it’s your Friday good news

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

1. I live in Texas, which just had a very newsworthy week. While my home situation was pretty terrible, I have to brag that my employer was amazing. On Monday, leaders starting reaching out to check in with their people, and my department essentially gave everyone the week off, fully paid, to focus on taking care of their families and households. I didn’t have power for four days, and not worrying about my PTO or getting paid on top of that eased a huge source of stress, and I am incredibly grateful. There are some parts of my job I don’t love, but this experience reminded me that overall I work for a great employer!

2. I started reading AAM a few years ago when I felt stuck in a miserable job. Although I’m no longer in the workforce since taking time to be a stay-at-home parent, I am hooked!

What’s amazing to me is how much AAM has benefitted my non-work life. I struggle with social anxiety to a degree that interacting with other humans often feels awkward, and interpersonal conflict is overwhelming to a degree that can be detrimental to my well-being. I’ve taken a lot of comfort in reading AAM and applying its lessons to social situations. I feel like I’ve gained better perspective of when to speak up about something, when to let something go, when to change my situation, and when to admit that I myself need to change. Over the past couple years I’ve set boundaries with in-laws, reconsidered some long-held world views, ended a decade-long friendship that had become unhealthy, and more. Mosy recently, I took a stand against the Big, Bad HOA board, something I never thought I had the confidence to do!

So thank you, Alison, for how your work-centered advice has helped me improve my personal life. And as it’s become increasingly clear that the company culture at my spouse’s job has taken a nosedive since last year’s acquisition, I hope my household will also produce a work-related AAM success story before too long!

3. I was in my last role for about 4.5 years and was pretty miserable for most of that time. I was extremely fortunate to get that job without a master’s degree, which is basically essential in my field, and the only reason I stayed as long as I did was because they paid for me to get my degree. I started my job search in November 2019 and finished my degree that December. I had a few interviews and was actually expecting an offer for a “dream job” when COVID hit and knocked my search completely off the rails. But I didn’t give up! There were still openings in my field (although a lot fewer of them), so I kept applying for anything that looked remotely promising. One of my goals was relocating to anywhere but my former state, so I had the advantage/disadvantage of not being hampered by location — but also having to interview at a lot of locations that I wouldn’t be able to see in person before a decision. It was a very weird search!

I applied for probably 40 jobs over the past year, most of them after March. Thanks to your amazing advice (particularly about crafting a cover letter and asking the “magic question”), I ended up a finalist for two different positions — one at my dream location but a very stretch role for me; the other at a less desirable location but at an organization with a mission that I’m really passionate about, and in a role that is very in line with my background, interests, and long-term goals. I ended up getting an offer from the second one, and I accepted it.

It’s been a weird onboarding — most of my team is remote (I’m choosing to come in to the office most of the time because it’s easier for me to focus), and I started in what is normally a pretty slow period for my field (higher education). But this role also gives me MUCH more freedom and “creative control” than my last one, and we already have a few projects in the works that I’m going to be taking the lead on. My previous role was in a very defined box that I could only deviate from in very specific situations with approval from various stakeholders, so it’s really exciting to have basically carte blanche to do whatever I want as long as it falls under the general umbrella of the role.

Some things I learned from this process and experience:

a. If you’re negotiating a start date, make sure the one you land on makes sense for your field and the role. My new organization basically told me I could start whenever I wanted, and I was VERY anxious to leave my old role behind, so I chose an early start date of right after Thanksgiving (basically, as soon as I could possibly relocate). But in my field, things slow down dramatically between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I had a lot more downtime than I would prefer for my first few weeks at a new job. 

b. Don’t relocate the week before a major holiday. Just don’t. Even though we weren’t travelling (the one blessing of COVID right now), we still wanted to have a nice Thanksgiving, and it was so much more stressful than it needed to be.

c. Don’t set your start date or give notice before your background check is complete (and be aware that it may take longer right now). Everything worked out fine because I knew I had nothing in my background, and I wanted to give my former boss as much notice as possible, but a process that I expected to just take a few days took almost a month! I ended up getting cleared literally the day before my last day, and just over a week before I was supposed to relocate. Even though I knew it would probably be fine, I was so stressed for that whole month that I might end up unemployed.

d. Be patient, but don’t give up! As I said, I applied for probably 40 jobs (which is a lot in my fairly niche area), which led to about a dozen interviews and one offer. Just keep at it and follow Alison’s advice whenever you can — you’ll find the right role eventually!

