should I tell a candidate her goals are unrealistic, I don’t want to lead all our meetings, and more

It’s four answers to four questions, plus a story. Here we go…

1. Should I tell a candidate her career aspirations are unrealistic?

I am currently in the process of hiring for a position that I would consider just above entry level. It is a role in an operations department that supports an organization in a very “sexy” industry.

Today we interviewed a great candidate who has the right education, experience, and personality to be a real success. Unfortunately, in answer to our question about career aspirations, she answered that she hoped to use the position to get a foot in the door to the “sexy” side of what we do. It’s great she was honest, and if that’s what she truly wants then I wish her all the very best. But … while it’s not impossible, it’s definitely a one in a million shot for her. Her education and experience mean that she’s highly unlikely to ever even get an interview, let alone land a position. In 25 years in the industry, I’ve seen it happen only once, by what I can only call stealth, if not outright deception, and frankly that was not a success. To top it off, working with us isn’t going to give her the type of experience or leg up she obviously thinks it will.

I fully intend to let her know that if that’s what she truly wants this isn’t the role for her, but is there any value in explaining that her likelihood of success in her goal is so small, and that people with far more education and experience than her are struggling to find even entry level roles in that side of the industry? Would I just be crushing her dreams for no reason or, worse, to my own ends?

I don’t think you need to crush her dreams. It’s usually not a closely guarded secret that job X is highly competitive and tends to go to people with Y and Z in their backgrounds, so if she sticks around your industry for very long, she’ll presumably figure it out for herself.

But I do think you should give her accurate information so she can make the best decisions for herself. Don’t say, “You’ll never make it in this industry!” Say, “I want to be up-front with you that to be considered for jobs like X, you’d need Y and Z. Without Y and Z, most places won’t interview you — and even with Y and Z, it’s highly competitive. I think you’d be great at JobI’mHiringFor but I want to make sure you know it wouldn’t be a stepping stone to Job X, with us or in the larger field.”

You don’t need to hammer it in more than that. Give her the info in a matter-of-fact way, plant the seed, and from there what she does with it is up to her.

2. My coworkers call to check on their emails right after sending them

I pride myself on my quick turnaround and address 90% of the emails I receive during the work day within an hour, often less than half an hour. But I find myself looking for “nice” or even “nicesty” (thank you, Reginald D. Hunter) ways to get through to people who call to “make sure you got/see if you’ve had a chance to look at my email” … which they sent not five minutes earlier. Some of these people don’t give me one lousy minute to open their email before they pick the phone!

Subtle hints –“It’s been pretty hectic today and I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but I do see it there in my inbox, looks like it came in about three and a half minutes ago and I’ll take a look at it as soon as I can” — haven’t worked. The emails are all regarding routine, non-emergency, non-time-sensitive matters, and the people in question are not superiors with standing to say, “Drop whatever you’re doing and look at my email this instant.” These are intra-agency “customers” who in many cases are lower pay grades than me. It’s disruptive of my workflow (first in, first out) and it’s undermining their ability to get what they want from me as quickly as possible. Is there a professional, diplomatic but assertive way to shut this nonsense down?

Try making the phone calls as utterly unsatisfying for these colleagues as you can — don’t even confirm you’ve received the email and instead explain that you’re in the middle of something else. As in, “I’m right in the middle of something else right now so I haven’t checked, but if I don’t see it there once I’m able to check, I’ll let you know.” If they get that response a few times, they’re much less likely to keep calling.

Alternately, you could say, “Yes, I just received it a minute ago. I didn’t see that it was marked urgent — is there an emergency?” And when they presumably say no, you can say, “Oh, okay, no need to call unless something is an emergency. I usually respond quickly.” That’s fairly pointed, but it’s not unwarranted. I read this again after it published and thought, “What?! No.” There’s no need to be so passive about it. The next suggestion is really all you need. My apologies.

Or you can just address it directly: “I’m really on top of my email, so no need to call unless you haven’t received a response by when you need it. A lot of people call right after emailing and it can end up slowing things down!”

Caveat: It doesn’t sound like these callers are senior to you, but if someone senior does it, you generally would need to be more accommodating.

3. I don’t want to lead our meetings every time

I joined a small department within a larger company as part of a managerial team two years ago. Four managers report up to one director. Overall, I love working with the team and the company, and the director and I worked together in a previous life so we have a pretty good working relationship.

Not long after I joined the team, my director took leave and I was given a temporary promotion to run the department with the other managers for half a year. It was a bit odd, as I’d only been at the job a few months and the other managers had been there for years, but they were all juggling the care of young children with work, so I didn’t think much of it. During that time I took the visibility of being the temporary director — being the lead on budget, running staff meetings, etc.

I’m not one to not offer to help out, and the other managers help in many other ways, but since my director has returned, I’m often designated as her “shadow” to help on various emergency projects. I’m fine with giving added support, and I know everyone in the department works hard.

There is one thing that is irking me though. We have weekly department meetings and whenever my director is unable to host the meeting, she asks for a volunteer. At first I was doing them as need be, but then I noticed no one else was stepping up to lead. I’ve even hung back a few times when my director calls for a volunteer to see if someone else will volunteer and they never do. Last week, I joined an afternoon meeting a few minutes late that anyone could have started. My director usually hosts this meeting, but couldn’t make it that day. I quickly learned that everyone was waiting around for me to start the meeting. We all carry the same level of responsibility in the organization and we make the same pay. I’m beginning to get a bit resentful. I’ve brought it up lightly a few times in our managerial meetings, reminding them that staff must be getting sick of my voice (as I host several other meetings on a regular basis throughout the week), but no dice.

Any advice on how I can stop being the default host? It’s nice that they trust me, but does it always have to be me?

It sounds like you’re starting to be seen as something like a second-in-command — you filled in for the director when she was away and she’s been having you work as her deputy since she’s been back. If your colleagues now see you as the director’s back-up … well, that’s not a bad thing for you professionally. It can give you more influence, more access, and higher-profile projects, and it positions you well for a promotion at some point. (That assumes you want that stuff! If you don’t, at some point it might be worth talking with your boss about where you do and don’t want your career to go.) In that context, it’s not surprising people are looking to you to lead the meetings.

But if you don’t want to do it every time, you need to say something more directly. You’ve been pretty indirect so far! Saying that staff must be getting sick of your voice sounds like you’re just being self-deprecating; it doesn’t communicate “I don’t want to do this.” So at the next meeting where people assume you’ll take the lead, say more directly, “I’d prefer not to lead the meetings every time. Can we rotate the duty so it’s more evenly shared?”

4. Saying I’m interested in a new job because of the hours

I’m considering applying for a position for which I am qualified (possibly overqualified) and think I would like, but it is very different from my current job. The biggest reason I would want to apply is because its hours are much better for my family (no nights and weekends, which I have to work frequently right now). I like my job right now a lot, but I’ve been getting more stressed about family life and putting the burden of meals and bedtime on my spouse. In interviews I’ve always been asked why I applied for the position. I don’t want to be untruthful but I also don’t want to say it’s because of the hours and look like I’m not interested in the job itself. What’s the best way to approach this in an interview?

Yeah, don’t say it’s because of the hours! Interviewers are usually looking for people who are interested in the work itself and if your primary interest seems to be the hours, you won’t look very invested. Talk about aspects of the work itself that appeal to you and why you think you’d be good at the job. That’s not being untruthful; it’s speaking to what the interviewer is most interested in hearing about.

(That said, you could mention the hours as something prompting you to consider moving on from your current job — just not as the reason for the appeal of the new one.)

5. Another speaking up success story

Monday’s success story motivated me to tell my own — less consequential — success story.

I live in a country where driver’s licenses are provisional for the first two years. For some infractions there’s a mandatory additional course that’s expensive and somewhat time-consuming. I work for a company with fewer than 30 employees. The “company car” doubles as the owner’s family car. The owner’s son was caught speeding in a camera trap and photographed, and the photo was sent to the person to whom the vehicle is registered — my boss. Since his son just had a week or so left on his provisional license, my boss claimed not to know the driver of the vehicle. Since it’s a company car, it could have been any of us or anyone we let drive it. I heard about this in a three-way conversation with a client, the boss, and me. The plan was to deny knowing who the driver was and sit it out.

A few days later, my boss came into my office and said agitatedly, “A police officer will be here shortly. If he shows you a photo of [Son] you don’t know him.” He then disappeared to a meeting with four colleagues. I worked for a half hour or so and decided this would be a good time to run a work errand. When I came back, the officer was there, and the visit was coming to an end. He had asked the receptionist if she could identify the driver and talked to the boss and the other person in leadership. I later heard that the photo was compared to a team photo on display in the lobby.

Even though the situation was over, I was dissatisfied and I remembered your advice to push back as a group if possible. After talking with a few colleagues, it was clear that the boss hadn’t spoken to everyone when he made his agitated request and that it would be difficult to find common ground. One of my colleagues encouraged me to talk to him myself since the boss prefers handling things one-on-one and she said, “What you say has weight because you don’t complain about every little thing.”

After stewing through my lunch break, I approached him and said I hadn’t been okay wiith his request and that if I had been caught speeding with the company car on a provisional license I would have taken the additional training. (I got my license after I started working for the company.) He brushed it off, saying nothing had happened, no one (except the receptionist) was asked to identify the driver on the photo.

When I said goodbye for the evening, he brought it up again and said he’d been caught up in the moment. He maintained that it was his decision as a father whether to try to spare his son the ticket and the additional training, but apologized and said that it had been wrong of him to involve his employees.

Thanks for the encouragement to stand up.

{ 263 comments… read them below }

  1. Megan*

    LW 5 – I find it so interesting that the police are happy to let it go! Surely if no-one identifies the son, shouldn’t the police follow it up as a stolen car since the owner “doesn’t know” who the driver is?!
    I know not the point of the story but something I couldn’t help but think about.

    Well done OP though for standing up for the ethical, right thing :)

    1. mourning mammoths*

      I got one of these letters in the mail once (from the description I can guess OP and I live in the same country) and simply never sent a response. I was surprised it was dropped so easily. Had never heard that the police will show up to ask questions, and even to alert in advance that they are coming. Maybe that is more common for businesses than private people.

    2. MK*

      This story definitely doesn’t add up and would come across as suspicious. I mean, the boss saying he doesn’t know the driver is ridiculous, even if the whole company uses it; there are hardly hundreds of possible drivers. That being said, the police might not think it worth their time to launch an investigation, since there has been no accident; I am guessing that’s what the boss is counting on.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        This is something that happens in France. I agree that it’s totally ridiculous. People can get away with all sorts of stuff if they’re driving a company car. Basically the top perk for any executive is having a company car because they get away without paying all sorts of fines like that.
        I have a friend who got a huge shock when he retired and suddenly had to pay a fine for parking in a dangerous spot just so he could stop off to get some ciggies. Sorry, not sorry at all.

      2. AntsOnMyTable*

        Honestly I am surprised they even cared enough to send a cop. In my state you get the camera photo and you say “this isn’t me.” The letter, and I am paraphrasing here, says “it would be super neat if you informed us who it is if not you but we certainly can’t make you nor is there consequences if you don’t.” I have never heard of them following up on that.

        1. DArcy*

          Here if a company car is caught speeding, the citation goes to the registered owner of the vehicle. They can file an affidavit of non-liability, but said affidavit requires them to identify who the actual driver was and the citation is then re-issued to the person so identified.

    3. Rez123*

      My guess is something that “everyone” does and the police knows it but has no interest or resources to investigate further if the car owner does not request it. I’m suprised the police showed up, I would have just expected a letter.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This. You know that where there is a provision like that, people lie all the time, the police know it, and there are a million bigger problems to address so they don’t push it.

      2. Lexie*

        They did initially send the boss and photo and a copy of the infraction. The boss denied recognizing the person so that may have triggered the in person visit but it wasn’t worth to put much more effort into it than looking at some company photos and asking a couple of questions.

    4. LW5*

      The argument is that any of the employees could have used the car or let someone else use it. When I walked past the office to see if the coast was clear I thought I heard him say something about the cleaning lady! (Who may have given the key to who knows whom …) As far as I know there are stiff penalties for naming the wrong person (including yourself), but no one has done that.
      The time limit for the infraction is only a couple of months, so stonewalling will probably work. Like mourning mammoths, the family at first did not react at all. The visit was the second step. The officer called at least once after that on the phone and the boss stuck with “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”
      A consequence could be that a record of who drove when will have to be kept for 18-24 months.

      1. Casper Lives*

        Wait, does that mean there’s no records kept now of who drives the car when? Maybe that’s normal. My lawyer mind is weirded out by the lack of documentation.

        1. SAS*

          I am dying to know which country is so laissez-faire about speeding. Surely if the car is registered to a company and no individual driver is identified (?) then the fine would need to be paid by the company.

