it’s your Friday good news

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

1. I just had my annual review, which I was absolutely dreading. This year has been so hard. Transitioning to work-from-home was incredibly difficult, especially sharing space with my husband, who is a middle school teacher and needed the more functional set-ups. My mental health has suffered in isolation, and I know for a fact I let my work slip. I got a very public poor review from a client. My inconsistent workflows held up other people. I’m one of two full-time employees at a tiny organization and I know not being at my best impacts everyone. I put together my bullet points for discussion as matter-of-factly as possible, but I was ready to be chewed out and penalized.

Not the case! As you, my therapist, and I think everyone else on the planet have told me — this situation has been hard for everyone. My boss had a completely different view of my performance than I did. I got a 5% raise and a title bump! She thought I’d been resilient in an impossible situation, and that with my help we’d been incredibly successful in finding creative ways to overcome our roadblocks and keep the organization above water. We discussed how staying positive is a huge goal for both of us this year – and how there’s still a lot to be positive about!

Managers/bosses/CEOs/EDs are all people, and the good ones understand that these have not been normal circumstances over the past year. I hope this can be a reminder to everyone not to judge yourself (or your staff) by pre-pandemic standards, and to really take a step back and take everything in context.

2. I started my current job three years ago in a brand new field (for me). I had been fired from my previous job at a startup (my first full-time salaried job after college) and my severance was about to run out, so I took the offer they gave me without negotiating — meaning I set myself up for a $19,000 paycut. Ouch.

At the time, I rationalized it because my degree wasn’t in the field and I had no previous experience. But I learned as much as I could on the job and ended up getting an $8,000 raise after my first review. It’s actually been my only review — they are not scheduled regularly despite the employee handbook saying they’re supposed to be every 12-18 months, and employees were the ones who had to ask for a review. The managers never scheduled them on their own. This was one of many issues I began having with the company. It’s also around the time I started reading your blog.

The most pertinent thing I learned was that negotiation is a thing and that it’s generally expected and not a big deal! The more I read the posts, the more I understood just how much my current company doesn’t do right by their employees very often. Then we were bought in Fall 2019 by a larger company and things just got worse. I was tired of being overworked and severely underpaid. The pandemic intensified everything and brought a lot of other issues into sharp relief. It was time to start the job search.

Arming myself with information from your blog, I revamped my resume, wrote a kickass cover letter, and started applying for jobs that seemed within my reach and with companies I could enjoy working for. Every job I applied for resulted in multiple rounds of interviews, but no offers, which was discouraging.

Finally, I found an amazing education nonprofit in my city (no more one-hour-plus commutes!) that is deeply committed to anti-racist work and equity among all their employees. The offer was lower than I asked for and they were firm that negotiating was a non-starter up front — but the offer was a full $21,000 more than what I am currently making! This puts me at just under market value instead of the bottom 99%. They are also doing compensation research to make sure employees are paid fairly across the company, so there’s potential for an increase. Plus, they have generous time off and flexible scheduling and they’re 100% remote until it’s safe. The application and interview process was amazing. I am beyond thrilled and cannot wait to get started!

I cannot thank you enough for your incredible trove of advice. I would not have been this successful in my job search (I honestly only applied for like 3 or 4 jobs — like, seriously?? In THIS economy??) without your blog and your out-of-this-world commenter community. I’m so happy for everyone else who’s contributed to Good News Friday and wish everyone who was like me and hoping to write in themselves every success!

3. I’m really happy to have some good news to share. After leaving my last job for maternity leave, I started my own business. Covid hit and I’ve been unable to build the business the way I’d hoped (hard to get childcare, advertising spaces in my field changing because of stay at home offers, clients not able to access online services…etc.). I’ve just applied for my first part time job since then, and I’ve got an interview! Thank you so much for your advice on personalising cover letters, re-entering employment after maternity leave/self employment, and the advice about applying and then putting it out of your mind. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go for it without your blog.

