open thread – February 14-15, 2020

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

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 1,867 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Middle Manager*

    Looking for some guidance on responding to group emails that occur frequently in my office. We often get emails from other areas of our large department or the public sent to a group of staff not addressed to any one person in particular. Generally it’s because the sender doesn’t know who the point person is for the topic they are asking about. If I’m on one of these chains and I’m the point person, I always feel responsible to respond. If someone else is the point person, I assume they’ll respond. But sometimes it’s a vague request or off the wall or touches on multiple areas and no one on the email is the clear owner of the response. In those cases, who is the person responsible to answer? The highest ranking person? The lowest? The person most closely related to the request though not directly responsible? Someone else? How do I know. I’ve tried to pay attention to any patterns at my office, but I honestly can’t find one, other than the problematic one below.

    For context, I’m a pretty OCD person (clinically, not an expression) and work towards zero inbox (almost never get there, but generally my inbox is single digit, so I’m in the ballpark). What I’m finding is that it sometimes drives me to take responsibility for responding to emails that shouldn’t really be mine, just to get them actioned and cleared out of my inbox, and then my workload keeps growing because people start to assume I’m responsible to continue to lead the conversation. I’m actively trying to cut down on volunteering myself for work outside my scope, but I’m really unclear which emails I can chose to ignore and assume someone else will respond to and which ones I should still take on.

    Reply
    1. We ask for peace and understanding*

      I think the highest ranking person should either respond or assign it to someone else for response. Otherwise, how do you know that multiple people won’t respond to the same message?

      Reply
          1. valentine*

            Just because no one else has responded doesn’t mean you should. By not responding, you give others the chance to take point.

            You can have inbox zero and to-do folders. Create folders for things you’re waiting for info on and by estimated response time, like within 48 hours or up to a week. You can also filter group emails or anything not sent to you directly.

            Reply
          1. Em*

            My work reply all’s like that constantly. We have to cc like 5 different people on every email and everyone uses reply all. It’s not the worst ever for what we do, which is research.

            Reply
    2. Joie*

      Generally I tend to go with “do you have the answer on hand/ is this task on your plate” ignore if not. Generally, the lowest ranking person will do the digging – because fact finding is usually part of their job not because of rank – if it’s a question, but decisions usually go to whomever has the task that this would be directly related to if not 100% part of someones role.

      But it’s also company specific so maybe touch base with some coworkers to see how to they handle these and do the same?

      Reply
    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Most groups (especially groups that support other areas) have a specific mailbox for such inquiries and it is someone’s job (either one person or rotating) to ensure that the requests are assigned to the right person.

      Reply
      1. TheAssistant*

        This! If your department is so large your internal staff don’t know to whom to direct a question, you need a common inbox and a responsible checker/assigner of tasks.

        Reply
    4. Ashley*

      If you don’t feel like you should respond but aren’t sure try your email snooze button. This will bring the email back in the time period set. It helps me with my email anxiety. As a frequent email checker I tend to be the first to respond, but this helps curb the impulse so others can. I would also check-in with your manager or if there is a team meeting about how to handle ones that are clear cut.

      Reply
    5. Lalitah28*

      As an executive assistant/administrative assistant since 1995, I have had the same experience with being the virtual dumping ground for any inquiry people didn’t know or didn’t want to address. Here’s how I cut down on it:

      1. made a list of the most common inquiries and where I sent them for eventual resolution, confirming that they were the right person to resolve the problem or address the inqury;

      2. created a directory, a simple MS Word Table, with the description of general type of inquiry (think a one sentence phrase) and in column two, who to send it to (inclued person’s name, title, email address, fax number, and snail mail, if applicable)

      This cut down so much on inquiries and provided the fodder for the creation of email distribution lists to further refine the process and have team-based email groups.

      Hope this helps.

      Reply
        1. Lalitah28*

          Glad to be of help. Also, one of absolute FAVORITE productivity books that I hooked one of most unproductive bosses was The Organized Executive by Stephanie Winston (ISBN-10: 0446676969, ISBN-13: 978-0446676960). It has really easy, practical productivity and simple project management tips that anyone starting out in their career can put into practice.

          Reply
    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If “frequently” means 5+ times a week, consider a shared email address that anyone in the group can access & answer. My IT department did that for us. We get a lot of vague questions & misdirected questions as well as the feedback we were hoping for. An auto-reply says it is not monitored daily, and that it’s intended for XYZ, so if they’re looking for ABC please contact the sales team or tech support line. One person is assigned to check it every week or so. Currently that’s me… I set up a few standard signature lines to use for forwarding them to sales team or tech support in case the sender ignored the autoreply.

      Reply
    7. june june hannah*

      It’s part of our team culture that when an email goes out to a large group or our department distribution list, we’ll reply back just to those on our team with “got it!” so everyone else knows it’s being handled.

      Reply
    8. Sparkelle*

      Leadership needs to shut that down and have a stern talking to with whoever does it. Sending out emails to an entire department because you don’t know the correct person to send it to is lazy and wastes enormous amounts of time, especially if it evolves into a reply-all “not me, please take me off your list” frenzy. You say these include emails from the public, which is more problematic. I’m not understanding why departmental email groups are accessible to the public. The public should be directed to one mailbox monitored by someone whose job it is to find the right specific person to deal with it.

      Reply
    9. Anononon*

      This sounds like my workplace. So many emails with like eight-plus people included.

      For better or (mostly) worse, we have a strong culture of everyone does their specific job and won’t do anything outside the scope of that. So if an email isn’t directed specifically to me or in my area, I just unread it and move on. I’m not going to take on other people’s problems. And, in my department, there’s also a culture of once you’re involved in matter, you’re in it till the end.

      Reply
    10. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Sounds like is not your responsibility, so delete the email. If someone doesn’t get a response to their vague question, then they’ll ping again, or who knows, maybe they’re already working on it behind the scenes. But sounds like for your sanity, and your ability to prioritize your scope of work, you should delete these emails (or maybe even create a new folder in your inbox for misc emails)

      Reply
    11. NW Mossy*

      This is a perfect opportunity to make sure you’re clear on your own priorities and that you’re aligned with your boss on them.

      I bump into this issue a lot because I’ve worked in a number of different areas in my business line over the years, which translates into a big network of people who look at me as a resource. What really helped me get control back of these inquiries was to learn to spot questions that aren’t tied to my priorities and use a combination of ignoring (where the right person is included), delegating (when it’s my area but can be handled by my direct), and redirecting (when the right person is someone not included) for them.

      Long term, big aliases as an intake for work are horrid and should be avoided at all costs. They don’t work well for exactly this reason – it’s needlessly difficult to assign ownership and ensure follow-through in this kind of system.

      Reply
    12. Chronic Overthinker*

      I have this happen often as well! We have multiple offices so some email is sent company wide so that the right person gets it, but then everyone gets the replies as well. If it’s something I can handle or know I need to take care of, I’ll reply all and then reply to the necessary individuals for follow up. If it’s not, then it gets sent to an email folder and eventually disposed as necessary.

      Reply
    13. Middle Manager*

      Thanks all. Some good suggestions. For context, when I say a large department, I mean a department as in a cabinet level government agency for a large state with approximately 20,000 employees. We do definitely have shared office email addresses for various offices/bureaus in the department and official points of contacts between those entities, but in practice, they aren’t really observed. I would love for us to get more organized around that, but I am in no way high enough in the agency to solve that problem.

      For the public, it’s often advocates, businesses that we oversee/interact with, that sort of thing. So they often have specific staff emails for a real reason, they’ve interacted with them previously on other issues that made sense. But now they have a random question and they are basically just throwing in any staff person email that they think might be able to help. I think I get on a disproportionate number of these emails because I manage our public stakeholder meetings, so my contact information is WAY more frequently published than a lot of my peers, members of the public meet me at the meetings, and I just become SOMEONE that might be able to help them.

      Love the suggestions above. Especially snoozing email. That’s not a feature I’m currently using and I think that might really help me to feel okay about not responding, knowing I’ll get a reminder if no one else jumps in in a reasonable time frame.

      Reply
    14. Gatomon*

      People should be taking turns and distributing the load as equally as possible when taking into account people’s areas of expertise. Generally if it’s a complicated topic we have a SME for, I do expect that person to chime in unless I know they are unable to, like if they’re on PTO or I happen to know they are swamped with some other thing. Otherwise I think people should grab work when they are able to and know when things are getting unfair. Our boss usually does not get involved in responses unless there’s an issue that requires management input. That’s usually something like a process/procedural issue or a decision that just needs to be blessed by someone higher up.

      If an email addresses multiple pieces and I feel I need to respond, but can only respond to some of it, I will specifically state up front that I am addressing X, but that I am requesting/hoping for/soliciting input on Y and Z from others. It seems to work pretty well for our company.

      As for cleaning your inbox, do you use folders at all? I keep several folders based on deadline (google “The Only 5 Email Folders You’ll Ever Need” to find the article that inspired me) and if there’s something I could respond to, but thing it would be better to wait and okay to wait for someone else more qualified to chime in first, I stash in the Today or This Week folder so I don’t lose track of it. That way I can still see a “clean” inbox and know to check on the message if it’s gone unanswered too long.

      Reply
    1. Anonymous Fed*

      Agreed! I’ve learned a lot about how I might navigate work situations from this site. And I’ve recommended it to others when they need help about a work thing.

      Reply
  2. Misty*

    I posted on 1/24 about how I couldn’t decide if I should change my major. Then on 1/31 saying I would stick with social work. 

    I’m a 2nd semester sophomore and middle manager at a drug store. (20k a year full time) I’ve worked hard to save money so I could go back to school. The reason I felt comfortable going back to school was because I felt I had a strong plan. I go to a state school and don’t have any loans. I’m not sure how relevant this is to whether or not I should change my major to a major where I don’t know what kind of job I’d get.
    My plan was to get my BSW, go into the 1 year MSW program, and become a therapist. I would be going to school for three more years but would come out with a masters. 
    Part of the reason I went into social work is because I had bad stuff happen when I was younger so I’ve met a lot of social workers and have had a lot of people tell me that I could help people with my life experience. I may have internalized the message about how I could turn the bad into good by helping people. Realizing that now made me think maybe social work isn’t “all” I can do and maybe it’s not my job to “redeem” the bad stuff that happened to me as a kid in order to help others. Maybe I can do something else. It’s hard to let go of the plan I had, and the guilt I feel for not wanting to help the people who went through what I went through. 

    I can’t stand my social work classes. I find them boring and depressing. The material is super heavy while the actual class work is too easy. My spring break is four weeks away and I’ve done all of the readings and five small papers I needed to write that are due before then. My professors are telling me to stick it out at least through next year when I do my internship because there’s a lot of different types of social work jobs and maybe I’ll like one and I’m a good candidate for the 1 year MSW program or honors program. However staying in SW for another year means if I changed my major after that, I would have added a year onto the amount of time I would have to be in college in order to graduate with a bachelors in something else.
    A month ago I was considering changing my major to psych because I would be one year away from graduating if I did that and I like psych classes. However, I realized I have no interest in doing anything in that field and it’s too close to social work for me now.
    I’m thinking of changing my major to english. If I changed my major before next semester, it wouldn’t add any extra time onto my amount of time in college. I love reading and I love writing papers. I feel cautious to change my major without a plan for what to do after graduation. My biggest fear is that I’ll graduate in something and not be able to find a job that pays more than I’m making now. I know the poverty line for a single person is around 12k but I have a lot of roommates in order to survive off of 20k so ideally I don’t want to have to work at a drugstore for the rest of my life.
    I met with the chair of the english department yesterday and while the class descriptions looked overwhelming, it looked interesting too. I’m guessing it would feel less overwhelming once I started it and learned some stuff. (Anyone have any thoughts on that?) The chair said I can request my favorite english teacher as my advisor so that would be nice too.
    Does anyone have any advice or encouragement? 
    Thanks for reading this and thank you to everyone who replied to me in the past, I really appreciated everyone’s knowledge and encouragement. 

    Reply
      1. valentine*

        a lot of people tell me that I could help people with my life experience.
        This is a narrative to push back on. People just want a silver lining or happy ending so they don’t feel responsible or helpless. It sounds more like motivational speaking, except you’d need to build something from your story. Just saying, “Look at me now!” isn’t useful. In reality, it would be the skills learned that help you help others, not the fact of your experience. Just because social workers helped you doesn’t mean you can pay that forward (and there’s no need, much less obligation, to do so) by becoming one, any more than a firefighter using their skills to help you means you should become a firefighter.

        Don’t go into social work or counseling unless you can really leave it at the office door. Because rehashing your trauma, especially since it won’t help every person, may be like when celebs write their memoirs and, rather than a catharsis, they’re steeped in the dust of experiences they’ve dug up.

        Think about how you want to feel at work and what would give you that for 40+ hours/week, then work backwards to what degree will get you there. @Karnythia/Mikki Kendall always suggests knocking out the basic requirements at a community college. That might give you more time to land on a major.

        Reply
        1. English Fan*

          Myth! I am an English major, and I have never had trouble getting jobs. The world needs great communicators—and our cover letter skills are on another level!

          Reply
          1. RR*

            @ English Fan: this is so true! I work in an area not at all directly related to English, and have hired other English majors (and anthropology majors and so on).
            @Misty: I’d go with English. Or any other Liberal Arts major that sounds appealing. Don’t think of college as a vocational school, but as an opportunity to hone your critical thinking and communication skills. These are skills that will serve you well in whatever career (or careers) you end up pursuing. Best of luck to you!

            Reply
    1. Annony*

      First, if you are finding social work depressing already, it probably won’t get better. Social work has a high burn out rate and there is definitely a risk that it will hit too close to home for you. I would suggest talking to a therapist about this and working with them to figure out whether this would be good for your mental health.

      As for changing majors, I think you might be going about this backwards. Instead of picking a major and then figuring out a career, try to think of a career you want and then figure out a major that will help you achieve the career. If you are concerned about job prospects, English may not be the way to go. You could always minor in it and take the fun classes.

      Reply
      1. Diahann Carroll*

        All of this, especially the part about social work not being the ideal career choice for someone with past trauma who seems to be still affected by it. Plus, OP finds the classes boring, which doesn’t help inspire engagement – that’s needed to do well in anything in life.

        I also agree that OP should be thinking about what careers she’d like to have first and then work backwards to figure out what kind of degree she’d need to make that happen. So OP, you may like reading and writing papers, but a lot of former English majors end up being teachers or working in things like marketing, advertising, sales (on proposal teams) – you may find that you have no interest in standing in front of a class everyday talking about subject-verb agreement or being remotely involved in a for-profit business doing campaigns or managing proposals.

        So before you change direction, go back to the drawing board and figure out exactly what you see yourself doing in the future. Then talk to your academic advisor for guidance on how to get there. If you do decide that you ultimately want the BA in English, then make sure you and your advisor come up with a solid plan of action for once you graduate. You need to know what type of company or non-profit organization you’d like to work for, what tasks you’d like to be doing day-to-day, and that should help you narrow down a career field and job function you’d like to perform. Also make sure you get internships in whatever field you choose for experience before graduating – that will help you secure your first professional position.

        Good luck!

        Reply
        1. OhNo*

          Agree with all of this. I work closely with masters students in both social work and psychology programs, and both careers are known for their high burnout rates. If you already don’t like the coursework then chances are good you won’t like the actual work, either.

          (One exception: I’ve seen some students who are just really into people, as opposed to paperwork, succeed in the job despite not liking the academic classes. It doesn’t sound like that’s your biggest complaint, though.)

          Starting with the career you want and working backwards is absolutely the way to go. If all you need is to be able to check the ‘I have a degree’ box, then go for the English major! Might as well enjoy the rest of your undergrad education! But if you have a specific career in mind, see if there’s an educational path that can help. You may not need to pay for a master’s if you get the right bachelor degree to start with.

          Reply
      2. TheAssistant*

        I agree with this, and at a minimum, do not pursue a Master’s in Social Work if you are already bored and depressed by the material. (I’m not a social worker, I just don’t think this sounds like success).

        Right now, I’m trying to choose between a few different routes for grad programs by targeting a specific job title, searching everyone on LinkedIn with that job title, and trying to figure out their paths to the job title. I think you need to do somewhat of the same thing. Target a job, understand what’s needed to get that job, work backwards to a good entry-level position after school, and choose a major accordingly.

        Outside of career-targeted degrees (social work, med, law, etc.), the difference between majors is a little moot. Unless I was hiring specifically for a psychologist or an English professor, I wouldn’t care, as a hiring manager, if a job candidate had a degree in psych or English. I probably wouldn’t even care about having the degree, tbh, but that’s me. I care if you can do the job, that you’ve thought about how this job fits into your overall plan, that you are cool with the pay (I work in nonprofits), and that you bring a good combination of both current skill and ability to learn.

        There are so many jobs outside of social work specifically that you can use your background and skills to contribute to. You can work at a government agency providing benefits! You can fundraise for a nonprofit focusing on a cause that you care about! You can be a program manager helping at-risk youth! You can become a lawyer! You can also choose that you would like to be financially comfortable and do none of those things, and that’s absolutely valid! But don’t do social work if you already don’t like it. You’ll end up five years out of school, totally burned out, not making much more than you make now, and stuck trying to find a new career.

        Reply
      3. Emmie*

        I understanding feeling guilty about not helping people in a similar situation. Helping and supporting people comes in all different forms. It doesn’t have to be your full-time job. It can involve mentoring a few kids, or volunteering, or nothing at all. It can also involve just pursing something that makes you happy, and making your life better. I encourage you to find another path for your full-time job. Something that allows you to distance yourself, and have a healthy escape from trauma.

        It sounds like you’re undecided for your degree. I recommend adding a major or minor that has a more direct path to a career. Majors like English, Communications, and other passion areas may provide some passion now, but will they lead to positions in your area? Like you, I worked in a lower level position in my field. Having an applicable degree, and / or work experience in the field – like an internship – could strengthen your applications for other jobs. I realize it may not be possible given how much you’re working.
        I had the same concern too.

        I think we ask too much from our studies. We ask them to be engaging, exciting, and fun. Sometimes the study of something isn’t as rewarding as the work of that something. I ended up finding my undergrad passion in business, though others may find it in more technical careers (like HVAC, plumbing, electricians..) or college-directed careers (marketing, PR, etc…) You may not know the area you’re interested in now, and that’s okay. Think about what kinds of jobs are in your area, what you’d like to do, and either add a major or minor in that field. Good luck! And stop putting so much pressure on yourself to figure it all out. Many of us have multiple jobs throughout our careers. The key is preparing yourself for changes in the job market. And, if you know it, finding something you’d enjoy doing – and a lot of people figure that out after earning their degree, working a few jobs, and working with a few bosses.

        Reply
    2. University Minion*

      Finish the degree in social work. That doesn’t mean you have to become a social worker. It does mean that you can check the “Do you have a degree?” box on those awful job application websites and your application won’t be screened out on what is, TBH, usually a bs requirement.

      If you want to continue your education from there, by all means, do so. In fact, since you’re not sure what you want to do, I recommend focusing your job search on staff jobs at your university. You’ll most likely get free tuition, and an entry level full time job at a state university will pay at least what you make now, and probably with better benefits. When I made the transition from retail/blue collar work to higher ed, I fashioned a cover letter, using AAM’s advice, that made a case that I’m “competent at being competent”. I may not have specific skills, but I am damn good at figuring stuff out. That’s a skill that college doesn’t prepare you for and is in short supply.

      Best of luck – you sound really smart and driven.

      Reply
      1. Annony*

        I think if the goal is just to check the degree box it might be better to switch to Psych or English since it won’t add any time to the degree. Don’t keep studying something you find boring and depressing!

        Reply
        1. University Minion*

          Here’s my line of thinking for staying the course:
          I don’t trust ANYTHING a university advisor says about time to finish. (Source, I work at an R1). Maybe your uni has better advisors. I hope so.
          Your social work department is a known-known at this point and time to finish is the priority. Unless you can confirm that you already have all the pre-reqs needed to seamlessly transfer into your new major, take any advice about being able to finish in the same amount of time with a large grain of salt (ie, it may be mathematically possible if you take 18 hours every semester and 12 each summer, but that doesn’t translate into do-able).

          Reply
          1. Katniss Evergreen*

            Ugh unfortunately, you can’t always trust your advisors’ word on time-to-finish. I had an honors undergrad advisor tell me my choices were doable when I picked up a minor on top of the honors program I was doing and my pre-professional health coursework (think lots of science labs). Except that once I did the math when trying to plan out the courses I loved that fit the requirements, I’d have to do 18-20 credit hour semesters for it to be “doable” in the 4 total years I planned to be there. I ended up dropping the honors program, because the minor was more interesting – and had someone send me a survey asking why after that, to which I could only facepalm.

            Reply
          2. Annony*

            I do agree about not taking the advisors word for it. Check what the actual requirements are for the degree, which ones you have already done and how often the others are offered. However, in my experience switching after sophomore year to a related degree (like social work to psych) usually has enough overlap in the prerequisites that it will be relatively seamless. Switching to something completely different like engineering would likely be much harder.

            Reply
            1. Misty*

              I just wanted to say that I’ve done this. I think it’s smart to do your own research and I appreciate you pointing that out as advice. I’ve compared the courses I’ve taken and are currently taking to all the courses I would need to graduate in the following: english, social work, finance, and psychology. I also met with the departments chairs in all of these departments and compared what they said to my research.

              For Psych I only need two more semesters if I took a class this summer. For English and Social work I need two more full years if I take 16 credits a semester. For Finance I needed over two years.

              If I just wanted to graduate to get a degree, the fastest one would be psychology but I’m not sure the smartest thing to do is to just go as fast as possible.

              Reply
              1. AccountantWendy*

                If you’re really not sure what you want to do, get the Finance degree because there are job opportunities galore. My BA is in English from an expensive private school and I ended up drifting for 10 years before going back to community college and getting an Associates in Accounting. I LOVE being an accountant but even if you don’t, the pay is good and you can work while figuring out what you really want to do….which can take a long time.
                A friend from my graduating class, English major, works as a ballroom dance teacher.
                My spouse, English major, works in shipping and receiving.
                I know only a handful of English majors that went on to use their degrees directly in some sort of teaching/writing/literary way. Most ended up in other fields. So unless you very much have a plan saying “These are the jobs I want and they require a degree in English”, I’d stake your money on finance any day.

                Reply
                1. Elizabeth West*

                  A zillion times this. I have degrees in English and Criminal Justice. In general, they haven’t been useful for anything because tons of writing jobs want you to have subject matter expertise in whatever. If you wanted to double major in English and Finance, have a career in finance, and then write about those topics, that could get you somewhere.

                  You can’t do anything in psychology with just a bachelor’s degree anyway. You’d need a master’s and either a Psy.D or a Ph.D to be a clinician.

                2. Annony*

                  I would also add that it might be helpful to compare “time left in school to be able to get a job” instead of “time to degree”. It sounds like you already planned on 3 more years in school since you would need a masters. You can probably get a better paying job with a BA in finance than you can with a masters in social work. So overall, if you would be happy with they type of job you can get with a finance degree, you aren’t really extending your schooling, just switching tracks.

                3. Sandman*

                  I agree with this. It also might be worth asking if there were general ed classes you really enjoyed but didn’t think much about because you were focused on being a social worker. With 20 years of hindsight, I’m remembering classes I liked a lot but dismissed because “that’s not my thing” – and now I’m taking classes again in a similar field. That sort of thing can just be information to help you suss out what sorts of things you really would like doing a lot.

              2. AnotherAlison*

                This is something I stumbled onto recently, and it might be a good read for you. Look for the Psychology Today article, “Engineering—The Smart Career Choice for People Who Love Psychology” from 2012.

                I didn’t see anything in your posts that makes me think you might consider engineering, but the article does give some cold hard facts about career opportunities in psychology.

                FWIW, it has always baffled me that many people who pull themselves out of tough upbringings pursue social work rather than work that pays well, so I think you’re on track with considering other options.

                (Another FWIW, my cousin’s daughter recently finished an undergrad in sociology and has a job that is apparently enough to buy a house and support two son’s as a single mom. She does B2B customer service, but it’s a wfh online job and sounds pretty nice for her.)

                Reply
              3. Roy G. Biv*

                I also greatly enjoyed reading and writing when in college, while in pursuit of my English BA, and did not expect to use it in my everyday job. As in, I was not going to be editor-in-chief of a notable journal. And then I did a lot of proof reading at my first three jobs, so it was useful after all. “Here, Roy, you’re the English major. Is this verb tense correct?”

                I also have a Business degree, and the English degree got lots of side eye back in the day. Many interviews included the question, “Well, then why aren’t you teaching?” Because I don’t want to teach, which is why it’s not an education degree. I wanted to work in advertising & marketing, and I did for quite a few years. Now I work in sales, and full disclosure – sales is SO MUCH more rewarding! But I would still pursue the English degree, if I had a chance to do it again.

                Reply
              4. RC Rascal*

                What about completing the Social Work degree & minoring in Finance? Finance will open doors. You might consider a Finance degree w a SW minor.

                There are a lot of relationship management jobs in business. Similar skills to SW but much less emotionally taxing.

                Reply
                1. Jaydee*

                  On the flip side, there is always a need for people in the social service world who understand money and math. How cool would it be for a social service agency or counseling practice to have a finance person or fundraising professional who really understands what the social workers employed there do? (very cool) Another option would be getting into the financial side of counseling. Help people learn money management skills. Work for an agency that serves as representative payee for people who can’t manage their own Social Security benefits. Work at a small/local bank or credit union and start a micro-loan program or do outreach to communities of people that are “unbanked” or “underbanked.” Go into forensic accounting and help law enforcement catch and prosecute scammers and abusers who take money from elderly and vulnerable people.

                  Or…don’t. Get a degree in something you enjoy studying that will let you get a job you like that pays well enough for whatever your desired standard of living is. And find ways that are meaningful to you (not to someone else, but to YOU) to give back to the world. That could be through work or outside of work. And it could be specifically working with people who have experienced trauma similar to what you experienced. Or it could be something entirely different (art or music, politics, fostering litters of orphaned kittens, whatever).

                  But if you become a forensic accountant who fosters kittens, let me know because that sounds pretty awesome.

          3. ampersand*

            Counterpoint to this: If OP is already burnt out on social work, being successful at the required internship might be really tough. I think it’s worthwhile to consider if she’ll be able to provide good (or even good enough) service to the clients she’ll undoubtedly have during that time, if her heart isn’t in it.

            I do agree with you about the known-known and time to finish a degree, though. Very valid points.

            Reply
      2. Aquawoman*

        I like the way you phrased that (competent at being competent). Can you bottle that? I could use it for one of my reports.

        Reply
    3. Blueberry*

      I’m not sure what I’d do in your position, but your feeling of obligation to “redeem” what happened to you in childhood really resonated with me — for other reasons, I used to feel that way too. I agree with you that you’re not obligated to do so, and that there are other ways to help than a career in social work. Your life is, after all, yours, and you have every right to enjoy it. If you won’t at all enjoy a career in social work you’re not obligated to it.

      *cheers you on*

      Reply
    4. JokeyJules*

      i’ve been in your shoes. What helped me was prioritizing my fears. Am i more afraid of not finding a job or only finding a job that will keep me in low income for most of my life unless i continue education? Do I need to feel extremely passionate about the job i have or will i find joy in other places? What roads will these different degrees open up for me career-wise?

      I have a psych degree, and my work is mostly in operations/coordinating (i.e. nothing to do with my courses). Think about what major will help guide you towards work you’d like to do, and go from there.

      Talk with your advisor or a career advisor at your university!

      Reply
      1. De Minimis*

        Something to think about for sure. I had an English undergrad and ended up having to go to grad school in a different field in order to start a professional career. I’m not saying don’t do it, but have a plan for it.

        I’ve heard a lot about the high burnout rate in social work, though I also have worked with people who worked to get their license requirements and then moved into more administrative type positions where they don’t have as much client contact.

        Reply
    5. Rainbow Dash*

      It sounds like you’ve learned that a degree in social work isn’t for you. That’s an awesome thing to learn at a young age. I have a master’s in counseling and I’ve burned out listening to other people’s issues. Not everybody can look at the void and not blink, or take a sip from a gushing hose. However, using that degree, I’d tell you to go to the career center and take attitude testing to see what things you’d be interested in. You have a vague idea of what you’d be good at, but career testing would help you narrow it down. Business is a lot of reading and writing papers.

      Reply
    6. Daisy-dog*

      I think you’re getting too hung up on your graduation date. Though it probably is a good idea to change your major soon because it sounds like you are genuinely unhappy in the BSW program. Does your school offer some kind of multi-degree? Mine offered a University Studies degree which involved getting 3 minors. Several of my friends were happy with that and are now in jobs they enjoy.

      I love my Psych degree, but it’s didn’t do much for my professional career. I’m sorry you’re feeling so much pressure to decide. Your degree really won’t define you for the rest of your life, so it’s probably best to just pick something you enjoy.

      Reply
    7. Ama*

      I have a couple of family members who do social work — it seems like from talking to them that if you don’t really have a passion for the work you can burn out really quickly. I also remember one cousin talking about her professors doing a hard sell on her — I think because so few people go into social work the people in the field do have a tendency to really work hard to try to keep people in the major so keep that in mind.

      As an English major myself, English is a great major for people who aren’t entirely sure what they want to do — especially if you already enjoy writing papers. The skills you learn as an English major can be applied to a ton of fields because almost every field needs people with strong communication skills. I initially thought about becoming a librarian, then I went to grad school for a Master’s in writing, then I had a long stint as a university administrator, and now I run a grant program for a medical research nonprofit.

      Reply
    8. Purt's Peas*

      Career offices aren’t always…good, but I’d recommend meeting with your career office to talk about careers for an English major.

      I think that you shouldn’t pursue an education (including a master’s degree) in a subject that makes you actively miserable, since there’s a very high likelihood that the jobs available will also make you miserable.

      Reply
      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        If you’re in the US, there are career centers all over the country partnering the Dept of Labor and local agencies. They are free and anyone who can work in the US can use their services. Just walk in and check it out.
        I am an Employment Counselor in a Career One-Stop (find yours by googling that term). I meet with new grads often — lots of folks get the diploma and then stare at the job market like a deer in the headlights. I love getting them early. And a pre-grad like you deciding on a degree path would be even better because there might be a course correction that’s easier for you to do now rather than later.

