open thread – February 19-20, 2021

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 1,147 comments… read them below }

  1. Sydney Ellen Wade*

    If a small company has multiple positive reviews posted within days of each other on Glassdoor, is that suspicious? I’ve seen big companies with 10+ reviews posted on the same day, which I take with a grain of salt, but this is a tiny startup.

    1. Jean*

      Highly suspicious. In my experience, the legitimate reviews and the OTT glowing ones posted by HR are pretty easy to tell apart. A tiny startup having ANY reviews would be unusual, much less multiple positive reviews in a short period of time.

    2. Lacey*

      If it’s a tiny start-up, probably they were all sitting around chatting and said, “Hey, we should give ourselves great glass door reviews!”

      1. Ashley*

        I agree. Same with a bunch of google reviews for companies on the same day. They may not necessarily be false but I would put as much stock in them.

        1. Krabby*

          Yep, especially in a small start up. It may be the most junior tech employee legitimately talking about how great the job is, but when the company is that small, everyone at every level is basically an unofficial stakeholder in the business’s success by virtue of being friends with everyone else at every level.

        2. Golden*

          I’m apartment hunting, and it’s pretty easy to tell when there’s been some kind of “rent credit in exchange for a 5 star review” promotion.

          Really frustrating and a big red flag, at least from a ‘customer’ standpoint.

    3. OtterB*

      Maybe? I could see it being fake or coercive. But I could see someone saying, hey, we’re going to be recruiting for several positions, Glassdoor is a Thing People Check and we don’t have much of a presence there, and employees who were genuinely happy with the organization stepping up to write reviews.

      1. Momma Bear*

        This. It is college recruiting fair season and someone may have decided to look at GlassDoor for the first time in a while.

    4. I Want to Break Free*

      We were told at my company (<300 people; startup) to post to Glassdoor to bring our ranking up. A lot of our employees posted around that time. I think due to that we got profiled in some local-ish press. So, yes, it is fair to be suspicious.

      1. Karo*

        That’s not that odd, though! Companies ask their employees to post reviews all the time and if people follow through, that’s great. As long as the reviews are honest and given of their own free will – the employees weren’t pressured or given talking points – who cares?

        1. Cassidy*

          But the commenter you’re responding to said the company s/he works for “told” its employees to “post to Glassdoor to bring” its “ratings up.”

          How is that equivalent to “employees weren’t pressured”?

          Your “as long as” conditions don’t apply.

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’d be suspicious of the positive reviews in general. I don’t know many rank and file who are so overflowing with happiness that Glassdoor is needed as an outlet lest they explode.

      1. Mouse*

        I would agree with this for most review sites, but for Glassdoor in particular, I’ve posted several honest positive reviews because I like my workplaces and need to continually post to Glassdoor to maintain access to the full resources of the site. So a positive review isn’t automatically suspicious.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Yea, a positive one here and there I can process.

          But a lot of them, in short order, for a company with startup-sized personnel? I can’t decide if I’m checking for rubber hoses or concealed firearms first.

    6. Qwerty*

      Probably means there was a company wide meeting where they announced “post a review on Glassdoor!” It’s a common occurrence when a company is hiring for several positions and has no online reputation.

      Are the reviews detailed and balanced? Or are they short and just gush about the company? I trust positive reviews more when they list actual cons. A tiny startup is likely going to be a group of people who are very dedicated to the company, so it makes sense that they are posting positive reviews.

      I look for patterns in the reviews to get a sense of the company. For example, the company I’m at has a lot of positive reviews, and while people don’t mind the long hours because we all love what we do, they post it as a con so candidates know to ask about it. At a previous job we’d always make sure to list the 7:30am start time as a con to draw attention to it for candidates for whom that would be a dealbreaker.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. Look at the content. Is it posted by Pete and Re-Pete? Or is there something of substance in each review.
        Does each comment sound like the “same voice” just different words? If the comments “feel” like they all came from the same person, there’s probably a reason.

    7. HR Exec Popping In*

      Not necessarily suspicious as in the reviews are made up. But it is possible that the employer is starting to work on improving their Glassdoor page and sent a communication out to employees encouraging them to write a review. The reviews are still likely an honest representation from the employees who wrote them, but they likely didn’t just all randomly think they should go to the site and submit a review.

    8. Karo*

      I’d say it’s a yellow flag more than a red flag. My current employer has asked people in our weekly all-company meeting to share reviews on Glassdoor about once a year, so it’s entirely possible that everyone was asked to do it and they complied because they feel strongly.

      I’d be more concerned with reviews that have eerily similar points or phrasings. If everyone talks about PTO, how cool the CEO is and 1 other thing, they were probably given direction on what to say. I’d also be wary of any reviews that list no faults – those are either ghostwritten by marketing/HR *or* they person is a giant sycophant.

  2. LunaLovegood*

    Are there any librarians here who work at research institutes, think tanks, or anything like that? I’m a health sciences librarian at a university. I occasionally have a chance to collaborate with faculty on evidence synthesis projects, which I love. But most of my time is dedicated to leading classes and workshops for students, and I’ve realized that I don’t enjoy teaching. If anyone with an MLIS has a job working on a research team, I’d love to hear about it!

    1. Another Librarian*

      Would you be interested in instructional design or user experience / information architecture? It’s not my entire job, but I work in technical services and do a fair amount of research and recommendation in these areas. It requires working at a larger institution for sure, but that’s one avenue to consider that wouldn’t require leaving LIS

    2. OneMoreLibrarian*

      I probably don’t quite have the type of job you have in mind, but I work in digital scholarship at a university library. I work with faculty on their digital projects, but find that the part I like the least is having to teach/convince them that my methods or advice are worthwhile. It’s still teaching in a way, just teaching someone who thinks they should know everything already. So depending how comfortable you are in a “support” role or dealing with egos, I’d definitely look for types of positions where you’re a full member of a team.

    3. NotALibrarian*

      Is the Congressional Research Service an option? Lots of research projects there. They synthesize data and write reports in response to queries from members of congress. Political neutrality in reporting is required.

    4. Anonynonylibrarian*

      I used to work at the CDC library (back when the CDC was a respected institution). There was a lot of literature searching for evidence syntheses going on. There are quite a few government agencies that you might be happy at if you want to do evidence synthesis work—NIH, CDC, and FDA come to mind.

      I also know Oregon Health and Science University was hiring for an evidence synthesis librarian a few years back.

    5. Gov't Med Librarianship*

      Two places that you might want to watch for positions are the National Institutes of Health Library and the National Library of Medicine (part of NIH). Jobs will be listed on USAJobs.

    6. FormerLibrarian*

      I’ve side-stepped into another career track since, but I spent three years working at a public health nonprofit (and have a friend at a separate public health nonprofit who’s been there for 9-10 years) on their research and evaluation team– both of us with MLS/MLIS degrees, and I did a ton of informational interviewing with think tanks like Brookings, etc. There is definitely opportunity out there. There’s also learning partnership/fellowship through the Grace & Harold Sewell Memorial Fund that places librarians in non-traditional settings that might help you find what you’re looking for. It’s only a 12-month stint, but I know several fellows have been able to turn those into permanent positions. I think applications open in late spring/summer.

    7. GlobalhealthLibrarian*

      I have been a librarian at a global health nonprofit for nearly a decade. While I am not an embedded researcher on any one team I do provide research support for all of our researchers across the globe depending on what they need.

    8. Bibrarian*

      Have you looked for clinical librarian roles? I’m also at a research university, but my team spends very little time in the library. Instead, each of us is closely embedded with our clinicians/research teams than most academic liaisons; we do patient management, rounds, didactically, etc—pretty much everything except patient bedsides unless requested—alongside our departments. It might not quite get you all the way away from teaching, but I would say we spend 90% of our time on research and clinical services

  3. TKB*

    I had the weirdest interview experience! I live in Texas, presumably we all have heard of the power disaster the unusual cold temperatures brought on. I, like many, lost power and rescheduled a second interview over the phone since I felt I needed to reserve cell battery for emergencies.

    My power came on today (yay!) and Wednesday when I had sent the reschedule email, the recruiter emails back asking for my *specific* address. She links a city outage map URL stating my neighborhood appears to be live and asks if I’m sure I want to reschedule (!?!?) When chatting about commute times in the preliminary screening I said I lived in [Neighborhood in Texas city]. She lives in [city in Florida]. Is she attempting to call me out for lying? I want to completely pull out of this interview process, I’m tempted to ghost her and the company.

    1. MissGirl*

      Since it’s the recruiter and not the hiring manager acting so badly, I’d stay in personally. However, I would also have my red flag meter turned way up.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I agree – it makes you look guilty in this case, I think. If you’re deciding whether to withdraw, I’d say something like “It sounds like you’re accusing me of faking my power outage” and see where it goes from there, but if you definitely want out, I’d say “Thanks for your concern. I’ve decided to withdraw from this interview process.”

          1. TKB*

            I love that second script your provided – Short and sweet. I am currently employed so I’m leaning toward pulling out. Less we forget this isn’t the only crisis the company is facing, and this is certainly a taste for how the company may handle times of need in the future (FWIW – this is a talent manager internal to the company)

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Yeah, this sounds like the kind of company that would want a doctor’s note for every illness…

            2. Ashley*

              I would definitely ask to pull out of consideration if they are internal and pulling this. If I had been without power for a few days I would definitely have more on my mind then a job interview the day after I got my power back.
              Hope things start getting better in Texas for all of you!

            3. Rose*

              Still someone you would likely never have to interact with again after you were hired. I’d be on the lookout for other red flags but I wouldn’t pull out over this if you were excited before.

              She could easily be hiding bad behavior in a field like recruiting where it’s reasonable to say you interact with a lot of crazy/PITA people and your boss won’t feel a need to follow up and make sure you’re not the issue. I doubt she told the head of HR, hey! I’m really riding this Texan candidate to see if they’re lying about a power shortage! And they high-fived.

              If you do pull out 100% tell her why! If you know anyone else at the company CC them. This is crazy and really awful.

              1. Observer*

                Tell her why and cc everyone that in the hiring chain that you have the email for.

                This is utterly bonkers.

                1. Autumnheart*

                  Right? Not even working there yet, and they’re already trying to gotcha you about whether your emergency was real? Yowza.

            4. LCH*

              if you’re going to exit the process anyway, i’d still call out the recruiter for calling you a liar. like, with all the news coming from TX about the power outages, are they freaking joking?

            5. The New Normal*

              As this is the internal talent manager, I would most certainly pull out, but I would also forward the email right up the chain. This is exceptionally egregious. It should go to her manager, HR, and honestly, depending on the size of the company, I’d send it to a higher-level VP or what not.

            6. tamarack and fireweed*

              Yeah, I think I would be very tempted to write “Dear [you], Now that power came back on at my home after the power grid collapsed following severe winter weather, I am finding your note. In the light of your request I prefer withdrawing from the application process. Sincerely, [me].”

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Eh, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If ghosting is good enough for applicants & employees, it’s good enough for recruiters.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            It’s not so much that it’s rude. It’s that if you have been unjustly accused of dishonesty then ghosting would tend to confirm the accuser in their mistaken conviction rather than getting the point across that THEIR rude behavior just lost them a promising candidate.

    2. Retail Not Retail*

      Maybe not ghost, but just apologize and cancel. What if you had a burst pipe to deal with? The power being back on doesn’t help there.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Why should the applicant apologize? It’s the recruiter who was completely out of line. I would definitely copy the correspondence up the chain, and explicitly state that the recruiter’s attitude is why they are losing a good candidate. And maybe not even respond directly to the recruiter, just cc them.

      1. Bluephone*

        Just because a random outage map says your neighborhood has its power back doesn’t mean your individual house or street or the neighborhood itself actually has its power back (ask me how I know).

        Has this lady never had/used electricity before??? What mythical utility company does she get her power from that, when an outage map is updated to “power restored,” she can just trust it’s always accurate? Also, was this outage map even from Texas’ utility conglomerate or was it just some random ass website that tracks outages from various online sources?

        I’d ask her what’s up, notify the company itself, and then go from there.

        1. HungryLawyer*

          Exactly! And has she never heard a rolling blackout? Many in Texas have reported their power coming in for very brief times and then going right back out again. This recruiter’s response is a big red flag, especially since they’re internal to the hiring company!

          1. Yorick*

            The fact that she would even do this is a huge red flag, beyond all the reasons that it might show she has electricity when she doesn’t.

        2. Justme, The OG*

          Those maps are often wrong. My neighborhood was supposed to be part of rolling blackouts twice this week, showed on the maps that we were out, but my house was fine. I trust those maps with a grain of salt.

        3. Momma Bear*

          Agreed. Our local power company is notorious for saying all’s well when there are still people out. I wouldn’t ghost her. I would say something like, “Yes, I want to reschedule. You may not be aware but the situation here is very fluid. As it is possible that I may lose power again, I would like to continue with Plan B over the phone.” Some of my friends lost power, got it back, lost it again. She’s annoying but if she’s a third party rep and you really like the company, you might consider proceeding.

          If you don’t, don’t ghost them. Tell them that their recruiter made you feel uncomfortable and it made you question future employment through them.

      1. Jean*

        Also adding that I’m sorry you’ve been dealing with the Texas weather nightmare. What a horrible situation, and I’m glad you’re OK and your power is back. The fact that this person’s response was to try to trip you up/mindf*ck you using a natural disaster, instead of expressing compassion and sympathy, is alarming.

    3. OtterB*

      Is it an external recruiter? I think there’s been AAM advice in the past that an external recruiter doesn’t necessarily reflect the company culture. If you’re interested in the position, then I’d take it as a yellow flag and a sign to pay attention to how people are treated, but still continue with the interview process.

      Glad you have your power back. I have a remote colleague from work who also has hers back.

      1. TKB*

        She is internal to the company, perhaps ‘recruiter’ isn’t the right term – talent manager? It’s a start-up, so perhaps they’re ironing out some kinks in the company culture but I am proceeding with caution.

        Yes this has been the weirdest weather situation I’ve ever experienced. And I’m from the northeast where the conditions Texas had would be considered a mere dusting.

        1. Observer*

          Definitely proceed with great caution.

          Don’t ghost, regardless. If you do decide that this is too much, let them know why. And don’t confine your email to her.

          In the moment, perhaps you can ask her exactly what she is asking you?

    4. Weekend Please*

      Does she not realize that a lot of Texas had rolling blackouts (had power for a few hours then didn’t have power for a lot more)? She is just the recruiter so in your shoes I probably wouldn’t pull out of the interview (I would if she would be your manager). Instead, I would ignore the weirdness and reply only to what was actually asked (and is relevant) and play dumb about the insinuations. “Yes, I would like to reschedule. Luckily we do have power for now! I hope it stays that way.”

      1. londonedit*

        This is what I would do too. And you have my sympathies – I once worked at a company where if anyone called in to say they were going to be late because of delays on the tube, one of the managers would immediately go online to look up the latest service information. ‘Well, apparently they’re stuck on the Central line but it’s SAYING good service here, so…’ Delightful.

    5. Tiffany In Houston*

      TKB – I’m Houston, and part of my HUGE subdivision had power at one point and my section did not. I could the houses across the bayou with their lights on while I sat in the dark. Some houses on opposite sides of my mom’s street and others did not. It depends on where the poles and lines are and if the house itself had issues. I would definitely be pissed to be honest, how is she is to determine if you are lying and she lives in Florida!

      This is definitely a orange flag IMO. Proceed with your threat level meter up.

      1. Jessica*

        Also, even if you had power, this whole situation in Texas has been extremely stressful. I think you could have said, “I am not sure what I am waking up to every day here. We are having blackouts, water issues, spotty cell phone service, internet disruptions. I would like to reschedule for next week please.” Texas is going through some TRAUMA here. A little empathy will go a long way from this recruiter.

        1. Yorick*

          Right, you may have power now, but if you didn’t for the past 1 or 2 days then you aren’t prepared for your interview.

      2. TKB*

        So sorry about your loss of power too. And let’s not forget this isn’t even the biggest crisis our country is facing at the moment!

        Yes, it came across as pretty sanctimonious to be sitting in Florida, the only place in the country with temperatures well above freezing, linking me to an outage map as if I can’t open my eyes and see for myself whether the power is out. These past couple of years have been eye opening for how short sighted some of this country is.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I’d be so mad. I’m petty so I’d probably write a scathingly polite email, something like “as I am currently experiencing an emergency situation I would indeed wish to reschedule; however it’s become clear to me [company] is not the right fit for my needs. Best of luck filling the position.”

      3. Dust Bunny*

        After Ike, two-thirds of our subdivision got power back after about ten days. My part was out for another week.

        You would think somebody in another hurricane state would understand that.

        1. All Het Up About It*

          You would think somebody in another hurricane state would understand that.

          This +1000. I’m in Louisiana and while the power map has shown that all the houses for several blocks surrounding us had power the past few days, I’ve gone to bed each night listening to someone’s generator running. I don’t think my neighbor is burning gas for kicks and giggles.

          TKB – Knowing it’s an internal individual …. yeah. 100% red flag, but I think it’s your call on if you move forward or pull out based on how excited you are about the possible job, interactions with others at the company, your current employment situation. Best of luck either way and fingers-crossed the situation in Texas improves soon!

      4. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

        Fellow Houstonian- I know plenty of people that when they got power back still didn’t have internet.
        Honestly, the power situation is still dicey, ours has been solid since it came back but I’ve got relatives that are still having it come and go (for a while they stopped updating the outage maps because there was no point).
        But beyond that there’s so many issues beyond just the power situation that would be an understandable reason to reschedule – burst or frozen pipes, continuing cold weather, lack of available food and water…
        You mentioned this is an internal person so I’d take it as a big red flag, and personally I’d thank them for consideration and bow out.

    6. AnonInTexas*

      Recruiters can be highly motivated by the placement fees associated with filling positions. Especially in these tough times. Personally, I think this could be isolated to just the recruiter, and I would press onward with the interview to see what the company culture is like.

      This recruiter is tone deaf.
      I’m also in Texas. This has been a complete nightmare. I had my utilities restored in time to work yesterday, and I still just needed a day to recover mentally. We’ve been through a crisis, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that even if someone has their services restored that they may not be in the best physical/mental/emotional state to interview. I’m so glad you made it through this.

      1. AnonInTexas*

        Sorry, just saw your above comment about the recruiter being internal. Bananas. Proceed, but with caution.

          1. ColdFeet*

            This. I’m near Fort Worth – and after my power finally came back on, I was like I need a day!! of course, my work was also expecting me to cover emails on my phone. I told my bosses (who never lost power!!!) that wasn’t possible on a continual basis. ugh.

    7. Save the Hellbender*

      Imagine the lack of human empathy it takes to second-guess someone rescheduling in a record-setting natural disaster. Even if you hadn’t lost power, you still could be dealing with lack of water, neighbors and friends without power, etc — it’s not a normal work day! She sounds completely removed from reality. I don’t know what that tells you about the company, but maybe they deserve to hear about that, as if they’re decent humans they don’t want people screened out by someone like that.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      I’m also in Texas (we were lucky–we only lost power for 16 hours over one night) and . . . what the Hell? One of my friends was out for *86 freaking hours* and none of us knew when our power was going to come back on, or if it would stay on. Of course you rescheduled.

    9. Chilipepper*

      I would reply.
      “When I wrote to you on Wednesday, our area did not have power and I did want to reschedule. I did get power back today. Can we reschedule?”

      I would just do that and then when you have the phone interview, if it is not with the external recruiter, I might bring it up. “Thank you for rescheduling. When I asked to reschedule, I was surprised when the recruiter sent me an outage map for Texas and asked for my address. It almost seemed like they wanted to see if I actually had lost power or not.”

    10. Midwest Manager*

      Not condoning this recruiter’s behavior, however if you want to give the person the benefit of the doubt, maybe consider it was bad judgement on the recruiter’s part to cite “apparent power availability”? It could be the case that they had a LOT of difficulty pulling all the necessary people together for the second interview and wanted to attempt to salvage the original appointment time due to this nightmare.

      There are times when the internal dialogue continues on into the email communications, as if you were present for the first part – but only actually received the second part.

      Still proceed with yellow/orange caution flags – or pull out if you’re really put off by the whole thing. If you’re not terribly invested in this opportunity/company no harm, no foul.

      1. Observer*

        however if you want to give the person the benefit of the doubt, maybe consider it was bad judgement on the recruiter’s part to cite “apparent power availability”? It could be the case that they had a LOT of difficulty pulling all the necessary people together for the second interview and wanted to attempt to salvage the original appointment time due to this nightmare.

        I get that it’s possible that the recruiter had a hard time pulling the meeting together. What she did still went “well beyond” bad judgement. She immediately jumped to “TKB is probably lying” hence asking them what their exact address is. *Then* she pulled a classic “Are you SURE you want continue with this when I have this so called evidence?” That’s a bad move when you’re dealing with a recalcitrant child.

        1. Midwest Manager*

          As I said – I do not condone the recruiter’s behavior. It is completely awful they even went down that road. The correct answer to the request should always be either: “Of course, I understand! Let’s see if we can find a better day/time” or “I’m sorry, we must complete the process this week. We’ll have to remove you from the running.”

          To even vaguely imply that OP might be lying about their situation is the height of bad form. However, my point is specifically that it could have been more a case of bad judgement by the recruiter (inflamed by annoyance at having to re-juggle the schedule, etc.) rather than malicious intent.

          1. Observer*

            Shrug. Intent really doesn’t matter here. I don’t think most of us thought she was malicious, at least not in the sense of wanting to offend. But calling it “bad judgement” doesn’t mean anything. Because that term covers all sorts of things. In fact most of the terrible management we hear about here is a matter of bad judgement rather than active malice.

            The recruiter’s behavior is a flag for micromanaging, treating adults like children, managing by innuendo, assuming bad intent and making veiled accusations based on nothing bur incomplete information totally misunderstood. None of these things is malicious per se, but they make for very, very bad working environments.

      2. AnonInTexas*

        I’ve given this more thought too, and another possible explanation could be that they were very excited by OP as a candidate and anxious to move forward. Yes, that’s an extremely charitable interpretation. But it’s within the realm of possible, and what OP experienced may have just been a rogue, go-getter recruiter.

        The recruiter’s behavior was still BAD. Really BAD. If OP was a candidate that I was really enthusiastic about, I’d have expressed concern for their situation first and foremost. I would never have looked up their address and sent an outage map (!!!). The script would have been more like “OP, I hope that you are doing well given the extremely challenging situation in your area. I’m writing to confirm that you’d still like to reschedule…”

        OP, the reason I’d encourage you to at least interview with the hiring manager is that if you were a candidate that I was excited about, perhaps our talent recruitment would have taken this as a misguided queue to be more aggressive. I don’t know. But I’d be absolutely horrified to hear of this experience, and I would expect many questions from you about company culture. Use this as an opening to ask about how they support their employees, etc.

        1. Observer*

          and another possible explanation could be that they were very excited by OP as a candidate and anxious to move forward.

          Yeesh. If this is how they treat people they are EXCITED by, and are trying to woo, I shudder to think of how they treat people they are not excited about and who they take for granted!

      3. Karo*

        In that case, thought, the tone of the recruiter’s email should’ve been “I’m so sorry, it took a lot of work to get all of these people together and we’re on a tight timeline, we really need to keep the original appointment,” not “This random screenshot shows you have power, explain yourself.”

        I get what you’re saying in your comments below about the recruiter being frustrated, but this is such a huge leap. If nothing else, the recruiter would’ve had time to calm down while they (a) tracked down what area the OP is from (b) figured out their energy provider and (c) found the power map for the correct area. I barely know how to find a power map for my own house and I have my energy company’s app on my phone.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah. The recruiter put a lot of work into this. That really only makes sense if they went in already assuming ill intent. Not a really encouraging thought.

    11. I'm just here for the cats*

      Just because the electricity was back in one neighborhood doesn’t mean it was back for everyone. And the website she sent to you, really how accurate is that? It probably has a statement that says that it is a generalization of what the power looks like.
      Plus just because the lights are on does t mean that your Internet is working. Plus there is so.much other stuff going on like burst pipes etc that this is just really bad. If it had been a hurricane would she have made you take the interview the minute the storm past?

      I would push back if you can. If you have anyone elses email address, like the hiring manager or HR I would loop them in. I feel like she would say something bad to the bosses about you. But If your not really enthusiastic about the job I think it would be fine to email and say because of the natural disasters and damage done I cannot interview and would like to be taken out of the running.

    12. No.*

      Your area is in a state of emergency. Her response was to check if you were lying. Do you want that in your life? That level of Nope is often a Nope Iceberg. I understand that you need a job, but you deserve humanity first.

    13. Joie de Vivre*

      Another Texan here – in my neighborhood, my side of the street had power most of the time. But the power would still go off at random times.

      The houses on the other side of the street were some of the first to loose power, and finally got their power back late Thursday.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      I think if you want to step back, then you should. That stands alone as enough reason.

      I do hope you call her on it though:

      “You might or might not be aware that those power outage maps are not entirely accurate. I am concerned that you seem to be worried about my truthfulness at this early stage in the interview process. As such, I am withdrawing my application. I have attached a news link that shows power was restored to my neighbor on x date at y time, just for purposes of clarity. Thank you for your time. I wish you luck with your search.”

    15. HR Exec Popping In*

      The recruiter is being passive aggressive. I wouldn’t hold that against the hiring manager or necessarily assume that is the norm at the company. But you can vet that out during interviews. This is just one piece of data for you to use in assessing them as an employer. Just like they are taking in multiple pieces of data on you as a candidate.

      1. Vermont Green*

        I think that you should try to clarify with the recruiter what they were thinking. A couple of the commenters are suggesting that the recruiter is misguided and obtuse, while others immediately imply that she is also suspicious and mean. I think you should just pleasantly ask what she had in mind when she sent you the map. That would make her stop and think, and then possibly step back and apologize. Once you listen to her answer, you can take it from there.
        This strategy also doesn’t add to endless reserves of anger and pain in the world.

    16. HD*

      I’m also in Texas and also job-searching right now, and I’ve had to reschedule a bunch of interviews for next week. I guess it helps that these positions are local and most of the recruiters and hiring managers have lost power and water themselves, and really aren’t in a space to be interviewing this week anyway. My sympathies that this recruiter has been terrible about it.

