start-up founder with no work experience, my boss says I killed the business, and more

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

1. My friend’s start-ups are struggling and I think it’s because he has no real work experience

I have a friend who I’ll call Jake. Jake is a genuinely nice guy, motivated and could charm just about anyone. He has his own podcast, has co-founded several start-ups across different sectors, has connections everywhere, and has won several awards for entrepreneurship.

However, his start-ups are struggling and he has approached me for advice since we are close friends and so far I’ve been successful in building my own career (although I don’t own my own business and don’t work within the industries he is interested in). It has reached a point where he is very depressed by his lack of success and most of our conversations now involve him complaining about his work.

One issue I see is that Jake doesn’t have any traditional work experience. By that I mean he has never been managed by someone other than himself, never worked in a team that he wasn’t leading, never had to stick to a schedule set by someone else, etc. One of his start-ups is aimed at providing management consultancy services to SMEs, but he has never worked in management consulting, which I believe is the main reason his firm is losing out to more experienced competitors.

My instinct is to tell him to decide on what industry he wants to run a business in, and actually gain experience working in that industry. Then he could learn some skills to help him put his ideas into practice.

However, I’m only 22 and far from an expert myself, especially as my career aspirations are very different to his. What do you think would be best for Jake to do?

The advice you want to give Jake is the same advice I’d want to give Jake. It is very hard to credibly offer services to others when you don’t have experience in that area.

I don’t see any harm in offering that advice to him; it’s not terribly insulting or offensive, and it sounds like he’s raising his worries with you a lot. That said … I wouldn’t be surprised if Jake doesn’t take it. He sounds like someone who very much wants to run his own thing. If he’s never seriously considered traditional employment, there’s probably a reason for it. That said, if he’s complaining to you all the time, you’re certainly on firm ground in pointing out that building up his credentials by working for others is a common way people solve the problem he’s having.

2. My boss says I killed the business when I gave notice

I’m in a general-manager-type position for a small, agricultural business. It’s common, but not required, in this industry to give significantly more than two weeks notice. Due to a combination of factors, I was only able to provide two weeks notice to my boss (the business owner), and needed to do it via email to ensure it was received, and because we don’t often cross paths.

I’m leaving for a few reasons, largely personal, also involving a new job (that I’m very excited about, is a step in the right direction for my long-term career goals, etc). He is telling me that the business will absolutely fail, and it will be entirely my fault. I’m not sure I agree with this, but it has me absolutely devastated, crying and unbearably anxious about finishing my two weeks. I know I won’t get a reference out of him, and I don’t need it. Any advice on surviving the next two weeks? Is he right, did I kill this small business?

Whoa, this is really unfair. If the business will fail without you giving more notice, the business was so precarious that it was going to fail anyway. What if you’d been suddenly hospitalized, or worse? What if you had a family emergency and couldn’t give any notice? Those things happen; healthy employers know it’s part of running a business and make do.

Also, the point of a notice period isn’t so your replacement can be found and trained; the standard two weeks notice doesn’t normally even allow for a replacement to be hired. Work is transferred to someone who can do it in the interim.

Your boss is guilt tripping you because you’ve done something inconvenient for him, not because you did something truly wrong. (To be clear, he may genuinely believe what he’s saying! He’s still wrong.)

3. Asking about time off after reading bad Glassdoor reviews

I’m in the final stages of the interview process with a company that offers unlimited vacation as one of its benefits. I’m aware that in many cases, people often end up taking less time than they typically would if they had a defined number of vacation days available. Recently a new Glassdoor review was posted that absolutely shredded the company, giving them the lowest ratings across the board. One of the issues brought up in the review was that they expect 24/7 availability and that although the company offers unlimited vacation, if you try to take more than a few days off at a time, you’re judged and treated as if you aren’t committed to the company.

I’m coming from years of an intense, high-pressure work culture where I rarely took vacation time, and one of the things I’m looking for is more balance. I know Glassdoor reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, but this company only has a few, so that does concern me a bit — especially because even the positive reviews include comments like “expect to go above and beyond if you want to succeed” (which in itself isn’t a red flag but coupled with the negative reviews that mention lack of balance, it’s worrying). If I receive an offer, is there a polite way to ask about the work/life balance and the average number of vacation days people in the company take? Or would that come across as not taking the job seriously? I’m fine with an average of 10-15 days per year and I am a pretty driven, hard worker in general — I just don’t want to leave the high-pressure situation I’m already in for one that’s even worse.

Yes, absolutely ask about it. You can say you haven’t worked somewhere with unlimited vacation time before and have questions about how it works in practice. Asking how many vacation days most people take in a year is smart and, given that Glassdoor review, I’d also ask how often people take a full week or two weeks off at a time. That’s not going to come across as not taking the job seriously — time off is generally understood to be a benefit people care a lot about. If they react poorly to the question, that would tell you a ton about working there.

4. Quitting right after getting a promotion to “senior”

The company I work for froze all promotions and merit increases in 2020. During that year, a lot of coworkers in my department quit, and I have been picking up their work and responsibilities. At the end of the year, I went to my manager with a solid case that I was (1) underpaid for my current position and (2) actually doing the work of a higher position (arguably for longer than just last year), and asked for both a promotion and a significant raise (without specifying a dollar amount). I was told that our merit cycle occurred in Q2 and he couldn’t do anything before then.

I’m unsure if they will offer a level of compensation that would make me want to stay, but I think they are likely to give me the title bump. I have enough savings that I could comfortably resign on the spot if I’m not happy with the raise. But then how would I handle this on my resume? If, say, I put in two weeks’ notice the day after I’m offered the promotion, do I list the job as “Senior Llama Wrangler, 2018-2021”? Or “Llama Wrangler, 2018-2021, Senior Llama Wrangler 2021-2021”? Or just “Llama Wrangler, 2018-2021” if I don’t actually do much work for them while officially holding the “Senior” title?

Does the answer change if I stick it out for a few weeks or months before leaving? How much is the “Senior” title on my resume likely to help me with future job searches? I know I should really be job hunting while holding this job, but I don’t feel like I have the energy right now to do both without half-assing my current job.

If you only had the title for two weeks — and for the two weeks you were transitioning out of the job, no less — I would not include that title on your resume. I know you’re thinking the title bump would be recognition of work you were already doing, but if you didn’t formally hold the title until your final two weeks it doesn’t really make sense to include it. (And in fact, your employer may not even process the title bump if you resign the day they tell you they’re giving it to you, meaning that if a reference checker verifies your title, they’d just hear the old one.)

If you stayed for a few months after the title change, then it’s reasonable to use the Senior title on your resume … but a few months of it isn’t likely to be a big enough deal that you should change your timeline for leaving. Senior vs. non-senior isn’t likely to have a big impact at all in most fields — the specific accomplishments you’ll list for that job will carry much more weight.

5. Can I resubmit a better version of my resume?

I’m aggressively job searching right now due to potential layoffs. When I heard this could be happening a few weeks ago, I panicked and started to apply for a bunch of positions. I updated my resume and included my most recent work, I diligently customized each cover letter and thought I was doing okay, despite … not really doing okay.

I’ve been overworked during the pandemic and my work shifted to an area I’m less passionate about. And frankly, I’m burned out and feeling negative and stressed.

After a weekend of reflection, I realized my resume wasn’t great. I re-wrote my recent experience to be more achievement-focused (yay!) and to include some teasers for interesting anecdotes about some of my best successes. And, admittedly I had to clean up some typos and errors. It’s much better now.

But I’m kicking myself about some of the opportunities I already applied for. One or two of the jobs, I would really like the chance to show them my new, improved resume. Can I follow up with them and send my new version for them to consider instead? It’s a much better reflection of my career and the drive I have (but lost).

I feel stupid asking this question because reading your blog I know I should know better than sending out the first resume.

Well … as a general rule, no. You really only get one bite at it. Some systems won’t even accept a second application for a job if you’ve already got a recent application in for it … and where you can do it, it can come across as annoying/high-maintenance.

That said, if you think the new resume is a significant improvement (not just slightly, but really significantly), it’s not the worst thing in the world if you give it a shot. They may not accept it, or they may get the two mixed up and use the old one anyway, or they may have already reviewed the first one and not want to bother looking at a second one, but they’re not likely to reject you outright for trying it. (I’m reluctant to say this because in general people shouldn’t do this … and if people start doing it a lot, it’ll get considerably more annoying and companies will be more likely to block it across the board. But you’re one person doing it with two companies; it’s not likely to blow anything up.)

{ 382 comments… read them below }

  1. Tamer of Dragonflies*

    Op 2, old jobs failure to plan isn’t your problem. The failure is their own.Live your own life as you wish.

    1. Noncompliance Officer*

      My take on this has always been: your job would fire you in a heartbeat. You gave them two weeks’ notice. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to be more committed to a company than the company is committed to us.

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s a touch too cold for my way of thinking, but you aren’t wrong in the big picture; the challenge is balancing a reasonable measure of loyalty to an employer who has treated you well with your own priorities and career goals. Giving a professional amount of notice is one way to, in addition to safeguarding your reputation, treating your employer with fairness.

        You owe them that much, but don’t owe them the balance of your working life.

        1. MassMatt*

          What Noncompliance is saying is that many employers do not give any notice when they fire or lay off employees so employees should not hold themselves to a different standard. The thing to balance is not your loyalty to an employer with your career goals, but your loyalty to an employer to their loyalty to you.

          Here we have an employee who gave 2 weeks notice (though they say more notice is standard in their industry) and is being slapped with a guilt trip and a burned bridge (“I’ll never get a recommendation”).

          1. Koalafied*

            It’s more common than not for a layoff to include a severance package, which is the employer equivalent of an employee who leaves to take a better opportunity giving a notice period (better, really, since they’re paying you even though you’re no longer working there).

            Firing for cause, sure, those are much less common to have a severance package – and the employee equivalent there is an employee who leaves due to an abusive work environment and shouldn’t feel obligated to give any more notice than is necessary to preserve a good reference if needed.

            1. No Name #1*

              Whether or not there’s a severance packages definitely depends on what industry you are in and what level you are at. Many people do not get severance when they are laid off, let alone fired for cause.

        2. Crooked Bird*

          I hear you, because, though I don’t know what exactly OP means by “a small agricultural business,” that is the type of business I’ve worked for, and mine at least was quite different from a big company that knows no loyalty. (My view may be skewed though b/c mine was literally a cooperative though I didn’t share in the ownership myself.) As a farmworker my first thought was “Did you quit during the season?” because yes, quitting during the season is tough for everyone. BUT (I think we all agree here) OP’s boss is incredibly out of line. People quit! I had someone quit on me during the season, an intern who was my assistant, and I was distressed and angry partly b/c I could barely handle the work she left me with, but mostly because she had actively concealed her burnout from me and our boss till she hit breaking point, thus making the sudden leaving inevitable instead of letting us fix the problems. (But she didn’t realize that, she was young…) But I would never have dreamed of telling her how I really felt or that my problems were her fault. I’m afraid I did ask her to stay, but I took it right back after I found out she’d been crying every night for quite awhile. Geez, that was not a good year. A struggling farm’s not good for anyone.

      2. LQ*

        I always think firing is a weird comparison here, layoff is a better one. If when the company does layoffs they do a generous severance package for people then they are offering some kind of commitment. I want a job to fire the snickers sneaker or punch your boss person on the spot. I don’t want the company to keep them around out of fealty, that’s not good either. That’s the wrong kind of “commitment”.

        That said OP any company that collapses because you “only” gave 2 weeks notice was always going to collapse, it’s not your company. And many small businesses close, unless you actively stole money? It’s not your fault it fell apart, the person who owns the business gets the benefits and the downsides of that. This is NOT your fault. At all. And you staying wouldn’t have saved this business either.

        1. Cat Tree*

          A lot of companies don’t offer severance for layoffs. I’ve worked at two places that did mass layoffs. At the first one, you got paid for any remaining PTO balance, which is legally required, and literally nothing else.

          At the second place (where I moved on to a new job before my turn came), remaining vacation was paid out weekly as though you were still working there. After that, you were required to apply for and be approved for unemployment, and then the company would top up the payment to match your regular pay. But it only lasted one week for each year you had worked there. Many people got one or two weeks of this pay matching their previous salary.

        2. Dragon_Dreamer*

          When the bent metal fastener “fired” me (made up a story about a customer overhearing me being rude to another customer on the phone, but told me repeatedly I was “re-hireable” as long as I accepted a nearly 50% pay cut to minimum wage, minimum hours, a 2 hour commute to a totally different store, total loss of 10.5 years of seniority, and the promise I’d NEVER be management) for being a full-time non-manager (as came out in court), they lost their second best salesperson *in the company.* ($12o,000 in repairs and sales in a single year, by myself.)

          Both stores I worked at have subsequently closed. When each did, I received NASTY, harrassing, “anonymous” (I’m pretty sure I know who did it) emails blaming me as the SOLE reason for the closures. Apparently sales had dropped to almost nothing, and somehow I was to blame.

          I laughed my butt off, and am enjoying being forever out of retail and sales. Nice to know that one person can cause 2 locations of an international corporation to fail, just by refusing to be a doormat and come crawling back! I am loyal until you screw me over, and they found that out the hard way.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Wow, it is creepy and threatening that someone went to the trouble of emailing and blaming you. That is an obsessive hostile person. If it’s possible you might encounter them again, you might want to be cautious with them.

            1. Dragon_Dreamer*

              I will be, but there’s little to no chance of that happening, thankfully. It’s been 3 years as of this year, as well, so the more time passes, the safer I think I am. :)

    2. Cat Tree*

      I have a friend who is thinking about getting pregnant, and a new project just came up at work. Now she’s thinking about delaying so the due date will land after the project deadline. I guess I’ve been reading a lot of AAM because I advised her that if the company would fall apart by one person taking maternity leave, that’s not a stable place to work anyway.

      1. Ro*

        Also she could go into labour early, she could get complications which mean she has to take early maternity leave.

        In fact ignoring pregnancy she could get hit by a bus. If they would really fold if she was gone they aren’t stable (other possibility they are stable and she’s being taken advantage of).

        1. Cat Tree*

          Well, TTC usually takes longer than you expect anyway. But even if she timed it just right for this project, there will always be another project after that.

          I’ve known some accountants and teachers who have predictable cyclic work patterns throughout the year, and sometimes they will try to time the baby for after tax season or during summer break. But in most cases there really never is a time to do it that is better than other times, work-wise.

          1. Selina Luna*

            I am a teacher and I have completely predictable work patterns (well, most years anyway) and I still had to take leave because I simply got pregnant at the wrong time to avoid leave. Like you say, TTC can take FOREVER.

            1. Cat Tree*

              Yeah, it’s somewhat easier to avoid a small specific window than to land in one. And even then there are no guarantees.

              I purposely paused the process to try to avoid going into labor during a snow storm, and the massive amount of snow this winter had made me really glad for that. But landing in an 8 month window of April through November is a little easier to manage, especially since I used fertility treatments so I can’t get pregnant by accident in the pause months.

          2. Quill*

            Also there’s not a guarantee that you’ll get it in that window… hence why teacher’s kids are statistically more likely from april to the middle of summer but there’s plenty just enough earlier / later that you know they didn’t quite make it to plan.

          3. WS*

            Yeah, I live in a farming area and about 50% of people born here have their birthdays in the same two months – after calving, before silage and hay harvests. But that still leaves 50% who don’t!

        2. Koalafied*

          Or on the other end, the project timeline could shift after she conceived, then she’d have waited for essentially nothing!

      2. ThatGirl*

        I agree, and there’s also no guaranteeing she’ll get pregnant right away — some people do, some people it can take months or years of trying.

      3. foolofgrace*

        “so the due date will land after the project deadline”

        Projects get pushed past the deadline to a new deadline all the time. You can’t predict it.

      4. Ophelia*

        I was pregnant with my first daughter while working on a proposal that was due on her due date – she was born a month early, but that’s why we had a contingency plan in place – I kept my boss in the loop on what I was doing, and left easily-navigable files for him to pick it up. It wasn’t ideal, but it was fine.

      5. Bear Shark*

        Deadlines get changed all the time. When I was pregnant with my youngest, I was working on a project that had a finish deadline a week before my due date. I gave birth a couple days early, took 12 weeks FMLA, and came back to a project that due to delays from others was still going on.

        You can’t count on babies or project deadlines to adhere to the expected schedule.