          1. Bagpuss*

            I’m in the UK – here, any initial notice of intended prosecution is sent to the registered keeper. They have a legal duty to identify the driver and the registered keeper can be fined and have penalty points on their licence if they fail to comply. BUT there is a defense if they don’t know who was driving , but they have to satisfy the court that they have made reasonable attempts to identify the driver – “Reasonable steps can include, making thorough enquiries with all possible drivers; consideration of photographic evidence or video footage; checking bank statements, receipts etc. with a view to determine whereabouts at the date and time in question”
            So here, the OPs boss might well find that they get a new summons for failing to identify the driver , which is a more serious offence than the speeding ticket would have been (and if the court determines that they did know but lied, then they would be into ‘attempting to pervert the course of justice’ which can result in a prison sentence – there was an MP who was sent to prison for 3 months a couple of years ago for this. )

            1. London Lass*

              Yes, that was the case I immediately thought of. It seems pretty short-sighted to risk a criminal record in order to protect a family member from the consequences of a minor, non-criminal, infraction. I would be very uncomfortable about continuing to work for someone who thinks that is an appropriate way to respond to the situation.

            2. UKDancer*

              That’s right, I think she claimed someone else was driving when it was her.

              There was another case a few years earlier in which an MP actually got his wife to take the speeding ticket for him because he would have been disqualified if he’d been convicted. He’d reached the maximum number of licence points allowable.

              When he left his wife for his researcher, the wife blew the whistle. They both were convicted of perverting the course of justice and got 8 months. She wrote a very interesting book in fact based on her time in prison.

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            In my experience with camera tickets (US, specifically Washington state) they don’t actually care who’s driving. The ticket goes to the registered owner to pay, *because* they can’t tell from the camera who was driving, and they say flat out that if someone else was driving that it’s on you to get them to reimburse you but the payment is your responsibility. However, the fine is the only outcome – where a normal officer-issued speed ticket includes points on your license, the camera ticket is functionally treated like a parking ticket; as long as it’s paid on time there are no further consequences.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I’m in Illinois and I got a red-light camera ticket once years ago, and this is pretty accurate for my experience. It was sent to me, there was a video I could see online and basically the only defense was “my car was stolen”. It was pay up or else but no other consequences once I paid. (It was also pretty stupid because it was a right turn that would have been a right arrow in a lot of places, the cross-streets had left turn arrows, but because I didn’t stop behind the line for 2 whole seconds…)

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                I have had the same issue. If you did not stop at all it probably is a lost cause. But if you did stop and it just happened to be past the line and the camera got you, you are able to contest the ticket. I have successfully contested a few “red-light” camera tickets when I did a legal right turn on red but just stopped slightly in front of the line. I request an in-person hearing and ask them to review the tape and see that I did stop and there are no signs against turning right on red. Legally you have to stop behind the line, and it very much depends on who is sitting in the admin law judges seat but if ask nicely you might be able to get it thrown out. Depending on the cost for some people it might not be worth the time since it does not go on your record. But you do have some recourse if you are willing to try.

              2. Boof*

                Yeah my mom got a photo ticket in illinois – BECAUSE THE PERSON IN FRONT OF HER ran the red light. It wasn’t her. But there was no recourse to contest the ticket.
                I actually really hate redlight tickets that are meant to generate revenue. The only way to do traffic cams IMHO is like Britain – make them very big and obvious, to try to trigger people to behave whatever rule is being broken (so I understand it anyway) – not the sneaky ones meant to fine people when maybe nothing of consequence is actually happening.

                1. Boof*

                  meant to say traffic cams – not just the redlight ones. The ones that are clearly about revenue and not safety.

                2. English, not American*

                  Yeah, when they want to drum up cash in the UK they sit with one of those speed-guns in a carefully parked car on stretches of road with speed limit changes. Much more ethical to clock someone going 1mph over the limit ten feet from the point at which they’d be 9mph under the limit.

                  Or the strategic bus lanes along twenty yards of road for an hour in the morning to stop people using it as a rat-run. They don’t work quite so well when people can drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid the camera. So bloody dangerous. I suspect that’s why they made one of the roads near my house one-way a couple of years ago, so there was less reason to try and game the sometimes-bus-lane.

                3. Anna Karenina*

                  many of these are run by private companies, so they are contracted out to collect. If its a private company, you can ignore with no repurcussions.

            2. AntsOnMyTable*

              In Arizona they are way more lax. It gets sent to the person who owns the car but you can say it is not you and there is no requirement to say who the person is or consequences if you don’t.

          3. Calanthea*

            There was a case in London recently where a supermarket delivery driver drove into a cyclist. They were caught on camera, along with the numberplate, and the supermarket just said they couldn’t possibly know who was driving. this meant they only got a fine for failing to tell the police who was driving, rather than the higher penalty of dangerous driving.
            It’s shocking how many people are driving at the moment – our hospitals are full of covid patients and people get into their 2 tonne metal death cages without considering that they could kill or send someone to hospital with just a small slip of attention.

            1. londonedit*

              I think people are driving more because they don’t want to use the train or bus. The risk of catching Covid in your own car is tiny – that can’t be said for the risk of spending half an hour or an hour travelling in an enclosed space with other people. Of course, driving has its own risks and it’s not great news for the environment, but I can understand why people are choosing to drive instead of using public transport.

              1. Kelly L.*

                That, and not everywhere even has a train or bus. And not everyone conveniently already lived within walking (and lugging) distance of a grocery store. People have to get food somehow. Either they will have to drive themselves, or a delivery driver will have to drive to them. Pretty much every municipality has recognized grocery shopping as an essential activity.

                1. londonedit*

                  Oh, absolutely. My parents’ village has no public transport and the nearest supermarket is six miles away.

            2. Laura Palmer*

              That situation is unfortunate, but shouldn’t be framed as a cautionary tale against driving… People have to leave their houses for things, even during a pandemic. What would you prefer they do — take public transportation when they don’t need to, just to go to the store? We can’t possibly be shaming people for using their cars to do basic life things like go to the grocery store just because of COVID.

            3. H2*

              Wait, surely you’re not saying that a grocery delivery person shouldn’t be driving? Outside of cities, either people drive to get groceries or someone drives the groceries to them. At a bare minimum, you’re safe to assume people still need food, medicine, etc.

              Not to mention the fact that many, many people are still working out of the home, to make and sell food and medicine, keep utilities running, maintain roads, teach students…a lot of us need cars to do that.

              Obviously car accidents are tragedies, but covid doesn’t change the reality that people often need to drive places.

            4. Observer*

              And what are people supposed to do? Telling people to never leave the house is simply not viable. Full stop. And not taking care of necessary tasks (like, going to the doctor or getting food) could land people up in the hospital, too.

        2. Rewis*

          Our company car has no written record on who drove it. The keys are in the breakroom and the person who needs it just takes it. Sometimes it’s a bit annoying when you need it and it is gone. However, there is such a a low usage that it hasn’t been a problem.

      2. Como*

        That is so entitled and off-putting that he would even name the cleaning lady. Sure, target probably the lowest-paid and least powerful person in the office rather than your precious offspring who is actually at fault. Ugh.

      3. pancakes*

        Is the cleaning lady not a person in this scenario? Your boss trying to blame her or depict her as careless is as repugnant as asking employees to lie about his son, if that’s what he’s doing.

      4. Observer*

        When I walked past the office to see if the coast was clear I thought I heard him say something about the cleaning lady! (Who may have given the key to who knows whom …)

        He actually tried to blame the cleaning lady?! Or was he saying “Anyone could have taken the key and given it someone. Even the cleaning lady. So it could have been ANYONE.”

        Because the latter is not great. But the former is gross.

    5. Observer*

      I find it so interesting that the police are happy to let it go!

      I’m totally not surprised. I mean this is just a matter of someone speeding. I’m actually more surprised that they even sent the police to follow up. Maybe I’m jaded because in NYC, the police would laugh if anyone asked them about this level of work to find a speeder.

      Surely if no-one identifies the son, shouldn’t the police follow it up as a stolen car since the owner “doesn’t know” who the driver is?

      Why? No one has reported a stolen car. And the car with the plates in the picture is where it belongs. What exactly is the police supposed to be following up on? Someone apparently took the car for a joyride and returned it?

  2. Robin Gottlieb*

    OP2: Definitely DON’T say “was it marked urgent?”, that’s pretty much telling them to do so all the time, whether it’s urgent or not.

    1. allathian*

      Most of the tasks I do are non-urgent. My coworker and I have also been able to train our customers to expect an answer within a few hours or a business day. We don’t have to attend a lot of meetings, so if a task is truly urgent, most people have learned to contact us on Skype after they send the email to ensure we know it’s exceptionally urgent.

      Before we put this system in place, I occasionally had to deal with people calling as soon as they sent the email. Sometimes I straight up said that calls will not get their task dealt with any faster, and the next call would put their task on the bottom of my to-do list. They usually didn’t call me again. I guess my predecessor had rewarded callers by letting them jump the queue, just to get them out of her hair. I refused to accommodate that, so in the beginning I got an extinction burst of calls, but with the help of my manager, who was supportive and realized the calls were disruptive, we managed to retrain our customers…

      Essentially, it’s the C-suite and their admin assistants when acting on their behalf who have the seniority to get us to drop everything else. But most of them are very careful not to abuse their privilege and usually say that their task is not particularly urgent, which I appreciate. Just because a task comes to us from the C-suite doesn’t mean that it’s more urgent than a task that comes from elsewhere in the organization. We have some statutory deadlines to deal with, and I guess I’m lucky in that the C-suite respects that so that we don’t have to work extra long hours to get their tasks done as well as the statutory ones we’ve scheduled.

    2. LW2*

      Oh geez. I had a guy who was marking EVERY *completely routine* email to me with “URGENT” in the subject line until I started replying to each one to ask him to articulate what, exactly, made this llama-grooming request all-caps URGENT.

      1. Airy*

        We have a system where job requests are submitted in a form that has a box to check if the task is urgent. There’s also a comments field where you can add explanatory notes. If you have checked the urgent box, we can shuffle that job to the top of our queue. If not, it looks like an ordinary job that can wait for its turn in the order received. We still get emails from requestors wondering why their job hasn’t been done yet when they put the word “urgent” in the comments field and didn’t check the box.

      2. Jen (with one N)*

        I had one coworker who would send me an email at 8 a.m. that had to be done by 4 p.m. and would mark it urgent; I tried to train him out of the habit by explaining that it’s not urgent unless I have an hour or less left to deal with it, but I don’t know how successful I was.

        LW2, I’d be tempted to just not answer the phone, but sometimes my solutions aren’t the most helpful ones. :)

        1. Mimi*

          I think that’s a personal definition — most of the places I’ve worked, “this needs to be dealt with TODAY” would at the very least justify a [Time sensitive] flag, and often an [URGENT] one, depending on the amount of work involved and the quantity of requests received by the team dealing with it.

      3. Also Anon MedSupport Staff*

        I had one person who was also the everything is URGENT!!!! because he always sent his stuff at the proverbial 11th hour. He would always expect me to drop everything for him (including things like lunch breaks and leaving work on time) to get his stuff done.
        I never got him to fully stop, but he did improve slightly after a reply from me of “failure to adequately plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” in front of the unit manager as I was leaving (on time) for the day.

      4. Glitsy Gus*

        I’ve had to train my coworkers on this as well. It’s really frustrating at first. I did basically what Allison suggested. I’d answer the phone (if you can sound slightly distracted but like you are still listening that’s a bonus) and when they asked “Did you get my email?” I would ask, “when did you send it?” “Oh, a couple minutes ago.” “Well, I am working on something else right now, so I haven’t checked my email recently. I’m sure it’s in there, when I get to it I’ll let you know if I have any questions.” Then keep on moving down the chain.

        For the folks who really can’t take the hint, even if I happened to be at a slow point where I could check their email really quick I would still tell them this and wait at least ten minutes before responding to the email. It feels a little petty, but the goal really is to train them out of expecting immediate attention just because they ask for it. It works. Now I only get calls if something really is urgent, and they usually start with, “OK, I know I just sent the request over, and I’m sorry to bug you so soon, but this is a bit of an emergency.” Which is great and not only do things get handled in appropriate time frames; but my coworkers respect my time and process and they know I’m not going to ignore their requests if they just drop them in the inbox and leave it so we all get along much better now.

        1. Paulina*

          I have very occasionally said “Oh I was about to start working through my email but then the phone rang,” or similar. (Hopefully not directly mean but enough pushback to let them know that there’s a lot of email, they’re not at the top, and them interrupting me is getting in the way.) But I have a lot of job security.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            The passive aggressiveness of this appeals to me greatly. ;-p

            Not sure what that says about me, but it does.

    3. Kiitemso*

      Yes! This. I have one particular task at work that can be decidedly not urgent 99% of the time, and urgent 1% of the time and I have been hesitant to tell people to call me if it’s urgent because really, most tasks can wait until the next day, and I have other stuff to get to, so it can be annoying to be interrupted and then have to either re-assure them I’ll do it soon enough or do it instead of other tasks that are actually a bit more urgent (though never critically so).

      I still try not to advertise the call-in option because I’ve noticed that the most common reason something becomes urgent is just because they didn’t get all the info to me ahead of time.

    4. CheeryO*

      Agreed. I have a peer-level coworker who loves to do this to me. He knows that I read his emails, and he knows that I’ll respond in a reasonable amount of time, but he just feels a pathological need to follow up immediately. He gets a broken record, “Yep, I’m on it.” No passive-aggressiveness, no letting him live rent-free in my head. IMO, this falls into the category of people-isms that you just sort of have to deal with at work.

