should I expand my job search outside of my industry, my coworkers aren’t working, and more

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

1. Should I expand my job search outside of my industry?

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in March and hoped and planned to enter the field full-time. I’ve had multiple internships at good publications and freelance gigs with others. Now, the fellowships I’ve applied to are canceled, entry-level hiring looks nearly frozen, and most editors have limited (or no) freelance budgets. I search job boards every day and see little that I’m qualified for. My professors and mentors always told me they were confident in my ability to make it work in journalism, so I made a promise to myself that I’d only apply for journalism opportunities (no marketing, PR, technical writing, etc.). But the current economic/world situation has me wondering if I should expand my job search.

When I think about my second-choice industry, I’m actually more interested in education and academics over marketing or PR, but applying for those positions (of which there aren’t many, either) feels a little like giving up. I do know that there will likely be even fewer journalism jobs a year from now due to this, and it might benefit me to have a back-up plan. And I’d still hope to continue writing in my free time if I got a job outside journalism. At the same time, I worry about starting a job in another industry only to have a dream journalism opportunity come around a month later — or, on the other hand, being stuck in my non-journalism job for long enough that it feels impossible to break back into journalism.

I have no student loans and a manageable sum in my bank account and parents who would welcome me back home while I figure things out, all of which I’m grateful for but know won’t get me through things forever. Should I keep applying for the few journalism opportunities I see, try to keep freelancing wherever I can, and wait things out? Or is it time to cast a wider net?

Cast a wider net. Journalism is being very hard hit, and you’re going to be competing for jobs with more experienced (and probably better networked) journalists for at least the next year. You don’t need to stop applying for journalism jobs — you should keep doing that, and keep freelancing and accumulating clips however you can — but it shouldn’t be your only plan right now. That’s not giving up; it’s being pragmatic.

And if a dream opportunity comes around a month after you accepted a job outside the field … well, if it’s really a dream opportunity, it might still be worth going after it; you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. But you’ll be a more attractive candidate (for any job) if you’re working while you figure this out than if you’re not … and in working, you might find other paths that you’re excited about but aren’t envisioning now.

2. My office includes me in Administrative Professionals Day just because I’m a woman

Administrative Professionals Day is coming up on Wednesday and I am already dreading it.

I am not an administrative professional but I work in the construction industry. In our company, women make up 20% of the office staff. All but four are considered administrative support.

Every year for Administrative Professionals Day, the company pays for lunch (they buy take-out and serve it in a conference room) and gives away some small token of appreciation (a mug or a balloon). Every year, all the women in the office are invited. The first year the invitation was extended to me, I was told, “We know you’re not an admin, but we didn’t want you to feel left out since most of the women in the office will be attending.”

Rather than feel included, the annual invitation makes me feel somewhat insulted. I have a four-year degree and 20+ years of professional experience. I work in creative services, perform various tech and software functions, and wear other hats as needed. I am proud of my work and my accomplishments, but being lumped in just because I’m also a woman makes me feel minimized.

I generally decline the invitation without any fuss (“I’ve got a prior lunch engagement”) but I wonder if I’m being too sensitive? I get that they are trying to do a nice thing but I end up feeling patronized.

Nooo, you are not being too sensitive and this is not a nice thing, regardless of their intentions.

It’s sexist and demeaning that your office is bringing gender into this. You’re not going to feel “left out” if you’re not included in an event for a profession you don’t belong to, simply because you share a gender with the attendees. So this year, when you get invited, say something! You could say, “I know you mean well, but I don’t think we should invite people to this based on gender, especially given the long history of women being assumed to be admins.”

You could also say, “It’s not fair to the admins to include me. It waters down the point of honoring their work if we just make it all the women who work here.”

Frankly, though, it’s time to get rid of this patronizing day entirely. Admins don’t need flowers and lunch; they need better pay and year-round respect.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. My company is asking people to reserve vacation time during a pandemic

My company is “essential business” and most of us are still working on-site everyday. The higher-ups are asking the team managers to push their employees to start reserving vacation time now. They fear that there will be a sudden explosion of vacation time requests once the pandemic-induced travel bans are lifted and people can travel freely again. I feel this is a terrible time to ask people to make vacation plans. How should companies handle vacation/PTO allowances in a pandemic?

Yeah, this is not the right time to push people to make vacation plans. Way too much is up in the air, and we have no idea when things will be back to normal-ish or what normal-ish will look like. We don’t have enough info yet for people to decide whether they’ll be comfortable traveling at all this year, let alone specifically when.

It would make more sense for your company to alert people that they’re concerned about a sudden explosion of vacation requests later this year and that they can’t guarantee those requests will all be approved, depending on what it would mean for coverage. They can say that if you want to ensure you get specific dates, you should submit them now, and be aware it might not be as easy later. Bonus points if they also come up with (and announce) a system for how they’ll work it out if they do get more requests than can be approved for a particular time.

4. How do I tell my boss my coworkers aren’t working?

How do I let my supervisor know that during work from home, other employees are actually not working? I’m not trying to tattle. My work is generated from their work, and now it looks like I’m doing nothing all day. He doesn’t supervise my coworkers, but does supervise their managers.

Focus on the impact on your work, not any particular judgment about your coworkers. For example: “I know people’s schedules are weird right now, but I haven’t been getting X or Y from Cecil or Ophelia, which means I can’t move forward on Z. I’ve talked to them about it, but I still haven’t received what I need, so we’re in danger of missing our mail deadline. How do you want me to handle that?”

Note, though, that this says you’ve spoken with the coworkers about the problem. If you haven’t done that, do that first. That can just be, “I can’t move forward on Z until I get X or Y from you, and if we miss the deadline it will cause (specific problem). When do you think you’ll have it to me?”

5. Can I ask for written assurances about when our pay cuts will be reversed?

I’m a salaried, exempt employee in a professional field. My company has just announced that they are reducing everyone’s salaries due to Covid-19, with no reduction in the hours we are expected to work. For me, this represents a 33% pay cut and is simply unsustainable for more than a few months. Are they allowed to do this? Would it be reasonable for me to ask for written assurances regarding being paid back for the period during which my salary is reduced, and a timeframe for restoration of my full salary?

They are allowed to do this, as long as it’s not retroactive, and a lot of companies are doing it right now in an effort to stay afloat and not lay people off.

It’s vey unlikely they’ll agree to put something in writing guaranteeing when your salary will return to normal. Right now they probably can’t even guarantee people will still have jobs in a few months, let alone when your pay will go back up. (They might have an idea of what’s likely, but in most cases it would be foolish to rigidly commit to that, since no one knows exactly how this will all play out.)

I also wouldn’t assume you’re going to be paid back for this period, unless they’ve said they will do that. (Most companies are not.) But if they’ve offered that and framed it as a definite thing, it’s reasonable to confirm that in writing, since you might be staying in the job based in part on that promise. (Although even then, I’d be wary about relying on it too much unless the company is very stable; they might end up not having the funds.)

{ 500 comments… read them below }

  1. Elenna*

    Apparently my mother’s company asked people to take some vacation time in the next couple months (presumably as a staycation) in an attempt to avoid everyone taking all their vacation time later, at the same time as everyone else. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but it seems at least better than “figure out your vacation plans for the second half of this year RIGHT NOW”.

    I prefer Allison’s message, though, maybe with an added reminder that people can take staycations now – a mental break from work can still be nice.

    1. alienor*

      My company’s doing this too, although I suspect there’s a financial element to it as well, because of how banked unpaid PTO affects the corporate balance sheet. I took a day off last week and it actually was a pretty nice break from the 5-6 video calls I’ve been averaging per day since this started.

      1. SwingingAxeWolfie*

        Also agreed. If you’re able to take PTO right now it’s not a terrible idea – recharging is still a thing even when working remotely.

        1. Liz*

          Yes, like i mentioned in my other comment, i did that last friday afternoon. it was really nice. because I’m still working the same amount of time, just not commuting.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          LW3 isn’t even working remotely so it would definitely be a break from their normal work day.

          1. Miss V*

            I don’t know. Obviously I can’t speak for the LW but as someone who’s essential and still has to go in to work taking a few days off right now would actually make my job even harder when I got back, since I’m already covering duties for several coworkers who are WFH. I actually canceled some PTO because the thought of staying home and stressing while I think about all the extra work I’d have waiting for me when I got back just made me anxious.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I am also in this boat! I would very much like to take some time off now, but there’s no way for anyone else to cover parts of my job while we’re all remote, so it would just mean working more hours on other days to get caught up again.

              (It’s hard for anyone else to cover most of my job even when we’re all in the office, but I can strategically save certain tasks that others or temps can do for the occasional day I’m out so I come back to at least a smaller pile of stuff to do. This isn’t my job, but imagine that I am the Russian-language customer support person and my closest co-workers are the French-language tech support person and the Spanish-language teach support person. There’s no good way to cross-train someone who already knows the products to also speak fluent Russian in a reasonable amount of time, so if I left they’d hire another Russian-speaker and then have one of the other techs train them in how to do tech support. There isn’t any good way for someone else to meaningfully do my job for a day or two here or there since we just don’t need two Russian-speakers full time and we don’t happen to have a tech who already knows Russian in addition to the language they were actually hired for. Again, not my actual job, but an analogous situation where my job requires a substantial amount of a specialized background skill that is quite possible to hire for but difficult to train quickly in addition to our work-specific knowledge.)

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Yes, my employer asked us to please take around 1/4 of our vacation days in this quarter, even though we wouldn’t be traveling anywhere. I’d already scheduled the week of my kid’s spring break – it was nice despite the circumstances.

      3. Librarian1*

        Yep, I took last Friday off and it was great. I plan on taking more time off during this work from home period.

    2. Belgian*

      My company has announced that part of our vacation time will roll over to next year, but with almost 40 days (not US) that seems almost necessary.

      1. Grace*

        Ditto, sort of. We can use all of our unused holiday any time we like over the next two years, as opposed to the normal “You can roll over a couple of days to next year, I guess” system. It’s especially important right now since a bunch of us did overtime for a big virus-related project in return for time off in lieu, so most of us have at least three days extra holiday if not more.

        I’d taken five days out of my thirty before this kicked off – if it wasn’t for the rollover, with the in-lieu days added, I’d have to fit one about a month of holiday into the three or four post-quarantine months we had left.

      2. Liz*

        that’s like mine. we can carry over as much as we get, which in my case if 5 weeks. BUT you have to use your carryover the following year. so if carry over 4 weeks, i’ll have 9, use the 4 i carry over, and maybe one more, i can carry over 4 of my current year, and unless i go somewhere for months, can continue to do that year after tyear.

        1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          I worked at a place where you could roll over some time (I don’t remember exactly how much) but you couldn’t roll over the “same” time the following year. But the kicker was that they tracked the individual hours somehow and you had to use the current year’s hours before you could use the rolled over hours. It was so complicated that effectively, you couldn’t actually roll over time. Or if you did you would likely lose some or all of it. The only way to roll over time and not use it, was to hit exactly zero hours some time during the year.

    3. LDN Layabout*

      We’re being asked to take a few days a month, with the caveat that the minimum leave someone in my org will have is 27+8 holidays.

      It makes sense in that situation, we can carry 5 days over and it helps avoid some burnout/people hoarding leave until restrictions are lifted.

    4. MK*

      That makes sense, and is actually a good idea for people to take some time off. There is this somewhat toxic attitude that yoy need a valid reason to not be working, but resting and recharging is a valid reason.

      Also, I think the company is overestimating the number of people who will rush to travel once the quarantine is over. Though it’s likely that people will want time off to take care of all the things that have fallen to the side during the pandemic.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        It depends on the amount of leave available, the dates of the leave year and how much people can carry over.

        We have it every year, where suddenly people are taking the last of their leave in Feb/March. Our director made it very clear he expected managers to keep on top of used leave and to have a chat with people if they hadn’t used much/any by six months in.

        I acknowledge this is more of an issue in places with generous leave policies, but I’d imagine management in places where leave falls with calendar years might start sweating a little bit if no one’s been using leave by end of August/September.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        People may not want to take big trips, but as soon as they think it’s safe to visit family again I suspect there’ll be a lot of pent-up demand for smaller trips.

        I’d love to take a week off to have my mother come visit where we just hang out at my house together and pretend we’re at the beach, for example. The point where “staycations” like that seem reasonable will presumably come much sooner than a time when people are again excited to go on cruise ships. (I’m hopeful for sometime this summer. We may just plan ahead and each strictly quarantine for 2+ weeks, then do it anyway at some point this summer since she lives about a half hour away so travel wouldn’t be an issue.)

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      Since I work for an academic hospital, too much time off isn’t feasible for some essential employees right now, so they temporarily increased our cap on PTO hours by about 50%. Current plan is that the cap will end by fall so we should try to burn it down before then, but that can be re-evaluated as this goes on.

    6. Not So Super-visor*

      As a manager, I’m getting concerned about my employee’s PTO requests once we get back to normal. Right now, everyone is cancelling their PTO — it’s understandable: they had planned vacations that they can’t take and we’re already working from home. My problem is that we’re a coverage based job, and we can only have a set number of people off per day. I already run into problems at the end of each calendar year: employees can only roll over 80 hours, and somehow, there are always employees who have “forgotten” to book time off (despite reminders) and insist that they should have the coveted holidays off that have been booked for months. I’m honestly not sure how to handle this unless my company decides to let us roll over more time or does a payout (they used to payout a week of unused PTO per year but ended that 2 years ago).

      1. EPLawyer*

        encourage folks to take time now. Even a day will help them relax. They can go for a long walk, sleep in, whatever. Then there is less time to use later. But also, you need to be firm. Set up a policy on how you handle multiple requests for the same days off and communicate it clearly to your team.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Not everyone. Some people find work a nice distraction. If I took time off now then I would just be stuck in the house with no way to get a babysitter to watch my kid, and my partner would come home and sleep (well deserved) and I would be on full baby duty all day. Which would be a nice break for my husband but not for me. Working from home is pretty much my only break from baby duty and one of the few things keeping my sanity in check. My husband defiantly deserves a break more then me, but I don’t think it enough to burn a vacation day.

          1. Yorick*

            It doesn’t have to work for every single person for it to be a good thing to suggest to employees.

    7. Feline*

      We are getting leaned on to take our vacation time during pandemic, too, though they are framing it as informing us there will be no carryover vacation at the end of the year.

      I emailed with my boss about this because I don’t want to take the upcoming week off she had already approved for the incredibly rare getaway with my partner sitting around at home. My boss gave the whole “you’ll feel better if you take the time off” tapdance, as if she was not going to let me rescind the PTO request. I figure she can’t make me not work those days. I can’t reschedule the vacation to later if they force me to waste the days now.

      I get why they want us to spread the PTO out dread trying to get work done in December. It’s going to be a scramble to burn off a year’s vacation as we head into a major deadline. But let us manage our workload and time off like adults.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        “I figure she can’t make me not work those days.” I hope so, my friend was forced to take time off despite cancelling her travel plans because they wouldn’t change coverage.

    8. Bookworm (also a librarian)*

      We are required to take 50% of our vacation time before July. Not sure what I’ll do at home for all those weeks.

          1. : )*

            I think Gazebo Slayer was making a jab at the person’s commenting name: Bookworm (also a librarian).

          2. Eukomos*

            Yikes, we’re meant to be giving each other the benefit of the doubt here. If nothing else the smiley could have tipped you off they were trying to be funny.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        You can get home supplies delivered if you want to paint or do another DIY project. My spouse is home and we are tackling a lot of home projects.
        But if I had a week at home, I would binge a video game and take bubble baths every day.

      2. Meredith*

        I’d clean out my basement. I kind of dream of having a home organization staycation, but never actually pull the trigger. (I also live 300 miles – in different directions – from both my parents and my inlaws, so we spend some time off each year visiting family.) I’m not pulling the trigger this year for various work-related reasons (instability in my company now) and my optimism at being able to take a 10 day trip for my 10th wedding anniversary in October.

      3. Third or Nothing!*

        I already had a week of vacation scheduled mid-March for an anniversary trip. The trip didn’t happen, obviously, but I kept the vacation and instead used my free time to explore some new hiking trails close to home. My husband rode his motorcycle a lot. Also deep cleaned the house, which ended up being a good choice since it’s been difficult to clean as well as we’d like to while our toddler is home 24/7.

    9. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I’ve had two family weddings cancelled so far, that I’m going to need time off for… whenever they actually happen, which is still super up in the air. Plus if my company starts up before daycare does I will need to take that extra time off. So I can’t go throwing vacation time away. A better process would be to tell people they can reserve time off, then if the world is still closed will be allowed to move it to a better time. Hopefully a lot of use it or lose it places will be more understanding and let things roll over into next year.

    10. Liz*

      I agree with this. My company has been great about everything relating to the Pandemic, including time off. We just got a reminder of our policy on vacation carryover (which is pretty generous), etc. and also said don’t be afraid to take time off, even though you’re working from home, and not able to go anywhere. I actually took friday afternoon “off” and while all i did was grocery shop and take a walk, it was nice to be able to do it early, and then just chill the rest of the afternoon and evening. I plan on doing it maybe once a month or so.

      But if we had been told to “plan” time off, etc. i’d be a bit upset as Allison said, no one really knows when travel will be “safe” and i know even if it is deemed to be, i’m not comfortable going anywhere any time soon.

    11. Bookworm1858*

      Yep, I took a mental health day last Tuesday and it was AMAZING! Sure, I only left the house to pick up some food but not being tied to a clock or my computer was fantastic. If you are in a situation where this applies, I highly encourage it!

    12. IndoorCat*

      My company doesn’t allow vacation from Oct 15 – Dec 31 (our crazy busy season). Gonna be real interesting to see how that plays out this year. I didn’t have plans to go anywhere this year, so I already plotted out some random times here and there and intend to keep them.

    13. Phlox*

      One benefit of scheduling vacations now for later in the year is creating an end date/light at the end of the tunnel. A nurse friend scheduled a hiking vacation for August and bought plane tickets. Tickets were super cheap and regardless of whether it is safe to travel in August, she has something to look forward to and dream about now when things are really terrible and exhausting at work. It may be a faux end but I think the moral and emotional benefit of vacations is something to consider.

    14. Koala dreams*

      It does seem odd to put out a reminder about scheduling vacation, and not mention the crisis and how it changes people’s plans. Some people might want to take vacation earlier, to get some rest from work now while they are very busy with various care-taking and volunteer duties, while some people might prefer to postpone their vacation to the autumn, in the hope it will possible to go to the park, or the beach, or even travel again.

      That said, I’m a bit surprised by the assumption in Alison’s answer, that vacation is mostly for traveling. Many people take vacations to do home renovations, do garden work, meet with family (nowadays maybe a party on skype or zoom), do exercise, take an online course from a school, or just to rest at home.

  2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

    I’m curious- could the situation in #5 be considered a constructive dismissal as far as unemployment goes, even in a poor economic climate like this pandemic?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Probably not constructive dismissal but she might be able to collect some unemployment, depending on her state and on her salary (they’ll deduct what you’re still earning from your benefit amount, which could cancel it out).

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Alison, would you consider adding a glossary? There are times when I’d love to remind myself the details of terms I don’t use in my daily life.
        It could be as simple as a link to a place where you’ve already defined it, and/or where the commentariat’s discussion was particularly helpful explaining regional distinctions.

      2. NACSACJACK*

        Alison – Wont this impact their unemployment amount if they do get laid off? That instead of get some % based on 100%, they’ll get % based on 67%? Isnt the company trying to hedge their bets to avoid paying more in unemployment by paying them less now?

        1. Gatomon*

          At least in my state, they exclude the current quarter from the payment calculations and look at a 12 month (4 quarter) period to determine the benefit amount. So if this paycut started April 1, it wouldn’t effect OP#5 unless they filed after June 1, if I’m remembering right, because only then the paycut would be included in the calculation. But since it’d be averaged against the previous 3 quarters it wouldn’t be as dramatic.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s very unlikely to be constructive dismissal—that claim is usually tied to another public policy objective (e.g., antidiscrimination). Cutting everyone’s pay to prevent layoffs during a crisis that’s causing economic havoc is very unlikely to satisfy most states’ requirements for a constructive dismissal action.

    3. Wintermute*

      That’s a highly state-dependent thing. Here where I am there’s some precedent that any pay cut above a certain threshold could be considered constructive discharge, but at the very same time they use a two-pronged test that requires you to prove they’re acting in a way that would lead you to believe that you are going to be fired (or laid off) and ALSO that the conditions were “intolerable”. Talk about mixed messages! In general, there’s a “for no good (non-discriminatory or retaliatory) reason” requirement to constructive discharge, and what’s going on right now would most likely satisfy anyone that they have a very good reason. Likewise, if they’re treating everyone equally then it’s hard to prove you’re being targeted to be pushed out (perversely enough treating everyone equally poorly enough can actually be a defense here, because it makes it hard to prove you’re targeted)

      The general statutory requirement is usually “any reasonable employee would have quit under these conditions” and given everything going on– that’s a pretty high bar.

    4. Dagny*


      I think the question the LW asked is not the one that she wants answered. Her company is cutting her pay; there’s not much she can do about it; ergo, her best solution is not to try to demand in writing that which she cannot get, but to look for another job. Either the entire industry will be in shambles, at which point, her job with her lower pay is the best she can do, or she’ll get another job with better pay.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m sure she has. It’s the first thing one would do, don’t you think?

      But I doubt her inability to weather a 33% pay cut for longer than a few months is because she’s eating too much avocado toast. That’s a significant pay cut.

            1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              My street is lined with avocado trees, but unfortunately the squirrels get most of them first.

          1. J*

            Regardless, no one is going to adjust their budget by 33% by cutting out avocados. Avocados are not the reason people are poor.

          2. Laure001*

            Sorry, I reacted from a place where avocados are indeed cheap, and that is why the trend about avocado toast being a luxury item seems so… geographically debatable. :) I have the same reaction about watermelon, that I love, so cheap in a lot of places, so expensive here alas.

        1. Yorick*

          Even when an avocado is expensive, one person’s breakfast of avocado toast at home can use 1/2 of it or less, so it’s still a pretty cheap breakfast item.

          1. MagicUnicorn*

            That is quite relative. A $4 box of fancy granola and $3 gallon of milk constitute a week’s worth of breakfasts for my three humans, so $2.50 a plate is wildly extravagant compared to our norm…

            1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

              You’re an outlier to perceive that as wildly extravagant. Yes, it’s more that you spend. Both breakfasts described are pretty cheap.

    2. Sharkie*

      Well this is a rude and not so helpful comment. 33% is way past belt tightening for most people.

      1. staceyizme*

        Agreed! “Belt tightening” is no raise or a cut of maybe 3% to 5%. Anything more is likely to impact the way that funds are allocated significantly and might mean forgoing more than a few luxuries.

      2. Dutch Oven*

        It was a question, and a fair one to ask. Some people would have already thought about that, but let’s be honest: some people would not.

        Skip that Starbucks in the morning. Give up that expensive iPhone data package. (OP can always get it cut back on once their pay is restored.) Sell the car and get on the bus, Gus. Etc. etc. etc.

        Of course, not every budget-cutting measure will be an option for everyone. But almost all of us could save a lot of money if we tried.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I promise you that someone facing the loss of a third of their income is well aware that they should look at their expenses. And it has nothing to do with what she’s asking for advice on. Please stop.

        2. nonee*

          It’s not a fair question to ask, as half a dozen people have already told you. That’s not a coincidence! Your question assumes the OP is a dullard. It’s also unhelpful. If someone writes to Alison seeking help on professionalism, do you ask them if they remember to tie their shoelaces in the mornings?