    3. Generic Name*

      Exactly. And I’m curious as to what your role is. Are you a C-suite executive or a company officer? Are you considered a Key Employee? Are you compensated accordingly (as in at least a six-figure salary) due to your high value to the company? Even if you are in a key company role that would be a challenge to replace, you get to live your own life and take jobs for your own benefit. Take your new job guilt free. Your old company probably won’t crumble, but if it does, it’s not your fault. It’s your boss’ failure to plan.

    4. Momma Bear*

      I agree. His reaction may not be positive, but OP shouldn’t feel the weight of the entire business on themselves. If a business is such a house of cards, it was going to fall anyway. OP should take this as a sign that it is good to go and let the cards fall as they may. It’s up to the owner/boss to improve and salvage his company.

    5. CowWhisperer*

      OP, I married into a family dairy farm. My husband was a partner/operator who had worked a whole lot of extra hours over the five years we had been married to make sure that his dairy aspect had well-trained, fairly compensated workers who could take over if something happened to him.

      Fast-forward to 2016. I was pregnant with our son and developed a life-threatening untreatable complication that required our son to be born 3.5 months early. I was hospitalized for a week after his birth. The day after his birth, my in-laws started hounding my husband that he had to come back to work or the farm would fail.

      He stayed with me and our son – and the farm didn’t fail.

      Our son was hospitalized for 4 months. My husband drove every day to see our boy in the hospital after working 12+ hour days.

      Our son came home with a compliment of tubes and machines. He also needed 24/7 awake adult supervision by someone who knew infant CPR because of his adorable habit of stopping breathing randomly. My husband informed our in-laws that he’d be working half-time for a few months to keep his son alive; that was allowed under the partnership agreement and we had done that for half a year after my father-in-law had a major medical issue.

      My in-laws freaked and said the farm would fail. My husband replied that the farm would not fail – and he needed to keep their grandson alive.

      The farm didn’t fail when my husband was gone -but the partnership did. Business partnerships fall apart once one partner has prioritized the business over their grandkid’s life – and we ended the partnership when our son was two.

      My husband left the farm in his late 30’s with no real off-farm references and a college degree in agriculture. After a few false starts, he landed a well-paying job in the automotive service area and spends his free-time with his robustly healthy 4 year old son.

      My inlaws are now in their late 60’s and have no transition plan so it is highly likely the family farm will be sold in the next five years.

      IOW, drama is a surprisingly common in family businesses. You didn’t do anything wrong – and a well-run farm should be able to handle one or more employees leaving at once.

      1. Cassidy*

        Above all, I’m glad your son is okay and thriving. Good for you and your husband for standing up to your in-laws. That must have been really rough, considering your son’s condition at the time, and just rough in general.

      2. WS*

        I live in a dairy farming area and this is such a common story (not necessarily the premature baby, though if you’d had twins it could have been word-for-word the story of one of my friends) of the older generation expecting absolute obedience and dedication to the farm and only the farm.

      3. Observer*

        Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Do your in-laws understand that they are completely to blame for the family farm needing to be sold?

        Do they even have a relationship with you guys and their grandson?

        On the other hand, you have your son and your husband sounds like a keeper.

  2. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    Ooof. #2, you did nothing wrong. I had a boss and a co-worker both say I was killing them when I quit, but spoiler… both are alive! Just take it as one final proof that you’re better off moving along.

    1. Onwards and Upwards*

      When I left my last job, the director (who had zero sense of separation between work and home and viewed the workplace as an extension of their family) made an incredibly offputting “joke” about just going out and finding a tree to hang from because I was turning in my notice. He laughed as if it were nothing, and I internally felt reassured I was making the right choice because… jfc

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Seriously, any business that fails because one employee left was a business that was already failing. And any boss who would joke/complain about it is a jerk.

    2. Kes*

      And even if it does fail, that still isn’t OP’s problem. It’s the company’s/boss’s responsibility to plan for contingencies including OP leaving or being out for any reason, which could happen at any time if something happens. If they haven’t done any planning for that, that’s on them, and if it really can’t possibly survive without OP, perhaps it wasn’t sustainable as a business

      1. MassMatt*

        Yeah, the detail about having to send the notice by email stuck out at me. If the employee has this much autonomy and is so very essential to the survival of the business, what measures did the owner take to keep them? Were they compensated well? Given ability to expand their skills? Did they have partial ownership? I’m guessing no, no, and no.

        You can’t pay someone such that another opportunity coming along is far better for them (as OP says) and then whine about how essential they are afterwards.

        This employer is unreasonable, vindictive (no reference) and responds to a common occurrence in an everyday business (an employee moving on) by slapping the OP with a guilt trip. This is out of touch and immature.

        OP, please stop feeling guilty!

        1. Miniature House*

          Yup, we just lost someone in a major, hard to fill position. It pays well, but the bosses won’t disclose salary in the ads so most people probably think it pays half of what it actually does. We have great health insurance, but none of the other standard benefits and they don’t see how they can offer them as a small business. A retirement plan would make a huge difference in our candidate pool. Of course so would removing the massive political signs at the front entrance. The owner is pretty hard headed so you can’t tell him anything. I believe the business would start rapidly sinking if I left, but if I get a better opportunity I won’t hesitate to leave.

    3. kittymommy*

      I’m always baffled by places/people that try to hang their (possible) failure on one employee. Like what would happen if that person suddenly died, are they going to show up at the funeral yelling they can’t be dead because the business can’t handle it??? No, of course not because that’s stupid. This guy needs to figure it out and move on.

      1. Batgirl*

        Also, if I’m so integral to the business’ success why aren’t I getting an equal cut to keep me there?

        1. JustaTech*

          I mean, sometimes all the money and autonomy in the universe won’t keep someone: my in-laws are maybe losing their GM because he’s moving away and they’re not sure it’s possible to have his job be 100% remote. It’s not about the job or his compensation; he hates where the company is located (for its entire existence) and has finally decided to move.

          It’s the job of a business owner to have succession plans in place (for themselves and essential staff). Not everyone does that, but it is good business practice.

          1. Batgirl*

            Oh absolutely, I’d rather make minimum wage than take on the stress of a (failing) business but it’s strangely never on the offer table when I’m being guilted anyway. Money and power rarely is, when bullshit is being peddled.

  3. Analog*

    #3 – I recently interviewed at a company that also claimed to offer unlimited PTO but has generally poor Glassdoor reviews along the lines you mentioned. During my final round interview I did ask several different people about how many hours per day and per week people currently in the role I was applying for worked, how much PTO they took, and how PTO was approved and tracked. A lot of red flags came up (either by what people told me directly or what was said between the lines). Definitely ask.

    1. Admin 4 life*

      I quit a toxic job that switched to unlimited pto. Unlimited pto saves the company money because they don’t have to pay out banked pto when you quit AND they made you feel so terrible about taking pto in the first place that you would be made to feel guilty about taking a day off when you were sick. I even had them threaten to reduce my hours to 20 a week when my son was in the hospital and I asked about fmla because they were giving me grief about taking pto for a week. This was an accounting firm that expects 3,000+ billable hours every year.

      I’d take unlimited pto as a big red flag disguised as a selling point. We were never given guidelines. The go to response was “do what you think is reasonable.”

      1. Lasciel*

        Totally agree, if I see a company that offers unlimited PTO, I see that as a red flag. I worked in tech and startups and I noticed that they love to present it as a perk but what they’re really doing is cutting cost by making sure they don’t have to pay you out when you leave, deny or make you feel guilty about taking any, and make it so you have to ask and hope your manager allows you to take time off.

        It is such a scam that now, if I find out that a company that I’m interviewing with has an unlimited PTO plan, I usually bow out of the process because I actually like to take PTO when I need it.

        1. Analog*

          Interesting! The place I mentioned above was a late-stage startup. I didn’t see the unlimited PTO as a red flag in and of itself, but the overall picture (touting benefits that appeal to young people like a free coffee bar and snacks, but lacking any “grown-up” benefits like retirement matching or decent healthcare, much less something as audacious as paid parental leave) was concerning.

          I come from an academic background, though, where PTO is generally stingy, use-it-or-lose-it, and never paid out if you leave with PTO still in the bank.

          1. Dan*

            OMG. I realize academia can be its own special version of hell, but as someone who works in tech, I can tell you that what you describe is atrocious.

            No retirement matching = kiss off, unless the pay is really, really good. But crappy health care is a no-go if any other options are on the table.

            1. Analog*

              Agreed! Thankfully, shortly after this interview, I received and accepted a different offer from a place that has retirement matching, fantastic health care, generous PTO, and even paid parental leave…but honestly if the only offer I got was with the “unlimited PTO and snacks” company I would have declined it and kept looking.

            2. cat lady*

              I don’t think this is representative of full-time jobs in academia– grad student stipends and adjunct contracts, yes, but full-time faculty and staff are more likely to get the usual benefits.

              1. rural academic*

                I don’t know, I know a lot of full-time faculty who don’t actually have paid vacation time at all. A lot of faculty are actually on 9- or 10-month contracts even if we’re considered full-time.

                1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  For several years I’ve been reading and seeing on news shows how college and university faculty is underpaid and put on contract so they don’t get benefits. It seems to be a trend… Maybe faculty should unionize.

                2. anon for this today*

                  And what happens at some universities is that they’ve standardized to a system that does sort of have PTO, but none of the academics know about it. I was in a twelve-month appointment and actually used some PTO in my last month, because I was truly taking time off and felt it was the right thing to do. But because the chair didn’t even think about PTO because he wasn’t used to it, he never approved it. Three months after I’d left the university, I got an email saying that because the PTO was never approved, I owed the university $2000 because they’d paid me for the time, or something. Messed up my taxes and everything.

                  It was truly unpleasant to pay back that money but I viewed it as the final charge for the stupidity of staying at that place for so long (an R1), the final price to pay for freedom. Ugh. I left in part because of concerns about financial mismanagement and apparently there was a real reckoning in the department the year after I left and the deans finally investigated and took control of the finances.

                3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  I wouldn’t be surprised if both are true. I’m a postdoc at a public university and have fantastic leave, by US standards- 5 weeks vacation and three weeks sick leave- and my PI says that his contract says he doesn’t have any. Of course, I have to track mine and he doesn’t, so so long as all his responsibilities are covered he could take off whenever, but the “no vacation time” in the contract can mess with you.

                4. faculty*

                  I am faculty. I don’t get any “vacation time,” but I’ve certainly taken vacations, and my colleagues take vacations, because no one has to approve my vacation or time off.

          2. MassMatt*

            LOL, yes I remember when tech start-ups were all in the news for these perks, yet the articles never stated the reason why they were providing free food was because they expected everyone to be at the office 14+ hours a day, and that while they had a free candy barrel, most employees were making minimum wage or less when their hours were taken into account.

            I’ll take decent pay and health benefits, thanks, and I can buy my own skittles.

            1. Filosofickle*

              Twenty years ago in San Francisco, I did see an article that spelled it out — if they company provides dry cleaning pickup at your desk, delicious food all day every day, and lots of play time and group hangouts and lounges, it’s to keep you from every wanting or needing to leave. That blew my mind! I was still young and naive. I’ve never forgotten that lesson.

            2. Tidewater 4-1009*

              I remember that too. I was young, underemployed, and had an affinity for tech. I looked at posts and did understand they wanted their people there around the clock. I didn’t apply for any of those jobs.
              Last year I saw another post like that! It even said they have a nurse on site so employees don’t have to leave for doctor visits! Yikes! They might as well come out and say they want to take over the lives of their employees and keep them there all the time, forever.

      2. Dan*

        At what point did you learn that 3000+ billable hours per years was the expectation? That’s 60 hours per week *billable*, and I’d run for the hills if I found that out pre-hire. Places like that won’t take kindly on much, if any PTO usage.

        I once interviewed for a job in a field where close to 40 hours per week is more or less the norm. One interview said to me, “I work 60 hours per week routinely. I’m not saying you’ll need to do that, but I want to know how you feel about it.” My first thought was, “WTF? Either this job requires it or it doesn’t, and that needs to be made clear.” What came out of my mouth was, “That’s useful information to have during the salary negotiation.”

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          “That’s useful information to have during the salary negotiation.”

          That’s brilliant! Did they make an offer?

        2. Admin 4 life*

          It came out after I was hired. I was hourly and was told it was a 40 hour week with occasional overtime that had to be preapproved during tax season. I had to log every minute of work and run projects across multiple accounts simultaneously and try to bill for 60 hours even if I was only at work for 40 (yes we were “encouraged” to bill multiple accounts for the same piece of time—so if I wrote a form letter and it took 20 minutes, then every account that received it was billed for that 20 minutes + the 5 minutes it took to email or post it). The accountants had it tougher than the admins and they knew if they took a week off they’d have to make up the 60+ hours by adding them in somewhere else. The turnover was very high and as a single parent I was often targeted for having responsibilities outside of work.

          They also had dry cleaning and mail services, unlimited snacks, soda, and alcohol in every kitchen, and the office gym had tray tables for laptops on the treadmills and elliptical machines.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I think that an open bar in the office kitchen is not so much a red flag as a klaxon horn.

      3. Mary Richards*

        I think unlimited PTO has been somewhat debunked, but some people and companies still seem to love it.

        But I will say, this pandemic has made me an advocate for either unlimited sick time or really, really flexible sick time (or just flexibility in WFH to accommodate illness).

        1. London Lass*

          Assuming that unlimited really would mean unlimited in the case of sick leave, I will just say that there do have to be SOME limits, otherwise any organisation that wants genuinely to support its staff in times of trouble has no way out if someone is permanently incapacitated – and ultimately, it’s an employment relationship, not a welfare agency.

          But I have worked at places in the UK that offer as long as 1 year paid sick leave, including several months on full pay. There can then be a structured process for a gradual return to work if that’s needed. However, this type of engagement does require a significant amount of medical information to be shared with the employee for it to work.

          1. Quickbeam*

            My company had unlimited sick leave for over 100 years and just dumped it 5 years ago. They went to combined PTO. The rationale was that there were too many people abusing it, never showing up on Fridays, etc.

          2. Tara*

            One of my friends is a software engineer and works at a company in Scotland with unlimited PTO. They’ve set a lower limit that they have to take at least 20 days of annual leave. The question is making me think that’s abnormal?

            1. Rotoscoped*

              There’s a legal minimum of 28 days paid holiday here in the UK for most jobs, which they’d have to ensure they were meeting – 20 flexible days plus bank and public holidays etc would presumably meet that which will be why they have that rule.

              As far as I know here is no such legal minimum in the US, so companies presumably wouldn’t need to set a lower limit.

            2. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

              I think this is around the law in the UK, as legally 20 is the minimum they can offer. I’ve seen lots of stuff around this (ie you can’t sell holiday if it will take you under 20 days) as the employers can’t be seen to encourage employees to take less than 20 days holiday.

              1. I Want To Go Outside.*

                It came out of the EU’s Working Time Directive, and applies across all the EU states. We have 8 public holidays in the UK so 20 days of mandatory leave takes us up to the 28 days minimum. Of course, post Brexit this law could be changed………

                There’s also the point that it’s good practice to insist on an employee taking at least one week off in a block and preferably 2 weeks as that is often how frauds or regulatory non-compliance are discovered.

          3. Cat Tree*

            My huge company has unlimited sick leave and people rarely abuse it. If you’re out so often that your work suffers, managers will address that issue directly. We shouldn’t change sick time policies to make up for managers who are bad at their jobs. This is the same as the advice that Alison gives over and over. If the work is getting done, don’t worry about butts in seats.

          4. doreen*

            My husband’s company used to have “unlimited” sick leave- but of course, it wasn’t really unlimited. It’s just that there was no preset limit – which is good if you are the person who got paid for six months or a year because you had worked for the company for 30 years and now had a major medical problem that would keep you out of work for an extended period. It wasn’t so good if your situation was different – you had a shorter tenure with the company, or your medical issue did not keep you out for a single long period but caused you to miss work for a week or so every couple of months. Not so much because they wouldn’t get the six months/ year off – but because they couldn’t predict how much sick leave they would be paid for and therefore couldn’t plan on the level of ” I will probably be out sick four weeks this year, and have 2 weeks paid sick leave, so I will need to save two weeks vacation to use as sick leave”

          5. Dutch*

            The Netherlands has unlimited sick leave at 70-100% pay (depending on collective bargaining agreements), unless it’s one long stretch which is capped at 2 years with the first year paid by the employer and the second year paid by the government.