      1. Sparrow*

        Turning into a broken record has definitely been the thing that worked best for me. “I will get back to you when I have time to look at it carefully,” on repeat + sitting on the email a couple hours longer than I would’ve otherwise, just to avoid training them to think that pestering me got them an answer faster did ultimately break people of this habit on non-urgent issues.

  3. Dan*


    I think your biggest concern is whether your candidate will stick around in that role long enough for it to be worth your while (and hers), or once she figures out the score, she’s out the door.

    It’s also possible, given that she’s a strong fit for the role you’re hiring for, that she just told you what she did because she thought it sounded good or “aspirational”. Because the reality is, if it’s sexy role or bust, then no job will be satisfying to her, because no job provides that pathway.

    So… I think you should have an honest conversation about the realities of the role and its progression, and what you expect out of her, and what she can expect out of you and the org at large. Then you can figure out if she will be miserable doing the job you’re hiring for, or if she will be content in an adjacent role to “sexy” job. Do keep in mind, though, that over the years, many people have been told “no”, but the highly motivated have founds ways to change that no in to a yes. In that regard, a blunt “no” will likely be ignored, but “slim chance, here’s what you’re looking at, wish you the best of luck” could actually be the appropriate tone.

    Side rant: I have a strong dislike for the “five year plan” question or anything that smells like it. In my line of work, it takes about that long to truly gain competence in the role to the point where one could can work with minimal to no supervision. It’s also not obvious from the outside what opportunities could be available with five years of experience. So any kind of aspirational answer is going to be met with “here’s a reality check there buddy”, to the point where I wouldn’t even bother asking it. At one of my first interviews after grad school in a technical role, I was asked the question, to which I said, “senior engineer”. I was promptly told that senior engineer required 10 years of experience. To which I said something along the lines of, “so what are my options?”

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Regarding the “no”, I’ve had the opposite experience – if you tell someone young and eager that the chances of achieving their dearly wanted X are very very small, there’s a strong probability that they’ll interpret as “X is possible if I push hard enough” and double down. And then be bitter some years down the line when the find out that the answer was always going to be no.

      The key for this particular employee is whether she can do the job she’s applied for competently and pleasantly, without spending her time and effort figuring out how to sidestep into the sexy stuff, or becoming disgruntled when she finds out the job she’s hired for is the job she’s expected to do. Personally, I’d be wary about hiring someone whose expectations were so far from reality.

      1. RealityCheck*

        100% this is my concern. The other piece of this is that, having done sexy job (I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t used that word) for 15 years myself before moving to the side and finally actually enjoying my work, I can say with a lot of confidence that it’s definitely not sexy when you’re in the trenches doing it. It’s repetitive, requires long irregular hours, pays poorly and has almost no job stability. If it’s your passion, and you are willing to accept those things then you can go far, and it can actually be sexy when you’re successful. But for every person up there in the limelight there is 15 back in the trenches sorting through the muck. (Can you tell I hated it?)

        I think she needs to know what it’s really like before she decides that’s what she wants to do with her life.

        1. And I'm Out*

          It sounds like you’d be in a great position to have a nuanced, ongoing conversation with her about this, should she be offered and take the position.

          I’m in a similar type of career myself (glamorized/seen as generally aspirational publicly, but in reality can have awful hours, lots of grunt work, and takes years and years of training and delayed gratification), and other than people already in my industry, I’ve been approached by high schoolers and college students who want to know how to get on the path. Would I have made the same career decisions if I could go back and give my college self a dose of reality? I honestly don’t know. Do I sugarcoat the field, or actively try to dissuade younger folks from pursuing it? No, neither — I just try to be an empathetic sounding board, give helpful advice if they ask directly/ask the right questions, and present both positives and negatives.

          1. RealityCheck*

            Yeah. I think I’ve resolved my issues of doing this only for selfish reasons. Whether she chooses to give my position a shot or not, she deserves to understand the full reality of the industry she’s chosen.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              That’s partly why I left my original career field of virology. Yup, the working in a lab bit, helping delve into the secrets of viruses to help develop vaccines etc looks great on paper….
              …but in reality it’s long hours, bad pay, working conditions that are strenuous on the back/arms, a lot is tedious…

              I work in IT now.

              1. GeorgiaB*

                Hello fellow virology escapee! I have a PhD in Molecular Virology and I’m a Software Dev PM now. Much better hours and pay and I can work from home!

                1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                  Oh wow! I never thought I’d ever meet another person who changed careers like me! Oh that’s fabulous :)

                  (Much respect for molecular biology. I worked/studied/qualified in epidemiological studies with particular focus on viral genetic drift. Then I hopped to tech support, to software dev, to senior tech to management.
                  As you say, it keeps you out the labs!)

        2. MK*

          Eh, if this a candidate you never met before, I am not sure it’s your place to educate her on the reality of the industry? She hasn’t asked for mentorship or even an informational interview. I would focus on the part about the job you are offering to her and what it is likely to lead to or not.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Agree. OP may be just a little over-invested in this. Just make the situation clear to the candidate and let her choose for herself, I wouldn’t worry too much about whether she’ll be successful in her long term unrealistic dream or if it will make her happy if she achieves it.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Thing is, OP doesn’t want an employee who’s fully focussed on a lateral promotion into the sexy side, she wants an employee who’s fully focussed on the job she’s hired to do. So she should give her a heads-up at least.

        3. Juniper*

          I had a similar experience — it had always been my dream to be in a very particular line of work. The path I took post-college made achieving that specific dream almost impossible to achieve without moving countries, so I took the next best option and found a job in the same organization but in a support capacity (knowing, however, that there would be 0 chance for a lateral move). Turns out I loved the support job and was quickly disabused of the notion that sexy job was in fact sexy. I stayed 5 years, and left at peace with the fact that that childhood dream would remain just that. If your role allows firsthand insight into the drudgery of the “sexy” side of your industry, and this candidate is reflective and self-possessed, then she very likely arrive at the same conclusion herself.

          1. RealityCheck*

            Yeah, I have another candidate who has said in the phone screen that she potentially wants to do a PhD in 3-4 years but wants stability and a great working environment. I’ll be interviewing her tomorrow because if she’s a fit for the position, I’m fairly certain I can convert her to our side of the fence in that time. And if I don’t, we’ll have a fun 3-4 years fun together.

    2. RealityCheck*

      OP#1 here – I’ve had a few days to think about this and your approach is definitely the one I’ll probably take. I also absolutely understand your horror at the “5 year plan question”. Unfortunately because we’re “sexy career adjacent” it’s actually super relevant. Not only to weed out those who aren’t going to be engaged in their jobs and be a flight risk, but also to identify candidates who are looking for an “in”. Generally those are qualified to get into the more high profile side, so I say no and move on. But this candidate is a great fit for my position and has such dismal chances for achieving her stated career goal, I wondered whether I should say something.

      I actually made some inquires both internally and externally, and have come to the conclusion that her chances are probably significantly worse that I estimated. I had thought that there was a chance she could go back to Uni and get the extra qualifications as a postgraduate, but the way the industry and education system are structured, she’d need to go back and do another 3 year degree to get the chance to do the additional qualification for an entry level position. While theoretically she COULD land a job without it, it’s a very veeery long shot, and even if she did, it’s an additional very veeerrry long shot that she would ever be considered for promotion.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I’d concentrate on the unqualified side, rather than trying to explain how much the sexy job sucks and how she really doesn’t want it.

        My experience (niche sexy branch of academia) is that starry eyed youngsters intent on the career will politely listen but deeply believe that they’re smart/talented/hardworking/dedicated enough to be one of the ones who makes it, and that you’re probably exaggerating about what it’s like. Also, being young, single and healthy tends to lead to a different view on work-life balance and crappy pay than when you’re 20 years older and want to live in the same country as your partner. At least in my field, leaving for a tech job for three times the salary is an option for those want/need to leave.

        “You can’t even get an entry level job in the field without a degree in Underwater Basketweaving” is a lot more concrete for someone in the position your applicant is in.

        1. RealityCheck*

          That’s a great point. I guess what she does with any info I give her is up to her. I really just need to clarify if she was saying what she thought I want O hear or if she really has the intention of getting into that field.

          1. miro*

            That’s a good point–if the other field is higher-profile, she may be basing her answer off of that rather than having a strong personal inclination towards that work.

      2. Shark Whisperer*

        I used to work as a manager in a “sexy career adjacent” role, as well. We were a bit harsher than you and automatically disqualified anyone who answered the “5 year plan question” with wanting to end up in “sexy career.”

        1. Lil Fidget*

          This attitude always makes me kind of sad. I’m an author and this comes up in publishing a lot. If people can do the job that’s being hired for, ideally the situation would be explained clearly but they would be hired (or at least considered!), rather than rejected because they secretly dream of publishing their own book someday and don’t realize this is a blacklisted dream. Yes, it’s probably true that some people aren’t as good as editors or whatever because that’s not their true passion, but honestly it seems a little high-handed to me.

          1. Shark Whisperer*

            That’s a fair point. I explain below what the job was and I think it’ll make a little more sense why we had the attitude that we did. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t have been so automatic, but we had enough qualified people that it wasn’t worth the time for us to really dig into whether the person would be content with a support position or not.

          2. sacados*

            Haha, that’s really amusing to me, because back in college I was planning to go into publishing/editorial. (Wound up in a totally unrelated field tho… life is weird like that)
            And I always felt a little odd about the fact that I WASN’T a writer and had NO aspirations of publishing my own novel someday… I did an internship in the editorial department at S&S and it sometimes felt like I was the only one of my cohort who really just wanted to be an editor.

          3. comityoferrors*

            I think the issue might be in the framing of the question. IMO, if this is asked in an interview, there’s an implied, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years (in relation to this role/company)?”

            I hate asking this question, but if I’m on an interview panel and someone else asks this, I’m looking for answers that show interest in the role or something a step or two along that path. I have no problem if someone has secret aspirations in a totally different direction – once they’re showing engagement and good work ethic on the team, I’ll actively help them with those stretch goals if possible — but the context of an interview is providing information about your fit with the role you applied for, not for something in a different sector of your industry. I’ll still consider strong candidates who answer this way, but there are often other strong candidates who *do* seem engaged in the work we’re hiring for, so they get preference because they seem like they’ll be happier and stay for longer.

          4. miro*

            I think in general, any answer to the question that puts you too far outside the role you’re interviewing for is going to be disqualifying. I can see how that seems fuzzier in publishing because being an author seems relevant to an editing job in a way that it wouldn’t if you were, say, interviewing at a chemical factory. In reality, though, neither of those jobs are asking you to be an author and neither job is looking for someone who is looking to leave to be an author (and if you’re just looking to write on the side, then in a way that’s not a relevant answer to a question about your career–presumably you’d still have career goals for your non-writing work).

            1. kim*

              Agreed. I work in publishing, and I’ve worked with several people who are also authors. I have no idea how they do it – who has the time! – but I wouldn’t disqualify someone as a job candidate if they also are/hope to be a published author.

              However, if your rationale for applying for a publishing job is that you hope to be published yourself one day, rather than actually being interested in the business of publishing for its own sake, that’s a problem. I would be worried that the candidate was more interested in building a network to sell a book later down the line rather than in doing the work at hand. And that’s in editorial; if I was hiring in accounting or distribution or another “unsexy” department, I’d definitely be concerned if a candidate talked a lot about getting into the business because they want to be an author.

      3. Grits McGee*

        I worked in ticket admissions at a large museum and was told multiple times during the interview that the position they were hiring did not have a path to do back-of-house collections or curatorial work. In my case, I did have the qualifications to do the “sexy” jobs, but they wanted to make it clear that they were not interested in serving as a stepping stone. If you don’t want to get into a debate about qualifications, you can just focus on how the job you’re hiring for won’t help her get sexy job.

        No matter how you say it, you’ll be doing her a huge favor. My current employer recruits new staff by promising that they’ll be promoted to the jobs they actually want within a year, which is wildly inaccurate. It’s really tanked our reputation in the area.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          This is a good example actually, I’m biased because I’m thinking of the writing world, but museums is probably a better fit given the conditions OP describes, which are very education-focused. I still think Alison’s answer is correct though, just tell the candidate the true situation and let her decide. This may be as close to the dream as she’s going to get, and she might be happy just to be “a part of that world” to randomly quote Ariel.

        2. Filosofickle*

          I volunteer at a local museum. In volunteer info sessions they made it clear (multiple times) that volunteering there is not a stepping stone to curatorial jobs. It felt heavy handed but it also makes sense why they do that. Lots of people hoping to do an end-run in a notoriously tight industry.

      4. caradom*

        In England we have student loans but if you’ve already done a degree you need to pay if you choose to do another one (if you do a postgraduate course that is different).

      5. Elementary Fan*

        I understand it’s important to set the expectation so she doesn’t get frustrated if she’s hired and can’t transition soon. But if she’s otherwise qualified and wants to do this job while she continues her studies (3+ years), why should that disqualify her from consideration for the current role?

        1. RealityCheck*

          At the moment she doesn’t qualify for further study, and in our industry the further study is a full time roll on a Scholarship, so she can’t do both.

