it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I’ve never asked you for advice, but I was unemployed for 17 long months after my position (which I loved beyond measure) was eliminated at a company I had worked for 25 years. I spent some of that time reading your website and listening to your podcast.

I was finally offered a position at the beginning of March, which I happily accepted. Yay! The COVID crisis hit, and because my new position was with the local food bank, I was automatically essential! Double yay! But that’s only part of the success story.

I noticed right away that my team (two others plus my supervisor) seemed very engaged with their work … even on the evenings and weekends. Here is where my success, and all the things I learned from reading your posts, comes in. I asked to meet with my supervisor, and asked to clarify the expectation regarding checking and responding to email during off times. I made it clear I would do it if that was the expectation, but at the same time, I said, “I am very protective of my off time.”

My supervisor was not upset about this at all! She said that was not her expectation, but a personal choice, and told me, “That’s actually a very healthy boundary. I should probably do that, too.”

So, it’s a small thing, but it meant a lot to me that I was able to have this conversation so soon and establish a boundary, while also letting my supervisor know I was willing to be flexible if the situation called for it.

2. I moved out of a terrible job into an even worse job at the start of this year. Rather than waste another chunk of my life trying to make this new terrible job work, I decided to move on ASAP. Almost immediately after making this decision, I saw a job ad for a great position at a really highly-respected company in an industry I am passionate about. I was convinced I’d be rejected without hesitation, but it doesn’t hurt to try, and thanks to you, I aced the interview and got a job offer without even having to do the second interview that they usually require as part of the process.

My country then went into lockdown more or less directly in the week when I was due to start. I went into the (sad, empty) office once to collect my laptop, and apart from that I haven’t met any of my colleagues in the flesh and am working from home in my studio apartment. It sounds awful but has actually been incredibly positive and motivating so far! The onboarding has been extremely well-managed and I can already confidently say that I love my job! I can definitely pass on these tips for welcoming a new hire when everyone is stuck working from home:

* As much as possible, make sure the newbie has any tech or equipment they might need to be able to work not just productively but also comfortably from home. My boss made sure I got a pair of noise-cancelling headphones because my building is being extensively renovated!

* Organize short, informal coffee-break video chats once or twice a week for the new hire to meet various useful people from around the company. This is helping me get to know my colleagues and connect the dots of who I need to speak to for what — and it helps as a replacement for the kind of kitchen conversations where you end up chatting to people you don’t otherwise see every day.

* Be as responsive as possible in your communication platforms and check in often with the newbie to make sure she doesn’t feel lost or confused. And saying “good morning” and “have a good evening” is a nice touch.

* Have a quick call with the newbie after virtual meetings to explain the context of stuff that was discussed and describe the roles of the people who were in the meeting. This is something that you’d usually do on the walk back to your desk, so it’s great that my boss is keeping on top of it virtually!

* Always introduce the person in meetings with more than just your team and post their photo (with their permission!) in the general chat so that everyone can put a face to the name. This has really effectively established me as one of the team and not a distant stranger.

3. I started reading your blog daily after finding it through the intern dress code letter. At the time, my “career” wasn’t meeting my expectations (or expenses): as a recent college grad I worked 3-5 part-time jobs in a major city to make ends meet, and I spent two years despairing that I would ever get out of retail and customer service. Thanks to some luck, I landed a full-time job that gave me more skills and a better network. After a couple years, I leveraged that into better title and more pay…at a business that turned out to be terrible. Thankfully, that was around when I started reading AAM. I quit the terrible for my own sanity, and ended up with 3 job offers in different industries that all aligned with my skills and interests: I took the one in tech. After a couple years there, I applied against 700 other people for a top tier company across the country and got it! That job not only increased my income by 50%, but provided me much more freedom and scope. Until, that is, internal politics came to play, and I was fired for the first time in my life last fall.