        The key thing we would do if I were meeting with you is to look at whatever work history you’ve got, ask you about the parts of work that you like and don’t like and the types of things you know how to do or would want to learn, and then name a few job titles that seem like pretty good fits. We’d find generic descriptions of those jobs on onetonline.org, and look for actual job postings for those positions. Then your homework would be to study the postings and study the company webpages (and do other research like looking up the linkedin profiles of people who do those jobs) and then see if you’d be happy doing the things that they’re describing. Then, a quick review of whether you’d qualify for those jobs, or what you need to get them.

        You can certainly (and SHOULD certainly) check in with your college career center, but going to the public resource means that you’ll be working with someone who is deeply involved with the current labor market for people of all levels of work. They’ll be able to connect some of the more generic dots right to the actual companies/agencies that are hiring.

        Reply
        1. Misty*

          I’m going to look into that. I just googled it and found the website for my state. Thank you very much for the advice. I appreciate it.

          Reply
    9. Bubbles*

      Just because you’ve been through a trauma and come out the other side with compassion doesn’t mean you should spend the rest of your life doing social work. You can still contribute in other ways.

      This is the benefit of General Education coursework and why students should be encouraged to take a year of GE before being allowed to declare a major! Embrace the chance to take a variety of coursework that would expose you to potential majors without damaging progress toward a degree.

      How would you feel about teaching? Or being a high school guidance counselor? In both capacities you would be serving a population that needs help. I work at a high school now and while I am an admin assistant, I spend a good part of my day with kids just listening to them. I am also on the front lines to see kids that are struggling with getting food, can’t afford basics, are having a crisis at home, etc., and I can alert the appropriate people on our campus to get the students some help. We have an office with counselors and case managers specifically for students and their families to get help with the most basic of resources. We connect them with government assistance and various programs, provide after school snacks, language assistance, etc.

      Reply
      1. Sue*

        Good ideas.
        I have a friend who went through some childhood trauma and has become a high school counselor. She loves her job. It varies enough to avoid the social work burnout issue but has a huge component of helping those who need it. Her empathy is important but she also gets to problem solve on schedules, advise and help with college/career planning and be an ear with kids at a pivotal time.

        Reply
        1. blackcat*

          I think it hugely depends on where. Guidance counselor burnout is common in places with very high loads (>500 students/1 counselor is common in some states) and/or very high needs populations.
          In the right school, it can be a good balance.

          Reply
          1. Bubbles*

            My current site is approximately 4,000 students with 10-11 counselors. It’s ridiculous… but we only “lose” one counselor every 2-3 years, and in the last 5 years it’s been women who choose to stay home with their new babies, not burnout, so we’ve been exceptionally lucky. Because I get burned out just hearing about what some of these kids are going through.

            Reply
        2. Jessica Fletcher*

          Just want to comment that if you do want to become a guidance counselor, you should do the BSW, and you would probably benefit greatly from the MSW, too. From someone who is a BSW and knows that social work is much more than therapy and CYF!

          Reply
      2. Janet*

        I was going to suggest this as well. You said you wanted to be a social worker to help people, but social work isn’t the only way to accomplish that goal. You could study English and be a teacher or a counselor. Or you could write grants or be some kind of admin for a non profit. Even if your career goes down a different path you can do volunteer work in your free time.

        Also, I’m an engineer. I HATED my classes. I almost dropped out. But college is nothing like work and now I’m much happier

        Reply
        1. ThatGirl*

          In some/many/all? states you need an education degree to be a teacher or a school counselor. But there are many things you can do with an English degree, for sure.

          Reply
      3. Steve*

        Years ago someone had a really neat insight into how we can best help the world be a better place. We may want to push ourselves into working for a non-profit, or a job that helps others. Yet for some of us – especially those who do well at a job that pays well – maybe the best career path is to take on a job like programming or data analyst for a company that pays well, and then take a portion of that pay and donate it to your favourite charity.

        Is it better to work for a non-profit which helps people work through their trauma, or get a really good job so that you can donate enough money so that the charity can afford to pay a staff for an extra few hours a week to help people work through their trauma?

        Reply
        1. Sunflower*

          I worked for a BigLaw firm and one of the associates disclosed to me that her husband and his friends were literary/art types and scoffed at her job for not contributing to the betterment of the world. Our firm was one of the leaders in Pro Bono work and I told her to remember that working for these clients allowed the firm to do the amount of Pro Bono work we did. We were able to provide legal help to so many who would not be able to afford it otherwise.

          Reply
    10. blink14*

      I don’t see any problem with switching to English. I would do some research on the requirements for a master’s in social work – do you need a specific undergrad degree in social work? And/or can you pick up a minor? It’s possible the classes you’ve already taken are setting you up for a minor and you don’t realize it, you could minor in English or another humanities field. It would probably be helpful to meet with an advisor in your current department to discuss further options.

      Back when I was in college, I switched from psych/bio to history in my sophomore year. I fully wanted to go into being a psychiatrist, then thought social work, but realized both would burn me out very quickly from an emotional standpoint. At the university I went to, switching to social work also would’ve meant switching colleges internally, which made me very nervous that I would be locked into such a specific degree. I ended up with a somewhat unintended minor in women’s studies – it happened that a lot of the history classes I was interested in were cross categorized for a women’s studies degree.

      I’ve worked in property management and now work at a university, and I also have long done side jobs in the entertainment industry. My history degree set me up with strong research, writing, and organizational skills. If I were able to go back, I may have approached things differently (entertainment management was a passion but not really an option at my university, and frankly, probably wouldn’t have been a good degree with the economy crash coming just a year or so after my graduation), but overall, I’ve been in two very different industries based on a history degree.

      Reply
    11. Kalico*

      It might help to look at your college degree as a holistic experience that is giving you skills that are useful in a variety of possible jobs, rather than as a qualification that will funnel you into a specific profession. In this sense, it doesn’t matter too much what your degree is in, ultimately – although the degree in social work might look better on paper and be more relevant to a broader array of jobs than a degree in psychology or English. In the meantime, take one of those English classes and see how it goes.

      Reply
      1. WellRed*

        I’ll co-sign all of this. Don’t get tunneled into “The Degree” or one narrow idea of what a person with a certain degree can do. Social work is pretty broad. I think switching to English is fine, but please know that you will not get hired to “read and write papers.”
        What is it what you want to do for work? Then, map out a possible plan.

        Reply
        1. Diahann Carroll*

          but please know that you will not get hired to “read and write papers.”

          Not true if she ends up being a technical writer/editor. There are tons of those jobs in tech and medicine.

          Reply
          1. Nesprin*

            Im in stem and 80% of my job is reading and writing papers. The language is a little different but good writing is invaluable.

            Reply
          2. Elizabeth West*

            Yes, but nearly every single job listing for those roles wants subject matter expertise. They all say stuff like bachelor or master degree in bioscience, or whatever. Nobody wants you if you can write and edit but don’t know the subject, no matter how good you are at learning stuff.

            This is the barrier I’m running into right now.

            Reply
            1. WellRed*

              Jinx posting! yes, this exactly. Lots of jobs require writing but need a different degree. I toyed with the idea of getting a master’s in nutrition writing, but realized I’d be better of getting a master’s in Nutrition (which is a totally different thing and not something I pursued).

              Reply
            2. Diahann Carroll*

              I have a similar job to a tech writer and I work in software with zero tech experience prior to coming into this role – it can happen that if your writing/editing is strong enough, those so-called requirements can turn into nice-to-haves.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth West*

                That was the case with my last job, mostly because I aced the test edit. Unfortunately, other than that test, I have no clips from it because everything was proprietary. I can’t get past the gatekeepers. Plus I don’t know every content management system / style guide known to man. I wish more employers would realize that people can actually LEARN stuff. :P

                Reply
                1. Diahann Carroll*

                  Right! No one, even people who have been doing this for years, knows everything and will need to have some sort of training to get up to speed with what an employer wants anyway. I was very fortunate that my current employer saw that my writing and editing skills were on point and realized that I don’t have to be an expert on every piece of software we sell – I just need to be able to take the technical speak and turn it into something easily digestible to people like me who don’t have that mind frame. And honestly, people who don’t know a ton about a subject can be excellent technical writers because they’re not so close to the subject that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

        2. Purple*

          I think WellRed hit on the point that made me want to reply to this comment, and now I can explain it a little better. When I read your post, although you maybe pay some lip service to future planning, a lot of your text is about fairly short term concerns. (Which is fine, I get that bills have to get paid next week and all, but you’re asking about a decision with long term effects) Wanting to quit SW because you don’t like the classes, and going into English because you would.

          Find the end of the path, then map it out. Realize the school portion is a means to an end. I mean…you could get an accounting degree and then help a non-profit maximize their $ to do good work. Or a Marketing degree and participate in a PR campaign to help people get services they need. All kinds of skills are needed to still do good work, and some of them may allow you to meet both your goal of having a little more to live on and help people.

          Going just on what you posted here, your vision right now is really narrow, and your time horizon too close.

          Reply
          1. Misty*

            You may be right. I appreciate the insight.

            I have a very hard time picturing the future and I never expected to have the chance to go back to college. I will work on trying to think clearer about the future. I can’t see past tomorrow most days.

            Reply
    12. Behth*

      In college you should either choose a major that allows you to explore and figure out what you want to do, or one that leads directly to the kind of job you already know you want. Don’t choose based on how enjoyable the coursework is, unless you can tell that it will prepare you to do more of the same enjoyable work in a field where you can find employment.

      If you don’t want to have a career in social work, absolutely don’t keep that as your major. But do you want to have a career in an English-related field, either? What would that look like for you? I majored in what my school called “professional writing,” which is a more practical treatment of writing, editing, and analysis. I found it both enjoyable and fulfilling, both in class and in the writing job I have now. Maybe your school has something like that, a program that prepares you for after-college work in the field you enjoy studying?

      If English or Phycology is your passion, by all means, go for it! But don’t look at college as a race to complete—I know you want a quick return on your investment, but you’ll either have to go back or spend a lot of time self-teaching if you don’t learn skills you plan to use in your career. Taking five or six or more years to graduate, while figuring out what you really want to do, is probably going to be better for you than studying something you don’t enjoy and graduating with the knowledge to do that one thing only.

      Also—lots of people study and begin working in one field, then find another passion later on and make a change. You don’t have to have it all figured out now! But don’t start a path you already know you’ll want to change.

      Reply
      1. M_Lynn*

        On the same note of “don’t choose based on how enjoyable the coursework is”, don’t quit social work just because you hate the classes. I can’t tell if when you say the material is too depressing means that you dislike the content in your classes or the whole intense focus on all the ways people struggle to survive in our society. Examining all the ways people struggle through poverty, addiction, or whatever is really hard to study on a daily basis. However, doing the work of helping people overcome traumatic experiences could still be something you enjoy once you’re in the job as a social worker and make it through the degree program. Perhaps think about that a lot more!

        And lots of others have said here, social work is an incredibly valuable degree! You could try out being a social worker, and maybe find that you don’t love it. Then move to working for your state government managing grants that support the work on the ground. Or get into philanthropy, or communications for nonprofits, etc. Your experience knowing how systems work and how people can be supported through trauma could also make you a fantastic journalist.

        For context, I have a degree in humanities that gave me no demonstrable skills, and it was rough for me to graduate and have the same “what do I do with my career?” crisis then. Social work is a respected skillset, and one easily transferable (and widely accepted as transferable!). I think it would open more doors than an English degree.

        That being said, if this is coming from your internal reactions to being forced to do a service career following your own childhood, PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE FEELINGS. Examine them more.

        Reply
        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Your last paragraph is exactly what OP is saying – the classes are becoming depressing to her because they’re opening up old wounds from her own past (she said she’s having no trouble doing the actual work). Therefore, since she clearly is still affected by her own trauma, she’s probably right that she needs to find a new major and career path – she will not be effective in a social work role when she herself is burned out and re-traumatized. Plus, the pay is lousy and she’s already worried about not making enough to have made the investment in a degree worth it. This just doesn’t sound like the right fit for her at all, though I’m sure her prior social workers were well meaning when they told her to consider this as a career choice due to her upbringing.

          Reply
          1. Misty*

            Yes, I appreciate everyone’s advice but you hit it on the head. The course work is easy but it is too close to my childhood. I already know a lot about poverty, abuse, the foster car system, etc. I do not want to learn about it or work in it at this point.

            I respect and am thankful for all the social workers who helped me but I do not think I want to be one of them in the future.

            Also I should have said in my first post that I have my own therapist that I see twice a week and I have support.

            Reply
            1. Diahann Carroll*

              I’m glad to hear this – please continue to take care of yourself guilt-free. Mental health is so important.

              Reply
    13. chronicallyIllin*

      I think it sounds like social work isn’t for you. They’re right that there are tons of different social work jobs– but it sounds like you find that sort of thinking about the world (that social work almost necessitates) depressing. Plenty of social workers go through school and almost find the stuff you call “heavy” invigorating or energizing. They see what’s wrong and feel motivated and able to do work against that. Even then, many of them get burned out by working in the field for many years and have to leave after 10, 15, 20 years. I think if you’re already exhausted by it, doing the actual work will only get worse for you.

      You say you feel like you’re somehow trying to make the bad stuff that happened to you “mean something”. I think that’s probably a very good insight and one you should probably trust. It’s an issue a LOT of people have, and one that’s pushed onto a lot of people. (I’ve had so many people try to push this on me, for example) I’m happy to let what happened to me be meaningless suffering that just happened. It doesn’t have to be retroactively justified. I don’t have to give credit for any of my accomplishments to people or systems who have hurt me.

      I also think the insight that enjoying psych classes != enjoying psych work is a good one, which I’ve seen psych majors fail to see for themselves as well.

      I’m not sure about WHAT specific major you should go for. I know some people who have had significant issues trying to find jobs with English majors, but I bet there’s lots of people who haven’t had that issue. Can someone with more knowledge about successful English majors answer here with what is necessary to do well and what jobs can come from that?

      I recommend you think hard about what you do and don’t like about your current job, previous jobs, and schoolwork. Do you like working with people and helping them get things they need? Do you enjoy figuring out the right amount of stuff to order? Do you like working to plan the schedule and figure out what the most efficient scheduling is? Do you like researching and putting together papers of information on a given topic? Do you like presenting or giving speeches?

      Hopefully if you can come up with some things you like/hate and hopefully some people here can talk about jobs they know that involve those sort of tasks?

      Reply
      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’m happy to let what happened to me be meaningless suffering that just happened. It doesn’t have to be retroactively justified. I don’t have to give credit for any of my accomplishments to people or systems who have hurt me.

        THIS. My (bad) past doesn’t define my present at all. Shit happened, and I got therapy and moved on.

        Reply
      2. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        As regards thinking ahead to possible futures & what you enjoy, etc, couple of book recommendations:
        Is Your Genius At Work – Dick Richards
        I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was – Barbara Sher

        Reply
    14. Jimming*

      You have some great advice so far! I have a degree in psych (both bachelors and masters) and I burned out of the counseling field. If you finish with a psychology degree a lot of those skills are transferrable to many positions – communicating, working with others, etc. Same with English if you’ll go into a career where you do any writing (which most jobs require writing emails at a minimum). Definitely continue to explore career paths! But if you’re looking to finish your degree quickly, psych or English would be good options. You can always go back to school for a masters degree later on if you decide you want to study another area.

      Reply
    15. Amy Sly*

      My dad (who shifted careers drastically several times and went back to college when I was in elementary school) laid it out like this. There are two kinds of college degrees: job training and ticket punching. The former are things like social work, teaching, accountancy, engineering, medicine, etc. The latter are the degrees you get so the doormen punch your ticket. They have nothing to do with the kind of job you will actually do; they just demonstrate that you were willing to put forth the effort to get a degree and therefore are reasonably intelligent and hardworking. I have two of these degrees. (Well, three if you count the law degree I’m using in a “JD preferred but not required” position.) They’re better than not having them, but what my dad, who still doesn’t have his BA, didn’t realize is that once you get past the “bachelor degree required” doorman, there are still plenty more between you and the job.

      My suggestion would be to inventory your strengths and weakness, try to imagine your work/lifestyle goals, and research what kind of work might allow you to obtain a position that plays to your strengths, minimizes your weakness, and provides for the lifestyle you want. If you’re naturally an empathic person who has a knack for getting people to get along but just don’t want to do therapy, you could look into things like legal arbitration, HR, or procurement. If the idea of research and writing appeals, technical writing might be a good fit; there are never enough people who can turn technobabble into English.

      Whatever degree you decide to go for, I highly recommend taking at least one business class as an elective. Taxation, business structures, and basic economic theory are all important concepts for your personal life, but also they will give you context for the things you will have to learn in any job.

      Reply
      1. Diahann Carroll*

        My suggestion would be to inventory your strengths and weakness, try to imagine your work/lifestyle goals, and research what kind of work might allow you to obtain a position that plays to your strengths, minimizes your weakness, and provides for the lifestyle you want.

        This suggestion is the truth – this is how I job search.

        Reply
      2. One of Mabel's women*

        There’s been a lot of attention lately about whether “liberal arts” degrees and colleges which specialize in them are useful in an increasingly technological world. All I can add is my life experience with a liberal arts degree.
        I was a college student in the early ’70s an majored in history at a state university as a planned path to an M.S. in library science. You get to read and write a lot when you study history. You develop skills in analyzing information and then communicating your thoughts and conclusions coherently in class discussions, papers both long and short, and on the spot exam answers. I also took political science classes including ones on basic quantitative analysis of data and polling. Watergate dominated the news and a class on the presidency, led by a former presidential aide and speechwriter, opened my eyes at how that office works in our democracy. I took the basic course in macroeconomics; I did not like it much (bad instructor) but it’s been the foundation of my understanding how economic systems work. I took a lot of French language and literature. Learning how another language works and expressing oneself in it, oddly enough, led me to see the technological revolution into this information age as another language with its own vocabulary and syntax to learn in order to express myself. When I needed an elective on short notice I fell into a course on food and cooking, perhaps this single most useful college course I took. The music appreciation course that fulfilled an arts requirement has turned into a lifelong love of classical music and choral singing.
        When I graduated, I took a job (to pay for my wedding) writing group insurance policies with a rapidly expanding company that hired a lot of newly-graduated people. With the exception of one nepotism hire (who did not do well!) we had all majored in subjects that were heavy in reading, writing, and analysis. The company trained us in the new language of insurance , a skill which was the foundation for the rest of my career which ended up in HR, using those communication and analysis skills back up by my natural empathy. Though I did not finish, I started grad school as originally planned and courses in reference methods and materials and legal research honed my innate ability to find info in books or on-line.
        Now retired, I find all of that historical context and political science learning shapes the way I view the current conduct of our government on national state and local levels. I am able to understand and manage my financial resources with the guidance of an experienced investment advisor. I am engaged in some historical research about a family member (with the possibility of turning it into a book) and have done a bit of genealogical work.Though out of practice, I can still understand and speak some French. I volunteer as a board member of an arts non-profit planning events, analyzing budgets and spending, writing publicity materials and info for grant applications, and generally promoting the organization.
        I credit my life -how I understand the world inside and outside of me- and my life’s work, on a quality liberal arts education. I recommend it.

        Reply
    16. peach*

      Agree with others that if you’re not feeling social work right now, there’s not a huge reason to stick with it, since it’s a high burnout field with low pay.

      Does your university have a marketing major/minor? If you like reading and writing, you may like marketing, which is a little bit more, well, marketable than an English degree, so might open up more job options after you graduate. If you really want to stick with English, adding in a marketing minor might make sense.

      Also, don’t let the fact that course descriptions sound overwhelming deter you. Course descriptions are often written to sound pretty jargony. But once you get in there and start learning/doing the thing, you find that it’s not as overwhelming as it sounded (or, at least that was my experience when majoring in philosophy).

      Reply
    17. Viette*

      Your experience right now is so, so common in people going to college. Do what seems like the most productive and has a job plan after it, but I hate it? Or do what I enjoy the most but has no job plan after it? Social work sounds very fraught for you; you don’t like the classes and your motivations are very personal, which isn’t always bad but it can make you feel like you have failed *as a person* if you don’t achieve what you thought you would.

      “My biggest fear is that I’ll graduate in something and not be able to find a job that pays more than I’m making now.” I don’t want to play up stereotypes, but the cold reality is that an English major is not necessarily going to get you new job opportunities. The English majors I know who are successful mostly either toiled long and hard (10+ years) to make it in a field like writing or journalism, or they ended up doing something pretty unrelated.

      How is this advice? Okay, okay. So, my advice is two-fold:
      1. Get in touch with alumni from your school have English majors and who live in the area where you want to live. What are they up to? What do they do for a living? This is half to reassure you that you can get a job with an English major and half to suggest to you some career paths.
      2. Talk to friends (and family if that’s an option) about what their friends/relatives do for a living. You know what your friends do for work, but what does your co-worker’s cousin do? What education do they have? I found that I really just didn’t even *know* what jobs existed that could be done by me, and this helped a lot. Career counselors are often focused on big fancy career ideas, but you want to know what someone in your socioeconomic group actually does. Traveling drug rep? Cobbler? Quality control for a dump truck company? I think that may help you see what people can do with various degrees. It’s all over the place!

      And good luck!!

      Reply
      1. Diahann Carroll*

        The English majors I know who are successful mostly either toiled long and hard (10+ years) to make it in a field like writing or journalism, or they ended up doing something pretty unrelated.

        This harsh reality cannot be stated enough. I’m not an English major (I majored in journalism so…close enough), but I knew I wanted to work in either communications or marketing after school because I loved to write and edit other people’s work – it took me EIGHT YEARS to land a communications/marketing-adjacent role. Before that, I bounced around in various job functions across multiple industries. I’m doing very well for myself financially now (I made $75k last year and I’m on track to make $80k this year with my quarterly bonuses factored in), but the first eight years of my professional life was a struggle. The first four saw me making only slightly above poverty wages – and this on top of having to pay back loans (good on you, OP, for not taking any out – don’t. Ever). Most of the people I graduated with had similar trajectories.

        Reply
        1. RC Rascal*

          Another undergraduate communications major. I graduated and realized I couldn’t take the poverty associated with pursuing careers in communications. So I went into sales instead.

          Reply
          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I hear you on that. If I had had the ability to sell anything, I would have gone that route too – a former coworker of mine made nearly $100k in sales within the first couple years of her doing it and she was able to pay off all her school loans in less than five years. That would have been a dream *sigh*. (Oddly enough, I’m apart of the sales division at my current company creating their content, lol).

            Reply
            1. RC Rascal*

              I worked commissioned retail in school, so that helped. Also, I did a major related internship at the United Way. I went to a small school & while internship duties weren’t related, UW is a giant national brand name & well respected. Having that at the top of my resume helped get interviews.

              Reply
              1. Diahann Carroll*

                That was smart. I interned at a literary magazine that no one reads and my city’s convention and visitor’s bureau – that (not shockingly) didn’t seem to help at all when I began post-grad job searching, lol.

                Reply
                1. RC Rascal*

                  It was inadvertent. I knew I wasn’t going to stay in the area I was going to school: a rural area halfway across the country. Our Career Services wasn’t that great & most internship opportunities were local companies. The United Way was literally the only place I had ever heard of. So I went for that internship & got it.

                  UW does lots of work w major corporations. That name on my resume helped me get into a brand name Fortune organization.

    18. Jules the 3rd*

      I strongly recommend you look at other majors, now, but keep in mind: you’ll be learning all your life and you’ll probably have 2 – 3 different careers. To dig more into this career period, go to your college career counselors and talk about options. Maybe see if there’s aptitude tests you could take.

      There are lots and lots of ways to help people, social work is not the only option. As a matter of fact, there’s ways to turn most degrees into ‘helping people’. I have a business degree, focus on Supply Chain, and work to support computer recycling. Some of my friends are chemists and biologists working for the EPA. I know non-profit accountants, public works engineers, and a ton of software engineers working on social issues.

      Just a suggestion, business is a good ‘general’ degree that lets you pivot into many different roles, and there’s a lot of sub-categories for people with different interests / skills. Another option might be a health care industry (eg, pharmacy), as that will be a good mix of helping others / making enough $$ to live on, for a long time to come.

      Reply
    19. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Just a thought — Psychology and English are both applicable for sales & marketing & advertising as well as management & documentation.

      Reply
    20. Unladen European Swallow*

      If you haven’t already, you really need to think about internships while you’re completing your BA degree. I know you said that you’re a middle manager at a drug store, so it’s unclear if you have the time/capacity to do an internship on top of that, but having an internship in different types of fields or organization can be your foot in the door for a job post-graduation, in spite of whatever your major is. I know of many people who obtained jobs in fields seemingly very different from their majors because an internship demonstrated that they had actual experience with that type of specific work, regardless of their coursework. A bonus is that internships can help you identify the type of work you do and do not enjoy.

      Otherwise, I agree with many others to not complete the social work major if the courseswork is making you unhappy. Go to your career center, ask to speak with a counselor for an appointment about internships and post-graduation plans. Alternatively, have a conversation with your favorite English prof and ask what her past students are doing now. I’m sure there will be former students who have kept in touch. This might help you understand the range of work that English majors do “out in the real world.”

      Reply
      1. chronicallyIllin*

        I don’t know how this would play with keeping a store management position to come back to, but there are paid internships in a number of fields.
        Software engineering is one I know about, and my hourly pay as a software intern was equivalent to 40k a year, if I had been doing 40hrs a week year-round. I had a friend who managed to get a paid graphic design internship, although I don’t know much about the field so I’m unsure how common that is.
        Talk to professors in the majors you’re interested in and ask about what internships exist around you. My professor was able to help me find an out-of-town summer internship that provided housing so I was able to afford it.

        Reply
    21. Michelle*

      I so rarely recommend this, because the field is somewhat oversaturated, but if you graduate with a bachelors (in anything, though I’m commenting because of your interest in social work and English degrees), you might consider library school instead of a MSW. There are many library roles, especially in public libraries, that benefit from a social work background, because you are dealing with the public and all their problems, but the problems that they seek to solve in a library can be less depressing than other social work contexts and still give you a feeling of giving back to the community without taking on the weight of the world.

      Reply
    22. Constance Lloyd*

      I have a BA in English (Started with Psych, changed my mind) and my current job is kind of an intersection between financial and social work. Very basic financials, nothing like accounting or auditing, and very precursory social work (if I see a red flag I pass it along to a team of actual social workers who do a more thorough investigation). Point being, a degree in English does not confine you to teaching or writing while slinging fries on the side. A degree in English teaches analytical and communication skills, which can be paired with your other interests and experience to bring you to a career you enjoy, with a lower risk of burnout.

      Or you can write or teach! Those are great things! But people on the outside seem to think those are the only options for English majors.

      Reply
    23. Dasein9*

      Speaking as an overeducated academic: major in what interests you. You can expect to have 3-4 different careers in the course of your working life these days, and so thinking of your university major as tied to future jobs will not be as helpful as many suppose.

      What you do need is a mind that is eager and able to learn. The whole point of education is to teach ourselves to learn and draw connections between different types of ideas, events, policies, etc. We learn to do that when we are interested in what we are learning. Majoring in something that we dislike makes us avoid drawing connections in our “off hours,” whereas majoring in something we do like helps us learn to draw connections in everything we encounter. (Be one of those college students who are so excited to apply what they’re learning to everything they do!)

      Reply
    24. 1qtkat*

      I think you should really think about what career you want after graduation whether that’s now or later. If you have transferrable skills (research, writing, analytical thinking, etc…) then I don’t think it matters what major you graduate with as long as you have those skills a future employee wants.

      I can understand being miserable with coursework and wanting to change. I was totally miserable with my biology major requirement classes my first two years, bad enough I too considered changing majors. But what kept me continuing the work was that I decided to declare a second major in environmental sciences which shared a lot of the biology requirements. Also the higher level biology courses in ecology related stuff made biology a bit more tolerable. It was tough and I had long days my last two years, but I was able to graduate in 4 years with two different hard science majors.

      Whatever you decide to do, know that you can sometimes find a purpose for your previous coursework. I know it’s tough to figure out what to do, but I’m sure you can make the right decision for you

      Reply
    25. Mel 2*

      Keep in mind, most psychology-related work needs higher degrees. Otherwise, it’s a bit similar to English in that it can be useful to have as a degree. I studied psychology, and going in knew I was going to do graduate work. Most of my undergrad friends who did not go on to graduate work don’t work in the field of psychology. (I don’t either anymore, but am a statistician for the social sciences, based on my undergraduate stats work.)

      Reply
      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, there are not a lot of psych specific jobs you can get with just a bachelors (my husband is a therapist, with an MA), but psych can be a good general degree.

        Reply
    26. Double A*

      I was an English major because I love reading and writing, and I loved being an English major! I don’t regret that degree for a second. English is a very flexible degree that will keep a lot of options open for you — you aren’t limiting yourself to “English related” jobs. Good writers and critical thinkers are needed in all sorts of fields.

      But my plan way to go into politics. My plan was I was going to do the fun stuff for my classes, and the career stuff as extracurriculars, and that was what I did — I was involved in student government and activist groups, interned for a local representative, etc. It was a great plan because I fully took advantage of the academic, social, and networking aspects of college. Nowadays people only focus on the job-preparation of college, but college is better if you take advantage of the holistic benefits it provides.

      I did start the politics path after college and then found it wasn’t for me. I ended up going back for my Masters in teaching (English), and added a Special Ed endorsement, partly because I was interested and partly because it was the depths of the Great Recession and that was the only type of teaching job you could get. In my teaching jobs I have always worked with at risk or special needs kids, and have burned out and also come back. I’ve taught in a juvenile hall and LOVED it. Just in general my English degree has been very flexible and allowed me to pursue interesting and sometimes surprising paths.

      Reply
      1. Amethystmoon*

        Had a manager at a corporation for a couple of years with a journalism degree. He went back and got an MBA later. So you can do whatever you want with your degree, it’s really work experience and networking that get you jobs. Think about the kind of work you might want to do.

        I started as an international business major, then switched to marketing because it required less math. I don’t do anything specifically in marketing, but it did at least get me office jobs that paid somewhat decently.

