I’m working for a pyramid scheme, how to stop making careless mistakes, and more

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

1. I’m working for a pyramid scheme

I’m a 2020 grad in a highly competitive industry that requires “struggle jobs” even during normal times and has completely shut down due to COVID. Everything even tangentially related is fully virtual and fully volunteer, so I’ve been sending my resume out to anything I even remotely qualified for. I recently landed a job with a marketing/sales office, which I took because they offered to train and promote me to HR assistant after a probationary period in their entry-level rep position.

The branch I’m at just opened up last year has a name no one will have heard of, but the umbrella company (several levels up) is Cydcor Marketing. The company is barely not a pyramid scheme. I’ve listened to “The Dream” – it’s above the level of, say, LuLaRoe or Herbalife, but only just. The product we’re selling is legitimate and reps don’t have to buy a package to get started, but the training, promotion, and commission structure is 100% pyramid. There are daily meetings full of meaningless motivational speeches that translate to “you should be glad to be working 80-hour weeks for us, only losers wouldn’t want this opportunity.” (They also don’t offer benefits because offices are intentionally kept too small to be legally required to provide health insurance.)

If we were not in a pandemic, I would cut and run. As it is, I’m scared of losing this (inconsistent but always higher than minimum wage) paycheck, and I’d like to use the promised HR experience to eventually transfer to a more legit company. Is this a good strategy, or will future employers be more put off by an extended stint at a shady company than by a string of retail positions?

Ugh. Cydcor is known to be awful. If you had to put their name on your resume, I’d tell you to get out today if you could do it without plunging yourself into crisis (i.e., if you have a safety net with your family). Being able to put a different company name on your resume might mitigate the problem somewhat, but if a savvy interviewer digs into what the company really is, it’s going to be a problem. HR experience at a shady company is … not great.

But just as importantly, I’d seriously question the quality of the training you’re getting and how well it will translate to another company later. Unfortunately, based on how Cydcor operates, I’d be deeply skeptical that you’re going to get HR experience of much value.

If financially it’s not an option to just quit, I’d recommend continuing to actively look for something else. Retail is not a terrible option by comparison. I’m sorry — I wish I had a different answer for you!

2. How to stop making careless mistakes at work

I’m a manager at a large corporation. Periodically I need to gather some data and present them to VPs and executive VPs.

I noticed that often I’ll be looking and re-reading and re-checking to make sure presentation is error-free and then turns out I missed something. It sucks when an executive leader calls it out, I just want to die.

Part of the problem is stress that I’m presenting this to “authority.” Part of it is fixation on an outcome — I want to get things done. And then add to that the urgency factor and I have a problem. Any suggestions on how to fix this? I’m not stupid, I know the data and materials. I just make stupid mistakes. Is this something to discuss with my manager? How best to approach it?

It sounds like you’re rushing, and that can definitely cause this. But are you rushing because you want to be done or because you’re not given enough time for the work?

If it’s the latter, I’d raise that with your boss — that you’re not catching errors because everything is a rush. But if you’re more rushing just to get through it, try setting the work down after you’re finished and then come back and recheck it later with fresh eyes. Even putting it down for just 20 or 30 minutes can be enough that you’ll catch mistakes when you take a second look. (You might already be doing that, of course!) Also, can you enlist anyone else in looking over the data for you? Is there someone on your team you already trust or could train to be your second pair of eyes?

I’d also look at what kind of mistakes you’re making and where they’re coming from. Are they more like typos? Calculation errors? Forgetting to include something relevant? Misinterpreting data? Each of those has a different solution, which could be as simple as more proofreading (in the case of the first two) all the way up to more training (in the case of the last one).

Whether or not to raise it with your manager depends on how often it’s happening. If it’s just occasional and the timelines you’re being given aren’t unreasonable, I don’t think you need to raise it— all least not without first figuring out where the mistakes are coming from and some approaches to mitigate that. But if it’s frequent, there can be value in saying, “I’m aware of this and I’m doing XYZ to address it.”

3. HR was showing my education level to people in the break room

I do not have a college degree. It is something that I am very insecure about, but I have never let it hold me back from working my ass off and advancing my career.

Our HR manager is very immature and has done several things that I question (mostly sharing private information) but I tend to just mind my own business. Today, I walked into the break room and she was showing other employees the education levels of everyone at our company. Someone guffawed and asked who had the high school degree (it’s me). She said it was me and it very much embarrassed me. Am I being emotional by being upset that my private information was shared in that way? Is education info even private?

Your education isn’t something that’s typically expected to be kept private — but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay for your HR manager to mock it. It’s possible she had some legitimate use for compiling that data but it sounds like she was sharing it a gossipy way, which (a) isn’t okay and (b) undermines the trust people need to have in HR to handle information sensitively.

So no, I don’t think you’re wrong to be upset. There’s nothing wrong with only having a high school diploma and I hope you can find a way not to be embarrassed that some of your colleagues know (if anything, it makes whatever professional advancement you’ve achieved more impressive), but your HR manager sounds like an ass.

4. Using “they” pronouns in a recommendation letter without confusing people

I am a high school counselor. Among the many hats I wear I also write a lot of recommendation letters for students who are applying to colleges and universities, scholarships, and other activities such as internships and job opportunities. This year one of my students let me know that they have come out as non-binary and have elected to use he/they. They also gave me a new first name to address them by. The new name is not one commonly associated with a male; in fact most would assume female, i.e. Susan. They need a letter to complete their college application and I am at a loss at to how to do this without providing an explanation in the letter regarding them being non-binary (I don’t think it would be appropriate). I also don’t want the admissions committee to think I am writing about the wrong student or recycled a letter and forgot to change the pronouns. This is the first time I have encountered this and I want to respect my student and sell them in a good way in my letter without the impression I’m talking about some other kid.

Check with the student first to make sure they want you to use their correct pronouns in the letter; they may be out to you and others at school but not yet in this context. But assuming yes, I’d just explain it the first time you name the student in the letter: “Susan (who uses ’they’ pronouns)…” That’s it! As commenters have pointed out, you don’t need to explain it at all. Just use the pronouns. It’s unlikely the school is going to think you’re writing about the wrong person.

5. Is it a faux pas to ignore a recruiter?

My LinkedIn profile states I’m not looking to move employers. For the first time in many years, I got an email from a recruiter asking me to contact her regarding a job in my field at another company (which she named). I ignored the email, but got a follow-up one from her today. My skill set is pretty niche and is in high demand right now. I’m not interested in leaving my employer as I have a pretty sweet deal, but I wonder if I’m doing the right thing by not responding. I mean, who knows if things might change in the future? I wouldn’t want to blow someone off who could help me if things ever went south at my current job. I don’t anticipate that ever happening, but you never know.

I should mention that I am a few years from retirement (yay!) and not looking to advance any further up the food chain. Am I committing a faux pas here?

You’re not committing a faux pas. Recruiters are used to emailing tons of people and only hearing back from a fraction of them; that’s just how recruiting works. That said, you might find it interesting to talk to her anyway — you can get a lot of good data on the job market and your own positioning in it by talking to recruiters (and who knows, maybe she has an offer that you’d be interested in once you hear it). You’re not committing to anything by having a conversation and potentially have something to gain (even if only information). But if you’re just not up for dealing with it, it’s perfectly fine to just ignore the contact.

{ 348 comments… read them below }

  1. nnn*

    For #4, if you use “they” pronouns in the letter, I don’t think it would come across as you using the wrong pronouns or recycling the letter. If you were using “he” pronouns with a name like Susan it could come across that way, but I think “they” pronouns would simply come across as Susan uses “they”.

    At a minimum, you could write a draft of the letter using “they” without any explanation and see how it comes across once you actually have it written out on paper, then adjust it if it isn’t clear enough.

    1. PollyQ*

      Yes, it’s not like people are writing recommendation letters for groups of people! In this context, it’s pretty obvious that it’s about a single person, and I would expect most colleges to be hip to the notion of people choosing their pronouns.

      1. Weekend Please*

        Yep. And if they are concerned the letter will sound generic, maybe the letter is too generic (and not due to pronouns). If you are talking about the clubs Susan is in and how Susan organized a food drive and scored a winning soccer goal in a critical game they are not going to think you are reusing a letter because you use “they”.

      2. beckley*

        Yes — and if a particular college isn’t, then presumably the student wouldn’t be applying there.

    2. Language Lover*

      Exactly. And if the student gave the LW their preferred name, odds are pretty good that preferred name is somewhere in their application.

      But in a situation like this, it’s always okay to reach out to the student to clarify how they’d like to be referred to in the letter of recommendation to make sure you’re on the same page as they are in terms of names/pronouns for the college application process. If they have to apply with their “official” name, you could always refer to them as Susan Bradley Smith or Susan [Bradley] Smith once and then use their preferred name the rest of the way. You could say Susan Smith (he/they) as part of the letter. Listing those out has become quite common in academia.

      But really, when in doubt, ask them. They’re going to want to ensure their success.

      1. SchoolCounselor*

        I get what you are saying but my hesitation with asking the student who has taken the big step to embracing who they are to essentially reconsider just didn’t feel right. I have in many instances asked students if I can share certain things but I hesitated to do that this time. Asking if you want to revert back to her/she feels the same as, “do you want to go back in the closet for my convenience?” I do always use the legal name but insert whatever you want to be called, John”Jack” Smith, so using a new name is never an issue.

        1. Observer*

          The question you are asking is not “Would you like to revert” but “What name are you using in your application materials” and “How do you want to be referred to?” And presumably you are not asking for your convenience, but to make sure that your recommendation is as useful to them as possible.

          1. Weekend Please*

            I agree that it is not asking them to go back into the closet. I think it is more making sure that they are out to the college as well. Some people do not come out to everyone at the same time. Also, if the student specifically said he/they pronouns, specifying which they want in this case is not asking them to go by a non-preferred pronoun, just if they have a more specific preference for this context. It is about there student’ s convenience, not the recommender.

          2. Well Then*

            Yes, the important thing is for the application materials to be consistent. So the LW should ask the student which name/s and pronoun/s they’re using in their own materials, and then use the same in the recommendation letter. That respect the student’s identity, and avoids confusion for the college admissions office.

        2. another Hero*

          It’s not asking whether he wants to revert to previous pronouns, it’s just checking that they want them used in this context. It’s perfectly good form when someone comes out to you with new name and pronouns to ask whether you’re to use them with everyone, or if not, when. Because applications can be super official, you can check that he’s using his name in the application and wants to be referred to as Susan in the letter. I mean, if they’ve begun coming out, the odds are decent that they want to start college as Susan and full steam ahead! And if when they first came out they said they were using it with everybody now, I’d probably be less inclined to verify – I do think you can use what you know of this kid! But if he isn’t out to his parents or something, I’d check for sure.

          1. Corrvin*

            The non-binary folks I’ve known who give multiple sets of pronouns (he/him or they/them) generally don’t mean you need to alternate between the two. Sometimes it means “I’d prefer you use ‘they’ but if you’re so worried that you’ll screw up that you avoid talking about me altogether, ‘he’ is all right too.”

            My work first name is very strongly gendered and I share it with another employee who uses the pronoun that usually goes with that name, so I’m pretty all right with getting that pronoun instead of “they” at work. I’d prefer “they” but I’m not so attached to it that I can’t cut people some slack.

            1. LP*

              I’ve known people who use multiple sets of pronouns who prefer a range things. I’ve known some people who are absolutely delighted when people alternate like another Hero did (great name btw!), some who have a prefered set and a set they don’t mind, and some who just like all the pronouns they use about equally.

              It’s pretty common among the people I know to be out in some contexts but not at work or school, so it is a good idea to confirm. Personally, I use different pronouns at work, with friends, and with different family members.

            2. another Hero*

              I mean of course people feel a variety of ways about this, but there are definitely people who have a preference for a mix. (I’m agender and use “any pronouns” in an “I truly don’t care” sense, but I have multiple friends who transitioned away from “any pronouns” because they felt like people were just defaulting to the ones they were used to and denying their gender. Not everyone has the same pronoun feelings.)

        3. Language Lover*

          That’s not what I was suggesting at all.

          I’d simply reach out and say that you want to make sure that everything in their college application is as uniform as possible so it’s easy for people reviewing the application to see that the letter is indeed intended for them.

          If Susan is part of the college application, then just use the name Susan and them and it should be fine, especially if you think “he” would be confusing.

          It Susan had to put it under an “official” birth name and wasn’t given the opportunity to include a preferred name, this gives them a say in how they’d like materials affiliated with their application to address any potential discrepancies. Again, it’s not asking them to revert. It’s making sure you’re on the same page for the whole application package.

        4. J3*

          I sort of agree with this (caveat being I am a cis queer). If this question were about an adult and a non-school setting, I would say it feels kind of disrespectful to check in– if someone tells me in a professional setting that their pronouns are XYZ, I assume that is because they want me to use those pronouns in professional settings and that they would generally let me know if there were situational nuances they wanted me to be aware of. I’ve never checked in like this with a cis-presumed person whose pronouns I already know, and it doesn’t feel great to do so just because someone is trans.

          However, the school setting does make it seem a bit different… I feel like it has a lot to do with the type of relationship you have. If you’re sort of a “trusted personal mentor” figure who they came out to early because they feel comfortable with you, yeah, I’d check in. But if your relationship is primarily functional, revolving around substantive academic advice, and they weren’t “confiding” in you but simply updating you with their pronouns for informational reasons, honestly I would not.

        5. nott the brave*

          Asking if you want to revert back to her/she

          Really, really important to point out that nobody that I’ve seen has said Susan’s assigned gender at birth. Let’s not erase AMAB nonbinary people, or that some nonbinary are comfortable still using their previous pronoun in conjunction with what else they find comfortable.

          I know this part in itself is off-topic and I hope it doesn’t get deleted for being so, I just think it important for everyone discussing this or reading it in the future to keep in mind.

    3. tamarack and fireweed*

      Yeah, I would also just *use* they pronouns. “Susan … they …” is not something that would stand out to me, and if it would, I would judge it as deliberate, thoughtful writing.

      OTOH, “Susan (who uses ‘they’ pronouns)” is not inclusive at all. You don’t say “Pat (who uses ‘he’ pronouns)” just because there are Pats with “she” or “they” pronouns. You just use the pronouns.

      1. SchoolCounselor*

        Honestly, maybe I will get in the habit of adding the pronouns on the end of the name in the future. Jane “Mark” Smith (he/they) may be the best way to acknowledge this going forward. I don’t think I have to do it for everyone because not everyone has a specific request around this.

        1. another Hero*

          If you only do this for students who have made specific requests to you about pronouns, odds are you’re only going to do it for trans students and it’ll be a way of disclosing their trans status. Best not to.

          1. another Hero*

            Tbc, because the choice to do so should be the student’s, not because it’s bad to disclose. And yes, people will assume if the pronouns are they/them, but still. Likewise, I’m against Susan Bradley Smith (or worse, Bradley “Susan” Smith, which makes it sound like their name isn’t really their name). If the name Susan is on his application somewhere as the name he uses, just use that.

            1. Weekend Please*

              In this context it may be necessary to acknowledge their legal name to make sure it actually gets attached to the application. Maybe the OP could ask the student or call the school to verify.

        2. SometimesALurker*

          I think that most students have a specific request around their pronouns, actually — maybe not many students that you know of use more than one set of pronouns or names, and not many students that you know of have recently changed something about their pronouns or name, but the majority of people have a preference on which pronoun they get called. Some don’t, but just because this request might feel more unusual to you doesn’t mean it’s any more specific than a kid who has always been named Mark and has always used “he” pronouns wanting to be called “he.”