            Checks and balances:
            – your employer can make you see an occupational doctor to figure out what kind of work you can do/what accommodations you need/how to work up to working again. (Confidentiality applies; the doctor only reports on your ability to work, what you need in the workplace, and how long it’s estimated you’ll be unable to work.)
            – frequently being sick can be a performance issue that means you are not suited for this particular job and have to allow your employer to find you a position that’s, for example, less coverage-based or less physically demanding or doesn’t have as many hours.
            – you can’t generally take sick leave for doctor’s appointments, and not to care for a sick child, spouse, loved one. Sick leave is for when you are medically incapable of working, not for when you have conflicting appointments or obligations, even if they are medical. You are generally entitled to unpaid leave for these purposes, and for emergencies, paid calamity leave.
            – Calamity leave (paid): if your child falls sick, calamity leave allows you to pick them up from school and arrange for someone to care for them. If your arrangement is that you decide to care for them yourself, that is unpaid caregiver leave. Calamity leave also applies to situations like someone burning down your home and you having to talk to the police, and other unexpected emergencies that can’t wait until the end of the workday to fix.
            – Example of sick leave vs unpaid leave: there was a court case a few years ago about medically unnecessary procedures, in this case a type of cosmetic surgery – the takeaway was that the person wasn’t entitled to sick leave for the procedure and the normal recovery time, but when the recovery time took longer due to complications, that extension did qualify for sick leave. So the surgeon said she wouldn’t be able to work for 4-6 weeks and she ended up not working for 8, making the first 6 weeks a combination of vacation and unpaid leave, and the last 2 weeks sick leave.
            – In almost all jobs, you don’t stay home when you have a cold. Sick leave is for when you can’t work, and if you call in with a cold, you will be judged. Exemptions are jobs where having a cold does mean you are unfit for work, for example, if you work with immunocompromised people.
            – If you are on vacation and you become sick to the extent that, if you were not on vacation, you would not be able to work, you can (with some checks and balances – I think you need some actual proof in this instance) call sick and the time would be sick leave, not vacation leave.

            1. Dutch*

              Under those laws, the average employee calls in sick 1,2 times a year, adding up to a total amount of 7,8 days sick per person per year.

              Source: RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and Environment)

          6. Mary Richards*

            Fair. What I was thinking was more along the lines of, like, colds and flus and germs. My hope would be that we now recognize that it’s not worth having contagious people in our spaces!

          7. Arvolin*

            I had a friend working at a job where the policy was “reasonable sick leave”. If your use of sick leave got to be a problem, your manager would address it. It didn’t occur to me at the time to wonder about medical conditions employees might not want to reveal.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          My company has an incredibly generous sick leave policy, and it is one of the huge perks here. 8 weeks of sick leave at 100% pay, then 6 months at 75% pay available on your first day of employment. If you go 6 months without using a full day of sick leave, your bank refreshes; we keep time at quarter hour increments, so you could take 7 3/4 hours of sick leave every day and still have your bank refresh at 6 months. The number of weeks at 100% pay increases on certain work anniversaries.

          What’s more, the company actually facilitates you *using* the leave if you need it. Got a cold? Use your leave. Get a headache halfway through the day? Use your leave.

        3. Cat Tree*

          In general, I hate a PTO policy that lumps sick and vacation time together. At my current job, we have a set amount of vacation days but unlimited sick leave, which I think is a good way to do it.

        4. ThatGirl*

          My company doesn’t track sick time, though they do ask for documentation for more than 2 days, and there is a point at which they would ask you to use short-term disability instead (like if you were gonna be out for surgery). From what I’ve seen they mean it – if you’re sick, you’re sick, don’t work.

      4. Mookie*

        Yes. I understand the genesis of the policy, but that’s also part of the problem in terms of executing it for efficiency—the reasons for adopting it, in what industries, and how it is implemented do, in fact, matter, especially when there are so many high-profile examples of doing it badly. For the moment, the policy generally benefits the employer at the expense of employees. There’s a real financial incentive, of course, to keep staff happy and productive, and yet so many companies seem to regard prioritizing employee security and a comfortable working environment and schedule with skepticism, if not hostility. It’s somehow a bad thing to take care of the people generating your wealth. Instead, they create a potemkin benefits policy with a cute name that is transparently worse than what it’s replacing.

      5. Chriama*

        3000 billable hours? That’s unconscionable! 2000 hours is 50 40-hour weeks a year, and I can’t imagine there’s no overhead or administrative time.

    2. bookartist*

      I hear so many horror stories that I have to state for the record my SF Bay Area tech post-IPO company offers unlimited PTO and I’ve been able to take up to six weeks off (total, not at a time. But that year I did take a 3 week vacation, so…) in years past. These places do exist, I swear it!

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah. Seriously *limited* PTO tells you something about a company, but generous policies don’t reveal much, IMO — you need to know more about the culture (both company-wide and department-specific).

      2. Bleah*

        But even what you describe doesn’t sound very good. You were able to take six weeks off, but six weeks off is standard for many companies after being there for five or more years. Does that mean you could take more than that? Could you do that when you first started? Did you feel pressure when taking time off?

        I think it’s possible it worked for your company, but I would say the norm is that it doesn’t work. In fact, when I worked at a company that did this, the people felt guilted into always working, and taking very few vacations. That lead to burn-out and then the people would leave and tell all of their new co-workers and friends to never work for that company unless it was your last resort. And, yes, I am speaking from experience.

        1. JM60*

          What country are you from? Six weeks off per year is probably normal for workers in most European countries, but it’s a lot for American workers. From the stats I’ve seen, the average American worker takes ~17 days of vacation every year, which is barely more than half of 6 weeks. Even though 6 weeks is the high end of how much vacation they’ve taken, I’m guessing they take more vacation than most others in the SF Bay Area.

          (That being said, I think so-called ‘Unlimited vacation’ policies are terrible for employees, and such a policy would make me hesitant to accept a position.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              To clarify for anyone reading this, FMLA alone gives you 12 weeks of parental leave (assuming you’re eligible for it), although it’s not required to be paid.

        2. Mel_05*

          I don’t think it’s standard most places in the U.S. I did have 6 weeks at one company after 5 years, including sick time which we really could take for any reason (it was only logged separately bc you didn’t need advanced approval to take it) but most places you get 6 weeks around 10 or 15 years.

          1. ThatGirl*

            My husband had 6 weeks of PTO at his university staff job, but the pay is lousy and he could never take that much time anyway. But yeah, at most companies, 3-4 weeks is pretty generous.

          2. meyer lemon*

            In Canada as well, 6 weeks is very generous. It’s close to what my mother was getting before she retired, but she had worked in the same union for over 25 years. Most non-union jobs, those kinds of benefits are unusual.

      3. Lucy Day*

        My sisters company does unlimited PTO beautifully. I think the key is that her company has enough cross trained employees to manage the workload when someone is out. It’s a midsized org and she has 2 coworkers who do her exact same job and 2 others who have enough knowledge to cover the majority of her projects. She has busy periods, but most of the time her workload is really manageable. That’s the way it should be for all workers in a perfect world, but so many companies don’t cross train or only have enough staffing to complete all the work if everyone is working 10 hour days every single day.

        If a company offers unlimited PTO, ask about average workloads, cross training, staffing levels, culture around time off (are you expected to bring your work phone/laptop in case of emergency) etc. The policy itself doesn’t have to be a red flag but the company needs to have the right infrastructure to implement it so it actually benefits employees.

      4. PT Oh No*

        I think I preferred having unlimited PTO at a company with a good culture around taking the time, then my current company, where I have to worry about not having enough days to do everything I want.
        (And in this crazy year, it felt bad to waste precious time off when I couldn’t go anywhere. It would have been easier if PTO wasn’t a scarce resource).

    3. MK*

      And I find the review that said you need to go above and beyond if you want to succeed very much a red flag on its own. My normal work is excellent and allowed me to succeed in every job I ever had. If you tell me that it’s not enough to succeed in this job, and that I need to go above and beyond as a matter of course, that means they have unrealistic demands. If above and beyond is necessary to succeed, then they should incorporate the above and beyond in the job description and offer a matching salary.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        What does “above and beyond” even mean? In this brave new world, where we are constantly asked to fill out customer surveys and it is understood that a routine transaction handled competently rates five stars, “exceptional” means ordinary. It may well be that so does “above and beyond.”

        1. Mookie*

          What it is is the non-unionized white collar equivalent of the service sector employer’s love for “a sense of urgency.” Coded language for we hire badly, recruit dishonestly, overwork you and then harass you, and the person you’re replacing had good reason to leave. It kind of feels like negging half the time. “Are you a lazy bum like my last employee?”

      2. Mel_05*

        Yeah, it wouldn’t worry me in a job description as mich, because companies often describe themselves as “fast paced ” or “high energy” when they’re actually extremely laid back (and vice versa!) But from an employee, that means you’re going to be stressed out ALL the time.

    4. Willis*

      Yes, I was going to say that OP needs to ask about typical workweek hour too (or billable hr requirements if that’s a thing in her field). Vacation time is important for work-life balance but so is day to day expectations around availability/hours. (I’d argue maybe more important.)

    5. PM*

      I wouldn’t see unlimited PTO as a red flag in and of it itself. A lot of the tech sector has unlimited PTO, and if you’re interested in working in tech, you’d be eliminating a lot of the industry as a potential employer. To me, it’s the negative Glassdoor reviews that are more of a red flag – those might actually be telling you something. I’ve had unlimited PTO for a few years and I loved it. The trick is to give yourself a set amount of PTO in your head and track it. I’ve given myself 3-5 weeks of PTO, and I would spreadsheet out my vacations, request them ahead of time, and take them. I set pretty good boundaries on being away, and leave documentation for my teams, so I pretty much never get approached during PTO. It does require a bit of self-management, but unlimited PTO is amazing. I don’t have it right now, and I really miss it.
      On the other hand, I do put a bit of value on negative glassdoor reviews, and I’ve actually removed myself from an interview process once because the reviews were so terrible (several employees said the owner yelled at people). Mind you, positive reviews don’t automatically mean I will have a good experience. I just left a company with growing reviews because my department was mismanaged, and I was miserable. That said, I really shied away from poorly reviewed companies when I was searching.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        The trick is to give yourself a set amount of PTO in your head and track it.

        This is what my husband does. Before his company switched to unlimited PTO, he had 4 weeks of vacation a year. He operates under the assumption that he still has 4 weeks of vacation, and makes sure to take all of it.

    6. ImGladImNotTheOnlyOne*

      About 10 years ago, I was a finalist for a job. I was on the fourth, and final, interview, with the Director (who lived out of state, so it was over the phone). All was going well. It seemed like a mere formality. We had good rapport and the conversation was flowing. She then asked me these two questions: 1) What would your dream job environment consist of (I said the typical blather about collegiality, the ability to grow, yadda yadda yadda. I couldn’t say anything about fainting baby goats gamboling in the office without sounding weird, you know!) and 2) What would be your nightmare job environment? I answered that one by saying I wouldn’t want to work in a place where you weren’t supported and where your teammates were back-stabbers. At the end, I threw in something like regularly working 60 hours (which I thought, and think, was a reasonable thing to say). You could almost hear the record scratch. The conversation ended abruptly and curtly. I never heard back from that company. Period. I got through 4 rounds of interviews and then never heard another word from them, just because I told them I didn’t want to work 60+ hours a week. I thank my lucky stars I didn’t get the job.

      1. SMH*

        It’s more disappointing that in four rounds of interview they didn’t disclose the requirement to work 60+ hours a week.

    7. K8*

      I have a job with unlimited PTO and love it. They strongly encourage everyone to take at least 2 weeks (it’s engineering and a lot of people never seem to take vacation). I’ve taken between 4 and 5 weeks every year without an issue. Every job I’ve had before this has been 3 to 4 weeks of vacation a year, so I’m really happy with this new set up. We also have unlimited sick leave. You still need to get your work done and you have to know when it’ll be a busy time and not take vacation then but otherwise, it’s great. I won’t get any accumulated vacation when I leave here but I rarely had more than a week banked at my previous jobs so I’m fine with that. I’m sure plenty of places take advantage but unlimited PTO isn’t necessarily a red flag that the place will work you to the bone.

    8. Trek*

      My response to unlimited PTO is to state ‘I currently have 5 weeks PTO, how likely would I be able to use that much PTO at your company?’ That way you are putting a number on it and can see how they respond. I didn’t always take 5 weeks, usually liked a bank of 2 weeks for emergencies but it’s still helpful because I would ask for a new company to match these 5 weeks in their offer.

    9. MassMatt*

      Unlimited PTO is sadly often a drawback. I remember when the first few companies adopted it and everyone wondered “why isn’t the office empty?” and a CEO of one of the companies was quoted that use of PTO actually went down. This was a huge red flag, but of course the author didn’t mention it, most business writing is from the perspective of owners/managers, not employees.

      The key thing here to do when interviewing to make sure you don’t wind up in a salt mine is asking different people about PTO, and asking questions that will get you the real info rather than stock answers. Kind of like how you need to talk to people you suspect might be in a cult.

      Be specific. Ask them when they last took vacation time. Where’d they go (pre-pandemic, anyway) How long did they take? And before then? Oh I see you have young kids–How adorable! Were you able to spend time with them after they were born?

      When you hear people say they have unlimited PTO yet they aren’t taking any, chances are you have a terrible environment where taking PTO is shamed, if not practically prohibited.
      Few people love their jobs so much they actually want to do it 60+ hours a week and never see their families. Yet many people do just that.

    10. Smithy*

      I used to work at a place in the US that had a fairly generous number of PTO days per year (25), but it was use it or lose it every year.

      Management was actually rather good in encouraging people to take all of their days every year, but I also found it personally somewhat unnatural and ended up taking a higher number of three/four day weekends than more classic vacations. While I think the experience gave me an appreciation of what it was like to take 25 days of PTO in addition to holidays and sick days, when I was looking for a new job – I also knew I didn’t love it. If anything we got more pressure to take off days that were known as being quiet for our team rather than taking longer chunks of time off. And when I once asked for two weeks off at a time, my manager actually gritted her teeth and I had to immediately walk that back to taking two weeks that would include a few remote working days. My manager made it clear that despite all of the time we were forever under pressure to take, using more than 5 days in a row was highly unusual.

      So even in a situation where the PTO package was very generous by US standards and management really did want you to use all the days – I wouldn’t say it was great. Therefore, if there are any red flags around PTO/work-life balance either in interviews or on Glassdoor – definitely ask. The ability to bank PTO that gets paid out at least has that silver lining, whereas a number of other options require a lot of good faith on the employees part.

  4. Magenta Sky*

    #2: If his business fails, it’s not because you left, it’s because he treats his employees as equipment instead of as people. If he built his company such that a single employee – *any* employee, including himself – leaving will kill it, he’s incompetent and the company was doomed before it started.

    Or he’s just an abusive jerk playing mind games. Hard to decide without more info.

    1. ..Kat..*

      If LW2 is so essential to his business, he should have treated them better – more salary, better benefits, better working conditions, more opportunities for growth, etc.

      1. Antilles*

        If your business *really* does live and die with one single employee, you should be treating that employee so well that they even consider leaving.

        1. EPLawyer*

          If one employee is so essential to the business – what is the owner doing?

          An employee should not be care more about the business than the owner. The OWNER should be making sure the company doesn’t fail, not the employee.

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      Seriously, if OP is so essential to the business, why isn’t he doing the obvious thing–counteroffering? Throwing money and benefits at them? Making it worth their time to stay?

      (OP, by no means accept a counteroffer if he does offer it–he sounds like a horrible person to work for. I’m just saying, it’s pretty obvious that his goal here is to make OP feel bad, not retain them.)

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The only time I think it is okay for a business to fail when one person leaves is if that person is the :owner, founder, or otherwise super senior partner that partially owns the company. Anyone below that leaving and killing a business means that the place may not really be as sustainable as the think it is.

      I think most of this is guilt tripping, and that really just confirms that the choice to leave is the correct choice by the employee.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Even then, it’s poor planning and lack of concern for employees. I’ve worked for two companies that changed hands, both from father to son, where the father created the company and built it up to a high level of success. The first was gone in six months because the son was prepared for live in the big chair. The second, I’m still working for, almost 30 years later.

  5. CatCat*

    Ugh, #2, if your boss continues to say unreasonable things that leave you crying and filled with anxiety, you can cut the notice period short and just leave. Sorry you are dealing with this.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Exactly. I think Alison has given that advice more than once. Just a professional “if you can’t treat me respectfully today will be my last day” (or whatever else fits, I don’t remember the exact wording Alison usually uses) and then stick to it. Not your circus, not your monkeys, and a pretty shitty circus director.

    2. Todd*

      They even say there won’t be a good reference coming out of this. I’d just leave w/o notice in that scenario and tell the boss they should’ve been more professional if they needed me that bad.