        Reply
    27. ampersand*

      I think you should get out of social work if you already don’t like it and are having reservations. It is true that your internship is much different than your classwork and that you’ll have a different experience in an internship vs. learning in a classroom setting, but it sounds like your time, money, and energy could be better invested in a different degree plan. I was also in social work–I started an MSW program that I didn’t finish, because I thought social work was for me and turns out it wasn’t. I actually liked the classwork and then wanted to run and hide when it came to my internship–direct service was not for me! Social work can be depressing, overwhelming, and burnout is extremely common, so I don’t think it’s odd at all that you’re feeling any of that already. This is a good thing to know about yourself. Also: if you get an English (or other) degree now and later change your mind and want to enter an MSW program, odds are good that you can get into one. My undergrad was in liberal arts–you don’t have to have a BSW to get an MSW.

      Reply
    28. DarthVelma*

      I’m sorry to hear that you aren’t enjoying your social work classes, and if you feel like you’re burning out of school and need to make a change, I totally get that. (I may have had a small nervous breakdown during my sophomore year – which led from my change of major from music to social work.)

      Anyway, I thought my experience as a social work major whose job isn’t traditionally considered social work might be of interest. Even in school I focused on social work macro practice rather than micro practice with individuals. I also took some extra research methods and stats and now I do statistics and program analysis and evaluation for a state agency that works with kids 0-3 with disabilities. I still sort of consider what I do social work macro practice. But it’s very different from what most of my classmates ended up doing.

      If you’re interested in doing something that helps people but doesn’t involve working with clients, then ask around with your professors to see if anyone has a focus on macro practice or can point you to grads that are doing something off the beaten path with their degree.

      Like I said, just wanted to add my perspective. But you do what’s going to work for you and make you happy.

      Reply
    29. Fikly*

      If you are in the US, a MSW is not going to get you a lot of prospects for a job as a therapist. You really need a doctorate (psyd or phd) in that field, especially if income is a concern. And be aware that getting that masters will not in any way count as credit toward that doctorate.

      My sister is going through this, and her masters in progress will not count as any credit toward a doctorate at the exact same school. It’s outrageous.

      Reply
      1. chronicallyIllin*

        I don’t know if it’s changed, but it used to be that an MSW was the shortest path to being a therapist, and I know an LCSW who is a therapist because she’s an LCSW. There are significant jobs, if not very well paid ones.

        Reply
        1. Fikly*

          Oh, yes, you can get jobs as a therapist without a doctorate. It’s just that your options are more limited, and you will be paid less.

          Given that the poster is concerned about income and the ability to get a job, it’s relevant. And also this information is not something that most masters programs will tell you, because it’s against their interests to tell you.

          (I’m not at all commenting on whether or not you can be a good therapist based on whatever degree, by the way. I don’t think any graduate degree is particularly related to your abilities as a therapist, myself.)

          Reply
      2. ThatGirl*

        Uh, that’s not true, most clinicians are either MSW or Masters in counseling. It’s the license that matters, but you have to work your way up to that. My husband has a masters in counseling, so do all of his coworkers, his therapist, etc, etc. doctorates have their use but you don’t need one to be a therapist.

        Reply
      3. Sunflower*

        This is completely and utterly untrue. If your goal is to be a therapist and that’s it, getting a doctorate would be a huge waste of time and money. I looked into many options and found getting a PhD was useless I wanted to do research. A PsyD was a waste of time when an MSW would do just as well. You absolutely do not need either of those things to get a job that pays well.

        As a consumer of therapy, I didn’t even bother looking at therapists with a PhD or PsyD because I was sure they charged more and knew I could find an MSW who did just as well. Cost per session is a huge factor when people chose a therapist so something to consider as well when you’re looking at the business side of therapy.

        Reply
    30. Terra*

      A key question to ask yourself when thinking about a career (which you should do before thinking about your major) is, “What kind of problems do I want to solve?”

      In terms of practicality, changing from Social Work to English is not going to land you a better-paying job. One thing that comes to mind is Human Resources positions, which have a lot of growth potential and relatively inexpensive certifications. While your loyalty would be to a company and to finding the best business resolution for a company, you would also be balancing that with assisting employees and showing compassion and human interaction to them. There’s a real “human” aspect to that sort of work that’s similar to social work, but doesn’t require you to get into the dark underbelly of everyone’s problems.

      Reply
        1. Misty*

          Huh that’s a good question. Do you mean what problems I want to solve in the world at large or in my own life?

          In my own life I would say the problem I would want to solve is not being able to find a job where I can make more money and also have more regular hours. Most of the people I know at work have hs education or less, and most of my friends with the exception of a couple work jobs were they have already graduated college but are making less than I am because they ended up working at a hotel or in retail. I really want to create a good future for myself and also anyone I may end up supporting in the future.

          Reply
          1. Terra*

            I mean in terms of your career, and what you see on a day-to-day basis. Someone working retail or hotel management is solving inventory and customer-facing problems for a business. Everything from running out of scrambled eggs at the breakfast buffet, to telling someone with a language barrier that you don’t sell the thing they’re looking for, to figuring out how to set up and maintain an end cap on a store aisle, is a “problem.” Not necessarily in the negative sense (although it could be), but in the sense of a puzzle or issue that you are responsible for.

            It sounds like solving the extremely sad and/or stressful problems that come with social work are too draining for you, from the experience you have. Do you want to solve problems that are people-centered? Do you want to sit in a lab all day and do research? Do you want to code? Do you want to manage people as they solve problems? Do you want to solve problems for clients, or the government, or the private sector? In terms of environment, do you want to solve problems that require you to travel a lot, work in an office, work outside, etc.?

            Answering these questions for yourself will help you better decide. I wouldn’t pick a major based on a gut feeling that you might enjoy the course descriptions. I would also start answering the question of, “And then what?” When you have a degree in hand, and looking around to see what people actually do with the degrees you’re contemplating.

            Reply
            1. Misty*

              I like customer service, I like interacting with people esp the regular customers, I like problem solving when it is done face to face with another person and helping customers find what they need. I like helping my coworkers figure out things. I will think more about the other questions you’ve stated.

              Thank you very much. I appreciate it a lot.

              Reply
              1. RC Rascal*

                If you like CS your job already has you off on the first step.

                Right now I am reference for a former coworker. He started off as an assistant mgr for Walgreens. From there he became a CS Rep for big company, got promoted to CS Manager. Left us to go to a manufacturer that wanted him to do CS + some Supply Chain. Then they made him a Suppy Chain analyst.

                Now he’s applying to be a Supply Chain Manager. 12 years into his career & job pays I estimate $80k in the Midwest.

                Reply
    31. Dysfunction Junction*

      Here’s my two cents as an English major: don’t do it. I’ve always been good at writing and it was assumed that’s obviously what I’d major in and I was fed a lot of bull about how ‘you can do anything with an English major’ that was basically BS unless you wanted to go into teaching. I graduated and found that most jobs that weren’t basic admin roles wanted degrees in business, HR, etc. I graduated in ’06 and my first job editing/writing company policies paid $26,000. I’m now working at a university and getting my MBA.

      As many others here stated, take a look at different careers and see what degrees they require and go from there. If you like writing, you might consider communications, marketing, and advertising.

      Reply
      1. EnglishisLit*

        I’m shocked and sad to hear people bashing English degrees here! I have one and jumped right into Corporate Comms, where I write and edit and strategize all sorts of documents. I’m a VP earning very good money with just a Bachelors.

        It can be done, folks!

        Reply
        1. Diahann Carroll*

          No one is bashing anything – we’re just stating the (very real) facts that people like you are an outlier. The vast majority of people who graduate with English, journalism, and general comms degrees end up in totally unrelated fields because they can’t find work in communications, marketing, PR, etc. This is especially true for those who just got the degree(s) because they didn’t know what they wanted to do with their lives in the first place, which seems to be one of OP’s issues.

          I agree that OP shouldn’t totally dismiss the option outright, though – it may take her a while depending on her region and the job prospects in said region to find something that requires her English degree (or it may not! She may end up being one of the lucky ones, but I wouldn’t count on that), but if she keeps working on her craft, it could happen for her. It took me eight years, I’ve now been in a content development/proposal (technical) writing role for two, and I’m so glad I didn’t give up because I love what I do.

          Reply
          1. Terra*

            You also need a certain temperament and mindset to endure the “It MIGHT happen” aspect that comes with an English degree, which is something OP should factor in.

            Reply
              1. Terra*

                There are certain jobs (nursing and welding come to mind off the top of my head) where there is no shortage of work. If you keep your nose clean, get decent grades, get your certifications, and don’t cause trouble (like getting fired for cause, and sometimes even then) you will have recruiters knocking down your door.

                There are other jobs and majors where the market is perpetually oversaturated, and/or you have to pound the pavement for employment. You have to scour job ads, perpetually “pitch” what you want to do and why your major fits the job, and fight off other people. A lot of creative jobs and majors are like this. What I mean is that you have to have the stamina, the grit, and the determination to succeed, and to possibly take jobs that aren’t exactly what you’re looking for or don’t exactly fit, if you want to major in English and take that degree elsewhere.

                My cousin has an Art History degree and is now dismayed to find that she essentially needs someone to die before a slot will open up as a museum curator, teacher, or professor. She keeps expanding her search. She started off wanting to work around our hometown, then in the state, then the tri-state area, and now she’s looking for what she can get.

                I personally never had that temperament. I’m not allergic to hard work, but I don’t like the thought of majoring in something and then having extremely nebulous prospects.

                Reply
                1. Misty*

                  So do you think having an english degree is sort of like your cousin’s art history degree? (I may have gotten a little confused on this sentence: “What I mean is that you have to have the stamina, the grit, and the determination to succeed, and to possibly take jobs that aren’t exactly what you’re looking for or don’t exactly fit, if you want to major in English and take that degree elsewhere.”)

                2. Terra*

                  For some reason I can’t reply to Misty’s comment below, but yes. They are similar. If you want proof, look anywhere like Glassdoor, Indeed, job search sites for your city/state/the federal government. You are not going to find “English major preferred” or “English” listed as a job description.

                  If you look at people who took their English degrees and ran with them, they’re going to be people who were highly determined, creative, and able to parlay their degree into another position. It’s not impossible to find a good paying job with benefits and decent work hours with an English degree, but it requires a high level of tenacity.

                3. Misty*

                  This is in response to Terra:

                  Okay I get what you’re saying now. I did notice that on indeed, like you see jobs looking for specific degrees but none really looking for english degrees.

                  Yeah. I think my brain is sufficiently fried at this point today lol

        2. ThatGirl*

          Yeah. I was a comm major, I started in journalism but moved to marketing/creative services/copywriting and while I’m not filthy rich, I do pretty well with plenty of room to move up.

          Reply
    32. Jessica Fletcher*

      Hi! I actually have a BSW! Perhaps it will put your mind at ease to know that if you do earn a BSW from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, you qualify for the accelerated MSW up to 7 years after you earn the BSW. So you don’t have to go to grad school right away if you don’t want to. And you generally don’t HAVE to do an MSW unless you do decide to do therapy or research (because most jobs like that want you to be licensed, and most states do not offer bachelor’s level licensure.)

      You also seem anxious about graduating “on time” – so let me disabuse you of the belief that it’s even typical to finish a bachelor’s in 4 years. It’s not! Most students take 5-6 years to finish a bachelor’s degree. I took 5. I transferred schools and changed my major (TO social work and political science, from just poli sci.) Graduating after a lot of my high school friends was so hard at the time, but you know what? Absolutely no one cares now, and employers have never ever asked me. If anyone ever does ask, I’ll just shrug and say I changed my major. Most people do! It’s fine!

      I do think it’s worth looking at the very wide variety of jobs you can do with social work. I never even intended to do therapy, and it was the right degree for me. I was able to do a combo of classes in my BSW that worked for what I did want to do – which at the time was to be a legislative operative for a PAC. There are a lot of social workers in government, not doing therapy! We’re a group that wants to make the world better, and we do it in a bunch of different ways! If you have any interest in doing any social work career that is NOT therapy, you should consider finishing the BSW because it’s going to help you. You can absolutely do an English minor or dual major.

      I loved my BSW program because I was able to integrate both my fields – social work and political science – so I did things like policy analyses with a focus on the impact on marginalized populations, and I did my undergrad thesis on indigent defense/sentencing reform in my state. I also didn’t take the psych research seminar that social work students took. I was allowed to take the poli sci research seminar instead, which was so much better for me.

      Although I have never worked in therapy and never wanted to, personally I see how my social work training enhances my work all the time. I work in public health, and have worked in a few different areas of public health – research, education, direct assistance (helping impoverished ppl get connected with resources), and public policy. I’ve done everything from help people get signed up for public benefits, conducting public health research, political campaign work, representing people at public benefit hearings, and I even testified before my state legislature. I see the world through the lens of social work, which looks at the whole picture, the bio-psycho-social model. I’m in a grad program right now that’s not a JD but it’s at a law school, and I’ve received feedback multiple times that I identify issues that no one else in the class sees. I think that’s from my social work training. I work in health law now, and it’s super fun because I work with a lot of lawyers and MBAs, and here I am with my BSW, getting tons of positive feedback and recognition.

      So anyway. A BSW is not only for therapy, and your social work advisor does have a point that your field placement can really help you see where you want to go with the degree. I did my field placement at a public interest law firm. I was the first person from my school ever to go there. I wanted to do that, so I met with them and got my program to pull them into the approved placements. It was a great experience, and other students have done their placement there, after I did!

      I think it’s absolutely worth figuring out more what field or job you DO want to work in, and see if there’s a social work connection. If not, ok. But don’t discount social work just because you don’t want to do therapy. It’s so much more.

      A last thought – don’t you dare switch to psych from social work. Psych is like social work lite. In a lot of states, social workers can do all the same jobs, do all the same functions, including diagnose, and MSWs usually make more money. A good friend did her undergrad in psych, and did her grad in psych because her advisor told her not to do the MSW. Then she found out that professionally, it’s better to do the MSW. Without it, she got stuck doing a bunch of extra classes post-grad and spending a bunch of money to get licensed in her state, which she would not have had to do if she got an MSW, because an accredited MSW is a nationwide curriculum. /soapbox

      Reply
      1. DarthVelma*

        I cannot remember the last time I heard someone talk about the bio-psycho-social approach. Took me right back to undergrad. :-)

        Plus your story makes mine not feel so out of the ordinary for a BSW. Thanks for sharing it.

        Reply
        1. Jessica Fletcher*

          Thank you! I am disappointed that others who are not social workers don’t seem to be taking a moment to consider that perhaps they do not know what social work actually is, and perhaps they should widen their narrow view beyond therapists and child welfare workers.

          Reply
      2. ThatGirl*

        Psych and social work can both be used for clinician therapist jobs, but they come at it from different approaches, it’s not really fair to say psych is social work light.

        Reply
    33. Mama Bear*

      Do you have the flex in your schedule to do a semester of inquiry? By that I mean, pick a few classes from different majors you are considering and then figure out from there what you love/hate. My stepson did that and ended up finding a major he liked better than the one he started with, and the classes that were not “core” were able to be counted as elective credits. Social Work is hard. Really, really hard. Nobody seems to stick with it unless they have a passion for it. If you do not, then find something else. However, also remember that every major has classes that are less fun. Determine if it’s the content/future job or the type of class (project/group work/research….) that you don’t like.

      Reply
      1. Misty*

        I’ve taken intro to social work, intro to music, intro to sociology, principles of writing, intro to criminal justice, critical writing, intro to psych, went in the world (history class), Western Globalization (history class), Lifespan Dev (psych), biology 1 and lab, world religions, statistics, theories of personality (psych), spanish 1.

        I’m currently taking oppression and diversity 1(swk class), oppression and diversity 2(swk class), biopsychsio (swk class) and a writing class.

        Do you have any suggestions of any other classes/categories that may be good to explore? I guess the majority of what I’ve done is social work, psych, and a few history, and writing. I did not like my criminal justice class at all.

        Reply
        1. Sandman*

          Someone mentioned business/finance above, and that could be good. I’m wondering about more technical classes, too – I just recently took a GIS mapping class and LOVED it, and it’s never something I thought I would or should do. I also like that it’s a hard skill, since I feel like a lot of my other skills are harder to quantify (writing, speaking, etc.). Maybe others have ideas that would be similar.

          Reply
          1. Misty*

            I actually had been looking into geography but then I figured that was an ‘impractical’ degree lol

            I googled the GIS mapping and it looks super interesting.

            Reply
            1. Diahann Carroll*

              The company I work for (writing and editing) creates software for that mapping – it’s pretty cool. You could look into taking stuff like that as electives.

              Reply
            2. frobly*

              GIS could be a really flexible option if it interests you. I work in local city government and the need for GIS folks who can bridge the tech and human sides is high. If you can be both a technical problem solver and a people/communications problem solver you would be sitting pretty.

              I’ll make my pitch for working in city/state government real quick. My educational background is in Theatre/Communications (ha ha!) but I’ve been working for my City for over 15 years now. For me it hits all the right notes: I’m helping our community, it’s a steady paycheck with a decent salary and great benefits, and most of the time I can leave my work at work. That allows me to pursue creative endeavors outside of work. I also enjoy seeing “how the sausage is made” with city government. Balancing all the needs of the city and personalities of the electeds and the realities of budgets and other constraints is pretty interesting. It’s an impossible puzzle that’s never quite solved. :) Anyway! Just other “helping” career option to consider.

              Reply
              1. Misty*

                It does interest me. I almost changed my major to geography but I was told by someone that that was a bad idea. I’m thinking this upcoming week I’m going to try to meet with the geography department and the finance department again and ask some more questions.

                Reply
        2. Ryan Howard’s White Suit*

          Have you thought about public health? Some schools have combined MSW/MPH programs, which would give you either option when you graduate. I have only my own experience to gauge, but I have an MPH and make about $20-30,000 more than my BIL and his partner, who both have MSWs. But with both degrees you could have some flexibility if one ends up not being as appealing as the other.

          Reply
          1. Misty*

            I’ve literally never even heard of public health! I’m googled it with my school’s name and it came up as”Bachelor of Science in Community and Public Health Promotion​” with three different tracks. Does that sound like what you are talking about? I wasn’t sure because of the word promotion at the end.

            My school doesn’t have a combined track with social work.

            Reply
            1. nym*

              Yes, that “community/public health promotion” degree would be a good place to start. Public health combines a lot of different interest ares from what you’ve said here – the interaction with people, problem solving, serving the community; and it gets away from counseling or therapy, which sound like they might be difficult for you in the long term.

              Pay is not stunning in public health most of the time, because you frequently work for government or nonprofit organizations (although occasionally a hospital or insurance company, or large employer). However it’s typically a living wage or better. There’s always a need for people with hard skill sets like you’ve referenced here as well – finance, and geography, are integral parts of what we do. All that coronavirus stuff in the news lately? our GIS people are in the middle of tracking cases, trying to predict where it’s going to spread next and how big it’s going to get. Our finance people are writing contracts, memoranda of understanding, statements of work, and everything else that will let us keep the machines moving.

              One of the most fun things about being in public health is asking people how they got there as a career. There is no single path and no single interest, and the field is so broad that there’s a niche for everyone. Most of us fall into it by accident. Maybe you’ll fall into it a little earlier than most, and be better able to choose your pathway.

              Reply
    34. Indoor Cat*

      Just going to throw this out there: I majored in English and now I have gainful, stable employment. BUT, it’s 100% because of my writing skills, not my knowledge of literature.

      I think reading great literature enriched my life, but in terms of job placement, I’ve found that majoring in English with a writing concentration is a much better option than majoring with a lit concentration.

      I currently work in marketing, and previously I’ve worked in technical writing. I like that my work is flexible, sometimes I can work from home, and on the flip side, I don’t have to bring work home with me. I typically work less than 40 hours/week and make enough to live well. My work also has options regarding pursuing more solitary assignments or group projects.

      As someone who has also dealt with some trauma and has mental health struggles, I have found the option to choose between a day spent at home in private versus a day spent at an office, both writing, to be a significant boost to my mental health. I’ve never had to specifically request accommodations due to the flexible nature of writing work.

      All that said, some English majors I know graduated with sub-professional-level writing skills. Due to their poor writing portfolios, they really struggled to get jobs and advance in their careers, even though we graduated with identical degrees.

      I attended a state university as well and, like you, was fortunate to graduate without debt. My first post-college year was shaky, employment-wise, but after that, I made a solid income consistently.

      Good luck!

      Reply
    35. Carrots*

      My main piece of advice is just not to get stuck in this idea that major=type of career. Sometimes it does (engineers should know engineering and teachers generally need an education background) but a lot of times it doesn’t. I was a history/English double major at a liberal arts institution, and a lot of people assume my English degree is what led to my job (writing). But, actually, what I learned as a history major was much more useful. I have a friend who was a history major who is now a financial analyst; another who was a psych major who became a lawyer; a sociology major who’s now in advertising; a bio major that’s now an HR specialist; and another bio major who does fundraising for nonprofits. None of these were particularly circuitous paths for any of us.

      With liberal arts majors, it’s more about “teaching you critical thinking skills” than any specific subject matter. There are some jobs where you need to have a specific degree (so it’s good to think now about whether any of them is your life’s passion) but it’s also totally reasonable to come out of college with a degree in something and get a job in a field that doesn’t necessarily seem related, but they’re just looking for someone with good judgment and who knows how to think.

      So if you think you’re going to find English classes most engaging/interesting, don’t shy away from that just because you don’t want to be a writer. There are plenty of transferrable skills there.

      Reply
    36. Lalitah28*

      The only times I’ve seen people stick with social work (I’m 43 years old) is if they do LSW work where they work as a counselor/therapist to people. The state where I reside allows you to be licensed to be a therapist with an licensed social work program and you basically perform talk therapy for patients.

      If you feel English is the way to go, might I suggest you see what minor concentrations you can do in business management, marketing, communications (especially social media management) so as to have more marketable skills? I’m concerned that you’re picking English because, as you said, “love reading and I love writing papers.” Writing papers is not necessarily an employable skills; copyright is, so you do need to take classes that teach you the different types of writing outside of academics to prepare you for the real world. Additionally, internships are very much crucial for popular majors like English and they would be hard to come by if you have to work and go to school at the same time. Have your career counseling department reach out to the alumni network so you can talk to someone who has walked your path before you make any major moves so you know what you’re getting into.

      Sometimes, it pays to take secretarial work in your target industries to get a foot in the door while you go to school because (1) you’ll make more money and (2) to get the inside view of how the world works. It is a reality check that I think someone who doesn’t have a large room for risk (no rich relatives to help you out) should seriously consider.

      Reply
      1. Misty*

        I live in a very small tourist based town (think dead in the winter months and jam packed in the summer) if I named it you would def be able to point it out on a map.

        I’m not sure what kinds of secretarial work I would be able to get that have to do with english. Did you mean like front desk work or more like if I lived somewhere bigger like publishing? Just looking for clarification on that sentence: “Sometimes, it pays to take secretarial work in your target industries to get a foot in the door while you go to school”

        Reply
        1. Lalitah28*

          What I meant was: if your aim is to work in, for instance, public relations you can get a job as an admin as you complete your degree and have a foot in the industry and make contacts to expand your network. Just make sure that you’d be making more money as an admin than your current position.

          Secondly, do a lot of research on the job possibilities for an English major at your local library. College career departments are good to connect you with alumni who can really give you the real day-in-day-out of their struggles as newly graduated English majors in the Real World. See where they are working and how they got there and if they are willing to share salary information with you. In other words, do not leave things to surprising you later down the road, when it’s hard to pivot and make a take a turn in another direction.

          And from what you’re saying that you’re in “very small tourist based town,” be prepared to consider moving for better and high-paying career prospects.

          Most US state labor departments publish salary demographic data by county and city, in most cases to give you the statistical reality of what income ranges you’re up against. For instance, here’s the one for South Carolina: https://jobs.scworks.org/vosnet/dashboards/defaultana.aspx?menuid=MENU_START_PAGE_SERVICES_ANA&apane=MENU_GROUP_LMI_CUR&pu=1&plang=E

          All the best.

          Reply
    37. Hiker*

      Your school should have a career center; they might offer major exploration and counseling. The resources might help you decide what to change to and what options you would have with that degree.

      Reply
    38. So very Anon*

      My reply might be lost by now, but both psychology and English majors can do very well at many tech companies, in fields like user research, UX design, technical writing, content strategy, product marketing, account management, HR, and so on. The key here is getting relevant skills outside your college degree, getting good internships that allow lots of experience while still a student, and networking like crazy. I think the OP might be in a region where it’s not necessarily easy to do this type of networking with the right type of companies, so doing as much of this as possible online, attending relevant inexpensive meetups and conferences, and so on, is crucial.

      For me personally, my poverty- and abuse-stricken childhood still feels way too close to want to be a social worker. I strive to help people from less-advantaged backgrounds get good jobs, because I have found that a reliable income helps more than just about anything.

      Reply
      1. Misty*

        Your reply did not get lost :)

        And yes, I live in a very small town. But I’m going to try my best to get an internship and network. I’m already commuting an hour to school, I’m willing to commute longer if I have to and I think I’ll def be moving once I graduate.

        Reply
    39. Dream Jobbed*

      Stop. Take a deep breath. And spend some more time figuring out what you want to do. Work on your general ed credits and take a little of everything – finance, science, philosophy, economics, forestry, etc. Get some exposure in a lot of areas. Take harder courses so you are challenged. Recognize that lower division courses are often more boring than upper division/specialized courses, but they are a general guide to what you will be studying. If you don’t like them, you might not like the field.

      Before majoring in English (and it’s never a bad idea to become a good writer, just recognize it does offer some limitations) figure out why. What do you want to do with it? Technical writing can be a good choice, but do you want to? Do you want to teach? If k-12, LOTS of jobs out there, especially for math and science, and you can make enough to live on. But you have to teach. ;) The perfect field may be something you never thought of. Are you good at practical math? Are you a great leader? Do you like working with kids? Do you love building stuff or fixing it? (Want a great living – think about being a plumber or electrician, and get some business courses in so you can run your business.) Like doing your taxes? Take the H&R Block Tax Course – that led me to one of my professions. Worst case, you do your own taxes for life. Go to your college career center and see if there’s any aptitude tests you can take. See how many different professions you can spend a day ghosting.

      Find out what you like before settling on your first profession. (Yeah, good chance you’ll have more than one.) Find out what coursework you are good at by taking the tough subjects. Maybe you are great at science and are meant to be a doctor, nurse or PA. But recognize there are a 1000+ careers out there, don’t just stick to what you are familiar with!

      Good luck!

      Reply
        1. ten-four*

          Hey there, I’ve read this whole thread and you sound awesome and thoughtful. A thing I want to suggest is: what if you decided you wanted to make an absolute BUTTLOAD of money. Not aim for “slightly above subsistence” or “mostly comfortable” but really pulling down the dollars?

          I’m not suggesting that you should do this, mind you, but I think it’s worth considering. You’re doing some big picture thinking and matching it to long term planning, you’re clearly thoughtful and good at accepting feedback, you’re making smart financial decisions about loans/classes – you’ve got the basic chops to do some pretty cool work that gets paid really well.

          I really recommend looking into user experience design, engineering, finance, accounting, sales, and business. All those fields deliver quantifiable value to organizations, they all pay well, and the skills you’re demonstrating in this thread will help you succeed. When it comes to degrees business, finance, and accounting are all good options for a “check box” degree. And then internships are where you start in with user experience and engineering.

          Helping professions are great, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t have to do that. You can prioritize a big ol’ paycheck instead, and ultimately seek out a career that’s interesting, fulfilling and well-paid. I kind of hope you do! It sounds like you’re due to really prioritize yourself, your success, and your happiness!

          Reply
          1. Misty*

            Thank you for the compliments and the advice. I really appreciate it. At the moment I am leaning towards finance and english but I think you’re right about the money. If I didn’t have to struggle so much then I could help anyone else I needed to support which may be good in the future.

            It was amazing experience being able to get so much advice from people. This ended up being an almost all day project of reading comments, writing notes, and googling things people pointed out. I usually have a hard time finding “an adult” to talk to about school who isn’t professors or my personal therapist since most people I know are underemployed or haven’t had the option to go to college. (My grandparents have a 4th grade education and 8th grade education). Since I live an hour away from my school, sometimes I feel a little isolated. Being back at college is really a big deal for me, I didn’t think I’d get the chance to go again.

            I am going to meet with the chair of the finance department again to ask some questions next week. Also on Wednesday I’m going to a presentation at my school about the stock room in the finance department. Hopefully those will catch my interest! It would be nice to do something that I can enjoy some of the classes. I know that of course it won’t be easy and I may not love every class but it would be nice to look forward to some of them.

            I will write a post next weekend (if that’s cool with people) to let you all know if I got closer to choosing something. I really appreciate everyone spending time talking through majors and ideas with me. It means a lot to me to be able to draw on everyone’s combined knowledge, experience, and ideas.

            Reply
          2. Misty*

            I wrote you a reply but it must have gotten eaten by the abyss. Thank you for the compliments and advice.

            I think you may be right. After talking to everyone on here today, reading all the comments, and researching all the things people mentioned; I’m feeling that it may be smarter to not major in english. I honestly do not know what I’d do with the degree and I already know I’m capable of finishing a book without it (I wrote a book but it’s not published or anything but the point is I did it two years ago before an english major was even on my radar so I likely could do it again and do something with it if I found someone to edit it.)

            I am going to ask more questions of the finance department and also they have a presentation Wednesday night so I’m going to make it a point to go to it and hopefully it’ll catch my interest.

            I have a question. So when I was talking to my professor (english professor) he said that a lot of times it’s hard to get a job in finance unless you get a MBA. Does anyone know if that’s true? He also showed me articles that said that the humanities (as a major) end up doing better over time even if they start off slower in the job market.

            Honestly one of the main reasons I posted on here is because college sometimes feels like a scam. I know it’s a business but when the SW department kept telling me to stick it out for another year, I just felt like they either weren’t listening to me or they just wanted me to stay because they said I’m honors material. It’s almost like being a high performer is a negative when trying to get advice. If that makes sense.

            Reply
            1. Dr Rat*

              Try not to think of college as a scam; think of it like brushing your teeth. It can be a pain, but ultimately it pays off. Look, there are a ton of high paying jobs you can get without a college degree, but most of them are skilled trades, not desk jobs. If you are after an office job, you will generally need a degree in SOMETHING.

              But many companies don’t care what the degree is in. For instance, there are a lot of psych and English majors working in insurance. I once saw an example where there were 2 strong applicants for the same job. One had a degree in a completely unrelated field (Drama!) and one was working on a degree in the field, but didn’t have it yet. It was government funded and required a bachelor’s so the drama major got the job. And did very well at it.

