s not good advice today.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      I think in the 80s when tech startups were more like “me and my friends writing software out of our school computer lab” and less like actual companies as they are today, this could have been real? This was probably a bunch of grad students in the same CS program, and everyone was like “ugh, Ted is the worrrrst, do we have to let him in on this?” and they realized it was going to be more annoying to avoid him rather than give him a shot. And, at that point, few to none of those people were making real money anyway, so the stakes there would be a lot lower.

      But it doesn’t translate to the modern job market — or even the typical job market at that time — at all.

  57. Middle School Teacher*

    OP2, you’ve gotten some good advice here. It’s lousy that teachers are held to a higher standard, but we are.

    I haven’t seen anyone mention this: if you are part of a teachers union where you are, please contact them ASAP for information and advice. In my province our current government is rolling back protections for lgbtq2s people, including teachers; several Catholic boards are having teachers sign a pledge of Catholicity and commitment to “living a catholic lifestyle”; and this morning I saw in the Washington Post that a gay teacher was fired by a catholic board in Indiana. I’m guessing you’re not at a catholic school since you didn’t mention it, but still, call your union.

    1. Chinookwind*

      “several Catholic boards are having teachers sign a pledge of Catholicity and commitment to “living a catholic lifestyle”;”

      Can I ask what is wrong with that? It is not like it is a secret what the Catholic Church believes nor, in my mind, is it a stretch to insist that those who are teaching in that type of atmosphere need to model what that belief means in day-to-day life and that a religious/spiritual life is 24/7 and not just during school hours.

      Ideally, the administration should also remember that humans are sinful and will screw up (the whole “who will cast the first stone” thing), but why would anyone choose to work for an organization that doesn’t believe what they believe? Is the plan to undermine their way of life? To change the minds of those who do believe and want to stay within that belief system? To show the parents that choose to send their children to that type of school that they are wrong?

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        It is a human rights conflict. The union has filed several complaints. It is also illegal here to fire someone for being gay but these types of documents open a loophole.

      2. Middle School Teacher*

        Sorry, hit send too soon. As to your last paragraph, in some smaller communities the catholic board is the only game in town. As well, often catholic schools attract a slightly better calibre of students. Finally, several people identify as catholic and lgbtq2s, so they should not be asked to make a choice between those.

        At any rate, the catholic boards here are well known for exploiting these loopholes and dismissing staff using flimsy excuses.

      3. Rebecca1*

        In Canada, there are public Catholic schools, from what I understand. So they are Catholic-affiliated, but are legally supposed to follow public school non-discrimination regulations.

  58. Michaela Westen*

    #1, all my life I’ve seen employers try to take advantage of people by having them work for free. It was especially common in high school and college. The approach would be something like, “here’s your opportunity to do work in your career, and ~if you do it well~, you can earn some money!”
    It’s especially common with freelancers like artists, but I’ve also seen it in promoting – a young woman I knew had promoted an event for someone who hadn’t paid her. Then he said he’d pay her if she promoted another event for him. And restaurant work – “how much you make (in tips) depends on you!” Well, it also depends on whether you run this place well enough to get a good volume of customers…
    Since I didn’t have parental support, I never worked for free. I couldn’t afford to. I’ve never seen an instance of someone working for free where they weren’t being taken advantage of.
    Don’t work for free unless you’re ok with not being paid in that job or by that client, ever. Once they know they can get you to work for free, they will never be willing to pay you.

  59. MHL*

    In regards to OP1, I kind of want to hear about other people’s worst job advice from relatives; I think AAM did it a post a few years ago? But it reminded me of a recent doozy I got from my well-meaning aunt for my current job hunt: She recommended that I list an INTERVIEWER (who did not end up giving me the job) as a reference because “You’ve interviewed with them so much that they probably know you better professionally than anyone else!” Bless her.

  60. Dawn*

    LW2, if you are lucky enough to work in a unionized school, check in with your union too about what protections there are for you and your job. Sit down with your building rep and explain your situation so that it is on their radar, should something down the line happen. They can also advise you about the protections your contract offers, the length of the probationary period (after which it becomes harder to fire you without justification), and the best steps you can take to protect yourself and your job. Lastly, don’t go into any disciplinary meetings with administration without a union rep with you.

    I will also echo Alison and the many other commenters here who advise keeping your social media locked down. I do scholarly work in my content area, and my students delight in finding my public Youtube and Twitter–and as I tell them when they do, all they’ve found is social media of me doing what they experience me doing live every day! My personal accounts are completely under lock and key. I also work in a small town–my school is just 150 students, pre-K through 8–but luckily in a very progressive state, in a unionized school, so people aren’t nitpicking my personal life. Still, *I* want to control what details of my personal life my students, families, and community have access to.