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I’m so tired of the cut Starbucks spiel. First of all, a lot of people don’t even drink Starbucks (especially not now!), and even if you did drink a $5 coffee every work day for three months, that’s only around $300 – that doesn’t even cover most people’s rent or mortgage payments. A 33% pay cut for me, for example, would make me a little over $800 short on my rent – so no, that’s not sustainable for a lot of people and “just skipping Starbucks” (which I and many others either don’t ever or no longer drink) would not make up the difference.

            1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

              Also, this pandemic has been going on for a while and most people know that cost-cutting is necessary and have adjusted their budgets accordingly. You are correct, not buying a coffee does not help to make the rent when there is no or reduced income coming in.

              1. Tate Can't Wait*

                And even more significantly – most people are, by default, out of the routines that caused them to splurge, even a little.

              2. Wired Wolf*

                I have apps for most of “my” coffee shops, and normally load funds every month–this is factored into my general budget and is not a huge dent in my finances. Right now, I’ve hit pause on the reloading (no drive-thru Starbucks around here) and make coffee for the most part, but am using up my stored funds/points for the place that is still open when we go shopping…I still get static from my mom on occasion. The money is already on the card. Besides, it’s a small “normal” ritual at this point and we can at least keep that; a good portion of the employees I’ve come to know by name are still there.

                During a family Zoom conference last night a cousin commented that the grocery store coffee section was the emptiest she’s ever seen it; city people are finally learning to make coffee at home.

                1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                  You made me giggle. One thing that totally mystified me when I moved to the big city was the habit of going out for coffee, not just for a social time, but just because you wanted a cuppa. It takes less time as well as costs less to make it at home.

            2. Mookie*

              Starbucks and avocado toast and other generational, class-based dogwhistles tell on the whistler more than anything else. Working class people are neither oppressed by nor consumed with resentment because of some woman, always a woman, and her imaginary wasteful, basic pumpkin spice life.

              1. sunny-dee*

                Dutch Oven didn’t mention avocado toast or Starbucks in his comment. Alison brought up avocado toast.

                It’s mean spirited to try to call him out for classist, misogynist dogwhistles that he didn’t even use.

                1. Diahann Carroll*

                  Skip that Starbucks in the morning.

                  This is a direct quote from Dutch Oven, who did in fact mention cutting Starbucks as if that’s what’s keeping people living paycheck to paycheck.

                2. somanyquestions*

                  Dutch Oven said:
                  “Skip that Starbucks in the morning. Give up that expensive iPhone data package. (OP can always get it cut back on once their pay is restored.) Sell the car and get on the bus, Gus. Etc. etc. etc.”

                  So yes, they did call out starbucks, and other things they personally deem wasteful.

                3. Falling Diphthong*

                  I admit, selling the car and getting on the bus is an interesting take during a pandemic when people are supposed to stay six feet away from everyone else. Even assuming (bizarrely) that busses exist locally and run between OP’s home, work, grocery store, etc.

            3. The Original K.*

              I left a job over a 30% pay cut because it meant I straight up couldn’t afford to live (and it put my salary way below market value). I never drink Starbucks/get coffee out, I already brown-bag my lunch. I deserve to be paid a living wage, so I went somewhere that could offer that. No amount of belt-tightening could make up that loss.

              1. Wired Wolf*

                I would brown-bag my lunch if I could ensure it wouldn’t get stolen from the break room…

            4. Alton*

              Yep. Cutting back on small incidental expenses can definitely be an effective strategy for saving more or making things a little less tight, but it often doesn’t add up enough to be able to cover larger, recurring expenses like rent, mortgage payments, car payments, etc.

            5. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              A standard drip coffee is $2-ish at Starbucks, which is about the same price it is at the majority of other places that sell coffee.

        3. Justequ*

          Do think you would be happy is your salary was cut by a third indefinitely? OP agreed to work at x rate and her employer unilaterally changed those terms. And you think cutting out a cup of coffee will fix it.

          Here is the realty for most people right now: they are not getting Starbucks in the morning, they are working from home. They can’t cut data or the internet because the need it for work. And bused? They are Petri dishes on wheels. In my city, transit workers left and right are testing positive for COVID-19. OP should not have to jeopardize her health to keep her employer in business.

          1. Dutch Oven*

            Removed. You are missing the point and I’m going to ask you to stop commenting on this post. This is your final warning. – Alison

          2. Today today*

            Exactly, Justequ. Under normal circumstances, switching to using public transit is a big positive for both budgets and the environment. Right now? Massively increasing one’s health risk.

        4. Senor Montoya*

          I personally could do all of those things, but you know, a 33% pay cut means I CAN’T AFFORD MY KID’S COLLEGE TUITION. Even if I give up those lattes (which, you know, most of us aren’t buying because, social distancing) and take the bus (which is less safe than driving a car, again social distancing AND keeping an old car is a hell of a lot cheaper than giving it up and then buying a new one later), that’s not enough money to make up anywhere near a 33% paycut.

          A 33% paycut may mean the OP can’t pay their mortgage. It may mean the OP can’t pay back student loans. It may mean they can’t afford expensive medication for themself or a dependent.

          Anyway, this remark doesn’t even answer the OP’s question; OP did not ask “how can I cut out enough expenses to weather losing one third of my salary?”

          1. Justme, the OG*

            I love how people (not you, but the potser you are responding to) assume that taking public transportation is always feasible. I would have to walk three miles to get to a bus stop: one mile to a crosswalk to cross a four lane road with speeds of 45 miles per hour, one mile back to my neighborhood but on the other side of the street where there are no sidewalks, then another mile to the bus stop.

            Plus, buses in my are are not allowing more than 9 passengers. So I could wait for a bus that may not even let me on.

            1. A*

              Ya, I live in a somewhat remote area – I believe there’s a shuttle for students from nearby college’s… but that’s it.

              I’ll admit, I used to be one of those people that would jump to the suggestion of public transit. But once I moved out of my metropolitan city bubble… it was a reality check for sure! I’ve also lived in some areas that are more densely populated, but public transit would turn a 20 minute car ride commute into a 1.5 hour journey. Loads of indirect costs!

            2. MoopySwarpet*

              Where I live, public transportation is about $300 per month at its cheapest in addition to mediocre schedules and distance from start/end points. Gas and insurance combined is considerably less than that in my case. I think there are a few subsidies and programs that can bring the cost down if you have no other choice, but they aren’t easy to find.

              Although, I could sell my car and ride the bus for a few years so it wouldn’t be completely outside the realm of possibilities if I were in a desperate situation. I also own my car outright and it’s a sought after make and model. If you’re making car payments, you’d be much better off trying to negotiate with your lender to save a few dollars than to switch a car payment for a public transit payment.

            3. Bear Necessities*


              I live a 10-minute drive from my office. By public transit? It would be almost an hour, because there’s no direct route from here to there. Taking the bus would mean going all round Hell’s half acre. And I’d be paying for the privilege of taking a transit system that’s horrifically dysfunctional and often runs extremely late.

              I’d be jeopardizing my job (via repeated tardiness/unreliability) and wasting a shitton of time, all for — what? How much do you think someone is going to get for selling their car? A couple grand as a one-time payment?

              “Sell your car” for anyone but an urban dweller is the pure definition of “penny wise and pound foolish” advice.

              1. Uranus Wars*

                This is my situation and I even live urban! I didn’t have a car for a week last year. Since I only live about 2 miles from work I was like “oh, public transport!”. To get there would be an hour and I’d have to move my start time back 2 hours. So I scootered some mornings and walked home. In 100 degree heat with 90%+ humidity. It was grand. Luckily I had no meetings that week!

              2. Happy Pineapple*

                I wish public transportation were an option for me. I made the financially-sound decision to move farther away from work to live in a more affordable area. So not only am I 25 miles from my office, which would be a long bus journey even if that were possible, but also there are ZERO transit options that would take me there. The nearest bus stop to my office is ten miles away.

              3. Rexish*

                Also, quite a few of us urban dwellers don’t even own a car in the first Place so there is nothing to sell ;)

            4. Jules the 3rd*

              Yeah, I researched my public transportation options, and they suck. 10 years ago, I could squeak out a 50 minute commute, with a mile hike down a busy road with no sidewalks, if I left work at 4pm (no busses after 5), for about $2/day. Now, the best I can do is 1.5hrs each way *if* there’s an Uber / Lyft waiting at the business park end of the commute, about $3.50 round trip.

              I can drive it in 17 minutes with no traffic, $1 gas (round trip, Prius).

              If they’d give me a safe path the last 3 miles, I’d bike it, at least in the summer. But the business park’s roads are dangerous for walking, and deadly for biking.

              1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

                Yes, for me it’s a 10-minute car ride, 25-minute bike ride, 40-minute walk or 60 minutes on a bus. Out of curiosity, I tried all the options last year, the car won (free parking), followed by walking because it’s sidewalks all the way. The bus is a 10-minute walk just to the bus stop.

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  Walking would be a nice option on pretty days when you want to enjoy the sunshine and don’t have to get home super quick. Sometimes I wish I lived close enough to my office to walk there every once in a while. :)

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  The ‘sidewalks all the way’ is awesome, and key – my area’s major job concentration is isolated from housing, and the only connections are 4 / 6 lane divided highways, or back roads with 0 shoulder.

            5. Third or Nothing!*

              Ha, my city doesn’t even have public transportation! If I wanted to have a day where I don’t use my car to commute, I’d have to push my daughter in her stroller 3 miles to her daycare, then run 7 miles from her daycare to my office, crossing 2 minor highways and a major interstate. And then I’d have to do it again at the end of the day.

              That’s almost a marathon y’all. I may be a runner but I’m not that kind of runner!

            6. Philly Redhead*

              Even Philadelphia, whose transit system is ranked in the top ten in the country, has cut down service to “Lifeline” schedules, and has limited passengers to 1o to 20 max depending on transit type (they offer buses, trolleys, trains, and subway).

            7. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              Hear, hear. I used to live in a transit-intensive city and (a) I got sick all the time, which I attributed in part to being so jammed in with others who might be sick and (b) the bus or streetcar often only took me halfway to where I was going. I logged a lot of miles walking to and from bus stops, and when you’re trying to get someplace, no, it’s not the time to get your exercise.

              After I left that city for one where a car was a better option, my health improved and my schedule became a lot more efficient.

        5. nnn*

          It’s particularly inconsiderate of not just OP but OP’s entire community to suggest adding more people to the bus during a pandemic.

        6. As if*

          You are clearly not in the workforce because your comments are so out of touch with what the rest of the world is dealing with.

          If you would have no problem reducing your income, maybe you should donate one third of your paychecks to OP so he could support his family.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            LMAO! It’s those millennial bashing think pieces all over again, repurposed for COVID-19! As if it was sensical the first time, smh.

        7. Sharkie*

          I’m not going to pile on because I don’t want to derail but I think you are lacking the empathy and kindness that is needed during this time. I hope you find it.

        8. Temperance*

          For anyone else reading: this person is giving horrible financial advice, even if you ignore the fact that it’s all irrelevant due to the pandemic.

          It’s “they probably got their last job bc gumption” bad. Selling things to pay bills just kicks the can further down the road and ensures a harder recovery.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Especially selling a car. You will never ever get what you paid for it, and in many areas of the country public transportation is just not up to snuff enough to replace a car. I know people in New York and Europe can live full lives without them, but in certain places without a car it is very hard to get a job and move around. New York’s subway system vs. Detroit’s People Mover is just not the same thing.

            1. ThatGirl*

              Side note, if you’re working from home, you’re probably not driving much of anywhere! I’ve spent less than $20 in gas since March 1, and we’re getting part of our car insurance premium back next month. On the other hand, taking the bus to and from the grocery store would be a giant pain in the butt!

            2. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

              Selling your car is not going to help most people right now – even those who bought “more” car than they could afford.
              For one thing, how are you even going to sell your car right now, with widespread social distancing?
              Second, between social distancing, staying home (little need to drive), and so many people having lost income, there is very low demand for used cars right now, therefore if you can even sell your car, the price will be very low.

              1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                Yeah, like, I used to be a high-ish income earner and I own a beater. If I sell it, that gives me, what, 3 months of mortgage payments? Then I have to think about buying another beater on a significantly lower salary once I find work again, which might happen after I’ve drained my liquidity. That’s kinda silly.

          2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            Honestly, I usually assume that people who give this kind of advice are people who have always been poverty line-level wage earners or are on fixed incomes. In that context, some of their advice seems less tone deaf because:
            -Things like Starbucks and other nice-to-haves *would* represent a huge proportion of *their* earnings/entitlements
            -They may have never been able to afford home or car ownership, so they don’t quite understand the transaction costs involved with getting rid of either of those things
            -Similarly, the transaction costs associated with breaking a lease and finding a new apartment if you’re a renter may be something they’re not that familiar with, especially if they’ve been long-term renters in places with rent control

            Some of this is financial advice that comes from long-term poverty and not having the ability to earn much more than minimum wage. It simply doesn’t make sense for people who are more likely to be temporarily broke rather than poor, but that’s a distinction they may not be seeing.

            1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              The lease break buyout for my apartment complex is 3 months’ rent. Most people don’t have that in the bank.

              1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                Exactly! Someone who’s never had to contemplate moving is going to be out of touch with those realities.

            2. Observer*

              Some of what you say is true. But the idea that getting rid of Starbucks and “that expensive iPhone data plan” is going to come close to making up for losing a third of your income doesn’t make sense under those conditions anyway. Even in a rent controlled apartment, someone would have to be using starbucks multiple times a day and using the very most expensive data plan to come close to covering that kind of pay cut.

              Also, I think you give people earning poverty wages too little credit. They may not understand certain things, but they are not stupid, and they know a lot more that you think they do. Certainly anyone who lives in an area with poor – non-existent public transportation is VERY WELL aware of the real cost of getting rid of a car. In fact people who live close to the poverty line are often MORE aware, because they don’t have the backups or cushion that people with more money have.

              On the other hand, we’ve seen these kinds of suggestions come from people who DO have the kind of knowledge you assume is missing.

              1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                I do agree with you that a lot of the avocado toast nonsense is coming from people who have enough knowledge to know they’re being tone-deaf. That said, I don’t assume that all people living in poverty are missing that knowledge. My frame of reference is a very specific kind of working poor. For example, I’m thinking of lower-income family members who live in big cities with good public transit who have never owned cars (or had driver’s licenses), for the most part don’t know people who do have cars (or licenses), and have always lived in places where it’s possible to get by without driving anywhere.

              2. How Much Starbucks Are You Drinking, Anyway?*

                I was that kind of poor for 4 decades. It’s only the last 5 years that I’ve not been. Trust me, “cut out Starbucks” doesn’t make sense to poor people, either. I mean, even when I was making sub $30,000 a year, a latte wasn’t enough of my income to make up 33%. And moving is something you do when desperate with a borrowed truck and help from friends and family you’re paying with pizza, not something you can do during social distancing. And how do you even adjust a data plan? Don’t they smack you with fees for that?

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  Grew up that poor. Never made much sense to me either. Can’t cut out Starbucks when you can’t even afford to go to Starbucks on a regular basis! (Also there were no coffee shops in my tiny farming/ranching community anyway.)

        9. Princess Zelda*

          I am not the OP, but I am facing similar trouble: I just lost one of my jobs, and I’ve taken a 60% loss in pay because of it. I actually *do* drink Starbucks about once a week (well — not anymore, social distancing etc). My monthly budget for it was $30. Believe me, that $30 is not the difference between me and my rent, utility, and grocery payments. It’s the $800/month that I just lost due to a global pandemic. Saying things like “well tighten your belt!” is unhelpful and patronizing. This isn’t pocket change.

          1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

            In my city maybe 2 Starbucks are still open with drive-thru service only and they are busy. I think for most people being able to still have their favourite coffee is helping them maintain a sense of normalcy in a very abnormal stressed out time.

          2. EPLawyer*

            And that starbucks drink once a month probably is what keeps you going. Giving up ALL treats to balance the budget leads to burnout, depression and just plain giving up. That’s in normal times. Now when things are definitely not normal, we need little pick me ups. If starbucks, or buying something in animal crossing or that really nice fabric you saw in the quilt store is your pick me up — you need that more than ever.

              1. Third or Nothing!*

                I like the way you think! Maybe I should finally get a watercolor kit and give that a try. I’ve always wanted to learn…

                1. King Friday XIII*

                  I’ve been committing myself to watercolor and it’s great. Buy the good paint! It really does make a difference.

            1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

              Exactly. I checked 0ut the sugar count in cheesecake and figured I can treat myself to a slice once in a while. In normal times, cheesecake is off the table. Now it’s an important part of staying happy.

            2. Princess Zelda*

              It is actually one of the most stressful things about the pandemic! I wonder how $Barista is doing all the time, because she’s amazing and her location (inside a grocery store) is closed. I don’t have a car, so no drive-thru for me. Talking to $Barista every Sunday and ordering a caffeine-and-sugar-abomination was a really nice treat and now I’m making them at home and not talking to anybody, and it’s just Not The Same.

              (Also, as someone who doesn’t have a car in a city built around them — it SUCKS. Places that would take 30 minutes to get to in a car take me 3 hours. I live a 10-minute drive from work and it regularly takes me a minimum of 45 minutes to get there, and that’s not including bus delays. Having a car would be a wise investment, and if I had one I wouldn’t give it up lightly.)

        10. Catherine*

          Not OP, but your suggestions are unworkable in the pandemic. Starbucks is closed in my city–it hasn’t been part of my budget for over a month. I’m on the cheapest data plan, and frankly regretting that now that people are trying to stay in touch more. And it’s not practical to get on a bus–a small enclosed space with other people–if you can avoid it right now.

        11. Allonge*

          Oh for pity’s sake.

          Here is the mathematics: if somebody can make up for a loss of 33% of their salary (or even 5-10%) by cutting on gas, coffee and a lower cost phone plan, what was 33% of their salary in the first place?

          Why on earth would anyone spend so much of their income on these expenses, a lot of which are not even frivolous? That would be a budget of a teen who is otherwise living at home, all expenses covered by their parent, and even then…

          1. Justme, the OG*

            Heck, I know a lot of students who are only able to do their schoolwork now thanks to their phone data plans.

          2. How Much Starbucks Are You Drinking, Anyway?*

            I have me some expensive coffee tastes. I know exactly the region of Ethiopia I like best, I know that I prefer wet roasting to dry and I own 4 different grinders and 7 different methods of brewing. I still don’t spend anywhere near 33% of my income on coffee. I could cut out coffee completely, and after I was done crying, I’d be saving … $80 per month.

        12. IntoTheSarchasm*

          My furlough starts today, I am a professional that has been in my field for 32 years and I went from salaried exempt to part-time at 60% of my salary for 90 days. With a possible extension to 90 more. At least I am only being asked to work commensurate hours, three days a week.

          I live fairly frugally but have made commitments based on my established income and the timing is horrible d/t some other recent events. So while I agree most of us could probably cut some costs fairly easily, it isn’t really what the OP was asking about. Plus I work at home and the nearest Starbucks is 60 miles away.

          1. Jayne*

            Sorry that you are going through that, IntotheSarchasm, the timing is horrible. 27 years a professional here and while I also try to be frugal, you have to base your decisions on the reality that you had at the time. If I had been able to see into the future, I would have paid off my debts rather than invest in my rapidly vanishing retirement accounts. Now I am stuck with the thoughts about: “if I hadn’t bought that car, that lot of land, that piece of furniture, that vacation, that meal,etc.” But no amount of belt tightening will make up for not having psychic powers.

        13. blackcat*

          “Skip that Starbucks in the morning. Give up that expensive iPhone data package. (OP can always get it cut back on once their pay is restored.) Sell the car and get on the bus, Gus. Etc. etc. etc.”

          Dude, Starbucks is closed.
          We’re in a global crisis.
          People have to wait in long lines to *enter* grocery stores. Shopping sales is very much not. a. thing.

          It’s at best naive and at worst really insulting to pretend “belt tightening” is appropriate now.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            And let’s all remember groceries are rising because all the budget items are being hoarded. So even if you saved $25 a week not getting a daily Starbucks, good luck with that going very far in the super market!

        14. Kat A.*

          I wish people would stop suggesting others sell their cars. Most people, at least in the United States, need their cars for more than work and cannot use a bus to get to worksites anyway.

          Should the OP need a new job after the global pandemic subsides, how do you expect him or her to get to job interviews at various locations on time and in various weather?

          What if the OP needs to go to the doctor?

          How can the OP bring home more than a bag or two of groceries?

          I think it’s ridiculous to suggest selling one’s car will solve any problem, as it usually creates more.

          1. Desk-Nail-Clipperer*

            Not to mention.. who is actually *buying* a car right now? It’s one thing to say “oh yes, just sell your car!” but if no-one’s buying cars then it’s just useless advice.

            1. Uranus Wars*

              OMG more of my friends have gotten more cars in the past month that at any other time I remember. I am like: PEOPLE!

            2. Jayne*

              Forbes published an article on April 14th talking about this issue. Google: “Used Car Market Signals Delayed Recovery For Auto Industry” if you want to read the whole thing. But the essence is that used car valuations are declining right now due to an increase in supply partially due to rental car companies dumping their fleets due to no one traveling, anticipated new car makers incentives to lure people to buy new cars and buyers hesitant that they can sell used cars bought at auction.

              Once the economy starts to come back, valuations should rise. So someone that sells a car now and then buys another one later will be in the bad fiscal situation of selling low and buying high.

          2. RegBarclay*

            Who is even buying cars right now, particularly private sale? And even if they found a buyer, they can’t go to secretary of state/DMV to transfer title anyway, at least in my state.

            1. Catosaur*

              Well, since the dealerships here are closed, private sale is your only option.

              I just bought a car because my engine blew on the first day of lockdown and buying a 20-year-old (but very reliable) beater was a better financial decision than fixing that one. I can’t work from home and I need transportation beyond my biking range to make money.

              Going through the bank drive through on a bicycle to get the cash for it was pretty weird (and felt really unsafe – thankfully I wasn’t mugged immediately).

        15. Works in IT*

          I live near my parents. The bus stop that is within walking distance of my apartment is several miles’ walk, along a very busy highway, including one terrifyingly busy road that does not have a shoulder, from where they live. Selling a car and using public transportation is not an option for some people, either due to their location far away from public transport or due to family members who would be in danger if they contracted COVID 19. Plus, the used vehicle market is currently cratering, with no one buying the used cars that are currently on the lot.

        16. NerdyKris*

          Your morning starbucks is not taking up a third of your budget, no matter what you’re buying. Don’t be ridiculous. A 33% pay cut is $833 a month at $15 an hour. That’s not “oh, just cut a few things here and there” money.

          And sell the car? Are you serious? Even in an area with public transportation (which is nonexistent in a lot of the US), your suggestion during a pandemic is to cram yourself into a box with other people? Do you realize what is happening right now?

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            Yeah, to make up $833 by cutting out Starbucks would be about $28/day at Starbucks, assuming they went both on weekdays and weekends. While I’m sure that someone, somewhere in the world has a $28/day Starbucks habit, I would be extremely surprised to find that it was someone who made $15/hr and covered their own expenses. (It seems like the kind of thing a college freshman with a parent-funded credit card might do for a month and then get a major talking-to about when the bill came, or someone who worked remotely all day at a coffee shop and considered it their “rent” for the space, which is not even an option right now.)

            I can’t think of any income level where someone would plausibly spend, on a regular basis, 33% of their income on discretionary, short-term things they could easily change on no notice. Most people have ongoing commitments to things like rent, utilities, insurance, and possible installment payments for things like car loans. All of those can be changed, but not quickly and in some cases not at all right now. For example, I am a little over a year into a 2 year financing of my cell phone. (It was an interest free payment plan, so I chose to make installment payments rather than pay up front even though I could afford the lump sum. This makes me about 5 cents in interest by keeping that money in my savings account but also helps my credit score as an installment loan paid on time.) I could, theoretically, try to sell the phone, pay off that installment plan, and get a cheaper phone, but phones do not hold value and that doesn’t really make sense as a way to save about $30/month right now. Many people are in similar situations with their car payments or their contracts for things like cable TV. To meaningfully change my housing and utility bills, I would have to sell my house and move someplace smaller, cheaper, and more energy-efficient. That’s not a short-term project to contemplate based on short-term fluctuations in pay.