              If you want to be in a “caring” field, think outside the box when you talk to the career counselor. Speech therapists are always in demand and in my experience have higher salaries than social workers. But be forewarned – in any “helping” field, you will be spending a minimum of 25% of your time with paperwork, and in some jobs, that can go up to 50% or more. Also think about that MPH that someone mentioned earlier.

              Maybe you could be cut out to be a medical writer – I did stints in the field and it pays very well. English major, biology minor? Think about Googling “unusual careers in X field.”

              Personally, if you can switch majors without adding too many semesters, I would not stay in a major that made me miserable. But it’s a personal decision for you.

              And remember, outside the medical fields, your degree is not destiny. I’ve changed careers completely multiple times in my adult life and so have many people I know. Your degree is just a starting point.

              Best of luck and keep us posted!

              Reply
              1. Misty*

                I apologize, I didn’t mean to say college was a scam, I meant more the process of trying to get advice from advisors in different departments felt like I couldn’t trust what they were saying if that makes sense. I had been advised to meet with all the different department chairs of the programs I was interested in but it felt like they were trying to sell me on their department which lent to the feeling that college was a business. Which I mean college is a business in a large sense. That was one of the reasons (main one actually) that I posted on here because I knew that everyone on here wasn’t trying to get me to join their department. However, I love college because it’s really great to have the chance to learn and be around so many people who are invested in my learning! I never thought I would get to go back.

                Thank you for the advice and also for the comment about paperwork, that is something I didn’t think about! I’m not a fan of paperwork at my current job.

                Reply
            2. Diahann Carroll*

              So when I was talking to my professor (english professor) he said that a lot of times it’s hard to get a job in finance unless you get a MBA. Does anyone know if that’s true?

              This isn’t true, and you should probably go speak to some finance professors at your school to get their perspective on this (and also do your own independent research). I know plenty of people who only had a BS in finance or even business who ended up getting good jobs in finance after they graduated, and then their companies paid for them to get their MBAs if they chose to do so.

              Reply
              1. Misty*

                Yes, I agree, I’m meeting with the finance major department this upcoming week.

                I guess I got a little confused because I had the SW professors telling me to stay at least another year and try to internship, and the english professor and the chair have been really convincing about how versatile an english major is, however when I asked more specifics about how to get a job in the field, it got much more vague.

                My plan is to meet with the finance and geography departments again and suss out more details about their programs. I’m done w SW once this semester is over and I’m not sure english is the smartest move considering that I don’t know what I’d do with it.

                Reply
                1. Diahann Carroll*

                  however when I asked more specifics about how to get a job in the field, it got much more vague.

                  This is because a lot of your English professors are probably lifelong academics and have never had an industry job – they can’t tell you what all you can do with an English degree besides writing or teaching because they’ve never done anything else themselves. This is where going to your school’s alumni office and asking to be put in touch with former students can help you. Those students will most likely not be in academia and will be able to give you a much more realistic view of what to expect with an English degree. Or any degree really.

    40. Sunflower*

      Just my experience: I have a general business degree from a state supported school. I contemplated doing a psych or MSW and becoming a therapist so I looked a lot into my options. I ended up not going to grad school- I like money too much and the time, schooling and pay wasn’t worth it. If somewhere down the line, I get married and my income isn’t as much of a factor, I would still consider becoming a therapist. The truth about burn out in social work is real so I would explore if that’s really what you have interest in doing.

      When I was in college, I talked to a lot of different counselors and advisers (my school has one of the best career services in the USA). The counselors were helpful to figure out my strengths and what careers may be a good fit but the advisers are only trained on their programs and ‘selling’ their program in a way almost. They were not good resources for figuring out what I wanted to do after college. I heard a lot of ‘this is what you CAN do’ instead of ‘this is how likely it is that you will be able to find a job doing that’. If your school has any sort of alumni network, see if you can get in touch with someone with a job that looks interesting to you and find out their career path(even if it’s via LinkedIn)

      If I could redo it again- I would have gotten a very concrete degree(finance or accounting probably) that allowed me to do a certain type of job that I wouldn’t have been able to do without it. My view is I would somewhat easily be able to get a good job because I’d have the degree and could still get a job in marketing or something else with that degree if it didn’t work out. No one in college really knows what they want to do and the more general your degree, the more it’s just a piece of paper IMO. Your internships in college will weigh much more on your job prospects after college than your degree for the most part.
      Find out what classes you need as pre-reqs to a LSW or MSW and get them completed as your Gen Eds so if you do want to get your masters, you won’t have to take on additional schooling. I would NOT get an English degree. There are so so so many unemployed people with English degrees.

      Go to the library and pick up ‘Do what you are’ and ‘What color is your parachute’. I found both of them helpful in laying out what careers I would excel and enjoy (I read both of these at age 31 and 7 years into my career BTW)

      Reply
    41. Wandering*

      I hope that part of what you take from this conversation is that people have a wide range of experience & have given this serious consideration in their own lives, so that it’s easier to see that the “answers” are likely to come in the form of the right questions.

      My first thoughts here are:
      – guilt is a terrible reason to choose a career. Do you think those who have helped you do so out of guilt? Don’t you think that they’d be thrilled to see you thriving, however that looks for you? And there are so many ways to give back when you ready if that’s what you want to do. Being a success is a way to be helpful in itself; be an example of creating a good life after a rough start.

      – it’s hard to choose when one doesn’t know what’s out there.

      – what excites your curiosity? What kinds of things get your mind engaged & makes you want to learn more? What patterns do those make? A friend told the story of her mother having a hard time choosing between medicine & sculpture in college. What do you think she might have gone on to do with those seemingly unrelated interests? Plastic surgery. She gave people back their faces.

      – Onet, mentioned elsewhere, is a great way to look for ways to use skills & interests, browsing there can be eye opening.

      – college degrees cycle between the virtues of liberal arts education (which includes STEM in the broader sense) to the need for job training. So think about a serviceable degree but one that’s interesting to you. Sounds like you really dislike the bsw classes now, & aren’t interested in pursuing the common jobs for MSWs. That’d be enough for me to switch to something else. Based on some of what you’ve said, what about a major in business with a minor in English? In the current climate a business degree seems more widely understood than an English degree, but you could just as easily flip them. Business degree (or finance, if you really enjoy numbers) is currently more likely to gain you entry in higher paying entry level jobs.

      – are you wedded you staying in your town? Might you transfer to another state school in a larger, more year- round town with more options for work?

      – you’re clearly hard working, smart, & determined. Please keep us posted on what & how you’re doing.

      Reply
      1. Misty*

        This line really stuck out to me: “it’s hard to choose when one doesn’t know what’s out there.”

        That’s so true. Honestly just being back in college is truly a dream come to for me. On Thursdays I have morning classes and then a night class so I stay on campus all day in between doing homework. I’ve found myself just crying in my car out of pure relief in the parking lot at being able to go somewhere with so many options and caring people. I have a professor that’s been really looking out for me even though I just returned to school. I am so fortunate to have this chance.

        I will def keep you updated. I deeply appreciate every comment everyone has said. I don’t think I could explain to you all how much it’s meant to me to have this chance today to talk through these things with you all. It really has been great.

        Also I appreciated the plastic surgery story. That’s innovative and I need to find my niche like that!

        Reply
        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I think this story about how important the chance to be in in college is for you is all the payback the people who have helped you need! Thank you! It gave me a hopeful moment for my students who are struggling right now.

          Reply
    42. Alex*

      Move forward with your degree (any degree) only when you have some idea of how you want to use the degree. Really and truly, you will get more out of your education when you are working towards a goal you find fulfilling.

      Social work would be great if you found the idea of being a social worker fulfilling, but it doesn’t sound like you do. There’s nothing worse than paying a whole lot of money in order to study for a degree in which you have no interest, which will get you a job in which you have no interest. Trust me. Been there. Done that.

      English is a fine degree that actually does have job prospects, in spite of what people say. However, please make sure they are job prospects you are excited about. Don’t get an English degree because you enjoy reading literature and writing papers. Almost no jobs for which an English degree qualifies you involve you reading books and writing papers all day.

      Think about what jobs you want. What would excite you? What do you feel you would be good at? If one of those jobs IS a social work job, stick it out with social work–real life social work is not social work academic classes. If you really do not want to be a social worker, there is absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. You do not owe anyone a social work career!

      You’re only going to be in school for a few years out of your life. Don’t choose your major just based on classes you enjoy but find yourself at loose ends after school is over. But similarly, don’t spend your money on classes that bore you in order to be qualified to do something you aren’t excited about. Neither of those options is really wise.

      If you can’t figure it out exactly now….it may be OK to take a semester off to think about it. There’s no point pushing forward if you aren’t sure you’re on the right path. It might make sense to see if you can volunteer places or develop some new interests that will show you how you want to proceed.

      Reply
      1. Misty*

        Thank you for the advice. I would say one of the problems is that I’m not sure what would excite me or what I would be good at.

        However, for personal reasons, I am not willing to take another semester off. I actually am just returning to school after taking the past five years to work full time and save money. I’m not sure if I took any more time off I would be able to go back because of personal life circumstances (housing, food, etc.) and I can’t take that chance. I know that may sound unwise but at school I have resources and people I wouldn’t have otherwise and I’m at a point in time where it’s really amazing for me to have that – if that makes sense. I’m very committed to staying in school at this point in time.

        The good news is I’ve already paid for this semester and I have the summer so that gives me some time to think deeply about my options and all the ideas everyone has given me. I wrote down all the questions everyone asked me on here and I will be thinking them over.

        Reply
        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Absolutely stay in school – those resources are so important for your future success, believe me. One of my biggest regrets from my undergrad years is that I didn’t take full advantage of the resources that were available to me because I was too depressed and too embarrassed about being depressed (and very poor) to do so. I struggled so much after graduating (and even while attending to be honest) because of it.

          Reply
            1. Diahann Carroll*

              One: go back and live in the career advisor’s office, not because I think those types of offices generally give great advice, but because they had a huge book of companies with contact information that would have been very helpful for me after I graduated. The company I currently work for takes most of their software engineering interns from my school, many of them end up getting permanent job offers their senior year, and I had no idea this company existed until last year! They have an office in a building literally down the street from my school’s campus! I could have done a marketing internship with them while I was in school and secured a job my senior year and completely bypassed all of the struggle I endured the first four years of my career.

              Two: I should have spent more time in my school’s black student union. They had a presence in our local community that would have also helped me find a job when I ran out of work study money my senior year, and they also provided support for students from low-income homes.

              I also would have gone to the counseling office sooner (I waited until I was on the verge of a breakdown to go talk to a therapist) – my grades took a massive hit, and I barely recovered (I graduated with a 3.0, but for someone who came into the school with a 4.2 GPA, that was a huge decline), and I didn’t do a great job at my first co-op because I was spiraling (I did nail my second internship, though – I was doing weekly therapy sessions at that point).

              Reply
    43. Anonymato*

      I think social work degree gives you lots of options to discover. When I review resumes I see lots of English and Psychology BA that don’t give me sense of specific skills (sorry to all grads of those fields!). Therefore getting finished with a degree, esp if it means you can get a licensed, seems to be the best route to me. (And yes, I was sick of my degree towards the end. While I feel it helped me get my job, I don’t actually use any of it.)

      The social workers I know work mostly as therapists, and have lots of flexibility in their jobs, inc some doing lots online sessions. While some do trauma focus, school focus, addiction work and work with underserved populations, others specialize as oncology social workers, work with the veterans, with eating disorders, some do writing and support grant-making, and private psychotherapy practice for stress.

      I am sad that it sounds like your school perhaps didn’t teach you one of the most important things for social work field: not taking on secondary trauma from your clients and people around you.

      Reply
      1. Misty*

        In one of my social work classes a big problem I’m seeing is oversharing. I understand sharing in a sense when it’s relevant to the material. But there is multiple people who go off for over 20 mins (I’ve watched the clock) about things they’ve gone through. I’ve been surprised that the professors don’t try to redirect in a more teaching manner if that makes sense. I don’t see how making the rest of us listen to someone venting about their trauma is helping us learn actual skills or boundaries. It’s one teacher in particular that lets people do this but I have multiple classes with her.

        Reply
    44. Social Werk*

      You’ve gotten lots of great advice already. If you are ok with the idea of getting your master’s, I don’t know that there’s as much pressure to choose the *perfect* bachelor’s. What I mean is, I have a good friend who is a social worker (MSW) and her bachelor’s is a General Studies degree. It took her a while to figure out what she wanted to do and that’s ok. At least around here many Master’s programs don’t require you to have a related bachelor’s. For the record I’m a social worker with both a BSW and MSW.

      I wish you all the best and hope you find the answers you’re looking for

      Reply
    45. Senor Montoya*

      Talk to a cross curricular advisor, such as an advisor in your university’s first year or undecided program.

      Reply
    46. A Cat named Brian*

      Look into a career awareness class or even free online programs that have interest inventories. The one I used with my students is Meyers Briggs. Answer honestly and don’t overthink. It will give you an idea of what you like and your preferences in interactions. Then you can Google careers for your type and investigate from there.

      Do not finish in SW. My first degree is in psych. Had the same feelings but too close to not finish in the field and didn’t like the jobs. My next two degrees are mechanical engineering. Best fit.

      Reply
      1. Misty*

        I just did the Meyers Briggs and got INFJ-A.

        Also I appreciate your insight on your degree in psychology. I think that’s what would happen if I finished with SW as I’ve found in the past ignoring my gut feelings only works short-term.

        Reply
    47. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Hi! Really late to the party on this, but here goes.

      1- It’s okay not to be a social worker. I’m a teacher, not a social worker, but I do deal with plenty of at-risk kids and while it would be wonderful to have one of those ex-students tell me they were now a teacher, just knowing that they’ve gone from the traumatic stuff I supported them through to a good, stable place where college is an option is amazing news! Finding a good job that makes your life stable and happy will be all that your former mentors want for you.

      2- Figure out where most of your unhappiness with Social Work is coming from. If it’s the traumatizing material then yes, switch out. If it’s the boring nature of the class work, I would hang in there until you’ve had a chance to do an internship. Honestly, I was bored out of my tree (in terms of intellectual challenge) in my Education program (lots of short reflections on short articles, lesson plans that were really over the top for the real world, some arts and crafts). While the stuff I did in those classes has some connection to ‘real’ teaching work, the reality is 100x more faced paced and never, ever boring.

      3- Pick your degree with future careers in mind, but keep some variety in your course selection so you can pivot if or when you need to. I did a BSci in biology intending to go into medicine, but as it turned out, the sociology and second language courses I took ‘for fun’ were what got me into an Education program when med school didn’t work out. (I teach science and social studies in that second language now).
      PS. to 3 have you looked into sociology? There’s a similar focus on social inequality, but since the scale is bigger I didn’t find it too depressing, not sure where that takes you job-wise, though.

      Reply
      1. Misty*

        I really appreciate this advice esp #3. I was thinking of taking some American sign language classes for the language requirement. I feel like that would be smart because if I got really good in it, that could come in handy.

        To answer #2, it was the realization that I have no desire to work in the field of social work after graduation that has been causing the unhappiness. The feeling kept growing stronger these last few weeks. The material doesn’t help. I don’t feel traumatized by it. I don’t get upset over anything. Other students actually sometimes cry or start talking about their lives but I don’t feel like that. I find myself just wanted to leave class and learn anything else if that makes sense. I think it’s because at this point I want to learn new things and a lot of this isn’t new to me. I’m sure once I got deeper into the program I would be learning new things. For example, some of the books we’re reading for classes are books I’ve already read when they were recommended by therapists or I found them on my own online or in the library. A lot of the material is just things I already know about. I’m not saying I know everything of course, I just seem to have a lot of overlap of things I’ve learned over the past few years and things we’re currently learning this semester. It also could be because I have a lot of experience in a lot of different categories of social work. I think I just realized I would rather learn almost anything else. When I look over the list of majors in my school, a variety of them appeal to me much more than sw. It also doesn’t help that the assignments and readings are very easy. My professors keep telling me they think it’s because I’m honors material and it’ll be better once I get into the masters program.

        I have taken an intro to sociology class which was pretty interesting. I’m pretty committed to staying away from anything that could lead to the mental health field at this point (psychology, social work, sociology are some that comes to mind.) I had a therapist that was actually a sociologist and then got her MSW later. And I could never go into a medical field personally. I have a strong aversion to hospitals and doctors offices. Other than those two categories, most other majors look fairly appealing and like they have some pros interest wise.

        I really appreciate your advice and life experience. Thank you so much for posting.

        Reply
    48. Anon MSW*

      Hi Misty, I’m not sure if you’re going to see this as it’s been a few days but wanted to raise my 2 cents.

      I am a MSW social worker, from Australia, and I also have childhood trauma. I currently work in Child Protection.

      I think lived experience can be an asset as well as a negative. You have to know your biases – for example, I am often in the “don’t return kids” camp as I don’t think I should have been left with my parents. However, I have made that work for me: work in foster care, or long term case management where children rarely are returned – I don’t think I would be able to work well in Investigations role for example. But it’s hard, as in supervision I am choosing not to be honest about why I have that bias: I am doing my best to mitigate and keep an open mind, which I have recently achieved with three siblings being reunified after 10 years in out of home care.

      University is one thing but placements for social work are another. I felt I learn more than the degree taught me in the placements.

      But everyone else is right: if you don’t love it, burn out and expectations on top of crazy work loads and comparatively low salaries is real. Love keeps you moving forward!
      Happy to talk further if you want :)

      Reply
    49. Leela*

      This may have been mentioned but see if you can get Technical Writing focus for your English, it’s much more lucrative and you want it to fall back on even if you don’t want to pursue it, unless you have a steady stream of income from other places

      Source: languages major with lots of English major friends, and a few Technical Writer friends

      Reply
  3. Publishing and Speaking*

    I’d like to pick the brain of anybody NOT in academia who publishes in industry/trade journals or speaks at conferences in your field. I’m a mid-career professional who needs to start distinguishing myself as an SME through publishing, speaking, etc.

    I follow trade publications and conference announcements, and they all seem to work by announcing a theme, then calling for submissions on an incredibly tight schedule.

    How do you generally go about this process? Start writing articles, hope you can cram them into a theme that pops up, then submit? Stalk the themes presented, then go nose to the grindstone to meet the crazy timeline? Outline a few ideas, then let them sit until they seem relevant?

    I am finding this process to be like shooting while blindfolded.

    Reply
    1. Academic librarian*

      I’m in academic libraries, which is the academy, but sometimes things are announced on a fast turnaround. My thoughts/questions below are kind of how I think about it. It looks like my thoughts seem to combine your stalk the themes + outline ideas questions. I hope it’s helpful :)

      How can you package the work you’re already doing to fit the themes of the CFP? Are there two or three different angles you can take on a big project, so that you could feasibly reuse portions of an abstract or proposal and alter what part of the project or topic you’re focusing on?

      Do conferences follow a pattern year-by-year? So like, you see the CFP this year, can’t make the timetable, and decide to have something almost prepped for next year. Or, do your profession’s conferences all follow similar themes, like if the Jan conference is Themes A & B, then the Feb conference might be Themes A&B too or adjacent? Then, when you see early in the year what themes seem to be popular, can you start preparing a proposal to submit to something in the 2nd half of the year?

      Reply
    2. FindThisVeryInteresting*

      Many publications have annual editorial calendars that their journalists know about far in advance. I would start following and social-networking with writers and editors of targeted publications. Start commenting on their posts, sharing their work, etc. (do not connect with them and make an immediate ask). Once you have built a relationship, you can reach out and ask what the calendar is looking like in the next several months and see if your work can fit their needs (check any media guidelines your company has first). If your organization has a PR department, definitely leverage them. As a former PR rep, I can tell you that they are constantly looking for stories pitch to help position the organization as experts across departments and industries.

      For conferences, the themes are often really broad. I have multiple colleagues (and myself) who have 3-4 pre-built mega-decks that can be paired down to fit a specific topic. Realistically, most people are only experts at a handful of items. Know where your strength lies and be prepared to take advantage when you see opps come up.

      Reply
    3. AndersonDarling*

      You may be overthinking the originality required to submit and receive a slot. Generally, I see people decide that they want to talk at Big Conference, they take the general topic of their Big Idea and bend it to fit the criteria of the requirements. So, if I’m a SME on Lama Data Wrangling and I decide that I want to do a talk at the Performance Improvement and Value Conference, then I put together a presentation on how Lama Data Wrangling can be used for Performance Improvement. I throw in some flashy slides, give the presentation a snazzy title, and boom! I get a speaking slot.
      The bigger and more selective conferences are more strict, but you can easily get time at a fringe conference if you put some time into it. And once you have a library of presentations, it becomes easier to fit into the stricter criteria of the Big Conferences.
      Start small and work up.

      Reply
      1. JessicaTate*

        Agreed. More for conferences than publications. The themes are generally vague and people are really stretching to make “topic I want to talk about” seem like “topic I want to talk about spun to be kinda about the theme, or at least in the title”. And as a former program committee chair (who decided on session slots), if there’s an interesting topic proposed and it’s not a great fit to the theme, but would be of great value to the membership… oh, we’re letting that in. Also agree with AndersonDarling that it is easier with smaller and/or more regional groups. If you know someone who’s gotten accepted before, talk to them about tips and what the reviewers tend to like.

        For publications, I use a similar approach. I know what I want to write about / have in my work that I could talk about, and then I’m either looking for publications with space for open calls or looking for a theme I can align with to come along. A lot of times, in my field, themed issues only require a proposal for an article first before you’re committed to writing the whole thing. But YMMV.

        Reply
    4. limpet1*

      I work in adtech – to get a shot at speaking your best bet is to have built up a profile via publishing articles. Best way to do this is reach out to journalists with an idea of a piece (that is interesting, relevant to the publication and journalist and not at all self-serving) and ask what types of topics they’re interested in hearing about. You can also self publish on Linkedin/websites.

      Then for the conferences, i’d suggest reaching out to the organisers before they publish the call for papers to get an idea of what they’re looking for/how you could maybe fit. Again has to be non-self serving or salesy. At the very least they might give you a timeline for submissions which will help. I’d suggest creating some topics you are an authority on and then tailoring them to the event – if it’s a stretch to make your expertise fit then it’s probably not worth your time applying. Also be aware, a lot of speaking slots are often paid for, but check with your industry.

      Reply
      1. WellRed*

        “Also be aware, a lot of speaking slots are often paid for, but check with your industry”

        Yes, if you need to be paid, tread carefully. In my industry, that doesn’t happen (I don’t agree with that, but it is what it is).

        Reply
        1. designbot*

          yeah this varies a lot by industry. In mine, your attendance at the conference is paid for but your company is expected to foot the bill for your travel.

          Reply
    5. WellRed*

      Trade journal editor here. Email is your friend. In addition to checking out any editorial calendars they may have, I’d recommend shooting the article writer or editor an emailed comment on an article, or even just reaching out to introduce yourself and offer to be a resource should they need an SME for an article. If you’re good, and reasonably accessible, they’ll reach out again. We see lots of SMEs we talk to publish guest commentaries or guest blogs with us, get quoted in articles and speak at industry events. We are dipping our toes further into things like paid webcasts with SMEs (though not until they have somewhat established their name in our weird little industry).

      Reply
    6. 867-5309*

      Most publications have editorial calendars and publish author guidelines. I’d start there.

      Similarly, most conferences have speaker submission processes that are very clear. Look at the overarching conference theme and address the topic to align to the different tracks.

      Reply
    7. designbot*

      I’m a designer, and there’s two ways I attack this.
      1) have a topic on hand. Have something you’re interested in, an article you’re toying with writing, some research in progress, as often as possible. That way when those last minute deadlines come up (or the stuff from category 2 I’ll touch on in a minute), you have something that it’s fairly quick to pull together, if not ready already.
      2) personal connections. I never spoke more than the year that I knew the director of education for my professional society. Simply because I was in orbit I stayed fairly top of mind for him, and when he had a hole he needed to fill he’d call me up. The first one of these was literally “I know this is last minute, but I had a speaker drop out of our conference in Vegas next month. Do you have anything you could talk about?” My answer was, well I’m promoting this one project right now, it has themes of upcycling vintage teapots, collaboration between teapot makers and baristas, and teapot design for rotating flavor profiles. Do any of those fit well? We found one that did, I developed it, and I’ve given that talk a couple of times now and developed it into a blog post for my company. And once this guy knew that I could deliver on short notice, he felt free to call on me more. And once people saw me speak at conferences, they were like oh I didn’t know that was a thing that you did! I have a panel I’m working on about Women in Teapots, could you be on it?

      Reply
    8. Nom de Plume*

      I’ve presented once at a regional conference. I had a very rough idea of a presentation and submitted an abstract. My boss helped me come up with the abstract/reviewed it before it went out. Then I crammed to write and practice the presentation. Probably less than ideal, but it’s how I did it. I want to present at the same conference again this year, but I really can’t think of a topic I want to discuss. A lot of the presenters definitely are more academic, so as a consultant, I just don’t do that kind of work.

      Reply
    9. The New Wanderer*

      I work in industry and present about every other year at a handful of conferences. In my field, we have the Big Annual Conference, Niche Conference, and some up and coming rival conferences. I would recommend scanning the most recent program for any conferences you might be interested in to see what the range of topics are. Also, the specificity of the proceedings paper titles is a clue about the kind of scope they are looking for. Sometimes the abstracts are also available so you can get a sense of what is being presented. You can also see whether the conference publishes full proceedings papers or just abstracts. Proceedings papers are a way to get more publications without having to go through the much lengthier journal article route, and the visibility is pretty high. My most-cited papers are from conferences, not journals.

      I have been on a few conference panels and proposed/organized one, which is another way to participate and be recognized as a SME but doesn’t usually result in a full paper in the proceedings. This is really good for networking, less so for leaving a published track record.

      Last thing to note – some conferences have copyright clauses and it’s bad form to submit the exact same content to multiple conferences. However, it is common to use the same base content and present different aspects of it for different conferences.

      Reply
    10. Not a cat*

      I was an industry SME for ten years who published and spoke at many, many conferences. The advice to look at industry pubs and pitch according to their editorial calendar is a good one. Is there a way to start “workshopping” or running a series of roundtables in your current role? You could use the information gained from the sessions and room polls to publish a paper that could get industry press pick-up. What about conducting a survey of your company’s clients? You could write a report and presentation on the results and that may also get some interest.

      Reply
  4. (screams internally, rolls eyes outwardly)*

    I work at a nonprofit advocacy organization. We often have to talk about barriers and problems people face in many situations. For instance, talking about how eating healthy can be difficult when you don’t have a lot of money for fresh vegetables or how you don’t have a grocery store within 5 miles of your home and can’t afford to drive and your area has no public transportation system. My boss drastically overstates some of these barriers. For instance, saying that people in a certain social services professions are obligated or barred from certain things. Like saying “food pantries aren’t allowed to have vegetables.” This is extremely frustrating for me because I have personal experience in some of these areas, have close friends who work in these roles, and speak with people who work in these roles or receive services regularly. The things that she is saying are just Not True. I think that maybe at some point many years ago someone made a second hand, flippant comment on something and she’s taken it to be the gospel truth. When I hear my boss tell a room of people something that is patently false, I want to scream! Now there is a room full of people (often interns/students who are beginning work in this field) who walks away with false information and they then go out into the world and continue to repeat this false information. I also feel that this is damaging to the people we serve and our overall mission because 1) it’s misinformation and 2) it’s contributing to false stereotypes about the people we serve and 3) it makes us sound uninformed to anyone else who has any familiarity with people who perform this job or receive these services. Today, I even started to think that maybe my experience was misleading me. So, I looked up a job posting/description for one of these roles and the first 3 bullets are basically to perform these duties that my boss keeps telling people they aren’t allowed to do. I am so frustrated. I have tried saying “oh that’s strange. That hasn’t been my experience at all.” Or showing her the forms that someone might have to fill out that contradict what she keeps telling people. Basically, a waiver saying that these people are going to perform these services and giving them permission. I’m not sure what else to do or say when she is telling people that we have to work to change these conditions when in fact there is nothing to change because she actually doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

    Reply
    1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Yikes.

      This sounds like the point where you would need to escalate it, if you can. Is there anyone above your boss?

      Reply
        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          Uf. In that case, I think the only thing you can really do is job hunt. It sounds like you’ve addressed it directly, so we’re back to Alison’s refrain – your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

          Reply
        2. Sue*

          If it’s a nonprofit, there is a Board of Directors. I’ve been on several and if our ED was doing this, I would absolutely want to know. It sounds so frustrating for you and so damaging to the reputation of your group.

          Reply
    2. Ashley*

      Have you tried asking why she thinks x? Or if is x false how she proposes duty y is performed? For the food bank example I would really work to set up a site visit so she can see she is wrong first hand without that being the point of the visit but the icing on the cake.

      Reply
      1. (screams internally, rolls eyes outwardly)*

        She has said that “legally they aren’t allowed” and I have not been able to get her to elaborate further on where the got that information. For what it is worth, I have seen no regulation saying saying anything like this. It’s possible hypothetically that there is/was at some point a requirement that they cannot provide romaine lettuce or spinach (because of e coli concerns for example) or exotic vegetable that was known to cause certain problems that snowballed into her thinking that meant all vegetables.

        That is also why I brought in the forms and documentation that actually said that certain services would be performed if needed if the person wanted this and if so complete this waiver and let us know about allergies or whatever with a list of specific vegetables that might be provided.

        Reply
        1. Mel 2*

          I’m wondering if she got this confused with food pantries not being able to take food prepared offsite. I do some regular volunteer work with my local shelter, and they cannot accept leftovers from other events (other than their specific brown bag lunch program). People will come with big trays half empty, and the shelter has to throw them away. I can see mistaking “We cannot legally accept your fresh vegetable lasagna” for “We cannot legally accept your fresh vegetables” through office telephone.

          Reply
          1. Anoncomment*

            I think it is more an isssue of perishable vs non perishable products. Many food pantries around me won’t take fresh vegetables because they don’t have refrigeration facilities but they will take canned vegetables

            Reply
    3. Ama*

      Could you perhaps find an external news article or trusted source with the correct information and then send it to her as “hey I don’t know if you’ve seen this but it looks like several food pantries actually do offer vegetables, maybe we should update our info”? I’ve used that successfully before (I actually spoke up as the most junior person in a senior staff meeting to correct someone above me who tried the whole “we should tell everyone not to share their salaries with each other because it causes hurt feelings” and then sent the link to one of Alison’s posts on the subject after the meeting.)