    17. KX*

      I don’t know that she is implying that you were lying. I read it differently.

      You: Power! Please can I reschedule?
      Her: Outage map. Looks like power. Do you still want to reschedule or ok to proceed?

      If you were excited and could have the call and wanted to progress maybe you don’t want to reschedule anymore. I would say yes reschedule or no original plan, depending on what you want.

      Her reply might have hostility. That would be a red flag. I see no hostility here.

      1. Karo*

        Even setting aside the hostility discussion, though, why in the world is the recruiter tracking down an outage map to confirm? They should be taking OP at their word. To do otherwise – especially during a disaster that is this highly documented! – is both bizarre and a gigantic red flag for how the company handles disasters. I know that this isn’t the hiring manager, but the fact that the recruiter thought this was a reasonable response is indicative of an effed up culture.

    18. PT*

      Go post this on one of the Reddit forums like AITA that low-level news companies scour for news articles on a slow day, with a couple of generic hints as to which companies it is. Not enough that you’ve named names but enough that anyone who wants to do the sleuthing can put it together.

      Then hope it gets picked up and goes viral.

    19. North European*

      I work in a huge global company and we are forced to use an internal hiring agency based in anither country (we are in Europe), even for our local positions. They do their job very badly. Their communication both with the hiring manager and the candidates is untransparent and not timely. Sometimes they have sent rejection letters to promising candidates before the hiring manager was able to interview them. They follow a very rigid script (based on the contract that the mother company has signed with the agency). It is very frustrating that our company image towards the candidates in our small country in a very small industry can be tarnished by a bad recruiter whom we cannot influence.
      Consider that this might be the case for you as well. If you decide to proceed and when you are at the end in the process, the hiring manager would surely appreciate if they heard about the recruiter’s tone deaf behaviour.

  4. Smoothie Breakfast Day*

    How do I convey that some achievements on my resume were above and beyond the scope of the position? 

    I am working on my achievements based resume, anticipating applying to an internal promotion opportunity. This means those who review my resume will be very familiar with my work. When I started in this position, some of my skill sets were not requirements, or even nice to haves. I’ve since used those skills to make the position what it is, so much so that now the position would be posted as saying those skills are required. Is there a way to represent that not only did I use these skills, but that I elevated the position?

    1. Chilipepper*

      I have applied for a few different internal positions and I find stating achievements awkward in that situation too!
      I would revise the resume as though it is not an internal position and then look it over from the perspective of the internal hiring team.

    2. Managing In*

      I’m interested in other people’s suggestions but this sounds like a good fit for your cover letter rather than trying to convey it in your resume.

      1. Smithy*

        Without knowing more, I agree that this is likely much easier to feature in your cover letter. Giving a narrative sentence may be more straightforward – for example “being able to show what a bilingual/Salesforce certified/ etc candidate can bring to this role, I’ve demonstrated to X Co. how critical those skills will for the role for years to come.”

        That being if your new skills can show a direct link to a decision – such as expanding reach into a new audience, being able to reduce reliance on external consultants, etc. – that would make sense as an achievement the way my resume is structured.

    3. Malarkey01*

      I’ve done this. I said something along the lines of Developed and strengthened the initial position of llama groomer into full llama appearance management allowing us to provide a full service llama product and double our presence in the local hoof marketplace. Or
      Leveraged my skills in teapot construction to develop the painting position to focus on intra- pottery design patterns
      (I’m bad at giving llama/teapot analogies but you know mention that you grew the position from x to y using abc skill)

    4. Distractinator*

      “Expanded the llama groomer role to include X, and demonstrated/achieved (concrete outcome, benefit to company) through better collaboration with XYZ team”

    5. ferrina*

      I’ve added achievements like “Designed and executed new chocolate tea pot product” or “Created new process to integrate llama shampooing and braiding processes”
      In my experience, recruiters don’t necessarily care what the scope of the old position is, they just care what you achieved. They are more concerned with how those achievements fit the scope of the position that you are applying for (and for recruiters familiar with the industry, they’ll recognize it as beyond the scope of the position)

  5. Anise*

    Does anyone have examples or tips for writing effective, interesting cover letters for bench science positions? I’m having trouble achieving that breezy/friendly/enthusiastic kind of vibe. I always seem to end up basically re-listing my resume. The one time I thought I wanted a career change and applied for non-science jobs, I actually found it easier because I could explain how my lab skills would help me in other areas and why I wanted to make a change. Now I’m just sort of going “the job description asked for someone with ELISA experience. I sure do know how to run ELISAs.”

    1. Weekend Please*

      Focus on the science rather than the techniques. What is the lab studying? Why do you want to be involved in that research? You can run ELISAs anywhere. Why do you want to do it in this lab studying this disease/biological process?

      The format I was taught was that your cover letter should have three sections: Me, You, Us Together.
      1. Me: This is my background/skill set/interests
      2. You: This is what I know about your lab/company and what I find particularly intriguing
      3. Us together: This is what I would want to work on with you/why I would be valuable to your program

      1. Anise*

        Great advice, thank you! I really should remember to focus more on what interests me about the lab/research area. I always feel fake saying things like that. I suppose the trick is to find something that actually DOES interest me about that particular lab, even if the main interest is “finding a job that will give me health insurance”

        1. Weekend Please*

          One way of thinking about it is that you are showing you actually know what the lab does and aren’t just resume bombing. Expressing interest does not mean that rheumatoid arthritis is your life long passion. Just that you know what they do and want to be a part of it.

    2. irene adler*

      IF your resume indicates ELISA experience, then why not make the cover letter more broad?
      Maybe tell about why you enjoy lab work or what draws you to scientific work. The HR folks are NOT lab folks, so they won’t relate to doing lab work. They do desk work. But you can enlighten them!

      (I sure know ELISAs! Lab tech here! I really dug developing them as one could witness the step-by-step progression from nothing to a working assay. Then tweaking them so that the test correctly detected X disease or condition per the clinical definition. That ‘breakthrough’ run -when it works for the very first time- always had me walking on air. What a rush! I did it! I created something no one else had made before! )

      Sorry, couldn’t resist!

      1. Anise*

        Hmmm, I didn’t think about my cover letter being seen by HR folks first – that’s a good reminder. I think I’ve been hesitant to explain why I like lab work because in my mind it’s implied (why else would I be applying?), but I suppose it’s not actually implied.

        Which brings me to another problem… I don’t know if I LIKE LIKE lab work in all honesty. I think I just have fairly good fine motor skills and a high tolerance for repetitive work. But I guess that’s more of a me problem than a cover letter problem :)

        1. irene adler*

          I’m learning that nothing is implied. The fact that I applied to the position -in my mind- means I want the position. Apparently one must state this plainly to the interviewer(s).

          1. MacGillicuddy*

            Having to state the obvious is like the realtor who wanted us to “permanently” set the table in the dining room so prospective buyers would know it was a dining room. I guess if they just saw a table surrounded by chairs, but without dishes and cutlery, they’d think it was the executive board room. (/s)

        2. darlingpants*

          Liking lab work is definitely not implied! More than half my cohort in grad school realized by the end that they didn’t like and they wanted to do something else. I love it, and I’ve been careful to specify that I WANT a job that’s at least 50% in the lab, I don’t want to be sitting at a computer doing data analysis or writing reports, and I really don’t want to manage people.

        3. Cascadia*

          People apply for jobs for all sorts of reasons – just because you’re applying for a job does not imply that you like the work. As you said yourself above, you’re looking for a job that gives you health insurance! I think you should definitely talk about how you enjoy the work, why you enjoy the work, etc. etc.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Please give a reason upfront about why you think you’re a good fit for that job. I struggle with what to do with resumes that don’t seem to fit the job description without a good cover letter. If you think your skills are portable, clarify.

    3. Emilia Bedelia*

      This is also a good opportunity to discuss soft skills that make you a good coworker/employee, not just an ELISA robot. Even if it’s a mostly “hard skills” focused position, there’s probably still some “soft skills” that would make you stand out as a good candidate. For example, are you are quick at picking up new skills, thorough and detail oriented, good at training and teaching, good at process improvement?
      Even if the lab skills are the important part of the job, you still have to function as part of a larger team. The cover letter is a good way to demonstrate the personality traits that will make you a good teammate (this is true for any position, really).

    4. Violet Newstead*

      There’s a huge range of bench science positions, so maybe focus your cover letters on the type of position or field rather than techniques and instrumentation (which will be covered in a resume).

      Is it a research lab position? Focus on problem solving skills, ability to perform multiple relevant techniques, team work, working on single projects in-depth, interest in the subject matter. Contract lab position? Ability to juggle many, changing projects and priorities. QC lab? Attention to detail, GMPs, quality systems.

      On the resume, give particular examples of how you’ve done the various bench techniques. Performed tons of ELISAs? Do you have higher through-put with better accuracy than others? Have you performed particularly tricky ELISA assays? Done tons of optimization of specific types of ELISA?

      I’ve helped hire a lot of bench scientists and never did the cover letter reach me. Recruiter/HR would only send resumes. So target the resume details toward the actual scientific hiring manager and the cover letter toward what attracts to you that company or lab.

      1. Anongrav*

        I’m interested to read these replies because I am also going to be applying for bench science positions- my issue is a bit different: I was employed long-term in a non-science role and I hated it. I decided I wanted to do bench science, but my undergrad bio degree had been completed years ago. I went back to grad school, and have emphasized time
        practicing skills in the lab, but I’m concerned that my previous job will be a liability, and I don’t know how to address that in a way that would help me get a job doing bench science.

  6. So not getting paid*

    My boss has never set up direct deposits. Never. He refuses and says it costs him $1,000 per year to put checks in direct deposit. If the 1st or 15th fall on a holiday or weekend, we get our check the first business day after. Well, yesterday was payday. We have three locations, all about 1/2 hour from each other. We live in Texas, and there is now almost a foot of snow on the ground here; NOTHING is open, roads are closed all over, and guess what…he can’t get us our checks, and the banks are closed anyway. Payday was Monday. It’s Friday. Everyone is pissed and on his ass today about direct deposit, and he is glossing over the direct deposit comments. Like, I’ll be totally fine, but most of his employees live paycheck to paycheck, and this is not okay! Anyway, just sharing our mini-drama at work here in the frozen swampland of East Texas. We are froze.

    1. Midwest writer*

      I switched two years ago to a job that didn’t do direct deposits. It’s super annoying and the situation right there is why it can be such a problem for people! Super frustrating for you folks! I also worked for a place many years ago that didn’t require employees to do direct deposit. We had an ice storm one January and everything was closed, so people couldn’t cash their checks. My boss responded by getting people cash — maybe not their whole check, but enough to get through the weekend.
      Stay warm!

    2. Jean*

      All my sympathy to you – both for the weather issues you’ve been dealing with, and your miser of a boss. $1000 A YEAR OH NO! Eyeroll. This would be a dealbreaker for me. I hope you all thaw soon and get your power and water back.

    3. Elenna*

      $1000 a year? Hmmm, wonder how much the interview process will cost him in lost time, when a bunch of his employees quit…

      1. Jean*

        RIGHT? That’s $80 a month, or the price of one nice dinner out with wine. This boss values his $80 a month more than he values his staff getting paid on time. It’s utterly insulting.

    4. Not Really a Waitress*

      In the mid 90s my mom went to work for a large hospitality company. Like you know it. She asked about direct deposit and was told the company was “too large” to do direct deposit. My mom laughed as my father who had worked for the federal government for decades and been getting direct deposit since the early 80s.

    5. up the wolves*

      If a thousand dollars A YEAR is a back-breaking expense for this company, it’s about to go under.

      1. Jean*

        I’m willing to bet my wine budget for this month that this boss can easily afford it, but just refuses “on principle.” I’ve known many “why should I spend a penny of mY mOnEy to make things better for someone else?” people, but it’s particularly egregious when the people you would be helping are people who WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS AND ARE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING YOU MONEY.

      2. So not getting paid*

        Oh no, we’re fine business wise. He just doesn’t want to. He’s on the bank board. I bet they’d even wave the fee.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Could you spin it that way? If you could manage to even suggest (while just acting sad at the prospect) that apparently they don’t consider him important enough to waive the fee, that blow to the ego might light a fire on him. (Might have the potential to go wrong if phrased poorly, though.)

    6. Grits McGee*

      I know Texas isn’t the most protective of workers’ rights, but could the week delay in pay possibly open up your boss to some kind of penalty? Granted, there would probably be grace granted by regulators because the unprecedented nature of the storm. But maybe making boss realize that he could be on the hook for way more than $1,000 for late payment penalties might be the push needed to bring him into the 21st century.

      1. Ashley*

        I would definitely go to my boss about charges that occurred as a result of his failure to pay me on time. And honestly how much does he spend a year on checks and envelopes not to mention getting checks distributed every pay period. Most likely he will save money.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah, this was my first thought. Your boss is a cheapskate. But your best bet is to use that – direct deposit can save enough to at least pay for itself.

    7. Twisted Lion*

      My brother’s work is like this and doesnt do direct deposits. I think they get away with it because he lives in a small town. Its total BS. I dont see how it costs them more to do it than cutting checks.

    8. Chilipepper*

      Has he done the math on what it costs to print paychecks? When DD first started, I was told it was cheaper for the company. Maybe that is no longer true but maybe that will motivate him.
      Also, you might point out the laws about pay and how soon you have to be paid in Texas. He might be violating the law.

    9. OyHiOh*

      My org is *tiny.* We have direct deposit. It wasn’t even a question during onboarding. It was – bookkeeper walking into the conference room and saying “I need X and Y from you so I can set up your direct deposit.” Much easier!

      Your boss may be working with old information – some banks used to charge shocking rates for DD. Your boss may also be banking with a little/local/old-school bank that hasn’t properly adjusted to the 21st century and still charging shocking rates for DD.

    10. irene adler*

      I think I’d coordinate with my co-workers and start “losing” those paychecks periodically such that boss has to re-cut them on a regular basis. Make things as annoying as possible for him.

    11. Rebecca*

      I’d be tempted to reach out to the bank the checks are drawn on, and ask them “how much would it cost me to set up direct deposit for employees if I open a business account with your bank?” I suspect there isn’t a much of a charge, if any at all. I’m the treasurer for an organization that has one paid position, and we have a business account, and I was able to set up direct deposit for them. It wasn’t easy, there was a lot of paperwork to sign, getting a verisign token, etc. and all sorts of hoops, but it’s finally done. I suspect it’s not the money but your boss doesn’t want the initial hassle of setting it up.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Yeah, I work for a small company, and they do direct deposit. I can’t imagine them doing it if it cost that much.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The one place I am aware of is charged pennies (or less) per deposit.

          I am That Person who would call (personal phone, not company phone) the bank/go to the bank and ask how much it costs for direct deposit.
          Armed with figures, I’d go back to that conversation with him.

          1. MacGillicuddy*

            And wouldn’t it count as a business expense? His tax person/accountant should know that. Does he deduct the cost of envelopes and stamps? If you have 100 employees who get paid every 2 weeks, the cost of first class stamps alone is $1200.

            1. Natalie*

              I don’t know why he wouldn’t be deducting the cost of envelopes and postage, they’re absolutely businesses expenses. As would the bank fees.

    12. Can't Sit Still*

      I wonder if your boss has ever calculated what his bank charges him per year to process paychecks? Because that’s not free. In fact, banks started charging a fee for processing physical paycheck in the 90s, so I wonder if he’s just never noticed it?

      Oh, look at that, your boss is breaking the Texas Payday Law in multiple ways almost every payday. I don’t know whether or not it’s enforced, but it exists. I’m going to put the link in a follow up post.

      At any rate, I worked for a company that kept promising they would set up my direct deposit “before your next paycheck” for months. Fortunately, that was right around the time my bank started mobile deposit. And then the company started mailing my checks later and later – they were definitely trying to float paychecks.

    13. Midwest Manager*

      I used to work for a national payroll processing company. He can get his employees DD for much less than he thinks. It’s probably more likely that he’s not interested in or able to float the necessary cash to the processor for DD. The company I worked for pulled the company funds 1 day prior to payday, then deposited the funds for employees at 12:01am on payday. They also provided employment tax payment services, which also pull the funds from the employer account the day before payday. We had clients who struggled with cash flow and opted out of that service.

      By handing you all paper checks, he’s effectively floating the funds until you get around to cashing/depositing them – which builds in up to a week of time before the money comes out of the business account.

    14. I'm just here for the cats*

      It I have been there and it sucks!! I missed my best friends graduation because the company didn’t get the checks on time and it was memorial day weekend so we didn’t get our checks until Tuesday. Guess what! They were sitting in the safe at the other store which was about 25 miles away. The managers ( kids of the owners) just didn’t want to go get them!!!

    15. Small Business Owner*

      For others’ reference: Our direct deposit fee is $1.75 / person / pay period. And actually I think that goes to QuickBooks as processor, not the bank. (There may be cheaper options. My accountant handles it and I don’t quibble.) If staff are paid twice monthly, direct deposit is $45.50 extra per person per year. By far, the cheapest benefit I offer.

      And, you could factor in the cost of those paper checks/paystubs. They’re not $1.75 each, but they’re not free. The last time we restocked, maybe $.25-$.50/check, depending on how much you buy.

      Might not help you with an “it’s the principle of it, and I’m cheap” boss. But reference for anyone wanting concrete numbers.

    16. RussianInTexas*

      Oh my god, there are two of them! Small company here, in Houston.
      My current company have never had direct deposit. When we got the shutdown last March, half of the company started working from home (we are essential business with a warehouse). The company tried to mail the checks and mine took 12 days to be delivered – from the same city. They decided no more. We would come to the office every other week to pick them up.
      The direct deposit was brought up. Silence.
      Then a person who was still in the office was tested positive for COVID and visits to the office were disallowed. They started mailing again, at least this time USPS been working.
      The direct deposit was brought up. Silence.
      Now, payday is today. No one obviously mailed the checks. The roads cleared up enough that our payroll said we can come over and get the checks.
      There is no point to bring up the direct deposit again.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          What I think works w/someone like this guy is if you all agree privately to each approach him individually.
          Because when he gets one email and conversation after another, it’ll start to get to him. Each of you can explain how this inconvenienced you and how you’d really appreciate dd.
          It might work better than asking for a meeting because he can get defensive there. but when it’s one random employee after another, it has to make a point.

  7. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Based on this morning’s question, what are some of your favorite active learning activities from college, either as a professor or student? Alternatively, what were your most effective assignments that really made you connect different ideas together?

    1. ThinMint*

      I was an art major in college and having to do group critiques after projects has proved so valuable even though I’m not in an art field now. It was good practice to give constructive criticism, to pick your battles, and to receive criticism gracefully and ask follow-up questions.

      1. Reba*

        I happen to work with a lot of folks who had fine arts training (including self) and I totally recognize this in some of our work together!

      2. KoiFeeder*

        Group critiques are one of my exceptions to my dislike of group activities. They do have to be moderated by the professor, especially in undergraduate or else it gets a little lord of the flies, but a good group critique is far more valuable than just one peer or just the teacher’s critique alone.

    2. Sam*

      To be honest, my favorites were always ones like what the OP for that question describes – I like bouncing my ideas off other people, and chatting with neighbours is a low-pressure way to do that.

      I’m very curious how some of the people in that thread would deal with a standard social sciences/humanities tutorial – a much smaller group, entirely dedicated to discussion in some cases, sometimes adversarial… And participation is part of your grade a lot of the time!

      And I say this, too, as someone with diagnosed anxiety; had these been presentations in front of the class, I would have felt a lot different. I just feel like talking to your neighbour in class is a good, moderate level of that.

      1. StripesAndPolkaDots*

        In my humanities and social science classes I found the best thing for me was professor lecturing, students responding out loud to what prof said, prof responding to that, students responding to what both students and prof said, etc. Not discussing in groups with just students. That either devolved into people talking about tv shows or their personal lives, or you’d have one student who thought he knew everything talking over everyone else. Having the professor facilitate the discussion the entire time was the best learning experience for me.

        1. Mimmy*

          That’s my preference as well. I’m in an entirely online masters program, and while we have Discussion Boards, I really miss the face-to-face classroom discussions.

      2. Jellyfish*

        Same. Lecturing is fine, but it really helped me to break up the class time with brief, small discussions or activities. I learn well by talking through my thoughts, but I was very unlikely to speak up in a full class discussion.
        Honestly, I found this morning’s comment section a bit frustrating. There are other styles of learning or classroom management that I dislike, but I dealt with them, either on my own or with accommodations. That’s part of the learning process too. Not to downplay or dismiss anyone’s anxiety, but I did not like the implication from so many people that anything other than lecturing or silent, independent work was Wrong.

        1. Tinker*

          On the other hand, I found it a bit frustrating that LW was specifically asking a question about the experience of people who found that type of interaction difficult, people were speaking of that experience if not directly answering the exact question asked, and yet periodically there were these bitey responses to the effect of “well that’s just you, we can’t cater to you over everyone else for whom this is fine”, “oh, I know allllllllll the commenters here are antisocial but here’s a reasonable answer from a normal person who actually likes people” and “you’re privileging your anxiety over other people, it’s not all about you”.

          You might detect that I’m a bit salty about those sentiments, and I will confirm that. They are ones I have heard before, rather extensively, and not under circumstances that produced fond memories — and it adds a fair bit of gall to get bit as a special snowflake in a discussion that was partly about how snow works.

          1. Web Crawler*

            Yes this. I didn’t comment for exactly that reason. I’ve heard it all going through school and tbh it just made me more anxious and quiet.

      3. Web Crawler*

        As another somebody with anxiety, I *hated* those “talk to your neighbors” parts, but I dealt fine with smaller discussion-based classes.

        There’s a difference for me between a lecture with random requests to socialize with your neighbors (in which the randomness of the requests and my neighbors, and the unstructured nature made this super scary) and a class where I know I’ll have to talk, and I know there’s an authority figure to keep things at least mostly on track.

        1. Web Crawler*

          Now that I’m thinking about it, my problem might’ve been with my autism plus social anxiety. I have a harder time with vagueness. And there’s so many little things that go into “talk to your neighbors”, like which people count as your neighbors, are they invested in this class or are they just here for the credit (sometimes I talked to people and they were like “idk I wasn’t listening to the lecture”), when is the talking going to be cut off, now that we’ve discussed the thing does my neighbor want to talk about random stuff or just sit in silence, etc

          There’s a lot less vagueness in discussion-based classes in my experience. And if there’s too much vagueness, I can find out early and drop it.

          1. kt*

            What I found frustrating about the comments, though, was that I didn’t/don’t recognize the vagueness that goes with “talk to your neighbors.” When I did “talk to your neighbors”, it went like this:

            Me, in exam review: “here are three integrals you might be faced with on this exam. Take a moment to write down which integration technique you’d try first for each one, and if it went wrong, what you might try next.” 30 seconds-2 minutes silence, depending. “Ok, turn to your neighbor and compare your answers. You can have a group of three if it’s awkward to have a group of two. Take 1 minute to see how many you agree on.” 1 minute (with me pointing at people to group them up if needed). “A group where everyone agrees: [look around and find one] what did you say for integral one?”

            I get that some profs don’t run a structured ship, but my ways of doing this were pretty prescriptive and didn’t give folks a ton of room for small talk, etc. I personally found business communication more stressful because in the corporate workplace, you have to start out with pleasantries and communicate you care about your colleague in order maintain working relationships so that you can get TPS reports in a timely manner rather than being frozen out because Leslie in accounting thinks you’re “too brusque” because you didn’t comment on his/her new grandchild. *That’s* the kind of vagueness and social engagement that stresses me out! Just naming an integration technique without having to know anyone’s name is much less stressful for me. Sigh. We’re all different…

            1. Web Crawler*

              Neat! I would’ve been fine with this as a student. Especially the pointing students into groups if they don’t have a group yet.

              I might’ve had a professor or two who did this, but it definitely wasn’t the norm.

      4. Nicki Name*

        I have a computer science degree, and one of the required classes for it was on technical writing. The professor defined technical writing as describing any kind of specialized activity, not just computer stuff, so we were able to draw on all sorts of experience for the writing assignments. For instance, one was to write up a step-by-step procedure with pictures or diagrams, so I did how to fold one of my favorite origami patterns.

        Programmers generally hate writing documentation, but that was one of the most fun college classes I ever took– and felt like the easiest A I got in any of my required classes!

      5. Tinker*

        The more trivial possibilities:

        — They don’t pursue the sort of educational path that hinges on that sort of interaction being standard.
        — They attempt to pursue that sort of educational path, and don’t succeed at it because of the impact of their disability.

        And then the more interesting answer:

        The thing about this type of disability that I’ve often found hard to convey is that they can be uneven. It’s not just that the entirety of what you may view as the same basic type of social interaction is something that they’re globally bad at, although I suppose that can also happen, it’s that there are finer distinctions within that category that pass unnoticed to you because they’re all the same to you, but they are meaningful to another person because they’re not the same.

        Maybe to say it’s like this: a long time back I somehow had an issue with my shoulder such that if I was holding a weight like a suitcase in my hand and I raised it straight up with my palm facing any other way than to the front, about half the time I’d have this sudden stabbing pain. Have you ever had an injury like that, or even something less quirky like hurting your foot and not being able to put weight on a particular part of it?

        In that case, usually all “using your body things” are the same and equally doable, but in this case there’s a problem. However, the problem isn’t “everything that involves any use of my body is equally hard”, it’s “even though I can deadlift a hundred pounds, run, use a knife and fork, comb my hair with my hands above my head the same as always, and unscrew a lightbulb with my left hand, I can’t screw IN the lightbulb with my left hand”.

        If you’ve had that situation, probably also there’s that awkward moment where you’ve said “Sorry, I can’t help you with your left-handed lightbulb screwing contest because I hurt my shoulder” and then later are doing interpretive dance with that very same shoulder — unweighted, which matters, and not doing quite the same sort of rotation, which matters, but here you are having said that you’ve hurt your shoulder and yet also gesticulating wildly with it. One looks like a faker, and sometimes people actually say it, but it is clear to you that both “I can’t do this” and “even though this looks like that, I can do that”.