  6. The Very Long Night of Susan Ivanova*

    I am in venture capital. Here is what I have to say about the first letter.

    You say that Jake’s “start-ups” (plural) are struggling. First and foremost, I think that “plural” is the problem. If he’s working on more than one startup, he’s hedging, and investors are going to have a problem with that. They’ll want to see that he is committing 100% of his working time to the business.

    Second, the lack of traditional work experience may or may not be a problem and depends on a lot of factors your letter didn’t discuss. Yes, if course on balance some industry experience is helpful, but there are major caveats to that. First, there are tons of examples of successful young founders who passed on the “traditional work experience,” so Jake’s route is not inherently unviable. (To be sure, there are also tons of older founders, and indeed some studies that show older founders are more likely to be successful.) There are also tons of experienced serial entrepreneurs out there who have never held a traditional job, or only held one long ago. A lot depends on the nature of Jake’s co-founders. Do they fill out operational weaknesses in Jake’s resume? A lot also depends on the industry that the startup is operating in. Is it a highly-regulated industry, or a newer industry (e.g., blockchain) where experience is less important or, indeed, non-existent precisely because the industry is so new?

    Third, prior startup experience, including business failure, *is* experience. This is a mantra in Silicon Valley, and for very good reason. 90% of startups fail in some fashion. A seasoned executive is not necessarily going to boast a better track record than Jake. It’s not so much a question of whether Jake has experience reporting to someone, but the nature of the startups he led and how he led them. Operating company experience matters, but that includes founding failed startups.

    Fourth, is Jake picking his industries strategically? I’m unclear that startup management consultancies can show the kind of growth VCs want to see. He needs to pick industries that are ripe for disruption and show how he is going to transform them. A business plan of “like McKinsey, but a new company” isn’t an investable business plan.

    1. Mary Richards*

      I was coming to say something relatively similar. Traditional work experience doesn’t always lead to startup success, and vice versa. There are a lot of factors and, while LW’s friend may benefit from traditional work experience for a variety of reasons, you can have a very successful startup come from someone with none at all (or, conversely, a failed startup from a seasoned worker).

      Now, if your friend needs money, a traditional job may have to be part of the conversation from that perspective.

    2. Annony*

      I could be wrong but the letter didn’t read to me like Jake is necessarily seeking venture capital but maybe is just trying to start his own businesses which then struggle. Not every new business seeks out venture capital, right? If that’s the case I would think his lack of experience really does take center stage.

      1. The Very Long Night of Susan Ivanova*

        Not every new business seeks out venture capital, right?

        Correct, and the business should not take venture capital if it doesn’t need it. (However, the letter does say that Jake is winning national entrepreneurship awards, and I infer from that statement that his businesses are likely to be of the type that would seek venture capital.)

        1. Mary Richards*

          I’m so confused by that part of the letter because it sounds like this whole thing is mixing up startups with small businesses. Or he has a few startups AND this small business. I’m confused.

          1. OP1*

            Sorry for the confusion. But basically yes, he has several start-ups and this small business but the culture across all of them is very stereotypically start-up vibe, think the way Silicon Valley is portrayed in movies.

            1. The Very Long Night of Susan Ivanova*

              FWIW, a lot of people I know in the Valley really dislike the television show.

              1. Cobol*

                For what it’s worth, I used to work in that industry, and the reasons people I knew didn’t like it boiled down to they didn’t like/don’t know how to handle criticism.
                I watched the first two seasons. It was somewhat accurate as a documentary, and spot on as a parody.

              2. Lorac*

                The representation of diversity in that show is horrible. In actuality, Asians make up 50% of Silicon Valley. That definitely wasn’t represented in the cast (or even background extras).

            2. JohannaCabal*

              Ugh, I hate this stereotype of startups.

              I’ve worked at two startups and while one was certainly “quirky” it was nothing like the stereotypical SV startup with free-flowing IPAs, a recreation room, and takeout dinners every night (well, that’s how I picture the TV version of an SV startup).

              Honestly, I think a lot of people, particularly investors are starting to turn away from these types of startups.

    3. OP1*


      Thanks for this comment it is very useful! As I mentioned in my letter I’m really not in that whole sector so hearing from someone more experienced is helpful.

      To answer your question on co-founders. I don’t know them all that well, but I know he met them in the same way he met me which was at uni. I think most of them were friends from his department (finance). Honestly I don’t know about whether he’s choosing the right industries, he’s covered a very wide and seemingly wide range of sectors so far.

      1. lailaaaaah*

        That sounds like one of the potential problems- if he’s not digging into one set of problems, then how is he showing he can bring unique selling points to what he’s doing? Sure, you *can* be an expert in multiple things (I know a guy who has a unique crossover set of IT and grassroots charity experience that make him invaluable to the right people), but that usually takes a huge amount of time and experience.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        OP1, from the letter and also your comments throughout the thread, I wonder if this isn’t really a workplace advice question so much as a friendship advice question. People write to advice columnists all the time with variations on “I’m tired of listening to my friend talk endlessly about their life choices with which I don’t agree and can’t really sympathize.” It’s a different flavor of a friend who is constantly bemoaning that terrible relationship where they keep breaking up and getting back together and cheating on each other, or one who complains endlessly about their boss but never applies for new jobs.

        It might be more fruitful to stop asking yourself “how do I help Jake become a successful entrepreneur” and focus more on “how do we find more mutually enjoyable ways to spend time together and more varied topics of conversation?” or even “is this friendship still valuable to me, given how our lives have diverged?”

      3. Dust Bunny*

        This sounds like a young guy with a lot of ideas who is dabbling and hoping one of them will take off, but isn’t actually focusing or committing to any of them, which is a recipe for failure.

        Also, he might get away with this despite the lack of experience, but he won’t if he’s hiring equally-inexperienced people, and I’m skeptical that he can hire experienced and competent employees given his track record.

        1. MassMatt*

          I was going to say it sounds to me like we found out what happened to the guy who wrote the famous “Why won’t anyone hire me to be their idea man?” letter.

          It sounds as though he’s all over the place, I’m skeptical that anyone has that many great ideas that are practical in different market sectors/areas the way the LW describes. And even if they did, who has the time to create multiple successful businesses?

          It could also be that the LW’s friend is really good at starting up ideas and not so good or interested at seeing them get established and grow. That’s not unusual, they require very different skills.

          But I think my advice to the friend is to have them figure out what is there very best idea/niche and stick to it.

      4. Daisy*

        I don’t really understand why you’re trying to give him advice if you know less about it than he does? Just talk about something else if the business talk is boring you.

    4. Yennefer of Vengerberg*

      Agreed. I don’t think telling Jake to hang up his entrepreneur hat and go work a desk job makes much sense here. It sounds to me more like he needs to stop spreading himself so thin. Start a company, grow it, stabilize it and then move on to the next idea once you see it can run successfully without you.

      1. EPLawyer*

        That’s the real problem. Jake is all over the place. Start ups take a lot of work, focus and energy. If you are attempting multiple ones at the same time, you are never going to succeed.

        Jake needs to pick ONE and focus on it. Really LEARN the business. Even if he is trying to be a “disuptor” he has to know what he is disrupting. This doesn’t mean working in that industry per se (although management consultant, he would need oh I don’t know MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE). He can’t have just watched a few you tube videos and listended to some podcasts and think he knows ALL about what he wants his business to do.

        And quite frankly, some basic BUSINESS knowledge is necessary to run a successful business. Like payroll, employment law, cost benefits, things like that. It’s not just “Have great idea, open business, profit.”

        1. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

          YES. Especially since Jake is seeking to work with subject-matter experts! I can only speak for my own industry but most of us view “disruptors” or external consultants with extreme wariness. Not because we aren’t aware of the issues in our industry but because solutions presented are proposed without a modicum of useful knowledge. Expertise requires immersion.

          Also to note (again, in my experience only), a lot of these consultant-type folks tend to work top down, which can cause issues for the workers. Like- that’s cool the CEO is on board with whatever festival contraption we’re being pitched, but she’s not the one implementing and supporting it, nor is she the one who is directly affected by whatever changes are suggested.

          If it’s not tenable for Jake to spend a few years behind the desk, he should consider attending industry-specific conferences. Not ones for aspiring execs. But ones for the SMEs he wants to work with. And at those conferences, he needs to make good contacts and otherwise LISTEN. Quietly and actively.

        2. Weekend Please*

          Yeah. Even if all of his ideas are terrific, he should pick the best one and focus on that while keeping the others in his back pocket. Once that one is doing well enough for him to sell or hire someone else to run or completely fails, he can move on to his next idea. But trying to do everything at once sounds like a way to ensure they all fail.

    5. Velocette*

      All I can say is if I wanted to hire a Management Consultant, I would want someone with Management Consulting experience, without the experience all you have is a person with some bright but unproved ideas.
      Quick Quiz, would anyone here hire a Management Consultant with no experience in Management Consulting ?

      Having a start-up that provides a product that, for example, some people have designed in college and are now launching into the market – different thing entirely.
      Having a start-up that provides a service that the people providing the service are trained or experienced in – different thing entirely.

      What you have here is someone who has over-reached. It appears from the letter that he has several start-ups going at the same time. For a start-up to succeed, for the first year or two it’s a full on all day, all week job, we all know this. He needs to choose one and stick with it. He also needs to pick one that does not require previous experience UNLIKE Management Consulting.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This. I was mystified, reading the letter, about what they were offering that anyone would pay for. I see from a comment from the OP that their background is finance. So what we have is a kid, likely very bright and well educated but with no real world experience, asking to be paid to give a business financial advice. Huh?

        1. Mookie*

          It’s definitely the origin story of a lot of criminals and cons, anyway. (Am not suggesting LW’s friend is or aspires to be either. But the opacity of these outfits, in general, ought to warrant concern.)

        2. AcademiaNut*

          It reminds me of the occasional letter on this site from some bright young thing who wants to be hired as an ideas person/visionary right out of university, and is frustrated because no-one appreciates them.

        3. Green*

          Exactly. He’s hoping to be hired to mansplain.

          It’s very insulting, this idea that someone with no experience can lecture actual experts about their area of expertise. To demand money for that experience is boggling.

      2. Good Vibes Steve*

        The reason consultants get paid ridiculous amounts of money is their experience. If you can’t show me a track record in the sector, why would I spend the money?

        1. Wintermute*

          There’s a whole other kind of consultant whose job is basically to go into a company that is massively dysfunctional, listen to the employees talk about what is broken, then tell management what their own employees would have loved to tell them two years ago but couldn’t or wouldn’t because of fear of retaliation, excess middle management yes men diluting the message, or dysfunctional culture. They look like they’re brilliant because they know just what’s wrong, and management actually listens to them because advice you’re paying for has a higher perceived value than “employees whining”.

          I’ve seen it in action.

          1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

            Even then, the executives only listen to the consultant because they can back it up with “company x and y do it this way”.

            When we pay management consultants, we’re paying for their top people with decades of experience. Those are the ones we’re developing the overall strategy with because they bring in industry breadth and depth from working with our competitors. The high level ideas get handed off to the fresh out of college/grad school newbies to do the grunt work and back it up with data. But we (and if the engagement isn’t going well the top people get dragged back into the room) have to ride herd on said newbies to ensure they aren’t trying to say smart sounding things that are completely not applicable to our industry (I know this one from direct experience).

            1. Wintermute*

              It sounds like you’re a reasonably functional company, which may be the source of the difference. I’ve seen companies managed poorly enough that advice that should be obvious seemed groundbreaking and people who “were just trying to sound smart” fit right in because that was what most of their upper management was doing too.

          2. MassMatt*

            I was going to say ‘Oh, you must have worked at my old job too!” right up until your last line “management actually listens…”

            My old company hired many consultants over the years to fix well-known dysfunctions and ignored them all, no substantial changes were ever made. But the deck chairs on that Titanic sure got rearranged a lot!

            1. Sacred Ground*

              Serious question: did you go straight into consulting, not as an employee but starting your own consulting firm, right out of university or did you have at least some working experience first?

          3. Sacred Ground*

            But why would anyone pay for or listen to the advice of someone without management experience, let alone management consulting experience?

        2. Momma Bear*

          There is also a difference in what you might learn in class and what you would learn boots on the ground. I do think that one way or another Jake needs to simplify and even if he doesn’t start working for someone else, there are avenues to gain experience like working with/for a volunteer organization. I might present it to him as his competitors have years of training and experience so if he wants to chase the same clients, he’s going to have to invest in himself re: education and experience. When one is in their 20s they don’t always know what they don’t know. He needs to find out what he doesn’t know. Maybe find a small business mentor.

      3. Cat Tree*

        He reminds me of that one letter writer from years ago who lamented that no one would hire him just to be a visionary. Having ideas is nothing special; implementing them in reality is more important.

      4. Myrtle*

        Can I just say your user name commenting about start-ups made me smile. For non-motorcyclists, Velocette bikes have a reputation for being difficult to kick start. Especially when someone other than the owner is watching.

    6. Antilles*

      This is a really interesting take and I appreciate it.
      For your second and third points, I think the lack of traditional work experience really depends on the industry. The mention of management consulting in particular is one where I think it really matters.Saying that you’ve never held a traditional job but wait I’ve tried (and failed) at making my own startup a few times isn’t going to impress people. Especially if (as I suspect) Jake is a similar age to OP, it’s hard to imagine any business owner or department head wanting management advice from a 20-something who has never worked in an office.

      1. Some Lady*

        Yes, I was confused by this, too. What management consulting would be valuable from someone who doesn’t have experience with managerial relationships and work? I could be missing something–maybe they are offering more of a tool that can be helpful in managing?

    7. Cat Tree*

      It seems to me that Jake is naive and doesn’t realize that failure is the most common outcome. Or, he has an unwarranted high view of himself and thinks he’s some unicorn so he shouldn’t fail where everyone else does.

      Neither of these are good traits for an entrepreneur. The most important trait is resiliency, the ability to keep trying after multiple failures and to learn from experience. I’m hoping that Jake is just young and will gain this skill over time. But if he’s naive and/or arrogant I can’t see him ever being successful.

  7. raincoaster*

    That first letter reminds me of a guy I met many years ago at a conference. He was 17 and starting a consulting business. He had never held a job, or been to business school, or even college, but he had decided he was a “visionary” who was going to revolutionize…any company that would hire him to, uh, “vision.”

    Nice kid. Nobody has heard from him in years, though. I wonder if he’s getting an MBA now.

    1. Mary Richards*

      I feel like consulting is different than, say, app development. I wouldn’t trust a consultant who didn’t have SOME experience in a major firm or in the industry in question.

      1. Self Employed*

        I own a business and someone without any previous industry experience would be lucky if I would spend the time to read their blog post. How are they supposed to know how the different parts of a business work together before they start changing things, if they’ve never worked in a business? It sounds like he wants to be paid for giving advice about things he doesn’t understand–you know, like the friend who doesn’t know the difference between Bisquick and all-purpose flour but is sure you’re doing your sourdough starter wrong. Except he’s going to tell you how to run a bakery.

        1. Mary Richards*

          I agree, but I also think that there’s a lot to be gained these days from jumping in and pursuing an idea, rather than waiting until you have sufficient experience. If the creators of Instagram, Snapchat, [insert other innovative company here] waited until they had work experience, they may have missed the boat.

          Now, not knowing what Jake’s goal is, it’s impossible to say where he falls on this one.

          1. MK*

            That might be true, if you actually have an original idea for a product or a service that isn’t being offered yet. The only field the OP mentions that her friend works in is management consulting, a.k.a. giving advice to people. I can believe you have a great idea about a new social medium without work experience (even though I bet they hired experienced people once the company started growing). I can’t believe you are qualified to give advice on something you haven’t worked in.

            1. raincoaster*

              Boris Johnson, now the PM of the UK, started out in consulting. He was one of those shiny new Oxbridge grads with the right background that gets hired every year; he was fired for being basically useless and, if memory serves, literally falling asleep in client meetings.

              He’s since written about the experience, saying he had absolutely no business whatsoever going in and telling those companies how to run themselves.

              1. Green*

                Sounds about right, given that he lied Britain into Brexit and flubbed the pandemic. But hey who’s counting how many lives and countries he’s destroyed.

          2. JohannaCabal*

            From my own reading, a person has to get in at the right time to really capitalize on a groundbreaking, innovative idea. It might have been Blink by Malcolm Gladwell where he pointed out there was only a brief period in time when a random person could have theoretically laid the foundations for a multi-million dollar software company. And these random individuals usually had the resources to make things happen (it’s been a while since I read the book but I think it said that Bill Gates had a parent who got him access to computer equipment when he was a teen).