      Reply
      1. (screams internally, rolls eyes outwardly)*

        I have tried giving her examples of my personal experience like saying “you know if I recall from my visits to food pantries, I was always able to get fresh vegetables. And here is the website for a food pantry that shows vegetables are available.” She’s convinced that these are rogue organizations breaking the rules or misrepresenting themselves.

        I feel like I’m talking to a wall. Obviously, I’m not really dealing with food pantries, that’s just a more common/relatable example for the sake of discussion. I don’t feel like a site visit would really be possible in this situation because of privacy concerns and other regulations. I have tried to set up situations where someone who does this job has the opportunity to talk with her. And leading the convo a little like “so tell us/her about what it’s like when people come in asking for vegetables”. I don’t think it’s getting through though.

        Reply
        1. pancakes*

          Why keep framing it as a matter of personal experience with individual food banks, then, rather than seeking out a comprehensive and authoritative source on what the regulations are? At the federal level, for example, this might be covered under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996. The idea that the boss can’t get a handle on important regulations unless and until someone else in the field sits down with them to review their unfounded assumptions is very strange.

          Reply
          1. Mama Bear*

            I agree. I would get data from hard sources and use that instead of “in my experience” because she keeps citing a mysterious law and discounting your experience.

            If you really can’t change her mind and this is driving you crazy, then look for a different job.

            Reply
        2. Lalitah28*

          Your state department of health or your local municipal department of health is the arbiter of these things. Check out their website and see if there is a hotline you can with your question. Then present it to the boss. But really please do look for another job while at it.

          Reply
    4. LCH*

      Could you ask reps from the other orgs like the food bank to come in to give a presentation on how their org works, barriers faced, how they reach people. And give them a heads up that you are looking to correct certain misconceptions.

      Reply
      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I like this idea — especially if they’re able to describe it as “the way things are now” to give your boss an honorable out. The boss wouldn’t have to admit an error — she can learn about a change in law and start pontificating on that.
        It’s worth asking if there is/was a rule against *home grown* or home-canned vegetables because those I could see being a source of rot & ruin. (Ooodles of soft and possibly mildewed tomatoes… Overripe zucchini that are so hard they’re hardly edible… Someone’s deceased relative’s canned veggies with no record of the canning date…)

        Reply
      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I think this is a good way to go, if possible. Instead of the boss giving out the information, have the experts deliver it; you can spin it to the boss that it frees up her time to focus on more important tasks. Have printed information from the service providers handy to give to the audience. Even if it directly contradicts what the boss has said you don’t need to call it to her attention, and she probably won’t read it anyway.

        My boss is a bit like your boss — he loves hyperbole when it comes to describing any issues our department faces. That’s part of his personality — he’s a chicken little who thinks the sky is falling…always. But he also thinks if the situation seems dire, the powers that be will take it MORE seriously; but in fact, it makes them do the opposite and they end up dismissing any problems he brings up as an overreaction.

        Reply
    5. Marny*

      How about suggesting that the organization invites in people from with hands-on experience (food bank managers, the people who you know in social services) to be the ones to speak to the students/interns in order to give a first-hand account about the services? Perhaps position it as a great opportunity for Q&A-type panels or something?

      Reply
      1. Mainer*

        Ohhh I also worked in good security and stuff like this irritates me to no end! I’d suggest checking out the resources at Feeding America for information about what food banks and food pantries do, also invite someone from your local food pantry or food bank to speak with your team. They should be able to answer any questions about what services can be offered at their location. You could also set up a volunteer day or something where your organization could visit a local pantry or food bank.

        Reply
    6. Not So NewReader*

      You actually have two problems here. One is the misinformation. But the other problem is your boss has a block or a barricade of some sort to learning new things and changing her mind. This latter problem is VERY concerning.

      If you stay with this NPO you will spend the rest of your days fighting this battle. (BTDT) You may get her straightened out on some things but then more points will come up that need correcting. (I consider myself almost expert on this particular challenge. sigh.) Drawing on my own experience, this type of problem will hold YOU back professionally. You will spend so much time putting blow-out patches on problems that you could find yourself disconnected from current happenings. This is because problems like this are very labor intensive. I found myself behind on technology and a slew of other things because I was too busy fixing all. that. was. wrong. I had to prove that grass is green and the sky is blue and round wheels actually do work. It was flippin’ exhausting.

      In the end, I found that all I could do was a self-check. I could make sure that I did not turn into such a person myself. As far as I know, the boss in my story remained the same up to retirement.

      Reply
    7. Sandman*

      It seems to me that in order for your boss to persist in her belief that some of these things are true, she’s not just ignoring you – she’s ignoring her program staff as well. It seems unlikely that you’ll be able to repair her perceptions, although it’s probably worth digging a little to see if there are things she’s seeing that you’re not.

      With that said, I worked for a boss like this at an NPO many years ago who wanted me to include “stretches” like this in grant proposals. It didn’t end well for me, and I wish I had started job searching much sooner than I did.

      Reply
  5. nate333*

    Do you have any tips concerning peer interviews and interviews with possible reports?

    By peer interview I mean interviews not with the hiring managers or HR but with possible peers performing the same role.

    I’m quite successful with dealing with interviews with the HR or hiring managers, but have difficulties managing interviews with peers and reports.

    I’m applying for positions in low/ mid-management. 

    Reply
    1. NowWhat?456*

      I’ve been on both sides of the equation. I’ve been the interviewee for a position and was interviewed by two of my peers, one of whom was lower ranking than me and reported to me on certain projects. And I’ve also interviewed candidates to be my manager in a few separate roles.

      In these situations, I’m definitely looking to see if we click and can communicate well. So I ask a lot of behavioral questions (how do you handle a challenging client/volunteer, how to you handle working long hours, etc.) and my go to question no matter the interview is “How would you describe your communication style/management style?”. This tells me a lot about how the person does their work and works with a team, as well as manages me.

      One of the things my current supervisor did when I interviewed her was asked me to describe a typical day of my work and how her role could potentially help streamline it. It impressed me a lot, and I recommended to hire her immediately.

      Reply
      1. nate333*

        You write you are looking to see if you “click”.

        That’s precisely what I find tricky. I’m not a naturally warm, bubbly, relaxed person. While this isn’t a problem in my technical profession, this makes the initial “clicking” more difficult to create.

        I get that spontaneously in many social situations. But when I interview it’s more difficult.

        Interestingly I’m more relaxed talking to possible bosses than peers.

        Reply
        1. NowWhat?456*

          I don’t mean “click” in the sense that we would get along and have a regular camaraderie (though due to the nature of my industry, that type of personality is seen as a skill).

          When I interview a peer, I make sure that they’re ok with regular communication such as messaging on slack, or being ok with answering the phone to answer a question, or asking for help when they need it. This is something I need to effectively do my job. I have interviewed people in the past that have been very into their own work and only answer emails at the end of the day, or that they prefer to try everything themselves before asking for help (when it could be solved in two minutes if you asked a peer!).

          When I interview a potential manager/supervisor, I’m trying to make sure they understand my role and their role. A previous position had the word assistant in the title. Many people who applied and interviewed were mistaken that it meant I would be their assistant, when in reality I was there for the whole team and handled a lot of the program tasks (and I would be in violation of my contract if I did a lot of the work they expected). I make sure they’re qualified to do the job, and that they comfortable asking me questions when needed, but also comfortable giving me feedback when necessary.

          Does that clarify where i’m coming from? I saw in your other responses that you don’t want to oversell or seem super qualified at risk of coming off as a threat. Just an FYI in my experience, I never take a well-qualified candidate as a threat. I take them as a potential asset to my team and someone who could make my work life easier and more fulfilling. If they are taking you as a threat, that says something about the workplace (or your demeanor, but based on your other responses I highly doubt as you’re coming off as combative during interviews with peers).

          Reply
    2. The Rain In Spain*

      What difficulties do you find yourself running into?

      In my last interview, I asked my future peers about their workflow, what they’re looking for from someone in the role, what challenges they face, etc. If we’re going to be working together I want to learn about their personalities and needs to make sure it’d be a good fit. It has been life changing for me to recognize that we are all talking to each other to make sure the job is a good fit on BOTH sides.

      Reply
      1. nate333*

        It’s difficult to describe precisely, but while talking to hiring managers and the HR I find it easier to find rapport. I find it easier to understand the questions they are asking and what their expectations towards me are.

        While talking to possible peers I have the feeling I fail to impress them. I always try to be friendly, not competitive, but it doesn’t help.

        I find it super tricky too. Since on the one hand they ask me questions about my experience, so I’m expected to come across as knowledgeable and having the necessary skills. On the other skills, I don’t want them to feel threatened (this has happened to me before), so I can’t be too knowledgeable and skilled.

        Reply
        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Maybe ask about ‘what skills do you see as being required / optional for this role’ and talk about ‘I have X and Y, would need time to get up to speed on Z – how do you see that meshing with the existing team?’ Saying it matter-of-factly and pivoting to their skills / needs may help with the feeling threatened.

          Reply
        2. The Rain In Spain*

          One thing that might help is asking re what they are looking for first and tailoring your interaction from there. If it’s a highly collaborative environment, focus on how you work well with others, value and respect others’ expertise, etc. That was helpful in my situation- there was a little bit of deference or fear that I wouldn’t be collaborative due to a difference in licensing/education and scope of duty, but I made it clear that though I had expertise in abc, they had expertise in xyz and we would be able to help each other. That really helped diffuse some of the tension/worry I was feeling from their side and the rest of the conversation went better. Maybe that can help?

          Reply
        3. Not So NewReader*

          Not sure if this helps. When I start a job I find that most of the time my peers are focused on themselves and their own needs. It takes a bit (not long, but a bit of time) before they start realizing “Oh, NSNR is a human being also!”

          With this in mind, when you talk to peers make your questions All About Them. Ask plenty of questions about their opinions on this or that. Ask about their needs- “what does a peer do that makes them a good peer in your eyes?”. “Tell me a story of a new hire who really impressed you.” OR “If I am hired what is the number one thing I can do in my work that would be a big help to you?”

          Reply
        4. CM*

          For skills stuff: I think that, if I were asking a potential colleague about their experience designing teapots, the type of response I’d be looking for wouldn’t be “I’m the best at designing teapots,” or “I’m nothing special when it comes to designing teapots,” — it would be more like, “You and I both design teapots for a living, so let me tell you about this particularly cool/interesting/complicated one I worked on.”

          If I were asking about the process someone used to design teapots, I think the answer I’d be looking for would not be “Here’s the basic principle of how to design a teapot” or “Regular stuff, no big deal,” — it would be something like, “We both understand that there are 800 different ways to do that, but personally I lean toward method X for these reasons. I’ve also done process Y and Z and I was reading about Q, and that sounds very exciting, but I’ve never tried it. What type of process do you use here?”

          Reply
    3. LadyByTheLake*

      This same question (or one so much like it as to make no mind) was asked and answered last week. I think it was AnotherJD who asked it.

      Reply
    4. ProdMgr*

      As an interviewer, what I’m looking for in a peer is ability to do the job, new strengths they bring to the team, and can we get along? Not are we going to be best buds, but will I be happy or sad if I have to work with you every day?

      When I’m being interviewed by peers, my go-to questions are about things they think the team does really well and things that have been challenging in recent months. I’m looking to understand what I might be getting into if I joined the team, and also it gives me an opportunity to position my strengths and experiences in areas where I might be able to help them.

      Reply
      1. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

        I think it’s important to match their energy, because often a peer interview is about fit. If they are subdued and serious, don’t be overly gregarious. If they are casual, don’t be stiff. I would also hold back from criticizing their current work and ask questions that convey that you are a team player and eager to help, not overhaul.

        Reply
  6. Nonprofit board chairman*

    Have you worked for a nonprofit and have suggestions for how to be a supportive board? I’m the chairman of a nonprofit and we just let our director go. I believe the employees who brought up complaints were brave and credible, and I’m proud of the full board for being willing to act.

    The hard part is, they are a young/inexperienced staff and most of the complaints they had about their previous director were just normal workplace frustrations. There were a couple things that were huge deals, however, and that’s why we terminated. I’m not sure how appropriate it is for me to get really involved and tell them what things didn’t matter and what things did… I don’t want to scare them from raising issues in the future, but don’t want them thinking every little frustration rises to the level of board involvement, either.

    I guess my question is fairly broad…how can I recalibrate their workplace norms meter and how can I help them rebuild a nontoxic culture while we search for a great ED? Help!

    Reply
    1. knitter*

      I worked at a non-profit for a number of years as a director. While there was an ED transition, I reported to the board director.
      Can you get a consultant in? I know there are organizations that provide support in leadership transitions.
      For the time being, make sure there is an employee handbook that addresses the concerns and the appropriate reporting structure since there is a leadership vacuum.
      Depending on how long you expect the transition is and what the exact complaints were, I’m a bit on the fence about whether you should give feedback directly or give the incoming ED the heads up about what norms need to be reset. What were some of the not a big deal complaints?
      Maybe you meet with them and discuss as much as you can the reasons for termination. Other things you had concerns about, maybe you could say something like “While we understand XXX was a concern, going forward, please address those concerns by XXXX. If they are not resolved by doing so, then let the board know by XXXX”

      Reply
    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      100% agree here to have an employee handbook with an org chart and other information that will help employees understand how the structure works.

      I’d also suggest making sure that your board has adopted a full complement of policies, starting with a whistleblower protection, document retention and destruction, and conflict of interest policies. Other policies I like to offer my nonprofit clients include sexual harassment, gift acceptance, computer/internet acceptable use, confidentiality, and social media use. Some are board-specific, some tie into the employee handbook, and some cover everybody. You didn’t state what complaints the employees brought to you, but sometimes complaints from disgruntled staff can be headed off at the pass with a good complement of policies and instructional documents.

      Reply
    3. InternWrangler*

      I think there is a lot you can do with staff to help them reset. They need to think about what they want to preserve about their culture, what they need to leave behind and how are they going to create a healthy, welcoming culture for the new executive. I do think a consultant would be helpful. There are people who specialize in interim E.D. roles and there are also people that will provide consultation and coaching about agency culture. Then I agree that it is important to define what the “grievance” policy is and what would rise to the level of the board. Best of luck!

      Reply
    4. JessicaTate*

      Good for your board. It’s not easy, but it’s important. My opinion is that I think it would be entirely appropriate for you to have a conversation with the staff, maybe in coordination with whomever is taking on the interim ED-type role — this is the kind of thing you’d want a manager to coach their staff on.

      Maybe acknowledging and thanking the team for raising the serious problems like X and Y that need to be brought to the board’s attention because they are [insert rationale for why they are massive — legal ramifications, etc.]. Being clear that was the right thing to do. And then maybe also clarifying that you did ALSO hear about other issues that were really more normal workplace frustrations, and that you expect those can be resolved without the board’s involvement. And give some examples without being overly concrete to embarrass anyone.

      If they are young and inexperienced, I would be a little worried they (without coaching) would see this experience as a license to go to the board whenever they don’t like what an ED is doing (which will be frequently in their non-profit careers). I think using this as an object lesson in a positively-framed way could be useful for that. And then letting the new ED know about it to manage it from within.

      Reply
    5. Not So NewReader*

      I am a board member and I have been that frustrated employee.

      My suggestion is do not get involved in listing off what they cannot report to a board member. It’s just not going to play out well as they will tend to hear that you are saying, “You are bothering me. Stop bothering me.”

      Stay on the pro-active side by pointing out what TO DO.

      Setting policies is a good thing. Make sure the policies have a reporting structure. For example, we wrote a harassment policy that includes instruction on what employees should do if they think their boss* is harassing them. (They can go to a board member of their choosing.) The policy includes a time line for board response and includes instruction on how the board would show a proper response.

      *We also included instructions for what to do if an outsider such as a vendor exhibits harassing behaviors. We had instructions for what to do if a BOARD member was harassing someone. And yes, we also included coworkers.

      We made everyone on the board a mandatory complaint officer. This means that an employee can chose the board member they feel most approachable and talk with that board member. We put instructions in the policy to include what to do if that board member fails to respond properly.

      We defined harassment and we said the definition was not comprehensive but it was a lengthy definition and shows our intentions.
      We put in provision for the policy to be reviewed at set intervals and updated to meet changing needs.

      In order to get the ball rolling, we found harassment policies and other policies on the internet for organizations similar to ours. Our state also had policies online. Then we plagiarized like heck. We added things we needed for our setting and took out sections that were not applicable to our setting.
      We asked for employee inputs for consideration.

      We wrote in plain language, not legalese. We started with a clear statement for each policy. “Harassment will not be tolerated.” OR “Stealing will not be tolerated.” Each policy gives a firm statement about what we will not stand for.

      People worked in small groups of 2-3 people to write a draft. The draft went to the board and the employees. The revisions were collected and reviewed by the board. The final draft was created and the board voted on the policy. We used MS Word in collaborative mode to work on the drafts. (We just happen to have one board member who is an excellent editor, so she edits for grammar/punctuation but also for continuity and logic.)

      We have this down to a science now, where we can go right through policies and nail down the revisions and get that policy in place. The first few policies the board does are rough, but then everyone gets in the swing of it. We now have a chart so that each policy gets review every few years. The policies are available online and are also printed out in a binder at a central, accessible location in the workplace. (Small workplace.)

      Just my opinion, but I think the process is less tedious because each person knows they can say something and be heard, be responded to with an intelligent answer. I think this approach has helped to carry us through what we initially thought would be a painfully long and hard process with lots of arguing. It turned out that the process is actually good and we have very little arguing because everyone is listening to each other.

      So that covers the policies. When you hire your next director, go over what has happened and go over your expectations as a board. We made board meetings mandatory for our director. We expect a director’s report each month. Now, we aren’t stupidly ridged here, if the weather is bad or the director is ill/has an emergency, of course, we bend on this point. Typically, the director will email a report even if they do not attend the meeting and we really appreciate that.

      We make sure the director has what they need to do their job. Toxic workplaces start at the top. And sometimes the toxicity starts with a board that does not supply what is needed for the work. We make sure the director goes for regular training and has peer level connections. (It can be a lonely job being a director.) We make sure the director uses her vacation time and eligible employees use their vacation time. The director is allowed/encouraged to present employee suggestions for our consideration.
      If we have to say no to something, we make sure the reason why is understood. This helps with future suggestions as the person (director or board member) learns what goes into a suggestion that will be accepted.

      We also wander into the workplace on random days and say, “Hey, how’s it going?”. We are not doing this in an accusatory manner or with a suspicious demeanor. We go in with the idea, “I am here to help, is there anything you need from me?”

      Last and very critical. Make sure you have a mechanism to remove board members who are bad apples. This sounds so obvious. When I joined one board, there was no way to remove a bad actor. One of the first things I did was amend the bylaws to show what is considered bad behavior and how to remove that bad apple from the board. (I wrote a draft, they offered revisions, I revised, they voted and approved. I think I saw visible relief in the group that they could finally vote someone off the board for certain behaviors.)

      Reply
      1. Nonprofit board chairman*

        What a helpful perspective. Thank you for taking the time to share so much. I’ll be returning to this for future reference.

        Reply
      2. Nonprofit board chairman*

        Also, I often say “there’s no instructions for how to navigate the difficult side of being on a board.” I nominate you to write the book on it. Seriously, there’s a need.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader*

          Aw.
          No book I think, because there are so many things to know and learn that I just don’t know.

          I am a big fan of looking at the foundation type stuff. Are basics in place? Stuff like having bylaws and policies in simple language so that most people can follow along ends up being a huge asset. Everyone knows what to do and what is expected from them. That alone causes less arguing and reduces problems.

          The learning and teaching are constant activities. I might be learning on one aspect and teaching (sharing) on a different aspect. Our roles flip back and forth constantly between student role and teacher role. A board job done correctly can easily be a 40 plus hour a week job there is so much to learn, share, and do.

          It’s important to have a contact list showing who does what and how to contact them. XYZ Oil Company for furnace problems. ABC Accounting for financial/tax questions. DEF Agency for advice regarding arena specific issues.
          Have separate list of contact information for board members and staff. (This ties into some policies as staff has to have a means of contacting mandatory complaint officers.)
          It’s unbelievable how much easier things are when everyone knows who and how to contact others.

          One thing I have been working on lately is taking a new board member with me when I do an ordinary task. To me the task is ordinary. For someone who is new to the board, everything is ALL NEW. I introduce them to people, they see where they have to travel to and they become empowered to do things also.

          Working in pairs is great tool for a lot of things – so I favor pairing up. I have had situations where *I* requested at least TWO other board members jump in and help. So this is a two way street, sometimes I get asked to help and sometimes I ask for help.

          The other drawback to what I wrote (after it being a bit towards the covering the basics) is that I am used to small boards. Larger boards are going to have different needs and much of what I am saying either doesn’t work or is not even applicable.

          However, if you ever want to ask more questions I am willing to take a look and see if we can find some workable suggestions. I have noticed also that other people chime in with good stuff as the conversation goes along.
          If you find it daunting, that’s because it IS daunting. Talking with as many well-chosen people as possible is the path out.

          Reply
    6. CM*

      I would also recommend getting a consultant, particularly one who’s focused on building healthy workplace cultures. I think it’s less important to spell out what you personally believe is a serious enough issue to report vs what you believe is not a big deal, and more important to create a shared vision for what a healthy, functioning workplace looks like and shared norms about how we all behave to make that happen. Also, while you’re looking for a new ED, I would prioritize getting somebody who has good interpersonal skills and displays an ability to deal with conflict, manage transition, etc. That person is really going to set the tone for whatever comes next.

      Reply
      1. xyz991*

        Are there any good workplace culture consultants out there?

        It seems like many of them are the “typical consultant” i.e. Charge a lot of money to come in, declare that things are irreparably broken, and implement “changes” like hours long mandatory fun EQ and sensitivity training that leaves everyone angrier than they were before , or add layers of bureaucracy “Were going to appoint a Senior Chief Executive for Positivity who makes (an obscene amount more than the average worker) and does (were not really sure what)”

        Reply
  7. AnotherAlison*

    I know preferred names, email names, etc. comes up a lot here. . .I was just majorly thrown off this morning. I received an email from Jane.Doe(at)company.com. Here email signature said Jane Doe/Administrator/Company/Phone. Then, the closing of her email said “Thanks, Julie”. Ummm. . .is her name Julie? Is Julie her assistant who sends emails from her account? I assume she goes by Julie, but I think it would be helpful if her email actually said Jane (Julie) Doe or something. Even her LinkedIn says Jane. Anyone have an email set up like this for themselves?

    Reply
    1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Yep. My email address and sent-from say Boochie. My signature, which per firm requirements has to be my legal name, says Boochie. My closing says ‘Chie,’ because that’s what I want to be called. I don’t like it any more than you do here.

      Am I going to try and see if there’s any leeway on it? Eventually, but right now I don’t have the space on my plate to take on this fight.

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        But at least Chie is a reasonable nickname for Boochie. Jane and Julie don’t have that kind of connection (and I know they’re just fake names picked for this comment, but I assume the actual names are equally unrelated), so it does seem to want clarification.

        Reply
    2. Anony*

      If it was an admin, they may have been working from a shared inbox, or covering for someone who is on holiday, and forgot to switch the reply from email or signature.

      Reply
    3. Stormy Weather*

      I wonder if it was an autocomplete issue, because autocomplete is stupid. I think this is a case where you’d have to ask.

      I had a consultant who used a nickname that you wouldn’t associate with their first name. Their signature read

      Legal First name ‘Nickname’ Last Name
      et cetera

      I’ve seen variations like Nickname (Legal First Name) as well. Regardless, the person with the name needs to be clear.

      Reply
    4. GrumbleBunny*

      I’ve seen this, but it was always really clear what was going on – Like, Jeffrey.Doe signing off as Jeff, or Jeffrey.Doe having J. Timothy Doe in his formal signature line and signing off as Tim.
      In your situation, it is hard to know whether Jane prefers to go by Julie or has an assistant named Julie who sends email on her behalf sometimes.

      Reply
    5. The Wedding Planner*

      Maybe she sent it from her phone and it auto-corrected her name? My phone wants my name to be “Arizona” every time.

      Reply
      1. Sleve McDichael*

        I know a Nikki who’s phone always used to autocorrect her name to Milky and she’d accidentally sign texts that way. My phone always autocorrects Bridget to Bridport. Are the names close enough that it could be an autocorrect mishap?

        Reply
    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have seen a lot of people who have assistants who answer from their bosses/execs actual accounts. So it has the prefilled signature of the boss, since they command the email inbox ship. But yeah, when Julie sends emails, she puts her name in there to confirm it’s not actually from Boss Jane’s own fingertips.

      But, I also know someone who uses their middle name as their actual preferred name. So their email, being first.last@ it’s “Roberta.Jones@” and they sign it “Lindsey” because their full name is Roberta Lindsey Jones.

      You just never know, I would just respond using whatever name they signed off on.

      If they don’t sign anything, they just do the whole Thanks, and the signature block is their “name”, then go ahead and pluck it from the signature, they clearly don’t care enough to change that.

      Reply
    7. Kat in VA*

      My first name is not the name I use in everyday life – I use a nickname based on my middle name. (Long story, parents wanting specific Irish Catholic names but someone in the family already has those names so we’ll use a middle name nickname for BOTH of our kids as a compromise! Hilarity at school, the DMV, and doctor’s offices commences.)

      However, since my org’s naming convention for email requires legal firstname.lastname@company.com, my email reflects that — but my signature block says say Kat, I answer my phone with Kat (desk or cell), and I introduce myself/am introduced as Kat. (My cube nameplate says Firstname “Kat” Lastname.)

      It can be confusing. I even have people who speak to me on a regular basis in the office call me Kat to my face but will address emails to me as Firstname.

      However, if the LinkedIn says Jane and the signature block says Jane, that simplifies things! I would just go by Jane since it’s in her signature block and you took the extra step of checking professional social media where it also says Jane. If was important to her (like it isn’t to me), she would at least clarify in her signature block the way my nameplate clarifies (Jane “Julie” Doe).

      Side note: If you’re worried you’ll offend her, I don’t ever get bent at people using Firstname for me even though I use my middle name. There’s enough things to have to remember on a regular basis at your average company without having to keep which name this particular administrator uses, as well. To extend that annoyance about name confusion to someone not in your org would be pretty obnoxious.

      Reply
    8. Katniss Evergreen*

      I was emailing with someone the other day whose user account responses within our purchasing system are all labelled with his legal name, which does not mention his preferred name at all, but he signed his name at the end of the response. Once I flagged it for myself, I asked if what he signed was his preferred name and apologized if I’d been referring to him incorrectly – he confirmed and was cool with it. I think if you apologize once/recognize you were off and correct yourself going forward, people usually understand (I think this was seconded in the semi-related thread on communication with trans folks).

      Reply
    9. Chaordic One*

      Yeah, this is confusing and frustrating. My workplace also requires people to use their legal name (including middle initial) and it makes sending an email complicated if you don’t know that someone goes by their middle name or what someone’s middle initial is.

      Then there are the women who get married. Some of them keep their maiden name, adopt their husband’s last name, or use a combination of the two (usually, but not always hyphenated). I don’t have a problem with what last name someone wants to use, but I do think it should be consistent. Don’t call yourself Jane Smith and use Jane Jones for your email address.

      Reply
    10. 2e*

      Julie might be her middle name. That can lead to an apparently unrelated first name in an email vs. signature. My work email includes the initial of my first name and my middle name, but I sign emails with a nickname associated with my middle name (which is the name I go by). Not my real name, but it’s like if my name was Laura Katherine Lastname, my page on the office website said “L. Katherine Lastname,” and my work email was lklastname@company.com–but I go by Katie so that’s how I close my emails.

      I will note that I do this only for professional licensing reasons; you need to know my legal first name to look me up, so I want an indicator that “Katherine” is my middle name. Otherwise, I would ask to just have Katherine Lastname and leave off the allusion to my first name.

      Reply
    11. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      My boss and I have names that are similar and start with the same letter. I sometimes have to send emails from his account (when I really need a response, and know an email from him will be far more effective than an email from me). I have accidentally signed my own name to the email (only once! I hope). So that can happen.

      Reply
  8. Notfunny.*

    I’m in a toxic job, it’s not going to change and I know I need to leave. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do next but have a couple of options to pursue. How do I decide whether to leave without something else lined up (financially I can be unemployed for a little while/my partner supports me leaving anytime now because it’s a detriment to my mental health) and when to do this? How have you made this decision? Any wisdom to share?

    Reply
    1. Lalitah28*

      Is temporary/contract work available in your line of work? I would start by looking up a list of the ones in your area and start at least looking at their websites if they advertise jobs there. One way you can get a list is through you local public library (if you’re in the United States or maybe Canada). Many of them subscribe to Reference USA or similar databases where you can search for temporary employment firms using the SIC codes (https://www.bls.gov/ppi/ppi7361.pdf) and narrow it down by geographic area. I did this and was able to go on a lot of interview in the NY City area just using this method.

      I hope this helps. And do tell me if it doesn’t so I don’t go and tell someone else the same thing. :)

      Reply
      1. Notfunny.*

        Contract work is an option for some of the roles that I’m considering, so this is a great idea to break in to a new field for me. I hadn’t ever heard of the method to look at SIC codes but I will take a look, thank you for making this suggestion!

        Reply
        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yeah, contact and temp work are a good stop gap until you can find something else permanent. Just have a plan for how long you want to do this because some people, through no fault of their own, can get trapped in the role of temporary worker.

          Reply
      2. Tidewater 4-1009*

        I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how to look up these SIC codes by region. Could you explain?
        Thanks!

        Reply
    2. Elephant*

      Obviously, only you know if you can quit without something lined up. You have to weigh your finances. You know your industry and a ballpark idea of what other positions may be available in your area and how hard they would be to obtain. It’s impossible to know how long job search will take, but these factors can help you make the right choice for you.
      It could be helpful to come up with an end date. For example, you could tell yourself that your last day of work will be May 1st (or whatever day makes sense for you) no matter what (unless you find something earlier). I did this once and it really helped. I had a countdown calendar and it was so much easier to let things roll off my back when I knew I wouldn’t be dealing with my toxic workplace indefinitly. And, I did find a job in the meantime. I also found that the toxic job had made me so bitter/anxious/negative that it was effecting my interviews with other places. When I decided my end date, I interviewed a lot better and actually got two offers!