        Mental things can be like that but with even less prospect of being able to say “well right there is a spot that is inflamed, and it pinches when these bits here and here are close together” — the distinction between forming a group of ten people in a room of 200 people and going to a group of 10 people in a room of 10 people may be significant, a longer duration may be easier than a shorter duration, a defined block of time may be better than a less predictable moment in a lecture, it may be easier to discuss a subjective view of a higher-level concept than to demonstrate your knowledge regarding a more firmly defined lower-level fact, et cetera, and there can be a gestalt component where the whole of an encounter is more than the sum of its parts.

        Applying this to your example — you’re saying that you would feel different about “presentations in front of the class”, but “talking to your neighbor” is good and moderate. To me, “talking to your neighbor”, while a thing I can do, is difficult, but “presentations in front of the class” is not therefore proportionately worse — rather than “social interaction but larger”, to me it falls in the category of “performance” that is actually a relative strength.

        Would it seem weird to you if I said “I would feel a lot different if it was talking to my neighbor about the content of a class that I was in, I just feel like taking a turn teaching parts of the class is good and moderate”? But that reflects how it is for me.

    3. Newbie*

      My study abroad institution really emphasized active learning way more than my home university! Though it was a lot of work, two of my favorite activities were simulations. In one, students were paired up and assigned NATO countries and we role-played a cybersecurity crisis with our prof giving us live updates we’d have to react to real-time. As the USA, I had to take on a very active role but it was frustrating in a fun way if that makes sense. The other was when my European Politics class simulated Brexit (again I had a large role as Borris Johnson so I did envy people with smaller roles), lots of prep work but again super fun. Also, my transportation in urban Europe class that I also took while abroad would send us out in small groups for half the class to go explore transit systems and we had a field trip to an active construction site of a new Metro stop – very cool!

      1. Artemesia*

        I actually did a bit of research on this and the most powerful learning situations for students (shown by quality of their analytic work not by their self report of learning) were projects where they used what they were learning in the community in actual work for an organization — e.g. service-learning and co-op learning and internships. Obviously all of those need to be well designed so students are applying what they learn and analyzing situations in the placement using their theoretical learning — it isn’t enough to just be in the community — but active learning that actually produces some value for someone is very powerful — in both motivation and then subsequent learning.

        But any active learning where they are DOING rather than passively listening has better outcomes than listening to lectures (and today sitting in a lecture hall will involve internet surfing for a huge percentage of those in the classroom)

        1. Cassidy*

          Hard disagree. Some of us learn better through listening, which itself can be quite the active process. The line about “passive learning,” which has suffocated everything around it in educational circles, is pure bunk.

          I was a history undergraduate major; classroom lectures were like storytelling. Accordingly, I learned how to take notes effectively, I completely overhauled my writing skills, I learned excellent listening skills, and I developed a self-confidence I’d never known prior to my studies. Also, I was fortunate to have professors who knew how to lecture very effectively.

          Active learning can be beneficial, but it isn’t always necessary.

    4. Casey*

      My favorite assignments as an undergrad have been the more open-ended research projects, with some caveats. They’ve let me explore things I’m interested in and connect them to the class in a way that most assignments don’t.
      HOWEVER, especially for an undergrad project, I need some guidance! I’ve had a few professors who set us loose with nothing more than a vague prompt and it’s like pulling teeth trying to get them to tell me what they want or give me feedback as I go. The most helpful things for me are a structure (or help determining a structure), an initial discussion to bounce potential topics around, and a check-in towards the end, but with enough time to make changes before the due date.
      I know part of the point of research projects is to learn how to set it up yourself…. but I’m an undergrad with absolutely no previous research experience…

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I love research projects. I could do research projects all day. I would live in the library and only be seen at mealtimes if that was allowed.

        1. Kimmy Schmidt*

          I’m a librarian teaching about research and information, and this is funny because I spend so much of my time convincing students that research is NOT a solitary activity. More in trying to get them to use the resources available to them and ask for help, but also just to brainstorm and bounce ideas around with professors, organizations, listservs, the Writing Center, and classmates.

          Solitary research works great for a lot of students, but it doesn’t have to be solitary!

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Oh, I absolutely bother organizations and the relevant listservs. Mostly to reach out my horrible grabby hands and request copies of papers because I dislike paywalls, but also to ask about clarifications or other things.

    5. Shark Whisperer*

      When I was a student, one of my favorite activities was in my plant biology class. I didn’t really think plants were interesting before that class. The professor was a former kindergarten teacher, so there was a lot of emphasis on coloring and drawing. We were graded on how good our drawing was, just how well we understood how they different parts of a plant went together. She also often gave us sheets with diagrams of different plants and would have us color them while she was lecturing. As someone who is a visual learner and has a bit of the ADD, it helped me learn so much better.

      As an educator, the best assignments I’ve given are very specific to my content. In general though, I teach adults, so having them draw on their experience before I present an idea is super effective. For instance, one of the topics I cover in some of my classes is democratic decision making. I often ask participants to think of a time they had to make a decision as part of a group (like where to go for lunch with your friends, who is going to cook what at Thanksgiving, what book to read for book club, etc). I have them think about how the decision went. Was it frustrating? Did everyone in the group have an equal voice in the decision? What were the roadblocks to making the decision? What could have made it go smoother? I have them think to themselves and then people who want to share can either speak out loud, or write it down (this is one way virtual learning has been great! People who aren’t comfortable speaking out loud can write in the chat, or often I use jamboard and the comments are anonymous, so anxious people feel more comfortable). When I prime the audience with their own experiences first, they are much more open to what I have to say about group decisions.

    6. AY*

      In a legal writing class, my professor put my paper (anonymously!) up on a screen, and the entire class went through it line by line to discuss what worked, what didn’t work, and what was just flat wrong. We rotated anonymous papers throughout the semester. Extremely useful!

    7. Web Crawler*

      I have so many favorites from different classes:

      1. A feminist English class: interview an older relative (preferably female) about gender roles, missed opportunities, and what they wish they could have done

      2. Computer science: just a whole class on how computers work, starting from electricity, then circuits, then logic gates, then assembly, then C. The assignments on “building” simple computers via a circuit simulator taught me so much

      3. Artificial intelligence class: find a big set of data that’s interesting to you and somebody else’s algorithm and write a paper about what you learned from the data set after applying the algorithm

      4. Social media design: write a paper on your favorite social media site and how its options and limitations affect how people use it to communicate

      5. Psychology: take this 1950s intelligence test (and fail it because we’re smart but we didn’t know “Dot” is the nickname for Dorothy and other 1950s details). Now discuss how theoretically unbiased measures like intelligence can still be biased

      1. Pippa K*

        I used to give my US constitutional law class one of the “literacy tests” from the Jim Crow era. We would work on it together as a class, and the realization that these were in no way “literacy tests” and that we ourselves would all have failed them was extremely useful in helping people think analytically and contextually about law and rights.

      2. TurkeyLurkey*

        Like your AI example, I loved my statistical learning class because I got to use citizen science birding data!

    8. Elle Woods*

      When I was in grad school, some of my professors would ask you to lead discussion a couple of times throughout the semester. It was a helpful way for me to understand the reading, pull out important ideas, create clear substantive questions, and learn how to get discussions back on track when they veered off course. Those skills have helped me immensely in my career.

    9. Dave*

      We had to make a 3-d molecule with gum drops and toothpicks. Except he didn’t say that is what we were doing. He presented it as a brain teaser to sue so many toothpicks to connect to fewer gum drops. This was my favorite only because it took me a few minutes to figure out the solution so when my group finished everyone could see on our table what was going on and got with the program. He had allotted like an hour of a three hour class for the activity. It was funny when he realized we weren’t stupid. The concept was great his execution just sucked but that happens with new adjuncts.

    10. Dust Bunny*

      My inherent preference was always to be given a moderately long-term assignment and then be left alone, but that wasn’t always a good way for me to learn because I tended to stay in my own echo chamber and then was surprised when I didn’t do as well as I thought I would.

      Hands-down the best professor I had was an English prof (I was not an English major; I just took intro English for a change of scene) who insisted that everyone participate but was an absolute stone-cold master of drawing a decent answer out of a bashful and/or underprepared student without embarrassing anyone. He was a freaking magician. He passed away a few years ago in (only) his early seventies and college alumnae were collectively devastated–everyone loved him.

    11. Chilipepper*

      As a high school teacher, grad TA, and adjunct, I loved giving an image for students to evaluate. I taught history. So I would give an image that we would have to interrogate. Like a graphic of a campfire that is about the causes of WWII or a Renaissance painting that used perspective. Or a portrait of a king or queen and the symbolism they chose to be part of the painting.

    12. t-vex*

      In one of my grad school courses we had an activity where they divided the class into 3 groups of about 12 people each. In each group, every member got a slip of paper that said something like “The person with the red truck has a cherry orchard” and “Melissa’s neighbor’s apple trees bloomed early this year” and you had to figure out the name of the person, what they grew, what they drove, and where they lived. The first group to get the answer right won. There was so much varied information to put together, the only way to figure out the answer was to assign people in the group to individual roles and have them each remember their own details. The professor said he could always tell which team was going to win because they were the first team to come up with that strategy. The goal was to show that the collective knowledge of the community is greater than the individual contributors. I thought it was really fun and the lesson has totally stuck with me all these years.

    13. Helvetica*

      I know many people hate it and I also wasn’t immediately taken with it but cold calling. My international law professor would give us readings and then in class, direct the discussion and ask questions of people without them expressing interest in answering. You could have your hand up but he’d often rather ask people who weren’t the immediate choice, to not let only a few people shine.
      But what I think was good about his approach was that you could just say “sorry, I don’t know” and he’d move on without a comment. Also, you didn’t need to have “the” answer, you could just open a discussion with him or expand the elements you didn’t get about the readings and he’d help you along. So at least I never felt accosted by it but it also made me be prepared for classes and want to contribute.

      1. LibbyG*

        I teach all undergrads. When we get into the doldrums of the semester and students are struggling to engage, I often come in one day and say, “I have a list of all your names in random order. My goal is to call on everyone by the end of today’s class.” And then I lob the softest of softball questions, where you can’t actually be wrong. “What comes to mind when you hear the concept X?” or “What do you recall about the film clip we watched last class?” I first did it with a little bit of spite, but students actually seemed to like it. I wouldn’t do it every class meeting, but it’s a good trick.

    14. meyer lemon*

      I had one class in the fourth year of my undergrad program that was by far and away the best learning experience of the program. The professor was highly respected in his field and did very little lecturing. He had us all arrange our desks in a circle and spend each three-hour block discussing a theme that he would present, with him and a couple of grad students guiding the discussion. It was a great fit for the course material, which was environmental studies but approached it from more of a sociological/philosophical perspective, so we were encountering somewhat paradigm-bending ideas every class. There wasn’t any grade-based requirement to participate, but everyone was very engaged anyway.

    15. Brownie*

      Believe it or not, my Calculus 1 & 2 classes at a community college. The professor had just come out of a very expensive private school in the northeast US and had a completely different way of teaching than any of the other 3 traditional professors I’d failed with before. He’d give us problems that, while using calculus to solve, were actually real world work/business problems. I still remember one in particular with fondness.

      The scenario was that we were tile makers and had an amount of tile dye/coloring left that could cover up to 1/3rd of the surface area of the tile. Naturally, being business people, we’d want to make the prettiest design possible so it would sell, preferably one that could be arranged in multiple orientations to create different patterns. But the machine needed an equation/series of equations to map out this design, so we’d have to create those while making sure that the area between them was no more than 1/3rd of the total tile area. Out of 10 people in the class 8 of us got together outside class all on our own and all made multiple tile patterns, riffing off of each other’s ideas and generally having fun seeing how the changes we’d make to the equations would change the patterns. It ended up breaking down a lot of social barriers between everyone who participated and meant that for the rest of the quarter we’d all get together outside of class for voluntary study sessions that ended up helping all of us better understand calculus (and get much better grades). That, and other work/business projects the professor gave us, really changed how I thought of advanced math, turning it from some kind of abstract concept into something that was understandable and connected to the real world.

    16. EventPlannerGal*

      My French tutor gave us this exercise which I always found really fun – the idea was to translate proverbs from French into English. You would get the proverb in French with all the words scrambled up in a random order, and a clue in French. So you needed to translate the clue, then put the words in the right order and translate the proverb. I’m probably describing it badly but it was great if you love puzzles!

    17. ElissaMY*

      I had a history elective course that used the Reacting to the Past curriculum, and it was SO MUCH FUN. We did three games through the semester: the threshold of democracy in Athens, the French Revolution, and the succession crisis of the Wanli Emperor. Each unit started with a reading period in which we reviewed primary texts from the era, and then everyone was assigned character roles and we had several weeks of simulating events. You could deviate from what really happened in history, but you had to use primary texts and societal structures to your advantage, so it required a deep understanding of the time. This was 15 years ago and I still have such fond memories of it and have hung on to many of the books from the class.

      1. LibbyG*

        I’ve taught with a couple RttP games, and those were some of the best experiences I ever had as an educator. Students were really lit up! I’d love to do it more, but I teach larger classes now (like 35+) and I just can’t visualize it working all that well to really get everyone involved.

    18. Not So NewReader*

      Marketing class. The prof was just plain fun. She had a light hearted way about her- that can come with knowing your subject on a par with knowing how to breathe.
      She knew how to craft class papers to be super interesting. She had us going to grocery stores, pouring over magazines etc.

      This was all odd for me, I never would have thought that I would enjoy a marketing class. I had to take it. She ended up being on of my best profs.

    19. Allypopx*

      Gamified small group work is great. “Turn around and talk to your neighbor” leads to a lot of idle time and irrelevant small talk. But “your team vs this team” in either a debate or a strategy-based roleplay or something like that gets everyone to wake up.

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I’ve been trying to use more gamification! I recently created a game in the style of Guess Who, but with different types of sources (articles, newspapers, videos, dissertations). Students had to use yes/no questions to figure out which source I had and if it was quality. I was very proud of it and it went well, even online.

    20. Alex*

      I took an ethics class in which the professor brought in a check from his own personal bank account with some amount filled in (can’t remember how much) and we were tasked with researching different charities and then coming to a conclusion of which charity was the “best” one, and then he made the check out to that charity. It was a very cool real-world application with an actual effect on the world.

    21. Nesprin*

      As a STEM student, my favorite active learning activities were none of em- let me sit alone and work through things until I understand them please!

      As a STEM professor, I do lots of shows of hands “is this A or B” because I want to understand what my students are getting.

    22. AcademiaNut*

      Honestly, the most valuable interactive activities were study groups with classmates. My program was hard-core math heavy STEM, which doesn’t lend itself well to classroom discussion (even though many classes were small enough), but I was fortunate enough to be in a really active year group, so sitting around working through assignments together and arguing over the results was much more useful than working on stuff alone, if more time consuming.

    23. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      In a public history class we had to go to the museum of our choice and then write about how the museum “spun” the history being told. I look at museums very differently now than I did before that assignment.

  8. Should I apply*

    From individual contributor to manager, what made you want to make that transition?

    I am 15 years into my carreer as an engineer, and I find that there isn’t much room for carrer growth anymore as an individual contributor. I am considering trying to switch to a manger role. I had previously ruled out management based on a not great experience “managing” an intern when I was only a couple years out of school and the general observation that managers seemed to work significantly more hours.

    Currently as one of the more experienced engineers on our team, I already spend a fair amount of time coaching less experienced on good design practices. I have been told that I am a very good communicator and am also good at making team members feel included.

    So for all the managers out there, what made you want to be a manager? What do you like or dislike the most about being a manager?

    1. Aly_b*

      I’m an engineer who made the switch to manager about 8 years into my career, partly because of growth opportunities but partly because I realized I’d prefer for more decision making power to be in my hands rather than someone else’s. One thing I would say is this is very organization specific but I didn’t start working a lot more hours as a manager in general. I was definitely more “on call” and if something went wrong or needed doing at inconvenient times, I followed the “crap flows uphill” principle. But as a rule on a normal week I really tried to be out of the office at a reasonable time because it was important to me that staff members see that example and feel they can follow it.

    2. Susan Calvin*

      I made the change very recently, and I got the idea from both gravitating toward coaching junior colleagues, and from being somewhat frustrated with things I wasn’t in a position to improve as an individual contributor. So far I like it, and my org has been very supportive in terms of providing training and guidance. I will say that the workload/time management struggle is real; it’s a challenge to calibrate my sense of proportion between project work and the new admin tasks.

    3. Kiwi*

      I’m an environmental scientist on a management tract.

      I like to be part of the bigger picture on my projects. I also like knowing all of the hows and whys for the way things are assigned and changed and what the decision making process looks like. I work for a huge company and being on the management end means I get to make the call on some things that previously I would’ve been told to do with no reason why or that in my experience would be a bad idea.

      1. should i apply?*

        Being better informed and even providing input into decisions is a benefit that I hadn’t considered. I have had that issue in the past with decisions that directly impacted me that didn’t go well, because I didn’t know decisions were being made and wasn’t asked to provide any input even when I had pretty important information that I could have shared.

    4. tab*

      I always loved engineering, and was happy to continue working on design projects for the rest of my career. My manager had other ideas. He wanted me to take over management of the microwave engineering group. I resisted his request for months. I thought, “I like the technical work, and leading people is not one of my strengths.” However, I knew that I should do what my boss asked. It’s not very good for your career to turn down opportunities that your manager offers you. More importantly, I had a tremendous amount of respect for him, and I thought I should help him if I could. So, I took over the group. It turned out to be very good for me. I learned a new side of the business, and it forced me to work on my people skills. To be perfectly honest, I needed to work on my people skills (If only Ask a Manager had been around then)! It was good for me, and I learned that I did the most growing when I was outside my comfort zone and forced to stretch.

    5. Cecil Beeber*

      Fellow engineer here, with 17 years of experience, all in the public sector. I’ve gone back and forth between individual contributor and manager a couple times, due to the specialties I was in. I made the first switch to management because I’d accomplished what I was able to as a teapot spout engineer, was a little bored with teapot spout design, had ideas about what I wanted to change in our area, and was ready for a big challenge.

      As a manager, I liked building a solid team with a wide variety of experience levels and backgrounds. I really enjoyed writing and interpreting teapot pour spout design policy for the entire state. I did not enjoy, but saw the benefits of, work improvement plans, evaluations, and other tools to help employees reach professional levels or find positions that better suited them. I struggled with finding ways to get a sense of the number of future teapot spout designs coming our way given the tools my agency had. I missed the field work and lost some of my edge with the various software, because I was aware of changes but not using the programs daily.

      I moved back to an individual contributor after 5 years, to broaden my experience – I didn’t want to be stuck as the teapot spout expert for my entire career. It was a big mindset change going from the state-wide teapot pour spout design process to dealing with the construction of these 600 teapots.

      I’m back in management on the teapot construction front, and I’m back to not enjoying evaluations and work improvement plans. But I am getting a sense of satisfaction in determining how to balance our teapot construction schedule with the number of teapot inspectors I have, and how to produce the best teapots we can for our state with the time and personnel we have.

    6. Not my real name*

      I took an hourly position that I was over qualified for just over 5 years ago. My boss was a bad person in general. She was racist, homophobic and a bunch of other adjectives. When she left (recruited by a competitor) I applied and was hired in her management position. It was a small department but accounted for about 25% of the total sales of the company. I did make a hiring mistake but I learned what to do differently the next time. You will never know unless you take that step.

    7. Voodoo Priestess*

      Does your company make a distinction between people management and project/task management? You might want to look into that.

      I’m 13 years into an engineering career and I’ve always been more technical track than management track. But we have the opportunity to be technical task leads and technical project managers vs pure project management or people management in my company. Recently, I was the lead engineer on a technical task with 4 FT and 2 PT engineers on my team. I was responsible for technical decisions, schedule and budget of my task only. I answered to the overall project manager (this was on a huge job, think large infrastructure project) and I coordinated staffing with the line managers of my team. I provided feedback for my team but I had/have no direct reports in the sense that if there were performance issues, I didn’t have the authority to deal with it besides notifying their manager and providing feedback. I also didn’t approve time cards or set my budget. I helped scope the work but was ultimately given the final schedule and budget to work with.

      I really enjoyed it. I had a great team and I was able to use a lot of info from this site to set clear expectations and honestly, our team was fantastic. I was still “technical” in that I was involved and overseeing the technical work and ultimately responsible for decision making, but I wasn’t the one directly running models or calculations. It was a great balance. I was also lucky to have a great PM that helped answer questions and coach me through it. We had a few minor communication issues and he was a great resource for “Here’s the problem, here’s what I’ve tried, how would you handle it differently?” But he let me handle it and never tried to step in unless I asked for support.

      I totally agree that being an IC seems to have limits on career growth. I’m happy to be a technical task lead and leave the larger management to others. It’s a nice balance but I realize not all industries/companies have this option.

    8. Jason figured it out???*

      As a former IC to manager (not in engineering), it was an interesting switch.

      I had been with the team for a few years so I had great knowledge of all team tasks and was the go-to person for questions on the team.

      The lead transitioned to a newly formed team leaving an opening and my applying was more of a well, why not.

      In retrospect, the small pay increase (less than 10%) really didn’t seem to match the amount of managerial duties I assumed. If I knew what I know now, I probably would never have made the jump because I really liked being an IC more than the HR part of being a manager.

      That said, I’m doing an okay job going by the feedback but it’s not always as enjoyable as my previous role.

      Looking forward, I am now starting some Udemy courses to pick up new knowledge and hope to pivot to a different field to be an IC again.

    9. Hillary*

      I’m a category manager (not a people manager right now) and wouldn’t trade it. However, I think being an engineering manager is one of the most thankless jobs out there. Coaching people early in their career is a lot of fun, but it becomes less and less of your job. Imagine the hardest people you work with – that dude who thinks women can’t be engineers because they’re too emotional, or the one who won’t spend five minutes answering a question without a cost center. Can you picture doing their reviews and managing their interactions with the rest of the org?

      I once had an engineering manager tell me to ask so-and-so for help, and when that guy said no, he’d do it himself. I hope it was for PIP documentation although I doubt it.

      There are other ways to get career growth – program/project management and technical leadership both spring to mind.

      1. TechWorker*

        Honestly if your company has lots of ‘the dude who thinks women can’t be engineers’ or ‘the one who won’t spend five minutes answering a question’ then doesn’t that indicate bigger problems? (And it’s not going to be much fun as a female IC in that environment regardless of how good your manager is). I’m an engineering manager and I do think I’ve had fairly ‘easy’ people to manage so far – but I know what the more ‘difficult’ engineers in my company are like and none of them are complete twats because they wouldn’t last.

        1. cabbagepants*

          If you know a tech/engineering company without either of these types present at least a little bit, could you please let me know so I can go work for them?

    10. New Mom*

      I was first the employee reporting to the director, then the director left, and I became a department of one. And then there was (feigned shock*) too much work for one person to do so I pushed to get an employee. I had managed interns before but it was my first time managing a full-time person for longer than six months. I think I got really lucky with my direct report, so I’ve mostly enjoyed the experience.

      What has helped: weekly check-ins, asking for feedback (I truly want feedback, it will be obvious if you ask insincerely) and I set professional development check-ins quarterly.

      What I have not liked is providing critical feedback (I will do it, but gain no joy from this) because my employee and all the interns get very nervous about ANY critical feedback. I’ve tried saying at the start that this will be a normal part of work, and they are usually quite minor but I still see how uncomfortable they are and it that rubs off on me. This is something I’m working on.

      1. allathian*

        It’s a skill to give critical feedback about the work product without implying that the employee is a bad person. It’s also a skill to accept critical feedback about the work product without immediately thinking it’s criticism of you as a person. Granted, they do overlap in some cases, if the employee is hard to work with or a slacker, for example, but even then, the aim is to change the behavior rather than the personality of the employee.

        That said, I’m not a manager and have no ambitions to be a a manager, partly for this reason.

  9. Amber Rose*

    I’m not qualified for any jobs. I’m a little qualified to do the exact same job for the exact same kinds of companies, but I’m not particularly interested in trading one gong show for another, and I’m getting a little desperate to escape the oil and gas industry.

    It’s just really hard right now. I spent hours scrolling through jobs and couldn’t find a single one that was both outside of this BS and that I could plausibly do with my mismatch of experience and education (safety/quality, and geography). -_-

    Yesterday was my 33 birthday and I just feel like I’ve done nothing useful with my life at all.

    1. Dasein9*

      Going from the little you’ve said, it sounds like you’re not an entry-level employee where you are now. This is what informational interviews are really good for. Chances are very good that do have skills that are transferable from one industry to another, especially adjacent industries. Talking to folks in other industries would be a good chance to see what you can do that is also valued where they are.

    2. NotHoney*

      I was formerly in the oil and gas industry and there are definitely ways out. Think about computer programs you use working in oil and gas, for me GIS (which I assume you have experience with or work with something similar based on the geography comment) was an easy way out. There are lots of industries that use GIS, and it’s easy to search job sites based on programs like that. I also did technical report writing and have gotten several jobs since then based on my technical reporting skills.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Gotta tell you, the only computer programs I use are sold by Microsoft. I haven’t touched GIS since I graduated over 10 years ago, and my company is so anti-technology that up to last year our phone system was a discontinued VOIP setup someone bought at a garage sale.

        1. Project Manager here*

          The only computer programs that I use are also sold by Microsoft (email, word, excel, powerpoint). If you manage, organize, plan, or facilitate things, then look at those skills as transferable.

        2. Sandman*

          If you decide you want to brush up on the GIS, Esri’s individual personal use licenses are pretty reasonable.

        3. SimonKitty*

          The personal license is $100 for a year and includes the latest version of Arcgis and the all the extensions. I use it to brush up on my skills. I recommend purchasing it to expand your skillset.

