no one is communicating with me during my furlough, interview assignments, and more

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

1. Who was in the wrong on this interview assignment?

I recently had an experience with an interview assignment that left me confused about whether I was in the wrong or not. Last week I had a screening call with an HR person and then a phone interview with the hiring manager for a role that sounded interesting. On the call, the hiring manager mentioned having me complete a writing sample prior to my interview with the team. He said at least twice, “Please don’t spend more than 15 minutes on this! We just want to get a sense of how you think.” A few days later, I got the assignment in an email from the HR person, with the note “Spend no more than 15 minutes on this. There are no wrong answers.”

I spent 15-20 minutes on it and sent it in. Late Friday afternoon, I got an email from the hiring manager asking me to redo it because it had “missed the mark.” He said it should be “like a real example of the work you’d do in this job.” What he was describing sounded like significantly more than a 15-minute writing sample and I asked him to clarify. He confirmed that what he was expecting was a fully detailed specification comparable to a real work product. At this point it was Sunday morning, my interview was scheduled for Monday, and I did not want to devote my entire Sunday to this so I wished him the best and withdrew from consideration.

I’m mystified by what seems like an expectation that I would go far over and above what I was specifically told to do, and I feel like I dodged a bullet because I very much prefer to be managed by someone who is clear and transparent about expectations. However, I get the strong feeling that this company thinks I’m the one who was being unreasonable. Any thoughts? If I’m in the wrong I promise to accept your judgment and not get defensive in the comments!

You’re most likely right. I’m qualifying that because I don’t know the context and it’s possible that what they wanted really could be produced in 15 minutes by the right candidate. I have no idea is that’s true, but if it is, then this would just be a sign that you’re not who they’re looking for in the role. (And full disclosure, when I’ve made hiring assignments, occasionally I’ve had a candidate completely misunderstand what I was looking for and think it would take significantly longer than the 20-30 minutes it genuinely took most people … and usually that was part of a pattern of signs that they weren’t the right candidate.)

But I’m inclined to think they were the problem here, not you, because of the email the hiring manager sent asking you to redo the assignment. Most of the time, asking a candidate to redo an assignment that missed the mark … kind of misses the point. The assignment should be clear enough the first time that work that misses the mark should be treated as useful data. And asking you to redo it on a Sunday with only a day before your interview … I’m not impressed by that. If anything, out of respect for your time they should have moved forward with the interview and only asked you to take another stab at it after that, if they still wanted to move forward. (And really, they shouldn’t be scheduling interviews until after they see these assignments anyway.)

And yes, if what they wanted really would have taken a significant investment of time, then they were in the wrong there too (and would have been in the wrong even if they were up-front about the time commitment).

2. Will graduating college at 19 work against me when I’m job searching?

I am currently going into my senior year of a four-year degree program. I will be graduating at 19 years old because I did two years of college in high school, and I have had some people tell me that they think that will be a bad idea because they don’t think anyone will want to hire me. I really don’t want to go through an extra two years of college in order to graduate at 21 if it won’t help me that much, since I will end up paying more than $30,000 more over those two years. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this. Would you overlook hiring someone with a qualified degree simply because they are 19?

No. You don’t need to do two extra years of college!

Someone who graduates from college is 19 has demonstrated unusual drive and intellectual rigor. Those are good things.

I might wonder if a 19-year-old will struggle more with maturity, judgment, and professional polish just because they’ve spent comparatively less time in the world … but most 22-year-olds struggle with those things too. It’s part of being young and part of hiring young people, and I wouldn’t assume you’d struggle significantly more with those things than a 22-year-old would. Everyone new to the work world has an adjustment period.

All of that is to say most hiring managers won’t be thrown by this, might be impressed by it, and are likely to see you as an individual with your own strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.

Good luck!

3. We get charged points and PTO when we have unscheduled absences

I have a question about an attendance policy at my employment. If someone calls off or misses work (same day, not for time off planned in advance), they are given four points towards our attendance policy (toward the 10 points you’re allowed). Which I completely understand, but what I don’t understand is that if they still have paid time off available to them, eight hours of that is also taken along with still giving them the four points. This is the only place I have ever worked that gives you points and takes away your paid time off as well. In the little bit of research I have done, it seems that it is either “points” or paid time off but not both. Is this legal for them to do both without giving the employee the option?

It bothers me that you get no choice as if you want the time off unpaid or not. If you have five vacation days left for the year, you plan a vacation to use those days, then something happens and you have to call off, and you now only have four days of vacation left.

Well, first, attendance policies based on points are overly rigid and infantilizing. (For those who don’t know how they work, the idea is that you can be fired after racking up X number of points, and this is common in environments like call centers.)

But within the world of companies that have points systems, this policy isn’t that unusual. They’re charging your paid time off because you’re missing work and still being paid for the day. It’s very normal for companies not to let you choose to take the time unpaid, because giving you X paid days off a year means they plan their staffing on the assumption that people will only miss X days off a year. Rather than saying “you can take as many days off as you want, but we’ll only pay you for X of them,” most jobs have limits on how much time you can miss, and the number of paid days off they offer is generally that limit. (Usually you can get exceptions made in unusual circumstances, but they don’t want you thinking of it as a free-for-all.)

The points are a totally separate thing and are there to disincentive last minute call-in’s (presumably because those are more disruptive and require them to scramble for coverage). The points themselves are crap because they penalize people for legitimate sick days, but that’s the thinking.

4. Telling a manager about food allergies, in food service

My teenaged son just landed his first job working at a fast food restaurant. He has several food allergies. He’s never had a severe reaction, but he does carry an epipen and allergy medication at all times just in case. Since he’ll be working with food, I think it’s a good idea if he tells his manager and the other staff about his allergies for safety, but we’re wondering when and how to share this information. I’m worried his manager will feel like he should have been up-front about this during the interview/application process. Is it okay to just pull the manager aside and let him know about the epipen on his first day?

It should be, yes! The exception is if there’s a chance he’ll regularly be exposed to his allergens in a way that could make the job prohibitive for him, in which case he should raise that before his first day (ideally before accepting the offer) so he can explore whether there’s a way for him to perform the job safely. But if that’s not the case and this is more “there’s a small chance this could happen so let’s cover our bases,” then just raising it matter-of-factly on his first day should be fine. In that case, it’s really just “FYI, here’s this thing about me and here’s how I handle it.”

5. No one is communicating with me during my furlough

I’m on furlough from work and have been for two months. In that time, no one from the company has contacted me except for company-wide emails from HR. The CEO releases statements to the company every two weeks or so, but that’s it. I’ve contacted staff working for me on my team to check they’re okay and keep in touch, but am I wrong to expect that from my own manager and above?

During this period I have also found out, via a departmental email, that a member of my team has been moved to another team. There may well be good a good strategic reason for this, but am I wrong in thinking it would have been nice to be informed before a general communication was sent out?

Other furloughed staff have now returned to work and the longer this goes on the more anxious this is making me. I feel quite undervalued.

This is pretty normal. I agree it would be ideal for your manager to check in on you at least once, but none of this is terribly unusual. In particular, it makes sense that they didn’t talk with you about moving your staff member to another team — because that would be a work-related conversation they shouldn’t be having with you right now. There’s a very fine line between keeping you updated on what’s going on there and making you feel obligated to act in ways that you really should get paid for. (For example, if they’d told you they were moving your team member and you had concerns about it, you could easily end up in a work-related strategy conversation that you shouldn’t be doing right now. And for that conversation to be meaningful or useful, they might need to fill you in on lots of other context that they also shouldn’t be using your time on while you’re furloughed.)

The reality is, being furloughed is just hard. It keeps you in an in-between state where you don’t know if you’re going to be part of the company again or when that might happen, and meanwhile things are moving forward without you. It’s just a tough thing, mentally, and I think that’s what you’re responding to. (And meanwhile, do make sure you’re job searching, since being furloughed does not guarantee you will be brought back in the end. A lot of furloughs have been converting to layoffs, and you don’t want to be starting from scratch if that happens.)

{ 343 comments… read them below }

  1. Black Horse Dancing*

    To OP#3. this is quite common. Just as Alison said, you’re getting the points because you called in. You’re getting paid, therefore PTO has to be docked.

    1. Jack Dedham*

      To clarify, this would only be a job where someone is paid salary, not hourly, right? So if it’s an hourly job (like retail) and the worker calls out last-minute, their PTO wouldn’t be charged because they’re not getting paid, right? I’ve never worked anywhere with a points system so I was confused by the answer.

      1. Pop*

        I suspect it would be more common with an hourly employee, rather than salaried, due to what is often the nature of salaries jobs. Many/most coverage based jobs – who are often the ones who want to disincentivize calling out sick as it creates a staffing issue – are hourly. They could be charged PTO and get paid for that day and then not have that time available to them any more. Like Alison mentions, the two things are separate.

        1. On a pale mouse*

          Grocery store worker, and we don’t have this policy. In fact it appears from our employee handbook – though I haven’t clarified this with anyone – that we are not supposed to use vacation if we call in sick. In practice I’ve been able to use it but it wasn’t done automatically – I had to go ask the payroll person to do it. (I also have sick days but you can’t even use them until you’ve already missed two shifts, and those won’t be covered by it.)

          We don’t have a point system. We used to, but I didn’t have benefits then, so I am not sure if the vacation policy was changed when the attendance policy was.

          1. On a pale mouse*

            BTW, not trying to be argumentative or say it isn’t normal, just adding data point. (A largish one, as I work for a pretty big company, though I’m not sure if different divisions have different PTO policies. Those of us not unionized do all have the same benefits.)

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes, our medical assistance and patient service reps are all hourly, and are all part of the PTO system. The only time we have the option to take any time unpaid is if FMLA is longer than the amount of PTO that you have, but even then your PTO has to get burned up first.

          1. Archaeopteryx*


            (Actually, I think it may have become possible to take some sick time unpaid if you run out of PTO due to Seattle’s newish sickleave protections, but I’m not sure.)

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        Lots of office jobs are paid hourly with PTO as part of the benefits package, and if you call in sick it comes out of your PTO (I know a lot of places have separate vacation and sick time banks, but in 20+ years I’ve never worked for one).

        I’ve never worked anywhere with a points system, but as Alison states, that’s a separate issue. But being paid hourly and having a PTO bank aren’t mutually exclusive.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I am hourly and have a PTO bank. I actually have separate vacation and sick time but either way if I called out I’d have to use one or the other, depending on why I was calling out.

      3. LGC*

        Like everyone else said, salary/per diem vs hourly doesn’t affect it!

        In my case, I charge for my scheduled hours per day, pro-rated. (So, when my sink broke two weeks ago, I came in three hours late and used three hours of PTO.) If I call out entirely, it’s my full day (7 hours).

        Basically I need to be more precise.

      4. Hopeful*

        I used to work in a call center and we had a points system for tardiness/unscheduled absences. I was hourly and had PTO (both vacation and sick time.) If you were 1 minute to 3 hours late, it was half a point and anything over 3 hours was a full point. I believe at 4 points, you would get a written warning and then at 6, further action would be taken. The points would go away after a certain period of time (I believe it was 60 days.) I called out sick one day and had a doctor’s note, but still got a point because it was an unscheduled absence. In terms of the PTO, you could use vacation or sick time to cover the missed time or take it unpaid. I really hated the system and it felt so constricting and like Alison said, infantalizing.

        1. LunaLena*

          I worked for a corporation that had a similar points system to this, except that the points didn’t go away, they were tallied up over the entire year. For your first year there, you didn’t get any PTO. If you didn’t get any points for the entire year, you were given one day of PTO for your second year, but if you even got half a point, even that one day was taken away. The employee manual also specified that car trouble was not a valid excuse for being late.

          I lasted about two months there before I left, and can still remember the slip of paper I got with my first paycheck that said “You were (2) minutes late on (date), and have (0.5) points on your record.” It felt like being given a note to take home to my parents from school. Not surprisingly, morale was not high there and several people confided to me after I announced I was leaving that they were looking for other jobs. There were many dysfunctional things about that place, but the points system was by far the worst. I will never forget watching grown adults literally sprint across the office towards the punch-in clock with their time cards in outstretched hands to avoid clocking in from lunch a minute late. And we were all hourly employees, for the record.

      5. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

        I work hourly. When we call off, my manager uses our PTO to cover our shift because he would have to give us a write up otherwise. So even though we aren’t there, we do still get paid.

      6. Ace in the Hole*

        Plenty of hourly jobs have paid time off. At my agency everyone is hourly (even management). We get very generous amounts of paid time off. Outside of unusual, specially approved circumstances like FMLA leave, all absences are paid out of an employees PTO bank whether there’s advance notice or not.

        Unless there’s a legitimate reason for an unapproved absence (illness, accidents, family emergency, etc), the employee may face disciplinary action. We’re very flexible with what counts as a “legitimate excuse” – I’ve called out for everything from a head cold to a emergency veterinary appointment. I’ve also never had an advance time off request denied. But if someone is habitually missing work without getting time off approved in advance, that’s a serious issue for us since we need reliable coverage for each shift.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Yeah, in my experience the only time you could technically get “unpaid time off” for a callout is if you’re hourly AND part time AND have variable schedule anyway. So if sometimes you work 20 hours/week and sometimes 30 and various things in between, someone who had an unexpected and unpredictable absence might not have to use available PTO. They’d just work the fewer hours and only get paid the hours they worked. But most places if you have the PTO banked and you’re not there would make you use that up first before being allowed “unpaid time off”. The line is just a bit blurrier when it’s someone without fixed hours in the first place.

    2. Taniwha Girl*

      “If you have five vacation days left for the year, you plan a vacation to use those days, then something happens and you have to call off, and you now only have four days of vacation left.”

      I also encourage OP to reframe their “vacation days” as “PTO” or “time off”, because it seems like OP is thinking of them as “days to be used for vacation.” I mean, culturally and commonly, yes, that is how we use them, but they are really defined by whether the time off is paid or unpaid, with unpaid days off often treated as an absence (at least in my country). It’s not like you have 5 “vacation days” and 3 “unpaid vacation days”. If you use a “vacation day” for something else, then yeah, your actual vacation is going to have to be shorter.

      This is why many people don’t plan vacations that will take up exactly all of their PTO, in case they need that time for something else.

      1. Oh Snap*

        We have a points policy (manufacturing plant) and offer PTO that covers sick and vacation. Of you miss work you are charged PTO regardless of reason, and you get points.

        The points policy felt draconian to me at first but it’s there for two reasons (and maybe more but these seem to be the main ones): 1. To make it uniform how attendance problems are handled, and 2. Because you can’t run a manufacturing line without enough people so missing unexpectedly is a big problem.

        That said reasonable companies do things like suspend it if it is covid related (we did this). But unfortunately some jobs just absolutely require you be reliably be there in person.

        1. Washi*

          That there are jobs where attendance is critical makes perfect sense. But why use “points” at all? Why not just say X unscheduled absences in a month results in Y?

          1. BethDH*

            My guess from the one place I’ve worked that had points was that it makes it easier to include being late or partial days in the same system. So if you totally miss 2 days that can be counted the same way as 4 times being late or whatever.

            1. Oh Snap*

              Because if you call before your shift starts it is 2 points. If you just don’t show up it is 4. So if you call ahead you get 5 or 6 a year, half that if you just no show. And again with Covid our policy is suspended if you are missing for anything related to Covid (including your kid isn’t in school, etc).

          2. Thankful for AAM*

            I work in a place where coverage is not a problem, we are hourly, and we don’t have points. But we do have policies like x absences or lates leads to y. It really is the same but some of the points systems sound better! If we are 1 minute late 4 times in 12 months, we will find ourselves at HR explaining ourselves. It is infantilizing.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Yes you are right. If the policy is 3 no call no shows or 6 times being late in a year and you are fired, that effectively means that 1 no call no show = 1 point, 1 late =.5 points and if you hit 3 points in a year you are fired. Having an official policy makes it standard across the board for better or worse. It can help avoid bosses playing favorites. When I worked retail my bosses liked me, I worked hard, but one time I wrote my schedule wrong and showed up a few hours late. My supervisor told me I know you work hard and you do a good job, I don’t want to do this but it is policy and I have to write you up for being late.

          3. AndersonDarling*

            You want to make sure absences, no-shows, and tardiness are documented and that the system is implemented consistently. I worked in 2 healthcare systems and their documentation around points were crazy detailed. I was in a corp/support role, so it wasn’t really a big deal if i showed up 5 min late, but it was nerve wracking just reading the rules and penalties.
            There has to be definitions for unscheduled absences and there are points given to the severity of eac scenario, the most grievous being the no-call no-show. But there may be forgiveness given if there was an accident and the employee can show they were in the ER…but they will still be given at least one point no matter what!
            Points try to level the playing field so someone isn’t getting fired because their lupus flared up 3 times in a month. But it also quantifies the impact to the team. A nurse may have a single now-show that made a big impact (5 points), and then another nurse is consistently 30 min late (1 point) creating consistent small impacts. Eventually the lateness will be impactful enough for a PIP and termination. Without points, there isn’t a way to add it up.