        3. Surly*

          I work at a university and it’s getting more common to add your pronouns as a part of your email signature or at the bottom of a letter. So I’m a cisgender female and my email signature says Surly Fakename (she/her/hers), BlahBlah University, etc. Part of the idea is normalizing using pronouns so it’s easier and more welcoming for trans/nonbinary/etc folks.

    4. Antilles*

      If you were using “he” pronouns with a name like Susan it could come across that way
      I’m honestly not sure even this would be an issue. There’s enough unique family traditions, historical changes in usage, etc that it’d probably either get no notice whatsoever or just a brief one-off thought “huh, haven’t met a man named Susan before, but okay”.
      Also, total side note, but a quick Google search says that almost 2,000 American men have had this name since they started tracking names in the 1880’s. Most notably (per Wikipedia), one of the attorneys in the famed Scopes Monkey Trial was a male with the name of “Sue” (oddly fitting for a lawyer, yeah?)…and of course, there’s the old Johnny Cash song about a Boy Named Sue.

    5. Coenobita*

      Just an anecdote, but – one of my college recommendation letters actually DID refer to me by the wrong name (I saw a copy after it was sent in). The school still accepted me, and I went there!

      Definitely just ask the student what they prefer, and don’t worry about it being confusing. The folks reading the letters have seen it all before and will figure it out.

    6. Caraway Seed*

      I think it might be worth it to flag the name change, just briefly. I occasionally review college scholarship applications and we do sometimes get messy/careless letters of recommendation that have clearly been recycled. I reviewed one application this year where a letter referred to the student as “Susan (who I previously knew as Bradley),” and thereafter as Susan. It might not be completely necessary, but it did reassure me that this absolutely glowing letter of rec was for this particular applicant, explained why the student’s transcripts were for Bradley, etc.

      1. another Hero*

        I think in a college application where Susan probably has a chance to put in both his birth certificate name and the name he’s currently using, the lw does not need to take on this responsibility unless asked. It’s an argument for checking with Susan – lw can point out that she wants people to know the letter goes with their application materials and make sure the name Susan is on there somewhere – but that’s about it imo

      2. ErinWV*

        I work in academia, and even though I know that dead names/identities are painful for NB or trans people to face, they are still a fact of life in academic records. It’s still federally mandated that certain records (Financial Aid, etc.) have to go under the birth certificate name. My school has done everything it can to put the affirmed name front and center, but we still have frequent incidences of mis-identification. I would write it like this: “My student Susan (legal name: Bradley) Smith…” and Susan hereafter. The consequence of NOT doing so is that Susan Smith’s recommendation letter might be thrown away because nobody is in the (federally managed) application system under that name. Get them into college! Then deal with the rest.

    7. oes*

      Speaking as a college professor, there are few of us who are unfamiliar with non-binary individuals. I wouldn’t expect a college admissions officer (barring possibly those from a fundamentalist school) who would even blink at this.

      1. ShanShan*

        Yeah, I teach at a major university l, and we’ve all been encouraged to put our pronouns in our Zoom names, There’s a spot for students to fill them in in the class registration software. It’s a very accepted and well-known thing.

    8. I'm just here for the cats.*

      I agree that the LW should reach out to student to see how they want to be addressed. It might actually depend on how they are applying. schools require the legal name and might not have a place on application for preferred name. I know working at my university it was an issue that all outgoing communication has to be the legal name. I think someone was accidentally outed to family because a letter came with the person’s preferred name. I’ve heard of this at other places too.
      Maybe the best thi g would be to do a draft, ask student to look at it and if they agree that the pronouns are correct.

  2. HMM*

    #3 speaking as an HR person myself, what yours is doing is wrong. Regardless of whether education levels are considered private, *discretion* is critical to the job. If you think the HR person’s boss would take you seriously, I recommend reporting this. If they’re revealing this with disregard for your personal data, they are also perfectly capable of gossiping about truly confidential things and your org should worry about that.

    1. HR Kong*

      Agreed. Why was the HR person sharing people’s education levels in the break room? What was the work purpose for this?

      We recently explained to our US offices that we needed to make education information private in our systems (only visible by manager chain and HR) for this exact reason. Some workers have less formal education than others and there is no need to share that with their peers doing the same job. We only use that information when discussing talent/development, not “guess who went to X school” or “guess who only has Y level of education.”

      1. Artemesia*

        ANY personal information shared in the break room by an HR hack is grossly inappropriate. It is simply gossip. I can imagine having such data on a chart and sharing it in a high level executive meeting, but break room — yeah, no.

        1. Public Sector Manager*

          Agreed x1000. The information is pretty much irrelevant. What the HR manager is doing is simply mortifying.

      2. Amaranth*

        It makes me wonder what else they were sharing. There is no indication it went beyond education, but I could easily imagine the next question being about salaries. “Oh, she does the same job but has no degree? She better not be getting the same pay!” I’d be concerned that someone pulling out personal info to entertain this nosy group and be the center of attention might have trouble drawing a line.

        1. Observer*

          Hm. If you are worried about people asking for pay or title relating to education, you actually do probably need to tread carefully. Because people DO have a right to discuss pay in general. And if there is ANY possibility that payscales are inequitable in a legally problematic way, this is the way it often gets found out.

          1. Me*

            While this is true there’s a huge difference between what you’re taking about and an HR person gossiping about peoples salaries.

            1. Observer*

              Agreed. But *Amaranth* was not talking about the gossip, but about the possibility that someone might notice that something is (apparently) out of whack with the salary ranges.

    2. Massmatt*

      Your HR person is awful not just for gossiping about people’s educational levels but for being so nasty about it. And it sounds as though at least some of your coworkers are not much better. My business is reasonably education oriented and no one gives a crap who went to what school or has what degree. I’ve worked with people that didn’t have any college that were top producers and people that graduated from prestigious universities that were useless.

      Don’t be self conscious about your education, presumably your peers and HR person have years more yet still have not learned how to behave!

      1. Jackalope*

        Yeah, seconding that this shouldn’t be an issue. I only know about a handful of my co-workers and that’s because it came up in conversation (for example, one person wearing a hat and decorating their desk with college memorabilia since they’re still excited about it). Otherwise it’s a totally non-issue. We just care if you can get the job done.

      2. Firecat*

        I’m hoping the coworker was just surprised.

        I know when I find out a peer’s highest degree is HS I tend to be surprised since the job description requires a degree, then a little dismayed. Not at the HS graduate, who is usually 40+ and got the role before it was a requirement, but at the fact that today’s young people won’t have these job opportunities for no good reason.

        I was once on a team, that I had received mainly excellent feedback, and then was kicked from the team suddenly due to a reorg. Eventually the truth got out that the manager of the team reorganized the team to require a graduate degree because if he were managing only employees with graduate level education he got a sizeable raise and bonus for managinging a “highly skilled” team. That was literally the only reason – the work didn’t change. Their output actually decreased as they struggled to find someone to replace my role who had a graduate degree, but the boss got his raise and bonus immediately.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        I work in one of the most academically snobby fields there is (having a degree is not even good enough – it’s got to be a degree from a highly-selective school), and it gives me some delight that one of the most highly compensated and pretty much indispensable people has only a high school degree and has no problem directly calling BS on those who make disparaging comments about people’s educations. Someone on her team got a talking-to after they made so many asshole comments that she suggested to the team lead she transition out of it so someone whose “credentials met [asshole]’s needs” could be added, and the team lead told the asshole that she was far more valuable to the project than he was and, given the choice, he was going to keep her before him.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Decades ago I was hiring engineers with a huge defense contractor, experience with a very new, DoD-specific integrated circuit device was required. My team found The Guy. He not only knew this device but contracted with the DoD to create it.

          Our VP of Engineering had a PhD from a top engineering school – hung their flag in his office, dropped its name whenever he could, liked being called Doctor – and valued higher education. Even so, he happily made an offer to this man who didn’t complete his Associate’s Degree in Engineering. There you go.

    3. Batgirl*

      I would definitely flag this and say that I wanted to know what the reason for sharing people’s files are/if confidential info would be shared in the same way. Be the alarm bell.

      1. pbnj*

        My company has a written policy on who specifically can have access to various employee info (including educational background) and for what reason. Yours may as well.

    4. (Former) HR Expat*

      100% Agreed. There is no work reason for your HR person to be sharing that information with random people in the break room. OP, this is something to raise to your boss or higher up HR people. Although I don’t have much confidence in your HR higher ups doing the right thing. And oftentimes, a business leader can have more impact on these terrible HR people, because they can have more sway with executive (non-HR) leadership.

      For example, my boss is the head of HR. If I go to him and tell him that HR employee A is a problem, he’ll tell me to work with A’s manager to train and coach them. If Accounting Manager B tells my boss there’s a problem with HR Employee A, then it’s taken much more seriously and boss gets involved.

    5. kittymommy*

      I work in government and everything (save for SS#’s and banking info) in our file is public knowledge so I’m not as disturbed by that the info is being kept private but the manner in which she is sharing this and the vitrol/mocking that is surrounding it is definitly wrong and should be brought to the attention of higher-ups.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This. Educational information is a big thing, and it’s actually posted on both internal and external employee profiles. Where someone went to school or what degrees they have attained are not a secret. Printing this information out and using it to make fun of people in the break rooms, though, is not at all acceptable and would bring our head of HR down on you like a ton of bricks. One of her own people? She’d fire them.

    6. Still unnerved*

      A long time ago, I got a weird phone call from someone who claimed he went to high school with me and asked if I wanted to “hang out”. It had the giggly quality of a prank call, but it was unnerving enough that I challenged it instead of just hanging up — he knew both my old and new names, could list my high school electives, and said he got my phone number from my mother.

      Of course, I knew my mom would never give out my information without my permission, but I couldn’t explain how this person knew this combination of things about me.

      Then I found out that multiple trans people at the company where I worked had received very similar calls. The company required high school transcripts; to demonstrate that my transcript was mine, I also provided a copy of my name change certificate. We figured out that the boyfriend of someone in HR got access to our records and had contacted each of us with the same story. Not sure if he had violence in mind or just wanted to scare us, but happily nobody actually fell for it.

  3. Ex Cydcor here*

    Cydcor is super scammy and a lie. The “HR experience” is learning how to interview dozens of people daily and ensnare people into your psychological sales cult.

    I was in the business for a year and a half. It was my fault somehow every time. There were 8 steps to the system and when I failed, I must have failed one of the cult items.

    1. Gaia*

      Did your office have a “merch house” where everyone lived together and practiced appropriate “atmosphere” behavior? ….

      1. Ex Cydcor here*

        The Clearance guys did that. We were Advertising and way too cool for that.

        Hint: we were not actually that cool

      1. EPLawyer*

        Well that is one possibity. I don’t think HR will happen at all. It was just another lie to get LW1 on board. I would be VERY surprised if they moved her to “HR” in 6 months.

        LW1 – don’t worry about how other companies will view your HR experience there, you aren’t going to get any. Look for other jobs immediately. Then you can just … not have this company on your resume.

        1. C M*

          Yeah, this was my take. I imagine that so few people stay for 6 months, they don’t expect to ever have to follow through. And then if someone does stay in this toxic place for 6 months, they are probably worn down enough too accept any flimsy excuse for refusing the transfer to HR.

        2. Weekend Please*

          Yeah. I had a friend who was sucked into a different MLM scam recently. She was desperate to leave retail because of the pandemic and they promised her the world. After she paid for and passed their training course, they ghosted her.

        3. Beth Jacobs*

          So true. I once applied for an admin job but when I came to the interview, they told me they had already filled the admin role but they did have something in direct sales. That was the end of that for me.

          1. Sara M*

            There was never an admin job. I know this Cydcor ruse. They just want to get you in the door to pitch the direct sales job.

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        Same here. I went to the links to figure out “what on earth is it that this company does” and I am still not entirely sure. Probably for the best.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          I’m in the same frame of mind as you and WellRed. Never heard of Cydcor before, and googling is confusing. I found this at LinkedIn:

          “Cydcor is a leading provider of professional outsourced sales and marketing services to Fortune 500 and emerging market clients.”

          I can’t quite figure out how that translates to an MLM setup., but it sure sounds….vague.

    2. scammy, scam, scam*

      Yes, “HR” will be calling resumes, interviewing etc. I didn’t end up at Cydcor, but when I first graduated college I accidentally interviewed at a number of pyramid scheme type places (or shady sales type places). For some reason when I graduated in 08, there were a number of sales offices that sold TV service door to door. They were not affiliated with a cable company. You were called into an interview, and basically bullied into a job. I was smart enough to not take it thankfully.

      1. JohannaCabal*

        In my experience, those types of places explode during recessions. After being laid off in ’09, I can’t count how many interview offers I received from shady insurance MLMs.

        1. Zephy*

          I graduated from high school in 2009 and I got a ton of mail from Cutco and Vector and similar companies offering me jobs.

          1. TardyTardis*

            I sold Worldbook and Childcraft door to door in 1981, made enough to pay for my kit and got lots of good exercise, but was glad to abandon that field to get a degree in accounting instead.

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        Oh wow I interviewed with one of those companies! Graduated in ’10, went into the interview with the promise of a marketing job, told me I’d be doing door-to-door cable sales. I was desperate for a job but I knew I could never ever ever do a job like that.

        1. CDel*

          I interviewed at a Cydcor-like company on accident once. The job posting said it was for a sports marketing job and when I arrived, they were talking about a sales job, so I thought they might have gotten me confused with another applicant. When I mentioned I had applied for a sports marketing position, they told me “Oh, we write that in the ad because we want competitive, sports-minded people for this job”. Got out of there SO fast.

      3. Nanani*

        I had a similar experience around the same time. I think they prey on new grads constantly, but recessions are especially full of these sharks.

        At the one recruitment seminar thing I went to, once it was clear that they expected people to sell to their personal networks, I knew i could never make money (I wasn’t living near my extended family, which was their main example, and all my friends were broke students and new grades like me) so I told the guy no thank, and he tried to bully me with stuff like “You’ll regret it” with “You just need to ~believe in yourself~ more” peppered in.

        It was surreal.

    3. LW #1*

      Yeah, I had a 1-on-1* with this office’s HR person, and when I asked what a typical day was like, it was 100% interviews & emailing candidates. Nothing about dealing with employees once they’d actually joined the company.

      The system is BONKERS. We’ve got the 8 steps, the three 5’s, acronyms for customer types and “impulse factors”, and if you don’t use every single one of them in the same way with each customer (but also make sure to respond flexibly to every scenario!) that’s why you didn’t make the sale.

      *Side note, did you have to do THREE 1-on-1 coaching meetings with other people in the company every week? In addition to the daily meetings?

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I just want to second Alison’s suggestion about retail. Working retail sucks in nearly every way, but it produces a paycheck. And while it won’t help your resume, neither will it be the kiss of death. People aren’t going to forget the pandemic. It will excuse a period of working retail. For what it is worth, places in my area seem to be hiring.

  4. Archaeopteryx*

    OP1, with a MLM on your resume, employers may question your integrity. Unfortunately you may want to take whatever you can get I t order to get out of there.

  5. PollyQ*

    #2 — Is it possible to put together a standard checklist that you can reuse? They can be very helpful in helping make sure everything’s there, and also in giving some structure to your process.

    1. Anon326*

      And OP#2 – don’t beat yourself up too much about this. We all make tiny mistakes. I often see small typo/grammatical errors in our management presentations.
      A good example of a typo which hasn’t ruined anyones day – Alison has written ‘education’ wrong in the title below your question. No one was harmed in the reading of this typo.
      Perhaps get a friendly colleague to scan through any presentations? It’s so easy to pick up other peoples errors.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Seconding the can someone else look at the presentation for you. At a certain point your brain sees what it is expecting instead of what is actually there.