          3. Antilles*

            That’s true, but that applies more to new technology where being quick-to-market is a clear advantage in beating able to get there before the rush of competitors. That’s definitely not the case in management consulting, a well-developed and established field where there are thousands of competitors, many of whom have decades of experience and knowledge to show.
            The comparison here isn’t creating Instagram in 2010 or Snapchat in 2011, it’s more akin to trying to create a new search engine today in 2021 in a market that already has Google, Bing, etc.

          4. Sacred Ground*

            I’d bet those creators of Instagram and Snapchat DID have some real-world experience as app developers before they started those companies.

            So, I just read up on the history of Snapchat. Seems the three co-founders were still students at Stanford at its founding, which would support the idea of starting a successful business right out of college. Except the guy who thought of the idea, Reggie Brown, brought in the other two BECAUSE they had prior experience in business management and coding, respectively.

            The two experienced partners then forced out Brown within a few months of Snapchat’s founding. So I guess Brown has some useful experience now.

            Yeah, I’d say experience matters in business.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              (By “read up on the history of…”, I mean “scanned the wikipedia page for 1.5 minutes. My understanding is thus admittedly limited.)

        2. raincoaster*

          Exactly. He really did mean well. He simply didn’t know what he didn’t know. And you gotta applaud the self-esteem, even if you know it’s going to come to tears at some point.

      2. raincoaster*

        Oh, absolutely. If you have a skill set you can do The Thing, whatever The Thing happens to be. You may or may not be able to do it for your own company, depending on how good you are at setting up and running a company. But management is a skill set, and consultants generally get hired out for their expertise, or at least their perceived expertise. This kid was a nice guy, who really wanted to help people and companies, but who had neither expertise nor experience. That was the whole problem.

    2. Chocolate Teapot*

      I think said “Visionary” once wrote in to Alison asking for advice, as nobody wanted to hire him.

      Or there’s 2 of them!

        1. Cat Tree*

          Unfortunately, quite a few. I used to work with an entry-level visionary in my department. He was assigned a task to run and organize a weekly meeting with many higher-ups. This had been going on for years, and he was taking over from someone who was leaving. This was a really good opportunity to be present, see what high level people do, and *learn* from it. But he didn’t see it this way. To him, this was a chance to do something so brilliant that it would revolutionize the process and impress some very important people. But those people didn’t need a visionary; they just needed someone to continue organizing a meeting that was already working for them. Oh, the best part about this visionary? He constantly complained to the other low level employees that he wanted to improve the meeting but didn’t know how. This visionary didn’t even have great visions. Or rather, he probably had some visions but didn’t have the first clue about implementing them.

      1. Forrest*

        Yes, I remember that letter!

        I think the thing is, if Jake wants to be a successful entrepreneur, the way he’s doing it isn’t *wrong*. Most successful entrepreneurs don’t get lucky the first time: they fail, fail again, fail again and then one day they don’t fail. But you’ve got to be the kind of person who can cope with failing. And, of course, there is a huge amount of survivor bias in the start-up community! For every entrepreneur giving TEDX talks saying, “my first business failed! My second business failed! My third business failed! But my thirty-ninth is a unicorn!”, there’s an unknown number of people whose tap out at the fourth, sixth or twenty eighth failure.

        (Which is a legitimate choice! I am deeply sceptical of advice in any high-stakes field which is, “keep trying no matter what”, rather than, “you know what, maybe this number of knock backs isn’t for you and there’s something more enjoyable you could be doing.”

        1. Wintermute*

          Lets not forget that they also tend to come from a background where they can fail over and over without ending up homeless or dying for lack of health insurance because someone else is propping them up somehow. Not that this makes them bad, but it does mean that it’s a path not viable for most.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Agreed. If you’re fresh out of college and not worried about a mortgage and kids, you have more freedom to fail. You can probably return to your parents’ house, bunk with a friend, etc. Not so easy when you have dependents or serious health concerns. At least for now in the US you can stay on your parents’ health insurance until you are 26, which is also a safety net.

      2. raincoaster*

        I read that the other day and the timelines don’t match up, so apparently there is a whole cadre of these guys (why are they always guys — don’t answer that!).

      1. The Very Long Night of Susan Ivanova*

        There’s a really good thread from August 2017 (“why won’t anyone hire me as their visionary”) on what ideas people can do career-wise. (There’s plenty of piling on by non-ideas people in that thread, but hidden among all the piling on are a few posts with great actionable advice, including in the startup space.)

        I don’t read this blog every day and don’t generally remember posts from years ago, the way some people do. But I remembered this one.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        OP1, every day I pray for the confidence of a Jake – a mediocre, superficially charming white man. Maybe then people will hurl awards at me for not having done anything. :D

        1. Batgirl*

          I pray for the opportunities. Too good to get experience first? Lots of people would kill for that experience.

    3. BubbleTea*

      I went to a talk by a kid who was saying that Generation Zee (and he pronounced it like that, despite the fact we are in the UK and say zed) were going to revolutionise the business world because they know how to use the internet. I paraphrase, but that was the gist. He was a consultant and gave companies advice on how to use social media. Most of the audience were lapping it up. I wanted to throw things at him (for instance, the website I had when I was 3 years old, back in the dark ages of the 90s, or my dad’s CV as a web designer and technical author stretching back to the 80s). The yoof of today didn’t invent the internet, kid!

      1. MK*

        It doesn’t matter who invented the internet, and the 80’s and 90’s were a different online environment. Grandiose statements about his generation changing the world aside, what matters is if he has a useful service to offer to a specific market. There are plenty of companies in many parts of the world that aren’t utilizing the internet to grow their business they could; if his audience was buying what he is selling, my guess would be that they aren’t in the front lines of online marketing. So, yes, they should probably hire someone like him to bring them up to speed.

        1. The Very Long Night of Susan Ivanova*

          +1. And plenty of companies don’t know how to use social media, and more still don’t know how to use new social media like YikYak (RIP) or TikTok. These companies may do very well to listen to him.

      2. lailaaaaah*

        They didn’t *invent* the internet, but from my experience working in IT as a millennial, there’s a generational shift in the way people think about and interact with the internet that can be a huge stumbling block to Boomer/GenX (even older millennial) workers. People his age can have a useful perspective to offer- it just depends on whether he’s got the skills to back it up.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. It also depends if he can come across as someone they want to work with and not a patronising twit. My friends with small businesses say that part of their work is selling themselves as someone a purchaser will want to do business with.

          My decorator puts it quite well “well I need to paint your room right, but I also need to persuade you that I’m someone you want to have in your gaff and that I won’t nick the silver. It doesn’t matter how good a painter I am if you come away thinking I’m a right tosser”

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, if this chap is coming across as ‘OK dinosaurs, I am a Young Person and I am going to Show You How The Internet Works’ then no one is going to want to listen to him. You have to engage with your audience if you’re going to get them to buy into what you’re saying.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              We HAD one of those come in to our place a while back. An IT department in a software development company did NOT appreciate being told we couldn’t ‘do’ internet or software as well as the younger generations (I think I’m Gen X and I was the youngest) and there was a stern ‘you dinosaurs should move aside to let younger people have these jobs’ vibe to their speech.

              We didn’t *quite* throw rotten tomatoes at them but I think it got darn close.

      3. raincoaster*

        Ironically what he’s going to realize sooner rather than later is that when The Yoof flood into a field, it becomes lower-paid. Look at social media: when it started the average user was a 46-year-old female, and the job of community manager paid six figures a year. Now you’d get thirty thousand for the same job, because “Oh, give it to the intern. She’s a Yoof, she knows the internet!”

        1. Quill*

          Also the more demand for a job might scale with this.

          Ten years ago chain restaurants didn’t all have someone to run their twitter, so if you wrote copy for, say, the official McDonalds twitter account, you probably were getting paid more (due to it being a brand new marketing strategy) than you would be doing it now.

        2. The Very Long Night of Susan Ivanova*

          Look at social media: when it started the average user was a 46-year-old female, and the job of community manager paid six figures a year.

          I’d like to see some data behind these claims; your use of the epithet “yoof” suggests to me that you have an axe to grind against “yoof,” quite possibly involving dues-paying.

      4. Bluesboy*

        Not entirely on topic, but as Ronald Reagan once said when a group of people pointed out that he hadn’t grown up in a world of satellites, computers, jet travel and journeys to the moon:

        “You’re absolutely right. We didn’t have those things when we were your age. We invented them”

    4. Mel_05*

      I worked with someone who quit to be a “visionary” and life coach. He was very good at saying flowery words that meant nothing.

      He sells air conditioners now.

      1. raincoaster*

        I literally read that, but the timelines don’t match up. My guy is in his thirties now. His life must be so different from what he envisioned.

    5. JohannaCabal*

      Sounds like someone I interviewed with a resume showing their experience in the imports business.

      During the interview it came out that the “imports business” was an eBay store interviewee and their friend set up to sell items (I think souvenirs and such) they purchased online from the UK.

      This was for an entry-level job so we might have given this person a chance except the person kept trying to present their retail and part-time experience as business experience (threw in all the buzzwords too). For example, working as a food delivery driver was treated as if they were involved in supply chain logistics.

      It was really bizarre and I felt a little bad for them. If they’d been straight-forward, we probably would have offered them a position.

      1. Wintermute*

        I know the advice is USUALLY given jokingly, but I’ve seen enough earnest advice given to people to wildly overstate menial jobs (think of the stereotypical “call your job pumping gas ‘transfer process technician in the petrochemical industry'” type joke) that I would almost feel bad for a guy like that. Still not sure I could trust them, though.

        1. JohannaCabal*

          I’ve seen it too.

          There were other red flags too. I will say that the other manager interviewing the person was really turned off by it mainly because she had worked part-time at a fast food job in college and it felt like the candidate was ashamed of their retail experience and thought it beneath them.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Now I need a thread for ‘worst description of work experience you’ve ever heard from a candidate’.

          Can I put the person who tried to claim that playing online games made them a ‘software engineer’?

      2. raincoaster*

        Dang! That guy has obviously gotten the wrong advice about job-searching. And, I mean, I say that as someone who once coached a drug courier getting out of prison to reframe their job as customer service and delivery.

        1. Wintermute*

          Exactly, it’s right up there with jokes about calling pumping gas “petroleum transfer technician” or making sandwiches at subway “agricultural arts consultant”

          1. Sacred Ground*

            The funniest part of the latter joke is that Subway really does call its employees “sandwich artists.”

    6. Gray Lady*

      This reminds me of an ER episode where a guy claiming to be a university researcher was following the staff around, observing their routines and telling them all about his innovative plan to revolutionize healthcare delivery. He even got one of the docs interested in taking a job with his “new model” hospital that he was going to set up.

      Then the nurses from the psych floor showed up to take him back up.

      1. UKDancer*

        Interesting. I’ve a good friend who, having spent time sectioned before, has set up a small company of mental health service users which advises on things like service user involvement and training staff in mental health issues They’ve worked with a number of NHS Trusts. I think if you’ve experience of being sectioned you are probably in a good place to give advice on how to run things.

        Certainly if you apply the mantra of “nothing about us, without us” you can see the benefits of involvement.

  8. Lasciel*

    For #4, I just want to mention that the Senior title pretty important in data/software/security engineering. Usually being a senior is similar to a lead or manager in many ways and comes with a significant pay bump compared to junior engineers. I’m not sure about other fields but guessing as Alison mentioned, that the senior title might not be that important most other positions.

    1. TechWorker*

      But even then it varies between companies what it actually *means* – in some places ‘senior’ will be possible to achieve with say 3-4 years experience, because they use a whole host of other titles to indicate ‘even more senior’ (‘senior 2 engineer’, ‘lead engineer’, ‘principal engineer’ etc etc). In others senior will mean 10 years experience. So Alison’s point that external hiring managers are going to judge seniority by responsibilities/achievements still stands.

      1. Wintermute*

        Exactly, “senior” could mean “we give this to everyone who gets their CCNA” or it could mean “oversees the work quality of a team of juniors, has oncall responsibilities for critical after-hours breakfix and regularly contributes to our strategic planning” it’s hard to tell.

        But in most cases it at least proves a track record of quality performance over a modest period of time, at minimum.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      I also work in this field, and I had the same reaction. Getting that title is a big deal in terms of what level of responsibility other companies will expect you to be able to handle, and what they are willing to pay. Once you start at a new company without it, “the clock starts over” on getting it. If the LW also works in this field, I would say hang on long enough for HR to process the change, and have something you accomplished.

    3. Smithy*

      I do think this is likely significantly dependent on industry. In my industry – someone get a Sr. title added to a number of individual contributor roles across the range of years of experience. In one place a Sr. Manager could still be relatively early in their career whereas in a peer organization, Sr. Officer represents extensive experience and seniority. It’s also fairly common in my industry for an internal promotion to Sr. Current Job Title to be accompanied by a more modest raise.

      If this were a question about my industry – if the OP is truly unable to hold the job and continue a job search – then holding the title for 3-5 months before quitting would still justify listing the title. That being said, if there was any way of the OP to stay in the role and do the job search, then for my industry immediately including the Sr role would be acceptable. Showing you were a Sr. X for a few weeks and then started a new job would heavily indicate that recognition for previous work as opposed to bailing while in a more prestigious role.

      All of this to say, take the time to ask around in your industry and also consider taking a week vacation to see if its possible to both recharge and maybe do some of the harder pieces like making a master resume/cover letter. Sometimes once those pieces are done, then it may be easier to engage in a more active job hunt while still working.

      1. OP4*

        Thanks, I am in software, but this is my first job out of college (where I majored in something technical but not directly relevant to my current line of work), so I have very little sense of what’s normal. Honestly from what I can tell in my company the “senior” title seems to have a lot more to do with how aggressively you marketed yourself during the job interview than actual ability or duties, and from what I’m reading in these comments it seems like there’s enough variation that it’ll be better to focus on what I did than what I’m called.

        I love the idea of taking a resume-writing vacation!

        1. Smithy*

          I’m not in software – but if the Sr. titles feel more arbitrary or just related to raises, then tentatively my advice might still apply?

          Regardless, I strongly encourage a resume-writing vacation. When you’re unhappy at your job, feeling like you are also losing your evenings/weekends to job hunting can easily feel like extra punishment. Taking some time off work to do some things I like/find relaxing and mix that with job hunting really helped me at one point.

          AAM is a big champion of tailoring resumes/cover letters to jobs – and that really is the best advice. However, taking a week to develop solid templates that require minimal updating per job application once you go back to work, it might give yourself a couple months to see if that approach is getting you any promising interviews. Then if the promotion/raise don’t come through in rewarding ways, AND you’re not seeing the job hunting traction you want – you’ll have more data on how to consider next steps.

    4. Kiki*

      Yes, I still agree with Alison that LW definitely should not include the senior title if they only stay for a couple weeks after receiving it, but if the LW hangs around for 3-6 months, in the software engineering field that title would be really valuable to have on their resume. Even though senior titles vary in what they technically mean from company to company, it’s still something that hiring committees value and takes some of the work out of having to convince a new job that you’re “ready to be a senior.”

    5. consultinerd*

      I’ll add on to this–in my corner of engineering/planning, the ‘senior’ title is reasonably meaningful. Yes, responsibilities/achievements are ultimately more important, but the title says something about the level of trust, independence, and oversight someone is operating under, even if they’re responsible for a similar set of tasks on paper. If I were in #4s position I’d hold out for the promotion and stick around a few months after, unless the current job is truly terrible.

    6. sb51*

      +1. Put it down if this is tech. Unless you’re applying to a visibly-a-junior position and don’t want to get tossed out as too senior, because you need/want to take a step backwards for some reason.

      But I’d also find it reasonable as a hiring manager in tech to have someone with significant experience in a junior slot be applying for senior roles; I’d just tend to assume they were jumping ship because they hadn’t gotten their promotion yet. Putting it down, though, makes it clear that you weren’t being held back for cause; but it’s also something that could come up organically in an interview.

  9. Hawkes*

    LW4, unless your industry has very standardized job titles, I don’t think ‘senior’ inherently means something to a resume reviewer. One company can call their level 1 and 2 llama persons “assistant llama wrangler” and “llama wrangler” while another call them “llama wrangler” and “senior llama wrangler” and a third will call those same positions “llama wrangler” and “llama expert”.

    Focus on accomplishments, that will show what you actually did rather than what title you had. The nice thing about having done higher-level work is that you can put those accomplishments on your resume and show what that job title meant at your company. (That doesn’t make the whole situation any less sucky but you may as well capitalize on it.)