            Yes, we should all keep 6 months+ cushion in our savings accounts, along with that month’s worth of food and water we’re supposed to have in case of earthquakes and all of those other things our culture tells people we “should” do so we can blame people for not being perfect rather than have a strong safety net to help people as they actually exist. In reality, though, our society isn’t structured in a way to make that practical for many people, and it’s ridiculous to pretend that people are being irresponsible for no reason for not having optimal resources.

            1. How Much Starbucks Are You Drinking, Anyway?*

              I invite all those people to tour my 600 sq ft apartment housing 2 adults and a dog and tell me where to keep a month’s worth of food, water and toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Good luck.

              1. Karia*

                After they tour your apt, I’d like to invite them to scrutinise my budget and illustrate to me where the heck I’m supposed to find the money for non essential supplies like that.

          2. nonegiven*

            Even if your 33% cut puts you at federal minimum wage for full time, that’s $600+. That is rent for a lot of people. 33% is about rule of thumb for what you should be spending for housing.

        17. Yorick*

          I think most people aren’t getting Starbucks in the morning anymore anyway? Are they even still open in most places?

          1. Commenter*

            Starbucks is consider essential in my state. Further, their lines are longer during the pandemic than previously (at least in my area).

        18. Yorick*

          Also, people probably need their cell phone data more than ever now. To the point that Verizon added extra data to people’s plan for free.

          1. The Original K.*

            Yes, that was a nice text to get! “Here’s more data. Don’t worry about it, it’s free and you don’t have to do anything.” Lovely.

        19. Observer*

          As others have noted, your “suggestions” say more about you than the posted question or questioner.

          However, to me the REAL “tell” that this is not an attempt to be helpful, but a put down, is your comment about taking public transportation. Your wording is contemptuous (please don’t insult our intelligence with some lame excuses). Worse, even if it were possible and it did save considerable money (not a given in many areas), it is a suggestion that any public health expert would ROUNDLY condemn. No one who has other reasonable and realistic options should be taking public transportation right now. A suggestion that puts both the OP and everyone around them at risk is NOT a sign of helpful intent.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            I agree, especially with the “contemptuous” part. That “advice” sounded to me like it came from the same place as the idea that people are only poor because they are “lazy” and don’t “work hard” enough and/or because they “waste” money on “foolish” things: classism. I can’t stand that attitude, and I have a low tolerance for those who espouse it. Very low, in fact.

          2. Karia*

            I mean… public transport works out more expensive where I am. The trains are more expensive than car journeys and the buses are cancelled, so it would be a 40 min walk to the train station.

        20. RussianInTexas*

          Before my partner and I moved in together, 33% pay cut for more than couple of months would mean me not making the rent. Starbucks, expensive data plan, or car note were already not in the picture. I am not sure where exactly the belt tightening would be coming from.

        21. Seeking Second Childhood*

          In many parts of this country, there is no way to take a body anywhere. I would have to walk 5 miles to get to a bus, and I’m within 10 miles of my state capital. I’m losing two weeks wages over these two months for a furlough: That is a belt tightener. It is somewhat offset by not driving 80 miles a day, making all our own meals, and not traveling 150 miles to meet the new family babies at Easter.
          For me now, 33% would mean no saving for retirement or the new roof (old roof is why i have a small mortgage). Right out of college, 33% would have meant moving home because I could not have covered health insurance AND rent.
          I’m beyond cranky at your comment.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            I live in the metro area of almost 7,000,000 people, and unless you live in few very specific areas of town, something like 4/5 of the city cannot take a bus anywhere. The buses here just don’t cover most of the places where people live.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Ditto for my metro area of about 1.5M people, US SE. There’s not a ton of places in the US where public transportation works for most people.

              1. RussianInTexas*

                None of my suburbs do, and out of almost 7,000,000 people only 2.5 million live in the actual city.

            2. WinStark*

              I’m in that same metro area (I believe from your statement and user name) and yeah, it would take me an hour and a half 2 trains and a bus to get to my place of work. and a lot of walking.

        22. GenX*

          AHAHAHAHA! This comment is *exactly* the meme going around that says, “I hate to say the boomers were right but I haven’t bought a fancy coffee or brunch for two weeks and now I can afford a three bed house.”


          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            This reminded me of something. I’m a Millennial who owns a modest home that I bought without help from family. Many people (almost always Boomers) who know this praise me on how my frugal lifestyle made it possible for me to buy a house. Honestly, though, that wasn’t it – I was able to make it happen because I was making good money and moved to a low cost-of-living area. Not having much of a social life for a few years and bringing my own coffee to work saved me a lot of money, sure, but not enough to make any real change in my standard of living.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              I totally would have been able to buy a modest home by now if I hadn’t had a kid (oh and guess what, she was a surprise miracle baby since I am supposed to be infertile!). So I guess I’m satisfying the Boomers one way while disappointing them in another.

              As a single woman with no college loans, I was able to save up a good nest egg…which was promptly eaten up when I got married, got pregnant, and had to pay deposits and moving fees and buy furniture and appliances and baby stuff shortly after paying for our wedding in full.

        23. Tinker*

          Funny thing:

          I’d managed to figure out a long time ago that save-a-penny tips are not a realistic solution for significant cash flow problems, but for a long time I did have the fantasy with regards to myself personally that if only I would hurgle burgle starbucks avocado surely I would be able to save lots more money, and I would plan to do this and then feel guilty when it did not materialize.

          Now, of course, in light of a little incident that’s received some news coverage, I don’t even know where an open Starbucks is and I haven’t started my car in two weeks. And it turns out — there is somewhat of a difference, but a) it’s not necessarily all that revolutionary b) a lot of why it works is because I am now 100% remote and almost the entire rest of my life is cancelled. If I had the choice — which, obviously, I currently don’t — I would definitely not be sitting in a dimly lit room all day and eating through various iterations on the theme of lentils.

          It really drives home the point that the point of spending money is getting something that is more useful or desirable than having the money.

          1. Karia*

            They *might* work in time limited situations, such as getting to the end of the month if you had an unexpected expense. When I was poor I did all the ‘right’ things for a long time and was baffled that it didn’t actually result in improved circumstances. The only thing that did was a higher paying job.

        24. Dagny*

          “But almost all of us could save a lot of money if we tried.”

          You’re talking more about yourself (and your friends) than the rest of us.

        25. James*

          Starbucks is what, $5/day? $25/week, or $1,300/year

          How much is a dataplan? Even if it’s $100/month, you’re talking $1,200/year. So $2,500. Unless you’re making $10,000/year, this isn’t going to cover this reduction.

          Selling the car is a luxury. Where I live there are no busses (I live on the town border; our neighbors are cows) and the stores are too far to walk to. The only option other than a car is Uber, which is more expensive. And before you say “Just move”, understand that 1) moving is expensive, and 2) housing costs in areas with busses are higher than housing costs in areas without busses, in general. The term for this is “penny wise, pound foolish”.

          Etc etc etc.

          The reality is that most of our money goes towards housing, Social Security (which is automatically deducted), and other essentials. Very few people live 33% below their means. A 33% pay cut isn’t cutting into luxuries, it’s putting you at risk of not having a roof over your head.

        26. Elizabeth West*

          Selling a car that you depend on to get to work, get groceries, etc. is not feasible for everyone. If the car is paid off and parking isn’t expensive (or it’s free), then it makes more economic sense to keep it.

          If the OP’s company ends up laying people off and she has to get a job elsewhere, a bus may not make sense. Bus routes in smaller cities are limited, and they often take too much time. I couldn’t ride the bus in my old city — the only routes available from my home would have put me there an hour-and-a-half past my start time.

          It’s very difficult to go without a car if you don’t live in a place with a robust public transit infrastructure. Which, by the way, probably isn’t a good option in the middle of a deadly pandemic!

          1. James*

            There’s also problems with transporting goods. If I lived alone I could probably carry all my groceries on a bus. With 3 kids? No way. Not unless I want to shop every single day–you know, between karate and homework, in time to make supper and feed the kids, while still having time to have them practice their reading before bed (play is a luxury like avocado toast, I suppose). And pretty much every financial advice writer agrees that minimizing shopping trips is the best way to save money, so shopping every day is likely to backfire.

          2. Dagny*

            Glad I’m not the only one confused by “sell your car.” If you want to save money on your car, have a friend teach you the basics of auto maintenance and learn how to spot reliable used cars for purchase.

        27. Cat*

          Uh no. Literally everyone knows that if their income drops they might have to cut expenses. They may have asked for ways to do so. But the concept of cutting expenses when your income dropped is not obscure or difficult to understand.

        28. Jean*

          Please tell me you’re kidding with this ridiculousness. It was a tone-deaf and idiotic question to ask. Especially since you’re not the one people are coming to for advice.

        29. Nina*

          Skipping Starbucks is fair, if a little mean, and kind of dumb because it assumes LW is doing something that a lot of people just plain aren’t anymore – Starbucks is expensive and many people don’t buy coffee!
          Skipping your phone plan/data package in a time when that’s likely your only way of communicating with friends and family is a bit of a weird thing to suggest.
          Taking public transport in close contact with a bunch of strangers during a pandemic is a stupid and dangerous thing to suggest.
          And yes, almost all people who have a full-time job and no dependents and no job uncertainty and no debt could definitely save a lot of money if they tried.
          Some people could only save more money than they are by… not eating? not using heat in their homes? skipping life-saving medications? The belt is already tighter for a lot of us than you seem to be insultingly suggesting.

      3. boop the first*

        Especially considering that in many cities, 50% of the paycheck alone goes to the shoddy housing they’re stuck in.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          It’s almost 75% of one paycheck. Daycare eats up half of the other one. *sigh*

    3. Justesq*

      Really? Just wow. I’m sure that never occurred to her.

      So many employees are taking hard hits and working for less than they agreed to because their employers didn’t have a safety net. It is more than reasonable for her to expect this pay cut to be temporary. Everyone needs to do their part to get through this, employers included.

    4. nonee*

      Honestly, this is an incredibly unkind response. I work for a company where there are 20% pay cuts across the board. Our partners earn in the hundreds of thousands, while our analysts earn a mere fraction of that. Sweeping pay cuts are grossly unfair, and disproportionately affect those who can least afford the loss.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I had the same reaction—this is incredibly well put. Most people cannot whether a 33% pay cut, no matter how economical or fiscally conservative they are. It is not helpful to OP to suggest that they are somehow responsible for, or capable of weathering, the economic devastation of an indefinite loss of 1/3 of your income.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I completely agree with you–planning for this is beyond what most people were able to do, and I am fortunate for the first time that I could weather a 33% pay cut. This is not so much for the OP directly, but this is the 3rd systemic downturn I’ve been through, and I know a lot of people here felt helpless before, but I hope this situation is a call to do things differently.

          We make personal and societal decisions like things like this will never happen, yet in my career of 20 years it has happened 3 times! You can’t easily reverse bad decisions in these times, because it’s not just you who’s having troubles, it’s everyone.

          Telling someone to cut minor expenses now is dumb and would not be effective, but when this passes, it’s worth thinking about what we’re going to change. The economic shocks are bigger now. Expect it. (I don’t care what side of the political spectrum you fall on, but you can make a decision that changes things. We may try to change things in opposite directions, but at least realize it’s time to make a different decision than you have personally or politically before.)

          I was hanging by a thread in 2001. I bought my shiny new first house with 5% down in April 2001. My industry collapsed a few months later due to Enron and 9/11. My company had 4 rounds of layoffs and my department went from ~45 to 5 over the next 2 years. I got lucky and kept my job. I still didn’t learn my lesson and my husband and I financed an RV and a brand new $37,000 car at the end of 2007-beginning of 2008 (because we deserved it, ha). Again, we were fortunate to not get caught in a layoff, etc. I’m not expecting 25 year olds with entry level jobs and student loans to be in the financial shape it’s taken me 20 years to get to, but we can all take steps to do better. It takes time and deliberate decisions to build financial security (and change the political environment), but don’t let the feeling of helplessness stay with you long-term. Today–stay alive. Long-term–make important changes.

      2. Rebecca*

        The company I work for announced pay cuts too, the highest percentages for the highest paid workers, and then in tiers down to $xxK per year. I fall under the lowest threshold, so my hourly rate wasn’t affected, so it wasn’t a set percent across the board.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          That’s a good way to do it. I’d feel a lot better about a 20% cut if my execs were taking a 30% one, and my new kids only 10%.

        2. Texan In Exile*

          We have a friend who is a partner in a major law firm. He said that his income will take a major hit this year but that the partners decided that they would keep all the employees, including associates, on at full salary.

          He was very sanguine about it. He can afford it, for one thing, but he also understands that that’s part of being an owner – you should be the one taking the hit.

          (We also have friends who own a small bakery. They have had to close it for now, but they are still paying the employees out of their other incomes from the husband’s day job.)

        3. Pennalynn Lott*

          My company cut all salaried employees’ pay below Director level by 6%. Director to CEO cut 12%. CEO and Board of Directors cut 50%, plus no STI (Short Term Incentive) bonuses for executives.

          Personally, I think that senior leadership (all of the c-suite plus Sr VPs) should have taken cuts of at least 20%, but I’ll take what I can get. And I’m grateful that the cuts allowed for only 5% of the employees to be laid off (with six months of their current health insurance paid in full).

      3. Chili*

        It’s unkind and untethered from reality. Most people aren’t spending 33% on frivolities they can just cut on a whim and most people are not being paid enough that a 30% cut is something that can be addressed with “belt-tightening.”

    5. Heidi*

      Without knowing what the salary was to begin with, or what expenses the OP might be responsible for, we can’t assume that such tightening is feasible. Regarding the OP’s question, though, I’m not convinced that a written reassurance as to the reinstatement of the original salary would be binding in any meaningful way. I mean, they can’t give you money they don’t have, which is presumably the reason they cut the salaries in the first place.

    6. Wintermute*

      Someone living well within the ideal recommended budget, no more than 30% of their income on rent, no unsecured consumer debt, etc. would still be hard-pressed to weather a reduction to 2/3rd pay for long. Taking my own budget, and on a good month I put several hundred dollars in savings so I’m hardly strained, it would mean important bills go unpaid. Even without a shred of credit card debt and my student loans on deferment I’d be reduced to dollars a day for groceries.

      1. TiffIf*


        To make the math simple–let’s assume that OP pre-salary cut, brings home $1000. They have a $300 a month mortgage/rent (30% of their income–“living within their means”). When your salary is cut by 33%, your monthly pay is suddenly $660 and now your mortgage/rent is nearly HALF your income.

    7. Caroline Bowman*

      What a brilliant suggestion! I’m sure OP5 has not had that cross their mind as yet, very good that you brought that idea up.

      33% pay cut is unsustainable for most people, kudos to OP5 that they will in fact be okay for a couple of months, when many would absolutely not be.

    8. MK*

      Have you considered how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to tighten your belt by 33% during a quarantine? Cutting your expenses by that much is not, as you unreallistically suggest downthread, about getting rid of a few luxuries (most of which you can’t access right now anyway); you have to make significant life changes, like moving into a cheaper place (or renting your house and moving into a cheap rental), selling your expensive car and getting a cheaper one, etc, which would be an almost impossible task right now.

    9. Oh No She Di'int*

      I basically agree with most of the comments here, so no need for me to pile on to the original commenter. However, when the lockdowns are over and life begins to creep back to normal, I sincerely hope we all remember what is being said here about the awful state of public transportation. Many people have always been forced to rely on these inadequate systems and still are right though the pandemic. And now they are forced to do so at great danger to themselves and often with reduced service due to low ridership. Many of these people are acting heroically every day and deserve tremendous respect for what they are undertaking.

  3. Lily*

    op1 – I currently work in and yeah as Alison said, it is an incredibly tough time to be in the industry. That being said, even though I graduated with a journalism degree I didn’t work in journalism right away, only my third job out of school was properly journalism (and my first one not at all, an admin) – so not going into journalism right after graduation does not mean that this is the end! If anything, what journalism looks like is going to change a lot over the next few years so I recommend joining some professional groups and keep trying! Good luck!

    1. AnnaBanana1*

      I’ve never worked in journalism and am based in the UK but I did finish my postgrad degree during the last crash and had a similar dilemma. My qualifications are also in a very competitive field – museums and heritage – and I had to take a job in admin and felt thoroughly depressed about it for a couple of years. However, in the end, I kept my hand in and managed to eventually move into my current role, which is more or less my dream job. Don’t give up hope, even if you have to take a pay the bills jobs in the meantime!

    2. Just wondering*

      Just wondering – why is journalism hit so hard right now? People are reading the news more than ever.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Print journalism is heavily dependent on the revenue from individual sales and subscriptions. If no one is buying your paper, you can’t afford to pay staff or print anything. Subscriptions and individual sales have been low to virtually non-existent for many publications for years. Online news sources also started charging because free views don’t convert into enough ad revenue to pay for the cost of running a news org.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Well, it’s more that the ad revenue has dropped precipitously; subscribers matter, but more because of how much papers can charge for ads than in how much money they bring in. Plus, there’s been a lot of consolidation in newspaper ownership over the years and a lot of those owners are greedy.

      2. Spearmint*

        Ad revenues have plummeted. This is partially because companies are spending less on advertising due to recession belt tightening, and partially because most advertisers don’t want their ads appearing next to pandemic-related stories (because it’s “too negative” and will supposedly create negative associations), even though most news is pandemic related.

        If you google around you’ll find many articles about this.

    3. JayNay*

      hey OP1, seconding this as a former journalist. Journalism is a tough profession. It’s a lot of hustle for not a lot of reward (freelance fees were shockingly low before this and I can’t imagine what they’re like now). I worked at multiple publications that went bankcrupt and fired all their staff while I was there, and I just got fed up with it at some point.
      You’re not failing by exploring other options, especially not right now.

      1. A*

        Yup. I’m hesitant to jump in since this is just anecdotal, but two of my close friends and one of my stepsisters worked in journalism. All had to fight tooth and nail to get in after the Great Recession. They all had success in their careers (although had to jump around publications a few times)… and every single one of them has move on to other careers. Between the shoddy job security, mediocre pay, and insane deadlines it wore them down. Now that I think of it, they all burned out around the same 5-6 year mark.

      2. booksbooksbooksmorebooks*

        Thirding this and adding another anecdote… I was one of only two people who got a full time journalism job offer in a 30-person class at one of the top jschools, and I was graduating years ago in a boom. OP sounds like they’re being a little tough on themselves and expecting a lot based on being brilliant in school, which believe me, I get. I juggled multiple contracts for years and it’s tougher now from what friends are saying. Be kind to yourself, OP! Good luck.

    4. 2 Cents*

      OP, I graduated in 2004 with a journalism degree and things were bleak then. I’m afraid they haven’t gotten any better (see, among the many examples, the NYT cutting down their copy editors). That said, I was gung-ho about journalism…until I realized I didn’t want to be working the copy desk until 11 p.m. every day. I now work in marketing and get to do my favorite things about journalism (writing, editing) without the incredibly low pay or long hours.

    5. JCKC*

      Hey, OP1 here. Thanks for sharing your experiences! I know recessions aren’t new and neither is journalism’s precarity, so it’s always good to hear from people who’ve made it work. Definitely not planning to give up!

    6. E*

      Totally agree. I studied journalism and worked in it for a few years out of college. When I lost my job due to cuts, it wasn’t sustainable. I jumped to marketing. It’s not the end of the world. To be honest, the work is easier and the reward is far greater (money, PTO, benefits, job security). I know it feels crummy to not follow the passion of journalism, but I’m now a great advocate for “selling out!”

    7. Is It Performance Art*

      One thing to remember, is that some journalists start their careers in a non-journalism industry and then become a journalist focusing on that industry/subject. And they are often better journalists because of that: they have hands-on experience which makes it easier to understand how that industry works. People who have started their careers in non-journalism fields also often have a network of contacts who know them and worked with them in that industry. Having worked in the field also means you can approach a topic knowing the basics of the subject, how it works (or is supposed to work), which is a strenght if you’re interviewing someone about it — you’ll be able to ask better questions. Just as an example, I started my career in biotech and one of the things during the pandemic I have noticed is that occasionally an article will summarize a scientific paper and misinterpret it. Journalists who have worked in the biological sciences are far less likely to make these sorts of mistakes.

  4. HA2*

    OP5 – Can’t a salary cut be used to file for unemployment? I don’t know the details or anything, but maybe someone else does?

    But yeah, I’d think of this as a half-layoff. I doubt you can get written assurances that you’ll get your salary back in a few months – and even if you did, if your industry is hard-hit they might just have to lay people off anyway.

    IMO there’s not much to do besides start job-hunting, save money when you can, and look into your state’s rules for unemployment assistance.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, there are occasionally letters on here where people’s employers are struggling financially and people ask if they should get something in writing about a salary increase or some future perk. I guess it can help to clarify that you understand what they’re promising, but I don’t think it guarantees they’re going to uphold that promise. If they don’t have the money, they’re not going to give you a salary bump just cause there’s an email from a couple months ago saying they will. Seems like a false sense of security in a lot of cases, esp so in highly uncertain times.

    2. Viette*

      Agreed. LW: my advice is, don’t show up with a contract for them to sign, but do tell your company you can’t survive on this decreased salary for long, and that if this goes on for some months, you’ll have to either get your original pay back or look for other work.

      That’s what they need to know, and it’s what’s true. You can’t compel them to pay you more, and very possibly they’ll never be *able* to pay you more; all you’ve got is your reaction to the situation.

      If the LW has reason to believe that the company will later refuse to pay them their original salary even if they *could*, well, getting it in writing may be helpful, but in that case they work for a very shady company and there probably isn’t a lot of trust there? More likely, the company’s doing this to try to avoid layoffs or folding entirely, and the LW will come off as short-sighted and missing the big picture to come to the company and say, “sign this document that you’ll change this pay cut back after 3 months.”

      1. Just J.*

        Seconding this. Personally, I would not say anything, OP. You are not the only one in the company facing a 33% pay cut; everyone is. Your company is doing what they can to keep you on payroll. Be glad you have not been laid off. And as a senior manager, if you approached my with a document like this, it would raise a very large red flag that you are being short-sighted and not understanding how business works.

        1. Anononon*

          Fully agreed. If OP wants to keep her job, now’s the time to keep your head down, do your best work, and make yourself as indispensable as possible.

          The industry I’m in has been immensely effected by the pandemic, despite our office’s full capability to work remote, due to lack of work, and I’m just doing whatever they tell me. We’ve already had one lay-off of about 25 percent of the company.

    3. Mookie*

      In California, anyway, as I understand it, the $25/25% rule must be met to be eligible for partial unemployment benefits, and that standard can be filled by a reduction of hours, wages, or both.

  5. Kate*

    Letter 1: I graduated with a journalism degree in the last market crash and know the struggle. PR could be a great stop-gap: you’ll be honing your writing, pitching will continue to sharpen your eye for stories and you’ll make a lot of useful press contacts who may be able to help you job search when the market recovers.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      And if not PR, an entry-level communications gig would also be a good starter job so OP can continue getting clips and a portfolio together. The comms people at my company work with journalists all the time (we don’t have PR folks), so it would also be a good way to continue networking in case someone’s news site/blog or trade magazine gets an opening down the line.


      2009 journalism grad who now develops proposal content for a living. Good luck!