    3. Sandman*

      I hear you, and can encourage you not to discount what you’ve done in the past – I truly believe that nothing is wasted, because everything broadens your base of knowledge and experience even if it doesn’t seem immediately applicable. I’m making a switch right now, too, and it’s really hard – so many job descriptions seem to be written for linear career tracks, and that’s just not me. I don’t know if it helps, but what I’ve done is make a file with job descriptions in it that sound interesting and collate the job requirements into an Excel doc (I probably have 40-60% of the qualifications in a lot of these, and that doesn’t include the preferred degree – I can’t fix that, but it varies by office how ‘required’ that is). I’ve taken one class and am seeking out projects – mostly volunteer – that help fill in some gaps. I wasn’t always this systematic about it, but have been working on this for a few years and have started to get interviews – no offers yet, but on good days I’m starting to feel more optimistic.

    4. PolarVortex*

      There’s a lot of places that don’t require industry experience to get a toe hold in – although it generally means starting from the bottom-ish. Many places also just look for the skillset of things like project management, or customer service, or whatever. Start looking at yourself and your job objectively, developing safety processes (as an example) is still process development which is applicable to other jobs. One of my coworkers got a job in Sales Training when he’s never done a thing in sales in his life, but trained in a different field for years. He also is the person who told me this: “You are awesome and you are awesome at your job. Don’t think that you can’t do something, you have more experience and qualities than you know. Stop thinking so critically and start applying and selling yourself like a white man would.”

      It’s hard when you’re already down on yourself and feel like you’re stuck in your career – I am there myself – but I have faith that you can get out of the industry and get into something that makes you happy.

    5. Kiwi*

      You could look into environmental health and safety maybe? Most companies have an EHS person or dept, especially if they have any sort of haz waste generation or the like.

      1. lost academic*

        This. I am in environmental consulting, it would be a good move even if it just served as a stepping stone. It would let you get more exposure to other industries and broaden your skillset technically at the same time. Better still most firms aren’t hung up these days any more about your location. Quite frankly you sound like the kind of person we are LITERALLY trying to hire in my office RIGHT NOW.

        1. pope suburban*

          I briefly did “unskilled” work for an environmental consulting company, in that I was not a geologist, chemist, or engineer, and I agree this sounds like a good fit. Most of what I did was data-entry projects as assigned, and report preparation for various companies and agencies. All I really needed there was Excel, Word, Outlook, and Acrobat Pro; the reports had a template and all I needed to do was input the data and images. After I’d proved my competence, I was allowed to do some more advanced things with maps (including some work in AutoCAD, which was surprisingly fun) and calculations. I think a position like that would be a great fit here, especially if the company is willing to invest in training. For example, the geologists pushed to get me trained to take samples in the field. That ended up not happening due to the office manager, universally acknowledged as a problem, sabotaging my temp-to-perm contract (and her relationship with my agency), but still. Had she not, that could have been a good career path, and I doubt there are all that many people out there like her.

    6. Environmental Compliance*

      Have you considered jumping over to a consulting firm? My previous company was managed by a company who supplied EHS support. They supported a variety of industry, and would have very much valued the geography & quality aspects to the safety experience you do have.

    7. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’m a few years older, and a computer programmer by trade; other than that, I could have penned this post.

      Avoid programming at all costs. No one cares if you know how to program; they’ll just care if you’ve sat in front of the flavor-of-the-month that the company has sold its soul to.

      1. AE*

        Would you mind elaborating on that? I’m in data analytics and see plenty of job postings that list widely-used and longstanding languages/packages (Python, R, C), or CS as a desired degree. Though that’s in conjunction with social science and/or math/stats knowledge. “Programming” as a skill in itself is pretty broad in my experience and can mean different things depending on the role/industry.

        Thank you and sorry to hear about your current job woes–I know what it’s like not to feel qualified for anything, or just a few very specific things.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Programming is fun as a skill, but it’s torture when you’re job hunting.

          Many job listings will include every language the author can think of (5+ years professional experience each in C, C++, C#, Visual Basic, Perl, Python, Ruby, ASP.NET, PHP, etc). The equivalent human requirement is being able to communicate with every individual in Europe in their native language (and before you try to make the argument that an Anglophone who has learned French & Spanish would pick German up readily, hiring managers as a whole don’t trust, agree with, or accept that).

          It’s not uncommon for a job to require more history with a platform or language than the platform or language has history (e.g. 15+ years of experience with Go, which debut’d in 2009). New languages appear constantly as solutions looking for problems.

          Due to cost-of-living differences, there’s a huge incentive to offshore roles to India and China. Language barriers claw back any benefit, but you may well be stuck refactoring, translating, troubleshooting, or replacing the code, or with defacto coworkers you may not be able to effectively communicate with. The job’s requirements are often designed to yield zero candidates to justify an H1NB Visa.

          But the biggest problem is the requirement inflation. Programmers all but have to job hop to keep up the alphabet soup, and no two employers use the same combination. Barriers to job transfer get ugly fast if you’re going back to entry-level every time.

          1. TechWorker*

            I’m not sure this is universal as an experience (like any experience not meant as a criticism!). My job focusses heavily on one/two programming languages and whilst I’ve not had the job hunting experience much (I’ve just stayed at one place a long time), all the colleagues who started with me and half left to go other places absolutely did not go into entry level roles.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              It’s not a universal experience. In some ways, my silver handcuffs are a worst-case scenario.

              You can verify the requirement bloat on LinkedIn, Dice, etc. It gets easier if you stay in one language family–only C#, only Visual Basic .NET, only Python, etc. (I’m trying to move forward from VB6 & C++, so I have to change language families). It’s easier if you job hop, too; as you go from employer to employer, you’ll naturally pick up more of the alphabet soup. (I’ve been in my position 9½ years).

              Finally, experience with hiring managers is extremely individual. I may just be in the 1st percentile for making the case that skills transfer between languages and learning is a thing.

    8. Juneybug*

      Could you take a small part of your job to develop a new career? For example – could you use your experience in safety to become a safety officer for another company? Move from gas and oil industry to healthcare? Or take your experience in geography to work in local government for urban planning? Or a park ranger?
      I bet if I spent more than 10 minutes shadowing you at your job, I would quickly find out that you are great at your job and a wonderful employee.
      I am avid reader so my AAM answers involve book suggestions – https://wemeancareer.com/books-career-change
      Hope this helps!

    9. Generic Name*

      Quality is a highly transferable skill. Take a look at ASQ dot org. I’d also look into environmental consulting (it’s what I do). Honestly, the “I can never leave the O&G industry because I have no skills” is creepily reminiscent of the thought patterns of survivors of abuse (“you can never leave me because no one else would want you”). You have skills, they are transferable, and you are not trapped, even if it feels that way now.

    10. Hillary*

      Hang in there. Your oil & gas safety experience will translate to many employers, especially because doing safety in oil & gas is doing the work on hard mode. Many manufacturers will value your skills.

      I second what PolarVortex said. I’ve been at most 70% qualified for my jobs on paper, but I’ve succeeded at all of them. Some of them it’s been closer to 50%.

    11. Chauncy Gardener*

      Please don’t be so hard on yourself!! No experience is ever wasted. Make a list of every single thing you do in your current job. Then try to group them by some sort of type – external customer focused? Internal customer focused? Reporting? Problem solving? Which systems are you using?
      Try to get really high level and put your job duties in plain English, not your “industry speak.” (this is the same thing I talk military folks through when they’re writing their resume for civilian life)
      33 is YOUNG! You have so much ahead of you. Safety and Quality are great standalone jobs that are applicable in tons of industries. Please follow AAMs advice on resumes and cover letters and I know you’ll land something great! Best of luck!

    12. Derjungerludendorff*

      You sound very tired. Are you doing all right in general? If dissatisfaction with your job is hitting you this hard, then chances are good there is more going on than just your career prospects.

      I have nothing on the job side of things, but are there other things you could get satisfaction out of besides your job? There is more to life than just working after all, as cliche as that sounds. Plenty of people just work to get a paycheck, and then build their life around something else.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I’m not doing all right. But all the things I built my life around are travel, martial arts, gym trips and concerts, none of which are things I’ve been able to do for over a year.

        1. Lobsterp0t*

          Wondered if this was the case from the sound of your comments above.

          I’m sorry. This has been a shit year in so many ways.

          Those things will come back again. They’re not gone forever. It’s ok to grieve them and to feel how you feel now, but it can help to try to remind yourself that it isn’t forever.

    13. AE*

      Sorry to hear this, this kind of thing is really tough and job searching can be really draining/stressful especially when you feel like you’re not finding stuff that matches your skills and experiences.

      Other folks here have good suggestions. I’m also reminded of some comments on a recent post about how a lot of qualifications on job listings are really more “nice to have” than requirements, and hiring managers aren’t necessarily expecting to find a person who hits all the bullet points.

      As someone who is prone to beating up on themselves a lot, myself, also please remember that whatever happens, your worth as a human being is not the same as your career, and you are valuable and worthy of respect and happiness no matter what you have or haven’t accomplished in your working life.

    14. Ranon*

      My mom has moved between a few different industries including telecom and oil and gas and she likes to say it’s all just stuff moving through tubes. If you’re mostly in Office programs you likely have skills that would translate to telcom and government jobs, among other industries- oil and gas especially likes to pretend like they are special and unique and totally unlike other industries but it’s mostly lies and self delusion, don’t let them fool you. Stuff in tubes!

    15. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I was you, except without your education and qualifications. I spent my twenties at a series of rotten minimum wage jobs after one year at a state university; the BEST was as a cashier in a dreadful garage for over five years. At just a bit younger than you are, I got married and pregnant (in no particular order ) and stayed home until my kid was in school. Minimum wage wouldn’t have made working worthwhile with the cost of childcare and transportation and other expenses. When I started job hunting, I applied for cashier jobs and a few above my experience like bank teller and file clerk. I got some experience with interviewing, at least. Then I saw a posting for what was basically my dream job, one I’d forgotten I ever wanted as my life got buried in survival and boredom. It was WAAAY above my qualifications and expectations, but I thought, what have I got to lose? “No” won’t kill me. I rewrote my resume to emphasize any and all skills that could be at all relevant, and composed what was probably a bizarre cover letter in which I talked about having a missionary’s zeal for the type of work. I got an interview! And because I didn’t think I had a chance in hell, I was relaxed and enjoyed it. I was floored when I got called back for a second interview, and then I was offered the job. I wasn’t the first choice – one person had accepted another job and another was a horrible fit and left after a day. I didn’t care. I loved that job. I was laid off with some other staff after four years (it was a small not-for-profit with budget issues), but I’d gained the experience – and connections – to use it as a magic bean to trade upward into an even better position at a larger, more stable place, where I stayed for 20 years. That dream job I wasn’t qualified for turned into a (mostly) wonderful career.

      My advice is to pick apart every single bit of experience and skill you have and play mix and match with them to create different resumes for different types of positions. Just do it as an exercise in mental flexibility to get out of the rut you feel you’re in. I had to resurrect the memory of a part-time job I’d had during that one year of college to give me something that would help my resume. And in the “you never know” category, that helped me more than my other work experience because most of the staff had gone to the same university and worked in the same campus employment! Best of luck to you, and please believe you’re better than the way you describe yourself. That’s the rut and the rotten year talking, not reality.

  10. EnfysNest*

    Two months ago, I discovered that my title is listed incorrectly in my employee file with HR – I recieved a promotion about a year ago that added the equivalent of “senior” to my position. I alerted my manager and they’ve been regularly following up with HR every week or so (I’ve been CC’d on the emails), but the error still hasn’t been corrected.

    I wouldn’t care so much, except that I started job searching just before I found out about this error, so my resume that I sent out has the correct “senior” title, and I don’t want that to cause a conflict if any employers try to verify my details without giving me a chance to clarify. (In my field, long hiring times aren’t unusual, so it’s still possible that some of the applications I sent still might not have been reviewed yet. I do have my acceptance notification I could use to show the correct title, but HR would still have it listed differently if they ask them.

    My question, then, is if there’s anything else I can do to try to fix this without alerting my employer that I’m job searching. After all, it sat there in error for a year before I noticed (I noticed it during my annual review), my pay isn’t impacted, and no one else sees my title listed on a regular basis anywhere, so other than my job search, I can’t see what justification I could have in trying to pressure HR to hurry up in fixing the issue without alerting them to my job search. My manager is already checking up regularly, which I really appreciate, but it also means I don’t feel like I can ask them to do anything more than they already are.

    Do I just have to continue to wait this out and hope they get around to it soon? Or is this important enough that I should risk letting HR figure out why it matters so much to me?

    And, finally, do I need to take “senior” off of my resume for any new applications I send out in the meantime to match what HR has, even though it makes it hard to tell I was promoted, or should I leave it with the correct title and just hope potential employers will ask me about it if they discover the discrepency before HR gets it fixed?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      What if you were applying for a loan? I wonder if a title mismatch would be a problem.

      You could also warn potential employers about the mismatch. Presumably they won’t be checking with your current employer until you’ve at least had an interview, right? This would be a time to say “BTW, if you contact Sucracorp, HR still thinks I’m a Llama Groomer I, because they’ve been really slow to update my file. But I’ve got email confirmation of my actual title if you need that.”

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        What if you were applying for a loan? I wonder if a title mismatch would be a problem.

        I’m not sure if this is what you were implying, but I was once in a similar situation (not about the job title in my case, but about the notice period I’d have to give (I was already in the interview process for other jobs) – my contract and paperwork had something significantly different in it than the number HR had). I brought it up with HR in the context of I was considering applying for an insurance policy that makes your mortgage payments if you are laid off etc, and that I needed to put my notice period in the information they ask for …. Could you do something similar with a piece of bank paperwork etc?

    2. Natalie*

      It would extremely unusual IME for a prospective employer to call your current employer’s HR department and verify your job title before even speaking to you. I really don’t think you have anything to worry about here?

      1. Threeve*

        Agreed–unless it’s listed publicly somewhere, this probably isn’t going to be an issue. Honestly, there are probably some HR departments who never bother adding the “senior” to someone’s file when they’re promoted.

    3. Juneybug*

      I would set up an appt to review all of your personnel records. If there is one error, there is a chance that there are other mistakes, such as a wrongly filed letter of reprimand? Do they have your dates of hire incorrect?
      Doing this will also put a face to an issue so HR might move faster on updating your title.
      Good luck with your job hunt!!

    4. HR Exec Popping In*

      Don’t worry too much about this. And don’t change your resume. Your HR record is incorrect, not your resume and you want that to represent your change in responsibilities. Hopefully your manager can get this fixed soon. But even if not, you can easily address this when you get to the background check part of the hiring process.

      In the meantime, go to your manager and say, “I am very concerned that HR does not have my title correct which makes me question if I was actually promoted. Especially since you have tried to get this fixed for XX weeks without success. What can we do to get this rectified? Is there someone else we can escalate this to?”

    5. PT*

      I’ve been in the same boat! One company I have no idea what my title was. They changed my job and never told me my title. I just guesstimated one for my email signature, and no one told me not to…for a full year.

      The second company made us change paycodes in the computer per job you were doing. At one point I had six concurrent job titles. BUT! Once you had enough paycodes, if you took on more responsibilities, they’d just look at your current paycodes and say, “OK, well Teapot Painters get paid about the same as Expert Llama Trainers, and you’ve got a code for that, so whenever you paint teapots just use your Expert Llama Trainer paycode.”

      I am sure someday this is going to cause a huge problem with a reference check.

  11. ThatGirl*

    Small thing that impressed me yesterday… I posted on LinkedIn that my new company is hiring, and encouraged people to reach out if they wanted a referral.

    A former coworker messaged me and said she’d been looking at a particular new posting, and could I get a salary range for her, potentially? And I was skeptical, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask, plus I actually do work with the hiring manager (she’s on the same level as my manager, for a different team). So I asked. And you know what? the hiring manager TOLD ME the range. Unfortunately it’s probably too low for my old coworker, but I was impressed that she gave it so forthrightly!

    …it also makes me wonder a little what the range for my job is/was, and if I left much money on the table. But I’m not unhappy with my pay.

    1. Filosofickle*

      That seems to have started shifting over the last year. In CA, where I live, employers are now legally obligated to give a range if asked. Beyond CA, friends job hunting in other states are also reporting more forthrightness upon asking as well. Maybe change is coming?! Now to just get it in the public job listings…

      1. ThatGirl*

        We’re in Illinois (though it’s a large company) and employers can no longer ask what you’re currently making, at least. But it’s still been rare for me to flat out ask for a range and get it, much less for a job that’s not even mine. So it was refreshing for sure. (Typically I’ve given my rough salary expectations and said “is that in line with your range?”)

    2. Lacey*

      My boss told me at the start of the interview, “This is how much we can afford to pay you, does it make sense to continue?” It was nice to know up front!

      1. Derjungerludendorff*

        Honestly, it should be part of the job posting so you don’t even waste time on the interview or the application.
        Telling people at the start of the interview is much better than playing games with it though!

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Since my work history started over 50 years ago (egads!), I wonder when companies started being so secretive. In my younger job-hunting days, it was pretty standard to see the pay listed in the ad. When a listing would say “pay commensurate with experience,” that company would get seriously side-eyed.

  12. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    Yet again, the monthly documentation. Every month I say I’ll do it all the week before the end of the month and I never can make myself do it.

    I always plan to do big chunks of it but I end up procrastinating instead or something comes up. This week I was distracted because my bf got himself stuck in the snow for two days. I can never just make myself do it and I don’t know why.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        There’s just so much of it. Like I put all end of the month tasks on a separate chart because if I put it on my to do list there would be at least a hundred tasks. If I split the tasks there’d be two hundred… even thinking about it stresses me out

    1. JustaTech*

      Could you do weekly instead of monthly, so it’s more manageable chunks?
      Years ago a boss said they wanted monthly and then weekly reports of what we’d done, so I started writing a list of what I did this week and what I’m doing next week every Friday and sending it to my boss. He doesn’t require it, but I find it helps me figure out what I did this past week and what I’ve got coming up next week.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Hmmm.. .the paper documents can only be done at the end of the month, the long reports can only be done at the end( I used to do them early but my boss told me to stop) … the only thing that can be done before is contacting people but I hate that so much I tend to procrastinate .
        This month I also have training and of course this is on top of all the normal job stuff I need to do. Usually I make myself stop at 8, but sometimes I go til 10 to get it all finished

        1. Juneybug*

          Few suggestions that might help –
          Start scheduling time on your calendar to complete the monthly report. It’s a requirement of your job so do it on company time.
          Like JustaTech said, schedule some weekly time to work on it. Also schedule time to send out the reminder emails. Bonus – create a template email and schedule it to send out monthly.
          Keep an easy place to list your completed tasks (shortcut on your desktop, etc).
          Create a document that list all of your requiring tasks where you can copy and paste for your final report.
          Take the time to list all of your tasks/projects so later on, you can just copy and paste your current accomplishments to the monthly report.
          Reward yourself when you are done (take an extra longer break, celebrate with a special dessert, etc.)
          Hope this helps!

    2. Itscoldoutthere*

      I just read “the Four Tendencies” by Gretchen Rubin. There may be some helpful advise there to hack your style to achieve a oal

  13. A. Ham*

    I swear this is work related.

    What is your favorite “How does a dog wear pants”. “Is a hot dog a sandwich” type low stakes debate question?

    A while ago, after a fun online debate, I posed to my staff “how would a giraffe wear a tie” at the start of the morning meeting. We had a brief fun discussion, and everyone liked it. Problem is, now they want that type of discussion question more often because they like starting the day like that, and I’m running out of questions!

    1. Q. Kate*

      These may be too similar to what you have already:

      Is a bowl of cereal soup?
      Is cheesecake cake or pie?
      Is catsup a smoothie?
      Does Lightning McQueen need car insurance or life insurance?
      How does a centaur wear pants?

        1. Say It Ain't So*

          We have office arguments over pie. Is shepherd’s pie or chicken pot pie really a pie? What about pizza? Quiche?

        2. Kimmy Schmidt*

          I’m curious for the argument that a lasagna is NOT a casserole? Maybe my definition of casserole is too broad.

          A. Ham, I think it’s fascinating that your employees are requesting this. I love weird quirky icebreakers like this but no one else seems to!

    2. Dasein9*

      Who would win a fight between prehistoric humans and astronauts?
      (Apparently, Angel and Spike have been arguing about this one for decades!)

      1. Liane*

        There was a TV show about this in the early 60s. But I think the groups made friends. I was a toddler so what I recall is very vague.

          1. Dasein9*

            OMGs, it uses the Gilligan’s Island set! Thank you for this rabbit hole to spend Friday afternoon in.

    3. Lacey*

      Are you a Judge John Hodgeman fan?

      I wish I had a question for you to ask your people, but I can’t think of any!

      1. BetsCounts*

        How many holes are in a straw! (I am running behind on listening to JJHo, just finished the January episodes)

    4. Earl Grey Hot*

      I just googled “is a hotdog a sandwich questions” and it came up with several similar questions – all designed to spark fun, pointless, hopefully non-dramatic debates. :) Here were a few samples:

      Is cereal a soup?

      Is water wet?

      How many holes does a straw have?

      Toilet paper: over or under?

      Is a pancake a pizza?

      1. BetsCounts*

        just reading the toilet paper question raises my blood pressure- it’s not a non-dramatic debate in my house!

    5. Shark Whisperer*

      Related to “is a hot dog a sandwich,” are poptarts ravioli? are the calzones? At an old job, we had a many months long ongoing debate about how you define various carb around filling foods

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        I was going to say “are pop tarts ravioli?” too. I hate it hahahaha

        A. Ham, if you image search the “change my mind” meme you’ll probably find a lot of ideas :)

    6. old curmudgeon*

      Is cheese a vegetable?

      Someone I knew decades ago used to insist – like yelling at the top of his lungs – that in Arkansas, cheese is considered a vegetable.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        In Wisconsin, this question would get you blank stares. And they would talk about you after you left the room.

        1. PolarVortex*

          America’s Dairyland. We do not believe it to be a vegetable. But it is life. (It’s also why all the vegan cheese in Wisconsin is not great…)

    7. Crazy Plant Lady*

      Oh man, this is making me actually miss being in the office where my coworkers and I would get into debates over silly questions. One of the ones that I can remember is a bit nerdier, but here it is: you can teleport, but your physical body is deconstructed and reconstructed with completely new molecules when you reach your intended location, but you retain all memories, personality, etc.. Would you still be you? (And also, would you choose to teleport?)

    8. Donkey Hotey*

      It’s a bit of a stretch but there’s always the classic, “The Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. Discuss.”

      1. Susan Calvin*

        I’m dying to hear the argument for spoons and plates being easier, because this seems incredibly unambiguous to me!

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          Well, you can eat steak with a spoon if you much, but you can’t possibly eat soup with a fork.

          1. SpellingBee*

            But you can drink soup out of a cup! Soup on a plate is much more difficult, and would get cold fast.

      1. A. Ham*

        I used a variation of this one day: who would win in a fight, one 500lb duck, or 500 1lb ducks, and it caused BY FAR the biggest argument of any of these that we have done so far. Like… there was yelling.

        1. Web Crawler*

          A hamster-sized rhino would be so cute!

          And I would NOT want a rhino-sized hamster. I’ve seen what those teeth can do.

          1. Dark Macadamia*

            Same. Small versions of big things are cute, big versions of small things are TERRIFYING. Also the poop.

      2. Web Crawler*

        I did a D&D encounter with this question once. A mysterious stranger walked up to the player characters and asked “would you rather fight one dragon-sized goose or 100 goose-sized dragons?” Later, they had to fight their choice

        The dragon-sized goose was brutal, so I’m glad they picked the goose-sized dragons.

    9. Charlotte Lucas*

      I found “131 Icebreaker Questions for Work…” On snack nation.com. I’ve used some in our chat channel that’s set up like a virtual water cooler. (Fun but work-appropriate discussions.) I like a lot of the questions, because they’re less about what I think of as “fake debates.” (Pancakes clearly aren’t pizza, but both are flatbread, unless the pizza is deep-dish.)

    10. PolarVortex*

      I like to start culture wars:

      Mayo or Miracle Whip
      Butter or Margarine
      Is it okay to put ketchup on a hotdog?
      Pineapple on Pizza: Discuss
      Pluto: Planet or No?
      How do you pronounce: GIF
      Soda or Pop
      Bubbler or Water Fountain
      Shower in the morning? Or at night?
      Toilet Paper Roll: Over or Under
      The Book? Or The Movie?
      Is Glamping Camping?
      If a Sandwich is filling between two slices of bread, and a Burger cannot be a sandwich because it is on a bun: Should a Patty Melt be under the Sandwich or the Burger section of a Menu?

      1. Llama face!*

        Couldn’t resist:
        Miracle whip
        Butter
        Sure
        Yes, but the presence of chicken immediately makes it not-pizza.
        Yes
        GIF is pronounced like golly. If you want it pronounced like jolly, use a J.
        Pop. Soda is for americans who use corn syrup in their coke.
        Water fountain. A bubbler is an underwater fart.
        Neither, baths all the way!
        Over, unless you have small children or cats.
        The book, unless it’s Jane Austen. BBC did those right.
        Glamping is a “word” that should die along with chillax and boss babe.
        What is a patty melt?

        1. PolarVortex*

          Hamburger on grilled/grilled bread vs a bun. Usually with fried onions and cheese. Think of it as a grilled cheese with a hamburger and onions in the middle.

    11. GinnyDC*

      We’ve had lively family discussions over these questions …
      What is a casserole? (Or is a sheet cake a casserole?)
      What is a salad? (Or is a salad a casserole?)
      Is a taco a sandwich? (similar to the hot dog question)

    12. TerraTenshi*

      This one can be a little gross but also funny: if a towel is only ever used to dry your clean body/hands, does it technically get dirty/need to be washed?

    13. Another Proj Manager*

      For the geek culture fans:
      Picard or Kirk or Janeway
      Star Wars vs Star Trek
      Digital vs Vinyl music
      If Brunch is Breakfast and Lunch and Brinner is Breakfast and Dinner what is Lunch & Dinner – Linner or Dunch?
      If a cat always lands on it’s feet and toast always lands butter side down what would happen if you strapped a piece of toast butter side up to the back of a cat and then dropped them? (Do not do this in real life)

      1. On a pale mouse*

        The cat will land on its feet. You will then discover that the toast has slipped around to the underside of the cat, from which location it will be kicked and clawed off, because the cat is not having this “toast on back” nonsense.