          4. doreen*

            There are systems like that- but in some ways , points are more employee- friendly. For example, at my job we keep track of unscheduled absences by occurrence ( with medical documentation, an unlimited amount of days is a single occurrence) and after 8 within 12 months informal counseling is to be considered. But lateness of 2 hours or more is considered an “occurrence” just as much as a full-day absence.

          5. Rockin Takin*

            My department does something similar, but we did away with points and instead folks rack up occurrences.
            We have 6 days of sick leave, you can call in at any time and use even just 1 or 2 hours of sick leave without any issues and no occurrences.

            After you use up sick time, if you give less than 24 hr notice it’s an occurrence.

            Also if you no call no show to your shift it’s an occurrence.

            If it’s an emergency or some random thing we take that into consideration.

            We work in manufacturing and we had people abusing the system or not showing up, and it would mess up the whole day’s schedule and cause a lot of problems.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              But how many occurrences before someone is fired or has adverse action taken against them? If there is a policy of x occurrences = fired, then really an occurrence is just a different name for a point?

          6. MassMatt*

            Points codify what otherwise might be a nebulous policy and make it easier for both employee and employer to keep track of.

            I worked in a call center, we did not have a points policy, but if you were tardy or (especially) absent without notice these were to accumulate towards verbal and written warnings and termination. We were salaried but eligible for overtime.

            Essential to making this work is building in enough “free”consequence free tardies, even the most conscientious person can get stuck in traffic, and being sure it is equally applied to all. And it goes without saying, this should only apply to jobs that really do require coverage at specific times.

        2. Tuckerman*

          I worked for a call center with a point system and it was actually pretty reasonable. You had to have a lot of absences to get fired. One benefit is that people could choose to leave even if we needed them to stay. Like if they wanted to go to a concert. The point system gave them flexibility to do that occasionally. An absence was a point whether it was approved or not. It was actually seen as a perk.

          1. Washi*

            This is fascinating! So basically it gave them an official mechanism to use “unapproved” PTO?

            1. Tuckerman*

              Yup. And I should have clarified, a full shift absence had a point penalty, but leaving early approved had no penalty. The call center was purposefully overstaffed, which allowed for people to put in last minute requests for unpaid time off that were usually approved. It was a cool place .

    3. Anonys*

      I’m really confused by the points things. So if you call in sick (in the morning of the day you will be out, as would be usual when sick), you have 8 points, so if you then get sick one more time you will have more than 10 and will be fired?

      I think it’s pretty common to be sick three times a year, so this seems ridiculous to me.

      Also, what if I have the flu and need to be out for like a week? Will I get points deducted for all of those days or are the days after the first treated as “planned”?

      1. EPLawyer*

        The point system really is stupid. Clock in 2 minutes late, it’s a point. Call out sick, it’s 2 points. Get enough Points are you are fired. My husband’s plant has this and I hate it. Before they had sick days, you got points if you called out sick. Which means if you had the flu, you could get enough points to be fired. So better to come in and get EVERYONE ELSE sick than be fired. Because everyone being sick doesn’t create staffing problems, only one person being out does, apparently. Also all call outs, were unpaid.

        However, they also fall of after a time. Basically points fall off after 3 months. So if you called out April 5, you had 2 points, then you were late on May 8 you had a point for a total of 3. But on July 5, those 2 points fell off so you were down to 1 point. You only got fired if you accumulated enough total points in 3 month time period.

        Last contract, because state law changed and they HAD to give paid sick leave, the policy changed to no points for calling out sick BUT they lowered the total points to which you could be fired. Also sick days became paid. This was a UNION contract btw. This place sucks for so very many reasons.

        1. Pretzelgirl*

          This system is terrible. I had the flu last year and was so incredibly ill. I could barely lift my head off the pillow. There is no way I could have worked, I would have likely been fired.

          I wonder how companies are handling this during CO-VID? There is no way someone who has CO-VID could keep their job at a company like this.

          1. EPLawyer*

            During Covid they have suspended the point system. For safety reasons, they can’t use the time clock to check in, it takes a thumbprint. They don’t want everyone touching it, so no check ins. Since they can’t clock in, they can’t tell if anyone is late. So system suspended.

            That’s about the ONLY thing they havve done right during this time. The only reason hubby stays is they pay very very very well. They have to. No one would work there otherwise.

            1. Pomegranate*

              This sounds like a great experiment for the company and employees. What if they have no additional issues with people not using time clock to check in? Things just run as well as they can. What a great reason it would be to push for getting rid of the ‘clocking in’ system and the concept of punishing somebody for being 1-2 min late.

          2. Dawn*

            For the flu it would have depended on when you called in, if you knew you were getting sick the day before then it would have been fewer points than calling in that morning. In my experience you only get points on your first call in per situation. So if you told your manager when you left that you were sick and wouldn’t be in tomorrow it would be 4 points, if you were out the rest of the week you wouldn’t get any additional points. You only start earning points again when you come back to work and take off again.

          3. Anono-nono-nonymous*

            My company makes allowances for the flu every year, if you actually get a positive flu test. We can also roll consecutive days together for a single illness and only take the points for the first day. We have separate buckets for sick and vacation time. If you call out same day and have sick time to cover it, no points. Also, if you pre-schedule vacation time, no points. It’s only if you call out the same day and have no sick time to cover that you get points. You will have your vacation time deducted for those days though, because you can’t take unpaid time if you have paid time available. I think it works really well. You have to really try to get termed for hours here.

          4. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Based upon word of mouth from some friends, some firms are losing people fast due to system like that. One (now closed, hopefully for good) store in town basically said to staff that if you’re ill, even with Covid, you had to come in. They’d give you a mask and gloves and put you to work.

            Call in and say you’re ill and going to quarantine your house for 2 weeks? That’s 14 days off, which is over the 3 they’re allowed per 6 month period.

            Hardly surprising that they lost customers almost as fast as staff. Nobody wants to go to a store that has staff coughing and sweating with fever.

            1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              A McDonald’s chain in the Bay Area got massively sued because they made people come in with COVID symptoms due to their crummy absence policy.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                GOOD. I hope every company that endangers its workers and customers gets sued and loses lots of money.

                1. TardyTardis*

                  Ah, but there’s a bill in the US Senate that would indemnify these companies for the next five years to keep them from being sued! How lovely is that!

          5. Gazebo Slayer*

            I was hoping COVID would permanently do away with this kind of “if you’re sick, you need to come in and infect everyone” policy. I guess that was too much to hope for.

            A lot of companies won’t do the right thing until they’re required to by law (and even then, a lot of companies won’t do the right thing until they suffer consequences that severely impact their bottom line).

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          “better to come in and get everyone else sick than be fired”

          I suspect that for certain bad employers it isn’t even about the bottom line any more. It’s about power. It’s about being able to control their workers’ lives in any way they please, and punishing people who dare to inconvenience them. It’s about screeching “Nobody tells me how to run my business!” It’s “the cruelty is the point,” as Adam Serwer so brilliantly put it, except applied in business rather than politics.

      2. Nick J*

        Yeah the one thing that is different about this point system is if you miss 2 consecutive days for the same sickness it is only one occurrences so 4 points, if you miss more 2 days in a row you must have a doctors excuse before you can return. You will only get 4 points but you will be charged 2 vacation days.

      3. Eeeek*

        Yeah this seems crazy to me. Like a legal way of firing you for taking more than 2 sick days in a year! I’m really shocked so many workplaces have this and that people seem to be ok with it

      4. MangoIsNotForYou*

        When we implemented points at my call center, the rule was that consecutive absences were treated as one total absence. So if you came in late one day = .5 points. If you called out the following day because you were sick = 1 point. If you were out the rest of the week with the flu, that’s still part of the same point. It was actually an incentive for employees to just stay home if they were sick. They wouldn’t accrue as many points as they would if they came in late or left early every day due to illness. Points rolled off after 60 days, so an illness early in the year wouldn’t mess you up if you also got sick in the fall. And yes, we had PTO, plus a PTO bank that employees dealing with chronic illness or other major life events could draw from. We were fairly rigid about assigning points, but it was pretty rare to lose someone because they went over their points (maybe two or three out of 150 employees per year).

        I think the points system was actually pretty beneficial for us. It took away the potential for favoritism, it helped us with scheduling, and it helped us address “minor” problems like employees that somehow encountered heavy traffic every. single. day. When your work depends on having a certain number of bodies in chairs at a specific time of day, it’s critical to have a concrete metric for holding employees accountable.

        We did do away with points when we all started working from home, and haven’t had any major issues. However, we have had some chronic absenteeism that will need to be addressed, but without the points it’s much harder to make the case to legal/HR that we need to move to a written warning.

    4. Nuke*

      My job also has a points system, but we have a point balance that the call-outs, lates, etc. are deducted from. We have tons of opportunities to earn points back (a big one is tied to our quality checks). I totally get why it can seem infantalizing to other people, but I kinda like it because it holds people accountable if they chronically call out. There are obvious exceptions for medical issues and I know a few people who are exempt because of it. But I’ve worked at places where I’ve been written up for being 3 minutes late to punch in because I couldn’t physically get into the building due to the Supervisors (the only people with keys) being late, then stepping ahead of me to use the only computer, so… It’s much better than where I used to be.

      And as a note, I’m hourly with a single PTO bank. No separation of sick, vacation, etc.

      1. Oh Snap*

        This is a good point. I know someone who has intermittent FMLA die to a medical thing. They don’t get penalized for calling in as long as they call prior to the start of the shift.

    5. The Lord of Maintenance*

      A points system is really common in unionized manufacturing environments. Especially if the plant is a really undesirable to work. Think hot, dirty etc. The points system is worked out during collective bargaining and both labor and management have to make compromises to come to a policy that they both can agree on. Basically neither side gets to take advantage of the other.
      Before the attendance points policy if you had a really hot summer day, so many people would call in on 2nd shift the plant wouldn’t be able to run.
      According to the collective bargaining agreement, people calling off unexpectedly on 2nd shift forces the lowest seniority employee on first shift forced to work an extra 4 hours after they’ve worked their 8 hours shift and the lowest seniority person third shift gets forced in 4 hours early plus their normal 8 hours shift to cover for that loos of a person on 2nd shift. If 10 people call in unexpectedly it screws the 10 lowest seniority employees on first and third shift.
      Another thing to remember is not only are points deducted for poor attendance points they are also earned for good attendance. A no call, no show is a -2. A call in without 24 hours notice use of PTO is a -1 and a tardy up to two hours late is -1/2 point. To take a PTO day you need to give 24 hours advanced notice. At my plant everyone starts out at 8 points and you can earn up 12 points per year. If you don’t have any occurrence where points (or a fraction of) are deducted in a month, you earn point.
      Two weeks before Christmas you can cash in all your points above 8 and get $250 per point. So everyone regardless of their hourly pay scale could earn and extra $3,000 a year just for showing up for work on time and or using their PTO properly. I had a handful of the hourly skilled trades people that I supervised earn that extra $3,000 several years in a row. Most others were able to sell some of their points back for extra cash as well. The people with problem attendance ended up firing themselves. People with long term medical issues had both short and long term disability available as well as FMLA to use without being penalized by the points system.
      TL;DR My plant lets you earn up to an extra $3,000 a year because of our CBA points system.

      1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        A plant that’s so unpleasant to work in on a hot day as all that… maybe shouldn’t plan to run on the hottest days, or should have some modifications to make it more livable, rather than elaborate systems to create ‘fairness’ in the distribution of the suffering? Hot environments are dangerous and this is going to become an ever-more-significant issue due to climate change.

        1. The Lord of Maintenance*

          The plant has to run 24/7 based on its contractual obligations to their customers. It’s called “just in time manufacturing”. It’s also not a surprise to new hires that a foundry or forging plant is going to be a miserable place to work on a hot summer day.

    6. TardyTardis*

      Of course, penalizing people for calling in sick during a pandemic seems…counterproductive.

    7. Penny*

      When I started at my company there was a points system. Calling out was 1 point and being more than 5 minutes late was a 1/2 a point including coming back from lunch. It was a huge deal when I first started with the company and a major focus of my co-workers since we work in an area that typically has a lot of traffic. You only got 6 points for your first year (supposedly you could have 12 after that) and I remember sobbing in my car during a torrential downpour that I was going to get 1/2 a point and panicking about it because I was 1.5 late for work. My boss strolled in 30 minutes after me though and never marked me because he was in the same traffic as me. Later on a former manager of mine confessed to me that it was the easiest and fastest way of weeding out bad employees. Usually the employees that were habitually late or calling out were the worst performers. But the company had strict procedures on improvement plans so firing for performance issues was almost impossible. They used points to circumvent that

    8. Dr Rat*

      I had worked for smaller organizations in the past. I now work for the Umbrella Corporation (right here in Raccoon City) and while we don’t have a points system, we do have an “occurrence” system. Basically, it’s because we are huge, we are licensed professionals, and our computer software is proprietary, all of which means staffing is a critical issue and we can’t possibly hire temps. We have an entire department that focuses only on handling scheduling. We get crazy generous PTO and we actually get to take it…BUT they want the vast majority of it to be planned in advance. So I have 3 sick days that I can use unplanned without getting dinged, then there is a whole stepped system for each manager from ‘do nothing’, ‘bring it up to the employee’, ‘bring it up to the employee again and note in the file’, and ‘issue a formal warning’ before termination comes up. If you can bring in legit proof, the incident does not count – say I had used my 3 unplanned sick days and then ended up in the ER after a car accident, I could bring in proof and it would not count as an occurrence. They are also good about FLMA for seriously ill employees. The only people I have ever seen fired for this seemed to get pretty flaky in general. I’ve been here for years, was a caregiver for a terminally ill family member, and never even hit the ‘bring it up to the employee’ level. That said, for many other companies, their policies seem to be exceptionally harsh and unreasonable.

    1. 867-5309*

      I was going to say something similar, albeit more softly.

      OP knows her workplace best but once a company is making staffing changes to your team before you’re back (and not telling you), the signs aren’t great. I would begin job searching and if called back, then it’s an excellent surprise & will show that apparently those of us in comment-world don’t always have the right instinct. :)

      I understand the need to respect furlough rules but I think if OP’s higher ups are planning to bring her back, someone likely would have given her a heads up. I’ve seen similar things happen when someone is on maternity or sick leave, and never experienced a circumstance where the manager wasn’t notified personally via email or a call, even when there was nothing they could do about it.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        To be fair, people on leave are still fully linked with the company, so in my (not-American) opinion, that’s a little different. In my country anyway, people are given notice of truly important organizational changes while on leave, and it’s not unusual in those extreme cases for them to be asked to participate in key meetings and such. My own boss was on maternity leave when COVID started here, and was brought back 2 weeks early (we usually get 4 months) to help build-up and handle the cost-cutting measures.

        Furlough is a much more tenuous connection, and companies absolutely can’t ask people to work at all or by law (here anyway), it could be interpreted as the company ending the furlough and bringing them back to work. So no meetings, no helping decide staff moves, no discussing company strategy.

        From what’s written, it’s possible OP’s company plans on bringing her back. Or not. OP, *all* people on furlough should be actively job hunting, precisely because it’s such a tenuous link to a company. Please start looking now if you aren’t already. Good luck, and I’m sorry you’re going through that.

    2. Dan*

      I wouldn’t go that far. I would, however, say that in general, “furloughs” are not used very much in the USA, and therefore it’s difficult to understand what the term really means.

      I’m familiar with it in a couple of contexts. Federal and state governments will use it when there are budget issues and the staffer is expected to return to work. In these cases, the duration is pretty short.

      I’ve also seen it used in union contexts, where the reality it is, it’s a layoff by another name. In the union context, however, a furlough generally comes with recall rights, where when the company starts hiring again, they are obligated to work through the list in seniority order. Contrast that with, “we furloughed this person but won’t be asking them back.” Then no, you didn’t furlough them, they were laid off.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        If you’re a federal employee you may be very well acquainted with furloughs — it’s been part of the budget brinksmanship over the past few years.

    3. AnonAgain*

      I agree. My prior employer furloughed us in April and there was minimal communication until we all got a WARN Act notification. I luckily had been job searching all along but the majority of my team was in deep denial. When we got the actual layoff notification, I was already interviewing.

    4. Observer*

      Start looking for another job. Maybe you were laid off, maybe not. But no matter what their intentions, you simply can’t know what’s going to happen.

    5. RobotWithHumanHair*

      That’s the way I’ve been feeling with my furlough. I’ve been furloughed since early April and despite promises from leadership that we would get updates every week (via our personal emails, since our work emails have been deactivated), we’ve been lucky to get an email every two weeks, if that. Presently, I’m going on over a month of radio silence from our GM (though he clearly has enough time to spend the day on LinkedIn liking posts, promoting new products, engaging in comment threads, etc.) and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I won’t be back.