      Reply
      1. Notfunny.*

        I have been thinking about an end date and i have a milestone birthday coming up in a few months so that may be it (I’ve been thinking about setting an end date with or without a new gig because I just can’t imagine this going on endlessly). I think I could find temporary work or project based employment if it gets to be too lengthy of a period of unemployment but it’s so hard to tell how long a search could take, you’re completely right.

        Reply
        1. Old Lady*

          Try to do something so there isn’t a large gap in your resume. Start your own little business as soon as you leave. Use that date on your resume. You could also volunteer or work a low paid job part time.

          Reply
      2. Loubelou*

        Came here to say this. I gave myself a deadline for leaving my toxic job and it made such a difference. We knew if it came to it we could live off my husband’s salary for a while, but like Elephant, the relief I felt meant I was much better at interviewing and I had a job lined up and was also able to give myself two weeks off to recover.
        This was so needed – if you do get a job offer, schedule yourself some time to detox and avoid bringing any of the baggage from current job into new job. Look after yourself for a few days!

        Reply
    3. eshrai*

      First, I want to say I’m sorry you are in that position. I have been there, and I understand. I did once leave a job without something else lined up, not because the job was toxic, but it was a bait and switch. I was supposed to be an account clerk and my job ended up being driving a large van around picking up cash boxes…only I have major anxiety with driving. So my job caused me to have panic attacks and I lasted 2 weeks.

      My partner at the time (we were engaged to be married) gave me the green light to quit, and we would just live off his salary. It was scary, but in the end it did work out. He didn’t make a lot, but we had savings, and very minimal expenses. One thing that is very important to consider before doing this is, do you have enough in savings if your partner loses their job? My partner ended up getting very sick and needing surgery during this time and we ended up trying to live off of his disability while he recovered. Obviously not enough, so I ended up having to get a job waitressing while he recovered and I looked for a permanent position. Again, it all worked out fine in the end, but money was tight. If you have the savings, and it would save you mental anguish, I would go for it.

      Reply
        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I have it as well and totally would have quit too if something like that had been sprung on me after accepting a job. I panic whenever I get a new job and they tell me travel will be involved because then I have to divulge that fact to ensure they’re okay with me taking car service or ride shares when I get to my destination (thankfully, no company I’ve worked for has had an issue with paying for this).

          Reply
      1. Notfunny.*

        Oh no, that bait and switch sounds terrible! I’m glad that you got out of there ASAP.

        I think financially we will be ok for a while – saving for buying a condo helps and we got married last year so there is a healthy emergency fund. I guess I’m struggling with how to give myself space to just step away. I care a lot about my coworkers and there isn’t ever going to be a good time to leave but with the under staffing in my part of the department, it’s going to be a big mess. And part of me feels guilty for just walking out of the workforce for a while when it’s really not SO bad. But yeah, it’s pretty bad.

        Reply
        1. SunnySideUp*

          The sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll find the job you want.

          Don’t wait for a birthday, a staffing reason or because your coworkers will be left behind. You need to do this for YOU.

          Reply
        2. Arts Akimbo*

          I’m concerned that you’re minimizing how bad the toxic workplace is. I suggest just start applying for jobs now! Then you will have started the process. You don’t have to feel guilty for protecting yourself! Good luck, and I hope you get an awesome job!

          Reply
          1. Notfunny.*

            I’m applying now and focusing on networking, but it’s exhausting because my days at work are so draining. I’ve gotten pretty good at minimizing how toxic it is, you’re right, and that’s making it challenging to prioritize myself. Thank you for the encouragement!

            Reply
      2. Just Another Manic Millie*

        I worked at two toxic companies, and both jobs were bait and switch. I gave two weeks notice at both of them without having lined up a new job when something happened that made me say to myself, “This is it. I can’t go on pretending any longer that this is a normal company. What just happened is completely unforgivable. I have to get out right now.” Well, in two weeks. If something like that happens to you, you’ll know it.

        Reply
    4. The Rain In Spain*

      I did, under protest. It was so bad it was affecting my mood and carrying over into my personal life. We were in a fortunate position where my SO’s income was bumping up drastically and could afford for me not to work a bit. Once we made the decision, it made it much easier for me to deal with toxic job. I waited a few months to give notice (wrapped up a big project). I filled my time volunteering (related to my field) and applying for jobs. It took me much longer than anticipated to find a job- almost a year. So that’s something to bear in mind as you plan. Fortunately I found an absolute dream job I enjoy and plan to stay here unless something drastic changes!

      Reply
      1. Notfunny.*

        I’m so glad that you have a job that you enjoy (and I hope it stays that way)!

        That’s a good point about how to fill time, I will need that because I get restless when I don’t have a lot of structure so it is good to make a plan before having a lot of time.

        Reply
        1. The Rain In Spain*

          Thank you! I will add that networking definitely helps (even though I’m introverted and find it super awkward), but knowing someone can help you get your foot in the door. Depends on your industry, of course. Hoping you find something that’s a great fit after you’ve had some time to recharge and purge the toxicity!

          Reply
    5. rageismycaffeine*

      I went through this for about 18 months when a job I relocated for was just not what I wanted. My husband and I had several difficult conversations about budgeting for one income, whether I could find part-time work, what I would do with my time if I wasn’t working, etc. Ultimately I ended up holding out and the person making my job miserable was let go, and now I’m so happy I stayed around – but I had no way of knowing that at the time. We could have made it work, though, and he absolutely supported me – but it was my decision of whether to leave or not.

      All you can do is ask yourself those same questions, and especially whether your mental health can handle continuing to stay there for an indefinite amount of time while you hope another job pans out. You have to make this decision for yourself, as impossible as it seems. It sounds like you’re already considering the important factors. Maybe set yourself a deadline: I can handle this for another X months, during which I will look for a job. If I don’t have a job by the end of that time, then I will go without for however long it takes. My advice would be to make sure you have a plan in place for budgeting, etc. before you take that dive – it might make you feel more comfortable about the whole thing.

      Good luck!

      Reply
    6. OhBehave*

      They longer you stay in the toxic job, the more your workplace norms get skewed. If you can leave, do so now.

      However, knowing you are in a toxic job is a big first step. As has been advised before, approach the job/office as a researcher. “Look at that behavior! That’s some batsh&^ crazy stuff.”. Remove yourself and bask in the knowledge that you will be free soon. Use the time, while still there, to research your new job wants. Is there some reason you would not leave now? i.e. upcoming bonus, travel you enjoy, etc. Any health needs that need addressed (physicals, immunizations, dental work, etc.).

      Reply
    7. blepkitty*

      Leave, but if you think it’s going to take a while to find a new position, first make a plan for how to spend your time while you hunt for a new job. I’ve sort of done this (it’s complicated), and being unemployed is weirdly boring and stressful, not to mention isolating, and if your toxic job has made you feel bad about yourself, it’s really easy to keep feeling bad about yourself if you’re at home browsing the Internet or watching tv all day.

      Reply
    8. Fikly*

      The first thing I might ask myself is, “Is my current job making me so unhealthy that I am unable to look for another job?”

      If the answer is yes, it’s probably time to quit without a job lined up, because you can’t get a job lined up while continuing to work at this one.

      Reply
    9. Anon for this one*

      I presume your partner would be financially supporting you once you’d used up your savings.. consider this aspect and the ‘power’ implications of this carefully, especially if you aren’t sure you’d find something else pretty soon.

      I was in a similar situation with my now ex (I was the partner supporting the job-leaver) and it ended up being around 6 years (!) that he remained unemployed after that — during that time he applied for one job because his friend already worked there and he thought that might be nice…… he only eventually got a job after we had broken up and he had a new partner that he had to support (!) … I guess it had just become “comfortable” that he didn’t need to work, and blamed it on bad bosses, toxic situations etc because why get a new job when the same thing would probably end up happening and he’d have another bad boss or toxic situation? I’m not dismissing your toxic situation which I’m sure is real, but just saying this is a line of thinking to beware of.

      Even though your partner supports you leaving immediately — don’t underestimate the psychological burden this places on the working partner. Especially since there is now no “redundancy” in the system, in that when you’re both working, one person losing their job is a setback but if only one person is working, losing their job could be financial ruin.

      Do you have children together?

      Reply
      1. Anon for this one*

        Btw, in my case we were legally married so I didn’t have the option to just ‘walk away’ even if I’d wanted to — I was legally on the hook for all our joint responsibilities. (This incident isn’t why he’s an ex husband though — in fact he initiated the break up!)

        Reply
    10. Not So NewReader*

      If your partner supports you leaving now, then leave NOW.

      It’s not worth the medical and counseling bills we can rack up because we stayed. That’s the bottomline right there.

      Give your notice. Say what you need to say or NOT. And leave.

      I dunno, but it could be that your partner would prefer you just leave so you are not crying/angry/sleeping because of exhaustion all the time. In other words, your partner wants YOU back being your old self again. Please keep this in mind.

      Reply
    11. CM*

      It’s a very personal decision and every situation is different.

      I was in a toxic job a few years ago that was hurting my mental health and I walked out one day by surprise (surprise to me, as well as everyone else). I just had a moment of clarity while I was using my lunch break to cry — I realized I had the power to make it so that this was the last time I used my lunch break to cry, and the relief I felt when I had that thought was powerful enough that I knew I had to go, no matter the risk.

      In other words, for me it was one of those “When the time has come, you KNOW” situations. Prior to that, I was checking in with myself every morning and asking, “Can you stand to go there today in order to get one more day’s pay?” and that system worked, too.

      Reply
    12. Hapax Legomenon*

      I stayed much too long in a toxic job, but quitting without something lined up would mean having to give up my home and life in this country. So I stayed, while my job destroyed me mentally, and left me unable to job-hunt properly so that I could get out.
      One day, after yet another incident where work forced me to put my health on the backburner because management blamed their own failure on the employees, I had a meltdown in front of my boss. My workplace had me declared medically unfit for duty, and only by sheer luck and the kindness of a manager in another department was I able to get another position here. But honestly, when I was in limbo and didn’t know if I would be able to stay, I was more scared of being told I would have to go back to my old job than being told I would not have a job at all. Giving up everything I had built for myself here was not worth destroying myself every day I worked, and it only took a few days away from the job to see that.
      Toxic jobs have a tendency to run you ragged until you can’t see how far down you are. If you have Sunday Night Dread, if you spend a huge chunk of your free time recovering from work, if the thought of putting yourself together for an interview feels like Too Much because you’re already so exhausted/stressed…then it’s time to go. The sooner you quit, the easier your recovery, the sooner you will be able to present your best self in job interviews and on cover letters. And staying just to avoid a gap can lead to much more damaging circumstances than leaving early for your own health.

      Reply
    13. Dream Jobbed*

      If you have a few months before you are going to quit, why not start putting 100% of your income in savings now and seeing if you truly can live off partner’s income. This way you’ll know how important it may or may not be to have a job lined up, and you’ll have a cushion if you need for an emergency.

      Reply
  9. Anonsy*

    I have a very hands-off, conflict-avoidant manager and my annual performance review is coming up. I’ve had no real feedback on my performance in the year that she has managed me. Is it worth trying to have an informal meeting to ward off any surprises? Or will that come across ass too demanding/high maintenance/insecure/etc…? I’ve been keeping a list of things I’ve accomplished and concerns I would like to address, but I’m not sure if I would be doing myself a disservice by being proactive or not. Thoughts?

    Reply
    1. Legally a Vacuum*

      If she’s conflict avoidant, I think she’d welcome a framework you provide for discussion- it would make it clear that you were cooperative with any feedback. I think the accomplishments/goals for the next year structure might work for you.

      Reply
    2. OhNo*

      I don’t know if this tactic would work for you, but it’s worked really well for me:

      Every year, when I start writing my self-evaluation for review season, I check in with my boss and ask if there’s anything specific she want me to include or highlight in my evaluation. Since the bosses above her also (supposedly) read everyone’s reviews, there’s usually at least one thing she asks me to include, so she has evidence to support her case for more hours/staff/money/training/etc.

      The questions I always ask are:
      – Any accomplishments you want me to highlight?
      – Any areas for improvement that you want me to note?
      – Any projects you want me to include for next year’s goals?

      I don’t know if those specific questions would get you the info you need, but they might at least start the conversation.

      Reply
      1. Anonsy*

        I actually really like this approach! This still comes across respectful and positive instead of seeming like I’m just trying to mitigate anything negative. HR gives us forms to fill out with this sort of information before the reviews are scheduled, so it seems like a perfect way to frame it! I’ll try this and report back (likely in a few weeks)!

        Reply
    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Do you not have regular (e.g. every 2 weeks or monthly) “one to one” type meetings? If not, is there any way you can start them? (you’d probably need to present it to your boss as something you’d like to have for ‘xyz reasons’, I don’t think she would initiated it).

      I feel you as I’m direct myself and have had to deal with a very conflict-avoidant, indirect boss; it wasn’t easy! I often come off as too direct so softened my own comments to e.g. “I’m curious what you think about how the TTP Project went when we look back at it?” rather than something more direct. In my case I was genuinely unsure about my performance (I’m pretty confident about stuff in general and have a good sense of what I’m good at and bad at, so it wasn’t just imposter syndrome talking or anything) and wondered if the boss agreed that I didn’t think I was doing particularly well at aspect X of the job. Of course boss was still indirect in response to my question and I ended up rephrasing it directly with the answer that everything was fine. To this day I don’t know if that boss was ok with my performance or quietly seething!

      Do you get any sense of whether she is the type where “no news is good news” or does she have a history of not addressing things (situations in general, not just managing you) and then surprising people with it later?

      Do you think you are performing well, or are conscious of any ‘notable’ issues?

      Reply
    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It just occurred to me, and it may be nothing, but — it’s worth thinking about what type of things are on your list of “concerns I would like to address” (it’s fine and good to have a list of accomplishments to reflect on).

      Generally you’d address “concerns” during the year as they come up organically, rather than storing them up (which presumably the manager will then get surprised by at the meeting). It may be I’ve not understood correctly what kind of concerns you are referring to, though, so feel free to disregard.

      It sounds like the kind of place where people don’t really communicate well in general, to be honest!

      Reply
      1. Anonsy*

        Captain, I appreciate all these thoughts! (I work in academia… so it is definitely a place where people don’t communicate well.) For some framework, I could have written the letter posted today about being in a bait-and-switch position, only I thought I was taking a technical position and it turned out to be more of a free for all.

        I don’t foresee any notable issues, but my position is set up so that I’m primarily servicing people internally and my manager isn’t really involved so I’m worried the only feedback she hears/sees about my position is negative (ex: someone being upset because I told them the task they asked me to do isn’t part of my position, etc.) and wouldn’t have been addressed with me when the issue arose since it wasn’t a “big fire”. This may mean that she thought I was fine in handling it and had no concerns… or she’s just waiting until the focus is really on me and she wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise.

        My list of concerns is primarily in regard to clarifying her expectations for my position (since the bait and switch made my position poorly defined for myself and those I work with) and understand where she sits on the negative feedback and/or how she would like me to handle particular situations in the future. We’ve talked about some of these situations as they’ve come up, but most of them are due to my position being amorphous so responses on how to handle them have been inconsistent which leaves me feeling unstable. One of my talking points is to request regular meetings! I think having an avenue to bring these things up organically (as opposed to a cold email) and periodic check-ins would make everything so much easier.

        I really appreciate being able to unpack this and see another viewpoint before I have this meeting! Thank you so, so much!

        Reply
  10. West*

    I’m 30 and have been going through breast cancer treatment for about 9 months now. I finished chemo in November and my hair is now just long enough that I feel comfortable without a scarf/hat. I have a coworker that keeps commenting on my hair. I know she’s trying to make me feel good about it, but every time I walk past her she comments on it. It makes me so self conscious because I’m now aware that every time people see me, they are noticing the side effects of my cancer treatment. I’ve asked her to stop as politely as possible but she doesn’t seem to grasp that her constant comments make me uncomfortable because she thinks she’s being kind. But it’s also weirdly aggressive and she will insult how my hair was before cancer, i.e. “West, don’t ever change your hair, you’re rocking it. You looked like a little girl with the long hair, now you look like an adult woman!” and grins like it’s the nicest thing she could possibly say to me.

    I cannot get her to understand that she is not making me feel good, and I don’t know how to be more clear that I don’t want her commenting on my appearance anymore besides “Please stop commenting on my hair. I don’t want to focus on that in the office, thanks.” because she seems to think if it’s a “compliment” it’s totally okay.

    Reply
    1. CatPerson*

      Stop being so polite about it! State: Your comments about my hair make me uncomfortable. I have asked you to stop making those comments. Why are you disregarding my wishes and calling unwanted attention to me?”

      Reply
      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, I think if you’ve literally said ‘Please stop commenting on my hair. I don’t want to focus on that in the office, thanks’ and she’s *still* doing it, then you have every right to say ‘I really need you to stop mentioning my hair. It’s making me very uncomfortable, and I’ve asked you to stop doing it. Please stop.’

        Reply
      1. West*

        I have, and that’s why I am so baffled. I have not tiptoed around it. I’ve said exactly my last paragraph to her, but the next day it’s like it never happened.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh! Then that’s bizarre. In that case, I’d escalate in tone: “I’ve asked you to stop commenting on my hair and told you it’s unwelcome. It’s incredibly weird that you keep doing it. What do I need to say to get you to stop?” And if that doesn’t work, I’m sure your HR dept would not be happy to learn someone is hassling someone in treatment for cancer.

          Reply
          1. West*

            Thanks, I suppose I know that’s my next step. We just don’t have a real HR department so it’s a little awkward to get to the right person to help. The person who does HR stuff is one of the higher ups in the company so going to them always feels like such a huge escalation. But I will try again to make it especially clear before I go that route. Thanks for the advice.

            Reply
            1. Donna*

              I think it’s extremely crappy that you are made to deal with this issue on top of what you’re already going through, so it has to stop so that you can concentrate on the big things. Of all the advice columns I follow, my favorite general advice has been to ‘use your words’, and escalate where necessary. It sounds like you’ve used your words, so it might be time to escalate the volume to call a larger audience into question. Saying what you said but saying it in a louder tone, and adding ‘Geez, I’ve already asked you to stop commenting on my hair. I can’t understand why you keep doing it….am I missing something?’ said so that others in the vicinity are called into witness might embarrass her enough that it won’t continue to occur.

              Reply
              1. Just Another Manic Millie*

                “I cannot get her to understand that she is not making me feel good”

                Are you certain that she is trying to make you feel good? Because it sure doesn’t sound like it.

                Reply
            2. Wing Leader*

              Definitely take it to the manager or whoever. Your coworker is not being kind. She may have started off that way initially, but now that you’ve repeatedly and plainly told her to stop and she hasn’t done so–she is no longer being kind.

              Reply
        2. West*

          Sorry, I realized I phrased that last paragraph strangely by saying “besides saying this” because I meant I had already done that so what’s left to say after that.

          Reply
    2. Jack Be Nimble*

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this, this absolutely sucks!

      I think your proposed script is great — I’d say that to her, in those exact words, and give her a week to knock it off, at which point I’d speak to your manager or hers. Best of luck, here’s hoping she gets a clue!

      Reply
    3. NaoNao*

      Maybe activate the “shame button”. Pause, look down and in a trembly whisper “Oh….I really miss my hair actually. It’s been a really hard adjustment getting used to this.” And then just stare at her with wide puppy eyes.

      But ultimately I think overall this might just be a friction of working in an office where people say/do thoughtless things.

      Reply
      1. StlBlues*

        I wouldn’t do this. Depending on how she thinks, Hair-Complimenter might take this as a reason to be MORE complimentary! “Oh, what a delicate flower, so nervous about her short hair! I’ll need to be sure to tell her how beautiful it is EVERY TIME I SEE HER.”

        This is someone who didn’t respond to OP’s very direct request. I think the chance of her misinterpreting these “puppy dog eyes” to suit her own agenda is ENORMOUS.

        Reply
        1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          I was also thinking about the shock value of breaking into unreasonable amounts of tears the next time just to mess with her. But clearly H-C is not good at picking up the right messages from even direct requests.

          I have, however, had success in redirecting people from discussion of my own hair (which used to be pretty damn long) by essentially mirroring the same statement/question back at them. “I think you should also not change your hair” or “Would you like it if I touch your hair too?” — it makes them flummoxed and I never hear about it again.

          Reply
    4. Dr. Anonymous*

      Just say that again and add, “I’ve asked you before to stop commenting on my hair and you keep doing it. What’s up with that?” Then listen to whatever she says and make some sort of “I hear you” noise, and then say, “thanks just the same, but I really don’t like it, so please cut it out.”

      Reply
    5. LQ*

      “I understand and appricate that you’re trying to be kind, but right now the kindest thing you can do is stop commenting on my hair at all. Your continual comments are hurting me and I need you to stop.”

      Reply
      1. SunnySideUp*

        …but leave out the first sentence.

        She’s getting some weird kind of pleasure by speaking condescendingly to you. She doesn’t sound kind or caring at all.

        Reply
          1. LQ*

            Yeah, it doesn’t matter if she is. The point of it is that you’re telling her that she is a kind of person that she wants to be, and triggering her brain to say, yes, yes I am kind, and then you’re telling her how to be that person, kind person stfu. It makes her more likely to do it.

            The point isn’t to be the most right or the most accurate. It’s to get her to stop talking about it. Appealing to that is more likely to get her to stop.

            Reply
    6. Hallowflame*

      You have tried to be polite and it hasn’t worked. It’s time to be blunt.
      “Please stop commenting on my hair, I don’t appreciate it.”
      “Please don’t comment on my physical appearance, it makes me uncomfortable.”
      “Saying I looked like a little girl is demeaning and rude, please stop.”
      All of these should be said with a straight face and even, slightly cool tone.

      Reply
    7. Rusty Shackelford*

      The problem is that she thinks she’s complimenting you and buoying you up and all that, and so your reasonable protests sound like modesty. I think you literally have to tell her that not only do you not want to talk about your hair, but that she is being UNKIND and HURTING YOUR FEELINGS. So, yeah, I like NaoNao’s suggestion. I’d say “Oh, I really miss my long hair, and this short hair makes me so sad every time I look at it. And every time you bring it up. That’s why I keep telling you to stop, and it’s really distressing that you won’t.”

      Reply
    8. Probably Too Cynical*

      I am not so sure she is being kind. This strikes me as a bit of performance art – drawing attention to your cancer while being plausibly able to appear caring – particularly if others are around or can hear her when she does it. I would probably be very blunt about this next time she does it and say straight out something like “Why do you keep doing this when I have repeatedly asked you to stop?”

      I’m sorry younhave to deal with this, and hope your treatment has been successful. Sending positive vibes.

      Reply
      1. Diahann Carroll*

        That was my read on the situation as well, especially when OP said she has already told this person to stop commenting on her hair – who keeps doing something like this after someone calls you out on it?

        Reply
    9. nep*

      Her take on it–that it’s a compliment–doesn’t define what it is ‘universally.’ To you, the person concerned, it’s not a compliment. Your language there sounds perfect for letting her know.
      I’m sorry for your sake that she hasn’t heeded your requests up to now.
      Best of health to you.

      Reply
    10. june june hannah*

      I disagree with those saying you should play up how much you miss your hair to shame her. Speaking as a cancer patient who has lost my hair too, yes I miss it and it totally sucks – and I shouldn’t have to put that vulnerability on display at work to get someone to stop making inappropriate comments. Clear and direct speech should be enough and if it’s not, time to get leadership involved.

      Hang in there OP!

      Reply
      1. West*

        I agreeeeeeeee, I don’t want to have to put on an emotional display, especially since that is part of why I want her to stop, because it upsets me and makes me emotional. I get where that comes from (it might feel satisfying for a moment to get her to feel as uncomfortable as she is making me) but my ultimate goal is just to get the comments to stop, not to return the feeling she is giving me.

        I hope you are doing so well with your cancer stuff too. We got this!

        Reply
    11. Bananatiel*

      I’m an ovarian cancer survivor and was diagnosed in my late 20’s– some people are SO BAD at dealing with the knowledge that someone has had/has cancer. I don’t have any new advice beyond what others have said but know that all the survivors out there have dealt with something like this– it’s just another crummy rite of passage. My boss was obsessed with my growing hair, I ended up wearing wigs for way longer than I would have just to avoid her reaching out and touching my scalp/hair. I had some pretty visceral reactions to her doing it and told her to stop in increasingly more assertive ways but in the end, it was just easier to keep it covered and tell her I just liked the look of the wig.

      Reply
      1. West*

        Omggggg I don’t know what I would do if a coworker, or boss! tried to touch my scalp/hair at the office! I’m so sorry she did that to you! I agree, I think part of my coworker’s vocalization about my hair is that she thinks she’s helping by cheering me on in some way. But I don’t need or want that kind of support in the office, I just want her to submit her paperwork properly, that’s how she can make my life better.
        I hope you’re doing well now after treatment and that no one has touched your head without your permission since your boss (!!!)

        Reply
      2. KoiFeeder*

        There is no part of that story that does not make me want to scream in horror at what you had to go through. I would’ve ended up hitting her by reflex.

        Reply
    12. rageismycaffeine*

      I think we’ve run into each other in the comments here before (fellow young breast cancer survivor). You’ve gotten really good advice from others so I just want to say: congratulations on finishing chemo. Sending you love and light for your survivorship journey.

      Reply
      1. West*

        I believe we have as well! Thank you so much. I am doing so much better since the last time I posted something about cancer in the comments a few months ago. I had my last reconstruction surgery last week (and despite hair commenting coworker, no one has made me uncomfortable about my reconstruction surgeries, which is a minor miracle since it’s so personal but obvious when you’re going through those procedures) and I see my oncologist for my first appointment since finishing treatment in the fall next week! I hope you’re doing well also.

        Reply
    13. 867-5309*

      First, sorry you’re dealing with this.

      Second, for what’s worth: I might notice someone hair as they’re going through chemo and think about it for one second and then it leaves my mind. So while this person is misguided (and at this point rude, since you’ve talked to her), just know that most people spend most of their time thinking about themselves and aren’t thinking about your hair or what it means.

      I mention this because of this line, “I’m now aware that every time people see me, they are noticing the side effects of my cancer treatment”

      Reply
    14. KoiFeeder*

      I am just completely mind-boggled by the fact that she’d consider this anything vaguely approaching appropriate.

      Reply
    15. Anon Woman with Breast Cancer*

      Congrats on finishing chemo, and on your hair growing back. I think you have received a lot of good advice here from Alison and others, so I will just send you a wish for continued good progress and better health from here on out! And good for you for being strong and working thru this!

      Reply
    16. Not So NewReader*

      I’d skip getting her to understand that you do not feel complimented. It seems to be enough to do to get her to just stop saying it.

      You: I have asked you to stop talking about my hair. Yet you keep talking about my hair after I have told you to stop. Why are you still talking about my hair?

      Her: I am only trying to compliment you.

      You: A compliment is said once and then it is over. Repeatedly complimenting someone after they have asked you to stop is rude. I need you to stop talking about my hair. If you can’t do that, I will have to talk with [boss].
      So this right now is that very last time we EVER talk about my hair, right?

      Notice how each sentence is a variation on the word NO. Don’t get pulled down into the weeds discussing compliments, her motivation, or any other mumbling thing she comes up with. Stay on point. If she repeats “I am only complimenting you”, then just say, “There you go again talking about my hair. My hair is closed topic. I am not going to talk about my hair nor am I going to talk about you complimenting my hair. This brings us back to will you agree that this is the last time we ever discuss my hair?”

      If she starts in with but-but-but, immediately turn and go to the boss. Enough is enough.

      I always say, “Don’t turn yourself into someone who has to have a concrete block dropped on their head in order for others to get their points across.” Go drop the proverbial concrete block. Don’t waste your time and energy any more.

      Reply
    17. Sleve McDichael*

      I don’t have much advice other than to say even without the chemo context, being rude about your previous style choices is tremendously insulting. Especially as she has no idea whether you intend to return to that look one day. What a twit.

      I’m sure you wouldn’t but it’s funny to imagine you saying to her one day ‘Don’t ever go back to the blouse you wore on Friday, you looked so frumpy! You look so much better today in blue, like a professional instead of a fishwife. Good on you for learning how to style properly!’.

      Reply
  11. Amy Sly*

    Headhunter Query

    I was approached this week by what seemed to be a genuine headhunter (as opposed to direct sales frontmen). On the one hand, I’m feeling rather flattered and want to assume that he approached me because I would be competitive for this role that would be a $15K/yr raise. On the other, I’m wary of being scammed and have generally had such a miserable time job searching that I find it hard to believe something this nice would just fall in my lap.

    Anyone have any good experiences with headhunters? I have a phone interview with him shortly; any probing questions I should ask to verify this isn’t just a contacts hunt?

    Reply
      1. Stormy Weather*

        +1000

        One of my red flags is if they ask for a resume in Word. This means they are going to change it and they won’t ask for your approval first. After having someone flat-out lie about my qualifications to get me an interview, I only send my resume in PDF.

        Ask what stood out to him on your resume. This should indicate he’s actually read it and not just playing Buzzword Bingo.

        Reply
    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      I’ve worked sporadically with headhunters but more intensely and directly with staffing agencies. I think you’re safe to go ahead, until and unless they start throwing down red flags. You can move ahead and withdraw from consideration if they start being anything less than professional.

      Reply
      1. AndersonDarling*

        Agreed. If they tell you to lie or embellish, then you know they are a fraud. But even crappy headhunters can still make connections to a good employer. Just consider them a middleman and evaluate the job and the employer with the same scrutiny you normally would.

        Reply
    2. Nicki Name*

      I’ve had plenty of good experiences with them, but that’s because headhunting is extremely common in my industry. If they aren’t commonly used in yours, then I guess I’d be a little wary.

      Asking about the company the job is at and what the headhunter knows about their culture etc. would be one way to get a better idea if they’re genuine.

      Reply
      1. Amy Sly*

        They may well be common in my field — I’m only just now getting enough experience that I’m eligible for more than entry-level work. Nobody headhunts for freshly graduated bottom-of-the-class-at-a-third-tier-law-school folks for JD preferred jobs, after all.

        And after the phone interview, this does seem like a job I would be competitive for.