    14. Dr. Clara Mandrake*

      One that got my whole team away from our desks and into the hallway was the superiority of regular Reese’s peanut butter cups (higher chocolate ratio) or Holiday Reese’s (trees, eggs, etc.) (higher peanut butter ratio). Even the quiet folks got fired up.

    15. ISayWhoDat?*

      If you want to spread out the work, ask a different employee to be in charge of a silly short PowerPoint presentation before each meeting. 4-5 slide why Twizzlers are better than Red Vines. Or here are pix of the first 4 things I saw this morning. Or “my quirky neighbors.” All clean topics are game. If they hate putting in the work, then maybe phase all the pre-meeting fun?

      1. Orrr*

        Instead of the work of a PowerPoint, you could just ask a few employees to tell of a quirky neighbor. Or debate Twizzlers vs. Red Vines.

    16. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      We used to have a programmer who would blow off his day of training the new hires and instead quiz them on what their superpower would be.

      I sat at the desk next to him during one of my weeks on-site while we had a new programmer being “trained.” It was a different experience… I was more senior, so I never got the quiz personally.

      Yes, I did end up training the new hire later. I’m a compassionate fool.

    17. Mouse*

      We had a huge, cross-departmental debate (back when still in the office) over what states are considered part of the Midwest. It got very…enthusiastic. :)

    18. Lucky*

      Not quite the same thing, but you can have a fun time naming the portable foods of every nation/culture. Like, a sandwich, an spring roll, a burrito, a crepe . . .

    19. RC Rascal*

      Should a pie contain meat? That was a lively topic at my last job.

      Some argue chicken pot pie et. al are actually casserole.

    20. SaladSandwich*

      First, a statement: Every type of food is either a salad or a sandwich. Then have each person name a food and others debate over whether it’s a salad or a sandwich.

      Examples: A smoothie is a salad. A pierogi is a sandwich. A snow cone is an (open-faced) sandwich. Cookie dough ice cream is a salad.

    21. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’m running out of questions!

      I can’t think of any specific questions although there are loads of good ones already — but have you considered rotating this ‘duty’ and giving others the task (if they want it) of posing a question?

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Oh no! You have inadvertently opened up a whole new world of “matrices” for me on the basis of purist/neutral/rebel and similar. Somehow it had not occurred to me to generalise the DnD matrix…….!

    22. Lurker2209*

      My spouse and I were given a board game called Master Debaters as a wedding gift. It has over 250 of these kind of silly prompts. My favorite is “which finger is more important, the pointer finger or the ring finger?”

      If you can expense the game (new or maybe used?) you’d have enough questions to last a long time.

  14. Crazy Plant Lady*

    It’s performance evaluation time at my organization, and our first step is a self-assessment. One of the questions that we are required to answer is “How well does Organization recognize my value?”. My real answer right now is that I’m not sure my work is valued (for a variety of reasons not related to salary/benefits/compensation), however, I’m concerned that if I select that it could actually reflect poorly on me. Should I lie and say that I feel valued to avoid any potentially negative backlash from my answer? Does anyone have experience with these types of questions in a performance evaluation (in previous years our self-assessments have focused just on whether we are meeting goals)?

    1. Lacey*

      Oh dear. That’s frustrating. I don’t want to tell you to lie and say you feel valued. On the other hand, I have no idea if that would end up having negative consequences for you – but it doesn’t seem like it should.

    2. Blue Eagle*

      Be careful how you reply. First, decide what it is that you want to accomplish with your answer to this question. If it is just to fill in the form, then just fill in the form in whatever way will not result in anything negative for you. If, however, you want to change something about the way you are valued and how your future with the organization can be better, perhaps change-up your answer to focus on how you bring value to your organization – – regardless of whether or not your manager “values” you.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        It’s interesting isn’t it, that the question asks about the organization, rather than about the manager/immediate team.

    3. Chilipepper*

      I have heard enough from the community here to think I would never ever be honest in writing, ever.
      It is not a lie for you to think, based on my compensation, the org does recognize my value and answer accordingly.

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      My real answer right now is that I’m not sure my work is valued (for a variety of reasons not related to salary/benefits/compensation),

      That’s my natural answer, followed by a detailed analysis of ways that I’m required to waste time in the course of my daily responsibilities.

      However…

      If you’re worried that this is more ego-stroking than self-reflection on management’s part, find whatever thing acts as a silver lining to your daily trials and tribulations and play that up. If you draw a blank, lower your standards until you succeed.

    5. Malarkey01*

      I think this CAN be helpful if there are specific corrective actions you’d like. For example, if you don’t feel valued because a project isn’t be highlighted enough or my group isn’t being included in important planning or decision meetings where we have input or I don’t feel my manager is keeping higher ups appraised of important things I’ve done on x,y,z.

      In those cases, with the right supervisor, it can be a helpful way to open the door to addressing a few of those things or even finding out your should prioritize different because they value one thing or another. But, it’s way much a know your manager thing.

      1. Mockingjay*

        These are good suggestions. I like to address process instead of me personally. “Our project team does such good work, which is why it’s frustrating when we’re not notified about Changes to the Big Plan early on and we have to redo work. Can we/I get a seat on the planning committee?”

        I think most companies are looking for feedback on a role, not the employee personally.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        This was my thought. If you have something constructive that could be acted on, you can bring that forward, but if it’s just a general feeling of blah it’s probably best to just say things are OK.

        Also, if it’s possible to not give a solid yes or no answer it couldn’t hurt to hedge just a little. So, if it’s on a scale of 1-5 or “Agree, neither agree or disagree, or Disagree” pick the rating in the middle rather than a more solid ‘No’. That goes a long way towards keeping people off the defensive, especially since in these kinds of reviews anything below the middle can end up on the Manager’s review with their boss. If they feel they may need to defend themselves based on your answer it can work to your benefit to keep rankings slightly higher than you may normally put.

    6. Qwerty*

      I have experience with this and it was generally used to look for trends. Is there a neutral option (like picking 3 on a scale of 1-5) ? Be prepared for a follow up question from your manager – they may want to know if it is compensation, not getting feedback, etc. Even if you say you feel valued, you might be asked why (so they know what *does* work).

      If you use an online system for evaluations rather than paper copies, there might be some metrics on the back end to see if a particular department. It caused our HR department to re-evaluate positions and do some salary and title corrections because some people were getting stuck on the career ladder and hadn’t been getting raises / promotions at the same rate as their peers.

    7. hbc*

      How are you worried about it reflecting poorly on you or generating backlash? Don’t get me wrong, I can think of ways you can phrase it that would alarm the best bosses and bad bosses who won’t accept anything with a hint of negativity. But if you have a specific concern and your option isn’t just a number scale, maybe you can be honest (ish?) without pushing that button.

      For example, if you’re just generally concerned of looking like you’re disgruntled and feeling under-appreciated, specifically take that out of the equation. “I don’t feel undervalued, but I don’t really see any evidence on a daily or weekly basis that what I do is valued. But I think that’s [pretty common for this type of work/understandable given the focus on X/not something that’s a big factor in my job satisfaction.]”

    8. Aggretsuko*

      If you have a gut feeling that being honest is going to reflect poorly on you, then you are not obligated to give an honest answer.

      I’ve never had anyone ask me that one, that sounds weird, but I would concur to your bad feelings on the topic more than mine. I wouldn’t want my name attached to an honest assessment of how I am feeling about the company if it wasn’t positive, I’ll put it that way.

  15. Loopy*

    I’m sure this has come up before but I’m in my first job where I am in a more stressful position. I have a supportive boss and a great team but a large part of my job involves herding cats that are outside of our organization and trying to force people to make decisions and ensure we cover all bases, a lot of facilitating and trying to move a group towards meeting a deadline with a successful end product. Except the Dynamics are complicated by the fact this is not all within our org (so sometimes options are more limited).

    I’m struggling not to carry the stress of setbacks and general frustrations around with me beyond the job. Previous positions I wasn’t on the hook nearly as much. I’m not a manager but still am in charge of a successful conclusion to projects and am struggling to transition to the added stress in terms of not letting it bleed into my home life. Anyone else in a stressful job have any tips?

    1. Louise*

      Mindless books and TV shows to get my brain to switch to off when I get done with work. Pretty strong work life boundaries are needed for me to not carry too much stress but that doesn’t mean insomnia hits as anxiety kicks in about work stress.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      A couple of ideas:

      *Turn off notifications on your phone (if you have a smart phone). Take all work apps off of your phone, if feasible, or shift them to a different phone (i.e. separate personal and work phones)
      *For me, a breath and body practice helps me. A practice helps ground me back in my physical body, which helps me reset my brain. That could be anything physical: yoga, running, working out, rock climbing, etc.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I kind of liked the story of the parent who pulled in the driveway, got out of the car and walked over to a tree in the yard. Parent paused at the tree. Then Parent entered the house.

      One day, Kiddo noticed Parent pausing at the tree before coming in the house and asked, “what are you doing?”.
      Parent said, “I am hanging up all my work problems on the branches so I don’t bring them into the house. The next day I put them back in the car and take them back to work with me.”

      Maybe you can find a variation, where you can toss some of them in the back seat of your car, or ditch them just outside the door at work. I should think it would take some repetition to get this one to be of help.

    4. ferrina*

      De-personalizing while you’re on the job can help you let go of the job when you go off the clock.
      When project managing, I’m always tempted to tie my worth to the success of the project. But you can’t always control the project! You can only control you and your actions. I found that changing my perspective from “What is the state of this project?” to “Have I done my job well?”, I was able to better detach myself from the project.
      Client changed the specs and delayed the project? Okay, I handled the change with grace and communicated it well to my team. My job is accomplished. Sure, the client just delayed the project by 3 months, but that’s not a reflection on me, that just is.

  16. lea*

    I need to quit my job but my boss’s parent just died of covid. I’m the primary of two pt employees at a tiny nonprofit. After permanently losing free family childcare in January, my family decided that it makes more sense for me to be a stay at home parent for now since the cost of childcare brings my income down below $10 per hour. While deciding on my quitting timeline, my boss’s parent was hospitalized for covid and he was out of touch. I decided to wait for a better time to quit, obviously. Now, a few weeks later, the parent has died and the boss remains unavailable for an undetermined time. The boss is a volunteer board member. Other board members are semi-filling in for him.

    I need to quit asap but it is not an emergency — I’m willing to keep working for a net $7 per hour to wrap things up and maintain a good relationship but still need to move along as quickly as possible. Per my contract, I am asked to give 30 days notice. Three months is more realistic given the pace of things (the previous person in this role gave 1 year notice!).

    What do you all think? How can I do this in a way that isn’t horrible and even more stressful for the grieving boss? I don’t want to ask for leave or reduced hours; it’s a definite resignation situation.

    1. Jessica*

      Give 30 days. You are losing money here, and this isn’t your problem. Send a letter/email, say your last day will be on a specific day, and that you’ve enjoyed working for the company.

      1. Natalie*

        It doesn’t sound like they’re losing money, just not making enough to feel like working is worthwhile.

    2. Venus*

      I would suggest saying something soonest, but giving a later departure date. Your problem is that you aren’t saying anything and also are expected to stay a while. Is the other employee going to be able to help with a transition? Maybe you can tell those who are filling in temporarily and ask for advice on how to make it official and discuss timelines?

    3. OtterB*

      Given that you expect to have a long notice period (at least 30 days, probably 3 months), I think you should go ahead and get the ball rolling by turning in your resignation to the board members who are filling in for your boss. Say that you’re planning to work to wrap things up but you will be leaving as of x date.

      If you were only giving 2 weeks notice and you had the control over the timing that you do (e.g., not another job waiting for you to start) then I might recommend holding off.

      1. SunnySideUp*

        Good call, and I feel 30 days in the Time of Covid is perfectly professional. Just as Boss is going through a hard time, your family is as well.

        Acknowledge the timing is not ideal, but say you need to do what’s best for your family. In 30 days they could certainly get a temp worker in, right?

        (One year’s notice? So not normal.)

    4. Louise*

      I would call one of the other board members who is stepping up and flat out explain the situation. They might be able to get you a raise to keep you on longer while this is wrapping up and it helps open the door for when one day we return to something closer to life in 2019 and there are more childcare options again.

      1. Chilipepper*

        I second this. I would tell the other board members that you held off because of the awful situation but that you do need to give notice sooner rather than later and how do they recommend doing this?

      2. lea*

        This is what I am not leaning toward now… meeting with them and just putting it all on the table and asking them what they suggest.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I would do this. It can’t hurt anything, and they may really just not be aware how the situation is playing out for you right now and can give you a bit of a raise.

          Plus if they can’t and ultimately you do need to give notice but long notices are the norm here, you might be able to come up with a creative solution that you can’t necessarily come up with on your own. Maybe you’ll stay full time for 30 days, then drop to 5-10 hours a week for 30 days to allow you to help wrap up the last items but also remove a lot of the childcare burden. Or something else that works out well for both sides. Or they may just let you know that 30 days is totally fine and you can leave with a clean conscience.

  17. MMM*

    I recently got complimented on my cover letter in an interview! It is absolutely thanks to this site, and it felt great to have a tiny bit of recognition when so much of job hunting just feels like sending things off into the void

    1. AE*

      Awesome! I have been using Alison’s tips too and I feel like my cover letter/application game has already vastly improved (though no specific compliments yet, good for you!!).

  18. katz*

    How do you job search when you’re completely burned out?

    I was already at BEC stage with this small, family-owned company when our state issued WFH orders. While my boss isn’t overtly “pandemic is a hoax,” I am certain that we would be in the office if not for these ongoing orders.

    I’ve been casually looking for a new job for several years. A more focused job search was starting to pick up at the end of 2019 and early 2020, then March happened. I was actually hoping to be laid off while the government was providing extra unemployment payments, but that didn’t happen. My husband works at the same company and is equally unhappy. Home life with older kids beats trying to work full time and take care of littles, but it’s still stressful. I suppose I should be happy to have a job, but oh. my. god. I hate it here so much.

    I am doing the minimum required to stay employed, which is both unsatisfying and frightening. How long until I am found out?

    I am mostly self-trained in my field, although I did take a year-long trade school course that unfortunately didn’t do much. I have a handful of online certifications, but I don’t have a degree. There are state provisions to go to college at low cost, but I can’t seem to get motivated for that either.

    Money is tight and I can’t afford to either take a step back in my career or take unpaid time off.

    Do I need:
    – to suck it up and COMMIT to the job search?
    – to suck it up and COMMIT to going back to school?
    – a career counselor?
    – a vacation?
    – therapy?

    1. Lacey*

      Suck it up and commit to the job search. Maybe take some vacation time to have the energy to do that, but it took me 3 years to find a new job when I was in that situation and I think it just helped to commit to doing a little bit on it a few times a week.

      1. Can Can Cannot*

        Double down on finding a new job. The fact that you and your husband work at the same company is a significant risk, especially in these times. If things go south, you both might be impacted. Best to find a job that you enjoy at another company.

    2. Yellow Warbler*

      I do’t have an answer, but I am right there with you. I am so frazzled by the time I log off, I can’t fathom doing anything but lying on the couch and staring at the TV. Creating a dynamic resume and having the mental fortitude to ensure that it’s error-free is not feasible right now. (I just stared at that sentence for a full minute, trying to remember which version of “its” to use.)

      I’m starting to have mid-meeting existential crises. I’m listening to people debate the minutiae of product testing results, and I just want to scream “WHO GIVES A ****, PEOPLE ARE DYING!”

      1. Aggretsuko*

        With you there. Job hunting is so depressing I can’t motivate myself to keep doing it and still feeling like shit when I am off the clock.

    3. On the hunt*

      I would take a few days off to relax/decompress and think about what you need (minimum in a new job) and want (best outcome) and then commit to a job search. I am coming up on 1 year of casual and not-so-casual job hunting, and I didn’t make much real progress until I defined for myself what exactly I was looking for.

      Good luck!

    4. Cinnabun*

      Whew, I wrote a comment below that is similar (the burnout) and I feel you. I follow this career coach on TikTok who seems great (DrKimHires) and she mentioned that she doesn’t recommend her clients job search while burned out, because it could lead to taking any job to get out of there. But… I don’t know. If the other option is try and recover while in your job, I’m not even sure how that’s possible (or how to do it.) I don’t have a perfect answer, but I wanted to send you some solidarity. It’s tough right now.

    5. A Simple Narwhal*

      Have you tried working with a recruiter? I can understand the hesitancy since a lot of them aren’t very good, but if you can find one you like that is specialized to your field, they can do a lot of work for you finding jobs and setting up interviews for you, which is super helpful when you have limited time/energy to job hunt yourself.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        I’ve been wanting to do this but I have no idea how to find a recruiter that is any good.

        I know friends who tell me head hunters reach out to them, but I haven’t had that happen. I asked these friends for the names but they either deleted the emails without writing the name down or are in a completely different industry. I just have no idea how to start down this road since waiting for them to come to me is clearly not working.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          Start by googling “[your field/specialty] recruiters in [your location]”. Sort through the list and eliminate any irrelevant ones. And then honestly just start reaching out to some of them! They’ll usually set up an intro phone call, and from there you can figure out if you feel comfortable working with them and if they seem like they care about finding you a good fit (a lot just want you to take any job as quick as possible, so def be on the look out for those). If you don’t like them or they continue to send you listings that aren’t relevant or a good fit, you can just stop working with them.

          Also make sure your LinkedIn is up to date and marked as “Open to New Opportunities” – that alone will probably have a lot of people coming after you.

    6. PolarVortex*

      Start with Therapy, that’ll help you get the rest of it going. Frankly I’ve had really bad experiences with Career Counselors but I suppose it couldn’t hurt to try.

      Then just start small:
      Today I’m going to spend 15 mins to see what jobs out there I’m qualified for. I don’t have to apply to any if I don’t want to, but maybe something will look interesting enough that I will. Keep increasing your time and effort as the weeks go on.

    7. aiya*

      I just went through this situation as well! Brunt out and not motivated at all at my last job, and had been casually job searching until the pandemic hit, which basically wiped out all the opportunities in my entire industry.

      Here’s what I did – Take 15-30 minutes each day to do a small thing that would move you forward with your job search. I know I tend to be a procrastinator, so mapping out a schedule for my job search was essential. Basically, I wrote down something like this:
      – Day 1 &2: spend 15 minutes updating my resume
      – Day 3 &4: spend 15 minutes looking for possible job opps
      – Day5 &6: spending 15-30 minutes applying to just ONE job (customizing cover letter & my standard resume to the job)
      – and so on…

      If you’re overwhelmed by everything, take a day off and regather yourself. I’ve also used a couple of sick days just to work on my job apps and interviews – seriously! do this if you need to! if you feel t0o burnt out from work to work on job apps, this might be a good alternative solution for you. For this me, this worked out well, because I had a very understanding manager who always encouraged me to take sick days to recharge myself (especially because we don’t get paid out for sicks days – it was a use it or lose it policy).

      The other options you listed, such as therapy, are great. But therapy takes a long time before the effects kick in. Speaking as someone who’s been through therapy many times, it’s not like a switch that will fix you immediately. I feel like by focusing on your job search, that will be a quicker solution to your current situation.

    8. ferrina*

      My advice: Commit what you can to the job search and nothing more.
      Here’s what I did:
      My spouse and I worked to set aside 6 hours a week for me to work on my job search (we have two kiddos, so this required planning!).
      Week 1: Create a template of your resume and cover letter. Templates are a time and sanity saver. These are go-to starting points. So my resume template has all the accomplishments I could think of for each job- it’s 3.5 pages. For each job I apply to, I skim my resume template, take out the irrelevent bullets, and that’s my customization. Cover letter template will have several sample paragraphs highlighting different skills you have (maybe a story about attention to detail, one about client management, etc.). That way you have a starting point when you go to write different cover letters.
      Week 2 is when you’ll actually start applying. To start, pick only 1-2 jobs to apply for. Focus your energy on those. I found that if I tried for more than 1-2, I’d burn out. The first applications I did took several hours each, but now that I’ve been at it for a couple months, it’s taking less time.
      Recognize that your accomplishment is getting the applications done, not getting the job. Reward yourself regularly, and be gentle to yourself (at one point I would buy myself a lottery ticket for every job app I did- with a little luck I’d make money from one of them ;) )
      Last thing I did- make time for something you love. I have 40 minutes each week that is dedicated to Hobby. That is MY time to unwind, and remember how to relax (I had about a year where I forgot how to relax- even now it takes practice).
      Sending love your way! Good luck!

    9. Derjungerludendorff*

      Job-searching definitely sounds like a good idea.
      Whatever you choose, do what you can and go easy on yourself. And remember to be realistic about what your burnt out self can do (probably less than you feel you “should” be able to).

  19. SuccessFail*

    Pattern of hitting a wall every 3 years

    So, I love my job and love my industry. It involves serving and helping others. I have been in my field for about 20 years and am generally able to find a new job when necessary, thankfully.

    I am struggling with a pattern of switching jobs after 3 years. My theory – I am very passionate, effective, and enthusiastic about my job. After about 2, 2.5 years, I start to gain a lot of visibility in the organization, which leads to different leaders in the organization wanting to use me to serve their interests. Being pulled into self serving agendas, vanity projects and vicious organizational politics. This leads to negative effects on my mental health, (i have clinical depression and anxiety, and this usually puts me in the position of having to take medication or medical leave) and me feeling a desperate need to switch jobs, which leads to hopping from one toxic workplace to the other.

    Any advice you have would be really appreciated!

    1. Sled Dog Mama*

      I’m very similar, the job switching every 3 years really resonates with me. In my last job search (which is a saga in itself) I focused on finding a position that was going to stay the same. In my industry that possible to be in a position and not have to move up and it’s not considered a bad thing. I’m very lucky that a previous coworker who has since started his own consulting company was hiring. (we worked together 8 years ago) He was one of the first people I sent my resume to when I started looking. I was able to be totally honest with him that my previous positions wanted me to grow and take on more responsibilities along with the normal day-to-day things and I didn’t want that. I was looking for a position where I could do my day-to-day work and the occasional side project but that the side projects would be time limited and not become permanent parts of my job. Turns out I was the rare snowflake he was looking for because he had a small facility that needed someone who wanted to just do the day-to-day boring stuff and pitch in on projects for the consulting company as needed.
      I’m ok with the fact that I could spend the rest of my career doing the same thing everyday because I’m good at it and it keeps my anxiety/depression in check to be in a position where I’m good at it and don’t have to stretch. I have an awesome boss who understands this, part of why he started his own company was that he didn’t want to be stuck doing the day-to-day stuff that I thrive on everyday so he gets to devote most of his time to special projects.
      I don’t think there’s much advice in this beyond saying figure out what you thrive on doing and try to find somewhere that will be happy to let you thrive doing it, which is so much easier said than done.

      1. SuccessFail*

        This is a great outcome and a good reminder to keep focused on maintaining my network and relationships!

    2. Littorally*

      So, this might feel frustrating, but could you pull back a little during that initial 2-2.5 years? If this has been a pattern ongoing for two decades (!!) then you’ve been through it at least 6 times. It is worth asking yourself if you will have more staying power if you don’t make yourself quite such a rockstar. While you’re working at a new company, consider testing the waters for organizational politics at a higher level.

      If you’re consistently finding yourself in toxic workplaces, you might also consider what is causing this pattern. Three years isn’t that short to be considered serious job-hopping, unless you’re vastly changing industries or occupations each time.

      1. SuccessFail*

        great point about looking behind the pattern. Yep, it is exhausting. Its definite anxiety and a need to prove myself. Great recommendation to pull back and observe. Very outside of my comfort zone, but worth trying, I think.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. My wise friend used to talk about any time you go high in emotions be prepared to go low in emotions. If you can reduce how high the highs are, then the lows should not be so low.

        You describe yourself as passionate, effective and enthusiastic. Two of the three are emotions. If you stop feeling it, all that’s left is you’re effective. This is actually a good thing to have left over of the the three. What if you had a job where you were a committed and reliable employee? What if you did not enter the game with “here’s how much endless emotional energy I can put into your organization”? You could promote yourself as someone who is rock solid, comes in everyday does their work, gets results. It’s not flashy and it may not attract the same types of employers who thrive on drama and theatrics.

        You’ve got a roller coaster going on there, you go up high and then you go down low. Worse yet, it’s damaging your health. You gotta be tired and sick of it all.

        As far as getting roped into self-serving agendas, etc. I am guessing you can now identify a self-serving agenda very early on? How about just saying no and letting the chips fall where they may? Do you have to do these things to grow your career or to remain on the radar? If yes, you may not be objectively seeing your arena that you say you love. It could be that you are fine and your arena sucks.

        Someone used to tell me, “if you do as you always did you will get what you always got”. If you want something different, what different thing are you willing to do to get yourself to that different place?

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Any advice you have would be really appreciated!

      You are the perfect employee for modern times. You’ll always have a recent cadre of references for voodoo recruitment, and will never get too expensive in terms of escalating PTO or other longevity-retention benefits.

    4. Anonym*

      You could also begin job searching around 18 months or beginning of year 2 – if you know you’ll likely be ready to leave by year 3, the extra lead time in the job search could really help you find a better role/company for the next one. (And who knows, maybe in a better fit role you’ll stay longer!)

      Also, at least in the US, average tenure in a role across industries is a bit less than 3 years. Perhaps you’re in a longer-tenured industry, but overall, you’re pretty normal in that regard! Changing jobs every 3 years isn’t bad, but being miserable sure is.

      1. Anonym*

        Also, I hope you’re able to find better support systems – it sounds like there might be benefit in either untangling the pattern or figuring out how to identify and navigate the toxic politics before they start to wear on you so badly.

        And if you do figure that out, let us know… I’ve wondered about leadership coaches recently. I’ve been through some of what you’re describing, and my therapist was amazing at helping me sort out my reactions to it (definitely reduced the anxiety and distress), but she’s not an expert on navigating corporate politics. It’s hard.

        1. SuccessFail*

          oh yes, definitely, this definitely comes from anxiety. Need to focus more on support systems for perspective. thanks for the reminder!