    6. Cantusemyname mybossmightbewatching*

      As someone who wasn’t furloughed, but was “floated” to a considerably less desirable position, I was granted absolutely NO information regarding when or if I would be able to return to my original position. After months of having no answer for my new boss on the subject of “well, when are they going to call you back?”, a position opened up doing the same job that I had been doing from the beginning of my “float”. So I shrugged my shoulders and applied for the position, no longer having the slightest faith that I would EVER hear from my boss. I received a two line HR reply to my inquiry into the position stating that my old bosses were willing to approve the transfer, effective two weeks prior to my placing the request. At a meeting that took place the next day, my bosses evidently announced, with great fanfare, that they had worked SO HARD to help me find this NEW POSITION, where I would be SO HAPPY, and by the way, my prior position has now been eliminated.
      I have come to the conclusion that my company, as a whole, does not in any way deserve my loyalty or my respect. I will be looking for another job in about a year, when I feel that the world has come to a more even keel.

      Communicating with your employees should be deemed as important as any other business task. I work for a hospital, more directly, now, at a nursing home under the “hospital” umbrella company. Ask me, some day, about the nightmare that was the “phasing in face masks”, a few months ago. It wasn’t good.

  2. jman4l*


    If you are on furlough, should you still be checking your work or departmental email?

    If they want to do the right thing and avoid labor/wage disputes later, they should turn off all your system access.

    I know that furloughs paid for by US government(taxpayers) have very strict guidelines that you shouldn’t do any work-Check emails, attend meetings, etc.

    1. NRL*

      There aren’t any furloughs paid for by the taxpayers, unless you mean unemployment benefits?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        And unemployment is paid by the employer and employee…very specific tax payers not The Taxpayers.

      2. doreen*

        I think that was in reference to furloughs of Federal employees – but it doesn’t really make sense. If they will eventually be paid for the furlough days, I don’t understand the restriction on checking emails etc. And if they won’t eventually be paid for those days, the taxpayers aren’t paying for anything.

        1. Malarkey01*

          just in reference to federal employees- the prohibition on doing any work during a shutdown is because you do not know if you will be paid until Congress passes a bill that specifically addresses the shutdown pay which they do at their discretion at the end of a shutdown when they pass the larger budget or continuing resolution.

          There are essential federal workers who continue working during a furlough without immediate pay, but who will be back paid per previous statue outlining how essential workers are paid. That law does not cover non-essentials.

          For those non-essential furloughed in a shutdown they can do no work because at that time, there is no money and no legislation for back pay.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Stop working for free, LW#5. Also do not be frustrated that your company is not trying to make you work for free by involving you in work decisions while you’re furloughed i.e. unpaid and not currently employed.

      This sucks for. The uncertainty is terrible and frustrating. But the only difference between furlough and unemployment is non-binding promise you may be rehired by your former employer, if possible.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        Yes, this.

        OP, I know you’re stressed, and it seems you’re trying to feel as much as possible that you’re still in your old position. But the fact is, at this time, you’re not working for this company and they shouldn’t involve you in their strategic decisions. In fact, I’m surprised you still have access to their email server.

        I’m sorry and this sucks. But you should be job searching, not trying to cling to your old company. As with any furlough, if they call you back, that’s great, but it’s by no means guaranteed.

    3. Esme*

      Furloughs aren’t paid for in the US! Might you be getting confused with the UK scheme?

      1. Willis*

        In the US, when there have been furloughs of federal employees because congress doesn’t pass legislation to fund the government in time, employees are usually paid back pay for the time they were furloughed once the government is funded. It sounds like that is what jman4l is talking about.

        1. LQ*

          The thing is that it’s unknown if folks will be paid for the time they were laid off. They are unemployed, that they later get backpay isn’t known until laws are passed to allow for that. They are actually unemployed. I think furlough is too messy of a word and implies things that aren’t always true. Unless you have a routine furlough of a week or a couple of weeks a year where the company shuts down, it’s a layoff with a possibility of coming back. But you shouldn’t assume

      2. Superlanon*

        My husband was furloughed with reduced pay for two months. I think it’s uncommon for a company to pay while employees are on furlough, but it does happen in the US.

        1. Clisby*

          I don’t know how common it is, but it happens. Just like some furloughed employees in the US can keep their health care benefit even if they aren’t paid a reduced salary. If the employer doesn’t do either of t hose things, what’s the difference between a furlough and a layoff?

      3. Mookie*

        Select public sector unions for state employees say otherwise! They successfully negotiated otherwise! And that’s good! Public employees have earned their unemployment like everyone else and their employer, us, should be closing loopholes between the time additional federal benefits expire and a furlough ends.

      4. Person from the Resume*

        True. For federal government organization furloughs, federal employees are strictly ordered not to login to the network at all or do work. Don’t think this is a time you can catch up on things.

        Honestly that is very different. It is a political game. Once the federal budget is passed the federal workers know they will be back to work. It is highly stressed that you can’t count on back pay; although, it has been what happened during all recent furloughs. There’s no worry that the federal employees’ jobs won’t be there when the government sorts it budget out.

        OTOH a furlough from an organization or commercial company right now means that they can’t afford to pay people and unless their business pick ups that isn’t going to change. it’s very much not the same and the LW should be job hunting.

    4. Mockingjay*

      While an employee can’t work during furlough, the company can certainly keep them informed, of return expectations at bare minimum.

      During a furlough at ExToxic Job (government contract), we heard nothing from the head office for weeks and weeks, even after the other contracting companies on the program returned. I had already been job searching and also contacted the unemployment office. The case worker was astonished that my company hadn’t reached out even once, if only to indicate an end date for employment. (Yet ExToxic Job prided itself on how open and communicative they were…)

      Furloughs are a special kind of Purgatory.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      OP shouldn’t even have access to check work email. It would be the same if they were on extended leave for a medical reason. If you’re not being paid to work, you should have zero access to work systems.

    6. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      HR departments often retain a personal email of an employee. In which case, they may be sending company-wide newsletters to the personal emails of furloughed employees, to count as contacts to keep them “warm” so they can bring them back.

  3. MK*

    #2, since the OP apparently is looking for an employee position, their youth is unlikely to be a disadvantage; most hiring managers will be impressed and probably assume that you must be mature for your age to be able to finish university at 19.

    It would have been a different matter if the OP was planning to set up as a solo professional, like a doctor or lawyer opening a private practice, because prospective clients might well be sceptical about a very young person operating without the guidance of more seasoned professionals, especially in certain professions where inspiring confidence is important. But in those cases even people in their late 20s face this.

    1. Taniwha Girl*

      The most annoying thing about being “young for your age” (or younger than expected, I guess) is the “you’re so young!” comments and ageism from older people are sensitive about their own ages. The kind of people who call adults “babies” because they’re born after 1990, question your choices because “the brain doesn’t stop developing until 25”, and argue you would agree with them if you were older.

      The good news is these people do this to everyone younger than them, whether you’re 19 or 28 or 36. You’ll never be older than them, after all, so they can keep beating you at a game no one else is playing…! So you can basically disregard their opinions entirely.

      1. Anononon*

        Tell me about it. As a lawyer who looks and sounds much younger than she is, I get it ALL the time. The worst are, “if you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?” Uh…yeah, I do mind. Old enough, now screw off.

        Interestingly, being born in 1988, I grew up thinking that people born in 1990 and up were so much younger. It was like an age cut off in my head that really only made sense when I was like 7, but I still sometimes have to remind myself that someone born in 1993 is fully an adult and the same age range as me.

        1. Quill*

          Having this trouble right now with anyone born after about ’97. Wait, you can drink??? But you’re not even my generation!

        2. hermit crab*

          I still sometimes have to remind myself that someone born in 1993 is fully an adult and the same age range as me

          My baby brother was born in 1990. So anyone who was younger than my brother was CLEARLY also a baby! Then he grew up. So instead I switched my mental benchmark to my youngest cousin, born in 1997. Then she grew up too! Funny how that happens. :)

          1. Quill*

            My cousins keep having kids so in a few years I’ll have to reset my expectation on who and who is not a baby.

          2. Quill*

            My cousins keep having kids so in a few years I’ll have to reset my expectation on who and who is not a baby every other year.

        3. Uranus Wars*

          I was born in 1979 and I still get the “if you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?”…I remember longing to be 30 professionally, so this would go away…then longing to be 40…and here we are, still answering the same question! I dressed so formal for so long I finally gave up and realized that I can just be myself because someone will always be older and someone will always ask that question. I say I won’t be that person, but I catch myself now and then – especially when I was working an event a couple years ago and the birth date cut off to drink was 1997 (the year I graduated HS)

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        The “you’d agree with me if you were older” thing is such bullshit. 20 years ago, I had relatives telling me I’d agree with them politically when I was 40. Now I’m close to 40, and I’m nowhere near their views. (Hell, one of them moved a lot closer to *my* views over that period.)

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        My favorite has always been “you’ll appreciate looking so much younger once you’re (x age).” Except, I passed X Age 3 years ago and am still getting “You’re so experienced for your age!” with said age being a solid 7 or 8 years older than people guess that I am.

        OP, whether you’re 19 or 25 when you start work, people will make assumptions about your age and what that means in terms of your maturity and experience. But the people who matter will see the work you do and know you deserve to be there. You have done an incredible thing by finishing school so comparatively early. You are capable of more incredible things when you join the workforce. Don’t put too much weight on the people who would try to judge you negatively for your accomplishments, look for a workplace that will value what you bring to the table.

      4. TardyTardis*

        Try being in the military when you look like you’re trying to sell people Girl Scout cookies. That was fun, not. Second lieutenants are already treated as…not quite mature (thinking of *you* former 1st Sgt…).

    2. Perfectly Particular*

      I’m not sure why her age would come up prior to hiring? If she has to travel for the interview, there might be a problem with car rental for someone under 25, but that would also apply to a 21 year old.

      OP, you’re going to do great. You have obviously made wise decisions already, choosing to take college classes while still in high school, and getting through college quickly to save both the cost of college and the opportunity cost of not working. Good luck with your job search!

      1. BethDH*

        My guess is that the most likely reason for it to come up would be that they’d be more likely to have things on their resume from high school as two years doesn’t give you much time to add other work or internships. So if they have things like “valedictorian of Town High School, 2018” on the resume it doesn’t require conscious arithmetic to guess that they might be unusually young.
        That said, any position where I would hire a just-out-of-college person would not be affected by a 2 year age difference.

        1. Carbondale*

          “any position where I would hire a just-out-of-college person would not be affected by a 2 year age difference.”

          For me, it probably would be affected because this person also has 2 fewer years of the type of experience that college students typically get outside of class. Things like part-time jobs, internships, student group activities, work study, etc. When you’re young and have so little experience to begin with, these experiences are pretty valuable.

          1. Washi*

            Yeah, that’s 2 fewer summers that the person would have potentially worked full time. Plus when you’re 19/20, 2 years is 10% of your life! It can be a big difference and the perceived or real maturity gap could affect what jobs you get offered.

            But I don’t think any of that is a reason to stay in school another 2 years if OP is ready to work! Even if she gets a low-paying job at say, 22k (minimum wage in my state), that’s making 44k in two years instead of spending 30k. And then at age 21, OP will have two years of work experience when her peers are just graduating.

            1. Carbondale*

              Yes, I totally agree that there’s no reason for OP to stay in school. It may be more difficult to get a job that a typical fresh-out-of-college person would get, but there are a lot of ways that OP can take advantage of these bonus 2 years.

            2. Smithy*

              I graduated with 20 going through a program where I did so with peers, and I will say that perhaps due to us being so academically minded, finding concrete programs to do after graduation often felt more comforting than just trying to find a job.

              For classmates who weren’t going the law/med/PhD trajectory – graduate school often seemed like an easy choice. But in one case a friend joined ROTC his senior year, and then went into the air force following graduation, someone else did Peace Corps – I will say, at that age that degree of structure can still be appealing.

              Going to grad school “just cause” isn’t great, but I do think it’s a good spidey sense to determine if finding something with more structure sounds appealing vs just trying to get a job. That might help in expanding your thinking as to what that could be beyond just staying in school.

              1. lemon*

                This is a good point to bring up. Doing something like Americorps can be a good option in that vein. It’s structured, but it’s not academic, so you get job experience/resume building, and it’s only a one-year commitment.

                1. New Jack Karyn*

                  Yes, I did a year of AmeriCorps. The thing to remember is that it’s *very* low pay. So low that it’s considered volunteer work with a living stipend attached. If OP has any student loans, there’s also a subsidy for, I think, $7,000 that can go towards that. Hopefully, she can stay on her parents’ health insurance.

                  I was an adult, and I just didn’t go to the doctor. I was also on food stamps that year.

        2. Faith*

          Thank you for your input! I have purposefully removed anything mentioning high school from my resume as most people assume that if I’m graduating from college, I graduated from high school.

      2. MK*

        They would meet prior to hiring, no? I am extremely bad at guessing people’s ages, but I can tell when someone is under 20 or early 20s, most people change a lot in those 2-3 years.

        In any case, I am not sure it’s helpful to assure the OP no one is going to notice how young they are. Lots of people will notice, if nothing else, the dates of their highschool and college graduations.

        1. MsClaw*

          Gotta say — I definitely could not. I’m in my 40s now and everyone under 30 looks 15 to me anymore. I interview both summer interns and newly-graduated hires and I definitely couldn’t tell you just by looking which ones are 19 and which are 23.

          1. Junior Assistant Peon*

            Same here. Most hiring managers are going to be in the age bracket where you’re going to look like a kid to them whether you’re 19 or 25. I’ve also worked with a baby-faced manager in his low 30s who could have passed for 16, and he was at my grandboss’s level in the hierarchy.

          2. AMT*

            Yep. I’d say the best advice to OP is to be extra careful about looking polished in interviews. I know this is somewhat class- and field-dependent, but to me, a well-fitted suit or blazer gives off an aura of maturity that a badly-fitted suit or rumpled sweater can’t match.

      3. blackcat*

        I rented a car as an under 25 driver for work, and they just paid the extra under 25yo fee, but I was over 21.

        It was a bit of a hassle to get me on the company car insurance policy (I had to drive school-owned vehicles sometimes), but they figured it out.

      4. BemmyLover*

        On the car rental note – U-Haul rents to anyone with a drivers license and they rent small pickup trucks. Both my sons have used that when on business trips before they were old enough to “rent a car.”

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      The issue with a very young doctor or lawyer is that medical and law school don’t train you to be a fully functioning professional. They give you the background you need to learn that, whether as an intern or an associate. I wouldn’t assume that a newly minted lawyer knows how to find the courthouse, much less competently represent me in litigation.

      1. HannahS*

        This is a really good example of what Taniwha Girl* above was talking about. The youngest fully-functioning doctor I’ve met will be 24 by the time they’re in independent practice, which is both much older than 19 but too young for Richard. So you do you, OP! There’s no need to share your age unless you want to at work. Generally, your experience will matter more.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Not at all. If that 24 year old doctor followed the Doogie Howser career path and has completed not only medical school but also all subsequent training doctors go through, then bully for them! I don’t know the legalities of medical practice. Is it even possible for someone to set up a private practice straight out of medical school, with no internship? I am guessing not. But with lawyers you do see kids straight out of law school who think this means they know how to practice law on their own. This rarely goes well.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        But OP 2 is obviously not a doctor or lawyer because that requires far more years of study.

      3. MK*

        Are you a fully functioning professional at any job right after you graduate? Is a marketing grad any more ready to take on a major solo project? I think a 19-year-old solo practitioner in any field would have a hard time convincing potential clients they are up to the responsibility, I only brought law and medicine as examples.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I’d be skeptical of a 19-year-old *solo* practitioner, but a 19-year-old assistant or associate working for someone else more experienced is quite different.

    4. CorgisAndCats*

      This is definitely true. My husband was in the same boat as LW and graduated at 19. He got a lot of pushback in medical school interviews about his level of life experience. When he first set up his practice he definitely got some “are you old enough to be here?” comments but either the stress of the pandemic or having young kids have made him look older so those comments tapered off.

    5. Smithy*

      As someone who graduated at 20 – I’d put it this way, it’s not really an advantage or disadvantage, but can get in your head and lead to less than awesome decision making.

      In the same way that most places looking to hire aren’t really looking for new grads to list their SAT scores, announcing graduating at 20 can be stating similar achievements. It brings a lot of the focus on academic intelligence and can be distracting in a job interview. Thinking of it like having a “perfect” SAT score can be helpful in knowing that in certain professional contexts its gold, but certainly not all.

      Some practical advice – if the OP has an alumni network where there’s the chance to talk to other students – reach out. What worked, what didn’t, how are they approaching it? Programs that cultivate these grads are often a lot smaller than more traditional university alumni networks, with lot of students looking to help.

      Also – a lot of my fellow students (including myself) went to grad school immediately because we were so young and staying in an academic environment seemed safe. I would 100% recommend that over doing unnecessary extra years in undergrad. For some of my friends this worked out in a very linear career path direction. For me (and other friends), it led to points later in our 20’s where that was when it was like “oh, now I really know what I want to do”. That moment may demand going back for another graduate degree (i.e. if it’s a license based career). BUT – as someone who got two MA’s that were not tied to license based careers , it was more so that at 25/26 what I really needed was a gap year.