4. After graduating into the 2008-2011 recession, I never found a job in my field and ended up treading water in a crappy career, then floundering when I tried to transition into something else. (You extended a very kind response to a very desperate letter somewhere in the floundering stage.) Eventually I repeated undergrad and got a masters in a completely different, more recession-proof field…only to graduate into the COVID recession! Entry-level jobs were scarce and the demoralization was strong. I was interning at a firm I hadn’t planned to stay at since their focus was very different from my interests but, after months of looking for open positions in my preferred industry, this firm’s interdisciplinary projects and great environment wore me down. After a year of honest communication with my supervisor about my concerns and passions elsewhere, I signed on full-time in November for more money than I ever thought I’d be offered and the promise of flexibility while I care for an ailing parent. Since then the work has shifted toward the skills I was more keen on developing and their responses to COVID as well as a number of upheavals in my personal life have confirmed that this is absolutely the right environment for me to be in right now. All in all, I’m in a much better position than I have been at any time since the 2008 recession.

It was the advice I’d mined from this site that encouraged me to be honest and forthright with this company from the beginning, and helped me avoid falling into bad employment situations made tempting by the lack of options in my preferred field. Though it is a completely different industry than what I wanted, I was able to make the choice to stay here with eyes wide-open about what I was giving up and gaining, which helps me feel like I own the decision instead of being pushed around by supremely bad luck!

5. I’d experienced a very long COVID-related furlough at what had been my dream job, and several instances since then of going through long interview processes only to be the runner up. Then, this week, I was delighted to accept an even dreamier dream job for an incredible company. Ironically, as the interviews for this job were progressing, I also got a new job offer — unsolicited — from the company I’d been furloughed at since April. I’m grateful for Alison’s advice throughout my career, and relied on it for navigating the recent multiple-offer situation, which was exhilarating but stressful. To those experiencing an out-of-work identity crisis thanks to COVID, don’t give up hope — circumstances can turn on a dime!

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. I had a bad year, but didn't everyone?*

    LW1: This is so good to hear! I’m dreading mine too. I was just planning on asking my boss to rate me “needs improvement” with the promise I would try harder this year. Going to start thinking about all the actual good I did and hope it turns out like your!

    1. Anon Dot Com*

      Definitely go in positive and ready to talk about your achievements! I was dreading my end of year review and was prepared to apologize for not being up to my usual standard of work, talk about how I was going to do better, etc. But my boss preempted me with praise and thanks for helping the company through a financially difficult time, and I got a raise! So unexpected, and so wonderful at the end of a very tough year. So it can happen! I hope it works out for you like it did for LW, too.

    2. Allypopx*

      LW1 Here – good luck! Definitely put everything in the context of “despite the extraordinary circumstances….” Just getting through was an accomplishment this year. I wasn’t kind enough to myself about that fact. I’m lucky my boss has a more generous outlook.

  2. Scout Finch*

    #1 – This is almost what happened to me. I had my annual review about 3 weeks ago. Turns out my boss had a much higher opinion of my work than I did! When I struggle with new processes & technology, I am harder on myself than others. My boss is like “You’re human! Congratulations! As long as you are mucking through this stuff & get it going eventually, it delivers what we need to our users.”

    I was ready to start job hunting. Now I know that I am a valued contributor. It’s easy to get bogged down in the “I can’t figure this out” days and forget the “I found out how to do this!” moments.

    Thank you to all the OPs for the good news. I live for Fridays for different reasons now!

    1. Allypopx*

      Congratulations! Job hunting was also a splash of cold water…not the best market! I feel lucky now to be in the position that I am.

  3. Ralph the wonder llama*

    No. 1 warms the cockles of my heart (whatever “cockles of the heart” are!). I see a couple of takeaways too. One is we are harder on ourselves than we need to be. Another is don’t let people with ugly attitudes get you down. Maybe that negative review was warranted, and maybe it wasn’t. But I think only a jackass would go public with it in the middle of this pandemic.

