job search portfolios for students, unsafe holiday party, and more

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

1. Do job applicants need digital portfolios?

I am in education (K-12 public school) and am in need of input on the workings of business and other industries. When hiring are you looking for your applicants to have an ePortfolio that they bring with them during the interview?

Some folks on our strategic planning team are stating that our students need to come out of high school with a digital portfolio in order to get a job. If it’s a need, what sort of platform or format would employers like to see? What items should be included?

Please shut this down! Almost no recent graduate of high school needs a portfolio in a job search. There is a small number of industries where a portfolio of examples of past work is helpful — graphic design, some types of marketing and PR, some types of writing, and not many others. With very few exceptions, high school students won’t have done that type of work and won’t be qualified to apply for jobs where it would be relevant. And no one who hires wants a candidate to break out a portfolio of irrelevant work during their interview and start flipping through it.

Colleges have been pushing the portfolio idea too, and it’s similarly misguided for most of their students as well. When employers want to see samples of past work, (a) it will be a specific industry norm and (b) they will ask for them. It’s not something that should be a default for everyone — and your school is doing students a disservice by making them think it is.

2. My company is having an unsafe holiday party

My law firm loves to go all out for the holidays. We usually have a gift exchange, a catered meal, and an out-of-office party to somewhere fun. This year I assumed (and hoped) that those plans would be canceled because of the pandemic.

They didn’t cancel. They sent out an email saying that because of the pandemic, we would be having a catered meal and board game night at the firm instead of going out. I guess this is technically safer than going to a movie theater or bowling alley, but there’s no way for us to social distance at our office! And no one there ever wears masks!

If you don’t go to these firm events, you’re seen as “not a team player” or are labeled as uptight and unfriendly. I have severe asthma, so I’ve been avoiding group activities since March. How can I tell my employers that I don’t want to attend the party without negative consequences?

I can’t guarantee you’ll have no negative consequences because that depends on your firm acting reasonably, and they’ve already shown themselves to be unreasonable. But even companies that frown on skipping workplace social events usually make exceptions for people with reasons that they deem solid enough – and for all but the most unreasonable managers, health issues will be solid enough.

So be straightforward: “I’m high-risk and can’t safely attend so I have to send my regrets.” Or if you think it’ll help to cite a higher authority: “My doctor has ordered me not to attend since I’m high-risk, so I have to send my regrets.”

If you don’t trust your firm to handle that well, there’s always the option of RSVPing yes, but then coming down with a minor illness that day and bowing out so as not to put others at risk. (You shouldn’t have to do that but if they force your hand, it might be your best alternative.)

Read updates to this letter here and here.

3. I vented about one client to another

I’m a client manager at a company that does IT work on the west coast and I have two clients. One of them, company A, is based where we are and incredibly self sufficient and fun and a joy to work with. The other, company B, is based across the country and is not only stressful and combative but downright abusive at times. In fact, company B’s reputation is universally known not only throughout the company but the industry. So my coworkers and I blow off steam by venting. And normally it ends there. But while on the phone with someone from company A, I started explaining why it took me a whole week to respond to an email. And I began to talk about how busy company B made me. No names were mentioned and nothing outright negative was said. And once I realized what I was doing, I asked the rep for company to keep it between us. Did I cross a line? Where does venting over a legit problem become badmouthing?

Yeah, it sounds like you crossed the line. It’s not a career-ending moment or anything like that, but you shouldn’t vent about clients to anyone outside your company and definitely not to another client. If you vent about one client to another, they’ll understandably wonder if you’re indiscreet about them too.

You asked when venting over a legit problem becomes badmouthing, and I’d say it’s not even really relevant to what happened here — because you shouldn’t be venting to a client, period. They’re paying you to handle problems for them, not to unload about your own problems to them.

4. I’ve been on probation for three years

I’ve been working at a quasi-government agency for over three years now as an assistant to the CEO, “Ben.” I’m the longest running assistant he’s been able to keep, but I never know how long that’s going to last. Why? Because I’ve been on probation all these years! I get a review once a year, he states how I haven’t improved to his standards, my probation gets extended for another six months or until he feels like doing my review. I’m not perfect but I’m obviously not so horrible or he would have fired me already.

Over the past six months, I have improved at work (and in life) mostly because I finally got diagnosed with depression and the medicine is working! It’s about time for another uncomfortable review and honestly I’m just over the entire thing but wondering if I should tell Ben that one of my “problems” was because of the depression? Is he going to see it as just an excuse? After three years, does it even matter anymore? We’re a small agency with less than 50 people with no HR department either. Ben considers himself to be the HR so I can’t ask HR for help!

Nah, Ben is ridiculous. If you’re not meeting his standards after three years, the answer is to replace you (sorry), not keep you in this weird probation limbo. But I’m guessing Ben’s “standards” are as ridiculous as he is, since he doesn’t seem to be able to keep assistants.

Probation is a fairly silly concept in at-will states anyway. All it does is exempt him from having to follow the organization’s internal policies around firing people. If company policy says he’d normally need to warn you, put you on a PIP, etc., it’s a way to short-circuit all that, generally for a new employee who clearly isn’t working out. It’s not meant to keep people in limbo for three years.

I don’t see any reason to make yourself additionally vulnerable to Ben by sharing your depression diagnosis, particularly since even otherwise decent managers often mishandle mental health issues. At most you could share that you’ve been dealing with a health issue that is now being effectively treated, but I don’t know that there’s much benefit in sharing even that. You’re probably better off just assuming you’re going to stay on probation for as long as you work for Ben, even if you’re there a decade from now.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Which state’s laws govern?

We live in South Carolina and my husband’s employer is based out of New York. They moved part of the company down here years ago to save on wages.

He is a manager of a few departments, but I don’t know if he is exempt or not. His pay stubs show his hourly rate, which I assume is so he knows how much he makes per hour. The pay stub also shows that he is paid from the main office in New York. Do the labor laws differ from state to state? Or do the labor laws where the main office is located take presidence?

What I am trying to figure out is if he is exempt, why does the employer make him use his accrued time if he is out sick? He has been with the company almost 13 years and has been a department manager the entire time he’s been there.

The labor laws of the state where the work is being performed are what usually govern, so your husband’s employer needs to follow South Carolina’s labor laws where he’s concerned. (This is one reason why it can really matter to employers where an employee is located — California, for example, has very different labor laws governing people working in their state than Tennessee does.)

However, whether or not your husband is exempt would only govern whether the company is required to pay him overtime (if he’s non-exempt, they’d have to). It wouldn’t have anything to do with whether he’s required to use sick time when he’s out sick. In fact, it’s pretty common to require exempt employees to pull from their bank of sick and vacation time when they’re out, especially for full day absences (although many companies are more flexible if the person is only out for a few hours). Being exempt means they can’t dock his pay (with a few exceptions), but they can indeed dock his accrued leave balance.

{ 467 comments… read them below }

  1. Gaia*

    OP 5, I am exempt and I have to use accrued time off (we have combined vacation and sick) when I’m out sick more than 2.5 hours. I’ve worked other places that any time off required me to use accrued time off. I’ve also worked places that only required me to use accrued time off for full days.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I am also exempt. My sick time is separate from my vacation time, but according to company policy I should still be using sick time whenever I’m out sick or at a doctor’s appointment. In practice, if I’m out for 2 hours or less, my managers prefer I make up the time during the week, since it’s less work for them to track. (I try to schedule my appointments so I’m either able to make up the time or take half a day.)

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I am not exempt but some of my coworkers are and they use accrued time for vacations or medical reasons (ours are also separate), as well.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Our employer prefers us to take time in four-hour (half-day) chunks, so if I only need an hour or so I either make it up during the rest of the week or my supervisor corrects my timecard to override it (this is normal policy; they don’t nickel and dime people over small amounts of time off).

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          that’s the way my org does it too — 4-hour chunks for exempt employees — payroll absolutely doesn’t want to track an hour here or there for exempt employees but it’s up to managers to make sure the flexibility doesn’t get abused. I’ve never been expected to make up time, but I’ve also never been comped time for working outside of my core hours either.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      I’m exempt as well, and every place I’ve worked where I was exempt expected exempt employees to use accrued sick leave if you were going to be out of the office for four or more hours. Anything less than that, management assumed you’d make it up somehow during the week or the following week.

    4. Public Sector Manager*

      Exempt and salaried public sector employee in California here. I officially have an hourly rate, but my salary is calculated at 2,000 hours a year then divided by 12, rather than how many hours I work a month (since that changes monthly). And our sick leave/vacation policy are in line with what Gaia described. If I’m off a full day or anything over 6 hours, I have to use sick leave or vacation, and if I’m at my duty station for at least 2 hours, then I don’t have to.

      1. Az*

        I’m a public educator in Colorado and I have a very similar pay structure. My salary is based on a certain number of hours for the entire year and divided between 24 pay periods.

    5. Portabella*

      I’m an exempt employee working for a state university, so essentially a state government employee. I have to use either sick or vacation PTO for ANY amount of time I am out. My manager lets us fudge if it’s only like an hour or something, but technically, the state wants us to report any time spent not working during business hours as PTO (excluding the one-hour lunch break). I assume this is for accounting transparency since we’re government employees.

      I also see my hourly earnings on my pay stubs, as well as a weekly wage, a biweekly, and a monthly – even though I’m paid monthly. That’s just how they break it down.

    6. mgguy*

      I’m education faculty now so all of our time/hours/off are weird(as long as I meet my weekly teaching/office hours obligation I’m considered to have worked a full week), but formerly I worked for a state university both as an non-exempt employee and later an exempt employee.

      As non-exempt, my job duties-things outside my control that required a physical presence-often required very long days of me(14 hours or better). Both to avoid or at least minimize OT, with my manager’s permission, I’d often take full days where possible in those weeks, or at least come in late on a morning where there were no obligations scheduled for me. Since “flex time” was at the discretion of our manager, this was permissible as long as it was by mutual agreement, and in those cases it was.

      As exempt, I often behaved like an hourly employee(old habits are hard to break) but with a bit less rigidity-i.e. on those crazy busy weeks I’d come in late when I could, again with permission. I’d still end up way over the required 37.5 hours(the minimum expected of an exempt employee there), but I’d at least manage to get some rest and be sharp for the times that really required it. More generally, if I needed to take off a few hours for say, a doctor’s appointment, they’d usually be fine with me not claiming the time since I was regularly there 1-2 hours past my official end time anyway. A full day was generally a fairly clear cut hit to time off(whether vacation or sick depending) but at the same time a “take Friday off” at the direction of my manager after working 8:00AM-10:00PM M-Th was never a time off hit.

  2. Observer*

    #4 – Still on probation- Please do NOT share your mental health challenges with Ben. He’s clearly a TERRIBLE boss, and that’s probably more kindness than he deserves. I would never trust him to handle this information appropriately. All it’s going to do is give him ANOTHER excuse for keeping you on probation.

    Start looking for another job. I’m not saying it’s going to be a snap to find something new, but this guy is playing with your head. Although no job is guaranteed, decent employers don’t try to keep people in limbo and FEELING like they are in limbo.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Hard agree with Observer.
      This employer is TERRIBLE, do jot trust him with any health issues. Plan your escape.
      And know that working for someone like this messes with your sense of what is normal and will take time to udo.
      Best to you!

    2. EPLawyer*

      OP4 — you are NOT on probation because of your depression. You did improve or meet his standard because of him not the depression.
      You do not meet his standards because he is an ASS. It’s him not you.

      I’m really surprised Alison didn’t put this in her answer. Toxic work places warp your sense of normality. Instead of recognizing that this is NOT normal and your boss is toxic, you are looking for reasons why YOU are the problem. You are NOT.

      Please start job hunting. This guy is never going to take you off probation.

      1. OP#4*

        OP #4 here. 1st thank you to all of your responses. You’re so right- being on probation for 3 years has greatly messed with my self esteem and made my depression worse. I had even stopped looking for a new job because I didn’t feel I was good enough for anything else.
        Because of my probation status I haven’t gotten any raises but I do get COLA every year because he feels like being “gracious “. The last one in May I didn’t get for a few months because of my status then suddenly it was on my paycheck without warning.
        I’m the sole income earner in my home so I’ve been just trying to keep the money and health insurance going which is why I’ve been hesitant to “rock the boat” and ask what the heck is going on. I know it will be difficult but I’ve begun actively networking and looking for a job again. My dream would be to get one and put in my notice on evaluation day!

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Honestly, it sounds like you aren’t on real probation, he’s just telling you that you are. If your employer gives you COLA and it is 3 years on, you aren’t on probation anymore. Start looking because it is definitely a him thing, not a you thing. If someone asks in an interview why you are leaving, “My manager kept me on probation for 3 years despite me meeting the goals set for me so I decided to look for a better fit.” An interview would hear, “I worked for a jerk and want not to work for a jerk” because, seriously, probation for 3 years? No normal manager does that

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Eh, I wouldn’t say that. An interviewer will wonder if there’s more to the story and it will raise questions you don’t need to raise. You’ve been there three years, you can be moving on just because you want to move on.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Excellent point! Do you think the LW should give some kind of heads up if Bob is her reference? I can see him saying she never got off probation, especially if he’s not happy she is leaving

        2. Katrinka*

          Your answer is right there. He’s keeping you on probation so he doesn’t have to discuss any raise in pay. I have known bosses to pull this and it’s ridiculous. In those cases, an HR department was present, so I would let them know I heard of this (from the affected assistant) and HR would address it with the boss in question. It’s unacceptable behavior.

    3. Beth*

      I’m wondering if Ben the Terrible is also using this “probation” BS as an excuse for keeping LW #4’s salary lower than it should be.

      In any case, it’s past time to make like a hockey player and get the puck out of there.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        That was my first thought as well. If Ben can keep saying OP doesn’t meet his standards for the position, he never has to give them any kind of merit raise and can keep the position at entry level salary indefinitely.

      2. Massmatt*

        My Magic 8-Ball says “Signs point to yes”.

        I think Ben the Terrible went through lots of people because they start to push back on him, expect increases in pay, and/or quit because he is a huge jerk. Now he has found someone he can keep on “probation” for years and have her wonder whether it’s HER fault.

        OP, I know it’s a cliche but if you can please seek therapy along with your medication for depression. Having a bad boss, especially for a long time, can warp your sense of normalcy, especially if you are in a vulnerable mental state to begin with.

        Best of luck to you, and please send an update!

      3. pope suburban*

        My first thought. He might also want to be able to cut OP4 loose without having to do whatever paperwork is standard for non-probation employees. Ben seems like a shifty jerk, honestly, and I’m pretty comfortable saying that OP4 is perfectly competent at their job, or else they would not have made it to three years under this petty tyrant. OP4, I worked for someone like Ben, and I know how the precarity and the constant negative feedback can grind you down and make you feel like you can’t/shouldn’t stretch for a better job. The thing is, Ben is not a reliable source when it comes to your performance, and that’s not something you caused or something you can control. Start looking for another job, and keep up the efforts on the mental-health front. If there are any people in your office- colleagues, patrons, members of other agencies- you can trust, start paying more attention to their feedback and interactions. Some days, the only thing that kept me sane at HellJob was the fact that whatever my boss said, our clients were consistently satisfied with my work, and I knew they were more objective than the boss. Hang in there and good luck on the job hunt. This is not normal, you do deserve better, and I hope you find it.

        1. Saberise*

          This. Far less hoops to jump through where I work if someone is still on probation. But they would never allow someone to be on probation for 3 years either.

    4. Helen J*

      Agree with everything on this thread, especially the advice to look for something new. I know that is hard even during non-pandemic times, but seriously- 3 years of “probation”?? is …stupid and a sign of terrible, terrible management!

      1. Finland*

        Agreed! Op, he is abusing the probationary period (possibly to keep you underpaid or ineligible for promotion). He and his management (who should’ve fired him long ago) are problematic and you have no protections. Don’t disclose your history to him.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      Yes to all of this! He’s manipulative. The ‘not up to his standards’ is an excuse to keep from giving you a raise. There’s probably other things he does to mess with you.

      Grey rock is your best response to this. Do your job, only your job, do not try to connect personally or give any reasons for changes in your performance. Try to find a new job, and read Alison’s work on surviving toxic workplaces. Good luck.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        OP if you’ve been on probation for three years, have you still been getting raises every year? If not, it could just be an excuse to depress your wages; if you haven’t been getting raises to keep up with inflation your salary is going down every year. I would seriously consider looking elsewhere.

    6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed. Ben is the work equivalent of the romantic partner that likes playing head games with partners. Also, I wouldn’t trust anything told to Ben to be used appropriately and wouldn’t give him any medical information at all.

      In this lovely Covid economy it may take a bit longer, but better is out there if you look for it.

      1. Artemesia*

        You may feel less depressed too when you realize that Ben is jerking you around (the analogy of the psycopathic partner who tries to keep you off balance is apt) and take control of your career. You have a job so you can search for a new one quietly without letting him now until you find something. Imagine the joy of giving him your two weeks notice. AND absolutely do not share anything with him about your mental health. Having a plan, searching for a new job and knowing you are not necessarily locked into this forever may brighten your day even before you find something.

    7. Sara without an H*

      What Observer said. OP#4, do not, do not, DO NOT share any personal information whatever with Ben. He is certain to abuse it. He is not a good boss, and nothing you do, or don’t do, is going to change that.

      I agree that you should start job hunting. It will take longer under Present Conditions, but it can be done. Check the AAM archives for helpful information.

    8. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. It’s like being engaged…but never married. Three years is long enough to take you off probation or let you go. Either you qualify or you don’t. I get the feeling he likes having you off kilter and if you look there are other toxic behaviors in that office.

      Don’t tell him anything…until you tell him you found a new job.

    9. Dream Jobbed*

      I have this vision of OP#4 sitting in the next evaluation hearing that once again they are on probation, are not meeting the standards, and get no raise. In a sickly sweet and deeply apologetic tone: “I am so sorry I am not meeting your expectations. Obviously you need a better employee, so it’s a huge relief to give you my two weeks notice due to the new job I am starting. I think this is a win-win for both of us – you get a “better” employee, and my pay went up 35%.” :D

      1. pope suburban*

        Oh, I hope for this! I regret that I couldn’t quit HellJob in a manner this clever, but I still savored “Ben’s” surprise when I handed in my notice. People like this are somehow always genuinely shocked that anyone wouldn’t want to spend the rest of their working days being berated and underpaid. I want OP4 to find a brilliant new job and take the wind completely out of Ben’s sails when she quits.

        1. Jules the 3rd*


          OP4, keep in mind: Ben really wants you. He wants you enough to play games to try to keep you (ie, undermining your confidence). For him to want you around this much, you’re probably very competent.

    10. 2 Cents*

      OP, don’t share that with him. He’s ridiculous (at best) and a terrible human (at worse). I’d love for you to find a great new job away from him and be able to say after HIS probation period with you, you’re cutting ties.