      So yeah – really look to your fellow early grads, either peers or alumni, for guidance. Professionally, in a few years this will be a nothing. Personally and emotionally, that’s where I found the greatest need for support.

    6. Young Once*

      I disagree. I graduated early also (newly 20) and had a lot of difficulty finding a job. I ended up taking a post-college gap year and au pairing so that I could hit the ground running at 21. I think this was partially due to the field I was looking for work in (marketing) and people being less keen to have someone not of the legal drinking age on staff.

      It is silly, but it was my experience. For what it’s worth, I found the gap year (which I spent au pairing and traveling) to be one of the best decisions I ever made!

    7. Salamander*

      I was in the LW’s position. I started applying for jobs around the time I graduated, and I did get a couple offers. I don’t think finishing my bachelor’s degree early affected my job hunt at all. Nobody was insinuating that I wasn’t mature enough for the positions I applied for. I think that LW will be able to show that they’re mature and responsible in the interview process. I did have some summer and holiday work on my resume by that time, though.

      One of my professors encouraged to me to apply to grad school, and I did so as a back up plan. For the major I was pursuing, grad school tuition was waived and I was offered a monthly stipend to live on. I was offered a position as a teaching/research assistant. That was standard for my field. I wound up going to grad school, and I enjoyed it. But I certainly would not have gone into debt for additional schooling, full-stop, no way.

    8. Kiki*

      If any of the people telling LW they should stay in college for two more years are people who know LW well and LW respects their professional judgement, I would talk to them more about it and clarify whether it is a “I think any 19 year old would be hard to employ” thing or a “I think LW specifically will be hard to employ at 19” thing. There definitely are 19 year olds who are very ready to work in the professional realm and there are many who are not and it may be worth talking to some people LW trusts to see what category they might fall into.

      And for the people saying, “Graduating in two years definitely means you are ready to be a professional!” School is different than the professional realm. It is very possible to be excellent at school but really struggle in the professional realm (and the personal realm that supports being a professional). Staying in school longer probably won’t be helpful to LW, especially if it means they have to spend a lot more money, but if LW is genuinely concerned about maturity and having trouble in the professional world at 19, I would look for programs and jobs that help build professional skills and offer a substantial amount of support, like the Peace Corps, paid internships geared towards new grads, etc.

      All that being said, I have worked with 19 year olds who are way more mature professionally than people in their 40s, so if LW feels ready to be a professional, they should do it! And Ask A Manager is a splendid resource for learning to be a professional, so if LW is a regular reader, they are already likely light years ahead of many 21/22-year-old new grads.

      Also a plug for using this time to do something a little wild you’ve always dreamed of, if you can. If you can figure out a way to intern abroad or do a work exchange while you backpack through places you’ve never been before, you should do it! You’ll have other opportunities in life– it’s never too late– but I’ve found that post-college is one of the easiest times to do something a bit “out of the box.”

      1. Smithy*

        This is really thoughtful. In my situation, I graduated two years early, but very individually was in a place where I needed some more time to just be in my 20’s.

        While I don’t think there’s necessarily any reason to stick around for 2 years to rack up more and more majors – it may be worth asking whether an extra semester or year would allow for an internship or program that’s only available to registered undergrads. Maybe something like an internship in government or a UN agency? Or, if due to COVID, study abroad is now off the table – if Fall 2021 makes that available at a more modest price, something else to consider. I think that COVID has curtailed a lot of opportunities that had traditionally been made available to undergrads beyond the classroom, and if money isn’t a concern – it is not unreasonable to consider whether it’s worth enjoying an extra semester or year should that be a possibility in 21/22.

    9. Faith*

      Thank you for your input! I am definitely not looking to be a solo professional at all.

  4. Dan*


    A couple of things: First, unless you look young for your age, it shouldn’t really be a thing. At some point, you’ll have to fill out some sort of application that will required your SSN and DOB, but you really shouldn’t need to be in a position where you’ll be talking about your age or your quick run through college.

    And second… I work in a field with a ton of brainy types, and TBH, I don’t think graduating college at an early age is terribly remarkable. The reality is, those “types” are often labeled “book smart” without any common sense. This can be especially true in math and engineering-focused disciplines, where the ability to succeed at the undergraduate level is more about demonstrating mastery of rote principles, and less so about broad, critical thinking. I’m pretty sure if I were to interview you, I wouldn’t ask you any questions based on your age, because it’s not relevant to the position at hand. If you didn’t bring it up, I’m not entirely sure how I’d even know. If the HR department was running around making a big deal about it, I’d be really concerned about their professionalism and their ability to keep their mouth shut about sensitive matters.

    1. Not A Girl Boss*

      But that book smart stereotype has nothing to do with age and everything to do with years of real world experience (although I get it, believe me, I’ve seen plenty of common-sense-poor engineers with 40 years experience).

      So if nothing else, at 21 OP will have much more “street smarts” than his equally-intelligent peers who are just graduating.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, I was thinking no one should even know that they are only 19 until after they’ve been hired! Not like it has to be top secret, but age is something that shouldn’t usually come up in an interview anyway. They’ll know when you graduated from college from your resume, but they won’t know when you were born or when you graduated from high school unless you tell them.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      This was my take – remove the year of high school graduation off the resume, and no one will know your age. Don’t mention it until you’ve been there a while, the way people take it will be skewed by their prejudices and it will be better for you if they’ve had a chance to get to know you a little before you start bumping into their prejudices.

      If you stay in school, I’m assuming that’s grad school. The reason people are recommending that is because the pandemic is really messing with the job market. A grad degree’s a little more effective with some years of experience behind you, but the job market’s bad enough that there is some usefulness to getting that extra degree now and trying for a job in a better market in two years.

      Good luck!

      1. Not a Girl Boss*

        Haven’t we already learned the hard way from the Great Recession that grad school isn’t typically the best choice? I mean, sure, its can help for some highly specific jobs. But for broader jobs, eg an MBA, isn’t going to do that much for you without the experience to match.

        I know my bias is showing here because I lived it, but for my peer group (2008 college grad) the only difference between those of us who entered the job market in 2008 vs those who stayed to get masters, is that the masters students had extra college debt and were ‘overqualified’, and the non-masters-students had extra credit card debt and a string of weird unrelated jobs to explain away.
        In my experience, the people with ‘real world experience’ bounced back faster, and were ultimately more valued than the sea of masters candidates who still didn’t understand professional norms. For example, my husband was able to get a job as a manager at a fast food restaurant – TOTALLY not a dream job, but he was at least able to talk to examples about his experience managing difficult people. Plus now his job is paying for his MBA. I just have lots of extra student loan debt and no increased salary to show for it.

        1. Yorick*

          I agree, grad school isn’t necessarily the right choice. But it’s definitely a better choice than staying in undergrad for extra years. And if it’s something that OP is actually interested in, it’s probably a good idea to do it now.

          1. TTDH*

            Yeah, there is really zero reason to stay in undergrad. If OP is joining a field where it’s likely that they will want an advanced degree soon, now is a great time to go for it, but if not, they’re probably better off just trying their best to hustle for jobs and maximize their on-the-job experience.

            1. Not a Girl Boss*

              Agreed. I mean, honestly, as a hiring manager I’d find “I took 2 years backpacking through India / working on a farm / pursuing a career in stand up comedy” far more appealing than “I took 2 extra years in college because I was afraid of being turned down for jobs because of my age.”

              But in general, I’m concerned by all of the advice to go to grad school just because he’s young. Because, that implies that it’s harder to get a job as a 19 year old college graduate than as a 21 year old college graduate. And that is just simply not true. Because, literally no one will even know or care unless he makes a big deal about it.
              What might happen (though I doubt it) is that he has a little bit less success in his job because of his maturity level, but, so what? Even if he gets fired from his first job, he’ll still have more real world experience to learn from and he will still be ahead of his peers. Who among us did not make a total fool of themselves at their first job out of college, regardless of age?

              1. Faith*

                Thank you for your input! I held numerous jobs throughout my high school years and the field that I am going into doesn’t require getting a master’s degree, nor is it very helpful.

        2. MassMatt*

          It really depends on the field and what you want out of grad school. If it’s increased earning potential or marketability, I agree that many programs are not cost effective and will represent a net loss. Some are essential to get ahead in a career though may not have a big benefit if done before also gaining at least entry-level experience.

          The people I know who felt like grad school really helped them were in fields where advanced degrees were really vital, or had 5+ years experience working in their field and needed it to get them to the next level career-wise, I.e. going to management.

          C-suite executives often are expected to have MBAs but I think a lot of people get MBAs right after college and are disappointed they are not being considered for those jobs as they don’t also have 10-15+ years experience in the field they also have. I’m sure many fields are similar.

          Recommending grad school simply to delay going into the workforce because someone is “too young” otherwise seems like poor advice, especially with that cost.

          I would try to use your network (and especially your alumni network) to find out if a) your age is likely to be a factor, and b)does grad school significantly help you early in your career.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          It’s a roll of the dice whichever path you choose, and highly dependent on field. Library science, I hear you can’t really get a job without MLS, but MBA, yeah, 5 – 10 years experience really helps you get the most out of grad school. OP needs to think about their field carefully. Maybe apply to grad school for 2021, and not go if they get a job in their field in the meantime? Hedge bets as much as they can.

          Big picture, though, I just looked at the numbers for a different reason, and 2020’s a whole ‘nother level than 2009. We just haven’t realized it yet because there’s stuff directly threatening lives that we’re dealing with (COVID and BLM), and because Congress did put together *something* to help cushion the blow.

          The numbers:
          US has 22M / 24% unemployed (U3) as of June 20.
          New claims were still >1M / week where normal is 200K/week.
          2009 topped off at 11% U3 unemployment.
          The Great Depression (GD) topped off at 24.9% U3.

          So far, 2020 is concentrated in service industries, while 2009 seemed broader. But a lot of professionals I know are being pushed into early retirement as companies look for cost cutting options – that may not even show in the U3 numbers, they show in U6, which I can’t find for the GD.

          We’re almost certainly going to get higher than the GD’s top unemployment in July. GD unemployment was over 14% for almost a decade (1931 – 1940); 2009 we got under 10% within a year (for white people, at least; for BIPOC it took most of the decade to recover; I can’t find numbers on minority unemployment in the GD).

          Yes, 2009 sucked; 2020 is worse. How we come out of this is going to depend heavily on a vaccine with persistent immunity and the govt’s willingness to support the economy until that happens, and I’m not taking any bets on what the govt’s going to do. There’s too many competing interests for me to guess which ones will win.

  5. Ellie*

    LW #2: I too, graduated from college at 19. I finished my teaching degree and started teaching the fourth grade that fall. I took the awkward route and tried to hide my age from my co-workers, which came crumbling down when we all tried to go to a bar after a work conference and I had to fess up. Looking back, I *was* immature at 19, and I shudder to think of the mistakes I made as a very young teacher. However, I learned a lot and eventually found my way. I don’t have any concrete advice except listen, learn, and be confident in your abilities! Good luck!

    1. Dan*

      It’s funny… if you try as hard as you did, it comes across as “hiding something” and perhaps suggests some sort of untrustworthiness. That said, there becomes a point where it’s not much of an issue. In the professional world, TBH, with a vast majority of my colleagues, I’m not entirely sure how old they are. The reality is, it doesn’t matter that much.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I’ve only every wondered about one colleague’s age before, and that was because she acted extremely immaturely. Though I do have a baby face and have had a lot of people assume I’m much younger than I am, which would be great in a social setting, but at work turns into them thinking I have much less professional experience than I do and assuming that I’m not ready for the harder work, which has been a struggle to overcome.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I once had a coworker whose age I wondered about because they looked REALLY young, like 10-12. It turns out they were about 30!

    2. Titta*

      Thank you for sharing, Ellie!

      I started as a therapist at 21. I am very young-looking and I was so nervous on how I would appear! I started with confidence and had great results and gained good reputation. Then my one year contract ended and I had to change jobs. I don’t know what happened, but I totally losf confidence! I started to apologize for my age and short career and so on…. I am still struggling with this.

      Anyways, my point is that, like Alison said, I believe that young people are young, it’s not a matter of couple of years. And all of us have our own insecurities and we can succeed in million different ways and also fail in million different ways. Trust yourself, be honest, do your best. Worthy people will see that and help you grow as well as give you the credit you deserve.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I’m curious whether you think if you had graduated college at 21, if your level of maturity and mistakes have been pretty much the same? I would guess yes but obviously it’s hard to know for sure!

      I was not exceptionally young when I started my job, but I’m an accountant and most people do a few years of public accounting before moving to industry and I decided to skip that step–so I was by far the youngest person on my team and even now that I’m 30 I think there has only once been someone younger than me on my team. There were definitely occasional joking remarks at lunch on things like “I can’t believe X thing happened before you were even born” or whatever but thankfully I never felt like they actually thought less of me for being young.

      And I think as a society we mostly consider people to be “kids” for as long as they are in college, so I wouldn’t necessarily bet anything significant on it but I personally thing it’s highly likely that the difference in how people see a 21-year-old new grad and a 19-year-old new grad just starting at a job would be pretty much nonexistent–as long as they make sure to do their best to act like a professional! (And if they can get some good-looking, well fitting work clothes that might help too.)

      I have one tip for OP on something they could try to avoid. I’m very bad at this. Every time I do it I cringe but I usually just can’t stop myself haha. Even at 30 I still struggle with this just because I have never had (and don’t currently intend to have) children. When coworkers share stories about something that has happened with their kid, I want to relate to them by sharing a similar story–but mine are all from the opposite perspective where I’m in the kid’s shoes. Like the other day someone was talking about taking their daughter in for their driving test and how hard it was to teach them to drive, and I did manage to stop myself this time but I almost commented about when I learned to drive my step-sister and I had to switch parents because having our own parent teach us was too stressful. But if you don’t want to be seen as very young then putting yourself in the position of the child in a story is probably not generally a good idea. Sorry this turned into a much longer thing than intended, just thought I’d try to help someone learn from my mistake haha. I don’t think anyone has ever actually held this against me but it always makes me feel stupid when I do that.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        actually, MC Monkey Bean, as an older colleague discussing my kids, I always found it interesting to talk with younger colleagues because I could get a better grasp of how my kids might be feeling. And I mothered my younger colleagues whether or not they said anything that showed immaturity. Believe me, they showed their immaturity despite any attempts to hide it, and it didn’t matter in the least, what mattered was whether they got their work done properly and in time.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          (mothering basically meant I always baked two cakes, one for my kids and one for my colleagues)

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Well, honestly that’s exactly the dynamic I would want to avoid. I definitely don’t want to coworkers to think they are mothering me.

      2. Ronda*

        do you have friends or relatives with kids?

        I usually share kid stories when needed using them…..
        you can also re-cast your stories as a child as being a current friend’s kid

        my parents hired a company to teach me and my sister to drive…. neither was up for doing it and would rather pay someone (I think there might have been a insurance discount for it too) :)

    4. Quinalla*

      Interesting experience!

      The only time age has come up in the work world beyond people being ageist (either against folks they think are too old or too young, but honestly I was getting the too young until I was ~35 so 2 extra years of that don’t really matter) is rental car charges. Your company will get charged a bit extra until you turn 25 if you rent a car. On and if you live somewhere the drinking age is 21, then folks may assume you are 21 and try to take you to bars, etc. Otherwise, like I said except for ageism that everyone deals with regardless, I wouldn’t worry too much. You might get a little more ageism if people know your actual age, but you’ll be fine. Definitely do NOT go to school for 2 more years for this reason!

      1. hermit crab*

        I’m not sure if the rental car thing is always (or still) the case, actually. I rented cars for work a bunch of times before turning 25 (about 10 years ago), and there was never any surcharge. I was told that the charges didn’t apply if the person was traveling for business. But I think we always used the same rental car company and they cut us a corporate deal so that might have just been part of it.

      2. Threeve*

        At an organization where alcohol does unavoidably play a role at conferences and work gatherings (and I’ve never seen a caterer card someone), I have to admit I would have concerns about hiring someone under 21. Are coworkers supposed to police them? Change plans for them? What happens if a coworker knowingly covers for them, or offers to?

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I’ve worked in places where there was alcohol and a few under-21 employees, and unless they were interns I never got the sense that anyone was ever expected to ask about age.

    5. lazy intellectual*

      You made mistakes because you were inexperienced – not because you were 19. People inevitably make mistakes early in their career.

  6. Kiitemso*

    #1 I think you dodged a bullet. The words “writing sample” that takes 15 mins to complete don’t in my ears amount to a very detailed work, more a show of your general abilities in that field (eg. technical writing) so they get a sense of how you communicate in that format. If you missed the mark, then shouldn’t they count that against you and see if you interview better, or not interview you at all? (And not had an interview scheduled until they saw your finished sample?)