      2. SuccessFail*

        that is good perspective! yes, definitely same industry, in organizations that work closely together (think public schools/ local govt/ utilities) there is not always a lot of room to advance, so people “move around” that world a lot.

    5. Free Meerkats*

      You do you. Trite, I know, but this works for you.

      I have a close friend who has done this since I’ve known her, and that’s been close to 40 years. We met when she came to work with me at PreviousJob, she and her then husband were both university students; they both started looking for work, whoever got a good job first left school and put the other one through, then they switched when he graduated. She worked there for 3 years while he finished, went back to school and got her ChemE, then hit the job market.

      Since then, I don’t think she’s stayed at a job for longer than 3 years. She’s established as someone who can come into your plant and help you fix what’s going on, get policies and procedures in place to keep you there, then she’s gone. She got a second PE (Safety) and is working on her third. She’s lived coast to coast and worked in industries ranging from hardrock mines to nuclear energy to large hydroelectric dams to a stint as a professional clown. She’s now in the Federal system and is in her third agency, soon to move to her fourth.

      So embrace your passion and enthusiasm at a new job every few years!

      1. Ladyb*

        Yes, I do this too, but in IT. Go in, fix things, get bored with a smooth running service, go and find something else to fix.
        I’ve built my career around this model and it’s served me well.

    6. saffie_girl*

      In an ideal situation, where you were able to avoid the self serving agendas and vanity projects (not sure we can every completely avoid the politics of work), what would you want out of your job? Are you happy with the role(s) you are hired for and the win would be to just do that work, but for a long period of time? Do you have your own projects or ideas that you would prefer to work on? Sometimes figuring out the end goal that I can work towards helps me figure out where to start.

    7. AE*

      Changing jobs every 2.5-3 years is definitely not the worst or weirdest thing in the world! I think that’s fairly typical for some industries as some other commenters have noted.

      That said, it sounds like there’s a not-great pattern happening with the politics and agendas of your workplaces to date. Maybe look at orgs where you have personal contacts that can be really candid with you about the organizational culture, or reviews on job websites.

      If you’re in the nonprofit sector, a site like Charity Navigator may also be helpful: how much of their budget goes to providing services, versus splashy PR campaigns, operational costs, and executive salaries? In my experience, smaller organizations and/or teams within organizations tend to be more susceptible to the type of internal politics and vanity projects you describe, though that’s certainly not universal.

      Best of luck!

    8. MissDisplaced*

      Oh SuccessFail you’re not alone in hitting a wall about 3-4 years into a job. It’s been happening to me for about 20 years now.
      In my case, it starts off great, but things just… change about 3 years in. Usually, this means corporate changes or management changes, and I guess I don’t like that, I become dissatisfied and jump.

      I wish it weren’t the case sometimes, because I do usually like my job. There were some companies I didn’t want to leave, but I couldn’t stay and be happy there either.

  20. BigTenProfessor*

    Alison and others here talk about how group projects in school aren’t really the same as work teams, for a number of reasons, but at the same time, every job recruiter who visits campus tells me they are looking for people who work well in teams.

    So, I ask you all for any suggestions you have on how I could structure group assignments or other work to make it more relevant or to include more transferrable skills.

    1. Lacey*

      The only good group project I’ve ever been on was for a PR class where the prof divided us into groups based on our majors. I can’t remember exactly how he divided us, only that each group def had a business major and a graphic designer, and I can’t remember the other two.

      But, the idea was that we all had our roles and the project couldn’t be completed well if we didn’t all chip in. And at first we all felt awful because the business major was doing all the organizational work to get us going, but as the project went along we all ended up playing our parts and bringing the whole thing together.

      That was the best group project and the one most like real work.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        This is what I was thinking. In school, a project is just “write a report” and one person can do it themselves, and in some cases, it really is easier to just have one person do it all.
        But in work, you have teams with different skills and multiple tasks and there is generally a project manager. And if one person doesn’t do their task, then they get reprimanded or replaced with someone else.
        The best school project would have multiple unique tasks and the team should submit who is going to do each step before the project even gets started. And there should be consequences in place if a team member does not step up. It should be left to the rest of the team to do the MIA person’s work while the MIA person stills get credit.
        Also, the school project should not be the final or something that is a huge part of the final grade. I should never be reliant on someone else’s work to pass a class.

    2. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      One difference between school group projects and work is that often school expects you to work on group projects outside of classroom hours. At work you tend to be working on them at work (even if remotely). One annoying thing about school group projects was figuring out schedules outside of class time. Maybe have the group project work be done in class. Then you can observe the group dynamics too.

      1. Annika*

        This is a great idea! I had one class that allowed us to work on our group project during class time. It made it a lot easier. I had another class that didn’t. There were literally only 30 minutes per week that we were all free. This class was about half returning students so many had families and full-time jobs. Even the traditional students had other classes and part-time jobs.

      2. Web Crawler*

        This. And then the work tends to get donebased on how much free time you have and are willing to commit, which can vary a lot if you have a job outside of school or this is your biggest class, or other things.

      3. ThePear8*

        Oh, THIS! Scheduling is the complete bane of my existence with every group project – there will never be a time when everyone is simultaneously available and there is always the higher risk that someone will show up late/not at all. As Annika and Web Crawler have already nicely put it, lots of people have busy schedules with jobs, other classes, or extracurriculars and trying to align all that between 3 – 5 people is a nightmare.

      4. Glitsy Gus*

        Yes to this! If everyone has a few tasks to take away from the group meeting that are done outside that is fine, but scheduling is always the worst part. You have group meetings at work during normal hours, not out at a coffee shop on the weekend, so it makes sense the group meetings should happen during class time if you want to mimic reality.

        As mentioned it also gives you a look into the group dynamics and readily opens the door for groups to provide feedback or let you know about big roadblocks. If things take a bad turn, like someone not showing up to class/meetings, you’ll know before it causes a breakdown or one person ends up doing everything and the others coasting.

    3. Casey*

      If you can, join an extracurricular with a final product. Something like working together to build a race car, or put on a fundraising event, or build a website. It’s closer to a real work experience (although still not the same thing) and in my opinion way easier to talk about in a way that makes you look good, since you usually have to take more initiative than in a class project.

      1. ThePear8*

        I do think this is a good idea though, and maybe OP can take some ideas from this? I run a club at my university in a sort of technical field and we run a weekend-long hackathon-like event every semester, where people get in teams and create a project over the course of the weekend. Obviously the projects themselves are hardly ever polished since it’s created in so little time, but it always is a great learning experience for everyone involved, they can put the project on their resume/portfolio to show off and talk about in interviews, and since almost always people get into teams to do it they can talk a lot about the team experience and show through their project that they can collaborate with others to make something. Maybe some ideas could be taken from this to be used in a classroom setting?

    4. Annika*

      I think for a group project to simulate work that you should define roles and responsibilities for each student on the project. In the workplace, I don’t decide one day that I am the accountant, and the next day I am the web designer. If the students have roles, you will be able to see who is doing the work and who isn’t. The work needs to be able to be done asynchronously because students all have different schedules. I also beg you to push back on recruiters who think that it is transferrable skills.

    5. No Tribble At All*

      Let part of the grade be based on peer evaluations. In a work environment, when someone’s not giving me their products, I can take it up the chain of command. They’ll get in trouble with their boss, and low-performing team members can be fired. In a group project? Someone can stall and delay or completely vanish, but if the group’s project is good, they’ll still get a good grade.

      For my (engineering) senior design project, the whole class worked on one project, and we were each in a sub-team related to a specific part. The evaluations were fairly detailed for our subteam, but still detailed for each of the 30 people in the class. Quality of technical input; plays nicely with others; responsiveness; does their share. Granted, don’t let the peer evaluations be the only part of the grade, and watch for cliquey behavior, but I don’t think we had too many interpersonal conflicts.

      I’d also give the students a quick lesson on project organization– the work breakdown structure, how to organize and delegate within their team. That’s been the hardest part for me.

      1. Lyudie*

        I like all of these suggestions. I am in an online program and several of my professors have had peer evaluations for group projects and state that they will take those into account when assigning grades.

      2. ThePear8*

        100%. I’ve really appreciated the group projects I’ve done where the professor has had at least part of the grade based on peer evaluations. I know this way then at least if someone drops the ball, they’re not going to get by for free on the work I did and I have a way of holding them accountable.

    6. up the wolves*

      I just wrote something really long but it comes down to It Depends. ;) What is your area, and what industry are those job recruiters coming from?

    7. ArtK*

      Ooh, good question! One issue I’ve seen with school group projects is that there is no punishment for the slackers. My son is in college now and had to do a group project where almost nobody participated. He talked to the teacher and the teacher did *nothing* about it.

      Another issue is one of leadership. Frequently in school projects, nobody wants to be the leader and drive the process. There are groups that can operate completely by consensus, but very few. In a work situation, there are generally roles that are determined by a number of factors.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Yes make sure that you have a system that won’t punish people with bad team members/reward a slacker for weaseling their way out of work! A good start is separate grades for everyone, rather than one overall group grade.

        I was mostly very fortunate to have limited group projects in college, and when I did I was working with good people where we all worked hard. Except for one group project. We had one team member who didn’t show up to meetings, refused to contribute, and when they finally sent over a tiny piece of work, it was garbage and we had to completely redo it. We were down to the wire so we fixed it and let them know about the revisions, pretty much spoonfeeding them exactly what to say in their part of the presentation. Well, presentation day comes, we get to their section, and they’re completely lost and confused. Even though we told them about the changes and gave them a script, they had completely ignored everything and were now standing in front of class with nothing to say. We. Were. Pissed.

        Fortunately, all of our grades were separate, and part of the project included a section where we could all (privately) grade our teammates and explain the reasoning, so all of us contributing team members got As, and the slacker most definitely didn’t. It would have been incredibly unfair if we were all punished for their refusal to work.

        1. JustaTech*

          Seconding this: at work there are accountability systems so if Fred form procurement stops coming to meetings and doing his part of the work you can talk to his boss and (hopefully) the boss has the ability to impose consequences.
          When you’re doing a group project in school you’re all peers and can’t impose any consequences, you need to have some way to communicate this to the professor (who needs to take this into account when grading the final project).

          I did have a group project in grad school (online, for people already working in the field) where one of our teammates got very, very sick during the half-semester. Like, doctor-ordered bedrest sick. We were already more than half way through the project, and this person had contributed at least their full share, so we were all really surprised when the professors asked us if we wanted them to give this person a reduced grade because they couldn’t finish the project. As a group we were super confused; if this happened in the office you’d just get on with it, you wouldn’t dock someone’s pay because they got sick.

        2. Kristin*

          This this this this this!!!! I hated group projects in high school and college. Especially when the groups were assigned. I suppose there’s an argument for doing that, but if I could direct my group myself I always picked people who would do their work over close friends. Otherwise I ended up being forced to do everything myself. The one I’m most bitter about is a high school history project. Couldn’t even get the group members together a single time. Went to the teachers for help and was told to spilt up the work evenly. Let her know who was responsible for what and she’d only grade on that part. Did that. She then tried to fail me, because only a quarter of the project was complete ( my part) . When I reminded her what she said, she basically said she changed her mind, because if this was a job I couldn’t have handled it that way.

        3. Pocket Mouse*

          Yes! And ask specifically for members to grade each other on what makes a person good at working on a team: Did they communicate clearly and in a timely manner? Did they receive feedback well, and make requested changes? Did they provide thoughtful and useful feedback? Did they anticipate or generate ideas for how their role could contribute/build upon others’ work and ideas? Did they complete their work in a timely manner, or did they cause a delay in others’ work?

          An overall grade and justification may be useful, but perhaps more useful (for them) to see each laid out clearly and be able to reflect on what good team work looks like. Bonus points for providing the rubric/questions that will be asked in advance.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        God, that was every group project EVER. They aren’t group projects, they’re “one person does the work of four” projects.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, that idea of group work is an illusion. I was lucky in my experience because 1 or 2 others jumped in. I knew I was lucky. I watched a team of 5 leave all the work for one person, their team came in dead last.

          In another case, the class was after dinner. I spoke to the prof about doing independent study to avoid the 50 mile round trip. He was fine with that. He gave me a project to do and that was okay with me. In the end, he said I did more work on my own projects than any of the teams. He felt I learned more than those who attended the class.

      3. Derjungerludendorff*

        Yeah, one major difference is that the head manager of your school project is absent, often refuses to actually manage and isn’t held responsible for the outcome (because they’re the one grading it).

    8. Grits McGee*

      I agree with Casey that extracurriculars tend to offer more valuable team work opportunities, with more parallels to work experience. There’s usually real resources involved (money, manhours, etc) and a tangible work end product that has meaning outside the classroom. Unless you are teaching in an explicitly pre-professional or credential-granting program, academic work just doesn’t translate very well to the non-academic world.

    9. Louise*

      I always enjoyed the UN style group projects. You are assigned a country and then have to submit resolutions and have to get it passed. There are some groups with more inherent powers then others. Bonus points go to when you are some small nation know one can pronounce and you get things done with seemingly no real power. The are multiple team dynamics at work with those in your group and then a mass push to get others to agree. This works really well for Poli Sci / International Studies not sure how that works for math majors.

    10. Chilipepper*

      My husband is a prof and I think he is fairly successful at this.
      First, I think internships are the better way to demonstrate you are ready for work, not classroom projects. He also encourages students to work on projects in clubs as a way to demonstrate they can do the work and work on a team.

      Second, when he uses group work, he gives credit for how they work together as a group – in other words, credit shows them that this part actually matters to the grade. This is a big part of why it works. You can use reflection statements about this; ask them to write up how and why they divided the work, what they would do differently, etc.

      other things:
      He teaches how the design process/planning should work and how they can work to determine each others strengths to assign tasks. I mean he literally has lectures on this stuff. And he assesses the students himself re their skills either based on prior contact in other classes or by asking them. Sometimes he assigns teams based on this, sometimes he just helps the teams with their planning.

      He works with industry advisors to be sure that he is focusing on skills they actually need in the content of the project.
      He teaches students what deliverables should look like so that they know what they need to accomplish.

      He has taken over classes that caused nothing by grief for the chair (constant student complaints) and turned them around. He does get specific students who struggle to fit in and groups that don’t gel and he works with them. He is flexible and reorgs the groups or even has had a student or two work on their own, even though it is a group project, because they clearly could not work with a group.

      It is not easy and I commend you for asking!

    11. D3*

      The biggest and most challenging difference is that for school group projects, there’s no boss with authority. Sure, someone steps up to lead, which is good. But that person has no authority to hold others in the group accountable for their part. (Alison gets lots of questions from people who say “My direct report is causing problems! I’m responsible for their work but have no authority to discipline them. What do I do?” There was one just this morning in the short Q&A.)

      The only person with authority is you, the holder of the grade. So as a professor, you should function as the “boss” in a group project, and not leave groups isolated and tell them to “work it out among yourselves” – that leads to one person doing all the work. Especially if it’s the “everyone in the group gets the same grade” BS.

      The best group project I had at the college level worked this way. Our first assignment was to delineate clear roles for everyone. As the semester went on, our group met (through Zoom, this was about 18 months ago) during class hours and the professor attended each groups zoom meeting for 15 minutes or so once a week. We were each expected to report to the professor about our specific responsibilities and how we personally contributed towards that week’s objective.

      It was (and IMO should be!) possible for each group member to get a different grade.

      1. PT*

        Often, too, the person who steps up to lead the project is the least capable of leading the project. This happens at work too, but work typically has some built in guardrails to prevent someone from demanding everyone perform a poledancing interpretation of Silas Marner, instead of a group essay. At work they might decide that the next teapot marketing campaign should include poledancers when the core demographic of the teapot purchasers are women ages 50-75 and they’ll be a crashing disaster, but at least the core objective was met (someone made commercials advertising the teapots.)

    12. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I guess I’m wondering why you want to do this. Group projects in school really can’t replicate the conditions people will have at work for all the reasons I’ve talked about in the past. Your job as a professor isn’t to prepare them for the dynamics of work, and it’s often awfully frustrating to students when professors try (in part because it’s often done badly). Like this morning’s letter writer, why not just focus on whatever best achieves the learning objectives you have for the subject you’re teaching?

      1. Generic Name*

        Exactly. I feel like it’s unpopular to acknowledge that a 4 year university degree isn’t the same as job training. As someone involved in hiring, rarely do I see a student project that gets listed on a resume as anything more than something they did while in school. It’s not even close to equivalent to job experience. But that’s okay! School is school, and people hiring for entry level positions aren’t hoping that what people do in school is analogous to having job experience.

        1. Tuesday*

          But I get the impression that the OP is just looking for ways to make projects MORE useful — not that they’ll stand in for work experience.

          1. LibbyG*

            I teach in higher ed at an access institution (i.e., not elite). I mostly agree with the focus on learning objectives; college isn’t a trade school for office work, after all. At the same time, though, state governments and the public at large are criticizing higher ed for being too disconnected from the real world. It is simply infeasible to arrange for all of our students to do even one internship, let alone multiple ones. And, nationally speaking, it is a minority of students who can do all the extracurriculars like building a solar car or something.

            The only way to offer some professionalization equally to everyone is to bring it into the classroom, and our students are really not well prepared to step into roles that require a lot of teamwork, collaboration, and negotiation, skills that NACE encourages higher ed to focus on.

            A lot of these comments seem to assume that higher ed is just so out of touch with everyone else, but professors are also employees at a complex organization with hierarchies and cultures. Professors often have to work in teams to produce something. We have direct experience with these issues as well.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Academia is so very different though, and that difference shows up so often in the career advice that professors (and even campus career centers) give students that it’s clearly not translating the way it should. From what I’ve seen, professors’ work advice and their ideas of what will be helpful to students once they’re working full-time is off-base so often that the whole “teach work skills in the classroom” enterprise is really suspect.

              I fully co-sign that college isn’t a trade school. If they want to move more in that direction, they’d have to hire people equipped with the expertise to give those lessons.

              1. LibbyG*

                Being a student is very different than being an employee, yes. But is being an employee at a college or university really an outlier experience?

                I’m sure hospitals have their own unique quirks, but no one sneers about hospitals not being the “real world.”

                I agree that career centers sometimes give bad advice, but so don’t publicly sponsored employment centers and, as you often note, resume businesses. Maybe the problem isn’t career advice but rather a broken job market.

                I’m at a heavily first-gen institution. These students are making an enormous investment to try to get a toe-hold in the middle class. It’s all well and good to say “we educate, not train.” But this is their one best chance to learn the norms and cultures of professional interaction. They can’t do unpaid internships and can only rarely get a kind of office job while a student. Formless group projects don’t do jack for professionalization (so I don’t do them), but I’m not going to stop trying to build those soft skills into my classes.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yes, academia’s norms and conventions are very, very different (to the point that I’ve sometimes considered having a permanent “may not apply in California or academia” caveat in the footer of the site).

                  I don’t have any kind of philosophical opposition to colleges deciding their mission includes job training, but then they’d need to hire people with the expertise to do it well; otherwise they can do more harm than good (as we’ve seen in many letters here). I’m also not saying that’s not you; I have no idea, of course! But it doesn’t seem to be most academics.

                2. LibbyG*

                  We’re at an impasse then. I used to agree that academia was a world apart, but I’ve come to see it as a myth, and one that draws fuel from the general backlash against expertise and critical thinking.

                3. Claire*

                  Working at a university can be similar to the “real world” for academic staff, but faculty are not staff! This is where the problems come in, because it is typically the faculty trying to give job advice to the students, and they are really not qualified to do that unless the student wants to pursue a faculty career path themselves. As someone who has worked closely with faculty as a university staff member for years, everything about being faculty is different from a typical workplace position. The application and interview process is different, the skills needed to do the job are different, the independence faculty have is different, the professional relationships between faculty are different than just coworker to coworker, timelines and consequences for missing deadlines are different (part of why academics move at a glacial pace compared to nonacademics). Truly it does not compare. If you really want to try to give your students job training you would be better off having your faculty’s admin assistant or other staff come talk to the class about their job experience than have the actual professor trying to train them.

                4. StripesAndPolkaDots*

                  I was a staff member (not faculty or a professor) at a college and even that was very different in how hiring was done, work norms, flexibility, etc from every other job I’ve had. It completely spoiled me.

      2. BigTenProfessor*

        Because every dang company rep that visits campus to hire interns or entry level tells me that they are looking for people who work well in teams. And then when they talk to students at the career fair or in interviews, they ask them to talk about working in teams.

        I was in industry for quite a while. I have done entry-level hiring. The standard interview forms I was supposed to use always had these questions. As we’re discussing this though, I think the issue here may be that “works well in teams” is too vague, and recruiters should try to articulate more specifically what students need to be successful.

        For example, my sub-field tends to be very data-heavy, and I expect students to be able to  concisely explain their analysis to someone unfamiliar with their project. IME, that’s a critical skill for working in teams in real life (I remember one time drawing a normal curve on a whiteboard and seeing my VP’s eyes glaze over).

        So maybe the question is more like, “what specific skills can we teach that will allow students to work well in teams?”

    13. Qwerty*

      “Plays well with others” is something students can learn in a variety of settings. I’d really rather they had projects that helped them understand the material so they have a good foundation that I can build off of. I don’t expect there to be any direct correlation between the group dynamics and work team, but the project gives them something more interesting to talk about in an interview than what they could have accomplished on their own

      When interviewing students, my questions are more related to how they navigated the hell that is group projects and what they figured out for themselves. I can learn about value/culture fit from whether they assigned the lone woman on the team all of the documentation work. I can usually tell how much they contributed by how much they can talk about it.

      From a student perspective, I really like projects where the requirements were related to the number of members of the group. So instead of perfect groups of 4, you might have groups of 3-5. It gives an option for someone to switch teams if schedules don’t work out.

      What I learned the most from my group projects in college was not related to a single project, but from juggling multiple projects at once (engineering – most classes had group projects). Like sometimes one person taking on a heavy load for the first project because the rest of the team has exams and then doing less for the second projects. Or partnering with the same person in multiple classes so her and I could negotiate our work based on our overall shared schedule (she did more of the work for class A while I did more for class B, then we peer reviewed). These aren’t things that can come from a teacher, but from a person living their own life.

      1. Allypopx*

        I think your last paragraph is really insightful! It’s not any one class that prepares you for the workforce – it’s the self-management, juggling multiple projects/varied expectations/different teams, the pushing through even when you don’t necessarily *want* to be working on something – these are all really transferable skills that happen just as a function of being a college student.

    14. HR Exec Popping In*

      I’m not sure you need to try to simulate the “work project” experience. While school project and work projects are very different, they both require individuals to collaborate with individuals to accomplish something and that is the real benefit. If you do want to try to make school projects a little more like a work project, one way to do it would be to assign each team member a “role” or an “expertise” that they need to use on the project.

    15. Allypopx*

      This isn’t your job. The dynamics of groups in a workplace setting is so different. There will be political and hierarchical considerations, there will likely be people with a wider set of skills than you get in a classroom where many people have the same specializations (this is generalizing of course), the stakes are SUPER different, circumstances will change wildly from company to company…you can’t replicate this in your classroom. Your classroom has objectives, focus on the best way to reach those. Maybe you can even illustrate through examples or case studies how things will be *different* in a work setting, if you want to get those messages across. But I would focus your college course on college course goals.

    16. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, I’d tell that recruiter they all work well in teams and let the recruiter sort it out.

      You might not like my answer, but just inform them of what workplace norms are. So they are not shocked when they get there.

    17. AcademiaNut*

      The thing I absolutely hated about enforced work at school were the lack of accountability for individual contributors. If someone was slacking or incompetent, my choices were to do their work for them and give them a free ride, or accept a lower grade for myself. Neither was acceptable. Being told that this is preparation for the work world is BS, because if you’re working for an employer who will fire you because your coworker is lazy or bad at their job, your employer is incompetent and you need a new job.

      So – clearly defined roles for the participants (I like the cross disciplinary ideas others have suggested) a well defined goal, and the ability to go to management if someone isn’t doing their job, and pre-scheduled meeting times. Plus various shorter deadlines during the process (proof of concept/proposal, preliminary results, final results) to keep things on track. I work on long term, multi-year, STEM projects, and “give me a final result four months in the future with no feedback in the intervening time” is something that literally never happens.

      I wonder if an interdisciplinary group project would work as, essentially, a senior lab course. The group project would be the focus, rather than an aside, and could be more carefully structured, with scheduled class time for the collaborative part.

    18. TechWorker*

      To be totally honest I don’t think this is your responsibility? I did a degree with zero group work whatsoever but always had answers to the ‘teamwork’ questions because I a) was on a bunch of committees for extra curricular stuff and b) had done some internships by the time I was applying to ‘real’ jobs. I feel like any student who has either a part time job or a volunteer responsibility of some description ought to be able to come up with something to say from that, I wouldn’t consider it a job of the course to provide something.

  21. Alex*

    What’s with companies that have been working remote still wanting new hires to relocate? I’m in an industry that easily works from home and don’t have a single client in the city I live in. Clearly, it’s a job that can be done remotely.

    But three times I’ve encountered large, global employers who would offer me a position, but we couldn’t resolve the remote issue, and while they offered raises, they didn’t come close to the cost of living difference given the cheap metro I live in.

    How can a company be convinced relocation isn’t necessary?

    1. TechWriter*

      From what I’ve read, a lot of it might have to do with tax issues of you being/working in a different jurisdiction than them. And long term, I’d guess they don’t want the position to be remote, no matter how possible it is.

      1. Yellow Warbler*

        Yes, this. A way I’ve heard to avoid this problem is to search for companies that already have a robust sales organization, because they’re likely spread out geographically and thus already require a presence in many states.

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Taxes and labor laws, probably.
      Do these companies expect to go back to in-person after the pandemic is over?

      1. Ashely*

        I know companies pre pandemic that wanted people within a certain travel radius in case you ever did need to come in for things like IT issues.
        I would look for companies based in my state. But if you live in a City with laws that are employee forward like mandatory sick leave but the company is in a different area of the state without those protections I could see them still pushing back.

      2. Alex*

        As I said, these are global companies with offices in multiple US locations and in one case dozens abroad.