          But most importantly, as a lot of other commenters have said, I don’t want someone who is goi to end up unhappy and frustrated in their job because they can’t get to where they want to be from there.

    3. Chilipepper*

      Agree with Dan that the OP’s biggest concern is whether the candidate can be successful and happy in the role and an honest convo about that is the best option.

  4. And I'm Out*

    #1 – I’m curious about whether Y and Z are things your job candidate might eventually be able to acquire if her heart was absolutely set on breaking into this “sexy” industry (i.e., an MBA, additional certifications/training), or whether they’re basically impossible for her to ever acquire (i.e., someone whose adult height is 5’2 growing to 5’10 to become a catwalk model). Alison’s advice about giving her accurate information in a kind but straightforward way is great; I’d also suggest if you hire her that you might help her identify a formal or informal mentor in your organization who could help her with career advice and development. I’m finally at the point of my career where I’ve started to mentor more junior folks, and I know I really would have benefitted from having an honest mentor back when I was starting out.

    1. RealityCheck*

      I’m just copying and pasting from above, but seems relevant here:

      I actually made some inquires both internally and externally, and have come to the conclusion that her chances are probably significantly worse that I estimated. I had thought that there was a chance she could go back to Uni and get the extra qualifications as a postgraduate, but the way the industry and education system are structured, she’d need to go back and do another 3 year degree to get the chance to do the additional qualification for an entry level position. While theoretically she COULD land a job without it, it’s a very veeery long shot, and even if she did, it’s an additional very veeerrry long shot that she would ever be considered for promotion.

      We have an internal career advisor and I think I might book in a conversation with her as my second. That way she can hear it from a source who has a professional knowledge of the requirements who can give her options if that is what she wants.

    2. NowhereToGoButUp*

      As someone who was hired for a role that does NOT lead where I thought it was, I think it is a kindness to the candidate to figure out if her answer was non-negotiable or something she felt expected to answer in the moment.

      I was hired for a non-customer-facing role that I assumed was a stepping stone towards a more prestigious, customer-facing role. In my interview, the hiring manager asked me why I wanted the job and my answer was essentially, “I want this job because I want to get into the customer-facing role next.” I was hired and assumed that meant she agreed with my answer to that question specifically. It was a rude awakening when I realized she wanted me to stay in the same role forever so she wouldn’t have to train someone new. Obviously, that’s a bit different from this situation, but I wish she had been upfront with me that I had the wrong impression of my prospects going forward.

  5. Oui oui*

    Because we weren’t told what the jobs are in Letter #1, I’m just going to assume that the job she aspires to is Astronaut.

    1. WellRed*

      Oh this is helpful. I honestly couldn’t wrap my mind around what was sexy AND needed a gazillion qualifications!

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Hehehe me too. I was like, “they must mean sexy within the field of librarians” rather than “sexy to the general public.” But astronaut is a good guess too!

      2. The Rural Juror*

        She obviously wants to be the Diana Prince that works as an a$$-kicking superhero, not the one who works in anthropology at the Smithsonian.

    2. Kiitemso*

      For some reason I assumed music, music promoting or music event production but since OP has mentioned degrees in their comments, I don’t think I was right with that assumption.

      A friend of mine loved music and wanted to be a songwriter/producer, worked at record companies as a general intern/runner at first, slowly transitioned into music promotion/marketing, did it for a few years, grew to hate it, and now she just plays in her band and does webdesign and general marketing as a job, and is a lot more content with it.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah it seems to me that nothing in the arts would be that degree/education/credentials focused. I hope we’re not taking to conversation off track here with some harmless speculating.

    3. Elenna*

      Oh, I wanted to be an astronaut SO MUCH i. high school. Eventually did some research and concluded that given the high requirements, lack of a concrete path to get there, and the fact that (at least at the time?) people with glasses were not allowed, plus tye fact tgat I wasn’t super interested in any particular job that might get me there, I decided I’d prefer to find a job that was easier to get into even if I didn’t love it.

      That being said, if commercial flights to space become at all affordable for the middle class within my lifetime, you bet I’ll be on one of them!

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

        Me too. A part of me died the day I read the list of requirements. I guess commercial pilot is the nearest alternative, although is impossible for me as well.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        You are reminding me of my childhood dreams / every girl in my class’ childhood dream of being a marine biologist :D What did we know?? I would hate that job – I hate boats.

        1. kitryan*

          I wanted to be a marine biologist. I actually love boats and scuba diving and think I could have made it work if I hadn’t given up on it early because I was terrible at chemistry in high school. Looking back, I had the teacher most ill suited for teaching me chemistry (and probably also was ADHD). She spent the first 1/3 of the year quizzing us on the periodic table, group by group – we had to memorize atomic numbers, the whole thing. I am terrible at that and was super frustrated and ended up with a D or something. If I’d had a more engaging teacher or had the ability to suck it up and push through, things might have gone differently, since I’m hugely better at anything when I’m engaged and not memorizing fiddly numbers that are clearly listed in a chart in the front of the book.
          I also wanted to be a jockey, but it became clear I was going to be too big for that.
          My adult experience with being sexy job adjacent is that I worked as a costume designer/design assistant for a number of years and hated when people *really* wanted to act but treated costuming as a sort of second best option. Since my achilles heel is networking and actor types tend to be personable/gregarious it was disheartening to see people who treated my grown up dream job as a consolation prize getting opportunities (in costuming) that I couldn’t access.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Heh I thought that for a minute too because I’ve seen people be a little nasty to wannabe editors who secretly aspire to write books, but there’s no way this credential conversation plays a role there. Assuming the “sexy” job is writer. Maybe within the field senior editor is considered a very sexy job too, but from the outside the writers get the glamour (hence the low pay hahahah).

      2. LegallyBrunette*

        Publishing is weird because some advanced degrees (graduate degrees in literature) and extra qualifications (certificates from publishing programs) can help, but aren’t necessary at all. And people can absolutely get into the sexy part (editors) without any of those qualifications.

  6. RG*

    That’s a great script for #1. A while back I saw someone complaining about how when investigating jobs in a particular industry, they all seemed to require a graduate degree and how they should accept that not everyone goes to college. I couldn’t really think of a way to say “well maybe this industry just requires a graduate degree for entry level jobs” without risking a derailment of the conversation. Like maybe it turns out that it’s really not necessary but it’s hard to tell unless you work in those jobs and since they, regardless of company size, seem to be requiring a graduate degree…you might just have to get a graduate degree.

    FWIW, we both work in tech, which as a whole is pretty friendly to people without a 4-year college degree. However, this is not true of all roles and areas of tech. Sometimes, they do want that bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate in a particular field.

    1. RealityCheck*

      Yep. You need a Bachelor’s with an Honours (I’m in Australia, have no idea what the US equivalent is… It’s an extra year research project on top of the 3 year degree) to get entry level, then do a PhD to progress.

      1. Casper Lives*

        Hmm that’s tough to find an equivalent. Bachelor’s in the U.S. is 4 years (on average, some load up credits to get it done in 3 and 5 years isn’t unusual in some hard sciences). Maybe a master’s degree? Those are usually 1.5-2 years here.

        I was in an honors program at college where we had to write a thesis to graduate. We had to have a supervising professor and research topic. Most students did theirs over the course of a year, but we were 1/2 regular class hours too.

        1. RealityCheck*

          Nope, we have 3 year bachelors. If you get good marks they might invite you to complete a 4th year honours which is the research project with a thesis submission at the end. We have a 2 year Masters, which in some fields is valuable, like an MBA or such. In our field a Master’s is a bit of a nothing… Like you weren’t talented enough to get a PhD scholarship so decided to pay your way in to a higher degree. And it doesn’t qualify you for anything more than the Hons does either. Real career progression requires 3-4 years of living below the poverty line on a Scholarship to complete a PhD.

          1. ttlanhil*

            Australian here too – from what I’ve read, I believe bachelor with honours (or a bachelor and then an honours year, which is more common) is roughly equivalent to the 4-year degrees overseas.
            Or for cases like engineering and some other disciplines, it might be 4 years bachelors and 1 year honours here; where it’s a 5 year bachelor’s elsewhere
            Most people not having done a research project to get through a bachelor’s degree (as opposed to associate degree, which are less common here, and I assume similar to the 2-year colleges overseas) is probably strange to the rest of the world :)

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              Depends on the university and field of study, but an awful lot of US bachelor’s degrees don’t require an independent research project to complete. The ones that do often have it as an option to do either research or an internship related to the field. And the research project/internship requirement is usually a very small part of the degree… in my current program it’s equivalent work to a single average class for a single term (they estimate about 100 hours of work total).

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        I see. This is similar to the parts of English-speaking Canada where both 3- and 4-year undergraduate degrees were common. Four-year degrees sometimes require theses, but it’s not uncommon to find Honours programs with no thesis requirement; three-year degrees never require theses. You normally couldn’t go directly from a three-year undergrad to any sort of graduate program; you’d need to, at the very least, do a “qualifying year” of fourth-year courses, probably including an undergrad thesis.

        The difference here is that a Master’s (rather than a doctorate) is the entry-level credential of choice in a lot of fields here. Part of this has to do with how 4-year Honours degrees here don’t always include theses, even at prestigious universities, so some students won’t undertake a major independent research project unless they do a Master’s.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, my brother never finished his undergraduate degree, and he constantly stews about how hard it is to get a job without one (for the record, he has been gainfully employed for the last 20 years). For all the time he spends complaining about it, he could have gotten 5 degrees by now. Even if he took one night class per semester he still could have done it decades ago. But for some reason he insists that all employers should change their requirements rather than him meeting their qualifications.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah we have a family friend who didn’t finish basically because he thought he was smarter than all his professors. Now he thinks The Man is preventing him from getting better jobs.

      2. Can't Sit Still*

        I finished my undergrad degree because, while I was a strong candidate, I kept losing out to folks with a degree. Now, I do the same job, but I get paid 40% more to do it. It was definitely worth my time.

        1. Self Employed*

          I kept losing to folks with a degree, but while I went to get a degree, there was a dot-com bust and suddenly nobody could get hired. Went to grad school for a STEM career I was assured had huge demand… and when I graduated, it turned out that “We can’t find enough master’s degree llama techs” just meant “Dear Immigration Office, please let us offshore all our llama tech positions because we can’t find enough here.”

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I think to a certain extent he’s right. I’m a translator, and back in the 80s, there were hardly any courses to become a translator. Only a couple of very elite schools. Most translators were simply bilingual people with a flair for writing. That’s how I got started anyway. I got a job as a translator and proofreader at an agency and once I had become a victim of my success with too much work coming in for me to handle by myself, we had to hire someone to help me out. I had never studied beyond secondary school, but all the people applying had a master at the very least! It seems like people no longer learn foreign languages by reading, listening, writing and talking, they have to go to university and get a piece of paper to prove they have done just that.
        I do get that not everybody is as obsessed with language learning as me but still, this is a job that used to be performed by people who had learned a couple of foreign languages but now requires you to have studied for at least five years at uni.

        1. Roci*

          Personally I think it’s the industry expanding–as need increases due to globalization– and codifying–now that people are getting extensive education, you can expect and require it– and weeding out people who “just” speak both languages. I believe there are more bilingual immigrants and heritage speakers, but as I’m sure you know, it takes more than being bilingual to be a good translator/interpreter.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            But going to university to study a language is less likely to result in good translation than someone truly fluent in both.

            1. Yorick*

              Not so much in writing. Someone who is fluent conversationally through talking to family members and such might not know proper grammar.

              1. Self Employed*

                I know a court interpreter who has to do a lot of continuing education to make sure she can interpret technical terminology and knows dialects and idioms from the different Spanish-speaking countries of Central and South America. If someone is translating different types of documents and publications, there are probably stylistic issues that they might not have completely mastered if they’re not trained for writing in both languages. After all, if you can’t take a random English-speaking high school graduate and expect them to be fluent in everything from advertising slogans to white papers in a technical field to romance novels, I wouldn’t expect it to be true for a bilingual high school graduate in either language.

      4. Ace in the Hole*

        That is far easier said than done. For the record, a typical bachelor’s takes about 40-50 classes. So if you take one class per semester and pass them all, you’re still looking at 20+ years to get your degree. 15 if you’re lucky and get to take summer classes.

        Here’s my experience, which is not atypical for a working student:

        I’m currently working towards my bachelor’s degree, but there are so many hurdles. None of my local schools have significant offerings for night/weekend classes. Getting an associate’s required my employer modifying my work schedule so I could leave in the middle of the day for classes, meaning my typical workday was 6am-6pm six days a week with no breaks aside from commuting to classes… for three years straight. And then when I got home I still had to study and take care of all my other household/personal obligations.

        Since the local university doesn’t have many night classes, to get a bachelor’s while working full time you have to find an out-of-state school that offers a 100% online program – which is EXPENSIVE. But there’s no financial aid options for a student taking one class per semester (and most require you to be a full time student). So basically I have to pay about $8,000/year in tuition – a full 20% of my income – to take 1-2 classes at a time. Even as a transfer student coming in with a ton of credits it will have taken me at least five years at this school to finish my degree (2 years to go!). IF I take no breaks, IF the requirements don’t change, IF I can afford to keep paying tuition the whole time. All for a piece of paper that says I’m qualified to do things I’ve already been doing for ten years.