It was difficult and humbling, but I took the time to think about what I learned, what happened, and how I could talk about it in a way that would show I took it seriously but was ready to move on to greener pastures. I started landing interviews right away, but it took a few months to get an offer at my current company. Thanks to your blog, I negotiated a salary about 4% higher than my offer (forgoing a small signing bonus) knowing that it was increase my long-term compensation–an overall 22% increase from my previous role. But! I was on track for a March 23 start date–right in the middle of the first wave of mandatory social distancing. Thankfully, my company decided to onboard me remotely, ship my equipment, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. I have exceptionally good perks and healthcare, and I’m in a position to make positive long-term impact at a company that isn’t flashy, but makes a product that really helps people day-to-day.

Tl;dr: in the last 8 years, I’ve quadrupled my salary, moved up in positions with every job change, worked in roles I felt ethically good about, and built a strong cross-country network of personal and professional contacts. I always felt that I was so far behind in getting my career started that I would never catch up, but thanks to a combination of luck, hard work, and AAM, I feel good about where I am and set up for where I want to be.

{ 25 comments… read them below }

  1. Important Moi*

    LW1: I love that a person can move from a job they worked at 25 years for whatever reason. IMO some have a bias against people who stay in a position a long time (which typically means older folks even if not explicitly stated). Happy for you!!

    LW2: Sometimes people are encouraged to stay at jobs for because they could be labeled a job hopper or have the fear of being labeled a job hopper. Glad this worked out for you!

    LW3: That feeling of despair?! Many people know it. Getting fired?! It happens. Congrats to you!

  2. Anon for now*

    I don’t know if this was #3’s situation, but it’s so helpful to have a place to learn about the workplace and workplace norms if you come from a lower-middle-class or working-class background. It’s probably impossible for people who haven’t been in that situation to understand the hurdles involved. And despite saying this, I know I had a significant advantage because I had the opportunity to read and learn to a much greater extent than many other children. I’m well past the career entry level, but I can imagine how helpful this blog would have been way back then.

    1. Mid*

      Yes this!

      It’s also why I wish internships were more accessible to people, because it’s one of the best ways to learn how offices work with lower stakes. (People are more understanding when interns make faux pas than when employees do, even if there’s less than a year in age difference and no difference in the experience.)

      I’m still not perfect in an office setting, but this blog and interning during school really really helped me get started, especially since this blog helped me realize that one of my internships was NOT teaching me good office norms.

    2. LW3*

      LW3 here! Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m actually a number of years into the workforce, so rather than it be an issue with office norms and culture, it was an issue of having a manager who wasn’t able to effectively transfer knowledge from their background to manage the role I had. (My hiring manager was poached a couple weeks after I was hired.) That plus a few other factors made it a less than great experience towards the end, and the sequence of events was…shady at best. (I ran into a member of the C-suite a few months later and she didn’t know I’d been let go. My role was highly visible, albeit lower level.) All that said, I’m really happy to be in a new role at a new company, and sometimes life helps you move on when you don’t feel ready to.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        “Sometimes life helps you move on when you don’t feel ready to” is really wise; it’s a challenging sentiment to hang onto when you’re in the midst of things being bad, but it’s important nonetheless.

        Working for a manager who really understands your role, your skillset, and how you can best contribute to the team and organization is maybe the most important thing in terms of job fit. It’s not always the same thing as having a manager who knows how to do your job or has done it in the past; you just need a curious, open-minded manager. Even so, the less work you have to do specifically to help them “get” you, the better in terms of your long-range outcomes with them. It sucks to find this out by getting fired, but at least now you know what to look out for when you’re facing a change in management.

    3. AGD*

      I’m in academia, and YES. Luck and privilege ensured that I had an intellectually enriched experience in an upper-middle class family, and this is the biggest reason why I took to this line of work in a way that seemed “natural.”

  3. LG*

    Awww, just what I needed to read today. Thanks for sharing these updates, Allison, and thanks to the letter writers for sharing your good news with all of us! I’m so happy for all of you!!!