        1. iambriandammit*

          In college I was taught read stuff backwards to trick the brain into looking at it differently. Read it paragraph by paragraph, even sentence buy sentence, starting at the end and finishing at the beginning. Might be something that helps the OP.

          1. I edit everything*

            Yeah, this is something I recommend to my clients. Reading everything out loud, too. Both techniques make you really look at what’s there, and doesn’t let your brain fill in what it knows should be there. And reading out loud adds hearing to how you’re experiencing the information.

            I don’t know how well that works with the OP’s data-focused presentations, though.

            1. mli25*

              I am fan of reading it out loud, which can also be good presentation practice too. You don’t need an audience either. When I am getting close to finishing up my written reports, that I also present out, I will put my decks in presentation mode and read them out loud. I fix so much wording as a result and I catch typos!

              1. I edit everything*

                Even better without an audience, IMO. You can pause in the moment to fix things, and really focus on what you’re hearing/seeing.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          100%

          There are some types of errors where that wouldn’t help I guess, but I would expect any document going to senior executives to have already passed through at least two sets of eyes. If no one else is reviewing your work before it gets to them I think that’s a bad setup unless there is literally no time to allow for that for some reason.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Truth. I can’t even count the number of presentations I have done where I reviewed it, my eagle eyed colleagues reviewed it, and then I get up and present and realize a word is missing or there is a typo like, “Almond 30% of….”. In some cases it is slide decks that have been used 50+ times as training materials and no one caught it the other times. I usually catch it when presenting and say, “Sorry folks, that is supposed to read…..” and roll on. Guaranteed most folks in the audience have had a similar experience.

      3. Ama*

        Yes — I’ve done quite a bit of work producing client-facing print materials (newsletters, reports, event advertisements, event agendas, etc.) and the one thing I’ve learned is that it is nearly impossible to have a 100% perfect document, even if it is proofed by multiple people. The key is to focus your efforts on the information that would be particularly embarrassing to have wrong — names, dates (if you need to talk about events or deadlines), key data, etc.

        As others up thread have suggested, if you find that you are missing the same kind of error frequently it might help to make a checklist of everything you need to check and go about it a little more systematically. I also have found that if I’m working on a long document or one with a lot of details (like an agenda where I have to check a large number of names, degrees, affiliations, etc.) it helps me to print it out and mark on it as I go rather than proof on a computer screen — it seems to help me spot mistakes that my eyes might glide over when I’ve been staring at the same document on screen for hours.

      4. Dave*

        I love Grammerly for general typo’s. The free version catches the most obvious. I have also learned to write letters, stop and do a completely different task and come back to it later. If it is my number one priority I will ask a co-worker to read it. (Make sure they are that type of person; my brain will read over things so I am usually not the best person.)
        Honestly though I really try not to do anything majorly important in the afternoon, or do it and wait until the morning to send it if at all possible because I know I am sharpest in the morning.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          I will often write out my presentation or document, and then wait until the next day and re-read it then. My mind will sort of divorced itself from the source material so it won’t fill in what isn’t there or autocorrect in my brain what needs to be fixed.

      5. Richard Hershberger*

        I routinely proof read my boss’s documents before they go out the door. I always find stuff. It is usually minor stuff, but still… And this is not a reflection on his writing skills. He finds similar stuff in drafts I write. It is the nature of the beast.

    2. Allison K*

      Concur on checklists! Every time you make a particular error, add it to the checklist to double check – words misspelled, format issues, fact checking, etc.

      And just own it if an error gets called out. Don’t be embarrassed if you can help it, just smile and say “thanks for catching that, I’ll fix it,” and keep moving.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If you have a specific typo (or several), consider putting it into autocorrect.
      It’ll save your stress levels in deadline crunches and free up some brain space for content polishing.
      (If you do this, make a point of slowing down to type it correctly anyway. No need to practice the incorrect pattern and make that typo a habit. Like pianists practicing scales, there’s muscle “memory” in typing.)

    4. Bree*

      If the errors are typos, something I do and recommend often is slowly reading your work out loud to yourself. You’ll hear or get stuck on the mistakes your eyes just breeze past when you’re reading silently.

    5. Mockingjay*

      I NEVER proofread something I’ve worked on myself. It always goes to someone else for proofing. When you write something, your mind fills in the sentence automatically and you won’t see the typos or omitted words.

      OP2, send it to a colleague with fresh eyes and a checklist. Checklists are gold for consistent proofing and you can add another step if a new error crops up.

    6. Not A Girl Boss*

      +1000 for checklists. And also, for having someone else complete that checklist.

      I work in quality. Literally my entire job is to not make stupid mistakes on documents, and to catch the mistakes of others. I’m exceedingly good at it, relatively speaking…. and yet, I make dumb mistakes on my own work ALL THE TIME. It is just a brain thing. Brains are not good at seeing what you *actually* wrote instead of what you think you wrote.

      This is why a second person is so important.
      Sometimes I get stuff kicked back to me and I am just truly baffled and mortified that I possibly could have missed it.
      Which, is why I pick a second person who is not the person I’m trying to impress.

    7. SheLooksFamiliar*

      OP, there’s a lot of great advice here that I follow/will follow – I tend to make careless mistakes because I’m often in a rush to produce results. My employers in the past 25 years are large, global, and/or public companies, and everything has to be done yesterday. I’ve learned to slow down and take a few breaths before I review my work, and maintain a checklist for processes, admin details, reporting, etc. It really does help.

      Like others have suggested, I ask a teammate to proof documents for presentation/distro and am amazed by what I miss. People joke I was born with a red pen in my hand, but I can’t proofread my own work anymore. I review for style and content, but not for format, spelling, and punctuation.

    8. azvlr*

      Also consider whether you are making the same mistakes repeatedly or learning from them, but making new ones. I keep a detailed checklist that is ever-evolving to include new things. The old things gradually become reflexive, and allow me to keep a record of where I applied a certain style or phrasing, and where I will want to update those things the next time I can revamp my product.

      Reading aloud can help you catch a lot of typos/spelling/grammar and you can leverage the built-in text reader feature in Word to let you hear how others would hear it. (Universal Design isn’t just to help people with disabilities).

    9. Nanani*

      Seconding this. A good checklist customized to your needs is a great saver of brain power.

      Even basic things like “cross-reference data from X” and “re-run spellcheck” are good to put on, because sometimes you’ll forget or think you already did them when you didn’t.

    10. TootsNYC*

      One other point:
      Get backup.
      When you are dealing with lots of little pieces of information, and they need to be right, it is folly to go it alone.

      Get backup. It’s totally appropriate to do so.

      1. wee beastie*

        I’m a professional editor. I agree with everyone’s advice. —checklists, especially for tasks you don’t do frequently. —taking a break of at least 20-30 min to do something else before reviewing. —having a colleague or assistant be your second pair of eyes. Everyone needs a second, fresh pair of eyes. Everyone. Even editors. —reading the text aloud or consciously concentrating on reading every single word or symbol helps. The person who said “the brain autocorrects” is right. You have to really work to train yourself to see every letter and word individually. And have to train yourself not to autopilot or skim your way through. If you are looking at a spreadsheet, you have to look at each input cell individually. Don’t just enter whatever the data is on autopilot, consider if the information sounds correct. —do NOT rush your review for errors like this. Rushing leads to missing things. —consider whether it is a matter of temperament. I’m very good with big picture and pride myself about being obsessive about details. My sister has ZERO patience for minutiae and often rushes and misses mistakes. Work on your temperament (does a reward get you through a tough patch of combing fine detail?) or get a proxy to review it for you. BEST OF LUCK!

  6. Gaia*

    OP 1, I worked for DS Max, also part of Cydcor. They’re just shy of a cult. If you have any ability to do so: run. Run far away and never look back.

  7. SL33*

    I’m pretty horrified by the HR manager discussing an employee’s education level in the break room. While my own thoughts would be to go over the HR Blabbermouth’s head, I don’t know if it would do any good. More importantly, OP – if it bothers you, please look into going back to school. Take one class at a time. Go to community college and work toward a degree. My guess is that you are not giving yourself enough credit for being smart! Or no one encouraged you in your schoolwork. But now you have an AAM community to cheer you on – go for it!

    1. Batgirl*

      Why on earth would they take on a commitment like that for no reason? We’re all ashamed of silly stuff; we should only change for a purpose.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Agreed. I mean, I have a degree and my sister doesn’t. I’m not the one who earns more.

        1. Everdene*

          Yep, I’m working towards my third degree. My husband did one term of higher education and hated it so got a job. Not only does he get paid more than me every month, he also gets an annual bonus.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Additionally getting a degree costs a lot of money! It’s not something everyone can just go and do (and is rather shortsighted when people reckon it’s a simple thing to just go and get).

            My sister was earning many more pounds than me while I was paying off my loans. And I eventually ended up in a career completely unrelated to my degree anyhow (virology degree, work in IT).

            1. SomebodyElse*

              There is also a point where it doesn’t make financial sense and the return on investment is either minimal or non-existent.

              I didn’t see what age the OP was, but it often doesn’t make sense past your mid to late 40s to invest in a degree. Note I didn’t say never… just often. It really depends on personal goals, industry, prospects after degree, etc.

              Now that doesn’t take into account career shifts, personal desire, or other things that would indicate a ‘want’ for a degree.

              IF AND ONLY IF… the OP is thinking about doing this, they should really sit down and look an the options (tuition reimbursement from current company) and numbers (realistic return on investment). I’m going to be a little blunt, often by the mid point in a career unless retraining for something. People are best off finding the quickest, easiest, cheapest, and most legitimate degree they can to tick the box.

              1. GothicBee*

                Especially nowadays I feel like there’s been enough of a shift that if not having a degree isn’t holding you back, then don’t bother unless you really want to get a degree. Plus really research costs and how much a degree will realistically add to your salary.

                I say this as someone with both an undergrad and grad degree: I feel it’s not worth it unless it’s really important to you OR you are really negatively impacted by it. And even if you are held back by a lack of degree, I’d consider alternative careers first unless you really enjoy the field you are in and are in a good financial position to take on the commitment (including the risk that getting a degree doesn’t end up getting you the leg up you think it will).

    2. Asenath*

      Going back to school is not always necessary or even an option. I worked for many years in a position which originally required high school graduation, possibly plus a very short office skills course or else similar experience. Over the years, the employers tended more and more to require a degree – I, as a more recent employee had degrees – but many of the most valued and experienced employees never got one, and as time went on the economic benefit of getting one decreased. The cost was subsidized but not entirely covered by the employer, but the time studying wasn’t, there wouldn’t be an increase in pay, and retirement was approaching. Their disadvantage was that if they wanted to move to a different job requiring similar skills, they might encounter managers who wouldn’t even consider them as equal too, much less better than, candidates with degrees in completely irrelevant subjects and little or no experience. I’d previously concluded that educational requirements could and were sometimes used to shut people out of jobs they could do, and this confirmed my opinion. But whether dealing with it by going through the expense and effort of getting a degree for the sake of having one is a good idea is also questionable. Getting one for a job that genuinely requires the skills you can only get that way, sure. Or getting one for personal interest. But I don’t think OP should be encouraged to get one just because she can and might appear or feel stupid without one.

      And it is outrageous that the HR person is gossiping about educational levels in the break room, even without the comment in the letter that she’s done the same about other topics. If possible. OP should complain about the HR person to her boss.

    3. anonymous 5*

      Huh? OP didn’t ask what to do about their educational credentials; they asked what to do about an HR person who’s indiscriminately sharing those credentials (and who knows what other, more sensitive information) and colleagues who are laughing.

    4. WellRed*

      So op doesn’t need to get a degree but I’d like to see them stop feeling like it’s a deep secret shame. Ideally, they would have spoken up in the moment. The guffawing coworker is just as bad. Put the awkward on them: “why is that funny?” I have a degree. I also have the student loan services stalking me.

    5. M2*

      A family member of mine never finished his college degree. He worked his tail off and makes 7 figures at a tech company at an executive level. He says every time he was promoted it was brought up, but it never stopped his promotions. I find this a bit offensive to say one must take classes/ get a university degree to advance themselves.

      Higher education needs to change. In most jobs you don’t actually need it but it is required and the cost of it is insane.

      1. Academic Anon for this*

        Hiring needs to change as well as higher education. Higher education is not the one that determines a degree is required for a job, HR is. Academia is more than happy to promote degrees as evidence of the probability that an individual can learn and demonstrate that learning. However, higher education does not require degrees aside from their own positions. One example that I can think of from my own life is a friend who was a police officer. He got a bachelors in order to advance in his police department, then was told to get a masters. So he got a masters. And then they promoted someone without either of those degrees. Which is why he is a former police officer.

        When people complain about the rising cost of a degree, they are right. However, they don’t investigate beyond blaming the universities. For public higher education, the state support had decreased by an astonishing amount. When I started, my university was state supported, then state encouraged and currently state acknowledged. Around 19% of the university budget comes from the state currently with cuts to come in the near and short term. Here is a link to the change in state funding from 2008-2018 if you would like to check your state: https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/state-higher-education-funding-cuts-have-pushed-costs-to-students Only a small minority have increased state funding for higher education. Just like any other organization, higher education has to push costs down to the consumers, thus tuition increases. Here is an analysis by one state on the increase in tuition and where the money went: http://jlarc.virginia.gov/higher-ed-cost.asp

        The only upside to the decrease in state support is that as the cuts keep coming, they have less and less impact, since they are less and less an appreciable part of the budget.

    6. Nikki*

      It’s pretty offensive to imply that people with a college degree are smarter than those without. This kind of thinking is exactly what led the people in OP’s break room to laugh at their lack of degree. My husband never completed his college degree because he got an amazing job offer from a summer internship after his sophomore year. He had intended to finish school at some point and it bothers him a bit that he never completed it, but in no way has it held him back in his career. At this point, finishing his degree probably wouldn’t help him at all. He’s been in his industry long enough that hiring managers care more about industry experience than his educational experience from 20 years ago.

      1. Canoe in the Garage*

        No one implied that those with university degrees are “smarter” than others. You inferred that.

        1. Nikki*

          SL33 (in the post I’m replying to) said “My guess is that you are not giving yourself enough credit for being smart!”. Seems like they’re saying going to college = being smart.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        SL33 didn’t imply that people with a college degree are smarter than those without one – they read OP#3’s statement about feeling “very insecure” about their lack of degree (despite having professional success) and extrapolated that to OP#3 not feeling smart when they are, indeed smart and successful. While I disagree with them that feeling insecure is a reason to pursue a degree, if someone neither wants nor needs to do so, I don’t think there’s any reason to take offense at their comment or read it as an insult of anyone’s intelligence.

    7. SL33*

      Well, gee, thanks for the pile on when I was simply trying to encourage someone. Note that I clearly said “if it bothers you…”. I don’t advocate getting a degree for no reason.

      Some people in this life have been told that college is “not for them” or that they are “not smart enough” for college. I think that’s crap. Get the degree if you want to – follow your dreams and don’t listen to naysayers. Good luck to you, OP!

      1. MK*

        If you had limited your comment to “if this bothers you, look into getting a degree”, it would have been fine. If the OP had mentioned anything about feeling not smart enough for college, the rest would have been ok too. But you, with zero indication in the letter, assumed the OP a) really wants a degree and b) hasn’t gotten one because of feelings of inadequacy; and now you imply that they aren’t living their best life and need cheerleader to follow their dreams. I am sure you mean well, but this is very condescending.

        1. Civil Engineer*

          Actually I find your response pretty condescending and rude. I thought “be kind” was the mantra here?