      1. I take tea*

        How is it even legal to keep somebody on probation that long? I second everybody saying it’s just a way of keeping down costs and excersising power in a petty way. I do hope that you can find something else.

    11. wee beastie*

      Did anyone else get Dread Pirate Roberts vibes? “Goodnight Wesley/LW4. Sleep well. I’ll Most likely kill you in the morning”

      Agreed on go job hunt. Make a list of what you do well and meditate on that. Don’t let this guy’s corrosive “management style” keep you from spreading your wings and flying to a new, better job!

  3. Casey*

    OP1, I’m an engineering student in college and I’ve seen portfolios from my classmates as well as applicants (I worked in the Admissions office). Personally, I think they’re more useful as a preparation tool than an actual presentation. I made one myself and quickly forgot to ever update it, but making it forced me to come up with a narrative about deliverables I had to produce for classes and extracurriculars, which made it easier to talk about in interviews or write in resumes or cover letters.

    Now I just have a Projects section in my master resume that I can tweak for specific postings, which I think works better for my discipline. I have heard more than one person say they got an interview because they got a hiring manager to look at their portfolio, but they were in mechanical and electrical engineering which seem to value projects and portfolios more. Like Alison said though, this is super specific to certain fields and not generally applicable.

    1. a sound engineer*

      I graduated last year with electrical engineering and I’ve never heard of portfolios being used (at least in my area of electrical engineering). I have a projects section in my resume too, but that’s it – if they want to know more about one or see the code, they will ask for it. In the job interviews I’ve had I would have been viewed as strange if I had shown up with a portfolio of college coursework.

      1. Casey*

        I was thinking more along the lines of a personal website that acts as a portfolio that they link to in their resume, not necessarily something they bring to an interview, but maybe it’s just a thing at my school!

        1. EPLawyer*

          No employer is going to go look at a personal website either. If they want to see your work, they will ask. If they don’t ask, they want to see it.

          1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            If the candidate is applying for a job designing or building websites (a very specific use case), then I can see the employer looking at a personal website. But even for candidates with engineering degrees, I’d expect this from students in Computer Science (often, but not always part of the Engineering college), not from say, Mechanical Engineering students. I wouldn’t expect it at all from someone in, for example, accounting.

            When interviewing people for software development roles, I like to be able to see their GitHub account. But it’s not a requirement by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it a portfolio in the traditional sense of the word (although it can serve a similar purpose).

            1. natter*

              Yeah, there are cases for it. My husband – a software engineer – got his current job when the hiring manager was on the fence about calling him for an interview and then checked out his website. It was actually a blog post that swayed the hiring manager in his favor (it sounds ridiculous, but I swear on my grandmother’s grave, this is true – my husband likes writing about software engineering problems) but I’m sure the hiring manager looked at some actual code, as well.

              Not that this can or should be generalized to cover every field or situation. Not by a long shot. But in some circumstances, it can be one thing that narrows the applicant pool.

          2. ian*

            In tech-related fields, it is not uncommon for candidates to include a personal website without being asked, and in my experience employers will look at it and if its good will take that as a good sign. In fact, I’d highly recommend it for anyone in the tech industry – it’s easy, quick, shows that you have some grasp of technology, and it’s a good way to show off other projects or code you’ve worked on (and if you’re up to it, can be a good place to work on some additional projects).

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I use a personal website at a “one stop shop” for my articles, code samples, outreach materials, broader project write ups from funders, etc.. I don’t put it on my resume, but I have found it a handy way to share additional information when requested. Some of the projects I have worked on are quite old, so I have links to archived project pages in case someone is interested. It is kind of nice to be able to say, “Oh I have that linked on my website, I’ll send it to you” if someone asks about a project I did 15 years ago.

      2. Cat Tree*

        I’ve been working in engineering for over a decade and I have never heard of portfolios for engineers. I’ve interviewed candidates and no one has ever offered one. As a chemical engineer, I’m not sure what I’d even put in one? All my projects are confidential to the place I worked for at the time, but even if I could share the details I don’t see what benefit it would bring over just describing the project on my resume. The closest thing I can think of was an entry level position that requested an example of technical writing, but that was based on a specific scenario they provided ahead of time.

        That said, I guess I could maybe see it being useful in the types of engineering that generally require a PE license, like structural or civil. Maybe they could provide examples of designs they have done? It’s still a stretch though.

        1. Frank Doyle*

          I’m a civil engineer with a PE, and I’ve never heard of anyone using or requesting a portfolio either. I’ve been in the workforce since 2000 CE. I really don’t think this is a thing.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      I was going to say something like this.

      And not just a preparation tool, but also a record to keep of work over the course of one’s life. Sort of the “details” area of a master resume, even if it’s not intended to typically be shared.

        1. Allonge*

          Of course it can be made useful – but that is a different thing from ‘all high school students must have this to get a job’. From what LW1 wrote, the school staff is not quite clear on the difference. Do you have any trust in them being able to convey it to students who are by definition not familiar with long-term working world?

          1. natalie*

            OP1 here …. I think part of what I’m learning from your responses is that we need to clarify the purpose and intent behind this “portfolio” and make sure that is part of the training of the school staff. One concern I have is that the school staff who will be teaching this piece will have no background in the fields their students will be going into.

      1. Spero*

        This is how I use it. For example, I once discussed details of a 7 years past project in a cover letter for a position that would have that sort of project often – there’s no way I would have actually remembered those details if I didn’t have some copies in my file cabinet. I don’t show it to the employer, but it reminds me of my ‘greatest hits’ and lets me speak as though I have better recall than I actually do!

        Also, if I’m having a really down day, it’s nice to be have some physical reminders that I’m a competent and accomplished person.

    3. Lora*

      Yeah, I mean, engineering manager person here – we are much more interested in internship activities and projects than class projects. I’ve seen some class projects and even dissertation work that was just…bad. We are much MUCH more interested in what you did that worked, what you were entrusted with, how it went, did you march through the project following directions or did you take the lead and really understand it.

      Example: I had Good Intern Eric and Bad Intern Mike. Eric dove into all the meticulous record-keeping, read through entire turnover packages and understood them, accompanied us doing Factory Acceptance Testing and learned how we do sizing calculations and worked with the trades to learn how they operated, and by the end of his internship we trusted him to run an entire project by himself. Eric LOVED walking down systems and performing function checks and learning the software. Mike found all of this painfully boring and one day refused to do it, went to the Associate Director and complained that all the tasks we gave him were boring scut work and he wanted to do research. We were not an R&D type of company, we built equipment for commercial use, but the Associate Director (instead of asking why Mike applied for this internship in the first place) tried to find some development-ish projects in another department that needed some automation help. Mike found that boring too and eventually stopped showing up halfway through the semester; when I asked the Associate Director where he was, the AD shrugged and said off working on his development project I assume – and we didn’t miss him for two solid weeks, most of us thought he had gone on sick leave or something. For Eric I would write the most glorious recommendation letter you ever did see. For Mike, I can’t even say “well, he tried,” because he didn’t. That’s what we’re trying to figure out, did you do an amazing job or did you get bored and someone gave you a pity grade – we can’t really tell from grade inflation so we don’t rely on GPA at all.

    4. engr*

      I’m a mech e, graduated in 2017, and I don’t know anyone who has a portfolio. I’ve been on a hiring committee once and we didn’t get any portfolios. When I applied to transfer to my current role last year there was no discussion of portfolios.

    5. ThatGirl*

      I’m a writer and editor – I’ve bounced around from newspapers to digital marketing to creative copywriting – and it’s funny, it seems more company-specific and maybe niche-job specific (agency copywriting vs. the creative department in a larger company) whether potential employers want a portfolio or not. I’ve sometimes thought I should have one, just to show the breadth of my work, but when you do primarily e-comm that can be tricky.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, I’m a writer and editor as well (wasn’t always my primary job duty though), and when I got into proposals three years ago, no one asked to see a portfolio. I was told my cover letter was what got me an interview since I had no prior experience with proposals or any other kind of writing-intensive position like comms or marketing. Then when I interviewed for my current role as a content development manager at a software company, I wasn’t asked for a portfolio either. I wrote a cover letter, which the hiring committee loved, and then they had me do a writing exercise.

        I’m in a graduate technical writing certificate program at the moment because I wanted to hone my technical and design skills, and I have to develop portfolio pieces by the end of all three of my courses. I’m told by people in my cohort that they’ve been asked for portfolios when interviewing places, so I assume that it’s like you said – company dependent and maybe industry dependent. Still, I have a few pieces now that I can pull out of my back pocket in the future if need be, but I think most places I end up interviewing with will just have me write something fresh as an exercise since it’s hard to know if a piece written in advance was truly the work of the person submitting it or if they had serious editing help along the way.

        1. starsaphire*

          Yeah, most writing jobs are going to give you a prompt for a writing exercise if they want to see your work. (Big Tech Company Starting With a G sends you, like, a half dozen exercises, if you even get that far.) And like you said, a writing job really needs a good cover letter.

          I have been asked for writing samples, but when that’s happened, I’ve been asked to bring them in or email them as PDFs — I’ve never been expected to have a website or online portfolio.

          As always, YMMV.

        2. Just a Cog in the Machine*

          I graduated with a degree in technical writing, and we had to have a portfolio to graduate, along with an internship. I think it helped me get my first job, because I could show it to the interviewer and they could see that even though I didn’t have “job experience,” I clearly had technical writing experience for various audiences, etc. But that was 2002.

          When I got my second job in 2013, I don’t think I brought my portfolio, but I did bring in a few writing samples from my job. But by then I already had 11 years of experience, so I think a portfolio would have been less helpful, and it’s not something I’ve been keeping up to date or anything.

    6. Some Lady*

      Another educator here who is now in the non-profit instead of K-12 world – no, we do not want to see web portfolios from high school students, or most applicants. If we do even look at them, there’s a much stronger chance this will be a detriment to an application than a plus, precisely because it’s so out of touch with job search norms (with, of course, the exception of a few industries, most of which would not be hiring straight out of high school as Allison says). Anything they create can be up there FOR EVER and if potential employers google them, which they might, it could be findable even if they don’t include it.

      On the other hand, is creating a web page a good project for high school students? Yes! Knowing SquareSpace and similar programs, simple coding, how to organize information online to be both engaging and clear, having an end product they can share with their friends and family–all good aspects of project-based learning! Done well, this could be a valuable learning experience that could help them in all sorts of future endeavors. But maybe the project should be for a product or service they want to sell or offer to the community, or a fundraiser they’re having for the school or a charity, or some other learning goal, rather than an employment portfolio. And the sites should probably be clearly marked as class projects so anyone who stumbles on them knows what’s up.

      And creating job application materials is also a good project. But it doesn’t help them to combine job searching and creating a small website into one project.

    7. Rayray*

      Just want to say, I think you make a great point that it was useful to have that portfolio as a preparation tool. I think many people missed your point entirely.

    8. Artemesia*

      I was involved in an interdisciplinary program that included lots of great hands on experience including a well organized and academically integrated internship capstone. But classes also often included serious community based projects. WE got sold one of those expensive portfolio programs — they are expensive, they are incredibly labor intensive to create, and ultimately they didn’t seem to be of much use as tools for our students to get work. Who wants to watch videos of presentations or read school projects when hiring? I hated doing it and it was part of my job. Video in particular is so labor intensive both to create and then to watch in real time. The cost benefit ratio is way off. Our students did very well compared to other programs in the University in getting those first jobs and also in getting promoted quickly but many of our other job prep efforts including helping them develop resumes and interview skills were more important than the portfolio which was pretty much a giant white elephant. I cannot fathom how anyone would think it would be useful at the high school level. No one seeking a job out of high school is going to be applying at places that want to review all this crap. Help them learn to present themselves and their skills but the portfolio is useless.

      And yes if your career is in graphic design, architecture, engineering and perhaps in performance, a very selective digital portfolio may be an asset, but not for most jobs. And even then ‘selective’ is the key.

    9. Rock Prof*

      Similarly, I’ve had a couple students/graduates who were asked for GIS portfolios but only when they were specifically applying for GIS-related jobs (and not all GIS jobs ask for one). I’ve never had a student applying for geologist positions be asked for a portfolio, though some of them have had to provide writing samples or presentations that could have come from course work. I tend to just suggest that students keep some stellar examples of things organized for themselves, but there definitely doesn’t seem to be a need for this to be an online presence.

    10. Massmatt*

      Portfolios are a thing in certain fields/professions, and people giving career advice should know which fields those are. Alas, it seems many do not.

      When I was hiring many years ago for retail I had a few HS students apply with portfolios. At the time it was an actual folder with essays and drawings, etc. I had no idea why anyone thought I’d want to read someone’s essay on The Great Gatsby to decide who to hire to work in my store. One such hire kept pushing to demonstrate his artistic ability. Um, this is a store, and not an arts and crafts store, no matter how well you draw (and honestly it was not that well) there is no outlet for that here!

    11. Nesprin*

      Eh, engineer here (I hire engineers too)- I ask all applicants “tell me about something you’ve built”. I love to hear about senior design projects, eagle scout projects, that time you built a shed, your garage fabrication project, that time you ran a blood drive etc, because I want to hear about how you plan out work, set goals and carry through despite setbacks. While class project work <<work that someone payed you for, for fresh from undergrad engineers, project work absolutely counts for something. I've had applicants tell me about the time their class project turned into winning a design and entrepreneurship contest- you bet I wanted to hire that student.

      Do I want to read through your website portfolio? Absolutely not. But is it a good idea to reflect on your projects? yes.

    12. Glitsy Gus*

      I agree with this. I think it’s a good idea to encourage students to keep track of things they have done that worked really well and that can show their skills, like that really well worded paper that your teacher said was your best work, or the spreadsheet you created to track fundraising for the French club trip to Paris (I’m totally pulling high school stuff out of thin air, for examples). Keep them in a well organized “portfolio” folder that you will always have access to (so, in your Dropbox, not on the desktop of your 4-year-old, school issued laptop) so you can remember what you did and the skills you have. It’s really easy to forget when it comes time to write a resume or when you’re sitting in an interview to remember all the good work you’ve done and to be able to easily talk about it. If you keep it at hand, it’s easy to review and keep it fresh in your mind.

      I can’t really think of why a potential employer would want to see it, though. I mean maybe if he’s really digging the sound of your French Club tracker you can offer to show it to him, but it won’t be any kind of requirement.

      1. Ripley Jones*

        ^ This. Former career advisor at a technical college here, and it always made me cringe when asked to speak to classes about portfolios in the cases where the course instructor would tell students to send their digital portfolio with their resume – or worse, bring a binder to interviews to leave with them. In order to not undermine the instructor’s portfolio assignment, this is exactly what I would tell students. Build that portfolio, keep it handy, and read through it before interviews. That way they are always prepared to answer behaviour and situation based interview questions, and detail their accomplishments, but for the love of pete, please don’t tell students to send these to employers.

  4. D3*

    I’d be willing to bet that Ben keeps all his assistants on probation the entire time they work for him, thinking that if they don’t feel their job is secure, they’ll work harder.
    You boss sucks and isn’t going to change. Move on.

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      I’d actually go further. I would take this time to properly set myself to finding another, better job with reasonable people (I realise that depression is a serious clinical illness, not a situational thing for a lot of people BUT I cannot imagine working for someone like this Ben person would improve your outlook by much at all) and then ask for a meeting and say that since you keep being told that your standards aren’t up to the mark, what with the whole ”probation for several years” situation, you’ve gone ahead and found a different job and that your last day will be on X date.

      He will be outraged, spluttering most likely, and make your life difficult for the notice period, but it will feel awesome.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I wonder if anyone has ever left his employ of their own free will, or if all of them have been fired while on permanent probation. Given how easy it is to fire employees in the US in general, I find this behavior very odd (in my area where it’s much harder to fire people in general, this would be illegal, the maximum probationary period permitted is 6 months, or if the employment is fixed term, for a maximum of half the fixed term, so 2 months for a 4-month employment). I suspect it’s as D3 says, that the boss thinks his employees will work harder if they know they’re on probation. This behavior is awful and I truly hope the LW can find a better job soon.

        1. Quickbeam*

          I once took a job with state government that had a strict probationary period prior to permament hire. In my first 6 months, a colleague pulled me aside to warn me that the manager had no intention of letting anyone be permanent in that position; once permanent, the funding came from a different bucket. I found out there had been 5 people in the position prior to me, all “let go” at the one year mark.

          It was used as a tool to staff using a different funding source. I jumped before I was pushed. Its demoralizing to be in probationary limbo that long; I hope the LW looks for better, more reasonable work elsewhere.

      2. Khatul Madame*

        Yes! This is how you effect poetic justice.
        I should add that your mental health improvement will make it easier for you to search jobs and to interview.
        Also, you didn’t mention whether you ever received merit or cost of living raises, but take this chance to give yourself a raise.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Offtopic, I am absolutely in awe of your username. How? How do you know about khatul madan?

          1. Khatul Madame*

            It’s a classic and I hope everyone can learn about khatul madan. Too bad it’s so hard to explain to outsiders.

        2. voluptuousfire*

          Also getting interviews will also improve your morale. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel (even briefly) can be a huge mood booster.

      3. Quill*

        Anxiety and depression are usually multifactor, I would NOT be surprised if removing ben from OP’s life works as a piece of their treatment.

      4. boop the first*

        The thing about probation period though, is that it’s meant for both ways. There wouldn’t be a notice period.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yeah. I actually think in a lot of cases, ‘probation’ is used to signal to new employees that the relationship is still tenueous, and if you’re not working out, they’re not going to bend over backwards to make it work.

      If you’re on probation after three years, I have to think that’s just a boss who wants you to feel insecure on some level.

      1. High Score!*

        I worked for a guy like that once, he would tell every single employee how awful they were and list ridiculous flaws if he couldn’t think up any real ones and then explain that’s why there’d be no raise. He couldn’t figure out why the turnover rate was so high.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Or what I experienced with my Ben (was there for two and a half years) the Ever Moving Away from me set of standards, so that I could never be “Fully Successful” in the position.

          Yup, I left, and heard thru the grapevine that the next person hired dealt with the same crud as I had.

    3. Public Sector Manager*

      I’ve worked for some really, really bad employers in my time, and even the worst of the worst in my private sector days (e.g. Employer A illegally converting me to a 1099 contractor, Employer B breaking into their own office because they were high on meth and drunk), didn’t use permanent probation as a thing. I agree that this is Ben’s thing, and he’s being a major jerk. And I don’t say look for a new job lightly, but I think it is warranted here.

    4. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, this was my thought. OP, please start looking for a new job. Don’t let this guy warp you into thinking this is in any way normal.

      I would also suggest starting to feel out other coworkers who are on your manager’s level or higher that might be willing to be a reference for you down the road. Given what a tool your boss has been so far, I wouldn’t trust him to give a great reference. You can’t help that, but you can counter it a bit by having Joanne, who is the manager of the department you worked with the most, telling them OP is really great and she loved working with you.