        In my field a degree doesn’t confer the knowledge or experience necessary to do the job well. I don’t object to it being a consideration in hiring, but many places use it as a requirement. I once got all the way through the interview process, was selected by the hiring panel, and then had the offer pulled because their HR department wouldn’t let them hire someone who only had a 2-year degree. That’s just idiocy.

        I’m finishing school because I know I can’t change the system, but your brother is right… the system is bogus.

  7. MassMatt*

    #5 I am amazed the boss told you to lie to the police. It sounds as though you are in a pretty strict jurisdiction, I would imagine the consequences of getting caught doing that could be really unpleasant. Would the owner pay your fines, or even let you keep your job, if you landed in jail?

    All this just to keep his son from having to take an extra driving course? Sounds like your boss has very screwed up priorities and dubious ethics, to put it mildly.

    1. Not Australian*

      Yes, that’s bad parenting as well as bad management (although I’m not at all surprised to find the two together in one individual). Actions have consequences, and realising/accepting that is an essential part of growing up and functioning as an adult. Seeking to protect one’s offspring – this person is clearly not a ‘child’ – is a great way of warping their perceptions and setting them up for failure in the future.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. But at least the manager realized it was inappropriate to involve his employees in a family matter. Ultimately this sort of helicopter parenting is doing the kids a disservice, especially if they are actually legal adults. In most places you have to be an adult to get a driving license, although there are exceptions, like the US where the driving age in most states is AFAIK 16, and the UK, where you have to be 17 to get a license.

        I’m in Finland, where you have to be 18 to drive, but with parental permission it’s possible to start learning when you’re 17 years and 6 months, so that you can qualify for your license on your 18th birthday. It’s also possible to qualify for a license at 17, in special cases. This usually involves living in an area without adequate public transit and/or having a hobby that requires bulky equipment. It used to be that the authorities turned down most applications, now most get approved. It’s been shown that young male drivers in particular are often reckless and dangerous to themselves and others, so it may well become harder to get a license as a minor in the future. Or else they start withdrawing licenses from reckless young drivers and only giving them back when they turn 18.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            For farm equipment? That’s what it was when I was doing driver’s education in high school, approximately 8,000 years ago. (And when there were a LOT more small farms, too.)

      2. Elizabeth*

        I found it totally infuriating that even when admitting he shouldn’t have involved his employees (after the fact when one already lied for him), he described it as “his right” to protect his child from minor consequences.

        His kid could kill someone.

        1. Eye roll*

          And when his kid is in a serious driving incident, we already knew boss’s first instinct is to lie to police, ask others to lie to police, stonewall, and try to allow his entitled kid to coast without consequences. I’m pretty horrified by this story.

    2. LW5*

      @ MassMatt – The consequences of knowingly naming the wrong person are stiff. Saying you don’t know the person is apparently not punished, although I don’t know what happens when there’s no plausible deniability because it’s a family member.
      @Not Australian – I agree that it’s bad parenting. In spite of that, all of the boss’s (now adult) children are delightful people.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        Boss handed you a nice out on a sliver platter, to be honest.
        If the police happen to ask you again, you could tell them that your boss told you to lie because one of his family members was driving.

        I’m in a heavily regulated industry. It’s like this for a reason. We get PMs from time to time who ask us if we could massage our simulation results. They get crapped on from great height and usually don’t last long.

        This mentality regarding safety related stuff has carried over into my day to day life. So I sure as hell would turn my boss in. I would tell him I wouldn’t lie to the police for him, though.

        Traffic stuff is one of the only useful things the police does that they don’t tend to fuck up too badly.

    3. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes what kind of parent wants to shield their kid from consequences in this way instead of actually fostering their growth – which is a parent’s job! Especially when it involves safe driving, he’s probably going to regret his son not going to the extra training if his son then gets in an accident and is injured or even killed someone else. And he’s increasing his chances of raising a shitty person by teaching him that consequences and rules are for other people. Very sad how shallow and sort-sighted people can be.

      1. tangerineRose*

        It reminds me of the scandal with wealthy (and sometimes famous) people paying someone to cheat so their kids could get into a particular college. I kept thinking “If your kid hasn’t learned by now they can’t always get everything they want, this is a good time to learn!”

        1. Self Employed*

          And one of the parents just got pardoned because he’s bored at jail in seclusion for COVID protection. Dang, the people in my local jail just went on hunger strike because they CAN’T get isolated.

  8. RealityCheck*

    Yep. You need a Bachelor’s with an Honours (I’m in Australia, have no idea what the US equivalent is… It’s an extra year research project on top of the 3 year degree) to get entry level, then do a PhD to progress.

  9. nnn*

    For #2, what would happen if you didn’t answer the phone right away?

    In the interest of not rewarding the behaviour, a possibility would be to respond to their email request at the appropriate point in the queue, and then return their phone call at some point later. Whether you can actually carry this off depends on phone answering etiquette/expectations in your workplace.

    1. Foxgloves*

      When I had a similar circumstance, if you didn’t answer the phone, the person would walk around to my desk. It drove me UP THE WALL. I basically did what Alison suggested- either answered the phone and said “Jane, I’m working on something else right now, I’ll get back to you as soon as possible” or if I didn’t answer the phone and they came around, just looked at them and said “Oh hello! Nice to see you, hope you’re well” as if they were just paying a social visit to my desk. Then when they launched into whatever was in their email, I’d do the whole “I haven’t seen it yet, working on something else, will let you know” etc. Worked pretty well!

      1. Washi*

        Yes, the walking around to ask me if I saw their email from 5 minutes ago is the worst! In my experience, the people who do this are really bad at managing their own email and either reply right away, or let it get lost in the depths of their inbox.

        I was overall known as a nice and helpful person in the office, so when I became just sliiiightly grumpy telling those people that I will respond to their email promptly but they don’t need to come ask me about it, that got the message across (eventually….I think it took a couple months).

    2. Mona Lisa*

      I was also curious about the not answering the phone strategy. There was a woman in my department who routinely did this (sent an email and immediately followed up with a phone call to essentially read me the message), and if I got an email from her, I simply wouldn’t answer the phone and let it roll to voicemail. She stopped calling as frequently after a while.

      I also had the benefit that she worked in another building a 15 minute walk away so I didn’t have consideration of some of the other commenters. It might be worth the LW trying to see what happens.

    3. miss chevious*

      Yes, my recommendation would be to stop answering the phone or IM from those people to train them out of this. I routinely ignore follow up attempts, especially from people who have demonstrated that they can’t accurately distinguish between what is urgent and what is at the top of their minds. Of course, senior execs and actually important issues must be handled expediently, but you have a very quick response time already so those things aren’t likely to be missed.

    4. Uranus Wars*

      I have actually “trained” some co-workers out of a I NEED THIS NOW mentality by replying to all emails with a delay, not just the ones I see on a delay. I know it doesn’t work for all, but perhaps it could work here.

      It took a good year to do, but they eventually realized that (unlike my predecessor) I did not make email my top priority. My notifications are off and I close it completely when I am working on certain tasks/projects.

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Oh yes. As soon as you’ve answered the email, you call them to ask if they got the answer and have they acted on it yet!

  10. Allonge*

    Hi LW3. So I was in a similar situation recently: our boss was given another manager job on top of her existing one and three of us were left in charge of daily operations she can no longer supervise.

    Before, I used to replace her in meetings for chairing and such when she was on leave and similar. So that is what we defaulted to, but it was pretty obvious that it would not work out long term – it does take some additional energy, it feels weird when the official positions are different and so. So, like, I feel you. So I just asked the other two to have a weekly rotation on the chairing, and they said yes.

    For you, one essential part is that your boss should buy in: talk to her first and agree that she stops asking for volunteers and instead just calls on one of the four of you each week, and ideally you would have this discussion in the presence of everyone involved. Honestly, the call for volunteers time after time after time is really inefficient too, although I would keep that though to myself :)

    I totally agree with Alison that you being seen as a second in command has good potential, but it really can be a pain in the neck too, in ways. And so I am happy to report I had no negative impact from the proposal or implementation.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I think bringing it to the director first is smart. In calling for volunteers, it seems like the director does want the other members of the team to get experience with the task, but they won’t get that experience if it continues to be on a volunteer basis and they don’t volunteer. So it would be the most fair thing, not only for LW3 but also for the entire team to spread the responsibility around.

  11. Casper Lives*

    LW2 – That reminds me of when my department leader had to reset expectations for our internal customers (another department in the company). This department was notorious for calling if you didn’t answer their emails within an hour, sometimes less, then complaining if we didn’t answer the phone. There are blocks of time that we aren’t on the phone. My department head reminded theirs that we have to respond to emails within 24 business hours; We’re tracked on internal emails; and we met metrics.

    In our case, it was because some former coworkers never responded if you didn’t catch them on the phone. It took a while for them to trust that that behavior wasn’t allowed anymore and was being addressed with new management. It’s smooth sailing now.

    1. Ann O'nymous*

      24 business hours? Is that 3 days (working 8 hour days), or am I completely misunderstanding?

  12. cncx*

    solidarity and support with op2

    i get the people who call to check if i read an email from 90 seconds ago, and if i don’t answer the phone they call my cell or come by if we’re in the office. all attempts at pushback simply do not work because they simply won’t let me ignore them. Yesterday, i was in a class. I had signed out of my desk phone, put an out of office in my email, put in my calendar that i was unreachable, and someone still called my cell enough that it woke it up from the do not disturb function. it wasn’t urgent, they wanted to pick my brain for something two weeks out and i just wasn’t immediately available. the kicker is the last itme this happened i got a nasty email with management on copy.

    so i think a lot of times people who do this it’s part of the company culture, people can set all the boundaries they want but sometimes it’s a group dynamics thing.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, unfortunately some people just have no sense of priorities – as in, no clue that whatever is ‘important’ in their minds may not come out on top for others.

      The ridiculous part is of course that if someone only ever calls / follows up when it’s really urgent, in most cases people will learn to trust them about it and actually treat urgent things as urgent.

    2. RealityCheck*

      This really get my goose. At some point people need to be educated about the correct way to use different forms of communication. We used to have this problem in our organisation until they implemented communication training that discussed the correct types of communication to use for different situations – email is for things that need an answer at the receiver’s convenience, if it’s urgent, they shouldn’t be emailing.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        … in my corner of the world, the expression is “gets my goat”, did you just make a mistake or is that really an expression in your part of the world?

    3. Rez123*

      I start work at 9. I had left my work phone on and between 8:28 and 8:35 someone called 4 times and I just ignored it. Logged in at 9 and got ready to call back. There is an email asking me to call immediately when I see the message. I call. She tells me the problem, I say that I’ll sort it today or tomorrow. She says “oh, there is no rush. It’s been an inconvinience for a while but doesn’t really have an effect on our day to day work”. Argh.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*


        I had almost exactly this last week! A meeting request, missed call and 8 bleeding messages in the time it took for me to drive to work. Last message: “oh, no need to worry I found it!”. Seriously, you hit me with that urgent-non-emergency-just-can’t-google-LOL bullshit before I’ve even walked in the door – let alone had the caffeine soak my brain – and I am no longer on RBF, I am on active BF. Calm your freakin’ Drama Llama Farm!

      2. Washi*

        Omg yes! Those coworkers who freak out because you haven’t answered their 4 phone calls….that they made over the course of 30 minutes. Luckily my boss was a normal person and I never got in trouble for being unavailable for a whopping half hour.

      3. pancakes*

        That’s pretty over-the-top behavior. Depending on seniority and other context, I don’t think it would be unfair to tell someone who behaves that way, “If there’s no rush I’m not sure why you called me four times in ten minutes. Please don’t repeatedly call me this early in the day for things that aren’t urgent.”

    4. pancakes*

      I don’t think it’s as often a company culture thing as it is a poorly-managed anxiety thing. It seems quite common for people with poorly-managed anxieties to try to foist them on anyone with the misfortune to be in their vicinity, like the emotional equivalent of noise pollution.

  13. Blended*

    Op1 – you know that right now she couldn’t get that “sexy” job, but you also don’t know how much every industry will change in the next several years. People who told me I’d never get further without a degree (I have a college diploma) later had to work under me because they failed to keep up with computer skills,and also because I worked my ass off to prove I was valuable AF. People make connections, people grind, and its not your place to tell anyone that they won’t be able to do something in the future.

    1. RealityCheck*

      I absolutely would never tell anyone that they can’t do something. There are definitely ways it could potentially happen. But they are long shots, and there is a lot of hard work and rejection and disappointment ahead of her to get where she wants to go.

      That being said, my industry is getting worse, not better. There are more and more graduates, and fewer and fewer funded positions. I’ve been in this field for nearly 25 years, and to be honest, if I graduated today with the degree and experience I earned at Uni, I’d never get a job in today’s market. I partied far too much and never took my academic career seriously. I regularly get people who have PhDs and >10 years experience apply for entry level jobs because they lost their funding and their job and the market is just that competitive.

      So no, I can’t possibly know what the industry will look like on 5 years. But given current trends, it doesn’t look great.