    Or then they are looking for a super-duperstar performer who could whip up a very detailed, comprehensive work in just quarter of an hour with limited instructions. Which is fair enough but then they again could have phrased it differently and been more clear in their instructions.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      I agree; I’m confused about what they were trying to learn.

      Personally, I would be interested to know if the hiring manager was someone who would be well-versed in this assignment, or if it was someone who was only familiar with the assigment from a management perspective.

      I had to complete a 15-30 minute writing sample for a past role, and a 30 minute writing sample for another…in both cases, it was absolutely something that could be reasonably finished within the time frame, and the teams had specific things they were looking for (e.g. reasonble familiarity with the type of writing that the team completed). In both those cases, the hiring manager also had a lot of experience completing writing assigments for the team, so they had a very good sense of the fact that 15 minutes was enough to demonstrate that.

      However, in those cases, someone who didn’t complete the assigment to spec would have been taken out of consideration. Offering a re-do kind of misses the point.

      If the hiring manager isn’t someone who does this work themself, and their knowledge of it is only based on knowing what a good final product looks like…..then they might have a very distorted idea of how long it takes to complete this work and I’d be less inclined to worry about their opinion.

      1. londonedit*

        This is what I thought. Interviews in my area of expertise often involve completing some sort of short test or doing something like a short writing sample – usually it’s no more than 15-30 minutes, but it’s totally appropriate for that length of time, like proofreading a couple of pages of text, or reading a one-page document and condensing it into a paragraph of marketing copy. If someone couldn’t do the task well in the time allowed, that would be useful information for the interviewers – they wouldn’t ask them to do it again.

      2. Quill*

        I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re weeding for candidates willing to work off the clock.

        1. Cheesehead*

          That was my first thought too. I mean, they haven’t even met you yet so why would they be so invested in you ‘missing the mark’ that they’d request that you do it over? I mean, the interview was the next day at that point. Just have the interview and meet the person, and explain in person what you were actually looking for. And then request the more detailed example if you still want to move forward with the candidate. To me, the hiring manager seemed awfully…..eager to get the more detailed piece if they took the time on a weekend to make the request and expected the OP to turn it around that fast too. It just struck me as being way too invested in getting a mere writing sample unless they really were trying to use it for something else.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        This is what I suspect: The person who suggested this as a hiring method only knows how long it takes to polish up a final piece, not how long it takes to properly organize thoughts and do all the other background work that goes into writing.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Part of me thinks this seems like a “milk the candidates for a real work product, then use it without crediting them” sort of thing, but then I’m not sure why the original instructions were to do it quick and casual. My money is on miscommunication on their end. Hiring manager misinterpreted vague instructions, passed their interpretation on to the candidates, then took the products back to whoever was reviewing them, and that person was like “Noooo! I wanted X, not Y.”

      1. LQ*

        I think that the idea that employers are going through interview processes to get a free written document from someone is way less common than people think it is. There are so many incompetent employers, well-intentioned but poorly thought through hiring processes, and bad managers that those are a much more common source of this than evil folks, especially places that have a separate HR department because that likely required a writing assignment (writing up a case to hire someone, asking for the budget for a person, etc) that took way more time than it would have taken to just write the thing themselves.

        I’m not saying it never happens. I just think this is a place to assume incompetence over malice.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, absolutely. Having had candidates do assignments for years, it’s rare that even the good ones would be usable; candidates don’t have the insider info to get the nuance that real, usable work would need. It’s not that it never happens, but it’s rarely the explanation over simple incompetence.

    3. OP 1*

      Yeah, honestly I would have just preferred them to cancel the interview if my submission was so far off from what they were expecting. Clearly I was not a good fit for this role!

      1. Smithy*

        I did the exact same thing you did with a writing sample situation once. I responded to the writing sample prompt in the way I understood it – and in this case, it was not limited to 15 minutes, so it did take some time. They either did not care for my interpretation of the assignment or after seeing what I did, decided they needed even more and basically made the request the Tuesday/Wednesday before Thanksgiving and asked for the materials by the next Monday.

        If what I was writing was clearly so different from what they needed, then might as well drop out vs spending a lot more time over a holiday trying to figure it out.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I would give assignments and ask that the applicant spend no longer than an hour on it. I wanted them all to have spent the same amount of time, then I would compare their efforts. I wasn’t expecting anyone to produce a flawless text, but I needed to see who could produce the best work, and didn’t want them to spend too long because we never got very much time to complete our work.

      I would never have told someone to work further on the assignment once they’d handed it in. I’m wondering whether none of the applicants had produced anything suitable and so they decided to let them work on it a bit more. Or they were testing how much they could bully the applicant, in which case, it was good to show this nasty side before the interview even.

      1. Threeve*

        An hour still seems like quite a long time to me. Why do managers not just give word counts? “Please write between 200 and 250 words on [X] topic.”

    5. Gazebo Slayer*

      I’m simultaneously pissed off and amused by employers that insist they only want to hire super-duperstars. Like… I’m not out here throwing a hissy fit because I DEMAND a 6-figure salary.

      There’s been a lot of handwringing over “entitled millennials” and such, but I think the real entitlement problem is with companies that have absurdly unrealistic expectations and then wail that they just can’t find workers and there’s a skill gap. Especially if they’re expecting a Ferrari but paying for a Fiat.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Eh, most employers find workers, and there’s nothing wrong with striving to hire really good people, especially if your hiring track record shows you can generally find them.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          There’s wanting to hire really good people, but then there’s wanting to hire really good people despite crap pay, nonexistent benefits, or a toxic work environment, or having lists of requirements so long or specific that almost no one fits them and then complaining that you can’t find qualified applicants.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I had a disagreement with someone who insisted that companies “can’t find people who want to work,” when their pay is low, their benefits are lacking, and they treat their employees like disposable rubbish. We want to work but if you want us to stay, then pay us more than prisoner wages and at least act like we’re valuable. Oh, and don’t require a master’s degree for an entry-level job, ffs.

        1. MassMatt*

          Amen. Whenever I hear this type of complaint I ask about wages and benefits. One guy insisted his starting salary was “competitive” but he wanted significant skills and was shocked when I told him his salary was only slightly higher than minimum wage. How could he not know this? He had not changed his pay structure in over 10 years. No wonder his employees were unreliable and/or bolted at the first opportunity. He got raided by a TEMP AGENCY. Pay bad wages, reap bad employees.

  7. nnn*

    #2: I don’t know that prospective employers necessarily need to know that you’re 19, or that you did college in 2 years. If you’ve graduated from college you don’t necessarily need to put high school on your resume, and if they don’t know your high school graduation date they don’t know that you did college in 2 years.

    At a minimum, you could try putting together a version of your resume that doesn’t make it clear that you did college in 2 years, and see how it works.

    1. Dan*

      Yeah, I wrote some of this above, but IMHO it should be pretty easy for OP to keep her age on the DL. High school doesn’t go on the resume period, and I’m not even sure how one would indicate that they did college in just two years.

      I did high school (and consequently college) pretty quick, but took awhile to “find myself” before going to grad school. My timeline from those years looks super funky, and interviews could get kind of awkward if the interviewers picked up on it and wanted to dig. Usually, I’d leave the dates of undergrad and grad school off, but if asked, I gave straight answers. Not everybody asked, and as I progressed in my professional career, it became less of an issue.

      So my advice to these kinds of questions is to not volunteer information that isn’t asked for, but if asked, give a straight answer that doesn’t come across as cagey. If people think you’re being evasive, they may drop you without giving you a chance to explain yourself.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        I think it’s possible to do a resume differently, but I’ve always listed my education the same way I do jobs: eg.
        Llama University, earned a BA in herding, 2013 – 2017
        Posh University, earned a masters in grooming, 2017-2019
        So indicating doing college in two years is default in the format, though it can be avoided. I always felt this structure gave good context for why most of my experience was part-time.

        Keep in mind, OP might not have that much other stuff to put on the resume. So while just listing Llama University, BSc in one line makes sense for a mid-career professional, it could be weird if that makes the resume three lines (school, student society, one internship).

        1. Natalie*

          I think it’s pretty routine to just list the graduation year, and that doesn’t mean their education would only be one line. I don’t hire directly but I’ve seen a number of resumes being on panel interviews and no one has provided a date range. It’s just unnecessary, and people will generally infer the date range if it’s relevant for some reason.

          1. BethDH*

            I agree. I’ve never seen a start date on education on a resume except when someone was explaining dates of fellowships and it was implicit.

        2. Lioness*

          But even so. They didn’t do college in two years. They did it in 4, just that 2 years were concurrent with high school.

          1. hermit crab*

            Right – I think this is similar to when kids skip grades in elementary or middle school and end up younger than most of their classmates. My wife skipped two grades somewhere along the line due to moving between states/countries, so she graduated from high school at 16 and undergrad at 20. She is now gainfully employed and says the only part that was bad was entering high school at age 12 (!)

      2. Yorick*

        Typically high school stuff doesn’t belong on a resume. But if OP only spent 2 years in college, she’s less likely to have lots of the college stuff that people put on a resume (extracurriculars), so she may be including some from high school. Idk if that’s the right move or not (normally I’d say no, but maybe it would provide some extra info here).

    2. Nom de plume*

      I agree, I’m not sure how prospective employers would even know you’re 19. Typically you don’t share your birth date until after you are hired. The only clue to your age on your resume is your graduation year from college… but since you’re graduating early people will assume you’re 21/22 from that.

  8. Kimmybear*

    #4 – Your son needs to tell the manager for his own safety but it should not be a big deal. Maybe he needs to not be assigned the register next to the French fry peanut oil if he has a peanut allergy. Depending on what job your son is doing, they may need somewhere to keep the epipen that someone could get for them in an emergency. Epipens are heat sensitive so you wouldn’t want it next to a hot oven for a 4 hour shift.

    1. BcAugust*

      As a manager in one, with my own allergies, I’m really going to say a lot depends on what they are and how much the place does with them. For instance, my own store only has one item! with peanuts, marked and blocked off from the rest, but I wouldn’t put someone with peanut allergies next to a fryer that has peanut oil(and honestly, would suggest that you don’t work there, because fryer oil gets everywhere and peanut allergies suck), but if it’s an allergy that is only food you’re eating(mine is rye, I can work with it all day, can’t eat a bite), it should be more then fine.

      Also, his place should have a list of the most common allergens in their food available and he should read it, a lot of fast food places have the ingredients online, so he can always double check what’s in stuff. For an epipen, I’d suggest he works to get a place for it and tells someone where it is, but don’t hand it to the manager, because we’re working too and might take a while to be pulled away to get it, or even get pulled off the floor completely. Also, they’re expensive, and you likely don’t want them walking away if the manager is on a different schedule then him.

      But congrats to him, and it should be fine, we don’t expect people to tell us this sort of stuff when they’re hired, just when they get in and it’s fairly easy to do accommodations for most of it.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Yup, I’ve got a weird food allergy but the only way I’d suffer from it is if I directly ingest the substance, and that’s unlikely to happen even in a coffee shop (I’m allergic to decaf) unless someone relabels something, or swaps my drink out.

        I’ve told every employer that I’ve had, at the start, that I have an allergy, it’s severe if I ingest this stuff, but they don’t need to do much beyond making sure things are correctly labelled and coworkers don’t think it’s ‘funny’ to slip someone decaf.

        1. Tricksie*

          Wow, I’m fascinated that you’re allergic to decaf. Is it something in the process of decaffeinating?

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Yup. There’s a commonly used process to strip out the caffeine and it can leave behind trace elements of the chemicals used. For most people it’s totally harmless, for me it’s a throat swelling up.

            Most decaf versions of things don’t state what process they used, so I assume all of them are bad.

            I love my caffeine though, so I’m not bothered by being unable to drink decaf.

    2. Dawn*

      It really depends on how severe the food allergies are. My neighbor has a peanut allergy and gets sick from inhaling peanut fumes, where my sister has a strawberry allergy and just cant eat or touch them. So it will depend on how severe the allergy is, and how much of that food the restaurant sells. Most fast food places can’t afford to keep someone that can only run the register.

    3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      That sounds fine, as long as it’s the son (the actual employee) letting his manager know this. It wasn’t completely clear to me from the letter that the LW meant that their SON should take it upon himself to explain this, rather than have the LW do so on his behalf. (Perhaps we should be able to take for granted that the employee will speak up for himself rather than have mommy or daddy do it for him, but the boatload of letters from employers about parents who intervene on the part of their employee-offspring suggests to me that we can’t take anything of the sort for granted these days! ;)

    4. Lauren*

      This is totally a good idea to put it somewhere they can access as well as others. I think the manager should consider having an epipen station (box) for customers anyway. Putting it out in the open, and replaced every 6 months or whenever they expire is a good deal all around.

  9. Jimby*

    #4: I worked in food service for many years with food allergies. The manager shouldn’t have an issue. I’d also tell your son to let his coworkers (or at least shift leads) know where he keeps his epipens in case of an emergency.

    Additionally, if he’s working with foods he’s allergic to, I recommend long sleeves if possible – stuff splatters, and as fun as naming hives with your coworkers is (an old pasttime of mine), it can get old!

    Best of luck to your son!!

    1. Jenny*

      It depends on the manager and type of work environment. I will say I had my fair share of totally toxic managers in food service.

      It sounds like son may be young. Maybe still a student? If he doesn’t need this job to live. He should also 100% be prepared to walk out t9 protect his health.

      1. CRM*

        Totally agree with this. I worked as a waitress in college and have a severe food allergy. I told my boss and he was less than sympathetic. In his mind, if I didn’t want to be around the food I was allergic to, he could just hire another waitress who would. That restaurant only had two dishes on the entire menu that contained the food I was allergic to, so most of the time it wasn’t a problem. I ended up making a deal with one of the busboys where if someone at one of my tables ordered “allergy dish” he would carry it out for me, and I would split my tips for that table with him. It worked out well.

        OP – It sounds like your son has many allergies. If it is likely that he will be frequently exposed to food he is allergic to, it might be best for him to find another job. Even if he has a great manager, he might still be very anxious working about being around that food. For the sake of my mental health, I could never work at a restaurant that primarily sold the food that I’m allergic to.

    2. Josie*

      I’d also suggest he walk a few of the managers/shift leads through how to use the epipen. It’s one thing to know someone has an epipen, it’s another thing to know what to do with it when someone’s struggling to breath in front of you.

      General PSA to anyone who has a medical condition that could manifest itself at work, please let your managers and/or trusted coworkers know. I was a 17/18 year old manager at a fast food place. One of my employees (16 years old) had diabetes and an insulin pump (which I didn’t know about). One day I noticed he started looking really pale, shaky, and out of it. Fortunately, because I’m hypoglycemic, I recognized low blood sugar symptoms and got him some orange juice and then some food (he later offered to pay for them, which I still think is the sweetest thing ever…naturally, I refused his offer). I still have no idea if there was a better way to handle it. It would’ve been really nice having a few guidelines on what to do before things got serious.

  10. Heidi*

    Hi LW2. I’m wondering what these people you’re talking to think you should do instead of getting a job. After you get all your credits to graduate, you can’t just stay in college (can you?). Or are they suggesting that you go to part time status? I guess if they are recommending a gap year or something, that could be valuable, but just dragging out college for 6 years just to pass the time is not necessary. I also suspect that a lot of employers don’t pay that much attention to exact ages unless you need to be a certain age to do parts of the job.

    1. Not A Girl Boss*

      The only thing I can think of is just going straight through for a master’s? Which, *can* be valuable. My friend who did that got an extra 10% on her starting salary because of that which has nicely parlayed into a significant lifetime overall income increase (since raises are often a percent of salary).

      But…. Don’t ever get a master’s just for the sake of getting one. That doesn’t really have the same effect.

      1. Mookie*

        Or a post-bacc.

        Don’t know how feasible it is now, but when I was an undergrad a sizable portion of third-year transfers from city/community colleges (a normal and budget-conscious pipeline in my state) took an additional year for advanced coursework and language curriculum, to do honors-level work, to audit graduate taught courses and seminars, or to complete a double major. Sometimes this was even affordable. This was the dawn of our Great Recession, so both job-seeking students and future graduate program applicants were spooked every which way and many opted for a holding pattern.

    2. Lioness*

      LW #2
      Someone can still enroll in college courses even after they graduate, but there’s otherwise no point in staying in college for an extra two years for the sole reason of graduating at 19. OP still did 4 years of college even though 2 were concurrent with high school. The degree won’t necessarily be delayed too, so I’m not even sure how well it would even look on a resume.

      The resume is going to be including the type of degree, which I’m assuming Bachelor’s in the case of a 4 year degree. One of my college friends started college at 14, he graduated at 18, he did not enroll for an additional 3-4 years just because he was young, so don’t feel like you have to delay just so you’d graduate a little older.