    2. k*

      There’s been a lot of bad advice by people who are not

      I’m sure you were told this in j-school, but: It is possible to go from journalism to PR/advertising/sponcon/comms/whatever. It is generally much more difficult to go back. This isn’t a statement on all fields, but specific to journalism, as one having worked in PR is often seen as a conflict of interest, especially if you plan on covering the same subjects you did in a PR capacity. This goes double if you are a writer in a more public-facing job, and goes triple if you are writing about politics (especially now).

      So my advice here would be to find some source of freelance income that is not in the industry and preferably not bylined.

      1. k*

        Apologies, cut this off too soon — “people who are not specifically familiar with journalism.” (I am.)

      2. Mookie*

        The stigma indubitably exists, but you may agree that plenty of ‘working‘ journalists are regularly underemployed enough that communications, sponsored content/fluff, and technical gigs, mostly left off the cv and out of the portfolio, are a necessity.

        1. k*

          Of course I agree; I’m not saying it’s a bad decision, given the state of journalism over the last decade or two and especially now. It’s just a one-way decision, is all, in a way that career moves in other fields often aren’t.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            It could be a one way decision for many reasons, but it doesn’t have to be. People have gone back to journalism from corporate work (yes, it was hard to do).

            1. Working Hack*

              I also think there’s a distinction between early career and mid/late career to be had. In early career, taking a non-journalism job is sort of accepted as a combo wanting working experience, keeping an open mind about career paths, an unfavourable journalism job market and just having to pay bills.

              When it’s mid/late career, it’s usually prompted by something else. Usual one tends to be family/personal life stuff but others decide it’s not the profession for them. Sure, I think there are people who switch around this stage and then discover they can’t come back even though they really want to but I think there’s also a lot of people who don’t come back after this switch because they don’t want to (or would only want to if they could do it without the weekend work, the being on call at 11pm, the constant fearing your job is on the chopping block…).

      3. JCKC*

        OP1 here, and this is something that definitely crossed my mind. It’s not uncommon for people in my area of coverage to jump from PR/marketing into journalism, but coverage of said area has always felt significantly more interesting than working on the other side. I do hope that as journalism jobs dwindle, people will be more understanding of why someone would pivot from PR back into journalism!

    3. Abogado Avocado*

      OP #1: In my first professional life, I was a journalist and I loved it. There is no one true path into journalism, so until you find yours, know that your skills are useful in a multitude of jobs. Thanks to journalism, you know how to: (1) research, (2) write, and (3) craft compelling narratives — all in a very short time. I’m telling you: this skill set is rare (especially the writing part) and it will get you employed.

      Public relations/communications positions are, as others have mentioned, one lucrative option, but if you would prefer to do, rather than tell what others are doing, consider applying for: (1) policy positions with foundations, think tanks, or government; (2) mitigation specialist jobs with public defender offices and non-profits; (3) grant writing with nonprofits and government offices; and (4) paralegal positions. You can moonlight as a journalist in all these jobs. One of my best friends, who has won the highest awards in her branch of journalism multiple times, started as a paralegal and freelanced on the side.

      1. I Love Llamas*

        Abogado Avocado is providing great advice here. I graduated with a journalism degree but my career went a different path. However, the attributes AA describes above have been invaluable throughout my career. Keep writing and don’t fret if it isn’t for a journalistic publication. The more you write, the more you will hone your craft. Good luck!

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        This is really good advice, especially the grant writing suggestion.

      3. pamplemousse*

        This is good advice. I’m a journalist and I hire (or hired, in better times) for entry-level and close to entry-level positions. I’m much more interested in someone who is working outside journalism but is learning something that would be useful to them, and is freelancing on the side if possible. If you’ve worked as a paralegal, have clips from internships or student media, and are interested in covering courts? Huge bonus.

    4. BekaC*

      I would also consider focusing your journalism search on some more niche fields (such as education, since you mentioned an interest in it, or even more specific areas). If there’s an industry, issue, or sport/hobby you love, especially if it is an area that’s doing OK these days (e.g. baking rather than team sports) look into publications specific to that industry – they may not be advertising broadly on job boards, but may have roles available and may be an easier stepping stone in future than a role unrelated to journalism. Conversely, if you have a sense of where you want to focus as a journalist in future, can you get experience in that field to become more competitive? E.g., if you want to cover education, could you work in education to better understand the field?

      1. JCKC*

        Hey, OP1 here. I’ve thought a lot about this! Unfortunately, the area I cover has also been hit hard by coronavirus and event cancelations, so it’s not really a field that’s in a place to hire right now either. But it’s definitely something I keep an eye out for when I’m job searching, especially since a lot of my college coursework lines up with that field too. But on the first part of what you said, my interest in education definitely falls under there, and I’ve been bookmarking some opportunities in social justice too!

      2. anon for this*

        The trade press is a great place to start and can often be more resistant to recessions than general-interest media (which is not to say things are going great there, either, but it may take a bit longer for things to get really bad). I graduated from a fancy journalism school in 2009 and spent 3 years at trade publications. Not at all the road I expected to take, but I learned a TON and was able to make the jump back to general interest reporting as an expert on the business I’d covered. You may not think you want to work for Banking Industry Daily or Soybean Digest (made-up names), but you’ll learn so much and it’ll keep you in journalism.

        As a bonus, many trade jobs are in Washington or New York, which are kind of the base of the media industry these days too. Establish a Twitter presence, try to wrangle a gig doing some kind of ungated content when you can (newsletters, etc), and figure out the pipeline out — where do reporters from your publication go next? Politico hires reporters from the trades for its Pro sections, and hires from its Pro sections for its main, ungated content.

    5. Serin*

      Speaking as a former journalist: another option to consider is looking for your stopgap jobs (PR, marketing, event-planning, or other things that use journalism-adjacent skills) specifically in the field you’d like to be covering.

      That way, when you do get a chance to interview for journalism jobs, you can point to things you’ve learned and contacts you’ve made within [the law, politics, science, healthcare, local government, whatever] that will help you do a better job of covering it.

    6. Former reporter turned educator*

      Agreed that so many skills are transferable. I graduated with a journalism degree in 2008, which was another crappy time to be entering the workforce. I ended up applying for Teach For America and received an offer to teach middle school English (and ended up doing a journalism class for fun too!). I thought I’d go back to working at newspapers after my two-year commitment and the economy had settled down, but honestly I was hooked.

      While no longer teaching, I’ve been in education the past 12 years and if you’re into social justice, there is soooooo much racial inequity in education that you can work to change. Bonus – while states and schools are certainly being hit right now, generally their budgets stay steady even during a crisis so it’s a stable industry.

      And, I use those communication skills all the time! In fact was just on a call with our superintendent this morning where she was talking about how she needed my communication lens on a few projects (even though I’m not working in the comms department at all).

  6. NYWeasel*

    Re #3: Our company is encouraging people to “take vacation throughout the year” and reminding everyone that we can’t function if everyone waits until December to take their time off. The good thing is that we don’t need to worry about staffing bt Xmas and New Years, which is the most popular time to take off, but as for the rest of the time, I’m not really sure how to assess it. The likely answer will be first come, first served bc I’ve told my entire staff about the potential restrictions, and if someone is looking to take time off, they want an answer right away—not having a manager hold off for months on the chance that someone else wants the time too. But then if a bunch of people make plans and someone has an important need like “I just found out Grandma Sansa is dying and the family wants to get together for her birthday” I’d want to prioritize that request over Dave’s “long golfing weekend” that he happened to schedule the same week, but did it months in advance. And Dave probably would be flexible if he knew about it up front, but once his seven buddies clear their schedules and all the travel is booked, it suddenly isn’t so easy to change. I am interested in what a “good” policy will look like in this very strange year—especially when so many things are all getting rescheduled for the end of the year!

    1. staceyizme*

      It seems to me that companies are going to have to be extraordinarily accommodating, especially if vacation time doesn’t roll over to the next year at their organization. In fact, changing that policy so that it DOES roll over, if applicable, might ease the strain on all sides.

      1. Mme Defarge*

        we have been told that we can roll over unlimited days for up to 2 years – but also to take time if we need to have a break / be there for kids

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        In October we were purchased by another company with a “use it or lose it” policy (we used to be able to accrue up to 200 hours). We haven’t heard anything about if they’re planning on allowing us to roll anything over yet, but if they don’t make any changes I’m gonna be pissed. I don’t mind taking a day here and there while we’re stuck at home, but I’m not about to take full weeks of vacation when I’m stuck in my house.

        1. A*

          Same here. I’m not using my vaca now – I live alone and am single, heck working is the only thing keeping me from going batty!

          If they don’t make an exception and allow us to roll over, it’s just going to turn into a bottle neck nightmare for them when we do go back to the office. We also had issues with coverage in Dec before, now I’m expecting it’ll be an issue from Sept-Dec. Hopefully they’ll have the forethought not to do this, but if so I won’t feel bad in the least if it puts them in a bind.

    2. Wintermute*

      I would say a good policy needs to account for a few things:

      1) people aren’t wanting to use vacation right now because they don’t know if they will be unable to work for health reasons, I’m banking time I’d normally spend because I don’t want to take unpaid time if I end up hospitalized.

      2) once things get back to “reasonably normal” people are going to want to take that time off, and you might need to use a different system than normal to prioritize it, to prevent widespread dissatisfaction. If you’re not locked in by a union contract then you might need to ditch the seniority system and ensure everyone can get SOME days they want even if not all of them. Using a lottery system, rota system, ranked priority requests, or something else to ensure that no one is left unable to get a single day that’s important to them.

      3) Because people are holding on to time right now, consider removing rollover caps to reduce the pressure. Consider offering to work with employees that have non-time-bounded requests to be able to take more time next year (say, two weeks off in a row using rollover time rather than their usual week-long family vacation) rather than use it during peak demand periods.

      3) managers need to be very careful of the optics of their own time off in such a situation. Nothing kills morale like being told it’s all hands on deck for the peons over the holidays while all the managers are at home with their families (worked two places like this, anyone more than four or five steps up the org chart left the building while at the same time the grunts were working mandatory overtime)

      4) look realistically at your actual bare minimum staffing needs, actual customer volume and what’s feasible. Not “we can operate totally normal with no sacrifices” performance but “how much time off we can give without the results being a true disaster”. You might have to accept reduced customer service and impaired operations in the interest of allowing people to recover from this and feel normal again.

      5) Be very careful in lightly-staffed departments with mandatory coverage, where one person taking off means overtime from others, that the overtime requirements don’t become onerous. We’re in that position at work right now and have actually hired temps that can perform limited duties so that one person getting sick doesn’t mean 60-hour weeks for others (and to put us into a position where two people getting sick wouldn’t mean that coverage is literally impossible within state labor laws).

      6) Be aware of social pressure and avoid putting people in positions where they become resentful of their co-workers because time off is increasing their own workload, or they are feeling pressured into working overtime or coverage shifts they don’t want but feel pressured or bullied into taking. Perhaps instituting caps on how much coverage one person can provide so no one ends up bullied into covering vacations for others. Also be aware that if you allow exceptions to such a policy, people will be bullied into accepting or asking for an exception, it really has to be an absolute ‘we won’t allow it so no one feels pressured into it’.

      1. TechWorker*

        I have a slightly different spin on this coming from a company where a) there’s no real increase in workload due to coronavirus (strictly untrue, some folk are needing to take time off for childcare but we’d not committed to any dates for the next release yet so I can factor that in) and b) sick leave is totally separate to PTO. You would need to use I think 5/6 weeks of sick leave in a row before you hit any financial penalty for it and at that point you’d get paid 75%.

        The conclusion of this is the main reason to avoid taking time off now is to take it off later when you can be doing more interesting and exciting things than be stuck in your house… but if everyone does that at the same time there *will* be higher coverage pressures (/we’ll just have to say no to some pto requests) later in the year. Letting people roll over doesn’t necessarily solve that either it just spreads it out more… I’m nowhere near high up enough to control the policy about rollovers but I can see why companies would want to encourage people to take at least some of their leave.

        I would also be very surprised if we go from complete lockdown to ‘international travel and large gatherings fine’ all in one go though, so I’m hoping it can be spread out enough that everyone can take leave they can do nice things with.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      My company is considering allowing people to roll more PTO over into next year. Right now I think it’s 10 days, and they’re thinking of changing that to 20 days temporarily. I work at a bank and we can’t all be off at the same time, regardless of whether we’re in a branch or in the back office. December is normally a ghost town as it is and everyone saving time until then, more so than usual, would make for a potentially bad customer experience.

      As for my own department (back office), I plan to allow people to take as much time as they want this year with the caveat that they may not get all of it approved, as *someone* has to be here, but I’ll approve as much as I can. We can get away with having about 75% of our department out at the same time.

      1. Oh Snap*

        Yep, you can allow more rollovers (financial hit to the company when things are already fairly dire) but it just extends the pain.

        My H has to take half his time before July and I totally get it.

        I warned my team that everyone wouldn’t be able to take off at the end of the year. “Luckily” it won’t be an issue because many are having to use time now to cover childcare.

  7. Senor Montoya*

    Our immediate supervisors encouraged us to take all or part of previously requested vacation (as we prefer) for the same reason that they encouraged us to take vacation before the pandemic: because everybody needs time off to recharge. Very wise, and very humane.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Ours did the same. We all got an email saying that a lot of people had been trying to cancel their days, and encouraging us to take it anyway rather than everyone trying to use it all up in the second half of the year.

    2. Kitryan*

      I think that it’s sensible to think of things this way, it’s how I’d been considering it, however, what *might* be happening at my workplace is that we would get fewer days in the second half of the year. We get a generous amount of PTO but it’s all in one pot (no separate sick time) and only a percentage can be carried over into the next year, so I’m not excited about that possibility. Seems like there are better options to handle the potential glut of requests in the fall/winter.

  8. nnn*

    I want OP2’s workplace to hire a male admin just to see what would happen to their administrative professionals day plans!

    But on a more productive note, I really like Alison’s “It waters down the point of honoring their work” script. As I was reading the question, I was thinking that it would be tricky to express “I’m not an admin just because I’m a woman!” in a way that didn’t come across as suggesting that there’s something negative about being an admin. Alison threads that needle quite nicely.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      At an old company, the female admins got flowers and the male admin got champagne.

      1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

        Big side-eye to that company. I would very much prefer champagne, and I don’t think I am some sort of oddity!

    2. Mookie*

      Agreed about Alison’s wording. It’s a role worth properly celebrating in and of itself, not a disposable, all-sorts jumble equivalent of Ladiieeeezz Night. The assumption that women working in entirely different roles will invariably be jealous of the momentary, but well-deserved attention paid to other employees who happen to be women is not surprising, but very disheartening,

      1. HarperC*

        Oh, that’s a good point. There is an added level of sexism there that I hadn’t spotted.

      2. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

        Oooh, I had not seen it from that angle, that’s indeed disheartening! I interpreted it more as a “of course all women will want to socialize with all the other women”, just like when you are a foreigner and you are introduced to anyone from your same country, regardless of actual compatibility.

        1. Mookie*

          Y’know, that’s totally true. I belong to a regional, industry-specific social club that basically serves to connect women on every level and pay grade and it is a godsend. We’re a minority above entry-level. I’m entry-level and I definitely benefit, professionally and psychologically, from connecting with my white-collar equivalents. I just don’t want an employer or boss to be involved in organizing that colloquium, and especially not on employer-owned property nor while on the clock.

      3. Paulina*

        Yes, and sometimes it even comes from some of the women admins as well, the “it’s ok you can join us” as if grouping me in by gender is somehow doing me a favour. It’s inappropriate but I don’t want to insult anyone, especially people we’re trying to honour. Some variation on Alison’s wording is usually what I go for. And now that I’m in a leadership role in my unit, the stereotyping sadly doesn’t entirely stop, but I can take a bit more of a role in such events that emphasizes I am honouring our actual admins.

        For the occasional non-admin-professional “ladies lunch” that is still basically the admins, I am always busy. The few other women in my type of role don’t go either. Only time I went, I found I didn’t relate to the conversation that much and was very uncomfortable.

        1. Mookie*

          Fair play to you, and I get that. That camaraderie and shoulder-rubbing should be voluntary, off-site, and entirely divorced from how, when, and where management decide to honor a class of employees.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I was thinking the same thing. In fact I was thinking of using that as a response when OP is invited this time. “I’m assuming if we had a male admin you wouldn’t exclude him simply because he was a man right? Then why are you including me just because I’m a woman?”

  9. AppleStan*

    Alison (and everyone):

    I get the concept of not celebrating Admin Professional’s Day anymore, and I agree with a lot of the reasoning beyond that.

    My concern is…I’m not sure what else I can do.

    I work for a state government, and I am the top level manager for the admins in my department…meaning there are no other managers for them except the 4 levels above me (the 4th level is the governor). I’m only a year in, as far as management is concerned, and really have no political capitol.

    I try to find at least one genuine compliment every day, I learn about their work as much as possible (before I was promoted, I had no clue about the amount of work that they do), I try to do at last one thing from their job on a relatively consistent basis (maybe once a month) so that I sort of stay in touch with how time-consuming it is and how inefficient it is, and I develop plans and present them to the powers that be that get them more resources…but as with anything money related…anything I do now won’t show for a year or two when it’s approved in the next legislative budget.

    I bring coffee or snacks every once in a while (enough that it’s a treat and appreciated, but not so much that it’s an expected thing, because it is out of my pocket and not only can I not afford that, I understand all of the Alison & AAM Gallary proverbs and commentary about why that’s not a good idea to be done by managers but should be done by the business but again, I’m with a government agency so that’s not going to happen). I take an interest in their personal lives but try not to be overbearing (I’m actually interested, my problem is pulling back and having a good boundary…not trying to make sure I have enough info to feel like I’ve made an effort). I have an open door policy and I try very hard to consistently reinforce that they can come to me with anything while making sure that they are empowered to handle smaller problems individually, and training them to understand the difference between a smaller problem that should be handled by themselves at first and only escalated to me if they can’t resolve it, versus a problem that needs to definitely be brought to my attention from the jump. I work on their individual personal and professional development as much as I can while making sure I don’t favor one over the other.

    Although our Director’s Office/Legislative Budget/HR (it’s a different entity at any given time, or all of them at any given time) do everything to avoid overtime, and definitely discourage comp time, if it’s an hour or two, I just ‘let it go’ – I keep track and internally and ensure they make up the difference and if they can’t…they have to take the time.

    And I ensure through constant monitoring that no one…NO ONE…talks to them as if they are lesser because they are administrative assistants.

    But there’s just so little I can do to change their environment because we have to comply with the HR rules that affect the other 10,000 people in our department.

    And, of course, we are underpaid. Everyone is underpaid…I don’t mean just underpaid for the work that we do, I mean underpaid in the sense of, even if you take all of the monetary contributions that the state government uses for our salary (meaning I might get $20K in actual salary year, but the state contributes another $5K for “employer contributions for the year, so really, it’s $25K per year, as an example), our admin professionals are SEVERELY underpaid. They could EASILY in private practice earn 3 times as much with basic skills and 6 times as much with special skills….9 times as much if they’re truly exceptional (this is not an exaggeration…this has been proven over and over and over and over and over again).

    So aside from money…what can I do to keep quality people? What can I do to honor the people that are the backbone and the support of all that we do?

    So how can I encourage or keep people happy and keep them here?

    1. Alice*

      Definitely can’t fix all the problems, but I definitely see that you are coming up this with good intentions, which is a pleasure to hear.

      How about offering professional development opportunities? Funding the staff to take a few days off and paying for a well respected course in your area such as crucial conversations, etc.?

      Another possibility could be asking them (google docs survey, etc.), saying in lieu of professional recognition days, we are looking to celebrate the work of our employees differently. What kind of recognition would be of value to you? And then suggesting a few options (so that they have an idea of which price ranges are acceptable), and including the field for open ended suggestions and remarks… I am sure that many professionals in your workplace have thought about this day, and have many ideas of how they would like to be rewarded.

      1. AppleStan*

        There’s some really good opportunities here for professional development…there are some drawbacks.

        (1) If it’s any kind of training course available on LinkedIn, it’s free to our people. Our government encourages at least 1 hour per week “on the clock” to take one of those training courses, and I strongly encourage (repeatedly and consistently) everyone to take advantage. Put it on their calendar and it’s a do not disturb time. I also encourage them to pursue this training off the books (meaning outside of the regular work hours to advance their skillsets)…I try to explain and show why it works for them and benefits them enough to want to sacrifice their “free” time.

        (2) Google Doc Surveys are a great idea…if only to encourage anonymity. I mean, *I* feel like they feel like they can come to me one-on-one but there is always a possibility, a moment, that they may feel like they can’t…so I think having consistent, regular, Google Doc surveys give people an opportunity to anonymously express themselves. One of the main concerns is that even fully staffed, I would only have 8 people in this category working for me, and I have had, AT MOST, 4 at any given time, so I think a big concern is even anonymous answers don’t feel truly anonymous. But it’s a great alternative, so I am going to work on giving this a regular shot…at least over the next 2 quarters.

        (3) Anything costing money is going to come out of my pocket. There is no question on that. We had (for the first time) an “Administrative Professional’s Conference” (lasted 2 days) for all of the support staff from around the state, and while TPTB thought it was the best thing since Betty White, I have not heard a single administrative professional say something positive that wasn’t also part of the coordinating staff to that event. The biggest concern – they had to cover out-of-pocket child care (2 day conference means overnight stay), and for a lot of these people, I understand finding someone to cover your kid or kids overnight especially when one of those was a school night, REALLY just sucked. So anything that involves funding the staff is not going to work. I’m just saying…I’m all for funding personally if I could afford it. But if it’s not coming out of our pocket, and it’s costing money…it’s not happening.

        BUT….I buy each of them Alison’s book and encourage her blog (They get it within 1 week of being hired with our group – it’s a personal thing, because I *love* Alison’s book and I don’t think it ever hurts to have it). I try to consistently monitor on-site behaviors that might prohibit them from being seen as the professionals that they are, and I try to catch it in the moment, point it out in private, and explain why I’m doing this and why it would benefit it them that I point it out.

        Also, I manage attorneys and secretaries (meaning they are all direct reports to me)…And it’s like pulling teeth to get the attorneys to contribute $10 during the EOY holiday season and $10 on administrative professional’s day — but that’s an entirely different fight and entirely different thread.

    2. Aphrodite*

      What I think would be the most wonderful gift of all is to help them get promoted. Admin assistants have an incredible array of management skills that are overlooked because they are “just admin assistants.” What are they? Tact. Multi-tasking. Working well with a huge variety of personalities. Organization. Development and creation of solutions. Detail-oriented.. Never losing sight of the “big picture.” And much more.

      I mean that if management wants to get truly great managers in the middle and upper ranks they should look to their company or department admin assistants. Not all will be interested or have the ability to move up but many probably will and should be encouraged.

      Even on this site, one I considered enlightened, it is discouraging to see how “put down” admin assistants are. It’s usually not harsh, not intended to be hurtful, but I can’t help but notice how women who are other professionals (engineers, managers, etc.) sound when they write about their feelings when mistaken for admin assistants, or how men who are managers and CEOs rarely even give a thought to how much admin assistants know and do that are exactly suited to necessary management skills.

      This is definitely not a criticism of the OP for she deserves every respect for her position. But for me it highlighted how much we as a professional group, regardless of our positions, seem to unconsciously assume a mindset that, frankly, sets AAs on a lower professional level. If we need to start questioning our unconscious biases about race, gender, age, etc. I think it might not be a bad idea to include job title bias in that.

      1. Julia*

        This. I was an admin once (with a four year degree, thank you very much OP!) and translated and interpreted between three languages, juggled a bunch of immature coworkers and their conflicting needs, and was still treated like a complete idiot by a lot of people there, mostly the men (who could not function without their admins!) despite me bending over backwards to help out wherever I could. I was good enough to present important events (because I had the language skills), but not considered smart enough to actually be believed when I said something within my expertise.

        What I wanted was respect, more pay, and someone acknowledging how much I actually did.