      1. Blended*

        Totally fair. Never underestimate the power of situational nepotism in crumbling industries, though. The right connections and hard work can move mountains.

        1. miro*

          Hmm, I think if it was just that the person in OP’s question lacked a bachelor’s in the right field, or if it was just the matter of having not done the 4th year + thesis, I’d be more inclined to agree. But lacking a degree in the right field, and the thesis, *and* a PhD? That’s one helluva mountain

      2. Dan*

        Graduates into my field generally have it easier than most, and even these days when my peers and I look at intern and new college grad resumes, we’re all like… “uh, good thing we have jobs now because there’s no way we can compete with what these kids are doing.”

  14. Bagpuss*

    LW#2 – Could you set up an auto-reply on your e-mails? A colleague of mine did this as he was getting a lot of clients phoning to check he got their e-mails, and he deals with a huge volume of work.

    I don’t recall the exact wording but it says something along the lines of “Thank you for your e-mail. I aim to reply to e-mails within 1 working day of receipt. If you have not had a reply after 2 full working days please feel free to call me”

    If you do this then if you get a call you can have a stock response such as [puzzled tone] “Oh, did you not get the acknowledgment? I’ll check with IT if that’s not going out” and if they say that they did, you can move on to “Like it says in my auto-reply, I aim to respond to e-mails within x hours, although of course occasionally if I have to deal with an emergency, or if I get a lot of calls, it can slow down the response. But don’t worry, if you got the auto-reply it means I’ve received the e-mail and of course I will get back to you as soon as I have had the opportunity to deal with it”

    I thin the other thig is to train them that calling doesn’t speed things up – it’s tempting to then deal with their mail to stop them calling again, or to give them the response by phone, but that effectively teaches them that chasing you works.

    If you do the opposite, respond a bit more slowly if they call, then it may ease off.

    As they are peers, not superiors, I think that if it’s a habit you can be more explicit and say “It actually slows me down when you call to see if I have got your e-mail – I will get to it faster if you don’t interrupt, and as I work through mails and other work in the order I get it, if you call just after you send the e-mail, the answers are always going to be ‘yes, it’s arrived, and no, I haven’t yet had a chance to to review it”

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      “yes, it’s arrived, and no, I haven’t yet had a chance to to review it”

      I would set my auto-reply to say exactly this.

    2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      I was going to suggest an auto-responder too. I did that temporarily during a high pressure project and it worked wonders for my workload and sanity. It said something about having a high number of requests due to Project, my current turnaround time, and for emergencies only please call. In my workplace you can see the auto response as soon as you put in the recipient’s name, so I figured many people decided they’d hold off sending their non-urgent emails till they could see I wasn’t as busy. I went from getting about a dozen requests an hour to maybe a dozen or so a day, and zero calls.
      On the whole though my coworkers are usually pretty considerate, so I’m very lucky in that respect.

    3. Grace Poole*

      The auto-response is a great idea. I try (with varying success) to model the behavior that an email doesn’t get an immediate response. It gets a timely response, which usually within one business day. Very few projects I’m working on require me to drop everything, so I do my best not to give the impression that I’m going to drop everything.

  15. 867-5309*

    Can someone give me an example for LW1?

    I keep envisioning someone wants to work on the business side of an entertainment company in hopes of getting a movie role. Is it something like that?

    I am trying to figure out what “sexy side” of the business means. Thanks!

    1. London Student*

      Could be a number of things, most fields have areas that are considered more ‘glamourous’.

      Off the top of my head, I can think of certain kinds of software development, where the gaming industry is usually the ‘cool’ route to go. Or PR can get starry-eyed newbies interested in running campaigns for funky restaurants and hip musicians….but not so much for manufacturing firms.

      Entertainment isn’t unlikely, although it’s doubtful someone would enter through the buisness side to try and become an actor. More likely would be someone hired by a production company to do route legal work that all buisnesses need, but who is hoping to become the sort-of entertianment lawyer who represents celebrities and manages their contracts.

      There’s really a lot of options!

      1. mreasy*

        I work in entertainment and other than being a company’s counsel, there are few roles that need advanced degrees – and it’s trending toward not requiring any degree for people who have equivalent experience. I was also very intrigued wondering what the industry is!

    2. RealityCheck*


      We’re a NFP. Our core business is the “sexy” bit (still regret using that word). They get all the press and glory and it’s the type of job where when you tell people that’s what you do they say things like “thats very important work” or “that must be fascinating”. Our division is the operations/support department. We need to understand what the work is (so similar qualifications) and provide the infrastructure for it to happen, but no one ever thinks we’re heroes for doing the jobs we do *said completely without rancour or jealousy – I love my job and prefer not to be in the spotlight*

    3. Violin Player*

      I was confused too! I thought the reference to the “sexy” job was code for talking about the adult film industry… which made no sense when the letter went on to discuss qualifications!

      1. Not sure of what to call myself*

        Sexy gets used a lot to denote the high prestige or high interest areas. It doesn’t generally have anything to do with adult themes. It could be replaced with “hot” to denote high profile items.

        I know of at least one company that routinely (internally) refers to certain revenue streams as sexy as they are the high prestige, “hot” areas which garner interest and public notice. They might not be as profitable as other areas but they are high profile and so are the areas that get people noticed and promoted.

        1. Not sure what to call myself*

          Its often used a bit disparagingly by people outwith that hot area as a way of highlighting the unwarranted importance of the area.

          1. Violin Player*

            Thanks! In my (non-English speaking) country it definitely wouldn’t be used like that, which explains the confusion.

        2. Threeve*

          Some people in the nonprofit world use “sexy” as a shorthand for one of the Big Deal, famous nonprofits with very high name recognition (Doctors Without Borders, Nature Conservancy, Gates Foundation, etc).

          Pretty much everyone new to the field wants to jump to one of the “sexy” ones eventually, and obviously not everyone can.

    4. Retail Not Retail*

      My workplace actually has something similar – the chances of hopping from a support/operations role to to the sexy one without a degree or crazy amounts of experience are almost nil. It’s underpaid and a lot of disgusting grunt work. The barriers aren’t as high as the example – a BA and a long unpaid internship or some other entry level work that usually wants unpaid experience first.

      I know I have no chance and no skills to get over there. For mine it’s essentially the janitor vs the tour guide. None of us make any money and we all work hard but one is public and sexy.

    5. Shirley Keeldar*

      I kept thinking movie star, imagining someone who wanted a grunt-level job at a movie studio in order to be discovered. This obviously makes no sense with what the OP said later on, but by then I was amusing myself thinking of possible qualifications for “movie star.” Like you’ve have to pass your Beginner Posing Dramatically With Windswept Hair before you could move on to your Advanced Gazing Into the Distance With a Furrowed Brow, and it’s always a good idea to get your Intermediate Exaggerated Gasp of Surprise even though it’s not strictly mandatory….

      1. I take tea*

        Haha! And don’t forget the smoldering intensity! (Really, watch the remake of Jumanji, if you haven’t, it’s worth it for the smoldering alone)

    6. Shark Whisperer*

      I can give a real example, since I went through a similar experience of trying to hire for a “sexy adjacent” job. I worked for an organization that, among other things, did research with dolphins. I was on the communications side of things. We worked very closely with the dolphin trainers (we needed to understand their research so we could explain it to the the public/ donors), but we did not interact with the dolphins. Plenty of people applied to our positions thinking they could get an in with the dolphin trainers.

      Working with dolphins is something tons of kids dream about! And thanks to popular media, tons of people think that all you need to be a dolphin trainer is a love of dolphins and some gumption. (How Sea World hired dolphin trainers in the 90s is not at all accurate to how accredited institutions hire trainers now). In reality, all of our trainers has advanced degrees (if not multiple advanced degrees) and tons of research/animal behavior experience. Even entry level people in the dolphin department had to do a year or two of just cleaning and grunt work before the were even allowed to touch a dolphin.

      We had enough qualified comms people who applied and were content to just get better at comms, that if someone said their 5 year plan/ career aspirations were to work directly with the dolphins, we disqualified them.

      1. 867-5309*

        This is a helpful example! I knew “sexy” didn’t mean adult industry based on the context of the rest of the letter, but late at night while reading, I just could not think of anything but entertainment and a hope to be discovered.

        To me it is like my “forever dream” to work for the American Red Cross. What I want to do is disaster relief working directly with people and coordinating logistics, but I am a marketer. If I was hired by my local Red Cross in the comms department, I should not expect to suddenly be called up after the next major hurricane.

    7. hmm*

      another comment up top mentioned working in the museum world, which is the field that I am in. Many people, particularly students and recent grads, think that working as a curator would be a fun and cool job because you get to be surrounded by art and artists all day every day! But the reality of curator jobs is that there aren’t many positions available out there, and it takes a combination of a PhD degree, good connections, and good luck to get even the most entry level curatorial assistant positions. Many applicants will still apply to other entry level jobs at museums in other departments, like ticketing services, development (fundraising), operations, just to get their foot in the door. But getting an entry level role in fundraising isn’t likely to get you closer to becoming a curator – you’d have to go back to school and get a PhD at minimum.

  16. voyager1*

    LW2: I am not thrilled with any of AAM’s suggestions, they all come off as really passive-aggressive to me.

    Have you tried looping in your manager or someone senior to you to communicate to the other departments/agencies that items are worked in a orderly FIFO process.

    To get this to really stop, you are going to need to get some support OR just stop answering the phone. If you do that second item will these callers just go above you?

    You really need to start documenting this and looping in your management to make this stop IMHO. That is probably the safest thing to do.

    I really do feel for you. I have internal clients like your callers. It is very frustrating.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I give the OP a lot of credit because I would probably be saying, “Well. I would have gotten to it but I had to stop and answer your phone call. So I haven’t gotten to it yet.”

      Fun to think about but do not do this: When you finally email your answer, call them up immediately and ask them if they got your emailed reply. This is especially fun to think about if the answer is very brief such as a yes or a no and you could have just told them when you called them instead of making them look at their email.

      But poor behavior begets more poor behavior. I do think that pointing out the “high” volume of callers checking on their emails takes you away from actually checking email. I would say this to each offender.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Not passive aggressive, but not clear enough. OP2 needs to use her words. She has tried hinting but they aren’t getting the hints. She needs to cearly state “I am on top of my emails and I will get to yours in due course. if you have not received it by the time you need it, then call.” Repeat as necessary.

      Same with LW3. No one knows you don’t want to run all the meetings because you haven’t said so. Hanging back, but then agreeing to do it. Joking that everyone must be sick of your voice but then still running the meetings. All those are making it clear — you will run the meetings. What you want to make clear is the opposite. Don’t expect them to guess what you are hinting at. Make it clear. I do not want to run all the meetings, we need to rotate. Then stick to it. Don’t “reluctantly” do it when no one else steps forward. When the Boss asks for volunteers, do not volunteer, even if no one else does. If no one else volunteers, the boss whose meeting it is, will figure something out.

  17. Kaiko*

    OP 4: I feel like there’s a way to frame this that acknowledges an improvement in work-life balance. I assume there are other things drawing you to the role as well, but people absolutely do choose (and leave) jobs based on the hours they work and when they work them. I stopped working in restaurants because I was sick of working evenings, and when that come up in interviews (especially when I was moving into office roles), saying “I’m passionate about customer service but want a more 9-5 setting” wasn’t controversial at all.

    1. Oh Snap*

      My office currently has a second shift role posted for what is usually a day shift job. We’ve got people applying who are new college grads (makes sense) as well as people with 20 years of experience.

      The reality is people either want those hours for a reason, or they are desperate for a job and willing to work those hours. Very few people are like “meh”. I would rather know they want the hours (that is actually a positive!) then have some story about why they like the company. I have certain hours to fill, and I don’t want you telling me after a year that actually you prefer day shift.

    2. middle name danger*

      Came here to say this! Especially if you might be overqualified. My current position, letting them know I was after a better work life balance convinced them I wouldn’t leave the job in a few months for something closer to what I was doing before. When I asked what my interviewers liked about the company, they cited being able to leave work at work and have family time outside of their 9-5.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      Sometimes there’s a widely-understood difference in work-life balance in an industry that’s okay to acknowledge in interviews. “So, why do you want to leave BigLaw?” comes to mind.

    4. Washi*

      I think for interview purposes, the hours can be a good reason to say you want the job, but probably shouldn’t be literally the only reason. Especially something with 9-5 hours, there are a lot of jobs out there with fairly regular hours, so why this one? There must be some reason besides hours that the OP is applying to be say, a program assistant at a nonprofit vs. a receptionist at a big company.

      1. Paris Geller*

        This. It’s not bad to mention the hours (I actually think the OP should mention it at some point, since she’s overqualified–the company might think she’ll get bored & want to move on soon), but it can’t be the only reason to be interested in the job.

      2. sacados*

        Exactly — as Alison said it makes total sense to say “I’ve decided to leave my current job because it’s important to me to have a better work-life balance/have regular 9-5 hours.”
        But you still have to have an answer to the question of — well, what drew you to this job specifically out of all the available 9-5 jobs out there.