        Reply
    3. Leela*

      Former recruiter here, both internally and at a 3rd party agency, the answer is: it’s really hard to say without knowing specifics! Something nice can just fall into your lap for sure, we’re on the lookout for someone who’s a good match for the roles we get sent so it probably would just fall into your lap if your resume looked like a good fit and was up on indeed or linkedin or some other job search site.

      Now about getting scammed? Well that depends on so many factors. I mean, recruiters can and sometimes do lie. Sometimes people think recruiters are lying because the company wound up changing something but the recruiter is all you see. Loads of recruiters are just people trying to do their jobs well and wouldn’t lie at all. Whether a recruiter will lie or not, they might have a manager trying to force them to. It’s just too hard to say from the outside. I would say that it’s worth looking up this company on Glassdoor at least, even if it’s a 3rd party recruiter, if you’re getting lots of red flags from their internal business they aren’t going to be doing right by you in your job search for whatever company they send you to either. But there’s no reason to think outright that this is probably a scam. Just keep an eye out for red flags (it’s actually pretty common for recruiters to adjust your resume, less for lying and more because we’ve all experienced sending someone’s resume with their info forward and then they magically “find” you a few ours later and we get cut out of the recruiting fee, even though they couldn’t “find” you until we’d sent you forward, so don’t be wary of that necessarily but yes, sometimes recruiters do change around your resume without permission leaving you hold the bag too. Again, it’s just way too hard without knowing any specifics to say whether this place will do that, or if them asking for a word version of your resume will mean that).

      Reply
  12. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Something or nothing?

    I work with a man my age who is above me but not my boss. We get along very well, but I’ve been wondering about a couple of things that have happened in the past few months:

    He has winked at me a couple of times. It was quick and part of a greeting.

    Very rarely but he touches my forearm when he makes a point. He has only done this when we’re alone.

    He has done a very quick up and down look when I’ve walked into a room. As in less than a second.

    I’m sure all of this is nothing, but I’m still scratching my head?

    Reply
    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      Ugh, that’s the worst part of these kinds of minor transgressions, it leaves you wondering whether you’re seeing a pattern that isn’t there. My read is that the man is just a low-level lech who thinks the two of you have fun, flirty banter, but it’s definitely worth keeping a close eye on. If he steps up any of those behaviors or starts in on a new one (too-friendly after hours texts, for example) I’d consider looping in HR/your own manager.

      I think he’s approaching a threshold but not quite there yet.

      Reply
      1. valentine*

        I’d consider looping in HR/your own manager.
        Yes. Any trust with either?

        Go with your gut. What rings the Klaxon for me is the touching only happens when you’re alone. *shudder*

        Reply
    2. CatPerson*

      It seems like he is a creep, and he wants you know this without being obvious about it to others. Try not to be alone with him. Ask him not to touch you.

      Reply
    3. NaoNao*

      The wink and the look up and down likely don’t mean much by themselves, as I’ve “scanned” many people before that I’m very much not interested in. But all three together could mean he’s a naturally touchy, flirty person, it could just be learned behavior (like calling your teacher “mom”)—if he’s married or partnered maybe he’s just used to relating to people that way, or it could be something. The only thing I’d address is the arm touch, if it makes you uncomfortable I’d play it off with a light joke at first “Oh Mark, personal space! You know I love mine!” and then see how he reacts.

      Reply
    4. Camellia*

      These are NOT nothing. They are Things That Should Not Be Done.

      Here’s what you do about it:

      He winks. You say, “OH MY GOODNESS are you all right? Is there something wrong with your eye? I saw it twitch, it looked so weird, hope everything is okay!”

      Any kind of touch. Pull away and say, “Don’t touch me,” in a perfectly calm voice. Ignore any protests or anything he says. And don’t soften it by saying ‘please’. If he continues to find opportunities to touch you, even if he is making it seem accidental, then you start fixing him with your Grim Look while you repeat “Don’t touch me.” That should stop most men. If not, you have a larger issue; come back for more advice.

      Up and down look. Be prepared when you know he will be in the room as you go in and have A Look on your face – my favorite is one raised eyebrow. Then when the up and down look is completed and he focuses on your face, that Look is waiting for him, and it tells him that you know exactly what he did and that you did not appreciate it. That usually stops this behavior, but as noted above, if not, come back for more advice.

      Reply
      1. Camellia*

        All of the above remarks appeared while I was typing up my response and I feel like I need to say this – these are not ‘nothing’ behaviors, the threshold has already been crossed, no one winks accidentally, and I don’t care if you are a ‘touchy flirty’ person, that behavior does not belong in an office and saying it like that once again says that men just can’t help themselves, can’t control themselves, oh well boys will be boys, and all the other things we are conditioned to say/do/repeat to excuse this type of behavior.

        We, and they, need to stop it.

        Reply
        1. Jack Be Nimble*

          I’d really love for you to indicate where any of the above commenters, excused the behavior, said that the behavior was acceptable for the workplace, or where we indicated that “that men just can’t help themselves, can’t control themselves, oh well boys will be boys.”

          Absolutely, in a perfect world, you would be able to bring this kind of thing directly to HR or directly to your manager, be taken seriously, and have the perpetrator cut it out. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.

          Whenever anyone reports harassment, they have to consider the likely reaction and the likely cost of speaking up (because there always is a cost of speaking up). I’ve experienced a fair amount of workplace harassment related to both my gender, gender presentation, and sexuality, and I really rankle at the suggestion that I’m somehow culpable because I acknowledged that, for most workplaces, the behaviors Snarkus described wouldn’t cross the threshold of report-worthiness.

          The culture surrounding sexual harassment in the workplace sucks — that goes without saying! But the people who chose not to make reports out of fear of reprisal aren’t responsible for the culture. Acknowledging that you risk blowback when you report sexual harassment isn’t responsible for the culture.

          Reply
          1. Kat in VA*

            I don’t believe Camellia was referring to any specific commenters here on AAM, but more the general attitude of “boys will be boys” or “flirty attitudes” that is pervasive in the workplace – and cause people who complain about those behaviors are labeled as troublemakers, dramamongers, and the like.

            Reply
    5. Purt's Peas*

      Winking–extremely weird but some people are winkers. It’s very strange. This I think is likely a bizarre greeting habit and no one’s told him that it stinks. Probably a similar weird vibe to the rest of it but I’ve met several winkers in my day and it’s sort of…gives a vibe but is independently weird.

      The up-and-downs and the touching, yes, I think that your gut is probably correct.

      Reply
      1. CL Cox*

        I have never known people to wink in an office setting unless there is a joke going on. In what other context would that even be OK?

        Reply
        1. Prairie*

          In my experience it’s usually older men who do this to young female employees to establish warmth. This frequently happened when I was at a nonprofit where the board was mostly old white men. They were only onsite a couple times a year and it seemed like the winking was a substitute for actually building rapport. A wink would either be part of their greeting or would accompany some positive feedback like “Great job at the event.”
          I wouldn’t say it’s “ok”; it’s sexist. They weren’t winking at my male colleagues. But it was ok in the sense that I could just roll my eyes; it wasn’t like they were being predatory.

          Reply
          1. Fikly*

            How do you know they weren’t being predatory?

            Honest question. Maybe the behavior didn’t escalate toward you. Do you know it didn’t escalate toward any other women in their lives?

            Dismissing behavior like this can be dangerous, because it’s often just step one, and if it’s not called out, the behavior continues to get worse.

            Reply
            1. Prairie*

              Ok if it’s unclear: I am answering the question about when do people wink in the workplace outside of joking. I am not talking about touching or looking people up and down. My direct reply to snarkus was that she’s uncomfortable so it is a problem.
              I know they were not being predatory because they were not exploiting or oppressing me. They were acknowledging my existence or work and then walking away.
              “Maybe the behavior didn’t escalate toward you” is so strange because in your framework winking is violent. In my framework an escalation of a wink would be a high five or a thank you note.

              Reply
              1. Fikly*

                But…you cannot know your interpretation of their behavior reflects their intention. How do you know their intention wasn’t predatory?

                A wink would only escalate to a high five if the wink was non-sexual, and there’s no way to know that here. Again, your framework doesn’t really apply/isn’t relevant, because the action is not coming from you. It’s the framework of the person that is doing the action that applies.

                You are sort of making the argument that something isn’t offensive/problematic because you don’t find it offensive/problematic. But that’s not how it’s determined whether or not things are offensive or not. Someone being a member of a minority group doesn’t mean they speak for all members of that minority.

                Reply
                1. Prairie*

                  No I’m absolutely not making that claim about what makes something offensive. ( Hence my comment to snarkus that her discomfort aka the impact on her means his actions are a problem.)
                  My only claim is that many workplace winks are a lazy way to express warmth. Have a nice weekend.

                2. Fikly*

                  But you have no basis for the claim that workplace winks are a lazy way to express warmth. That’s where I’m having an issue.

                3. Avasarala*

                  Fikly, if Prairie didn’t find the winking predatory, then let’s take them at their word. There is no need to dig for the “secret offense” hidden in their story. They are not speaking for all women and don’t need to. They weren’t dismissing it, they were rolling their eyes and choosing not to address it. That is a valid, safe choice for them.

                  Winks can absolutely be a way to express warmth, one of my bosses (female) does it frequently. But this is not one wink in isolation, it’s the wider context that matters–winking and walking away, or winking and looking you up and down.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Side note: I have 3 cats, and one of them does wink at me (yes, with one eye) semi-frequently. I’m not creeped out by winking in general but I do a double take when the cat does it!

          Reply
    6. Woozles*

      I hope this guy doesn’t mean anything by any of this! But I’d encourage you to remember that women are socialized to explain away things that make us uncomfortable rather than listen to our intuition. If any of this is sending red flags, please listen to them!

      Reply
      1. Fikly*

        Snarkus Aurelius is under no obligation to tell him if they are interested or not. Telling a guy you are not interested can result in bad consequences.

        His behavior is not ok, regardless of their interest. That’s all he needs to know.

        Reply
        1. Camellia*

          This is correct. That merely opens the door to the ‘what, I’m not interested in you, who are you to think that, wow, really’ response.

          Reply
          1. voyager1*

            Camellia,

            If it stops the behavior, what’s wrong with that.

            Fikly,
            Seriously I get a more flirty vibe then predator vibe. The winking just seems so weird and awkward. The touching is rare by the poster’s own admission. They are same age so it isn’t the old guy/young woman dynamic. He isn’t her boss either. And if she is interested, what is wrong what?

            Seriously this is just a “Use Your Words” moment. If the attention is unwelcome, just tell the guy you would prefer not to winked at or touched.

            Reply
            1. Fikly*

              You are not observing the behavior, thus you cannot accurately evaluate the vibe at all.

              Her interest is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the behavior is unwelcome.

              It is indeed a use your words moment. But you are suggesting the wrong words. The words to use are, “This is inappropriate, you need to stop.” Do not bring interest into it at all.

              And it’s wrong because, as Camellia pointed out, it is unlikely to stop the behavior because saying you need to stop because x opens the door to a debate about x. You need to stop, full stop, is not open to debate.

              Also, it doesn’t matter how rare the touch is. What matters is the touch is unwelcome. Are you seriously arguing that it’s ok to harass people as long as it’s only occasional?

              Reply
              1. voyager1*

                Fikly,
                Can you make a point without it being a straw man?

                I never wrote it was okay to harass people. I wrote that the vibe I got was that he is flirting. Of course I was not there and neither were you. A reasonable person would know I was referring to the vibe of Snarkus wrote. I also wrote that if Snarkus doesn’t want to be touched or winked at to tell him. I also wrote if she is interested in something more with the guy to say so.

                That is it Fikly. That is my viewpoint on this. I don’t understand how that is hard for you. You seem to project a lot in the comments on here since you arrived. Sometimes things are just what people write, there isn’t some hidden meaning. The hidden meanings are all in your head.

                Reply
                1. Fikly*

                  I’m amused that you are claiming to understand a vibe, but then complaining that hidden meanings are all in my head. What else is a vibe but a hidden meaning?

                  Also, you wrote, “If you are not interested, just tell him.” You’ve gotten multiple comments on why that is dangerous. Why is this a confusing concept for you?

                  It’s patronizing to try undercut someone’s point by saying they are unreasonable, rather than actually addressing the point, by the way.

                2. Barb*

                  Yeah, I don’t understand how always assuming the worst possible interpretation is helpful. And if telling someone you’re not interested is so dangerous, I would think that escalating the situation by assuming the worst would really be dangerous. Most likely, you’d just be upping the drama for no reason by interpreting everything so strongly. But I guess that’s life on the internet!

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The up/down look alone could be simply evaluating a junior employee’s professional appearance. It’s not uncommon in departments that have customer contact, companies with strict dress codes, and when there’s a promotion opportunity coming up. (That whole “dress for the job you want to have next” thing, right?)
      But my creep-o-meter went off when you said “He has only done this when we’re alone”. Touching you when alone and winking at you are worth addressing, but I’ll defer to the others for scripts.

      Reply
      1. Kat in VA*

        I get the up-and-down at work fairly often – but generally from older men (+60) who truly seem to be unconscious of it. It’s never exaggerated or made intentionally obvious. I give them a pass. I probably shouldn’t, but honestly, it’s something I’m used to.*

        (*I feel I need to do the typical “Not that I’m saying I’m a supermodel or anything…” disclaimer dance in here. I’m just making the point that I’m busty and hourglass shaped and if I’m wearing something like a wrap dress, my body is visibly…there and I truly believe they do it without thinking)

        Reply
    8. Policy wonk*

      If he only touches your arm when you are alone, he knows it’s wrong. Have you seen him wink at or do the scan to others? If not, ditto. Trust yourself, tell him to cut it out, document the day you told him, and exactly what you said. And if it continues, continue to document. You might also ask similarly situated colleagues if they have had a similar experience, if it escalated to worse behavior, or if he’s just a low-level creep. And take steps accordingly – particularly not being alone with him, but also calling him out where possible (love the “do you have something in your eye? approach.)

      Reply
        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I think what Policy Wonk is getting at is OP would know whether the guy has a pattern of behaving like this and if so, maybe get feedback on how to handle it. And establish the pattern to take to management/HR.

          Reply
    9. Prairie*

      You’re uncomfortable so it is “something.” If you don’t want to be touched give a little flinch when it happens and tell him you have a personal bubble. If he respects that, you are all set. If he doesn’t respect it, you have some proof that your gut feeling was right.
      Also, some older men are winkers. It’s sexist/patronizing but there’s a good chance it’s not meant to be flirty.

      Reply
      1. Camellia*

        DO. NOT. FLINCH. Do not show signs of weakness in these situations. That depends on the man having the ability to be concerned that he scared you. That does not really apply in these situations. Present a strong, calm, demeanor, as I outlined above. That covers all scenarios, whether the man is one who would be concerned, embarrassed, or most especially would have his predatory instincts triggered/gratified by ‘fearful’ behavior.

        Reply
        1. tangerineRose*

          Flinching and pulling away has worked well for me (automatic response on my part), but it probably depends on the situation.

          Reply
    10. TinyRaptor*

      Personally, I’d say this is something, and inappropriate, but that’s really for you to decide. Some questions that might help you figure this out:

      How do his actions make you feel?

      Does he do this with everyone? With just a certain demographic? Does he do this to his bosses/equals?

      Does he do this around anyone? No one? Only his subordinates or a certain demographic?

      How does he react to rejection? Soft nos (walking away/removing your arm from reach)? Hard nos (“don’t touch me”)?

      How do other people in your demographic talk about him and his behavior? Is he “known” for things, jokingly or otherwise?

      Assuming this really is benignly motivated, what’s the worst that could happen by telling him to stop? What’s the best? What’s the most likely/practical, given what you know about this guy and your workplace?

      Hope this helps. I’m about to push back at my own workplace arm toucher this quarter and these questions helped me get my head on straight enough to do so.

      Reply
    11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It sounds like a possible ‘something’ to me.

      Do you want it to be ‘something’ or does it make you uncomfortable? Unclear from your post and although I recognise your name from previous threads I can’t remember if you’ve said anything about your personal situation, sorry.

      Reply
    12. Maya Elena*

      I’d treat as nothing. “He brushed my arm twice and looked at me wrong and winked at me!” it seems a step above thought police. Even if these are micro-expressions that are inherently male… Are we supposed to be genderless soulless automatons at work? And do these things actually hurt you or threaten you in any way? This isn’t someone pushing their hips up at you, propositioning you, slapping your bra strap, cornering you in a dark room. This is functionally equivalent to you flipping your hair and giggling or doing other feminine micro-gestures.
      I’d of course keep myself safe and report anything that is substantial but what you’d described isn’t that.

      Reply
    13. Hapax Legomenon*

      Do you have a reason to not trust your feelings on the subject? Do you have a prior instance of sexual/romantic boundaries being crossed that might cloud your judgment, or missing cues that others pointed out were signs of a problem in this area, or a lack of experience with (healthy) workplace norms?
      In the absence of a reason NOT to trust your gut, trust your gut. None of those things sound troubling to me on their own, and even as a pattern would not necessarily be troubling depending on the person. BUT…your gut is telling you this is something. Listen to it. You can take at least the small steps that can make you feel better. Make excuses not to be alone with him so often, or have a phone call/meeting scheduled when you have to meet with him so you know you can get away. You don’t have to treat it like a big thing if you don’t feel like it merits that, but you don’t have to convince yourself it’s nothing just because on paper it looks like it might be nothing.

      Reply
    14. Traveling Teacher*

      Go with your gut! Also, if it makes you feel creeped on, then it’s creepy. BUT!

      On the outside chance: Have you also considered that he might be gay/non-binary I have two dear gay friends who would definitely wink and touch a forearm in an “Oh honey, I KNOW!” sort of way. If that’s the feeling you get, I would mentally file this away.

      If you feel creeped on, though, then definitely start saying, really neutrally, “Don’t touch me please.” In fact, you can always say, “Don’t touch me” or “I’m not a touchy-person, thanks!”

      Reply
    15. Close Bracket*

      This is not nothing. I don’t think he is flirting; I think he is checking you out, which is creepy and uncomfortable. The only one you can really address is the touching. Just back away, smile gently, and say, “I really hate people touching me.” Whatever he says in response, just keep on the “I hate people touching me” refrain.

      Him: “I didn’t mean anything by it!”

      You: “Ok, I hate people touching me.”

      Reply
  13. Paralegal Part Deux*

    Y’all, I’m not sure what to do. My boss just wrote his son’s resume, and it’s terrible. It even has a section that lists his parents and siblings jobs. I mean, it’s just terrible. I don’t know if I should say something to him about it or not. He asked me to proofread it, but he didn’t tell me I could make significant changes, though.

    Any advice? Or just let him crash and burn?

    Reply
    1. Miss May*

      Did he ask for your input? If he didn’t, I’d say, “not my monkeys, not my circus.”

      Also, lets pray to whatever resume deity out there that the son googles “good resumes” and sees that your FAMILYS jobs are not part of them.

      Reply
    2. Blueberry*

      Will your boss get mad if you make any suggestions? Will he hold onto that anger? Will he judge your job performance by that anger?

      Unless you can trust your boss to be completely reasonable and non-retaliatory about it (and people who are otherwise reasonable can be unreasonable about family), I would not say anything. After all, when my mother wrote a resume for me I thanked her and round-filed it, so for all you know the son might have the sense to do the same.

      Reply
      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        If you can believe it, his son’s version was actually as bad or worse. I guess I’ll just sit back and watch this crash and burn, because I don’t think my boss would get upset but you never know with people.

        Reply
        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I agree. Completely different situation, but I thought my former boss was the type who would never do a certain thing – and he did do it.
          Now I keep anything potentially unsafe to myself, because you really never know for sure.

          Reply
    3. Jack Be Nimble*

      Hopefully Dad is just overbearing, and the kid wrote his own resume that he’ll use to apply places. If not — natural selection at work.

      Reply
      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Or son wrote a great resume and dad, being the hotshot boss-man that he is (insert eyeroll here), decided he knows better and its a “who you know, not what you know” situation so these recruiters are going to be super impressed that dad is an exec at X company and bro just started at the prosecutors office and THAT is what is going to get son a job. Not silly little things like education, experience, and knowledge of professional norms!

        Reply
    4. NowWhat?456*

      I cringed so hard at this…

      How old is his son? If he’s a teenager I can understand trying to fill in the space, but anything over the age of 17 this is highly inappropriate.

      If you have a good relationship where he accepts feedback, definitely clue him in and let him know that its not the norm and it may diminish his son’s chances at a job.

      If you don’t have a good relationship or want to lead the horse to water so he figures it out on his own, maybe phrase it as asking him to refer you to examples similar? “Hey I’m reviewing it, but in my experience I’ve really only seen resumes that have the applicant’s work info on it. Could you show me other examples with the family listings, just so I have something to compare it to? I want to make sure Boss Jr. stands out among the crowd while still staying in line with industry standards.”

      I’ve done the latter many a time (especially with older men who assume the way they are doing something is just how it’s done) and a lot of the time they will figure it out on their own once they’re asked to provide examples of other people doing the same.

      Reply
      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        My boss’s wife calls OWMS – old white male syndrome – and, basically, they get pissy if things aren’t done their way. I may actually mention AAM to my boss’s wife. She’d be the most open, I’d think, and more likely to fix it. Well, make the son fix it.

        I mean, dang, dude is 23. He’s past old enough to do this on his own.

        Reply
        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Here’s a thought — Alison posted a resume step-by-step this week. Could you send a simple typo-check to the boss and then separately send the son a link to Tuesday’s post?
          Although on second thought probably not because he might eventually find this post and your comments weren’t meant to be read by him.

          Reply
    5. Lora*

      I guess, why did he do this? Is the son a teenager or something, does he have nobody else to help him on this point?

      My mother once tried to write my resume when she felt that I wasn’t job hunting “right”. I am in a STEM field. She was in the direct opposite of a STEM field. It was…well, she thinks I dissect frogs all day, as near as I can tell. She then printed it out on very fancy Resume Paper (remember that??) with matching envelopes, with the idea that I would actually cold-call companies, so they might be impressed with my Gumption. I hope she didn’t proudly show this around her workplace, but she very well might have.

      I guess I would ask boss for clarification, is he looking for literal proofreading or did he want other feedback?

      Reply
      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I had exactly this conversation with someone who recently asked me to proofread. The answer was “sure, go ahead” … so I did.

        Reply
      2. Elizabeth West*

        Ugggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh

        I don’t even want my family to tell me about job ads they see; they’re always something I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot-pole, or they misinterpret them (ex. a news editor is not the same thing as a copy editor). And stop telling me to drive for Uber. I had to get firm with someone on that.

        Reply
      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        This might actually work. He needs some serious help, and I just can’t get over how bad the revised resume was when I saw it.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader*

          You can expand on how it isn’t your forte and it’s such a specialty field of writing that you don’t want to come off as giving a professional opinion, when you are clearly not an expert resume writer.

          Reply
    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      There’s nothing to be done here (for the reasons other commenters already posted e.g. natural selection).

      If you can’t get out of it altogether (why is a lawyer (I infer) asking a paralegal to review his son’s resume? That isn’t a legit work task?)

      I would take the instruction literally and proofread it for mispellings etc only. Don’t get involved!

      If you give your opinion it can only work out one of two ways really. 1) the boss doesn’t want to hear what you have to say, is convinced he’s right, and it will possibly sour the working relationship in future. or 2) the boss sees that you are right, and suddenly as well as Paralegal your unofficial title becomes ‘Otherpeoplespaperwork Reviewer and Resume Expert’.

      In your position (but I’m a bit of a devil’s advocate, mischevious type) I might have a bit of fun with the boss starting with e.g. “oh this looks a lot different than my resume… is this how we have to do them now?” and follow on as you see fit.

      Reply
      1. Marthooh*

        Excellent advice. “Not my circus, not my monkeys, and if it were my circus I still wouldn’t want to deal with these critters.”

        Reply
  14. Extra Income Needed*

    Toying with the idea of getting a second job. Prefer something low-key that won’t lead to burnout with my other workload. Any suggestions on Saturday-only or flexible online jobs?

    I have worked at American Eagle, TJ Maxx, and Old Navy before, so I know it’s hit-or-miss with specific schedules in retail. You usually need to establish yourself as an employee first before you can make demands on schedules. I’m also sick of selling credit cards.

    Reply
    1. JanetM*

      I have a friend who has picked up two part-time jobs:

      1. “I love getting to take care of puppies!” — I didn’t ask further, but I’m guessing she’s working for a dog rescue or the local humane society.

      2. As a concessionaire at the university’s sports and cultural events.

      I don’t know if either of those would appeal to you.

      Reply
        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Puppy tangent: My daughter’s got her eye on the kennel up the road for when she’s old enough to get a job… she says she’s willing to clean a lot of cages to get to supervise doggie day care.

          Reply
            1. valentine*

              she says she’s willing to clean a lot of cages to get to supervise doggie day care.
              This is a great attitude. I hope it works out for her. Is she old enough for pet care for your neighbors?

              Reply
      1. OhNo*

        Dog walking or pet-sitting might also be possibilities for taking care of puppies. A friend of mine does pet-sitting, which is usually a weekend gig, and she loves getting to play with the pups!

        Reply
    2. Minimal Pear*

      I teach English online to kids in China, and with the time difference, the classes are in the early morning and late evening. They are cracking down more on unqualified teachers, so you need a degree in teaching or a certification through an English-teaching program, but some of the programs can be done pretty quickly and cheaply online. Let me know if you want more info!

      Reply
    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Maybe it’s because I live in a college town, where retailers are used to part-time employees with inflexible schedules, but I (and my husband and my kid) have never had any problem getting a specific schedule.

      Reply
      1. RetailRecruiter*

        Several of my coworkers and I have worked farmer’s markets. It’s fun, it’s usually consistently Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon depending on the schedule in your area. You can often get free/discounted food and you will learn a lot about cooking and produce just from talking to folks. Generally the best way to get these jobs is to show up to the markets regularly and ask around.

        Reply
    4. KR*

      Dog walking/pet sitting is nice and pretty flexible. You can do it in your own (and your customers) schedule. My dad worked the admission booth at a local state park once and he said it was a great job. He got paid more than the average retail cashier because it was a state job but it was very lax – the people were friendly because they were going to the state park to have fun, he could read or watch movies on his laptop when he didn’t have customers, ect. Worth looking into your local State/National Parks or Parks/Rec Department for openings!

      Reply
    5. Disco Janet*

      A lot of breweries and wineries around here hire people to expo – show up to liquor stores and give out free samples. I have a few friends who do it and enjoy it.

      Reply
    6. Double A*

      The census is hiring right now and I schedules a meant to fit around people’s lives and other jobs. It would be temporary, which could be good if you hate it but bad if you’re looking for something longer-term. I have thought about doing it but it’s probably not right for my family right now.

      Reply
    7. Joie*

      Car dealerships! Night / Weekend reception are usually warm body jobs and are excellent second jobs.

      I read books, and watch movies with 1 headphone in, and do what ever my heart desires as long as I answer the phones and do what random mindless tasks are assigned to me – last night I highlighted the same lines on 300 pieces of paper because it was printed in b&w not colour so the highlight didn’t show up type mindless tasks, sometimes I’m asked to cut paper with the paper cutter to a certain line that’s printed on a page. The night time / weekend shifts are usually very easy work. I field on average 4-5 calls per shift and most of it is transferring it out to sales and under 30 seconds of interaction per call.

      (Daytime is a lot more work but night time tends to much easier as the areas of support are all closed/gone for the day)

      Reply
    8. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Do you have a college degree? Tutoring centers (the ones that specialize in ACT/SAT prep) are usually more than happy to have people who only want to work 1-2 days a week. They usually require a Bachelor’s and for you to do well on a practice SAT or ACT, but they’re usually pretty decent money and not terribly stressful.

      Reply
  15. Jack Be Nimble*

    I’m pretty unhappy in my current position, but I have a medical procedure coming up within the next couple months, so I can’t afford to change insurance at the moment. There’s a possibility I’ll be promoted into a newly created role that closely aligns with my interests and skills in about six months, but it’s not guaranteed. Do I job search during my medical leave, or wait to do it until after I hear something definitive about the new position?

    My unhappiness stems largely from my immediate supervisor and the drudgery of my work. Both things would change if I got the promotion, but changing roles would (hopefully) mean a better supervisor but not a change in workload. I’m leaning toward sticking it out another year and committing to a search then, but once a month, something happens that feels pretty intolerable and would trigger a job search if I weren’t caught in the insurance net.

    What would you do in my position?

    Reply
    1. Blueberry*

      Make sure you don’t overload your medical leave, since it is a time for healing, but in your position I’d use the leave time to search, at least as far as seeing what’s out there. You can always stop searching if you get that changed position, after all.

      Good luck and heal up well and fully!

      Reply
      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        I think that’s what I’m leaning toward — my resume is fairly up to date, but leave would be a good time to reach out to a few contacts and see what’s up!

        Reply
    2. Aquawoman*

      It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, you can keep an eye out and apply to anything that really makes you feel some excitement and skip the ones that are appealing only because they’d get you out of the environment. I think I’d at least look around as groundwork/practice.

      Reply
      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        Thanks! I definitely have a strong tendency toward all-or-nothing thinking, so it’s good to be reminded that a passive search is an option!

        Reply
    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’d use my medical leave to work on my resume and check out the market, but I wouldn’t go so far as to job search (unless something wonderful popped up).

      Reply
    4. Fikly*

      If you are physically up for job searching, why wait? Searching for, applying for, and interviewing for a job does not obigate you to take it if it is offered to you.

      Reply
      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        For me, the time and work invested in a job hunt are significant enough that it wouldn’t be worthwhile to interview for the sake of it. Given other limitations on my time and energy throughout the week, applying for a job that I wouldn’t seriously consider accepting just isn’t worth it.

        Reply
        1. Fikly*

          Fair enough.

          Would you be interviewing for the sake of it, or interviewing for the potential of finding a really great position? You can pick and choose what you apply for when you are not desperate for another job, that’s one of the nice things about it.

          Reply
        2. Jack Be Nimble*

          Whoops, sent that with an incomplete thought: leaving my current position isn’t an option for right now — I’m looking at getting a surgery that comes with months and months of waiting to see one specialist and then another in order to get approval from one’s insurance company. The stars have aligned for me, and I’ll likely be able to have the surgery within the next few months. If I leave my current job and switch to new insurance, I’ll be starting from square one and completely resetting the clock, which could mean it’ll be years before I can have the operation.