      2. Admiral Thrawn is Still Blue*

        Yep. I’m a long time admin not currently working as one, and I did notice the OP’s insistence on their “four year degree”. Want to know how many other admins I’ve worked with who had a four year degree, and often experience in other fields too? I’m trying not to be offended, I understand they are trying to make a valid point, but yeah, your view of yourself as better than admins is definitely there.

        1. Nibsey*

          Agreed. I’m an admin in a university and it’s standard for admins to have at least a 4 year degree and many have Phds using those transferable skills!

      3. Elizabeth West*

        OMG yes! Or not even necessarily promoted into management, but into something else they may want to do. I’ve been trying to make a lateral move for ages but no one takes me seriously.

        It is EXTREMELY HARD to get out of the admin pool once you’re in it. We often have degrees, and we have scads of transferable skills, but those get dismissed because everyone sees us as the office equivalent of McDonald’s employees.

      4. knead me seymour*

        Yeah, I think it makes a lot of sense to establish an admin to management track–there are tons of management skills that seem a lot more suited to an experienced admin assistant than someone who happens to be working in the same department but may have no management-adjacent skills or experience whatsoever. This seems like common sense to me, and I suspect the patriarchy is largely to blame for why it’s not a more common practice.

    3. Allonge*

      OK, I am not Alison but from my side at least (a lot of years in public sector): on one hand, there is nothing you can do to stop people from leaving if they want to – for the money I mean. If that is your goal, you will never succeed.

      On the other hand though, plenty of people like stability, public service and everything that comes with it more than enough to stay there. None of my reasonable colleagues ever expected their bosses to change the overall system – it is what it is and people stay because there is stuff they like.

      (For this, a lot of the AAM commentariat has a tendency to expect managers to get almost anything done, otherwise they are Bad Managers. Don’t take this on 100% – it’s irrealistic. Smart people know where they work and will understand how budgeting etc. works for you.)

      It’s great that you try to understand your admins’ jobs and have an open door. That (again, in my limited experience) is what keeps people in a job, a lot of the time – being listened to, even if there is no way for an immediate change.

      Personally, I am very sceptical of the ‘once a day compliments’ method, but it may well work for you and your team – don’t break anything doing this, is my advice. Find genuine times to validate your staff, and do this fairly frequently. Awesome.

      Everything else is just the loose glitter of some parties. Some people like it, some are meh, plenty hate them, and there is always some clean-up. I am fairly sure no good employee stays at a place just because they get snacks from the boss or because admin’s day is celebrated. So don’t get hung up on these.

      1. AppleStan*

        My people will ALWAYS leave for more money….because there are NO promotional opportunities within our office in order for people to earn more money or have more immediate professional opportunities.

        And honestly…one of the reasons I encourage people to study so much is BECAUSE they can then go to promotional opportunities that are exceptional…not just “Ooh, I can earn $100 more per year.”

        But I appreciate what you are saying about the “only celebrate one day per year” — we should be going away from any celebrations based upon specific titles or positions….

      2. Chocolate Teapot*

        I belong to an association of Management Assistants and every year there is a conference and a training day in different countries. The conference includes pertinent training and seminars targeted at Assistants, and every year at an old job, I asked if the company could contribute so I could attend. And every year “Well it looks like it could be helpful, but we don’t have any budget for assistants.”

        Since the conference, accommodation and other events (there would be dinners and cocktail parties) could cost at least EUR 1000 and it all had to be paid upfront*, it made it difficult. One year, I managed to get some paid overtime, and specifically stating I was using it to pay for the conference.

        *I once asked if they would consider letting attendees pay in instalments, and they said no, and reiterated the company should be funding this. Admittedly there were some high-ranking PAs/EAs whose companies would pick up the tab, but they were in the minority,

        1. AppleStan*

          OMG, that is SOOOO sh*tty. Because if you have not been an Admin Asst before, you don’t understand how professional of a job that is. So how they are treating that training is just crappy as all get out.

          I have been a secretary/administrative assistant before, but it’s been 20+ years, and so while I can appreciate the absolute basics, I can’t always immediately grasp the skill set for administrative professionals NOW versus even 5 years ago.

          It’s not easy….I mean…if you all disappeared tomorrow…this world simply would not run. I think people tend to think “Anyone can take a phone call.” And I’m sure anyone could take a phone call…as long as you only wanted a recorded message, with no actual thought as to where that message should truly be routed or how to best address that message or how to calm down the person on the phone who is acting like they are no longer to access water anywhere on this earth for 30 years and only the person answering the phone can fix the problem.

          Much like anything else on this earth….I think people operating for 6 months to a year in a customer service position should be the only ones talking about those job duties, and REWARDING those job duties.

          1. Sue*

            Yes, I also have a bachelor’s degree and 30 years experience. I am an executive assistant and make more than many others at work.

            1. cmcinnyc*

              Yeah, and it *kills* the Ivy League grads that I make more than they do–but they cannot do my job, and somebody absolutely has to. The actually smart ones figure out what I do and how I can help them and use me as they should. The ones who just think they’re smart talk down to me, weep over my salary, and never ask me the relevant questions that would help me help them.

          2. A*

            Yup. I’ve never been an EA, specifically because I was a low level admin for a few weeks before my temp contract was bought out and I was moved into a higher level roll unrelated to admin…. but even though it was a short time, it was long enough for me to know it did not play to my strengths (have I mentioned I hate being on the phone, coordinating with multiple people?).

            Flash forward to my next employer, we go through 20% headcount reduction and the VP of my dept announces that his/the dept’s EA was going to be cut because he felt he could absorb those responsibilities. Attempts were made to convince him otherwise, didn’t work. She got laid off….. we lasted 1 1/5 weeks. Literally 7 business days, and we had crashed our trip planner site, missed invoices, and our VP was on the verge of breakdown.

            We hired her back, at a much, MUCH higher salary. She had them over a barrel and it was AWESOME. She’s still there, even though most of the other positions have turned over – and she’s now at double the salary she had been previously. It makes me happy everytime I think about it : )

          3. How Much Starbucks Are You Drinking, Anyway?*

            I am the first point of contact for our clients. Our clients are powerful executives who expect to get what they want when they want it. My job is largely to tell them no, and make them happy about it. (“I need to speak to partner NOW. RIGHT NOW. I am his most important client. NOW.” I need to calm down that level of raging entitlement.) And I do it every day. Our managing partner makes new associates sit next to me and listen to me for an entire day because our area of the law involves a lot of “Um, no, you can’t do that. Because it’s illegal. Yes, the Securities and Exchange Commission does care what’s illegal.” But you can’t say it that way. You need to say “no” in a way that sounds like a “yes” and convince clients that they wanted to do it the legal way all along.

            So, yeah, a drunk toddler can pick up a phone, but only a special few can deal with clients day in and day out without losing valuable clients.

        2. Allonge*

          Oh man… that is terrible. Especially as in a reasonable company, they would say ok, we did not budget for this this year, but I will put it on next year’s planning (or whatever). I assume non-admins got to go to similar professional trainings? People, seriously?

    4. Asenath*

      I worked very happily as an admin. Our salaries were fixed – well, we got increments annually, but there was no leeway for easily changing the amounts. There were decent benefits which rewarded stability, generous flex time, generally courteous behaviour, and, unusually, the opportunity to travel for professional development meetings, all expenses paid. On the very rare occasion that there was a reason to lobby the Powers that Be for a salary increase, our managers supported us whole-heartedly. There was almost no recognition of admin professionals day (I think some individuals sometimes gave flowers to the admin they worked with most) and nothing like snacks and lunches except what we organized among ourselves. We also had a lot of independence – no micromanaging; we generally organized our work ourselves. There was very little turnover.

    5. Mookie*

      Perhaps it would help if you don’t approach this as a special burden you and you alone must bear. Employees of all description are worthy of due respect, acknowledgement, and support. One compliment per day sounds, frankly, like patronizing overkill, the kind of blanket rule very youthful pre-school instructors adopt because they anticipate their charges being needy and mercurial.

      Everything else you describe is more or less what all conscientious, if finicky managers do. I don’t see this being unique to admins and making it so, again, seems like an over-correction that feels essentialist and gendered. The notion that you alone must protect them from benevolent sexism and that your success rate is one hundred-percent is well-intentioned, but incredibly naive and, of course, wrong; I assure you, adults in the working world know how to navigate the assorted bigotries they face, you alone cannot solve this problem because it institutional and cultural and exists beyond both your powers and perception, and performing anti-sexism at them is probably very exhausting for all parties.

      Your best bet is to do everything that you can to support them performing their core functions, and not represent yourself in lofty, above-pay-grade terms as confessor, counselor, or protector. I can assure you that if reporting minor snafus or asking for some specific, limited, management-appropriate intervention elicited an extended hand-hold or Very Special PSA on the subject of empowerment and cookies in the workplace, I’d avoid you like the plague. The emphasis on equal treatment and making sure no one feels more special than anyone else is just, frankly, infantilizing. I notice you never actually state that everyone under
      you is a woman, but it’s worth considering how readily you communicate that fact through gendered language and assumptions, where everyone under you is dainty and fragile, rather than just another person showing up to work and doing it well and without issue.

      I don’t mean this to be cruel, but if you actually evinced this attitude and pose as my manager, you’d drive me away quite quickly. No one expects you to solve patriarchy because, simply put, you don’t have that power. Regretting that lack of power, on your part, is, in fact, very disruptive and self-centered. Collective social ills require collective solutions, not treats and coaching, forgive me, from a layperson whose only qualifications appear to be a managerial position. That’s why said ills are so pernicious, because well-meaning people can’t quickly solve them with untrained gumption and concern.

      Your questions, on the other foot, are universal, and not particular to women-as-admins at all. Who constitutes “support” in an industry varies but, yeah, they’re generally underappreciated and underpaid. My recommendation to you would be to establish a relationship under a more experienced peer and begin to understand that while your concerns are valid and interesting, your primary role should be responding directly to what those under you actually ask of you and advocacy of a very efficient sort. Something tells me money out of your pocket and counseling them on the intersections of their professional and personal lives(!!!) are not favors actually being solicited but, more importantly, are totally inappropriate and unsustainable.

      1. Mookie*

        In a role that often functions as the professional equivalent of Emotional Laborer and Household Manager, this is just… a lot of your own sociological baggage these employees are being saddled with. Again, effective managers are good at “stage management,” keeping a lot of prep work, negotiation, hustling, acquisition, design, and scheduling off-stage and out of the headspace of one’s actors. It’s nice to remind them that there are better roles on the horizon, and that these are there for the taking. It’s also useful to take a hard, critical eye towards your own capacities, skills, and strengths, and not assume everyone is as green as you, nor is the average well-heeled, experienced, public sector admin blind to better, private opportunities beyond an “extra $100 more per year,” which no adult, however far down the ladder of middle class respectability, is dazzled or distracted by.

        Since you have tread the boards yourself, would you appreciate or get anything meaningful out of filling out these surveys, for example, this frequently? Or would it feel like busy work designed to assuage a new manager’s self doubt?

        1. Mookie*

          Older, more experienced people in the workplace don’t often have the time, patience, or interest in indulging in a relatively powerless middle-manager’s quest for personal improvement and optimization.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Wow. I’m not sure AppleStan’s question really necessitated a multi-part lecture on their failings in response. This sentence – “Your best bet is to do everything that you can to support them performing their core functions” – is good, but I’m honestly unsure what other constructive advice is buried in these comments.

            And I didn’t read their comment as an assumption that they can somehow solve patriarchy. I think they’re trying to be proactive in dealing with the very, very common issue of admins being undervalued.

            1. How Much Starbucks Are You Drinking, Anyway?*

              I am an admin and the original comment made me cringe. One compliment a day? I’d notice and feel condescended to. Doing one of my functions monthly for no reason but to remember how difficult my job is? Just let me do it, I know what my job is.

              Treat me like you treat other professionals, because I am one. That’s all I ask. No need to enact some upper management version of the White Man’s Burden on my admin life.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                Sure, I get that. I used to be an admin and I wouldn’t have been a big fan of the ‘one compliment a day’ thing either. I just think their comment is clearly well-meant and not deserving of three entire comments of purple prose explaining why they’re terrible.

        2. Malarkey01*

          This might read a little harsh, but I agree with you that the PP came across very patronizing and despite trying to do their best, is actually treating the admins like lesser thans that require very delicate handling. Ensuring people have the resources they need, respecting them as adults, keeping the goofball stuff off their desk as much as possible, and providing opportunities for development are great. However PP seems to be taking their special interest in their admins to the extreme.

      2. WellRed*

        +1. No need to assume you must bend over backward simply because they are admins. I think you must think admin is a demeaning (or boring or unrewarding or whatever) job and therefore you Must. Make. Better. for these poor women. stop it. I cringed reading the whole comment (compliment a day).

      3. Slutty Toes*

        I’m not sure I follow. This doesn’t seem to be a good-faith reading of AppleStan’s post and I’m not sure how biting the commenter is supposed to be helpful.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I agree. I can’t seem to find much actual advice in there once you dig through the synonyms and unneccesarily personal jabs.

    6. anon admin*

      I have been in admin work for almost 10 years. Right now I work for a non-profit and in a field with notorious low salary for the amazing work they do. I know a raise isn’t in my future for a while. I am ok with that, because despite the pay I have an amazing boss, fantastic benefits and a great time. Last year everyone got my flowers. The people that got me flowers don’t control my pay. But I do support them on a daily basis. So it was a nice way to get a thank you. Frankly flowers are better than nothing. I know a lot of people find the day demeaning but personally I would rather have flowers than no acknowledgement at all.

      1. anon admin*

        Also AppleStan the fact you are concerned and do what you are mentioning above helps a ton. The people I support, and my boss always say thanks. Ask me how I am, try to make my life easier and I really appreciate it. Since I work for a non-profit, even my boss has little say in a raise. Honestly I am ok AA day. But I also respect those who don’t appreciate it and feel taken advantage of as an admin on a daily basis, bc I have been there!

    7. Blueberry*

      TBH, a boss I feel I can talk to and who knows my work is worthwhile is worth their weight in gold. I don’t think you should err on the side of being too protective or paternalistic, as others in this thread have described at instructive length, but I wanted to commend you for caring about this and thinking about it.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ll be honest. You can’t keep them longer than they’re willing to stay for such dirt wages.

      But you can make their time there as nice as possible. Be a good supervisor, everything you’re doing right now shows you care and you’re committed to taking care of them the best you can. That’s HUGE. That will earn you a few more years here and there while people are gaining experience and getting nibbles on their lines they’re casting out to move on.

      Continue to understand why they’re going to move on.

      I have positions that are simply a stepping stone and we don’t have a next step here. So honestly, once someone peaks, we expect them to leave at some point. We’re a good employer, we let them know they’re awesome and that we want them to succeed. We let them know that we know they may not be able to succeed to their fullest with us but we will give them references or help them out any way we can in that regard.

      Let them go. Don’t try to hold them back from their earning potential.

      The longer they spin out with you at that low pay grade, the longer they waste their opportunities to thrive somewhere else.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        This is excellent advice.

        To add to it, the more publicly and consistently reasonable you are about people moving on, the more notice you’ll get from each employee as they leave. If you can make the “leveling up” to a new job somewhere else a celebration rather than a betrayal, the other employees will let you know much earlier in the process when they might leave, and be more likely to give you the warning you need for a solid transition.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Respect their expertise. Ask their input and follow suggestions. Refer to them as the experts when talking with co-workers. Include them as part of the team when project teams get recognition.
      Give them formal project-management roles and training.
      Shut down anyone who speaks down to them or refers to them as ‘the girls.’

    10. government worker*

      One thing you can do is work for them within the parameters of your government structure.

      For example, in the government I work for, performance reviews are gold. So something my manager can do to support me is write me the most positive performance reviews possible.

      Also, does your government have periodic classification reviews, where they try to objectively analyze positions’ work descriptions to figure out if they’re getting paid the right amount? If so, you could do good by mentioning every single duty your admins carry out in their performance review. Then they have documented evidence of the many duties these admins do that may not be in their existing work description.

      Basically, despite every government’s attempts to make things objective, there’s almost always a game to be played. To support your admins, you can play the game in their favour.

  10. Reluctant Manager*

    LW1: Consider looking for work in a field you would like to write about. There’s something to be said for PR or technical writing, but if you would love to write about the widget industry, consider getting professional experience in it. William Cohan went to work in finance after he couldn’t get a job in journalism right out of college, and he’s now written several nonfiction accounts of Wall Street. Want to be interesting to possible employers? Be interested in something.

    1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      Seconded! Came here to say this. Going outside the writing field (and even going outside the white collar work world) can give you story ideas that other journalists won’t think of, and a well of “insider” industry knowledge, AND the ability to build rapport with sources years later, after you’ve left.

      I know it can feel like making a “wrong” turn now will close off the future you want, but that doesn’t have to be so. What you do the first year or so out of college is far from crucial, so long as you do something.

      Also, if your area is training people in contact tracing for coronavirus, consider signing up for that. It will teach you about interviewing, cold calling, and relationship building, and it’s contributing to the greater good to boot. I’d be impressed to see that on a resume if I were hiring a new reporter.

    2. Nobody Special*

      If you can find another internship, perhaps with some pay, that might be part of your career ladder in journalism, in any case, covid or not. A relative who went to a top school had to do this despite having a couple of quite famous journalists who had mentored her and provided support, contacts and references. She was not alone. Getting the right internships was quite competetive too. It was a shrinking field already.

    3. OtterB*

      I came here to say this. You mentioned education and academia as other things that interest you. I work for a higher-ed related association and sometimes interact with journalists who specialize in higher ed (I do data stuff that means they are sometimes interested in my results.). Our communications person writes a lot for our monthly newsletter and also connects with outside journalists. Possibly something like that would give you clips plus also let you develop some specialist content knowledge. Also, think of other skills you could be developing in the workplace. I think of data visualization because of what I do, but I’m sure there are other things that would be valuable in journalism as well – social media, maybe? Good luck with it.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        As someone who used to work in higher ed and did data stuff, your job sounds pretty interesting!

        OP, this is a good example of one of the types of often-overlooked areas where journalism grads can be very useful – trade associations! Now that I think about it, a handful of my journalism major friends who graduated during the last recession ended up working for trade publications, often in really niche areas. That work gave them the advantage of having steady employment and getting bylines.

  11. A career admin*

    LW 2, I find your statements about the admins disrespectful. It is valid to feel patronized over what your company is doing. It is completely fine to be upset about the sexism and the way the company is handling this. It is insensitive to you. But what is not fine is your attitude towards the admin staff. I’m an admin, and I have a four year degree like you and over 25 years of experience at my job. You aren’t “above” the admins because of your degree or other experience/qualifications. It’s fine that you’re annoyed with the company, but being annoyed because you have a degree and experience is a poor attitude to have. That statement really rubbed me the wrong way. It reads like: “Well I have a degree and all this experience, how dare they lump me in with the admins”. Complain all you want about them lumping you in because you are a woman, but don’t complain because of your degree and the other stuff. It is rude and disrespectful to the admins.

    1. Zona the Great*

      It’s a tough thing to articulate without sounding disrespectful to admins. I think the outrage has much much more to do with gender than the role. There could be a union meeting of plumbers in a large hall. A woman could be seated in a row in the middle dressed the same as her male peers and wearing a tool belt. She could be surrounded by men and a delivery person (of any gender) would still walk up to her and ask her to sign for a package. This plumber went through years of apprenticeship and journeying. That’s the outrage.

      1. Also an Elizabeth*

        ‘I’m an estimator/engineer/account/other job, so my job does not fall under the admin category.’

        I just articulated it in one sentence in under a minute. It wasn’t tough or difficult at all. OP was disrespectful as A career admin said.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This is overly nitpicky. People will not always choose their words perfectly or to everyone’s precise satisfaction. I ask that you give LWs the benefit of the doubt.

    2. Energizer Bunny*

      +1. I was surprised the letter was published, at least without a mention of that awful comment by OP in the response. I currently work as an executive assistant and I was a bit miffed when i read that. I know the practice here is to be kind and constructive (which I am glad for) but OP is so far off the mark in this case.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The awful comment being the mention that she has a 4-year degree? I’d ask that you take that in the context of the larger point she’s clearly making in that paragraph.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I didn’t read it that way at all. I thought she mentioned the degree and her experience to indicate that she is qualified for the job she is in and that there is nothing about her position that could reasonably make people think she works in admin when she doesn’t.
      It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being an admin but when you aren’t one and your colleagues treat you (but not your male peers) as if you are one it means that your opportunities and visibility is reduced, with knock on effects for your careeer.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It seems clear to me that, given the rest of the paragraph in which that’s mentioned, she’s making the point that she’s clearly not an admin — this isn’t someone who’s in a role that could plausibly be mistaken for or lumped in with admin work. It’s not that admin work is demeaning and she’s not saying she’s above it; it’s that it’s demeaning when someone assumes you’re in a support role simply because you’re a woman. It’s not disrespectful to point that out.

      In any case, it’s been called out that it rubbed some readers the wrong way and I don’t want to detail on it, so let’s leave it here.

    5. Grbtw*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt this way. Also an admin with over 10 years experience and while I’ve had to put up with plenty of sexism from male coworkers and bosses, it’s the “professional women” I’ve worked for who have been truly abusive and degrading to me and my skill set.

      I’m currently working hard in school to get away from this profession, I’m burned out by the low wages and lack of professional respect. My current job is great, but the burnout isn’t going away. No matter where I end up, I will never treat admins as anything other than the hard working professionals they are, it takes very specific skills to be good at this job, we have value, if we all quit tomorrow, I don’t think our bosses and coworkers could manage, lol, it’s a bit of a revenge fantasy I have.

    6. I Heart JavaScript*

      Oooo this is tough. That comment from the OP is problematic, but I understand where she’s coming from here.

      I’m a software engineer, but before I changed careers, I was an Executive Assistant in finance. I worked my way up through the ranks and saw how weird the dynamics could be, in so many glorious variations.

      So, on the one hand, I was an EA with years of experience, supporting a department head and firm partner. I had a 4 year degree from one of the best universities in the world and was regularly responsible for not only the standard EA stuff (travel, calendars, organizing my bosses’ lives, generally keeping the team afloat), but also tasks that regularly fell on other teams’ junior associates. If someone had called me “just an admin”, my boss would’ve ripped them a new one, both for the disrespect to me and to devaluing of what I did for him and the team.

      On the other hand, not every (or even most) admins were that well respected. Some weren’t cut out for the role — they seemed like they feel into this career for lack of other ambitions. Some were lazy — when they were on their game, they were excellent, but they’d gotten so jaded over the years that they just didn’t care at all. Some were just stupid — no judgement and impossible to train in anything more complicated than answering a phone.

      The thing was, it was super hard to hire top-notch admins. We paid 6 figures for our EAs (less for the AAs and other more junior staff), but we were in a competitive market and so we got by with the best we could find. This meant that admins were largely held apart from the “professional staff” (and boy do I hate that they used the word “professional” to differentiate between us and the rest of the office), with rare exceptions like me and my team.

      Having been on both sides, I can understand why the OP framed the comment she did in the way she did. Is it insulting to professional admins? Yes, it is. Is it likely that this bias is the result of years of inconsistent quality in the admin staff that she interacts with? Also yes.

      When you get such variation in quality, experience, education, and competence all lumped under the same general title, it’s really easy to start thinking that anyone can do it, regardless of qualifications and experience, even though those of us who’ve done the job know that just anyone can’t do it and doing it well is actually super hard. Also, when we do our job well, we’re basically invisible and when we do it poorly, it’s super obvious. When you combine all that with the inherent devaluing of “women’s work” in our society, you end up where we are here.

      So, this is a long-winded way of saying that I get why she said what she said. Do I like it? No. But it’s also the sort of thing I might have said, had I never done the job myself and seen everything that goes on behind the scenes.