  18. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Letter #2…

    If they truly want only to verify that you received the email, then they should simply attach Delivery and Read Receipts to the message to accomplish that. The Delivery Receipt would immediately verify that you got the message, and the Read Receipt would show when you’ve opened it.

  19. Bookworm*

    #1: Agree with Alison’s advice. You wouldn’t be crushing dreams, but rather being realistic. As someone who was once in a similar spot I would have appreciated a heads up on things like this. You definitely don’t want to be like, “You’ll never make it” or something cold like that, but that you’re asking clearly indicates you are at least thinking about how you’d approach this.

    Thank you, from someone who once interviewed with people who weren’t ready to be interviewing (TBF, there was a major national disaster and they were directly affected) and didn’t handle this situation as well as they could or should have.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      See, I think long term career mentoring is a separate conversation from, “do I want to hire this candidate for this role.” I hate to see someone get dropped from consideration by an unrealistic answer to the five year question – this candidate can’t really know from the outside what makes sense and may be trying to give an answer she thinks shows commitment to the field. Just be clear with her about what this role does/does not entail and likely trajectory and let her decide if she wants it. Starting a career conversation with a random job candidate is a different piece of the puzzle really, IMO.

      1. Dan*

        I mentioned above I really hate that question, especially if it’s just quickly asked and not explored in depth, precisely for the reasons you give. To me, it’s more appropriate for a mid-career person, who may be looking to get into management or may want to stay as an individual contributor or something like that. Or to somebody who should have a reasonable expectation as to what the business and career progression looks like.

        But when hiring for an entry level role, and the candidate has no experience, and realistically no way to know what career paths really look like, it’s going to take 5 years for the entry level employee to gain the competency, skills, and knowledge of the next steps before they can effectively answer the question.

        1. RealityCheck*

          You are 100% correct (Oprah lightbulb moment). I should have unpacked what she meant when she answered the way she did. I asked early in the interview, so didn’t realise at the time that I would want to dig further. We also have our talent specialist ask in the initial phone screen and she didn’t answer in a way that would indicate she wanted an “in” so I was taken off guard.

          I’m doing more interviews tomorrow and I’ll chalk this up to a learning experience and do better next time. I’m also going to circle back with this candidate and ask her more in-depth questions about to see how much her heart is set on this.

  20. Not So NewReader*

    OP 5. A subject near and dear to my heart.

    I have met a few drivers who weave all over the road. They are looking for their sandwich/bottled water/cell phone. These same individuals will justify their actions by saying, “But there is NO car coming.”

    Uh, it does not have to be a car. A big deer could jump out into the road and cause a lot of problems. BTDT. I was on a motorcycle with my husband, he was very focused on driving. I was looking around at the pretty country side. Neither one of us saw the deer, a six pointer. It came up out of the brush on the side of the road, directly in line with the front tire on the bike. We went down at 60 mph.

    If this can happen to an experienced and safe driver this can happen to anyone. The son in your story doesn’t even have a snowball’s chance in h3ll because he is not learning what safe driving looks like.

    Your boss did his son NO favors by protecting the son from the results of his (the son’s) careless choices. It absolutely haunts me that his son could end up dead because Daddy did such a good job of protecting his son from these minor learning experiences called speeding tickets. A speeding ticket is nothing compared to a funeral. The father SHOULD be protecting his son from funerals. I am a bit disgusted with the father here, OP. I am not sure I could have been as civil as you were in this whole story.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      My mum’f friend’s 20yo nephew died after crashing his motorcycle due to hitting a roe deer. Those aren’t big. Accident investigation showed that the thing came out of the brush so close to him he didn’t even have time to react in any way.

  21. Nicholas C Kiddle*

    LW1: I did a “get unemployed people back into work” course a few years ago that actually explicitly told us we could get our dream job by taking whatever entry level job we could find and working our way up and across. It didn’t pass my smell test at the time, along with a lot of other things they told us, and I’m rather grimly cheered to have evidence I was right to be cynical. But it’s hardly surprising people are trying that technique when there’s actual work coaches out there suggesting it.

    1. JohannaCabal*


      As much of a pain as my “get unemployed people back into work” was years ago, I’m glad it was somewhat useful (instructor encouraged us to tailor resumes and explained how to discuss a firing without bitterness, among other things).

      My experience working with staff who take an entry-level job to “move up” get frustrated in the role and eventually either leave or get fired.

      I also think it’s telling that the only other person with a similar background who got into the “sexy job” lied their way in. This also harkens back to bad advice in my opinion. How many times have people heard about Grandpa who got an accounting job by telling his boss his house burned down and that’s why he doesn’t have his high school diploma or Great-Aunt Rose who lied about knowing how to ride a horse to get a job as an extra in Hollywood? One of my favorite writers admitted in an interview they got journalism gigs by claiming to have written for other publications (I doubt this would fly today though).

    2. Colette*

      I think there’s an element of truth in this. If you want to move into a new area, it’s often easier if you are already in the same company. It’s harder to get a job in an area you have no experience in if you’re a complete stranger.

      But, of course, this is a slow process – you have to do the job you’re hired for cheerfully and well for at least a couple of years to be able to move, there has to be a job open, and you have to be reasonably qualified for it. No one is going to hire you as a doctor because you did a great job as a receptionist in the medical clinic.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah also if you don’t know from the outside what a role entails (which is so often the case!) being in the field is … how you learn? I’m not sure how else young people are supposed to decide what they want to do. If this is as close as she can get to what she thinks is an ideal job / industry, she may be fine with that. (For example, if you want to help people with health problems but didn’t go to med school, you may be happy to be a medical receptionist and enjoy some of the same aspects of work).

      2. Bluesboy*

        Certainly there CAN be truth in it, and in some sectors it’s realistic. But OP is clear that this is not one of those sectors.

        My own (very) limited experience of ‘sexy’ companies/roles is in the fashion industry (I used to organise training courses for Gucci and Versace). The reality is that if you want to be a designer at a big fashion house…it’s almost impossible. Everyone wants that. So some people would take any opportunity with the hope of proving themselves as a hard worker and snappy dresser. But the reality was that in the corporate offices you would rarely if ever meet the designers (so you didn’t make the right contacts), and none of the jobs there bore any relevance to the creative side. There was basically no way of getting across.

        I suppose, hypothetically, if you had managed to get an interview at a rival fashion house for an entry level position based on your previous studies and portfolio, the fact that you had at least learnt something about the industry culture might, maybe, possibly have been a slight advantage. But no more than that.

        (I also organised a few training courses for Inter Milan football team, and I can tell you that 100% working as a receptionist is not going to give you the chance to turn out on Saturday against Juventus in the cup final!)

      3. RealityCheck*

        Interesting you should mention the moving into a new role in the same company – the one “successful” example I witnessed was someone who was working in our division under another manager who applied internally for a job, explicitly asked the hiring manager not to talk to her current manager because she didn’t know about the application and misrepresented/lied about her duties in out division. She was very quickly drowning, but because she had hired within the same company she had no probation period and under Australian law would have had to have been performance managed out. The hiring manager ended up being too lazy to do that so he just complained to my director non stop for 3 years about it. My director (who is absolutely not the type to be punitive to employees who want to move on) used to giggle to us about it, because if he’d paid her the common courtesy of talking to her before hiring, he wouldn’t have been in that position.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      If what they meant was “if you start off as a level 1 ThingDoer you can eventually work your way up to level 4 ThingDoer, or even ThingDoer Manager, or Director of Thing Doing”….sure, that can and will and does happen to some people.

      If what they meant was “if you take a job in the Box Office at the Hollywood Bowl, you could eventually end up on stage performing at the Hollywood Bowl”…that’s not how that works. I mean, possibly someone might do both things, but the latter would not be remotely because of the former.

    4. EmmaPoet*

      I recall this advice from career books in the 60s, where they’d suggest things like starting as a secretary at an advertising agency and then getting your boss to let you try writing copy- but not until you’d proven yourself to be a fantastic secretary, and your boss was willing to give you a shot with the understanding that your regular work wouldn’t be neglected. I don’t think it applies today for a lot of jobs.

      (Admittedly, I went from being a library volunteer to a substitute librarian to a full-time slot at the same branch, but I had the degree and a lot of professional experience before I started volunteering. And I proved I was willing to do the scut work cheerfully, which is why my eventual manager asked me to apply for those jobs.)

      1. Spearmint*

        I think that strategy can sometimes work at small organizations where employees often have to “wear many hats”, but only in fields that don’t require extensive formal education. I know a few people who work as political staffers (political offices are essentially small organizations unto themselves), and their careers often look like this: political intern -> staff assistant/admin assistant -> a “sexy” comms or policy job. I agree, though, that with the rise of online application boards and credential inflation this is possible in fewer and fewer fields.

  22. Blisskrieg*

    LW#3–It sounds like you are considered a manager among managers, and as Alison says, second in command. That’s a pretty nice feather in your cap in terms of opportunities, etc. Is there any chance to parlay it into a title or pay bump? I’m sure it would be irritating to not have all the extra responsibility (not just the meetings, but the coverage while your director was out) but no tangibles from it. I’d be inclined to view this as a compliment and a stepping stone.

  23. foolofgrace*

    “You sent me an email? It must have just arrived. I usually get to emails within a half hour or hour, so there’s no need to call unless it’s been a couple of hours or so. I’ll check it out shortly and let you know.

  24. Satisfactory Worker*

    LW#2: I get this a lot from my direct reports. I always respond, “I haven’t had a chance to check it. I’ll respond when I have time.” Once I started doing this, all but two stopped calling to ask about emails.

    This also reminds me of when we were trying to get our in-laws to start texting instead of calling…and they would call to see if we got the text if we didn’t respond right away.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Oh this so reminds me of my mother. When email was first starting to be a thing — she called me to see if I had gotten the email she JUST sent. Well, no Ma, I’m not at the computer. But I thought it was instaneous. Ma, I am not at my computer, it is not even turned on. But I thought it was instaneous. Ma, it does not appear in glowing letters in the room. I have to be on the computer to read it. I am not on the computer right now, so I have not read it.

      She will still call if you haven’t responded to her text in a reasonable time (like an hour). We are trying to train her out of this. Just because she is retired doesn’t mean the rest of us have nothing to do all day.

      1. AKchic*

        My MIL has always had the mindset that if she calls her children, they had better answer. If she texts, they had better respond. If she shows up to their place of employment, they had better be *happy* to see her and socialize with her.
        If a son doesn’t answer her phone call? She leaves a frantic message and then texts. That text doesn’t get answered? She texts again. And again. And calls a second time. Then she calls their father (her ex) and demands HE call (he usually doesn’t). Then she calls another of the brothers to call that son. Finally, she calls the wife (us wives are the last resort because she hates us for stealing her babies from her). I have her blocked, so she can’t contact me at all (thank you No Contact). She does not understand that her son(s) might be asleep, in the bathroom or *working* and unable to answer the phone. No, they are dead, dying, or somehow mad at her and purposely ignoring her and she needs to know rightnow what is wrong.
        Two of the siblings won’t give her their work information. We won’t give her our home address (pretty sure the youngest hasn’t given anyone his home details either).

        Some people have really weird expectations about communication and anxieties around it. It doesn’t mean we need to enable their bad behaviors. Will my MIL ever learn? No, because her siblings enable her behavior. We just try to minimize the collateral.

  25. cabbagepants*

    #3 — I am kind of surprised that Alison didn’t call out a potential gendered aspect. In my company, leading meetings is generally kind of a drag and often gets dumped on whoever is the least likely to say no, i.e. women. The fact that the role was offered to others but no one else volunteered, well, it suggests that leading meetings is not considered desirable, promotable work but just a chore.

    Certainly I could be reading too much into this, but at least at my company, leading emergency projects and setting budgets would be in a totally different league than leading meetings. The first two would be great, responsibility-building, promotable work; the latter is just drudgery.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Given the context though, it doesn’t seem to be gendered. It seems to be OP became the De Facto Number 2 during the previous period, and it stuck, as the advice surmised. If OP were the only woman in the group, maybe, but we don’t have reason to suspect that, and it’s not like when OP waiting for someone else to volunteer the room looked at the other women. There’s ample evidence this is specifically about OP.

    2. Starbuck*

      I would have assumed it would be the other way around, if anything, due to this line:

      “…my director took leave and I was given a temporary promotion to run the department with the other managers for half a year. It was a bit odd, as I’d only been at the job a few months and the other managers had been there for years, but *they were all juggling the care of young children with work,* so I didn’t think much of it.”

      Which I am also a bit surprised didn’t receive more comment, because yikes! As it really sounds like more qualified parents were passed over for an advancement opportunity because of their family situations.

      It could be the case that they were all offered and turned it down because they didn’t want the extra work/time, but it still doesn’t look great.

  26. JohannaCabal*

    LW1 Unfortunately, people do need a dose of reality.

    Due to her qualifications she likely will not get the position she desires. Perhaps there is a different path she can take based on her existing qualifications, but that is not your responsibility.

    I really wonder how much “follow your dreams” has ruined people’s lives. In elementary school, I briefly had a friend who’s father dragged his family around the country to chase his dream (it had something to do with entertainment, I think) and he lacked the talent, connections, and money to achieve it. When I reconnected with my friend on social media later, it was sad. She had to drop out and get her GED because the frequent moves caused issues at her last high school (as in, she did not have the credits to be a senior and would have to be a junior again). Plus, it appears the father got addicted to drugs.