        We’re taking about consulting work here. The labor issues are negligible, and the tax issues aren’t that complicated.

        As for their post-pandemic plans, I’m hearing that they’ll go back, but actually going to the office won’t be mandatory. We’re in the kind of business where 9-5 means nothing. We work from home whenever we need to or want to. It’s just understood that the price of having professionals who will pick up the phone anywhere at any time is that those professionals need the same flexibility from the employer as the employer needs from them.

        Basically I’m being told to relocate even though I don’t intend to go into an office more than one day a week (if that often) and neither do they.

        1. Krabby*

          I get where you’re coming from, but ANY hassle with a new hire is too much.

          My company will move heaven and earth to get tax and permit issues sorted out for a longstanding employee. But doing even 15 minutes of research for someone who has never worked for us and who hasn’t even passed their probation? Not a chance.

    3. Project Manager here*

      Very likely the company isn’t set up to pay employment taxes in your area. It costs money to be set up, and the company would likely not be willing to pay for a single employee.

      Secondary may be the differences state/local employee benefits, like mandatory sick time, overtime rules, etc.

    4. mediamaven*

      We had an employee move back with her parents in another state for the pandemic and she ended up not going back and man it caused an extreme fortune and a lot of headaches.

    5. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      Sometimes it isn’t about taxes. Some managers and higher-ups still like the idea of bodies in seats. My partner has been remote for several years, he just got a new internal job that could all be done remote, the direct manager doesn’t care, but the higher lrvel managers want an office culture. We’ve found it’s easier to go to remote after proving your worth in the job.

    6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      IMHO, it’s all about a feeling of control.

      Plus, if you’re local, your butt can be used to satiate a hungry chair in a crisis. That’s harder to do from 500 mi away, and management butts fear hungry chairs!

    7. Qwerty*

      Are the job descriptions listed as remote or do they have a city listed? Unless the job description says it is remote, assume it is on site. Or at least ask about it during the screening call with the recruiter rather than waiting for the offer stage.

    8. HR Exec Popping In*

      I don’t think you can convince them. At this point they obviously know that work can be done remotely but they are purposefully saying they want new hires to relocate to their location. That means they are making a conscious and thought out decision. And you don’t know why they have decided this so it is hard to come up with an alternate solution to address whatever their concern is.

      Many, many companies now are open to remote workers so focus on those companies instead of trying to convince this company.

    9. identifying remarks removed*

      Have you told the companies you’ve been applying to that you will not relocate? Or are you applying on the basis that you think you can change their minds once you get an offer?

  22. Green Snickers*

    Anyone here work for a start up in the beginning stages and bought into it in some way (ownership, stocks, etc?). How did it work out?

    1. No Tribble At All*

      I got in when the startup was fairly well-established. They gave me stock options as part of the long -term incentive (I think I had to buy them for $1 each). We were bought out 2 years later, and those options paid for my wedding & honeymoon.

    2. I Want to Break Free*

      Still waiting for my options to be worth anything after 13+ years…it is a lotto ticket, nothing more.

    3. Texan In Exile*

      My husband, an EE, worked for many startups in Silicon Valley, taking stock/options and reduced salary. At one point, he had $1MM worth of stock on paper.

      His financial advisor told him to hold.

      Stock lost all its value.

      TL;DR We are not rich people. You have to be very, very lucky to strike it rich in that game.

    4. JustaTech*

      My spouse was employee #2 at a startup that managed (against the odds) to succeed all the way to being purchased. He left before the purchase, but we had bought all his stock options (knowing that it was a gamble), so he made a pretty big chunk of change, and we bought a new house.

      Relevant caveats: the founder had already had one successful startup before, and was always looking for purchase rather than IPO. Second, they managed to pivot when their initial idea wasn’t working out. Third, they got really, really lucky with one random user that opened up a whole new industry for them that they wouldn’t have ever considered, and they ran with it as hard as they could. (So luck + seeing the luck + lots of hard work.) Fourth, it was a TON of work. Like, my spouse was on call, and the only person on call, for two years, which meant a lot of being woken up in the middle of the night to fix something, not being able to go on vacation, and one memorable time, having to drag his parents to work on the way to taking them to the airport so he could fix something.

      And let’s be clear; this wasn’t “never have to work again” money. It probably wouldn’t even have been “funemployment” money (he already had a new job by the time the payout came). This was “nicer house than we could have otherwise afforded, and some additional retirement investing” money.

      But of all our friends in this field, this is pretty unusual. We’ve also had friends who worked for startups that ended up with essential business expenses on their personal credit cards (and they weren’t the founder!) and generally got hosed.

      Comparison: I work for a company that was publicly traded and got grants of stock and stock options. In the end I still had like 10 stocks I couldn’t sell because the value of the stocks wouldn’t cover the transaction cost. (And then we went bankrupt, got bought by Evil Corp, Evil Corp imploded and sold us to some nice overseas overlords.)

      Basically, it’s a gamble, and even if it does pay off, the chances of it being “first five at Facebook” money are very, very slim. (Also, make sure you’re getting paid real money and get benefits while you’re working. The grocery store doesn’t accept stock options for bagels.)

    5. A penguin!*

      Several startups with stock options. All worth $0 now. Not particularly upset – I was fairly compensated for the roles, the stocks were gravy on top that I never counted on.

      On the other hand, wife’s stock options paid the entirety of our house downpayment.

    6. Green Snickers*

      Thanks everyone! For background, I’m just exploring some new career directions for now. Feeling very frustrated by long hours at big corp and the red tape- and general lack of interest in my job. Have no problem working long hours as long as my compensation is attached to it. Right now, I make a good salary and OK bonus but due to the structure of my company, it’s very hard to move up and I feel like I’m working myself to the bone to get a ‘Meets Expectations’ on my review and a COL raise. Definitely feel like money motivates me and I’m ready to try something else out with a different structure.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Start ups can be a blast if you don’t mind the hours and having a wide span of control/influence. CERTAINLY not big corp-esque and doubtful if you’ll ever get a performance review. But I echo those above who have said make sure your base comp is enough because those options may not ever be anything.
        Do thorough research on the founder and any investors. Have they done this before? What’s the exit strategy? A sale is way more likely (and better) than an IPO. What’s their cash position? How long will it last? Are their investors, if any, committed to supporting the next round of financing if necessary? Do they actually have paying customers?
        And don’t put company costs on your personal cc. Ever.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Ignore stock options, if they are offered. Do not think of stock options as a benefit, part of your pay or anything.

      My husband got stock options left and right. yeah. Option to buy at 40. I looked and the stock was 20. Why bother. The options were set to expire so I just shredded them. Worthless. And the bosses acted like they had given my husband a Mercedes. sigh.

    8. Got Quite Lucky*

      I started working for the ‘startup’ after 15 years so not exactly an early joiner, but it was still standard at that point to give out stock to new hires (at a declining rate each year). The company was not public so the stock had no ‘value’ unless the company was sold.

      The company *was* sold 2 years ago and I made good money from it. Those who joined early did even better (although I don’t think well enough to retire in general, more like well enough to pay off a good chunk of mortgage). Those who joined early and left just before the sale got pretty unlucky (the stock was such that if you left the company it was forfeited back to the pool to be given to new joiners).

    9. Malika*

      Tip here from someone who managed the paperwork at a start up at this stage. It is the pretty obvious one: Read the terms and conditions, and make your peace with them. If it states that you have to sell those stakes at any certain stage, there will be no other option but to go along with it. During my tenure at the start-up an investment round with new investors required this, and that meant initial investors had to relinquish their stake in the company. They got a nice chunk of change and it is exactly what they signed up for. While some of the investors were very happy as that was the desired outcome for them, others hadn’t perused the t an c so closely. They had wanted to hold on to them until a latter stage and that was tough luck for them.

  23. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Things I Wish I Could Say: “Lady, just because you put things in caps and follow it with several exclamation points doesn’t mean it’s true or that I’m going to change our policies for you.”

    Harrumph.

    1. PolarVortex*

      Things I wish I could say “Marking it as URGENT!!!! doesn’t mean I will read it any faster than the 500 other emails marked as URGENT!!!! by other people. Also: marking it as such 100% means it’s never urgent.”

      1. Adexis*

        I used to work with a woman who would mark every one of her voicemails as URGENT (which is apparently a thing you can do?). They were never urgent. They were all, in fact, extremely routine. I wanted to ask her if she’d ever heard of the boy who cried wolf.

      2. Hotdog not dog*

        Oh, ABSOLUTELY this! I had an email today marked “urgent” asking me to MAIL a paper copy of a February statement (which hasn’t been generated yet)!

      3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        I have reduced stress by setting up email rules so that anything whose subject line “URGENT” (whether or not it’s all-caps), “Response needed” and a few similar things goes to a special folder labeled “probably not urgent.” I then check it every few days, meaning I don’t have the screaming headline in my in-box. No, it is not urgent for me that $organization has set itself an arbitrary fund-raising goal and deadline, even if I sometimes donate to that group.

      4. MacGillicuddy*

        I worked at a company where the salespeople would put in projects that would have to move through other departments as the project got processed and completed. They put project write-ups in one basket where we’d pick them up to process. If a salesperson thought a project needed priority, they put the write-up on the top of the pile (and moved other people’s items underneath, sometimes rearranging the basket several times a day. Then they started marking their write-ups “HOT” in big letters.

        Pretty soon all the projects were coming in marked HOT. Then somebody started marking their projects “TORRID”.

        After a couple months of this (and complaints by those of us who had to process stuff) the VPs were forced up with a way to prioritize the projects. (this after all of us worker bees kept saying “they’re all marked torrid so we just take ‘em off the pile”)

    2. Workerbee*

      “Your failure to read the first, second, and third times I explained this function to you in response to your emails, and your evident non attention during the meeting where I also explained and demonstrated, and where you nodded and said you understood, does not warrant you sending an exclamatory message indicating I neglected to tell you about said function.”

      The function in question: How do I post an attachment to the forum?
      I have a finite amount of ways to show and tell: Click the big button that says Upload Attachment.

      (This person is able to locate where attachments are saved on his computer, so that at least I was spared.)

    3. Yellow Warbler*

      Dear Marketing Director:

      Yelling at people who use industry-standard language, instead of your favored quirky terminology, does not make you (or your job) more important.

    4. Juneybug*

      “No, time management is not my issue. My issue is trying to do 80 hours of work in one work week.”

    5. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Progressing as expected and usually speaks (language) in the classroom is a good report and does not require three emails and a request for regular follow up to discuss improvements in language use. I have 137 other kiddos to worry about and your child is doing fine.

  24. HR Lady*

    A couple of weeks ago I posted about my internal interview for a promotion; another role opened up at the same level and I interviewed for both. They were meant to make a decision on both roles by the end of this week. It’s just past 4pm here in the UK and I haven’t heard about either so I basically think I don’t have either.

    My colleagues are awesome and I don’t mind that they’ve been successful getting it but I’m a bit bummed out. My manager literally called me as I was typing this and nope, no updates. Sigh. I would like to know the outcome even if it’s no good so I can get on with my weekend and know if my 5pm glass of wine is a happy or sad one!

  25. NeonDreams*

    Has anyone successfully gotten a job internally from customer service to another department? If so, what steps did you take? I like my company and their values but I am severely burnout. I’ve tried to apply to several positions within my company, but it’s really competitive. I’m not sure how to make myself stand out. I do write a cover letter and have used many tips from AAM. I want to do something more behind the scenes. Where I’m not so public facing and talking to people all the time.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      Yup! At my Former Employer, I worked about eighteen months in customer service and transferred to a different department, where I stayed for about twelve years. What made it work for me was that one of the main points of my CS job was reading teapot specifications and finding other similar teapots. The new department was creating all the teapot specifications. Of course, there was much more to both jobs, but showing the direct link of “hey, I’ve been reading these for two years already” meant they didn’t have to spend time training me on what teapot specs were and how the worked. So my advice: aim for something where you can link what you’ve done to what you’re doing.
      Good luck!

    2. old curmudgeon*

      My younger kid accomplished that in his last job. He started out a second-shift call center worker, and when he left the company nine years later, he was a senior business systems analyst.

      In his case, he approached the initial position as an all-you-can-eat buffet and gobbled up as much knowledge and information about it as he possibly could. He earned SME status on several of the bigger contracts within six months, and steadily worked his way up the ladder into team lead and supervisor roles. After a couple of years as a supervisor with roughly 60 (!!) direct reports, he was burned out on that, not surprisingly, so he started positioning himself for a move into the IT area. The way he accomplished that was to emphasize all the front-line knowledge he had about the company’s various services, and how effective he could be in efforts to develop or enhance software applications for that area. It worked well for him, and he’d probably still be there if the company hadn’t been bought out by a global corporation that basically dismantled his entire work unit.

      So to translate that into general terms, I’d suggest that you go through all that you know about your company’s public-facing areas and write that up for yourself, then crosswalk that knowledge into other parts of the company to identify different jobs or tasks where your knowledge would be relevant. It’s Alison’s achievement-based resume approach, just tailored very specifically to a move within your company rather than a position with a different employer.

      Good luck, hope you have a success story to report soon!

    3. PolarVortex*

      A lot of people do it at my company, and since customer service is more entry level-ish, along with a few other departments, it’s always very competitive. A few thoughts:

      -Network. It truly often is about who you know, so start job shadowing if you can with other teams even just for ‘experience’ in better serving customers
      -Take advantage of ways to stand out at your company so others start to remember your name. Could be diversity groups or volunteer opportunities or being involved in a company newsletter. Seeing your name somewhere will trigger them to remember you in a non-negative way.
      -Consider lateral moves. That usually comes with a pay raise but not as much as moving up the ladder. But it’s easier to get a lateral move, and gives you a wider network, more experience than just customer service, etc. Look at that department that you’re laterally moving into too, see how/where people go from that department.
      -Set up informational meetings with managers prior to applying and ask questions. (For example see above, where do people in that department go as they grow in their career.)
      -Don’t burn bridges. I have seen a lot of our younger entry level people get angry about not getting jobs and they start doing things that worry their manager, HR, and the hiring manager – all of whom will then start to talk about X thing you did that was Not. Okay.

    4. SansaStark*

      My team has hired several people from our customer service department and overall, I love when we get someone from their department because they’re already familiar with our organization, know our database system better than anyone, have established relationships with other departments (always helpful when you unexpectedly need a favor from Tom in Accounting who you NEVER talk to), and know the basics of what our team does from answering so many calls/emails.

      I think a good cover letter where you show interest and knowledge about the specific department where you’re applying is really important. Research and maybe even talk to a lower-level person or two on their team might help with that. The calls from customer service were usually routed to me if they needed to talk to someone in the department, and I quickly got to know the people who asked good questions to be better at their own jobs and were just generally helpful if I had questions. They had made a good impression on me (and the rest of the team) so that definitely helped them in interviews.

      I also agree with the other replies here that finding a way to link some of your job responsibilities to the job description is key. Especially if it’s highlighting expertise you have with things like the database system or something specific that YOU as a customer service person have more experience with than someone from another team. Good luck!

  26. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Finished a second interview a few days ago with a company here in Europe. When I used my AAM learned grit to state my salary expectations, and presented my experience and qualifications as justification (I did ample research previous to the interview), the main interviewer stated “Oh, you can’t use your degrees as justification for salary expectations, because other people without degrees do fine work”. I mean, he has a point, but I just didn’t reply and let him go on to the next point. However, my degrees are directly related to this field, so I’m not sure if I hit a nerve? Should I not have mentioned them?

    1. OtterB*

      I don’t think you were wrong. “People can do good work without degrees” is not the same as “degrees don’t contribute to doing good work.” Especially since you presented experience as well as degrees.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        I really appreciate when people are able to point out false equivalencies because I always struggle with noticing them myself. Thank you!

    2. lost academic*

      Red flag. This is going to be the kind of place that uses flimsy justifications about how they compensate staff to reject requests for raises.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        That’s a good point. I’ll see if they are even able to reach my given range to begin with XD

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      You were right to mention degrees especially since they are directly relevant. In your locale is it normal to specify something like “degree required/preferred” in the person spec for the job? Was it specified for this job?

      I’m not sure that you “hit a nerve” as such though, as I don’t feel that his response was emotionally driven in nature… I wonder if there are very specific criteria (not including a degree, apparently!) that can drive salary expectations, and (inferred) raises beyond “cost of living” which are either his ‘thing’, or a policy of the company.

      I think I would have replied (in an assertive, not defensive/”here’s why you’re wrong” way) about how and why your qualifications do in fact contribute to how you’d be able to “hit the ground running” due to background knowledge or whatever the advantage is.

      I’m pretty sure, based on no real evidence at all (in what you wrote) but I’m still sure, that you ‘outrank’ him degree-wise and that may be the reason for this response.. I’ve come across this type many times.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          But in my experience with a manager characterising the “real work” as such… they had an approach that was quite rooted in their own experiences and/or in the limitations of how things were currently, rather than being open to alternative viewpoints that are out there… the kind of way of thinking that “we’ve always done it this way” etc. They saw the “real work” as exactly equivalent to “what their own experience led them to think”, for better or worse!

          Of course, I know it’s not always better to introduce new ideas but it frequently is.

    4. Derjungerludendorff*

      Yeah, that’s weirdly dismissive. The degrees represent relevant knowledge and skills for your work, and therefore how well you can do the job and how high your salary should be.
      They are absolutely relevant when discussing your salary, just like your other experiences and results.

    5. EU citizen living in US*

      I don’t know where you are from (are you European or an expat), but American business norms don’t translate directly. Particularly things like “grit” and stuff around compensation. I can totally see that response from someone from my country where degrees are valued but aren’t prerequisites like they are in the US. You may want to do some specific research to culture and norms if you’re operating in a foreign to you environment and/or aren’t getting the reactions you expect.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Thankfully I didn’t use the word “grit”. What was weird is they have hired a bunch of Americans as well, but weren’t particularly clear in spelling out job requirements to begin with. Normally, in my area, you MUST have a degree or an associated apprenticeship. But you’re right, it could have been a company culture thing!

  27. Cinnabun*

    Hi everyone. If you’ve been burned out by a job early-ish in your career, what did you do?

    I received a promotion at my job (been here about a year) into a temporary “leadership” position and realized…I am not good at leadership. Maybe I’m not even good at my job. I also was not compensated for the “leadership” position, I found out. Base salary at my company for this level is $20k above my current salary, and they gave me a 3% bonus, but when I asked to negotiate, my supervisor told me I should just be grateful. The temporary position lasts about 8 months, and then I return to my old position and pay. But today I found that my old job is being dissolved!

    Needless to say, I’m not feeling great. After this temp promotion, there is nowhere to go but into my boss’s position (she is leaving, and wants me to inherit her job) and I have…zero interest. I feel numb at work every day. And I’ve been working 50 hour weeks consistently now, which is turning into 60 hour with this temp promotion, which I’m not sure I’m doing well in at all. I don’t even understand why my boss wants me in her role.

    I feel incredibly unmotivated and just sad, even though I should be grateful. I have been wanting to quit my job, but I also was dedicated to staying here at least two years. My two “professional” jobs I’ve worked in I’ve stayed in for ALMOST two years and then left (moving, then toxic environment.) I’m afraid my resume will suffer. Looking for jobs in my city in my field is tricky because I feel like I can’t work anywhere without running into someone from my field, and it feels like the logical next job would be “moving up.” But I have a strong desire to just work a regular, low stress job. I have an option for a full time job but it doesn’t provide insurance, and I would need that if I plan to start meds for depression.

    I am honestly unsure what to do. I think I’m burned out, but I don’t feel like I’m able to move down from my position after this promotion. I don’t think I could afford a break for longer than a month without a job. And I def can’t be honest with my boss about this, she has brushed my feelings off as imposter syndrome, which I don’t disagree with… but I also don’t think this role is a good fit for me.

    I think I’m also frustrated that I can’t seem to like this job and enjoy the high stress. My boss seems to thrive on it, but I sadly do not. Any advice from those who might have burned out? What did you do?

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Not sure if this answers your question but I was in a leadership position a few different times over the years and I would always come to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me and look for roles that did not involve being a supervisor or manager. Third time, the message stuck and i have been in a non-supervisory role for quite a while. This is just where I thrive. I have been told I was a good manager, it just is not my comfort level and I, too, found myself getting burned out (I tend to really carry that burden!!). I think it’s absolutely fine to say, supervising is not for me. Can you just step back into your former position (that way you hopefully keep benefits)?

      1. Cinnabun*

        Unfortunately, they are not letting me step back until I finish this project (or…die? go away? then they might consider it) because we are short staffed. I have actually explicitly told my boss “I don’t think I find enjoyment in supervising or running a huge program” and she was shocked. Like could not understand! In her mind, if you’re not constantly moving up (in that way) you are not ambitious. I am glad to hear that you have found your comfort level in non-supervisory roles. Do you feel like you can make a good living without being in those supervisor roles?

    2. Distractinator*

      I completely get where you’re coming from, I’m in a situation of trying to balance inputs from my boss that I’d be a great candidate for management with not being sure I’d actually enjoy the role. For me it’s taking my history as an overachieving student and trying to make sure I don’t conflate “promoted to manager” with “success, gradeA, top score”. And it’s not all internal – managers can look at somebody who’s succeeding and think that getting that person into management is a reward. It’s the fallacy of “I had to be really smart/driven/capable/etc to get here (management) therefore anyone who doesn’t get here isn’t smart/driven/capable/etc” – so when you say you don’t want their job, they are confused, were they mistaken that you are smart and capable? So for what you describe, I’d try to define what a top-notch expert in your non-management role would look like, and what specific skills those are. Maybe you can even tie in your past year of semi-management as a learning experience: “Initially my role was ABC, and I really thrived there; then, over the last year as manager I’ve learned project management skills that would allow me to (team lead ABC, expand ABCD, improve A to fit the big picture needs)” but try to focus on what you DO want instead of what you DON’T want, same as in interview techniques where you don’t slam your old company by saying why you have to leave, you praise the new opportunity.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Having been in a somewhat similar position (different details, but essentially: ‘de facto’ a leader and struggled, then had it formalised, and similar burnout with deadlines and too many hours and so on…)

      You have been put into a really difficult position, imo. ‘Promoted’ into a temporary leadership role (I bet you were just ‘assigned’ to it, you didn’t apply for it or negotiate in any way, right? more like “oh btw Cinnabun, from 2 weeks on Monday you will now be in charge of the llama manicure area, kthxbye”? And who knows what the people you are now leading were told, if anything…!)

      Are your supervisor and your boss the same person? (wasn’t clear?)

      I can understand feeling unmotivated and sad in your situation, and I think I would as well. Taking on additional responsibilities (to “help out” perhaps? in a time of absence or some other disruption in the company?), getting through it knowing that you had an end date or at least an expectation that you’d go back to your old role … and then that role doesn’t exist any more!

      If you were to “inherit” the job permanently would you get the additional $20k? Has it been discussed?

      I think you need to unpick what “not good at leadership” means to you, and whether you are genuinely not suited to management/leadership or if it’s more of a consequence of the specific situation you’ve been placed in. (I use the word “placed” consciously, because clearly there’s someone higher-up in the company orchestrating that.)

      Have you had a chance to be good at leadership, really? (I’d suggest “no”).

      What do you dislike or feel you aren’t suited to about it? (If it’s something concrete like “I’ve discovered I’m much happier working on the day-to-day technical stuff / customer complaints / whatever the work is rather than being in meetings and dealing with people instead of factual stuff” that’s ok of course!)

      I have a strong desire to just work a regular, low stress job.

      This seems a fairly straightforward statement, but I think you could further dig into why. Is it that (and I am not criticising.. when I was a boss myself I loved people like this for some roles!) you just want a job that you can go in, be given your tasks for the day, carry them out, ask your supervisor about anything that’s uncertain and then go home on the dot? Or is it possible that the situation right now is crazy even outside of the leadership stuff, and it’s more of a reaction to that (I’ve inferred this is the case from you saying: “I’ve been working 50 hour weeks consistently now, which is turning into 60 hour with this temp promotion”).

      Why would you feel frustrated that you can’t like this job and enjoy the high stress? There are people that thrive on it (your boss may be one, or may not be. Do you know why / where to she is leaving?!) … and there are roles like that of course, but it doesn’t sound like this is intended to be one of them (?)

      Why do you feel you couldn’t move down from your position (is it an option?) – if leadership isn’t for you, then it is an option you could potentially consider.

      Would it be a 60-hour-a-week job if you took it on? Are you standing in for the boss currently?

      1. Cinnabun*

        Those are all really good questions! And you’re right, I was just assigned to it without being asked if I want it. It was just framed as “you got this! be grateful! now go on, do the work.” And so on…

        My supervisor and boss are the same person (are they usually different people?) We do have a Big Boss over the both of us.

        The thing is, this temporary job is very different from my boss’s job (or any job I’ve done before.) And my boss is leaving for a high profile federal job, which I imagine will be even more stressful than her current role.

        I say that I couldn’t move down from my position because at my company, there is nowhere to go with my job being dissolved but up. I am in a very specific niche that it would be hard to find a similar role in my company. Moving any lower than what I am now outside of that I imagine would get some questions (like I have a certain credential and a master’s to get into these positions, but now I don’t want to be in a leadership position.)

        I think I really miss some of the customer facing things and just dealing with the technical side, not just being in meeting after meeting every day and trying to orchestrate things to happen on this bigger scale. I don’t think I’m suited to this kind of work. Or maybe not here. You’re giving me lots to think about though, so thank you!

  28. Ryan*

    My company has a checkered history with DE&I. It’s about 60% female, 80-90% white, and they have a hard time wrapping their heads around how to improve upon DE&I at the top without turning it into a hidden quota system because they just want numbers they can brag about.

    I’m at the cusp of senior management and hoping to get promoted in the next round, and the company has said they want to use that round to promote diversity, which I’m all for.

    The challenge is, I present as a straight, white, cis male. I’m not out as TG to my family or my friends. I’m not looking to leverage my identity, but I’m also not looking to get passed over because of my identity. And yes, I have plenty of evidence I won’t go into to suggest that’s how the company will approach promotions this year – as a zero sum game. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s how they do it pretty much every year.