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I think the issue that people are taking is that getting a degree isn’t the cure for OP#3’s problems – that their HR person has serious boundary issues, primarily, nor their stated insecurity about their lack of degree despite their professional success. The first is what they wrote about, the second is something that does not require digging into tens of thousands of dollars of expense to solve. They should not have to spend their time and money getting a degree to shut down breakroom mockery nor to assuage a normal feeling of human insecurity – it is a bit patronizing to assume that they’ve not yet done so due to lack of confidence or lack of encouragement.

        Some people do an ROI on a degree and decide it doesn’t make sense for them – higher education has gotten extremely expensive, which is a real, practical concern that goes beyond lack off encouragement, insecurity naysayers, etc. And “follow your dreams” as been discussed A LOT around here lately, particularly when those “dreams” lead to hefty debt and living paycheck to paycheck.

      3. VictorianCowgirl*

        This comment section turned rabid a couple years ago. It’s really a shame because there used to be open, valuable and reasonable discussion. I’m not sure if Alison just isn’t aware of the change or if she agrees with the new tone.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I just read this thread and don’t think it’s particularly rabid. It’s a bunch of people talking about the value of a particular piece of advice, and degrees in general. I do object to the one instance of sarcasm I saw (and will remove it) but other than that, I don’t consider disagreement to be unreasonable. That said, the thread has gone off-topic and is derailing so I’m closing it.

      4. SquirrelTomatoes*

        I agree that you got a pile on when you were trying to be kind and encouraging. Hope you continue to post in future!

  8. Still Here*

    #3: Lots of people rack up enormous debt to get degrees that are of no practical value in the workplace. Kudos to you for succeeding with having incurred debt and lost years of earnings. And as already suggested, if you want to build out your credentials community college is a great way to do it.

    1. Phil*

      Yep, I was gonna say the same thing. If you’re on the same level as these people laughing about it, and you did it without the insane debt, I don’t see any negative here. It makes you the smart one for getting into your career for free.

      I can’t give any advice about the HR person, but I hope the above can get you into a mindset to help with your education insecurities.

      1. Washi*

        Right! One of them doesn’t have a degree, and yet here they all are in the same place.

        I worked in a job where a number of my coworkers had associate-equivalent degrees while I have a bachelor’s. I’d only be laughing at myself if I pointed out that I spent all that time and money on the degree, and have ended up in exactly the same position as everyone else.

      2. Firecat*

        Yes. This reminds me of my friend who went to med school, think a John Hopkins equivalent, and whenever their peers got anotty about how they attended JH for undergrad, or Harvard, Yale, etc. they would always reply “Funny how we ended up in the same place yet I have 1/3rd the student debt.”

        That always shut them up.

    2. Darwin*

      This reminds me of some random tweet I saw where the person was sitting in the college library listening to a guy brag about his ACT scores, and the person thinking ‘I signed up for the ACTs, forgot about them, and we still ended up at the same college’. Maybe you don’t have a college degree but it sounds like you are accomplished and that your company sees your value.

  9. christine*

    #2: If you’re able, try printing off the documents/presentation, or even change up the appearance on the computer–different font and line spacing. Part of why errors get missed is because your brain gets comfortable with how it looks and fills in the correct info, but if you can change it up, that shakes your brain out of its comfort zone and errors become more obvious. Trying this + Alison’s suggestion of stepping away from it for a time could make a big difference.

    #4: Have you asked your student how they’d like you to approach it? There may also be considerations with their legal or deadname being used on application materials, so you might end up needing something like “Susan (he/they, formerly Jason)” at the start of the letter. But honestly I’d check in with your student first to find out what they want or need in this situation.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, this. I find printing the document is a very good way of changing the appearance, but if you don’t want to waste paper, simply copying and pasting the text from powerpoint to word (for example) will help.
      Also, Word has a much better spell check.
      As for leaving it and coming back later, I agree. I used to always tell my clients minimum 24hrs as a deadline just to be sure of getting a night’s sleep in between my rough draft and polishing.

    2. Katertot*

      Yep- Fully agree with this. Printing or even just putting in a different format than I’ve been staring at- so for example, fully pretending to do a presentation and putting a ppt in presentation mode, printing it out, etc.
      I know this also isn’t efficient but if there’s someone trusted that you could have glance over things sometimes as a 2nd pair of eyes is super helpful- even if it’s just taking like 3-5 minutes to look at a document or presentation.
      Sidebar- I TOTALLY have been there- I had a boss who was kind of a jerk about every time I made a mistake and I swear I made more mistakes with him than any other boss.

      1. Artemesia*

        The biggest proofing mistakes that I have made or I have known about directly involved headings and charts. Somehow several pairs of eyes can look over something and not see a glaring embarrassing mistake in a title or heading; they often get ‘read over’. In my own case, I once missed a stupid error in a diagram that would have made me a laughingstock if it got into print until reviewing the galleys. Luckily I did spot the error at that point and while it is never a happy thing to make a change that large in galleys, it beats waiting till the thing is in print and unfixable. so anything other than block text needs extra scrutiny. And if there are terms of art that are not in typical spell checks, search for those. I used a phrase that was hyphenated although that was mildly controversial in the field. I would use a search find for the first half of it, to make sure no use was slipping by not properly hyphenated.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Alison, I would love to see the worst errors to go to print. I think you’ve done this before but I’m always a fan.

          My worst one was misspelling Success as Sucess. Our graphic designer had done a new headline and laid the type herself instead of our usual process of us writing copy and approving before sending to her. Several people reviewed it and it went to print on a tradeshow booth wall, so it was a not cheap to reprint and express ship to the event. At least we caught it before the public saw, but I was so embarrassed.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      What a great idea on #2 christine! I also have to check documents for accuracy and I become blind to them. My fix is to walk away — preferably I leave it overnight (I call it seasoning) — so I can come back to it fresh. I have a trusted colleague review if I don’t have time for seasoning. But changing the font and line spacing is a terrific idea.

    4. Jo*

      Word has a read aloud feature in its review menu. It is incredibly helpful in identifying awkward phrasing, duplicate words, incomplete sentences, etc. Depending on what sort of mistakes are happening, that could be a useful tool.

    5. juliebulie*

      I agree on #2. Just seeing your words in a different format is a big help.

      Also, is there someone you can ask to be your proofreading buddy? You proofread their stuff, and they proofread yours. Or a roommate, relative, whatever. Just a second set of eyes. If that doesn’t violate any confidentiality rules.

  10. Casey*

    OP4, I would double-check with the student that they want you to use their correct pronouns in this letter (essentially outing them) first, and then follow Alison’s advice. It’s totally possible (and common) to be out in certain contexts and not in others, especially professionally or academically.
    If you’re looking for wording, something like “I wanted to check with you about which name and pronouns you’d like me to use in this letter. Obviously, my first thought is to use your correct name and pronouns, but I don’t want to out you if you weren’t planning on it in this context.”

    I bring this up because as a selectively out person I read this and thought “oh god oh god please ask first”, accompanied by a little pit in my stomach. People nearly always mean well, but it’s important to me and many others to have control over the way we’re perceived.

    Thank you for being a supportive and thoughtful person in their life!

    1. Feotakahari*

      There’s a popular post that shows up a lot on Tumblr that tells you never to give your preferred pronouns on a job application, because anyone who asks for them is planning to trash your resume if you’re trans or nonbinary. This sounds like a similar complaint.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I would like to see the evidence for this claim. I work with a number of organisations that are trans-affirming and people have their pronouns in their email signature. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they asked for preferred pronouns on applications, and it certainly wouldn’t be to trash the application of non-cis people.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’d only worry if that field was mandatory (according to the employer). Then I’d begin to question why they so desperately needed that info.

      3. Mookie*

        This sounds awfully familiar to certain species “color blind” recruitment strategies whose principle goal is not reducing bias to produce better outcomes for an employer but preventing any agency, outside or in, from collecting demographic data on applicants and employees that might reveal how piss poor or unmotivated they are at finding, keeping, and advancing talented people of color.

        Treating pronouns and their history as if they don’t exist or need to be swept under the rug doesn’t actually erase trans and queerphobia any more that constantly bellowing you don’t see color does racism, and certainly not institutionally. You can’t even name the problem and glean the extent of its malignancy, much less try to begin treating it, if the issue itself becomes a taboo wrapped in a stigma. Nobody who matters is well served when hostile employers are allowed to operate under secrecy because pronouns are too normie/liberal/PC/dangerous to even address, except when they belong to cis people and those lacking a marked alignment (where pronouns are used automatically, without thinking, without awkwardness, and certainly without hostility.)

      4. Zandt*

        Uh, I don’t think Tumblr is a legitimate source of career advice (and I say this as a former user).

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Good for fandom, bad for career advice :)

          I just go for the dragon age stuff. Doubt there are any dragons lurking in the office. Although…

      5. Elliott*

        There’s always a risk if encountering implicit bias and I can understand why some people would rather not out themselves in that way, but I’d be surprised if many transphobic employers thought to intentionally ask for name/pronouns of use as a strategy to weed out trans people. For the most part, I think fields like these are probably genuine efforts at being inclusive, and that is how I would see them. I wouldn’t hesitate to be honest, personally (as someone who is pretty out as non-binary).

      6. DataSci*

        I know that as a cis lesbian, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere where I’d have to be closeted, and where the climate is so hostile that I’d be fired/not hired for being gay. While I know not everyone has the privilege to be able to be choosy about where they work, my trans and nonbinary friends are all very out as well, and I know they’d also rather find out at the interview stage that someplace is hostile rather than not knowing until later.

      7. Casey*

        There are a million and one reason why someone might not want to come out in a job or college application, and in the context of this letter it actually doesn’t matter why Susan is or is not being out. All I’m saying is that people have the right to determine when and where they come out, and that if you’re ever not sure how to refer to someone, you should always defer to ask them rather than guess and possibly put them in an uncomfortable, bad, or dangerous situation they weren’t prepared for.

    2. Firecat*

      I don’t think “they” pronouns alone outs anyone. Everyone I know who uses they does so because they think gender takes up way too much space in people’s identities, not because they are non binary or transgender.

      1. Dino*

        They pronouns definitely outs people in my mind. The only people I know who use it (and there are a lot of them) are all nonbinary.

        1. Nanani*

          I know plenty of cis people (most but not all non-straight) who use they pronouns, as a form of both allyship with trans people and a way to fight against the gender binary.

          Everyone’s experience will be different, but normalizing they pronounces, as well as specifying one’s pronouns even and especially when one uses the defaults, is an easy and helpful action for allies to take.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I have considered using they for this reason, but didn’t want to co-opt a term through some kind of performative allyship. It would be good to know how non-binary people feel about this idea (specifically, using “they” as a sign of support rather than in relation to one’s own identity). I tend to default to they for other people until told specifically, rather than only using they for people who “look” like they might be non-binary, because the concept that you can tell gender by sight is nonsense (albeit deeply embedded).

            1. Tiny Kong*

              Yeah the idea of picking a pronoun solely based on how others feel about their identities feels very performative to me. If you like the pronoun for yourself and what it means and what it says about you to the world, go for it, and of course singular “they” is useful when speaking about people in general or in hypothetical situations, but I don’t see how cis people adopting “they” for themselves is furthering the cause.

    3. Your Friendly Neighborhood Enby*

      This! I’m out with friends but not at work (if someone asked me directly I wouldn’t lie, but I’m not planning to come out), I want my references to use my AGAB pronouns.

  11. High School Drop Out*

    Hell. I was a high school drop out and “only” had a GED. (We had race riots in my junior year of HS and I only needed two credits to graduate) It never stopped me from rising through the ranks in any of my jobs, although admittedly, it did hurt with starting salaries, but after a few months to a year I would get raises. Eventually, I had enough experience under my belt that my lack of college was a moot point. I guess I was just fortunate. On the rare occasion that college education or lack thereof was mentioned, most people were kind of surprised but that was about the extent of the conversations.
    That being said, your HR manager is a horrible piece of work. I hope that this will come back to bight them in the you know what. Meanwhile, hold your head high. In a very good way, you are much smarter than your college educated co workers because you don’t have a boatload of student loan debt to pay off.

    1. Tammy*

      Seconding this. I dropped out of college after my sophomore year, and maybe I’ve just been lucky, but not having a degree hasn’t hurt me so far in my career. If the subject comes up during interviews, I can honestly talk about the reasons why, and I’ll usually say something like “I’ve thought about going back to finish my degree, but honestly, at this point in my career with the track record of successes I have, I can’t justify the ROI on the time and expense commitment that would take.” So far, that’s been good enough. If it’s ever not, I might have a decision to make.

    2. Jackalope*

      So I’m totally supportive of the OP and think that the HR rep’s move was a jerk move. But let’s go with what Tuesday said in the thread below; there are smart and talented people who went to college & smart and talented people who didn’t. Just like it gets old having people look down on someone for their lack of a degree, it also gets old to have people look down on someone for having gotten a degree. Let’s just agree that we all made the best decision we could at a very early age when we didn’t have enough life experience to know all of the consequences of our choices and we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

      (And I say this as someone for whom it worked out; I got the degree with no student loans and then went on to a career that started because of having said degree. So I’m not the stereotypical college grad racked with loans working something totally unrelated.)

    3. AKchic*

      I dropped out my freshman year of high school, got pregnant, had a kid, got pregnant again, had another kid, THEN got my GED just before my graduating class got their diplomas.

      Of my graduating class that went to college? Well… they’re in debt, I know that much.

      1. Self Employed*

        I dropped out of college midway through my junior year because upper division work was so much more intense than lower division–and it turned out later this was because I had undiagnosed ADHD. But I kept getting feedback from employers that it was holding me back to have an unfinished degree, so I finally went back 15 years later to complete it. Except we had the dot-com bust right about then, so nobody was hiring in technical writing anyway, and I took an opportunity to go to grad school. Finally graduated with $80K in debt and two master’s degrees… in 2010, after my new field (biology) had just offshored 95% of its lab tech jobs. By the time the economy recovered, my training was out of date and I was running a craft business and making income-based repayments of $0.00 on my now $118K of student loan debt.

    1. No Sleep Till Hippo*

      If it makes you feel better, I read that as “blight them in the you know what” and really liked the turn of phrase :)

      Bite, bight, or blight – I hope it does that to this HR person too. I also didn’t graduate college (ran out of money), and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in my office without an advanced degree, much less a degree at all. I’m pretty confident in my intelligence and work ethic, but it can be hard to keep the chip off my shoulder sometimes.

      It’s hard not to feel sensitive about lacking something that the society at large has set as such a huge denominator of a person’s value to the working world. And especially so when it’s held up for mockery by people clearly too privileged to recognize all the ways events can conspire to keep that little piece of paper out of reach. There are many ways to learn a skill; a college education is only one, an expensive one, and not even always the best one.

      OP3, you have my full empathy and my utmost respect. Keep on being amazing.

  12. Tuesday*

    OP3, everyone who is not a dope like your coworker knows that there are smart and talented people who went to college and smart and talented people who didn’t. I’m sorry you were affected by what seems like someone’s pathetic attempt to make themselves feel superior. You > Them.

    1. Mookie*

      Speaking as a dumb, untalented person with a graduate degree, any post-secondary education not subsidized by the state aligns not with smarts and talent but money and opportunity.

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      OP3, your HR manager is awful and this is out of line.

      I also don’t have a degree, which is unusual in my field. Sometimes, when people find out, they make “surprised” faces. But I’ve been working for 30 years and I’ve (mostly) managed fine without one, as I am sure you will.

      I do understand feeling insecure about it, because even after 30 years I still do sometimes, but my advice is to behave as though you can’t see what the fuss is about, and brush it off.

      If you feel that it’s going to limit your career options, maybe it’s something to consider – but don’t do it just if you won’t get real benefit from it.