    1. just a random teacher*

      I would actually hold off on talking to the union rep in a very small town situation until you know the lay of the land. In my small town teaching job, the union rep was the oldest busybody teacher in the building and would NOT have been a good ally for LGBTQ+ issues.

      She took an active dislike to be immediately, probably for being a liberal from out of town, and was never once on my side or any support to me in any issues I had in that job. She was, however, willing to butt heads with the new principal (also “not from around here”) over any change whatsoever to things that school had been doing forever, whether or not those things were actually allowed by law. I remember when the principal “ruined her class party” by not allowing students to bring in homemade food for a class potluck, which had been disallowed by state health code for at least 20-30 years by that point…

  61. What’s with Today, today?*

    #2) I work in small market media in a town of less than 25,000 people. I’ve had parents send me screenshots of their precious children’s teachers social media pages and want it on the local news. No. The teacher’s affair with a local businessman isn’t radio news worthy(that was a real request BTW).

  62. Close Bracket*

    They often seem to be tied to softer skills or intangibles, like communication, negotiation, or project management.

    I wonder how field dependent this is. At a large engineering company, this would be valuable. I don’t know if it would be valuable enough to ask for a higher salary during hiring, but I think it would be valuable enough to ask for a better raise at your current employer, provided you could show examples of when you used the skills.

  63. Essess*

    For OP3, you really need to tell the coworker that you are using the bathroom as intended, not taking a break so she needs to stop interrupting. She may be thinking that you’re hiding in the bathroom reading or taking a break since you’re gone so long.
    This seems silly to have to tell her, but I working in an office where most of the women would sit for a long time and just read magazines on the toilet. It was a 4-stall bathroom but anytime you went in there you’d hear ‘flip, flip, flip’ of magazine pages being turned. One time there was a line of 5 of us waiting outside the stalls (it was a 200-person office so it wasn’t unusual to have lines) but after about 6 or 7 minutes of no one leaving the stalls and hearing ‘flip, flip, flip’ from all of the stalls I had to loudly announce in the bathroom that people needed to stop reading because there was a line waiting. The result was a loud rustling of magazines being put away and suddenly the stall were empty in less than a minute. Your coworker might think you are on your phone or reading and need to be prompted that you are needed elsewhere. If you assure her that you are only in there as long as necessary, then it might cut down on the interruption.

    1. Trouble*

      If Jane has angry customers queuing up for OP to take over and do the paperwork, leaving OP in peace to take their time might not be an option. If you tell a customer “OP is just wrapping something up and will be with you soon!” quite often the customer stands in the same room, looking at you. Sometimes then at their watch. Clearly thinking I’m getting annoyed and I want you to be doing something about this. The customer is thinking I don’t want to wait for OP, you do it. Or I don’t want to wait any longer, go get them. And you can’t really say OP is on the toilet Ms Customer so I can’t get them or really tell you how long you’ll be waiting as sometimes they take 30 mins.

      This isn’t an independent office role by the info in the letter. It’s customer facing customer driven work.

      OP unfortunately likely needs to get the underlying issue more under control or look for a job where butts in chairs doesn’t matter and only quantity/quality matters not live customer service.

      If you think about it, restaurants wouldn’t put up with this, call centers wouldn’t, most shops wouldn’t. OP is eventually going to lose all goodwill with their colleagues and possibly standing with higher ups when you consider they haven’t gotten to the bottom of a reason and doesn’t feel comfortable telling Jane what’s going on. I’d be at BEC stage with OP too.

      1. Fulana del Tal*

        In total agreement with all your comments Trouble. There’s a lot of harsh comments about Jane but she probably really frustrated. While sales and paperwork maybe two different departments they don’t seem to be as independent as the OP says. It’s not fair to Jane to ask her to do part of the OP’s job and also babysit annoyed clients.

      2. Semprini!*

        This makes me wonder if the problem could be solved with somewhere for the clients to sit where they’re comfortable and entertained and not staring expectantly at Jane.

        If Jane could tell them “Have a seat over here, there’s complimentary coffee and water, our guest wifi is TeapotsInc-Guest, and OP will be with you to do the paperwork as soon as she’s wrapped up”, that might go over better.

        Of course, it would be difficult to convince the employer to install a friendly client waiting area just because you have bathroom issues. But if you can come up with another compelling business reason for a friendly client waiting area, it might be useful.