  5. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    OP3: Privacy and security are hugely important in IT. I don’t want to scare you, but dishing about clients to your coworkers would be a fire-able offense in some cases, let alone sharing information about clients with another client. You need to be able to rein this in if you want to work in IT.

    1. Firecat*

      Not even just IT. Often folks using the same vendors are competitors. It was always a delicate navigation to get together with other users of our vendors products. If we had found out that they were telling other companies we used their services without clearing it with us first that would be a serious trust violation.

      1. RadManCF*

        In my previous career as a millwright, I did a fair amount of work for the Celtic Adhesive Strip Conglomerate. I was doing a small job at one of their plants, and one of the workers there told a story about a manufacturer’s rep for a machine that had been installed there in the past. This rep had apparently decided to ingratiate himself by telling them in great detail about an installation he had done for a competitor. The Celtic Adhesive Strip Conglomerate was not thrilled, and the next day, the area the machine was being installed in had been partitioned from the rest of the line with opaque plastic sheeting, complete with warnings that anyone who breached without permission would be removed from the property and banned for life.

    2. OP3*

      Yeah I’m aware this wasn’t my greatest moment. While thankfully I don’t actually work in IT (wanted to generalize things a bit) I’m definitely taking all this advice to heart.

      1. Firecat*

        Don’t beat yourself up. The thing to remember is that often the staff you interact with the most at a company can have the greatest say in renewing your services even if they are not in leadership.

      2. memyselfandi*

        You recognized what you were doing, reined yourself in and opened yourself up for feedback. That tells me that this is not your usual mode of operation. Maybe time for a break (can’t really call it vacation these days).

      3. Loosey Goosey*

        Lots of sympathy, OP3. I’m also a client manager and the tough clients give me soooo much stress. In my business, a few of the clients require confidentiality, so I take the mental perspective that *all* my clients are confidential, and I don’t discuss one client with another except in the most general terms. (“Some clients like to use X because of these reasons, while others prefer Y for those reasons.”) That helps avoid any slip-ups, and it keeps things professional. When I need to vent, I go to my coworkers!

      4. tiny cactus*

        I think once venting starts to veer somewhat out of control like this, it’s often a sign to reflect on the source of the venting and whether it’s something you’re able to change, willing to live with, or ready to step away from. On some level, I feel like we vent because subconsciously we’re hoping that it will lead to some kind of resolution–we just want our problems to be heard.

      5. Dream Jobbed*

        You caught yourself, reflected on it, and are trying to make improvements.

        We all make mistakes, but you are handling yours pretty well considering everything.

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

      I’d stretch it to say that sharing any kind of information with someone outside your team could be a fireable offense. Venting to your team? Ok, sure, no problem. Venting to your next door neighbor? Not a good move. Venting to a client? Your manager and Security would be at your desk by the time you come back from the toilet. You shouldn’t talk about work outside even if you’re not under a NDA or your work is not marked as confidential.

      1. Metadata minion*

        Is this more of a common thing when you’re dealing with proprietary information? As a librarian, there’s some stuff I deal with that’s actually confidential and I wouldn’t vent about specific people by name, but sharing what I’m doing at work with people outside of it is very, very normal here.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        You shouldn’t talk about work outside even if you’re not under a NDA or your work is not marked as confidential.

        Eh. I’d say this is extreme. I used to work in claims, and we for sure talked about our cases with outside parties all the time while not divulging names or other personally identifying information. It happens and we all kept our jobs.

      3. Lalaroo*

        Seriously? Even saying “I’m really busy at work right now” would be a fireable offense? That seems so extreme, I’m really glad I’m not in that kind of field.

        1. nonegiven*

          My son says he is limited on what he can say about work, if someone invested or divested based on something he said, that could be insider trading. He’s just a software developer.

      4. Indy Dem*

        So basically, anyone who writes in to this website, or comments on Friday open letter should stop doing so? Because it’s venting. Asking for help yes, but venting all the same.

    4. Artemesia*

      Yeah this is a fireable offense. I would go and sin no more and hope this doesn’t come back to bite you; it probably won’t, but don’t draw attention to it and hope it is soon forgotten.

  6. Firecat*

    #3 As a client I would be really irritated if you told that you were a week late because you let a pushy client take all your time.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yeah, I think you want to be a bit wary of sending the message that you reward difficult and pushy clients.

      I wonder if the real issue here is that you need to establish some better boundaries with Company B?

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

      But If company b is a known I duatry problem company, I could see the other person understanding. Especially if it was something more major, like all.tjeor servers kept crashing, where as the other company only needed something simple.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I hired an HVAC person to come look at some air flow issues in my house that meant some rooms were much colder than others. He rescheduled a couple of times, and his admin person said it was because there was an apartment building with a boiler that was broken so people didn’t have heat. That struck me as the kind of situation where referring to another client can be okay – his was basically a solo company, or at least very small, it was emergency work versus not, etc.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yes, I can see it in terms of “this other client had an emergency, while yours was a routine problem.” It shows that you’re responsive to emergencies, and I’d actually appreciate that information, as a client.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yup – I think this is the only way it’s acceptable to refer to another client when talking to a first client: “Sorry I’m late, other client had a massive emergency that took more time than anticipated to get fixed.”

        3. Glitsy Gus*

          Agreed, if there is some kind of extenuating circumstance that led to you needing to set everything else aside you can mention that. I wouldn’t recommend going into a lot of detail, that isn’t their business (especially when it comes to data and IT stuff) but a quick, “I apologize for the delay, we had an emergency with another client (don’t mention which client) that really did need to be handled right away,”

          In this case, it’s best to keep it vague, and give a general, “I’m so sorry for the delay on this response. It’s been very busy over here this week and I fell a little behind.” Or something like that. Don’t bring any other clients into it. I know it’s tough, especially with clients that you do have good rapport with, but it is important to keep that stuff in-house.

    3. Colette*

      Agreed. At best you are saying that you can’t manage your time so that you work on the stuff company A is paying you to do.

    4. BRR*

      Same. Honestly if a vendor said they took a week to reply to my email (depending on the email) because of another client, vented about a client, and then asked to keep the vent between us I would be questioning using that vendor.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        I think the big problem isn’t saying something about an unnamed and unrecognizable other client, but the fact that LW themself sees their behavior as venting and asked to keep it confidential. Makes me think that they said something else than literally just “sorry about my late reply, I was incredibly busy with another client” which most people probably wouldn’t see as either inappropriate venting or a confidentiality issue. Also one big problem here is that a week to reply to an email is super long. Even if you wouldn’t be able to answer to everything immediately you should at least give some kind of preliminary answer pretty soon.

    5. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I’ve been guilty of doing this internally as an R&D guy – Salesman A’s request is more important to the business, but Salesman B is noisier so his problem gets priority. We ended up having to make the salesmen follow a process to request lab work rather than letting them ask for favors directly.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        We call this the “squeaky wheel that gets all the grease.” You do what you can to placate that one wheel so it will shut the heck up, but sometimes your other wheels don’t get the attention they need and then they start squeaking, too!

        1. Artemesia*

          There is a reason you see absolute jerks having tantrums in stores or restaurants — they have learned that it often gets them comped.
          I once read that on phone trees some are programmed to respond to irritation with a person on the line. The very next time I was getting the ring around the phone tree routine when I had an urgent question, I started swearing into the phone — IMMEDIATELY I was transferred to a human being who solved my problem. So sometimes even IT programs a business to respond to rude jerks and let polite people twist in the wind.

          1. nonegiven*

            If I say ‘representative,’ the phone software claims to not understand me. When I start swearing at it, I get sent to a person very quickly. So now, I will go ahead and swear at the phone before I get pissed. It seems to pay off.

    6. Massmatt*

      Yeah, I don’t want to pile on to the OP but if I were the “nice client” getting told this I would wonder 1) why do I care? Your relationship with another customer is not my problem.
      Respond to my emails in less than a week, dammit 2) do I have to be less “nice” to get a response from this person? and 3) is she talking like this about me to other clients?

      Again, not to pile on and we’ve all had demanding and/or obnoxious clients but the clients don’t need to hear about it except maybe in forms of praise “You’re so good to work for, you always know exactly how you want your llamas groomed” etc.

      Don’t beat yourself up about it.

  7. Free now (and forever)*

    As I read the question about the holiday party during the pandemic, I had the same reaction that I have to most of the Covid-related questions posted here, which is: where the heck do these people live? I live in Connecticut and this wouldn’t even be thought of as a possibility here. It makes you realize why this pandemic is ongoing and getting worse. My sympathies to the OP.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this. I’m in an area where they’re limiting events indoors to 10 people for the Christmas season at least, even though our numbers are looking a lot better than most parts of the US and Europe. I do hope the OP can avoid going to the party without too serious consequences.

    2. Moeg*

      I wonder this too. We’re back in lockdown in the UK, though by some metrics we’re doing worse than the US so it’s well-justified. But there are still people who consider it no big deal. I got a sheet of anti-lockdown propaganda through my letterbox quoting such experts as “US President J.F. Kennedy’s nephew” as his leading qualification (followed by more relevant qualifications, but I forget those after that absurdity) and “Dr so-and-so (an old man in a wheelchair)”. Because Dr always means MD (though it could have done, I didn’t check) and use of a mobility aid is the same as vulnerability to respiratory illness, I guess?

      1. Not On A Break*

        I have no idea whether what you received was legitimate or not, but why did you dismiss it as “from an old man in a wheelchair.” Ableist? Ageist? Sexist? All three?

        1. TechWorker*

          I read this to mean the leaflet was implying ‘even this elderly man in a wheelchair (who is implied to be vulnerable) doesn’t agree with lockdown!’, not that the dismissal of their opinion was based on age/gender/use of a wheelchair.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I read it the same way. Moeg clarifies it in their last sentence. Nothing to be outraged about!

        2. Easily Amused*

          I read it as the writers of the pamphlet seemed to be indicating that being in a wheelchair was supposed to give them some qualification to comment on the pandemic. Because of the last line “use of a mobility aid is the same as vulnerability to respiratory illness, I guess?”

        3. Moeg*

          That was a direct quote from a list of “further information” on the back of the sheet, the person who dropped it in my letterbox was an able-bodied woman from what I saw. It’s the fact that the actual words “(an old man in a wheelchair)” were written before (and indeed instead of) any other qualification, as if his use of a mobility aid gives him authority to speak on the level of danger coronavirus poses, that I find laughable.

          As to “legitimate”, it wasn’t from any kind of group or organisation, there was no call to action, it was just a sheet of paper making claims that lockdown is a bad idea for various unconvincing and in places contradictory reasons.

          1. Moeg*

            As is credible information, but if you’ve been handed a leaflet on black holes you can’t tell me you’re not more likely to listen to someone listed as “Director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge” than someone listed as “an old man in a wheelchair”, even if both are true. It’s not that being old or in a wheelchair makes credentials invalid, it’s that it isn’t a credential, so why is it being listed as one?

            1. Amaranth*

              I initially thought that was your observation about their marketing technique, not copy from the brochure, because spelling it out is a really bizarre choice.

        4. Lalaroo*

          Moeg used quotation marks, which mean that “Dr. S0-and-so (an old man in a wheelchair” came from the leaflet, and wasn’t some editorializing on Moeg’s part.

          Moeg didn’t dismiss anything as “from an old man in a wheelchair,” and calling Moeg ableist, ageist, or sexist because you missed the quotation marks isn’t cool.

      2. Applesauced*

        I think one of the Kennedy kids was a whistle-blower on Jared Kushner’s Corona-virus Task Force that was basically a bunch of unpaid interns a room told “fix it” (aka, the Task Farce)

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Practical reactions to the pandemic vary wildly from region to region, even within the US. Where I live, I never see someone in a store without a mask. Another typical scenario: I am walking down the hall at work. Two people are standing at the elevators talking, with their masks down around their chins. They see me approaching and immediately pull their masks up. Yes, it would be better if they had their masks on the full time, but this is better than striking a Freedom! attitude about it. In practice, it has entered the realm of commonly accepted etiquette. But I gather that there are many regions where Freedom! still wins out.

    4. Luke*

      Midwest. My current employer is allowing remote work and provided face coverings- an amazingly forward thinking act for the local culture. Which is one of abject denial. I don’t even think it’s political- pandemics are scary . Easier on the nerves to keep your daily routine and reject it as a total invention.

      Multiple businesses here are still open as usual, full parking lots and all. As my routine lately is work->grocery store> home, I can’t speak to how frequently people wear masks out in public.

      1. Helen J*

        Same here. I see people at work pulling their masks down around their chins, pulling them out to speak, some with their nose out and not social distancing. Even though we have phones and cameras were installed for meetings, people have become lax and pop by to ask something. I feel like getting one of those folding screens and putting it up with a sign that says “Please call or video conference me”.

        I try to go to the grocery store first thing in the mornings, grab what I need, take it all home and go to work. I’m lucky that I live within 10 miles of my job and preferred grocery store.

        Stay safe everyone!

    5. Anon Today*

      I’m in Texas. I chair the Chamber of Commerce. I’m resigning today because the rest of the board voted to hold a 400 person banquet in February. I was the lone no vote.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        That is either wildly optimistic or wildly stupid. We just decided that there will be no Christmas party/lunch this year.

          1. virago*

            I’d love to talk to the “Muh freedoms!” crowd about whether they wear bright orange when they walk in the woods during hunting season. That’s a protective mandate that people don’t seem to have any problem following.

            1. doreen*

              TBH, that’s probably only because hunters have been known to blame people not wearing that bright orange for their own deaths – even when the people who die were not hunting or even in the woods, but rather in their own backyard.

              1. virago*

                You may be referring to the fatal 1988 shooting of a woman in her backyard in Hermon, Maine. I live in Maine and I sadly remember people blaming the victim after the man who shot her said he had seen her white mittens and mistaken them for the underside of a deer’s tail.

                But to put it gently, there are some issues with his story. I won’t go into all of them, but even I — a lifelong nonhunter — know that you don’t shoot a deer in the rump. It’s not ethical because it doesn’t kill the deer quickly.

                The hunter was tried and acquitted of manslaughter in October 1990.

                Re: hunter orange: Massachusetts, in 1961, was the first state to mandate that hunters wear hunter orange, after Field & Stream magazine endorsed it based on the recommendation of a panel of vision experts.

                Today, 40 states, including Maine, require hunter orange. And as The Daily Beast points out, the states where it is mandated “also dictate how much of the color a hunter must wear, varying from 144 to 500 square inches, sometimes an entire garment. And all of it must be on the upper body.”

                And people get huffy about wearing a tiny mask.

            2. its just me*

              But does any of it go too far? Our neighboring state has mandated that family members not in the same ‘pod’ (not living in the same house) should not be together for Thanksgiving (and threw in a statement that our houses are now the most dangerous places for the virus , where we are infecting our loved ones). In my house it is my husband and I and our grown Son lives by himself in the same town. But he should not come to our house for Thanksgiving – and should be alone I guess. I get maybe not having a giant gathering – but really they don’t want people ‘mixing’ at all – sorry but I just cannot do it.

              1. orangewater*

                You can do whatever you want, because in the US there’s generally no enforcement behind these suggestions that local governments make. It doesn’t make sense to say any rule goes “too far” when there is no teeth in it whatsoever. Police aren’t knocking on doors and dragging people out of private residences. If I’m reading this correctly, you’re mad that a neighboring state has set down rules that make you feel guilty about your Thanksgiving plans – and I just don’t agree that it’s the state’s job to ease that guilt.

                I’m sorry you don’t like hearing that private residences are dangerous for the purpose of spreading the virus, but they are. You’re in an enclosed space with people, not wearing masks, for an extended amount of time. It’s pretty much a checklist of how to make a space hospitable to covid. Any feelings we have about the importance of Thanksgiving or the desire to eat together don’t change this. And yeah, it really stinks. It means many of us are skipping out on beloved traditions and you’re right, it is sad – but that’s the reality of it.

                Small gatherings are better than large ones, yes. But if you are carrying the virus or your son is carrying the virus, odds are super high that you’re going to pass it on to each other after a few hours together at the Thanksgiving table. If that’s a risk the three of you are all willing to take, you are allowed to make that decision since, again, there’s no enforcement otherwise. You won’t be alone in it. But it’s not good from a public health standpoint if households all over the place are making these kinds of decisions, and it’s not the state’s job to pretend otherwise.

                1. Former Employee*

                  Hear, Hear!

                  Plus, depending how many people the son interacts with, how bad things are in their area, and how old the commenter and her husband are, this could be a problem.

                  As an older person who lives alone, I will be spending Thanksgiving by myself.

        1. Helen J*

          We just word this morning that our staff holiday is to be cancelled. I never attend anyway, but cancelling is the right call, IMO. I honestly don’t think we’ll have any type of events where I work until at least 2022, which I again think it is the right call.

        2. Sara without an H*

          Yeah, we cancelled ours, too, much to everybody’s relief. Staff were given gift cards in lieu of the annual end-of-year-appreciation lunch.

      2. TechWorker*

        Feels like a news story? (I am not a journalist so no worries on my behalf but your description doesn’t sound very anon, I’m not sure if you wanted to be!)

        1. Peridot*

          It’s not very newsworthy in Texas, unfortunately, when the state government is fighting local governments who try to put further restrictions in place.

      3. CoffeeAllDay*

        My jaw just dropped reading this! In CT this wouldn’t even be a thought, let alone something to be voted on.

      4. Third or Nothing!*

        Also a Texan. Sounds about right. My company is still going ahead with their in person Christmas party. I seriously doubt anyone will be wearing masks. As far as I know they don’t wear them in the office.

      5. yala*

        Ugh, I’m so sorry, that’s infuriating.

        I’m a little to the east of y’all, and everyone here is incredibly stupid. Our governor tried to sort of do something, but our Mayor has been undercutting all of it.

    6. Midwest Problems*

      Ohio here—I have only seen masks start to appear in public in the last month or so and it’s still pretty iffy. I utilize a HEALTHCARE PROVIDER that doesn’t enforce mask rules for patients or staff. One of my friends is a nurse with multiple colleagues who don’t believe masks are effective.

      1. Mel_05*

        A friend of mine took her mother to the doctor in Kansas and they didn’t wear masks. Her mom is vulnerable, so she asked the nurse to put on a mask and the nurse looked at her like she was nuts!

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Pure insanity. My favorite provider uses masks and has air cleaners in each room. No waiting inside either.

          1. Liz*

            Yes! I’ve been to several different dr. appts, both for me and my mom. Each one they have you call or text that you’re there, and you are either told to come in, or wait in your car until they call you. And once in the waiting room, if you even have to wait, seats are marked off, and there’s no one else there. And ALL staff wear masks, and some face shields as well.

        2. Rayray*


          I’m in Utah and thought things were bad here. People wear masks everywhere I go except the lone straggler here or there. Many places aren’t allowing you in without masks and we actually just got a statewide mandate that masks are required. Certain areas of the state are being obstinate about it but I’d say majority are on board.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Right there with you in UT and the majority of people I see also have masks…..but gotta love the protest against masks group that took the protest to the private, family homes of the Governor and Lt Governor over the weekend…..