    3. BellaDiva*

      My husband dropped out of high school because he was bored. He got a full time job as a courier for a laboratory, working from noon until 8 p.m. A year later we got married, and he started attending classes in the mornings to get his missing credits and earned his GED. He never went to college. Now, almost 40 years later, he is still with the same company, but now is a senior applications developer. He is primarily self-taught, with the occasional night course over the years.

  13. Baker's dozen*

    OP4, I’m non-binary and use they/them pronouns and I disagree slightly with Alison. The parenthetical explanation draws too much attention to the pronouns and could feel othering or even risk outing Susan.

    Please check with Susan which name/pronouns combo they want you to use. Their choice may even vary from job to job.

    Then just use the specified pronouns. Full stop, no explanation needed.

  14. MK*

    OP2, I don’t know if the errors you makes are about substance or typos. If it’s typos, I suggest making your peace with them, they are a fact of life. My main task is to compile documents; I set them aside thre times before turning them in, then my supervisor goes through them, and filing clerk checks them before they are put into the system. Typos about inconsequential things still slip through, possibly because we are all focusing ion the substantial staff and our eyes glide over the blah-blah. Obviously I am talking about the occasional typo, not documents riddled with errors.

  15. Dennis Feinstein*

    OP2 There is a mistake in this
    this line.
    A lot of people would miss the error in that sentence because 1) they read in chunks, not one word at a time 2) the brain sees what it expects to see, which is why seemingly glaring errors sometimes get missed.
    It’s also not advisable to proofread your own work. You’re too familiar with it.
    It’s always good to get another person (preferably a good proofreader if one is available) to look at your work with fresh eyes.
    And watch out for autocorrect! I had to fix so many words in this post because of flamin’ autocorrect!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Unfortunately, there are reasons to leave it on for many of us. The pre-fill feature saves wear & tear on my carpal tunnel/tendonitis prone hands, for example. And people who are dyslexic or dysgraphic get an even more immediate benefit, because they can focus on context.

    1. 3DogNight*

      Reading the material out loud helps catch those types of errors. It’s not feasible, really, with short deadlines and a lot of material, but can be a useful tip.

  16. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: one step removed from your situation but I’m reminded of when I realised I was working for a Ponzi scheme firm. The ‘oh gods can I ever put this on my CV?’ moment coupled with the fear I was seriously compromised my morals.

    (In my case I quit and provided evidence to the prosecution when they ended up in the high court. I don’t regret turning ‘traitor’ to my former employer but I do keep it off my CV)

    Between that and the day I left I tried to just keep going, keep myself sane by never going above and beyond for the firm and relishing my time at home for being somewhere the job couldn’t follow. And searching for another job like crazy. Clinical detachment where you look at all the bizarre around you as an impersonal science experiment.

    1. AnNina*

      Bit offtopic:
      I have a close person, who is part of a pyramid scheme, but hasn’t realized (or admitted) it yet. Your comment hit hard on me, so thank you for sharing your experience!

      I think this is valuable information, that is rarely seen; how does one cope the day-to-day in that kind of a situation, when you realize you have been blinded and mislead. It gave a new perspective for me. During that realization -period or progress, ONLY hearing how bad the company you work for is, and how much you have been fooled, probably is not the most helpful thing. This kind of “hands on” experience and ways to cope from someone who has been there seems like much more appreciated info. So again, thank you for sharing, kind stranger online. :)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s a surreal, and super stressful experience for sure! At the very start of finding out about the illegal goings on I got very distressed at the thought of all the people who’d never get their money back. Felt guilty so, so much but I couldn’t do anything for them (at the time). I still had bills to pay.

        It was after I quit that I decided to go to the lawyers and offer my testimony, figuring I could help now. If I’d known I’d then be hounded by the press, have to sit through court appearances, be questioned about every little detail of what happened every day by forensic accountants….okay probably still would have done it but I’d have got some better stress medications first.

        To use a Star Trek analogy: sometimes all you can do is raise shields and survive.

        1. Idril Celebrindal*

          Keymaster, off topic but I want you to know that whenever I come across your name in the comment section I perk up internally because I know I am about to hear a comment that is thoughtful, insightful, compassionate, interesting, and witty. Seriously, you are high up there as one of my favorite commenters on this site and I wanted you to know that a random internet stranger’s day gets happier because of you.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I…thank you. You have no idea how much that means to hear.

            (UK back into lockdown and I’ve had panic attacks most of the day)

            1. Idril Celebrindal*

              I’m sorry to hear that, and I’m sending virtual hugs is you want them. I’m glad to give back some of the good feelings you have given me.

    2. LW #1*

      I cannot WAIT until this job can’t follow me home – they have all the sales reps give our personal cell numbers to each customer, so the customer can call us directly for assistance. (Which is the first thing that made me want to quit, because aside from the massive privacy violation, we also don’t get paid to do customer service because there’s no commission for it.)

      Glad you got out of your Ponzi scheme!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Giving clients your personal details to contact?!

        Shields up, red alert! It’s not sounding a lot different to that Ponzi scheme I mentioned in how they treat their staff. I did end up blocking all unknown numbers from calling my personal phone because abusive rants at 10pm was not doing me any good. Told the boss there was a ‘technical fault’ with my mobile phone. Funny how that fault went away the day I quit….

        (In all seriousness though, this can really do a number on your mental health, so do whatever you need to to survive it. My GP helped out with some meds and I got lots of cat cuddles at home. Fingers crossed for you)

        1. LW #1*

          My last day is Monday, and as soon as I turn in my work equipment I’m blocking every last customer number from my phone! My cats are providing a lot of snuggles as I send out applications to other, better, fully background-checked jobs.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      You did the right thing, and I hope the prosecutors absolutely demolished your former company.

  17. Roeslein*

    OP3, a lot of people may not see education as private information. At least in my industry, your schools and degrees are often included as background information in client proposals, so keeping them secret is not an option. I’m not saying sharing this information was appropriate or necessary in this particularly context, and it sounds like this HR person lacks judgement in other ways too, but it’s something that may come up again in an innocent context and since there is nothing shameful about your background, I think you would be better better off owning it. One of my peers in grad school had never graduated high school (she dropped out when she chose to flee an authoritarian country), and yet she had somehow managed to work her way into a prestigious PhD program – she never hid it and we were all quite impressed!

    1. Mookie*

      She was sharing it round the watercooler, not with a client during a proposal or bidding process. Somebody asked the identity of the employee for reasons of mirth and cruelty, I expect, not because it was pertinent. If it’d been pertinent and normal, it’d be the LW’s manager or team supervisor doing it and it wouldn’t be done like this and the LW knows the difference even if some people don’t.

      1. WellRed*

        Roesleins point is that the OP should stop being embarrassed and just own it. I agree. Shrug it off. They are ridiculous. Well, I think if there’s a way to bring this over HRs head, she should do that too.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Unfortunately in some industries, the lack of a degree makes people view you completely differently and they won’t take you seriously, regardless of your experience and what you bring to the table.

    2. Observer*

      There is a lot of information that is not private that one should use discretion in sharing. Also, the real issue here is that the HR person shared information that no one needed but that it was clearly intended to create or enforce a pecking order where the “more educated and therefore smarter” people could look down on and mock the “less educated and therefore stupid” people.

      THAT is HR malpractice and just all around disgusting behavior.

  18. Randomity*

    2: I suggest getting your computer to read stuff out to you. It’s a relatively new option in word but I’ve found it incredibly useful for hearing what’s actually there, not what I expect to see.

    1. Mookie*

      Not a new option—thirty odd years ago every kid I knew (also my parents) used to try to get diphonic MacinTalk* to say naughty words, the late 20th century equivalent of looking up sex stuff in dictionaries—but yes, all hail modern screen readers.

      *fitt-er, happ-i-er, more pro-duk-tive

    2. Grace*

      I got Word to read my essays to me in university for that reason, but it really doesn’t like reading anything earlier than 1900 as a year.

      Laptop voice: “In one-thousand-three-hundred-and-forty-eight-”
      Me: this is a 10,000 word dissertation please stop doing this

      Still, it was always very useful for spotting doubled-up words or occasions where I restructured sentences in a way that cut words but made no sense.

    3. I edit everything*

      There are also phone apps that will read content for you. I’ve used Voice Dream, personally.

    4. Hydrangea McDuff*

      Agree with this so much; also editing off a hard copy if possible. For powerpoints I print notes pages with 6 or 8 slides per page.

      (I don’t have a printer during wfh which has made my normal editing processes challenging!)

      Read it aloud to yourself if you can, or cultivate a trusted colleague to trade presentations with so you have a second set of eyes.

  19. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2 – as well as looking at with fresh eyes – sometimes changing the font dramatically can help to spot errors because your brain looks at it as new. So switch to purple comic or whatever, do proofread and change back.

    Having an actual second person really helps too.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Voice of (bad) experience: if your document template uses paragraph and character level styles, do this color change in a copy of the document.
      Early in my career I flagged all my questions in red, and when I turned that off also turned off bold, italic, superscript, Greek font for metric prefixes, some header styles.. I was so very glad it was the 8 page document not the 120 page one.

  20. Helvetica*

    LW#2 – It depends what exactly your mistakes are like but if it’s spelling, I feel you. For me, all the automated spell checks are of no use because I struggle with homophones – words which are spelled differently but pronounced the same. Think reign vs rain, right vs write. And oddly enough, I don’t confuse the more common their/there/they’re unless I’m really tired. I’m also good a regular spelling, so I guess so I guess my brain just has a problem with homophones. Often I miss them in many read-throughs because reading it out, even in my head, sounds correct.

    The thing that helps me is really setting the document aside for a good 20 minutes and coming back with fresh eyes. It is especially helpful if I read or write something else, so my brain has to see the document as if for the first time. If I have a short text, I also often put it through a translator – because English isn’t my first language – which catches the homophones really well.

  21. Ori*

    I work in a job where accuracy matters and have the same problem. It is like my brain memorises all the data and just sees what it expects to be there. Trial and error has made me realise I am at my best for error spotting first thing in the morning and then, second best straight after lunch. Usually when I finish a file, I like to leave it until first thing the next morning to check before putting it in to review or at least until after lunch. Where I have to rush to complete a file same day, I try to work on a different file if I can for 1/2 an hour and then recheck it. I deal mostly with numbers but where you have lots of writing, it is useful to read up from the bottom of the page up sentence by sentence. I will be watching suggestions with interest to this one.

  22. Anna Badger*

    LW2, if the material is not confidential and one of your reports has a decent eye for errors, this could be a good thing to ask them to work with you on.

    it gets them used to seeing the sorts of communications that are VP level appropriate (which is the first step towards writing and presenting them), it shows you trust them and have noticed their skills, and it creates a culture where you acknowledge you’re not perfect (which makes it safer for your reports to acknowledge imperfections themselves)

  23. Kwebbel*

    OP #2 – If you’re primarily working with numerical errors, I might have some ideas for you in terms of how to spot errors and prioritize the errors to make the most time checking for. My last job involved people budget analytics: an area where mistakes weren’t theoretical constructs, but could result in inaccurate budget forecasts, people not getting their correct salaries on time, and job candidates not accepting salaries because they were too far from market rates. If was also a job with a lot of time pressure, so I did myself a favor when I got 95% of everything right after the second check. Here’s what worked for me:

    1) Try to find the root cause of errors: I’d look for areas where I usually made mistakes, and tried to figure out what was causing it. One example: probably 50% of my errors were in presentations, where the title would say one thing (“we need to increase salaries by 3.5% across the board next year”), but the tables or graphs on the slide would say something else (“a 3.2% increase is sufficient to stop attrition”). That’s an area everyone would notice immediately, so I definitely needed to fix it. When looking for the root cause, I realized I usually made these mistakes because the analysis I did to get this number would often undergo a change after I initially created the slide. So, I’d show the 3.5% number to my boss, he’d say “oh, you didn’t adjust for inflation in those numbers”, and I’d update the chart but not the title. I’d then put a note on slides like that to help me when I was proofreading the final copy – either by just not using numbers in my titles and letting the graphs themselves do the heavy lifting, or I’d highlight the number in the title so that I wouldn’t forget to double-check it in the final proof.

    2) Prioritize the mistakes you look for: you probably can’t be 100% error free, but 90% is pretty good. I’d look for errors that were most significant in the following ways:

    a – the ones that make the biggest impact on the analysis: When forecasting our HR budget, getting the salaries of junior employees wrong by 1% had a much smaller effect on the overall forecast than getting the salaries of senior employees wrong by 1%. So I’d always look at the biggest numbers first and double-check with other data sources to make sure I was getting them right.

    b – the ones where the input is most likely to be wrong, based on my experience: Again, taking forecasting as the example, our office in Vienna usually reported salaries with an error rate of 5-10%. Our office in Rio reported with 0% error. So I’d make sure to get the most recent actuals from Vienna (usually with a 2-week leadtime rather than the 1 week I’d use with Rio) to make sure I could scrutinize their input more closely before plugging it in to my files.

    c – the ones where my stakeholders are most likely to notice a mistake: when I presented salary figures to the CEO, he was naturally more likely to notice a mistake in the salaries of his direct reports than in those of employees with 6 manager levels in between them. I’d make sure to double-check the numbers he was more likely to know off the top of his head – because if he saw errors there, it was much harder to convince him that the levels below that were correct as well (he’d assume the error rate was probably the same across the board).

    d – the ones where stakeholders are most likely to be skeptical of the output of the analysis: I once had to share an analysis with the management board that showed they’d need to increase their people budget by 15% to win the 25% revenue growth they were hoping for the following year. I knew that they actually wanted to grow the budget by 10%. Knowing they would look step-by-step in my analysis to see the input I used and the numerical levers I was using to explain the increase, I needed to make absolutely sure every step of the equations were believable to make my case. This was a much easier sell than other analyses I did, so I spent more time on checking my input line-by-line. Fun follow-up for that one: they hated the message and did indeed ask me to explain every line of input and every assumption in the data. I had an answer for everything because I’d checked it so thoroughly. They still didn’t accept it, but their lack of acceptance was based on faith that top performers would happily stay an extra 2 years in the company with no salary increase. My numbers at least were fine.

    Hope that helps someone in the comments. I know it was long.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is really a great explanation how to approach these mistakes.
      OP, in my own life I have found it very effective to make a promise to myself not to make the same mistake twice. My current boss noticed. “You never make the same mistake twice!” Yes, Boss, I am a creative mistake maker who looks for different things to mess up.
      Our field lends itself very well to being riddled with mistakes. You have to be at peace with being told how wrong you are. It’s just the nature of the beast.

      I had a job that was way more chaotic than this job. I did exactly this. I found out why a mistake occurred and decided what I would do differently so the mistake did not happen again. When you use this technique explanations such as, “I was rushing, I was tired” etc all get chucked to one side. Because it may be that you will always be rushing and always be tired. So figure out what it takes for rushing and tired you to not make that particular error again. And keep doing this. I mean keep figuring out why it happened and how to stop it until you are ready to scream.

      At some point the dust settles. You CAN out run this one. You will have less mistakes, you will catch more of the mistakes you do make.

      That is the demanding side of the solution.

      There is a giving side of the solution. How is your self-care doing? You know, a tired, hungry, thirsty person is really going to struggle more with mental fog that a person who is rested with a decent meal and adequate water. Your solution to your mistake problem begins at home with the self-care you do at home. Put good stuff into you, so you have something to draw on at work. Do you skip lunch and tell yourself NBD? Please rethink that. You would not expect your car to go down the road on an empty tank. Why expect your body to keep functioning on an empty stomach?

      Remember with a sane and healthy boss/environment no one cares that you made a mistake. All they care is that you take ownership, fix it and find a way not to let that particular thing get by you again.