        (This isn’t intended to argue against seeking medical attention and/or disclosing, but it’s an additional pathway to resolving the issue)

        1. Roscoe*

          Also, no one wants to be kept waiting 30 minutes just to do paperwork. I would be annoyed if I agreed to buy something, but the paperwork person kept me waiting a half hour

  64. ilisa*

    OP3 – it sounds like you have IBS or some type of infalmmatory bowel disease (speaking from experience). You should go see a gastroenterologist and see if there is a medication that can help you – they are a lot of medicinal options available right now.

  65. Brett*

    You might want to consider quitting dating apps altogether for a while. It is not just because of the *gasp* dating or because you are LGBTQ+.

    It is because it is a communication app, and one that is, in particular, designed to connect people who do not know each other.

    If a student uses the app to contact you privately, regardless of whether the student is legally old enough to use the app, you will end up in trouble. This can happen with any app that allows private communication from people you do not know, but with a dating app it will definitely happen. It will not matter whether or not you knew the person was a student, if the student is at a different school, or even if you respond. And with some states having draconian teacher misconduct laws, more than your job and career could be at risk.

  66. President Porpoise*

    I kind of wish Allison had switched the order on these letters, so OP#3 was actually OP#2, just so we could make bad bathroom puns. Clearly, I am immature. The end.

  67. Brogrammer*

    I’ve developed a theory over the years about parental career advice: on some level, they know they’re helpless to give you any substantive assistance, so they make up ridiculous things in order to feel like they’re helping. My parents gave me all the standard “gumption” nonsense when I was in college looking for part-time work (and failing because I was at a large university in an otherwise small city, so there were simply more undergrads seeking work than there were part-time jobs to go around). Now that I’m out of college and gainfully employed, they admit that they had no idea what they were talking about and they wish they’d taken me seriously when I told them that I was already doing everything I could and ultimately it was out of my hands whether an employer wanted to hire me or not.

    Now that my dad and I work in the same industry (he retired recently but spent most of his career working at companies not unlike mine), it’s like a switch flipped in his brain and all of a sudden he actually gives me useful, substantive advice when I ask for it.

  68. Budgie Buddy*

    For The bathroom issues, the coworker may need a way to distinguish between normal bathroom visit and an episode that will take longer. OP probably has short bathroom visits often when her symptoms aren’t acting up. But if a client is waiting it’s helpful to know whether that person will be waiting another 5 minutes or another 20. So that’s probably where the “How Long?” Is coming from.

  69. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    On the bathroom issues: The only thing not brought up so far that may be relevant is that if this is the Only Bathroom, it’s also kind of a problem if you’re regularly using it for 30+ minutes (I’m sure you already know this, because it sounds like it would be a major problem for you if someone else were tying it up for that long when you needed it). If there are currently single-user Men’s and Women’s bathrooms, you might suggest changing both to single-user unisex restrooms just so no one else has to wait a half hour to use the restroom if you’re in the other one. If it’s a single Only Restroom, I’m not really sure what to suggest. Obviously, you need to use it. Equally obviously, so do other people.

    I can imagine Jane sitting there with a client who (a) wants to get this wrapped up and (b) needs to pee for a half hour, and banging on the door in frustration. There’s no winning here.

  70. Late to the game*

    I’m a graduate teaching assistant and I have students creep on me all the time, trying to find out anything interesting. There’s nothing interesting!

  71. Noah*

    ” I can’t imagine how she thinks you’re suddenly going to finish up more quickly just because she’s pounding on the door.”

    I can easily imagine what she’s thinking: “I wonder what OP is reading in the bathroom and I’d like her to finish up and deal with our mutual customer.”

  72. limonana*

    Chiming in a bit late but I wanted to comment on LW #3. I think the irritation towards Jane and her continual pounding on the door is taking the focus off a way bigger issue, which is the fact that LW is taking (multiple?) 30-minute bathroom breaks at work. This is presumably occurring several times a week, while LW is working in a client-facing role. Making clients wait up to 30 minutes for someone to process their paper work is extremely risky, since a lot of people would get fed up and walk away (myself included). If Jane is a salesperson, she is likely working on commission, and also probably losing clients because of this.

    Whether you’re in the bathroom for 30 minutes because of a medical condition or because you’re slacking off and playing games on your phone, the outcome is the same: you’re not reliably available to process your co-worker’s clients, and are subsequently affecting their livelihood. I’m sorry LW #3, but your right to go to the bathroom in peace doesn’t trump someone’s else right to earn a living. No one is suggesting this condition is your fault, but it also isn’t Jane’s, and this is extremely unfair to her. I would advise to not only go see a doctor immediately, but to seriously reconsider working in a client-facing role.

Comments are closed.