    I’m not saying not to include the title, just that it likely doesn’t matter a ton.

    YMMV depending on industry, I assume.

    1. Dan*

      Yeah… I work in tech, and for the most part, “senior” is just filler. I’ve applied to places where they will hand out “senior analyst” to someone with a graduate degree and no experience. At my last job, they had two different roles with the word “senior” in it. One applied quite similarly to what I just described, and the other applied to someone with much more experience.

      Heck, now that I think about it, the same applies at my current org two. The “Senior X” titles are handed out to anybody with a pulse (and therefore meaningless vis a vis “senior”) but the “Senior Y” titles are handed out to people with some legit rank. Pay wise? The Senior Y people make about double what the Senior X people do.

      1. Lucy Day*

        At my last company Senior just meant “you’ve been here awhile.” I was up for that title increase right before I left (just shy of 5 years). I would’ve gotten a small raise but literally 0 change in responsibilities.

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      Definitely this! Even within my company, the “expert” vs. “senior expert” distinction is… weird. Senior experts are responsible for a broader area of expertise. At the same experience level, senior experts make more than experts, but some experts make more than some senior experts. As I said, it’s just super weird and external recruiters know that titles don’t matter that much.

    3. Antilles*

      The title changing has some value because that implies you progressed, but the actual title itself is hard to define because everybody calls stuff something different.
      One specific example I’ve run across is “Staff Engineer”. In the companies I’ve worked in, that’s the very bottom level; the kind of engineer who’s so green that the ink on his diploma might not be dry yet…but I’ve heard other people (including in these comments) say that at their companies, “Staff Engineer” is the highest level title in the firm, held by the most senior of senior people.

      1. Bear Shark*

        I run across that with “Project Manager.” It seems to cover everything from person in charge of multi-year, multi-million dollar projects to Admin. Assistant.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Exactly what I came here to say. The title rankings are important within the company, not so much in comparison with another company. I’ve seen “Senior” titles that required 5 years of experience, and others that required 15.

    5. Smithy*

      I have a somewhat different take – that may be very industry specific. While I also work in an industry where there’s almost zero title uniformity across organizations, seeing that someone was internally promoted does carry weight.

      The difference between Associate and Sr Associate may mean nothing job duty wise, but it does indicate that your employer thinks well enough of you to ensure a promotion. My industry is also notorious for giving people promotions after they’ve already demonstrated their ability to do the work – so if I got a resume from someone where I saw they’d been a Sr. Llama Wrangler for three weeks, it would still mean something to me. Provided they were still hired.

      My biggest advice to the OP is to try and take some “job hunt” vacations if they’re truly burned out on this place of employment. Take a week to decompress, work on a master resume and some cover letter templates – just to see if there’s any way to keep the job and apply to new roles.

  10. Dan*


    If you’re looking for work/life balance, this place likely isn’t for you. One caution about asking the interviewer if the place is a pressure cooker, you don’t have much recourse if they lie to you and say it’s not.

    That said… I think you really need to take company size into account. If this is a small place where more or less everybody does the same general thing (or works on the same sort of projects) you can all but guarantee that this is a company standard. However, if this is a large company and different divisions/departments/roles do different things, then it’s entirely possible that working for those departments is terrible but working for others is just fine.

    I work for a rather large org, and we have a few departments that really suck (and their turnover numbers reflect that) and other departments that are generally run pretty well (and said turnover numbers reflect that, too.) Whether or not one can figure out from the outside if they’re reading a review from someone in a crappy department, or one from someone who’s experience is more reflective of the median staff member, I’m not really sure.

    I’d run for the hills if you’re interviewing at a small org, and be very methodical with your questioning if you’re interviewing at a large org.

  11. John Smith*

    #2. That is terrible. Imagine that you are in an abusive relationship, you want to leave your partner, but they say they will kill themself if you leave. What your boss is doing is almost the same thing and it is a crappy place to be (I have been in that scenario btw so I speak from experience). I would leave at the first opportunity you get, do not look back and in no way feel guilty or responsible for anything that happens once you do leave. Your bosses are, frankly, sick in the head.

    1. John Smith*

      I realise I used plural at the end of my comment. My apologies – I was thinking of something else at the time and my brain just went loopy.

    2. LW #2*

      Thanks – a friend of mine made this same point, that the email was very gaslight-y and employed similar tactics to those of abusers.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Thanks for identifying why I felt physically sick reading that boss’ reaction. Seriously. (My ultra abusive ex…may a piece of space debris land on his head one day)

    4. Batgirl*

      I can completely understand why the LW is upset, but she will feel much better when away from there. Also, if the business is so badly run that it fails, that’s a good thing because it means they aren’t emotionally abusing a successor in her role.

  12. Tinker*

    Seems like either:

    — Eventually Jake will run out of money and have to get a job for more than pedagogical purposes.
    — These startups are getting past the part that is just spending money and getting nothing, in which case Jake’s resume is not so profoundly dissimilar from that of a good friend of mine whose career has been fairly startup-centric: one company listed that still exists, which is their current employer and one whose failure will make or possibly prevent the news.
    — Jake can afford to fail at however many startups he wants to fail at, in which case if he wants the experience of being subject to the whims of another paying to have that experience provided is also a viable option. By which I could potentially mean that he can afford an opinionated horse.

    1. OP1*

      It definitely won’t be the first. His family pay for absolutely everything and show no signs of stopping.

      1. Velocette*

        I believe you’ve just added the final missing piece for me OP.
        Sorry to say there is not much advice you can offer to him. His mindset will not change as long as he never really experiences failure.
        When your business fails or is danger of failing and you face the possibility of losing or have lost your house, car etc. That’s the learning curve you need. Leaving the house at 4 AM to load the van up with all the kit so you can drive 3 hours to set up the stall, driving back and repeating for 6 days a week just to make enough to scrape by while the business was “just about to take off”. That’s one of my personal experiences of building a business.
        It doesn’t sound like he does anything like that at all.

      2. lailaaaaah*

        Oof. I’m wondering if it’s worth gently suggesting that *he* seek some degree of business coaching or a mentor who’s experienced in working with multiple ideas (or even entrepreneurs with ADHD- which isn’t to say I’m armchair diagnosing him, but the ‘tons of projects, not much follow through’ pattern is familiar to me).

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        Ah, so these startups are actually hobbies. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. The Victorian era produced an entire class of people who did not need real jobs. Most frittered their days away partying, but some took up hobbies, and some of those did good. Some produced decent-to-excellent literature or works of scholarship. I am always impressed by those guys who went out into the jungle to study butterflies: total geeks, and I mean that admiringly. Setting up a consultant firm, despite having no experience whatsoever, is a 21st century equivalent: not in that it is as productive a use of time as studying butterflies, but in that it matches the spirit of the age.

        1. twocents*

          One of my business professors said that if your for-profit business never makes money, then you don’t have a business, you have a very expensive hobby.

        2. Forrest*

          Then one takes off by accident and he ends up interviewed all over the place and attributes his success to his work ethic and perseverence.

        3. Heidi*

          Interesting. Is this why there are so many gentlemen detectives? This would be an excellent hobby, but alas, you need experience to do this well also.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Well, that and early mystery writers tended to be of the gentry class, writing about their own.

            But seriously, the prime example of a gentleman-hobbyist doing great things is Charles Darwin.

        4. Quill*

          It’s lead to an ongoing problem in academia, especially sciences that aren’t directly corporate supported, in that they’re never properly funded – we have over a hundred years of them being gentlemen’s passion projects and the idea that long term study of biodiversity, which is necessary but isn’t going to make money for shareholders in the short term, should be part of the modern economy has consistently baffled us.

          Especially since actual scientific work isn’t a rich kid’s path to acclaim anymore, tech startups are.

      4. Grey Coder*

        Ah, I was wondering about this. I’ve known a couple of “tech entrepreneurs” who were actually just rich kids whose families set them up with companies that drift for a while. Sometimes they get (and burn through) some VC money, sometimes they don’t, but the kid gets to play startup CEO.

      5. Grits McGee*

        Is anyone else reminded of Joseph Hunt and the Billionaire Boys Club in the 1980s? A bunch of rich young men in Los Angeles started an “investment firm” which ended up functioning as a Ponzi scheme targeting their families. I remember watching a documentary where one of the BBC members described working there as something like “putting on your dad’s tie and playing at business”.

      6. JohannaCabal*

        There’s always the possibility that at some point friend’s family will stop pouring money into their failing startups. I’m sure friend’s family has some kind of connections that could help him get a job.

        Circumstances can change. Plus, what happens if the money is cut off? One of my friend’s grew up poor to lower middle class because one of her parents married someone considered “beneath their family’s class” and the family gravy train was cut off. This meant said parent had to figure out how to manage on their own without resources and work experience.

      7. Blackcat*


        My parents funded my brother’s creative endeavors (he’s in an arts field) with no sign of stopping… until my brother was about to turn 30 with no sign of ever having an income beyond a few commissions here and there.

        But by 30, my brother had come to expect my parents’ support. They did stop funding his projects, but he didn’t get a “real job” because he felt it was beneath him. And by then, it would have been hard anyway with no employment history. He’s now approaching 40 and there’s been no change. The friends who stuck around through his 20s and early 30s have all dropped him like a hot potato, because by 40, leeching off your wealthy parents is not a good look (particularly because my parents aren’t *that* wealthy. Think 1%, but not 0.1%, and my father isn’t retiring because he wants to save up enough money to not only fund his retirement but stash away enough money for my brother to survive on indefinitely).

        I think gently encouraging Jake to “try out” some more normal employment is fine. But I’d also be prepared to ultimately drift apart over this if he doesn’t change. He very well might! Or might find something that actually works! But odds are high if the funding is family money, the pattern may go on and on since there’s nothing to stop it.

        1. Bluesboy*

          I know a few musicians like this. The arts are important, I don’t doubt that for a second. But there is this kind of snobbishness sometimes about producing what the public actually wants/selling out that means that some people seem to feel that their work is important in a way that its level of success doesn’t merit. And because it’s important, somebody (parents, partners etc) has to fund it. Not them. They are producing important work.

          I also know musicians who love what they do, and will happily live on a lower income to let them live that life, or have another part time job, or play weddings so that they can have the time and funds to create their music. Interestingly, those who actually support themselves seem to me to be happier than those who are supported by others, even though they have less time to actually do what they love.

          Your advice is solid; I hope for Jake’s sake that he does try some more normal employment and joins the ‘real’ world. And I hope your father manages to retire sooner rather than later!

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Your first paragraph nicely summarizes the history of 20th century classical music, except those guys usually paid the bills by teaching. The lucky ones got into academic faculties, composing music nearly no one wanted to listen to and teaching up and coming students to do the same. The less fortunate taught piano and violin students, usually hating every moment. Either way, divorce art from the necessity of an audience and the results are entirely predictable.

            1. Forrest*

              Eh, I’d disagree with this. I’ve a friend who performs and teaches contemporary classical music, and whilst her stuff fits exactly what you’ve described, her students go on to perform and compose music that plenty of people listen to. Music is everywhere!

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                We’re not in the 20th century anymore. A salutary trend is classical composers deciding that having audiences isn’t such a bad thing after all. A century ago the real trend-setters took actual audiences as a sign of selling out and writing “kitsch.” (Riddle me this: If you dismiss Sibelius as kitsch, what space does that leave you for assessing Leroy Anderson?) Some of those 20th century avant-garde guys wrote stuff that was intellectually interesting, but not necessarily pleasant to listen to. We have since rediscovered that it is possible to do both, which is odd considering how prominently Bach accomplished the feat.

          2. JohannaCabal*

            Plus, some creative people thrive and get ideas from the daily interaction that work provides.

            Outside of work, I’m writing fiction. While, in theory I’d love to have the opportunity to have several months free to write, the actuality of things is that when I have extended breaks from work I don’t write. Why? My creative process dries up.

            For some reason, I think I’m more creative when I’m working.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              My writing is of a complete different sort, but me too. The challenge is to take a bunch of facts and distill them down to a manageable word count while clearly laying out an argument to reach a conclusion. I use my daily commute to think through how to do this.

          3. Timbuktu*

            Your post reminds me of Ryan Gosling in La La Land. His career plans were certainly in La La Land. Had to keep the music “pure”, by which he means “not commercially successful.” Blues music, pure! The genre is about experimentation and change!

            But that is the thought process that these people have–I am financially ABOVE that, therefore it is morally wrong…

        2. SentientAmoeba*

          The amount of money your brother could have made starting out at 30 is more than he would be making starting out at 40. I hope your dad also realizes that your brother is going to live high on the hog until the cash runs out, then be broke for the rest of his life.

      8. Weekend Please*

        In that case I think the best thing to do is to tell him that you don’t own your own business or work within those sectors. Suggest he write in himself or try the Friday open thread. But I don’t think he is in a place right now where he is willing to hear that he needs to make major changes in order to succeed.

  13. Bagpuss*

    OP2 – you’re doing nothing wrong, and your boss is being a manipulative jerk.
    O am a partner in a small business. We’ve had situations where someone has given notice at a time which was monumentally inconvenient for us as a business, and the appropriate response is “Thanks for letting me know, good luck in your new job” – Have I had situations where I have vented to my business partner about how inconvenient it is? Absolutely. But not to the person leaving or other staff members, just entirely privately in my own time and to my business partner!
    The reality is that it is part of being in business, and you should have contingency plans for unexpected absences

    If your boss wants you to stay he’s free to make you a counter-offer (which you are under absolutely no obligation to accept)

    1. LW #2*

      Thanks for this perspective as a small business owner yourself – as a small business manager who’s definitely had staff quit at seriously inconvenient times and/or with zero notice, I know the difficulty and frustration well, but have always done as you have. They didn’t sign a pact in blood (nor did I…), and if they don’t want to be there any more, I don’t need to guilt trip, interrogate, or berate them. I definitely complained to fellow managers about it, and had to do some last minute staffing shuffles to accommodate it, but I never responded in this sort of way.

  14. DiscoCat*

    #1 OP, you write SMEs and it makes me think you’re in Europe,and that your friend working in the field of advising on acquiring and managing EC funding. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it and presuming, but if that is the case then your friend cannot just assume he can get into management consulting in this context. It is a highly competitive field where people are expected to hold 1. a postgraduate degree in the field the SMEs are working in or a closely related one, 2. have work experience in a technical position, 3. plus as a project manager, and 4. ideally a strong business management/ business development background. People with 15+ years experience struggle to get employment in one of those management consultancies if their work experience doesn’t cover at least 3 of these 4 parts; especially formal business development training and experience is gaining ever more importance. These consultancies are highly professionalised, they compete amongst each other for clients, they compete on behalf of their clients for the funding, if it’s badly managed indivdual consultant compete amongst each other for advising opportunities, it’s high-competition all around. And if he wants to succeed on his own, he needs to put his head down and work hard, under someone else in this highly service oriented, high pressure tight deadlines, bend-over-backwards for the client type environment, for at least 3 years, not only to gain skills, but also network, because that is a core part of getting known.

  15. PspspspspspsKitty*

    OP 1 – Jake sounds like my ex-boyfriend from college. He was a visionary type of person, lots of ideas. He was also an engineer and developed some awesome products. He was also grossly out of touch with people who worked normal jobs. His parents paid for everything. He wanted to give advice, develop people, sell random products, run business, and all of these other get rich things. He would ask for my input, but it got really hard because I could tell he just didn’t get it. I had no experience in product development, but I could tell from the way he did things was out of the norm.

    I don’t know any business that would hire an assumingly 22 year old with no experience to consult with. I work in production and it was painfully obvious when the consulting company try to tell us how to run because some office worker at HQ thought it was a great idea, but never actually worked in an production environment. It often felt like taking a buzzfeed personality quiz.

    1. lailaaaaah*

      Seconding this. The one time somewhere I worked brought a consultant in, they ended up paying tons of money for what amounted to a day in a conference room eating crappy sandwiches and taking personality quizzes, after which everyone trundled back to their offices to catch up on the actual work they’d missed and no further follow-up was ever done. Like, okay, Karen from management is a ‘red’/aggressive personality type – I already know that, how does it help me get things through her for approval?

    2. Analyst Editor*

      I did meet a guy who had a company that was an “engineering consulting” firm, but they actually machined things and did process improvement, which is different from management consulting.

  16. Anonymous Poster*

    OP1: Yeah, I think you can tell him once that he lacks credibility because he lacks experience. It would be like me as a man offering advice on child birth to someone. It’s laughably ridiculous. And if he doesn’t want to hear it, well… you did what you could.