    I don’t think there’s a solution here, but interested in what others think.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      For those of us playing the home game…. DE&I?
      I’m guessing Diversity, something, and Inclusivity?

      1. OtterB*

        Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

        Comes from realizing that “diversity” – getting people from underrepresented groups in the door – is not enough if you don’t also make them feel a part of the organization (inclusion), and that people need to be treated fairly in terms of compensation and opportunities (equity).

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        DE&I generally means: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

        @Ryan, I am not an expert, so I don’t know if this helps: It sounds like the company is *NOT* doing enough of is creating a system to mentor and grow talent internally. That’s not about a quota system, but focusing on giving stretch assignments to BIPOC and LGBTQ+employees, them rewarding those efforts and helping those populations close the gaps the larger system has created (e.g. education/training; stretch assignments; inviting them to speak in their voice, rather than coaching to be like the others in the room).

    2. Web Crawler*

      I’m not sure what the question is here. Is whether to factor that into your decision to come out? Because that’s a valid thing to do- it’s your identity and your decision. Don’t let that be the only factor, though- coming out can be a lot, and there’s more to your life than work.

      Source: came out as trans and it went well but it was a lot

      1. Web Crawler*

        Also, a company that sees diversity as numbers and quotas (instead of humans and experiences) might not be a great place to work as a newly out trans person. People like that tend to make things uncomfortable. And when you’ve just come out, you’re often already outside your comfort zone, and people being like “OH WOW, YOU’RE SO BRAVE” or introducing you as “this is X, she’s trans” or other well-meaning gestures can take their toll.

    3. Two Cents*

      I wouldn’t say anything to them about your identity. It’s probably not going to help you that much anyway. If they want to promote you, then they will. If they choose not to promote you, regardless of reason, you’ll have to evaluate whether or not staying at this company fits in with your career goals.

    4. Qwerty*

      If you think they just want numbers to brag about, that’s a big flag. I was the only woman in management at my last company, and that became their weapon against anyone who brought up discrimination concerns. “What are you talking about, Qwerty is a strong female manager! Qwerty is going to be our first female director!” (out of 15 existing male directors).

      1. Girasol*

        Numbers will generally reveal such tokenism, though. If the ratio women to men or whites to other races doesn’t match the local population, but there’s a single example of the minority at whatever level, it shows.

  29. Funny Cide*

    Our accounting team had a bit of a snafu with President’s Day and paychecks this week and had to delay payday by a day. However, because my bank account is with the same financial institution as my workplace, my check went through twice instead. They called and asked my permission to withdraw the second payment and got it in a written email as well. I didn’t think about it til after the fact, but what would have happened if I hadn’t given permission? Could I have kept the money?

    1. Natalie*

      You likely authorized them to fix errors when you enrolled in direct deposit, so they were more being polite and alerting you than actually asking for needed permission.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      You could have kept it, but they could call it an overpayment and take it out of your next check (making the next one basically $0).

      They will get it back. The way they did it is the easiest way for most people.

      1. Funny Cide*

        I was pretty certain I couldn’t have just had a spare chunk of change but have to admit it would have been nice! I’m glad we handled it the easiest way, though. Thanks everyone for the input.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Yea, I feel like those are your two options. Let them recall the cheque for a pay period, or skip your next paycheque as it’s already been paid to you.

        I could see a small business that’s not hard up for the money just letting you get paid in advance, but any big organization or one that’s on tight numbers is going to claw it back, one way or another. Better to just cooperate and preserve your good will.

      1. Green Snickers*

        Umm no. The company would have just withheld from her next paycheck. Please don’t fear monger!

    3. HR Exec Popping In*

      They do need your approval to withdraw from your account, but if you refused you would still owe them the money back. Your choice would likely to be to write them a check or have it withheld from your next paycheck.

  30. Potatoes gonna potate*

    So I’m at the stage where I’m thinking about which direction to go in. I managed a bookkeeping team at my last long term job; i like bookkeeping, I liked managing and I’m also interested in exploring HR. The latter is a very very early thought. 

    I’ve worked in taxes since 2011. I was employed for 5+ years at a firm (did taxes etc and promoted to managing Bk), let go at COVID, started a new job and was let go after a few weeks for not catching on fast enough. The last one hit my pride hard. 

    After some reflection and actually talking to a few ex coworkers, it turns out I’m not the only one who struggled with life after our firm; several were let go or struggled at their next job. Most recently I was having a conversation with a former senior manager. He shared that his title didn’t translate well outside our firm and he had to take a few steps down in pay and position. This was the smartest, passionate and most hardworking person I knew there. So…..now I know my initial instinct of applying for lower level jobs wasn’t wrong.

    I liked taxes and bookkeeping but I can’t/don’t want to do the tax season hours anymore. I have no desire to be self employed.

    OTOH I also liked managing. I liked interviewing and coaching. But realistically I know I can’t be a senior/manager anywhere else just yet, I will need to take a few steps down. I think managing falls in line with how I like to operate, which is have a plan, see the big picture.

    And then the HR interest comes in—Im in a few acc groups online and I read about accountants who hire for their own business and their suggestions/thought processes make me cringe so hard (I can provide examples if interested) after reading this blog for years. Maybe that’s not enough to change careers idk?

    Truth be told, I know this ahout myself that I am not brilliant or passionate. And that’s ok. I like to do good work and collect a paycheck so I can support myself and my family. Be friendly and social with coworkers. That’s all I’m looking for out of my career. Stability, security.

    I guess I’m a little all over the place. I have a license but I’m not eligible to sit for CPA nor can I go back to school at this time.

    1. Ashely*

      I would look at small companies (those there are risk on crazy managers there galore sometimes) where you could be their accounting person. Depending on the size it is just you or you and a few others. Most small companies will have an outside accountant for the super heavy tax stuff but need someone to handle the general tax items. In my experience the accounting department often overlaps with HR responsibilities.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, our small company has a person who is HR (certified and all) who also has financial and office mgr duties.

  31. Casey*

    A question for any hiring manager, but especially anyone in local government: I applied for an entry-level job with my local county planning office. I have the right degree (or will in May), I have unique experience that ties directly into work I’d be doing, and I have good references. The only thing is that the county is currently going through the comprehensive planning process, complete with (virtual) public workshops. I’ve attended every single one so far, because I have the time and I’m incorporating the experience into a project for school, but I’m definitely sharing some of the most radical ideas for the future of the county that aren’t always popular with my neighbors.
    Is it a red flag in my fairly small county that I’m so outspoken about these ideas? I mentioned in my cover letter that I’ve enjoyed attending the workshops and learning about the needs and desires of other residents and how I can help address some of those concerns, but I’m still a little worried.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I think it really depends on your county. A lot of places love that level of enthusiasm, but some might be hesitant. FWIW, I work in government with a lot of people who formerly were involved in nonprofit & community groups. It didn’t hurt them when they switched to government work.

    2. Jaded Millenial*

      It will entirely depend on who is doing the hiring. I work in a small municipal planning office in a mainly rural Conservative county, but the entire planning office slants personally liberal. Being engaged but not standing out would be the ‘safest’ path, but you could have given yourself a leg up as likely as a knock back. Good luck!

    3. Anonymous for This One*

      I am a hiring manager in a local county planning office! We are also redoing our comprehensive plan and having lots of virtual workshops. So I’ll be totally honest and say that someone from the public who has been an outspoken advocate for *any* policy at our workshops would hamstring themselves in a recruitment. The reason is that professional planning staff are supposed to be objective professionals. Someone who has identified themselves as an advocate has blurred the lines in terms of public perception of them later. Just attending the workshops as an interested/engaged member of the public would be a plus. Outspoken advocacy is a minus, in this specific context.

      1. Casey*

        Good to know, thank you! I’ve been pretty diplomatic, but I think I’ll still write this job off and let it be a pleasant surprise if I get a call back.

    4. Middle Manager*

      I manage the advisory board for a government agency and I am a hiring manager. For me, it would totally depend on the type of comments the person had made. I would be impressed if the person had made substantive comments for change that are based on feasible reality and made in a respectful and professional way. We have some of those people for sure.

      But we also have people who make pipe-dream type comments, things that may (or in some cases may not) look great on paper, but don’t show a true understanding of basic government constraints (local, state, federal regulations; budgets; staffing; realistic timelines in government). Also people who are rude, unprofessional, and on occasion down right nasty. Also people who don’t no how to take no for an answer. Also people unwilling to see their comment is the minority opinion. Anyone in those types of groups, I’d never hire.

  32. Tips and Tricks*

    Does anyone have tips and tricks on becoming comfortable with being in a project lead role? I literally get indigestion when I have to be the decision maker and driver on these big projects. I’m so nervous that I’ll make a mistake that I clam up. In meetings, it feels like not a single original thought will pop up in my head.

    This is my first time being a project lead when previously I’ve been in support roles, not making decisions at work, but supporting someone once they’ve made that decision. A little afraid that me being this torn up about it means I’m not cut out for leadership roles.

    1. I Want to Break Free*

      From my experience, the comfort comes with…experience. It will take a couple projects, some failures and some successes for you to find the style that works for you and works with any given group you may be leading.

      Think of the team you are a leading as being your support, as you were to other decision-makers. They weren’t doing it alone when you were supporting them. And you aren’t either.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      First, I want to focus on your last line about not being cut out for leadership. Give yourself more grace. You are literally doing this for the first time *ever*. Learning is always uncomfortable; that’s a sign you’re in your growth zone (as long as you’re uncomfortable and not in pain/panic).

      Second, some practical advice: Try to identify someone trustworthy to take on the support role you filled in the past. This person can be your sounding board. If they’re junior, this is a developmental opportunity for them. If they’re senior, they’ll have experience to share.

      Or, you can find more than one person, get all the benefits for everyone.

    3. Allypopx*

      Give yourself wayyyy more slack! The first time is always nerve wracking, and honestly? This sounds terrifying but the best experience is making mistakes are realizing the world doesn’t end. You will probably not do everything perfectly, and that’s okay! You’ll do your best, and presumably you’re in this role for a reason.

      If you get meeting anxiety try to do the majority of your brainstorming before the meeting, or even after when you have the meeting context to work from. You don’t necessarily have to have a brilliant original idea at every meeting, in the moment. Sometimes you don’t need super original ideas at all, falling back on what works is often okay – it works for a reason.

      You’ll be okay, I’d focus now on trying to relax and getting out of your own head a little, whether that means scheduling yourself sometime to debrief yourself and process your thoughts, or focusing on ways to manage your anxiety, or asking for guidance from people who have led projects before that you trust (not the answers, just guidance to how they handled the pressure or directed their thought processes), or whatever helps you feel a little more grounded. But you DON’T need to be perfect, so don’t worry so much about that.

    4. Colette*

      I’m concerned that you’re afraid of making mistakes. You’re going to make mistakes – hopefully minor ones, but there’s going to be something. So not making mistakes can’t be your goal. Can you maybe focus on catching and resolving mistakes quickly instead?

    5. ferrina*

      Do you want a leadership role? That’s a serious question. Some people hate leading, and that’s fine! There are plenty of jobs where you don’t need to be a big decision maker. But if you want to do this and you’ve liked leading in other parts of your life, just know that first project jitters are VERY normal.
      Some tips for getting through that first project-
      I echo I Want to Break Free- don’t go it alone! Who are your mentors? Your subject matter experts? Being a leader doesn’t mean that you’re the smartest person in the room- it means that you know how to use different people’s intelligence to the greatest advantage.
      Find your weak spot. Know where you are weak, and it won’t blindside you. It sounds like you have trouble speaking up? Get a mentor to give you feedback. Practice.
      Find your quirks. I think better when I’m moving. That’s just me!
      Set some time aside to reflect. How is the project going? How are you doing? How is the team? Mistakes are going to happen- that’s human! The best thing you can do is understand why and how to avoid it next time (if possible- sometimes it really is unavoidable).
      And breathe. You’ve got this! Life is a grand adventure, and this is just one chapter. Good luck!

    6. Girasol*

      It might depend on what your style is. If you’re aiming at driving leadership, like, “We’ll do the project this way,” then you know there’s a risk that you’ll be wrong or people won’t agree, which is kind of intimidating. If you’re more of a servant leader, you might ask, “What are your ideas for how we can accomplish the task? How shall we choose between your two best ideas? All right, I’ll put that decision in our project plan,” then you leverage the ideas of others and there’s less of a spotlight on you yourself.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Not exactly the answer you might be hoping for- but since the worry now has a physical component with your stomach acting up, please also consider treating the physical symptom as well as the emotional driver of the symptom.

      Have a spoonful of Pepto or your go-to product before work or before meetings. It’s amazing if I don’t have to fight with the physical symptom, I can better use my plan and gain a lot more traction quicker. All just because my insides are in knots or my head doesn’t ache or whatever.

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      In meetings, it feels like not a single original thought will pop up in my head.

      Prepare! Prepare! and then just do a little bit more thinking, just in case :-)

      What kind of situations (in meetings) are calling for original thoughts? e.g. …. Is it people presenting a problem and not knowing a way forward, so they state in the weekly meeting that X is a “blocker” and that’s why they haven’t made progress, for example? (ask me how I know…!) So that you feel like you ought to be able to ‘solve’ the blocker on the spot in order to keep the project on track?.

      It sounds like you need to make decisions and drive things based on information presented to you, so, if you don’t have enough info to make the decision or give direction then ask for more information. It may be that people don’t have the info you need right there and they have to go off and research it, and of course that’s ok for them to get back to you later.

      I don’t think there are any ‘shortcuts’ to this process… it’s a case of seasoning and experience. I wouldn’t conclude that you are “not cut out for leadership roles” based on your first PM experience otherwise there’d be no PMs :-) but in seriousness — depending on the context in which you were given this assignment, it seems that you may be being evaluated for your ability to be a project lead, and I expect you (like anyone!) to make mistakes but even with mistakes it’s clear whether there’s any aptitude or not — I don’t think it can be distilled down to a “how to”, but here’s my best shot:

      – Always be on top of paperwork (could be project status reports, RAID logs and things like that), it may seem mundane keeping them up to date with RAG status or whatever, but there are people downstream of you using those reports in their own work. And higher-ups with visibility of them :)
      – Act as a facilitator as much as an individual contributor, e.g. if you get asked something in a meeting and you don’t know the answer yourself, redirect it to someone else in the meeting (if you are pretty sure they have the info already) otherwise take an action to get the info and report back.
      – Own your own role and shamelessly ask people that ‘report’ to you (on a dotted line basis) for info you need. “Hi Jane, can I please get an update on aspect X of project Y before the end of Tuesday, Thanks!” vs “Hi Jane, so I was in the project Y meeting yesterday and Exec Sponsor Z asked about aspect X, so I said I’d report back but to be honest I haven’t really been involved with X so any chance could you give me a bit of detail of where we are so I can add it to the document? I need to send it on Wednesday morning….”
      – … etc.

  33. Salsa Your Face*

    I was laid off from my job this week after a corporate restructuring. I’m also 6 weeks pregnant. I know that pregnant women find jobs all the time, and I know all the advice about not mentioning the pregnancy until after an official offer has been made. I suppose I’m just looking for some positive words, or maybe some stories from people who found themselves in a similar situation. It took me a year to find my current job. I’m terrified.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I was on the hiring side of the table when a visibly pregnant person was interviewed. I absolutely hired her because she was best qualified. If employers won’t hire a best qualified candidate because they are pregnant (if they know) then that is not someone you necessarily want to work for. One co-worker of mine has been out 3 times on maternity leave in the last 8 years. We managed! but were glad when she came back.

    2. Eleanor Knope*

      I don’t have a similar story to share with you, but I just want to say I’m so sorry you’re going through such a stressful time! I hope you’re able to find a new role quickly. Congratulations on your new addition. Sending positive thoughts and vibes your way!

    3. JustaTech*

      One of my favorite coworkers at a previous job got her post-doc position while like 8 months pregnant, so basically started and went straight on leave. (I don’t know if it was paid or not.) I think she interviewed over the phone, but her boss was like “I’d rather wait 3 months knowing I’ve got someone great than settle for an OK person right now.”

      Good luck!

    4. Lizy*

      I’ve interviewed – and gotten – jobs while pregnant twice. I just simply didn’t mention it until I was hired, and was matter-of-fact about it both times.

      Good luck!

    5. The teapots are on fire*

      My former library director told the story of when she interviewed visibly pregnant and tried to hide it by keeping her coat on. The personnel librarian finally looked at her and smiled and said, “We’re so happy about the baby.” She was hired as refernence librarian and retired as the director.

    6. Sandman*

      I interviewed and was hired when I was around 12-14 weeks pregnant with my third and it went very smoothly for me. One thing is that the workplace deciding if they want to hire a pregnant woman is the same workplace that will be employing the parent of an infant and then small child. To me the silver lining of interviewing pregnant is that some of the less-supportive workplaces may self-select out – not how the world should be, but sometimes how it is.

  34. Flaxseed*

    To preface, I work in a toxic place. I am the third person in my position in 2 years. Back in September, “Fergus” asked me to meet with a vendor because he had a meeting and had to leave. I filled in for Fergus and gave the vendor old Teapots that we’re not using. Fergus showed me where everything was and I dealt with the vendor.
    At a recent meeting, apparently there were teapots that the vendor wasn’t supposed to take and no one marked down the numbers on the teapots, so the teapot inventory is all messed up.

    When my boss addressed this with Fergus, he said that he was not at that meeting. No one came out and blamed me, but my boss keeps bringing up the fact that the inventory was inaccurate. I didn’t know that certain teapots were not supposed to be taken and I was too busy moving things and helping the vendor that there was no time to write down what was being taken.

    I also feel a little betrayed by Fergus because he is like teflon and immediately said that he was not there, which is true, but we’re supposed to be a team, yet he only cares about himself. (He will throw others under the bus.) Fergus didn’t say to keep track of things or that certain things were not supposed to be removed.

    It’s in the past so nothing can be done now and it’s a learning lesson for next time, but should I say anything if my boss brings it up again? I’m hesitant to help him because I somehow end up in trouble…

    1. TimeTravlR*

      How about, “I’m sorry, I was unaware that I should mark them down. I was covering the meeting for the first time but I definitely now know to do that next time.” Doesn’t quite throw Fergus under the bus.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I’m tempted to throw Fergus under the bus a little…

        “I’m sorry, I was unaware that I should mark them down. Fergus asked me to step in to cover the meeting and, since this was my first time covering the meeting, I didn’t know all of the procedures, but I definitely now know to do that next time.”

    2. Reba*

      Wait, were you able to explain yourself whenever this was raised before It’s not clear to me from your post what you have said when your boss has mentioned it so far. It’s not throwing anyone under the bus to say you were not informed, whatever hand-off you got from Fergus did not include the instructions that ended up being important! You could add that you’ve learned to ask for these possible special instructions before taking on a vendor call…

      1. Flaxseed*

        I started to explain myself, but my boss moved on to the next topic, so I haven’t been able to. (We were in a meeting going over items and she sort of mentioned it. The second time she brought it up, her phone rang, so I had to leave her office.)

        1. Reba*

          Huh, bad luck! I think that if she raises it again, or if there is a natural opportunity, you could still work it in (“By the way, since we are talking about X Vendor, I wanted to clarify something about Y vendor order…”). Just try to sound like sharing information, not defensive.

  35. Mimmy*

    Can anyone recommend some good resources for getting a foundational understanding of education and learning? I’ve been intrigued with learning in general, but now that I have my sights set on higher education disability services, I’m interested in learning (ha!) more about education; for example, how teaching is different between K-12 and college.

    The masters degree I’m seeking is specifically geared towards this field, but weirdly has no coursework on student development or learning theory (possibly because many students are in the field already or in a related setting, such as K-12).

    1. Tessera Member 042*

      No specific sources for you, but two terms to help you in your search: pedagogy is the philosophy of education of children, while andragogy is the philosophy of education of adults.
      I also highly recommend Margaret Price’s book Mad at School as a disability studies perspective on higher education!

  36. Analytical Tree Hugger*

    Question about reference checks, from the hiring manager’s perspective:

    How do you weigh reference checks (e.g. help you verify what the candidate shared in the interview process versus evaluating candidates against one another)?

    Corollary, do you do reference checks for your top two candidates (seems time consuming) or do you do them in sequence (i.e. top candidate turned down offer, then check refereneces for #2 candidate)?

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’ve only been the hiree but I’ve experienced both. I think it’s most common for an offer to be made and then a reference check done just to verify there aren’t any major red flags (almost like a background check, which are often done at the same time). In my current job, my boss called the references for me and the other top candidate before making an offer, and from what I’ve heard from my references, really drilled down into the specifics of my work. He then had another conversation with me to address some things he heard in the reference check. It was by far the most intensive reference check experience I’ve had as a candidate, and is probably how I’d approach references if I were a hiring manager. I should note, though, that this is a mid-senior level position and hiring the wrong person to this position would be very costly to the organization. I’m not sure it makes sense to do such intensive reference checking for an entry level or “easily replaceable” position.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Like any other superstition, it’s going to be applied inconsistently and conveniently. You can’t really generalize from one scenario to another.

  37. JustaTech*

    In the ongoing saga of trying to get my working relationship with my coworker Betty back on track, this week was a thing.

    Last week she got really mad at me when I said she was “audacious”, because the definition she found was just “rude”. Then this week she said “Oh, I figured out what you meant by audacious when I sassed a cop.” Yes, sassing a cop and getting away with it was exactly what I meant (although in a work context, not a law enforcement context), so I’m glad we got that figured out.

    Then, when I complained that our 3X boss was throwing yet another pizza party (gah!) Betty announced that I probably have anxiety, that treatment is life changing, and that when she had a bad time last year someone suggested she use our EAP and they had some really useful stuff to read.

    “Useful stuff to read” is not what I would call “treatment”. Also, thanks for pathologizing my healthy concern about my 3X boss’ disregard for current safety guidelines.

    Thankfully we have lab work next week which should give us both a chance to be around each other while doing other stuff and smooth out some of our collective rough edges.

      1. JustaTech*

        Today was better. Part of it is that it’s just so much easier to tell in person what kind of mood she’s in, if she’s up for some gentle ribbing or not.

        This is one of the big challenges with text-based communication: it’s hard to convey tone the way you can in person with your actual tone, body language, facial expression, gestures, etc.

  38. Mr. KV*

    Based on the letter earlier this week about pronouns in email signatures, I wanted to post a suggestion to our company’s D&I portal about adding a space to our email signature template for pronouns and encouraging staff to use them. My company has been focusing real hard on D&I this year, but has a pretty spotty history with LGBT+ relations (especially in certain regions/offices). Does anyone have experience leading a charge like this?

    I’m debating adding a bit to my post about how pronouns can also be helpful to cis people with names that could be applied to either gender (mine is like that and I’m occasionally referred to as a Ms. by clients who I haven’t met in person). On one hand, it seems like something that could convince people who are transphobic (or at the very least don’t care about trans and NB issues), but I also don’t want to imply that someone making a bad assumption about my gender is on the same level as the harassment trans people face.

    1. up the wolves*

      I have not lead this, but I’m a certified queer person, so I have feelings. I think using names like Kim or Jamie or Pat is really helpful, because it normalizes it. It makes it stop being “oh we’re doing this just for the folks over there” and becomes “we’re doing this for all of us”. It’s like with curb cuts in sidewalks. They’re useful for wheelchairs, for strollers, for everyone. And it standardizes it; there’s definitely folks at my job who put Mr. or Ms. before their names in their sigs because of confusion, so it’s just taking that and making it part of a standard form to help out. And it makes them stop feeling like they’re needing to add something extra if it’s just part of the normal template.

      I do not put my pronouns in my sig. I have, however, seen lots of straight cis folks doing it. And I think that’s great! It helps normalize it and makes it seem like just something that people do. As long as you’re not trying to force people (for instance, I’m not out as trans at work; forcing me to put specific pronouns in that I use at work is not just forcing me to closet myself, it’s forcing me to see it in my sig all the time), then I think every little step helps.

    2. Natalie*

      I think you’re overthinking it a little? Pointing out, correctly, that listing pronouns could have multiple benefits isn’t making any kind of claim about the relative value or importance of those benefits.

      This is, in fact, a common observation about the value of inclusion – it helps us as a whole, not just the specific group that asked for it originally. Curb cuts for wheelchair users that also benefit anyone pushing a stroller or cart is probably the classic example.

    3. Managing In*

      I don’t think it seems like you are implying that. I actually don’t see how putting pronouns in your signature is related to the harassment trans people experience? Pronouns in your signature just intended to = people don’t accidentally call you by the wrong pronouns or make assumptions about your gender.

    4. PollyQ*

      I’m not trans, but one thing I’ve heard from those who are is that if they’re not “out”, then being encouraged to share their pronouns can actually make them more uncomfortable, since their AAB pronouns aren’t right, but they’re not ready to share their real ones. So I’d definitely lobby for them to be allowed and have a specified place in the signature template, but maybe use wording like “you’re welcome to add your pronouns” rather than putting even mild pressure on folks to do it.

  39. extremely anon for this*

    Going anon for this because it’s just… so extremely out there that I feel uncomfortable discussing it. As it is I’m very uncomfortable with how much identifying information I’ve included here. (If you think you recognize me please… just don’t say it?)

    My boss hits me, and I’m having trouble talking about it. He has struck me three times in the past eight days. I want to clarify that he does not hit me very hard (open-handed slaps on the bicep, there has never been a bruise), and that before this month he had only ever hit me once last summer. I have seen him hit other people similarly, but they were middle-aged men (his own demographic), while I am significantly smaller, almost twenty years younger, and he thinks I’m female (afab nb not really out at work).

    When it happened last week, after the meeting ended I demanded an apology and used the advice Alison previously gave a letter writer in a post on September 3, 2013 to tell him to stop. As Alison recommended, I assumed it was a one-time error in judgment and tried to move on. I did drop a quick text to the HR manager to let her know it had happened, and she said she’d talk to him.

    Except now he’s done it twice more this week. Again, I demanded an apology after the meeting ended, and received one. He seems like he… doesn’t register that he’s doing it? He always seems surprised when I point out he hit me, as if it’s so natural to him that he doesn