    3. My Boss is Dumber Than Yours*

      In theory, you can stay in college at your degree level for as long as you want, even after completing all the credits for the degree (some graduate programs put a seven-ten year cap on credits counting, but most undergraduate programs don’t). Just having the credits doesn’t automatically kick you out, nor does it confer the degree without applying for it. In practice, hardly anyone takes advantage of this for more than a semester, because there is no advantage. I say this as someone who finished undergrad in four years with 150 credits, and was teaching college courses at 22 and was a professor at 24. Just don’t mention your age; people assumed I was in my thirties all through my twenties and I just never happened to correct them.

    4. Anononon*

      I could have graduated a year and a half early due to AP credits from high school, but I was fortunate enough where I was able to take the four full years (and do a lighter course load my senior year). I went to a school where campus life was a big thing, so I didn’t want to miss out on that.

    5. Gray Lady*

      They could pursue a second degree in an unrelated field.

      Not suggesting that’s a good idea in this case, but it’s entirely possible to continue in college after earning a degree. I had an acquaintance in college who earned a philosophy degree and then reality struck so he turned right around to get his computer science degree credits.

    6. Faith*

      Thank you for your input! They think I should add another major to drag it out to 6 years.

  11. Not A Girl Boss*

    LW 2: I graduated from college at 20 and the only reason anyone knew was because I ended up working for an alcohol manufacturer and stumbled into a really awkward interview question about which of their products I liked most.

    It’s just literally not something that people have reason to find out about, let alone care. Honestly, to my now old-lady eyes, young kids fresh out of college all pretty much look the same age and act similarly, regardless of what their exact number of years on Earth are.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I am now imagining this interview: “Lovely to meet you, NAGB. What appeals to you about working for Smith Brewing Company? Which of our fine malt beverages is your favorite?”

      NAGB: “Well, if I answered this question the way you want me to, I’m admitting to a crime, so let’s just move on.”

  12. Nikara*

    #2- As you apply to jobs, consider a program like Americorps. They purposefully want to hire young adults, and can give some excellent guidance on the early stages of getting used to a workplace. The pay isn’t good, but it can be a helpful ladder to getting a foot in the door of a field you are interested in, with lots of workplace development opportunities included.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I was going to suggest this, too. A gap year doing something like Americorps is an excellent way to get some experience and to mature a little bit. And it can help in figuring out what you want to do next.

    2. Washi*

      Yeah, I had a good experience doing Americorps, though it depends very much on the host organization itself – the program just provides the funding. I could have made more working retail but Americorps positions connected better to my career path, gave me money for grad school, and connected me with lots of other people with nonprofit interest/experience and I’m really glad I did it. It’s not easy though, so I would only do it if you can see a path from the specific Americorps job to the next job you want.

      1. Threeve*

        I’ve known people who did AmeriCorps specifically because it gives you a year of priority federal hiring (non-competitive eligibility). They were perfectly fine at their respective AmeriCorps roles, but they considered it a long-term investment in getting a government job rather than advancing in any particular field or skill-set.

        (Granted, this was more than four years ago…)

      2. Remote HealthWorker*

        This caveat is very important. Some organizations see an Americorps as a gift. It’s free to them afterall!

        Others see it as an opportunity to squeeze as much free labor out of the government’s dime as possible. YMMV.

        My spouse had a terrible time with VISTA and was basically starving the entire time since they pay so little you can’t really live on your own. This was in 2019. I believe they encourage VISTAs to stay at home and not travel now.

        1. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

          And conversely, I worked for an organization that ended up scraping together grant money to hire our VISTA, because the way they were set up became difficult (only available 4 days a week instead of the 5 we were told) and they would just place someone instead of giving a few candidates. It was an entry-level position, but some personalities work well there and others really didn’t.

      3. New Jack Karyn*

        I agree with this. I moved to a new area several years ago, and had a hard time finding a foothold. I did a year of AmeriCorps, as an academic lead in the after school program at a Title I high school. Perfect for me in a lot of ways, but I was on food stamps that year.

        To my mind, it’s only worth it if you can use the tuition bonus–a graduate with no debt (and no intent to go back to school in the next few years) might make a different calculation.

  13. LGC*

    LW3 – shift supervisor at a document management center here! (Among other things.) We don’t have a points system, but we require our FT employees to use PTO if they have it available. And while we don’t have points, we DO discipline if you call out too often (like, a couple of times a month on average over a few months, so fairly permissive).

    You’re asking whether it’s legal to deduct the PTO AND discipline you, and…yeah, it is. It’s not like they’re lowering your compensation – you’re still being paid for the hours you’re scheduled.

    Also your policy sounds pretty strict! Three call outs result in termination? That isn’t unheard of, but ouch.

    1. Courtney*

      Three call outs resulting in termination sounds so strict. I can’t imagine anything good coming from it either, you can’t exactly say ‘I plan on having a cold in 3 weeks, I’ll need Monday-Thursday off’. I guess I’m being sensitive because of the pandemic, but imagine having COVID and thinking ‘oh dang, I can’t call out sick because I’ll get fired’? I can’t imagine many companies would be that strict, but it would constantly be at the back of my mind.

      1. LGC*

        If it’s retail – like, LW3 works at a big-box store or in a distribution warehouse – I can definitely imagine it. Ditto for factory work like – say – working in a slaughterhouse meat processing plant. That’s actually why I said it wasn’t unheard of – while this would be shocking for a “knowledge economy” job, and it should be shocking period, unfortunately a lot of people do work under ludicrously strict attendance policies.

      2. WS*

        Normally (though there are some companies, particularly call centres, that are that stupidly strict!) it’s three unplanned absences – so if you get sick on the Monday and say “I’m not going to be in today or tomorrow,” then call up the next day and say “I’m not going to be in Wednesday or Thursday either”, that’s only one strike.

        1. Oh Snap*

          Seethis is how ours is set up (and you don’t get let go after just 3 either).

          Sick all week: only today is unplanned. The other days your supervisor knew there was a chance you would still be sick.

        2. LGC*

          That’s something I should have specified myself – it’s not three days out, it’s three separate occurrences. So, if – say – you get COVID and end up calling out for a month, that’s only one “strike.” But if your child care falls through one day, you get food poisoning another day, and then your car breaks down, that’s three. And I can argue both ways – it’s easier to account for someone being out for a month straight than just three random days last-minute, but also both instances are perfectly reasonable and shouldn’t be penalized.

      3. Jenny*

        I also find this absurd. Some days you wake up sick. Some days your kid wakes up sick. Some days everyone feels fine but you get sick or daycare calls because your kid is sick. We have a big honking example of why being punitive on sick days is a horrible idea.

        And frankly this stuff has only ever occurred for me at retail or food service jobs (I once got reprimanded for asking to go home from a fast good job when I was actively throwing up). It’s “normal” but it should not be.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          Or just bad luck! I worked at a place for six year and had about 4 call outs in that time…but three of them all happened in the same six months. If they had fired me, they would have missed out on the next four years of me only calling out once.

        2. Perfectly Particular*

          I got fired from a food service job when I was actively throwing up and refused to stay for my closing shift. The policies around attendance In the industry were ridiculous, but I also worked with a number of ridiculous people. At a job I worked for several years, we had a heroin addict (server) that would call in if he hadn’t scored a hit and was experiencing withdrawal, a nursing student (server) who would suddenly have an asthma attack if she didn’t feel like staying until closing, and a cook who, we think, deliberately burned his arm on the fryer to get a few days off.

        3. Colette*

          It’s one of those things that’s hard to solve. If you need 6 people to run the business and you can’t staff 7 people and you pay minimum wage, someone getting sick is a big deal – it can be hard to find someone else to come in, so do you scramble with 5 people and slow down your service (running everyone else ragged and possibly compromising safety)?

          And the reason you can’t staff 7 is because you can’t raise your prices, because people like paying less and complaining about the social problems that causes more than they like paying more to solve the problems.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            “Hard to solve” doesn’t mean just toss up your hands and say “that’s the way it is, nothing we can do.”

            If you have to slow down your service because you’re understaffed… you have to slow down your service.

            We have the resources to solve this social problem. But it requires solutions on the level of the government and our whole culture.

            1. Colette*

              Right, the government has to solve it through things like minimum wages and paid sick time – not the shift supervisor who is just trying to keep their own job.

            2. LGC*

              I feel like you’re handwaving any tradeoffs, though! I’ll use my job as an example – since we only get paid for what we deliver, if we let anything slip that can be thousands of dollars less that we make that week. (Which is a significant portion of our weekly revenue.) Don’t get me wrong, I agree that this is a societal problem, but also…I feel like your suggestion is, “just delay it,” and it’s not that simple in a lot of cases.

        4. GothicBee*

          I worked in retail and call centers for a while and while I can understand the need to have people there when they’re scheduled, I think a lot of this just comes down to how most companies keep staffing levels at the bare minimum or even below what’s needed. If you staff at adequate levels, covering someone who calls out shouldn’t be a big deal. And really if you can’t staff at adequate levels, you shouldn’t be in business, but a lot of this comes back to the expectation (at least in the US) that most retail businesses charge the least amount possible, which means skimping on any costs possible, including staffing. It’s also why I worked at so many retail/food service places where we were constantly running out of stuff for the backend work (e.g., we’re supposed to mop/wipe down tables, but there’s no cleaner so… guess we just use water).

          1. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

            This. We are at the absolute bare minimum where I work (retail pharmacy), so if someone calls off, we are absolutely screwed for the day. At my old store, my coworkers called off regularly so I was constantly working ridiculously shorthanded to the point that I was skipping lunch breaks because I would spend my entire break stressing about how behind we were and how to catch up.

            Patients are very not understanding of having to wait for prescriptions on a normal day, so you can imagine how it is on a shorthanded day when I’m the only one filling AND getting the register.

  14. Esme*

    #1 I’m disappointed Alison didn’t reply to the LW to ask for details of the assignment and whether it was doable in 15 minutes.

    Asking you to redo it though, and on a Sunday? I think you were right to withdraw.

    1. Gamer Girl*

      I wonder if the hiring manager is quite desperate to fill the role and wanted to give OP one more chance, as it seems they maybe didn’t understand something about the prompt?

      But the writing samples I have created for interviewees take 30 minutes to one hour, while editing or proofing samples would be more like 15-20. Fifteen for writing is very short! It seems like an unusual length to me. Normally, a fifteen minute sample would be a quick screener that a candidate views writing in complete, correct sentences as normal so that we could move on with them to one or two slightly longer tests to compare with their portfolio.

      1. WS*

        Either that or *nobody* was producing what the hiring manager was expecting (because they were producing 15 minute writing samples) and the hiring manager was giving everyone another chance and wondering why it wasn’t working!

      2. WellRed*

        Wouldn’t their cover letter also tell you those same things without the added hassle of an assignment?

        1. Esme*

          No, because the cover letter won’t be a test of the particular things you might want to look for.

          Eg if you need to test people’s ability to explain particular concepts, or ask people to think about a particular issue that’s relevant.

          As an example a colleague of mine had to read a document and identify three key things they’d need to ask someone to do based on it.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          A cover letter might have been polished by a friend. Something like this, especially if there’s a relatively quick turnaround, is less likely to have someone else’s fingers on it.

      3. Ama*

        Yes, to me this situation suggests the hiring manager may have never actually done this task themselves, only supervised the people that do, so they know what the end result should look like but don’t realize how much work it takes to get there. As someone who has done a lot of professional writing, I’ve found that coworkers who don’t do writing tasks regularly are really bad at estimating how long it will take to produce a really polished piece of writing.

    2. OP 1*

      I was trying to obfuscate the details but they were looking for 6-8 paragraphs of technical writing plus an annotated screenshot. I just did bullet points for each heading because I was sticking to the 15 minutes.

      1. anonymous 5*

        good grief!! Depending on the topic, even being able to assemble the headings for 6-8 paragraphs of technical writing could require more than 15min. Yeah. You made the right call to withdraw. Hope you are able to find a good job in a *much* better environment than one that would expect that nonsense even before the interview.

        1. Oh Snap*

          I’ve thought about adding a writing sample but was planning on more like “please write a professional email that summarizes technical information”. I can’t imagine asking for an entire report!

      2. EPLawyer*

        You were so right to withdraw. Not clear instructions, unreasonable deadlines. That’s in the being on their best behavior stage. Can you imagine working there? It would be all guesswork and working incredibly long hours until you burn out.

        1. OP 1*

          That was exactly the conclusion I came to once my emotions had settled. The fact that the second email from the hiring manager was sent at midnight on a Saturday sent up some big red flags about the hours too.

      3. Mockingjay*

        Oh, you definitely dodged a “bullet” there! That job would have been hell. Their expectations do not align with the real world fact that quality technical writing which takes time.

        1. Lance*

          Seriously. There’s any necessary research, there’s getting your thoughts into the right format, there’s getting it to be understandable to the average reader. That’s far, far more than a 15-minute job, and tells me that the hiring manager just has zero clue at all.

      4. Batty Twerp*

        I’ve just tried it – I did 285 words in 6 paragraphs by *copying* it from a textbook. I’m not necessarily the fastest typist, and I was also going back and fixing spelling and punctuation errors from overzealous fingers. It took 7 minutes to finish the copy – i.e. I was not coming up with original wording, or even reading what I was typing beyond checking for the red wavy line (no comprehension going on), so not doing any of the thought work associated with writing. It wasn’t even particularly technical.
        I don’t know how long it takes to do an annotated screenshot – lets say 3 minutes? So they wanted 5 minutes of thought to go into this?
        Their expectations are too high and unreasonable and you dodged an arsenal of bullets.

      5. bluephone*

        Jesus H Mcgee, that is ridiculous! I think you dodged a bullet there, OP 1. It’s frustrating but they don’t sound like they’re very organized, at least as far as this is concerned :(

      6. juliebulie*

        That’s about an hour’s work if you’re familiar with the material, and a lot more if you’re not.

        It seems that many people who aren’t writers think that the time needed to write something is the same as the time needed to type it.

      7. Heidi*

        This is an absurd request. I can think of 2 explanations. 1) The people who told you 15 minutes did so because they didn’t want to scare off applicants by saying this would take a long time. At the same time, they expected you to put in all the work. That way, if anyone complains, they could say that they only wanted you to spend 15 minutes on it. And the people who just do a ton of work and don’t complain are the people that they want because they won’t enforce boundaries. 2) The person assigning the work said 15 minutes because he honestly has no idea how long it takes to produce this kind of work. Not a good sign in a manager. I guess there is a 3rd possibility that the hiring manager is some sort of prodigy who could do this in 15 minutes, but realistically, no.

      8. Alanna of Trebond*

        I wrote fast for a living as a journalist. I also type fast. When I’m on my game, I can write between 1,000 and 1,500 words per hour. FIFTEEN MINUTES FOR THAT ASSIGNMENT IS ABSURD. An hour sounds like it would be absurd, honestly.

        When I was interviewing breaking news reporters, I’d give them an hour to write 200-450 words. And that’s for a position where speed was critical and they only took the test at the finalist stage.

  15. Esme*

    What country is #5 in? I’m assuming US as you haven’t said otherwise, but just in case it’s the UK…

    If you’re in the UK, obviously you’ll be getting paid at least 80% of your wage from the CJRS. You shouldn’t be using your work email – my employer has asked those of us on furlough not to use work email and we can choose to supply a personal email to receive to furloughed staff edition of any company wide emails. There are also guidelines for managers about checking in with staff and suchlike – were you given anything like that? Can you contact your own manager and ask to catch up?

    1. Batty Twerp*

      Also UK based. Hubby Twerp is in IT and HR made him temporarily block the usernames of furloughed staff to prevent them getting access and put automatic out of office replies on their emails. When everyone was sent home they had to provide a personal phone and/or email address that could be used to contact them with pertinent information regarding the company or their furlough status. Technically they could use their work provided laptops to access the internet, but they wouldn’t be able to get their emails, or access the VPN, so they’d probably be limited to BBC news and YouTube videos (which aren’t nannied).
      He’s just gone through an exercise to unfurlough about 20 staff to give them access again. Re-onboarding it was called…

  16. Abchase*

    LW4 My son was in the same position as yours. His first job was as a host at Olive Garden. He has shellfish allergies. He was allowed a space to store his EpiPen and keep Benadryl in case he might need it. He had no allergy issues at that job even when he helped wait staff in carrying food plates around or bussing tables.
    His second job was at a Panda Express where their kitchen is open to the whole eating area. He was only able to make it about a week before breathing in the fumes from constant cooking of shellfish started severely triggering his allergies. If your son is working in the kitchen area that is something to keep in mind.
    Good luck to your son in his first job!

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Yikes, he wasn’t allowed to keep the Epi pen on him? In a pants pocket or something?

      1. Lexi Kate*

        In my experience people in a confined setting keep their Epi pen in one spot so everyone knows where it is. Keeping it on them means they are likely the only one that knows where it is.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          My allergist says do not do this. There are thermal insulated cases that can be worn as a belt. Mine was hunter orange. It is always with you and no one can mess with it, move it or throw it out.