    OP2: What if you had an accident, or had to rush off to settle the estate of a loved one, or won a 3 month vacation to Tahiti? The business needs to plan around these things as best as it can, or else it was on the road to failure anyway. It’s not on you, and the owner got more notice than they would have if you were in an accident with your 2 weeks notice. Don’t feel bad about it, but try to wrap up things as best you can.

    OP4: I quit a few months after I finally got a promotion at one job. The manager was irritated because he bent over backwards to get the promotion, but also… when I was hired 6 years previously, he had promised me this promotion would have happened 3 years previously. Within 6 months of my coming onboard he backtracked it and said he never said that. It set a tone of not really believing what he says but only what he writes. It’s unfortunately.

    Anyway, don’t feel bad about leaving, but I also did have the new title for a few months before leaving. But only a couple weeks? I don’t know, a reference checker is going to get a weird story when they ask about you in that role that I don’t think would do you well.

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I don’t disagree with your point, but I do disagree with your analogy around childbirth. A father of 6 is much more likely to give good birthing advise than a mother of zero, while a male OBGYN is going to have more first hand experience than a mother of 12. From the opposite direction, of course.

      1. meyer lemon*

        Not to derail further, but just wanted to note that a man could also be a birth parent to six, of course.

    2. OP4*

      OP4 here. Would it be different if I were job hunting prior to quitting? Like, is “senior llama wrangler Feb 2021 – present, llama wrangler 2018 – Feb 2021” okay, or would it still serve me better to just not mention the senior title for a few months? My instinct is that the “- present” line makes it less weird, but I’d love other opinions.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I think it’s fine but not compelling to have it listed that way – what is the difference in responsibilities and accomplishments from the wrangler to senior wrangler position? Titles (in my industry) vary an awful lot, so it’s the bullets that means something to me; this may not be the case in yours. Also, I’d have a response prepared as to why you are job hunting so soon after being “promoted”, but it sounds like you have the basis for that from your letter already.

  17. Bob*

    Is Jake a dreamer who is an ideas person but not interested in a traditional job?
    This seems to be a type, they have visions and ideas and are determined to change the world for the better but are interested in imparting their wisdom and moving on. They are rarely interested in details, long term hard work, the nitty gritty or staying in one place for long but are convinced they have the answers to the problems of the world. They are also often quite charismatic, very sure of themselves, motivational and enthusiastic. But they often lack substance, experience or have a game plan beyond the high level vision.
    Is this Jake?

    1. Generic Name*

      I worked with a guy like that once. Honestly, the world does need these types of people, but they are best paired up with someone (or multiple someones) who is an implementer and who can take the ideas to fruition.

      1. Bob*

        In my experience that does not work well. The dreamers are often impatient.
        That said its worth a try, but if it fails be ready with Plan B.

        Though i would argue the world needs far more Systems Thinkers.

    2. Wanderer*

      As someone who works in a creative industry, there are plenty of ‘dreamers’ and folks who don’t want a traditional job who are plenty good at digging in and doing the work to make it happen, in systematic and detailed ways that make sense for the work they are actually trying to do.

      But I definitely know the type you’ve described, too! Sometimes they’ll get into a place where their eloquence and charisma get them pretty far, while the actual work is 99% due to under-credited, often underpaid people below them in the structure. It ties in with the lone genius myth–many of the people we hold up as geniuses were really the most visible part of a network of people responsible for the outcomes.

    3. Batgirl*

      Not only is it A Type, but I don’t know how they get any kind of work. Whenever I’ve worked with someone who’ve never paid any kind of dues, they’re a huge pain in the arse, lack common sense, talk over you, and use up all the oxygen. I’d hesitate to hire them in an entry level position against any decent competition, never mind pay for their advice!

  18. Duke Flapjack*

    To OP #1: my last job guilt-tripped me the same way. I was indispensable because I did literally everything and was underpaid for it. Frankly it got to the point where I didn’t care if the business folded. I stopped getting frequent stress migraines when I changed jobs.

      1. LW #2*

        The funny thing is that at my last job (also a manager at a similar business), I was pretty indispensable (and underpaid and under appreciated…), but when it came time to leave, they were supportive and helpful. Here, I do less – and am truly not like, a super genius who is the only person who knows how to do my job or something – but got this response. I think it’s all about the ownership.

    1. Generic Name*

      Did the business indeed fail when you left? It’s funny how this attitude is often (always?) paired with underpaying employees.

      1. Duke Flapjack*

        Honestly I have no idea. My old company has no online presence and the business is so out of the way that I have no way of clandestinely wandering past without being noticed.

        1. Juneybug*

          Could you do any of the following searches? The reason I ask is us AAM readers will be asking for your update around the holidays. :)
          1. Contact your state’s Secretary or Division of Corporations to see if they are listed as a business.
          2. See if they still have a license to sell food, etc. (if they were required).
          3. Search Google with company’s name to see what comes up (even if they don’t have a website).
          4. See if they are listed with the local Chamber of Commerce.
          5. Send a friend acting as client to visit the office and gather intel.
          OK, I am kidding about the last one (sort of)…

  19. Mel_05*

    OP2 – I once quit a job at a time when my leaving literally destroyed an entire department in the company. Everyone was extremely nice about it and even happy for me!

    They were able to rebuild the department a couple years down the line, but even if they hadn’t- that wouldn’t have been my responsibility.

  20. Sam*

    OP#2: especially since you aren’t trying to salvage a reference, draw those boundaries HARD. “I really want to do my best work in these two weeks. I can’t do that if I feel like I’m being berated or blamed. I need a healthy and respectful workplace or I won’t be able to finish my two weeks. Would you prefer I stick around or leave now?”

    And stick to it. They don’t own you! You’re allowed to walk out – for a break, for the day, forever – if you’re being mistreated.

    In the meantime, do whatever you can to make life outside of work easier. Order more takeout, don’t stress too much about cleaning of exercise (unless those help you reduce stress), maybe connect with loved ones by phone after work. Find ways to relax as much as you can after work. This might feel like a very long two weeks, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

    1. LW #2*

      Thanks so much for these kind words and advice. I’m also packing to move right now, so I’m definitely heavy on self-care for the moment, including allowing for a little takeout, a good beer, and scheduling calls/facetimes with family and friends to help cheer me up.

  21. MissDisplaced*

    #2. You did not “kill” your boss’s business’
    Jeez! They are being overly dramatic and shifting blame to you. This business was not a partnership where you were an equal partner. If you run any sort of business, you have to be prepared that sometimes people will quit, move, get sick, die, or somehow otherwise leave at some point.

    Some online job application systems DO have the option to upload a new resume at any time. If someone pulls your resume, it would pull whatever file is stored in the system, not what you’ve previously used to apply. However, the success of this would depend on if your application materials had already been accessed. It could be worth a try if done quickly.
    If you do get contacted, it may be possible to tell the hiring manager or HR person you’ve made some updates to your resume and ask if you can send them your most recent version. But that would generally be for minor changes (like say adding a degree or skill you’ve completed or small corrections), not a total rework of it.

    1. Mockingjay*

      #5, yes, some ATSs do allow replacement. Like MissDisplaced says, your materials may have already been looked at. What I would do is monitor those companies (LinkedIn, check their web/careers site regularly, sign up for emails, etc.) and if you see another opportunity, immediately log in and replace the resume.

  22. Ubi Caritas*

    #2 In my last job I worked for someone who loudly and often proclaimed that everyone was expendable. Everyone! (I was doing medical computing – one of several programmers.) After a brutal winter in Iowa I decided to move to someplace warmer – found a job, gave my 2 weeks notice. Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth! Projects were going to fail! I was deliberately sabotaging her! Well, I had documented everything properly, changeover went smoothly, and I got out as fast as I could.
    It’s worth remembering that you may love your job, but your job doesn’t love you.

    1. LW #2*

      LW #2 here – I’m hoping to respond to all of these extremely wonderful comments, but yours especially caught my eye as my boss has told me verbatim “You are completely replaceable” multiple times this year. It was in the context of Covid worst-case planning, as we do have a staff member who is absolutely not replaceable. However, I am. So to be told all year “You’re completely replaceable” and now receive this kind of message from the boss is confusing.

      1. Jean*

        Your boss sounds like a nightmare. His behavior after you gave notice is a classic narcissistic injury reaction – he’s framing this as you victimizing him personally, and you’re falling for it. No need to cry or be anxious about this. In fact if he’s making you feel unsafe – this kind of behavior from my boss would definitely make ME feel unsafe – it’s OK to just let him know that you won’t be returning. Especially if you don’t need the reference. Best of luck OP and congrats on getting away from this job.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          Hello, almost-identically named commenter! After reading your comments above and below, I have begun to think of you as “my more assertive and less wordy twin.”
          But mostly I don’t want anyone to credit me with *your* sensible comments.
          Carry on and have a great day!
          — from “the other Jean” [aka Jean (just Jean)]

      2. Bob*

        Your boss was negging you and is now trying to do damage control (and failing).
        People who act this way will do the opposite when necessary in service to their ultimate goal (in this case attempting to keep you on but afraid to stand up for yourself).

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This is his way of saying: you’re replaceable, but only on my terms. Nobody gets to leave on your own terms.”

        Please leave with a clear conscience, and leave a good detailing of what you did and how – I get the feeling your replacement will need it.

          1. LW #2*

            That’s pretty much what’s been in my head since it was first said, last April. I stuck it out but I feel that that wasn’t an appropriate thing to say then, it really undermined me (it was said in front of all staff), and it really struck at how he felt about me and my work.

        1. Observer*

          This is his way of saying: you’re replaceable, but only on my terms. Nobody gets to leave on your own terms.”

          Exactly! Except that people DO get to leave on their own terms, like it or not.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        Don’t be confused. Your boss is telling you who he is. One thing the past four years have taught me is that when someone tells you who they are, believe them.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        It’s not you, it’s him. Take this as validation of a choice well-made, enjoy your new position, and don’t let him live rent-free in your head. He sounds fairly awful, and I’m glad you’ve found a new position.

      6. Batgirl*

        You’re a better person than me if you haven’t thrown this back at him whenever he’s whimpering over your resignation letter: “Oh but boss, you’re forgetting that I’m totally replaceable! Your sentimentality must be making you forget”

      7. Observer*

        So to be told all year “You’re completely replaceable” and now receive this kind of message from the boss is confusing

        Well, here is the translation. “I don’t want to pay you well and I don’t want to go to any trouble to make the whole covid thing any easier for you. So, I need you to think that I’m going to be fine if you decide to leave over this so you shouldn’t push me. But I do not ACTUALLY want to go to the effort and expense of finding a new person to do your job. How DARE you inconvenience me that way!?”

    2. Bob*

      “you may love your job, but your job doesn’t love you”
      Very interesting, i will have to give this some thought.

  23. Knope knope knope*

    OP2, this is 100% your boss’s fault. What was their business plan? You work there forever and shutdown the business when you leave? That’s like going to a doctor with a cut on your arm and the doctor saying “I’ll just put a Bandaid on it and you’ll be totally fine. But just letting you know that even though bandaids are temporary by nature and the adhesive will only only last a few weeks with normal washing and wear and tear, make sure you keep it on because if the bandaid comes off you’ll die.” It’s ridiculous and it sounds like your boss is putting their own issues on you.

  24. wee beastie*

    I’m upset on behalf of OP#2 just reading about it. You aren’t responsible for the owner’s business, the owner is. You were just responsible for your job. It is the employer’s failure if your departure could cripple the business.
    If you need to, write that on your bathroom mirror and repeat it to yourself every half hour, or every time they start to make you feel anxious.
    Don’t be alone with them. If they want to talk, insist on leaving the door open or having another person —anyone—in the room. If you feel the owner is being threatening, then say “you sound very angry and I no longer feel safe coming to work. I think it’s best that I depart now.” You might lose out on a few days income, but it’s worth it to be gone.
    Honestly, I worked for someone similar and knew fairly early on that I needed out. One of the things that terrified me was giving notice. But by the time I did, I was so excited to be gone—so excited about the new job—it reduced my terror. Of course the boss was awful about it. They tried chipping away at me—They wanted me to payback for my healthcare that was partially subsidized by them. They refused to cash out my vacation time. They verbally attacked me. I was so relieved to be getting out that I was suddenly able to see past the drama. The boss probably has an anxiety or panic disorder and they can’t see clearly. Their behavior has nothing to do with you or me, but is entirely about them. It’s super important to say no to being bullied in these situations. Granted, after any confrontation, my knees would be weak and I’d need to call a friend for a pep talk, but I held my ground. When the boss demanded cash out of my final paycheck for healthcare, I was so shocked I agreed. But I rallied and pointed out they needed to cash me out of my vacation time —which was worth a lot more than my healthcare—and showed them a copy of the law. That lead to a verbal attack, but I just said “feel free to show this to your lawyer, if you need time to consult” and left the room. I offered that we could consider it even—no lost income for the healthcare in exchange for me working the full time and not taking vacation. They refused, so I said I was leaving early by the 2.5 vacation days. And then after a few days of passive aggressive nasty looks and low verbal jabs, it was over and I was gone. For weeks afterward I would stop and shout to the sky, “I am free! I did it! I got myself out!” I remain so freakin’ proud of myself for not letting this person who is so punitive towards employees get away with tearing me down.
    Incidentally, if your boss has never behaved this way before and this is a shock, pushing back even a little might get them to stop. I knew my boss was a nightmare which was why I dreaded giving notice.

    1. LW #2*

      Thanks for this. Boss is kind of a keyboard warrior so I expect the in-person discussion will be more tame. I’ve seen this behavior before and heard stories about past employees who were all (allegedly) “awful” etc etc – it took me awhile to put together that maybe not every single employee was bad and there was a different common denominator…

    2. Generic Name*

      I’m not a mental health professional, but I don’t think anxiety/panic disorder causes a person to shift the blame onto someone else. But that behavior is consistent with certain personality disorders or even just being a garden variety asshole.

  25. Spicy Tuna*

    OP#3, I would think twice about hiring someone that was overly focused on time off, which says as much about the interviewer than the interviewee. The interview process is an excellent way for BOTH sides to determine if the job / hire is a good fit.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I grill employers about PTO. I’ve only had 5 PTO days in the last 3 years and I had to work partial days on all those “days off.” I could only take 2 days off when I got married.
      I’m a senior level professional with 20 years experience. If a company scoffs at providing realistic information on PTO, then I know its a place I don’t want to work for.

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        That’s exactly my point. If the workplace culture is not to take time off, and time off is important to the job seeker, then it is important for both sides to know that the hire would not be a good fit.

    2. Knope Knope Knope*

      I don’t think the questions OP3 proposes asking come off as overly focused on time off. I mean, if these are the only questions OP asks ithroughout the whole interview process then sure. But it is not unusual to ask about benefits. When I was hiring at a company that offered unlimited time off I was used to getting a lot of questions about it because it is something a lot of people really don’t have experience with and are naturally curious about. Unfortunately, I found OPs fears to be well founded. Unlimited PTO and work from anywhere remote work billed as perks were used as ways to create a culture where employees were really expected to always be on. I would be very wary of working anywhere that offers unlimed PTO again, and I think companies that do offer it expect to be asked about from prospective employees.

    3. ManuscriptHelena*

      I wouldn’t even think twice about working for someone who considers me “overly focused on time off” just because I ask a question or three about how that’s handled at their firm.

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        But that’s the point I was making. The interview process is to determine if the prospective hire is a good fit for the company AND if the company is a good fit for the prospective hire.

        1. Observer*

          You keep on saying that. And it’s true.

          But that’s not what people are responding to. They are responding to you statement that the OP seems “overly focused” on time off. If merely asking about practices around time off is “overly focused”, this is a bad fit. It’s also a bad work place.

      2. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

        I was being given a job offer and asked questions about PTO, WFH, etc. The hiring manager said it almost seemed like I was more interested in not working there than working there. He also declined to budge on the salary. I took the job anyways, never had any trouble taking off my PTO allotment, and after a few years he left and I got a new manager who is (even more) supportive of time off and work-life balance.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Also, employees are more productive when they take regular vacation time. If an interviewer will change their mind about a candidate who expresses interest in using that benefit, it’s to their own detriment.

    4. Batgirl*

      I find it hard to imagine a culture where people don’t even consider it at the only chance you get to ask what the deal is. On their first Monday if they’re scrolling travel agents sites and only chatting about their first break, sure but … before they accept a position they can’t even ask about the culture? Is that a culture where people don’t ask about PTO because they don’t want any? They don’t take proper breaks at all until they burn out? Or does it just coincidentally all work out?