      2. Tired of Covid-and People*

        If only beliefs changed facts. I find Covid-denying health care practitioners an especially strange breed, since masks and other PPE have always routinely been used in medical settings. I left one of my long-time providers over this, although the nurse was defying the office rules, I was no longer comfortable there. Yes, I reported her before I left the facility.

      3. Malarkey01*

        My mother lives next to a NURSE in rural MO that was saying CoVid was a hoax that would go away after the election. Their small rural area had not had any cases. Well now the nurse has it and she is apparently legitimately confused about how she got a made up illness and asked the large metro hospital 150 miles away for “that special shot she knows they were hiding that instantly cures it”. It is ripping through their small community because no one was masking or distancing and were still attending large events today. It’s so incredibly sad and frustrating.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yup – Darwin Award Winners in motion (though I heard those weren’t going to happen in 2020).

        1. PostalMixup*

          As a resident of a major metro area in Missouri, it’s so frustrating because a huge chunk of our hospital beds are taken up by residents of the rural areas who refuse to take basic public health precautions. It’s a good thing that people here are generally compliant, because otherwise we’d have exceeded our hospital capacity already. As it stands, they’ve started refusing transfer requests from rural areas and we’re predicted to exceed capacity by December.

        2. yala*

          I was reading an absolutely heartbreaking thread from a nurse caring for covid patients talking about how some of them STILL believe it’s a hoax, even when they have it–as in, they clearly don’t have covid, because covid isn’t real or serious, it must be something else. And even if they do have covid, there’s totally a cure or something, isn’t there? I mean, trump got better and said it was no big deal, so just give them whatever that cure was. It can’t be covid. They’re cursing and ranting basically up until the point that they have to be ventilated.

          Another was saying that she’s had to tell a woman that her son had died of covid, and the woman still refused to believe it was covid.

          It’s a death cult, and nothing will change these people’s minds.

          1. Penny Parker*

            Steve Miller’s grandmother died of covid and he refuses to believe it was due to that. I read a major newspaper report on it when it happened last summer.

      4. PostalMixup*

        I have to find a new dentist because mine didn’t have any temperature checks or COVID screening questions at the door, the waiting room was packed, and the dentist was walking around without a mask. No thank you!

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          That’s horrible. I’m in Ohio, and my dentist is awesome. She removed her waiting room and turned it into a sanitizing area. Everyone in the office wears masks (receptionists can wear cloth or surgical masks while the dentist and hygienists wear surgical masks and face shields at all times), the dentist and hygienists wear surgical scrubs and change their gloves after every task they complete, and patients aren’t allowed to touch anything in the office (and if they do, whatever they touch gets sanitized immediately). This is the only place I feel safe going in my city to be honest – mask wearing is hit or miss, though everyone in my building wears them since my property management company mandated their use in all common areas or face fines and/or eviction for non-compliance.

          1. PostalMixup*

            The wild thing was that I specifically asked about precautions, and the reality was NOTHING like they told me it would be. They told me I’d wait in my car and call when I arrived for screening. I called, they were like, “come on in!” At least they asked everyone to wash their hands on arrival – if only there had been soap in the bathroom…

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Wow. Yeah, you should report them to the dental board. I’m pretty sure they should have procedures in place that are COVID-specific (my state dental board does).

        2. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Wow, my local Costco takes more precautions than your dentist. We’re in the midst of the second wave and the numbers so far are trending higher than the first one. People are following the protocols because no one wants to be locked down for any longer than necessary.

          1. Cat Tree*

            I have always loved Costco and now I do even more. They recently changed their policy so that people who can’t wear masks due to medical reasons must now use a face shield. And Costco is set up so it would be hard to sneak in without one. Now, if we could just convince everyone to wear their masks in the crowded parking lot. Being outside is lower risk but it’s not magic.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              I need to have “Being outside is lower risk but it’s not magic” printed up on 1000 billboards and placed EVERYWHERE. Being outside doesn’t automatically mean that no one can catch or transmit COVID. It’s a little less likely, but by no means a guarantee, and I wish people would stop acting like “you can’t catch COVID outside” was universally true.

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                Remember the Rose Garden party the weekend before the White House came down with the plague…..

                (Yes, I know there were other parts of the event that were inside, with no masks or distancing) but not everyone who was infected then got to go to the “exclusive” indoor portion.)

        3. Quiet Liberal*

          Yep, my dentist’s office was exactly like this when I arrived for my regular checkup in August. Nope! They were surprised when I called them from outside the office window and said I didn’t feel comfortable coming in and to please cancel. Man, I hate not having my teeth cleaned every six months, but I’d hate getting COVID-19 worse!

      5. fellowOhioan*

        Dang Midwest Problems where in Ohio are you? I am fellow Ohioan and everywhere I go people are great about masks. I live in NE area near Cleveland.

        1. Old and Don’t Care*

          Yeah, I’m in Cincinnati and I would say since the order was issued in July people have been wearing masks where they’re required to. I go to the grocery store two or three times a week and can count on one hand the number of people I’ve seen without a mask. (Generally people who have to take off their mask to call someone about what salad dressing to buy.)

          Where masks are not required, I see them a lot less. People generally don’t wear them walking or standing around outside, or while seated at restaurants.

    7. Nikki*

      I’m in the Midwest and people here are stunningly lax about taking precautions. Everyone acts as if everything is normal, just with masks when you’re inside (most of the time). Meanwhile, cases here are exploding. A couple days ago, the neighboring county responded to the huge increase by implementing some new restrictions: bars now have to close at midnight and gatherings are limited to 50(!!!) people, but if you want a larger gathering you can still submit a request for an exemption detailing the safety precautions you’ll have in place. I have very little hope that anything will get better here any time soon.

      1. Mel_05*

        Same! We have a big university in the next town, which isn’t helping, but it’s also just people having big parties and acting like nothing is happening.

      2. Quiet Liberal*

        Idaho here. My county has had one of the highest per-capita number of cases in the nation for quite a while now. Hospitals are literally turning away COVID-19 patients because there is no room. Like your area, Nikki, mine is in total denial about this pandemic and the majority opinion is that it’s a liberal hoax. This is so depressing. I have no advice for the OP because this problem of acting like everything can be normal or even normal-ish will never change.

        1. Anon for this*

          *Waves in sympathy from western Montana*
          We drive to the nearest big town to get groceries because our county has way too many mask refusers. The highway department put up one of those lighted message signs along the road saying “wear a mask/masks save lives” and someone’s already vandalised it.

          And people are still packing into restaurants etc. I’m sure there will be holiday parties like the OP is describing, and like that infamous Maine wedding, people will die who didn’t even attend, because that’s how contagious diseases work.

        2. alienor*

          The “liberal/election-related hoax” stuff is particularly bonkers to me because it’s a GLOBAL pandemic. I don’t understand how people can see that nearly every country around the world is wearing masks/enacting restrictions/having full lockdowns and still think it’s all about the US and our politics. I have asked a few of them why they think Italy or Argentina or Japan would inconvenience themselves and damage their own economies over an election in another country and they’ve got no answer for that.

      3. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Metro Chicago here, which is also midwest but I rarely if ever now see a maskless person.

        Nonetheless, I am totally pessimistic about the pandemic.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I am also in metro Chicago and have seen very good mask use (the worst is usually someone who doesn’t have their nose covered) but I did go into a restaurant to pick up dinner last week and saw that they were ignoring the ban on indoor dining. So I know there are people out there flouting the rules and ignoring guidelines.

          (Also, over the course of this year I’ve been to the dermatologist, dentist and salon and everyone involved was wearing masks and doing temp and symptom screenings, if I walked into a medical office and there were maskless people I would turn right back around and leave.)

        2. Quill*

          Same for northern suburbs of chicago, but I see kilroys every week, not to mention people who take their masks down to talk.

        3. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impared Peep*

          Suburban Cook County here, waving hi. I saw so many maskless people during the summer and when people were doing outside dining. They were willing to put on their masks but with their nose exposed. I am 100% convinced those people doing so helped our numbers climb back up to being so high as they are now along with the fact that we’re now in cold/flu season. I wish our Gov would shut us down and I applaud Mayor Lightfoot for what she is doing.

      4. introverted af*

        I just saw that announcement come through yesterday – I’m assuming we’re both in the same area, I would be surprised if there was another county that had almost the exact same regulations.

        The worst part of it was, they limited club sports and their attendance but not high school sponsored sports. I assume those events have some guidance from the BOE but especially now that it’s moving into winter/aka mostly indoor sports, I’m concerned. I work in the nearby college town and one of my coworkers said that our higher ups are hoping that with students leaving town after Thanksgiving, cases will drop and everything won’t have to go back to major shut down. And then a day later, the superintendent announced that they will continue winter sports…. *facepalm*

      5. Rusty Shackelford*

        bars now have to close at midnight

        Because everyone knows you can’t catch a virus before midnight {rolling my eyes so hard}…

        1. Natalie*

          I had a similar reaction the first time I heard these time based restrictions. But our state health department, which has been very sensible and data driven (unlike some of our legislators) has also identified being in bars at later times as riskier and bars here have to close at 10. I’m assuming it’s correlational, not causal, such as people being in bars longer and thus drinking more, or later drinkers skewing younger or otherwise less risk averse, for example.

          1. Quill*

            My assumption is that it’s an attempt to limit the amount of unmasked time indoors / the drunkness, and therefore precaution-ineffectiveness, of the patrons.

    8. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I’ve been surprised by a couple of things that I’ve seen. I recently got takeout from a mediocre chain restaurant, because I’m pregnant and apparently the baby desperately wanted that. When I pulled in for curbside pickup, the restaurant was packed. Of course people can’t wear masks while eating. The weather was cold enough for everyone to sit inside, plus the tables were very close together with no barriers between them. I wouldn’t eat inside a restaurant even if someone paid me to, but I’m in several high risk groups and caring for an elderly parent.

      At first I was so judgmental, but after thinking about it I’m only a little judgmental of the people in the restaurant. First of all, we have had abysmal leadership at the very top (in the US). Some individual states have handled it better but they’re fighting an uphill battle to put in reasonable restrictions. Then, people see things opening up after lockdowns, and assume that means it’s safe. They assume that the re-opening is based on sound judgment, and that “they” wouldn’t allow us to do something if it’s truly unsafe. Combine this with quarantine fatigue and it’s a mess. Meanwhile, my state is having record high positive cases day after day and I’ll be spending Thanksgiving alone in my house to protect myself.

      1. Tisiphone*

        A lawmaker in my area who had been vociferously opposing anything that would help slow the spread tested positive a few days ago. Now he’s whining about how people are making it political.

        As for the holiday party, that law firm sounds like the workplace of an acquaintance from years ago. Their holiday party was explicitly mandatory. She had a broken rib and still had to attend. So, I’m with Alison’s Option #2 – RSVP yes and beg off at the last minute due to illness.

        1. Cat Tree*

          It’s impossible to avoid making it political when one major party either pretends the disease is a myth or are fine letting hundreds of thousands of people die because wearing a cloth mask is such a huge burden. I try very hard not to mention politics at work even though I think I’m on the same as everyone in my department. But it has reached a point that you can’t even mention COVID in a non-political way. The most neutral statement I can make is that I’m cautiosly optimistic about the COVID plan that will start on January 20.

      2. Dream Jobbed*

        Sorry, but I am still extremely judgmental. They have all the info I do and are deciding to endanger people because they are selfish and shallow. These people would have meant the end of the USA in WWII.

        And it is a choice. I have very conservative friends, Trump supporters, who would not dream of going out without a mask, both for themselves and others. They know enough to think for themselves, and care enough to protect others.

    9. OP2*

      I’m in the Midwest, and no one here seems to be taking the pandemic seriously. It doesn’t seem like something specific to the firm, but rather my whole area. People don’t wear masks here, I see posts from a lot of people having huge weddings or parties. It’s been rough trying to take this seriously when most others aren’t.

      1. Smithy*

        Because of that – I strong suggest going along AAM’s proposal of RSVPing “yes” and then coming down with food poisoning or whatever the day of. Other option would be that if there’s a major family/life event that those in your office would know about (i.e. engagement/wedding, new baby, very ill family member, etc.) then saying no due to something along those lines.

        Either way, I don’t think I’d raise the specific issue of COVID.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        It’s the same where I live too. I have so much sympathy for you. It’s so hard to see people going on with their merry lives, endangering themselves and others with their carelessness.

        My own company is going ahead with their in-person Christmas party too, and as far as I know no one in the office wears a mask at work so I doubt they’ll don them for the big annual shindig. I’ve sent my regrets already using the line “we are still isolating as much as possible due to our high risk status.” In my experience responding to invites during the time of Covid, people take it a little better when you make it clear that you have a blanket ban on all gatherings, not just theirs in particular.

    10. Totally Minnie*

      I mean, I’m in a red state and my boss held a lunch meeting last week (I did ask to opt out of the lunch portion of the meeting because I didn’t think it was safe for us all to sit in a room together with our masks off, but my coworkers didn’t care and all took off their masks to eat together), so I’m less surprised by this.

      OP, any time I’ve needed backup to counter my workplace’s seriously out of whack COVID policies, my doctor has been more than happy to meet with me by phone and write a letter to my employers. So you may be able to couch it as “at my recent doctor’s appointment I mentioned the Christmas party, and the doctor insisted that I should not due to my at-risk status, here’s the letter she wrote to that effect.”

    11. justabot*

      South Carolina here and it’s business as usual. My company is having an in-person holiday party, WITH families, spouses, partners, kids. We wear masks around the public, but almost everyone takes them off when it’s just employees. Literally no one seems concerned or cares. I am petrified going to work every day. There’s no pushback with other employees because apparently I am the only one who thinks this is insane. They roll their eyes and call me the yankee.We are in the hospitality industry. There is no social distancing. We get in tourists every day from all kinds of high risk areas, most of them coming to South Carolina because there are no restrictions here. There is no HR department or corporate office. PUA assistance is over. I can’t quit my job. It’s a nightmare. And yes, holiday party as usual!

      1. justabot*

        The crazy part is that my employers are actually really nice, reasonable, and accommodating people when it comes to just about everything else. (One reason I don’t want to outright quit…) But they don’t think covid is a thing… I guess?? (And we have very high positive rates here.) If I wanted to skip the holiday party by saying, “Oh I want to quarantine for 10 days before seeing my elderly parents for the holidays and skip the party” they would say, “Oh of course!” But the bigger issue is working with the public every day, which is part of my job – we are open for business and there’s really no alternative expect to quit. It’s not a job you can do remotely unfortunately. In other states, my job would be shut down but here there are no restrictions. They are “terrified” that “restrictions like that could happen here”… sigh.

      2. Spero*

        Also in SC and very similar situation. I also hold the ‘am I the only sane one here’ role. This state…

      3. RJ*

        I work for a flagship public university in this state. The staff were all supposed to go back to campus and we (faculty) were strongly encouraged to do so (basically unless our immediate boss was reasonable we were heavily pressured into teaching person). My friends in other industries are all back at work. And even people who claim they are safe are just…. not. Anyway this makes me feel less alone.

    12. Firecat*

      Fun story – I live an a Covid is fake/only cowards wear masks etc. State.

      I was wearing my mask in my car waiting for my carpool partner and a random guy walked by my vehicle. And was *so triggered* by my wearing a mask in my car that he went on a 2 minute plus profanity laden rant about me being scared/a ret**d/ Jesus F***ing Christ what is wrong with you/and much more…

      Two minutes! A complete stranger! Because I was sitting in my car in a public parking space wearing a mask!

      1. Jay*

        And you know those are the same people who want absolute zero-tolerance enforcement of school dress codes that don’t allow girls to wear leggings or sleeveless shirts or skirts about their knees – because somehow that’s *not* about FREEDOM and is not a sign of SOCIALISM UGGA BUGGA but rather a necessity to defend True American Values.

        I really do not understand why people are so angry about masks. I’m a doctor. I hate wearing the danged things. I’m a primary care/palliative medicine doc who has successfully avoided being in the OR since my third year of med school. I wear them now. Surgical masks or N95s for patient encounters, cloth masks when I’m out in public, which isn’t all that often. I get the objections to wearing them – I mean, I don’t agree, but intellectually I understand. It’s the unreasoning all consuming rage that baffles me.

        1. Firecat*

          They are definitely the same people who think an employer should be allowed to cite religion to not offer birth control while simultaneously demanding all planned parenthood’s close. So yeah would not surprise me.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        In my region, you get a major stink eye if you don’t wear a mask. It’s mandatory, businesses have signs stating no mask, no service. In the beginning, there were a few tantrums but those have mostly gone away. Most people realized how ridiculous they looked pitching a fit over wearing a mask.

    13. Liz*

      Same. I’m in a state very close to you where cases are on the rise, very quickly. I don’t even have a timeframe when we might go back into the office. let alone any kind of holiday celebration. We don’t do parties but individual depts. will go out for lunch. Pretty sure mine will NOT be doing that this year. Which I’m fine with. And yes, its stuff like that company who insist on doing SOMETHING that has caused cases to rise again.

    14. Momma Bear*

      Our company is trying to do something for the holidays. I’ve already decided I am not going. Not with COVID rates spiking locally. It’s not prudent. The part that is different for me, though, is no one is going to think I’m not a “team player” if I don’t go.

    15. Artemesia*

      we are trying to decide whether to have Thanksgiving around the fire pit outside in Chicago with our daughter’s family or bag it altogether. I am stunned that anyone thinks a banquet is wise or possible this season — and for a work party not even something deeply important like family event.

    16. Quill*

      Honestly after this long in the pandemic I don’t think it necessarily matters where (beyond country) because you can find kilroys and just-world-fallaciers and “just get back to normalers” under every rock you flip.

    17. Elmyra Duff*

      I’m in a COVID hot spot (Over 1000 new cases just yesterday) and my boss keeps scheduling parties/get-togethers for our team. Apparently before I started, she had a talk with the company (20 people, fully remote) about how they need to suck it up and come into our rented office space once in awhile to show that we’re still “out there.” I honestly cannot get my head around it.

    18. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I expect that their local government will solve this problem for them, by instituting a ban on large gatherings by December.

      They can just rat the company out anonymously to the health department’s designated tipline if they don’t want to attend, and get the event canceled.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        Oh, man. I wish my county health department had a tip line. Ours says we have to wear masks, but there’s no way of reporting places that aren’t complying.

    19. Spero*

      I live in SC. We have always done an in house catered lunch and afternoon of low key celebration/holiday games. My Trump-loving boss proposed this year that because everyone has been so ‘cooped up’ we should ‘amp up’ the holiday party by going out to a bowling alley and then to a restaurant.

      She only backed down when no less than 50% of staff refused to attend that type of event. ‘Backing down’ meant agreeing to do the usual in person meal/games, but relocating to a slightly larger room where we can distance.