      I hope I can encourage you to take several different actions at the same time, to help yourself rope this in. This is very fixable, you can do this.

    2. Jackalope*

      Curious follow-up question: how did things go with their numbers? How did the top two performers take to their idea?

      1. Kwebbel*

        To the surprise of no one in the world except the board, they did not share the board’s belief that the honor of working there was more valuable than a pay raise. Most top talent trickled out of the company in the next years. Sad to see, really: the company truly needed them. But from my perspective it was far sadder to see top talent get overlooked for proper rewards.

        Oh, I left, too. Mainly due to compensation issues as well. My boss cried.

  24. Hotdog not dog*

    #3, I could have written your letter! Most people in my industry have at least a bachelor, many have MBAs. I have an associate’s. I also have several industry specific licenses. For years people were surprised if it came up (usually as part of casual conversation about college sports…) but it was only an obstacle when I was looking for a new job. When I first started, about 25 years ago, a degree was nice to have. Now it’s required for all but entry level. That made it very difficult to explain why someone with my experience and qualifications was applying for administrative roles. Fortunately, a good cover letter and lots of networking helped me get hired (at entry level, but at least I’m no longer unemployed!) There is a huge gap between having a degree and being educated. I really think companies would have better pools of qualified, diverse candidates if they would weigh more than just the degree.

  25. K*

    #3 – please never feel ashamed about any degree level. What HR did was horrible – but you’re in the same company, likely working the same job, as some people who have degrees! I’ve often regretted all the studying I did when I realised how further I would’ve been along had I just started work in my industry straight away.

  26. Former call centre worker*

    OP 2, I used to work in a job that involved a lot of writing and it was commonly suggested to read what you’ve written backwards, ie word by word from end to start. This helps you to spot mistakes because it stops you making predictions or assumptions about what the text says that stop you noticing what’s actually there.

  27. Lance*

    Re: OP1: beyond working to get out as quickly as you can (as you should), I might suggest to put in research as well on HR practices, duties, how good HR functions… that sort of thing. As others, including Alison, have said, anything you’ll learn at your current job will be questionable at best, so make sure you’re giving yourself a good guideline for as soon as you can escape this job.

    1. Working on a name*

      While OP looks for new work, I wonder if it would it make sense to acknowledge upfront with potential employers all the issues with the company. If I read a cover letter or interviewed someone who said they worked there during the pandemic because they needed to, and learned a lot about what not to do, and got out as quickly as possible, I would be open to that explanation.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        While you usually don’t want to complain about an employer during an interview, it does make sense in this case to state that you learned that the company was an MLM and that you’re not comfortable with this business model. Experience at the company has caused you to have ethical concerns, and so you are looking for another role.

        This will be generally understood and viewed with approval by HR / recruiters and hiring managers – esp. as it indicates that you have ethics. Of course, they may feel that you perhaps lack judgment/experience, if you’re junior, they’ll chalk it up to a learning experience. If you’re more senior, I would talk about how you learned from the experience and do a lot more research on companies now.

        Overall, with a company this shady, it’s better to acknowledge that it was a mistake to join, as opposed to try overly hard to not say anything negative.

        1. JohannaCabal*

          OP may need to do this. Fortunately, as OP is at the beginning of their working career, that helps.

          Two jobs ago I hired for entry level staff and we interviewed and offered jobs to people with all sorts of varying work histories from mental health aides to debt collectors to overseas English teachers (it seemed a good number of recent grads in ’08-’09 did the English teacher stint in parts of Asia). I would not have had a problem with someone leaving an MLM provided they had the skills and could talk about what they could bring to the role I needed them for.

          1. LW #1*

            At this point, since I’ve worked less than a month for them, my plan is to have my resume end with the retail job I worked over the summer and explain that I moved and have been job searching since then. Which is genuinely what happened, and means that my jobs with more legitimate skills/achievements don’t get pushed off the page.

  28. doreen*

    I’m not sure what “he/they” means exactly – I get the concept, but I’ve typically seen “he, him, his” or “they, them ,theirs” . Anyway, commenters are saying that recommendations are written about a single person, and the colleges will understand that. The part about “recycled a letter and forgot to change the pronouns” makes me think that the OP is worried about using “he” to refer to Susan ( which may indeed look like a recycled letter in a way that “they” wouldn’t.

    1. Roeslein*

      I would be confused by he/they as well – which one am I supposed to use? (Innocent question – I’m not a native speaker)

    2. Polar Bear Hug*

      I also am unclear on what to do when the two pronouns aren’t “the same” (I can’t think of a better way to word this) and have been attempting Internet searches recently to figure it out, to no avail.

      I saw someone above alternating the two pronouns in a response, like “He might want you to do that but you should check with them first so you do what he wants and not what you think they want.”

      Is that how that’s typically meant to be used? I want to do it right and I don’t know anyone IRL who would know either.

      1. rural academic*

        Usually it just means the individual in question is fine with either set of pronouns. You don’t have to alternate between the two.

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          In light of this, the easiest solution for the letter may be to use “they” since it won’t appear to be in conflict with the typically-female first name the way “he” would be. Since OP was concerned about the letter looking mismatched, I think a lot of people use “they” so it wouldn’t matter what the name was that goes with it.

    3. Elenna*

      I think it generally means either one is okay (i.e. you can use either he/him/his or they/them/theirs, but not she/her/hers). No need to alternate, necessarily – I think that would be unnecessary and more confusing. But I’m cis, so *shrug* if anyone else knows differently please tell us?

    4. Tricksieses*

      For people I know who do this, their first choice is the first pronoun, but they are also perfectly fine with the second if it’s easier for you. I have a friend who is they/she, because they prefer they, but realize that many people are going to default to either he or she, so they want to make sure that people realize “she” is the better choice, if “they” is too difficult. (Or, like “I prefer ‘they,’ but I’m not going to be horribly offended if you use ‘she.'”)

      I don’t know if that is 100% true for everyone who does this. Because of my experience, if I saw “he/they,” I would use he. If I saw “they/he,” I would use they. There may be other reasons to denote it this way, though…

      1. Your Friendly Neighborhood Enby*

        I’m used to the slash meaning either is fine. If it’s someone I know, I’d ask them which they prefer, or if they like the mix. I have one nonbinary friend who really prefers no pronouns (which can be tricky, but ze does have a short name, which helps) and is okay with the “ze” set of pronouns to make things easier.
        Nonbinary folks vary a LOT, but I think most of us will take the question as a sign that you respect our identity and want to get it right. So many people are dicks about it, someone expending effort to make sure they’re following our wishes is a nice change.

  29. Bazinga*

    LW 3, I can’t imagine it’s ok for the HR manager to go into personnel files and pull out information to share. Presumably she only got that information through her role in HR, and not general knowledge. I would definitely speak to someone above her

  30. mreasy*

    I am a person with a BA that couldn’t be less related to my career. I am so immeasurably tired and angered by the idea that entry level roles outside of specific industries like finance, law, etc. require a college degree. My company has gotten better at it, but there are still entry roles being advertised as requiring a degree that truly don’t need one, especially when someone has some experience. People don’t go to college for a ton of reasons, and economic opportunity is one of them. The extent to which employers are arbitrarily excluding potentially good hires with this requirement is stupid. E.g., I have a good friend with a lot of admin experience who is unable to find an admin job because they all ask for a BA she doesn’t have.

    1. Elliott*

      I agree. My mother only has a high school degree, and she was able to get administrative jobs in the 1970s and 80s that would probably require or at least prefer a college degree now. Workforce supply and demand has changed more than the actual job requirements have.

    2. Spicy Tuna*

      Agree. I majored in history in college, thinking I would go to law school. I didn’t. I ended up getting an MBA and had years of business & finance related work experience. So many interviewers were fixated on that B.A. in History! As if a decade+ of relevant work experience AND an MBA count for nothing because of an unrelated bachelor’s degree from last century!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Good thing they’re not hiring for IT positions; more than half the IT people I know have some sort of liberal arts undergraduate major and either learned IT on the job or did some sort of boot camp.

    3. JustaTech*

      I work in the life sciences (one of those places where you usually need a degree because of the specific things you learn getting that degree), but one of our best lab folks had a BA in music (I never quite got the story of how she went from music to cancer biology).

      Just before everyone went WFH, management changed all the name placards in the building so that they say if you have a PhD (but not if you have a Master’s). All those folks with PhDs? They were furious. Like, genuinely upset and annoyed that this sign said that they had a doctorate. I’m not sure why (felt like flaunting? residual shame at working in industry vs academia?) but hoo boy they were very irked about it. The funny thing is that none of them directly use their PhD area of expertise for our work now. As far as I can tell it’s mostly about knowing how to research/learn about new things quickly, and having a deep background.

      At least with the people I’ve worked with in immunology, your degree doesn’t tell me anything about what kind of coworker you are. It just tells me how long you were in academia.

      1. Lora*

        Were they planning another round of investor fundraising or something? That’s the only reason I can think of to do such a thing, on the grand tours the CFO types like to tell the Vulture Capitalists how many Harvard / MIT / CalTech PhDs work there.

        More relevant would be a listing of how many things the person has worked on that were commercialized…I’ve known a lot of MS and BS educated folks with decades of experience who have made multiple significant contributions to, you know, curing cancer, solving energy crises, little things like that. I’d rather have them in a heartbeat than someone with 15 years of postdoc experience on the reaction mechanism and regulation of the ChokTpt / Fergus gene in fruitflies.

  31. Roscoe*

    #1 I worked for Cydcor’s sister company DSMAX. Get out while you can. The longer you are there, the more you fall into the sunk cost fallacy. Also they will do just enough to make you believe that you are going to get promoted, just need to do a few more things. And that promotion will never come. You’d honestly probably be better getting a job in fast food or at Target.

  32. Harper the Other One*

    OP2, aside from taking a break before reviewing, try doing something simple to change the way your document looks – change the zoom, switch fonts, something like that. I have been amazed at how much changes like that prevent me from just glazing over and missing errors!

  33. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#5, I always reply to recruiters on LinkedIn, because I have a strong suspicion about LinkedIn’s algorithms. I suspect that replying to recruiters makes you more likely to appear in searches and recommendations to other recruiters. If you’re passively job-hunting, this could be a good thing. And it doesn’t cost you anything.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      From experience, LinkedIn works in mysterious ways. I would not be at all surprised if you were correct in your assumption. (I have a love/hate relationship with LinkedIn).

      As someone who has done recruitment, a reply is always appreciated – even if it is just a “No thanks, not interested”. Plus, networking contacts are often useful down the line.

      1. OP #5*

        As with Alison’s answer, those are also good points. I think I’ll reply with a thank you for reaching out, but not looking to move right now. I figured it wouldn’t matter if I replied or not, but better safe than sorry. Who knows how things will be in the next few years. Thanks for the advice!

  34. NotsorecentAAMfan*

    I’ve only recently learned much about MLM’s (although I’m just gonna say I LOVE my Tupperware!) and find it pretty interesting. But I’m puzzled as to how the pyramid part works if you yourself are not required to make an initial investment. Just recruiting more people (who also don’t have to buy stuff) wouldn’t seem to lead to any money being made by the company.

    1. boo bot*

      It may be that people aren’t required to make an INITIAL investment, but do have to purchase stuff to sell on an ongoing basis.

      Most MLMs have a starter-package where you buy into the business and get an initial set of whatever it is you’re selling, and then you have to keep buying the products so you can keep the product line up to date (so, if the company switches from Fall Product to Winter Product, you have to buy a bunch of Winter Product even if your garage is still full of Fall Product, etc.) My guess is that “no initial investment” probably just means they don’t start taking your money until a little later.

    2. Funk*

      It’s probably not a true pyramid scheme (illegal) but looks like a door-to-door multilevel marketing scheme IE there is some legit sales and product etc involved but what they promise is to make tons of cash by recruiting people to sell product under you. What actually happens is employees work 12 hrs a day, 6 days a week doing door to door sales to make maybe $300-600 (if they’re one of the successful ones who are ok hard selling stuff or happen to have a semi-decent product), while paying for their own gas, car etc. At least that’s what I’m reading about. They promise people to “be their own boss” and “make 6 figures in a year” but the only people making 6 figures are the few at the top of the scheme (a handful of folks); everyone is working their butts off probably for less than min wage, no benefits, etc.
      So scammy, misleading, almost no one can actually make a decent living with it, but manages to toe the line of legality.

      1. LW #1*

        Yup, this is it (although the specific “campaign” I got hired for isn’t door-to-door). If Tupperware/your standard MLM is just a baby step away from a pyramid scheme, this job is a baby step away from that.

        As for how they make money since we don’t have to buy stuff, I’m assuming it’s from the outside companies we’re doing sales for. They also save money by paying us through a weird combination of salary & commission. If the salary is X and we make X-$20 in commissions, our paycheck for the week will still be X, buuuuut if next week we make X+$70 in commissions, they’ll take back the $20 they paid us last week to get us up to X.

        1. Self Employed*

          That thing with the pay sounds really fishy. Once you’re out, I’d check with your state labor commission website to see if that’s legal. (It could be considered an advance on pay, but I’m side-eyeing it really hard.) I would be completely unsurprised if it was not OK, and when you contact someone, they say “Oh, THAT company again!”

  35. Jennifer Juniper*

    Question:

    The student LW4 describes uses he/they pronouns. Is the correct thing to say:

    1. He put his resume in his briefcase

    2. They put their resume in their briefcase

    3. He put his resume in their briefcase

    4. They put his resume in their briefcase

    Or is it something else?

    I apologize for any offense I cause. Thank you to anyone who answers my question or calls me out for offending the non-binary community. I appreciate it.

    1. Elliott*

      Usually, this just means that someone is okay with people using either he or they for them (but wouldn’t want to be called she or another pronoun). So 1 or 2 would be fine. I guess 3 and 4 would be, too, but no, it’s not necessary to mix pronouns.

    2. Brightwanderer*

      It would either be “he put his resume in his briefcase” or “they put their resume in their briefcase”. Someone who says they use he/they means that it’s okay to use he/him/his or they/them/theirs, not that they’re mix-and-matching the two sets of pronouns on a per-sentence basis.

      I’d say it’s definitely worth clarifying with the student, though, since some people who specify two proud sets like that mean “I want you to use they/them but I can live with he/him” and others mean “I want you to use he/him but I can live with they/them”. (And others mean “I really don’t care”, of course.)

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Thank you all for clarifying this.

        Now I know the proper etiquette, which makes me a better person.

  36. Dust Bunny*

    OP2 it sounds as though you’re making a distinction between “being done” and having caught all the errors, and they’re part and parcel. You’re not done until you’ve caught all the errors.

    I second the suggestion to put the document down, do something else for a little while, and then go back and look at it again once your brain has changed gears. I suspect you’ll catch a lot of the mistakes you’re currently missing.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      This is great advice. I’ve always liked the phrase, “You can’t see the forest for the trees” because it applies to many different types of situations. For me, I get so sucked into a task that even when I’m proofreading I’ll miss mistakes! So even just putting it down and taking a 10 minute break, getting up for a cup of water and stretching my legs, I can see much clearer when I sit back down. It’s not always easy to slow down when you’re up against a deadline, but it’s necessary if it means making less errors (I’ve learned the hard way once or twice this year!).

  37. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP2 – I’m curious about how senior management (ie, the audience) is able to call you out on the mistakes if this is the first time they’re seeing the presentation?

    If it’s typos or math, Alison has good advice.

    But maybe you don’t have all the context you need to do your job. E.g., are you supposed to know that customer X got bought out by customer Y last year, but they haven’t changed names (or your accounting/sales system hasn’t caught up with reality)? If that’s the case, don’t beat yourself up. Asking one of your peers to give your presentation a once-over for that kind of thing would be useful. But make sure they know what you’re asking them for – when I’m asked to look over a presentation for errors, I default to typos, grammar, and math. Tell them specifically that you need them to point out errors of assumptions, context, unwritten history.