4. I wrote to you asking if I needed to do anything different when sending a cover letter to someone who already knew my work well. You graciously reassured me that I was overthinking it and could just write a normal cover letter. I did my best, and it worked — after 4(!) rounds of interviews (for which I think I might have mined every single article you have ever written on interviewing) I have just been offered the job. All the interviews meant I had plenty of opportunity to dig into the culture of the company, talking to lots of different interviewers about their experiences, and I’m confident that this is a place where I can thrive and do great work. My current schedule is unusual in my field and I’d resigned myself to moving to a more standard one, but I even get to keep that too!

Thank you for everything you do. I don’t think my current workplace knows how much of our culture is shaped by things that you’ve written, but I’ve poured as much Alison-magic into this place as I can, and I’m excited to bring everything I’ve learned into a new role.

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. Papa's Got a Brand New Job*

    Over the past month I’ve had three stages of interviews, prepared the heck out of it, and got a ‘yes’ this afternoon! I am so, so delighted.

    30% pay increase; WFH full time; and I get to pursue my interests and grow my knowledge in this area that I really care about. I’m so happy!

  2. Red Boxes and Arrows*

    OP1: I’m in Texas, too, and while we didn’t get an entire week off across the board, if you couldn’t work in person or from home, you didn’t have to use PTO.

    So those of us who got our power and internet back by Thursday worked Thur and Fri (from home). Those who were boiling water or still had no power weren’t expected to work and the time was fully paid.

    I’ve been really pleased with how the pandemic, previous natural disasters (in other locations in the U.S. and worldwide), and now this arctic storm fiasco have been handled by my company.

    We had our normal quarterly CEO Town Hall a few weeks ago and our CEO emphasized the importance of getting a COVID vaccine when your time comes, and said that people will get paid time off for both the injection and for any post-shot symptoms (I’m off today for post-2nd-shot misery). He also re-emphasized that if you want to continue to be employed by The Company, you *will* wear a mask and practice social distancing any time you are on The Company’s property.

    I’m grateful for the good companies out there.

  3. Laufey*

    Also, I want to hear the Big, Bad HOA story. I love a good overbearing-HOA-getting-its-comeuppance story.

    1. OP2*

      I caught the HOA board in a lie regarding a small but significant landscaping issue, emailed them about it using language that would make the AAM crowd proud, they got defensive and started lobbing personal attacks in response (mostly at my spouse, who has been nothing short of a blessing to this community), at which point I lost it. My big goal as I work with a therapist is to become more assertive. I’ve never been one to push back against anyone or anything, which has resulted in me allowing others to get away with various forms of emotional abuse over the years (to the point where I struggled to function at a previous job because an unkind coworker triggered what I now understand was PTSD.) I had to speak up to prove to myself that I wasn’t going to let mistreatment slide anymore. So I made a script inspired by Alison’s advice on workplace bullying and confronted them in-person at the following meeting. It was terrifying, but Spouse and I calmly made our case, offered suggestions for improvement, and knew that their (predictably) unkind/defensive response (including more abuse hurled at my angelic spouse) said nothing about us and everything about them. We rocked it! I knew going in that I probably couldn’t change anything, but that wasn’t the point- I spoke up and didn’t back down, which has been a turning point in my fight against crippling anxiety and depression. It’s our goal to move out of state whenever a good opportunity arises (for a long list of reasons), so we hopefully get to bid adieu to this awful neighborhood before too long anyway. In the meantime, if I ever find out that they’ve talked about my spouse or myself behind our backs, or bullied anyone else in the neighborhood, they will most certainly hear from me again.

      So yeah, probably not the kind of story you’d imagined- more about my own personal journey than anything else- but I think it’s a great one!

      1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        YES! I mean, it’s not ‘and from then on the neighborhood declared the day shall be known as OP2 day’ but its still awesome. A win is a win! Good for you for standing up for yourself and being the mature one in the situation. You should be proud regardless of what the issue was or whether it resolved in your favor that you put your foot down and said ‘no, I’m not going to allow myself, or others, to be treated in this way.’ Way to go!