          Why? Access. The “office” may not be always opened. No everyone has a key. Someone does a bank run/owner/manager calls in sick. The office is open, but someone leaves, locks it and doesn’t tell you.

          Then there are the people that can’t keep there hands off of others things.

          If this was an office setting, with nice reasonable people, that respect boundaries, who would give you a key to keep your medication safe and secure, yeah store it off your body. This is fast food where workers range from wonderful to they have a pulse and can fog up a mirror, and anything in-between.

          Where I live, the school districts mandates all Epi-pens and asthma inhalers must be on the children unless there is a pressing reason why not. They had a couple law suits where medications were locked up and no one had a key to the file cabinet or office. Staff calls in sick, not everyone knows where the key is or the key gets taken home.

          My belt pouch holds two pens and 4 quick dissolving children’s Benadryl. If it’s important enough to get, it’s important enough to keep on you.

          1. Abchase*

            My son’s EpiPen was difficult to keep on his person while working. He found that it wouldn’t stay attached to his belt clip. The place they allowed him to keep it was not a place that could be locked up during business hours, more like a cubby situation in a general back room area. Yes, there were concerns about it being moved or stolen but in the end this was the solution that worked best for him. He took it to work with him every day and brought it home every night. Thankfully in the two years he was employed at Olive Garden his EpiPen was never stolen or moved.

  17. Felis alwayshungryis*

    The only time I had to do a writing sample as part of the interview process was *at* the actual interview. Not a bad way to do it because then you know exactly how long the candidate spent on it, how they went with working on the fly, and in this case if they could spell (all handwritten!)

    The pre-interview pickiness here just makes me wonder if they’re doing the old trick of getting free work out of ‘candidates’. Consider it a bullet dodged.

    1. Taniwha Girl*

      Woof, I would hate for someone to judge my handwritten spelling in a timed writing exercise! Presumably I can use a dictionary (or the one in Word) while on the job?

      Seems like taking an eye exam without my glasses.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I can think of a few jobs where needing to spell without the aid of spell-check would be relevant! But admittedly, they are mostly teaching or instructing roles…it’s pretty unusual nowadays!

    2. Grand Mouse*

      I have dyslexia so please reconsider having it done handwritten? All written communication is a bit harder for me, but correcting is so much easier on typing vs handwritten. My handwriting is, incidentally, atrocious. This would feel so much like a school exam which I did have an accommodation to have extra time for. Is speed or clarity important? If speed is the key factor, then ruling out people like me is a good thing. However, if clarity is more important and we can take some extra time to fix our mistakes and take advantage of the spellchecker, that should not be a barrier.
      I was loosely keeping track and in this short bit of writing, I have made 9 mistakes. Fixes were quick and all should be perfect now! Doing handwriting, it would be a hail of eraser shavings (now 12 mistakes oops)

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, whenever I’ve made people do a written exercise we’ve provided a laptop for them to do it on. Given peoples’ handwriting can vary significantly it makes it a lot easier to assess in my view. I do find it a helpful part of assessment as most of the jobs in my area need people who can write coherently but I don’t think it’s usually necessary for people to handwrite the exercise.

        My company also asks about reasonable adjustments at interview stage and I have in the past given an applicant with dyslexia more time to complete the assessment in the past.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        Handwritten also sucks for those of us with nerve problems in the wrist/elbow. I have severe cubital tunnel, and while the surgery helped stop the progression, I can’t get that nerve function back. I have the crappiest handwriting when I’m concentrating and really taking my time. A written task with a timeclock? Yeah, that’s going to be barely visible chicken scratch.

        Give me a computer and I can type 80 wpm with 97% accuracy.

      3. juliebulie*

        I’ve got an essential tremor that makes my hands shake. It’s worse when I’m nervous. Medication barely puts a dent in it. If I took a writing/editing test in longhand I’m sure I’d do a fabulous job, but unfortunately no one would be able to read it.

    3. Felis alwayshungryis*

      I should point out this was about 15 years ago, so the value of handwritten samples is probably much less than it was then. It did matter a bit for that role, but I can certainly see how it could cause problems for otherwise great candidates.

  18. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’ve run afoul of points systems but not in that manner…granted I’m not in the USA either. The place that actually fired me for being off ill ‘too often’ meant ‘more than 6 days a year’ and also used a priority scale for requested leave (points awarded for your reasons for the leave, highest point score wins).

    Personally I try to grit my teeth and move away from companies that treat their employees like a darts scoreboard (throw arrows at them, tot up the points) ….

    1. Jenny*

      It depends on the manager and type of work environment. I will say I had my fair share of totally toxic managers in food service.

      It sounds like son may be young. Maybe still a student? If he doesn’t need this job to live. He should also 100% be prepared to walk out t9 protect his health.

      1. Jenny*

        Ugh sorry. Something about these ads makes things submit early (and for some reason the text of my last reply was in the box).

        The point systems are totally punitive and nonsensical. I lost points at a job once because a car fire shut down the whole interstate. It was on the news, it had happened after I already left for work. Nope. Docked. I guess I was supposed to have moved all thise cars Magneto style?

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Being more strict with time off makes jobs, like a call center where you need butts in seats for support for specific times so you have the right coverage. I had a job at a cable company call center briefly and found out that there are FCC fines if people are left on hold for too long.

      That being said, a “points” system, and firing after a certain number of absences as a “this is how it’s done, no exceptions” is harsh. Keeping track of that stuff makes sense, but I feel like you also need to have conversations with people and make sure there’s not a legitimate reason for the absences (instead of just not wanting to come to work that day). You know, treat people like adults instead of children who are sent to detention.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        *makes SENSE, not jobs…good grief my coffee needs to kick in!

  19. Zircon*

    #4 I’m sure it goes without saying, especially if you read this column, but it is important that your son has this discussion with his manager – not you!!

  20. Batgirl*

    Translation for OP1: “We don’t know how to hire, please do allllll the things up front before you’re even a contender. Wait, we hear we are not supposed to ask much time of an applicant. Please do all the things, but do it in 15 minutes. Secretly, you can take longer but don’t take our plausible deniability that we need you to give us every clue up front, away from us. Thanks!”

    1. Willis*

      This. They said 15 minutes cause they wanted to sound like they were asking for less than they actually were.

    2. ShowPony*

      100% this. Almost every time I’ve had to do an assignment during an interview process, it’s revealed how little about the work process the hiring team knows. For some I’ve done it, for others I’ve just said, thanks, but no thanks, and for at least one I did see the results of my free labor being used by them after I didn’t get the job. I wouldn’t say an assignment is a red flag in a job application but I definitely have my radar up when it happens.

      FWIW, my current job did not ask me to do an assignment, but the interview process was very in depth and included a thorough background check, some online logic tests, and a drug test. It’s probably the best fit to my talents that I’ve ever had in a role and I love everything about my job, so kudos to their process.

  21. Random commenter*

    There’s no reason that they have to know your age during the interview process. Just list your graduation year on your resume, they’ll probably assume that you’re the typical age.

    1. Former call centre worker*

      Yes I couldn’t work out how they’re supposed to know OP is 19. Even if you have to fill in your DOB somewhere in the application, nobody is going to look at it other than to check you’re above the minimum age to be employed there.

  22. IntoTheSarchasm*

    I could have written the letter regarding furloughs although mine was partial to 60% of full-time as a manager. Of our team members, one was also reduced to 60% and the other fully furloughed. The fully furloughed staff had no communication for management. At the end of the furlough period, the fully furloughed staff persons job was eliminated, as was mine. The other staff member was restored to 80%. My advice is to be looking for a job.

  23. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

    Re: LW#4

    As someone who carries an Epi-Pen, even though I don’t work in food service, my immediate coworkers know where I keep it, what its used for (which allergens), and how to use it. Do I expect that anyone’s ever going to have to use it on me? No. But just in case.

    Your son needs to have this conversation, and you need to back him up if needed, because people can be either completely disbelieving, and sometimes can be jerks about this.

    I avoided working in food service as a teen because that predated all the labeling and ingredient regulations. I’d still avoid working in seafood or “any sort of Asian cuisine” restaurants due to my seafood allergies. Heck, I don’t even go INTO those restaurants as a patron!

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      As some with food allergies to shellfish, nuts, peanuts and fish…

      Remind your son, he’s as safe as the most careless worker there. Day shift may be great. Manager/owner working, top self coworkers. They probably are careful and would help him if something happened. Afternoon shift with no manager, shift leader getting high in the break room and a bunch of co-workers that are just punching a clock, don’t expect any help except hopefully calling 911.

      I don’t disclose my food allergies because people don’t get, don’t care and in an emergency usually freak out. All my Epis have been self administer because everyone was too weirded out to help, or scared of liability.

      If the owner/manager runs a really tight ship, your son has nothing to worry about. If it’s anything like the off shift places I’ve worked, pick out the most reasonable person to disclose and just double down on being careful. I had co-workers ignore the “single item only” fries and cross containment everywhere.

      I kept my Epis on me, because I had a worker discharge one into a stack of “too old to sell” hamburger patties “to see the needle”. Who does that? Lucky for me the owner paid for a replacement.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          Nope. The manager laughed, and gave me money for a replacement.

          Told me, You know Fred has “issues”. Hide your stuff better.

          Didn’t quit because car notes don’t pay themselves.

          1. blackcat*

            Yikes! My epi pends have always been $100 or more out of pocket, so I’m glad your manager paid…

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            “You know Fred has issues”

            It’s baffling and infuriating that so many employers will fire people for normal things like being sick, but WON’T fire them for flagrant misbehavior because “haha, that’s just Fred.”

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      In general I support the idea that teens should be the ones who have all conversations with their bosses, but there’s one caveat. If the teen is a minor working with a signed work permit, parents are legally allowed to ensure their child is working in a workplace that is compliant with child labor laws and workplace safety laws. So for employees who are minors, there are select situations where it’s valid for a parent to get involved, always in a polite and professional manner.

  24. Ginger*

    #5 – several managers I know who have furloughed employees aren’t allowed to communicate with them. Only HR can reach out. Perhaps it is the same at your company?

    1. Dawn*

      Yes, our company doesn’t allow for us to communicate with furloughed employees. The assumption is that we needed to furlough we don’t know for how long or if this will be permanent and we need to run the store without them, it is also assumed they are applying to our competitors and other places since their job is not guaranteed anymore.

  25. Bookworm*

    #1: I think your instincts were correct (especially going ahead and withdrawing) and Alison’s answer is right. Would only add: while I don’t know what was involved in your assignment obviously, it could have been they liked your work but wanted to see it expanded on, perhaps to use for themselves. It’s not unheard of for these types of interview assessments to be taken by hiring orgs for themselves.

    Again, I don’t know and it may very well be what Alison says: that the hiring manager wasn’t clear about this and they really should have been.

    It might not seem this way right now but I’ve come to realize that a lot of these types of pre-interview incidents are good screenings criteria for candidates. If they can’t handle an assessment for candidates, what quality of work are they producing? You may have very well dodged a bullet and thankfully didn’t have to spend time/money/labor in an interview. Sorry that happened but hope this leads to better things!

    1. OP 1*

      Honestly once I’d worked through the emotions of being told I “failed” an assignment, I realized that this was a pretty good hint about what working there would be like. If the hiring manager has secret expectations and poor communication in the interview phase, when he should be on his best behavior to attract a great candidate, I have the feeling he’d be very hard to work for.

      1. Corporate Lawyer*

        YES! Interestingly, the writing assignment may have told you a lot more about him than it told him about you. Bullet dodged.

      2. lapgiraffe*

        I feel this so much, just spent 10 hours putting together some homework for a hiring committee that has since ghosted me (it was 100% fake data so I know they weren’t getting “free work” from me, but the fake data actually made it harder because I had to suspend disbelief and speak with confidence about something illogical, OR they were testing me and wanted me to point out how the numbers were wrong? Who knows). It is not like me to turn in a failing project! So I’ve had to take solace that this company is not local, not in my current industry, and I will likely never see or talk to these people ever again, nor will they talk to anyone else who knows me or has influence in anything related to my field. But it’s killing me!

        1. OP 1*

          My solace was that both calls were just phone calls rather than Zoom, so even if I see these people around town, they will have no idea who I am.

  26. Super Duper Anon*

    Oh yeah, that is way more than 15 mins. An annotated screenshot alone would take me the 15 mins! (Graphics are my slow point though).

  27. Delta Delta*

    #4 – This isn’t clear in the wording of the letter, but it almost looks like OP plans to pull the manager aside to tell them about the teen’s allergy. I think this really ought to come from the kid, as this is something he is going to have to navigate. And it’s really easy – if the manager says no, kid can quit and hopefully find another appropriate level job at a non-food place.

  28. My 2 cents*

    #3- This is the system for every hospital system I have ever worked at. As a nurse I, and many of my coworkers have worked while sick and contagious because if we didn’t we would lose our job.
    We all know we shouldn’t but what choice do you have.
    Also they would be many times that I would ask for PTO months in advance and be denied due to staffing issues and warned if I called off “sick” for the denied days it would count double points. So most people just stopped asking to use PTO and called off the day of.
    This system was just for patient care staff at first but now it applies to all staff. Currently I am in the IT dept, not supporting end users, and have to follow these same rules because it wasn’t “fair” to the other staff.
    This was all before COVID but as far as I know this was not relaxed and if a front line staff gets exposed to COVID and has to be quarantined the have to use their PTO. I’m not sure about the points though.
    I don’t really have any advice per se but I definitely agree with Allison that points systems are infantalizing. And in the case of nurses ACTUALLY put patients at risk.

  29. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP2: congratulations!
    You might want to think about growing a beard if you’re male, or achieving a fairly mature look with make-up if you’re a woman, just so that you’re not always treated as the baby wherever you get hired.
    I was hired to a teaching position that would normally require a degree at the age of 19 (without the degree) and even six or seven years later people would refer to me as “the youngster”. It only changed when they hired someone younger than me. It was pretty infuriating, I got mansplained at a lot, and was not taken seriously by a lot of my students (I was only half their age! but I did know my stuff and worked hard to learn how best to teach it to them).

    1. Taura*

      I can’t speak to growing a beard, but “trying to achieve a mature look” either with makeup or dress has always just gotten me the “haha, look at her, trying to be all grown up!” reaction. LW is better off dressing professionally for their field with whatever their usual level of makeup/hairstyle is and just taking any age comments as they come. If they’re particularly young-looking for their age they’ll have to deal with it for years, and if they’re not it’ll become a non-issue after they aren’t brand new to their field anymore.

      1. lazy intellectual*

        I’m so conflicted about wearing makeup. I generally prefer not to wear makeup, but if I have an Important Meeting/Event, I feel like I have to wear some to look polished, but not too much so that people don’t code me as a “skank” or something. (I don’t like that word, but we all know there are some creepy older men and judgmental older women who slut shame younger women for looking like younger women.)

        1. Taura*

          I’m not saying not to wear makeup, just that trying to achieve a “mature look” with makeup is a) too vague to work with and b) easily slides into being either unprofessional or just flat out weird because the makeup chosen doesn’t suit the person’s face in an effort to not look “young”. If you have a teenager’s face you’re going to have a teenager’s face regardless of if you’ve followed the makeup tutorial published for teens or for people in their 50’s.

          (Not that people with a “teenage face” are all teenagers, obv. Personally I can’t WAIT to get gray hairs, maybe then strangers will quit greeting me with “how’s high school?”)

    2. Ray Gillette*

      Can’t speak to the makeup idea, but whether a young man is able to grow a beard at 19 will depend entirely on the genetic lottery. I get a lot of compliments on my beard now (in my 30’s), but I was still as patchy as a middle schooler at 19.

  30. Points, the lesser of evils?*

    The points thing is odd because it is actually something that is hammered home on this site over and over and over and over, which is that you should tell folks when they are performing poorly and make that clear to them, never surprise someone in a performance review. All that. Points do this. That’s part of the point of points. There aren’t enough good supervisors to just supervise well, so you come up with a structure that anyone can enforce, which means it’s overly rigid, but it is actually transparent. People know when they are about to be fired. It does put some of that control clearly into the hands of the actual employees in that they can see it, they understand the structure of it, it’s possible for it to be applied “fairly” across the board, they shouldn’t be surprised if they have 1 point left and they “use” 2 that that’s their last day.

    Would it be better if all supervisors were good and did their jobs? Sure, but in the absence of a decent layer of management, and a decent layer of management above that to enforce that…I guess I’d rather have things clearly spelled out than a magical guessing game of who likes who. At least that was my experience. Petty boss’s can still be petty, but it was harder with a clear structure that could just be refuted. Nope. Wasn’t late that day. No points off. Punch in showed 7:28.

    1. Colette*

      All points measure is if you show up – but most jobs are about more than showing up. Under that system, someone who never misses a shift and is always on time but does nothing while they’re there (or does so poorly that someone else has to re-do their work) will keep their job, but a top employee who is late every Sunday since the first bus gets her to work a minute after she’s supposed to be there will get fired.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, points, much like school attendance, are a bad metric for getting stuff done, and they run the risk of having uneven demographic effects (people with children or weak immune systems are more likely to rack up points from calling in sick. People without a lot of cash are more likely to be late due to public transport or car problems.)