  38. Washi*

    OP2 what I like to do is imagine as vividly as possible that I am now presenting the work, and go through it the way that I would if there were an audience there. It really forces me to slow down and shift my perspective a little so that I’m not just seeing what I know should be there, rather than what actually is there. I imagine what questions would be asked, what parts would get more scrutiny, etc. It really helps!

  39. Twisted Lion*

    LW3: Same thing happened to me although it was that I had a graduate degree and had taken a low paying job (because it was all I could find in a small town we moved to). I didnt want the information to be blabbed about because it had no bearing on anything. HR told everyone. Then my boss treated me poorly as a result because she thought I was after her job or trying to undermine her if I ever asked a question about anything. Im very sorry this happened to you.

    And FWIW my degree cost thousands of dollars and I have never used it. 20 years later Im finally making money but it is on the basis of earning my way there. I wish I had saved the money and bought a house instead.

  40. Guacamole Bob*

    OP2, if it’s not typos or the sort of mistakes that proofreading or reading out loud can catch, maybe start a process of having someone else check over your work? A few years ago someone in my department made a coding mistake in a query that meant we sent the wrong data in a situation where that ended up costing us actual money, and since then we’ve set up formal QA/QC processes for nearly everything that leaves our department. Even little stuff, though the level of thoroughness varies depending on the context. And while usually no one finds anything earth-shattering that needs fixing, there are good discussions that come out of the process about methods, caveats, etc. in the analysis.

    Someone coming in with a fresh set of eyes can check if the overall results make sense, if they match other sources, if the code looks right, if important control values are correct, etc. It’s also a great training experience for new and junior staff – I’ve learned new SQL and Excel functions by seeing how other people approached it, and had good conversations with people about the relative merits of data source A versus data source B.

    It takes time, but it’s been really worth it.

  41. Elliott*

    #4: Strongly seconding the advice to double-check with Susan about how they want you to refer to them.

    Perhaps this is overly optimistic of me, but as someone who works in higher ed in the US, I’d be a little surprised if someone who works in student affairs or admissions today had zero familiarity with people using they/them pronouns.

  42. RosenGilMom*

    Alison, I really appreciate it when you re-think some of your guidance, and let us know by crossing out the original, as in OP#4

  43. Elenia*

    For Letter Writer # 3, I too spent a good portion of my career without a degree. I went back to school in my mid-30s. People mocked me too.
    What people didn’t know is I had gotten kicked out of my house at 20 by my mother, in the middle of college, and she retracted all of my college payments and took all the money in in my account (I was forced to have a shared account), because I refused an arranged marriage. I managed to find an apartment and someone who let me stay until I could get a job and pay my share of rent.
    No one really knows your circumstances. I hate your HR person for mocking you, it is such an asshole thing to do, but so are the other people who laughed over it.
    I did get my degree, as I said. And I’m glad it did because it boosted my confidence immeasurably. I got a much better paying job because I saw my worth. That is NOT the path for everyone, and I will repeat what others said my job is not related to my degree, at all! I’m still glad I got it but you are not a lesser person for not having it.

    1. JohannaCabal*

      I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Also, I hate that you were mocked for getting a degree in your 30s.

      We all have different life experiences and that needs to be respected.

    2. Jennifer Juniper*

      Elenia, if you don’t mind my asking, what country are you in?

      If you’re in the US, you cannot be legally forced into an arranged marriage at all or to share an account with another person once you’re over 18,

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          Exactly. And um – Americans can sometimes be a bit too optimistic about their country’s legal system. I know this isn’t OP’s story, but child marriage is a legal in America with a judicial dispens. You can Google the case of Sherry Johnson from Florida, who was forced to marry her rapist at the age of 11 in 1971.
          Her parents didn’t want the church, or her family to be involved in “a messy criminal” suit she told the New York Times, so they decided to have her married. Johnson said that her parents were turned down by a judge in Tampa, but travelled to Pinellas County, where a judge approved her marriage. “What we want is for you to get married,” the judge told her, according to her description.
          Johnson became an activist to end child marriage and in 2018 she succeeded in her native Florida, which now has a minimum age of 17. About half of US states still have no minimum floor and statistics show that child marriage isn’t just 17-yos, plenty are under 15.

  44. Sylvan*

    #2: If you’re concerned about spelling, grammar, or style errors, try reading your writing out loud. You can also use text-to-speech and listen with headphones. You’ll notice when something sounds strange.

    Also, you might want to try an app like Hemingway or Grammarly. You can use Hemingway in your browser at hemingwayapp dot com. Hemingway is good at catching strangely worded phrases and sentences that need clarification.

    I use these things to help myself as a copywriter. At my company, our editors grade us a lot like teachers grade students. I get pretty good spelling and grammar grades with these strategies. :)

  45. yala*

    I have a problem with careless mistakes. ADHD doesn’t super help, and I can go through something multiple times and still miss things.

    One thing that I’ve found that really helps me is to have the file I’m proof-reading somewhere I can write on it. Since I have an ipad pro, I load my files into GoodNote, and go over them there, making corrections and notes directly on it.

    It’s also useful because normally I’d be reading them on my computer. So changing up HOW I’m looking at the file as well as letting me edit directly on it, helps me be more mindful and catch things I might have otherwise missed.

    1. yala*

      Ah, one more thing–for catching typos and misspellings, I read each sentences backwards. It’s really easy for me to gloss over small errors when my brain’s already reading the whole sentence. Going backwards helps me slow down and literally take it a word at a time.

      Might not be feasible on larger files.

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I also have ADHD. I find it difficult to concentrate on reading or proofreading documents – things that help me a lot:
      – printing the document and going through it with a pen or highlighter
      – increasing the font size to about 20 – somehow bigger words (and fewer words on the screen) make it easier
      – using my cursor to highlight the sections I’m reading
      – changing the styling on the sections I’ve finished proofing so that I have a clear view of where I need to focus next (e.g. making it bold or changing the colour)
      – making sure I don’t have other documents open – or open browser windows – or anything that will provide a distraction from the task at hand

  46. Quinn*

    LW#4 -I agree with asking the student about preferred name and pronoun. You could ask if it’s ok to say something like “Susan (whose previous name was Mike)…”. Does the application list the student’s legal name, as well as the preferred name?

      1. ErinWV*

        The student’s deadname is going to be all over their application materials. It is a federal requirement that students are listed in certain databases by the name on their birth certificate. It is not right, but it is a fact. In the counselor’s place, I would be more concerned that the letter was not properly attributed to Susan than than it made a brief and passing reference to Susan’s legal name (which the Admissions staff will already know about, as it is required on the application).

        1. A Bit Witchy*

          It’s different when the deadname has to be used in a legal document vs is being actively used by a human being you respect enough to ask for a recommendation letter.

          1. ErinWV*

            Yes, but not when it’s in the person’s best interest that the letter and the legal document be easily identifiable as belonging to the same person. I am not arguing for the casual and regular use of deadnames here. I’m just speaking as a record-keeping professional about how this could realistically go wrong.

            Honestly this seems moot anyway, since Susan should never be in a position to see the recommendation letter. It will not out them any further than their health forms, residence life forms, financial aid forms, etc. already will, and Susan never has to know what the letter said.

  47. C M*

    #5. Recruiters. I have so many opinions on this topic, few of them positive. During the recession around 2011 and lasting several years, I was constantly job searching even while I was employed. My old resumes landed in every corner of the internet and are still floating around. I’m currently not looking for a job, but when I was searching I hated working with most recruiters because they didn’t advocate for my best interests. I’ll give credit where it’s due – I did get one reasonably good job through a recruiter. I try not to burn bridges because if I want to change companies in the future I might have to work with a recruiter. But if I replied to politely decline every contact, I wouldn’t have time for anything else. I will still skim the emails just in case, but it’s rarely worth pursuing at this point in my career.

    There are a few phrases that trigger a hard ignore. “Leave your permanent job for this 6 month contract!” No, you are barking up the wrong tree here. “Please forward to anyone who might be interested” OK, clearly this is a mass email to a list of addresses that you bought and you never looked at my resume.

    I recently had a recruiter ask if I’m interested in leaving X Company. I have never worked at X Company or even interviewed there. It is tangential to my field and I may have applied for jobs there many years ago, but I have no idea how my name got connected to it. Weirdly though, this recruiter who had presumably never even seen my resume was one of the most persistent. He emailed me several times and even called once, which I completely ignored. I considered replying to tell him about his embarrassing mistake, but it’s not my job to fix him and he would probably take any response as a sign to keep bothering me.

  48. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

    OP#2 Checking for Errors
    Hi OP,
    I do a lot of highly detailed work myself that will be reviewed and scrutinized by top management. One strategy I’ve found that really helps me is to review everything in the reverse order of the way you originally did it. This really helps to spot not only errors, but omissions as well. Best of luck to you.

  49. Spicy Tuna*

    LW#1 – take any other job to tide you over while looking for something more permanent. I haven’t heard of Cydcor, but most MLMs are scams and will absolutely elicit a negative response on your resume.

    I once answered an ad for a “financial analyst” position. I had a freshly minted MBA, the job market was terrible just post-9/11, and I was grossly underpaid in a job I hated. When I got to the “interview”, it was a sales pitch to join someone’s Primerica team. I had such a viscerally negative reaction, I got up and left in the middle of the “interview” – literally while the guy was talking! I was furious because I never would have used my precious PTO for this purpose had I known it was for a MLM. And Primerica isn’t even considered a “bad” MLM!

    I know when the economy sucks, it can be super frustrating to not have opportunities in your field (or at all), but hang in there. As Alison said, there is no shame in taking a retail job, and I promise you, no future employer will look down on you for doing honest work to make ends meet during a time when everyone is struggling.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I promise you, no future employer will look down on you for doing honest work to make ends meet during a time when everyone is struggling.

      If you have the people skills to survive public-facing retail, intra-office interactions should be trivial. =)

    2. Frustrated*

      OP may want to consider retail commissioned sales on the clerical side. Think car dealerships, furniture/ appliance stores windows and flooring places. They’re not shady and not as picky about MLM on your resume. But it is retail hours.

  50. Phony Genius*

    Is #1 the first time a writer’s company name was disclosed on this site? I can’t remember seeing this before, except maybe with a government employer.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      If the LW specified, they seem to not trying to mask it. Normally LW’s do obfuscate, in which case it’s poor form to speculate, but if they say it themselves then, no reason to keep it secret.

        1. acmx*

          In Tuesday’s post “if you need a distraction tonight, here are some classic Ask a Manager letters” the one about cooking for 19 people.

  51. Anon for this one*

    For the trying to get into HR OP, I’m going to say a lot depends on your area. Where I work, there is a known financial services company that hires “general counsel” at super high rates right out of law school. Most people realize the ethical issues with a few weeks on the job and bail. Since gaps on a legal resume tend to be viewed worse than other places, I’ve found most people list the 2 month job as anyone that sees it, knows why the person left and the gap is excused. But this is a very local specific example and we don’t fault new grads for accepting a job there because the bar hasn’t been able to spread the word enough — the company files defamation lawsuits against anyone that tries to warn the schools.

    If your company has a similar crazy reputation, a short stint there won’t be an issue and it may make sense to keep it on your resume as an explanation for the gap / short hop.

    1. Anon for this one*

      Oh and in my above example, this is the exception to don’t bad mouth your old employer. I think it would be fine to say in a subsequent interview that you left because you learned it was a multi-level marketing company and you had ethical qualms with that.

  52. Big Bird*

    I work in a highly regarded university and it is both common and encouraged for us to put our preferred pronouns in our email signature (Big Bird, Head Teapot Painter (she/hers). And one of my non-binary colleagues seconds the advice to check with your student first since people are not always out in every context.

  53. JohannaCabal*

    OP1, you need to get out as soon as you can.

    I barely lasted two days at a “marketing company” in the mid-00s that was going door to door getting small business owners to switch their phone service. I left after Day 2 when I saw my trainer practically bully a storeowner who appeared to be a recent immigrant with limited English into switching her service. One of my few regrets in life is not speaking up in this situation.

    Months later I was working for a magazine and chatting with one of the advertising reps. Apparently, he got snagged into working for the same company as a recent grad in the 2002 recession. He lasted six months longer than me and apparently had been classified as an independent contractor which led to some tax issues. We were in the same PR undergrad program and he confessed to me that he felt his MLM experience pushed him out of PR and into sales since he never had any relevant PR experience that prospective employers were looking for.

    With the pandemic, if I were you, I’d aggressively keep looking.

  54. Jostling*

    LW4: personally, I would use the parenthetical that Alison suggested. I would hesitate to assume that every application reviewer at every school is adequately familiar with gender identity for this use of pronouns not to be confusing. It would be wonderful to be able to hold everyone to the standard of recognizing the singular “they,” but I would err on the side of clarifying to mitigate the risk of your letter being dismissed because the name/pronoun confusion makes it seem generic. In this case, assuming the student gives you the language they would prefer you use, I think the benefit to the student outweighs the propriety of not specifying the pronouns.

  55. LW #1*

    Quick update: I actually gave my notice within hours of sending in this question. Writing everything out made all the things that I was brushing off as “well, any first job in a field that’s not your ideal is going to be a bit rough” really come into focus, and then right after my break I got pushed into signing up a customer whose card got declined twice, and I realized I genuinely couldn’t keep working for a company that was so blatantly scammy. I’m going to have to watch my savings pretty closely, but lots of places are hiring for the holidays, so I’m not too worried about finding something that’ll at least get me through the next few months.
    Thanks, Alison & commentariat, for confirming my suspicions about this job!

    1. Nixologist*

      Seasonal work in retail or warehouse work can be very lucrative these months if you’re able to work overtime, and while they’re not easy jobs they typically don’t invite moral dilemna.

    2. Tidewater 4-1009*

      Hi LW1,
      In my search for a data analyst position I often see posts for analyst-type jobs in retail companies, analyzing marketing and sales data. If you live near the headquarters of any retailers, you might be able to get a job there doing something closer to your level. Good luck! :)

  56. employment lawyah*

    1. I’m working for a pyramid scheme
    If you were in sales and not HR it might be one thing, but “HR for a horribly run pyramid company” is not ideal experience. Stay if you need the dough, but try to switch if you can.

    2. How to stop making careless mistakes at work
    Not all mistakes are careless. The NYT has a kajillion copy editors and people make mistakes there as well. The more complex the task is, and the less relevant a mistake it, the less it matters.

    Anyway, the usual things apply.
    a) Systems, like “I will always read this, mark it read, and re-read it the next day.”
    b) Changes, like “I will have someone else look at it.”
    c) Physical changes, like printing things out instead of on-screen review, possibly even w/ different font if possible; THIS IS HUGE. The more differences there are, the more easily your brain can see it as “new, needs review.”

    But does it really matter? Honestly if an “executive leader” is calling out a minor typo in public, they are sometimes just acting like an ass.

    You can also be up front: “It takes me 10 hours to write a general planning document of 20 pages. It takes me three readings–roughly an hour–to ensure that there are no minor typos, extra spaces, misformatted fonts, and the like. Do you want me to be spending 10% of my work on that? Do you have someone else who can do that checking?”

    3. HR was showing my education level to people in the break room

    If you think it will get traction and have the connections you can run it high up the chain. That HR person should be fired. But you probably don’t. And if you don’t have the clout there’s nothing you can do: if you strike at a king you should not miss. Sorry, that sucks.

    4. Using “they” pronouns in a recommendation letter without confusing people
    What AAM said. Also, it’s often an option to use the name more and the pronouns less, should you choose.