  8. Greg C.*

    Op4: RUN! From what I read it sounds like this guy is a jerk who is stringing you along to take advantage of you and keep you in constant fear under his control. If you can afford it I’d seriously start job hunting and keep working on your mental health cause that kind of workplace will not do you any favors in the long term.

    1. Rayray*


      When you’re mentally abused in your workplace, you definitely feel unhappy and stressed but once you get out of it and can finally breathe, you’ll really realize just how bad it actually was. Your health and well-being will drastically improve once you get out of a toxic workplace. I got laid off from a terrible job. I wasn’t abused the way this OP is, but I can’t even begin to explain how much happier and better off I was once I got out of there.

      1. Lexi Lynn*

        I second RUN! because there is a good chance that this guy is also likely to describe your 3 years as “a temporary thing until we could get someone qualified approved” if he gets called as a reference.

  9. Liz*

    We had to do something similar to this portfolio idea when I finished mandatory schooling at 16. We were presented with a cheap leather file and encouraged to write a lengthy personal essay, a CV, and work we were “particularly proud of”. We were then presented with the file at a special assembly at the end of the year (my country doesn’t do graduations for high schoolers) and you got to keep your exam certificates in it once you got them through in the summer. Only most people then stayed on for another 2 years, rendering the personal essay completely out of date, and nobody wants to read the homework assignments of a bunch of 16 year olds applying to stock shelves in the supermarket. The thing went in a drawer and never saw the light of day. Even upwards of high school, academic work is rarely going to be relevant to an entry level job, and that’s what most full time students will wind up putting in a portfolio.

    Please don’t force kids to waste their time on this. They’ll know it’s nonsense. Believe me, we all did.

    1. Batty Twerp*

      That sounds very similar to the National Record of Achievement file. (Mine came with a little pocket to keep the 3.5″ floppy disk that held the templates so that we could continue to update it!)
      I wouldn’t say mine has been completely useless – just last year (for… reasons) I needed original copies of my English and Maths GCSE certificates, and lo and behold, there they were! (Took two days to find the leatherette folder, mind you)

      1. heatherbelles*

        I was about to say the same thing. I do something similar to it now, with my GSCE/A Level/Degree certificates, – except I tuck my passport in wthe little pocket for the cd instead. And I keep an up-to-date CV in it too.

        (its not in the old leatherette folder now – I thought that looked a bit naff, so it’s a plain black one now, but the concept isn’t terrible!)

      2. Liz*

        That’s exactly what it was! In the awful maroon plasticky faux leather! :) I did keep my GCSE results in it, only the first thing I did was put the results printouts in as a temporary thing. The ink transferred off and stuck to the little plastic pages, and then back onto whatever page I put in there after. But yes, keeping certificates all in one place is about the only thing it was good for. Only when I had to show my A level certificates for my postgraduate degree, it had been 12 years since I’d last seen the thing, and also took days to find it. I very nearly contacted my school for evidence because I couldn’t find it anywhere!

        1. Forrest*

          I have kept all my qualification certificates in my NRA for over 25 years now (got it in 1995!) and have just discovered the last few weeks that I’ve lost it. Guess I’m never leaving this job…

        2. londonedit*

          I immediately thought of my maroon plasticky fake leather Record of Achievement! Absolutely useless. I *think* it’s still somewhere at my parents’ house and I *think* it contains those little slips we received our GCSE and A level results on (I don’t think I have GCSE and A level certificates…!) but given I did my A levels 20 years ago, it’s been precisely 20 years since anyone actually cared or asked what I got in them!

          1. londonedit*

            Thinking about it I must have GCSE and A level certificates…but I obviously haven’t needed them in the last two decades :D

            1. JC*

              Im around the same time frame as you, and I’m fairly sure we didn’t get certificates, just the printed paper slip from various bodies with the subject and grade. The only thing I recall in my folder are the a level slips (no idea where the gcse one went), and later my degree certificate. The personal statement and other lists of “achievements” got chucked years ago. I’ve never had to show any of my certs in 10+years of full time work

              1. londonedit*

                Ah, maybe not then! I definitely have my degree certificate but that’s framed and is also somewhere at my parents’ house. I graduated in 2003 and no one’s ever asked to see my degree certificate, let alone my A levels or GCSEs.

                1. Batty Twerp*

                  That’s the bonkers thing about it. They asked to see my GCSE certificates for an external training course to prove I’m functionally literate in English and Maths. No interest in my A Level results, or the NVQ in Business Administration, or 20+ years workplace experience, it had to be my GCSEs…

                2. Forrest*

                  Definitely got A level and GCSE certificates in 1995 and 97! One from each awarding body with the subjects from that awarding body.

          2. UKDancer*

            I had forgotten the Record of Achievement. I think we’re about the same vintage Londonedit. I’m guessing that’s where my GCSE and A-Level certificates are but I’ve no idea where it is. Probably in my parents’ attic. Nobody’s asked to see my certificates since my university holiday jobs when I had to prove I had a GCSE in English.

            In all a complete waste of time.

            1. Forrest*

              Really? I work for universities and a large union and I’ve had to produce my degree and A level certificates at every new job I’ve taken.

              1. UKDancer*

                I think things are sometimes different in academia. My ex was in academia and his CV ran on for many pages and listed everything he’d ever published. I’m in business and my CV is much shorter.

                By and large people in my sector are more interested in what you’ve done rather than your qualifications. I mean I guess if you do a job like being a solicitor or a doctor you need to prove you have qualifications and it’s an offence to claim to be one if you’re not. But I’ve never been asked to prove my A level or Degree for any recent jobs.

    2. Not trying to be rude, just good at it*

      I engaged in many adventures, but was an urban high school business teacher for over 30 years. One of our progressive 9th grade teachers decided that every 9th grader should have a portfolio. The teachers hated the idea and the kids hated it more. The bosses loved it, and that was that. The school had a fire drill on a frigid February day and we were standing on the football field for an extended time (a coat locker was set on fire). I watched a couple of boys remove their portfolio’s from their book bag and make a bonfire. Suddenly dozens of portfolio’s were sacrificed for the greater good. The teachers stood back with amused faces as the administrators tried to stop the massacre. We were “so sad” the portfolio experiment ended in a ball of flame.

      1. Liane*

        I love this! Have you considered submitting it to the Not Always Right site? It has a Not Always Learning category for school anecdotes.

      2. Massmatt*

        This really is a practical application of an otherwise useless idea! Careful burning plastic/leatherette folders though, fumes can be nasty.

      3. Egg*

        Starting in junior high my dad insisted that I save every essay I wrote. According to him, sharing those essays with employers would give me a leg up in the hiring process. I’m now in my 20s, I have a BA, I’m employed, and at no point did anyone ask to read my essay about Romeo and Juliet for 8th-grade English class.

  10. Mid*

    Tangential but also related: how do people foresee the increase in remote work playing into state labor laws? I feel like we’re going to start seeing changes—either states agreeing to honor other state’s rules, or some sort of consolidation between different states’ laws.

    1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      I think it’s more likely that future hiring will still occur within state lines. Even for remote jobs, it’s helpful to train in person. Plus I think the narrative is starting to look more like remote work actually isn’t working universally well.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Your assessment absolutely isn’t true. Check sites such as Flexjobs, remote work was exploding before the pandemic. And what’s so helpful about training in person?

        1. Metadata minion*

          I find training and being trained in person much easier. Remote training is absolutely possible, and if remote work is going to be better for someone employers needs to be able to figure out the training angle if that’s the only barrier. But if I’m learning a new procedure or piece of software, it’s so much easier to be looking at the same screen together and pointing at things and be able to immediately see someone’s expression and get an idea of whether they’re taking it all in. Screensharing technology is advancing rapidly, but it still doesn’t allow for the kind of seamless back and forth you can have when you’re both using the same computer.

          I’m hoping we’ll see a lot more jobs move to be remote since that opens up so many possibilities for people, but I am a bit worried that some companies are going to go “well, we can just be remote for EVERYONE! We’ll save so much money on office space!” when many people actually can’t work well remotely either due to work style or their home situation.

        2. ...*

          Idk having now trained 12 people remotely throughout this I’d say anecdotally that remote training is a lot harder and that all remote work can work for some people, but that a lot of team members are struggling with it. So its anecdotal but from friends and family I’m chatting with there are overall mixed reviews. I wouldn’t say Stella’s statement is untrue at all.

        3. orangewater*

          It’s anecdote not data, but I started a new role in September and even though it was just within the same company, it’s been REALLY hard to learn this job. Really, really hard. I’m usually a quick learner, but this time I feel like I’m nailing Jell-O to the wall just trying to get the basics down.

          There are likely other factors at play besides the remote thing, of course. Having my kids at home all the time, interrupting me and needing help with zoom school. The general exhaustion of life in a covid world, with hospitals filling up and restaurants going out of business, and no good federal response. The distraction of the presidential election, and then the distraction of Trump refusing to concede. Maybe remote training would be going better if everything else didn’t feel like a dumpster fire! It’s hard to separate these things out, you know?

          It also could be my manager. She keeps telling me that if we were in the office, she’d be calling me in to watch things over her shoulder all the time – but since we’re not, she’s not. I think she really doesn’t know how to translate her method (which seems to mostly just be shadowing) to remote. Which…I mean, I’m upset about it because I am less than two months in and feel like I’m completely failing, but also…I get that she didn’t sign up for this.

    2. Nikki*

      I have a feeling that a lot of companies, even ones who have declared people can work remotely indefinitely, will eventually start encouraging people to be back in the office at least some of the time. I’ve seen first hand at my company and heard from people at other companies that some people just don’t work well remotely, even in jobs that can be done completely remotely, and the productivity of these people is suffering. Collaboration is a huge challenge because even though we have all the tools to collaborate people aren’t using them. My job can easily be done remotely and I would love to keep working from home forever, but I get the sense I’ll be called back into the office the instant it’s considered safe because other people on my team are not handling remote work as well.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I’d disagree that all the collaboration tools in the world can replace all in-person meetings. I don’t all meetings for sure, but there are certain things – free flowing idea meetings like design, requirements elaboration that are just accomplished better in person.

        IDK for sure because my organization doesn’t use video, but we’re pros at using Teams for meetings and calls. I think the original ideal for my org was that we’d be virtual and travel for key meetings at the start of projects, but then that travel never happened because you had to justify the use of travel funds and justification requirements became very restrictive.

        I sort of like the idea of working from home, but being close enough to drive into the office for important meetings a few times a year (maybe with an overnight hotel stay if the drive is longer than a couple of hours). But organization is national and has people in every state so there’s way that would work for us.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        This is how my brother’s company is handling it. He gets to work from home every other week, but they want him to come in on opposite weeks a) because he’s newer and still technically training and b) they want him to get used to being in the office and knowing where everything and everyone is for when they come back permanently, which they don’t yet have a date for.

    3. Greg*

      I have a few friends who are leaving LA and NYC because they were told that they would be remote for the foreseeable future (in two cases permanently). A few of them have asked that question and were told regardless of where the employee was, the ‘work’ was still in the place that they were leaving and would be taxed and regulated as such.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        This is opposite of my experience. In fact my company got a pretty good slap tax wise one year because they failed to withhold a city income tax that was required for a city that that company wasn’t located but for which several employees lived.

        I think there will be quite a few oops’ along the way as companies and employees figure this out.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I’ve had to pay estimated taxes to both my municipality and my home state in addition to having my work state’s taxes withheld. The only part that surprises me is that it’s the employer that got penalized, not the employees, for the missing withholding.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’ve lived with a weird hybrid of that for the last few years. My accountant is adamant that tax is levied wherever my butt is and my employer is equally adamant that tax and laws apply based on where the computer that I do the work is. (Cue the argument over terminals and remote desktop).

        I can only hope we have a least one tech savvy Justice on the Supreme Court when the lawsuits get there.

        1. Firecat*

          I feel like this has been answered though. For anyone who shops online, streams services, etc. The taxes that are applied are the state you live in, not the companies server location or head quarters. Seems a fair assumption employment laws will follow this precadent.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            My employer would likely cut me loose if that proves to be the case, so I’ll live with the mess of a status quo until my exit interview.

          2. Liane*

            Online stores and sales taxes are still haphazard, in my experience. Example: Amazon has been charging me my state sales tax – including on Kindle e-books – for at least a year, possibly 2 years. However, the site where I buy 3d models – which are digital assets – for my art hobby doesn’t charge me tax, even though I use the same cards (so of course both companies know where I am), not even though their policy recently changed to charge states sales taxes.

            1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

              Having worked e commerce, lots of smaller companies pay the taxes out of their products instead of programming their sites to charge the customers for it. So your state sales taxes are getting paid.

            2. Lalaroo*

              Businesses who have a physical location in a state/locality are required to charge residents of that state/locality the sales tax levied by that state/locality. This is why when I used to live in Maryland I was charged MD sales tax from Amazon on items shipped to my home, but not charged sales tax on items shipped to my office in DC. (This has changed now because Amazon has opened a warehouse or something in DC).

              HOWEVER, individuals are technically required to pay sales tax on all purchases according to where they purchase the item. So even if Amazon did not charge sales tax for that item I shipped to my office, I should have paid the amount to the DC government directly.

            3. nonegiven*

              I’m not paying any sales tax on e-books. Maybe they aren’t taxable here. I think actual newspapers and magazines aren’t taxable, here, either.

          3. doreen*

            I’m not going to say it hasn’t been answered – but the answer is not nearly as simple as the “taxes are applied for the state you live in” and taxes are not really a question of employment law. It’s been an issue as far back as 2003, although of course it’s become more of an issue as telecommuting has become more popular – and there’s recently been an issue between I think Mass and New Hampshire regarding Massachusetts taxing the income of out-of-state residents who began working from home during the pandemic.

            Links in a separate comment

            1. Quill*

              I live on a state border and people hop it to avoid sales tax / property tax all the time. Fortunately, the two states in question are reciprocal in terms of tax filing, but I feel like with the number of people who cross state lines for work there should be several precedents already.

      3. The Rural Juror*

        I have some friends that just moved from the Bay Area for the same reason. They got lucky that their company had recently acquired another company in their home state, so they jumped at the opportunity to a) work remotely full time, b) move back closer to both their families, and c) significantly lower their cost of living. It’s a married couple who just happened to both work in same company, but different departments. Luckily for them, the issue of taxes won’t come up because the company has a site in their new state, even if they’re not officing from there. It was definitely one of those good news stories where the WFH situation worked out in their favor in multiple ways!

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I don’t think states are going to change their laws at all. My org has adapted by bringing in a large nation-wide HR/Payroll company to help administer employees who may be working in other states that we don’t have a physical location since they are already set up to handle different laws. I think that might be easier for us though since we’re in California, which has some of the most employee protections, so it’s easier to either adapt to states with less, or just extend the California-level benefits to all. For those who have been working in CA for instance though, I think it’ll be an eye-opener if they move to work remotely from another state and find out that CA employment laws no longer apply…

  11. Observer*

    #3 – Venting about a client. Venting is pretty much always bad mouthing. There are some exceptions and a few types of cases where it doesn’t matter. Venting to a known discreet SO who also doesn’t know enough to identify who you are venting about might be OK, as would be venting to a coworker (although either could be a problem in many contexts.) But venting to a client? Always bad mouthing. Which is a problem on top of the fact that your client pays you to deal with their issues and doesn’t care about the drama you are dealing with.

    What you did was probably not a career ENDING move. But it’s quite likely a career limiting move. And it could be a firing offense. Get into the habit of never talking about one client to another.

    1. allathian*

      I’m not a client in the B2B sense, but I would frankly be horrified if I heard a vendor badmouthing another client to me, even if they didn’t name names. It wouldn’t work as an excuse for failing to deliver on time to me, either. Very unprofessional behavior, even if perhaps not career-ending.

      Working in customer service can be tough, and it’s tempting to vent. Tempting, but risky. Venting to other clients will probably make them wonder what you’re saying about them to others. Venting to coworkers can sometimes be okay, but I wouldn’t recommend making a habit of it, because venting a lot does contribute to a negative atmosphere at work. Especially if you’re in a situation where you can’t afford to lose either of your two clients…

    2. MK*

      I mean, if badmouthing equals saying bad things about someone, the only venting that doesn’t fit that description is if you are complaining about things that are no one’s specific fault (like systemic challenges or the weather). I think the real difference is in inent: venting is about relieving your own feelings, badmouthing is about putting the blame on the one you are complaining about. The problem is that the difference is not apparent from the other side: I am sure the OP was just expressing frustration about the other company, but it would sound pretty much the same if they were trying to put the blame for the delay on them.

      1. Greg*

        It’s almost as if the vent was, “Yes, I know I haven’t gotten to this thing you asked me about a week ago but my other client is SO TOUGH and I’ve been having to deal with them.” Which would have me looking for a different provider for that service immediately.

      2. Observer*

        Exactly – venting about someone IS badmouthing. As I said, there are some limited contexts where it might not matter.

        Two things to keep in mind. When dealing with clients, venting (even the type that isn’t bad mouthing, like venting about the weather) is generally a bad idea because, as Allison says, your clients are paying you to deal with your own drama without pulling them in. In a case like this, it’s worse because you can’t even say that it was just about relieving their feelings – they were trying to excuse themself.

  12. Isabelle*

    #4 Your boss is a jerk and you should leave as soon as you find a good opportunity.

    I’m actually shocked that he can keep an employee on probation this long. Doesn’t the agency have rules about this? All my past employers had clear rules about probation and there were the same for all employees. Anything longer than a few months seems far too long.

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

      It sounds like a small company, under 50, so he probably can get away with stuff easily.

      1. irene adler*

        Yes. He’s probably not ever told management that his assistant is on probation. Or continues to be on probation. And they aren’t thinking that they need to ask about the probation status.

        It’s a control tool.

        1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

          It’s obviously double secret probation. The only rational response is to transform your friend’s brother’s car into a singularly offensive parade float and go down in flames.

    2. Tisiphone*

      Sounds like another name for permatemping to me.

      #4, do you have benefits or do those kick in when the probationary period is over? If you don’t yet have benefits, you’re never going to get them. Adding my voice to the chorus of resume polishing.

  13. Allonge*

    LW1 – where do your students find work after graduation? Is there a local industry that hires, like 10%? Do THEY use portfolios to hire? Does the top college choice of your graduates?

    Look, if you are in a graphic design focused school, you should have been teaching about portfolios already. If you are not, what made your colleagues think that this is a necessity? Was it, perhaps, a presentation by a company selling e-porfolio software?

    Alison is 100% right, but if you want to make the point to those who presented the idea, maybe ask the questions above. And if you have no information about this, perhaps your school is better off spending time and money figuring it out before you invest in a tool that is really not a thing for the majority of the business world.