        1. londonedit*

          Definitely, and it’s also likely to foster a culture of ‘presenteeism’, where people turn up for work even if they’re ill or contagious or whatever, just because they don’t want another point against their name. It’s another example of a blunt instrument, the same as ‘people might slack off if we let them work from home, so no one’s allowed to work from home’. It’s ‘people might take a sick day and go shopping, so we’re going to crack down on everyone’s sick days’. All that happens is that Nancy from Marketing drags herself to the office with flu (or, these days, potentially something even worse…) and all of a sudden half the staff are off sick. It’s much better to just treat people as adults, let them take sick time if and when they need it, and deal with anyone who’s genuinely abusing the system – and I really don’t think many people do – on an individual basis.

        2. Points, the lesser of evils?*

          I think this is a good point, it’s sort of the difference between individual racism and systemic racism. A boss being horrible because they are personally against you, vs a structure that is set up to work against you regardless of how the people inside it feel because of the situation you started in.

      2. Points, the lesser of evils?*

        But some jobs are about showing up. I get that most folks here don’t have that kind of job, but there are those jobs out there. Pretending like those jobs don’t exist…I hope no one gets mad about their dentist not being on time, or the store not being open, or food taking too long, or 911 not being staffed. Honestly, some jobs showing up in a timely way matters. And just denying that doesn’t stop it from being true.

        1. Altair*

          I think more people here have had such jobs than you’re giving us credit for. I’ve had a couple — I staffed desks at a school, which I opened for the day, and a hospital, where being on time for shift is of paramount importance. And I still think a ‘points’ system is overly reductive and treats people like cogs.

          1. doreen*

            I think to some extent that depends on the environment that you are used to. I work for a large state agency and I am not necessarily opposed to a points or occurrence systems for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve supervised too many people who had switchboard/receptionist responsibilities whose previous supervisors/managers had allowed an extreme amount of lateness/absences. I’m talking people who over the course of sixty workdays used unscheduled leave* on 40 of them or who would take a day or two of unscheduled leave every other week. Sure, the prior supervisors/managers were a part of the problem too – but the second reason is that if I expect people to be on time for work and expect them to arrange for leave in advance when possible , but other supervisors/managers don’t, then the people I supervise feel that they are being treated unfairly. Our policy basically has consequences for the supervisors/managers as well which leads to more consistency- sure I can “forget” that an absence was unscheduled when the timesheet says it was pre-approved- right up until
            I get audited and I don’t have the approved request.

            * Yes, a flat tire can’t be scheduled in advance, but these people were calling in the morning saying that they would be out because their apartment was being painted or because it was their mother’s birthday – neither of which was suddenly discovered at 8am.

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          I’m just not sure points are the solution. I’ve had medical appointments where the receptionist was a little late–and one where I had a noon appointment, checked in and saw other patients waiting, and the receptionist didn’t bother to tell me that the doctor wasn’t expected for another hour until I asked how long I’d be waiting.

          I don’t know whether the doctor assessed her staff points for being late, but nobody was assessing points when she was late.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, this. It seems like if your job is high-status enough, you can get away with making everyone wait…

        3. Colette*

          Most jobs involve showing up. But if the only thing you measure is showing up, then what you’re going to get is people who are there on time – possibly at the expense of having people who are good at the actual work.

        4. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          Yup. And some of the jobs that are about showing up (and it pains me to say this) have other systemic things going on where they frequently get a lot of employees who can’t or don’t want to show up.

          The other thing that I think some people forget (or perhaps feel uncomfortable saying) is that many of these jobs are ones where being absent has no effect on your workload when you return, which can play a role in how people use unplanned PTO. It’s not as though the kinds of jobs where this isn’t at play don’t have absenteeism; non-frontline workers don’t sick-out to the same extent because of having more integrity, it’s probably because their work often doesn’t go away when they don’t show up.

          Yes, points systems are messed up, but we’re talking about jobs where there may not be a lot of built-in personally-affecting disincentives for showing up late.

  31. Karo*

    #2 – Honestly, unless you specifically point out that you’re young, or your resume otherwise makes it clear, I don’t know how many hiring managers will notice the 2-3 year age discrepancy. I’m in my mid-30s and live in a college town and all of the students look young to me. I certainly wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a 19-year-old and a 22-year-old. If you point it out in your cover letter or something, do so in a positive fashion (because this is absolutely something to brag about!) but otherwise just dress professionally and no one will know the difference.

  32. Stormy Weather*

    I would have withdrawn from consideration too. Those instructions were not clear. Having something kicked back sounds like they liked the LW, but were being very particular without a lot of guidance about one task. Pass.

  33. Georgina Fredricka*

    OP 1: this sounds like a drawn-out version of a job I applied to a couple years ago. They asked me to do a researched blog post that mimics their blogging style (which, btw, was 800 words-ish long) AND edit a piece of writing but *showing my editing process* through a saved draft (and this was not like grammatical editing but stylistic/brand specifics, which takes much longer).

    Like a fool I did both things – spending easily a few hours – only to have them turn around and demand I redo the editing process draft because I saved it in a way that showed the editing process, but required them to open different windows, and what they REALLY wanted was it to show all on one window (but didn’t tell me until it was done).

    After pestering me multiple times about it, and emailing me pretty promptly throughout, I re-did it turned it all in, only to never hear from them again. Like, ever. Even after I did a follow up of “hey… did you pick another candidate? just checking.”

    Easily a bullet dodged and every once in a while I sign their hiring email up for random newsletter subscriptions.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      “every once in a while I sign their hiring email up for random newsletters”

      Haha, this is petty. I like you.

  34. Georgina Fredricka*

    Also I can’t read through all these comments but youthful OP – just as a thought, if maybe an underlying issue is that you don’t feel READY for the “official” work world yet, you don’t need to stay in college. That’s silly – you already have the degree. I’m actually a little concerned on your behalf that this seemed like the only solution if it were actually true that you WERE too young.

    Live abroad for a year as an au pair, or do a volunteer Americorp year, etc! You can make a little money, or at least not spend $30,000. Might be easier right now anyway considering all the competition for jobs…

    1. Quill*

      Most of those would be easier another year, unfortunately.

      Just want to say, OP, because I was there several years after you: not getting a job immediately does NOT mean that you won’t get one, or won’t get one in your field.

    2. Jennifer*

      I agree. 19 is very young to jump into the official work world. The OP should take some time for herself beforehand. I agree with all of your suggestions.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        19 is not that young to jump into the official work world. Blue collar people do it all the time.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            Not necessarily, though it does happen. I live in a part of the US that is very industry and trade based. People go to school to get the skills for the best jobs in the area. When they get their first job – welding, electrician, mechanic, etc. – they are 19-20.

            With the cost of traditional education rising without a lot of payoff and trade positions at a shortage of qualified workers I wouldn’t be surprised if things trended back to entering the workforce earlier and in traditionally blue collar jobs.

  35. AngryOwl*

    For #1 it sounds like he wanted you to take longer without him having to ask you to (since he’s probably read that it’s wrong to ask for tons of time from applicants). Sneaky and a crappy way to do things. Glad you escaped that company!

  36. Spearmint*

    OP1 – You definitely dodgeD a bullet (15 minutes? And asking you to redo it?), but unfortunately it seems common for interview assignments taking far longer than the hiring manager says they should. I had one that they claimed would take 2 hours, but I actually spent a 5 on it. Now, maybe I just wasn’t qualified for that particular job, but I’ve heard many stories from people with similar experiences.

    Unfortunately, it seem like there’s an unwritten rule with these sorts of things that you need to spend more time on these things than the hiring manger claims. I don’t know if hiring managers realize this or are systematically underestimate how long these assignments take and how long the best candidates work on them.

    Against, OP1, you dodged a bullet as your case is so extreme, but it seems like these mismatched expectations are common.

  37. Jennifer*

    #5 I agree with Alison. You should most definitely be job searching right now. Don’t wait around for them to call you back in to work.

  38. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    19 year old graduate: A lot of my friends who attended high school outside of the US entered college at 16 and thus graduated around 20. On top of that, I knew a good number of people who started college at 16 who were 100% American educated. It’s not nearly as uncommon as you think!

  39. Sarah*

    #1, I work in tech and this happens very frequently (not writing assignments, but being told to take no more than X time for an assignment that really takes longer than that). I’ve found that they seem to prefer that you take more time and deliver something good even though they claim they want you to stop after a period of time. If they actually cut you off after a period of time, that’s when they actually want you to take only that length of time. Which is ridiculous. Normally, I’d take this as a sign not to work somewhere, but the job market has been so bad during this pandemic that I just used as much time as it took a few times. I suspect this is what a lot of people are doing. This is obviously a terrible way to hire because it doesn’t measure anything actually meaningful, but it is common, at least in certain industries. At my current company, I overheard people in a different department saying that they tell people to take X time on an assignment but it seems like it usually takes them longer. They did not appear to think this was a sign they should be doing anything differently. This is obviously ridiculous and tells you something about who you would be working with, but you probably should decide in a case like this whether you are sufficiently desperate. If you’re not, this can be a way to hopefully improve things for people after you by making it clear what is actually realistic to accomplish in the time period and maybe even saying how long it would take you to complete it fully. May make no difference, but if you don’t want to spend the time to do it, might as well see what happens.

  40. employment lawyah*

    2. Will graduating college at 19 work against me when I’m job searching?
    It will never be a handicap, if you compare yourself to “other graduates of that same college of similar age.” It may be either a benefit or a handicap if you compare yourself to “older people who graduated at the same time.” But a) by the time you’re their age you will have a degree AND experience, and b) soon enough, nobody will distinguish anyway, a two year difference will be negligible in a couple of years.

    And to some level all of this will really depend on your field, your college, and your degree.

    Some places–larger corporate ones–may have a “degree cutoff” where they just want “a degree.” If they say “managers must have a college degree” and if you have one, you’ll be able to be a manger. Those places, your degree will help. (If you join the Army, you might go to officer school instead of being an enlisted man, etc.)

    Other places are more selective. In a sense, early graduation is often a demonstration of intelligence and hard work. Lots of jobs really need that. Speaking personally, I’ll preferentially hire “untrained hard-working smart folks” over “more experienced less-smart, less-hard-working folks” all day, every day.

    But many of the fields which most value intelligence ALSO care about the details and may care if you seem to be gaming the system. I am not saying you are, but I do note that you don’t say “college” or “university,” but rather “four year degree program.” I say that, because the “we are seeking really smart people” folks don’t just want to know “I have a degree,” they also may want to know other things that demonstrate smarts, like “From where? In what major? How did it work?”

    So if you show up with a degree from Random Online U, in Studies of Redundancy Studies, based on a ton of random CC courses, then you may get less benefit than if you show up with a degree from State Flagship U in English, Math, or Statistics.

    In any case: Don’t go back to that same college just to “take more courses” in that major!! If you decide you want more education, you’re likely to be better off with a) professional training; b) post-graduate work towards a masters or similar degree; or, less likely, c) a second but different bachelors (e.g. a BS if you have a BA and want to switch fields.)

    Definitely don’t put any more years into an online school, if that is what you are doing.

    1. Faith*

      Thank you for your input on my situation. I am graduating from a state university with a B.S. in General Science with focuses on anthropology and chemistry. I am hoping to be able to go into crime scene investigations and eventually detective work and I don’t feel that a master’s degree will be of much benefit.

  41. JessicaTate*

    OP 1: I completely agree with you withdrawing (lots of flags), especially based on your extra details above.

    That said, another approach you could have tried in the follow-up convo: After hearing they want 6-8 paragraphs, say, “OK, so to clarify, you want me to spend a lot more than the 15 minutes indicated? Obviously, I wouldn’t produce a full-quality work product like this in just 15 minutes. I wouldn’t want to disregard the parameters of the assignment you set.” Basically, take the approach of being super-ethical about following their rules, and force them to ‘fess up about the time expectation.

    Then you’ll know if they’re unreasonable A (must be 15 minutes), unreasonable B (expect you to spend 6 hours), or squirrelly (want to claim 15 minutes, while expecting you to spend 6 and keep it to yourself). Or, MAYBE they turn out to be semi-reasonable and say, “You’re right, 15 minutes wasn’t right. But I don’t want to take too much of your time. So, if you could spend an hour or two on it, and get as far as you can, that would at least give us a better sense than the 15 minute version did. I’m sorry we weren’t clear on that up front.” Maybe it still comes to the same result of you withdrawing, but for me, it would take away the “Was I being unreasonable?” moment because I’d know precisely their flavor of unreasonableness.

  42. SaffyTaffy*

    OP2, I graduated from undergrad just before my 20th birthday, too. And, yes, there have been some people who were put off by it. In lousy jobs, there was always one middle-manager type who would say “you’re supposed to be smart but look what you did wrong,” or “we expect you to perform at 150% because you’re SUCH A GENIUS” and so on. That does happen.
    And it also happens that the great majority of people think it’s good that you’re brilliant. The good experiences will outweigh the bad.

  43. H.C.*

    Oh man, OP1 just gave me a recent flashback of a pre-interview “work assignment” which turned out to be a 3+ hour affair (drafting 2 communication plans, plus a sample press release, blog post & social media post.)

    Def did set off some flags, but I’m also itching to leave my current workplace — so if/when I get to next stage, I’ll decide if I wanna trade the devil I know for one I don’t.

  44. gawaine42*

    OP2: I ended up going for my Masters’, so I didn’t do the job hunt when I got my Bachelor’s at 18. The good news is that as long as you’re over 18, you won’t have to deal with child labor laws (I have a few friends dealing with that now). The bad news is, you’ll find it hard to do some kinds of jobs that involve travel, since often they won’t waive a minimum age of 21 for corporate car rentals.

    I didn’t tell most recruiters my age. The main problem I had, though this was many years ago, was that I had less social activities and internships to brag about. That was less a problem with age, than with the side-effect of age – at 14 or 15 I couldn’t work, and I couldn’t have internships outside the state while under 18. I think there are still recruiters who’ll have whatever recipe they’re using to hire people, and if you don’t fit that recipe, you may have challenges.

    Personally, when I’m hiring, I try to keep things like this in mind and make sure I’m not looking to fit a unicorn into a cookie cutter role. I have several people on my team who have very unique histories, including both early college starts or starting much later in life, and I celebrate those differences.

  45. M.T.*

    OP1: You are almost certainly in the right. Providing a in-depth assignment prior to an interview seems like an increasingly common expectation, and this one was particularly bad because of the bizarre mixed signals you got in the instructions.

    Late last year, I was actively recruited for a lateral position by a company’s internal recruiter and asked to complete a “small assignment” prior to the interview. The assignment was (verbatim) to “write an article that is better than any article you can currently find on the first page of Google search results” on a topic that was very specific to their company and that likely no candidate would already be an expert in. And this was BEFORE they would even do an initial phone interview. I politely but firmly replied back to let them know that I’m already employed full time and have no interest in spending so much time researching and writing an article for them for free without even an initial phone interview, and to please withdraw me from candidacy. Ridiculous. I still think about it all the time and wonder just WHO they think they are?

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      “write an article that is better than any article you can currently find on the first page of Google search results”

      They couldn’t even offer you an objective wild goose to chase? It had to be a subjective one?

  46. dedicated1776*

    LW#2: Like others who have commented here, I graduated younger than most (20) and I got a very professional job in a very normal amount of time after graduating. I don’t think anyone at the company knew until I did my new hire paperwork. And even then a lot of people didn’t know until something about drinking came up. Yes, I was immature in a lot of ways… but I don’t think I was more immature than the other new college grads I worked with.

    And also like others who have commented here, now that I’m in my mid-30s, I’m not sure I could tell the difference between a 19 year old and a 22 year old, physically. I might not be able to tell the difference based on maturity level, either. Don’t sweat it. Enjoy your extra three years of advancing in your career! I loved having those extra two years.

  47. E*

    LW2, I finished my MBA at 20 and it has definitely affected me in jobs and among hiring managers. In my experience people tend to get very suspicious and feel threatened.

  48. Caryn Z*

    We have a similar thing, instead of points we have “occurrences.” And the occurrences are tied to our annual review. Ridiculous.

  49. Elm*

    Regarding food allergies, absolutely tell! A lot of places require employees to try the food unless they have dietary restrictions, even in fast food restaurants, and he needs to be given a full list of ingredients before trying any. I have a really unusual food allergy that is “secretly” in a lot of foods, so I need a detailed ingredient list, not just a “bread, ketchup, hamburger” kind of thing. You don’t want this to be a surprise when the food tastings inevitably arise.

    Unless it’s a contact allergy that means you can’t be near or in physical contact with the food, a manager with a shred of sense won’t mind.

  50. Zillinith*

    OP #2: I finished college at 20 and had some of the same worries you did. I ended up deciding to do Americorps for a year after school to kind of bridge the gap.

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