  12. Tram*

    No. 3 — I wonder if part of the issue is the fact that you are all essential workers who are, as the OP says, pretty much working every day right now. There is (if there isn’t already) going to be burnout under these circumstances, and whenever and however the first relief from this comes, there probably will be everyone desperate for time off ASAP. I’m not defending the way the employer is handling this at all. It’s likely a concern at many places employing essential workers who can’t take a breather right now. It would have been better to maybe not phrase it even the way they did — but I doubt the employer means to be like “now is the time to make holiday plans and booking hotels and flights so much as “now is the time for everyone to secure in our scheduling systen that first real break whenever it finally comes.” That’s the most generous interpretation.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yeah, I’m wondering if that’s what the company meant but someone worded the request to the staff badly and it came across as pushing people to make holiday plans.

    2. drivesmenuts*

      OP#3 here! Yes, we are essential workers who are working every day. Most people cancelled any PTO they had planned as soon as our state shut everything down. No one wants to take a vacation right now because we don’t know if/when we’ll get sick and if we will need that paid leave in order to take care of ourselves or family members. Our company is excluded from the federal COVID paid sick laws. We might be able to qualify for some state paid sick leave but that requires testing positive for the virus and our county does not currently test anyone. Same with FMLA. So everyone is saving their precious PTO for using when they are sick. We do get a few days of sick leave but it doesn’t even cover the mandated 14 days of quarantine if you are experiencing symptoms. Our vacation time will have to make up the difference, hence the hesitation to use any of it.

  13. Purple Rain*

    Re: OP#2
    “Rather than feel included, the annual invitation makes me feel somewhat insulted. I have a four-year degree and 20+ years of professional experience. I work in creative services, perform various tech and software functions, and wear other hats as needed. I am proud of my work and my accomplishments, but being lumped in just because I’m also a woman makes me feel minimized.”

    I also have a four-year degree, part of a master’s degree, and 20+ years of professional experience. I wear many hats and do a lot more outside the scope of my job title as well. For the record, I don’t like the idea of celebrating “admin day” either as I just want the regular recognition for doing my job, and I know what you are saying, but can you please find a more respectful way to do it to those of us in the “admin” positions? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with someone who wants to get back in the workforce or make a career change and they casually say, “oh, I’ll just go get a job like yours at Local University” where I’m employed. Nope. My job title is Executive Assistant for which you must have a four year degree, a very specialized skill set and years of experience to even be considered for a position.

    1. Kay*

      I completely agree with you. I have worked in administration jobs my whole working life and I have been an EA for six years now. I have never once felt like I’m not respected in real life (perhaps I have just been fortunate), it’s only happened when reading some of the comments here.

      1. Your friendly neighborhood AA*

        Any sexism or ill treatment I have faced while being an Assistant has come from female colleagues who are not Assistants or Receptionists themselves. I have never been ill treated by any of my male colleagues. I love being an Assistant even though many don’t see it as an ‘important’ or ‘worthwhile’ profession.

    2. Allonge*

      I don’t think the OP was talking down to admins (I respect it may feel like that to you). There are plenty of organisations where an administrative job does NOT require any degree at all, and so it is a way to make the point that people should not be mixing her with a group of admins. This to me says nothing on the level of respect or professionalism that needs to be accorded to any group of workers.

      1. Phony Genius*

        I’d like to expand on this. If you are assumed to be part of Group X, but you are not, I don’t see how it’s possible to correct the record and point this out without it Group X hearing that you think you’re at least a little better than them. The Seinfeld phrase “not that there’s anything wrong with that” comes to mind, but there’s no way to make it sound sincere. It’s a no-win situation for #2.

        1. OP#2*

          OP here. Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt – indeed I was not trying to disrespect anyone. In fact, when I reread my question I saw my apparent unconscious bias and knew I’d be fileted in the comments. Mea culpa.

          Allonge, you are correct – our organization does not require degrees of our admins. (To my knowledge, only one has a 4-year degree – and it’s not the lone EA.)

          1. Blueberry*

            I was writing my comment while you were posting yours, and I appreciate the clarification. One of the things about an administrative assistant career track is that one can come to it from many different routes — I’m another one of those admins whose degree is in an entirely unrelated field.

            You are not an admin — you have deliberately built a different career in a different field — and it is absolutely sexist for anyone to assume you’re an admin because you’re a woman. As another woman I’m pissed off on your behalf, if it helps. But I think some of us bristled because… it isn’t the fault of the career path that people are trying to erroneously assign you to it, if that makes sense?

            You are absolutely right to want recognition of actual position you’ve attained, and to resent the fact that sexism is the reason people are making this disgusting mistake, but the denigration is in the misclassification itself, not in where they’re trying to misclassify you. Mostly, we’re pointing out that admin work is also honorable work, is all.

            1. Observer*

              You are absolutely right to want recognition of actual position you’ve attained, and to resent the fact that sexism is the reason people are making this disgusting mistake, but the denigration is in the misclassification itself, not in where they’re trying to misclassify you. Mostly, we’re pointing out that admin work is also honorable work, is all.

              Very well put.

        2. Blueberry*

          I dunno, I think it’s absolutely doable.

          “I am not a lawyer. I didn’t go to law school and I don’t have the training to be a lawyer, and my job duties have never included law,” is a very different way of phrasing that than “I am not a lawyer. I studied concrete and practical things and I don’t know how to lie or bend the truth.” Both state that the speaker is not a lawyer but in *very* different ways.

          I think what bugged me and other admins here was that LW#2’s ‘evidence’ for not being an admin were qualities such as having earned a 4-year degree and having 20 years of experience, qualities that don’t disqualify someone from being an admin at all (in fact I share them, and I’m not the only one.)

          1. Phony Genius*

            I guess there an extra context here. Admins have historically been looked down on by other staff. Women have historically been assumed to be admins by many men. If somebody denies being a member of a group that has historically been looked down on, it’s only natural for that group to feel a little insulted, no matter how the explanation is dressed up.

            In your example, reverse the situation. If you were a lawyer, and somebody walked into the office and assumed you were an admin, how would you correct that person, without making the admin feel inferior? Assume that the admin can hear you.

            1. Blueberry*

              Admins have historically been looked down on by other staff. Women have historically been assumed to be admins by many men.

              *nod* This is absolutely true (part of the reason there are several vocal admins in this thread, I think).

              I like your question. How I would answer might be anything from “X can help you with that,” to “I don’t happen to know that but I know X does.” But you’re right that no statement is immune by its phrasing alone from sounding denigrating — a lot of it is in tone. I can imagine different ways of phrasing that would convey “X is my colleague and that is their area” or would not.

              I think, though, I would avoid saying things like, “That’s not my job” or “that’s not worth my time” that make the requested issue sound like something I’m too good to handle. That’s the kind of message I’ve found annoying in my admin career. (Well, one of the kinds of things.)

              1. Phony Genius*

                Agree. It’s even more difficult to explain this tactfully to an advice column like AAM without it coming off the wrong way.

          2. Allonge*

            Look, yes, you are right, it could have been phrased more carefully. Essentially though, what is missing is the very specific context of: In [OP’s] company, all admins are hired at high school diploma level. [OP] has a job that requires a four-year degree and therefore [OP] very much thinks people should be able to make a distinction, even though she occasionally wears skirts too. Many many posts here do not go to that level of detail!

            OP did not write that no administrative assistant ever had or needed a degree, or that admins are bad people who she does not want to be associated with. And I cannot help but notice that she has more comments on how very terrible it it to mention she has a degree (and that others have it too!) than on how it must be fairly inconvenient to work for a sexist organisation.

            1. Blueberry*

              I was, probably foolishly, going to write a long comment in response to this but I got to how very terrible it it to mention she has a degree and realized there would be no point.

              There is no group of women towards whom sexism is okay. It is simultaneously true that a woman whose career is not in admin should not be assumed to be an admin because she is a woman and that a woman who is an admin is not necessarily lesser/unambitious/uneducated/lazy because she is.

              1. Allonge*

                And if I indicated in any way that I think someone who has the job title administrative assistant or someone who does not have a particular degree is lesser or not ambitious or lazy than I apologise.

                I literally know at least ten times as many administratives with degrees (graduate degrees!) than without. And I know plenty of people who are lazy or not ambitious but there is no correlation to their job title or their level of formal education either.

                I have worked in jobs where I was seen as lesser and took great pleasure in introducing anyone who insisted on expressing this to my particular qualifications.

                I just don’t see why mentioning that a SME has a graduate degree and should be easily distinguishable from an administrative assistant at the same company immediately means she thinks of them as lesser. But I am also stopping to comment on this, obviously others have different experiences and we are not going to convince each other on this.

    3. Blueberry*

      Yes, this, very much. There’s a difference between saying “I am being misclassiied” and “I am above that.”

    4. AnotherAlison*

      I took it more as “my specific contributions aren’t recognized” rather than being disrespectful to admins, but I understand where you’re coming from. . .being one of those non-admin women in a male dominated field.

      My title is “Engineering Project Manager” and I had a guy from a national catering company cold call me last week to find out more about my catering needs on job sites. I admit, I was annoyed. There’s no way a man with my title, experience, and education gets this same phone call. I’m not offended that someone thinks I might do admin things like order food. I understand there is a massive skill set that admins have. I don’t have that skill set. It’s not about assuming I’m admin, but assuming I’m NOT what my title says. I feel like my competency is questioned or someone assumes I’m a token in that role. I’ve seen similar comments with individuals upset when an EA might be asked to do reception or something. It’s not that receptionists are horrible people and you don’t want to be one, but it’s not your job and people think you have female body parts so you can fill that role even though you may have never run a switchboard in your life.

      1. Paulina*

        Yes, that’s how I interpreted it as well. (As another woman in a very male-dominated field.) The OP has an established a career in job X, she has significant accomplishments, and it’s all being ignored in favour of gender stereotyping. That’s insulting and minimizing to her no matter what the misclassification is, because she isn’t being seen. Unfortunately when the job you’re being stereotyped into is one that is often looked down on, it becomes a no-win to push back against being misclassified into it, which is why the OP is writing in for advice.

  14. ShanShan*

    OP1: Please don’t look to academia as a fallback. It’s an awful industry to work in — I should know, since I’ve been doing it for the past decade — and its current business model was built on an unsustainable bubble that was in the process of popping even before the pandemic. PR and marketing sound like much better choices.

    Also, just a word to the wise from someone who is essentially you ten years in the future: if you can, try to separate your dreams from the job you get. I also graduated during the recession (the last one), and students in my generation got sold the idea of “do what you love, and the money will follow” pretty hard. Spoiler alert: it was a trap. Employers want you to do what you love and not worry about the money because that makes it easier for them to pay you less money. It’s not really any more complicated than that. They like employees who see their job as a dream, because those tend to be employees who don’t ask a lot of questions about the vacation package, and then regret it later.

    Your dreams should be your dreams. Your job should be how you make money. A lot of people get a lot of joy and fulfillment from their jobs, and you can, too, but it shouldn’t be fundamental to who you are and what you hope to do with your life. Otherwise, unscrupulous employers (who tend to congregate in fields that attract people like us) will use your love of your job and the sense of identity you get from being good at it as a tool to bully you into putting up with abuse for your entire career.

    1. Lady Heather*

      Yes. You don’t need a job that makes you happy – you need a job that allows you to be happy.

      Example: a job that would make me happy is professional mattress tester. A job that allows me to be happy is one that doesn’t have so long hours that it eats into my sleep time, or that causes so much stress that it keeps me awake at night, and isn’t so boring that I do my sleeping at my desk instead of in my bed. (And doesn’t pay so little that I can’t afford a mattress or that I am lying awake worrying about how I am going to afford the rent.)

      1. A*

        “You don’t need a job that makes you happy – you need a job that allows you to be happy.”

        Gosh I wish I had heard this back when I was in HS, or at least college. Would have saved me so much turmoil over the first 10 years of my career!

      2. Jae*

        This is such a good comment. I don’t think I have ever phrased it quite that way before, but that is something I am going to keep in mind as I am continuing to progress along my career path. What would make me happiest in my life, versus is there a job that will make me happy.

    2. Allonge*

      This, this! It’s good to have ideas about what one’s carreer will look like, but please consider alternatives as, well, actual alternatives and not as giving up or whatever. Giving up what? There are sooo many ways to fulfil any personal need to succeed – don’t limit yourself, OP!

      On another note, having experience in various contexts is great for almost all jobs, especially such wide-ranging ones as journalism. I know I am a much better communications person for having all the other stuff in my background.

      All in all, what Alison says.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      You spoke nothing but facts here, especially when talking about journalism careers. Not only are those jobs damn near non-existent (and have been since I graduated in 2009), but they also don’t pay well. I’ve worked with many former journalists who ended up in corporate roles who will never go back because they make triple what they did as reporters as communications managers, marketing execs, and proposal specialists.

      1. The Original K.*

        I have two friends who are reporters at major papers and both of them have taken at least two pay cuts over the course of their careers (two pay cuts at the same employer). One of them is actively looking to leave the field because she’s “tired of being broke.” I’ve known them both since high school and for the one looking to leave, it’s all she’s ever wanted to do, but she’s just exhausted.

    4. Cheluzal*

      I’ve been in education for two decades and came to say similar things. I would also caution being a teacher just because. It’s very difficult for people who have a great passion for it; it’s extremely hard on people who do it as a filler job! There’s also human lives at stake and when the dream job comes, those educators tend to leave much easier than others and kids are usually left with a sub for many months, which really dampens their educational experience.

      1. HS Teaching*

        Great point. I wouldn’t recommend anyone become a teacher who isn’t absolutely passionate about it. The job is hard enough on those who feel like it’s our calling.

        The pay is better, where I live at least, and there’s job security, again, where I live. But people who do it just to have a job don’t last very long and are usually not very good at it, either.

        1. JCKC*

          Hey, OP1 here. I didn’t mean to insinuate that I thought of education as just a fallback job — I actually wanted to be a teacher for significant parts of my life. I know it’s not something anyone can do and I respect people who commit their careers to it! So I’d want to commit for a significant amount of time if I did pursue it (especially since I’d be investing in more education to get licensed), and not go in with the intention of packing up when something else came around. Thanks for the replies!

          1. just a random teacher*

            While it probably wouldn’t work at this exact moment, in less pandemic-y times substitute teaching might be something you could sign up for to round out some other freelance gigs. Some states require pretty much the same credentials as regular teachers for subs, others just want warm bodies with a degree of some kind who can pass a background check.

            However, it would not work to both cover education as a journalist and substitute teach at the same time. That’d be a major conflict of interest, so you’d need to pick one rather than both in a given year and possibly for a more extended period. (While I could moonlight as a journalist while teaching, there are a lot of rules in my job about not talking to the media that I’m sure they’d choose to apply if I tried to write about anything education-related. I’ve thought about trying to freelance writing totally unrelated articles since, like so many people, I used to want to be a journalist before the bottom fell out of the field, but the time/money/hassle trade-off just hasn’t been there.)

            Locally, I have seen a TV reporter move to being the school district communications person for a large school district, so some movement between the two is possible, but I’m sure he had to sign some “yes, I am really going to work for you now and not going to turn around and report on a bunch of stuff about your district” assurances.

    5. DieTrying*

      I came here to say (part of) this. I’m a very happy academic. That being said, this is a field just about as hard to break into as any other. Right now, the most financially secure institutions (Ivy Leagues, huge endowments) have declared a hiring freeze for at least the next year. Others are actively laying off staff and faculty, and many, many are going to be shutting down permanently. This is not the time — if ever there was one (spoiler: not in our lifetimes) — to think of academia as a fall-back career.

    6. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes, no matter what ends up happening, you should try and erase any idea that applying for anything but your ideal job is some kind of let down our betrayal of your ambitions.

      As someone who graduated directly into the last recession, I let that idea keep me unemployed for several months longer than it should have. It can also limit your ability to find more than one thing you’re interested in. Don’t separate the world into your one golden career path, and horrible drudgery that you have to do just to get a paycheck. Even if it’s not what you want, there are lots of interesting things to learn and do. Even if you’re financially capable of holding out for the narrow range of jobs you want, you’ll be more interesting to employers if you have work experience in the meantime then if you have just ‘sitting around applying for jobs‘ experience.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        At least the new grads graduating into this recession have parents who are young enough to not do “gumption!” type job advice and scold them for not having the right kind of job when the right kind of job no longer exists.

    7. Aggretsuko*

      Former journalist who went into academia here. It’s awful, but at least has been more stable. Almost everyone I knew who worked in journalism when i was in it is out now, and a lot of them ended up in academia.

      However, I think everyone is going to have to take what they can get these days. Cast a wiiiiiiiiiiiiide net and don’t worry about what you want to do so much as what you CAN do for others.

    8. JCKC*

      OP1 here, thanks so much for the reply. I’ve tended to neglect this advice when I’ve heard it before along the lines of, “Well yes, but what if I can make money doing something I love?”, but I do think I needed to hear it again. Thankfully, my dream — of writing about things I care about — is something it’s totally possible to do nonprofessionally, and I know a lot of writers have “day jobs” that let them pursue writing in their free time. It’s going to take a bit to reframe how I think about all this, but now feels like a great time to start.

      1. anon for this*

        There’s a lot of self-righteousness in journalism specifically about how any other careers are selling out or shameful. Journalist here: They aren’t. Your choices are not just “journalism” or “sell out and shill as a PR person” or “law school.” (Among other things, there are many kinds of PR and not all of them are yelling at reporters or spinning for big companies!)

        It’s OK to chase your dream, and it’s also OK to decide at some point that that dream is no longer your be-all and end-all. As a good writer and analytical thinker, there are a lot of interesting jobs open to you that aren’t just reporting and writing. Keep an eye on the jobs your classmates outside journalism get; this will give you an idea of which industries are hiring. I’m always amazed by the cool jobs people do that I didn’t know existed. Sometimes I wish I’d had a better idea about that at 23 so I could have gone back to school if necessary in order to do some of them.

        If it makes any difference, I was class of ’09, I am still in journalism, and I still solidly believe this.

    9. Karia*

      Yep. You need a job that’s… ok. One that pays you well and has good benefits and doesn’t result in you spending all your free time and money recovering from what you have to do to make a living.

  15. Sarah LR*

    OP#1. Your situation really resonates with me so I’d like to give you my thoughts, so please take it for what it’s worth. I graduated with a degree in journalism right into the Great Recession in 2008. There were no jobs to be had, and even back then, print media was on its way out. I faced the same choice that you’re facing now. I ended up accepting a job in a financial services call center after I graduated. The US was in a recession, and I needed a job with 40 hours guaranteed + medical, benefits, etc. I worked my way up the ranks and eventually became a manager. Over time I realized that I was truly passionate about training and teaching new employees, as well as mentoring them. I took it upon myself to completely overhaul the corporate training materials that were used for new hires. The company was really pleased with my work and they gave me more opportunities to train/teach/mentor, all while using my technical writing skills. What I’m trying to say is, you may very well end up working in a completely different industry, however, you could still find a way to make use of your writing skills.

    1. Fabulous*

      This! I got me degree in theatre and ended up working in financial services after I graduated during the Great Depression. Like Sarah LR, I also ended up in training, though I never did work up to manager status because I didn’t want to sell financial services; I found that I preferred the admin side. I still work behind the scenes in training doing instructional design, which employs my fondness and talent for copy-editing (I probably should have gone into journalism LOL). The training world offers a wide range of job types.

    2. JCKC*

      Hey, OP1 here. Thanks for sharing your experience! If I’m confident of one thing in all this, it’s that I don’t regret studying writing. Whatever I end up doing, I want to be able to leverage my research and communication skills.

  16. LDN Layabout*

    OP #1, passion industries have been hard to get into for a while, this will only make this worse.

    There’s a reason why jobs in journalism and other sectors like heritage/museums are disproportionately staffed by those from similar backgrounds.

    That isn’t saying you shouldn’t go for it, but you need to weigh up if you’d be happier in a more stable profession. It’s a very individual choice, but consider the lifestyle you want. Myself and a friend are happy to not have gone down the passion routes. Another friend worked really hard, lived away from her partner for two years to get more senior museum experience and is now back in London with a great job (that might not be there in a few months).

    She will likely never out earn either of us, who are doing jobs which interest us but would never be called ‘dream jobs’. Except my dream is to travel and own my own home, so in a way, being able to facilitate that makes it a dream job.

  17. Macedon*

    #1. Working journalist here: the industry bled for years post the late-2000s recession and only entered a tentative convalescence in the past 9-12 months. The zombie apocalypse obliterated newsroom staff counts. Most of us immune (for now) work for (largely financial) newswires or at outlets that secure revenue through calendar year-long subscriptions, so the hit has been dulled til renewals.

    Practically, advice on my side:
    – cast a wider job hunt net
    – target less immediately exciting (for many grads) positions in financial and tech journo, which tend to offer more $$$ and job security
    – if you haven’t already, look into picking up video editing skills, since TV was much more heavily into journo recruitment than solely written platforms were, a few months ago

    Journalism is a grinding profession — most of your time will be spent ensuring you have a job at all. So don’t be ashamed about “selling out” with a PR/comms/analysis (journalism loves former analysts!) role for a year, but accept you will have to look in earnest the secomd the employment landscape changes, because you will get the vicious “but why the switch *now*?” question and face the snobbery of “pure-blood” journalists who second-guess your commitment to the sanctity of starving in the trade.

    Good luck.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Tech journalism is actually pretty cool, but then again, I work for a software company and am very biased, lol.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Seconding the video editing suggestion, it’s a nice skill that could come in handy nowadays.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      “the snobbery of “pure-blood” journalists”

      Ugh! I mean really. People need to pay the bills somehow. It’s all variations of Communications.

      1. Allonge*

        I know, this is terrifying to read. Just how much does this (very endangered) profession want you to want to be a journalist if they don’t pay, but don’t consider it appropriate to even look at other ways of actually earning money? This is stuff I would be hard pressed to accept as a hobby, let alone a job…

        1. Turtle Candle*

          I think the attitude is terrible, but the reason they aren’t concerned about making you want to be a journalist is that in many ways it’s like being an actor, a novelist, a professor, that kind of thing–there are enough people for whom it is their passion, and enough inherent excitement/glamour, that they are not in much danger of running out of qualified (even overqualified) candidates willing to work for a pittance, especially to ‘break in.’ The problem that is endangering journalism isn’t absence of candidates, it’s plummeting ad revenue, and attracting people willing to work for almost nothing helps the tenuous bottom line rather than the opposite.

          (I think it’s an awful thing, but that’s why they’re mostly not worried.)

      2. Macedon*

        It’s an industry that graduates you to 60 years of film noir age and a caffeine addiction the moment you get your first full-time paying job. It comes from a very bootstraps ‘I suffered, so too must you, or you’re not the real deal‘ mentality.

      3. Working Hack*

        The snobbery is real. And bizarre. Out of the 13 editors, deputies and section editors I’ve worked under, 2 were in their FIRST journalism job having just moved from PR, 1 had spent not insignificant stints of their career in PR, 1 had a lengthy non-journalism career before they switched and 2 have since left journalism for related fields (content marketing and what I can best describe as ‘business of publishing’).

        And yet the snobbery is still there in the industry. Go figure.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      Also – regarding selling out to marketing/PR, etc., it doesn’t sound like the OP had internships in those fields. Sounds like they are assuming it’s not for them based on what they imagine the field is. I have a coworker who has a BS in journalism from a fairly recognizable school, graduated pre-recession and still never worked in the field. She got an MS in mar/comm and moved up from marketing assistant and proposal coordinator roles to business development strategist roles. I think newer grads can see that entry level role and think yuck, no thanks, while in their “dream” job, they see the path to the Pulitzer. You had a plan. It was a good plan and shows your dedication to your field, but this is a “plan is out the window” world. You need to pivot. It’s not selling out. It’s necessary. It’s a lot more respectable to take a non-dream job and find a way into a career you absolutely love and never imagined than to sit on the sidelines now.