    5. Is it a faux pas to ignore a recruiter?
    No.

  57. eshrai*

    OMG I totally worked for a Cydcor company. I sold office supplies door to door on a commission only basis. It was right after the recession and I had no other opportunities so I tried it. I quickly realized what a scam it was, having to show up for two meetings daily to motivate and debrief, chanting and brainwashing. We only got commission on the first sale a new customer made (the company we sold for was a legit company though). This meant we always had to bring in new customers constantly. I made some money at first, but it dried up as they sent me to worse and worse neighborhoods with no real businesses to canvass. IT didn’t matter to them if you made no money because they only paid commission, so they lost nothing if you made no sales. I paid everything paid out of pocket. No reimbursements for gas or anything. They sent us on business trips to nearby towns where we were forced to share beds with our co-workers in the cheapest inn they could find and got no reimbursements for food.

    Long story short I ended up losing my savings on out of pocket costs. I had to quit, and was denied unemployment because I quit. I borrowed money for rent and eventually had to move back in with family and find two part time jobs as a barista/waitress to make ends almost meet. It was a really bad time. Get out as fast as you can.

  58. CM*

    For OP#4, why not use “they” for everybody?
    If you want, you could also check with students first and say, “Hey, I’m starting to use ‘they’ pronouns in all my letters, but if you prefer ‘he’ or ‘she’ just let me know.”
    I don’t think it’s necessary, but if you’re concerned you could also put a note in all your letters saying “Note, I use ‘they’ pronouns by default for all my students.”

    1. Jackalope*

      I don’t think that would be the most considerate way to do things. Just like it wouldn’t be right to refer to someone non-binary who goes by they as he or she because you’d rather use one of those, it wouldn’t be right to make those who want he or she go by they. Just go with whatever the student wants you to use; if it’s someone asking you for a recommendation you probably have enough relationship that that should be an easy conversation.

    2. Sylvan*

      I get where you’re coming from, but “they” is misgendering for plenty of people. (This has weirdly been an issue with some queer friends of mine. They kept calling everyone “they,” regardless of people’s actual gender and pronouns. Noticeably avoiding “she” for a trans girl” and “he” for a trans guy was not a good move.)

    3. Nanani*

      I actually have seen people do this, even using “they” for public figures.
      Turns out that’s a great way to emphasize that “they” really is for everyone and not just for trans people or (insert stereotype about snowflakes here).
      It also makes cis people think about whether really care about pronouns in a context that isn’t about a non-cis person fighting for recognition, which is also very good.

    4. F.M.*

      Oh gosh no. “They” is a great default pronoun for people of unknown/unspecified gender, and for people who it matches, but using it when you know someone uses a different pronoun is misgendering.

      If Bob goes by ‘they’ and you call them ‘he’, it’s misgendering. If Bob goes by ‘he’ and you call him ‘they’ it’s misgendering. Some people use “they” especially for trans people as a way to avoid using the actual pronouns for that person, with a sort of ‘ha ha but this is the generic one, it works for everyone!’ excuse and it’s skeezy.

      I mean, if I had my preference, pronouns would have no gender. And formal titles wouldn’t be a thing. And Daylight Savings wouldn’t exist. But I will damn well say “I was talking to Mr. Smith, and he said…” not “I was talking to Smith, and they said…” if I know that Bob Smith uses “he” pronouns and prefers the “Mr.” title.

  59. Librarian Scientist*

    OP 4: I did admission work for a couple different schools for several years and generally unless the rec letter is about crimes/disciplinary issues, it’s not going to have a minimal impact on their admission. Even at Ivy adjacent kind of places, letters of rec are fairly far down the list on the list of reasons why you would or would not admit this person unless it’s coming from someone a building is named after/is on the board of trustees. Other commenters have raised other valid concerns about this particular issue, but admission staff have to look at literally thousands of letters of rec every application cycle, so I wouldn’t sweat the negative impact aspect of this.

  60. Imaginary Number*

    OP #1: There is no HR training. That’s part of the scam. They’ll keep you as a low level sales rep who can’t make enough commission to pay for bus fare, all while promising to promote you “soon” fully understanding that you’ll eventually quit. That’s the business model. They don’t need to keep people, they just need to keep people long enough to get some work out of them that is essentially free labor due to the horrible commissions.

    The reason why your company is “brand new” is that they’re having to continually move and change names to keep from either being a) shut down due to legal challenges or b) having enough of a rep that people know the truth about them. It’s all one company continuously changing its name.

    Get out now.

  61. FrenchCusser*

    I have a Bachelor’s degree in my field, my manager has some Community College level classes, but only a high school degree.

    I do not have a problem with that. She’s a better manager than I would be.

  62. lazy intellectual*

    I only respond to recruiters in my industry I might be interested in contacting in the future. But if it’s a recruiter outside of my industry who is advertising a random job that has nothing to do with my background, I ignore.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I agree. If it’s a recruiter you’d be interested in hearing from in the future, spend 2 minutes to respond politely.

      If it’s someone who’s clearly spamming everyone they can find on LinkedIn, ignore them. Or if you’re about to retire, or whatever.

  63. 867-5309*

    Super late commenting today but… I always wonder when a question related to MLMs come up if Alison’s sees comments from their army of followers saying it’s a great opportunity, excellent place to work, etc., and perhaps just deletes them? They usually activate their base pretty quickly in the face of criticism.

      1. 867-5309*

        Thanks for replying!

        It seemed unlikely you would delete dissenting comments, but equally surprising that there aren’t more of them. It speaks to the strength of the community you’ve built that people are engaging in meaningful and legitimate workplace discussions.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For the sake of transparency: I would for sure delete comments promoting specific MLMs here (because I don’t want anyone hijacking my site to promote a specific business; that would seem pretty spam-ish to me), but not comments just defending that business model in general.

  64. Sleepytime Tea*

    OP3 – please don’t be ashamed of your degree. Your experience and performance are what is really worth it, and at least some of the jerks guffawing at you in the breakroom, unless they are all engineers or something, may have college degrees, but probably don’t all have ones even related to their field, based on statistics out there. Or they have one, but not all of them were magna cum laude, ok? Having a college degree is not that freaking special. Intelligence cannot be taught, and book smarts only goes so far in the real world. I work in a field where everyone tends to have a specific degree – one I did not have. I got there by being a fast learner, smart, and hard working; my guess is that is you too, and you should be PROUD of that. I got mocked by some a-holes along the way, but at the end of the day, my career kept advancing, and those jerks tended to get left dust as someone who relied on a specific piece of paper, rather than a stellar track record. At a certain point, track record carries much more weight with the people who matter (unless they happen to be one of those jerks, in which case, you don’t want to work for them anyway).

    If you want a college degree, it’s an option! There’s some online non-profit universities that don’t cost an arm and a leg (WGU, for example). But if it doesn’t fit your life right now, or if you don’t want to get a degree for any other reason, don’t feel pressured to or ashamed about it.

  65. I'm just here for the cats.*

    #4 This is not going to be the first time a college has seen a letter for a non binary person or someone who has a traditionally feminine name and is not that gender. As long as you use the same name that the student is applying under you should be ok.

    I would recommend asking the student what name they are using to apply. That way if they are only using John for the application and you have Susan it wont be confusing. You could maybe say something like John, who goes by Susan, is a great student….

    1. Richard*

      I came to say this, too. I often write recommendations for international students, and I have to be careful to use their passport names to match their applications and documentation, even if they use different name in class. This student might have a different name on their transcript and other documentation as well, so maximum clarity is a good idea in a high stakes document like this. Maybe even better would be “Susan (whose official name is John) is a great student…”.

  66. AKchic*

    LW5 – a “cold call” email from a recruiter can be treated like any other piece of junk mail in your snail mail. Junk mail. You don’t reply to advertisements in your mailbox, so if you aren’t interested in a cold-call piece of junk in your LinkedIn, why respond? Of course this recruiter has reached out a second time, you have skills and they are trying to make money in filling a position. That’s all you are to them: a payday.
    You can respond with a “no thank you” if you’d like, but that is absolutely at your discretion.

    LW3 – as a fellow non-degreed person (freshman dropout with a GED); let me tell you this: having a degree doesn’t define you. You are right where you are, right next to all of those papered individuals, making just as much as them, holding the same information, skills, and responsibilities – without the debt. Anyone who looks down their nose at you for your “lack of” degree is being elitist and has the situation backwards.
    I think it’s also time to document all of the times the HR manager has been less than confidential with information and has used her privileged position for gossip and maybe bring it to someone else’s attention and how that could affect the company.

  67. Nessun*

    OP3 – I went to Uni but never finished (I hated the program, and it was not something I pursued as a career, nor, in retrospect, was it something I ever wanted a career in). I went from retail to retail job for a few years trying to figure out what I DID want, and then I landed an entry-level position in my current company. I could have stayed in that role forever (they would have been happy with it, benefits were good and pay was OK) – but instead I worked my way up to more interesting work in new offices and built up a network and skillset that made me a great internal transfer to projects I preferred. My resume still looks a little odd to me, because I wouldn’t put HS on it and I don’t have that higher ed – but my list of experiences and roles and 20 years at the same company progressing to higher level positions speaks for itself. That’s where I derive my value, and from the sound of your letter, you can definitely do the same.

    Me, I considered going back – but like I said, the degree wouldn’t have backed up my career (and would have been expensive). The value wasn’t there. I did eventually get a certification in my field, from an accredited organization – again, I did that for myself, because I liked the idea of structured learning, but it wasn’t a requirement for my career, and it was pure personal choice. Be proud of the work you do and how you got to where you are. If someone laughs, remember your accomplishments and walk away proud.

  68. Ms. Enigma*

    Re: pronouns. Many, many, many years ago when I was applying to college, I asked my favorite teacher to write one of my letters of recommendation. Said teacher was a math teacher and writing was not one of his strengths. One day I happened to be in his classroom and he stepped out briefly. My recommendation letter was sitting on his desk and of course I took a peek–enough to see my name and just a few sentences. Well, in one of the sentences he had used the wrong pronoun! The little bit I read was generic enough that I can only assume that he re-used a letter he had originally written for a male student. I was mortified but never mentioned it to him.

  69. zebra*

    LW #2 — one of my favorite things about my current workplace is that there’s a robust culture of asking others to look over important emails/documents before sending them. Everyone does it, up to owner level, and it helps me a lot to have that norm — both so that I feel comfortable asking almost anyone for a second pair of eyes on an email, and I’m happy to return the favor when someone else asks. If such a culture doesn’t currently exist at your company, you can try starting it! Just start by saying to someone “I find that after staring at these reports for too long I sometimes miss small errors. Would you mind a quick look at this for a second pair of eyes?” and encourage that person to ask you for the same in return next time they have a big deadline. The more you practice at it the more natural it will feel for your whole team.

    1. Garnet, Crystal Gem*

      +1. I love this idea! If some of my old jobs had this culture, I might’ve been able to stick it out a bit longer.

  70. Garnet, Crystal Gem*

    But are you rushing because you want to be done or because you’re not given enough time for the work?

    OP #2 others have already offered solid tips and techniques for double (and triple) checking your work. If your problem is the latter though, like Alison suggested, I’d raise the issue with your boss, preferably ASAP.

    I had this problem in my last job and even though there were plenty of external indicators that the lack of time=careless mistakes, this never registered for my supervisor until I explicitly told her. At that point, I’d already tainted my reputation and had been tasked with TWICE the amount of work. It was just an all-around bad situation—don’t let this be you.

    If you need more time, decide which of the suggestions offered here will work best for you, then factor those processes into the amount of time it typically takes you to work on your presentations, and bring all of that info to your conversation with your boss. I really like the script employment lawyah laid out above for that.

    It might also be helpful to address your anxiety of presenting to authority figures. I’ve struggled with this too and looking back, the experiences where I just “wanted to get it over with” or felt more anxious than expected about presenting, took place in fairly unhealthy working environments. Typically, the fear of making mistakes coupled with the rush to complete the work came from a place of dread, fueled by the need to be on the offensive with higher-ups who were unforgivingly critical. Might be worth exploring if your working relationships are also driving the errors.

  71. LogicalOne*

    3. I am so sorry your HR department person is being immature and acting that way. HR is supposed to be the most confidential and open door part of a company and the fact that you have to worry what information you share and what information she may share with the company, is not right. I too would feel emotionally hurt by this. I hope your HR person improves their maturity, quits, or something better comes around for you. I really can’t think of a legitimate reason why your HR person would be sharing this information to begin with. So annoying! Again, I am so sorry.

  72. Federal Blue Collar*

    Re: “careless mistakes”
    Proofreading. You should never proofread your own work. It’s not you being careless, it’s you being too close to your own work. If you can’t find a work buddy to trade proofreading with (you read theirs/they read yours), then make sure as much as humanly possible to give yourself at least half of day to complete the presentation and then put it away and work on something else. When you come back to it, you’ll see the errors. That’s NOT a great system, but it will work

    But try to find a work proofreading buddy.

  73. Adultiest Adult*

    Reading some of these responses to LW 3 makes me feel like quoting the movie “Matilda”– “Don’t snear at educated people.” I have a Master’s degree, as does everyone in my chosen profession. I am proud of my education and certainly don’t think it was a waste, although it was expensive. I also come from a blue collar family, of people who are also proud of what they do, and I would never dream of making fun of someone for having less education. Education is not the only indication of intelligence, and the OP should never feel less-than for being less educated.

    But all of this is really a red herring. The HR person was being a jerk, and I am sorry your coworkers joined in rather than pushing back on that the way they should have. I am willing to bet that if it hadn’t been about this, it would have been about some other difference. I might reconsider your future with this company if this is how people there generally act. But to start disparaging education and educated people as a result both takes it too far and misses the point. The OP didn’t, but some of these comments are.

  74. Dramamethis*

    #1 – I worked for Cydcor HQ many many years ago in Accounting. Run away.

    They didn’t have us join the sales rallies or drink the kool aid but boy, it was like a cult. One thing that happened, often, is a “manager” would suddenly abandon ship, leaving the company to pay for costs owed by the “owner” .

    They would have my colleague go to the bank & get a cashier’s check as opposed to using a check with the company name. (Shady), she did this at least 2-3 times a week.

    I didn’t last long there. I bolted once I started figuring it out and I also read a LOT of stuff on Ripoff report.com.

  75. Libretta*

    OP#3 – Your HR person is a jerk – I am sorry this happened. You have obviously been successful without a degree, and you are not carrying student loan debt – which is a significant benefit!

    If you were interested in completing a degree – I would honestly use this incident as a way to approach the HR person about a tuition reimbursement program. Minimally it is a way to discuss the incident without being confrontational – say to them that “you all were talking about me not having a degree, so I was wondering if the company supports employees in pursuing education with tuition reimbursement…” You could do it via email if you didn’t want to say it in person. If they say yes – hey! That’s alright! If they say no – you have let them know you noticed the conversation.

  76. Sam Yao*

    Late to the party, but: OP2, what you’re describing (obsessively checking for mistakes, missing them, then feeling like life is over when someone else notices) sounds a lot like what in my case turned out to be symptoms of a pretty debilitating anxiety disorder. I’d suggest you do a quick inventory to see if this is derailing your brain in other ways (do you dwell on it for hours, do you take it home with you, that kind of thing) and if the answer is yes, consider talking with a professional to see if you may have a clinical anxiety issue that could be helped. In my case, medication and cognitive behavioral therapy made a world of difference.

  77. Texas Teacher*

    LW #2 A technique that people with language LD’s use to proofread for spelling/typos is scanning the text backwards. Your brain is less likely to autocorrect what you are seeing with the correct spelling using this technique.

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