  4. Suzy Q*

    I have deployed that magic question. It usually impresses interviewers. Sometimes, it stumps them and they give lame answers. It’s fun to ask, though!

    1. BubbleTea*

      I would guess that an inability to answer might suggest they’re not 100% clear on the job description, or don’t have good ways to measure performance, both of which are useful things to know about!

    2. Ali G*

      I too have successfully asked the magic question! Not only does it impress, it gives you important info, based on the answer.

  5. Van Wilder*

    OP #2 – totally agree. I always have Alison’s advice in my head. Setting boundaries, collaborative tone, etc… I recently had to ask my nanny to do something differently (very difficult for me) and I set my tone as “matter-of-fact” and followed up with a positive subject change.

    1. river*

      Me too! I work mostly alone, but reading this blog has really helped me when I had to deal with troublesome neighbours. I’ve always struggled when put on the spot, but Alison’s advice has helped me have the confidence to stand up for myself and say what needs to be said, in the right tone. The problem was resolved in my favour, which wasn’t just down to me, but I’m proud of myself for the way I handled it.

  6. Mockingjay*

    OP 3, I love your Lessons Learned! These tidbits provide rich context for AAM advice, which is always so more practical and real than other columns.

    So happy for you in your new position.

  7. C Average*

    Thanks for saying this, OP 2. I totally agree! I got hooked on AAM while I was in the corporate world; since then, I’ve left the workforce to deal with family stuff, worked some retail jobs, done some freelance, etc. But as a human interacting with other humans, I’ve drawn on Alison’s wise, sane, compassionate advice again and again and again. It applies in so many situations.

  8. Stratocaster*

    Fellow Texan here – glad to hear another company handled last week appropriately! I work at a state university, and we were also given the entire week off, paid (no PTO charge). Part of it was because the campus itself was having power and water issues, so even if I had power and internet at home, most of the systems I work on were down or going in and out, and it would have been pointless. But I’m glad that our administration made the decision early on to cancel all work and classes for the week, and just focus on keeping people safe. They have also handled the pandemic pretty well, and aside from a few people making some dumb comments about working from home, on a whole, my university has done well to demonstrate that the health and safety of its students and employees are top priority.

  9. Bookworm*

    I’ve had a tough week so as always it’s nice to end such happy news. Thanks as always to all the LWs for writing in and for Alison for posting these!

  10. Nicotene*

    It’s funny how these things vary by field. In my area 40 is really not that many jobs to apply to, but clearly to OP it seems like a lot. I must have sent out hundreds of applications when I was a grad just starting out (then again, that was also 2008. But this is 2020).

    1. OP#3*

      I’m in a fairly niche area of higher education student affairs (academic support & retention). I applied to some similar, less-niche positions like academic advising, but my background is in either working directly with students who are struggling academically, or supervising student workers who work with students who struggle academically. My new job is kind of a combination of those two things plus some academic advising, as well as being more involved in strategic planning for the holistic student support center recently opened at my new institution (combines academic support, mental health and wellness support, as well as connections with various community resources to help students with financial and other needs).

      1. Pam Adams*

        Sounds excellent! As an advisor with waaay too big a caseload, I’m glad to see institutions place a stronger focus on struggling students.

        Back to reviewing my potential Summer graduates!

  11. Bostonian*

    I can’t love #2 enough. Even though most of us maintain separate “work” and “personal” lives, we don’t exist in a vacuum, and ways of dealing with problems (particularly interpersonal and communication challenges) in the work world certainly translate to our personal worlds (and vice versa). Thanks for sharing your insights!

    1. OP2*

      My therapist always says that the real work happens between sessions. She’s absolutely right! I love AAM because Alison’s way of giving advice just clicks more than other advice columnists, and the community at large is much more compassionate than most internet forums. If it helps, it helps!

  12. DVa*

    #1 – Fellow Texan here. Glad your company was very understanding. We had a ‘work as best you can despite the loss of power/internet/water’ from mine. And I was asked to still do my previously scheduled review meeting, even if I was without power or internet!

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