      (FWIW, I’m 20 years into a career in a traditional industry that is more or less what I planned, but the project technologies I work with now didn’t exist when I started and if you had told me 20 years ago what we would be doing now, I would have said that will never work. We must all be adaptable, no matter what your field or your plans.)

      1. Macedon*

        It’s a lot more respectable to take a non-dream job and find a way into a career you absolutely love and never imagined than to sit on the sidelines now.

        I’m torn on this. I think — especially on this blog — there is a recurring theme of “don’t make your passion your livelihood” and “leave your spicy first professional flame for a wholesome vanilla option.” I agree to the extent that what we advise is pragmatism under certain circumstances — now being an absolute fit for that. My thinking would be, OP, don’t settle, don’t take a job in another field hoping to fall in love with it (if you do, though, great) — take a job, cultivate your journalism skills in whatever way you can on the side, bide your time. And, if you’re still enthusiastic about the industry when the Covid-19 wave is no longer upon us: pounce.

      2. JCKC*

        OP1 here for a bit of clarity. When I think more specifically about it, I’d be interested in PR/marketing/comms for more nonprofit-type groups — arts, social justice, etc. — but the idea of it in a corporate capacity, and working toward selling something, doesn’t click for me. I know that this is necessary work, and I respect the people who do it all the more! But that’s more so what I meant.

    5. Krakatoa*

      I left my journalism job during that period and changed fields entirely. Honestly, there really were no pros whatsoever in working in the field to me, I was having to work nights and weekends, and my salary was equivalent to what fast food employees are going on strike to make now. Any excitement you might get from being in a journalist dies away when you’re constantly afraid of holding onto a job that pays you less than jobs that you didn’t need a college degree for.

      Sadly, there are very few ways of making a good living as a journalist in his day and age, an most of them rely on doing little actual journalism.

    6. Lili*

      OP #1 – I also graduated in the height of the 2009 recession with a degree in journalism. I feel your pain. Everyone’s made really good suggestions for alternate fields to look into. My advice is to really research the different types of marketing roles available. I’ve carved out a niche for myself in content marketing. I found that writing white papers and case studies really fulfilled my desire to interview people and write longer-form pieces. I’m also shocked by the amount of niche trade publications and am getting stuff published all the time in magazines on behalf of my employer. If you find a company whose mission you support or a fascinating industry, it can help fill the journalism-sized hole in your heart (even temporarily). Plus the money is waaaaay better and the hours are great.

  18. Lady Heather*

    OP1 – I read a piece last week about journalists, and in summary it was: if you don’t have a paying gig, start a blog. Find a topic that’s under-reported in your local area, become passionate about it, and start writing about it, doing research etc. (IIRC the article advised finding something an unreported problem and then becoming passionate about it, rather than writing about something just because you’re passionate about it.)
    It helps you profile yourself, show that you’re passionate, it will give you more practice, and it will be something to show employers (or even something that employers see if they stumble across your job).

    I didn’t actually like the article that said all this – to me it reeked a little of ‘work for free and your dedication will be rewarded’ (advice that all millenials have heard), ‘work for free which will lead to exposure and to paying gigs’ (you can get your fill of that on r/choosingbeggars), and of ‘if you do what you’re passionate about, eventually someone will start paying you for it’ (which is a nice fantasy, but not much of a reality).
    But if you’re determined about making it in journalism, it might be helpful.
    Or it might have been bad advice.

    I tried to find you the article, but I couldn’t track it down.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      They’ve been giving that advice at least since ‘09, and it never really made a difference in my actual journalism job searches back then. Papers wanted to see clips that had been vetted by other already established publications, so the people who had them were the ones who got the few jobs that were available. I suspect that’s still going to be the case.

      1. WellRed*

        +1. We want published pieces, though we’ll certainly look at a blog as part of your overall skills.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Ugh! I agree. While it’s not bad advice per se to do something useful with your research and writing if you have downtime, expecting that “starting a blog” will pay the bills immediately and help you get you a job in Journalism later is very naive at best. It’s rather like the “advice” given in the last recession: “Just start your own business!”

      Running your own business is not for everyone. It also takes money and/or equipment to start a business. If you’re laid off, you probably have neither. I used to hear that when I did more graphic design during the last recession. Like, If if had the paying clients, don’t you think I would? Duh.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I think if you want to get your journalism on, having a blog for fun is fine. It just probably won’t “pay off” ever. Get your writing on elsewhere while you do something else so you can live and eat.

  19. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #3

    My company, a bank, is starting to talk about this now. They’re not asking people to start booking time off. Instead, they’re thinking about increasing the amount of time that can be rolled into next year. I think right now it’s 10 days and they want to increase that to 20 days. They, too, want to avoid an explosion of time off requests for the end of the year since we have customers to serve and we can’t all be off at the same time, whether that’s the front lines or the back office; the month of December is already a ghost town for the most part. They also don’t want to have to deny requests because of that.

    Absent something like what my company plans to do, Alison’s suggestion would be a good way to handle it.

    1. MoopySwarpet*

      I think this is probably the best way to handle the vacation for this year. Pause or eliminate the “use it or lose it” policies. I think that can be combined with some sort of policy for deciding who can go when. Alternatively, if your company can afford it, maybe they could pay out vacation time that is not allowed to roll over this year. Or even give people the choice of rollover or payout.

      I think one way of determining who can go is to figure out what the minimum coverage for each department is and have people communicate with each other. We do this where I work. Although we are small enough that not more than two people can take off at a time and during some times, not more than one. When I’m taking vacation, I normally go around giving people a heads up “Hey, I’m trying to schedule a vacation. Does the third week of June cause any conflicts with your schedule?”

      Obviously, the larger the company, the harder that might be, but I would think there’s still smaller sets of people who fall into “at least # of you needs to be here” categories. If those people can work out a schedule among themselves before officially requesting, it’s a little easier.

      I think the biggest challenge is going to be if your company has a culture of “I’ve already booked this trip, I’m going to be gone X-Z dates.” That might work in pre-COVID-19 times, but when everyone is trying to book their summer vacation the last 2 weeks of August, it’s going to be a problem.

  20. Nance*

    Ugh, that really sucks about admin. professionals day, and I do hope you push back.

    However, I wanted to point out that many, many admin. professionals have 4 year degrees. I worked for a decade as an admin. professional and I have a graduate degree from a prestigious university. There are a lot of reasons someone might work in that job, and in many cases the job even requires a college degree. My advanced degree was obviously an over qualification, and I don’t want to lessen your expertise and skill. But the 4 year degree thing obviously hit a nerve. You might be surprised at the educational backgrounds of some of the admins in your life.

    Personally, admin. professionals day sucked even when I was one. Especially since I spent many of those years feeling ashamed of “only” having that job.

    1. Lady Heather*

      If I were an admin, I think administrative professionals day would feel like a ‘Even though you’re only an admin, we still respect you!’ slap in the face.

      (Similarly to what disabled people talk about when they say that ‘I don’t see you as disabled’ is an insult, not a compliment. It’s based on the presumption that there is something wrong with being an admin, or a disabled person, or a cashier, or a woman, or a plumber, or a person of colour, or a cleaner, or LGBTQ, or a stay-at-home parent/spouse, or …)

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes, that’s how I feel about it.

        I went on a bachelorette weekend a few years ago where nearly every attendee was a lawyer (I am a paralegal who had done legal secretary work to get there; that’s not how I knew the bride).

        Work came up not infrequently, and it was weird how much the lawyers would tie themselves in knots talking about their support staff, “oh but we don’t mean you”.

        Like, my first degree is better than yours, and I’d like to see you make it to lunchtime without your support staff, but sure, feel free to patronize me. I’m fantastic at my job and it is not a temporary or stop gap thing.

      2. Bunny Girl*

        I’m currently an admin while I’m finishing up my degree. The reason I hate administrative professionals day is because it feels like a patronizing bandaid. At my current job, my department head allows the faculty and professional staff to scream at, harass, and verbally abuse the support staff. He refuses to listen to our issues, he dumps things on us with little to no notice, he tells us we are replaceable, makes it clear we are the last priority, and he expects us to work unpaid hours. But then he also expects us to feel appreciated when he takes us out for a cheap lunch once a year.

    2. Wintermute*

      Lets assume she knows the people she works with, and that she is more qualified than they are. Some admins have 4-year degrees, yes, many do not. Some of those that have them do not have them in a related field to their work.

      We should assume that the LW knows their workplace and knows this is a differentiation between her and them.

      1. Blueberry*

        I think it’s very telling that you’ve said “more qualified” rather than “has different qualifications”. That’s exactly the attitude, that being an admin is *lesser*, that is misguided. One can say an apple is not an orange without saying oranges are a lesser quality fruit.

        1. Wintermute*

          “more qualified” as in “has more qualifications”, literally. Someone who has academic credentials has a qualification that someone who doesn’t have one does not. They may have OTHER qualifications, of course, but like I said, I think we ought to trust the LW that they have more experience and credentials, to a the level that lumping them in with people that do not is insultingly dismissive of their capabilities.

      2. OP#2*

        OP here. Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. As I mentioned in a comment above, our organization does not require degrees of our admins and to my knowledge, only one has a 4-year degree (in a field not related to her work).

        There’s an added layer of sexism in the annual invitation because it comes from our woman HR person at the direction of her woman supervisor (the lone woman executive in the company). Neither of them plan to attend because they are clearly not admins; however, they invited me and a woman engineer to attend “so we don’t feel left out.” The whole situation is awful.

        Luckily, we are all out of the office (COVID-19) so the situation is moot.

        1. Observer*

          Oh, wow!

          How much political capital do you have? If you have enough, or if you’re looking for work elsewhere (for other reasons), I would be tempted to asked them why they think that you and the engineer would “feel left out”, while they would “feel left out”.

          This sounds like combination of sexism and just over all disdain for the “peons” – “engineer, shmengineer! They are all just a lot of worker bees. And SURELY she isn’t being welcomed by the men, so so might as well get some face time with the female peons.”

      3. Observer*

        That’s fine – and in fact she did comment elsewhere that in HER COMPANY the Admins generally do not have degrees. But without that particular piece of context, the statement she made comes across very problematically.

        And seriously speaking, the degree is not really the most important issue here – it’s that she has a different role, with a significantly different skill set, and it’s not ok to ignore that fact because she happens to be a woman.

  21. IntoTheSarchasm*

    My furlough starts today, I am a professional that has been in my field for 32 years and I went from salaried exempt to part-time at 60% of my salary for 90 days. With a possible extension to 90 more. At least I am only being asked to work commensurate hours, three days a week.

    I live fairly frugally but have made commitments based on my established income and the timing is horrible d/t some other recent events. So while I agree most of us could probably cut some costs fairly easily, it isn’t really what the OP was asking about. Plus I work at home and the nearest Starbucks is 60 miles away.

    1. Not Alison*

      You shouldn’t feel bad about cancelling any commitments made prior to the current situation. Most people are understanding about the need to change plans and those that aren’t understanding would probably give you grief regardless (and do you really care what those people think?).

      1. Colette*

        Some commitments are likely things like mortgages, car loans, rental agreements, and other contracts that you can’t easily cancel.

        1. Essess*

          Many banks are offering delayed or interest-only payments for mortgages. Same thing with some student loans. Some rental agreements have been also allowing delayed or reduced payments. Reach out to each of those commitments and see if you can arrange reduced/delayed payments.

          1. Krakatoa*

            My mortgage company is only offering forbearances, which means that you don’t have to pay it all now, but have to pay everything you didn’t as soon as the forbearance date comes. It honestly is completely useless as assistance because no one is going to get a back check for all the pay that they didn’t get during this time.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Keep checking in with them – so many big lenders are offering 3mo pause + mortgage adjustments (ie, spread the 3mo into all remaining payments or extend the mortgage term 3mo) that it may pressure your lender to change their offerings.

              And if you’re not completely out of work, consider refinancing with a different company, because your mortgage company sucks.

          2. Colette*

            Some are – but if you’ve signed a 5-year mortgage, having a 33% pay cut could be an issue for the entire 5 years. Similarly, your landlord might be flexibile for a month or two -but if the OP can’t pay her rent, that will be an issue as long as her salary is reduced, which could be indefinitely.

            1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              Absolutely, which also may become an issue at mortgage renewal time or if she ever wants to refinance. Even without having any other debt, the kind of damage that a 33% pay cut would do to someone’s TDSR will make it a gigantic pain to get favourable mortgage terms.

      2. submerged tenths*

        Financial commitments (car loan, mortgage) are not quite so easily cancelled as your comment suggests.

      3. IntoTheSarchasm*

        Agree, I will wiggle out of what I can but most are pretty firm. Checking on my mortgage as I should be OK for the 90 days and will only have to scramble if extended.

  22. Jdc*

    I don’t think pushing people to consider taking advantage of vacation Days is the worst. Not plan a vacation but just so they can stagger it. My husband already plans to take a week once released, kind of a destress, go do something and use it before he looses it. But what would be better is to remind them they can still be taking days now. Many are doing this. Also many companies could consider changing their use it or lose it policy for this situation and it would help the company not deal with a bunch of people rushing to take days off. I suspect though that once we are all allowed back at work, going right back to being trapped in a cubicle is going to be a rough transition and many might want to ease in. Perhaps recommending a day off a week for a month to help.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But you can’t plan anything if you don’t know when restrictions will be lifted. We paid for and planned a vacation to the beach in early August and I’ll be surprised if we are able to go, because I’m not wasting my money to go to the beach for a week if I’m just sitting in the condo with nothing open. I can do that for free at home. Yes people can take days now, but who wants tot take a week off to hang around their house? If companies have “use it or lose it” policies, or only allow you a small number of days to roll over, they need to look into changing those policies and come up with a fair way to approve vacations once people are able to start taking them. Asking people to plan stuff now makes no sense.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I took a week off to hang around my house, during my kid’s spring break. It was pretty good – we walked the neighborhood, did a bike ride, cleaned, moved forward on some house maintenance projects, read, watched some TV.

        The world is different now. It’s going to be different until we get a vaccine, 12 – 18mo from now. Because we’ll need some restrictions until we get that vaccine, I’m assuming that we will be closed down for large group recreational activities (eg sports, concerts, beaches, pools, street festivals) until summer 2021, and planning my life based on that, including taking vacations at home this year. This whole year. Knowing that makes it easier to spread vacation across the year instead of trying to save it up for a dangerous trip that may not even be allowed.

        (caveat – if the remdesivir trials go really well, maybe we’ll be able to open up in June, but I’m not *counting* on that. Easier to book a vacation two weeks in advance than to cancel a vacation in this environment)

        1. Koala dreams*

          Actually, staycations were popular even before the crisis. It’s true that some things are more difficult or even impossible to do with all the restrictions, but there are still people doing home renovations, gardening, online courses, relaxing at home and things like that. To me it sounds very tiring to work the whole year without any vacation. If people want to work this year and save the vacation for next year, good for them, but there should still be the option to take vacation now.

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          That’s great, but if I took a week off to hang around my house, I’d lose my mind. The only thing keeping me sane right now is the fact that I am still working full time. I’m okay with taking time off and not travelling, but in the past I’ve had places to go. Right now outside of my yard, and an old golf course where I can go for a walk, there’s no place to go. I realize we don’t know what the future holds, but expecting people to plan full on vacations now when things are uncertain doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

  23. Jan was not robbed*

    Re: journalism, OP#1. Move in with your parents at your earliest convenience to save money and help them out if they need it. Apply for journalism jobs all over the country, especially in small towns, and local jobs in whatever you’re qualified for. Speaking as a former journalist who job searched during the last recession, this is your best bet. And working for three years at small town papers was amazing experience, and helped me get into grad school for science journalism, which (very eventually) led to a great job in communications for a biotech company.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Really good advice, especially about being willing to move, possibly even overseas. This is going to be key.

    2. JCKC*

      Hey, OP1 here. I have zero hangups about living anywhere, and I’d be really excited to cover a smaller community, even though it’d be a bit of a pivot from what I cover now. Definitely going to look into this more as my searching continues. Thanks for sharing your experience!

      1. Jan was not robbed*

        I found smaller towns had really engaged citizens, which made town hall meetings way more interesting.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, if you really want to be in a competitive field flexibility in location is really critical.

  24. MissDisplaced*

    #1 Yes, cast a wider net into broader Communications jobs and roles beyond Journalism. There ARE other options, and I’ve seen a few that are still hiring that are focused on content creation, technical writing, media manager, digital communications, public relations and general business communications roles. Many of these jobs (especially content creation/curation) often ask for a journalism background, so you’d have that experience. And I’m sorry that you’re not finding roles in your “dream job” area of Journalism, but if you can find the right role interim, I wouldn’t say that any of these are necessarily bad experiences to have for a later move back to a Journalism career either.
    I’ve taken many side step jobs in my career, but they’ve all remained in the communications realm and it hasn’t hurt me.

    1. Wintermute*

      A lot of people advise that for would-be journalists to the point that it’s really become pretty useless. I mean it doesn’t HURT, certainly, and if you want to become a journalist in a niche area it can help a little… but it’s not going to do much for you.

  25. Krakatoa*

    #1 A decade ago, I left my job in print journalism because it was in the middle of dying out. Most of my writing was for the internet and layoffs were rampant. Since I left, it’s only gotten worse.

    The job search problems you have are likely to only get worse, I’m afraid. It is possible to make a living in journalism, but it’s an increasingly smaller pie for new grads to try to get a piece of. It’s a job where you really need to be increasingly comfortable with having a backup option.

  26. TBD*

    OP 5
    I am going to pivot a bit on this question. I also took a pay cut recently although not a 33% pay cut. You have my sympathies as this is a large sum to absorb. My company has put raises on hold and furloughed a large number of staff. My thought is in what order should they restore these cuts? Furloughed people first, pay cuts restored to normal levels 2nd, and then raises for all? I am not sure how they are going to handle this long term but I admit to being unhappy at the thought that employees who didn’t take pay cuts will start receiving raises while my salary remains lower because of the pay cut.

    1. Meredith*

      Everyone at my company took a pay cut and a few people were completely laid off. I don’t think there are plans to bring back the laid off employees, but the primary goal, communicated to us by the owner, for when the company is more stable, is to reinstate the pay cuts. (Also nothing close to 33% for us normal workers, although the owners and management took more substantial cuts.)

  27. Anonny*

    It seems like the company in #2 – or at least that particular branch – also needs to take a look at how they handle opportunities for women, because it sounds like all but one of their female staff are in admin roles. I suspect the hiring managers may have unconcious biases.

    1. Blueberry*

      I kind of want to combine the force of all my previous comments into one mega-comment and say “THIS” with a big underscore and flashing lights. There’s a big iceberg of trouble lurking beneath the visible bit of the Admin Day sexist mess.

    2. OP#2*

      You are ABSOLUTELY correct. I can’t even blame it on the industry (construction) or the region because so many of our partners and competititors are doing so much better in hiring diversity. Both our hiring and retention rates for women and POC are abysmal. There are so many factors contributing to that, but most of them are unconscious (and conscious!) biases that trickle from the top down.

  28. cmcinnyc*

    We do have some male admins, and they were instrumental in putting the kibosh on “single red rose in a bud vase” for Admin Professionals Day. When I transferred to my current department, my boss told me to put it on his calendar, because the company corrals us all in the biggest conference room and does something “fun,” bosses invited. I told him that he could have that hour back because I despise this stuff. He was delighted to get that hour. “Do you want flowers?” I told him I want nothing but a nice annual raise. Which he goes to bat for. THAT is appreciation.

  29. Alex*

    OP#1, there is no prize for working in the career you went to school for. If you have a different kind of career, that isn’t failing or giving up! If you never work in journalism because you found a way to make your second choice career work, that’s still success, and there isn’t anything wrong with it.

    Keep your options open and apply for anything that you think you would be good at.

  30. Meredith*

    I dove right into marketing out of j-school, and I assure OP 1 that it isn’t bad at all! I’ve previously worked full-time as a content writer and creator, and after a few promotions and job changes, I’m now a marketing strategist and client manager. It uses communication skills in an entirely different way! I’m sure everyone who works with external clients has some frustrations, but I really mostly enjoy it and have found I’m actually good at it.

    Technical writing is also a highly sought-after skill. If you can get a job in an industry that interests you, you can build up a nice career. It’s amazing how many people with advanced degrees in many industries have no idea how to write.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I really wish I’d gone into technical writing, but I had no clue back in the day and it seems too late now.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        It’s not. There are online technical writing courses you can take to brush up on your skills, some of which can help you to network for an “in” to the field.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Your last paragraph made me grit my teeth. I keep seeing technical writing jobs that want degrees in the actual field. It does not seem to matter how good your language, editing, and writing skills are, even if you can point to them. The engineers can’t write; they need someone to improve their writing; that person also has to have the same expensive degree, but they won’t be doing the actual work.

      I mean, you could get an admin job in whatever field it is, but then good luck getting out of the admin pool! :P

      1. Governmint Condition*

        I agree that many engineers can’t write. But the in organization that I work for, the civil service tests for engineers contain lots of questions about writing. Most of the engineers in my unit can write, but our consultants often can’t. We’ve practically become proofreaders.

        That said, I’d rather be an engineer than a technical writer. I think most people with engineering degrees would agree. Unless those technical writing jobs pay more than engineering, they’re going to have trouble filling those positions.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        I don’t know if this will help or not, but at the companies I’ve worked for (as a technical writer), a STEM degree was on the ‘nice to have’ list but not the ‘must have’ list. The reason it was there was that we had a long stint of bad hires who were either great writers for academia or PR or etc. but couldn’t handle the very different, for lack of a better word, ‘style’ of software technical writing; or who were very good writers but who couldn’t absorb complex and technical material fast enough–they basically needed someone to write them a manual that they could use to write the manual.

        (For the record, I’m a History major; my team is about half and half STEM majors and half not STEM majors, though they do all have bachelor’s degrees.)

        The “want to have” can be ameliorated by mentioning relevant volunteer experience (even if it’s doing some documentation for a favorite open source project) or providing a technical writing sample. Not for every company, but for all the ones I’ve worked for.

  31. Katie*

    OP1– I’ve been in journalism for 20 years and have hired for entry-level positions. I promise you that taking a non-journalism job right now won’t hurt your chances. We understand that journo jobs are scarce, and as Alison noted, I’d be more inclined to hire someone who was working in a related field than just freelancing. In your first job, you learn a lot of office/professional norms, and that’s really valuable to have. Even better if that job involves writing of some kind or critical thinking. Also, keep in touch with your journalism professors and mentors, as their recommendations could really help when you do find a good opportunity. Good luck!

  32. Didi*

    OP1: FWIW, I am a former journalist. A job in content marketing might be a good halfway point for you now. You can still write, interview, get feedback, and refine your craft while hunting for the journalism job you really want. The biggest problem I had hiring journalists fresh out of school is that they really had very little practice writing on deadline, taking feedback, writing with a stated purpose or goal, and managing their time and space. These are all skills you can build on while you keep looking for the journalism job you want. Be sure you have social media exposure whatever you do – you need to master that world on a professional basis too.

    Also – I’d get out of your head the idea of a “dream journalism job” – you have very little experience right now. What you get from internships is really not like the real job at all. I have advised many fresh grads to start small – you may want to work in Washington for a large paper covering congress, for example, but you not get there without learning about politicians, elections and government by working for a small paper, covering the town hall, county governments, and other local elected bodies, and working your way up to bigger cities, state legislatures etc.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      This is fantastic advice OP. Something that doesn’t get emphasized often enough is that internships in a lot of fields sometimes provide more…glamorous exposure than an actual entry-level job. Even though some internships are mostly clerical work, there’s a good chance that an internship will provide an intern with a gold-plated opportunity or two for a whole bunch of reasons I don’t want to get into here. In terms of actual entry-level work, though, you should be ready and willing to do low-profile bread-and-butter journalism work that will hone your skills.