    1. Jemima Bond*

      I got the impression from the letter that OP is a student themself, receiving advice, as opposed to a teacher. So they won’t be able to answer your questions about where students are getting work, they don’t have colleagues, wouldn’t know why the school is advising the way it is, they teaching people to do anything – and probably have no control over what the school invests in. (Although they may wish to feed back what they have learnt from Alison and make a point on behalf of the student body in general).

      1. Jemima Bond*

        Oh gosh I’ve just re-read and it does look like they are a teacher – “our students”. My apologies, Allonge.
        In my defence, in my version of English if you say you are “in education” that means you are a student/pupil; you are being educated. Sorry!

        1. Well...*

          I’m a native American English speaker and I came away with the same idea that this person was a student with a ton of work experience in my first read.

  14. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    LW as a teacher and a former recruiter, I’m very interested to know where they got the idea of portfolios for high school students. If they are not going into college and into the job market instead, consider the jobs they are applying for: almost exclusively minimum wage, non-skilled labor, unless it’s tutoring or something. I worked for a district where many kids went straight into Plant Operator jobs at oil and gas companies, making over 100K a year and they still didn’t need a resume, let alone a portfolio. This is incredibly out of touch with hiring norms. “Wow, I see you were on the debate team? Great, my four year old is a handful, you’ll be a wonderful baby-sitter”

    1. Allonge*

      Exactly. Also, all due respect to high school students, but what on earth do they have that can even go in a portfolio? At that stage, I would expect most people to have trouble to fill a one-page resume with relevant information.

      And yes, companies that hire straight from highs school are doing it already, without the portfolio.

    2. DaiMon Bok*

      If they’re going to college, they’re applying for internships, probably in white-collar work. Those employers will ask for a writing sample.

      1. Haven’t chosen a username yet*

        That isn’t true in many industries, and in my professional career I have never seen anyone ask for a portfolio, outside of art and design. The only writing samples I have come across would be an interview exercise and it would be related to the work, not any writing sample.

        I think a portfolio is really out of step with most industries.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          After looking at a few I can’t imagine any employer reading any portfolio in depth unless it was directly related to the job. They barely look at resumes, I can’t see anyone spending time on a multi-page portfolio.

        2. Clisby*

          I don’t know whether it’s common now, but when I started out in journalism it was common to submit published writing samples if you were applying for a writing position. Today, it would be easy to put that on your website, in case anyone wanted to check.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        Only if they’re applying for a job specifically in writing, like a newspaper or a publisher, or as the social media person for a company.
        Most applicants will never be asked for a writing sample. They may be asked for some other example relevant to their field, but it will rarely involve writing.

      3. EPLawyer*

        I’m a LAWYER, and the number of times I had to submit a writing sample while applying for internships or jobs after graduation I can count on one hand. It’s not a general thing such that it really needs to be done for everyone.

        1. Delta Delta*

          Same. I think I may have submitted a writing sample when I applied for a clerkship. But now that I’m thinking about it, it occurs to me that maybe I didn’t.

        2. Beth Jacobs*

          Yes! My first part-time job in law school was at a small 3-attorney practice. They asked for a school essay as a writing sample, but I feel it’s only because they were too busy to come up with their own skills assessment.
          It’s much more common to test writing skills in the interview process by assigning a mock task.

        3. Lalaroo*

          Whoah, really? I’m a 2L right now and probably 90% of the firms I’ve applied to have asked for a writing sample. That’s over 100 firms, by the way, because finding a 1L summer job is the woooooooorst.

        4. Jaydee*

          Also a lawyer, and I’ve had to submit writing samples often enough that I would recommend lawyers keep a folder of 3-5 memos/briefs/pleadings that they could use as a writing sample and update it periodically. But that’s not really a portfolio so much as a way to have some writing samples ready to go instead of scrambling to find something when you’re in the middle of an application.

      4. Metadata minion*

        When hiring, I want to make sure candidates can communicate reasonably effectively in writing, but since they’re not going to be doing Serious Professional Writing (e.g. grantwriting or publicity), that’s what a cover letter is for.

      5. Liane*

        The only job I have ever held – and several of them were editing or evaluating/QC’ing writing of various types from essays to medical transcriptions – that required a writing sample was seasonally scoring essays for educational testing. All initial applicants were given an essay prompt to write on, an exercise similar to sitting the essay exams we would be scoring.

      6. NotAnotherManager!*

        Twenty years into a white-collar career – mostly in legal, too, where we write for a living – I’ve been asked for a writing sample once and have had exactly one position for which we solicit writing sample (and it’s a very brief assignment based on materials we provide, not candidate selected).

        I don’t even think they ask the lawyers for writing samples.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      LW1 I’m showing my age because I had to Google e-portfolios. They would either be very general or very specific for high school kids with a section on why I hate my sibling. If I had to produce one it would be samples of cookies, knitted hats, and pictures of random cats I met during my walks. That being said, I may create one as a winter project.

    4. tiny cactus*

      My high school was also pushing the portfolio idea more than a decade ago, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been dropped already. There is obviously something irresistible about it to high school administrators, but even at seventeen, I couldn’t imagine trying to flip through one during an interview. (At least they’re digital now–back in the day, we were supposed to lug a big binder around with us.)

      The thing that I thought was particularly goofy about my school’s interpretation was that in the attempt to make students seem well-rounded, all of the portfolio inclusions were so generic as to be totally useless. They were things like “listen to a piece of music and write a paragraph reflecting on it” and “keep a log of your physical activity for a month.” Maybe the current generation are a little more thought-through, at least.

  15. jcarnall*

    Op4: If you were in the UK, after three years you would have legal rights in employment even if your boss was claiming you were “on probation” the entire time. I think you should leave, obviously, this guy clearly never moves his assistants off probation – and no, don’t share anything as personal as a depression diagnosis with him. Assuming that you still have to be there through another “review”, it’ll probably help if you can think of it as a kind of performative dance Ben does every so often – nothing to do with your real skills/expertise.

    But mainly, assume that someday soon you’re going to let him know you’re leaving, hand over your resignation lettter with a date two weeks in the future, and probably be told “You’re leaving NOW and I don’t have to pay you for those two weeks because you’re still ON PROBATION.” (Either that, or if he realises he needs you, “You can’t give just two weeks notice, you’re still ON PROBATION, I insist it’s at least a month.” (If the latter, Alison has lots of advice about how to educate employers that you’re giving them two weeks notice only: if the former, you need to plan around potentially two weeks without income.)

    Also, I fear Ben is going to be better used as an entertaining story about bad bosses than as a reference.

    1. Happy Lurker*

      +1 I am a big proponent of a 2 week notice, but Ben might get my exception.
      If he’s such a jerk to keep someone on probabtion for 3 years, I can’t imagine what a final 2 weeks would look like. I would dream about getting a new job and calling in sick the day before I started. Once I was sure the new place was kind of ok, I would let them know I wouldn’t be returning.
      OP whatever you decide please update us! Best of luck getting away from Ben.

  16. ACM*

    OP5, laws do vary from state to state about whether your husband SHOULD be exempt or not, but it shouldn’t be too hard to work out if he’s currently working as if exempt or not. Does he track every hour he works and submit that in a timesheet, and *is he paid based on that timesheet*? (My salaried husband does submit timesheets for client billing purposes, but gets paid the same whether he works 39 or 45 hours per week.) In other words, does his paycheck vary every time based on how many hours he worked? If not, and his paycheck is the same every time, he’s probably working as exempt. (As he probably should, I think managerial positions are nearly always exempt…) Just because he has an hourly rate listed doesn’t mean anything (all you have to do is divide a yearly salary by 52 and then by expected number of hours per week to get an hourly figure).

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Actually I’ve worked somewhere before that I was (I think) salaried non-exempt. Pay periods were 1-15 and 16-EOM, which meant the latter could have anywhere from like 8-12 work days in it. So they divided the total annual pay evenly over the 24 pay periods to create a base, a la salary pay. But if I posted a time card with only 35 hours worked one week and didn’t use PTO, I’d have been docked the five hours from that pay period, and if I worked 45 hours the 5 hours of overtime would have been added to the pay period.

      And yeah, now that I’m salaried exempt, my pay rate is still given hourly because some of our benefits (insurance premiums mostly) scale based on your hourly pay rate.

      1. Mockingjay*

        I’m professional exempt. My rate and benefits are calculated in hours because the company bills to federal contracts. Government contracts use GSA labor categories to determine exempt or non-exempt status for pay and overtime requirements.

        In any other industry, I’d be salaried.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Forgot to add, I can make up time for small appointments (an hour here or there) as along as I have 40 hours in that same week. Anything over that, I use PTO (we don’t have separate vacation and sick time).

    2. Miss Kat*

      Hi! I’m the OP for #5. I have to assume that he is exempt. He rarely works OT, but when he does, he doesn’t get extra money for it. If he needs to leave early or arrive late for some reason… it’s rare, but it happens, he won’t be paid for that time either.

      1. TechWorker*

        The latter strikes me as a bit weird, it would probably be more common to be expected to make up the time, rather than be docked pay. If the job is something that can only be done within certain hours then I guess it they’re treating it as ‘time off’ though.

      2. EPLawyer*

        It’s one or the other. If he doesn’t get OT, then he shouldn’t be docked his hourly pay if he arrives late.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          He rarely works OT, but when he does, he doesn’t get extra money for it.

          He’s exempt/salaried.

          If he needs to leave early or arrive late for some reason… it’s rare, but it happens, he won’t be paid for that time either.

          He’s nonexempt/salaried.

          He rarely works OT, but when he does, he doesn’t get extra money for it. If he needs to leave early or arrive late for some reason… it’s rare, but it happens, he won’t be paid for that time either.

          He’s a Plaintiff.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            If he needs to leave early or arrive late for some reason… it’s rare, but it happens, he won’t be paid for that time either.

            He’s nonexempt/hourly.

            It’s going to be one of those days…

          2. Diahann Carroll*

            LMAO @ your last line. Brilliant. And yes, your husband’s company is doing this all wrong, OP.

        2. PersephoneUnderground*

          *Legally can’t* be docked his hourly pay if he arrives late, actually. Docking *pay* (as opposed to vacation) makes him non-exempt, and eligible for back-pay for overtime he should have been paid if they were claiming he’s exempt. I’d verify your facts are correct then look into Alison’s advice on how to tell your employer they’re breaking the law (by misclassifying him as exempt). You can also call the appropriate government agency to ask them if he’s being misclassified. Not paying him overtime *and* docking pay per hours worked amounts to wage theft.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            Not paying for time not worked makes him hourly, it has nothing to do with his exemption status.

            There are 2 major categories:

            Most people fall into the category of hourly/non-exempt or Salaried/Exempt. Then I think the next most common (which isn’t very common) is salaried/non-exempt.

            Within all of those are going to be exceptions, so it is possible that the type of work that the OP’s husband does lands in one of these categories, but falls into an exception (think Railroad who seems to have their own rules for everything and entertainment industry)

            1. Observer*

              There are exceptions to the rules of how people are categorized. But if they are employees, then it’s one or the other. You CANNOT not pay for overtime AND dock time when less than full hours are worked.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              Then I think the next most common (which isn’t very common) is salaried/non-exempt.

              Is it really that uncommon? All of the admin-type people in my organization are salaried non-exempt.

      3. SomebodyElse*

        I think it’s pretty easy to sort this out, he should either go to his HR and ask or if his company uses an online payroll service (ADP for example) his status would likely be listed there.

      4. Observer*

        That’s off – either he needs to be paid for the extra time he works, or he needs to be paid even if he takes off a couple of hours, whether or not he pulls time from his accrued time.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        Hmm, I was a bit confused by the original question because nothing seemed wrong in the situation described, but this here does sound wrong. If he is not exempt then he should be getting paid extra for overtime. If he is exempt, then he should not have his pay docked for arriving late or leaving early.

      6. a clockwork lemon*

        Hi OP! It seems like you’re maybe getting bogged down in the question of whether he’s exempt or non-exempt (if he’s making more than $35,568 per year then he’s most likely exempt) but what you’re asking about is whether he needs to take accrued leave when he is taking time off from work for illness or vacation.

        The answer to whether or not a company can require an employee to use accrued leave time when that employee is taking time off from their normal work schedule is yes, regardless of their exempt/non-exempt status. Some companies allow employees to “flex” their time where they can make up time off at a different time during the week (for example, taking a long day on Monday in order to have a half day on Friday) but a lot of employers don’t allow this for a variety of reasons.

        His PTO bank and accruals are completely separate from his exempt/non-exempt employment status. In most places and cases, exempt employees still have to track and report their time off and have limits on the amount of time they can take.

    3. Me*

      I’m exempt but I’m expected to but in 40 hours and its rare I work more than that. My point is that you can’t necessarily tell just by your example if someone is exempt or not because there are exempt positions that work a standard 40.

  17. frystavirki*

    LW1: At first the idea of portfolios made a bit of sense to me and then I realized that I finished up my high school years doing portfolios because I wanted to get into college for illustration. Almost all colleges, when accepting students for an art degree of some kind, will want examples of your work. That’s just not the case for most other degrees, which will want your transcripts and perhaps some kind of personal essay. I remember having at least one “stock” essay prepared, as well as writing a few different ones for any specific essay prompts on applications. If your students are mostly applying to colleges, I think teaching them to write personal essays and things like that might be helpful. I don’t think any colleges are going to look at the portfolio things unless the students want to do art degrees, in which case those portfolios are pretty carefully designed for most people. Jobs I have little experience with besides my one minimum wage one when I was about 18 or 19 — that job didn’t ask for a portfolio, just mostly made sure I would show up to work and that I had a little related experience through hobbies. I mostly got hired because I knew what a yard was without having to be taught (craft and fabric store.) I know friends with art jobs who have portfolio work ready for those, but those are sort of covered in the “art is different” thing.

  18. Well...*

    Is there a roundup of bad career center advice? Here and on the academia stack exchange, it seems like these centers give terrible advice for both industry AND academia. How can we go about reducing this harm?

    1. Forrest*

      More engagement from employers with schools and colleges from employers? I’m a university careers adviser (in the UK, not the US), and IMO the biggest driver of bad advice is employers expecting not to need to engage with what students are being taught, and then that gap gets filled by, eg. someone who is selling software for high school students to create ePortfolios, whose business model is convincing schools that high school students need ePortfolios. We see this kind of stuff all the time: in the last couple of months I’ve received about six marketing emails from people trying to get us to buy into software platforms that will revolutionise our students’ ability to network with industry professionals. Our senior management team love this kind of stuff because they think £20k pa to a software platform is a lot cheaper than £50k pa to hire a careers consultant or an employer engagement consultant.

      Beyond that, graduate careers resources skew heavily towards corporate and especially financial employers because they invest heavily in graduate recruitment and getting information out to students. They also do have the money to invest in very creative and niche forms of recruitment, so we hear stuff like, “more and more employers are investing in the gameification of recruitment” when it’s actually something that like 2% of students will encounter, and we really need 98% of them to learn how to write a decent CV and prepare for a bog-standard competency interview.

      Good quality careers advice, IMO, is provided by careers consultants who are student-focussed and experts in teaching, learning and guidance working closely with employer engagement consultants who are experts in building and maintaining relationships with employers and linking them up with academics and teachers to run real-experience projects, internships, networking, etc. But that requires significant investment from both sides: you’ve got to have people in the school and university who know how to meet and work with employers (especially small/medium employers, who don’t necessarily have experienced talent acquisition staff who know exactly what they want to do) AND people on the employer side who know how to work with schools and colleges and have the time and focus to invest in those relationships over the longer term and to properly embed the skills that they are looking for in students.

      So yeah, if you want to improve the quality of careers advice and employer engagement in schools, think about it from a money point of view. Make sure your business is investing in outreach to schools and colleges. If your schools and colleges don’t have people who are employed to meet you and help you work out the best ways to engage with students, get onto the boards or figure out who has the ability to engage with the senior leadership teams and make it clear that this is something they need to invest in from their side too.

      sorry, this turned into a manifesto…

  19. MsSolo*

    My first question with the probation issue is whether you are getting the same pay and benefits as a permanent employee – not just in the obvious sense, but also on terms of things you wouldn’t expect to come up during a reasonable length probation that become relevant the longer you’re there. Can you get a raise on probation? Can you accrue and carry leave over? Are you able to apply for inter-depart transfers? Does it impact your job title and/or references?

    Your boss is benefiting from keeping you on probation, and the precise nature of how can help you figure out your next step.

    1. Malika*

      I once worked for a director who kept an employee in a sort of ‘probation’, by telling her she was underperforming and could therefore only keep her job at a lower salary. It was a headgame he tried on all his female employees, and it worked. He also tried it with the male employees, but they pushed back more (they also experienced less bullying allround, so were not so beaten down and accepting of injustice). Of course, the only acceptable advice is to initiate a job search and to leave asap. Managers like this will drag you down, and it can take years to undo the damage created by their self-serving machinations.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If I recall correctly, probation can also affect the date used to calculate retirement/401k vesting.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      And I wonder if this is “official” probation, as in, HR is aware of it and treats the LW accordingly (assuming the employer is large enough), or if it’s just an a-hole boss telling her she’s on probation?

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      That was my first thought on keeping her on probation…a lot of US employers hold enrollment of benefits like medical, dental, vision, retirement, etc. until a probation period is complete that way if a new employee doesn’t work out they aren’t constantly filing paperwork in and out of group policies.

  20. Richard Hershberger*

    OP1: I am trying to figure out what sort of job requiring only a high school degree could plausibly be imagined to require a portfolio. I can see why someone might think this about some sorts of post-college jobs, but high school? At the most, it would be narrowly specialized, I should think.

    1. Generic Name*

      This is what I’m wondering. OP, I’d ask what the folks advocating for a portfolio are envisioning for kids who go to work at a grocery store, at restaurants, or in the trades. My husband is a carpenter, and folks they hire don’t even send them a resume or anything, let alone an entire portfolio.

    2. Metadata minion*

      Internships, I guess? But even there I think of that as something you do in at least your second year of college, after you’ve maybe had some relevant coursework to show off if they want to see something you’ve done in the field.

    3. hamburke*

      We have a couple of magnet school here that have either specialty centers or you come out with an associate’s. I know for sure that one of those high schools has a capstone project that’s pretty much a portfolio. Since these are non-traditional high schools, I can kinda see some value in it. But your run of the mill high school, not really… I put one together for my minor in college (technical writing) and I used it exactly twice – it was a final grade and for a job I didn’t get (it’s actually still together in my bookshelf, 20 years later – for sentimental value). No one else wanted to see college work that I did. Any writing job I applied for gave me skills tests or samples.