    1. Allypopx*

      Ugh the hardest thing was it wasn’t, and there were probably 100 situations where it was and I could’ve stomached it but this was just a crappy customer. It really knocked me down.

  4. Let's Not Name Names*

    LW #4: As another recession graduate, who returned to school to pursue my masters after about a decade, only to graduate during Covid, I sympathize! I stuck it out in my intended undgrad industry, however, because I was lucky enough to get a foot in early and work my way up to a level the felt fulfilling. The MA was intended to really amp up my next steps, but I’m working in the arts sector and have never seen anything like what’s happening with Covid (possibly too obvious a statement to make, but still true). I was laid off in October from my job, which had been a long hunted for niche that engaged my passion for arts activism, and now find myself applying to a lot of mid-level jobs I’m overqualified for but willing to do, particularly when I believe the cultural fit and support of the org is in line with what I now expect as an employee (which I’m also finding is much more important these days than any specific niche that might reflect a personal taste.)

    I believe it was last Friday’s good news another person working in the arts was celebrating their new job, which felt like a little hope. I do really believe there will be a big come back. Through some freelancing consulting work, I’m aware of just how many orgs have big plans in the wings that have merely been postponed, and hopefully with a competent and effective federal government and financial stimulus now, the taps that funnel the lifeblood to the arts through grants and other programs will be restored (philanthropists and the donor class, on the other hand, have really proven how little they are actually invested in this work…another story). I know just about everyone is chomping at the bit to get back out, live life, and experience the arts and cultural in their communities. So, I remain hopeful (that’s for boosting that LW #5) and looking forward to the day I’ll be submitting my own good news. Hang in there, everyone!

  5. Bookworm*

    Thanks to all the LWs for writing. Extra props to LW1: I think a lot of us are going through/will go through something like that and it was a good reminder to read. Thank you.

  6. EPLawyer*

    #2 – as long are you aren’t VASTLY underpaid, accepting a bit less than you were looking for can be offset by other things like flexible schedule, and just a non-toxic work environment.

    Congrats to all the LWs.

    1. Persephone Mongoose*

      Hi, I’m LW2! You’re absolutely right. Even though the number was lower than my ask, it wasn’t by THAT much and it also included the most paid holidays and PTO of any job I’ve had and *certainly* more than my previous job! Their other benefits (medical, dental, vision, EAP, etc.) were also very generous. It was truly a no-brainer!

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        LW2 = Congratulations. It’s a matter of if you are being FAIRLY compensated and you seem to be satisfied with that. So good for you!

        Using an old 80s expression = “Always take care of number one” = meaning YOURSELF. If you can’t do that, you won’t be able to help others. Not being able to pay your bills is a huge life distraction, and you can’t be as productive in your work if you’re not seeing the cash flow.

        I often read in here “yeah but I feel so guilty about leaving my co-workers”… DON’T. And “well it’s a good cause so I will sacrifice and get less compensation” … think – are the top guns in the “cause” living in poverty?

        OK…. again – take care of number 1. And continue to do so. You’ll feel better.

      2. Ariaflame*

        And there is some benefit to comparing the financial equivalent of those benefits compared to how much extra you would have to pay out if you had another job that had your ask, but you had to pay for those yourself.

  7. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    What a lovely set of updates! I have not yet made up the giant pay cut I had to take after my COVID layoff, but I’ve moved to my second post-COVID job and am feeling so much more engaged and productive.

  8. Persephone Mongoose*

    LW2 here; thank you Alison for posting my update and once again for your invaluable advice over the years! Shout-out to this entire community; this is really just one of the best places on the Internet!

    I’m just about to wrap up week 1 at this new job and it is truly a dream. Everyone has been so warm and welcoming and I’ve gotten to dive right into some projects that are right up my alley. I hope this honeymoon period is here to stay!


    Kind of wondering if LW2 is a coworker… education nonprofits that prioritize racial equity ftw!

  10. B Wayne*

    I love Friday Good News! I hope it stays around once COVID officially dies down. Always read FGN on Saturday morning, an extra day of AAM.

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