  33. Observer*

    #2 – I very much agree with Allison. However, you really need to make sure you are careful not to denigrate the Administrative professionals. Many of them have degrees and many years of experience, and assuming otherwise is both sexist and denigrates the work and skills they bring to the table.

  34. A*

    I really, truly loathe ‘Professional Admin Day’. I had no idea it was a thing (I graduated HS in 2005, college in 2010 in case that’s relevant as I know there are generational elements to this) until I was in my first job out of college. Having graduated in the Great Recession it took me 9 months just to get a gig through a temp agency.

    I was SO excited, and I was working on business critical projects and developing business plans…. then this sad excuse for a holiday came around. I came into my desk to find a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and a note from my boss saying ‘happy secretary day’.

    … I had no idea until that moment that I was 1) viewed as an admin, and 2) omg he thought of me as a SECRETARY (a title that hadn’t been used in the industry in a long time, and corresponded to a very different type of position).

    It was a harsh reality check, but also insulting because it made me realize that in that work environment the kind of work I was doing didn’t matter – everyone (especially women) below a certain level were ‘secretaries’. Unfortunately I was naive and stayed for a few more years, turns out – that red flag was very telling and spoke to the exact dynamic I later encountered again and again.

    Ugh, that was the saddest bouquet I ever got.

  35. prismo*

    LW1: Working journalist here. One thing to factor in to your considerations: Taking a job in fields like marketing and PR can make you a less attractive candidate to some journalism outlets (whether that’s fair is debatable, but it is true). It’s not the career-ending move it used to be, and I imagine hiring managers will be more understanding later given the pandemic, but it is something to think about, especially since it sounds like you’re not in a situation where you need a paycheck at all costs.

    Also, if you’re not doing this already, I strongly recommend getting involved in online journalism communities. If you have a particular beat or interest, find communities around that beat. Look for groups in your area as well, so you can join in-person meetups whenever they might happen again. I full-time freelanced for a while several years ago and those communities were a lifesaver (and still are). There are Facebook groups, Slack channels, email listservs, professional organizations, even just interacting with people on Twitter helps (I got paid work via Twitter without having thousands of followers, so you don’t have to be a social media giant to make it work for you).

    Happy to try to answer any more questions here. Good luck!!

  36. Trydoingmyjob*

    As an admin assistant, I find it insulting that LW is insulted to be lumped in with admin staff.

    1. DoctorDog*

      I think Alison already addressed this above, the OP may not have worded it the best possible way. We want to give LWs the benefit of the doubt. She does not disdain admins she simply wants to be recognized for her technical role rather than being ‘lumped in’ with any other group based on her gender. women are not a monolith of course.

    2. Blueberry*

      I’m another admin (with a four year degree no less), and LW #2’s letter made me bristle, but I thought some more, and I *think* LW was trying to say her job was a different kind of job than admin work and she resents the equation of being a woman with being an admin. Unfortunately, she said it mostly by elevating her job *above* admin work. It makes sense to disagree with being misclassified, especially due to bigotry, but I can’t help but wonder if LW#2 agrees with a former friend of mine that admins ‘lack ambition’ and so on.

      1. OP#2*

        OP#2 here. Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. I definitely don’t think that admins “lack ambition,” etc. Our company has many really great admins who excel at their jobs and who are always working to expand their skills and capabilities.

        In my original letter, I wasn’t able to succinctly explain why I resented being invited to the annual luncheon. It’s helped to read the many comments to see the inherent sexism in the invitation, which comes from a company with inherent sexism, in an industry with inherent sexism. Maybe it’s the sum of all that sexism that made me fed up?

        1. Blueberry*

          It makes TOTAL sense that the sum of all that sexism has made you fed up. Like I said elsecomment I’m mad on your behalf. I hope that in the intervening year the people making this decision catch a clue or three, but if they don’t, now you have Alison’s phrasing in your back pocket to use to push back.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Part of that was my read as well, as I also know other women who look down on admins, but then I thought back to some of my own experiences and how non-admin women sometimes get indirectly penalized for not being admins.

        I used to work somewhere where most of the admins and EAs were just as educated and experienced as women in non-admin roles, and competent admins were well-respected and well-compensated. There was a tendency, though, to encourage and incentivize all women, regardless of role, ought to do very admin-centric tasks. I’m talking about about all the things that Alison tells women writing in to avoid doing, such as event planning. If I’m an analyst, why am I planning office birthday celebrations, and why am I getting a lot more praise and positive feedback for doing admin work rather than the job I was hired to do?

        It’s a situation that creates an awkward dynamic for non-admin women – to avoid getting gendered pushback required taking on admin tasks, you have to pull this second shift despite the fact that you have competent trained colleagues who have these tasks as part of their job duties. The non-admin women who consistently didn’t make themselves available for this kind of work were never regarded as well as the ones who took it on. It’s almost as though the only acceptable way to be a woman at work is to have the competencies that make admins good at their jobs.

        Lots of us respect admins without wanting to do their jobs. In fact, respecting admins is a large part of why we don’t want to do their jobs – they have a specialized skillset that we don’t have, and it’s not one that’s an inherent part of being a woman either.

        1. Karia*

          This! Being a woman doesn’t mean I’m inherently well organised, or methodical or good on the phone. I can barely transfer a call. Admin is a skill set; one I value, one I do not have, and one I should not be expected to have just because I happen to be female.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I have a four year degree, but it doesn’t really matter when admin work is what you do. It doesn’t make you “better,” it just means you’re not ruled out of some jobs when applying.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Exactly. I’ve lived in markets where it would be extraordinarily unusual to find an admin below, say, older Gen-Xer age who doesn’t have at least a bachelor’s degree. In fact, maybe a good third of the admins I’ve worked with are a thesis or dissertation short of finishing grad school, which prevented them from working directly in their fields. It’s not a meaningful differentiator in a lot of cases, albeit not in the OP’s, based on her earlier comments.

    4. Sunflower*

      My old BigLaw firm recognized any support staff (aka anyone who wasn’t a lawyer/billing) as an administrative professional. Meaning HR, IT, Marketing, Finance in addition to secretary’s/admins all got a nice gift in our bank accounts that day.

      Is OP sure this isn’t what’s happening in her office? She said she’s in creative services so it’s not far fetched to think they are including anyone in this who isn’t working in the field.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        She’s in the construction industry and it’s definitely “oh this is a ladies thing and you’re a lady.” I am not insulted to be lumped in with all the women because I’m a woman but I would indeed be insulted to lumped into a *job category* that is predominantly women just because I’m a woman. Kind of like, Fork-Lift Operator Day but you invite Lawyer Bob because it’s a guy thing. It would be weird, and inappropriate.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          It’s like the episode of The Office where they have the Women at Work meeting, and Michael takes all the men from the office down to the warehouse to do “man stuff,” excluding the one woman in the warehouse and ultimately trashing the warehouse because man =/= qualified to work a forklift.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I learned years ago to shrug this kind of thing off.

      I don’t have a degree and was happy with administrative work but got catapulted to higher leadership positions in the end due to a bunch of circumstances.

      It’s the sexism she’s annoyed with, not the the fact that she’s lumped in with administrative assistants in the end.

      I’d just laugh at someone and literally say “That’s sexist.”

      Just like when a “well meaning” guy tried to serve me first at a BBQ “Ladies’ first.” “Nah, that antiquated stuff is for the birds. There’s plenty of food, I can wait for the people who work their asses physically harder than I do to get their grub.”

    6. Observer*

      There is a saying that “when 3 people tell you you’re drunk, you should lay down.”

      Even with the general context, the way the OP phrased that part of her question absolutely comes off as denigrating Admins. I see by later comments that she doesn’t, but I think it’s useful to realize that the way she put is WAS problematic. I’m not an Admin, and I also read it as “I have higher level skills than admins in general.”

      I think it’s useful for the OP to think about that and figure out a less loaded way of talking about it – either by providing more detail about the requirements in her company or by using different language.

      But, having seen some of her other comments, I do think that she’s just frustrated at the sexism in her company. And the fact that some of it is coming from women who should know better probably makes it even worse.

  37. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I do not currently work with any support staff, so I do not have to “celebrate” Admin Professionals Day. (unless you count my cat, who would argue she actually runs the show around here)

    I worked in a business where we had 2-3 people who fit the description of admin. Every year we would forget APD was a thing, and someone would freak out around 3:30, and run to the nearest place to get some last-minute flowers or candies. Sometimes a card would get passed around but sometimes not, and if it did, people would be omitted because they weren’t available during the time crush to get it done. Generally our colleagues were always very appreciative of the staff, and the whole Eleventh Hour Flowers felt phoney. More than once I went to bat for the admin staff, arguing that they’d probably appreciate better pay more than a vase of flowers, but that was always shot down.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I would argue for a Cat Administrative Day but they already control every day, lol.

  38. Dancing Otter*

    Regarding salary reduction (letter #5), this seems to be something that’s happening. Exempt workers should review the exempt salary threshold, to make sure they aren’t dropping below it. There are “duties” tests, as well, but it’s still worth checking the numbers.
    If the company is still insisting on employees working exempt hours – generally over 40 because they don’t have to pay extra if you’re exempt – going non-exempt can result in OT pay obligations.
    The risk, of course, is that if your business slows down too much, they could ask you to work less than 40 hours, resulting in even less money than the reduction already in effect.

  39. Hopeful*

    LW #1: I relate so much to the feeling that you’re giving up if you apply to jobs outside of your industry. (I may or may not gave said that exact phrase to my girlfriend earlier this year.) It may feel like giving up, but sometimes life works in weird ways. You may gain skills by working in another industry that gives you an advantage in journalism. It’s very hard to change directions sometimes but it might work out in ways you can’t imagine how. I wish you the best of luck in the future.

  40. Bonky*

    OP1: here’s a view from someone who was where you are in 2000!

    I started my career in journalism about twenty years ago. I moved from London, where I had a full-time (but subsistence-level) role on a suite of magazines, back to Cambridge, where my husband was doing a PhD, when we got married.

    I wasn’t able to find anything in journalism outside London, but did get an editorial role at an academic publisher, which I stayed in for several years. While I was doing this, I built up a portfolio of writing in a couple of subjects I knew I could specialise in by creating a couple of blogs (at the time, in the 2000s, one in particular did really well in the UK and was extremely popular – people actually used to recognise me in the street); once they were established I started getting freelance work off the back of them. I won a couple of awards for that work (one very prestigious, which actually gave me the yips for a bit), and was eventually able to quit my job and freelance full time. I wrote copy for magazines, websites and newspapers, as well as ad copy; I also did editorial work in my specialist subjects for some of the bigger book publishers. The thing I’m proudest of from that period is the National Geographic book I wrote about a quarter of, which was a bestseller in several countries.

    In 2011, after about five years of freelancing, my husband and I started a company together. It’s a technology company, and it’s done blisteringly well over the last decade. I came onboard to deal with press and PR; if you’d asked me at the time, I’d have said that PR and press-wrangling was absolutely not what I wanted to do, but I wanted to support this wonderful new thing my family was doing, and I liked the idea of working with my husband on the same project but in very different roles. I thought I’d do it for six months or so, hand off to someone else, and go back to my old freelance life.

    It didn’t happen: I stayed. It’s been a wonderful ten years. I have autonomy, and a lot of respect within our industry. I’m now running a large communications and marketing team which does exceptional work that I’m enormously proud of. I’ve been nominated to the boards of charities in our field, and of other businesses. I still get to write (although not as much as I used to); and the financial rewards are so much greater than anything I ever had before.

    I’m not where I thought I’d be, but I couldn’t possibly be happier with my job, and with the work I do.

    Keep your options open. Keep writing, and make sure that writing is easy for people to stumble upon. Don’t write off PR and its surrounding disciplines as unserious fluff: it can be tough, meaningful and rewarding. Good luck to you – I hope you find your place!

  41. Youth*

    #1: Writing jobs are already weird. I graduated with a creative writing degree in a normal economy, and it still took me three months to find a job. In the meantime, I worked at a well-paid but hectic SAT/ACT tutoring job that just wasn’t a good fit post-college. I told myself that if I didn’t land a professional writing job by fall, I’d broaden my search so I could get out of tutoring.

    The job I landed wasn’t in a field of writing I’d previously considered, but they were the only company to bring me in for an interview. The week I started, a prestigious journalism internship contacted me for an interview. I had to decline. It was a letdown at the time, but I’ve had a more stable career outside of journalism than I likely would have in it.

  42. Flubble*

    #2 – hopefully the OP will pop up to correct the group impression so that we can all dispense with being offended :)

    A few disjointed thoughts:

    1. One can’t help but wonder if the OP would have been so offended if the day were celebrating legal professionals or medical professionals et al.

    2. I have a degree and partially completed masters. From recollection I’ve never worked alongside EA’s that don’t have 4 year degrees. Some even have MBAs. Many are bilingual. I’ve worked internationally and travelled for work internationally. I’ve been party to extremely sensitive market data and events subject to front page global news headlines. Having access to salary and bonus spreadsheets in most companies, I’ve also been aware that I’m ordinarily one of the highest paid employees. So I don’t think I should be considered “less than.”

    All that being said, as noted above, many people do still view the right arms of billion dollar company ceo’s as secretaries out of the 50s. I’ve had junior managers earning 20% of my salary try to tell me to do their photocopying for them lol.

    Therefore as much as we should give the OP latitude, I’m hopeful that on the flip side (and given us “admins” do indeed have a sensitivity given the gross disrespect many of us have encountered over the years) our feelings should be given the same latitude.

    For the person wondering how to support their admins how about before you do or say something, perform this test: would I say or do this to/with/for/whatever the CEO?

    If the answer is no, don’t say or do it. Easy peasy.

    For clarification, I’m not saying an admin is equivalent to a CEO – just that if you’re looking for a litmus test “would I treat a man or woman the same” … “would I treat a gay or straight person the same” etc. If you want to treat people equally, treat them equally.

    1. OP#2*

      OP#2 here. I did pop up a few times above to clarify that I meant that I did not intend to offend or disrespect anyone.

      The description of your professional experiences give me the impression that you’ve worked for larger, more global organizations than mine, and probably in a more metropolitan – and therefore more diverse – region. It may help to put into context that I am working for a small construction company in a largely rural area. It would be very unusual for any company in the area to employ an admin/EA with such an impressive background; the market simply wouldn’t support the kind of salary they could command.

      1. Flubble*

        My apologies – I missed that – thank you :)

        Ok then I understand better. Sadly the construction industry is notoriously misogynistic so struggling with the situations and attitudes you encounter may be a permanent facet. I’ve heard horror stories from federal/military organizations, and I’m sure there are others. It sucks when you love your job but the company culture is horrible, so I definitely feel for you!

    2. Karia*

      There isn’t a long history of women being assumed to be legal or medical professionals due to their gender.

      I really don’t understand why everyone’s ignoring that obvious and glaring historical context.

  43. Buttons*

    I received my BA in Broadcast Journalism in 1995, and a Master’s in Design and Visual Communications in 1998. Even then Journalism was changing so much so quickly. I have worked for the last 15 years in talent and leadership development- having done some additional education to make the change. There are a ton of things you can do with a degree in Journalism; corporate communications, speech writing (corporate or political), corporate training, and technical writing are the 4 jobs I see posted the most often that your skills will transfer to with little issue.
    Good luck, and feel free to post here or on Friday’s Open thread if you have any questions I can help you with.

  44. Amethystmoon*

    #3 — How can anyone know really what days we can take off? I would love to ask for the day after Memorial Day, as I haven’t seen my parents or grandma since Christmas, but I cannot guarantee I would be able to leave town and drive up north that weekend. 4th of July or Labor Day are probably safer bets, but again if there are multiple waves of COVID-19, we could be returning to social distancing again by that time.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      A lot of people are still taking time off to do home projects or whatever else. A vacation day doesn’t mean “leaving” town by any means!

      1. Amethystmoon*

        That may be, but some of us are single and live in apartment, so we can’t really do any remodeling. I normally use PTO to visit family, as I cannot afford to travel (and no one can travel these days, anyway).

    2. drivesmenuts*

      OP#3 here! I agree about not knowing what days you want to take off. Vacation time is very precious around here and add to that the possibility of needing to use it for COVID-related sick time, no one wants to use any of it right now! We are excluded from the Federal sick laws for COVID, and no one can qualify for our State sick leave because our area doesn’t perform testing which is required. We’re all kind of stuck. The idea of staying home using up PTO painting my bedroom makes me uneasy when that time might be better used if/when I am sick!

  45. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    OP1: If you’re interested in academia and education, I’d encourage you to consider writing in higher ed, whether that’s for corporate communications or advancement. One of the phrases you might want to look for is “knowledge mobilization”.

    Here’s the thing: every university and college right now is working on research or community outreach with societal relevance. There’s a renewed importance in helping the public understand the contributions of academia to our daily lives. Why? They need money in a time of increase scarcity and competition, whether it comes from taxpayer support or philanthropy. Higher ed is not traditionally great at spreading the word about how awesome it is, which is where journalists come in.

  46. TiffIf*


    It is an unfortunate fact that journalism has been a tough field for a while now–many papers have closed, many historic and venerable institutions have had to come up with new models for continuing revenue as ad sales have dropped. Consolidation has led to many local media to close or reduce workforce.

    I would strongly encourage you to consider casting a wider net. This does not have to mean giving up on your dreams! I feel like it would hurt your resume more to have no work rather than something outside the industry.

    What aspects do you most like about journalism studies/experience?

    If the writing aspect is what interests you most-then the suggestions previously made around corporate communications, PR, marketing, technical writing, etc are good avenues to pursue.

    If it was the telling of the story, crafting a piece to elicit a particular response or call to action, perhaps look into grant writing or local political movement/campaign work.

    If it was researching and finding a good story, exposing bad actors to the light of day, bringing justice to those who have been denied it, perhaps look into ethics/watchdog charities that monitor corporate or governmental activity.

    This all is of course with the caveat that a lot of industries are being impacted right now by the coronavirus pandemic and you may have difficulty right now even in skill-relevant fields.

  47. 1qtkat*


    Congrats on graduating first of all! I would definitely take Alison’s advice. With so many things uncertain, you need to be realistic about your career path and I don’t think you should assume it’s going to be clear cut. You should be willing to be flexible and adaptable to change, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose sight of your dream job. I speak from experience in a way – in fact I start my dream job next week. It took me some time and I had to work some not-so appealing jobs, volunteered my time with orgs associated with my desired industry, and developed connections, but I got there finally. Patience and persistence are your friends. Good luck!

  48. FL Admin*

    #3 Preach, Alison! “Admins don’t need flowers and lunch; they need better pay and year-round respect.”

  49. Potatoes gonna potate*

    And let’s not forget the time suck that public transit can be. I live in NYC so public transit is a part of my daily work life and millions others. Majority of people buy an unlimited monthly pass which is $130ish I think. Literally that is the cheapest option if you live within the 5 boroughs because it works on the subway and local buses and transfers are free . If you’re in Long Island or take hte Metro North, the cost increases based on distance and doesn’t include travelling between the boroughs. If you’re like me and “snobby” you pay $62 a week for the express bus that runs between the outer boroughs and Manhattan.

    I bring the last point up because I pay more for the express bus even though it takes longer only because of the comfort and space I get (in better times, not recently obv). For me, that’s worth the extra half hour than being on a subway with people who shove and hit, and the fear of falling down the stairs or being pushed into the platform. The peace of mine and safety is worth the extra $$ for me.

    I realize I’m lucky that I had the opportunity to make a choice between safety and money but if someone chose safety, I wouldn’t fault them for it.

  50. Nacho*

    I’m having similar troubles as #4, though it’s nobody’s fault, just a general lack of work in our field right now (it’s a bad time to be in travel). My boss was pretty understanding of the fact that if my agents aren’t getting calls to book a hotel, I can’t listen to their calls to make sure they’re doing a good job.

  51. just a random teacher*

    OP1: I graduated with a Communication degree back in ’02, with a focus on computer science because I wanted to be a tech journalist when I started college.

    That wildly didn’t happen, partially because of the dot-com bust, partly because print journalism ad revenue took a dive, partly because I just went a different way.

    I can say that many, MANY of the skills from my Communication degree have been very useful as a teacher teaching a completely unrelated subject. (I looked at which subjects I’d taken enough classes in to pass the subject area tests for, took a few more undergrad classes as a non-degree-seeking student to round out those areas before starting my teaching grad program, and went STEM for increased employability. It definitely made it easier to get hired.) If you do decide to go that route someday, it certainly wasn’t a “wasted” undergraduate degree, and I think it’s made me a better teacher than I’d be if I’d instead majored in my subject area. I have used things I learned in almost every communication class along the way somewhere, which is not nearly as true for some of the more esoteric things from my actual subject (although a lot of that is useful too, of course).

  52. Laura*

    LW1: Consider technical writing. My company has been trying to hire a reliable tech writer for some time and have finally opened themselves up to hiring remote writers. We’re mostly just desperate for writers who have a lot of experience in Adobe InDesign.

    It’s not what I dreamed of when I graduated, but I’ve made my peace with it. I’ll write whatever my company wants by day and hack away at my novel at night.

    1. IrishGalMN*

      I agree with this! I majored in English and History and have become a training specialist/technical writer.

  53. IrishGalMN*

    Many years ago my company was going through tough financial times. They pulled us all together in, I believe, August and told us that we had to schedule all our vacation time before the end of the fiscal year (1/31) right there and then. By the end of the day. Bank covenants I guess. I thought that was an extremely crappy thing to do. I also found out later that not all departments were required to do it, even though we were told it was the whole company. >:-(

  54. Don't Tell My Boss I Was Here*

    I despise Administrative “Professionals” Day more and more every year. My company retitled all administrative staff the same as “admin support” whether they were entry level receptionists or executive assistants. Management talks about “our admin partners” in a way that makes administrative support sound like the ladies’ auxiliary. There are a couple of management favorites who get tapped to lead projects, learn new software first and give webinar trainings to the rest of “you terrific ladies” (such a professinoal compliment). The favorites are treated like paraprofessionals, and they’ve become prone to talking down to the other “ladies.” No wonder so many people are insulted to be considered admin.

    I started my work life as an admin and took pride in my skills and capabilities and the quality of my work. Not at this place. My job is a mashup of creative, analysis, customer service; I do very little of the leadership I signed on for, and in the reorg I got lumped in as admin support. It doesn’t matter what else I accomplish, as far as my “team” is concerned, my main job is to answer their damn phones because, you know, I’m only their admin support.

  55. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP#1, I also wanted to work in journalism, and had an issue finding a job in that field that would pay for me to be able to live in the area where I wanted to live. I tried to get into publishing, but that was no go as well. Eventually, after working as an admin for a while and then temping, I ended up in a position on the prospect research team in the fundraising office of a university. This was a position that allowed me to use the skills I’d learned for journalism: digging for information, analyzing it to get an overall picture of a person, reporting it in a way that made that information useful to our fundraisers in order to help them build and maintain relationships with people, and looking at data to get an idea of trends, untapped potential, etc. I ended up really enjoying it and turning it into a career, but it might also be a good place for someone with a reporter’s skills to get into the academic world. The fundraising office also has a communications team that puts out copy for fundraising mailings and informational pieces on what the university is doing, and creates communication on behalf of the senior administrators to send to donors. Also a great place for someone with a journalism background. There are clearly other positions in a university setting where a journalist could find employment, but I wanted to point out the ones in the fundraising sector because a lot of people aren’t really aware of them! On university job websites, look for positions in the advancement or development offices (they rarely refer to it as “fundraising,” even though that’s what normal people would call it).

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