  21. doreen*

    OP 4 – you say your employer is a quasi-governmental organization. How “governmental” is it? Some have a lot more in common with government agencies than private corporations – for example, most of the ones in my area are unionized and subject to civil service rules. No matter how small they are, the ones I know of have HR – they may not have their own HR department like a larger agency but neither do they have the CEO acting as HR for even a 50 person agency. They receive certain services (including HR) from a “hosting” agency. The reason I say all this is because your three year probation may be completely meaningless – if I check the box on someone’s evaluation that says “extend probation” and it never gets to HR , that probation isn’t extended. I can tell the person it’s extended and act like it’s extended – but when I actually want to treat the person like they are still on probation, I won’t be able to.
    Now I’m not saying that your agency is definitely like this – only that it might be and you should look into it. I doubt the CEO tries to handle all things HR himself , so I would look into who I would contact to change my benefit information and see if that agency handles all HR for my agency.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Beat me to it. My agency is actually one that hosts HR functions for a number of those teeny tiny types of agencies that “don’t have HR” (which is why downthread I said that it may not actually be true that there is no HR!)

      OP, who handles your health benefits? Your payroll? I doubt it is your boss. That may be a good place to start even if that isn’t the ultimate landing place. (Because they likely will know where to direct you.)

    2. Governmint Condition*

      Depending on the type of agency this is, your state’s Civil Service Department may have something to say about this. Check into it.

  22. CupcakeCounter*

    I’m in Finance. A portfolio of my work would break every confidentially agreement ever. Graphic artist, interior designer, writer, etc…definitely. Out of high school? Never.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’m a Programmer, and anything I compose of value would do the exact same.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Also a programmer, and I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that anything I compose of value would be covered by a confidentiality agreement. Specifically, I’m thinking of contributions to open-source projects that are, by their nature, intended to be viewable and modifiable by anyone and everyone. But stuff I do for my employer? Yeah, that stays out of sight and only talked about in generalities.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Specifically, I’m thinking of contributions to open-source projects that are, by their nature, intended to be viewable and modifiable by anyone and everyone.

          That’s a good exception, and one I wasn’t thinking of. Thank you for pointing it out.

          Now, off to find the random F/L/OSS project that can use my odd amalgam of skills!

    2. Quoth the Raven*

      I’m a traslator, and I think if I showed up with a portfolio of my work my interviewer would find it extremely alarming because almost everything I’ve done is protected by NDAs, and I’d be showing a basic misunderstanding of how my field works. The only translations I could put in there would be exercises that I did when I was in university 6-10 years ago, which do not necessarily reflect my current skills.

      I have been asked to complete a translation sample using company provided materials for all interviews I’ve had in my field, but that’s completely different.

      1. Nanani*

        Yep, same. I guess a translator in a more literary field could point to books they translated that have been published, but for those of us in more technical fields… you can’t submit anything remotely current as a sample because it’s definitely covered by an NDA.

        Completing test/sample work is absolutely normal, and seems to double as a way to check that the translator has,in fact, encountered this type of legal/medical/technical document before.

  23. Workerbee*

    Ah, #2. My org is also going ahead with their holiday party, in the same cramped location as last year. Last year, it didn’t matter. This year, of course masks and social distancing! —but there is no way to socially distance in that location, plus there will be appetizers and an open bar.

    They yanked everyone without a doctor’s excuse back to the (open) office in May. All of us can do our jobs from home, but it’s more important to “use this beautiful campus we have.” Allegedly masks and social distancing in common areas are required. I’m at home, but can see even over Zoom meetings that they’re not being followed, with people grouping up maskless around small conference tables or sharing the same laptop “because it’s easier and we work better this way.”

    Top that off, our governor is once again trying to issue a lockdown/stay at home order, but my org blithely declares that our county knows better and that people don’t get COVID from work, they get it from social situations.

    I informed them that I just can’t take the risk this year, and respectfully declined the party. The fact that there is a party to decline is just baffling, but then so is their stance about this pandemic.

    Good luck!

    1. Mx*

      “People don’t get COVID from work, they get it from social situations.” My jaw is on the floor !
      I don’t know how things work in the US, but could they be reported somewhere if they let staff working from the same laptop, and organise parties ?

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        “People don’t get COVID from work, they get it from social situations.”

        “And you can’t spread germs by sneezing on an apple, only by sneezing on an orange!” … The germs neither know nor care.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I just picture the little CoVid virus looking around the room and saying “no no no Carl (to the other CoVid virus) wave off, it’s work not a party. Everyone was just laughing at a joke Bob made but this is work” as they both back out of the room and back into Typhoid Marys nose.

          Quarantine may be getting to me….

      2. learnedthehardway*

        It’s almost like people think the virus is sentient and selectively targets people who insist on partying!

    2. cncx*

      i have a friend whose boss wanted everyone to come back in (we’re in europe) last month. Friend’s boss was also anti mask, anti social distancing, thinks it is the flue type. Friend, who does not have anything front facing, declined saying he was high risk and that he’s not coming in until the numbers get better.

      Friend’s boss wanted friend to come in anyway one last time before a next lockdown to be with his coworkers. Friend declined and it was a bit of a tug of war.

      Turns out that last day in the office the boss had covid and gave it to everyone who was there. Luckily no one died or appears to have long covid (probably because the risk group employees were home), but boss was absolutely pikachu face a few weeks later when he was back in, he had “no idea” how he caught covid. Annoying.

    3. Cat Tree*

      Wow, that part about getting COVID through social interactions instead of work. Do people really lack a basic understanding of how contagious diseases spread? Like, it’s the virus smart enough to know that this particular sneeze is aimed at a coworker so it won’t affect them. It’s very possible that most cases spread through social situations, but that’s because so many people are WFH and taking other precautions.

      1. Observer*

        Do people really lack a basic understanding of how contagious diseases spread?

        That doesn’t even matter at this point. By now, even without understanding the specifics we have enough numbers to know that people who go work are far more likely to get sick than people who don’t. If Irecall correctly, controlling for other factors, it something like twice the risk (depending on the job and the precautions the employer is taking.)

        Even if you’ve gotten stuck in the early 1800’s the numbers are pretty compelling.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      Reading “people don’t get COVID from work, they get it from social situations,” just about broke my brain. Like, do people not breathe in the workplace in your state? That’s the most ridiculous made up thing I think I’ve heard throughout the entire pandemic. I’m so glad you’ve been able to stay at home and I hope you stay safe.

      1. boop the first*

        Yeah, where I live, we’re in the middle of a two-week social ban, so no one can visit with anyone outside their household for two weeks, not even outdoors!
        However, everyone has to go to work and school as normal, and our schools are only required to have hand sanitizer. No masks, no distancing. Our teachers/students are dropping like flies, and some schools are closed because there is no one left to teach, but hey, only friends transmit covid apparently.

  24. Mel_05*

    #3 – You can vent about clients to friends & coworkers, but not to other clients.
    You’ll make the client being complained to feel like you talk about them the same way.
    And, even if it’s not true, it kinda makes it seem as if you blame problems on clients instead of taking responsibility.

    1. Generic Name*

      Agreed. I suggest you and your coworkers dial back the venting as well. Venting without coming up with solutions doesn’t help and can actually make people more stressed. And, as you saw, it can set up a situation where you basically get so used to venting all the time and it’s hard to stop and you may not realize you’re doing it. Hang in there.

  25. Delta Delta*

    #1 – As a high school student (back in the Stone Age we now call “the 90s”), I also had to do a portfolio. I recall, like one of the other commenters, being given a plastic album with several clear plastic pocket pages. The idea was that you’d fill these plastic pages with all your great works and then take it to a job interview and really wow them! I know literally no one who actually did this. My memory is that we had to turn in our portfolio to some teacher to show that we did it. I just chucked a bunch of junk in there and handed it in. I don’t remember the outcome except that it seemed like a handy place to store the junk that was in it until I ultimately recycled it all, because who wants to read an eleventh grader’s essay on “Cry, The Beloved Country?” (If you have an answer, I’m genuinely curious)

    There were a few very talented artists in my school, and they kept portfolios of their work, but that’s… what artists do.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      ” because who wants to read an eleventh grader’s essay on “Cry, The Beloved Country?” (If you have an answer, I’m genuinely curious)”

      Another 11th grade student that needs to write an essay on “Cry, The Beloved Country” other than that I got nothing :)

      1. Quill*

        I had a random teen turn up in my inbox a few months back wanting help with a similar assignment after I told the story of how I and a friend had systematically destroyed an assigned lit reading and gotten food banned from the english department.

        … Points for gumption, kid, but that was over a decade ago, I can remember precisely nothing about The Great Gatsby other than that we hated our american lit teacher and used the book for revenge.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I had someone bring a portfolio of work to an interview (for a position that neither requested nor required one), and it was so awkward to sit there and read through the work samples in front of the candidate. I tried to pick a few more relevant ones and ask questions about it that also related to the job, but it wasn’t helpful or useful to the interview process.

  26. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    I am definitely more willing to take Covid risk, but not for a work party. I’ll happily risk death if it means I get to hug my mom and hang out with my brother who I haven’t seen in a year. The opportunity to eat catered food and hang out with the people I already work with? That is not worth it.

    1. ThatGirl*

      There are some things I’m willing to put myself at a slightly higher risk for – but work is definitely not one of them.

      That said, I hope you were just being a little blithe and that you and your family are all quarantining before seeing each other? I totally get it – I saw my mom in September for her birthday – but we spent most of that time outdoors and that was when case numbers were on the lower end.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Yes, I’m saving my risk factors for my family, not for a chance to watch co-workers get drunk and disorderly.

  27. employment lawyah*

    1. Do job applicants need digital portfolios?
    No, absent a few specific industries.

    If you have to ask NON-INDUSTRY people “do I need one?”, you probably don’t need one.

    3. I vented about one client to another
    Yes, you crossed a line. The line is simple: You are no longer trustworthy.

    That client (and anyone else they know) now think that you may do the same about THEM, say THEIR infor, etc.

    Don’t do it again, ever.

    4. I’ve been on probation for three years
    This may not be OK. In most places which use probation they do it to avoid having to go through hoops to fire you; to avoid having to give you “tenure” etc. But places like that are also often set up NOT to allow this to happen! You should talk to a local attorney and get a copy of the contract and see if something is fishy. At this point, for example, you may be able to obtain the rights of a full-time employee no matter what Ben wants.

    Hire your own attorney; don’t use HR. Your attorney will keep your secrets and will represent ONLY your interests.

    5. Which state’s laws govern?
    This is, not surprisingly, a very complex question. The term of art is “choice of law” or “choice of law clause,” if you’re going to Google it.

    It’s at least somewhat common for companies to royally screw this up and severely underpay their employees as a result, so you can certainly chat with a lawyer if you’d like (since you’re living in NC and getting paid fro NY, it’s at least possible.)

    As AAM notes this wouldn’t necessarily affect your employer’s obligations w/r/t sick time. But it might! Some states have very strict sick time laws and there is often a complex (yes, that word again) interaction between sick time, vacation time, and exempt status.

    anyway, this may be worth a chat w/ local employment counsel.

  28. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Just a point of clarification re: LW4 and probation:

    If she is working for a government agency, there’s a good chance probation is built in bc once you’re off probation you are NOT at-will (that is certainly the case in my state, for example). However, a boss also can’t just keep extending a probation indefinitely just because, either.

    There’s definitely something else going on here, and if it is a government agency and “there is no HR” (which is probably not entirely true, by the way) it means there are probably some pretty firm rules around this that he’s completely ignoring.

    1. Brett*

      Came here to mention this. A quasi-governmental agency may have a legal requirement (not just internal policies) to provide its employees due process protections and follow Laudermill processes.

      By keeping the OP in constant probation, Ben is dodging those legal protections.

      As well, there might be monetary implications. Every government agency I worked for had a separate probation wage that was lower than your real wage once you cleared probation. Quasi-governmental often follow similar rules. While you were in probation, the clock stopped on any step advancements, time limits to merit increases, etc. It could even have retirement implications to be on probation this long.

      1. Amaranth*

        It frankly makes me wonder whether this is 100% about control – pushing others down to raise himself up — or if there is a financial benefit to CFO-Ben in not elevating LW’s status. Is the salary line-item in the budget tapped out?

  29. Phony Genius*

    On #5, if you work from home some days a week, but in the office on others, and you live across the state line from the office, does that mean different laws apply depending on whether it’s an in-office day or a work-from-home day? That could get messy.

  30. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – I’m self-employed, and the only client I vent to is someone who is a personal friend and longtime colleague (from when we were both employed by the same firm). And even then, I heavily edit myself: I make sure that anything I do tell them doesn’t cause them to question my commitment to them or make me wonder whether I’m venting about them to other clients.

    Also, the burden of work on one project/for one client isn’t an excuse for not getting another project / client’s work done. That’s adapted from the most pithy comment I heard in college from one prof – “The burden of work in this or any other course is not an excuse for lateness.” I take that as a mantra – never blame your other work for being late, short of time, or unresponsive to a client. They’ll question whether they should have given you the work in the first place, and they won’t be happy that they aren’t your number one priority (even if they’ve only given you 10% of your work, they still expect that 10% to be your primary project).

    I would take this situation as a sign that you need to get more assertive about how you manage your problem client. Unless you’re in the hospital or otherwise incapacitated, there’s really no good excuse for not getting back to a client for a week – all you have to do is pick up the phone or dash off an email. If your problem client is making being responsive to other clients impossible, then you either need to reign that problem client in, or cut them loose.

  31. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4: Definitely don’t share your diagnosis with your manager. He’s been taking advantage of you for years now: don’t give him another way to do that. He’s not a safe person to confide in.

    If your organization has an HR department, I would be having a word with them about the fact that you’ve been on probation for 3 years now. That’s ridiculous, and your HR rep will know that.

    Personally, I would be job hunting.

    1. employment lawyah*

      I would not confide in HR, I would use an attorney. HR are sometimes friendly, but sometimes not at ALL friendly. Also HR can be wrong, especially when it comes to “what is legal under this contract?”

      Do not trust HR with something so important.

      1. Lalaroo*

        OP4, you probably don’t have a contract, so employment lawyah’s comment is not super-helpful. It’s definitely worthwhile to talk to HR about what the rules are for probation at your agency/organization. They will be able to tell you how the standard process works, and whether there are limits to how long probation can be extended, etc. Most places I’ve worked probation has ended automatically unless the supervisor and employee both sign something acknowledging that the probation is being extended (employee doesn’t have to agree, there just needs to be something showing the employee is aware that it is being extended), and all have had limits on how long it can be extended. Never have I worked in a place that would allow probation to stretch on for three years!

  32. Not trying to be rude, just good at it*

    Every employee I have ever had was on probation from the first day of employment until the last. I am also on probation from every client I have ever had. If I do not deliver, I lose the client. I live my business life with the thought that I already have your business today, I need to impress you to get your business the next time. That does not mean that an employee cannot have a bad day. It does mean that I need people who care.

    1. sswj*

      There is a big difference between an official probation in your work record and just operating on the mindset that you have to work to your fullest potential at all times. Do you use the threat of “you’re on probation” to energize your employees? If so, I’m not sure that’s a healthy strategy.

      1. Quill*

        The Shrieking Eels always grow louder when they’re about to feast on commentators who have overshot the point.

    2. Cj*

      So your employees never accrue PTO? Are become eligible for health insurance? Or the retirement plan? or don’t you offer any of those benefits in the first place?

  33. blink14*

    OP #3 – I’ve been on the receiving end of venting calls (within my organization), and there are a couple of contacts who I now assume will vent whenever they call me. One person in particular vents any time we talk – which is usually several times a year. I cringe when this person calls me. If this was a one time thing, mark it as something to make sure you avoid in the future, and try not to make it a habit! Hopefully the person you spoke to just took it in stride.

    OP #5 – I’ve worked both exempt and non-exempt jobs, and my exempt paychecks have never shown hourly rates. I suspect your husband may be considered hourly – which is a whole other can of worms if the employer isn’t handling that properly. In terms of accrued time, it is normal for both hourly and exempt to take accrued time when sick. At my current job I can take sick time in increments of 30 minutes or more. At my old job, they were more a stickler about taking full days when you had a medical appointment, but we had very few sick days, so my boss would sometimes allow me to make up time (that place was super stingy with PTO).

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      my exempt paychecks have never shown hourly rates

      Mine do and always have, so this isn’t uncommon for exempt folks. However, from what OP has said above, it sounds like her husband’s company is playing both sides of the fence here so it would behoove the husband to get clarification on his work status.

  34. SJJ*

    I don’t think you weren’t meeting standards due to your depression, but your depression allowed you to accept HIS standards. He’s taken advantage of that.

    Not saying you need to take Dolly/Lily/Jane 9-to-5 dramatic action, but you should start looking for another job and one that has insurance that can help cover costs of your diagnosis. I’m assuming probation might mean no health ins coverage, retirement benefits, etc (at least in the US).

    And if you haven’t heard this yet – I’m proud of you for getting help!

    Good Luck!

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      1) Do not disclose. Seriously, never disclose mental health conditions at work unless you’re 1000% sure your employer will handle it well and you have a real reason they need to know.
      2) So glad you’re feeling better! Use your new outlook to dump this jerk boss or talk with HR (in whatever form it may take) about this odd endless “probation”, or tell your boss if he wants to keep you, you need a raise and to be off “probation” since it’s clear he can’t keep a good assistant, he needs you if he doesn’t want to go back to a revolving door of half-trained people who quit rapidly.

  35. Firecat*

    Yes. Our company has announced regardless of where Covid goes they are going to reduce office space significantly and want most staff who can to wfh as much as possible with only meetings with actual collaboration, not presentations which should be done virtually, occuring in offices.

  36. Lucille B.*

    Letter 1 is giving me flashbacks to the completely useless digital portfolio we had to create in college as part of my elementary education degree. We had to film ourselves teaching a few lessons and edit those videos to be included on a disc with the portfolio. This was all just a clever ploy by the video editing company to sell software to the university, and we all knew it was BS. Principals didn’t have time to look at every resume or application they were receiving for teaching jobs, much less pop some popcorn and watch an awkwardly filmed lesson by a student teacher.

  37. MsChanandlerBong*

    I wish we could clone Alison and send the clones around to all the schools to tell them to knock it off with the portfolios. I just had to complete a portfolio requirement for my business degree, and the resulting portfolio is completely useless. I would never use it anywhere (thankfully, I am an adult/returning student, not a young person with no job experience who thinks it’s going to open doors). Some of the prep work was somewhat useful–write essays describing your strengths, explain how your past experiences have prepared you for future employment, etc.–but only to get you thinking about your strengths and weaknesses. The portfolio itself had to have things like your unofficial transcript, screenshots of your exam scores, certificates of achievement, etc.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      The portfolio itself had to have things like your unofficial transcript, screenshots of your exam scores, certificates of achievement, etc.

      What?! Lol

  38. all gone to look for america*

    #4: Are there any benefits you don’t get while you’re on probation, such as retirement? If there are, it’s not about you. It’s about avoiding paying for your benefits.

    I’m also side-eyeing any company that will allow someone to be on probation that long. I’ve been on 6 month probation. And then after six months, either they keep you or they fire you. They don’t extend probation. They can’t.