  26. Burned out*

    Regarding LW3, I’m in basically the same situation. I’m currently working 60+ hours a week and in my next role I want a standard 40 hour work week. Is it bad form to be up front with that requirement when interviewing? When I get asked why I’m looking I mention that I’m currently working 60 hours per week and have been for the last 6 months and I need a workplace with more balance. This usually leads them to then talk about the work-life balance at their company. This is important to me so I want to be up front but I’m worried it’s a turn off to interviewers.

    1. Franz Kafkaesque*

      I totally agree about this and have lost my shyness about just asking directly at the interview stage. It took me a while to get there because it was so ingrained in my mind to “not upset the employer” during the interview or I won’t be offered the job. Well, you get enough 60-70 hour weeks under your belt, and you stop caring about upsetting the employer in an interview simply for asking if you are going to be able to take care of your health and have a life if you accept a job there. Will it turn off some interviewers? Of course. But it doesn’t get you anywhere to be out of the frying pan and into the fire.
      My work is very deadline driven, so during the interview stage, I always frame it in terms of: “I understand that due to the nature of the work there will always be crunch times and heavy lifts, but I’m looking for an OVERALL reasonable balance” (which to me is about 45 hours per week).
      People have told me for years that interviews are a 2 way street and you have to make sure you actually want the job and the working conditions. I’ve known that intellectually for a long time, but have only recently internalized it and actually put it into practice.

    2. Spicy Tuna*

      If long hours and limited time off are part of the job, it’s important to know that for both sides! The interview process is to determine if the prospect is a good fit for the company, AND if the company is good fit for the prospect.

    3. Natalie*

      This is important to me so I want to be up front but I’m worried it’s a turn off to interviewers.

      Sounds like you’ve got yourself a feature, not a bug.

      Remember the point of a job interview isn’t to “win”, it’s to find a job where you will be reasonably happy. An employer that’s turned off by your not wanting to work 60 hours a week would be a poor fit for you.

    4. Generic Name*

      It will only turn off interviewers at places where you don’t want to work. Places that really value work-life balance don’t look askance at someone who desires work-life balance. But places that pay lip service to balance while secretly/not so secretly expecting/requiring overtime would.

    5. CareerChanger*

      I lost out on a job offer, and I’m 90% sure it was because I asked about hours. I didn’t get a straight answer (red-flag), so I asked a couple different ways. When the guy finally realized what I was asking, he got annoyed and the interview didn’t last much longer after that. He said something like, “I don’t want to have to tell people when they should come to work and when should they leave.” Uh huh. I beat myself up a little for showing my hand too much and maybe losing the offer.

      Very next job interview: “What’s your work day like?” A: “It’s 9-to-5 with rare exceptions.” Got the offer. Took the offer. I work 40 hours a week. Everyone works 40 hours a week and loves it and there’s nothing weird about loving it.

      If someone doesn’t like the question, that’s your answer IMO, and you’re better off.

  27. animaniactoo*

    LW2, I gave 6 weeks notice when I left a job because I was vital to them and I knew it, and I wanted them to have time to replace me (which they did, with two people). They STILL went under.

    But here’s the thing: I was leaving because nobody should have had as much responsibility as I did without having more investment in that company. Which I did not. And was never going to. So vesting that level of responsibility in me was part and parcel of the mismanagement that I was leaving to get away from.

    And to be clear… it was bad enough that they were already going under when I left. I am given to understand that my leaving only hastened the end, by those who had been with them in previous iterations of the company.

    If your leaving causes the death of the company, that is because they have vested too much on your shoulders. Not because you owe them something. It’s THEIR mistake that they can’t survive without you.

    I’m pretty vital in my current company. But they won’t go under if I were to quit tomorrow. There’d be some scrambling. But they wouldn’t go under. And that’s just the way I like it.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      This. If your business is so dependent on one person that their leaving tanks the company, then the problem isn’t that they are leaving. It’s that you have this one point of failure which would have happened at some point anyway.

  28. London Lass*

    Assuming that unlimited really would mean unlimited in the case of sick leave, I will just say that there do have to be SOME limits, otherwise any organisation that wants genuinely to support its staff in times of trouble has no way out if someone is permanently incapacitated – and ultimately, it’s an employment relationship, not a welfare agency.

    But I have worked at places in the UK that offer as long as 1 year paid sick leave, including several months on full pay. There can then be a structured process for a gradual return to work if that’s needed. However, this type of engagement does require a significant amount of medical information to be shared with the employee for it to work.

    1. London Lass*

      Sorry, this was written as a reply to a comment on a completely different post! Please ignore me and my technical snafu :-D

    2. Cat Tree*

      My company has unlimited sick leave and it doesn’t get abused. As Alison always advises, managers manage it if and when work is affected. The focus is on work getting done, not on attendance.

      *Consecutive* days off will eventually bump into short term disability and then long term disability, which is handled by an outside company that only shares medical information in a few rare circumstances.

    3. londonedit*

      My employer offers several months of ‘discretionary sick pay’ (where you apply for Statutory Sick Pay from the government but the company then tops up your salary to its usual level while you’re off sick) but that’s for long-term sickness that’s medically signed off. For short-term sickness you can self-certify (so you don’t need a doctor’s note) for up to 5 working days but anything longer than that and you need a doctor’s note to sign you off sick. There isn’t really a set limit on short-term sicknesses, but if someone is taking a lot of sick days then HR will ask to have a meeting with them and their manager to discuss whether there’s anything the company needs to be aware of.

  29. Wintermute*

    #2– you know you’re not getting a reference, and you don’t need one, your boss is being unkind. In your shoes I’d go ahead and just not show up tomorrow, or ever again. Maybe call if you want to be nice and say it’s just too much stress you can’t finish out your two weeks. What’s he going to do to you? It’s not like it gets any worse. Any time you’re crying and upset about work, you need to take that as a strong sign to get out of the situation ASAP.

  30. AndersonDarling*

    #3 Ask for a peer interview with the team you will be working with.
    You will likely get the offer from the HR recruiter and if you ask them about the work/life balance, you will get a fluffy spin about their values and happiness scores and blah blah blah. Say that you are excited to be offered the position, but you would like to have a chat with the current team to get a feel of how work would be day-to-day and see the dynamics of the department. If you are turned down, that is a massive red flag!
    The only people who can tell you the real experience are the front-line workers on your team. It could be that you would be on the one team that values time off and the manager encourages everyone to take time off. Or the person who left the Glassdoor review is on the team you would be moving into.
    If you already had a peer interview, then ask for another one because you have more questions. If it’s a good company, then this would be a normal request to fulfil.

  31. Franz Kafkaesque*

    #3 Unlimited Vacation
    OP, I just passed on an offer due to this very issue. One thing you may want to consider is how long this company has been operating. If they’ve been in business for a decent amount of time (10+ years IMO, but that may vary according to your tastes) and they sound reasonably confident that people generally take X number of days per year without issue, then it is probably OK.
    In my case, the company had only existed for a little over 2 years and they were planning for the volume in the department I applied with to actually double over the coming year. Though I was assured that, historically, everyone had been able to take 2-4 weeks off per year for the preceding 2 years, I just did not feel confident that that precedent had been in place long enough, or that the doubling of volume over the coming year would have no impact on that.
    Granted, I am highly skeptical of unlimited vacation policies for a vast array of reasons that have been thoroughly explored on AAM, so take this with a grain of salt. But, to me, I wouldn’t pass up an otherwise great opportunity simply because it has unlimited vacation, but the burden of proof is on the employer to convince me that it actually works for their organization over the long haul.
    Best of luck to you.

  32. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    I’m always amazed by company owners who think people who don’t own the company are responsible for the survival of *their* business.

    Want to make people as deeply invested in your company as you are? Make them part owners. Don’t want to do that? Then don’t expect them to feel the same ownership that you do because guess what, they don’t have it!

    1. Cat Tree*

      Exactly. If the company strikes it reach and has a sudden boost in earnings, that important employee will see very little of that. Why should they be as invested in it?

    2. Batgirl*

      As a teacher I get deja vu around those bosses; always really reminds me of parents who just feel they aren’t wholly responsible for making decisions about their kid. I can’t decide if it would be really relaxing or really frustrating to be constantly expecting other people to pick up my slack.

  33. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    LW1 – buy him the box set of “Halt and Catch Fire.” Maybe he’ll get the hint (Joe Macmillan). Even if not, it’s a great show.

  34. Phony Genius*

    On #1, I’d like to know how Jake is winning all these awards if the businesses are failing. Are these awards just for the quantity of companies he has started up? Or are they “Who’s Who” type of “awards” that are available to anybody who want to buy the annual book in which they’re published?

    1. Quill*

      Option 3 is “gets most buy in from specific people” which makes me think that Jake could have a career as a car salesman…

    2. Batgirl*

      I really hate that crap and they should be banned as scams. In the times before web reviews I hired an “award winning” wedding photographer who was also a member of a professional organization (a paid for membership obviously) which all the magazines said were the hallmark of a good photographer (yep, the magazines got a cut). So this guy yelled at the guests and did a job with a camera that toddlers at the event could have improved on. Scam.

  35. Me*

    Oh my #1 is giving me flashbacks to a former employee. We hired a youngish guy for an entry level position who had really no experience but did have a degree. He was eager but unfortunately though he already knew everything because of his degree and was completely uncoachable and was let go after 2 months.

    He decided to start his own consulting business. In the field he had no experience in. And was fired by his first employer in the field.

    It’s going about as well as can be expected.

    So yes, anyone hiring a consulting agency is going to want to know what experience your company has in that field.

  36. agnes*

    #1 Your friend sounds like what I call a visionary entrepreneur. Nothing wrong with those, except they need to understand their weaknesses and fill them with people who can do those things. Tell him to partner up with someone who is operationally savvy. Yes, he will have to “share” his business, but 1/2 of something is better than 100% of nothing.

    #2 Any business owner who has structured their business to rely so heavily on one hired employee isn’t very smart. If you really think the bridge is burned AND the business owner is being abusive to you , you are completely justified in not working out your notice. If you are that essential, he ought to recognize that he needs to treat you better before you walk out the door with all his intellectual property with you.

  37. ProdMgr*

    OP #1, probably the most helpful advice you can give to Jake is to find someone else who can give him advice. Does he have a mentor or advisor? If not, he should look into local mentoring programs for entrepreneurs. SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives – might be a good place to start. There is lots of help available out there if he looks for it. A good mentor may also be able to help him with networking and finding opportunities for his business.

    1. Batgirl*

      I hope the OP and Jake’s dynamic is different to the kind of dynamic I had with privileged charmers in my early twenties. Not only were they kind of useless in their preferred endeavors but they also looked on me as an unpaid therapist/life coach to help them unpick their issues with others and get my perspective because I was “so real”. Not only did this mean they were asking the wrong person (get your hands dirty at an actual job and get mentors in your actual field!); But it also meant we spent most of our friendship on his problems rather than mine. Could have been my fault though. I never could resist a puzzle.

  38. Ms Marple*

    OP #2, I would also add that you don’t actually need to finish out your two weeks. Notice periods are a curtesy. Your boss is taking advantage of your desire to do what’s right but you are not required to sit quietly while he berates you for two weeks because of social norms based on the assumption everyone is reasonable. He is not being reasonable. I’ve known a few people in your position and they feel they have to stick it out because of a sense of duty but it’s not true. You can absolutely send an email saying that given his reaction, your resignation is effective immediately. If you can’t bring yourself to quit on the spot (it can be really hard) perhaps just knowing it’s an option will help you get through the next few weeks.

    It doesn’t sound like you can rely on him as a reference anyway. So I wouldn’t factor in leaving on good terms in your decision making.

  39. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    LW #2 – I’d just shrug my shoulders and say the business “had a good run.” Nothing lasts forever.

    LW #3 – I usually evaluate vacation that expires at the end of the calendar year as non-existent, and would evaluate “unlimited” vacation the same way. I don’t think it’s wise to trust a business you don’t yet know to interpret those things in your favor.

  40. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

    LW #4 – it’s generally ill-advised to quit without another job lined up.

    1. Fern*

      Because you don’t know when you’ll get a paycheck again? Or can it actually negatively affect your prospects for finding a new job?

        1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          Yes, both.

          Also, quitting in a huff because you didn’t get the raise you wanted (however well deserved) may be looked at negatively by some.

  41. CommanderBanana*

    Aaah, every day I wake up and pray for the confidence of a Jake. Oh, to be lauded with awards for entrepreneurship without having accomplished anything.

    1. Tinker*

      I do have to admit, Jake has made a valuable contribution to my dentist’s boat fund and upon further reflection a reminder to have perspective about things like “what is wrong with me that I haven’t managed to run even one startup into the ground”.

  42. LibbyG*

    OP#2: I have an ag background, and I imagine that part of your distress comes from both the self-sacrificing discourses in agriculture (“but, the farm!”) and some of the real practicalities of production. Two weeks might be tough for your boss, especially if they’re an absentee owner or just sort of farming for tax benefits. But the point still stands that it is in no way your fault if the business suffers or even fails, and the boss has no right to try to put it on you. Enjoy that new job!

    1. LW #2*

      Hey, great to see someone else in ag here! Absolutely yes to both points. I come from ag, it’s my life, and I love it deeply, so this was a tough choice (I’ll be moving into a different job in the same field) and because of this knowledge I do, truly, know how tough it is to run this particular type of small business, so my heart strings were really tugged at by this response from Boss. But, all the other points still stand, and I don’t deserve to be gaslit or blamed.

  43. SentientAmoeba*

    Jake sounded like the LW who couldn’t understand why no one would hire him right out of college to be their idea man.

    1. LW #2*

      That was my first thought, that it was an accidental “Where are they now” update, just from a different perspective! :D

  44. funkynote*

    OP 2: I once had a boss tell me I was ruining his business after I had worked there for a mere THREE months. People like this are ruining their own business because they can’t take responsibility for anything. It’s his business, if it’s failing it’s no one’s fault but his. The day my boss said that to me was the day I walked out of that office and never went back.

  45. Quill*

    Additional advice for #1, you can choose whether to pass it on: it sounds like your dude is starting high failure rate endeavors in multiple industries. (Podcasts don’t tend to reliably break out into profitable careers, much like being a rock musician, and if he’s got startups in a lot of different industries… well, we’ve all seen examples where the only thing a startup accomplishes is getting venture capital.)

    Overall it sounds like he’s spread thin without a depth of knowledge in his endeavors. It’s not uncommon in an economy that wants your side hustle to have a side hustle, but in terms of looking out for your friend professionally, it might be a good time to tell him that he needs to dig deeper into the feasibility of his projects before starting them.

  46. Elizabeth West*

    The only time I’ve done #5 is when I’m applying for a different job at a company I haven’t applied to in a while; they might have an older resume in my profile that gets pulled when I submit a new application. You’d be surprised how long some workplaces will hang onto that stuff.

  47. porgs*

    Related question to #5…I recently applied to 2 jobs by clicking through from Indeed to apply on the company websites. I thought it was odd that neither offered a way to submit a cover letter.

    Then I went back to Indeed and, sure enough, if I were to apply directly on Indeed, I could submit a cover letter along with my resume. Both jobs are a different industry than my current one, but I have all the relevant skills–and a cover letter could really help me illustrate that! So now I’m wondering if I should submit an Indeed application even though I’ve already applied on the company websites, or if that would come across as obnoxious…

  48. LadyProg*

    OP #2, I held a leadership position at a tiny company and my daughter was born out of time, unexpectedly. I dropped from work and into parental leave for 8 months immediately following her birth, no planning ahead, no nothing. The business survived. You’re not too blame if your boss fails and it’s unfair for them to say otherwise. I’m sorry and I hope you feel better about it now!

  49. Amy*

    1. As soon as you said

    ‘One of his start-ups is aimed at providing management consultancy services to SMEs, but he has never worked in management consulting, which I believe is the main reason his firm is losing out to more experienced competitors.’

    You were on the money. Which person thinks they’re going to be handed a load of money when they have 0 experience in the area? He’s deluded. He needs to go back into his previous employment because the longer this goes on the worse his profile gets.

  50. Bre*

    I want to reassure LW2 that you did nothing wrong and that it is totally normal to leave jobs for something new, and the owner sucks and is wrong to so cruelly pressure you to stay. If it fails because a single person left, it is his fault for not preparing for the extremely common situation of an employee leaving. Even if you were the only employee!

    I was in your exact situation six years ago and it was awful until I was far enough away to get some perspective. Best of luck with the new position!

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