  4. JohannaCabal*

    I’m interested in how #3 approached the issue of the firing in interviews and how they talked about the situation with their network. I was fired 11 years ago and I don’t think I ever came up with an effective strategy to address it though I overcame it by leaving it off my resume (it was a 3 month stint).

    1. LW3*

      Hi! LW3 is me :) I practiced a lot with my therapist and friends/colleagues who had been on hiring committees. Mostly, people would ask why I was looking to move on and I’d say (cheerfully), “I was actually let go! The role evolved from a collaborative, programmatic position to a consensus-based administrative position. It wasn’t the right role for me anymore so they decided to move me on. One of the reasons I’m excited about this role is…” and I’d use the reasons I was let go for reasons why the role I was interviewing for was a good fit. I also told my therapist that I knew I was further into the healing process by how simply I could tell the story, so having to simplify it down worked in the other direction, too.

  5. Roxie Hart*

    I have good news too!!

    The past 2 years I worked at a toxic company where my hiring manager had a personal problem with me. She gas-lighted me, withheld information, was passive aggressive and defensive and had random outbursts where she would snap and personally criticize me. My confidence took a big hit. She ended up leaving for a new job and I had 2 other managers who were much “better” but still bad in other ways. The company culture was very fearful, insecure and immature, and people who obviously sucked-up to management were blatantly favored (and pitted against other employees). It got to the point where I actually wrote Allison a letter in the beginning of January because I was so exhausted and didn’t know if I should stick it out or leave.

    Well, later in January a former work connection posted a job for an opening and it went from there. I started at the beginning of March and it’s been a complete 180. Not only are the people there nice and normal, but they are knowledge and can communicate clearly. AND I’ve gotten great, positive feedback from them. I’m SO glad I got that job, especially with the pandemic going on. I feel very, very fortunate with how well it worked out.

  6. London Lass*

    LW2: Just wanted to say that I appreciate you sharing your insights on being remotely on-boarded! My team is currently growing and I will need to introduce a few new people in the coming months, so it’s really helpful to hear what has made a difference to you. I’m glad you had such a positive experience in your new role, good luck for the rest of it :-)

  7. NorseMermaid*

    Is it possible to make the Friday feel-good a regular feature? It’s so great to hear of good things happening!

    1. Bookworm*

      This. I had a rough day yesterday that ended up sliding into today (today was simply a lack of motivation) so it was nice to end on a happier note.

    1. LW3*

      That warms my heart! Trust that I’m standing on the shoulders of giants (and in a large circle of supportive, brilliant friends and mentors). <3

  8. Bookworm*

    YAY! Congrats to all. Nice to read happy news so thanks to all for sharing.

  9. New Senior Manager*

    I’m so excited for you. Talk about preserving! Wishing you all the best.

  10. No Sleep Til Hippo*

    LW2, I’m just about to onboard a new hire in a couple of weeks – your advice couldn’t be more timely! I’ve sent the link to my work address so I can remind myself to add these to our processes. Thanks for the insight, and congratulations on your new job!!

  11. Artemesia*

    What is great about this last one is that you got fired right in the middle of this series of transitions and still managed to move forward and upwards. That is such a devastating experience that a lot of people have trouble bouncing back from it. Kudos.

    1. LW3*

      Thank you so much! I was lucky to have a lot of support from friends and a great therapist, plus my GP was amazing (my mental health went real far downhill in the final weeks and she was an incredible advocate for my health and happiness). I also had the gift of time, to really dig in and figure what I wanted and what would work for me. For a bad situation, it was the best it could be.

  12. Newmanager*

    Thank you so much for sharing, #2!!! I’m a new manager trying to figure out not only how to be a good manager but how to be a good manager during a pandemic and it was so helpful to hear your perspective. I’m really happy to say I’ve already been doing most of this and am excited to incorporate the rest.

    Congrats on your great job (:

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