    1. Ladycrim*

      That was my first thought, too. My union had an employer that kept people as long-term temporary workers to avoid having to give them benefits, raises, etc. One woman had been a ‘temp’ for 14 years! (We got them formally hired.) OP4, check and see what you might be missing out on by not being officially hired. Health insurance? Vacation accrual?

  39. Theory of Eeveelution*

    I have to chime in on #1. So, so, soooooooooooooo many industries require a portfolio. Most high schoolers won’t need a portfolio, but guess what? If they’re going into art school, they will need a portfolio. I can’t imagine where the idea of “not many others” comes from. If you do ANYTHING visual at all, even tangentially, you need a portfolio. If you write, you need a portfolio. If you write code, you need a GitHub (which is a type of portfolio). If you do UX/UI, you need a portfolio. If you teach, you need a portfolio of syllabi and student work. If you do digital marketing, you need a portfolio. If you do white collar work, then the trend these days is to have a portfolio/non-social-media web presence regardless of what you do, and it’s not a bad thing to teach students how to make one. Basic web design should be a required skill, anyway. Sure, there are still some roles that don’t require a portfolio, but that is not the direction of the trend.

    1. Colette*

      GitHub is not a portfolio, and there are many industries and jobs that don’t require them. (IT is a good example – employers might want to look at a code sample for a coding job (possibly in GitHub), but there are a lot of other jobs in IT. Technical support, QA, business analysis, project manager, scrum master, security, software asset management, etc.)

      1. Colette*

        And in other examples, what kind of portfolio would you have if you were an accountant, an HR rep, a firefighter, a cashier, a cook, a bus driver, a social worker, a psychologist, a doctor, a geographer, a historian, a vet, an actuary? Yes, if you are in UX or a visual art field, you might need a portfolio; otherwise, they’re just not a thing.

    2. Hillary*

      It really depends on your field. I graduated from a small enough high school that I know what essentially everyone ended up doing.

      Art school – 1/150, I believe working in business now.
      Programming – 5/150 (but maybe two of them would have had a usable Github presence if it existed when we were in HS)
      Teaching – 5/150 (any portfolio would have been developed in college)

      About half of my graduating class went on to some kind of post-secondary education. Most of us who did ended up in some kind of work that will never require a portfolio (I’m an MBA, everything I do is confidential to my employer at the time). The others are mechanics, work construction, work in factories, health care, or food service. Again, they’ll never need a portfolio.

    3. Kiki*

      There are industries that require portfolios, but are most of them looking for work kids did while they were in high school? Art school, yes and in my experience, most art classes make note of that. But will most students who eventually go into UX/UI have done any UX/UI portfolio-level work while in high school? Will anyone who goes into teaching have teaching portfolio-ready work after high school? Will the people who go into digital marketing have portfolio-level work from their high school classes? There are certainly exceptions, but if you asked all high school students to make a portfolio of their work to give to prospective employers, 80% of those employers would get the portfolio, shrug, and not do anything with it. Most of the content that would fill a useful portfolio is not happening in high school classes. It happens in secondary education, on the job, or in free time.

      Having a portfolio-making assignment where students learn the basics of html/css sounds very useful in that students would learn html/css skills and how to make a portfolio. Would employers actually want to see those portfolios when they’re done? For the most part, no!

      1. Kiki*

        Maybe I’m just cynical based on my own high school experience, but I feel like this is the sort of initiative that schools spend a lot of energy and resources on and then are like, “Look! All our students have portfolios! They are so hirable!” but a bunch of students still can’t read past a 6th grade level and nobody learned about the Civil War.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I’m just thinking about the kinds of work I did in high school and wondering why a potential employer would want to see a picture of my diorama of Romeo and Juliet for hiring purposes…

    4. Observer*


      GitHub is NOT “a type of portfolio” in the sense being used here. In fact, if someone applied for almost any tech job (even on in UX design) with a portfolio of the sort being described here, I would totally reject them, because you simply CANNOT present your work in that type of format. And, no a new student does NOT “need” a github. It simply is not necessary for any job applicant to have open source projects to show. People with experience generally cannot post their work for prior employers to their GitHub. And school type projects are just not impressive.

      If you teach, you need a portfolio of syllabi and student work

      Totally not the case. A teacher CANNOT show student work. And teachers are not the ones who set syllabi.

      There is a significant difference between “web presence” and “portfolio” as well. And no, you do NOT need a “web presence” for most white collar jobs.

      1. a sound engineer*

        Yes, please stop conflating GitHub with a portfolio of work as in the letter! If you went to school for some kind of engineering/STEM, you probably have one, it’s there if someone is interested, but it’s not really something you automatically submit with every application.

        1. Derivative Poster*

          Agreed. Some people and presumably some companies are into this idea (search “github is my resume”) but fortunately you aren’t expected to have a portfolio equivalent for most software engineering jobs. I guess it’s supposed to be the place you put all the code you’re writing for fun, on your own time, because OF COURSE your life circumstances allow you to work for free

    5. Diahann Carroll*

      If you write, you need a portfolio.

      I’m a writer and editor, and this isn’t true across the board. Every writing job I’ve interviewed for within the last three years has given me writing exercises that they themselves came up with because it’s easier to determine that the applicant wrote the thing themselves – you can’t be sure they did with prewritten copy.

    6. tg*

      As Alison noted, the industries who need portfolios (art college, architecture are the ones that come to mind) are very clear that they need a portfolio and what kind of portfolio they need. No-one else needs a portfolio.

    7. Environmental Compliance*

      Environmental compliance/ pseudo environmental engineer (who started in biology), who is married to a mechanical engineer, raised by a nurse & an industrial engineer…..

      Yeah, no. There’s no reason for any of us to have a portfolio. There are really not many reasons for a *high school student* to have a portfolio apart from probably getting into art-specific schools. None of my high school cohorts apart from the maybe two kids who actually went to art school needed a portfolio. None of my cohorts from my undergrad needed portfolios. None of my graduate school cohorts needed portfolios. I have never needed a portfolio in any of my jobs, from gov’t to private sector. Not saying it’s not a bad skill to practice – mostly on the side of being able to present yourself with your work accomplishments – but definitely not necessary in “so many industries”.

      Also… not sure if you intended to say that *everyone* should have basic web design skills…. but also, no. There is no reason for me, for example, to have web design experience. I will never touch my company’s webpage, and I am pretty sure if I actually managed to somehow get in and edit anything, I’d get fired. We pay a specific set of people to do just that with their breadth and depth of experience in that very thing.

      Fields that require a portfolio are going to be very obvious about it. No one else needs to go through that much time and effort to produce something that the majority of employers aren’t going to even ask to see. There’s also just not much that a *high school student* is going to be able to put into a portfolio that’s going to be realistically impressive and with enough relevance to many, many jobs.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        STEM adjacent here: no portfolios in my field. I have a full record of publications and patents I can include in my resume/application. I can and have given job talks to present on a specific project or topic. I even have some code on Github from a certificate program.

        But no one I know could even have a portfolio in the sense it’s being used in the letter since we work on exclusively proprietary stuff. Everything interesting would be redacted.

    8. Nanani*

      A social media presence/website is not a portfolio, and it’s not required by any stretch of the imagination. Maaaaybe if you are applying specifically to build websites or manage social media presence. But even then, it’s not your personal one that matters, it’s the ones listed on your resume.

      A “Trend” is not a requirement. As for basic web design being a required skill… no? You seem to be overly generalizing your own career. It’s not normal or common at all. The vast majority of people do not have a personal website and do not need one.

      Alison’s response already covered design jobs, which is the only thing you listed that’s accurate.

  40. Ray Gillette*

    LW1, I’m pretty sure someone on that strategic planning team got solicited with a sales pitch for ePortfolio software. It sounds like the latest bullshit that sounds good to people who don’t actually know how to help recent grads get jobs, but they know they have to do something. I have secondhand embarrassment just thinking about some poor recent grad pulling out high school essays in a job interview for a minimum-wage cashier gig at Target. Please encourage anyone whose ear you have to not pursue this.

  41. Kiki*

    With regards to LW #1, I think a better solution is to invite people from a variety of industries to talk to students about their field and what is generally required to get into it. I’d be curious to know how the strategic planning team got the idea that portfolios for all high school students would be beneficial because, as Alison and other commenters have said, it’s really not at all what hiring managers for most fields are looking for.

    1. Kiki*

      This may just be me, but I feel like this sort pressure high schools are feeling to make their students hyper employable right out of the gate is bunk. Employers need to train and mentor their entry-level employees. When did we make this shift into believing that kids would dedicate their youth and free time to becoming perfect job candidates for businesses while the businesses expend zero effort? Yes, part of high school is definitely preparing kids to enter the adult world where having and keeping a job is necessary and I get that we want to set young people up for success in their future endeavors, but I just feel like the onus of responsibility has gotten way off-kilter.

      1. natter*

        Employers need to train and mentor their entry-level employees. When did we make this shift into believing that kids would dedicate their youth and free time to becoming perfect job candidates for businesses while the businesses expend zero effort?

        YES. Unfortunately, I don’t think this trend is going anywhere anytime soon. But you’re 100% right, and it’s infuriating.

      2. Observer*

        You do realize that the idea that kids coming out of High School should not be able to move into reasonable jobs straight out of school is actually very recent. And it disproportionately has a negative effect on kids from families without money.

        1. Kiki*

          To clarify my pre-coffee thoughts, I think kids coming out of high school should be able to move into reasonable jobs straight out of high school! I think a lot of employer expectations are out of whack. When my grandparents and parents left high school and got their first jobs, they got a lot of on-the-job training. Now, there’s this idea that entry-level employees should come into the job and be ready to go without the company expending much or any effort to train them and get them up to speed on industry-specific norms. That’s what I’m against, not the premise that high school students should be able to get jobs straight out of high school.

          1. Ray Gillette*

            Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there are fewer truly entry-level jobs than there used to be and managers are expected to do more with less. I’m hiring right now for the lowest level position on my team, but there are a lot of skills that a person will already need in order to do well in the role. I can’t afford to spend a year teaching basic workplace norms to a newly-minted adult in the hopes that maybe someday they’ll be able to do the job, I need someone who can do it now.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I don’t think it’s just you. Those entry-level jobs are often low-hanging fruit for automation schemes.

            2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              I’ve been hired into jobs where I had experience in the field, but needed to be trained on the company’s protocols and procedures. Most of them had no patience and expected me to know their internal policies on my first day. “You have experience, why don’t you know how to work our PO software?” Because my last three companies used corporate credit cards and the one before that used paper POs that the business office processed.

              1. Ray Gillette*

                That’s bizarre. Internal processes are internal! Had those people been at the same company for so long that they’d forgotten other companies do things differently?

                For my team, we provide training on all relevant internal processes and tools that they’ll need to do their job. Someone with relevant experience can expect to be up to speed within about a month. What we don’t have the ability to do is take someone who’s never had an office job before and coach them on the basics. I feel for recent grads, because jobs where they can get that coaching are few and far between these days, but I don’t have the resources to solve that problem even at a small scale.

            3. Kiki*

              I understand that having entry-level positions for all types of jobs at every company doesn’t make sense, but I think at a certain point, entire industries made the decision to not have real entry-level jobs anymore because it was more lucrative not to. But now, how does anyone get into those industries? It seems like the solution we’ve settled on is telling individuals to spend a lot of their own time, and often oodles of their own money, to get training so that they can go on to make profits for companies without burdening them.

              1. Ray Gillette*

                It’s not a good system and I wish I had an answer. It seems like some industries lean heavily on internships and networking, which essentially means you have to have parents who can afford to support you while you work for free.

                I got in by being in the right place at the right time. I wish I could say it was something special I did, but I was extremely lucky. Once my foot was in the door I worked hard, sure, but I can’t say how my career would have gone if I hadn’t gotten this opportunity when I did.

      3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Since trades are traditionally jobs that high school graduates get into right away, I can say that in some of what had been considered trade professions, the model of apprentice > journeyperson > expert/master craftperson has been largely wiped out. I think that puts the pressure on the education system to get young adults mostly ready to start at what would have been a journeyperson level just maybe 2 generations ago. But also, the idea that kids would NOT dedicate their youth and free time to become employable is a relatively new idea. Not too long ago, apprentices started as 14-15-16-year olds.

        1. VintageLydia*

          It was still on employers to provide that apprenticeship, however. Not on students in an unrelated institution (an almost entirely academic high school) to somehow apprentice themselves. The society as a whole did away apprenticeships and training programs and entry level jobs. Hell even a lot of retail stores wouldn’t hire anyone younger than 18 (because they don’t want to deal with labor laws for minors like what times they need to be off work when companies still need staff there for an hour after that time for closing duties. If kids need to be off work by 9, the store closes at 9, but obviously the work doesn’t end at 9, it would cost them more because they’d still need an employee between 9-10 or risk the employees left working longer to make up for the missing person and potentially going into overtime.)

  42. Public Sector Manager*

    For #2, in my 25 years of practicing law, private law firms continue to baffle me. I’d definitely go with Alison’s advice on sending the RSVP and then have a minor illness. I recommend saying you have the stomach flu–highly contagious, no one wants to get it, and no one ever questions it. So much better than a cold or flu because there is always that one partner who still thinks you should attend with a cold or flu.

    1. Tired of Covid-and People*

      This is insane when any cold or flu nowadays could be undiagnosed Covid. I don’t agree that OP should lie about developing an acute illness or anything else really. Covid cases are skyrocketing now, and it is totally valid to decline to put oneself at risk for a stupid party. Just tell the truth. I bet their are others that feel the same. When no one speaks up, that’s used to create the false narrative that employees feel the same as management, so they aren’t doing anything wrong.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        If this was a regular office, I’d agree with you. But in private law firms, being labeled “not a team player” is a big deal. So if certain partners love the holiday party and you don’t go, it means those partners won’t give you work. Then your billable hours go down, and if you stop carrying enough billable hours, you end up getting fired or just stop getting work and you’re forced to go elsewhere.

        Being in a private law firm is still very much trapped in the 1950s and 1960s when it comes to dealing with equity partners.

  43. OP#4*

    Thanks for the fantastic suggestion to look deeper. I’ve always been told that our Board is over the CEO and they don’t ever get involved in HR stuff. My company really only goes by a policy manual that was approved by the Board and all it states is that the CEO has the discretion to extend probation so that’s what he’s doing. We use a big payroll company like ADP or Paychex. I wonder if they’d be willing to advise on this matter?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s an internal policy, not anything legal — a payroll company wouldn’t be able to advise on it. If the policy manual gives him the discretion to extend probation, he has the authority to do it. It’s not something to take to the board.

  44. voluptuousfire*

    For OP #1, I worked briefly for a company that offered an e-portfolio/LMS that primarily worked with education departments. It would allow the student to have all their major things (evaluations from student teaching, grades, lesson plans, etc) in one portfolio so they had it all set for job interviews once they graduated. It made sense in that respect but porfolios are only needed for niche areas–graphic and product design, copywriting, etc. I could see it for software engineering–many engineers will have a GitHub that shows their code, so that’s a portfolio of sorts.

  45. Sarah N*

    A digital portfolio for HIGH SCHOOL students seems wild. I mean, maybe as it’s own assignment for students to learn about whatever topic and figure out how to put it online, fine. But certainly not to show employers! I feel like this is very field-specific and something that you’re going to know if you’re in that field. For example, my husband is in architecture where portfolios are very much a thing — paper ones when he started and now digital. But that’s well known by professors, students, job seekers, employers, etc. in that field — no one is going to accidentally forget it’s a thing!

  46. Raven*

    Students who do journalism, photography, art, etc. absolutely need portfolios. I don’t know if other students do.

    1. Clisby*

      It was expected when I was working as a journalist. However, not of a high school student. In my experience, journalism portfolios were to show off published material.

  47. Sleepy*

    Portfolios are an idea that constantly gets pushed in education–though usually not to show employers. It’s often supposed to be a more progressive way of assessing students and/or make them feel empowered by collecting their work in one place.
    I’m like okay…I’ll give them folders and they can put the assignments they’re already doing in it. Bam, portfolio done! Like many (most?) ‘innovations’ in education, it’s more about sounding impressive than actually doing anything.
    Honestly, I hate the e-versions even more than the paper versions because there are always students who lose the password or just forget to upload. These kids are slammed with SO many different platforms to keep track of.

  48. Ms. Frizzle-Wannabe*

    LW#1– PLEASE make them rethink the requirement. My master’s program had us make a portfolio as a final project (rather than a thesis), insisting it would be soooo helpful when we were applying for jobs. Besides a three page “philosophy of education” statement at the beginning (this is a program for elementary/special education teachers) and a bibliography, the entire thing was pictures of me working with students and of students’ work, with captions for each one. It had to be “visually pleasing” (again, a program for aspiring teachers, not graphic designers) but simple enough for an interviewer to scan quickly. All 50-ish pages. We had to pay to print it out twice (in color!), one to turn in and one to use in interviews.

    Guess how many times I used it in interviews. And how many times a week I think about how woefully inadequate my master’s program was. (This is my sixth year of teaching and yes, I still think about it more than once a week.)

  49. MamaSarah*

    I spent all day today contact. We’re having so much Covid right now that gathering indoors for games and drinks is actually quite risky here.

  50. Aimee*

    I work for a community college that is suddenly exploring eportfolios for students. While I can see it being helpful to reflect on personal growth and track projects in classes required for the program (I did this informally, and it helped with a couple of interviews), I don’t see the point of spending the time doing it for general education classes if the intention is to show them to employers later.

  51. A Note from the Teacher*

    OP 1 — I am a second grade teacher and my portfolio 100% helped me land my job, both my current role and my previous one. I have an actual portfolio (not digital) where I keep some of my best lesson plans along with student work samples, photos of the activity/follow-up activities (like bulletin boards), and photos of my classroom. It is also the place that I keep my clearances and professional teaching certificate.

    You certainly do not need a portfolio to get a teaching job, but having it there made me stand out! When they asked “tell me about your classroom organization” I was able to tell them through photos. “Tell me about your best lesson?” I was able to take them through each step with the photos and work samples and even give them copies of the plan to keep because I had made copies. In my first job, I was hired the week before school started. They told me I would need clearances and were shocked when I pulled out copies of them to keep. (Most candidates have to get back to them,)

    My boyfriend is a copywriter and keeps a portfolio as well, mostly of his best writing. He does not bring it to interviews, but it is useful for him to have a place to store his work in a professional way.

  52. mgguy*

    Re: #4-

    The places I’ve worked with probation periods(not uncommon in my experience) always had a very definite time-generally 6 months, and that was always in an at-will state. At my last, and to this point my longest employer, it was 6 months with an evaluation at the end of that period. Once past the period, the employee handbook defined specific steps for termination-two written warnings followed by a 6 month PIP. Of course there were exceptions for specific gross misconduct, but I think that sort of escalation and exception is also normal. During the probation period, in true at-will fashion, you could be told to clean out your desk in the middle of the day.

Comments are closed.