    1. Rayray*

      I also wish we’d stop focusing so much on following passions and dreams. It took me a while to realize that most people just kinda end up in their jobs. Very few people are in a dream job. Even so, most of those dream jobs still require lots of work. I definitely think certain careers like teacher or nurse require some real of “passion” or care about the job. I think what we should emphasize is for people to figure out what they’re good at and what kinds of jobs they can do with those skills. I’m one of many who only works for the paycheck. I could move on from my company at any instant. However, while I’m here I will do what is asked of me and work hard to get things done. Am I passionate about it? Not at all! And I really hate being asked what I do for work because it’s not very exciting. But the company treats me well and it’s a stable income so that’s what matters.

      1. JohannaCabal*

        I wish more teachers and guidance counselors would work with students to help them figure out what they’re good at and what kinds of jobs they can do, even if it means “destroying dreams.”

        In hindsight, I’m so thinkful my 7th grade English teacher sat me down to tell me I needed to buckle down in math (she was friends with the math teacher). I’m showing my age here but I wanted to be the next Tina Turner. She flat out told me that she’d heard me in choir and unless my parents shelled out thousands of dollars for voice lessons or I spent every hour outside school practicing, it more than likely was not going to happen. At the time, I was angry but she was right and I did start putting more effort into my math homework.

        Never got to be a rock star but I did get into a field that relies on writing.

        1. Cat Tree*

          When I was in middle school, so 1998ish, we actually had some good career guidance. We answered a bunch of multiple choice questions about our interests, and it recommended 3 broad categories out of about 12. But in each category it listed examples that are achievable at various levels of ability and education. So for example, one category was healthcare. For someone who college wasn’t realistic for, one of the suggestions was an aide at a nursing home. On the other end, someone could go to school for a decade and become a heart surgeon. Then there were examples of everything in between.

          I actually forgot about this test until I was an adult and found it in my mom’s basement, but it was eerily accurate. Of the 3 categories suggested to me, one of them is my current field and the other two were things I seriously considered pursuing before I landed on my current path.

        2. Lil Fidget*

          I think there’s a balance here. It does with identifying your own skills and also getting (and accepting) feedback about how good you are relative to others – but it’s not as if it’s never possible for people to succeed! I’m kind of glad I ignored the people who told me coding and accounting was the field of the future and I needed to buckle down. I would have been a terrible coder / accountant. I followed my interests instead with a lot of exploration.

          1. JohannaCabal*

            I think there is a need for a balance. I just think about my poor teacher friends who have to deal with students who want to be YouTubers and Influencers or professional video game players.

            I follow a few YouTubers who post videos for niche hobbies I’m into. To make it on YouTube (or as a podcaster) you really have to get in early before your area of focus is saturated (think true crime podcasts). Also, it’s hard work to get followers and advertisers. The good YouTubers spend every waking hour on producing videos, usually on top of a day job.

            Also, many YouTubers and Influencers come from backgrounds where they have the extra money and resources/connections to pursue it. Someone whose father has a senior finance position at a major cosmetics company in NYC has a better chance of succeeding as a beauty vlogger than a high school student whose parents are lower middle class and lack industry connections.

            1. Spearmint*

              On the flip side, though, I have friends and family who stay in jobs or fields that are making them miserable because they don’t believe they can get a job that’s any better for them and they feel pressure to take the “practical” and “safe” option. So I agree on the advice needing to be balanced.

        3. OyHiOh*

          The power (perceived or real) once given to guidance counselors to “destroy dreams” has been largely taken away because in past decades that power was wielded to keep people in their place. For example, a BIPOC person I know whose guidance counselor refused to sign their college applications and said they needed to take the civil service exam and wait for a job to come up (you can get a fairly accurate estimate of this person’s age from that sentence, yes). They got into an Ivy League school on full tuition/room/board scholarship with the help of a teacher who volunteered to be their guidance counselor instead and had the kind of career success their parents could never have dreamed of.

          While I do agree that the passion and dreams rhetoric needs to get dialed way back, giving that conversation back to the schools returns to a dangerous precedent where “be realistic” is an acceptable way to say “know your place, don’t get too big for your britches.”

      2. Ray Gillette*

        Yeah. I enjoy a lot of my job and find it generally satisfying. It’s not something I ever dreamed about doing not only because it’s not particularly glamorous or exciting but because I simply didn’t know it existed until I joined the workforce. When you’re a kid, you know about the jobs your parents do and the jobs you see on TV or read about in books. What other frame of reference do you have?

      3. Dan*

        Following my passion and my dream took me into a “cool job adjacent” field that TBH I’m really happy in. So yes, I ultimately “ended up” in my job, but it actually does relate to Cool Job and leverages the knowledge I gained on that path. I’ve had people tell me that I’m probably better off that Cool Job didn’t work out. I get paid well, have great benefits, and great QOL. It would be hard for me to move on because many directly related jobs either don’t pay as well or require more hours.

        Cool Jobs in my field are boom and bust, and one has no control over where they fall in that range. Those jobs are seniority list driven, and your career “success” is totally driven by fate, and very little about how hard you work. And, more or less, it’s a lot like major league baseball — you start out on the farm team making not much, and maybe, just maybe you make it to the big leagues. And all of this is driven by factors outside of one’s direct control.

    2. Threeve*

      “Follow your dreams” has prompted some people to be forever chasing something they aren’t going to reach. It’s also led some people to stay extremely stagnant; when they can’t have the Perfect, they stick with the Terrible forever, and don’t ever bother pursuing the Okay.

    3. Cat Tree*

      The weird thing in this case is that she could follow her dream – if she does Y an Z. For whatever reason, she is ignoring the paved pathway to her dreams and instead trying to jump across a river to get there.

      1. Elsajeni*

        It sounds like Y and Z are themselves hard to go back and attain if you don’t already have them (the OP has clarified in some comments that it would mean going back to school for a second bachelor’s degree, among other things), and that the role is really competitive even if you do have them — I can see how those are the conditions that would have you looking around for a side route, you know? “If I had Y and Z, I could get in the long, long line over there to try the slippery, difficult stepping stones to the other side… or I could just try and jump across the river here? Everyone says that’s impossible, but the way they’re telling me to try instead looks pretty impossible too, so what the heck.”

    4. Unfettered scientist*

      I totally agree. You should watch Soul (Disney movie). It’s exactly about this and engages with these ideas beautifully. Also Cal Newport writes about not following your passion a good deal.

    1. RealityCheck*

      Shhh! Don’t tell them. It’s pleasant and fun over here, we don’t want it to get too crowded!

  27. Observer*

    #3- Are you interested in advancement and promotions? Then instead of pushing back at leading the meetings, perhaps it would be good for you to talk more explicitly with your manager about what that would look like.

    Perhaps reframing would be helpful- Look at this not as “helping out” but as OJT Management training, being prepped for promotion.

    This is the kind of stuff that you can use in a job hunt if you don’t get the (eventual) promotions you would like at your current company.

  28. Observer*

    #5 – I think your story is actually quite consequential. Your boss asked you to lie to the police. That is a BIG deal. Far more so than the issue of the ticket (although that’s nothing to sneeze at.)

    The fact that you got him to see that it’s wrong – or at least that he needs to ACT as though it’s wrong and not do it again – is huge. Because it’s put him on notice that staff are not necessarily going to be cooperative with lying to authorities.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I was hoping the story would end with LW mentioning the son to the police on their way out, although I can understand not wanting to risk their job to do it.

  29. Lisa Babs*

    LW4: I love Alison’s answer. Just to build on it. You really need to reframe it in your head. You are leaving your old job for the hours. But you are applying for this job because you think you would like it. I’m sure there are thousands of jobs out there that don’t work weekends or nights. So that’s not why you are applying for this specific job. If that was the only reason you’d apply to all jobs with those hours. So if you divide that out in your head I think you will have a better way to answer that. To answer that interview question all you have to do is elaborate on why you think you would like it.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I agree, if you have made a good case for why you’re interested in this job and why you think you’d be good at it, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to mention the hours when they ask you why you’re leaving your old role. People are reasonable, they’ll get it. Just don’t make it seem like you only want this new job for the hours.

  30. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    LW1: When people are doing weird or annoying stuff Allison usually advocates calling them out on their weird/annoying stuff. I really do think that a simple “Let me get this straight. You’re calling me to tell me about an e-mail you sent me less than 5 minutes ago? That’s a weird use of your time. I’m on top of my e-mail and will respond when I can. Have a good day!” will take care of this. Be straight with them and tell them that their behavior is unacceptable and a fair majority of people will stop. I wouldn’t advocate saying this to anyone in your C-suite or their admins, but for colleagues it’ll work just fine.

  31. caradom*

    1) I would hammer it in more. We have students who want to enter competitive careers (nothing like yours, but even with the right qualifications and experience less than 10% will be accepted on the doctorate program). I make sure they know the chances are less than 10% or I would be a corrupt part of the education system, taking people on who will get nowhere (we take on students with lower grades). If they are performing well I will talk to them but still ensure they are clear about the chances.

    In your case you can only come up with 1 person! And that was a mess. So say it: only 1 person! And the experience won’t remotely get you close to the field!

    1. Dan*

      One issue I have with these kinds of probabilities is that *no* career path is guaranteed success. I initially tried to do Cool Job, which TBH probably has odds approaching what you describe for true “career success”. I ended up taking a tech/data analytics support role in the field (no regrets, BTW). Yet, even around here in general people will always say, “STEM roles aren’t a panacea either, they’re not the slam dunks people make them out to be.” 50% chance is way better than 10%, but 50% is still a coin flip, you know?

  32. caradom*

    2: You have to be direct. They are not your superiors. If a student emails me and then emails me again when I’m busy i say 2 days minimum is the turnaround time. Give them a minimum (and stop doing the 3 respond in 3 mins thing, you’re making it worse by doing that). Follow it up with an email if you all have a work email address. Then, as soon as someone tries anything state once you’ve already discussed it and you can’t keep taking time away from work to repeat things to them. If they’re confused they can read the email. Then stop engaging at all, just say ’email’ and have an auto response set up.

  33. Ele4phant*

    Hmm not that I think it’s a bad thing, but I’m surprised how much effort the police are putting in to figuring out who the driver was.

    In my large US city, the police are under resourced so yeah, they’re not going to be following up on a camera speeding ticket.

  34. Batgirl*

    LW1, when you know they’ve literally sent it moments ago, I would go with making it awkward: “No, I’m so sorry you felt the need to chase… did you send it yesterday or something?”
    “When did you send it then?”
    “Uh…ok. I will probably see it when my screen refreshes if you’ve only just sent it.”

  35. mlk*

    LW3 You said that you worked with the director in a previous life. I wonder if you’re being perceived as ‘favored child’. Of the reluctance to take on meeting leadership, it could be a mixture of, 1) ugh, I don’t need anything more to do or 2) let the director’s pet do the work (resentment) or 3) not getting in the way of someone moving up.

    It could be that the existing managers aren’t in a position or don’t want to be in a position to move up / be ambitious right now and they’re fine with you taking on the role.

  36. Leda*

    For LW#2, what about retraining them via a targeted auto-reply that straight up tells them that follow-up calls for non-urgent emails add to your work queue and delay response times, so please don’t follow up until at least 24 hrs have passed.

    And then make that impact noticeable by slightly delaying your response on those emails. I bet the calls will stop within a couple weeks.

    I’m betting someone they deal with now, or the person who used to be in your position, would let things slip, and that person’s behavior inadvertently “trained” your colleagues to reach out in multiple ways if they want the work to get done. There’s a good chance that they see your quick email responses as confirmation that their calls work, so you’ve got to show them concrete evidence that the opposite is true.

  37. Styx-n-String*

    1) I work in a pharmacy and this happens all the time – people either call or come to pick up their Meds just minutes after we got the prescription! Even if we had nothing else to do (lol), it still takes a good 20-30 minutes to process and fill a prescription start to finish, but that’s once we finish ALL the others that came in before theirs. I try to be positive but vague, I’ll usually say “Yes, I got it! Unfortunately I have to fill prescriptions in the order they arrived, so we’ll do our best to get it finished as soon as possible, be watching your text messages for notification that it’s done.”

    That way they have been acknowledged, their expectations have been managed (ie, they’re not getting their meds ahead of people who have already been waiting a while – barring emergencies of course), and they know to cool their heels and wait until we contact them.

    I bet there’s a way to do something similar with people who think their email request is more important than everyone else’s!

  38. Elle by the sea*

    OP1, please don’t crush her dreams.

    I have been in a similar situation as this candidate. I wanted to break into a “sexy” industry and several people told me that with my background it was not possible and I got straight out laughed at in job interviews when I was answering questions about my career goals. Then I worked hard and managed to break into that industry.

    She is an adult. She is a good, qualified candidate and is most likely aware that the industry she wants to break into is extremely competitive. You can tell her that this role is different and is not exactly a stepping stone to that field, but don’t discourage her. You don’t know much about her and it’s not your job to make her face what you think is the reality.

Comments are closed.