          Gotta love it!

          Reply
          1. Fikly*

            Oh, well, yes, I meant to address your question of whether to job search while recovering from the surgery. Sorry I wasn’t clear about that!

            Reply
    5. FTandPregnant*

      I’m in a similar situation, I was job searching because I realized it was time for me to move on and then I got pregnant. My company has a generous maternity leave compared to the state, and the thought of job searching and starting a new place right before I needed to take substantial time off was enough to have me stay. I would also not be eligible for state mat leave if I started at a new place now. I was a little frustrated at first, but I decided to look at my situation as a means to an end. So instead of getting frustrated at a job with things outside of my control, I’m just focusing on getting ready for this next phase and potentially looking again once I get back and see what my situation is like.

      Good luck!

      Reply
    6. Stormy Weather*

      Give yourself sufficient time to recover without thinking about it, then start looking, but don’t make it too intensive. Until you have an offer in writing, you can’t consider the possibility of the new role six months away as anything other than the possibility.

      The more senior you are, the longer your job search is likely to take .

      I hope the procedure goes smoothly with no complications and your recovery is easy.

      Reply
    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I’d suggest you give it time and see how it goes. Even though you are unhappy with the immediate supervisor and drudgery of the work – are there any accomplishments you can be storing up?

      How likely do you think it is that you’d be promoted in to the new position?

      I’ve no idea if this is relevant but consider whether it is: the medical procedure prompting you to stay for the next couple months at least. Is there any possibility that it could generate more procedures in the future? (e.g. I broke a bone 2 years ago and received surgery for it, which was successful but there was a possibility that it wouldn’t be and in that case I would have had to go back for further surgeries).

      Reply
    8. Leela*

      I’d job search! Depending on the field/area it can take way longer than you think it’s going to take, and you’d have a head start if you started looking now. Depending on how your medical recovery goes, you also have a pretty good cover to do interviews if you decide you want to proceed with anything you find which is definitely not a guarantee (and much to the chagrin of job seekers, most companies will not keep their employees after hours to interview you because it’s challenging to get away 9-5 or whatever your workday hours are).

      If you came back from medical leave to find out that the promotion isn’t happening, I think you’ll be a lot happier if you started the job search prior to finding that out. Also, it’s a much better experience to job search while not desperately trying to get out of your current role! Job searching knowing a promotion might be on the horizon gives you a chance to really weigh whether something will be a good next move for you rather than just looking for the nearest life raft (which I’ve definitely had to do).

      Whatever happens, good luck to you!

      Reply
  16. Blueberry*

    The Excel discussion in one of yesterday’s letters has inspired me to broaden my Excel and Google Sheets skills (especially GS, what we currently use at my workplace). Before I open the firehose of YouTube videos and online tutorials I thought I’d ask here for recommendations for resources.

    Reply
    1. humans are weird*

      Check if your local public library allows you access to Lynda.com or other online training sites. Better than paying for access to something individually :)

      Reply
      1. anonnnymmmous*

        Seconded by someone who works for an online training site. Libraries are consistent clients because they want to provide their patrons access to helpful tutorials.

        Reply
    2. Jack Be Nimble*

      I’ve found the tutorials on Exceljet to be super helpful! It’s broken down into digestible chunks, and each tutorial has a link to related skills — so the one about sum formulas links to one that shows how to use sum formulas nested inside an if-then formula, which links to one that shows you how to use v-lookups….

      I’m generally regarded as a really knowledgeable Excel user, and I keep telling people that my only real skill is knowing what keywords to search!

      Reply
      1. straws*

        Seconded. I love Exceljet. Any time I search online, that’s my first stop if it comes up on the list. trumpexcel.com, automateexcel.com, and the mrexcel boards are also very useful.

        Reply
    3. Lisa B*

      Sign up for the Excel Newsletter at My Online Training Hub – the examples they give in their mailings are really great excel tips. There are videos as well, but I find that the quick hits in the mailing are super helpful all on their own. I usually forward them to one or two folks each time because we can directly use it on a current spreadsheet issue.

      Reply
  17. ExpatInTheHat*

    I’ve lurked and commented a few times but I had to share what I’m very excited about this week. I currently work teaching English in a non-English speaking country and it’s that time of year where a lot of us either renew contracts or move on to other jobs or countries. And now I officially landed a job at a great place and can leave my understaffed, highly dysfunctional current one behind! My current boss has been trying to keep me by offering a(n uncompetitive) counteroffer and, when that didn’t work, attempting to sow doubts by “subtly” talking about how the area I’ll work in has such “demanding parents” and how the schools in those areas “don’t give any understanding or wiggle room” to teachers and that they’ll “work me so hard.”

    Thankfully I can see through all that, and will happily be working less hours for more money and with a team that doesn’t try to claim they’re like my faaaaaaamily and then not pay me for my overtime (they did pay us eventually, because I pushed them and got my other coworkers to do the same). Now I can count down my days!

    Reply
    1. Kowalski! Options!*

      Congrats! You deserve better, that’s for sure – speaking from experience, it’s amazing how much bad management there is in the language teaching industry.

      Reply
  18. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    So… One of our most recent coworkers quit. After three weeks. Claiming she didn’t felt “welcome” in the team. But… we tried?? We were… busy… working! We didn’t have time for anything else! We tried! We really tried!

    Reply
    1. Daisy-dog*

      Sounds like it was a culture mis-match. Possibly could have been screened out, but it’s hard to screen for everything!

      Reply
    2. vampire physicist*

      Is there an exit interview where you can get more details and examples (or was this part of the exit already)? I’d definitely want to know if it was a matter of people being actively unhelpful or exclusionary, in which case you have a problem, or if she’s someone who needs people to be super demonstrative and bubbly in which case it’s a poor culture fit and probably for the best.

      Reply
    3. Camellia*

      Our company had that problem and decided to solve it with a ‘buddy’ system. You can volunteer to be a buddy and each new employee is assigned one. There is a list of things to do the first 90 days, like take them to lunch a couple of times, show them around the office, tell them stuff like how to order supplies, and so forth. That way, the burden, so to speak, isn’t on everyone, someone who enjoys doing that can be the one to do it, and the new employee is made to feel welcome. It has definitely increased our retention rate.

      Reply
      1. ContemporaryIssued*

        An old job of mine did this, only they called it mentoring and did it for the employee’s first two weeks. Well, technically two of their first three weeks since week one was usually training by the trainers on how to use our systems. But it was very welcoming and a good way to teach the ropes of the job thoroughly as well.

        Reply
      2. MOAS*

        That has potential to be really problematic or really awesome. If the right people are chosen (ie TRUE volunteers), that can be great but if the wrong people are “voluntold” to do it, it can be a not so great experience. I struggle with new people, I’m polite but I keep my distance. It takes me about a month or two of constantly seeing them to strike conversation and longer to want to go to coffee or a meal (IF we get along great).

        Reply
      3. Windchime*

        We do something similar. We are a team of about 10 people and we have an onboarding checklist. During the first week or so, the new team member rotates through the department and learns different functions of the job. Sam teaches how to access and use the ticket system, Mary shows how we do our timesheets and timeclock system, Fred walks the new person around the neighborhood and shows them places to eat and other points of interest. This way, the new person gets to spend 1:1 time with each member of the team and learns how to do all of the general stuff a new employee needs to know. It works really well and gives everyone a chance to learn names and get to know each other.

        Reply
    4. AndersonDarling*

      Are you sure that was the real reason she quit, or just the reason you were told? It’s possible she left because of the business practices, workflow, manager issues or something else that a manager may not want to admit.

      Reply
      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        I talked with someone who was involved in the conversation, and she basically stated that she wasn’t happy doing nothing but mandatory corporate trainings and waiting to be granted access to the project documentation and servers, but we can’t change that.

        Reply
        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Oh wow – yeah, that kind of stuff is pretty standard when starting a new position. Is she a new grad with little previous work experience?

          Reply
        2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

          I don’t know, I didn’t see her resumè and it’s not that weird in this field to have professionals who never went to college.

          Reply
        3. Anon101*

          Three weeks? That’s an absurd reason to quit after that time frame.

          I could see if it was something like not even having a computer sign on after three months but not weeks.

          Reply
        4. andy*

          Three weeks of doing nothing except training and still waiting for access to project documentation and work is excessively a lot.

          It takes months to be fully trained, but it should not take that much till you start to work.

          The “feeling of not being wanted” likely stems from that and is nit about bubly personalities. It seems to be about not being useful and needed as a worker.

          Reply
    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m pretty sure anyone who leaves after 3 weeks has much deeper issues either on a personal level or something is just not clicking with them. That’s not on you, she didn’t fit for some reason, she most likely gave whatever answer felt best to her at the time and just wanted to be free.

      I left after a week once. Because the owner was…well they were yelling and being generally erratic. No thanks. But I said it just didn’t feel like a good fit [and I was overwhelmed with their weird vibes.] and wished them all the best.

      Reply
      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        My manager had a 1:1 with her to explain the project origins, main goals and what online tutorials she will need to have a basic understanding of the exinsting codebase and requested access she would need to work. I organized a formal training on how to set up the local enviornment and other team members helped her to solved any technical issues she had.

        Reply
        1. LCH*

          sounds like culture fit. that’s all worky work stuff and maybe she wanted some socialization stuff thrown in. maybe she came from an office where people had lunch together, chatted throughout the day, went out after work, whatever.

          Reply
        2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

          We do that! We sit together to eat and work, we have a short walk after lunch, team beers and even play football/soccer against other teams! Since different coworkers are on holiday we couldn’t do after hours activities, but we try hard not to exclude people.

          Reply
    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I feel like she probably got a better opportunity (presumably from the round of applying for jobs that resulted in your recruiting her, since she was only there 3wks) and gave a “face-saving” reason that didn’t quite hit the mark.

      I don’t think someone would quit with nothing else to go to after 3 weeks just based on “not feeling welcome”, ipso facto, she had something else to go to.

      Reply
  19. MOAS*

    How do you nicely shut down a coworker from constantly giving you updates about stuff? Sometimes things come to us and we have to send it to the right team lead. I am a team lead in addition to 2 others. One of them will give us updates and explanations.

    The thing is, she owes us no explanations. she doesn’t report to me, nor I to her and I don’t need to know the details. It’s different if it’s like “oh can you believe this crazy thing?” or “hey this is a weird situation, what do you think?” it’s just “oh yes standard run of hte mill thing that I have taken are of.” I said “ok please respond back to the ticket–we don’t need the details but as you know they need to be handled right away :D”.. (I know the “as you know” may be condescending but I wasn’t trying to be — we are really held to the fire whenever a client ticket comes in, we have to resolve it within minutes and within the parameters of what the upper mgmt sets. There were times that a ticket was supposed to be for the other team, but my boss put the blame on me for it not being resolved. But it stands, teh company policy is to resolve client tickets in an x amount of time, so beyond notifying each other when something comes in, that’s where our responsibility to it ends.

    Reply
        1. valentine*

          beyond notifying each other when something comes in, that’s where our responsibility to it ends.
          I’m confused about this and maybe she is, too.

          You didn’t tell her not to report. Tell her plainly, “Unless you need guidance, please tell us only [that the ticket has come in?], not that you responded or how.”

          Reply
    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Is she the type that just gives a running commentary on everything she does?

      I wouldn’t say “ok please respond back to the ticket” or similar in that situation that you described. I’d either not respond at all or just say something non comittal like “oh that’s good, that will keep client X off our back for a while haha” (or whatever applies in your environment).

      Can you have more of a “meta” conversation like – oh we all know these tickets need to be handled right away so i trust you are doing it, no need to share!

      Is she new to your company (or your team) and had a previous situation where this kind of thing was expected perhaps? That could explain it.

      Reply
      1. MOAS*

        No, she’s been here longer than I have (5+ years). That was my tone “i trust you are doing it, no need to share.” I also realize I’ may be BEC so I’m just going to err on teh side of letting it go and ignore it.

        Reply
    2. Not So NewReader*

      Address it as you are trying to save her extra effort. “You know it’s okay not to send me these updates. Usually people just send stuff that is about unusual stuff that we don’t see very often. It’s okay just to respond back to the ticket.” (Is it possible that she does not know how to respond back to the ticket or what you mean by that? Is it possible that she thinks by emailing you she IS responding back to the ticket? I know ordinary stuff gets misunderstood on a regular basis. sigh.)

      Reply
  20. Ashley*

    I am going to be sharing an office with someone for the first time in a decade. This is largely by choice because of logistical issues. This will be a new employee. Any tips for sharing? I know I need to get headphones because I have been able to freely play my music for years.

    Reply
    1. Leslie Knope*

      Is there some sort of divider in the office? Not because you don’t want to look at each other, but in case you’re on phone calls or anything where you can’t mask the sound. I share an office and we put cubicles in the space so it would cut down on noise transfer, even though we could have just used two free-standing desks. It really does help when one or both of us need to be on the phone. Plus, we can still chat around the divider panel to remain friendly.

      Reply
    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If you have any shared resources, volunteer how much rearrangement is possible on day one. ie “as long as we’re not bumping elbows” or “as long as we’re not looking directly at each other all day” or “anywhere they fit as long as I don’t have my back to the door”, or “the desks are so big that this is the only place they fit for existing network cables but we can move the wifi printer” — and ask that you two discuss any rearrangements before doing them.
      Tell the new person you’ve just brought in headphones because of music — implying that new person should do the same thing. If someone in the office has an issue with scents, let the newcomer know — and if not, ask if THEY have any issues. Consider discussing the issue of food in the office, since we know how divisive garlic & fish can be, let alone if someone’s there eating crackers.

      Reply
      1. Ashley*

        Furniture has been on my mind and their first week we are going to do some moving around. I forgot about food and scents. Thanks!

        Reply
  21. Diahann Carroll*

    I want to thank the people who gave me scripts to use two weeks ago when I posted in the open thread concerned that my coworker might replace my current manager when he leaves next year. I used the scripts and spoke to my manager today, and he said that he’s still not even sure when he’s leaving next year and he and grandboss will be discussing transition plans later on this year. He said that, ultimately, whoever replaces him will be grandboss’s decision since it’s his team – that made me feel so much better. I think grandboss has shown in the past that he understands group dynamics and is concerned about them enough to understand how promoting my coworker would be a huge mistake.

    Now, I’ll just make sure to touch base with grandboss periodically throughout the year to reiterate to him how important I think team dynamics are and how it would probably be best for me and coworker to report directly to him once our manager is gone. It’s the only thing that logically makes any sense.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader*

      Nice! I am glad that worked out well for you, it’s always good to see when someone’s situation improves. Good for you and good for the big boss.

      Reply
  22. Drowning in work*

    How do you ask for help when no help is available?

    My office is already small and we are currently very short-staffed. For the past 3 weeks I’ve been doing the work of 2-3 people, and will continue doing so for an unknown amount of time. My co-workers are more than willing to help out when they can, but they have their own job duties to complete first. As for my supervisor, I’m not entirely sure how busy they are (or aren’t), but I feel like I can’t ask them for help because they’re my supervisor. Nor can I show them any signs of “weakness” or being overwhelmed. I can’t exactly say “this is too much for one person” either because the work I’m doing is crucial, but if I don’t do it, who will?

    I already have anxiety and depression, along with personal issues that I have been dealing with and losing sleep over for several months. I’m trying to avoid burnout but I just feel so incredibly tired, and tired of having to do everything and deal with everything.

    Any advice or suggestions would be MUCH appreciated.

    Reply
    1. humans are weird*

      Why do you feel you can’t show signs of “weakness” or being overwhelmed? Is it part of the company culture, your particular supervisor, or internal self-talk? (I bring up that last one because I learned growing up to never show anything that could be perceived as weakness…. but that lesson does not serve me as an adult no longer living in that particular household).

      In a normal, healthy workplace you should absolutely be able to say “this is too much for one person”. It’s not your job to figure out who would do it instead — that’s your supervisor’s job, or the owner’s job. They have options. They can hire a temp, or another permanent employee. They can decide your team is going to stop doing certain things in order for other things to continue to happen. They can authorize overtime (for people other than you to help out), or pick up some of the work themselves.

      Reply
    2. Auntie Social*

      Is there any work that your supervisor could reassign to your coworkers? If you tell supervisor that you’re behind and it’s getting worse, and ask if you could offload these four projects to the other staff according to how supervisor sees their strengths—make it seem like it’s supervisor’s idea. If you want to revisit it in 90 days to see if you’re getting caught up, or the staff has absorbed those jobs with no problem, etc. you can.

      Reply
    3. Aquawoman*

      Is there an end in sight (eg, they’re hiring and you will have relief in 3-6 weeks?) I have to challenge some of your thinking here. If it is really “crucial,” then they’ll staff it, right? I would say it’s your responsibility to pitch in and work harder to the extent feasible for a short time period, but not indefinitely–that is on management. Also, pointing out that you’re doing the job of 3 people and asking what the plan is/letting them know it’s unsustainable is completely reasonable. Also FWIW I have been the supervisor in this situation for 8 months and I’ve been doing a bunch of work that I would normally delegate/acting in a dual role as manager and as the staff role. Specifically I would ask if you all could hire a temp.

      Reply
    4. ArtK*

      As long as you go above-and-beyond in trying to do all the critical work, the situation won’t change. Why should it? You must push back and let some things go. If something critical doesn’t get done, that’s on the organization, not on you.

      Reply
      1. Ashley*

        Yes. There are some scripts on the site about this. If I take on X then I can’t get to Y and Z by the deadline we discussed. If you can letting them shovel it on you will burnout. Dugout out what you think are reasonable expectations and talk to your boss so you can be on the same page.

        Reply
      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        There have been quite a few letters like this, including discussions on Friday forums in recent months. So if you don’t see something in THIS particular thread or in the link june june hannah just posted, start looking back for more.
        https://www.askamanager.org/transcript-of-my-team-is-overworked-and-im-the-boss
        https://www.askamanager.org/transcript-of-im-drowning-in-too-much-work
        https://www.askamanager.org/2013/02/speaking-up-when-youre-unhappy-and-overwhelmed-at-work.html
        https://www.askamanager.org/2013/11/what-to-do-when-youre-overworked-2.html
        https://www.askamanager.org/2017/11/is-my-workload-too-high-or-am-i-bad-at-my-job.html
        https://www.askamanager.org/2019/10/my-employee-keeps-working-long-hours-even-though-i-asked-him-to-stop.html
        https://www.askamanager.org/2020/01/im-burned-out-and-overworked-and-my-bosses-keep-piling-more-work-on-me.html

        (Hey Alison — how hard is it for you to add another “topic” category? I got even more google hits on “askamanager + overworked” than I’d expected — I just stopped copy/pasting after the second page!)

        Reply
    5. Kathenus*

      I’d change the focus from asking for help to setting reasonable priorities and being clear with your supervisor what is and isn’t able to be completed with current staffing. “Hi boss, just to let you know that with our current staffing we’re going to be focusing on A, B, D and Y; and putting C and Z on the back burner right now until we have enough people to add these tasks back in. If you’d prefer a different prioritization please let me know”.

      Reply
    6. CupcakeCounter*

      You can absolutely say “this is too much for one person”. It isn’t showing weakness, it is a fact.
      Absolutely bring it up to your manager ASAP! If it will help, start with an email and if you need to have a face to face meeting, bring a document listing the issues. Boss probably already knows they are understaffed so you simply need to light a fire under their butt to get people hired by saying “this is what I can get done…full stop”.

      Reply
    7. Stornry*

      You can absolutely talk to your supervisor. If you are clearly short staffed, I’m assuming she realizes and acknowledges that, she may not be aware that you’re not getting by quite as well as she may think you are. Either she’s got other things on her mind or she may just assume you’re coping – so tell her, she can’t help if she doesn’t know. Set up a time to meet and review the workload. She should be informed that you are in danger of becoming overwhelmed. It’s not a “weakness” to be unable to do the work of 2-3 people, it’s a reality, and it is her job to help you do something about that. Let her know that things are piling up, ask for her help in prioritizing – what must be done first, what can wait, and what can be shifted. If you’re worried she might see you as “not up to doing the work” come in with some ideas on how the workload can be handled (some potential “solutions” as opposed to just the “problem” for her to fix). Good luck!

      Reply
    8. Fikly*

      The understaffing mess is not your responsibility. It’s your company’s responsibility, and if stuff is not done, it’s their responsibility.

      Also, it’s your supervisor’s job to help you.

      Reply
    9. Narvo Flieboppen*

      I think the anxiety and depression is undermining you, and you likely need to seek some help. I have the internal ‘must not show weakness’ voice, but that comes from my crazy upbringing with human beings who were overall kind of terrible people. I also deal with anxiety and depression on a regular basis, so I’m familiar with how it seeps into everything when you’re already under stress.

      Asking for help when you’re overwhelmed with too much to do is not weakness. It is being strong enough as a person to know what you can and cannot do. Asking for help rather than burning yourself out trying to do it all is also the sign of a good employee. Please speak to your supervisor.

      If you’re not already seeing a therapist about the anxiety/depression, please do so! Take care of yourself.

      And to answer the question of “…because the work I’m doing is crucial, but if I don’t do it, who will?” Someone else will do it if you’re not there. Or they will admit it cannot be done because there aren’t enough hands to go around. I sincerely doubt your employer would bankrupt themselves trying to take care of you. Don’t destroy yourself trying to take care of them.

      Reply
    10. Koala dreams*

      Your workload is too much, and you can and should tell your manager. It’s much better to say something now, than wait until the deadline for the task has already passed (and if it has passed, it’s better to say something after one week and not three weeks).

      Your manager can help you prioritize your work. Directing your work is their work, after all. Even in a very flat organization it’s usually the manager that has the last word, not your co-workers. There are some previous posts in the archives about what to do if your manager refuse to prioritize. Basically you need to keep your manager updated about what work you are doing and what work you aren’t going to have time for.

      If you have sick leave maybe now is the time to take it, to help slow down the burnout. Sick leave is not only for when you are hospitalized, but also for normal sickness like depression and sleep problems, and for health needs such as being able to sleep or do treatment or rehab.

      Reply
    11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      What happened 3 weeks ago?

      I feel like that’s the key to how you should respond here.

      … You can absolutely go to your supervisor, and should do. Not necessarily saying “I’m overwhelmed” or “I need help” (though those are true!) which, as you say, are an expression of a position of weakness — but it needs to be put into business terms, for example “Since Jane and Joe’s departures I’ve been trying to complete my own tasks as well as the tasks of the P and Q positions but this isn’t sustainable so we need to figure out which tasks from this list (Ideally you’d have prepared a list) are the priorities and we will need to let the others go to the bottom for the moment”.

      I know exactly how you feel with the anxiety and depression.. Don’t make the mistake I did, of putting all of your (emotional / possibly physical) resources into the job in the hope of turning things around. Losing sleep over worries about completing whatever the deadlines were, while other people (yes, the co-workers who were “more than willing to help out when they can” — that’s unless it’s a late evening, weekend, public holiday, or whatever that is somehow ‘sacrosanct’ even though your own time off had been rescinded multiple times — am I projecting?) sleep soundly knowing that they offered.

      As a thought experiment.. what would it be like if suddenly you didnt “do everything and deal with everything”?.. What would be the consequences?

      Reply
    12. TimeTravelR*

      My best day at work was when I realized it’s okay to raise the white flag. Since then I have raised it BEFORE I become totally overwhelmed. I just approach Boss and say, This is more than I can handle on my own. And also gives examples of things that will slide if I don’t get help. Being direct has helped every time.

      Reply
    13. Not So NewReader*

      What everyone said and adding self-care.

      We wouldn’t throw Kool Aid into the gas tanks of our cars, skip routine maintenance and expect the car to run well. Same deal with our bodies.

      Here’s the important part, it’s not an all or nothing thing. Some self-care will get you some results. Since you mention sleep, try to start to figure out what you can do to get more rest. We have to have energy to sleep. I always thought that was cruel irony. Be sure to eat protein during the day, so you have fuel in you to help you sleep at night. I know when I am under stress eating is hard. You may want to consider a protein drink.
      Hydration is another biggie. Whole foods with fruits and veggies can be surprisingly supportive.

      See, as our bodies run down so does our coping mechanisms. What we could plow through a while ago, is no longer possible with a tired body and a tired mind.

      Another thing to look at is as others have said, take a second look at where the show of weakness thing actually comes from. My parents believed that allergy was a show of weakness and they point blank said it was unacceptable. I thought everyone wanted to double over when they drank milk. I was proud of myself for covering it and making sure I appeared the same as others. This took on a life of its own as I made more erroneous assumptions about how life worked.

      You have freedom here. By that I mean, this is going so badly that you could end up without a job either from illness or from walking out the door mid-day. This means you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by talking to your boss. FWIW, a good number of people would serious consider leaving this situation, you are not alone in your thought that this is outrageous.

      Reply
  23. Older than I look*

    I look about 26-28, but I’m actually 33. (it’s a combination of good genes, sunscreen every day, and generally being a petite woman).
    I’m not ashamed of my age, but don’t know how to react to someone assuming I’m younger than I am.

    Yesterday someone was talking about Steve Jobs’ presentation skills and a co-worker I don’t know very well said something like “Liza, do you even remember a time before the iPod?!” and I laughed it off and said “Of course, I do! I’m older than I look!”

    I want to be taken seriously – and not assumed to be an intern (nothing wrong with interns, but I have nearly a decade of experience, and I am a licensed professional in two states). Should I just be more direct and say “oh, you know I’m 33, OF COURSE I remember the iPod release!”?

    Reply
    1. alas poor yorick*

      Are you me? Because it’s the same thing here. One thing that worked for a short while for me was wearing even more formal/professional clothing than I normally do. But yeah, I feel ya

      Reply
    2. alacrity*

      I’m the same age, and I found that comments like that aren’t necessarily related to people thinking YOU specifically are younger than you actually are, but rather people of a certain age lumping all people younger than them into the “basically just graduated college” age group. Kind of how like all the articles about “millennials ruin everything” seem to think all millennials are early 20s and not that the oldest of us are pushing 40 and the youngest have already graduated college.

      Reply
      1. Jules the 3rd*

        THIS. This SO MUCH.

        I work with a couple of people who seem to lump everyone under 40 into ‘just graduated / needs help learning to be professional’. One of them even lumped me in there, and I don’t *think* I still look under 40 (I’m almost 50). She even tried to give me advice on how to navigate my current employer, even though she’d been with us less than a year, and I’d been there over 15 years (which she knew; I’d done some of her orientation).

        It’s not every person who is older than me, but I have only seen it with people who are older than me.

        Reply
      2. Creed Bratton*

        I got a “you millenials are so entitled” moment from an older coworker the same day as an “ok boomer” from a student. Both were said in jest but it’s like you can’t win!

        Reply
      3. CheeryO*

        Exactly. My coworkers know that I’m 30, and I feel like I look my age, but I still get older people telling me that I must not know what a cassette tape/VHS/landline is. Like, all the time. People just don’t stop to think before they blurt out stupid stuff.

        Reply
    3. Cinnamon*

      I am 28 & while I’m not mistaken for younger I definitely get the same comments. Some people just don’t realize time I guess. I was not old enough to buy the first iPod myself but I do remember having a Walkman beforehand?? Sometimes I do think it’s a subconscious need to feel older/more powerful against others.

      Reply
    4. Yarrow*

      Same, but honestly, you just shut it down or make a joke and move on. If someone is CONSTANTLY doing it, tell them to stop. A coworker called me “an actual child” in a meeting once and I just stared at her until it got uncomfortable. Maybe that was the wrong move, but it did feel good. lol

      Reply
    5. peach*

      Gah, I get that all the time, too. I’m 34, constantly get told I look about 25, and it’s annoying when people act surprised that I know a thing or am able to handle complex projects easily (it’s because I’ve got experience!). I don’t really have advice, because I’ve tried everything to fix this (dressing older/more professionally doesn’t work), so I just kind of always have to remind people of my age by saying things like, “In all my 34 years…” and eventually people either get it or they don’t.

      You have my sympathies!

      Reply
    6. Workerbee*

      Sympathies here too!

      You could indeed state your age. Be prepared for what I’ve often found a sad corollary: People expressing shock, people falling all over themselves to assure you you don’t look that age, blah blah.

      I’m confident that one fine day, it’ll not only be okay to age (and show it!) but there also won’t be just one conception of what a particular age should look like. Until then, I find myself getting more than a little fed up with assumptions on both sides of that scale. Bah.

      Reply
      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Actually, I wouldn’t state your age, TMI. Just stick with ‘of course I know X, how strange it is that you would think anything else’. People who do this are not just doing it to you.

        Reply
    7. Not all*

      It’s a five year gap like jesus christ it’s not the end of the world if someone makes a joke about you looking young unless they’re doing it to be demeaning.

      Reply
      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        It’s hard enough for women to get respect or be taken seriously in many workplaces. Being treated like a child or being taken less seriously because you’re perceived to be straight out of the sorority house only compounds that.

        Assuming 35 vs 40 isn’t a big deal, but in the 20s/early 30s, it can be the difference between 3 years of work experience and 8.

        Reply
      2. SunnySideUp*

        Are you new here? Because we generally don’t go all aggressive when a poster asks a real-life question for which she is seeking actual advice.

        Reply
      3. Not So NewReader*

        The speaker in OP’s setting assumes the gap is larger than five years. A five year span is not worth remarking over.

        Reply
    8. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I have the same issue and generally laugh it off with something like, “Despite my youthful charm, I am actually older than dirt. I remember and used 5 1/4 floppy disks!”

      Reply
    9. rageismycaffeine*

      This happens to me all the time. I’m about to turn 40. I still get carded buying beer at the grocery store. (I’m not old enough that this is flattering instead of infuriating.)

      I just laugh it off when people make comments like this, honestly. Do you feel like it’s affecting you in your professional life outside of comments like this? You said you don’t want to be perceived as an intern – does it feel like you’re being treated like one, outside of people making these kind of jokes?

      Reply
        1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

          I sell alcohol (at faire’s) and if you are 90 and your ID is not current I legally can’t sell it to you.
          It actually is up to the sheriff if we have to ask /everyone/ or anyone under 30.

          Reply
    10. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I get this too. My hairdresser doesn’t understand why I won’t get highlights to the few grays sprinkling my head: this is exactly why.

      Reply